Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

March 2008 - Posts

  • NVIDIA's Vista Drivers Suck, Now There's Proof

    CRN Magazine uncovered some pretty damning evidence from Microsoft on how much of a suckfest NVIDIA's Vista support was/is. Among the 158 pages of internal e-mails released regarding the "Vista Capable" lawsuit, was a chart listing the "Causes of logged Vista crashes, by organization". Nearly 30% of all crashes during an unspecified period in 2007 were related to NVIDIA drivers, over 3x more than their competitor, ATI. Given the state of NVIDIA drivers, that's not at all surprising.

    I recently had another run-in with sh!tty NVIDIA drivers, this time the nvstor.sys driver caused me to burn through *13* hard drives (that's not an exaggeration) on my Windows Server 2008 x64 Hyper-V rig. Just one more reason why I've purged NVIDIA chipsets from my systems.

    But back to the subject at hand. While I am dismayed at the amount of in-fighting and general BS that went on over what made a "Vista-capable" machine, as well as rumors I've heard about how the WinSAT scoring system was manipulated (and the situation as it was relayed to me could be open to interpretation), I think that a bunch of good things will ultimately come out of this lawsuit, if it doesn't go overboard of course. I also think that the relative silence from the Windows team regarding completed/ongoing SP1/Windows 7 work may have as much to do with this lawsuit as it does Sinofsky's crackdown on anything that even remotely conveys a forward-looking strategy.

    At the end of the day though, what is the remedy going to be when it is all said and done? A $25 rebate from Microsoft? Big frickin whoop...

    [via Ars Technica]

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  • For But a Few Brief Moments, I Was Totally Awesome

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    I'm sitting at the San Francisco airport, waiting to board my plane back to Phoenix. The past few days, I've been all over Silicon Valley, with Michael Reyes from Hardware Geeks, Andru Edwards & Jesse from GearLive, and Xavier from Notebooks.com... plus the great folks over at BuzzCorps. On Tuesday, BuzzCorps and I spent most of the day at the infamous Lightspeed Ventures VC firm, which was pretty cool. Then the whole gang and I got to be one of the *very* few people who has ever set foot into the HP garage... which was quite a treat. I'll have some cool pictures of that up pretty soon.

    Yesterday we got to see HP's "Home of the Future", and then we had a discussion with about 50 HP employees about influencers and blogging. Along the way, I got to meet a bunch of really great HP employees, who showed us an awesome time :).

    But that's not why I was totally awesome. You see, on the way to lunch in Cupertino yesterday, we drove by the Apple campus. In fact, we were stopped out in front of it for more than a minute. And as I resisted the urge to throw eggs at Steve Jobs' car, for those few brief seconds, I was as awesome as I am ever going to be, just by being in the sheer proximity of the coolest company on the planet.

    And now I'm disappointed, because at a month from turning 26, I've peaked. It will never get any better than this. To paraphrase Lewis Black, the only thing to do from here is acquire a serious drug problem, drop of the face of the earth for a while, then start a blog over at weblogs.asp.net again and work my way back to the top.

    I guess I'll just have to make due somehow. As soon as my camera gets back, I'll be sure to post a bunch of pics.

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  • UltimatePC.com, Ultimate Exclusives, and Ultimate Extras

    In case you haven't heard yet, Microsoft has announced the launch of UltimatePC.com, which is the new home of Microsoft's "Ultimate" strategy. Microsoft wants to show that they are serious about engaging customers about the Ultimate SKU, so this site is part release vehicle, part online magazine. The idea is that the Ultimate team can engage customers with new content on a continual basis, without being subject to the rigors of a Windows engineering schedule.

    This is what I was sent from WaggEd on the subject:

    Today Microsoft announced the launch of UltimatePC.com, the new home for Windows Vista Ultimate customers.  UltimatePC.com will highlight leading edge consumer scenarios and systems on an ongoing basis and deliver new “Ultimate Exclusives,” which will join “Ultimate Extras” as added value to Windows Vista Ultimate users. Whereas Ultimate Extras are add-ons that extend certain OS capabilities, Ultimate Exclusives provide Windows Vista Ultimate customers with unique products and services at special discounts to enhance the computing experiences and enable users to do more with their PC. 

    We are launching UltimatePC.com with three diverse Ultimate Exclusives. These offers are indicative of the ongoing value which UltimatePC.com will deliver to customers of Windows Vista Ultimate; the most complete version of Windows Vista.

    • EVGA: Great deals on EVGA e-GeForce 8800 series graphics cards to enhance your gaming
    • Pinnacle Systems: Exciting offers on consumer video editing software and HD TV products
    • Stardock Systems: Promotional pricing on Stardock Multiplicity for Multi-PC control

    Microsoft has set a high bar for Ultimate Exclusives, just as it has for Windows Ultimate Extras and thus will lead the Ultimate Exclusive selection and posting process. While some Ultimate Exclusives will consist of Microsoft products and services, most Ultimate Exclusives will be comprised of third party offerings. We are therefore on the lookout for products and services which highlight the best in high end consumer computing.

    I'm told that there are a bunch more offers on the way, and that they will be changing frequently.

    Now, I know your first reaction is going to be to get angry at the lack to Ultimate Extras, and to feel like Microsoft has gipped you. You might even be tempted to write fictional letters from Windows Executives to the community, or build ASCII art of different Windows visual elements in protest of the issue. BELIEVE ME, I understand your frustration. But there is more to the story than I am able to tell you. There are positives and negatives to the changes the Windows division has seen in the last year... make of that what you will.

    I *AM* however able to say that there will be an announcement soon about the next wave of Ultimate Extras, and that Microsoft *really is* committed to delivering extra value on top of Ultimate.I can also say that Microsoft plans to have fee Exclusives at some point as well.

    At least they are doing *something* and something is better than nothing.

    BTW, I've already heard comments that people are disappointed that the site is using Flash instead of Silverlight... I'm told that Silverlight was the way they started, but they had to temporarily move to Flash for technical reasons. Supposedly they'll move back to Silverlight in the future, once whatever technical issue they had is resolved.

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  • Help Microsoft Test Site Rendering With New IE8 Add-on

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    If you're running the IE8 Beta, Microsoft has put out a new tool that can help them identify web pages with rendering problems in the new Standards mode. I'm not sure how they are going to address it internally, but hey, at least we can start going through all the Microsoft.com pages that need to be fixed. Ironically, the add-on's MSDownloads page was the first one I submitted. Live.com's personalized page was the second.

    From the download:

    The Report a Webpage Problem Internet Explorer Add-on appears as a toolbar button and a “Report a Webpage Problem...” item on the Tools menu.

    When the toolbar button is clicked or the menu item is chosen, the control takes a screenshot of the web page currently being viewed. A new tab is then opened containing a report submission form. A scaled down version of the screenshot will be visible at the bottom, and the user has a choice of whether or not to include the full-sized screenshot (choosing No to the “Include Screenshot?” question means no screenshot will be sent).

    On the report submission page, the user also has the option to select a category best representing their observed problem. This category selection will be part of the report information returned to Microsoft.
    A 1000 character limit comment field is provided, if the user chooses to include some description of the problem.

    Additional data included in the report:

    • The protocol type (http, res, file, etc.) of the URL being reported.
    • The complete URL.
    • A numerical value representing the Document mode.
    • For more information about what data is sent and how it is used, see the Privacy Statement

    Please visit the IE Beta Forum to enter bug reports, comments, and suggestions

    It's an easy way to help make sure the web is ready for IE8. Do your part. Download it now.

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  • March 5, 2008: The Day Microsoft Changed the Web

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    I've been saying this for a long time: The tech industry (and the financial markets associated with the tech industry) has continually underestimated Microsoft at its own peril. At MIX 08 today, Ray Ozzie emerged from his undisclosed location to show us all what the "Ray Ozzie Microsoft" will look like. And I try not to swear on the blog to often... but HOLY F---ING SH--! As Scott Guthrie so aptly put it, "Apps speak louder than words," and the LOOOONG keynote showed off more bits than you can shake an ICBM at. Here's what came out, courtesy of WaggEd:

    • Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1: Microsoft unveiled for the first time Internet Explorer 8, showcasing Internet Explorer’s commitment to developers. Internet Explorer 8 offers an unprecedented level of interoperability and tools, enabling developers to be more productive while delivering innovative experiences for end users on the Web. Internet Explorer 8 beta 1 for developers, released today, provides the most extensive support for Internet standards of any Microsoft browser and reduces the amount of time required to bring new experiences online. 
    • Silverlight 2 Beta: Silverlight 2 supports managed code, includes the core of the Common Language Runtime and adds over two dozen user interface controls (such as Button, CheckBox, Date controls, GridView and Layout) that are designed to be used right out of the box, or to be tweaked with styles. If you need full control over the look and feel, the appearance of any control can be fully determined by templates and control behavior can be modified by hooking events, or ultimately by creating custom controls.
    • Expression Studio 2 Beta: Expression Studio 2 works seamlessly with Visual Studio to enable better designer and developer collaboration. New features include PHP support in Expression Web, and support for Silverlight in Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Media Encoder and Expression Design.
    • SQL Server Data Services: Microsoft announced a preview of SQL Server Data Services, a building block service designed for developers and businesses that need scalable, easily programmable and cost-effective data storage with robust database query capabilities. MIX08 attendees will be able to register for an invitation-only beta of Microsoft SQL Server Data Services.
    Don't forget:
    • DeepZoom, powered by SeaDragon
    • NBCOlympics.com, HardRock.com, AstonMartin.com, and the new AOL Mail - all powered by Silverlight
    • XAML embedded in video enabling new ad metrics systems - By DoubleClick

    When Microsoft decides to compete, they don't screw around. And now you can take the platform that a majority of Fortune 500 companies trust and use every day, and take that wealth of developer experience, and bring it to a cross-platform, cross-browser solution? How about .NET developers building rich applications on the Mac? How about using the same XAML code for an advertisement, and having it work on a web page, in a video clip, or in a WPF app?

    So I say it again, count Microsoft out all you want, they have a history of out-competing almost everyone. Everyone thought OS/2 would beat out Windows. They were wrong. Everyone thought .NET would be a joke, cause Java "did everything right". They were wrong. Everyone thought Flash would take over the world. But Silverlight out-flashes Flash, and no one with any sense uses Flash for Enterprise apps.

    Microsoft has a history of letting innovation happen, then finding the weaknesses in a competitor's product and attack it in force. Microsoft now dominates software development, and Guthrie & Co are doing it through good ol' fashioned innovation. Now they are putting their full weight into the arena that Macromedia/Adobe have dominated for so long.

    if I were Adobe, I'd be real scared right about now.

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  • Guess Who's Not Ready For IE8?

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    Microsoft! Live.com is totally broken in IE8. Which I find kind of odd, because I would have imagined that the Live.com team had access to the beta. At any rate, changing tabs doesn't work, the Start Orb is broken, and only 3 of the panels on my front page load data.

    Oops! I think we can say that this not the first site that will break with IE8, and definitely not the last. Time to update that meta tag, guys!

    This site, however, is totally ready. One change to the global configuration in IIS7, and we're now spewing the IE7 compatibility HttpHeader, although there are relatively few issues with the way the site renders by default in IE8.

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  • Xbox 360 HD-DVD Emulator, Free For All

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    Microsoft may have thrown in the towel on HD-DVD, but they still believe that HDi which is very similar to Silverlight) is better than BDJ. So Microsoft is making the HD-DVD Emulator available for free. Not only that, but anyone who has already bought it will get a full refund.

    Could this mean that Blu-Ray could be seeing HDi support in the near future? If Sony was smart, that answer would be yes... but who knows?

    I might have to check this out and report back on the experience... supposedly you can burn it to a regular DVD and use it in an HD-DVD drive...

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  • Silverlight Mobile... On Nokia Before Windows Mobile

    I kind of had a feeling that Silverlight would be coming to Mobile Devices soon... I just didn't realize it wouldn't come on Windows Mobile first. News.com has the scoop:

    Microsoft's Silverlight browser plug-in will be bringing videos and other rich media to Nokia smartphones later this year.

    The two companies on Tuesday at Microsoft's Mix '08 conference are scheduled to announce that Microsoft will write a version of Silverlight for Nokia's Series 60 (S60) smartphone software that runs on Symbian OS. The software, which will be available later this year, will also run on Series 40 devices and Nokia Internet tablets.

    Now I've seen some pretty cool apps for the S60, and now hopefully we'll be able to see even more soon. Does that mean .NET development could be coming to the S60? Let's hope so.

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  • Bulletproof PDF Printing for Vista x64 - For Free!

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    "That's bullsh!t!" you might say. No, it's BullZip! (Yes, I'm well aware of how cheesy a joke that was. You'll survive.) It uses GhostScript Lite, and it totally rocks. Plus it's donationware... so make sure you give them some love.

    BTW, they also make a free MD5 Calculator that lets you right-click on any file and get it's hash... it even lets you paste in the hash from a website for a quick comparison. Good for making sure that SP1 download of questionable origin is legit...

    Anyways, I just blasted my laptop and reinstalled Vista SP1 slipstreamed (not because of errors per-se, just time to clear out the software I don't need/use), and these were the first tools I installed. Forget Adobe... get BullZip PDF!

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  • IE8 Will Default to Standards Mode

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    From Dean H. over on the IE Blog:

    One issue we heard repeatedly during the IE7 beta concerned sites that looked fine in IE6 but looked bad in IE7. The reason was that the sites had worked around IE6 issues with content that – when viewed with IE7’s improved Standards mode – looked bad.

    As we started work on IE8, we thought that the same thing would happen in the short term: when a site hands IE8 content and asks for Standards mode, that content would expect IE7’s Standards mode and not appear or function correctly. 

    In other words, the technical challenge here is how can IE determine whether a site’s content expects IE8’s Standards mode or IE7’s Standards mode? Given how many sites offer IE very different content today, which should IE8 default to?

    Our initial thinking for IE8 involved showing pages requesting “Standards” mode in an IE7’s “Standards” mode, and requiring developers to ask for IE8’s actual “Standards” mode separately. We made this decision, informed by discussions with some leading web experts, with compatibility at the top of mind.

    In light of the Interoperability Principles, as well as feedback from the community, we’re choosing differently. Now, IE8 will show pages requesting “Standards” mode in IE8’s Standards mode. Developers who want their pages shown using IE8’s “IE7 Standards mode” will need to request that explicitly (using the http header/meta tag approach described here).

    There is also a press release here. This is great news for the web standards community... but not-so-great news for the billions of web pages out there. You guys have fair warning now... better update your DOCTYPE if you want to show users a consistent experience.

    Reaction? QuirksBlog says: "Isn't that something? The IE team is listening."

    Speaking of web sites and compatibility, a friend of mine discovered that Verizon Wireless' "My Account" site has been inaccessible from Firefox for over a week. So far, Verizon won't even publicly acknowledge the issue, or inform their users on the login page. They just make their users think that they are stupid by erroring out on login. I wonder how long it will take to fix it...

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