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Warning: Office Live Free Trial Will Start Charging Your Credit Card

Got an email from Microsoft letting me know about the Office Live upgrades coming this month. When the upgrade happens, they warned me, my free beta account would migrate into a paid Office Live Premium account, and my credit card would be immediately charged $39.95. Oh boy…

If you are an Office Live Essentials subscriber, you will automatically be moved to the new Office Live Premium service. This will allow you to retain the online Business Applications that were included in the Office Live Essentials Beta. Once you have been successfully moved to the new Office Live you will be need to agree to the new service agreement upon signing in to regain access to your account. Your credit card will be charged $39.95 for the first month’s subscription. You have 30 days to decide whether you want to continue with Office Live Premium. If you switch to another Microsoft Office Live offering or cancel within that 30 days, we will credit the full $39.95 back to your credit card.

Big mistake. Microsoft is not considering the thousands of technology enthusiasts who signed up for Office Live just so they could say they checked it out, or the few who were looking for free domain names. Those people may ignore the emails from Microsoft, or the emails may even be going to a junk email address, and they will never know about the charge until they see it on their credit card (at which point it would be too late to get a refund).

Office Live Premium has not yet launched, and no one has been charged yet, although word is we can expect the changeover next week. Microsoft still has time to fix this. They need to make it so that the system doesn’t charge anyone who doesn’t sign in to their account, and deleted inactive accounts in a few months. Users who do sign in should be given 30 days to migrate, warned every time they log in, and charged only when the month is up.

Anything less than that, and you are going to have a lot of angry users, and a lot of chargebacks. Please Microsoft, change this before you regret it.

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Office Live, Live, Windows, General | no comments

Xbox 360 HD-DVD Drive A Huge Software Undertaking

Interesting post from the Xbox Team explaining the huge undertaking it took to write the code for the Xbox 360’s HD-DVD drive. They did most of the work in software decoding, not hardware, letting the 360’s powerful processor do the heavy lifting, and wound up with 4.7 million lines of code and the most resource heavy 360 application ever (”save, perhaps, Gears of War during some particularly busy parts of the game”).

Here are the components involved:

  • Video Codecs: H.264, MPEG-2, VC1
  • Audio Codecs: Dolby Digital+, DTS, TrueHD, LPCM, MPEG
  • HDi: The HD DVD runtime engine.
  • GDI: Drawing stuff like menus
  • AACS: Cryptography/DRM stuff
  • MF: Audio/Video pipeline

Hmm… So when are they going to build the other codecs users want in the 360, like DivX?

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox 360, Xbox, General | no comments

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Zune Feature Revealed: Guesting

A previously unmentioned Zune feature turned up in Gizmodo’s hands-on review of the device: guesting. Guesting allows you to upload songs from your Zune Marketplace onto a friend’s Zune, by setting them up as a guest on your account. Better yet, these songs don’t expire:

Another not-published or seldom-talked-about feature is guesting. A friend can take his Zune over to your computer, set up a “guest” relationship with your Zune Marketplace software (as opposed to a regular owner relationship), and you’re free to drag songs and pictures from your library onto her device. These songs do not have the 3 play 3 day limit on them. Depending on whether you purchased or you’re leasing these songs, you can do this with either 5 or 2 Zunes, respectively. So in essence, if your wife wants to grab a few songs off your library for listening to, she can—there’s no “wife” relationship yet, but engineers are probably working on that. As soon as they get wives.

Looks like the idea is to let you share music with those closest to you, and since there would probably be a convoluted hack to do this anyway, Microsoft decided to make the process easier. The article doesn’t go into specifics, but I’ll bet that you can activate and deactivate guests, sharing any music you purchased with your closest buddies. Microsoft wouldn’t enable this for wifi, which would make it super-easy to “soft-pirate” music, but requiring a relationship close enough to get to your home computer is safe.

Needless to say, this is a feature iTunes does not offer.

Other tidbits from the article:

  • Zune has a cool two-toned look that really works
  • Like I speculated earlier, the Zune is all about adding new features in the future. All those things you expected the wifi to be able to do? It will, just not yet.
  • The screen is glare-free
  • It is a simple matter to flag songs for later review at home


Engadget has a look at the Zune retail kiosks. These treat the Zune like a piece of military hardware, not a sexy gadget. Seriously, Microsoft need to get its own Apple stores.

2old2play also reviewed the Zune, and they found that it took a mere 20 seconds to send a song over wifi.

Engadget also reviewed it, and they found a circular indentation opposite the circular d-pad, to better balance your fingers. Great attention to detail.

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Zune, Windows Media, General | no comments

Microsoft Calculator Billboard

I’m sure this billboard was just trying to figure out the odds of winning the slot machines (hint: they’re never good). Still, I’m dissapointed that the billboard didn’t know the smart thing is to install Calculator Plus.
(via Digg)

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General | one comment

What Will The Vista Launch Event Be Like?

TechEBlog posts two videos about the launch event and hysteria surrounding Windows 95’s hitting the marketplace, which makes me wonder what excitement we’ll be treated to when Vista reaches store shelves. We’ve all heard that on-or-about January 30, Vista will be released, along with a major event in New York City, which means the most important question of all is: How do I get in?

But seriously, no news is making me anxious. I hope Microsoft gives this operating system a party the likes of which no DVD of computer code has ever seen!

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Windows, General | one comment

Early Revelation About Vista Ultimate Extras

One of the major unanswered questions about Windows Vista is what exactly Vista’s Ultimate Extras will be. Ultimate Extras is supposed to be this worth addition to Windows Vista Ultimate that gives buyers of the big edition some bonuses that justify the more expensive product, but Microsoft has given no indication what should be expected, and why we should be excited about Ultimate Extras.

That hasn’t stopped there from being a ton of speculation, but is looks like we have the first semi-concrete information on Ultimate Extras, via some tidbits Paul Thurrott let drop in his “Long Road to Windows Vista” series. The short: Ultimate Extras replaces Microsoft Plus! There will be no Plus! pack for Windows Vista, Ultimate Extras is it, and Extras will, at a minimum, contain what users typically expect from Plus!, like added games, utilities, screensavers, Media Player add-ons (like skins and visualizations), digital media programs, and the like.

Additionally, Ultimate Extras will bring a really cool feature to Windows: animated desktops. The feature, called Aurora, is similar to the screensaver hack I explained earlier, only configurable as a part of the operating system. Aurora will come in a number of colors.

Here’s what Paul said, the first paragraph coming from this page, the second from this:

Before that happens, you can expect to hear more about the Windows Ultimate Extras that Microsoft will supply to Windows Vista Ultimate customers: Those will ship sometime in January. And no, there won’t be a Windows Vista Plus! pack: Ultimate Extras is it, and only available to those who pony up for that most expensive Vista version.

In February 2005, news began seeping out that Microsoft was considering adding an animated desktop feature, codenamed Aurora, to Longhorn. Aurora would be available in a number of colors, and many later confused it with aborted work on a true vector-based Aero UI that never materialized. Aurora will appear via the Ultimate Extras service in Windows Vita Ultimate in late January 2007.

Considering Paul’s top sources, and the definitive way he words the statements, we can put a lot of faith behind those pronouncements. Aero XP’s sources confirm the same, calling the feature “Motion Desktop”. Considering the surprising performance of running screensavers on the desktop, I suspect Motion Desktop, or whatever it is called in the end, to be a killer feature giving Vista Ultimate users something to brag about.

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Windows, General | no comments

Run Palm OS Apps On Windows Mobile

StyleTap has released a platform for Windows Mobile Pocket PCs that allow those devices to run native Palm OS applications. The program, which costs $49.95 after a 14-day trial, will allow the Windows Mobile OS to run thousands of Palm applications (those designed for OS 5.2 and earlier), with the programs running natively in Windows Mobile, not an emulator, which means they allow copying and pasting, among other normal actions.

StyleTap runs on Windows Mobile 5.0, Windows Mobile 2003, Pocket PC 2003 and 2002, with Symbian and Windows Mobile Smartphone editions in the works. Should be real interesting, running Palm applications on a Windows Mobile Treo. I am tempted to buy this to get more apps for my T-Mobile MDA.
(via Engadget)

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Windows Mobile, General | no comments

Finally, No One Can Deny Who The Best Browser Is!

Long Zheng has done the impossible, using an advanced computational process none of us can understand to discover which web browser is truly the greatestest in the whole wide world. Finally, no more arguements, no more fighting, just one truly settled answer. I guarantee, by the time you read the end of his article, you will have no way of denying that he has truly solved the mostest difficultest question of our day. We can all now retire.

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Firefox, Internet Explorer, Humor, Applications, General | one comment

Gears of War Ad Spoofs

The first commercial for this season’s hottest game, Gears of War, was incredibly striking, with great use of a great song (”Mad World” by Gary Jules) and no game sounds, creating a really haunting feel that just worked, and is one of the best commercials in a while.

Here it is:

Interestingly, the very nature of the commercial has led to a whole bunch of parodies featuring, shall we say, less appropriate music.

To note:

Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”:

Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”:

Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullets With Butterfly Wings”:

An AC/DC song I don’t recognize AC/DC’s “Those About to Rock We Salute You” (thanks, Kevin in the comments!):

Metallica’s “One”, with added footage

“Hamster Dance”:

Collective Soul’s “Heavy”:

Tomoyasu Hotei’s “Battle Without Honor Or Humanity”:

Disturbed’s “Land of Confusion”:

Enrique Eglesias’ “Escape”:

B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”:

Coldplay’s “Clocks”:

White Zombie’s “More Human Than Human”:

Creed’s “One Last Breath”:

U2’s “Beautiful Day”:

Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”:

The Fray’s “Save a Life”:

Men At Work’s “Who Can It Be Now”:

Lazlo Bane’s “Superman”:

Meg & Dia’s “Monster”:

James Blunt’s “Cry:

Nickelback’s “Last One Standing”:

Blur’s “Song 2″:

Breaking Benjamin’s “Blow Me Away”:

“Theme From Full House”:

Yes, seriously.

Hoku’s “Perfect Day”:

Daniel Bedingfield’s “Gotta Get Thru This”:

Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”:

Cartman (yes, THE Cartman) singing “Come Sail Away”:

Aya’s “Over Night”:

The Cranberries’ “Zombie”:

Metallica’s “Hero of the Day”:

Patrick Hernandez’s “Born To Be Alive”:

Weird Al Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero”:

Simon & Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”:

Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”:

The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”:

The Doors’ “The End”:

Wow, I can’t believe I watched every single one. If you have the time, check them all out. Some are great, some are hilarious, all picked by me because they are worth it (trust me, I rejected over a hundred more). Post links to other good ones in the comments, if you find any.

UPDATE: Here’s another, based on the Ghostbusters theme, from mk in the comments:

November 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Gears of War, Xbox 360, Xbox, Humor, General | 12 comments