Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

  • Xbox 360 WMC Coupled to Xbox Live: Beta Woes

    My house is unlike many houses in America. You see, I have a Dell XPS 420 with two Digital Cable Tuners. It is the only device that is currently receiving cable signals. The two TVs in our house use Xbox 360s as Media Center Extenders, and for the most part, the experience is light-years ahead of the standard DVR. All in all, I’m very happy with the setup.

    So I was rather surprised to wake up this morning unable to use WMC on my Xbox 360s. The reason? Xbox Live is down for maintenance. I find this completely unacceptable, especially in the wake of the news that other 3rd party Extenders are being taken off the market. I shouldn’t need a connection to the Internet to watch content on my local network. Any technical reason you have for it is completely fabricated and unnecessary. There is no reason why you can’t create a web service to handle the Extender authorization through the Media Center, if such a thing is required.

    And while you’re at it, Microsoft, please remove the requirement that I need to be connected to Xbox Live to watch MP4/DivX/XviD content. That is extremely annoying.

    UPDATE: This issue is apparently only limited to Windows 7, which makes even less sense than before. What gives?

    UPDATE2: A source at Microsoft tells me it's Windows 7 beta related, and that there are "good, consumer-benefiting reasons" for the tethering. There is no workaround for Microsoft employees, and my source's family had the same lockout as today as well. It's a good thing I still had my old HP Extender.

  • Showing Solidarity with the Iranian People

    I don’t usually do political posts here, but I am convinced that we are witnessing history with the popular uprising in Iran. I’ve been following reports on Twitter, and many people around the world today are wearing green in support of the legitimately-elected leader of Iran. changed their little alien guy to show their support, and I thought I’d make wear a little green today too.

    Even if our government is not officially behind you, the people of the United States stand behind any country whose people year for and demand freedom and democracy. Fight for your country! We are all Iranian today!

    -Robert McLaws, Editor

  • Bing! First Impressions – Part 2

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    This is the second part of my ongoing review of Microsoft’s new “decision engine,” Bing. Read Part 1 here.

    Reading the Bing Commentary
    In researching my opinions on Bing News vs Google News, I caught some interesting headlines on Google News about Bing. Two of them could not have been more different.

    One was from Mike Elgan of Computerworld, who painted a dystopian future about how terrible the world will be with Microsoft’s “decision engine” making all of our decisions for us. He derides the “best match” feature, even though stating a fact is something search newcomer Wolfram|Alpha does quite nicely. He also seems to think that accuracy and popularity are synonymous, but then again he probably also thinks Darth Vader said “Luke, I am your father.” Of course, this opinion was based on a video, and not actually using it, but that is beside the point.

    Somewhere along the way, Mike forgot that we are all humans, capable of making our own decisions, and somehow decided that Microsoft’s plan involves actually making the decisions for all of us. You can’t blame him tho, because he assumed that Bing is wired into everyone’s cerebral cortex, and that the technological advances in Bing were centered around new computer code that could override human free will and program humans to do whatever Microsoft wanted.

    Look Mike, this argument applies just as much to ComputerWorld, or Google, or any other website. If you, as a human, don’t use your reasoning skills to make your own decisions, it is a PEBCAK problem, not a Microsoft problem. But you may want to put an extra layer of tin foil around your hat, just in case.

    The other comes from Barrons, and has a great money (literally) quote:

    People certainly found it appealing. One fund manager I chatted with said that not only does he intend to start using the service when it launches June 3, but also that he is mulling whether to short Google. I was a little startled by that response, but you can see his point: Microsoft might be able to nibble some market share away from Google at the margin, and slow its steady march to complete domination.

    It will be very interesting to see what the market does in the next few weeks in response to this new search product.

    Sorry for the detour… back to the review.

    There are too many new sites on the Internet. Microsoft is as big a culprit as anyone else, it has no fewer than four major news sites. It is clear that Bing News will replace Live Search News, but what is unclear is what will happen to My Live. Hopefully nothing major, since it is my RSS aggregator of choice.

    image image
    Bing Google

    There are no substantial changes here. It would be neat if Microsoft combined the Powerset technology with my search history to suggest news that might be interesting to me, similar to the way Suggested Sites works with IE8. Then it might end up doing what Techmeme used to do, which was bubble up obscure posts about things going on that I might not be aware of. This is something that Google does already, though I don’t use it because I don’t like Google tracking my search history.

    I will say that I like Bing News better than Google, for the exact opposite reason than for Search: there is less information on the page. Google News is designed by people who write code, so they don’t mind if their eyes are constantly bombarded by text. Bing doesn’t try to be MSNBC (or MSNBC clone Yahoo News), it just gives you a few links to what is going on, and an easy way to dive into a topic to see more. And I like that.

    Images and Video
    You know, it’s funny. I was going to write this whole section on how Bing expands on image and video searching by providing new features like live filtering by metadata, or mouse-over playback for videos. Then I went to to compare the old system to the new Bing… and they’re pretty much exactly the same. Because I had never liked the results from, I never really dove into the other features and gave them a shot. Maybe the improvements with Bing on the semantic side will finally give Microsoft the credit they deserve in other areas.

    For me, Bing Images is the clear winner. Their filter tools make it easy to get to the image I’m looking for, and it appears that the search results filter duplicates very well. Google

    But just for argument’s sake, I’ll show the side-by-sides anyway.

    Image Search for “North Korea”
    image image
    Bing Google

    With Video, Bing is the winner again. With their mouse-over playback, you don’t actually have to click through to YouTube to get a preview of the video. Google won’t ever do that, because they are trying to drive as much traffic as possible to YouTube. Google opted instead to “borrow” the layout from MSN Video, without borrowing any of the aspects of the design that actually made it interesting.

    Video Search for “Susan Boyle”
    image image
    Bing Google

    And thus ends Part 2 of my review. In Part 3, I’ll tackle Shopping and Travel.

  • Bing! First Impressions – Part 1

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    This is Part 1 of my review of Bing. Read Part 2 here.

    When it comes to search engines, I’ve always used Google. I think their results have been unsurpassed in the last decade, which is why they are the “market leader.” I have been heavily resistant to using Microsoft-branded search engines, because their results have never gotten me what I’ve been looking for. So if you start reading this assuming that because I like Microsoft that I’m going to like Bing, that would be a false assumption.

    I was fortunate enough to get a preview code from someone at Microsoft (Thanks!), and have spent the better part of the afternoon exploring its capabilities. I have to admit, I am pleasantly surprised. I am intrigued enough at the quality of the results that it may indeed change my search habits.

    NOTE: I should point out that, while I have included links to Bing search results, none of them will actually work until Wednesday, June 3rd.

    Not Just a Rebranding Exercise
    Many experts in the field of search with write off Bing without even trying it, claiming it’s just MSN Search Live Search in yet another fancy new package. Those people would be wrong. While the UI may evoke many of the things you’ve come to expect from Live Search (fonts, layout, etc), it is definitely a new product. Giving it a new name also helps (once and for all) separate the Windows Live software+services (Messenger, Mesh, Photo Gallery, etc) from the Search-related offerings. No more confusion, just a cleanly-defined strategy. This is by far one of my initial favorite aspects of the new offering… it’s just too bad it took almost 2 years to make it happen.

    Better Use of Space
    Right off the bat, I find Bing’s design more pleasing to the eye. The color palate, use of gradients, and visual organization are very nice. It makes Google’s design amateur by comparison. It’s like comparing a website done in Silverlight to a website done in Frontpage XP. The design aesthetic makes me want to come back often, which is something Google’s engineer mindset fails to comprehend.

    Search for “tallahassee”
    Bing Google

    Bing’s header uses 1/3rd less space (100px for Bing vs 150px for Google) which helps fit more search results “above the fold.” It also portrays this feeling that Bing wants you to focus on the results, whereas Google wants you to focus on itself and how awesome it is. Bing also utilizes a sidebar to present you with options to pivot your search on areas of the same topic. Underneath that is a list of related searches, and below that is your search history. So there is more information put in front of you than Google, but not in a way that feels overwhelming.

    Initially Smarter
    Differentiating Bing as a “Decision Engine” and not a search engine is also a very good thing. In my experience, searching with Google does not lead to definitive answers, only more searching. It doesn’t usually solve anything; it just gives you places to continue your search. Bing tries to make assumptions to add context to your queries, operating under the theory that those assumptions will yield better results. And based on my experience so far, that theory is correct.

    The first assumption Bing makes is that your search is for something local. It factors my IP address into every query. Take for example, the search for “weather”, illustrated below. Bing automatically figured I wanted to know the weather for where I was (which is Washington, PA at the moment), whereas Google makes me take the extra step of putting in my zip code before I get a forecast.

    Search for “weather”
    Bing Google

    For many of you following me on Twitter, I ended up in the ER on Memorial Day with Appendicitis. As I mentioned above, my family and I are in PA on vacation with my in-laws, so I wasn’t quite sure which hospital to go to. It’s a good thing it wasn’t a life-threatening issue, because with Google, I would have wasted precious seconds filtering through results before I got to hospitals in my area. Not so with Bing:

    Search for “hospital”
    Bing Google

    You may consider that melodramatic, however it’s extremely unlikely that you’re looking for a Wikipedia definition of “hospital” if you type that term in, and Bing is smart enough to know that. To Google’s defense, they do give you a map centered on your location, but it’s not until the 4th link down, which on my Lenovo x300, is nearly below the “fold”.

    Searching for something less urgent, say what you want for dinner, brings up equally impressive results. It brings up the “Best Match” first, and specifically calls it to your attention. Underneath that, a list of the top 5 closest locations to what it thinks is your location. To the left are 5 items you might be interested in (including “nutrition”, “menu”, and “commercials”.

    Search for “Applebee's”
    Bing Google

    The only issue I have with the option to see something like “Commercials” is that, though it appears that Microsoft is using the PowerSet technology for the blue-shaded area beneath the logo. It would be nice if the Semantic goodness would understand that clicking “Commercials” should take you to video search results, which is a far cooler… and will be covered in Part 2.

  • Office 2010 Technical Preview Leak Shows Windows 7 Integration

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    Microsoft passed out the Technical Preview bits to TAP partners, and like clockwork, the bits leaked out on the Internet. And like the Build Whore that I am, I went and downloaded it. There are scores of screenshots all over the net already, so there is no point in posting them here. I do, however, have a screenshot that no one else has… Outlook 2010’s Jump List menu.

    image Outlook 2010 Jump List in Windows 7

    I’ve only been using it an hour, and this single feature has already made me vastly more productive. WTG Office team!

  • A Little Trip Through the Wayback Machine

    I was doing some ego surfing this morning, when I came across a reference to my company (Interscape Technologies) in an unusual place: a PDF file. Curious, I clicked the link… and what I found totally caught me by surprise.

    Apparently, two professors from the Catholic University in Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany presented a research paper at the International Federation of Scholarly Associations of Management (IFSAM) World Congress in 2006 (Track 3, Session 1). This paper used as a case study in how blogging is a “neopoiesis” (novel formation, instead of an emergence) for self-organizing, globally-distributed knowledge management.

    The research involved is fascinating. I had no idea that someone had put that much effort into deconstructing the site. They also drew some very interesting conclusions, and even mapped out the interaction between bloggers, as depicted below:

    image (Click to enlarge)

    I vaguely remember being contacted for the survey they mention in the 34-page paper. I had no idea what they were using it for. We weren’t really thinking about it this way at the time, but LonghornBlogs was one of the first IT-related group blogs available at the time, along with and Fellow bloggers like Robert Scoble, Rob Howard, Scott Watermasysk, Drew Marsh, Jeff Julian, and others had a big hand in making IT blogging what it is today. I’m glad to have played a small part in that.

    I’m curious to see what came of this research, so if you were affiliated with this paper, please use the “Contact” link to get in touch with me.

    And on that note, I’m back from my hiatus and will be starting up my coverage of Windows 7 very soon.

  • The Great UAC Debate of 2009 Is Over

    I have been appalled at what has taken place over the last week. And now that it is over, I want to talk about it… because something needs to be done.

    The utter fiasco that spilled out into the blogosphere should never have happened. In case you’ve been in Timbuktu, Long “Quixote” Zheng and Rafael Rivera found several issues with UAC that he was concerned about. AFAIK, he went through what he thought were the proper channels… but that right there is where things fell apart.

    Because Long felt like he wasn’t being listened to, he blogged about it. Which is exactly what I would have done, because he was really concerned that it was a problem. Then all hell broke loose. Microsoft went into “know-it-all-pouting” mode, at first not saying anything, and then arguing the fact that it wasn’t technically a vulnerability and they weren’t going to fix it. Then they said whined about taking the emotion out of the discussion (which was only there in the first place because we were being treated like idiots who didn’t know what they were talking about). Them, they completely backpedaled, saying they were going to fix it, and quoted someone else who suggested they just change UAC to prompt before making changes to UAC settings… which is EXACTLY what Long suggested in the first place! AAGGGH it’s aggravating even thinking about it.

    Microsoft may a have been pissed that the problem went through the wrong channels, but it’s their own stupid fault. Because there already is a channel where these things are supposed to go through. It’s called the Windows Featured Communities program. That’s where people who run Windows communities, like myself, Tom Warren from Neowin, Bob Stein from ActiveWin, and others, get together to talk about Windows stuff in a private forum. It’s managed by Microsoft and the Windows Communication team, yet for the last 4 years, we’ve been virtually ignored by the product team. Because they think we are the enemy, they don’t want to engage us. they’d rather segment us off, and then ignore us.

    Well, that has to stop, and now. We are not the enemy. Long did not do what he did out of hatred for Microsoft. He did it because he was passionate about Windows, and did not want them to make an easily correctible mistake. That’s what the frickin beta program is for in the first place, for cryin out loud! But Microsoft’s technical beta process is a joke in some respects anyways. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent HOURS researching a big, documenting it the best way I know how, only to have it closed as “By Design, Won’t Fix”, without any discussion. They might as well close it with a picture of the team giving the camera the middle finger, because that’s what it feels like: “screw you and your time, we’re smarter than you”.

    Had Long been in the Featured Community program like he should be, and had the Windows Division grown up and started talking to us, whether they liked everything we do or not… Long would have gone through THAT channel instead of airing dirty laundry in public, and Microsoft could have avoided all this stupid nonsense. And THAT is why I’m airing THIS dirty laundry in public. Because I’m tired of being ignored. I’m tired of being handled with kid gloves, and being babysat by PR. My counterparts and I have earned the right to have a direct line to Microsoft.

    And I hope this situation illustrates exactly why the current situation cannot continue. Congratulations Microsoft on doing the right thing, and having the guts to admit you screwed up. I knew you’d get around to it eventually. Try not to be so masochistic about it next time, eh?

  • Windows 7: Next Stop, Release Candidate

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    Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky has taken some time to outline what happens from here to GA with Windows 7. As MJ, Paul Thurrott, and others have notes, the release did not say Windows 7 Beta 1, it was just a beta. It’s a good post, but I’ve pulled the key takeaways below:

    The next milestone for the development of Windows 7 is the Release Candidate or “RC”. Historically the Release Candidate has signaled “we’re pretty close and we want people to start testing the release, especially because all the features are done.” As we have said before, with Windows 7 we chose a slightly different approach which we were clear up front about and are all now experiencing together and out in the open.

    Of course the other work we’re doing is refining the final product based on all the real-world usage and feedback. We’ve received a lot of verbatim feedback regarding the user experience—whether that is default settings, keyboard shortcuts, or desired options to name a few things. Needless to say just working through, structuring, and “tallying” this feedback is a massive undertaking and we have folks dedicated to doing just that. At the peak we were receiving one “Send Feedback” note every 15 seconds! As we’ve talked about in this blog, we receive a lot of feedback where we must weigh the opinions we receive because we hear from all sides of an issue—that’s to be expected and really the core design challenge. We also receive feedback where we thought something was straight forward or would work fine, but in practice needed some tuning and refinement. Over the next weeks we’ll be blogging about some of these specific changes to the product. These changes are part of the process and part of the time we have scheduled between Beta and RC.

    So right now, every day we are researching issues, resolving them, and making sure those resolutions did not cause regressions (in performance, behavior, compatibility, or reliability). The path to Release Candidate is all about getting the product to a known and shippable state both from an internal and external (Beta usage and partner ecosystem readiness) standpoint.

    We will then provide the Release Candidate as a refresh for the Beta. We expect, based on our experience with the Beta, a broad set of folks to be pretty interested in trying it out.

    There’s one extra step which is what we call General Availability or GA. This step is really the time it takes literally to “fill the channel” with Windows PCs that are pre-loaded with Windows 7 and stock the stores (online or in-person) with software. We know many folks would like us to make the RTM software available right away for download, but this release will follow our more established pattern. GA also allows us time to complete the localization and ready Windows for a truly worldwide delivery in a relatively small window of time, a smaller window for Windows 7 than any previous release. It is worth noting that the Release Candidate will continue to function long enough so no one should worry and everyone should feel free to keep running the Release Candidate.

    So to summarize briefly:

    • Pre-Beta – This release at the PDC introduced the developer community to Windows 7 and represents the platform complete release and disclosure of the features.
    • Beta – This release provided a couple of million folks the opportunity to use feature complete Windows 7 while also providing the telemetry and feedback necessary for us to validate the quality, reliability, compatibility, and experience of Windows 7. As we said, we are working with our partners across the ecosystem to make sure that testing and validation and development of Windows 7-based products begins to enter final phases as we move through the Beta.
    • Release Candidate (RC) – This release will be Windows 7 as we intend to ship it. We will continue to listen to feedback and telemetry with the focus on addressing only the most critical issues that arise. We will be very clear in communicating any changes that have a visible impact on the product. This release allows the whole ecosystem to reach a known state together and make sure that we are all ready together for the Release to Manufacturing. Once we get to RC, the whole ecosystem is in “dress rehearsal” mode for the next steps.
    • Release to Manufacturing (RTM) – This release is the final Windows 7 as we intend to make available to PC makers and for retail and volume license products.
    • General Availability (GA) – This is a business milestone and represents when you can buy Windows 7 pre-installed on PCs or as full packaged product.

    The obvious question is that we know the Pre-Beta was October 28, 2008, and the Beta was January 7th, so when is the Release Candidate and RTM? The answer is forthcoming. We are currently evaluating the feedback and telemetry and working to develop a robust schedule that gets us the right level of quality in a predictable manner. Believe me, we know many people want to know more specifics. We’re on a good path and we’re making progress. We are taking a quality-based approach to completing the product and won’t be driven by imposed deadlines. We have internal metrics and milestones and our partners continue to get builds routinely so even when we reach RC, we are doing so together as partners. And it relies, rather significantly, on all of you testing the Beta and our partners who are helping us get to the finish line together.

    There you have it. The next build you will get will probably be the RC. And for once, it will actually be a candidate for release. Sweet!

  • The Problem With SaaS & Cloud Services

    When I heard about the iMate Momento digital picture frame, I was an instant fan. I thought it was really great how it integrated with Vista’s SideShow. Once I received one for review, I found out that the execution fell far short of expectations.

    Well, today I got an email from iMate, which I am including in its entirety below:

    Dear Member,
    The Momento Live service will be terminated on February 25, 2009. After that date you will not have access to the Momento Live website or services. However, your Momento frame will be unaffected so you can continue to enjoy viewing your photos on your frame.

    The closure of Momento Live web site means you can no longer store your photos on the Momento Live server and/or and share your photos with other Momento Live members.

    Important note!  Any pictures that you have stored on Momento Live server will be permanently lost after February 25, 2009.  If you have any images stored on the Momento Live server, please ensure you have a copy of them stored on your PC. Any images that are hosted on Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug, or similar services will not be affected.

    When currently visiting the Momento Live web site you may receive a website security warning as the SSL certificate has expired and will not be renewed. Please ignore this message. You are welcome to continue onto the website to retrieve your images.

    To visit Momento Live please click here.
    Any questions you have may be directed to

    Thank you,

    The Momento Support Team

    This was not an altogether unexpected move, since the site hadn’t been upgraded since its launch. But the frame’s RSS capabilities were also dependent on the service, meaning those will be down too. Now, its effectiveness is limited to local connectivity… which is fine, except that a bunch of customers paid a premium for the internet connected services, and those customers are now SOL.

    Just goes to show you that SaaS / Software + Services / Cloud Services are only useful if the services stay online.

  • Microsoft Is Pimping Windows 7 Beta Downloads on Facebook

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    I logged into my Facebook yesterday, and was greeted with this ad:


    Judging by the overwhelmingly positive reviews, this is a smart move on Microsoft’s part. You would have never seen this with the Vista beta, or any other beta, for that matter. Microsoft is usually only this generous with Windows Release Candidates. Speaking of which, there is only one week left to get your hands on the Beta, so you’d better get crackin!

  • RROD Chronicles: Third Time Still Sucks

    I just joined the 3rd Red Ring of Death club. The first time, I got a complete replacement. The second time, they just did a repair (though I had my console back 48 hours after I shipped it). I’m hoping this time I get a replacement with a Falcon board.

    I saw this one coming, and was surprised it didn’t happen sooner. For months, my console has not been recognizing discs on their first insert, sometimes taking 5 or 6 re-inserts before working. Then a couple days ago, it froze playing Halo 3. Last night, it froze watching the Cardinals game (holy crap, they won a division title?!?! Hell just froze over) anll me d when I went to restart, my old friend returned to steal the center of my living room once again.

    I was greeted with a new repair process, which would have been awesome if the system hadn’t been down for maintenance, which it neglected to tell me BEFORE I filled out my form. I have a shipping label, yet I don’t know whether they’ll ship me a box, or I have to ship it myself. Time will tell.

    If you suddenly see a huge surge in my productivity over the next week or so, now you know why.

  • I Am Boycotting IE Mobile Until Microsoft Gets Its Act Together

    I have very high expectations for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile announcements at CES this year. You see, I have been a fan of Windows Mobile for quite some time. but, for whatever reason, Microsoft has completely dropped the ball on their platform for mobile devices. For evidence, look no further than the Windows Mobile roadmap. First Microsoft said that Windows Mobile 7 was coming soon, and it was going to radically change the platform. We haven’t heard anything about that in a while, then Ballmer mentioned Windows Mobile 6.5, and everyone went.. .WTF? Then, Microsoft announced that IE6 Mobile was only going to be available on new devices under Windows Mobile 6.1.4.

    We’ve waited something like 4 years to get a decent browser for Windows Mobile, and they’re not even going to make it a downloadable update? Screw multimedia features, i just want a better renderer, mmkay?

    IMO, I think that the Samsung Omnia is the closest thing the Windows Mobile ecosystem has to an iPhone competitor… the featureset is just spectactual. But the whole UI is custom, and if you do it right, you’ll hardly seen WiMo at all. It’s a shame that the platform can’t have these features out of the box. But the most telling part is, Omnia’s default browser is… opera Mobile. I had the chance to try an Omnia out for myself the other day, and browsing is a dream… so much so, that I’m making a drastic decision.

    Until the Windows Mobile team gets their act together and at the very least makes IE6 Mobile a downloadable upgrade for all existing WM6 phones, I’m switching browsers to Opera Mobile. IE has been banished from my phone. Microsoft may be content to let Mozilla and Apple kick their butt in the mobile space, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be caught in the middle. I’d like you to join me. Maybe if our voices are loud enough, maybe we can convince the Windows Mobile team to actually build something innovative… and release it before the end of the decade. I know that’s asking a lot, but I think it can be done.

    Your move, Microsoft.

  • Who Benefitted the Most from the Vista Capable Program?

    Ars Technica has a wonderfully insightful piece about the Vista Capable lawsuit, and the ramifications of the $1.5B number that the plaintiffs have been floating around in the case. if you haven’t read it yet, please do so, as I agree with their points, and it is the jumping-off point for what I am about to discuss.

    First off, I want to point out that the lawsuit itself is totally bogus. While it is very good that some of the information came to light, I don’t personally think it has any merit whatsoever, and it is just an attempt to pry money from Microsoft’s hands for no good reason. “Capable” means that it can run Vista, which computers that were so labeled were technically capable of. It did not say “capable of running all editions of Vista,” so any assumption on the consumer’s part, without reading the fine print, is the consumer’s fault. Caveat Emptor.

    I admit that the program was confusing, but any consumer taking more than 10 seconds to look at it could have figured it out. Also, it’s not like these computers were not capable of running Home Premium or Ultimate, it’s just that a) you wouldn’t get Aero, and b) you wouldn’t get that great of an experience due to lack of performance. Hey, I ran Windows 95 on a 486 with 4MB RAM. It was possible, just not a good idea.

    Secondly, having a couple years to look back on the whole thing, for all the bellyaching HP did about it, I think the effort they put in benefitted them in the end. Who is the top selling computer maker in the last 2 years? HP. It’s because they make a better overall product (regardless of how much crap they add to it, but I’ve ranted about that enough already (with another one coming soon).

    In my first post on the subject, I talked about how an HP exec bristled when I even mentioned WinSAT in a discussion. Regardless of his reaction, my point about WinSAT was (and is) still valid. The OEMs know what hardware produces which WinSAT score. i don’t understand why OEMs aren’t shipping more balanced machines. Most PCs that ship today come with wildly schizophrenic WinSAT scores. My Samsung Q1 ranges from a 4.0 in memory to a 1.5 on processor with Windows 7, and the Lenovo x300 I’m also reviewing varies from 6.0 for the SSD to a 3.5 on graphics with Windows 7. That’s just ridiculous, these machines should be far more balanced than they are.

    I think you should be able to go online, and say that you want a computer that rates a 3.0 across the board, and they will put in hardware that does the trick. Then, when you look online at PC games you want to buy, you should be able to see underneath it computers for sale at various retailers that meet the minimum requirements. It could work the same for servers too. Wouldn’t it be great if you could say “well, if you need to serve 10,000 SQL requests an hour, you need a system with a minimum 4.2 WinSAT score, and then you could find well-balanced machines preconfigured to handle those requirements, or servers available from hosting providers for that matter.

    Anyways, getting back to the point. HP, Lenovo, Dell and the like make products with varying degrees of quality. HP’s computers were best suited to run Vista, and the market responded to that. Coupled with Dell’s piss-poor technical support, and HP is at the top of the heap. While it is understandable that they put so much effort into meeting the original requirements, and they might be upset at the change… I think that it did far more good than harm in the end. So as a company, I don’t think they have much to complain about.

    But hey, that’s just my opinion.

  • WARNING: Windows 7 Beta Eats MP3s, Fix Coming

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    Tom Warren from Neowin warns us that Windows 7 Beta (Build 7000) has an issue where Windows Media Player 12 corrupts the first few seconds of MP3 files when it tries to download additional metadata about the file (which is the default setting).

    "The problem only happens when you edit metadata on a certain class of MP3 file (a file with a header larger than 16KB). When the new metadata is written, it corrupts the beginning of the file. This can happen either when you edit the metadata from inside WMP or Explorer, or it can happen if you have WMP set to automatically fill in missing metadata using the online service and add the MP3 to your library. This problem is only present in the recently leaked build" according to one poster in our forums.

    Microsoft's official response is "Microsoft is aware of this issue and it will be addressed in the beta program". Microsoft is currently readying QFE (quick engineering fix) that will be distributed by Windows Update for those with official and non-official access.

    Personally, I think it’s great that MS will put out a patch that will work with the build that leaked. I wonder how the bug creeped into the build in the first place. Well, I would recommend sutting of the metadata lookup in WMP12 for the time being, whatever build of Windows 7 you may be running.

  • Chris Holmes Thinks Windows 7 Will Save Microsoft

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    It’s a new year, and in a few short days, Microsoft will introduce the world to a piece of software they are hoping will change the tide of public opinion. Windows expert and former Windows-Now blogger Chris Holmes (AKA Chris123NT) just posted an editorial that is definitely worth your reading. It sums up what many of us Windows geeks have been feeling the last few months, playing around with the various Windows 7 builds that have been been released/leaked/stolen.

    I was doing some thinking over the past few weeks and I came to a realization.  Windows 7, with all of its improvements in performance, new features, and more streamlined development process, will actually save Microsoft and redeem them from the whole Vista crash.  So I decided to write up WHY Windows 7 will tromp every previous Windows version and why we should pay close attention to it.

    Of course, it is going to have its detractors. Of course Microsoft still has a LONG way to go on the PR front. But while people often malign Vista, the success of Office 2007 often gets ignored, and after almost 2 years of fighting the silence, I am glad Microsoft is bringing Office’s successes to Windows. if my experience over the last 3 months has been any indication, Windows 7 will be the most stable version of Windows ever. And the one you will enjoy using the most.

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