Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

July 2007 - Posts

  • Planned Site Outage Tonight

    Hey guys, just wanted to let you all know that we're having more RAM added to the database server, so the site will be offline for a couple hours somewhere between midnight and 4am CST.

    There may be a couple more short outages like this in the near future, as I prepare to move my servers to Windows Server 2008. Thanks for your patience and support!

    UPDATE: The server is back up (obviously).

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  • About Those Vista Updates

    I really can't stand leaks. Especially when people think they are cool by taking things that are in private beta and just distributing them. What they usually fail to realize is that that one person can sometimes screw a whole program for the people that do actually follow the rules. I don't know who thought it was cool to violate their NDA, but it's really getting old.

    I would highly recommend waiting to install these patches until they are officially released. These were beta patches, and based on personal experience (because I'm actually in the beta program) are not ready for a final release. Because they're not official, I'm not going to link to them. If you do chose to install them, do so at your own risk.

    I would say more, but I like being in the program, so I'll leave it at that.

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  • Windows Futures Revealed

    Long posted a fantastic slide from Steve Ballmer's PowerPoint deck for the analyst meeting. It contains names for some previously unannounced products from the Operating Systems Division. The full list is:

    • Windows Server 2008
    • Windows Small Business Server Code name "Cougar"
    • Windows Server Code Name "Centro"
    • Windows Vista SP1
    • Windows Server 2008 Update Release
    • Windows Server 2008 SP1

    It's a very interesting slide indeed. This is obviously a high-level overview, but a there are a couple things to note. The "Fiji" update for Windows Vista Media Center is not on the list, which makes me wonder if the update will be a part of SP1 or not. Also, Windows Server 2008 "Update Release" is listed, and AFAIK it hasn't been discussed publicly before. Whether this is an updated related to Windows Server Virtualization or something else remains to be seen. Maybe Mary Jo can dig into it and get some answers.

    It's nice that roadmaps are starting to be discussed. At least we know the new regime has a strategy.

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  • Windows-Now.com on Facebook

    I know that I don't have any forums here on the site, but I've wanted to engage my readers a little bit more about what they want from my blog and this site for a while now. So I've created the Friends of Windows-Now.com group on Facebook. I figured it would be a great way to put faces to names, and to engage everyone in a slightly different way. So I'd like to invite anyone to sign up, and leave any feedback you want either on the Wall or the Discussion Board.

    And BTW, if you want to know more about me, my Facebook profile is here.

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  • Microsoft and AMD Duke It Out For Analysts' Attention

    Microsoft and AMD scheduled their big analysts meetings for the same day. Each company had big 4-hour long presentations to give financial and tech reporters, and each company's meeting overlapped by two hours. It's a good thing they were both webcasted. I couldn't clone myself in time to go to both.

    Someone needs to tell their PR teams to do some Outlook calendar sharing or something.

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  • Does Microsoft 'Owe' Us Anything About SP1?

    Matt Freestone brings up an excellent point about all the crap going on about SP1. I've been having just such a discussion with various people over the past few days who bring up a similar point, so I thought I'd counter it here.

    A lot of people misinterpret my anger over the situation as being an ego thing, like "Dammit, Microsoft owes it to *me* to tell me what the hell is going on, because I am important." That is entirely not the case, and maybe I haven't been clear about it up to this point. I know SP1 is going to be great, based on the fixes that have been put out to this point. I don't have a "deployment schedule" for updates, I just install them the second I get them and watch what happens. And it's not about me generating a crapload of content for this site so I can make more money, because my ad revenues barely cover the server bills, so it's not about money for me.

    The reason I have a problem with the situation is because all of the Intel's of the world are hindering public opinion about Vista by saying that it won't be deployable until SP1, and I genuinely care what people think about Microsoft. Smaller companies listen to those kind of opinions, and say "well hell, if a multi-billion dollar company is going to wait till SP1 to deploy, why would I do it before then?" So they wait. And wait. And wait.

    It's not just bloggers that want to know. There are lots of customers out there that want to know what's going on with SP1. And evading the question with statistics and saying that "we think people are happy with Windows Vista" is incredibly stupid. The only statistic that anyone cares about is units sold, and there is a vocal minority out there who is not at all happy with Vista. There appears to be a difference between Microsoft's perception and reality.

    So, the "entitlement" is not about "tell me everything there is to know about SP1 RIGHT NOW OR ELSE!!!!" It's about a desire for Microsoft to be crystal clear and concise about their statements (whatever they are, without spin), and to start providing customers who want to know what's going on with a gradually-building stream of general guidance. The original press release on Windows 7 was too terse, and last week's statement was too vague. There is a happy medium in there somewhere, I know it.

    Along with that, part of the reason is because the last time we had anything concrete was when Bob Muglia said that SP1 was shipping at the same time as Windows Server 2008. That was in November, folks. Windows Server 2008 is RTMing in November/December of this year, and if the statement about a simultaneous SP1 release is still correct, then it's due out in 4-5 months. We had 3 years to test Vista, so naturally, we're expecting to have some time to beat this release up. And on top of that, 4-5 months is not a lot of time to plan a medium-to-large sized corporate rollout.

    But the main reason why I've been so upset is because I've been wanting to battle the misinformation going around the web about SP1, but Microsoft doesn't want to arm me with any facts. So I don't care if one of the most widely-read blogs tells people that it's coming out in 2009, because Microsoft apparently doesn't care what bloggers are saying. They're not actively trying to reach out to us, instead they're trying to "contain" us because some bloggers like to leak information. The very least they could do is explain what their communications strategy is, instead of just completely stonewalling us.

    In short, the expectation comes from the fact that Microsoft used to be extremely responsive to customer requests, and we got used to it. Now customers are demanding answers, and Microsoft has stuck it's fingers in its ears. If they expected that strategy wasn't going to have a blowback, then they're not as smart as I thought.

    So in the end, what does this all mean? Well, it means that I'm not going to throw myself under the bus if Microsoft's (demonstratably) not interested in the market having a clear understanding of the roadmap. The Windows Client division is going to do what it wants, the opinion of others be damned. And they're welcome to think that the Steve Jobs Reveal will work for them. IMO they're wrong, but what do I know, I'm just a blogger and I only care about myself.

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  • Schizophrenia, Public Relations, and Windows Roadmaps

    I haven't been a real big fan of Microsoft's PR machine post-Allchin. It seems like as soon as Jim left and Windows Vista was released, the heavy-hitters at Microsoft went on vacation, and the second string PR people have been running the show ever since. For example, last week Microsoft stunned the blogosphere by continuing the Windows Vista SP1 mind games, while simultaneously acknowledging more information about Windows "Seven" than they ever have for the rumored Service Pack. And while Microsoft won't comment on the timeframe for SP1 (beyond the kind of vague answers typically reserved for Miss Cleo and her ilk), we now have a date of 2010 for the next incarnation of Windows.

    Now, this is just my opinion, but I think Microsoft's schizophrenic PR strategy is causing itself more harm than good. By being more specific about "Seven" than SP1, they are prematurely shifting the focus away from Windows Vista, which is exactly why they've been stonewalling bloggers in the first place! I really just don't get it. I totally understand stonewalling us about "Seven", but to stay quiet about a Service Pack that by all accounts will be shipped before the end of 2007 (well, not all accounts... Valleywag got some harebrained idea that it's not coming out till 2009)... totally baffles me.

    But I think I'm not alone when I say that, if Microsoft wants to keep this strategy of underpromising and overdelivering, then they need to be doing more outreach to get the people that drive tech conversations on board with it. And no, that's not just a selfish plug to get an interview. If Sinofsky and Co. think that the 'Steve Jobs Reveal' is the best way to go, they should make their case to their countless enthusiasts as to why. The way Allchin made the case for a Vista delay in the first place.

    Or at the very least, be consistent with your strategy. If you can't apply your own rules consistently, how the hell do you guys expect bloggers to follow them?

    But again, that's just my opinion. What do you guys think?

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  • Acer Gets It Wrong About Windows Vista

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    When asked about Windows Vista by Financial Times Deuchland, Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci had this to say:

    "The entire industry is disappointed by Windows Vista," the head of the world's fourth-biggest PC maker told the Financial Times Deutschland in its online edition on Monday. "Never before had a new version of Windows done so little to boost PC sales. And that's not going to change in the second half of this year," Lanci said. "I really don't think that someone has bought a new PC specifically for Vista," he added.

    While the industry had waited for years for Vista, the software was not really ready when it was launched to great pomp at the start of this year, Lanci complained. "Stability is certainly a problem," he said.

    Well, for the record, Mr. Lanci, nobody would buy one of your machines specifically for Windows Vista, at least based on my experience. I bought a Dell PC specifically for Vista, and it runs just fine. As for stability problems, your own drivers are probably more at fault. It's your crappy drivers that are responsible for most of the instabilities on my machine (at least, all the ones not caused by IE7. In fact, just today I discovered out that your Bluetooth drivers were the reason my wireless keyboard started crashing Windows Vista on my Ferrari 5000 last week.

    So, Mr. Acer CEO... instead of flapping your gums off, why don't you go fix your drivers and revamp your driver download site to be more like Dell's. And Acer's entire US website while you're at it. Seems like that might be a more productive use of your time.

    [via Engadget]

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  • Windows Vista SP1 This Week? Don't Hold Your Breath

    So by now most of you are waiting with baited breath for the Windows Vista SP1 release that was supposedly due out this week. Well, you can breathe now. Microsoft PR put out a notice on to the Windows Featured Communities forum today that, contrary to the rumors circulating around the 'net, Windows Vista SP1 will not be put into beta this week. If I were a betting man, I wouldn't count on it anytime in this month. But that's just me, and I've been wrong before.

    So if the beta is released in the next couple months, and the service pack RTMs at the end of the year, how can the beta period be so short? Won't they need lots of feedback? Well, it's simple really... a decent part of the SP1 code will be the same code that's in Windows Server 2008, and that is being tested very heavily right now. In fact, if you download the June CTP of Windows Server 2008 and turn the Desktop Experience Pack on, you can basically enjoy much of what you'll see in Windows Vista SP1 at this very moment (save for the media experiences and such).

    I'm not going to say anything more about it than this: you can say it was "delayed" or whatever if you want (and I'm sure the blogosphere will), but the thing about Microsoft's new tight-lipped policy is that you can't say something has been officially delayed if an official release date has not been announced. What was stated was an unconfirmed rumor, nothing more, nothing less. Which is why I haven't chimed in until now.

    So I hate to disappoint, but you can stop hitting F5 on Connect every 5 seconds now. When something is officially announced, you'll see it here.

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  • Independent Developer Wants To Make Windows Mobile Sexy

    Some people (myself included) still think that, for all it's visual shortcomings, Windows Mobile is still the best smartphone out there. Well, Flash developer Jason Jaegers wants to sexy up Windows Mobile, and has asked the question "WhoNeedsAniPhone?" I could explain the concept, but I'll just let these two pictures do all the talking:

    Yeah, there are some other solutions out there, like SPB Smart Shell, but I didn't like interacting with that app at all. I have high hopes for this one, especially since it looks so much like Vista! Hopefully I get to try the beta soon.

    Hey Microsoft, you should hire this guy and have him work on Windows Mobile 7.

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  • Windows Vista: Six Months In, Your Mileage May Vary

    This may be news to Jessica Mintz of the Associated Press, but not every Vista user has been griping. While it's easy to look to Chris Pirillo's 52-minute rant on Vista, people forget that Chris has made his professional career out of griping about Windows. He's been complaining about Vista since the first time I showed it to him in 2004. So going to Chris for an opinion of *any* version of Windows is likely to produce a 52-minute rant on fonts, spacing, pixel alignment, and his feelings on usability. I consider Chris a friend, but the guy's about as nit-picky about UI as they come... I'm actually surprised he hasn't just switched to the Mac yet.

    I've been using Windows Vista for just as long as Chris has (if not longer), and while my beta testing problems were well documented, I haven't had too many issues since RTM. I'm running with UAC on, and I don't run into UAC prompts all that often. I've rarely had driver issues (except for the first few weeks when Acer didn't update their US support site), and all three machines in my house are running it. Overall, I love Windows Vista, and I can't stand touching Windows XP. Heck, my mom and kid sister use it every day too, and they've hardly ever called me about tech-support issues.

    In fact, my only real beefs with Vista are centered around Media Center. The first is that my CableCARD Digital Cable Tuners encrypt all of my TV shows, regardless of whether or not the "protected" bit is set, so I can't excercise my "fair use" to edit out commercials or stream the TV using WebGuide to my other Vista PCs or my cell phone. Hopefully the next Windows Media Center release will have the "SoftSled" software extender technology they have been talking about for the past couple years. The second is that Microsoft still doesn't have v2 Extenders on the market yet, nor do they have any kind of rebate program.

    So, while it may be fun to write a sensationalist article about the "problems" with Vista. It's also great that this article gets Chris some exposure right before Gnomedex. But unless the AP is going to have Zogby do a customer satisfaction survey (or unless they do some, uh, investigative reporting, and get both sides of the story), I think the best way to explain the public's experiences with Vista is "Your Mileage May Vary".

    UPDATE: Since someone in my comments asked for them, here are the Reliability Index stats for my Vista machines (as of 14 July 2007):

    • Acer Ferrari 5000 x64 (Mine)
      • Windows Experience Index: 4.8
      • Reliability Index: 4.27
      • Notes: This is my main machine, and I push it the hardest. Internet Explorer crashes account for 72% of my failures, and is the single reason my score is so low. I was told a new Flash runtime would fix that, but so far, that's not the case.
    • Dell XPS 400 x64 (Mine)
      • Windows Experience Index: 4.7
      • Reliability Index: 8.17
      • Notes: This is my Digital Cable Tuner Media Center. It was running at a 10 for a couple months, but I recently installed the WebGuide 4.1 beta, and it crashed a lot a few days ago, dragging my system down. The WEI would be a 5.2 if the Pentium D processor wasn't dragging it down.
    • HP tx1000 x86 (My girlfriend's)
      • Windows Experience Index: 2.4
      • Reliability Index: 8.35
      • Notes: This is a review machine from HP that my girlfriend has been using the last 2 months (which she'll be posting a review on shortly). I hardly ever touch it, so I consider this representative of the real consumer experience. Again, IE7 is the main reason the score is not a 10. And the WEI would be higher, but the graphics card on the tx1000 is not that great.
    • Dell Inspiron e1505 x86 (My sister in Denver's)
      • Windows Experience Index: 2.0
      • Reliability Index: 6.52
      • Notes: This machine would have a WEI of 4.7, but the graphics card is the dead weight once again.
    • HP Pavillion ze2000 x86 (My sister's boyfriend)
      • Windows Experience Index: 2.0
      • Reliability Index: 7.93
      • Notes: He's had very few problems with this computer.

    If I can get the stat's from my mom's and sister's machines, I'll post them too. All in all, I'm very happy with my overall Vista experience, even if IE7 keeps crashing all the time. With IE7pro, it's become far less aggravating than it used to be.

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  • Announcing AMD Unprocessed!

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    I know I haven't been posting as much lately, and for that I apologize. As of late, I have been distracted with a project that I haven't been able to talk about. Fortunately, it has officially launched, and I can take the wraps off something I'm very excited about.

    AMD has been wanting to reach out to influencers for a while now, and had been looking for software to let them do it. A couple months ago, I approached them with an offer to implement their idea using Community Server 2007 to connect with influencers, and they decided to move forward. With the generous help of my friend Long Zheng, who did almost all of the design work, I've been working with AMD to craft a website that would make it easier for the web's best influencers to interact more effectively with AMD. It's a project that Chris Aarons started before he left to start BuzzCorps, and AMD's Scott Carroll has taken over. Scott is the main contact for the site, but I'll be giving him a hand while the site ramps up.

    So it is my pleasure to announce that AMD Unprocessed is now taking nominations to join up. Check it out at http://unprocessed.amd.com. The people at AMD are really excited about this, and I can say from personal experience that they're really "getting it" when it comes to getting involved in "the conversation". They're probably going to make some mistakes, but work with them, because they really want to build great relationships with people so they can improve their products.

    Just so that there is no misunderstanding, AMD Unprocessed is an official AMD initiative, it's not an independent enthusiast site like Windows-Now.com.

    For me, this is part of a larger plan to finally spend my time doing what I love, which is working with the blogosphere. I'm kind of tired of building applications from scratch, and I need a change. So my company is changing gears to do full-time consulting around Community Server. Telligent Systems has solutions for at both ends of the pricing spectrum when it comes to Community Server design, deployment, and hosting. However, they have virtually no mid-range options, which IMO leaves the market underserved. So I intend to fill the gap by providing solutions for medium to large companies with communities that serve 1-50M page views a month. I'll have more details on that in the coming weeks, but if you want to learn more, I'll have details up on InterscapeUSA.com in a day or so.

    All of this means that Windows-Now.com will be getting an overhaul here in the hear future, among other things. In the next few weeks I'll have a couple other projects come online that will also be very exciting. Stay tuned!

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  • Microsoft E3 Announcements

    • Microsoft has announced one of my favorite games, "Scene It?" is now an Xbox 360 exclusive. And they may have beaten out the Wii for the easiest controller, with their new trivia controller. As soon as I can find photos, I'll link to them Todd Bishop has a great pic of it. BTW, the game comes with 4 of those controllers, for the price of a regular Xbox 360 game. Finally, a game my GF and I can play!
    • Xbox Live has 7 million members, projects 10 million members by E3 '08. But why do I sometimes wait for 20 minutes for AegisWing players?
    • Xbox Live Marketplace is getting exclusive content from the studios of the Walt Disney Company. The includes Walt Disney Pictures, as well Miramax and others. I'm sure Microsoft will post a link later Here's the press release, as well as a massive list of games and movies from GamerscoreBlog. They said they were online tonight, but they weren't there when I checked. I'll have to try again later.
    • And big news for developers is that Epic Games is building Games for Windows - LIVE support into the Unreal Engine 3.

    Looks like good things are happening with the 360. It also looks like I'll be needing to buy a bigger hard drive soon.

    UPDATE: The band that opened the show is called Corporeal, and apparently they rose to fame on YouTube by playing the Halo theme at their high school talent show. The clip is below. Thanks to Todd Bishop for the YouTube clip, and the pic of the "Trivia" controller.

    [YouTube:V_qUpObkCgQ]

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  • Microsoft Admits Xbox 360 Failures, Extends Warranty

    Sometimes it takes a really long time, but Microsoft usually does the right thing in the end. Today is no exception. Microsoft has announced that, due to an "unacceptable number of repairs to Xbox 360 consoles", they are covering repairs on consoles experiencing 3 red lights (also known as the Red Ring of Death) for three years. Microsoft estimates that this will cost the company about $1.1B. From the press release:

    As a result of what Microsoft views as an unacceptable number of repairs to Xbox 360 consoles, the company conducted extensive investigations into potential sources of general hardware failures.  Having identified a number of factors which can cause general hardware failures indicated by three red flashing lights on the console, Microsoft has made improvements to the console and is enhancing its Xbox 360 warranty policy for existing and new customers.

    Microsoft stands behind its products and is taking responsibility to repair or replace any Xbox 360 console that experiences the “three flashing red lights” error message within three years from time of purchase free of charge, including shipping costs. Microsoft will take a $1.05 billion to $1.15 billion pre-tax charge to earnings for the quarter ended June 30, 2007 for anticipated costs under its current and enhanced Xbox 360 policies.

    “The majority of Xbox 360 owners are having a great experience with their console and have from day one. But, this problem has caused frustration for some of our customers and for that, we sincerely apologize,” said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division. “We value our community tremendously and look at this as an investment in our customer base. We look forward to great things to come.”

    For any customer who has previously paid for repair expenses related to the three flashing lights error message on the Xbox 360 console, Microsoft will retroactively reimburse them.

    Xbox Chief Peter Moore also posted an open letter on Xbox.com. The highlights:

    If we have let any of you down in the experience you have had with your Xbox 360, we sincerely apologize. We are taking responsibility and are making these changes to ensure that every Xbox 360 owner continues to have a great experience.  

    This will take a few days to roll out globally, and I appreciate your continued patience as we launch this program. I've posted an FAQ that should address some additional questions, and we'll update it over the next few days. 

    I want to thank you, on behalf of all us at Microsoft, for your loyalty.

    In case you still have questions, Microsoft has posted an FAQ.

    I think this is spectacular news, and shows that Microsoft really does "get it" when it comes to gamers. As someone who recently experienced this problem myself, I'm really excited to get my $150 back. At least I got a brand new console, and I hear it has an updated cooling assembly.

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  • The Ultimate Extras Team Speaks! (Finally)

    It only took a couple weeks, but Microsoft's Windows Ultimate Extras team has finally opened up and given more information about their plans. I don't know why they set up their own blog site if they weren't going to post to it more frequently, but oh well.

    Apparently they are still working hard, and will release 20 more language packs and DreamScene by summer's end. They blame the delay on a quality bar demanded by user feedback, which I find hard to believe since they have practically shuttered the private newsgroup. Kind of hard to gather feedback when your feedback mechanism goes unmonitored, but that's just my opinion. I also find it really hard to believe that it has taken 12 developers six months to meet that quality bar, especially when Stardock is doing more innovating with DreamScene than Microsoft is.

    Anyway, they said that after the next wave of Ultimate Extras would be announced after the Summer Wave is released. My guess is, that list doesn't exist yet, so that gives them about two months to pull something together.

    Usually, I'd be on Microsoft's side on stuff like this (I am a Microsoft shill, right?)... but not this time. This post is nothing but cover-your-a$$ PR doublespeak. Personally, I think the Extras team was disbanded, and only reconvened after people like Long stirred up enough of the hornets to force MS back into action. And nothing they say will convince me otherwise. Otherwise, the blog would have been far more active, and the issue wouldn't have gotten to this point.

    What *would* convince me would be the immediate reactivation of the Ultimate Extras beta program, followed by the beta release of the next wave of extras in the very near future (or at the very least, a solid list of something other than a card game). Not to mention the resumption of active posting on the newsgroups and the Windows Ultimate blog. Will those things happen? We'll just have to wait and see.

    UPDATE: I did forget to thanks Barry tho for coming clean and apologizing. It is very much a step in the right direction.

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