Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

April 2007 - Posts

  • Microsoft Changes the Development Game

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    Today, Microsoft completely changed the web development game, and chances are, you didn't even know it. If you STILL don't think Microsoft "gets it" after today's announcements, you're probably so ensconced in your tech-religious beliefs that there isn't much hope for you anyways.

    “Look, I’ve got IronPython using ActiveRecord and LINQ, all inside the Safari browser on my Mac, and I’m debugging it in Visual Studio remotely from my PC.” These kinds of scenarios are in fact becoming possible, and those of us who appreciate all of these components individually will rightly pronounce it cool that they can come together in these ways.

    Jon Udell quoted Jon Lam as saying that in a podcast he had right before MIX 07.

    Microsoft now has an officially-supported cross-platform implementation of the .NET Framework. That's cross-platform folks, not just cross-browser. That means, in the not too distant future those cool .NET apps you've been working so hard on (you HAVE been building apps on .NET, right?) will run on a Mac too.

    But that's not all. Microsoft brought together some of the best minds in dynamic languages together, and built a common platform for implementing dynamic languages like Python and Ruby on top of .NET. It's called the Dynamic Language Runtime, and it plugs into the CLR, allowing anyone to plug in their own dynamic languages, much like you can with the CLR today.

    It seems that I was right earlier, when I connected the dots on cross-platform support at the DLR. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the DLR will be open sourced under the BSD license? WHAT?!?!? Microsoft can open-source things too? Holy crap, where is my heart medication?

    I don't think I can adequately convey how truly exciting this all is. Ruby is well on it's way to being an officially-supported .NET language, and their goal is to get Ruby on Rails working as well. So now all the really cool stuff going on there won't be confined solely to the LAMP platform. And the subset of .NET running inside Silverlight 1.1 is only a stepping stone to the day when Microsoft has the complete framework running on a Macs as well as PCs.

    On a side note, Microsoft also demonstrated how to counter the "anti-1.0 software adoption" syndrome by releasing a beta of Silverlight 1.0 and an alpha of Silverlight 1.1 simultaneously. Genius.

    I had a conversation with Robert Scoble about all this right before MIX, after he posted about Adobe's open-sourcing of Flex. He didn't think Microsoft would run .NET on a Mac because it doesn't sell OS licenses. But then I reminded him that the Developer Division is not about selling OS licenses, it's about building platforms that people use to build stuff on, and leveraging an ecosystem of first- and third-party tools to generate revenue for itself and its partners. Just because you choose not to use Microsoft's OS doesn't mean you have to lock yourself out of platforms (virtualization being the exception).

    I can't wait to see the innovation that comes from these new components for Microsoft's vision of the web. I don't think these announcements will stop the zealotry entirely, but maybe interoperability will help jump-start the process. And

    I leave you with a quote from Ray Ozzie, newly free from his self imposed Cone of Silence, from today's Q&A with Mike Arrington:

    On the question of competing with Google, Ozzie responded: "The DNA of Microsoft is not going into a space unless we can change the game and win in some form. More interesting from a competitive standpoint related to Google and large incumbent competitors in general is how Microsoft approaches it and secondary and tertiary effects."

    He alluded to moments in Microsoft's history when the company was spurred into action by competitive forces, citing open source and Java as leading to cultural changes and reshaping Microsoft, a side or secondary effect of the competitive battles. "If you go back to Sony years ago, the Playstation 2 look unassailable. A side effect, secondary effect was the creation of an entire entertainment and devices division in Microsoft," Ozzie said.

    Ozzie went on to say, "From a Google perspective, the secondary impacts have already begun to happen," resulting in the ad model Microsoft had never considered before. "With services, we decided to make an investment and scale the back end for search and ads, now we are thinking about how to 'platformize' it, so we developers can better take advantage of it."

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  • The Tech Industry's Dirty Little Secret

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    If there is any post that would ever cost me readers, unfortunately it's probably this one. For the record, I am a 25 year old male who is registered in Arizona as a Republican. I consider myself a moderate Republican, and you can expect my views as expressed in this post to be filtered through that lens.

    There's a dirty little secret in the tech industry. For having such a wide spectrum of ideas when it comes to building cool technologies, and for the diversity of individuals in the technology field, there is not so much diversity of thought when it comes to politics in technology. It's a well-known but little-discussed fact that most people in the tech sector consider themselves Democrats.

    At no time in my life was that fact ever more apparent then after reading the always thought-provoking Todd Bishop's post on tech employee donations to the 2008 Presidential candidates. Todd's article focused mostly on how Microsoft shaped up with the rest of the major tech companies, and didn't break anything down by political party. We all know how I love crunching numbers in different ways, so I took the data from Todd's crack analyst and started playing around with it.

    The data that resulted was quite interesting, to say the least. I don't know if any conclusions can be drawn right now, because of the fact that it's still too dang early in the process, and there are wise people out there who are waiting for the field to narrow before donating their money. Personally, I think it's insanely ridiculous to be doing this election crap so early. Many of these people are already elected officials, and they should be taking the next year and do what they were elected to do. I didn't realize New York State elected Hillary Clinton last year for the sole purpose of enabling her presidential campaign.

    But that's beside the point. So anyway, the first thing I did was to divide the candidates up by political party. To do this, I used the 2008 election page on Wikipedia. Then, I had to redo the table to allow a more direct comparison of what each company's employees gave to each candidate, and total up the contributions for each candidate. That would give a representation of who these companies think should lead the country. I then reordered the candidates by amount contributed, with the winner on top.

    The results are very interesting, but not really surprising. If the election were based on money raised as of today, Hillary Clinton would beat Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. She'd also beat out Republican candidate Mitt Romney for the Presidency.

    I purposely left out the totals from the first chart, so that I could make a much more straightforward comparison below. Using the reorganized data above, I wanted to get a clear picture of how much each company's employees gave to each party, and see the difference in spending for each company. The results may or may not surprise you.

    The it's still too early in the game to draw concrete conclusions, but here's the patterns I see thus far. As Todd already determined, Google's employees are by far the most politically active, with Microsoft coming in a relatively close second, and IBM in third. Microsoft had by far the most people contribute to the Republican party, but there was still an enormous relative gap in spending between the two parties over at everyone's favorite Collective.

    What really shocked me was the gap in spending between the political parties at Google and Yahoo. Yahoo didn't have a single soul contribute to the Republican party, which means that right-leaning employees either smart to wait it out, or they simply don't exist. Only time will tell which one it is.

    Almost as shocking was the fact that the Republicans are currently winning at both Apple and Adobe. I don't think you can draw any conclusions from that yet, though. One contributor could easily turn the tides at both companies, and it seems that employees on both sides of the ideological fence are waiting for the process to separate the wheat from the chaff (although that colorful phrase suggests there are amazing candiates in the field, a view which I don't share as of yet).

    As I said, it's too early to come to absolute conclusions, especially when you take into account that there are only 8 companies in this table. But whatever your political leaning, you have to admit that at face value, it's hard to deny that there is an ideological gulf in the Tech sector when the Dems have been given 6X more money by employees in the sector than Republicans. It's just too bad that there isn't more diversity of political views in our tech workplaces.

    I'll be following this data over the next 18 months to see the trends that emerge as more employees start investing in their candidates of choice. Will the Democratic Domination continue? Probably. Tech jobs still usually require a higher level of education, and there is growing evidence that many of today's educational institutions are left-leaning. The open source movement stems from ideas that live on the left side of the ideological spectrum, and Open Source is definitely not going away either. It will be very interesting to see the trends after the election is over next year. Hopefully the conclusions then will be different. Because different viewpoints are good, right?

    You can go ahead and flame me now.

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  • A New Blog on WindowsVistaBlog.com

    I guess there's not just one blog over on WindowsVistaBlog.com anymore. Roving Blogger Brandon LeBlanc has pulled up roots once again and moved from The Hive over to the the new Windows Experience blog on the Official Windows Vista Blog website.

    We want to generate excitement from Windows Enthusiasts by expanding on the story and diving deeper into the experiences within those stories. And the experiences here won’t always be experiences from myself or other folks at Microsoft. We want to highlight experiences *you* have as well! Expect to see lots of videos and lots of screenshots! Just like Nick, I plan to spend a lot of extra time beyond simply posting blog posts.

    Looking forward to see what Brandon does over there. Now if he'd just stay in one spot long enough to have letterhead printed up, lol.

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  • I'm Hiring Again, Do You Know Community Server?

    Every so often I post a request for someone with expertise in a certain area, and it's that time again. This time around, I have several Community Server 2007 projects that I need a developer on. It's a paid, part-time, contract-to-hire position that could become a full-time job if all goes well. If you're interested, you'd be building out Community Server websites for a couple new clients of mine, plus you'll get to work on making this site better too.

    And you get special bonus points if you know Classic ASP and are interested in working on a long-term Classic ASP => ASP.NET 2.0 conversion project.

    If you're interested, use the contact form on my blog to e-mail me, and we'll chat about the position. Thanks!

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  • Windows Media Center Update Rollup 1 for Windows Vista

    Who says you have to wait until SP1 to get new features in Vista? Update Rollup 1 for Windows Media Center was just put up on Windows Update. Install with caution, however. On one of my systems, installing this update caused both IE7 and Outlook 2007 to crash repeatedly. I had to uninstall it, but fortunately I don't use WMC on that system. I installed the update on the box I use for WMC without a problem.

    Here are the details:

    Replaces the following hotfixes

    • 929011 Windows Media Center does not correctly configure a combo TV tuner that supports both ATSC and NTSC signals on a Windows Vista-based computer
    • 932753 When you resize the Windows Media Center window in Windows Vista, video playback may stop

    Fixes the following problems

    • The video may appear to freeze when the movie begins in some DVDs.
    • When you rotate a picture during a slide show in Windows Media Center, the wrong photo may be rotated.
    • The cover art for recorded TV movies may not appear in the DVD library view.
    • When you delete a picture in Windows Media Center, you may receive an error message.
    • When you try to play a DVD by using Autoplay, you may receive an error message.

    Improves the following areas

    • Online Media support has been added for Windows Media Center on 64-bit versions of Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate.
    • Video Playlist support has been added for Windows Media Center Extenders.
    • Improvements have been made to Online Media caching.
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  • Visual Studio "Orcas" Beta 1 Shipped

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    Microsoft DevDiv VP "Soma" Somasegar just announced that the team signed off on the bits for VS "Orcas" Beta 1, and they should be available on MSDN within the next 48 hours. Congratulations to everyone working on the project, Visual Studio 2008 (my guess, not official) is shaping up to be a really great release.

    Below are links with more information. I'll update this page with more download links as they become available. NOTE: The "Suite-Only VPC" link is active and you can start downloading now.

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  • Microsoft Introduces $3 Windows Bundle for Emerging Markets

    Kudos to Microsoft for making the right move.

    My good friend Jed Rose, former manager of the Windows Featured Communities team, came out of hiding a few minutes ago and told me a bit about the project he's been working on for the last 8 weeks. Today, Microsoft is announcing that, sometime in the second half of the year, they will be making Windows Vista XP Starter, Office 2007 Home and Student, Windows Live Mail Desktop, Microsoft Math 3.0, and Learning Essentials 2.0 available for a grand total of $3 USD. This won't be available for just anyone to buy, however. Governments would have to pay for at least part of the cost of computers from certain retailers, who would then pass the computers on to students.

    The New York Times article had some great information:

    There are about a billion PC users worldwide, mainly in developed nations. The initial goal of the Microsoft program, working with many industry partners, would be to add another billion PC users by 2015, Mr. Ayala said.

    ...

    Software piracy is another pressing concern for Microsoft and other software companies in developing nations. Mr. Ayala acknowledged that piracy and the competition from Linux were business issues for Microsoft.

    “But this isn’t really about responding to those things, but about finding an economically practical way to put good software and a good computer into these people’s hands and get them going in life,” Mr. Ayala said.

    “Certainly,” he added, “for Microsoft this is an investment in the long term. These are the consumers of the future.”

    No matter what happens with Microsoft’s effort in developing countries, it is not going to have much impact on the company’s financial performance anytime soon. Its annual sales are running at more than $45 billion a year.

    “Microsoft is betting that at least some of the kids from developing nations will turn into buyers of more mainstream products later in life,” said Roger L. Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, a research firm. “The theory is that if you get them young, you can keep them for life.”

    Ina fried of News.com interviewed Will Poole, who had this to say:

    "This is a new trend we are trying to embrace," Poole said. "We expect there will be some number of many tens if not single hundreds of thousands of PCs purchased under programs like this over the next 12 months."

    Although Microsoft is aiming the PCs at students, it understands that they may get used more broadly by the families who get them.

    "We're not going to tell them that the father cannot use it to look for job listings or the mom can't use it to look up health information," Poole said. "Of course it is going to be used however it is that it is used in the household, but the expectation is that it is for the student for education as the primary use."

    Personally, I think this is an amazing thing. If Microsoft sees piracy as it's biggest competition, than this is their tried-and-true strategy of out-competing their competitors. Why would you buy an illegal copy for $1 in China when you could buy a legitimate copy for $3? Brilliant! Can you imagine the pitch meeting for this plan though? I bet several Microsoft VPs probably had to change their underwear after the meeting. That couldn't have been an easy pill to swallow.

    More Information

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  • Intel Thinks 1 Million is a Big Number

    MarketWatch has a story about how Intel thinks it will ship 1 million quad-core chips in the first half of this year. While you would think that's a big deal, it's 1 million chips out of the 240 million chips they'll sell this year. That means that 0.4% of the chips in the market will be quad-core. Now, I'm not saying that a million chips in six months is pocket change... that's over 160,000 a month... but since when was capturing 0.4% of the market anything to put out a press release about?

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  • Microsoft Successfully Fools Industry on Video Codecs

    I was puzzled why so many news sites were referring to Windows Media Video as Microsoft's implementation of VC-1. Then I looked on Microsoft's Silverlight website, which has a self-contradicting statement:

    VC-1 is an industry-standard video format, recognized by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), and most notably ships in all HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc–certified electronics, hardware, and tools. Windows Media Video 9 (WMV-9) is the Microsoft implementation of the SMPTE VC-1 standard video codec. Microsoft initiated development of the standard with the release of WMV-9 to SMPTE.

    Then I looked on Wikipedia, and even their first paragraph contains a similar contradictory statement:

    VC-1 is the informal name of the SMPTE 421M video codec standard initially developed by Microsoft. WMV3, better known as Windows Media Video 9 codec, served as the basis for development of the VC-1 codec specification. On April 3, 2006, SMPTE announced the formal release of the VC-1 standard as SMPTE 421M. Its most popular implementation is Windows Media Video 9.

    Wanting to make sure I wasn't in a parallel universe or something, I went on to Microsoft's WMV9 site... and there it is again!

    The Simple and Main profiles have been complete for several years, and existing implementations such as WMV 9 have long supported the creation and playback of content using these profiles, as well as an early implementation of the Advanced profile.

    ...

    Windows Media Video 9 is the Microsoft implementation of the VC-1 SMPTE standard. It supports Simple, Main, and Advanced profiles.

    So, while it may be a relatively minor point of contention, in light of the whole Office Open XML debate, I think it's important that we be clear on where this stuff came from. I'm not saying that this was an intentional, coordinated effort on Microsoft's part to mislead people, even though my title might suggest otherwise (hey, I gotta get people to read it, right?) but if it was, it sure worked.

    WMV9 is not Microsoft's implementation of VC-1. That would insinuate that VC-1 came first, which is not the case. WMV9 was submitted by Microsoft to the SMPTE as a standard, which 15 companies contributed to. This process was similar to the way Microsoft submitted OOXML as a standard. The result of that standardization process was given the name VC-1.

    So WMV9 is not Microsoft's implementation of the standard, it's the codec from which the standard was based. Maybe I'm just being nitpicky and argumentative today, and maybe the industry is better-served if people don't see the MS stamp on the codec, but I think there is a difference.

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  • Is Your WMP Broken on Vista x64?

    Every once in a while, WMP craps out on my installation of Windows Vista x64. It happens when the 64-bit version of WMP tried to wrest control on my system's media playing abilities from the default 32-bit version. When that happens, not only does WMP stop working (and with a very cryptic and totally unhelpful error message, at that), but Napster stops working as well, citing error message 1002 (also extremely helpful).

    The solution? According to this site, shut down any open media players, open a command prompt as an administrator, and type:

    %windir%\system32\unregmp2.exe /SwapTo:32

    You won't need to restart your computer, just make sure you open the 32-bit WMP after you run that command.

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  • Questions About Migrating to IIS7?

    I'm working on writing a chapter for a book on IIS7 that kinda dropped in my lap, and has to be finished in short order. This chapter is on migrating existing web servers to IIS7. At the end of the chapter, it has a section on questions and answers... it's part summary, part quick-reference.

    As I said, I have to finish it in short order, so I wanted to pose the question to my readers. If you were buying a book on IIS7, what questions would oyou be looking to have answered re: migrations?

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  • "WPF/E" Is Now Microsoft Silverlight

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    I thought Microsoft was going to wait until MIX 07 to announce some of this stuff, but chose the National Association of Broadcasters instead to show off Microsoft Silverlight, formerly "WPF/E". DevDiv VP "Soma" Somasegar had this to say:

    As I mentioned, this Silverlight announcement at NAB is only part of the story, the rest will be unveiled at MIX including details about how Silverlight is a core component of Microsoft’s broader .NET platform. Keep your eyes on Mix07 as part of Ray Ozzie’s and Scott Guthrie’s keynote – be sure to check it out.

    Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie on the same stage? You better believe that's going to be a good keynote. Make me wish I was going to MIX this year.

    I think the branding is HOT. The logo is sexy, and the site design is very Apple-esque. It should appeal a lot to those types of designer-developers, which is teh audience Microsoft is trying to capture. Too bad they didn't have a Silverlight-enabled home page ready for launch though. I would expect it to have a bit more interactivity.

    At any rate, it just goes to show you that the Developer Division is still Microsoft's best at rapidly executing innovative new technologies.

    More Info:

    Microsoft Silverlight Home Page
    High-Def Teaser Video
    PressPass Press Release
    Tim Sneath Explains
    Tina Wood from On10.net Has Video

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  • Google: All Your Ads Are Belong To Us

    Less than a month ago, I posted a rant about how Google is an ad company, not a search company. If you disagreed with me then, I have new evidence for you.

    The New York Times is reporting that Google, not Microsoft, will acquire DoubleClick for $3.1B. TechCrunch says that a 10x valuation of a mature company is "...healthy." That's definitely one word to use... insane might be another. Om Malik says that Microsoft's offer was only $2B. The should not have let Google outbid them.

    You know what pisses me off about this? Before this whole "Who is gonna buy DoubleClick?" thing, I was seriously considering signing up for their services as an alternative to the AdSense ads on the site. Since AdSense has been so crappy, I wanted to take another service for a spin. Now, I'm going to have to keep looking. Anyone have any ideas where I should be looking?

    So, at what point are we allowed to start using "Google" and "monopoly" in the same sentance?

    UPDATE: Steve Rubel, in a similarly titled post (apparently I'm not as original or funny as I thought), makes the observation that the purchase is just as much about their historical clickthrough data as it is for their current customer base. I wonder what kind of new services they'll kick out once they've assimilated all that data into their Collective. Resistance is futile.

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  • The Vista Daily #18

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    Thursday is now officially Delay Day. Both Apple and Microsoft took their lumps for delaying products today. Here's the lowdown, plus some other things that caught my eye today...

    Apple Roundup:

    Virtualization:

    Miscellaneous:

    That's it for me. I'll be MIA for most of tomorrow, I have some writing to do. You kids play nice!

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