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Windows Live Spaces Runs Photo Contest

Windows Live Spaces is running the Get Real! Photo Contest, inviting Live Spaces users to post their best photos and win prizes. All entries will be judged based on community votes, with only amateur photopgraphers allowed to compete (a professional is anyone who makes more than 50% of their income from taking photos) in the contest, which runs through the end of June.

To enter, you need a Windows Live Space (which is free, of course). Upload photos to your Space, then go to the contest website and submit them for review. Up to 15 photos may be submitted per day by each person, and you cannot submit the same image twice. Users vote on their favorite photos, one vote per day, with daily, weekly and grand prizes given out to the top vote getters in each period (you can only win each type of prize once, but you can theoretically win one each of all three).

The daily prize is a Digital Framez digital photo frame, estimated value $109. 48 will be given out.

The weekly prize is a Canon Powershot SD800 IS 7.1 megapixel digital camera, estimated value $359. 7 will be given out.

The grand prize is a Toshiba 42-inch HD LCD TV and a Canon Powershot G7 digital camera, estimated value $1,700.

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Spaces, Windows, General | one comment

Video Of The HTC Touch In Action

HTC Touch

PhoneScoop has one of the first videos showing how the HTC Touch’s new TouchFLO interface works. Check it out:

Looks good, not revolutionary, but a significant step in the right direction. If HTC plans on supporting the software (and nothing makes me thing they will) it could grow into something really amazing with future updates. The iPhone means devices need to get more visually dynamic and media-centric, and HTC has here the best effort I’ve seen so far.
(via Engadget Mobile)

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Windows Mobile, Apple, General | no comments

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Microsoft Adds In-Copyright Book Search

Windows Live Search can now boast in-copyright books, thanks to an agreement between Microsoft and dozens of publishers (including Cambridge University Press, McGraw-Hill Cos Inc. and Simon & Schuster) to use their books. Book search uses a similar interface to that of Academic search, with two panes (results on the left, book preview on the right).

Users can search through a book and see scans of the pages containing that search. Book scans can also be made to fill the browser window, and a density map runs next to the scroll bar showing which areas of the book discuss the search term the most. Also, because you are limited to only reading a certain number of pages (like on any book search engine), they show you a counter of how many you have left, so you don’t get pissed when you run out of new pages.

Today’s release includes books from a wide range of publishers. We have paid particular attention to ensuring that we are only including books in our index that our publishing partners have given us permission to include, so our customers and partners can feel secure in our stance on copyright protection. Here are just a few of our launch partners: Academic Resources Corporation, Amherst Media, Bearport Publishing, Cambridge University Press, Edward Elgar Publishing, Harrison House Publishers, Harvard University Press, Hazelden Publishing & Educational Services, Institute for International Economics, John Wiley & Sons Publishing, Lerner Publishing Group, MBI Publishing Company, McGraw-Hill Companies, Microsoft Corporation, MIT Press, OECD, Osprey Publishing, Oxford University Press, Pearson Education, PREP Publishing, Rodale, Rutgers University Press, Simon & Schuster, Springer, SUNY Press, Taylor & Francis Group, The Perseus Books Group, The World Bank, University of Massachusetts Press, Wheatmark, Wilderness Press, World Health Organization, World Scientific Publishing Company, World Wisdom, Yale University Press. There are many more not named here—and many more whose books will be incorporated as we update the index going forward.

Google does a similar book search product, but theirs is opt-out, meaning they’ll scan your book unless you specifically ask them not to. This has gotten Google yelled at by publishers, many of whom have threatened to sue or already have sued Google. Meanwhile, Microsoft is asking permission first, and has a great interface to boot. Good for them. Nice to see Microsoft playing better with others, especially when the competition doesn’t even bother.

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Windows, Search, General | no comments

Yahoo Realizing Email Innovation Is Hard

Yahoo has learned a lesson Microsoft picked up during the Windows Live Mail/Hotmail beta, that the less experienced users who make up the brunt of their free email services are hard to innovate for. Yahoo announced late last week it was rolling into the new Yahoo Mail some features it had dropped from the old Mail. The most obvious one: the return of checkboxes.

Yahoo had dropped the checkbox normally placed next ot every email message, just like Microsoft did, replacing it with the more desktop-like metaphor of holding down CTRL and clicking to select multiple messages, and CTRL+A to select all. Based on user feedback, they found out that users were confused and unfamiliar with the new system, and just plain didn’t like it.

When you’ve got a userbase that isn’t as technically inclined as many users of longstanding free email services are, you wind up with a resistance to change. Microsoft made a number of changes to Windows Live Hotmail to accomodate these users (too many, you ask me), in order to assure the new mail client would be well-received.

There’s another to consider: Just because Windows has a feature, doesn’t mean people use it. Almost every casual user I’ve ever met has no idea that holding down CTRL lets you select multiple files. And myself? Even though I’d been using CTRL-click forever, when Windows Vista turned out to have a feature adding in checkboxes for files, I turned it on and never looked back.

CTRL-click is annoying! Holding down one stupid key with my left pinky while clicking, knowing that letting go of that key will screw me up, it just isn’t worth it. Checkboxes are the way to go, and the more applications that use them, the better.

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Hotmail, Yahoo, Windows | no comments

Zune Firmware Updated To 1.4

Microsoft issued another firmware update for its Zune portable player, moving the device software to version 1.4. The new firmware adds an improved shuffle experience, performing multiple shuffling operations in order to further randomize your playlist. Obviously, owners of Zunes (and potential owners) are still left hanging, hoping that at some point Microsoft makes good on its promise to make the Zune much better over time with firmware that unlocks really cool new features.

Is that ever happening?

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General | no comments

Ballmer In The White House?

Sure, we’ve talked about Bill Gates running for President before, but a more realistic possibility has come to light, that of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer serving on the President of the United States’ cabinet. John McCain, one of the Republican front-runners for President in 2008, said at the All Things Digital conference last week that he’d consider Ballmer (as well as Cisco CEO John Chambers and Fed Ex CEO Fred Smith) for cabinet positions.

The Register (new slogan: Now Only 62% Bullshit!) claims McCain would want Ballmer as ambassador to China. As usual, The Register offers little context and a headline that contradicts its own story, while The Daily Background explains that McCain, when pressed, joked that Ballmer would be good as a diplomat, maybe in China.

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Corporate, Humor | no comments

Dell Really Just Doesn’t Like Vista

Dell created this video showing consumers the difference between Windows XP and Vista, and you just get the feeling they don’t like Vista much. Considering they decided to start offering Windows XP again to their customers recently, for the same price as Vista, they really aren’t showing a lot of enthusiasm for Microsoft’s latest OS. Long Zheng says, “I can see why Vista isn’t selling well with crap like this.”

Dell just isn’t able to create buzz for its products. HP seems to be about 10% short of a coolness resurgence, Apple is doing real well, and all I want is an Asus laptop for my next system. But Dell? The only thing I want from them is the XPS M2010, and it’s the type of system you need an hour of testing to decide if worth it (and unless it makes it to Wal-Mart, no one ever will). Your marketing needs to be enthusiastic, otherwise why would your customers be enthused? Dell could learn several things from Microsoft, if it showed any excitement for Microsoft’s products.

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Marketing, Vista, Windows, General | no comments

Xbox 360 Wheel Gets Price Drop

Joystiq reported that the Xbox 360 racing wheel got a twenty dollar price drop, down now to $130. Microsoft wants people picking up the wireless wheel to play Forza Motorsport 2, which came out last week, and a slightly cheaper wheel should help along the decision for a person or two.

Some other 360 wheels, though none of them are wireless:

June 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox 360, Xbox, General | no comments