Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

March 2007 - Posts

  • Windows-Now.com Welcomes MVP Doug Knox

    A new blogger is joining our ranks today. Doug Knox is a Media Center MVP, with secondary MVPs in Shell/User and Security. You've probably seen him around the Connect newsgroups, where he's a very prolific poster. He's going to be writing primarily about Windows Home Server and Windows Media Center (he's a fellow Digital Cable Tuner beta tester), but I'm sure he has a lot of other interesting things to say. He's a really smart guy with a lot of experience, and he will be an huge asset to the site.

    Welcome aboard, Doug!

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  • Microsoft Changing Online Communities with "Codename: Athens"

    Hot on the heels of an article in Wired about Microsoft's newfound openness, it looks like Microsoft is preparing to move away from CommunityServer to their own community platform. Doug Seven, former DotNetJunkie and former ASP.NET MVP, is working for the MXPS Community Technologies Team (Microsoft eXperience Platform Solutions, say that 3x fast). His team has been building a new solution consisting of Discovery, Membership, and Discussion services, to create a brand new experience around Microsoft communities.

    Community Discussion Services is a service platform to enable threaded discussion. We are currently building two frontends for this, Forums and Blogs, which will ultimately replace the current http://forums.microsoft.com and http://blogs.msdn.com / http://blogs.technet.com.

    ...

    Through the use of tagging you will eventually be able to create views of virtual forums - forums that only exist in the context you define. This really changes how you can use forums. Instead of being stuck with the forums we define, you can define your own to pull in messages from all appropriate forums. For example, you could build a forum view of "SQL", "C#"  and "Beginner". You would see all threads that have been tagged with these three tags, which could include messages from any of the C# forums, any of the SQL forums, beginner forums, or others. You no longer need to figure out where to look; you tell us what you want to see...and you can susbscribe to an RSS feed of the virtual forum.

    Lastly, but certainly not leastly (real word...it is now) is the Membership (and reputation) services. This is really one of the foundation blocks for the rest of the platform. The Membership services enable a consistent user experience across all of the Community Platform. The system is authentication agnostic (i.e. not tied to Passport or ASP.NET Forms auth), but can support nearly any authentication system. Regardless of the authentication entry point we can support a single user entity accross the system.

    Here's one of the screenshots.

    So, it will be interesting to see how all this plays out. From Doug's post, it looks like "Athens" will compete directly with Technorati and Community Server, at least initially. But it still leaves a ton of questions open. Some that immediately come to mind:

    • What if I want someone else providing the structure? Will the owner of the blog or forum be able to define their own default view of their content?
    • What about popularity services? Tagging is great, and so are views based on those tags... but how do you know what other people are reading?
    • Are there going to be APIs tied into these services, or will it be a Microsoft-only thing?
    • Will this be a software product, a la Community Server, or a Microsoft-only thing?

    But even without answers to those questions, it is still probably one of Microsoft's most innovative projects to date. hopefully we'll be seeing more about how this shapes up in the very near future.

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  • Solved The Wallpaper Download Problem

    Many of you have tried to download the Wallpapers from the Windows Vista Starter Edition that I posted a month or so ago, and many of you have failed. The reason is, my web server tries to use HttpCompression to reduce the size of the file as it travels over the wire. That's all well and good, but the file has already been compressed. This will corrupt the file in the browser.

    Because the compression management software doesn't let you manage the compression on rewritten paths (URLs that don't map to actual folders), I've had to shut compression off for the entire "Files" section of the site. The pages will load just a hair slower now, but at least you'll be able to download the files without issue now.

    Sorry about that.

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  • Site Maintenance Tonight

    The site will be down for about an hour tonight starting at midnight MST. I'm moving the database to a brand new AMD dual-core, dual proc server (that's 4 cores!) tonight, which will give me some spare horsepower for experimenting with other stuff in a virtual environment.

    Here are the stats:

    • 2 x AMD Opteron™ 265 1.8GHz (Dual Cores)
    • 2GB PC3200 Registered ECC RAM (8GB Capacity)
    • 2 x 160GB 7200 RPM SATAII Hard Drives

    Overkill? Hardly. It's called capacity, brotha! I have a couple projects coming up that are going to need responsiveness, and between the procs and the SATAII drives, I now have plenty.

    Now if ServerBeach would only get off their a$$ and deploy 64-bit Windows Server 2003 machines already, I'd be their happiest customer. Something tells me Longhorn will be out before that happens, though.

    See you on the flipside!

    UPDATE: We're back online, and holy smokes this thing is fast. I'm noticing a major improvement in the site's responsiveness, and I hope you are too. Lemme know if you're having any issues.

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  • Microsoft Releases First Vista Sales Numbers

    Windows Vista is selling more than twice as fast as Windows XP, according to Microsoft's latest press release. 20 million copies have been sold in the period from January 30th to Febuary 28th. In fact, Windows Vista has sold more copies in it's first month than XP sold in it's first two. From Nov. 2001 to Jan 2002, Windows XP only sold 17 million copies.

    Microsoft hasn't broken down any of these numbers, so we how no idea how many retail vs. OEM licenses were sold, nor do we know how many were sold of each edition. However, in an interview with Windows marketing director Bill Mannion, News.com learned that Vista Ultimate sales are better than expected.

    "We have relatively modest expectations for Ultimate, but it's exceeding that on both new PCs and the packaged product."

    So, if you're someone who has been writing off Vista as unimportant, you should probably stop now. Windows Vista is Microsoft's hottest selling OS ever. They must have done something right.

    Oh yeah, and BTW, it's ok for the stock price to go up now. :)

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  • More on the Xbox Live Account 'Hack' Scandal

    Yesterday, Xbox Live's Major Nelson admits that the Xbox Live Account scandal involved pretexting. For those of you that haven't been following this situation, Microsoft has had numerous complaints of people having their Xbox Live accounts closed, changed, or charged for things the account holders didn't do. Until this week, Microsoft has been hiding behind the security of their network, blaming end users for the problem, and has flatly refused to investigate any of these issues. Then, someone decided to record a call to Xbox Live support, where they sucessfully misled the support personnel into gaining access to an account that wasn't theirs. That recording was then posted on the internet, and Microsoft couldn't do anything but admit there was a problem.

    So Major nelson said that they're now retraining support staff to prevent it from happening again in the future. While that's all fine and dandy, that's only half of the solution. Microsoft needs to make take some serious steps to rectify the problem with their CUSTOMERS as well, and they need to do it immediately. It should happen in two parts:

    1. Anyone who has been affected by this issue should have their accounts restored, any charges reversed, and either a year of Xbox Live Gold for free, or 5000 Microsoft points. Microsoft will lose a core gamer audience if they don't make it right with the victims, and then some.
    2. I've seen several reports online about the people who hacked the accounts. Since pretexting is illegal, Microsoft should open a criminal investigation, find those individuals, and charge them with the appropriate crime. That would send a clear message that Microsoft is not screwing around, and will not tolerate that kind of behavior on their network.

    But Microsoft, the clock is ticking. You guys have a finite window to make this right before it has a serious impact on current and future sales. If you want to be #1 in the console market, you can't afford to lose any existing converts. Please, do the right thing, and do it quick.

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  • Windows-Now.com is a Vista Featured Community

    Microsoft has updated the layout of Windows Vista Community home page. They've reorganized some of the communities, and gave more of the "Related community" sites logos next to their listings. But what I'm really excited about is they also put WindowsNow as their Featured Community on the home page for the next few weeks. So welcome to any visitors from the Windows Vista home page. Thanks, Microsoft!

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  • Can't Save Favorites in Vista's IE7?

    Two weeks ago, I reinstalled Vista on my Acer Ferrari. It had been running alright, but for some reason the Windows Experience Index page just stopped working entirely. I didn't want all the Acer crap on it anyways, so it was time to reformat.

    This time around, I decided to leave UAC on, and see what everyone keeps complaining about. I've done this before, but I shut it off at RC1 and hadn't dealt with it since. I had my user folder on another drive, which included my "Favorites" folder. But for some reason, with UAC on, IE7 couldn't save new items to my Favorites folder. I tried taking ownership of the folder, I tried tweaking folder security settings... nada. This problem is one of the reasons I shut off UAC in the first place.

    I found the solution online, and wanted to blog about it so it would be easier to find. First the solution, then the explanation:

    Solution:

    1. Open a Command Prompt as an administrator.
    2. Browse to the folder that contains your Favorites folder. That means whichever folder your Favorites folder is in.
    3. Copy this statement, right click the Command Prompt window at the prompt, and select paste:
      icacls favorites /setintegritylevel (OI)(CI)low

    Explanation:

    IE7 runs in "Protected Mode" with UAC on. Protected Mode sandboxes practically anything IE-related. So Microsoft came up with a concept called "Integrity" that defines the permissions level of given folders, outside the standard ACL security structure. You have to let IE know that it's ok two write to a given folder that has higher permissions.

    NOTE: You may also need to do this to the Documents and Downloads folders too, if you want to be able to save stuff from IE7.

    This method is much better than shutting UAC off. Thanks to Windows MVP Jimmy Brush for this solution.

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  • OS X 'Leopard' Delayed for Vista Support?

    Yesterday, I reported in The Vista Daily #16 that "Leopard" is being delayed, and in the article I linked to, one of the sources said that it "wasn't even close to being ready". Then today, Apple "insiders" hit back with a report that the delays might actually be attributed to Apple wanting to gain marketshare by having Vista support for BootCamp.

    Is Apple making Vista the scapegoat for poor progress on "Leopard"? Well, if this report is true, then it is quite possible. Now I'm all for Vista support on Mac hardware... it's great hardware. But personally, I find it rather fishy that Apple has the cahones to fight potentially bad press by blaming it's own development issues on Microsoft. Rather convenient, don'cha think? I read the article I linked to yesterday thoroughly, and nowhere did the "source" say anything about the problems being just with BootCamp, they said the whole OS wasn't ready yet.

    Now, I'm not doubting that Vista support in BootCamp would be a huge draw for Apple. I think it's BS that Apple can tell people that Vista sucks but "we'll still use it to sell more machines"... but what do I know, I'm just a Microsoft fanboy, right?

    Mary Jo Foley also has some thoughts on this issue.

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  • The Vista Daily #16

     <sigh> I wish American Idol would let you vote to boot people instead of keep them. Then Sanjaya would have been sent home a while ago. That's why 13 year olds shouldn't have cell phones. But I digress. Anyway, here's what's been going on with Microsoft in the last 48 hours...

    That's all for today. Another week come and gone. Dang it. See you next time!

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  • Microsoft Further Confuses Windows Live

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    Yesterday I ranted about the fact that Google is an ad company and not a search company, and that improvements in search are only to improve the ability to serve ads, while their aqcuisitions . Today, Microsoft moved Windows Live Search out of the Live product group and into the adCenter group. While this makes perfect sense (and validates my point), it's a terrible thing for Windows Live.

    So they spent all that time rebranding MSN Search, only to pull it from the group that maintains the brand. As if we weren't confused enough already. If it's not a part of the "Live" group, it shouldn't have the "Live" branding, and if it needs to be rebranded, then they should have announced the new branding with the move. They shoild not have announced this move until Live Search had been rebranded.

    Look, I know there are Microsoft employees that read my blog. At this point, I'm begging you: come out and clearly define what Windows Live is and how it relates to the rest of Microsoft. WaggEd, Edelman, whoever is responsible for Windows Live PR: You're losing the war. Get off your a$$ and do something about it, before you can't pull this airplane out of its death spiral.

    PLEASE!!!!

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  • The Vista Daily #15

    Welcome to the Tuesday night "Sanjaya needs to go home" edition of The Vista Daily. Here's what's been going on since Sunday:

    Xbox:

    Everything Else:

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  • Google Is Not a Search Company

    Contrary to popular belief, Google is not a software company. Google is not a search engine company. Google is a web-based adware company. Before you stop reading because you think I'm biased towards Microsoft, hear me out.

    Google does a lot of things. The write a ton of software, and they have a bunch of cool little web-based utilities and such. But don't for a second delude yourself into thinking that they are a software company with the intention of competing against Microsoft. No, my friends, their software is only a means to an end, and that end is advertising. Look at their aquisitions as of late.

    • YouTube: This was for no other reason other than to own the most captive audience on the Internet. Don't think ads are coming?
    • Adscape: Captures the 18-34 male segment, which would otherwise only be captured through porn.
    • Spot Runner: Rumors are flying about this TV ad-purchasing system, which is almost identical to the dMarc radio ad company they bought last year

    Nearly 80% of acquisitions have been to gain an audience they're not currently exposed to. This has been said many times before: Google Search isn't about delivering the information you want, Google Search is about analyzing your search patterns to determine what matters to you, which enabled them to deliver relevant advertising. They need to be able to associate your search patterns with wealth of historical search data so they can make predictions on what you want in the future. And that's not just the universal "you", that's specifically you. The announcement they made about anonymizing your data? That was just a smokescreen, meant to make you feel good about something you didn't know was happening anyways. If what I said earlier wasn't true, they would be wiping personally identifiable after six months, not two years.

    If you think Google is even focused on competing against Microsoft, you're dead wrong. I'm tired of hearing about how Google Spreadsheets is going to beat Excel, or whatever. It's not about that at all. If you want to know what a company is about, look at where their revenue comes from. Microsoft's revenue comes from business software. Almost all of Google's revenue comes from advertisements. And you may disagree with me, which is your perrogative. But if your revenue is based on advertising, then you're an advertising company in my book.

    IMO, Google will not be satisfied until they can track what you do from the second you wake up in the morning until you go to bed, from what you look at on the Internet, to what you watch on TV, to what you listen to on the radio and in podcasts. And that's why I call them an adware company... because they want to bombard you with ads, no matter what you're doing. When Microsoft had those aspirations, they were lynched by the mob of public opinion. For some reason, ten years later, it's suddenly ok, because Microsoft is evil and Google isn't; it even says so in their motto.

    Anyways, I've been thinking about that for a while, just had to get it off my chest.

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  • Build a Windows Home Server for $500

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    This will be the first of many intallments describing my adventures with Windows Home Server. I think it is one of the most exciting products to come out of Microsoft in a long time, and since Vista's out and nobody's saying nything about SP1, it fulfills my need to fixate on something.

    Ever since I saw the HP MediaSmart Home Server, I've been jonesing to build myself a Window Home Server. I've been testing it for about 3 weeks inside a virtual machine, and that's just no fun. I really wanted a dedicated machine to be able to test it with. Well, the other day a friend of mine gave me a spare processor and motherboard, so I decided to undertake my first homebuilt machine in 8 years.

    Now that I've been seduced by the diminuitive size of the HP machine, I wasn't satisfied to get just any case, I wanted a really small one. The problem is, the motherboard I was given was a MiniATX board, so I had relatively few options case-wise. So I decided to take a trek over to my local Fry's Electronics. I hardly ever buy anything there, because I've had more than a half-dozen bad experienced there, but it's a good place to check out the stuff you're gonna buy on NewEgg.com.

    After being unhappy with what I saw, I came across a Shuttle PC just kind of haphazardly laying on a layaway shelf. I had to have one. So after doing some research, I found out that Shuttle doesn't make a Socket 939 kit at the moment, but NewEgg had a smokin deal on a VERY similar form factor from Aopen. It was one of the only ones that only had one 5 1/4" drive bay, all the others had two. I was shocked to find that they also had a 500 GB SATA hard drive for $150. If I had the money, I would have bought another, and put it in the floppy drive bay, but I can always do that later.

    NewEgg had such great deals, I bought all my parts there. (As an aside, is it just me, or do they need to upgrade thir site to ASP.NET? I mean, it's still petty fast, but they could stand to add some Ajax goodness.) Last Friday, my parts came. I was so excited, and after an hour, I had the (almost) perfect Windows Home Server. Here's what I picked up (all prices current as of 18 March 2007 - Updated 28 March 2007):

    Grand Total: $471.46  $445.46

    A Windows Home Server for under $500? W00t! That's not including shipping, of course.... but it's still a steal. Below are some pictures of my rig under construction. Click any image for a larger version.

     

    Since it had been so long since I had built a PC, it took a couple tries for me to get the processor and fan seated properly, but I finally got everything together. In the bottom pictures, you can see my new WHS machine near my two Digital Cable Tuners on top of my desk, as well as the Aopen case in relation to the driver CD it comes with. You can see more pictures of my new Home Server here.

    All and all, I'm very happy with everything. It performs great, and it's nice and quiet (well, the drive is kinda loud when it's writing data, but that's ok). And, it's (almost) the perfect size. Plus, it'll make a great Virtual Server machine when I end up getting the HP MediaSmart Home Server later this year.

    Well, that's it for this time. Next time, I'll share some observations of my first week with WHS. It's been a good week :).

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  • The Vista Daily #14

    Filed under:

    I don't usually do this on weekends, but I found a lot going on in the past few days, so here's a special weekend edition of "The Vista Daily".

    News

    Software

    See you Monday!

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