InsideMicrosoft

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Linux 3D Desktop

Chris Avis points out some videos of a Linux 3D interface, one with far more graphical flourish than you’d see in Windows or Mac OS. I’ve grabbed some Google Videos for you to see it in action:

Here you get a good idea of the cube-based interface.

Here you can see some of the windows management and tranparency (which is overdone to the point of being useless.

This video has narration to explain some of the capabilities.

Here you can see that the windows are “rubbery”, so that they kind of bend and twist a little when you drag them around.

That last video is much longer, at it gets into everything.

So, what is this?

Compiz is built on a new X server, named Xgl, which in turn employs the OpenGL graphics layer Glitz. Compiz was released by Novell in January 2006 in the wake of a new Xgl version.

Confused? Now you understand why so few people use Linux for personal computing. Even the best stuff they have isn’t simple enough for the average person to try out, let alone consider using on a daily basis. Everytime I try using Linux, I run into a steep learning curve that makes me quit. There just isn’t enough of a benefit for all that grief.

Plain and simple: I have a Dell laptop running Pentium M and an ATI Mobility Radeon. Standard, popular parts. If there is a CD/DVD I can burn and run to install this, I’d try it. If I have to hit a command line or compile anything, I’m out.

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Linux | one comment

Windows Vista Sound Recorder

Vista Sound Recorder.png

Sound Recorder is probably the oldest, most unfeatured program that ships with Windows and gets some actual use. Thank your lucky stars Microsoft decided to actually improve the damn thing in Vista. According to Jak Ludington, who has screenshots, the new sound recorder, besides not looking like a dialog box, features unlimited recording time, WMA recording, and tags/metadata editing.

However, it looks like Sound Recorder has lost more features than it has gained. The old Sound Recorder had options for increasing and decreasing the volume of recordings, adding echo, reversing, and, of course, editing the file. The new one appears unable to open files for editing at all. In other words, even if it looks better, it won’t be replacing Audacity anytime soon.

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Vista | 4 comments

This Town Ain’t Big Enough For eBay

Reuters says Wall Street is being overrun with rumors of a possible merger between major internet companies. They say that, with growth slowing and slumping stocks at almost every major player

EBay stock is down 30 percent on the year. Yahoo is off 20 percent and Google down 10 percent.

while at the same time competition is intensifying, could all add up to at least two companies merging in order to stay ahead. The obvious merger target is eBay. eBay is a major rock of the internet economy, but has been desperate (and failing) to expand into other areas. eBay’s foolish purchase of Skype underscores how badly this company wants to win, but has very little chance.

All Skype really does is make eBay more attractive to potential partners. If Microsoft or Yahoo took eBay, they’d instantly be cemented as #1 in net traffic, as well as gaining the most popular VoIP network for their IM software. Meanwhile, Google makes such a large amount of money from eBay advertising on their search engine, that they would be forced to at least consider bidding, or lose all that ad revenue.

If Yahoo or Microsoft merge with eBay, unless they pay too steep a price, what will emerge is a serious player. Microsoft, more than Yahoo, could use the boost, especially with its search engine taking too long to gain traction. A Windows Live search box on eBay would be quite the boost to market share, and shipping Skype inside Windows Live Messenger could make Microsoft number one in IM.

Microsoft already took A9’s web search away from Google, so, while Amazon is another good target for a merger (due to similar troubles in growth), Microsoft doesn’t need them. A similar deal with eBay, for sharing of search and IM technologies, is possible, but less likely, since the move isn’t big enough for eBay’s needs.

And stuck in the middle is Google, which doesn’t seem to understand how much it needs some other means of revenue. Google is trying to build online payment and selling systems, but others have tried and failed at that, and nothing Google has done indicates they will be any more successful. Google isn’t the type of company to take shortcuts, but, then again, they are maturing. Anything is possible.

(cross-posted from InsideGoogle due to taking a Microsoft turn I wasn’t expecting when I started writing :-D )

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General | no comments

OneNote and Outlook 2007 Are In Love

Chris Pratley, founder of the OneNote team, writes about all the different and wonderful ways the 2007 versions of OneNote and Outlook work together. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, including sending emails, meetings and contacts to OneNote, and taking notes on those items.

Those notes and Outlook items are always linked to each other, even if you move them around or rename them. You can schedule a meeting in Outlook, then, when in that meeting, click a button to start taking notes in OneNote, and then later, browse through your calendar and click to see the OneNote notes for those events.

You can also share Tasks between OneNote and Outlook, with two-way sync between them. You can email notes from OneNote (you can even email them with any MAPI mail program, not just Outlook). Notes can be sent as PDF files. There’s plenty of cool stuff in there, so be sure to read it if you love OneNote as much as I do.

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Applications, Office, Outlook, OneNote | one comment

Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Vista

Desperate for Windows Vista? Can’t wait a few weeks for the public beta? Then maybe you should read the Windows Vista Product Guide, Microsoft’s 300-page sorta-manual for the new operating system. I wouldn’t be surprised if you learn more in the mammoth guide than you would actually using the damn thing. I’ve glanced through the 60 meg Word document, and learned:

  • There are no parental controls in the business versions of Vista
  • You can’t schedule backups in Home Basic
  • Home Basic doesn’t even get the new games
  • Home Basic doesn’t get SideShow (bad idea)
  • Home Basic users can only view Meeting Spaces
  • Home Basic and Premium can only be clients for Romote Desktop, not hosts
  • There are four types of interfaces: Classic, which looks like Windows 2000 while retaining some Vista features, like instant search; Basic, which gives you the entire Vista feature set, minus graphical niceties like Aero, but including the new Start Menu, better icons, and Preview and Reading Panes; Standard, which has the same hardware requirements and smooth screen rendering as Aero but without the fancy graphical touches; and Aero, which brings transparency and 3D windows management
  • To get Aero, Windows will need to detect 1,800 MB/s graphics memory bandwidth at 1280×1024 (or on laptops, at the native screen resolution). On integrated graphics systems, where graphics share RAM with system memory, you must have at least one gigabyte of system RAM to get Aero
  • IT staff can use Classic Mode to turn on and off each feature of the user interface
  • Vista lets you search other Vista computers on your network through distributed search, if you are authorized to see those files. The other computer runs the search, then sends your system the search results.
  • Any filetype can add an iFilter for more deeper search
  • If two different character language sets are included in a URL, Microsoft will assume the website is trying to fool you, and display the raw “Punycode” URL
  • In addition to preloading frequent applications into memory, SuperFetch ensures that, when you return to your desk, your main applications are pushed back into priority memory, and background tasks are pushed to the background, where they belong
  • Vista can be directed to reduce system performance to save battery life
  • Presentation Mode turns off system notifications, keeps the screen always on and the screensaver off, and can even be set to have a different background image and speaker volume, all at the press of a button. It can also be set to turn on and off when a projector is plugged in.
  • On Tablets, Vista presents check boxes, making multiple file selection a hell of a lot easier
  • Vista includes a system-wide volume equalizer
  • Office 2007 programs have a “freeze dry” mode, that lets your system reboot after updates are installed, and the programs are restored after the boot, with you at exactly the same place you left off and the windows positioned exactly the same

I can think of a lot of people for whom printing out the Product Guide, binding it, and putting it on their desk, would be very helpful. Definitely a must-read, if you have the time.
(via Keith Combs)

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Vista | no comments

Windows Live Local Gets New Features

Windows Live Local May update

While Google Maps looks almost exactly the same as it did when it launched, Microsoft is finding new ways to cram features into Windows Live Local.

Driving directions

The new release of Live Local includes traffic reports. One click gets you all the traffic alerts in your current view (U.S. only, for now). Another click shows scheduled slowdowns, like construction and the end of baseball games.

An even cooler new feature are Collections. Previously, you could place pushpins all over the map and copy a permalink for it that was something like 2-300 characters long. Now, once you have some chosen locations, you can save it as a collection. Then, you can come back to it, add items to it, reorder it, and share it with anyone via a much shorter URL.

Here are four New York-area sports arenas:

local.live.com/?v=2&cid=D2869D15192D3A2E!117

That took me all of a minute to put together. You can’t do that with Google Maps. You find other people’s collection and save them as favorites, and every time you visit Live Local (while signed into Windows Live ID), they will be sitting there waiting for you.

There are a few other user interface tweaks. Search results slide out from the left side, which, besides looking cooler, makes them feel like they are taking up less space.



There is also an Outlook add-in coming. It lets you map your appointment and meeting directions, print detailed maps, estimate travel times, share those location details (even with people who don’t have the add-in) and find points of interest (like restaurants and hotels) near your meeting. Not sure if it works with Outlook 2007, since the download isn’t available yet.

There have also been some added API options for mashups, which you can find more detail on at the Virtual Earth blog. From the release:

Virtual Earth map control was also released today, enabling developers to bring the same great mapping, imagery and local search capabilities into their business applications and “mashups” (Web applications that seamlessly combine content from more than one source). Virtual Earth map control is available to all developers free of charge for limited use and can be licensed for commercial service and support along with the rest of the Virtual Earth platform components. Windows Live Local is built on the Virtual Earth platform, and includes Virtual Earth map control. Key new features include support for address lookups and driving directions, improved local search functionality, and the ability to easily display standard data sets and Windows Live Local user Collections.

The MSN Virtual Earth platform also promises easy, flexible programming and builds on Microsoft’s long-term commitment to the Web development community. The Virtual Earth API allows developers to embed Virtual Earth’s rich mapping capabilities into their own Web pages. Customers in vertical markets, such as commercial and residential real estate and travel and hospitality, have benefited extensively after implementing the Virtual Earth platform as a means to boost online presence and functionality. Developer information can be found at the MapPoint® Developer Center on MSDN® (http://msdn.microsoft.com/mappoint) and the group blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/virtualearth).

And, as if that wasn’t enough, they’ve expanded into England and Canada! This is spectacular. These updates, besides makign for a much deeper and better-to-use product, send a message that Microsoft is determined to make Live Local the best mapping product. So far, they’re pulling it off.

Read the press release.

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General | one comment

Microsoft Acquired 22 Companies In The Last Year

Richard MacManus writes about the Microsoft VC Summit, which was held a few weeks ago, and he reprints Don Dodge’s list of the 22 companies Microsoft acquired in the last 12 months. Yes, twenty-freakin-two:

  • Vexcel - imagery and remote sensing for Virtual Earth
  • GeoTango - 3D mapping visualization
  • DeepMetrix - web site stats
  • Massive - videogame advertising
  • Onfolio - web research
  • Teleo - VoIP
  • Media-Streams - VoIP
  • MotionBridge - mobile search
  • TSSX - China mobile services
  • SeaDragon - displaying large images on computers and mobile devices
  • FolderShare - file synchronization
  • MessageCast - automatic alerts
  • Unveil Technologies - call center speech recognition
  • Alacris - identity and access management
  • FutureSoft - web filtering
  • AssetMetrix - asset and license management solution
  • ProClarity - advanced analysis and visualization
  • Lionhead Studios - games development
  • FrontBridge - email security
  • UMT - project and portfolio management
  • String Bean Software - software-based iSCSI storage area networking
  • Apptimum - application transfer

Don has links to press releases for most of the aquisitions. In many cases, Microsoft didn’t aquire the whole company, but bought key technologies. I guess, with the problems the company has been having getting the right people, they’re throwing money around to cut corners, a billion dollars in all. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a company do it on this scale, however.

It’s funny how different things looked in December.

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Corporate | no comments

New Vista Graphics Drivers Released

Neowin reports that some graphics drivers have been released to work with the beta 2 of Windows Vista. Nvidia released beta drivers for its nForce chipset, shipping drivers for audio, SMBus, SataRAID, SMU, and RAIDTOOL Application, working with the nForce4 SLI, nForce4 Ultra, nForce4 Pro 2200, nForce 590 SLI, nForce 570 SLI, nForce 570 Ultra, and nForce 550, as well as ForceWare drivers for the GeForce 7900 GS, GeForce 7600 GS, GeForce 7300 GT, Quadro FX 4500 X2, Quadro FX 5500, Quadro FX 3500, Quadro FX 1500, and Quadro FX 560, all on 32-bit systems.

Meanwhile, ATI has shipped 32- and 64-bit drivers for the following product series:

  • Radeon® 9500, 9550, 9600, 9650, 9700, 9800, X300, X600, X700, X800, X850
  • Radeon® X1300, X1600, X1800, X1900 series
  • Mobility™ Radeon® 9550, 9600, 9700, 9800, X300, X600, X700, X800
  • Mobility™ Radeon® X1300, X1400, X1600, X1800
  • CrossFire™ Xpress 3200
  • Radeon® Xpress 200, 200M
  • FireGL™ V7350, V7300, V7100, V5100, V5000, V3200, V3100
  • Mobility™ FireGL® V5200, V5000, V3200, V3100
  • FireMV™ 2200 PCIE, FireMV™ 2400 PCIE

May 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Vista | no comments