Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

August 2007 - Posts

  • Help Scott Hanselman Fight Diabetes

    My friend Scott Cate IMed me today about another friend of mine, Scott Hanselman. You might know him from Hanselminutes, a podcast he puts on with Carl Franklin. He has diabetes, and is trying to raise $50,000 for Diabetes Walk 2007. As of right now, he's only 47% towards his goal, and fundraising ends next week. I'd like to see him get closer to his goal, so I'm asking for your help.

    ScottC has an offer right now to donate all the proceeds from his EasySearchASP.NET control to ScottH's walk, and has a significant discount for anyone who buys it. Alternatively, if you don't need EasySearchASP.NET, you can also just log onto ScottH's donation page and make a direct donation. You should also check with your employer and see if they do donation matching.

    This is really important to ScottH, and he does a lot for the developer community, so let's all pitch in and give him a hand.

  • I've Got the Urge to Fix Zune Marketplace

    It was inevitable: BetaNews says that MTV is going to announce tomorrow that they're abandoning the Microsoft co-developed Urge and jumping ship to Real's Rhapsody. They cite the Zune as the primary reason for it's failure, which I find really ironic, because compared to Urge, the Zune Marketplace's giant sucking sound is deafening.

    If this is true, and I were Microsoft, I'd take this as a prime opportunity to buy the Urge code back from MTV and use it to replace the Zune Marketplace software. Then they could turn the Zune Marketplace into a skin for WMP, to fool people into thinking it is an "Integrated" experience, and also allow people to use the stand-alone WMP11 to interact with the Zune if they so choose.

    Otherwise, the only good thing to come out of the arrangement would have been The Killers concert that MTV and Microsoft put on at PURE at Caesar's Palace.

    I wonder what will happen with all the music that people bought off Urge. Will they screw their users, like Google just did? Or will they get to keep using their tracks? Only time (and maybe tomorrow's announcement) will tell.

    UPDATE: Looks like MTV grafted the Urge flash app into Real's Rhapsody app. So much for that idea.

  • Server Move - Scheduled Downtime

    Just wanted to take a minute and let you know that the site will be down from 11pm to 2am MST tonight and tomorrow for scheduled maintenance. I'm beginning the first phase of our move to the new Windows Server 2008 x64 environment in San Antonio. Things are progressing well, and I hope to be totally out of the Virginia data center by the end of the week.

    After the servers are moved and running well, I'll be posting a detailed series on the previously promised method for getting to x64, as well as some observations on the Windows Server 2008 experience.

    Thanks for your support!

    UPDATE: Obviously we're back online. It was a little hairy at the end there, but I got it working. I hope moving to the web server later this week doesn't give me quite as much trouble.

  • I Need Some Windows Server 2008 Assistance

    So I've got brand new servers running Windows Server 2008 x64, and I'm getting ready to get my infrastructure moved over, but I'm definitely having some networking related issues that I could use some help on.

    Basically, my server has two NICs, one public and one private. The problem is, both cards are showing up as "Unidentified Network", which means that WS2008 is lumping them together into the same firewall profile. I need to know if it is possible to manually set a network's name (not the connection name, I know how to do that), so that I can separate the cards. Alternatively, I need to know how to manually assign a network connection to a firewall profile, even if the network isn't identified.

    If someone can please help me with those two things, I might be able to take advantage of these AMD quad-core boxes with 6GB RAM a piece that I'm running now. Thanks!

  • Install Windows x64 Over x86: Take That, Microsoft!

    Say you've got a server running Windows Server 2003 x86, and you have no CD-ROM drive, and no physical access to the box. The only way to get to it is through RDP. Now, say you want to move it to 64-bit to be able to add more RAM. It should be as simple as mounting an Windows Server x64 ISO and starting the installation from Windows, right?


    You see, installing x64 from inside x86 is not allowed, Microsoft says so. You can't even do a clean install that way. So you're thinking, maybe you could do it with Windows Server 2008. right?

    WRONG AGAIN! You can't do a clean install of Windows Server 2008 x64 over Windows Server 2003 x86 either. Any way you slice it, the x64 installer won't even execute on Windows x86.

    I have been dealing with this problem for over a year now. My host, ServerBeach, doesn't support x64 installations yet, so I've been SOL. Last week, I set out to find the solution. ServerBeach graciously offered their assistance, since other clients have been asking for this too, and their support has been amazing.

    Well, after beating my head against my desk for the past week, today I finally accomplished it: a completely unattended upgrade to Windows Server 2008 x64 from inside Windows Server 2003 x86. It turns out, there are actually two ways this is possible, neither of which is for the faint of heart. Once will only work for WS2008, and the other will work for both WS2003 and WS2008.

    Right now, I'm trying to buy new servers in ServerBeach's Texas data center so I can beef up my hosting network, but as soon as I can, I'll be documenting the process step-by-step, so that others may do the same.

    I'm so happy right now I could explode. Woo hoo!

  • Windows Vista Pre-SP1 Performance and Reliability Updates Released

    Remember those leaked Windows Vista Pre-SP1 updates that I said I wasn't going to link to? Well, today they were officially released by Microsoft. They contain a ton of fixes that improve Vista in a number of areas. You can get them here:

    Windows Vista Performance Update:

    Windows Vista Reliability Update:

    Please share your experiences with these updates in the comments... I'd like to hear what people think.

  • Review: Microsoft Zune - Halo 3 Special Edition

    Filed under: ,

    DISCLAIMER: This review was not solicited by Microsoft, the equipment was purchased with my own money.

    Recently, my girlfriend Nicole surprised me with a rather unexpected birthday present: a brand new Special Edition Halo Zune. I had never experienced a Zune before, so I was really excited to try it out. I've had it for about three weeks now, and I wanted to report my take on this device.

    My previous music player was a Creative Zen MicroPhoto, which was a pretty decent device, but had a really crappy battery life. I had also used a couple different iPods before, but never owned one. So I have a little bit of experience with PMPs, but there are a bunch out there I still haven't messed with.

    I have to say that Microsoft did a fantastic job with the packaging of this product. The outer packaging is clean and very attractive, and it opens up very nicely.

    I posted some unboxing shots here to do the talking:

    I think this is the kind of experience Microsoft was going for when they redesigned their software boxes for Vista & Office 2007... if only they weren't harder to open than a bottle of Advil. It's a good thing they got it right this time, and it was really fun to open.

    Getting my Zune connected to my Vista machine was pretty straightforward. I really liked how it tried to download an updated version when it installed. I say "tried", because it failed the first time, and I had to download the new installer manually. But after I did that, setup was a breeze. It even updated my firmware right away, which I liked a lot.

    User Experience - Device
    I absolutely LOVE the device. The UI is very responsive, and (mostly) intuitive. The screen is bright, and the contrast is easy to see in any light. It feels great in my hand, and the matte finish is a welcome change to the cold lifeless feeling of the Zen. And it's practically impossible to get smudged up, unlike the iPod.

    I do have some issues with the UI though. For one thing, it takes WAAAY too many clicks to start playing a specific song with the "Enter" key. Yeah, I know you can scroll the song list and then hit the play button, but that wasn't the most intuitive way to do it. Also, you can't delete stuff off the device. Which is super annoying... more on that in a minute.

    User Experience - Marketplace
    Truth be told, the Zune Marketplace experience is pretty bad. I think it's really lame that you can't play media that is stored only on your Zune inside the Zune Marketplace. And you can't browse the device physically (with the hardware buttons) when it's connected. That, coupled with the lack of a delete button or keystroke on the device, makes it nearly impossible to delete anything off of it with confidence. I have to first browse the device, write down the artist and title of what I want to delete, connect it up, and then delete it from the Marketplace. That really stinks. Especially since it came with a ton of crap from people I had never heard of.

    Other than that, it's relatively easy to find artists and buy songs. I just wish you could pick the "Advanced" option of just using WMP11. A lot of the software just feels like an URGE ripoff. And seeing as how it's all powered by MediaNet Digital (formerly MusicNet) anyways... seems kind of stupid that enthusiasts can't have a little more choice if they know what they're doing.

    Holy crap, I've never seen a music player sync that fast. I put nearly 2GB on the device in a little over a minute. That would have taken almost an hour on the Zen. Now, if I could only sync wirelessly...

     Overall Opinion

    So rumor has it that V2 hardware is on its way soon. One of the things that makes the Zune waaaay better than the iPod is that it's software-updatable (I didn't realize the iPod had firmware updates, I had heard you had to buy new iPods to get new features) I'm really looking forward to seeing what capabilities the V2 software brings to the table. Some things I'd love to have:

    • Wireless Sync - already mentioned and self-explanatory.
    • Wireless Purchases - I want to be able to purchase and download music straight from an access point to my device. It would be really cool if Microsoft partnered with T-Mobile to offer free WiFi access to their hotspots if they're browsing the Zune Mobile Marketplace.
    • Wireless Media Center Extender - I'd like my Zune to be a full-blown Vista Media Center Extender. That way I could watch HDTV on my Zune without dealing with the DRM that my CableCARD applies to all of my recorded TV shows.
    • Wireless Xbox 360 Connectivity - I think I should be able to listen to music from my Zune on my Xbox 360 without having to directly connect it to the console.
    • Xbox Live Video Marketplace Support - I want to be able to copy SD movies rented from the Xbox 360 Video Marketplace to my Zune. That way i could load it up with movies before a trip and watch them on the plane.
    • Napster Support - I'm already paying for a Napster subscription for the Zen MicroPhoto, it would be really nice if I could use it with the Zune too. I understand the whole "closed system" thing (and the Zune Subscription), so you don't need to take me to task for it... it would just be cool.
    • Zune Phone - I love the way the Zune feels in my hand. I love the device experience. It would be great if I could get this same experience in a phone. (Don't even say anything about the iPhone, I've used it and I'm not interested.) Yes, I understand this would require additional hardware... unless the headphone jack already supports the same type of headphones-with-a-mic that my cell phone has.

    So anyway, that's my opinion. How's your Zune treating you?