Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

  • Microsoft To Make Longhorn Vulnerability-Aware

    According to InfoWorld, Microsoft is working to make Windows detect irregular system and network behavior, as well as the patches thet Microsoft has issued. Calling it “dynamic system protection”, it will make changes to the Internet Connection Firewall automatically to protect against exploits that have to been patched yet. For example, if Microsoft has provided a patch for a flaw involving ActiveX controls, dynamic system protection will block ActiveX controls from running on a Windows system until that patch is installed, Microsoft said.

    I think that's really cool. While I'm sure that a very small yet extremely vocal minority will lash out at this, I think it is a very good idea. Have the system block unusual activity, quarantine suspected operations, and contain any threats to the system. It's the next evolution in system protection, and something that I think many Sysadmins will be very excited about.

    [Source -]


  • Whitehorse Unveiled (Sort Of)

    Filed under:

    Microsoft talked to about plans for the next generation Windows software modeling tool, code-named Whitehorse. I've seen this tool in use, during one of the best Microsoft demos ever (5 minutes of Powerpoint, 50 minutes of using it), and I can honestly say that this will revolutionize software development in Visual Studio .NET. I'm still working on my “thorough rundown of Whitehorse” article, but believe me, it is nothing short of amazing.

    InterKnowlogy's Huckaby said that Whitehorse will have broad ramifications. When he first saw a demonstration of Whitehorse, his immediate thought was that Microsoft's design effort would set the bar for all competing tools.

    "The Whitehorse team has ambitious plans," Huckaby said. "But if they pull it off they will change the way applications are designed, built and delivered."

    Relatively little has been said about Whitehorse so far. That's mostly because no one (myself included) can get their hands on it. At some point I'll try to get some screencaps from my PDC 2003 DVDs on the demos, and hopefully try to explain what is going on. It's by far the most exciting feature of Whidbey, hands down. From what I understand, it will be in the Summer beta of VS.NET.

    More info: What's Behind Whitehorse? Microsoft Embraces Modeling

  • Will You Be Ready For Longhorn? is reporting that Microsoft will unveil system requirements for Longhorn at this May's WinHEC. While this is great for hardware driver developers, I doubt that MS will know the final requirements by then. More than likely, they'll have a ballpark estimate, closer to what it will actually be then they had at PDC 8 months prior.

    The article also continued the long-held notion that a public beta would be ready for this summer. I have some doubts about this. Personally, I'd be elated if I saw a beta anytime before PDC 2004. As stated previously, I'd rather see them get it right, for the sake of me, my parents, and everyone I've every taught computers too.

  • It Was Only A Matter Of Time

    I know someone would do it. It was only a matter of time. Someone would build a Sidebar Tile that would be a complete waste of time, but would hook you almost immediately. Like a slave to your computer, you would have to keep it on all the time. Well, leave it to Rory to come up with what I affectionately nicknamed the “Tamagotchi Tile”.

    Oh frickin boy. Make sure you read about the leak in the Sidebar though before you install. Now my sisters will have something to occupy their time. I knew Longhorn was good for something....

    WARNING: Installing the Tamagotchi Tile on Longhorn Build 4051 or later may cause severe distraction. Do not operate heavy machinery while under the influence of this code.

  • COM God Bids Farewell To Beloved Friend

    Filed under:

    CNET reported today from the “Developing Software for the Future Microsoft Platform conference “ (BORING name... leave it to the British to make me want to fall alseep. Hey Drew... when is going to be online?) ;). Anyway, the great COM god Don Box declared the object-oriented communication platform had seen its last days of new development.

    "The ability for programs to communicate is a core tenet for the way we want Longhorn to work," said Box. But, he said, object-oriented programming is just not all it was made out to be. "What promised in the '90s to be the most promising technology turned out not to be. By the 1990s, no one disputed that we could make objects work as an industry, but we got carried away with the metaphor. We naively said, 'This notion of objects that seems to pan out so well when writing programs...should work for communications between programs.'"

    Box stressed that COM and DCOM are not dead. "Only now are some groups inside and outside Microsoft finally taking advantage of COM," he said. "Our commitment to COM is not finished...but our annual $6.8 billion (research and development) spend is not going on Ole32.dll," Box said, referring to the dynamic linked library COM uses.

    Good Riddance. Bring on the new paradigm.
  • Indigo Implications

    Filed under:
    Kevin Dente talks about Yasser Shohoud's article on Indigo applications with Whidbey. He's worried. Are you?
  • Longhorn Delayed? Who Cares?

    While everyone was on holiday, enjoying their breaks, I spent an hour or so on December 23rd with Alison Diana, a freelance writer for the E-Commerce Times. She wanted to pick my brain about the apparent delays in getting Longhorn out the gate, and I was happy to oblige her. It was a great interview, and Alison put together a great article, which came out yesterday. It's good to know that I'm not out in left field regarding the impact of Longhorn's ship date with developers. I think the media tends to overblow all that ship date garbage anyways. It's good to know that we developers are still pretty firmly grounded in reality.
  • Should Longhorn Be Called 'Windows'?

    I was asked this question at PDC by Robert Scoble, and he posed the same question to everyone in his blog a few days ago. Without hesitation, my answer was “yes”. When pressed for a reason, I admitted that I had none, but my gut reaction leaned toward name-change. I decided to give it some serious thought, and dig into the concept further.

    Building a brand is no easy task. Microsoft spent nearly $16B in the past 3 fiscal years (EDGAR Online) on marketing across all seven of it's business segments. Sixteen billion dollars in 3 years. And that's just on marketing  MS spent another $14B on R&D for the same period. Think then, how much Microsoft has spent over the past 20 years, building the Windows brand into the behemoth that it is today? It would be irresponsible of Microsoft to ignore this investment, and I highly doubt that its shareholders would let them. But every investment expects a return which, in this case, is measured in more than just dollar signs.

    Security and Trust
    One of the Biggest Reasons to build a brand is to create feelings of trust among consumers. One does not need to look far to see such examples. Kleenex, Crisco, Arm & Hammer, Lysol, Post-It, etc. When you think of “Microsoft”, does the word “trust” come to mind? If you're like me, the more likely words are likely to me something like “patch”, “service pack”, “buffer overflow”, and “MSBlaster”. 2003 will probably be known as the year that shattered Windows, with exploit after exploit sending users into mass panic. It was this situation that drove me to create, a website dedicated to try to make sense of all the patch madness.

    Microsoft is working to streamline this process in Longhorn. Not only with the OS be more stable, preventing buffer overflows and other vulnerability exploits, but it also improves the installer and patch deployment technology, making these processes far less painful than they are today. With items like the much-maligned Next Generation Secure Computing Base, no-touch deployment, and secure execution environments, programs will run in ways that will not compromise the overall integrity of the system. With Microsoft working so hard to improve their security, the easiest way Microsoft can distance itself from the stigma of recent security woes is to change the name.

    User Experience
    When I was at PDC, I attended a session on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I was in heaven... it felt like the session was put together just for me. I was fortunate enough to get to listen to Lili Cheng, who works in the Social Computing Group at Microsoft Research (MSR). She said that studies showed an inordinate number of users feel sad when they use their computer. That's a powerful statement. Sadness is not an emotion you want to invoke when someone uses your product.

    With Longhorn, MSR's Social Computing Group has been working very heavily with developers to improve the quality of user interaction. They are investing millions in finding out “what shapes and colors invoke positive responses” when using a computer. In fact, Bill Gates said that it will cost as much to develop the next version of Windows as it cost to put a man on the moon. In the 60's, lunar landing was America's single largest ambition. It took nearly a decade to achieve. When NASA started developing the next generation space vehicle in the late 70's, they didn't keep calling it a “Command Module”, they called it the “Shuttle Transportation System”, or Space Shuttle, a name worthy of the advances in the technology that the new vehicle embodied. In the same fashion, the easiest way Microsoft can distance itself from the negative emotions its current OS incarnation invokes is to change the name.

    The Digital Decade
    Much of Microsoft's internal marketing on Longhorn discusses it as the harbinger of the Digital Decade. MS is not kidding when they say they're betting the company on this one. They are expecting Longhorn to be the base from which Microsoft launches it's next 20 years of success, going back to its roots as a platform company. But the past 20 years have been fraught with as much peril as success. References to Microsoft Bob notwithstanding, Microsoft cannot seem to shake the demons of it's belligerent behavior. Even thought it settled its US antitrust problems, the latest temper-tantrum from Real Networks (“they made it impossible to compete, but we're still the best platform” <rolling eyes>) and the ongoing EU antitrust inquiry show that the past is still available to haunt them. But in the past 3 years, Microsoft really has changed. It's a different organization now, much friendlier, much more interested in bettering society through transparency, communication, and cooperation. I think Microsoft is in a position to enable these qualities in an operating system, because they are now enabled in the company. What better way to shake off the vestiges of the past, and show a new operating system written by a new Microsoft, than with a new name?

    There you have it. I've made my case for a name change. I could go on and on. Oh yeah, and don't forget all those reasons that Scoble said. It's a move that would take a lot of guts, and to be honest, would be pretty ballsy. But it's one that needs to be made. Ring in the next 20 years of advances with the idea that computing will finally be better, and God forbid using a computer might actually make you happy.

    So what Would I call this new Operating System? I haven't decided yet. I think terms like Operating System, User Interface, etc. are too cold for the kind of social computing platform that Longhorn will be. I think new terms need to be invented, and I think the new name needs to fit in with that mindset. When I come up with it, I'll let you know ;-) .

  • Longhorn Haiku

    Taken from Chris Anderson's Wiki:

    Longhorn Looks Pretty
    Two Thousand Six Approaches
    Time To Learn XAML

    Longhorn Sends Packets
    SOAP Is Clean and Hygenic
    Not like SMB

    Longhorn Stores Data
    Promotion of Properties
    Google Not To Fear

    No Wrapper This One
    For once we work in managed
    Reverse P/Invoke

    Good to know that if Chris ever stopped working on Avalon, he'd have a backup job at Hallmark.

  • Counterfeit Longhorn Detection points out a new “leaked“ Longhorn build 4062. Looks good at first sight, but it is completely fake. So, how do you determine if a Longhorn build is a fake? Well, lets check it out.

    Click to enlarge

    First off, the ad in the title bar means it's an obvious fake. Further discrediting it is the fact that “focussing” is spelled wrong in the ad. Secondly, the Start Menu button on the task bar is terribly out of focus, but the control panel button is remarkably crisp. Thirdly, the second clock in the system tray uses a different font than what is on the rest of the screen. I highly doubt that the UI would have two clocks on it anyways, unless someone REALLY wants to know what time it is.

    The hoax is detailed more here. There you have it people. Don't believe everything you read. If you want genuine Longhorn news, the best place to get it is here.

  • PCWorld Talks Longhorn

    From the January 2004 issue of PCWorld, some articles about Longhorn:

    Your Next OS: Windows 2006?

    Some Oldies... interesting to see what has changed and what hasn't:

    Future Windows: Windows 2004? The Road to Longhorn
    Sneak Peek: Windows XP's Successor
  • A Friendly PDC Reminder

    If you got “The Goods” from PDC, and you haven't gotten your Longhorn installation key yet, you have less than a month to do so. Your login (found on the white sheet between Longhorn DVDs 1 and 2) expires on January 24th. Pick it up at today!
  • Intelligent Searching in Longhorn

    Filed under:

    Here's what I want for the file system in Longhorn. I want the file search capabilities in Longhorn to be just as robust as web searching. Take, for example, Google. Wouldn't it be killer if you could Google your hard drive? (Google, are you paying attention?) Just by typing a search string in the IE address bar, something like “filesearch:mypicture.jpg”, you would run a local copy of the Google Engine, ported to the .NET Framework with a full XAML interface. Then, you'd get all the locations of the file, including details and possibly versioned histories if you're using Volume Shadow Copying or something like that. It would also be intelligent and say “Did you mean these files?” and give me a list of files that match based on a probability percentage range that I could choose.

    Then, I wouldn't have to go to the Start menu, go to “Find”, then select “Files or Folders”, then type the name, blah blah blah. I got the idea because I had to search for a file, and my first inclination was to type my search terms in the address bar of the “Search Results” dialog (putting the address bar there was really lame, especially if it doesn't do anything).

    You could make it even cooler by having the Google engine run locally and have queries run over Indigo, so you could search over your computer and the web simultaneously. It would be multi threaded, so that the searching was done independantly.... Google Desktop would handle the work locally of searching the files system and displaying all of the results.... the query over Indigo would bring back web results, and the contents of the file system would never be transmitted. Then, not only would Google Desktop search for files, but it would also search your Internet history and tell you if you've visited any similar sites, and show you the top 5 results based on the probability of all those factors. And, it would learn about your different search habits, both locally and remotely, and apply them to future searches.

    But that's not all. Think about the possibilities in an intranet environment. Using Google Intranet, you could Google all the public folders across the network, using Indigo to create a P2P network similar to Kazaa, Overnet, and Skype, to interface with all the Google Desktops in the intranet. Then, IT Managers would also be able to search using Google IT, for not just files, but errant policy settings, logs, inappropriate files, etc.

    Just a thought.

  • PostTypeIcon
  • Longhorn Developer Platform Survey Program

    As you are all probably well aware, a lot of Microsoft folks have really upped their efforts in the world of “community” over the past few months. One of the benefits we get from this is that there is a lot of product feedback through blogs, newsgroups, meetings at trade shows, etc. While this is really useful feedback, sometimes it’s hard to decide which product changes need to be made or which changes to prioritize based how many developers are affected. Finding a way to quantify feedback can be hard.

    Today I’m here to announce the “Longhorn Developer Platform Survey” program. Before anyone gets too excited, however, I’d like to let you know what and who this is for. First of all, this program isn’t giving out Longhorn bits, so please don’t join if you’re only doing it to get bits because I don't want you to be disappointed.

    This program is intended to help us get feedback on Longhorn from developers who already have Longhorn bits, whether through PDC, an MSDN subscription, or other channel. (If you don’t have bits, but want them, you can get an MSDN Universal subscription from To sign up for the program, you’ll be asked to fill out a nomination survey that has some basic developer demographic data, such as the size and type of company you work for, the platforms you develop for, and other “classification” data. We use this data to perform pivots on feedback so we can see if there are trends in data. For example, it would be valuable for us to know if developers using WinFS are mostly VB developers (which is just a randomly arbitrary example from me). Then we would take that information and use it to make sure the WinFS tool stuff we do in Orcas fits in with the VB paradigm.

    [via Ed Kaim]