Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

December 2007 - Posts

  • PointUI Home: First Impressions

    The people at PointUI have put their software up about 12 hours early. I've spent the last 30 minutes playing with it, and WOW, I'm very impressed. I'll have a full-blown video review in the next day or so (I'm waiting for my new HD video camera to be delivered). But I've fallen in love with my new Smartphone all over again.

    if you're a Windows Mobile 5 or 6 users, you HAVE to download this and check it out. I think a small group of anonymous developers just gave Microsoft a huge run for their money.

  • PointUI Home: iPhone-like Interface for Windows Mobile

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    I've seen a lot of different Windows Mobile shell replacements, but none as sexy as PointUI. I caught wind of it from Mr. Mobile's blog, and it looks really freakin sweet. I don't know how they achieved such a clean animation, but I can't wait to try it out. It goes live tomorrow, I'll have a review of it online next week. In the meantime, check out these videos.



    This might just put Windows Mobile 6.1 to shame, and it's not even out yet.

  • Thanks, RedmondMag!

    RedmondMag recently put out their end-of-the-year issue, where they summarized some of their top links, stories, products, and sites of 2007. We were fortunate enough to be listed as one of the top 5 "Blogs We Read", and had some very kind words about our Windows Vista coverage over the last 3 years. So thanks, RedmondMag! We enjoy reading your site as well :).

  • Vista & Office 2007 Preview Handlers

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    One of the cooler Vista features that I've started using more often is the File Preview in Windows Explorer. Being a developer, most of the files I work with are code files of one form or another. I didn't think there was any reason to use the File Preview feature... until I came across a couple of Preview Handlers that caught my attention.

    I also came across an article from MSDN wiz Stephen Toub. He built a simple application that lets you edit the Preview Handlers associated with a particular file type. They're very useful, but unfortunately the code does not work on Vista x64 (dang that phrase is WAY more common than it should be). So I took his code, and made some adjustments. The cool thing about Steven's utility is that you can use it to extend the Code Preview Handler Pack listed above to process .ashx, .ascx, and .asmx files as well. Anyways, I've posted a zip file containing the executable, as well as the modified source code.

    So do you know of any cool PreviewHandlers? If so, please share!

  • More on the WHS Corruption Bug (I've Been a Bad Beta Tester)

    So the news making its way around the web in the slow news time between the holidays is that Microsoft posted a KB article about data corruption issues in WHS. I've been experiencing this problem consistently for a while now, but chalked it up to the way Outlook was accessing data on the file share, I didn't realize that it was a WHS issue. I probably should have bugged it in Connect much sooner.

    But the problem is not as obscure as Ed Bott pointed out. It's actually relatively easy to reproduce. You see, I've kept pretty much every e-mail I've ever sent or received over the last 7 years. That amounts to just shy of 3GB of PST files. A while back I used the AutoArchive function on the AutoArchive files, to sort them into individual years, so that when I needed to get at old e-mails, the file wouldn't take FOREVER to open.

    I thought my Home Server would be the perfect place to store these files. But it turns out, if you keep a PST AutoArchive file on WHS, and Outlook runs an AutoArchive, the PST file stays open in Outlook after it's done. If you've decided to keep your PST files safe by enabling Folder Duplication in WHS, and the DEMigrator service triggers a "balancing" while the file is open, your file is pretty much guaranteed to be corrupted. Usually ScanPST.exe will repair the file, but to be honest, there is no telling how much data that I have lost over the last 6 months of using WHS.

    I've been experiencing this bug for a while, and I should have reported it sooner. I thought it was simply a factor of trying to use WHS during a balancing. For now, I have moved my PST files off of WHS, and you should too.

    Also, don't save your Money 2007 files there either. I had two years worth of my business financials corrupted, along with their backups. I didn't realize WHS was the culprit until I read the KB article.

  • My Christmas Present: Another Xbox 360 RROD

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    The week after I got my Xbox 360 back from the repair depot the first time I got an RROD, Microsoft admitted that there was a problem, and announced a program to repair defective Xbox 360 consoles. Supposedly they replaced my console with a new one, but I don't think my new one had the fix they implemented. Because my Christmas Morning Halo 3 fragfest was cut short by the return of the Red Ring of Death. Fortunately, Microsoft has a new online system for handling repairs, which is really cool. Now I just have to wait for another plain white box to come in the mail, so that I can ship this one back.

    I'd love for this 360 to magically come back with an HDMI port, but somehow I don't think that will happen. Good thing I just got a Spider Gaming system from AMD to review, or I wouldn't have anything to blow up as a stress-reliever.

  • I'm Taking the BlogBus to CES 2008

    As Robert Scoble mentioned earlier this week, PodTech & Microsoft are sponsoring a bus/RV/whatever to drive from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas for CES 2008. I'm a bit fuzzy on the details, but I've been invited to join in on the Scoble Farewell Tour journey. Should be pretty interesting. And if Hugh brings some of that Blue Monster Reserve then it ought to be REALLY interesting.

    I'm hoping to get to do some interesting things for my CES coverage this year, but more on that after the Holiday break. Merry Christmas everyone!

  • Yet Another Reason Sony Will Lose the Console/HDFormat War

    Official Xbox Magazine:

    We're currently working on our March 2008 issue, and our intrepid tech reporter David Murphy helps scout interesting sets for review. "Have you guys done a Bravia yet?" he asked. "No," I replied, "But I'd love to get one in the mag."


    Here's where it gets weird. Murph contacted Sony's PR to request a set for review, and was It would appear that the console wars extend further than any of us realized, but that's the reason given — we're a Microsoft-focused (but not -owned, I should point out) publication, and they are a PlayStation-creating company (but not the same business division, I should point out), so...just no. "I have to support our friends over at our sister company," said the representative.


    I wrote back and asked, as politely as I could, "Really?" I know that several readers have written in and posted on the forums that our reviews have helped them make HDTV decisions — and quite often, they tell us that they buy the exact model we reviewed, because we've recommended it. Why wouldn't you want to be included in our coverage? I even told him, hey, I bought one, and there are no incompatibilities between Sony sets and Microsoft games. You sure you don't want to sell TV sets to, like, everybody?

    The reply was that they were sure. "Sony is going to pass on this opportunity."

    It would seem to me that Sony would want to introduce as many Xbox gamers as possible to Sony products, as a point of not just selling TVs, but to start building brand loyalty. OXM's reasoning makes perfect sense, especially if there is a direct relationship between the TVs they cover, and purchases made by their readers.

    So why is Sony going to lose? Because they're more worried about their own tech "religion" than they are about their business. For example, Microsoft loves the idea of Apple selling Windows XP or Vista bundled in with Macs. Because to Microsoft, a license is a license, and then Apple just becomes another OEM (as much as I detest the idea, it's a valid point). Microsoft just wants Windows users... they don't care if you're black, white, blue, orange, or worship Steve Jobs as your God. But apparently, because I haven't bought a PS3, my money is not good enough for them.

    I think it's a really stupid move on Sony's part. I'll just add this to my list of many reasons why I am no longer a Sony customer of any fashion.

  • IE8 Passes Acid2, Finally Achieves Full Standards Compliance

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    "Don't misinterpret silence for inaction."

    That's what Dean Hachamovitch, GM of the IE Team, said in a blog post two weeks ago. Boy, he wasn't kidding.

    At first glance, this test seems simple. I think it actually offers a view into the subtle and complex world of web standards in a number of ways. Showing the Acid2 page correctly is a good indication of being standards compliant, but Acid2 itself isn’t a web standard or a web standards compliance test. The publisher of the test, the Web Standards Project, is an advocacy group, not a web standards defining body.


    The key goal (for the Web Standards Project as well as many other groups and individuals) is interoperability. As a developer, I’d prefer to not have to write the same site multiple times for different browsers. Standards are a (critical!) means to this end, and we focus on the standards that will help actual, real-world interoperability the most. As a consumer and a developer, I expect stuff to just work, and I also expect backwards compatibility. When I get a new version of my current browser, I expect all the sites that worked before will still work.


    Now, with all that context, I’m delighted to tell you that on Wednesday, December 12, Internet Explorer correctly rendered the Acid2 page in IE8 standards mode. While supporting the features tested in Acid2 is important for many reasons, it is just one of several milestones for the interoperability, standards compliance, and backwards compatibility that we’re committed to for this release. We will blog more on these topics. Here’s a relevant video.

    This is great news, not just for developers and web purists, but also for Microsoft, who may have just satisfied a key request of the recent Opera antitrust lawsuit. It will be interesting to see what else is in IE8, which I'm assuming we'll hear more about at MIX '08.

  • A Follow Up To "How To Piss Off..."

    So Todd Bishop brings up a good point in a post about my take on the whole Mix-N-Mash thing with Jonathan Snook's question about Microsoft and innovation. He says that the question talked about an issue a lot of people thing about, and prompted a lively exchange that was apparently enjoyable, so no harm was done.

    I obviously wasn't there, so I don't know the air of the room at the time. It seemed to me based on the text, that Bill was pretty pissed off, and masked it very well with good humor. Now, granted I could have very well come off like an idiot when asking someone who is arguably the most powerful man on the planet a question. But, if I had the opportunity to do so (an opportunity which I would probably never get again), I would have thoroughly researched my question, practiced it, etc, so that my exact point got across without any ambiguity.

    So in Jonathan's explanation (which I didn't have at the time I wrote the piece), he said that Rob Howard beat him to the punch about the question on Corporate Culture (had I been in the room with Rob Howard, I would have assumed he would have asked what amounted to a blogging question, sine he was one of Microsoft's first bloggers), so he had to come up with something else. Alright, I get that, and I'll retract my statement about him not deserving to be there for lack of preparation. But based on the way I read it, the question seemed pretty disrespectful, and of course Bill Gates would get defensive about it. I'm glad he could have what I'm told is a decent laugh about it.

    But at the same time, even his explanation I don't get. He says:

    My intention wasn't to say Microsoft doesn't innovate because I think they do but rather to open up the discussion to discuss ways that Microsoft could empower those within the organization to innovate (like Google does by allowing employees to work on their own projects).

    Anyone who has any day-to-day experience with Microsoft knows that they are doing innovative things. He had just seen Microsoft Surface not two hours before. is that not innovative? Microsoft was the first to build a data network of watches using FM radio. Just because it didn't take off, does that mean it's not innovative? Is Silverlight not innovative? I mean, come on. Just because Bill doesn't wear a turtleneck doesn't mean Microsoft doesn't do innovative things.

    It just seemed similar to getting a private audience with the Pope, and using your time to ask him if he *really* believed in God, or if he just liked wearing cool hats. You can't say that his company is "reactionary" and expect not to get a passionate reaction.

    But I'm getting off-track. Jonathan, I apologize. The transcript obviously doesn't accurately characterize the exchange. You're a lucky b@stard for getting to go, and I'm glad everyone had a good time.

  • How to Piss Off the Second Wealthiest Man On Earth

    Speaking of Mix-N-Mash, IMO Jonathan Snook is the dumbest guy on the planet. He gets invited to this super-secret event, when he gets to ask one of the most influential people on the planet a single question, and he uses it to tell him that his life's work basically meant nothing.

    Todd Bishop described a cleaned-up version of the exchange yesterday. LiveSide posted the transcript, and I'm going to post this particular exchange in its entirety, because there are some telling comments in there about the way Microsoft does business. If you want to read the rest of what happened, you should definitely read the whole thing, it is a good read.

    Jonathan Snook: My question is more regarding (off mike). I've often felt that Microsoft has certainly been reactionary (off mike).

    BILL GATES: Especially when we started the company. (Laughter.) I knew that three years later, Apple would come along. It was (just a reaction ?). (Laughter.)

    Jonathan Snook: So, like, I mean, think of like Word (inaudible) or WordPerfect before (off mike).

    BILL GATES: Oh, really? (Laughter.) When do you think Microsoft did its first word processor, just out of curiosity?

    Jonathan Snook: Apparently it was before my time. (Laughter.)

    BILL GATES: Way before WordPerfect, way before Bruce Bastian started school at BYU. Anyway --

    Jonathan Snook: What year was that?

    BILL GATES: The myth of all these things. We did 8080 word processors, 8080, eight-bit machine word processors. Every stupid thing we did first. (Laughter.)

    PARTICIPANT: Let it be known.

    BILL GATES: I mean, I'll date myself. Has anybody ever used a Model 100, Radio Shack Model 100? Okay, that was the first portable computer. It's a Z80 based system. It had this nice little word processor in it. You didn't have to give save commands. It had an eight-line LCD, 8 by 40 character LCD type thing.

    Why does the IBM character set have all the characters it has in it? Because I put the Wang word processing characters in, because I thought, oh, maybe we'll do a Wang type word processor.

    Who did Microsoft's word processor? Who? A guy named Charles Simone. Who is Charles Simone? Go back to the annals of Xerox PARC, and look at who wrote the first bitmap graphics word processor, a guy named Charles Simone, Dr. Charles Simone. Look at his PhD thesis on the thing.

    Anyway, he started in 1980, after we'd done our first word processor. He came in because he believed in doing bitmap word processors. But anyway --

    Jonathan Snook: Well, then let me rephrase my question.

    BILL GATES: I mean, come on. (Laughter.) Do you guys remember Electric Pencil, do you remember WordStar? WordPerfect was late. We were early. The midrange is guys like Electric Pencil and WordStar. Now, we didn't win in word processing until people bet against graphics user interface, and we bet on graphics user interface, and people kind of messed up. There were even some good word processors, but they got messed up. What was that one on the Mac that was really good? FullWrite? FullWrite was actually a very good word processor, but they never took it anywhere. Anyway. But we were imitating them. (Laughter.)

    Jonathan Snook: There's a myth that Microsoft doesn't innovate. How do you feel that Microsoft can change that attitude?

    BILL GATES: We can't change it. If you think we just imitate, then that's -- you just can't change it.

    Did we do personal computing? Who did that damn personal computing thing? When I bought that 8008 for $360 down at Hamilton (Avenue ?), what was that?

    Anyway, tablet computers, is there somebody else out there doing tablet computers? IPTV, is there somebody else out there doing -- by definition what we do is the baseline. Everything Microsoft does is the baseline, and what we don't do, that's what's innovative I guess. (Laughter.) And by that definition the other guys do all the innovative things.

    I remember Google invented Web search. No one did it before they did. It's very interesting how they did that. (Laughter.)

    In the computer industry the person who does something first and the person who does it successfully, they are rarely the same, but the memory is -- I mean, people think Apple Computer was an early personal computer company. Well, let's see, I had licensed 17 people to do personal computer basics before I did the Applesoft BASIC, before I went out with Steve Wozniak and did the version that worked with a cassette tape, because they didn't have the disk yet. But Apple invented personal computing.

    So, let history be rewritten at all times. But there's no way to get it straight, I guess. Go look at what Microsoft Research is doing, and then decide who are imitating and let me know.

    Jonathan Snook: Well, I'm sure that (off mike) Microsoft Research (off mike).

    BILL GATES: I'm sorry?

    Jonathan Snook: The stuff coming out of Microsoft Research (off mike).

    BILL GATES: All our products are based -- all our products are based on stuff that came out of Microsoft Research. We are playing catch-up in Web search. What things are we behind in? Some design and usability things we could be better in, search we could be better in. So, we have categories where we need to match and exceed what a brilliant company has done. Adobe has done a great job with Flash, it's a very nice piece of work. Is it good that there's some competitor trying to make it better? Who knows? But, yes, they were the first mover in many elements of that. I can talk to you about people who failed who did it before them, but it doesn't really matter; they got out there and they drove the very big numbers.

    So, we always have a few categories like that, but most of our revenue -- who's revolutionizing management software? Who's revolutionizing security software? I mean, seriously, who do you think? The business computing market, which is way bigger than the consumer computing market, no one pays attention to it. Even in the Wall Street Journal, and you think, oh, this is the paper they're going to tell me about business computing; no, it's all about consumer computing. It's okay, but thank God for business computing, because it allows us to price our consumer computing stuff super cheap, and still pay the salaries of these wonderful researchers who like to be paid.

    Anyway, I'm -- (laughter.) It's not the first time I've heard that. I'm not -- (laughter) -- it's a very common view that if you figure out how I can get rid of it, I will do so.

    If you're going to ask a question like that, at the very least, you should have something concrete to back it up with. Maybe he thought he was going to accomplish something with the question, but instead he put his ignorance on display for the world to see. Here's a piece of advice, Jonathan: You don't get to the stature he's at in life by being an imitator, you idiot. He probably did a few things right along the way. For you to assume that he didn't shows your lack of maturity.

    Just so you know, Mix-N-Mash event organizers, if you ever put that event on again, and need someone who isn't going to waste Bill's time by being an ignorant moron, you know how to get in touch with me. I'd love to have the opportunity to sit at a private event with him, and I'm sure I could come up with a question or two that wouldn't insult his intelligence or life's work.

    UPDATE: I've posted a follow-up to this here.

  • "I'll have to ask Dean what the hell is going on..."

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    "...I mean, we're not -- there's not like some deep secret about what we're doing with IE."

    That's what Bill Gates said when asked about the status of IE8 at the uber-elite Mix-N-Mash event in Redmond. As Mary Jo pointed out, the next day Dean posted to the IE weblog that IE8 is currently in progress. In his post, he linked to Bill's announcement of IE7, where there was an interesting comment he made that is still true today:

    Why are we talking about it today? Because our customers and partners have asked us, with increasing urgency, what our plans are. We want to convey our intentions to our customers and partners clearly and in a timely way.

    History seems to be repeating itself.

    Personally, I think it's stupid that they're waiting until MIX08 to make any announcements about it. There doesn't need to be fanfare around it, it's just a browser. I think that when it comes to IE, Microsoft has a lot to make up for after disbanding the team post-IE6. Since IE is on the Windows side of the house, my guess is that is has more to do with the "don't talk about it till it's ready" mentality that pervades that division since Allchin's departure, than anything else. In short, I think Dean *wants* to talk about it, but he's being shut down by his bosses, just like the rest of the Windows division.

    And that might be alright, except that IE is a developer-focused product, and those developers are used to the 100% transparency that comes from the DevDiv. Personally, I think the IE team should move under Soma's group (but Dean should definitely still be in charge of it, he's a great guy and the right person for the job). It would make a lot more sense for a bunch of different reasons, especially since Microsoft stopped using the IE engine in other parts of Windows.

    Anyways, I thought Bill's very candid answer was quite amusing. Hopefully that mentality starts rolling downhill, because it is not, and should not be, a secret.

  • Microsoft Confirms Plans for Windows XP on OLPC

    Inside a seemingly ho-hum press release about Microsoft supporting flash-based computing, Microsoft snuck in official confirmation that they will begin field trials of Windows XP on One Laptop per Child's XO device in the first half of 2008, with the goal of having it be available for government purchase in the second-half of 2008.

    A couple names I think should be considered:

    • XOXP
    • XPXO
    • XP4XO

    I would think that Microsoft would choose to make a bigger deal about this. But I guess since they're targeting governments and not consumers, they don't have to. It still should have had its own press release, though.

  • Michael Bay's Transforming HD-DVD Tin Foil Hat

    Director Michael Bay has been a little butt-hurt about the whole HD-DVD/BluRay format war. But recently, in a post entitled, "I agree with you", the Transformers director proves that he's spent too much time around film development chemicals.

    What you don't understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu Ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth.

    Has Microsoft ever backed a product that it intentionally wanted to fail? (And don't think you're clever by inserting a "Microsoft Bob" reference in the comments... you're not.) Would its shareholders approve of that type of behavior?

    Didn't think so. Hey Michael... that sounds like a great skein for Transformers 2... you should go with it.

    [via EngadgetHD]