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links for 2006-01-05

January 4th, 2006 Posted by | Applications, Blogs, Bookmarks, General, Linux, MSN, Office, Spaces, Vista, Windows | no comments

Perspectives: January 4

perspectivesI’ve decided to start a new series on this blog, which I’m calling Perspectives. I realize that I end a lot of posts with “we’ll see where this goes”, but we never get to see, since I’m not going to repeat the same stuff every day until a conclusion is reached. Blogs tend to be so obsessed with the “now”, that we never pay attention to what’s happened in the past, and we forget things that might be important. So, every day, unless I’m way too busy (or not around), I’ll post about whatever I was discussing a year ago, and, as time goes by, two years ago, and so on.

On January 4, 2005, it was all about a bunch of applications Microsoft was developing.

One, MSN Desktop Search, was a huge deal then. Now? Well I haven’t mentioned it in maybe half a year. In late 2004, everyone thought desktop search was the future of computing, that a program like Google Desktop Search would be the most important thing on your desktop, and we were completely wrong. Desktop search has yet to catch on significantly beyond early adopters, and many have realized it is not the be-all-end-all but an operating system feature, and one seldom used enough that we could wait for Vista to get it. Besides, antivirus programs were already slowing down our systems; we didn’t need another massive, memory-intensive program.

On the antivirus and antispyware front, Microsoft was fast developing Microsoft AntiSpyware (now Windows Defender) and A1 (now Windows OneCare Live). I don’t think anyone expected that AntiSpyware and OneCare would be as good as they were when they dropped not long ago. Microsoft is building the rare security suite that doesn’t bloat and ruin your computing experience. When these products release in their final versions, I think the Windows user community will be quite pleased.

Finally, Microsoft was recruiting for AdCenter. Conceptually, AdCenter seems interesting, but we’ll have to wait and see if it is good enough to hurt Google.

This has been “Perspectives”, I’m Lionel Osbourne.

January 4th, 2006 Posted by | AntiSpyware, Desktop Search, General, Google, MSN, Perspectives, Search, Security | one comment

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Watch Bill Gates CES Keynote Live

Bill Gates’ CES keynote will be webcast in about 2 1/2 hours, at 6:30 pm Pacific / 9:30 pm Eastern.

You can view it live:

56 Kbps
100 Kbps
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(via Hmm…)

UPDATE: Liveblogging:

9:43: Before bringing out Bill Gates, some guy tells us how great he is. Now, they’re showing a video package of Gates/Microsoft’s accomplishments.

9:45: Gates comes out, in an oversizedwhite, striped button down shirt. He discusses being named Time’s Person of the Year, and makes bad jokes.

9:46: Gates seems nervous. He isn’t a great speaker, but he’s usually more comfortable.

9:49: Gates is showing off some sort of vertical screen/panel. Its a touch screen with various widgets, like television feeds, news websites, the locations of various members of the house, and information widgets, like weather and the time of day. Gates drags items around with his hand.

9:51: Gates then heads over to a desk, where he has a wraparound triple display, and is hooked up with a Tablet PC, which acts as an additional screen. All concepts, not products they’re releasing or anything. How about showing us something we can buy?

9:54: Gates heads over to a table, drops his cell phone on a table, and the table recognizes his phone and brings up a screen, on its surface, allowing him to do certain tasks. He drops a business card on the table, which the table recognizes, and then imports into his phone. Again, all very cool, but I’m not hearing product names.

9:56: Starts getting to a point. He’s discussing how software can make non-computing activities much better. Behind him on the screen is a PC, the Treo and the Xbox 360.

9:58: Discussing buddy lists consistent from Xbox 360 to PC to everywhere else, with your presence announced to your friends. Friends would even know what you’re watching on TV, if you so choose.

10:03: Gates says advancements in Windows power all that he’s been discussing. Aaron Woodman, senior product manager comes out to discuss Vista. Shows off Glass and Live Previews. Live Previews have full motion video. Alt-Tab has Live Previews. Also: Flip 3D, which brings all windows into a 3D environment you can scroll through.

10:04: Shows off Sidebar, with a FOX Sports gadget. Then shows off a laptop with Sideshow. The external screen shows off his calendar, without even having to turn on the laptop.

10:05: Shows off Vista’s search functions, within the Start Menu, and within Explorer windows. Now: IE7. Shows off tabbed browsing with MSN Search. Opens up each useful search results in a new tab, then uses Quicktabs to view all results at once without clicking through each.

10:06: Shows off Vista’s parental controlls. Web restrictions, time limits, game ratings, its all in there. Parents can decide if children can play certain ESRB rated games, and ban others.

10:08: Moves onto gaming: Uses Microsoft Flight Simulator as an example, and unveils FS for Vista. Looks beautiful. Very detailed. Should come out in a little over a year.

10:11: Moves onto photos. Shows off Windows Photo Gallery, which displays at once hundreds of images (wow). Vista has native abilities to do minor photo editing. Within the operating system, you can do simple tasks, like cropping. Vista also always saves the original of a photo, so no matter what edits you make, you can get the original. Shows a slideshow, which now has nice transitions, the so-called Ken Burns transitions, and Windows Slideshow supports videos, so if a video is with the picture, it moves.

10:13: Shows how to navigate music in Windows Media Player in Vista. Beautiful way of going through album art, not text menus, which is much better. Shows that you can scroll through a 10,000 song library with no performance hit. And in Vista, all searching is instant, whether in the OS or in Media Player.

10:20: Van Toeffler from MTV is with Gates backstage to explain the new partnership. Says Bill Gates is the inspiration for the Napolean Dynamite movie. Talks about Urge, which will be programmed by viewers and viewer opinions and ratings. Aaron shows off Urge, which is a music service present within Windows Media Player. Will have hundreds of specially designed playlist and over 100 radio stations, as well as over a 2 million track library. It will be exclusively within Windows Media Player. Will include music blogs within the service, except that you can listen to any blogged songs right there in the blog. There will be channel hubs built around MTV properties like TRL, MTV Unplugged, VH1, CMT, and others. Auto-playlists will generate playlists based on anything you like, like a playlist based on a an artist with songs similar to that, like Justin Timberlake. And on that note, Justin Timberlake comes out.

10:22: Justin seems nervous. He talks about how Urge lets artists reach fans. Says his new album will have a duet with Gates. “Artistry… and technology…” Just kidding.

10:23: Gates talks tablet PCs, including one from Gateway, and says they will be a lot cheaper thanks to “a passive digitizer”. Vista will adjust to your handwriting style.

10:25: Talks Windows Mobile. Pulls out the Treo 700w. Says many operations have been optimized to work with a single click, and with one hand. Will go on sale tomorrow. Will connect with EV-DO.

10:27: Shows off other phones, including a home cordless from Phillips, which can now make VOIP calls through Windows Live Messenger, and shows the Messenger buddy list on the phone’s screen.

10:29: Talks TV. Talks relevant ads, which “you won’t want to skip over”.

10:34: Discusses Windows Media Center. MCE sold 5.5 million copies in 2005. Talks ViiV. Talks built-in 7.1 surround sound. Talks MCE partners. Talks DirecTV, which will have a 2Go service for portable devices, and video-on-demand with Sky.

10:37: Out comes Joe Belfiore, Corporate VP, who announced the Rose Bowl score before getting on to MCE. Shows off MCE Spotlight guides, showing the Comedy Central one, with different content while you watch the channel, kind of like navigating their website while watching, except its all integrated on one screen. You can view old clips and read news. There are 110 of the Spotlights now.

10:39: Shows off a mini-PC from Varitek (think Mac Mini) which has MCE, the remote receiver and the TV tuner built in. Also shows off Toshiba’s GigaBeat, which is a PMC device, showing off a movie from Starz Vongo, the new $9.99 video download subscription service.

10:41: Shows off an LG PMC, which is a blatant ripoff of the Sony PSP’s form factor.

10:47: Shows how Windows Live and Windows Live Messenger integrate with MCE. If you do a TV-related search, the Live page suggests shows. You can chat with a bot that will help you figure out if there’s anything good on TV.

10:48: Shows off HD-DVD, and says that HD-DVD has an interactivity layer that can let you browse scenes without leaving the player, or figure out the names of the other actors on screen and what movies they’ve been in, and all the content can be updated via the internet.

10:50: Says HD-DVD’s interactivity layer allows for video commentaries. You can have a floating head discussing the film, and the on-screen actor of director can point to interesting things with his hand and explain. You can also copy HD movies to your hard drive to protect the disk.

10:52: Shows off cable card for MCE. You just dump in the card, plug in the cable line, and get hi-def cable with MCE.

10:54: Shows off Windows Vista Media Center. Goes to the overlay UI. You see the MCE inteface over the live movie. That’s the whole interface, all the menus, with the full-screen film slightly opaque behind it. You can browse the music library by album art, with a very nice horizontal interface, but there are multiple ways of arranging, so you can choose whichever you like. You can browse music by year, which is convenient. All of Vista MCE will work on an Xbox 360.

10:55: Movie Library shows movies in a DVD player/changer and on the hard drive in a single place.

10:57: Out comes Peter Moore to discuss the Xbox 360. A video shows how many were desperate to get one. Shows celebrities discussing it. Dane Cook rules! Peter starts off with another Rose Bowl update. I’m starting to like that…

10:59: Says they will ship 4.5-5.5 million by June, and says there’s an attach rate of 4 games per console.

11:00: Says the third Xbox 360 factory will open next month, fixing all shortages. On Xbox, 10% were on Live; on 360 its over 50%.

11:03: Talks about the Xbox Live Marketplace and Xbox Live arcade, the latter of which may be a bigger hit than any of the games released so far.

110:04 Later this year, they will release an external HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360. Xbox 360 is pushing HDTV sales.

11:09: Shows off EA’s Fight Night 3. Brings out Al Burnstein, a veteran boxing commentator. He will call the fight between Bill Gates (as Muhammed Ali) and a boisterous Steve Ballmer (as Joe Frazier). Ballmer: “C’mon Bill, 30 years I’ve been training for this opportunity!” Ballmer trash talks. Gates starts off fast, and keeps Ballmer down with fast Ali jabs. Ballmer comes back with powerful jabs, but Ali wears him down fast. Gates starts taunting, on-screen. Frazier starts powering back on Ali, but Ali starts pounding Frazier with massively powerful shots to the face. Gates’ Ali knocks out Ballmer’s Frazier in barely two minutes.

11:10: Peter Moore: “Don’t throw your controller at home”. The Fight Night 3 demo is on Live.

11:12: Gates begins wrapping it up, tying together all the things discussed. Says Microsoft is investing in security and privacy, in order to be more ambitious.

Thoughts: All in all, some really good stuff in there, a great Vista demo, great pushing of Media Center, and good 360 PR. The stuff at the beginning seemed unnecessary, showing concepts. Apple doesn’t do that, and their keynotes are among the undisputed best, so why does Microsoft? Nothing revolutionary or surprising, although the 360′s external HD-DVD drive is a bit strange. And Microsoft really needs to turn the Portable Media Center into a real platform, instead of showing off device after device with the same UI we saw over a year and a half ago.

January 4th, 2006 Posted by | Corporate, General | 2 comments

XP Home Support Expires In 361 Days

Apparently, no one expected it to take so long for Longhorn to develop, so Microsoft set the end of support for Windows XP Home as December 31, 2006. The countdown is moving fast, after which the most popular operating system, with plenty of security flaws, stops getting new patches.


When that day comes, XP Home users may feel left out in the cold, because they will no longer qualify for security updates, and will not be able to purchase support from Microsoft. Finding this situation somewhat alarming, I contacted Microsoft’s representation to clarify the matter. A Microsoft spokesman relayed the following to me:

“For consumer products, security updates will be available through the end of the mainstream phase. For Windows XP Home Edition, there will be no security updates after 12/31/06.” Regarding paid support for problems unrelated to security patches, I was told that “Users who want to continue to receive support after the Microsoft assisted and paid support offerings have ended may visit the Retired Product Support Options Web site.”

Microsoft needs to add at least a year. Giving users barely a month to move from XP to Vista (or from XP Home to XP Professional, which has two more years of support and five years of extended support) is absurd, and unfair to supposedly valued customers. If XP boxes become wildly unsecure, it’ll only serve to bite Microsoft in the ass.
(via Mary Jo Foley)

January 4th, 2006 Posted by | General, Longhorn, Security, Vista, Windows, XP | 3 comments

The Media Center Tax

Thomas Hawk asks, “Why Use Starz Vongo Service for Remote Viewing When I Can do the Same Thing with My Media Center PC Now for Free?“.

Basically, he’s asking why you would pay $9.99 for the new Vongo service from Starz (or $1.99 per show from Apple), when Media Center lets you transfer unlimited shows, for the life of your PC, in any way you want to, forever. He also worries that ome day, Media Center won’t do that, and you’ll have to pay $9.99, on top of your cable bill, since the fact that Starz has a download service means Starz will stop working with Media Center.

First off, it’ll never happen, since if Microsoft did that, we’d all stick with Windows XP Media Center Edition, and never upgrade to Vista on our Media Centers, or alternatively, we’d use an alternative program that didn’t have such awful restrictions.

However, I’d like to look at it the other way. In my mind, every time you purchase a show from iTunes, every time you purchase a subscription to a movie channel you already get on your cable, you are paying the “Lack of Media Center Tax”. You are paying, in a way that is painfully obvious, for not having bought a Windows Media Center PC.

Sure, if you buy one or two episodes of Lost from iTunes, that’s no big deal, but if you are one of those people that use the service religiously, you are just plain losing out. Lets see:

  • Imaginary PC: $600
  • iPod with video: $300
  • One 22-episode season of TV: $44


  • The same PC bought with Media Center (free) and a TV tuner and remote control and IR receiver (add $100 @ Dell): $700
  • Creative Zen Portable Media Center: $258 (and can be had for $180-190, depending on rebates)
  • One TV episode, recorded off TV and synced to your device: $0

So, the prices for a PC with a fully-equiped Media Center and a PMC device are roughly the same as that of a non-MCE PC (hard to find anymore) and an iPod, and everytime you purchase content instead of getting it for free, you blow out your margins and lose more and more money. In a sense, the more enjoyment you get out of your iPod or other device, the less savvy of a shopper you were in the end, if you are paying for free content.

In my mind, that’s the Media Center tax. I refuse to pay it, but it seems like there are a lot of people that brag about paying it, that excitedly show off their low-quality episode of Lost when they could have an HDTV quality version and a portable version, at a much lower cost. I don’t get it, and I probably never will.

Now, I’m off to watch Monday’s “Medium”. For free. On my Portable Media Center. I bought two of them in November, for a total cost of $360. $360 for two devices, one for someone else. With my free TV shows. Enjoy your iPod. Enjoy your Vongo. I’m too busy not feeling jealous, and wondering how to spend the money still in my pocket.

January 4th, 2006 Posted by | Apple, General, Media Center, Windows, Windows Media, XP | one comment

Exploit Lets Many Into Windows Live Mail Beta

Steve Rubel reports that some enterprising fellers found a way for just about anyone to get into the Windows Live Mail beta. Digg has all the info. You need a specific set of common circumstances (Internet Explorer, a Hotmail Passport account that has been open long enough and has 250 MB of total space, you language and location preferences set to English and the United States), but if you have it, it might still work.

I couldn’t, and I suspect its either (a) my premium Hotmail account or, more likely (b) I’m running IE7. Its a shame, since I’ve been telling all comers how great I think the Hotmail beta is. Maybe someone at Microsoft wants me to actually have some hands-on experience?

January 4th, 2006 Posted by | General, Hotmail, Live, Windows | 8 comments