Technologizer posts about Windows

I’ll Celebrate When Windows 98 SE Turns Fifteen

By  |  Posted at 2:02 pm on Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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A post by Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle reminded me of a fact I would have had memorized if I were a serious tech historian: Windows 95 shipped fifteen years ago today. I certainly have memories of the launch–including running the beta for months beforehand and working on PC World‘s Windows 95 issue.  (That magazine remains the single best selling issue of PCW ever sold; I don’t think there’s a topic in tech today that would capture the imagination of such a high percentage of computer users all at once.)

Oddly enough, thinking back doesn’t leave me all that nostalgic. It’s not that I’m incapable of being fascinated by mid-1990s Microsoftian history–just a few months ago, I wrote a gazillion words about the fifteenth birthday of Bob. But Windows 95 didn’t capture my imagination in 1995, and it doesn’t do so today.

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Veghte Leaves Microsoft

By  |  Posted at 12:39 pm on Friday, January 15, 2010

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Microsoft has announced that Bill Veghte, a 19-year veteran of the company, will be leaving to pursue his own interests. The move is not all that surprising considering no announcement had been made of his role in the Windows division of the company following Steven Sinofsky’s promotion to president.

It is rumored that Veghte wasn’t too happy with being passed over by Sinofsky, who had previously served as vice president of the engineering group within Windows. He served as senior vice president of the global Windows business, and had been instrumental in orchestrating Microsoft’s Windows 7 launch. It would almost seem as if he would have been the logical choice to ascend to the top spot in Microsoft’s Windows division, but that was not meant to be.

Mary Jo Foley reports that Veghte told her in a phone interview that he did attempt to find a new role within the company, but in the end decided leaving was the best option.



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Device Stage Gets Short Shrift

By  |  Posted at 9:26 am on Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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Windows 7 LogoMicrosoft blogged today about the compatibility logo program for hardware and software devices that will work with Windows 7. It’s in sync with Windows 7′s overall spirit of simplicity: There’s just one logo (“Compatible with Windows 7″) vs. the two that Microsoft came up with for Windows Vista. (“Works with Windows Vista” indicated basic compatibility; “Certified for Windows Vista” was more rigorous.)

Simplicity is good–especially since nobody who doesn’t work at Microsoft and who isn’t involved in manufacturing hardware or developing software really knows the specifics of what the logo indicates. As the “Compatible” in “Compatible with Windows Vista” indicates, the emphasis this time around seems to be on ensuring that products will function reliably with all versions of the OS, including the 64-bit ones. It’s not claiming that a product is a shining example-the equivalent Windows XP logo had the loftier-sounding name of”Designed for Windows XP”–but just that it works.

But I’m sorry that Microsoft didn’t institute one additional requirement for hardware products: mandating that they support Device Stage, the OS’s new system for putting a bunch of features related to a peripheral in one place, such as a camera’s charge level, storage capacity, and tools for importing and transferring photos.

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PC Annoyances–and a Security Fix

By  |  Posted at 10:15 am on Thursday, September 10, 2009

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Steve Bass's TechBiteI know you’re not always happy with your PC, so here are three fixes to some of the annoyances you’ve sent to me.

Louder. No, Quieter

The Annoyance: I have lots of MP3s I’ve ripped onto my hard drive from CDs. Nothing seems to play at the same volume level. When I play Copeland’s “Fanfare,” it’s loud enough to make the dog jump, yet all of Dave Brubeck’s music is way too soft.

The Fix: When you use Windows Media Player to burn music into a CD, the trick is to adjust–or normalize–the sound level as you’re burning the MP3s to the CD. Do that from the Burn menu by enabling Apply volume level across tracks on the CD. Normalization doesn’t work in WMP when you’re ripping MP3s from a CD to disk. Unfathomable, I know, but it’s Microsoft’s party. So use FairStars CD Ripper to do the job. The freebie does its job, normalizes the cuts, and handles plenty of file formats, including WAV, MP3, WMA, and more obscure ones, such as APE and VQF.

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Bill Gates Sees Project Natal in Windows’ Future

By  |  Posted at 3:08 pm on Wednesday, July 15, 2009

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xboxnatalMicrosoft tricked us by revealing its 3D motion-sensing camera at E3. At the game industry’s biggest trade show, we all assumed Project Natal would be a console peripheral for gaming, but Bill Gates says the camera will have other uses in Windows.

As part of a lengthy interview with CNet, the Microsoft chairman said Project Natal is not just for games, “but for media consumption as a whole, and even if they connect it up to Windows PCs for interacting in terms of meetings, and collaboration, and communication.”

Gates stayed pretty vague when describing how Natal might be used away from the Xbox 360. He noted that motion control could come in handy when managing movies, music and “home system type stuff.” He also said “there’s incredible value as we use [Natal] in the office connected to a Windows PC,” but the rest is left to imagination.

It’s easy to see some common ground with the Xbox 360 and Windows PCs. The obvious use is gaming, but one of the things shown during Natal’s E3 demonstration was motion-controlled menus. Instead of using a joystick or remote control, the demonstrator moved through the Xbox 360 dashboard by flicking his hand in the air. That functionality might be useful for PC entertainment hubs, so maybe Natal will be integrated with Windows Media Center.

Beyond that, I’m at a loss for ideas. The key to Natal is that it senses three axes instead of two, but what office uses or collaborations would take advantage of that? Are we looking at a reinvention of the wheel, or just tacky gimmicks? Natal is an exciting prospect for gaming and entertainment, but I fail to see how it’ll work as an office tool. It could fail miserably in that regard if it doesn’t change everything.



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How Bright Do You Keep Your Notebook Screen?

By  |  Posted at 12:38 pm on Friday, June 12, 2009

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(Here’s another guest post by Pat Moorhead, Vice President of Advanced Marketing at AMD. Pat’s postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies, or opinions. You can find Pat at Twitter as @PatrickMoorhead.)

The current defacto standard used by PC makers to measure notebook battery life is MobileMark 2007 (MMO7). This piece takes a look at the basic facts behind the notebook brightness settings recommended by MM07, comparing that to some typical home electronics devices and the average settings some consumers are using for their notebook displays.

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Russia Mounts Antitrust Charges Against Microsoft

By  |  Posted at 5:27 pm on Thursday, June 4, 2009

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Russia’s state anti-monopoly service today launched an investigation of Microsoft for phasing out its Windows XP operating system. The agency’s complaint centers on Microsoft’s decision to discontinue selling Windows XP after this month while demand for the operating system continues from retailers and the Russian government. It will consider charges against Microsoft on July 24.

Microsoft told Reuters that it would cooperate with the Russian government. Meanwhile, the company is appealing the European Commission’s (EC) preliminary findings concerning its middleware bundling practices for Windows. The charges were levied by browser maker Opera Software.

The EC initially fined Microsoft €497 million ($613 million) in 2004 for abusing its dominant market position, followed by an additional €280.5 million ($357 million) in July 2006 for charging “unreasonable prices” to software developers for access to information about Windows client and server protocols. The cumulative fines amount to nearly $2.3 billion.

Microsoft has made strides towards interoperability and openness since the EC penalized it. The company is now sharing information about the inner-workings of its products that it it once fought tooth and nail to hold as trade secrets. A specific problem was remedied.

I’m not an expert in the Russian customs code; it could have a legitimate bone to pick with Microsoft. It just seems silly to base an antitrust investigation on normal business behavior. Windows XP is not the first operating system that Microsoft has phased out, and it will continued to support compatibility for Windows XP applications in Windows 7.

Windows XP’s product life cycle and support policies are also public. Microsoft’s Moscow office would certainly have informed its customers about its transition to Windows Vista and beyond. I’m not certain what the Russian government is harping about–it has had ample time to plan for XP’s obsolescence.

I recently spoke with someone that was commissioned by the Canadian government to assess the viability of mainframes over the next decade. The Canadian government estimated that it would take nearly a decade for it to replace critical mainframe applications, and was performing due diligence to determine whether it needed to get started. It’s keeping its mainframe systems.

In the same vein, Russia should have known that there was risk when it purchased Windows XP in the first place, or negotiated terms to receive extended product support from Microsoft. When taken at face value, these antitrust charges are bogus.



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Windows 7: Coming to a PC Near You on October 22nd

By  |  Posted at 11:45 am on Tuesday, June 2, 2009

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Windows 7 LogoBack on May 11th, Microsoft confirmed what was already pretty obvious: Windows 7 would ship for the 2009 holiday season. Today, it got specific and said that the OS would show up on new PCs and in retail upgrade boxes on October 22nd. That’s a little later than some predictions–just yesterday I was telling someone that I thought it would arrive in time for the full back-to-school season–but it’s cheery news for a PC industry that’s presumably already worrying about the holiday sales period and looking for incentives it can give consumers to buy, buy, buy.

It’s also a positive development for consumers, since there’s plenty of evidence that a Windows 7 machine will be more pleasing than the same hardware loaded with Windows Vista (or for that matter, Windows XP).

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Why I Dumped Windows System Restore for ERUNT

By  |  Posted at 1:05 pm on Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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Steve Bass's TechBiteI gave up on Windows System Restore. Yep, I turned the feature off and replaced it with a freebie I like better.

System Restore is a recovery tool built into Windows that backs up and restores the Registry. System Restore takes a snapshot of your computer — called a restore point — once a day, as well as before you perform certain tasks, such as installing a new program. If all goes well, you can use a restore point later on to bring your PC back to the state it was in when the snapshot was taken. But remember, we’re talking about computers.

Sometimes System Restore doesn’t work. You click a restore point and Windows has a hearty, gleeful laugh. The problem is that each restore point is linked to previous points; if one is corrupt or missing, you’re out of luck: System Restore won’t work. (Learn more about the ins and outs of System Restore in Bert Kinney’s smart and thorough FAQ.)

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5Words for Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

By  |  Posted at 10:08 am on Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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5wordsTechwise, it’s a slow day…

iPod Nano to get camera?

Intel, Microsoft dislike big netbooks.

Kids text 80 times daily.

Windows Vista SP2 is ready.

Microsoft’s future visions video, remixed.

Photorealistic games: 10-15 years?

Gotta love this 1878 sign.

Twitter on the Twitter show.



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After Two Years, Microsoft’s Surface Tabletop Computer Hasn’t Revolutionized Anything. Yet.

By  |  Posted at 4:23 pm on Friday, May 22, 2009

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Microsoft SurfaceWhen Microsoft unveiled its Surface tabletop computer two years ago, the company vowed to “break down traditional barriers between people and technology.” The revolution has not happened–yet. Microsoft is expanding Surface into new markets, but adoption has thus far been confined to customers in specific markets.

Last summer, the company embarked on pilot programs with AT&T and Sheraton Hotels that set specific goals. AT&T wanted to make its retail experience more enjoyable and engaging (selling more products in the process). Sheraton, meanwhile, was attempting to re-brand itself, and wanted to be associated with an innovative product, said Matthew Champagne, director of product management for the Surface team at Microsoft.

The AT&T pilot program ended one month ago, and its Surface units now sit in AT&T’s labs, he said, adding that Sheraton still has Surface deployed at its hotels. Beyond those tests, Microsoft has been targeting automotive dealerships, financial services, health care and hospitality services, and retailers, as well as the public sector.

Today, Surface is available in both the United States and Canada, in addition to 12 new markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Champagne said. However, the question remains: where can you find one in the wild?

Customers remain few in number, but Champagne noted that Surface has had a positive affect on its customers’ bottom line. The i-Bar in Harrah’s Rio Las Vegas casino experienced an 19% increase in sales after it deployed Surface, and Barclay’s Bank at Piccadilly Circus in the UK experienced a 50% increase in sales for one product through Surface, he said.

Other deployments can be found at Bank of America in Charlotte, NC (another pilot), and Cook Children’s Health System in Fort Worth, TX. Cook’s is using Surface to rehabilitate patients through interactions with objects and the PC’s ability to recognize them, he said.

First responders used Surface to coordinate their efforts at the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, FL. In that instance, Surface was integrated with mapping technology to provide authorities with a bird’s eye view of incidents that required their attention.

While Champagne did not say what new form factors Microsoft would introduce in the future, he did not rule it out smaller versions of Surface, saying that it would be a “natural progression” of the technology to become miniaturized.

Additionally, the company now has nearly 200 partners in the Surface ecosystem helping Microsoft to design new interaction roles for applications that leverage multi-touch, he added.

According to a recent BBC report, the next generation of the technology will not surface for another two to three years. It’s also possible that Microsoft is preparing a consumer version that would cost between $5,000-$10,000. (Current Surface setups typically cost $10,000.)

Surface could introduce a new paradigm for computing to the living room, but its cost remains prohibitive. It will be years before the typical household has computerized furniture a la Star Trek, but I believe that Microsoft has been pragmatic enough with its expectations for the technology that Surface will be around when that does happen.



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More on Windows 7 and Netbooks

By  |  Posted at 12:29 pm on Friday, May 22, 2009

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Windows 7 LogoMicrosoft is still wrestling with the question of how to get Windows 7 onto dirt-cheap netbooks without crushing the profit margin it makes when it sells copies of Windows to PC manufacturers. Two pieces of scuttlebutt emerged today; one sounds promising for netbook buyers, and the other is kind of discouraging.

Promising scuttlebutt: Paul Thurrott is reportingvery briefly–that Microsoft has decided to lift the three-applications-at-a-time restriction from Windows 7 Starter Edition, the version of the OS that it expects to be popular on netbooks. While there were numerous exceptions to the limit, it’ll still be good news if it’s gone–as long as Microsoft doesn’t compensate by hobbling Starter Edition in some other way.

Discouraging scuttlebutt: A site called Tech ARM has what it says is a list of limitations that Microsoft will apply to machines that qualify to come with Windows 7 Starter Edition preinstalled. They’re tighter in some places than the similar restrictions for Windows XP, and laxer in others–but the one that sticks in my craw is the continuing requirement that netbooks ship with a maximum of 1GB of RAM. RAM’s cheap enough these days that there would surely be 2GB netbooks if Microsoft didn’t try to prevent them from shipping. And I know from my experience with my own Asus EeePC 1000HE that it’s a markedly more pleasing computer with the 2GB upgrade that I installed than it would have been with half the RAM.

There’s something basically unsettling about a software provider putting rules in place to discourage PC manufacturers from selling well-equipped PCs–especially when said software provider has a big ad campaign going that’s centered around specsmanship. I hope that the rumors are wrong–or if they’re right, that Microsoft takes yet another pass at figuring out how to put Windows on netbooks in a way that makes sense.



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Advertising Works!

By  |  Posted at 7:48 pm on Monday, May 18, 2009

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Laptop HuntersI still think that Microsoft’s current Laptop Hunters ad campaign for Windows represents an odd combination of stating the obvious (that you can buy a Windows PC with beefy components for a lot less than a Mac) and avoiding the obvious (that operating systems have a gigantic impact on the experience you get from a computer). But if recent research from BrandIndex is to believed, the spots are doing what Microsoft hoped they’d do: convincing people (young people, especially) that Windows computers are a better value than Macs.

Laptop Hunters doesn’t seem to be an ad campaign designed to run for the next decade, or even the next year–the individual commercials are nearly identical except for the shoppers involved, which is why I stopped writing about them after the third entry. (I just ran out out of things to say.) For the record, the most recent two (starring a mom-and-daughter team and an artist) are not only repetitive, but increasingly weird, with an emphasis on the giddy shoppers exulting in the fact that Microsoft has bought them laptops. (Should we make anything of the fact that only one of the five ads so far involves an adult male? I dunno.)

Considering that the current version of Windows is Windows Vista, Microsoft has every incentive to downplay the OS. I assume that when Windows 7 comes out, it’ll return to emphasizing the operating system as a selling point, even if it also continues to play up the value angle and snark at Macs. It’ll be interesting to see if the shift in public opinion apparently reflected in the BrandIndex study continues on even if the ads no longer center on spec comparisons and fistfuls of cash.



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This Laptop Hunter Isn’t a PC

By  |  Posted at 9:08 am on Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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There’s a new Apple “Get a Mac” ad out–and this one is the first one that would seem to respond directly to Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunters” ads and their snarky put-downs of Macs, since it involves a woman shopping for a computer and addresses the fact that there are gazillions of PCs out there:

The ultimate gist of the commercial–Windows PCs involve hassles that Macs don’t–is the same as that of many previous “Get a Mac” ads. But it’s interesting to see Apple acknowledge the fact that Macs don’t offer the variety that PCs do, and to say that choice is less exciting if all the computers you can choose from are flawed.

I’m burned out on the Windows-Mac commercial wars (I didn’t even bother to mention Sheila, the star of Microsoft’s most recent ad). But choosing a computer is as much or more about the experience you hope to get from the machine on a day-to-day basis as it is about raw specs. And I continue to be surprised that the Microsoft ads don’t address living with an operating system at all, and to think that it makes sense that that the Apple ones do.

Anyhow, I don’t know if anyone involved with Apple’s advertising thinks that the Laptop Hunters spots are having an impact and needed a response, or whether the company just thought it would be fun to parody the Microsoft commercials. Either way, Microsoft’s surprising decision to embrace Apple’s “I’m a PC” and to compare PCs and Macs in its ads is having an impact. Even if its ads’ comparisons are pretty specious.



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