Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

November 2008 - Posts

  • Looks Like The Pentagon Should Have Been Running Windows Vista

    The US government has been leery of upgrading to Windows Vista. Looks like it should have done so a lot sooner:

    The Pentagon has suffered from a cyber attack so alarming that it has taken the unprecedented step of banning the use of external hardware devices, such as flash drives and DVD's, FOX News has learned.

    The attack came in the form of a global virus or worm that is spreading rapidly throughout a number of military networks.

    "We have detected a global virus for which there has been alerts, and we have seen some of this on our networks," a Pentagon official told FOX News. "We are now taking steps to mitigate the virus."

    FOX News obtained a copy of one memo sent out last week to an Army division within the Pentagon warning of the cyber attack.

    "Due to the presence of commercial malware, CDR USSTRATCOM has banned the use of removable media (thumb drives, CDRs/DVDRs, floppy disks) on all DoD networks and computers effective immediately."

    Had they been using Windows Vista, they could have deployed BitLocker, as well as the Group Policy controls that disable USB removable media in Vista RTM and later. Oh well. We’re only at war right now and everything… it’s only our national security.

  • My Take on the Vista Capable Fiasco

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    I haven’t said anything about this yet, because I’ve been watching things unfold. I don’t necessarily want to say anything that has an affect on the outcome one way or another, and I didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t. But after the e-mails that were released last week, some of the rumors were confirmed, and some things I had heard rumblings about started to make sense.

    Let me start off by saying that I think it is total BS that any Windows executive had anything to do with the nitty-gritty on whether one particular feature made it into Vista vs. another. It should not have been Will Poole’s call by any means that the WDDM requirement was dropped. I’m also very glad that Jim Allchin had nothing to do with it. He stayed true to the product no matter what.

    Midmorning on the 30th, Mike Ybarra, a product manager, sent a message marked "urgent due to customer satisfaction escalation" to then-Windows boss Jim Allchin and Will Poole, then in charge of the Windows Client Business.

    Poole was the one who ultimately made the decision to drop the WDDM requirement.

    In an August 2005 meeting, "you both committed to HP that we would not move off the WDDM requirement and HP made significant product roadmap changes to support graphics for the full experience," Ybarra wrote, adding that an HP executive committed to investing in graphics "if MS would give him 100% assurance that we would not budge for Intel."

    By noon, anger from HP was reaching Microsoft, which had planned to communicate its changes the next day. Poole wrote to Ybarra and Allchin at 12:16 p.m.: "Intel leaked this despite my explicit agreement with [an Intel senior vice president] that we would communicate together."

    The WDDM change, apparently too late to reverse, seemed to take Allchin by surprise. "I knew nothing about this," he wrote. "Will, you need to explain. I don't even understand what this means. ... "

    And now I know why Sinofsky has delegated more authority down to the feature teams when it comes to what features will be shipping with Windows 7. It might have been just as much about saving his own butt as anything else, but it was a smart decision.

    I had the opportunity earlier this year to ask some HP employees (including an executive) about why HP was shipping laptops that were so imbalanced on the Windows Experience Index. No sooner had those words left my mouth than I felt like I had just swore in front of my mother for the first time. I was met with stonefaced silence, then anger. The executive didn’t even answer my question, leaving a colleague to explain to me that “Microsoft gamed the WinSAT rating for Intel.” I was shocked. For the next 5 minutes, he explained what happened, and I was dumbfounded. I knew that the WinSAT team spent a lot of time trying to get the experience and algorithms right, so the decision had to have come from higher up.

    But now I know why there was so much animosity about the whole thing. This is yet another reason why OEMs had no confidence in Microsoft’s ability to deliver with Vista, because requirements were changing all the time. HP had every right to be pissed about it, Microsoft had no right to move the goalposts.

    I hope Will Poole is held personally responsible for this. His damage to the Windows brand is without measure.

  • Microsoft To Replace OneCare With New Free Solution… And a Win7 Hint?

    Microsoft just sucker-punched McAfee and Symantec right in the stones today with a carefully-worded press release about the future of Windows Security. In a move I’ve been anticipating since the inclusion of Windows Defender into Windows Vista, Microsoft has made it clear, on no uncertain terms, that it is taking full responsibility for the security of the operating system. There are currently few solutions that offer affordable solutions for PCs in emerging markets, where bandwidth may be low, or the PCs may be closer to Netbooks in power. When you only have a GB or less of RAM, every megabyte counts.

    So Microsoft basically just told the major players in the antivirus industry to eff-off, and will be offering a new security product, codename “Morro”, on or near June 30, 2009. This product is apparently based off of Microsoft’s ForeFront offering. Now, that date is interesting for a couple reasons. One is because it is the last day of Microsoft’s fiscal year, and it’s also the beginning of the second half of 2009, which is around the time when Microsoft is supposedly shipping Windows 7. Could Microsoft be looking to launch Windows 7 on June 30th? IMHO it’s starting to look that way.

    Now, I’m not a betting man. But if I were a betting man, I would bet on the following things happening:

    • “Morro” will be released in conjunction with Windows 7 (meaning on the same day).
    • Windows 7 will have download links for the new service built into the OS (just like Windows Live).
    • Symantec is going to scream bloody murder.

    On the last point, I happen to agree with Charles Cooper that there aren’t really antitrust concerns here, though as his colleague Ina Fried suggests, it’s bound to come up. One thing I find odd is that OneCare for Server is less than a week old, and as Mary Jo noted, is now also dead too.

    I for one think it’s great that Microsoft is going to put its resources into a best-of-breed solution for malware, instead of all the other ancillary nonsense.  With Skydrive, Live Sync, Live Photos, Live Mesh, and WHS, Microsoft has the backup playing field covered. With Windows 7, HomeGroups have the file and printer sharing stuff covered, so there is no need to duplicate this stuff in other ways. The new Windows mantra is “Cutting Is Shipping”, and I for one am glad that Microsoft is starting to trim the fat.

    And to all the other antivirus vendors, take note: there will still be ways to innovate against this new offering. Spend your time trying to figure them out instead of whining about it.

  • Windows Mobile Confusion

    Filed under:

    First, we were told that Windows Mobile 7 would succeed Windows Mobile 6. Then, Ballmer talked last week about Windows Mobile 6.5. Then today, at TechEd EMEA, Microsoft announced Internet Explorer Mobile 6, and released emulator images for Windows Mobile 6.1.4.

    Someone on the Windows Moblie team want to apply some friggin clarity here? What gives?

  • Movies on YouTube? Terrible Idea

    CNET just posted a story claiming that Google will start dumping feature-length movies on YouTube. IMHO, this is a terrible idea. As Dan Rayburn pointed out just two days ago, Google has not been able to improve the basic underlying infrastructure of the service since they acquired the company two years ago.

    Just yesterday I was watching a History Channel documentary that someone uploaded to YouTube, and I constantly had to wait for the thing to buffer. It was driving me crazy. That’s because YouTube is not a streaming service, it’s a progressive file download. They don’t use Flash Media Server, they don’t use a CDN, and apparently they don’t care about the user experience, either.

    So why would Google want to exponentially exacerbate the situation by adding content that’s 10x as long to their network?

    And how would Google prevent the underlying Flash video from being saved and used for other purposes? I know there are several browser add-ons that can save Flash video, and specifically YouTube videos, so how would Google get around this?

    In the end, it just seems pointless, because without an infrastructure update, there is no way Google can out-Hulu Hulu… they just have a better experience.

  • Mr. Ballmer, Please Do Not Bailout Yahoo

    An Open Letter to Steve Ballmer.

    Dear Mr. Ballmer,

    Congratulations on all the product launches your company has undertaken in the last two weeks. Microsoft is in the midst of rolling out it’s greatest slate of software in its history, and all of your employees need to keep their eyes on the ball to bring this exciting stable of software to fruition.

    Yahoo, on the other hand, is a terribly-managed company, with their Chief Yahoo really living up to his name. They have no direction, no focus, no goals, and their stock price is in the crapper. They don’t use any Microsoft technologies in their operation (save for running Windows on their desktops) and they just ditched the only effort to develop on a Microsoft platform that they’ve undertaken in a long time. They may be a great Windows customer, but that’s about it.

    Just because Microsoft earns more than a year than many countries, does not mean that you should get in the business of bailing out failing companies. Apparently, that is Congress’ job. The only thing that could possibly be valuable to you is their server infrastructure, and there are cheaper ways to buy hardware.

    Mr. Ballmer, Yahoo is a dying company. Let capitalism take its course. There are plenty of better ways to spend your money. Thank you for your time.


    Robert W. McLaws
    Microsoft Fan and Blogger

    UPDATE: Ballmer says Microsoft has “moved on”. Good to hear :)

  • Steve Gillmor on The Battle for Microsoft’s Soul

    It’s been a great week to be a journalistic fan of Microsoft. A week ago today, the company began to roll out the first fruits of nearly three years of silent toiling, to near universally positive reviews by most of the tech press. A week later, many of us are still trying to get our heads around a very blue future, and what Azure means for the state of computing. Steve Gillmor has a wonderful write-up entitled “The Battle for Microsoft’s Soul”, and even goes so far as to suggest that the timing of this event is perfect, as the tech industry is looking for new platforms to build grand ideas on in these tough economic times.

    We’re looking at the next Outlook, and it’s going to be hard to stop inside Microsoft’s executive war room. The biggest single sound we heard at the Azure rollout was that of silence - a three year incubation period where very little of what Ray Ozzie has been building leaked out, and that which did was couched in terms that gave the old guard little to attack or slow down. Now that it’s here and endorsed by Ballmer in such unequivocal terms, the war for Microsoft’s soul is over. By opening the platform to standards forged in large part by scripters, hackers, and especially competitors, Microsoft has leapfrogged into the lead for mindshare where it counts: inside the company.

    Read more here.

  • Enable The SuperBar in Windows 7 Pre-Beta!

    Filed under: ,

    One of the big disappointments of the Pre-Beta build was the lack of the New Taskbar, which is referred to internally as the SuperBar. We had been told that the feature was not in the build at all. But Raphael, one of our friends from Within Windows, was handed a note at PDC instructing him to dig deeper into the bits to unlock the feature. He dismissed it, but luckily he stumbled on it anyways. It turns out, Microsoft protected the feature to the internal corporate network, but Explorer bypasses the check if it finds a cached result. Raph figured out how to cache the result, and whamo! SuperBar goodness for all. Hit this link for a semi-technical explanation, and the workaround.

    [via Neowin]