Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

June 2007 - Posts

  • My Own Personal 'Day of Silence'

    There's no point in being on the Internet today. The mass orgasm that is the iPhone will be taking up all of the airwaves. So instead of trying to be heard over the moaning, I'm taking the opportunity for a three-day working weekend, sans blogging. Gonna go see "Live Free or Die Hard" with my girlfriend and her dad, work on client projects, and start the process of cleaning up my credit. Yes, you read right... I'd rather deal with the credit bureaus than read one more #$%& thing about the iPhone.

    Yippie ki-yay motherf#$%#@s! See you Monday.

  • The 'Life at Google' Author Speaks

    A few days ago Long dug up an e-mail posted up on a website from an anonymous employee at Microsoft. Soon it was up on, Slashdot, and everywhere. I thought it was kinda crappy that Long didn't get any link love (blogging used to be about using hyperlinks to build relevance and GoogleJuice, but apparently not much anymore), but there's not much I can do about that.

    That was all well and good, it was an anonymous story, and it was a good read. But then curiosity got the better of some bloggers/journalists. In particular, my friend Mary Jo Foley was given a more complete version that identified who the original author was. And apparently, the author was not too happy about it.

    Personally, if I had been given that e-mail, I wouldn't have unmasked the author. Before, it had an aura of the unknown, like a mini version of Fake Steve Jobs. Now it's just the opinion of a guy that was published without his consent. Publishing his words anonymously was one thing, but he didn't want his name associated with the post, and since they were his words, that wish should have been respected.

    I just hope it doesn't get him fired. But i don't think Microsoft would do that.

  • Windows Easy Transfer Companion Beta Released

    This was announced ages ago, ad Microsoft finally put out some bits. From Microsoft Downloads:

    Windows Easy Transfer Companion enables you to automatically transfer your most important programs from your Windows XP-based PC to your new Windows Vista-based PC. The software will move more than 100 of the most popular programs, as well as many others that you may have installed. You have complete control over selecting which programs to transfer, so only the programs you care about will move. The software will alert you if some programs may not be able to transfer, or may not transfer with high confidence. Most security software is not able to transfer due to technical reasons.

    Easy Transfer Companion is designed to be used in addition to Windows Easy Transfer—which is part of Windows Vista and automatically transfers your data and settings. Connecting your two computers can be done with either an Easy Transfer Cable (available online, from retailers, and from PC manufacturers), or a home or small business network. If using an Easy Transfer Cable, you must first install Windows Easy Transfer on your Windows XP-based PC. By using Easy Transfer and Easy Transfer Companion you will be able to quickly and easily setup your new PC with all the data, settings, and programs that matter to you, so you can be productive on your new PC right away.

    Download it here.

  • Microsoft Set to Take Over Disneyland's 'Innoventions' (Part Deux)

    I reported on this a while ago, and when I went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, I stormed Innoventions armed with my camera to get the first pictures of what I thought was the new Microsoft exhibit. Well, it turns out that Microsoft's lawyers were apparently too busy fighting off Google and the ghost of Operating Systems Past to get this thing off the ground. Well, now that Longhorn won't be reloaded and Google has been thoroughly smacked-down by the DOJ, MSLegal has time to get down to more important matters.

    From this recent update on MiceAge:

    Meanwhile, over in Tomorrowland, the lawyers from Burbank and the lawyers from Seattle finally agreed on a contract for the Microsoft takeover of Innoventions (remember we discussed this ages ago?). The software giant will take over the entire lower floor and remake the revolving platform lobbies into a “House of Tomorrow” exhibit, and the word is that this time Innoventions will actually showcase technology not already available at Best Buy or even Big Lots. The upstairs exhibits will all also be tweaked and updated, (Siemens was the first) and the whole thing should be worth at least a look around when it’s done.


    They missed the timing for the original plan to have this open by this summer to capitalize on crowds drawn to Tomorrowland by the submarines, but construction will start in July and it all should be completed by early November with a grand opening just before Thanksgiving. (Think the Zune will be history by then?)

    Still doesn't heal my broken heart from the disappointment of my recent visit (currently Microsoft's only engagement is a bank of 60 Xbox 360's on the upper floor, and a Zune in the intro talk (take that iPhone!)). But as Al so eloquently puts it, at least the home of the future will be better than the crap "currently available at Big Lots". I have an operative in the park (A.K.A. my kid sister Brit, who currently works the Enchanted Breakroom Tiki Room) and I'll have her check in with updates as construction progresses.

    BTW Microsoft, that would be the perfect place to put a couple of Surfaces. Just a thought.

  • Home Server Connector RC on Windows x64

    Just picked this up off the beta newsgroups. My buddy Mike Kolitz posted this a while back, and it still works. You can install the WHS Connector software on a Vista x64 machine my running the following command in an elevated command prompt.

    msiexec /i \\SERVER\Software\Home Server Connector Software\whsconnector.msi WHSMSI="RUNSETUP"

    It will install just fine, but backups won't work. Just shut them off for that machine in the console once it's up and running. It still won't solve your backup issue, but if you're running a pure 64-bit environment like I am, you'll be able to manage your WHS without remoting into it.

    Thanks to Janson Ragon for the tip.

  • Since When Does Being Poor Give People Credibility?

    You know, this whole debate over the Federated Media "People Ready" ad campaign really chaps my a$$. For the record, I'm not affiliated with Federated Media in any way. But what I really don't understand is, why do people always get up in arms whenever the topic of bloggers getting paid comes up. We don't live in a socialist society, so it's not like the Government takes care of me. I have to take care of myself. So why is the blogosphere so against me getting paid to do what I love? And why would getting paid to do what I love make me lose credibility? So I have more credibility if I'm a tortured artist than if I'm a well-fed writer? Give me a break man.

    So if you're someone who is against this, ask yourself this question: Would you all be so self-righteous if Apple was doing this kind of thing for an iPhone ad campaign? Everyone only seems to have a problem with it when Microsoft does it.

  • The Future Is Here...

    Filed under:

    and it's not an iPhone, it's a big @$$ table.


    Thanks for digging this up, Aubrey!

  • Windows Vista Six-Month Vulnerability Report

    Jeff Jones from Microsoft keeps hope alive that my Windows Vista system won't be hacked by viruses exploiting new bugs. He just released his Six-Month Vulnerability Report, covering all of the major OSes. He finds that Vista is still the most secure OS to date.

    Normally, I would talk about this more, but I'm still compiling the data from all of his reports to draw some of my own conclusions. In the meantime, you should check out what he's already put together, it's pretty cool.

  • Xbox 360 Price Cuts To Follow PS3 Cuts?

    I was reading an article on Joystiq about eminent price cuts on the PS3, which got me to thinking about the Xbox 360. Thus far, Sony has bet on the PlayStation brand and not what the PS3 is actually capable of. Everyone knows that Sony is going to have to eat more money on the PS3 and sell it for less before it gains traction.

    But at the same time, there is a stigma around cutting prices on any product, let alone consoles. It usually angers the early adopters, and devalues the existing consoles on the market. But the PS3 will have to cut the price to survive; it has no choice but to face these consequences. But the consoles that follow suit to stay competitive don't usually suffer the same stigma.

    So it's no wonder that the Xbox 360 hasn't seen a price cut yet. Why cut the price first and be the "bad guy" to early adopters, when they can wait until after the overpriced PS3 corrects course, and then use the reasoning "we had to stay competitive" as justification? If I were in charge, that's what I would do.

  • Windows Home Server RC1 Released

    The Home Server blog has announced that Windows Home Server RC1 is now live. The WHS team takes the term "Release Candidate" very seriously, and they think this build is ready for the world. So we have one last chance to beat the crap out of it and find any problems. If you're not currently a tester, you can still sign up here.

    Mary Jo has a few more details.

  • Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 has RTMed

    The long-awaited and oft-delayed service pack for Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 is finally out. Get it while it's hot!

    Download Now!

  • CableCard Expected to Boost Vista Media Centers

    CRN has an article about the new Digital Cable-ready Vista Media Centers that are beginning to "trickle into the market". Part of the article talks about some of the issues with CableCard support in Windows, most of them around the issues with OEMs and certification.

    It's important to note that most of the problems with CableCard are the fault of CableLabs, not Microsoft. The Media Center team had to jump through a million hoops just to get the support in Vista, and they're controlling the certification process. At this point, Microsoft is hoping that the Digital Cable Tuners really take off in the market, so that they have leverage against the cable conglomerates to deliver the features that customers (but not necessarily cable companies) want, which would include more OEMs.

    I've been a DCT (formerly OCUR) beta tester for over a year now, and I can say that the benefits outweigh the current limitations. I'm hoping that in the future (hopefully in "Fiji"), our options for "fair use" of the recorded content will be expanded.

  • Off The Grid Till June 17th

    Today's my last official day of work before I go on vacation. I'll be sunning it up in San Diego for a well deserved week-long vacation. I intend to catch up on some work, spend some time with my girlfriend, and drive up to Anaheim to see my sister Brittany for her 21st birthday. But most of all, I intend to relax.

    So as you can imagine, posting will be rather light next week. But when I get back, I'll finally get to reveal what's been eating up my time the last few weeks. It's a project I've very proud to be a part of, and is the start of a few things that will hopefully allow me to transition to community work full-time. I'm pretty burnt-out on coding at the moment, so it's time for a change.

    But you'll have to stay in suspense until then. Have a great week everyone, and try to play nice with the open source folk while I'm gone, mmmk? :)

  • Another Microsoft Open Secret: Windows Vista SP1 Exists

    Filed under:

    While Microsoft is seemingly on a crusade to stamp out talk about the future (even going so far as to hire an acting legend to detect "MS-BS" with a $2 horn), that hasn't waned our enthusiasm for digging up evidence of the future anyways.

    Microsoft has pulled some pretty dumb moves lately in the name of secrecy; the lid on SP1 and the press release about "Windows Seven" being the most obvious to come to mind. But mere days after someone spotted a running build of SP1 at WinHEC 07, Long Zheng has discovered the first written by none other than Microsoft itself.

    AFAIK, SP1 is still on track to be delivered simultaneously with Windows Server 2008. It's far enough away from Vista's RTM and close enough away to shipping that Microsoft should confirm its existence. In fact, beta testers should be given builds in the next month or so to start testing. And since it's shipping in the next 5 months or so, Microsoft should start giving guidance for all those companies (Intel, I'm looking at you) who are holding off until SP1 to deploy Vista.

    Hey Microsoft, we all know it exists. It's time to quit playing dumb before you start looking stupid. You're gonna have to let the cat out of the bag sometime. And June sounds like a good month to do it.

    UPDATE: This is the last time I'm going to talk about Microsoft and openness for a little while, because apparently it's getting old. My point is this: Longhorn was not as great as everyone thinks it was. If Microsoft hadn't opened up as much as it had as early as it did, we'd be dealing with WinFS right now, and our lives would be miserable.

    Instead of shutting us down about SP1, there is nothing wrong with saying "SP1 exists, and work is in full swing. We know you're excited about it, but we don't have anything to report right now. However, sometime in the next 8 weeks, we're going to start releasing more information about it. It's going to be actively beta tested by some of the same people that helped shape Vista, and we're gonna want lots of feedback to make sure your experience with SP1 is even better than Vista." They might even say "We know you're concerned about the amount of information we release before a product launch, and we're going to try to find a happy medium. We need to talk about stuff later than we did with Vista, but not too late that we can't actively respond to customer feedback."

    Saying things like that IMO would go a long way towards placating some of the people (like myself) who are worried that Microsoft has changed course without letting us know, and is ok with dragging everyone behind in their wake. And I'm sorry if I was not clear on that up to this point.

  • Time for Microsoft to Change Its Patch Policy?

    A very interesting post on the Google Online Security Blog analyzes which web servers are responsible for the world's malware.

    Microsoft IIS 6 tied with Apache at 49% for compromised servers, even though Apache has a 40% lead in deployments. Apache makes up at least 50% of the malware servers in every country, save for Asia (China and S. Korea). The reason? Google says it's because of the high rate of piracy in Asia, and Microsoft's policy of not patching pirated systems.

    Distribution of web server software by country.

    Web server distribution by country Malicious web server distribution by country  

    The figure on the left shows the distribution of all Apache, IIS, and nginx webservers by country. Apache has the largest share, even though there is noticeable variation between countries. The figure on the right shows the distribution, by country, of webserver software of servers either distributing malware or hosting browser exploits. It is very interesting to see that in China and South Korea, a malicious server is much more likely to be running IIS than Apache.

    We suspect that the causes for IIS featuring more prominently in these countries could be due to a combination of factors: first, automatic updates have not been enabled due to software piracy (piracy statistics from NationMaster, and BSA), and second, some security patches are not available for pirated copies of Microsoft operating systems. For instance the patch for a commonly seen ADODB.Stream exploit is not available to pirated copies of Windows operating systems.

    Is it time for a change? Based on this information, I agree with Google. I think the evidence is pretty clear here that Microsoft's patching policy hurts legitimate customers much more than it does pirates. As much as I support technologies that reduce piracy (so that maybe Microsoft can lower prices), I can't support this policy if it puts my family's computers at risk. Pirated copies of Windows should be allowed to connect to Windows Update for Critical updates, without fear of retribution from Microsoft. That means they should be able to get updates without worrying that WGA is going to shut down their system.

    Microsoft has many ways to fight piracy. Punishing paying customers by putting them at risk should not be one of them.

    UPDATE: The WGA team contacted me to let me know that the policy I quoted was from July of 2005 and is out of date. Microsoft's policy is, in fact, to allow for critical patches to be downloaded via Automatic Updates, regardless of a machine's license state. Since that is the case, I would assume that the pirates have shut AU off on these machines so they don't report back to Microsoft. Can't fault Microsoft for that.

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