Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

September 2008 - Posts

  • A Simple Find & Replace Exercise

    Read this article once for good measure. Then, replace every instance of the phrase “hive mind” with “Borg Collective”. Then replace every instance of the word “Google” with the word “Microsoft”. Then see if the general concept of the article seems familiar.

    The phrase “history repeats itself” comes to mind.

  • HP MediaSmart Updates

    Two newsworthy items in the world of HP MediaSmart Products.

    First, Ed Bott reports that upgrading your RAM on the HP MediaSmart Server is no longer a crime of warranty. What should be a crime is the fact that they packed the chassis tighter than my jeans the day after Thanksgiving, and don’t give directions on how to do the upgrade. So you’re on your own, and you’re still responsible for damage done in the process. I agree with Ed, they should pay Donavon West for his troubles and make his guide the official one.

    And the MediaSmart Connect extender now has x64 support for their add-on software. I personally don’t use it with mine, as Windows Media Center is about all that I need, but if you want it, here it is.

  • Installing Windows Live Wave 3 Betas on Windows Server

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    You know, sometimes I really don’t understand Microsoft’s decision-making process, especially on the Windows Live side of the house. The new Windows Live Wave 3 betas are out, and I went to install them today on my main laptop, which is running Windows Server 2008. But after downloading the installer, I was greeted with a message that said it could only be installed on Windows XP or Vista. Now, there is *zero* technical reason why it can’t be installed on Windows Server, as the bits are practically identical to Vista SP1. Yet, here is this pointless artificial roadblock in my path to trying out great software. Which really irritates me. It took the Live team forever just to support 64-bit, and now, once again, I have to wait.

    But then I remembered ProcessMonitor from Sysinternals. I whipped out my other laptop, which is still running Vista, fired up ProcessMonitor, and started the installer from there. About 5 minutes into the process, I was able to see where the MSI files were being copied to, and 25 minutes later, I am writing this post from the new Windows Live Writer, on Windows Server 2008 x64. Here’s how you can do it.

    1. Install the Wave 3 beta on another machine: Unfortunately, I can’t work around this. You’ll first have to do just what I did, and fire up the process on another computer.
    2. Select the products you want, and wait until the process is over 50% complete. Don’t worry, the install will take plenty of time.
    3. Navigate to the “C:\Program Files(x86)\Common Files\Windows Live\” folder.
    4. Take control of the folder and its subfolders. Right click on the folder in Windows Explorer, select “Properties”, move to the “Security” Tab. Click “Edit”, and then add your user, giving it “Full Control” over the folder. Click OK, then click “Advanced”, click “Edit”, then check “Replace all existing inheritable permissions…” and click OK all the way out of those dialogs.
    5. Navigate to the “C:\Program Files(x86)\Common Files\Windows Live\.cache\” folder (the dot is not a typo). You will see a bunch of random-named folders. Zip up the entire directory (will be 30-100MB of data) and copy it to your other machines.
    6. Extract and install. Copy the files from the archive to a working folder. Then sort the window by date, with the newest folder on the bottom. Then, start with the first folder, running the single MSI file (or Windows Patch file) in each one, until you are done. Some will have Installer UI, most won’t.
    7. Enjoy some Wave 3 goodness.

    An interesting tidbit, courtesy of ProcessMonitor: It takes 8.3 million file and registry operations to install the Windows Live suite (not including Movie Maker, I’m waiting for that to be more polished before I try it). That is a lot of operations.

    Anyways, I’m going to hound my contacts on the Live team until they take out that installer flag. Have fun with the betas!

  • Post-CEDIA, Deafening Silence on WMC TV Pack Speaks Volumes

    CEDIA has come and gone, and while Microsoft has put out a press release talking about all of the new Windows Media Center HTPCs coming out, I have not heard Word One about the WMC TV Pack. Not a feature list, nothing. But, since the last communication I had from Microsoft is that my NDA expired three days ago, I’m free to open my big fat mouth.

    The lack of information “straight from the horse’s mouth” leaves one big question in my mind: Why? CEDIA was supposed to be the big coming out party. I think I speak for all beta testers when I say that we were expecting Microsoft to beat the drums pretty heavily on this one, even with all of the heavy backlash that they *rightfully* received over the decision.

    Well, dear readers, I don’t have any “insider information” on what is going on in the WMC team at this particular second, because the radio silence extends to us beta testers as well. But, I do know that beta testers have been experiencing several moderate to serious issues with the RTM builds (myself included). I know that the WMC team is working on fixing these issues, but what I don’t know is what their release mechanism for those fixes will be.

    Could these things have delayed the *actual* RTM beyond the announced RTM? I don’t know. Either way, since my NDA has expired by default, I’ll have my review of the WMC TV Pack online shortly.

  • Zune Marketplace Coming To Xbox 360?

    Rumor has it that Microsoft has bought 5 hours of airtime on G4TV on September 25th. According to Kombo, Microsoft will be announcing:

    • Free DLC for Halo 3, and paid DLC for Mass Effect and GTAIV
    • Six free Xbox Originals for download
    • A partnership with Sirius XM Satellite Radio
    • 12 new exclusive titles, including 2 Halo games (supposedly the Peter Jackson Halo project, and the game Bungie was supposed to show off at E3)
    • A new music download service

    The last point is the one I find most intriguing. I don't think it's a coincidence that Zune's new infrastructure is rolling out the week before this mega-relaunch. The new XNA Game Studio can target both the Xbox 360 and the Zune, meaning that the two will share a lot in common under the hood. Since Microsoft already has a game download service, it makes sense that the Zune would leverage it for the new Zune Games. It would make sense that the supposed Xbox Live Music Marketplace would use Zune's software as well. It would be really awesome if you could sync your Zune content with your Xbox 360... or even sync videos from Xbox Live Marketplace with your Zune by plugging it directly into the 360.

    UPDATE: Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore confirms that the Zune Video Marketplace and the Xbox Live Marketplace are one and the same, so with the launch dates so close together, could the future Joe speaks of be closer than we think?

    [via Xbox360Fanboy]

  • Zune Finally Out-iPods the iPod

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    In a move that is unlikely to silence those who ignore Microsoft products until their third revision, the software giant will launch their third-generation Zune on Tuesday, Sept 16th. This release, available through new Zune models from 120GB down to 8GB, as well as through firmware updates available to all previous-gen Zunes, has more (long-awaited) features than you can shake a stick at. They include:

    • Zune Wireless Marketplace: You will be able to access the entire Zune Marketplace without having to plug into your computer. As long as you are near a WiFi hotspot, you can get your tunes.
    • Buy from FM: Using your built-in FM receiver, you can tag songs you like off the radio, and the Zune will automatically download the track for you later. (Looks like someone from the Zune team overheard Marc Canter on the CES bus in January.)
    • Zune Games: In the works for months, this is a part of XNA Studio 3.0 that will probably RTM at the same time. Hexic and Texas Hold-em will be included for free.
    • Sync from WMC: Improved support for syncing your Recorded TV from Windows Media Center
    • FINALLY! Audiobook support lets you sync your Zune with

    ...And lots more! I'm really looking forward to this release, and I think that for the first time, Microsoft has a better feature-set that the iPod. This is all supposed to go down the day before Apple's iPod event, so next week ought to be very interesting indeed. And hey Zune guys, I'd love to get a sneak peek to put up a launch-day review!

  • NBC Dumps Silverlight for NFL Streaming? Hardly

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    Today, Valleywag tried to string two separate events and some made-up facts together to spin the yarn that NBC was not happy with the performance of Silverlight on, and dumped the technology for Flash for their new NFL streaming site. At first blush, the reasoning sees logical… but take more than 2 seconds to think about it, and the specious reasoning just doesn’t add up.

    1. NBC *NEVER* said that using Silverlight for the Olympics meant they were dumping Flash altogether.’s video player still heavily uses Flash, and will probably continue to do so for a while.
    2. Nowhere in the article was a quote, directly attributable to NBC or otherwise, stating that poor performance on the Olympics site lead to the technological choice to use Flash on this separate project.
    3. The article in context proposes the scenario that three weeks ago, NBC developers analyzed data from the Olympics, didn’t like the data they gathered. So they completely changed course and built the Flash-based NFL site in approx. two weeks. There is no way the NFL site was built in that timeframe, so it is highly unlikely that one had a single thing to do with the other. The decisions were probably made months beforehand, and built using two completely different teams.

    Without a direct quote from NBC developers explaining the platform choice, this is nothing but speculation. Too bad the know-it-alls over at Valleywag and Silicon Alley Insider don’t know enough about journalism to be able to differentiate between speculation and fact before they hit the "publish" button.

  • New Windows Ads: WTG or WTF?

    So last night, Microsoft aired the first in a series of ads in that $300M campaign that you’ve heard so much about. Most of the web pundits out there are lambasting the ad, saying that it wasn’t going to sell Vista, or whatever. I had a lot to say about this topic, but CNET’s Don Reisenger said just about everything I wanted to say about it.

    Everywhere I turn today, I find a story by colleagues or comments by readers saying that the new Microsoft ad with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates fails on almost every level. Some complain that it doesn't mention Vista at all, which makes it useless, while others say that watching Gates' derriere waggle at the end of the commercial was just a bit too much.

    Either way, Microsoft is getting killed from all sides by people that think the ad was nothing more than a waste of time and money. "Apple's ads are so much better!" they say until their hearts are content. "Who would want to buy Vista after watching that ad?" they exclaim.

    Do me a favor: sit down, put your MacBook Pro away, and be quiet.

    Judging a $300M advertising campaign by its first $50K ad is, to say the least, ridiculous. No one ever said it was a Vista marketing campaign… Windows is about more than just Vista. The “Get a Mac” ads targeted Windows long before they made it cool to flat out lie about Vista. It’s not targeted at techies… we all have our allegiances, and one ad campaign isn’t going to change them (religion is usually like that). It was targeted at everyday people, who think that campaigns like Subserviant Chicken and The King are cool. It took you to a world where the richest man in the world shops at the Shoe Circus in your local mall, and worked ridiculousness, Bill Gates’ mug shot, and hairy legs wearing shoes in the shower, all in one 90 second spot.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what Microsoft thinks “Your World Through Windows” looks like. And BTW, congrats on the new site. Good to see you guys using Silverlight. Maybe will get the hint.