Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

May 2008 - Posts

  • "Windows 7 Video" Origins Revealed

    In all the hubub over the last week, I missed this message in my Windows-Now inbox:

    Hi Robert,

    I would like to clarify the Windows 7 video was unauthorized and based on an initial Beta version of our upcoming product. If you'd like more information about the product please visit


    Konrad Musial
    CEO, Extensoft, Inc.

    So that explains it. The product looks interesting, I hope I'm able to get my hands on a copy soon. And congratulations to whomever created the video, you got your 15 minutes of fame.

  • IE8 and 'Killbits'

    I was reading up about IE8 Beta 2 yesterday, and I came across an interesting post about how ActiveX controls will be handled in IE8. The part I found interesting:

    If a vulnerable control has been exploited, IE has included a poison-pill option—the “killbit”— to block usage of specific controls within the browser. Vendors who are aware of a vulnerability in their control should contact Microsoft to setup a killbit for a future software update package. For more information, please refer to Knowledge Base article 240797, How to stop an ActiveX control from running in Internet Explorer.

    I think that's pretty awesome. If a vendor doesn't want a vulnerable control affecting their users anymore, they can have Microsoft prevent it from loading beyond the current measures they have in place. Maybe Adobe can use that to kill the versions of the ActiveX control that keep crashing IE7.

    [via Neowin]

  • Sinofsky Breaks Silence on Windows 7

    The timing of this is a tad suspicious. Maybe this was planned weeks ago, as the start of a larger communications push; or maybe it was hastily put together in response to Mary Jo Foley's new book, in which she published the memo that replaced the traditionally clear panes of Windows for "translucent" stained glass. I don't know the answer. But Microsoft chose to break the silence on Windows 7 today, trotting Steven Sinofsky in front of's Ina Fried (surprise surprise) for an interview.

    Steven must be a very tough cookie to interview. No matter how hard Ina pushed for any kind of feature tidbit, Sinofsky stayed on message the whole time. I wish there was a video, so I could see how Steven reacted to all the questions posed that were trying to address the rumors. He did, however, reveal that Windows 7 will NOT be based on MinWin; instead it will be an evolution of the single Windows codebase that started with Vista and improved with Windows Server 2008. It will still come in both x86 and x64 editions, and is on track for a 2010 shipdate, which is three years after Vista's GA.

    This is exactly why I haven't commented much on Windows 7 up to this point. One blogger posts rumor (for example, about MinWin) and rumor gets passed from blogger to blogger until it becomes "fact" in the eyes of tech press and bloggers. Microsoft never said MinWin was going to be the core of Windows 7, they just said it was a research kernel they were working on. Kernels take time to be developed. Any kernel that touches as many lives as Windows needs a LOT of work before it goes mainstream. So MinWin *might* be at the core of Windows 8, but they're not going to scrap the billions spent on the current kernel after one iteration. It just doesn't make any sense.

    Also, Long Zheng thinks that Windows 7 will be shown off at the D6 - All Things Digital conference this year. Before you buy into this rumor, even though Long has a very good track record of being right, consider this: Microsoft's first public communication about Longhorn was at the Professional Developer's Conference, which is the most forward-looking conference they have. If they're looking to get the ecosystem more stable, as Sinofsky put in his interview... why would he show it off to reporters before he showed it off to developers? That certainly seems counterproductive. IMO, Windows Mobile 7 might be a more likely demo than Windows 7.

    UPDATE: I was wrong, Long was right. Holy crap, it's getting demoed tonight!

    Anyways, I hope this interview means that there will be a more steady flow of information in the near future, but somehow I doubt it. "Focusing on promising and delivering" really means that they won't promise a feature until they know they can deliver it, and when it comes to software development, that usually doesn't happen until it is done.

    UPDATE: Nick White's replacement on the Official Windows Vista Blog, Chris Flores, shares some additional insight into "Communicating Windows 7".

  • 31 Days of the HDX Dragon Contest: And The Winner Is...

    Wow, it's been a wild and crazy week. First off, thank you to everyone for your patience, and for putting so much time and effort into creating your entries. There were nearly 30 submissions, and several that stood out as quite excellent.

    What Determined The Winner
    While I was totally floored at the quality of some of the videos, no one touched on all of my requirements. I was really looking for someone to show me how they were making a serious impact on the world using Windows Vista, and demoing exactly which Vista feature helped them do so. In the end, there were 4 videos that really stuck out in my mind. What follows are those videos, along with my thoughts on how I picked the winner.

    Third Runner-Up: "Where Will Vista Take You?"
    The only video that filled my "making a difference" criteria was an entry by two brothers who won not one, but 2 different Imagine Cup competitions. If you're not familiar, the Imagine Cup is an international competition funded by Microsoft for high school and college students. Microsoft picks a theme that usually has to do with bettering humanity in one way or another, and the students have a limited amount of time to build an application that matches the theme.

    Anyways, this video was a solid use of Windows Movie Maker, with an engaging narrative of the adventures of Roberto and Eduardo Sonnino. The main reason this video didn't win, although it was very well produced and showed off some cool technologies, is because it didn't show anything that was specific to Vista. Pretty much everything they demoed in their applications was about .NET 3.0/3.5, with the exception of Speech Recognition. And while they showed off their award-winning apps very well, I might have given them more consideration if they had done so from inside the Vista shell. Nevertheless, they had a couple very cool experiences on their trips around the world, and I wish them the best of luck on their future endeavors.

    "Where Will Vista Take You?"

    Second Runner-Up: "Buckwheat on Vista"
    What happens when you combine Windows Vista, a *cough* Mac, a super chipmunk, and a skirt-chasing talking dog? Only one of the most entertaining Vista demos I've ever seen. When the opening shot switches from the Vista desktop to the Narrator, the camera slowly rotates from behind a Crapintosh Macintrash MacBook Pro to reveal a rather unusual Vista user. Extra style points were awarded for being the only user in the history of Vista to actually use Windows Meeting Space.

    I can't really find any fault with this video. While it appears that the only way Vista makes a difference in Buckwheat's life is that it helps him get more play with the ladies, it was solidly entertaining, and reminded me of the often-overlooked features of Vista. Unfortunately, it was just outdrawn by two other competitors.

    "Buckwheat on Vista"

    First Runner-Up: "How Dave Uses Windows Vista"
    I wanted to give Dave the Dragon SOOO bad. I mean, his video was, in this bloggers' humble opinion, a hundred times better than ANY of the commercials Microsoft has put out about Vista. Note to Microsoft: HIRE THIS GUY!!! It had great special effects, it was stylistically unique, and it was just shy of 60 seconds, which fit perfectly with my attention span.

    So why didn't this video win? Because it didn't show Vista at all. I feel really bad, but IMO all Dave needed to do to win was to show Vista's desktop (maybe with the Sidebar on for added recognition) to the stylized laptop in his video. But I do have to say that it was the most professional video entered (and I loved how much attention to detail was put into the stylistic approach), and it doesn't need to show Vista to be perfect for a TV spot. It's definitely on par with the iPhone commercials' "cool factor", IMHO.

    "How Dave Uses Windows Vista"

    The Winner: "Stop-Motion Vista"
    When this video started, I have to say, I was not initially impressed. I was surprised by the number of entries that completely eschewed PowerPoint for a decidedly 1990's approach (who uses pen and paper anymore?)... but after 2 seconds, I was picking my jaw up off the keyboard. I absolutely loved how he transitions from stop-motion animation to regular video by having the image appear in the desktop background.

    And while I was looking for how the person entering used Vista to make an impact on the world, I was also looking for how the HDX Dragon would impact the person entering. So the fact that it would be replacing an ancient desktop, coupled with the outstanding demos in the video, pushed this video over the top for me. So without further ado, the winning video.

    The Winning Video

    So congratulations to Nathan Hamersley of Rittman, OH! I've asked him to write up his own take on the HDX Dragon for Windows-Now, and I for one can't wait to see his experience. If he could get Vista running well on a 5 year old computer, it out to scream for him on the Dragon.

    What's Next?
    I am working on a post to highlight some of the videos that didn't win, based on "categories" I've placed them in. I'm also trying to arrange for other prizes for the other 3 runners-up, since they were so good, but I can't promise anything yet.

  • HDX Contest Update

    Hey everyone, sorry I'm late in posting anything about who won the contest. My girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl yesterday, so I haven't been able to make my final decision yet. I'll be reviewing the rest of the entries ASAP, and I hope to have my decision posted today.


  • HDX Contest Entries Closed

    Well everyone, the videos are in. I've been watching them all day, but I'm going to need some time to review every one again. We had just shy of 30 entries, so it's going to take me a little while. Please bear with me as I give each one my full attention. I'll announce the winner shortly.

  • Contest Extended One More Hour

    Some people are having upload issues with YouTube, so I'm extending the deadline to 11pm EST, and no further. Get movin!

  • Microsoft May Still Buy Part of Yahoo!

    Filed under:

    This just in from Microsoft PressPass:

    “In light of developments since the withdrawal of the Microsoft proposal to acquire Yahoo! Inc., Microsoft announced that it is continuing to explore and pursue its alternatives to improve and expand its online services and advertising business.  Microsoft is considering and has raised with Yahoo! an alternative that would involve a transaction with Yahoo! but not an acquisition of all of Yahoo!  Microsoft is not proposing to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo! at this time, but reserves the right to reconsider that alternative depending on future developments and discussions that may take place with Yahoo! or discussions with shareholders of Yahoo! or Microsoft or with other third parties. 

    “There of course can be no assurance that any transaction will result from these discussions.”

    Microsoft doesn't usually issue these kinds of releases over the weekend, so it is strange. It probably has something to do with the Icahn proxy battle, but I haven't heard anything particular about that... yet. At any rate, it's clear that this thing's not going away anytime soon

  • Extending Our HDX Competition to 10pm EST

    The HDX contest is going very well. There are currently 16 entries in the competition, and I was hoping to get around 30 or so. In order to give everyone enough time, I'm extending the deadline 4 hours, to 10pm EST. I'll still be announcing the winner at or around Midnight EST, so keep an eye on the site then!

    Good luck to everyone!

  • Start Voting on HDX Contest Entries

    I just wanted to let everyone know that the HDX Dragon Contest, part of the 31 Days of the Dragon, is live now. We're still accepting submissions, but that doesn't mean you can't vote right now. Go check em out!

  • HDX Dragon Contest Update and New Prize Added

    There is a little over a full day left in the contest, and I know many of you are hard at work wrapping up your videos. Two videos have been posted so far, so I wanted to leave some general feedback based on what I've seen.

    Some additional things to keep in mind when making your videos:

    • Please try to keep them between 3 and 4 minutes.
    • Please make them a bit more personal. Just because I didn't want to see a monologue, doesn't mean I don't want to see the Faces of Windows Vista.
    • I don't necessarily want to see a demo of Vista, although it won't disqualify you from the contest. I want to see how Vista makes your life better. Things like better wireless networking, mobile devices, etc.
    • PLEASE make them funny!!!

    Also, people have been unable to leave comments with URLs in them on the WindowsNow channel, so just private-message me on the Channel, and I'll get your video posted.

    One final note: The contest ends at 6pm EST Sunday (tomorrow). The winner will be announced just before Midnight EST on Sunday.

    Good Luck!

  • "Windows 7 Video" Is Fake

    Filed under:

    A couple different websites around the net have been reporting over the past few days on a new video making the rounds on YouTube, purporting to be a video demo of Windows "7". While it is pretty high quality, very elaborate, and shows off some pretty interesting stuff, multiple sources inside Microsoft have told me it's a fake. One source told me that security on Windows 7 is extremely tight for various reasons, and that we shouldn't expect to see anything for quite a while yet.

    Having said that, Microsoft should take a hard, frame-by-frame look at the video. There are some interesting features in there, such as a tabbed Windows Explorer, that would make great additions to the user experience.

  • 31 Days of the Dragon: Our Contest Begins Today!

    UPDATE2: I've extended the contest to 10pm EST, to give some additional time for more entries. Good luck!
    UPDATE: I've posted additional comments here. Good luck!

    The giveaway of the decade is here! HP and Buzz Corps have teamed up to give you, my dear readers, 31 chances to win the beefiest notebook out there, the HP HDX "Dragon" Entertainment Notebook PC (don't you dare call it a laptop).

    The Notebook:

    • Display: 20.1″ diagonal WUXGA High-Definition HP Ultra Brightview Widescreen (1920×1200)
    • Operating system: Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit)
    • Processor: Intel Core2 Extreme Processor X9000 (2.80GHz, 6MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
    • Memory: 4GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm)
    • Graphics Card: 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS
    • Personalization: HP Imprint Finish (Dragon) + Fingerprint Reader + Webcam + Microphone
    • Networking: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 4965AGN Network Connection and Bluetooth(TM)
    • Hard Drive: 500GB 5400RPM SATA Dual Hard Drive (250GB x 2)
    • Optical: Blu-Ray ROM with SuperMulti DVD+/-R/RW Double Layer
    • TV & Entertainment Experience: Integrated HP HDTV Hybrid TV Tuner and 4 Altec Lansing speakers + the HP Triple Bass Reflex subwoofer
    • Primary Battery: 9 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
    • Productivity Applications: Microsoft Office 2007, Corel PaintShop Pro Photo X2, Corel Painter 4, Ulead VideoStudio 11.5 Plus
    • Games: Viva Pinata, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Microsoft Flight Simulator X Acceleration Expansion Pack, Gear of War
    • Blu-Ray movies: The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy – The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest, At World's End.
    • UPDATED: Beta Invites: An official Beta invite to the next version of Windows Media Center, codename "Fiji".


    The Websites:

    Website Contest starts Winner Announced May 2 May 9
    Ars Technica May 3 May 10 May 4 May 11 May 5 May 12
    DigitalMediaPhile May 6 May 13 May 7 May 14 May 8 May 15 May 9 May 16 May 10 May 17 May 11 May 18 May 12 May 19 May 13 May 20 May 14 May 21 May 15 May 22
    Last 100 May 16 May 23
    Digital Inspiration May 17 May 24 May 18 May 25 May 19 May 26 May 20 May 27 May 21 May 28 May 22 May 29
    Planet May 23 May 30 May 24 May 31 May 25 June 1 May 26 June 2 May 27 June 3 May 28 June 4 May 29 June 5 May 30 June 6 May 31 June 7 June 1 June 8

    The Contest:
    Here's how our contest is going to work. Lately, there have been a lot of people in the press talking about how horrible Windows Vista is. It's driving me completely mad. So I have to give this notebook away, and I want you to help fight the negative press about Vista.

    So I want to see what people are doing with Windows Vista. If you want this notebook, you need to send me a video, no longer than 5 minutes, showing off the cool things you're doing with Windows Vista. Maybe you use Windows Vista to edit together your old home movies and turn them into DVDs with Windows Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker. Maybe you use Photoshop on Windows Vista to illustrate digital comic books. I don't know. But I want to see how creative you can be, and how Vista makes your computer life better.

    But I don't just want a monologue in front of your computer. Make it creative. You could do a skit. You could animate it. You could involve your whole family. You could use puppets. Whatever. Just make it funny.


    • Winner must sign an agreement stating that the laptop will not be sold for one year from date of receipt. If you plan to win it just to sell it, this contest is not for you.
    • HDX winners from other sites in the promotion cannot win this contest.
    • No nudity or profanity. I don't care what gender you are, it won't get you anywhere. Keep it PG, folks.

    What I'm Looking For:

    • Innovative Use of Windows Vista: Don't just show yourself playing Solitaire, show us something interesting or unusual.
    • Presentation Creativity: I want to see something that totally blows my mind. An example would be Derek Hunter's winning entry from the contest. BTW, I LOVE special effects, so show me what you're got!
    • Effort: It should go without saying, but the more effort you put into it, the more likely you are to win.
    • Making a Difference: Special consideration will be given to people who use Vista to make the world a better place.

    How To Enter:

    • Step 1: Subscribe to the WindowsNow channel on YouTube
    • Step 2: Upload your video to your YouTube account and leave a link in the WindowsNow channel's comments.

    How The Winner Will Be Picked:
    Once you post a link to your entry, I'll move it to my playlist in the Channel. As my readers, you all will be asked to vote on which video you think is the best. While the votes will not in and of themselves determine the winner, they will be a factor in my decision. Yes, that's right. I'm ultimately picking the winner. No, bribery will not help.

    Alright folks, get to it! Please please PLEASE show me the WOW!