Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

  • My Samsung Q1 Gets an Overhaul

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    Nearly a year ago, I received a Samsung Q1 Ultra-Mobile PC for review. I still have it laying around, although it hasn’t gotten much use lately. I tried using it for a while as a mobile TV device when my wife and I go on trips with the kids, but the 1GB RAM and the 4200 RPM hard drive were not enough to keep just about any video from stuttering to the point of unwatchable.

    So this Christmas, I got brave, and decided to perform some minor surgery on this underpowered little device. For just about $50, my Q1 now has 2GB RAM, as well as an Intel WiFi Link 4965AGN card. Coupled with a clean install of the Windows 7 Beta, I now have a mobile entertainment system that streams media from my home network, and plays it off the hard drive, with ease. It is also surprisingly responsive to everyday tasks like web browsing and e-mail.

    So how did I do it?

    The Parts

    The Tools

    The Process
    If you follow the video, you should be able to get the thing open in relatively short order. The secret is a clip under the VGA access door, and then popping the case over the headphone jack. On my model, the memory was on top, and the WiFi was underneath the mainboard, but YMMV. But be careful, as the Ethernet card is mounted as a daughter card to the motherboard, I’d highly recommend leaving it screwed in. I took mine out, and my wired internet connection no longer works :(.

    The Result
    Windows 7 appears to have adjusted their Windows Experience Index scores (also known as WinSAT) as a result of the Vista Capable lawsuit. You’d never get Microsoft to admit that is the reason, but I’d be willing to bet money that’s why my WinSAT scores dropped half a point for the processor, and a full point for the Intel 945 integrated graphics (which is at the center of the Vista Capable suit). The only thing that stayed the same was my crappy hard drive.

    image

    The memory upgrade, coupled with the speed and memory footprint improvements in Windows 7, have FINALLY made my Q1 a pleasure to use. It feels much zippier and responsive, and I don’t have to wait for… well, hardly anything, even at 800MHz.

    I’ve started using it as an eBook reader, so that I can take books with me on the go. And with the new HomeGroup built right in to Media Center, I can *FINALLY* use it to watch TV the way I want to. Though you still can’t use it as a full-blown extender, you CAN still watch Recorded TV, without skipping or lagging.

    Final Thoughts
    The only thing I’m still not happy with is the hard drive. I think if it had an SSD, it would be far more responsive. I’m looking at getting one of the new ZIF SSDs from RunCore, but now computer upgrades get to compete for attention with the ‘66 Mustang my parents gave their adult children for Christmas (they drive it around the country every few months and let one of us use it… it’s my turn until the spring). Maybe if someone gave me one for review *cough cough* I could report back any improvements. I was also thinking about the cheaper SuperTalent PCIe SSD… but then if I wanted to put in a WWAN card, I’d be out of luck. Hmmm.

    But for now, I’m anxious to see if my beefier UMPC will make me any more productive. Stay tuned.

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  • Microsoft Introduces “Fix It For Me” KB Articles

    I just stumbled across this new blog in the TechNet Blogs feed:

    Have you ever come across a Microsoft Knowledge Base (KB) article or been presented with a Windows Error Reporting (WER) solution and asked yourself, why can't Microsoft just fix this for me? Today KB articles and WER solutions provide you with a list of steps that can be followed to resolve your issue. However, tomorrow looks much different and we hope it helps you resolve any issues you have with our products faster and easier.

    Our team's purpose is to automate the steps in Microsoft KB articles and Windows Error Reporting (WER) solutions so you can click a button and have the issue resolved.

    I was hoping that maybe they came out with some cool new technology that let you run a script to fix these issues, but alas, it’s just a standard Windows Installer MSI file that modifies the registry or runs a script or whatever. But it’s still incredibly useful for non-techies who don’t need to know or care about the Registry.

    So if you see this image: you’re just a few clicks away from a solution!

    Hopefully more KB articles will provide this feature in the future, and it looks like the FixIt4Me blog will be updated whenever a new article is published.

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  • The 2009 30GB Zunepocalypse. Don’t Panic.

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    Holy crap. It seems these days that no one wants to write about Microsoft unless something goes wrong. One look at Techmeme today, and you’d think that all the Zunes rose up at once, coming to life with the sole purpose of killing your mother.

    In case you hadn’t heard yet, the 30GB Zune (and only that model, as far as anyone can tell) has some kind of bug that caused it to freeze on the boot up screen on December 31, 2008. Which I find interesting, since there is no (apparent) way to set the date on your Zune. But the DRM has to tell how long you have somehow, so I guess the internal calendar is managed by syncing with your computer.

    I’ve seen the gamut of opinions today, from the downright stupid (“I’m going to die without music to listen to at work” [One can only hope…]) to the usual (M$ suxors, buy an iPod [recession… what recession?]) to the just plain incorrect (Microsoft’s official forums are at Zune.net/support, not zuneboards.com [hey Consumerist, it’s called fact-checking]). It’s really funny how derided the Zune is around the web, and how many people say that no one uses it, and yet the second it breaks down, there are apparently millions of users out there. Amazing how that works.

    Microsoft knows about the problem, and is working on a fix. I took mine apart and pulled the battery, and now it works fine. It may very well work fine tomorrow. Who knows. In the meantime, there is no need to call tech support. Just be patient (I know, that’s a lot to ask these days) and they’ll have a solution soon.

    UPDATE: Microsoft posted details of the problem and offered a solution. The problem was simply that the firmware was not able to handle a year with 366 days. The solution is, as I suspected, patience…

    Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used).  The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year.  The issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009.   We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT). By tomorrow you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on.  If you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device.

    Hopefully all those vitriolic users screaming about class action lawsuits and threatening suicide will have calmed down by then.

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  • Merry Christmas from Windows Now!

    Hey everyone. I just wanted to take a break from wrapping presents to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, or <insert your holiday here>. Please, take some time and enjoy the company of your loved ones. I hope you all have a very safe and happy holidays!

    -Robert :)

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  • My Christmas Wish

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     Capture

    Too bad it’s not gonna happen. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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  • Zero-Day IE Vulnerability Out-Of-Band Fix Coming Tomorrow

    Microsoft just put out an APB that they are releasing a fix for the Zero-Day IE Vulnerability that Microsoft has been tracking for a few weeks.

    Microsoft is hosting two webcasts to address customer questions on these bulletins: on December 17, 2008, at 1:00 PM Pacific Time (US & Canada) and December 18, 2008, at 11:00 AM Pacific Time. Register now for the December 17 webcast and the December 18 webcast. Afterwards, these webcasts are available on-demand. For more information, see Microsoft Security Bulletin Summaries and Webcasts.

    For all of you IT Admins prepping to go home for the holidays, don’t jump out the door just yet. Microsoft doesn’t put out of band patches out too often, so this one is extremely important.

    [via Roger’s Security Blog]

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  • An Obvious Case of Blatant IP Theft

    imageI know this is a blog about Windows, but this item is Microsoft-related, so I thought I’d indulge myself. I was on Facebook a little bit ago, wasting time that could have been spent on coding or something, and I came across this ad, pictured at left. Does anything about it look vaguely familiar?

    Yep, that’s right, it’s from Halo 3. Need a closer look? try this on for size:I’d even be willing to bet that the image I’m linking to is the exact one they used to make their ad. Note the bottom is cut off past the point where the spires start to come out of the ground.

    Now, I’m no attorney, but I’m pretty sure this image is Microsoft’s intellectual property. Somehow I doubt they’d be very happy with this, if only I could figure out who is doing the advertising (I flagged the ad on Facebook before I clicked the link, stupid, I know).

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  • Clearing Up Misinformation About the Leaked Windows 7 Build

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    I’m starting to see more and more chatter about the Windows 7 build that was “leaked” (I would say stolen) from WinHEC China. I can already see the beginnings of the misinformation campaign that damaged Windows Vista in the Court of Public Opinion, so I’m going to nip some things in the bud right here (because Microsoft isn’t going to do it). You can take what I have to say as the truth, because unlike some others reporting on second- or third-hand information, I am actually running the build on my day-to-day laptop. This is not likely to endear me to any of Team Sinofsky, but I’d rather get in trouble with Microsoft than let false information float around.Start Menu Settings

    • Nobody is getting a Windows 7 build tomorrow at the Houston MDC. Keith Combs cleared this up last week.
    • This video of the new bootscreen is not a fabrication, it is real. The quality of the video sucks, but in person the animation is really cool. Rafael has an interesting analysis of how it works.
    • There are other screenshots floating around out there, in varying degrees of quality and OS default settings. Paul Thurrott has the only ones you should trust, with the default post-install experience.
    • Again, in some screenshots, there are images of windows with transparent side chrome. Some are saying that, because the build originally got out in VHD form, that the build must be using DXWARP10 that Long talked about last week. While I cannot say whether or not DXWARP10 is in this build, any purported tying of DXWARP10 and Microsoft’s virtualization technologies should be treated as speculation.
    • The SuperBar has not been “un-rethought” or “un-redesigned” in any way. The default SuperBar settings are as shown in Paul’s Screenshots, and have not changed. However, there are settings that were available to anyone using Rafael’s Blue Badge tool that let you control whether or not the SuperBar renders text or not. A screenshot of that dialog is a right. if you check “Use Small Icons” and select “Never Combine” from the group, the newest build’s Taskbar displays like this:
      Small Start Menu 
      (the icons interspersed in between are the pinned programs in their original organization. And unlike Windows Vista, you can drag and reorganize the taskbar items in this state.) Microsoft has previously stated that the old Taskbar would not be available in Windows 7, so I’m not sure if the feature and rendering depicted above are going to remain. But if I were Microsoft, I’d leave it alone.

    I would ask that bloggers and the press be responsible in their reporting and observations, and clearly identify the facts they are reporting from their guesstimates and speculation. Windows Vista’s reputation was damaged just as much by it’s own initial issues as it was by individuals people trust relaying unsubstantiated rumors, speculation based on partial facts, and outright lies. in other words, don’t tell us what is in a particular Windows 7 build unless you have been in the immediate presence of a machine running it, mmmkay?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Windows Mobile Confusion

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    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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

    Sincerely,

    Robert W. McLaws
    Microsoft Fan and Blogger
    Windows-Now.com

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

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  • 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.

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