Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

February 2007 - Posts

  • The Height of Ridiculousness

    I try not to be mean like this, but I've gotta call Microsoft out on this one. Someone posted the spec today for the new splash screen in Visual Studio "Orcas".

    At present, the Splash Screen looks out of place on Windows Vista. With its hard edges and lack of a drop shadow, it appears terribly out of place in the midst of drop shadow-equipped windows with rounded edges.

    The Splash Screen typifies some of the worst aspects of the Visual Studio User Experience. It is flat, rectangular, and uninspiring. This can be seen in Figure 1, which displays Visual Studio 2005’s current Splash Screen. We will enhance its sense of polish and visual design, and make it feel like a consistent part of the Windows experience.

    ISVs model their applications’ User Experience after Visual Studio; by presenting an enhanced-looking Splash Screen we will effectively push the Windows developer ecosystem towards adding this visual component of platform consistency to their applications.

    [Wait for it...]

    When Elvis first heard about Visual Studio Orcas being released, he wasn’t convinced that it was worth upgrading to, especially since he felt as though he had just purchased a copy of Visual Studio 2005. So, like any frugal developer, Elvis went and downloaded a trial copy of Orcas to test drive. Elvis could see that Visual Studio Orcas was new and different from the moment he started the application. The changes in the Splash Screen suggested to him immediately that this release was, indeed, different. (Emphasis mine)

    Yes, that's what it actually says. Their solution to Vista-fying the Visual Studio splash screen? Subtracting three pixels from the edges and adding a drop shadow. But don't take my word for it. Here is is the Vistafication of Visual Studio "Orcas":

    Woo! That's a whole new Visual Studio, baby! Oh yeah, and that took 9 pages of specs to explain. <whew> Now, I'm sure Microsoft has very good reasons for all of this, and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or anything. But all the sexy Vista UI, and WPF at your disposal, and THAT is the best you could do?

    Now I'm not one to tear someone down without offering my own suggestions, so here is an idea. Part of the reason they're not doing anything sexier is because they have to keep the APIs consistent with older versions of the toolset. Couldn't Microsoft build a WPF splashscreen that has a small area of the dialog that hosts a WinForms control that is accessible through COM interop to connect to the exact same APIs?

    And while we're at it, can we get the Ribbon in Visual Studio "Orcas" as well? That would be fantastic.

    [via Buck Hodges]

  • 'Mac' Is Attempting To Deride You. Cancel or Allow?

    I've been asked not to bash Macs too much anymore, since some of the Mac fans that read my site think that it hurts my credibility. Since I don't like pissing people unless it serves my purposes, I'll just post this next one without too much comment.


    The security guy did a good job of looking away in an uncaring manner while addressing the subject. He must be retired Secret Service.

    Oh yeah, and Bill... to answer your previous question, the rules of being mocked don't require that subject of said mocking be accurate. Just believable. However, countermocking requires as much truth as humanly possible.


    Aww crap, did I just link to Paul Thurrott? Dammit, I think I owe someone $50...

  • The Search For Jim Gray Gets Individual

    Have you ever had something happen to someone, and wanted to lend a hand? Well and the family of Jim Gray have brought the Good Samaritan into the Web 2.0 age. Amazon ordered up and stored images from a satellite pass of his last known location, and put up a job on their "Mechanical Turk" service, which organizes people to complete large tasks that only humans can do (think SETI@home in reverse (still not sure why they call it a Turk... isn't that kinda racist?)

    Yesterday, I got an e-mail from Amazon stating that they had added higher-resolution imagery to the Mechanical Turk group, and asked if I could come back and continue the search. When I showed up online, there were over 2,000 images that needed to be processed. 35 minutes later, the community had processed every image on the site. It was just amazing, not only to be a part of something like that, but also that it felt like we were making a tangible difference, earmarking images we thought needed further study... helping searchers narrow their search.

    Hopefully, this concept is expanded into a full-time Web 2.0 service that uses AJAX and what-not to enable armchair Samaritans with a couple extra minutes during the day to make a difference. But more importantly, I hope it helps bring Jim home. Amazon put up another 3,000 images today, so please go take 5 minutes and scour as many pictures as you can.

    If only this was available when James Kim went missing...

  • Vista x64 Fix for IE7 User Agent String

    If you're a Media Center buff, than Aaron Stebner's blog is a good one to have in your blogroll. Today he posted about the MSN Remote Record service, and the issues it has installing on Windows Vista x64 (do not use this on Windows XP x64). It turns out that IE7 sends out different UserAgent strings depending on whether you're in 32-bit or 64-bit IE... which is really kind of a pain in the butt.

    You see, when you start IE7 on X64, it's only running in 32-bit more, unless you open up the 64-bit version specifically from the start menu. The problem with that is, only the 64-bit version has Media Center in the UserAgent string, so come pages will fail to load properly, for example the MSN Remote Record installer page.

    So Aaron suggests to open the site up in 64-bit IE. But I have a better solution. I've created a Registry fix that balances out the UserAgent strings between the two versions. It adds Media Center to the 32-bit string, and adds .NET 3.0 to the 64-bit string. After you run the .reg file, close and re-open IE and browse to this page. You should see the "Install MSN Remote Record" button.

    Why Microsoft didn't do these things... I dunno. But at least this fixes the problem. Thanks for the heads-up, Aaron!

  • The Vista Daily #3

    Filed under:

    Today's post should be the "Bill Gates" edition, since we've got a bunch of them.

    • "Vista is so secure it could run life support systems". In their effort to summarize the quote, the author mislead people with their title. Gates said it could run hospitals, he never said anything about life support machines.
    • Piracy worked for us, Romania president tells Gates. "Piracy helped the young generation discover computers. It set off the development of the IT industry in Romania." Ouch. I betcha Bill's not happy about that one, seeing as how 70% of software sold in that country is pirated. [via Engadget]
    • Newsweek's Steven Levy asks, Finally, Vista Makes Its Debut. Now What? "And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say? Does honesty matter in these things?" You tell em, Bill!
    • Bill Gates left the "Daily Show" in a hurry. The Daily Show 'explains' why. I suspect the real reason he left is because he's used to walking offstage after he's done with keynotes, and his assistant didn't prep him correctly. But it was still really funny. [via Todd Bishop]

    And in other news:

  • Microsoft Fixing Family Discount Key Problem

    Mary Jo has the deets on Microsoft's answer to the Family Discount key problem. If you're waiting for valid keys, they may come down as early as this afternoon.

  • The Vista Daily #2

    Filed under:

    Here's the Vista Daily for Thursday, February 1, 2007.

  • An Era Has Ended

    Jim Allchin posted a final blog entry yesterday as his last act as a Microsoft employee. It's a HILARIOUS post that pokes fun at all the people (myself included) who asked him what he was going to do after his retirement. I still can't believe he built a .NET 3.0 Lego sorting app in 90 minutes! I wish I was that productive. Anyway, he's off to take a well deserved vacation now, and I hope he enjoys it, cuz he's earned it. Thanks for all your hard work, Jim! Windows won't quite be the same without you.

  • Vista Beta Reward Product Keys and the Vista Family Discount

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    I just tested this out for myself. If you received a free copy of Vista from your participation in the beta program, the Ultimate key you were issued qualifies for the Windows Vista Family Discount. How's THAT for a discount!

    Now, if only they could issue correct PID keys for the Home Premium installations...

    Speaking of which, if you were issued a bad key, just install Vista without it. When it asks for the Product Key, just select "Next", then chose "Home Premium" as your edition, and continue as usual. Then, when Microsoft sends you the right key, you can add it to your system.