Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

May 2007 - Posts

  • Disable Vista's Built-In Zip Functionality

    Rex Tang posted a great tip he found to disable the built-in Zip functionality in Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista.

    regsvr32 /u %windir%\system32\zipfldr.dll

    I'd only recommend using it if you have another Zip program installed, but it's a great tip nonetheless.

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  • Malware Posing as Windows Product Activation

    Alex Kochis of the WGA Blog posted today that Symantec has details of a new trojan that masquerades as Windows XP Product Activation to steal a user's credit card information.

    If you select "no", your system immediately shuts down. It also disables the Task Manager, and renders your computer unable to do anything else until you give them what they want (your card info). You can see video of this virus in action below.

    [YouTube:lxHa-xpD5xQ]

    It's important to note that Microsoft *NEVER* asks for credit card information inside Windows. This trojan hopes that you're too inexperienced to realize that. Symantec is rating it low risk, but fact that it preys on inexperienced users makes me think that this might become much more widespread in the near future. So keep an eye out for it.

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  • Windows Server "Longhorn" is Now Windows Server 2008

    Well, the name change is all but official. Mary Jo caught the first glimpse of it the other day, and now Microsoft France has spilled the beans too. Not only does the TechNet France site carry the new logo, but so does their TechNet Beta Center. Clicking the "Obtain the Applications" link takes you to an English language TechNet site that lets you register for Windows Server 2008 Beta 3.

    Here's the logo:

    [via Bink.nu]

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  • Microsoft's Virtualization Strategy is Doomed To Fail

    I don't think Microsoft is "in it to win it" with Virtualization anymore. Mike Neil, GM of "Virtualization Strategy" announced today that Microsoft isn't putting out a beta of Windows Server Virtualization until Longhorn Server RTMs (which is in November, the last I heard). On top of that, they're going to be cutting some of the features they touted the most in previous public demonstrations; features such as live migration, hot-adding resources, and support for extreme multicore.

    Now, normally this wouldn't be a huge deal, but it shows a larger pattern of malaise from the Virtualization group at Microsoft. As I understand it, Microsoft has outsourced offshored the entire development of both Virtual PC and Virtual Server to India, and Microsoft has all but abandoned future versions of that platform. In case that I wasn't clear, that means that those products will be in "servicing" mode (security bugs only) after Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 RTMs. This accounts for the fact that Virtual Server 2005 has been itself extensively delayed, and both platforms have not been advanced enough to compete with VMWare. While at one point it seemed that Microsoft was competitive, now they're being left in the dust.

    (Offshoring it is not a bad thing, as great stuff comes out of Microsoft's operations in the East. But the core Connectix team is not working on VPC/VS anymore, and as of right now new versions will be bug fixes only.)

    This "resources" thing is a load of crap. If Microsoft really saw virtualization as "the next frontier", they would bring all their weight to bear on the market, and blow the competition away. Instead, they're satisfied to outsource and kill their existing products and cut features to meet a deadline that was apparently too ambitious for the team. Actions are clearly speaking louder than words here, and Microsoft is headed for a really embarrassing loss.

    There was a point when I was really excited about what Microsoft was doing with Virtualization. I'm not anymore. I can't afford to wait another year for a virtualization platform that's been delayed and castrated. I was just getting ready to deploy a new web server network on Virtual Server, in anticipation of WSV. Looks like I'm going to have to look into VMWare instead. XenSource is shipping now, maybe I should take a look at their platform too.

    I had such high hopes. <sigh> Oh well.

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  • What?!? Microsoft Doesn't Foster Community?

    Filed under:

    I'm a huge fan of Mary Jo Foley, but I can't help but feel that her latest article is a huge slap in the face.

    Murdock noted that while Solaris has a lot of features its users consider cool and exciting, its developer community is much smaller and less vested in Solaris than is the Linux community is in Linux. Sun understands that it needs to join the Linux community, not beat the Linux community, in order to grow its customer/developer base.

    Could a similar model work for a closed-source vendor? Microsoft does have an open-source lab and just recently launched a single portal venue on SourceForge to show off the company's forays and partnerships designed to get open-source software to run on and be deployed on Windows….

    ...

    So what else could Microsoft do to expand and engage further its developer and customer communities? Could/should Microsoft try to make Visual Studio running on Windows more appealing to Linux developers and deployers? Port Microsoft Office or SQL Server to Linux?

    Or should the Redmondians just accept that there will never be a Slashdot for Windows and just stay the course — without a huge group of cheerleaders egging the company on?

    Microsoft is a de-centralized company. Their community strategy is going to be de-centralized as well. Open Source communities need to be unified and centralized to compete against Microsoft, because they have to unite resources to accomplish their objectives.

    Mary Jo often has an unspoken strategy when she writes her pieces. So what is her strategy here? No Slashdot for Windows? Has she forgotten the hundreds of thousands of users that interact on Channel9, On10, Port25, TheSpoke, Xbox.com, ActiveWin, Neowin, PRO-Networks, Extended64, WindowsConnected, LiveSideWUGNet, oh yeah, Windows-Now, and the other sites listed here? What about their involvement in Culminis, an international IT group which has over 2 million members?

    What about the 620,000 registered users of the Microsoft Forums?

    What about all of the other Microsoft-related user groups that Microsoft gets involved with around the country? What about the Student Ambassador program, Regional Directors, and MVPs? What about the individual communities around the different ISVs that sell software on Microsoft platforms? Like ComponentArt, Telligent, and the other 2000+ companies on Windows Marketplace.

    This is not to say that the respective communities can't learn a lot from each other. But to say that their community is better solely because they only have one gathering place is not only inaccurate (Slashdot is not their only hangout) but wrong. Microsoft has a bigger group of cheerleaders than the rest of the tech industry gives them credit for. Next time MJ, don't let one day with the Linux community let you forget everything that the Microsoft ecosystem accomplishes.

    UPDATE: MJ explained to me what she was tring to get at. While I still don't buy her argument, she didn't mean it to be a diss at the existing communities, and there are no hard feelings.

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  • Faster Cable Internet Coming

    Speaking of the need for speed, it looks like you're going to be buying a new cable modem in the next 2 years. Comcast demonstrated a new system based on DOCSIS 3.0 that lets you download at speeds 25-times faster than today's cable modems. Using "channel bonding", a concept also employed in ISDN, the modem uses four TV signals instead of just one to transmit data over the network.

    While I think this is great, and will leapfrog Fiber for a while, I think end-to-end Fiber is the ultimate solution. Probably won't keep me from shelling out another $150 in a few years to download Windows beta builds in 45 seconds.

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  • Xbox 360 Spring Dashboard Update Is Live!

    Just spent the last hour playing around with the new Dashboard update... I like it quite a bit. It's already been talked about ad nauseam, so I won't go into details on what it contains. A word to the wise though: don't try the Windows Live Messenger feature if you don't have a USB keyboard or that new texting attachment. Using the on-screen keyboard leaves much to be desired in a real-time conversation.

    What I'm not happy with, however, is the new Double Dragon game on Xbox Live Arcade. Apparently, it's a port of the original arcade game, and not the version from the NES. Very disappointing. Oh well, I was still planning on buying a Wii at some point anyways.

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  • Review: Linksys Wireless-N Gigabit Gaming Router

    Filed under:

    With all the work I have been doing with Windows Home Server lately, I needed a faster solution for my wired and wireless Internet access at my home office. My Linksys Wireless-G Router has been a workhorse for the last few years, but every computer in my house has a Gigabit Ethernet port, and my workhorse can't handle them. So it was time to say goodbye to my old friend, and say hello to the Linksys Wireless-N Gigabit Gaming Router.

    DISCLOSURE: This device was *not* a gift. I bought it with my own money.

    Before I go into that, I have to mention that my previous solution for jacking my Xbox 360 into my network was the Netgear Powerline HD Adapter. It says the throughput is 200MB, but the actual throughput was less than 50MB, which was not enough to show HD content without serious issues. I think the problem was due to wiring in my apartment, and I've heard other people have had better results.

    Though it does not yet say so on the box, this router is a Windows Vista certified device. It shows up as a Network device, which allows you to configure the basic setup from inside Vista, without having to log into the website. Hopefully Microsoft will expand more on this functionality in future versions of Windows.

    One of the best things I like about this device are the QoS features for prioritizing network traffic. It has a setting specifically for Windows Media Center, so that even though my Xbox 360 wireless adapter shows that the bandwidth isn't quite enough for HD-quality TV streaming, DiscoveryHD doesn't skip a beat. True to it's name, it also prioritizes traffic over Xbox Live. While I won't go as far as to say that it was "lag-free", the latency was definitely comparative to a wired connection, and my Xbox 360 wasn't even on N-band wireless. And on my other computers, I'm experiencing far fewer dropped connections than I did before. In fact, I think I've only lost a connection once. It's fantastic.

    My experience over the wired network has been fantastic. I'm consistently getting over 20MB/sec throughput to the various machines on my wired network. Backups through Windows Home Server are lightning fast (well, they were already pretty fast), and I can even host my virtual machines on my WHS box. I think the only thing holding my speed back at this point is the fact that the drive in my WHS server is SATA-I and not SATA-II.

    All in all, this device has lived up to every single one of my expectations. It's a great router, and I would *highly* recommend it to anyone feeling the need for speed.

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  • A Way to Improve IE7's Phishing Filter

    Google is going to start reporting whether sites have been hijacked to distribute malware. In short, they're testing websites using virtual machines inside their labs, and if they install malware, they'll be marked in the search results as malicious, and they won't be indexed.

    I think it's a great idea, but it only goes so far. Not everyone gets to websites from search engines... so what about malware sites linked from e-mails and what not? Well, Google should share this information with the group that populates data for the IE7 Phishing Filter, so that Microsoft can extend IE7 in Windows Vista SP1 to protect users before the site even loads.

    Will Google do it? Probably not. But they should. What do you think?

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  • Why Windows Vista is Doing Better Than You Think

    This afternoon I had a very interesting conversation wih Dave Wascha, Director of Microsoft’s Windows Client Partner Platform group. Apparently, Microsoft can't release stats about Vista sales due to the SEC or something, so I'm going to look into that. He gave me a bunch of other stats that you may have heard before, but here's some you havent:

    • As of yesterday, there are over 1.9 million devices supported in Windows Vista. That number is up from 1.4 million at launch
    • Any device that has over 500 "driver not found" errors worldwide is put on a priority compatibility list.
    • There are currently only 4,000 devices on that list, and those devices encompass 85% of the "driver not found" errors that Microsoft is seeing.
    • Microsoft has seen 21% fewer support calls for Windows Vista than in the same period (100 days) for Windows XP.

    Some stats from the testing process:

    • 355 test servers in Redmond
    • running 10,000 tests a day
    • have tested 12-14 hundred of the most popular applications
    • and have run over 10M tests

    I asked Dave for some details about Vista adoption in businesses, and he couldn't tell me much. But he did say this: Since February, there have been over 150,000 combined downloads of BDD 2007 and the Application Compatibility Toolkit.

    Dave said that he surfs the blogs all the time, and any time he sees someone with a Vista problem, he checks with Microsoft for a solution. He says that most of the time, there is a solution available to the problem, usually in the form of updated drivers on the vendor's website.

    He also said that he wants more people to know about how important it is to opt-into Windows Update. He said they should also opt-into the Customer Experience Improvement Program, and send crash reports to Microsoft whenever possible. Apparently there is a portal where Microsoft ISVs can check to get detailed information on the any crashes their applications are causing, and the information you provide (anonymously, of course) helps make those apps better.

    Personally, I check the "Problems and Solutions Center" at least once a week. One day I hope to find a solution for IE's constant crashing. Maybe the Cumulative Update for IE released today will solve that problem? We'll see.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to send an e-mail to the SEC to find out why Microsoft can't report their sales numbers.

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  • Suspicious Male

    Filed under: ,

    Microsoft has some new commercials for Windows Live Hotmail. They're pretty funny.

    [Soapbox: 79fdf9b2-0a94-4e87-807e-9578a3e39735]

    You can see the rest at http://www.newlivehotmail.com, or watch them on MSN Soapbox.

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  • WordPress BlogML Export 1.0

    Well, after this weekend, I'm no longer a Linux and PHP virgin.

    So one of my new things to try to de-stress from the week is to not do regular work on the weekend, and to devote the time to my own personal projects. Hopefully this will keep me from being sidetracked during the week. So this weekend, I decided to work on a project that has been in the back of my mind for a long time.

    I've been looking for a tool that will let me export WordPress blogs into other blog engines for a while now. I think BlogML is awesome, but it doesn't have much support for non-Microsoft platforms. WordPress itself has it's own export tool, but for some reason, they created their own "Extended RSS" format, which supports... only WordPress. Apparently they think that WordPress bloggers are only going to migrate to other WordPress blogs.

    I'll talk more about the process I went throught to build this later (it sucked, trust me). But this post is about the tool, so here it goes. Instead of creating a WordPress template that renders the blog in BlogML, I rewrote the built-in Export tool to output BlogML, instead of the WXR format. It supports blogs, blog authors, posts, comments, and trackbacks. It does not currently support other users or post attachments, due to limitations in the BlogML spec.

    I've added the code to the BlogML space on Codeplex, so if you're looking to get off of WordPress and get onto SubText or Community Server, now you can do it. If you have any feedback about this tool, please post it on CodePlex, so I can track any work items and fix thing throughout my weekend project time.

    HTH. 

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  • 'I Didn't Want Vista To Be This Good'

    Nic Cubrilovic, CEO of Omnidrive and TechCrunch contributor, had an interesting experience last night. I'll let him explain:

    I have been using Mac OS X as my primary OS for almost a year now, but last night I switched back. What spurred it is that my Mac OS X partition crashed and it wouldn’t boot back into the OS - I used rescue tools and drive scanners but it appears that the partition just disappeared.

    ...

    I didn’t expect it to be like this, I didn’t want Vista to be this good - I was expecting to boot back into OS X and living happily ever after, but damn, this is one fast, slick and nice operating system. If you are a Mac user try it yourself, install boot camp and Vista and it will feel like you just added another CPU and doubled your RAM - I can’t see any evidence for any of the reports of Vista being slow or power-hungry.

    ...

    Overall, Vista is very fast and offers many new features. What used to cost $300-400 on XP in additional applications (Nero, ScreenGrabber, SpyBot etc.) I now have out of the box with a slick operating system and interface (the interface, oh the interface). In the past 15 years I have gone from DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Linux, OpenBSD, Windows 98, Windows 2000 (a nice OS for the time), XP, FreeBSD, Mac OS X and now Vista and working with Vista this weekend reminds me of the first time I ran an early preview of Mac OS X and spent an hour running my mouse across the dock (back in 2000). The job of building an operating system isn’t an easy one, and Microsoft have managed to take a good leap forward with Vista which they should get some credit for (although it probably is at least 2 years late). To all my Mac OS X and UNIX using friends, I haven’t left you - but feel free to argue in the comments, but only after you have installed bootcamp :)

    Apparently this offended some Mac users, at least it seems that way from Nic's comments. It's not pretty when you're excommunicated from the Church of Not Microsoft. Hey Nic, keep us posted on your experiences :).

    [via jkOnTheRun]

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  • Alas, Windows Mail, We Hardly Knew Ye

    Well, it looks like Microsoft finally figured out their mail strategy. LiveSide is reporting that Windows Live Hotmail, formerly known as Windows Live Mail, will be launching tomorrow. Windows Live Mail, formerly known as Windows Live Mail Desktop, will be putting out a new beta "in the coming weeks", and Windows Mail, formerly known as Outlook Express, is no more.

    Confused yet? You're not the only one. Since Windows Mail in Vista is officially dead, it remains to be seen if the final Windows Live Mail will remove all traces of Windows Mail from Vista, or if the two will coexist come RTM. Fortunately for Microsoft, much of the code between Windows Mail and Live Mail Desktop was the same, so the loss of Windows Mail won't be mourned for too long.

    Will this be the last time Microsoft creates a bunch of different apps that serve almost the same purpose? Probably not. First imaging software, then mail clients... I wonder what will be next? It also remains to be seen if this is the last time Microsoft plays "Pin the Name on the Mail Client". Hopefully it is, for all our sakes.

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  • AMD & Vista: The First 100 Days

    Several weeks ago, I posted a letter from AMD Executive VP Henri Richard (pronounced En-re Ri-shard) to the employees at AMD, regarding their internal adoption of Windows Vista. Today, he gave bloggers an exclusive video conference call about said adoption, and other AMD-related topics. Ironically, today was also the day that Dell & Intel said they weren't deploying Vista until SP1.

    Some highlights:

    On Vista:

    I'm a big believer in eating your own dogfood. If you're going to talk about building low-power PCs and building good drivers, you'd better be validating your claims on the machines you're shipping. So I wanted to drive adoption very early in the process. I'm happy to say that last week our IT department released a Gold master image of Windows Vista, which is now the default system image for the company. By the end of the summer, Vista will be the only OS image we deploy internally.

    We will have 1000 Vista users by this summer. That may not sound like a lot, because we have 16,000 employees, but most of those employees are factory workers. Of all the desktops we have deployed, a large percentage of them are running Vista.

    It is just a matter of time, maybe one or two releases, before we have drivers that are at the same stability level of Windows XP. But our drivers are already really good, and I haven't seen too many blue screen reeports thus far.

    On AMD's Vista Marketing Partnership:

    Despite the fact that Vista was late, I'm disappointed that some points in the ecosystem, they don't even have drivers, let alone stable ones. It doesn't take rocket science to understand that Vista is here to stay.

    Too early to measure ROI from our investments into Vista advertising, but I'm happy with our partnership with Microsoft and expect it to pay dividends.

    On Financial Results:

    There is no "out" on the fact that we had a terrible first quarter. We had unexpected growth in the second half of last year, and it stretched our supply chain. While I'm disappointed in the first quarter, I'm very excited about our future.

    On the GPU/CPU Hybrid "Fusion":

    Fusion is an architecture, not a single product. You'll see many different flavors of this concept, where you'll see a GPU and a CPU on the same die. You don't want to boil the ocean from the start. This is the beginning of a revolution in the way chip architectures will be thought of. We're not going to completely change how processors interact on the first generation.

    On The Future:

    The PC industry could do a lot better if we could support better and more compelling user experiences. If we could do that as an industry, every competitor would see the benefit.

    I wonder who is going to win in the marketplace this time around? Would you trust your Vista purchase to a company who isn't running it internally?

    Mary Jo was there too, and has a rundown of her own.

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