Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

March 2007 - Posts

  • Someone's Gonna Get Fired

    ZDNet UK is running a story claiming Arno Edelmann, Microsoft's European Business Security PM makes several very damning statements about Windows Live OneCare. Here is an excerpt:

    Asked about these problems, Arno Edelmann, Microsoft's European business security product manager, told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the code itself has pieces missing.

    "Usually Microsoft doesn't develop products, we buy products. It's not a bad product, but bits and pieces are missing," said Edelmann.

    The problem lies with a core technology of OneCare, the GeCAD antivirus code, and how it interacts with Microsoft mailservers. According to Edelmann, the Microsoft updates and mailserver infrastructure do not harmonise.

    "It's a problem with the updates, and it's a problem with the implementation," said Edelmann.

    If mail is received from a server running Exchange 2007, users are unlikely to encounter problems. However, if mail is received from servers running Exchange 2000 or 2003, the likelihood of quarantining is high, said Edelmann.

    "OneCare is a new product — they shouldn't have rolled it out when they did, but they're fixing the problems now," said Edelmann.

    According to the security manager, security is only a small part of what Microsoft does, suggesting it does not have as much security expertise as established security vendors.

    "Microsoft is not a security company. Security is important, but it's just a little part of Microsoft," said Edelmann.

    There are several reasons why I don't think there is a shred of truth in this article whatsoever. First of all, the bug in OneCare quarantines Outlook ".pst" files, as well as Outlook Express ".dbx" files. Anyone that uses Exchange knows that Outlook uses ".ost" files with Exchange, and Outlook Express can't even access it. If you want to use Exchange, you can't use the free mail client, that's how Microsoft sells Outlook licenses.

    Second, Microsoft only buys products? Hmm, their massive R&D budget might suggest otherwise. Microsoft has developed a bunch of their own products, contrary to this guy's statement. The .NET Framework, MSN Messenger, Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, and Windows Home Server are all products that were completely built internally. Oh yeah, by the way, did Microsoft build Windows Vista, or buy it?

    Thirdly, I've never heard of a Microsoft employee running their mouth off like that. The Security Business PM saying security is only a small part of Microsoft? And if all that stuff is true, wouldn't he be partially responsible for those problems, as a PM in that Product Group?

    So either ZDNet UK author Tom Espiner made the article up, or Edelmann had a serious lapse in judgement. Anyone want to take bets on who gets fired first?

    PostTypeIcon
    5,149 Views
  • Microsoft to Adjust Vista EULA for Anytime Upgrade Transfers

    About six weeks ago, I was contacted by one of my readers asking for clarification on the ability to transfer a Vista Ultimate license that has been upgraded from Home Premium using Windows Anytime Upgrade. They were under the impression that you could only make a transfer once, which I told him was incorrect. Why would Microsoft limit Anytime Upgraded Vista Ultimate transfers when a retail copy of Ultimate wasn't under a transfer limit?

    Well, it turns out he was right, the EULA did have a clause limiting you to one transfer after running an Anytime Upgrade of Home Premium to Ultimate. But I was totally stunned. Did MSLegal accidentally overlook those clauses when they made the earlier EULA change before Vista shipped?

    So I e-mailed the Featured Communities team about it, who passed my very long and impassioned argument for fixing the issue on to the Licensing team. Among other things, I said they should fix it before the Microsoft-haters figured it out and turned what was probably an honest mistake into a huge deal. They said they had already received a number of questions about the issue, and would look into it. A couple weeks later, I was sent an e-mail saying they were going to address the issue, and they'd let me know what was going to happen.

    Well today, I got an e-mail letting me know that the limitation has been lifted, and a new EULA will be posted shortly (probably tomorrow). Microsoft has also updated the Anytime Upgrade FAQ with the new information (scroll down to the very bottom, it's the last question.) Here's the excerpt, for people with carpal tunnel:

    Am I allowed to transfer my software from one device to another when I upgrade using Windows Anytime Upgrade?

    Microsoft is modifying the end user license agreement for full packaged product versions of Windows Vista purchased through a retailer or from Microsoft, and then upgraded using Windows Anytime Upgrade. Under the terms of the modified license agreement, you are now granted the right to uninstall Windows Vista and then reinstall the operating system on a different computer. Provided you uninstall the operating system from your original computing device and do not share the license among multiple devices, you are no longer limited in the number of times that you may reassign the license to different devices. This modification is effective immediately, and will be included within future versions of the end user license agreement. All other terms of the end user license agreement apply to your use of the software.

    They even made it easy to understand. Now, I don't have the updated EULA yet, but I'm told there will be a post on the Official Windows Vista Blog about it tomorrow. I'll update this post when it's live.

    So there you have it folks... just one more example about how Microsoft listens and responds to its customers. Maybe now all the haters will realize Microsoft is a different company now... but I won't hold my breath or anything.

    UPDATE: For those of you that didn't believe me yesterday, Microsoft has confirmed this on the Official Windows Vista Blog, although they haven't posted the new EULA.

    PostTypeIcon
    32,316 Views
  • FINALLY, Site Issues Solved!

    After spending the last several months beating my head against the desk with the issues I've been having here at Windows-Now.com, I finally caved in last night and coughed up the $100 to sick Microsoft's IIS6 PSS on it. I wasn't sure if I had my SQL server set up wrong, or if I screwed up some stupid IIS6 AppPool setting.

    So a really nice guy named Adam e-mailed me this morning, and was a HUGE help. It turns out, they use an extremely stripped-down version of LiveMeeting to see your desktop, and they watch you as you DRP into your server and do some troubleshooting. I waited for the problem to happen, did a memory dump, and uploaded it to him. Within an hour, he had the answer. It was probably the best Tech Support experience I've ever had.

    It turns out, the problem lies in the way Community Server 2.1 tracks page views. I had noticed that my page views weren't incrementing nearly as much as they used to, which I thought was strange since site traffic has been steadily increasing. Well, the task that updates the page view counts in the database was stopping everything waiting for a response, which never came. So the "thread" the site ran on would wait for 90 seconds, until the request timed out. Then the site would start responding again.

    So while Telligent tracks down the issue and fixes it, I've removed the whole reporting module from the system, and the site has returned to it's speedy self. I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Seriously, when the site responded the second I called it up after removing the offending HttpModule, and it kept responding after all the CSJobs had ran 15 minutes later... I'm pretty sure I had a small orgasm. If I was a smoker I would have had a cigarette. It's been THAT stressful.

    Anyways, I'm going to relax for a little bit, and then I have some big news to share. Thanks for hanging with the site through all this, and it's OK to link to us again. Thanks guys!

    UPDATE: Telligent rushed in and quickly provided a fix, which was a variation on one that was posted a couple weeks ago. I talked about it more on my personal blog. Thanks Telligent!

    PostTypeIcon
    2,243 Views
  • The Vista Daily #13

    Filed under:

    I'm not even gonna try to play catchup on this one.

    A lot more happened in the last couple days, but plenty of other people have covered them.  See you next time!

    PostTypeIcon
    15,732 Views
  • The Tech Pundits Are Twitter-pated

    How many times can tech re-invent the concept of displaying information from an HTTP Post? Well, If you've had a hard time reading any goon news around the web this week, it's not just because everyone's in Texas for YATC (Yet Another Tech Conference)... oops, I mean SXSW, or in Seattle for the Microsoft MVP Summit. Nope, the web is quieter because all the cool people are now on Twitter. Haven't you heard about it? It's a site that lets you post to your page from a cell phone, making it that much easier to inform people that you're about to drop a deuce or have sex with "your mom". Sweet!

    The problem with this concept, like anything else, is that it takes an effort to maintain it. And in this case, that effort expended is quite large. Techies have a notoriously short attention span, so the half-life on this concept will be considerably short, IMO.

    And as if having one website wasn't enough, apparently Techmeme (you know, the site that crawls the web to tell geeks what's cool to talk about) has created it's own site on Twitter. It re-posts its content there, in case an RSS feed was just too much for you to handle.

    Here's my question: Does anyone really give a damn what I or anyone else is doing on a regular basis? I mean, seriously. If you're constantly following the mundane details of other people's lives... who's taking care of your own life? Do I really want to be responsible if some poor sap is neglecting his kids because he's addicted to reading about what I'm doing at any given moment? I don't think so.

    Now, if someone could show me a way that I could run my mouth off and get paid for it without people screaming bloody murder and questioning my credibility, I'm there. You remember money, don't you? You know, the green stuff that companies give you in exchange for your time?

    So I'm not going to be setting up a Twitter site anytime in the near future. I'd encourage my readers to take the time you'd otherwise spend reading about the crap I do every day and spend it with someone you love. It might even make your day better.

    [via Steve Rubel]

    UPDATE: Dave Cote thinks Twitter is for Twits.

    PostTypeIcon
    4,336 Views
  • Internal AMD Memo Encourages Rapid Company-Wide Vista Adoption

    Filed under: ,

    Today, Intel's Paul Otellini said that they aren't moving to Windows Vista until SP1. ZDNet's Larry Dignan has the details:

    Speaking at the Bank of America Technology conference in San Francisco, Otellini was asked about his take on Vista and whether it could drive demand.

    For corporations, Otellini said Vista upgrades will be slow. "I know of no organization doing an upgrade before SP1," said Otellini. "Intel isn't upgrading either (until SP1)."

    Otellini, however, noted corporate uptake won't hurt Microsoft because most enterprises have commercial licenses that are "all you can drink."

    Oh, but wait a second, so lemme get this straight. Intel has taken the same position on Vista as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation? Since when did the world's largest processor manufacturer decide to take the same upgrade cycle as the Federal Government? Holy crap man, my Grandma's on a quicker upgrade cycle than the government is!

    Personally, I think that's completely irresponsible. Intel is the worlds largest processor company. How can they optimize their experience for Vista if they're not going through the same pains we are? It's no wonder Intel STILL doesn't have Viiv drivers for x64, and why we're still waiting for other Vista drivers from their teams. Why is Viiv taking so long? Half the Viiv  technology is built in .NET, which we already know runs on x64? They're setting a terrible example for the industry.

    Intel said they "know of no other company doing an upgrade before SP1", which means they probably don't know their competition very well. As you're about to see, AMD is acutely aware of theirs. I've obtained an internal AMD memo from a source inside the company on this very topic. It's from Chief Marketing Officer Henri Richard (he's the #2 guy, BTW) which paints a completely different tone. I thought about only posting excerpts, but it's important to see the overall tone and context vs. Intel, so I'm publishing the whole thing.

    INTERNAL MEMORANDUM

    Date: January 4, 2007
    To: All AMDers
    From: Henri Richard, Executive Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer
    Subject: Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

    My Fellow AMDers,
    We are at the start of 2007 and already a momentous change is underway. The global IT industry is preparing for one of the most dramatic technological shifts in its history: The launch of Microsoft Windows Vista™.

    This powerful and innovative new operating system will arrive in just a few weeks and will bring with it a new computing revolution that will forever alter the way people and organizations around the world think about, use and interact with PCs. Make no mistake, Windows Vista represents one of the most important technology milestones of this decade and the benefits it offers will reverberate for years to come.

    The global business community – including AMD – is already moving swiftly to adopt Windows Vista because of the many advanced security, performance, productivity and user experience features it offers. Analysis compiled by several financial institutions and industry analyst firms shows that enterprise customers are planning to deploy Windows Vista across their organizations far more quickly than they did Windows XP. The same holds true in varying degrees for small business users and, of course, consumers, who will lead the charge. Windows Vista also promises to redefine mobile computing and is expected to become the OS of choice for the vast majority of mobile business users in the next 12-18 months. By all accounts, Windows Vista is poised to become the most widely used and most rapidly adopted operating system in Microsoft’s history.

    When Windows Vista launches on January 30th, AMD will immediately occupy some of the most valuable real-estate on the technology landscape and we must act swiftly and smartly to ensure we reap our rightful reward.

    No other company in our industry – not even our most aggressive competitors – can offer the complete, customer-centric Windows Vista experience, as intended by Microsoft, the way the new AMD can. We are a global leader in both discrete and integrated graphics, we offer a full range of powerful and power-efficient x86 microprocessors, and we provide advanced chipsets that support the majority of x86 and PC graphics processors available today, regardless of manufacturer or brand.

    Unlike our competitors, AMD is not constrained by any limitations when it comes to offering the ultimate Windows Vista experience. We have no agenda or internal mandate to push one technology over another at the expense of customer value or to the detriment of Windows Vista’s potential. The fact is, AMD is the quintessential Windows Vista partner simply because no other IT company's mission and product offering aligns so thoroughly with Microsoft's vision. The more successful Windows Vista is, the more successful AMD can be, pure and simple.

    The only way we can fail is if we choose to let this opportunity slip away. So I am calling on all AMD employees to recognize and embrace everything Windows Vista represents and make it part of our DNA, to understand that we hold the keys to the kingdom in ways no one else does. [Emphasis mine]

    We can become the semiconductor platform of choice for every company in Microsoft’s ecosystem that touches Windows Vista in any way. And the first expression of this vision will be unveiled at CES next week with the launch of our “Better By Design” campaign.

    Let’s start 2007 at a new pace that will leave our competition behind. Now is the time. Let’s make the most of it.

    I mean, it's a position that is light-years apart from Intel. My source tells me that AMD had a groups of Microsoft consultants come in and advise them about a rollout plan that would make the most sense to them, and they're in the middle of executing that plan. Vista is being deployed at AMD from the top-down, with about 100 users (most of the AMD executives, plus others) using it right now, with many others coming online soon. He said that those people have been running Vista & Office 2007 since September, and that "satisfaction has been high while reported issues have been very low".

    Maybe Intel was too busy joining in on the Steve Jobs Circle Jerk to realize that Vista is a game that Intel should be on top of, and that thousands of people tested the hell out of it. Just one more reason that I think AMD will be gaining some pretty significant ground over the next few years.

    [via Neowin]

    PostTypeIcon
    13,256 Views
  • Scheduled Maintenance Notice

    Just wanted to let everyone know that the site will be down for a few hours this evening at 12:00AM MST. I'll be performing some maintenance on the database, which requires exclusive DB access for a brief period of time.

    Hopefully this, coupled with several other changes I've made in the last few days, will help increase the site's availability, which has been terrible as of late.

    UPDATE: The site's back online (obviously). Some of the database maintenance worked, but a majority of the database indexes would not rebuild themselves. I'm looking into it.

    PostTypeIcon
    2,991 Views
  • Best Buy Just Lost My Business Forever

    Consider this scenario:

    You're shopping online for a new DVD player. You see that Best Buy is having a great sale, and decide to go in the store to pick it up, because you want it really bad. You get there, and the salesman is more than happy to tell you all about it. Then you bring up the fact that you saw a better price on BestBuy.com. So the employee takes you over to the computer, and navigates to what appears to be the company website, and shows you a price that matches the price on the shelf. "Oh, they must have just updated the website", the salesperson tells you. Unsure whether to be disappointed or pissed, you begrudgingly pay full price for the item, and take it home. The salesperson woudn't lie to you, right?

    Well, this article I just read proves just that. It seems that Best Buy had an internal version of their public facing website that listed different prices.

    Under pressure from [Connecticut] state investigators, Best Buy is now confirming my reporting that its stores have a secret intranet site that has been used to block some consumers from getting cheaper prices advertised on BestBuy.com.

    ...

    State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ordered the investigation into Best Buy's practices on Feb. 9 after my column disclosed the website and showed how employees at two Connecticut stores used it to deny customers a $150 discount on a computer advertised on BestBuy.com.

    ...

    Based on what his office has learned, Blumenthal said, it appears the consumer has the burden of informing Best Buy sales people of the cheaper price listed on its Internet site, which he said "is troubling."

    What is more troubling to me, and to some Best Buy customers, is that even when one informs a salesperson of the Internet price, customers have been shown the intranet site, which looks identical to the Internet site, but does not always show the lowest price.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Best Buy isn't the only major retailer that does this. Either way, this kind of deception should not be tolerated. The easiest way to show them customers won't stand for being mislead is to stop being their customers. I'll never step foot in another Best Buy ever again, and I'd strongly urge my American readers to do the same. There are plenty of other online retailers who are far cheaper anyways. Newegg.com isn't going to have an internal website to mislead their customers.

    And people say Wal-Mart is the evil one.

    PostTypeIcon
    5,470 Views
  • Vista Brute Force Crack Steals From Consumers, NOT Microsoft

    Filed under: ,

    It seems that people are really desperate NOT to pay for Windows. It seems that someone who was "just testing his VBScripting skills" has posted a routine that attempts to activate a pirated copy of Windows Vista by brute force. That means that the script increments through methodically generated keys, and attempts to pass it on to Microsoft's activation servers for validation. If it fails, the generator moves on to the next one, until it finds a valid key. The author says this process can take anywhere from 2 hours to two days. UPDATE: Adrian explains how it works here.

    Here's the problem with this, folks. Previous Windows cracks have used leaked corporate activations keys to unlock Windows, which only really hurts Microsoft. This method actively steals a valid Product Key from Microsoft customers, because most keys can only be activated once. Think about that for a second. What if your mom just got home from laying down $150 for Windows Vista Home Premium, only to get it home and install it, and find out that their key has already been activated. Now, Microsoft doesn't get hurt, because the key has been paid for. But now your mom is branded a pirate, and has to go through a giant hassle to get a new legitimate key.

    Please, don't be an a$$hole use this method of activating Vista. It's one thing if your target is Microsoft, it's quite another if your target is an unsuspecting consumer who shelled out their hard-earned money to upgrade their home computing experience. And Microsoft, I hope you can shut this one down, for your customers' sakes.

    PostTypeIcon
    41,743 Views