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Microsoft Expected To Loosen Restrictions, Announces “Nope”

Microsoft was planning this week to loosen restrictions on Windows Vista virtualization, allowing licenses of Home Basic and Home Premium to be used on virtual machines, but it pulled back at the last minute and announced it was changing nothing. Microsoft had been so close to an announcement that it had already briefed reporters, analysts, and executives at virtualization software maker Parallels, surprising a ton of people when it just changed its mind.

So, why do you have to buy the more expensive Business or Ultimate versions of Vista for virtualization? Basically, Microsoft’s strategy wants Vista only used virtually in business environments, so consumers who want Vista virtually would be mostly priced out. Microsoft claims its a security decision, but it seems mostly aimed at Macs, the only environment where virtualization in the consumer space is a realistic factor. Microsoft wants Mac users in boot camp or paying extra, not using Parallels to run Mac OS and Windows side-by-side.

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Apple, Windows | no comments

FTC Probing Microsoft and Yahoo Acquisitions

The Federal Trade Commission is running a probe of Microsoft’s six billion dollar purchase of online ad company aQuantive, saying it is part of the normal regulatory process. They are also investigating Yahoo’s $680 million deal for Right Media, and have already been investigating Google’s DoubleClick deal, all of which makes sense. After all, with numbers that high, you expect them to at least take a look and make sure the market is being protected.

Late last month, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) sent a joint letter to the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice requesting that these types of deals be investigated.

It’s strange how all of a sudden mega-billion dollar deals are happening; there’s a reason for it, all starting with the DoubleClick negotiations, but it’s worrying the rest of the ad industry. In some industries, there’s massive consolidation over a number of years, changing an open industry into a clash of the titans, with little room for smaller players. Witness what happened with almost every content industry.

The ad agencies, of which there are tons, are worried that Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, and anyone else who wants a big chunk of the online ad market, will eventually buy a big regular ad agency, starting a tidal wave of acquisitions, mergers and consolidation that changes the entire industry and compresses it in a way nobody wants.

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Advertising, Yahoo, Google, Law | no comments

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A Ton Of Options For Tweaking Vista

There are a few things you can do to make Windows Vista do your bidding.

First off is Vispa, an executable (just run it, no need to install anything) that does a lot of popular registry tweaks for you, just check which one you want. Among the things it can do:

  • Disable Compressed Folders
  • Disable Windows Script Host
  • Disable Remote Assistance
  • Disable prefetch
  • Delete Pagefile at shutdown
  • Disable showing last user
  • Disable User Account Control
  • Disable Error Reporting
  • Disable Automatic Windows Updates
  • Disable Windows Defender
  • Disable Time Synchronization
  • Disable Scheduled Tasks Service
  • Disable RPC Locator
  • Disable Firewall
  • Disable Automatic Internet Explorer Updates
  • Increase Maximum Connections for IE
  • Open Pop-ups in new tabs
  • Delete Temporary files on Exit
  • Disable MSN Search
  • Disable Windows Live Search
  • Disable ActiveX
  • Disable JavaScript
  • Disable Phishing Filter
  • Disable Home Page
  • Disable Prompt for Default Browser
  • Disable Information Bar Alert
  • Disable Automatic License Acquisition for Windows Media Player
  • Disable Automatic Usage Rights Download
  • Don’t add Media to Library
  • Disable Metadata Retrieval
  • Disable Usage Tracking
  • Don’t Send Player ID To Content Providers
  • Disable Automatic Codec Downloads
  • Import music as MP3
  • Disable DRM for imported music
  • Disable Diskspace Warning
  • Integrate Notepad into Shell
  • Disable AutoRun
  • Disable Desktop Cleanup Wizard
  • Disable Task Grouping
  • Use Classic Start Menu
  • Use Classic Logon Window
  • Show hidden files and folders
  • Show all file extensions
  • Disable thumbnail caching
  • Disable Start/Exit sounds
  • Use Windows Classic Theme

Plus it deletes all sorts of system shortcuts, and about twice as many things I didn’t list. Check it out here or just download it from Google Code.
(via CyberNetNews > Download Squad > jkOnTheRun)

Also, if you wish Alt-Tab in Vista took up more of your screen and showed bigger thumbnails, you can run a Registry tweak linked to by CyberNetNews. It’s not a perfect tweak, but it enables you to open the Registry and mess with the value of MaxThumbSizePx until it’s perfect (for me, 150 was just right).
(via Download Squad)

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Windows, General | no comments

Google Wins This One: Microsoft To Allow Changes To Vista Search

Google’s complaint to the Justice Department regarding Windows Vista’s search feature has resulted in a victory for them as Microsoft capitulates. Microsoft, seeking to avoid any more antitrust litigation, announced it would be changing the way Vista search works in Vista’s first service pack, letting users and computer manufacturers choose desktop search providers, and if they chose one other than Microsoft’s, shut off Vista’s own search indexing.

Under the changes, if users choose a desktop search other than Vista’s, the Start Menu and system search features would be powered by that search program, not Microsoft’s. In addition, search fields within Windows Explorer would still be powered by Vista to search the current folder, but would include a button linking to the desktop search provider for wider and more advanced search.

Google Desktop does not currently use the Vista Start Menu, so it would either have to be programmed to display search results in the Start Menu, or typing in there would launch a web browser window in order to show search results. If Google does not go with the first example, most Vista users would argue that launching a browser is a degradation of the feature as it exists in the regular unaltered version of Vista.

In addition, Google pays PC makers to pre-install Google Desktop. Google most famously paid Dell a billion dollars to pre-install Google Desktop, which means all Dell users would get a version of Vista with different features than those advertised by Microsoft, and in some ways, less elegant implementations.

This is the price you pay for being evil in the 1990s. Microsoft is afraid of going through what happened with its earlier antitrust battles, which ultimately came thisclose to splitting up the company, that it cowers at the idea of future ones. There are the battles Microsoft doesn’t have the stomach to fight.

Luckily, most users will get Vista as intended, although many will be saddled with a very different experience, especially Dell customers. Still, PC makers have conditioned their users to be used to getting shafted with “craplets”, so they probably won’t notice the difference. If Google thinks this change is going to be enough to get Google Desktop to beat Windows Sidebar and Vista’s search, they haven’t been paying attention to their users.

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Google, Windows, Law | 5 comments

Xbox/Doritos Running Game Design Contest

Doritos game

Microsoft and Doritos (makers of tasty chips, not the computer kind) are running a contest where you can submit a “Doritos-inspired” game design idea and win prizes, as well as the chance to have your game produced and released. Five finalists will have their games created as public betas, and will also receive a prize pack consisting of a 42-inch plasma television, a Limited Edition Xbox 360 Elite Console, ten Xbox 360 games , 2000 Microsoft Points, a one year Xbox Live Gold subscription, a home entertainment system including a 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound System, and a pro-gaming chair. Approximate retail value: $6,075.

Contestants submit their game ideas starting today. Describe your game in less than 500 words along with any additional media elements that explain it, like sample screenshots, photos, cartoons, renderings, video, drawings, music, audio and Doritos branded assets no more than 50 megabytes in size. Submissions must be received by July 29, and each contestant can send up to 3 different submissions, each of which must be rated T or E10+ by the ESRB. Five finalists will each receive a prize pack, after being judged on originality (40%) appeal as a video game (30%) and adherence to the assignment (30%).

A professional game developer will create betas of all five finalist games and release them as public betas on October 29, 2007 (so make it something that can be coded quickly), with the public getting to play the games and vote on their favorites through November 18. A grand prize winner will be named, and Doritos intends to produce and release the final game of that winner, but it bears no obligation to do so, and there will not necessarilly be any money received from the final game.

It seems like Doritos wants to replicate Burger King’s success at making a simple video game to market their brand. Since Doritos has no stores to sell the game in, it will probably be released on Xbox Live (and the beta could be on Live, or just a PC download), hopefully even for free.

I’ve got an idea or two, courtesy of my wife. The idea of taking chips and turning it into a fun, playable experience sounds like my kind of challenge. I’ve got two ideas I’m submitting, let me know if you’ve got anything cool. Watching some Doritos ads on YouTube should probably give some good ideas.

Good work by XYBA catching this.
(via Digg)

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox Live, Xbox 360, Xbox | 2 comments

The Lonely Life Of Clippy

This video shows a rare glimpse into the psyche of Clippy, the (now-retired) Microsoft Office Assistant paperclip:

Who knew he was a Beatles fan?
(via Digg)

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Office, Humor, Applications, General | one comment

Windows SteadyState Released For XP

Microsoft has released something called Windows SteadyState, software designed for places with public computers. SteadyState keeps computers in shared public locations, like libraries and internet cafés, safe from the actions of the many users who might be accessing it on a daily basis. SteadyState makes managing the system easier, prevent users from installing software, infecting it with viruses, changing system settings, and changing the desktop appearance.

SteadyState replaces the Shared Computer Toolkit, and is free, but it only works on Genuine Windows XP Home/Pro/Tablet. It comes with an improved UI over the Toolkit, plus easier controls, simplified system-wide user restriction levels, the ability to copy user accounts from computers, more restrictions, Windows Disk Protection (which rolls back changes the second the user logs out), a User Account Manager, and a central control for security and privacy settings.

You can download it here.

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | XP, Windows, Security, General | no comments

Microsoft Sues Immersion For Dealing With Sony

Microsoft has filed suit against Immersion, the company with all the force feedback patents, saying that Immersion’s deal with Sony violates Microsoft’s settlement with them in 2003. Immersion had sued everybody using vibrating game controllers in 2002, in order to make money off its patent, and Microsoft had settled for $26 million the next year, but Microsoft’s agreement included a clause that if Immersion settled with Sony, Microsoft would get a huge payment.

Todd Bishop quotes from the lawsuit, then explains:

    “In particular, it provides that if Immersion settles the Sony Lawsuit … for an amount up to $100,000,000, Immersion shall pay Microsoft the sum of $15,000,000. If Immersion settles the Sony Lawsuit for an amount between $100,000,000 and $150,000,000, Immersion shall pay Microsoft an additional amount equal to 25% of the amount of the settlement in excess of $100,000,000. If Immersion Settles the Sony Lawsuit for an amount in excess of $150,000,000, Immersion shall pay Microsoft an additional amount equal to 17.5% of the amount of the settlement in excess of $150,000,000.”

Here’s where the new dispute arises: On March 1, nearly four years after the Microsoft settlement, Sony and Immersion announced that they had “agreed to conclude their patent litigation at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and have entered into a new business agreement to explore the inclusion of Immersion technology in PlayStation format products.”

According to the text of the agreement, filed by Immersion with the SEC, Sony agreed to pay $22.5 million under the deal. Microsoft’s suit cites an additional option for non-PlayStation games that, if exercised, would require Sony to pay another $10 million, plus a royalty of 25 cents for each game sold. Also, Immersion’s SEC filings say it received “funds totaling $97.3 million in satisfaction of the judgment” against Sony in the case, plus interest and other costs.

So, Immersion should have had to pay Microsoft maybe $27.5 million, plus about six cents per future game sold. As a way of weaseling out of losing all that money, Immersion called their settlement with Sony a “business agreement”, the sort of lie that companies like Microsoft don’t get fooled by. Microsoft’s burden of proof in this lawsuit will come down to proving that the “business agreement” was a settlement of the lawsuit, and that shouldn’t be too hard.

In a later article, Todd explains more of the context behind Immersion’s deal with Microsoft.

June 21st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Sony, Xbox, Law | no comments