Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

September 2007 - Posts

  • WHS Code2Fame Winners Announced

    Microsoft just announced the winners of the Windows Home Server Code2Fame contest. They are:

    First prize:  Andrew Grant for Whiist
    Whiist is a very cool (and free) Add-In that allows users to easily host web pages and photo albums on Windows Home Server. With Whiist it’s a snap make an Office document – or anything that can publish to HTML – into a web page on your homeserver.com site. Simply drag photos into a folder and you can post albums of thumbnails to share with friends and family. 

    Second prize:  David Wright for Jungle Disk
    Jungle Disk provides inexpensive online backup and storage of Home Server content, using Amazon’s S3 infrastructure. This is a really nice solution for “personal disaster recovery” and assured protection of your most important content. It will be available for purchase this fall.

    Third prize:  Prakash Gautam for Community Feeds for Windows Home Server
    This free Add-In pulls text, audio or video down to Home Server via RSS, so it’s viewable from an Xbox or any Windows Media Connect device. Very interesting possibilities here for creating personalized media libraries, accessible to the whole family at home or away.

    I haven't been able to try any of these out yet, because I'm not messing with my WHS box again until I can get a RTM copy, but they sound really cool, and I can't wait to try them out (especially Jungle Disk).

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  • Microsoft's Mea Culpa on Vista Ultimate Extras

    Earlier today, Nick White of the Official Windows Vista Blog briefed a bunch of the Windows Featured Communities on rough details regarding the plans for Ultimate Extras moving forward. While he didn't reveal many specifics, he did have one thing to say, which we were allowed to share:

    "While I'm not sure anyone could dispute that to date, we've failed to meet the expectations of our Ultimate customers over the Ultimate Extras, we're working hard to exceed their expectations moving forward, and bring them the value they deserve," he said.

    Microsoft has been listening to its customers' ire over the Ultimate situation, and I'm pretty convinced that they at least have a plan to make it right. I think it's fantastic that they've actually admitted to the problem in a frank and honest way, and are giving us all some hope that we didn't shell out the extra money for nothing.

    First the Xbox 360 apology, now this... could this be the return to a more open dialog that we've been hoping for? Only time will tell...

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  • Windows DreamScene has RTMed

    Barry Goffe from the Ultimate Extras team just posted that Windows DreamScene has officially RTMed. No word yet when it will be available to download, but as soon as I know I'll pass it along.

    Be sure to also check http://dream.wincustomize.com for DeskScapes, the add-on for DreamScene that lets you get crazy with dynamically-rendered content.

    It's not the big Ultimate Extras strategy and featureset update that everyone was hoping for, but Barry's post alluded that more news is coming.

    UPDATE: Apparently it is there for Windows Vista RTM customers, but currently anyone who just upgraded to the SP1 Beta are SOL.

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  • A Warning About the Windows Vista SP1 Beta Standalone Installer

    Filed under:

    By now you're aware that the Windows Vista SP1 Beta has been released to beta testers for a thorough shakedown. I just wanted to give anyone who still has UAC on a bit of warning. If you right-click the installer and select "Run as Administrator" first, then it won't take nearly as long to extract the files. Otherwise, it takes almost 15 minutes just to fail thrugh the copy the first time, until you finally get the UAC dialog.

    Also, be aware that, while it says it can take up to 30 minutes, it's closer to an hour, and it will restart 3 or 4 times in the process (checking the box at the beginning is definitely advised). I've been running SP1 on my main machine for a few hours now, and it seems to be pretty stable. I'll have more on this later.

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  • Optimizing Outlook 2007 for High Traffic Emailing

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    Over the years, I've heard a lot of people complain about how badly Outlook performs. I could never quite figure out why, because I live in Outlook and I hardly have any problems, even though I get hundreds of e-mails a day.

    Well, yesterday I read that Mark Cuban switched to the Mac, partially because of his Outlook issues, and I realized that I have a couple tricks that I use to make my e-mailing life easier with outlook, and that I should probably share them.

    Problem #1: Downloading e-mails take forever because I have a bunch of rules that need to be processed.
    Reason: Every rule gets processed on every e-mail. if you have a lot of rules, and get a lot of e-mails, you're guaranteed to have problems.
    Solution #1: Add "Stop processing more rules" to the end of every rule.
    Solution #2: Use Hosted Exchange. For anywhere between $7 and $15 a month, you can upgrade your POP3 e-mail account to a hosted Exchange account at your own domain name. This way, when you use Rules in Outlook, they run on the server, and not on the client. You also get a bunch of other benefits, like disaster recovery, syncing with your smartphone, push e-mail, and Outlook Web Access. I know that may not sound like an attractive option, but once you try it, you'll never go back.

    Problem #2: Outlook takes *forever* to open.
    Reason: Your Outlook file is way too big. You're probably not archiving your e-mail often enough.
    Solution: Follow the "7-6-6" rule for AutoArchiving. Simply, every 7 days, archive anything older than 6 weeks to an archive folder, and create a new Archive file every 6 months. And whenever you see your AutoArchive folder open, close it. Finally, compact your PST & OST files often.

    The simple tips help keep my Outlook performing well. Like everything else, it just requires a little maintenance. With these tips, my Outlook consistently opens in under 3 seconds.

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  • The Long-Term Impact of User Account Control

    TechNet Magazine has a great article this month about UAC.

    UAC was not deliberately designed to be the most annoying feature in the history of Windows. Rather, this set of technologies was designed to set us on a path where users do not need to expose their systems to potentially malicious code as frequently as they have during the past few years.

    In its current form, UAC will not stop really good attackers, or ones who have the help of really good attackers. If the bad guys can't think of any other way to defeat UAC, they will almost certainly resort to asking the user to do it for them. Given the choice of dancing pigs and security, we know from experience that the dancing pigs win every time. Users have learned to dismiss dialogs, and so they will until we manage to teach them otherwise. This results from many contributing factors, including the fact that there are too many warning dialogs, that the messages in them are useless, and that many of the manuals for whatever devices users buy include a note to "please click yes to the security warning dialog to dismiss it."

    UAC does not provide foolproof security. In fact, it makes the good old local privilege elevation attack interesting again. This is a class of attack that has largely been discounted because, on Windows, nearly everyone was an admin anyway so elevating to some other admin was quite pointless. That said, UAC definitely changes the nature of such attacks and transforms the rules of the game to be much more like what prevailed on UNIX for more than 20 years.

    I think it's funny that people have been doing so much complaining about it... I have UAC enabled on all my machines and I hardly get ANY dialogs at all. But then again, I don't use many legacy programs, either. Whichever side of the UAC fence you're on, it's a great read.

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  • Microsoft Takes the Lid Off Vista Media Center Extenders

    From the "holy crap, what the hell took so long?" files, Microsoft has *finally* released details on the "v2" Windows Vista Media Center Extenders. Seriously guys, it only took 8 months after Vista's release to get something out there... no rush or anything. Anyways, Linksys, D-Link, and Niveus will be releasing new Vista-compatible Extenders with features such as Wireless-N, HD, DivX and Xvid support. Unfortunately, that's about all the details we got (sorry, no pics or prices), but if you're in the Denver area, you can hit up the Microsoft booth at CEDIA through Sunday, 9 Sept and check them out.

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  • Internet TV, V2 Extenders Coming to Windows Vista Media Center

    Josh of WindowsConnected fame points out a monster Media Center-related press release today. In it, we find out that Media Centers with quad-CableCARD tuners are coming, as well as the V2 Extenders (finally!). But the big news comes in the following paragraph:

    The number of content providers delivering video over the Internet continues to grow, and Microsoft is supporting this by adding a new Internet TV feature to Windows Media Center. Microsoft said its Internet TV service will be available for all Windows Vista Home Premium-and Windows Vista Ultimate-based PCs in the U.S. This new capability will allow a range of video content to be streamed to any Windows Media Center or Extender in the connected home. Further details will be announced at the DigitalLife event in New York on Sept. 27, 2007.

    Josh speculates that it's going to be a Mediaroom plugin, but I think it's going to be closer to what was supposed to go into the Xbox 360 (of course, they could be one and the same). Does this mean that IPTV won't be in the 360? We'll see at the end of the month. Makes me want to jump on a plane and head to DigitalLife. Any companies want to sponsor me?

    UPDATE: I just got the following e-mail from Brandon LeBlanc of the Windows Experience Blog:

    The announcement this week regarding Internet TV for Windows Media Center is *NOT* IPTV.

    Internet TV is broadband video delivered over any internet connection, such as MSN Video.
    IPTV is TV and Video over a managed broadband network, usually delivered by a telco company.

    The Media Center Team wants to avoid confusion between the Internet TV announcement and IPTV. Internet TV is NOT IPTV for Windows Media Center and should not be seen as a signal that it is coming for Windows Media Center at this time.

    Oops, my bad. Sorry for the confusion.
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  • New 'Live Suite' Beta Doesn't Support Vista x64

    Brandon LeBlanc has a great write-up of the new Windows Live Suite, complete with a video. Unfortunately for me, I can't take advantage of this beta, because it doesn't support the 64-bit flavors of Windows Vista. IMO that's really stupid. Microsoft should be supporting all versions of Vista in their betas, especially if the last beta supported it, and the final version will as well.

    So much for trying out the new Messenger today...

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  • Apple Beats Microsoft to WiFi Music Store

    You know, here's the kind of thing that REALLY irritates me about Microsoft. They've had Smartphones out for years. They've had a music player ecosystem out for a while too. And they were the first major company to have WiFi built into a music player, with music sharing. So why in the HELL did Apple just beat them to the punch with a WiFi music store? They just released EXACTLY what I envisioned for the Zune by introducing the iTunes WiFi Music Store, and making access free from any Starbucks with a T-Mobile Hostspot.

    But Microsoft, all is not lost. You can still come out ahead in this game, and here's how I think you should do it:

    • Make buying songs over WiFi as easy as Apple has. You guys have more clout than Apple... make it happen. You did the free T-Mobile thing for Windows Vista, there's no reason why you can't do it with the Zune, and then you'd hit all the airports and other T-Mobile locations that aren't in a Starbucks.
    • Bring all the TV Shows and Movies from Xbox Live Marketplace on to Zune Marketplace. If I buy a movie on my 360 I should be able to watch it on my Zune.
    • Build a Zune Marketplace add-in for Vista Media Center. I don't want to download shows at the endpoint of my network, I want it on the hub, and that hub is my Media Center PC. I want to be able to stream those movies to any Extender in the house (when you decide to release the V2 Extenders, of course).
    • Bring the Zune software to Windows Mobile 5 & 6. There's absolutely no reason you guys can't let me turn my Samsung i730 phone into an EVDO-enabled Zune. No reason. Just get off your butt and do it.

    Come on Microsoft. You guys are better than Apple. Quit letting them spank you and use your resources to get it done.

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  • Silverlight 1.0 Has RTMed, Announces Linux Support

    Microsoft has released Silverlight 1.0 to the web today, and announced that they have partnered with Novell to build the Linux implementation of Silverlight, called Moonlight. That means that Silverlight now has support on all 3 major OS platforms

    The bits aren't available at the moment, but I'm sure they will be soon.

    Links:

    [via G. Andrew Duthie]

    UPDATE: Microsoft's Scott Guthrie has, as always, posted an extremely in-depth update on what is going on in the world of Silverlight. It's a must-read if you aren't up to speed on what Silverlight is, or why it is important.

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  • Bink.nu Finally Gets an Update

    Congratulations to Steven Bink and Ryan Hoffman for launching their long-awaited and highly-anticipated upgrade to http://www.bink.nu. I've been a reader for a long time (in fact, Bink.nu is still one of the first sites that I go to for Microsoft news) and the site was starting to feel a bit stale. Now, it's powered by Community Server 2007 (like we will be, hopefully by this time next week) and the design is now worthy of their stature as a Windows community powerhouse.

    Great job guys! I'm looking forward to seeing what the sites new capabilities let you do!

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