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Customize The Office 2007 Ribbon, Information Cards Accepted Here, Microsoft Student 2008, Virtual Earth MapCruncher, Where Silverlight Comes From

I’m in Atlantic City with my wife, celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary, so here’s a post featuring a bunch of items I should have blogged weeks ago.

Add-in Lets You Customize The Office 2007 Ribbon

RibbonCustomizer is a very useful add-in for Microsoft Office 2007 which lets you customize the Ribbon interface in Excel, Powerpoint and Word 2007. In the professional edition, which costs $29.99, you can customize individual commands, create new Ribbon tabs and populate them any way you want, create and share customizations, remove and re-order groups in Ribbon tabs, re-order and remove tabs, pretty much anything you want to change.

ribboncustomizer-classic-ui.png

The free version includes less features, but it does share one feature with the Pro version that might make it all worth it for you: The Classic UI tab. This adds a tab to your Ribbon that has file menus and toolbars, just like the old versions of Office did. You can use this for free to help someone get used to the new interface, by switching back and forth between new and old, until you are ready to use the new one. That feature alone makes this worth installing.
(via Erik Rucker)

“Infomation Cards Accepted Here” Icon Released

information-cards-accepted-here.pngMicrosoft is pushing adoption of Windows CardSpace for digital identity management, so they’re sharing this icon for websites that accept Information Cards. Sites and applications can use this icon if they accept any Information Card, even if it’s not using CardSpace, which is why the icon doesn’t have any corporate info in it. Microsoft just wants people to start using Information Cards, so it can start becoming the one you get your Information Card from.

Microsoft Releases Student 2008 with Encarta Premium

Microsoft released the latest version of Student, and the 2008 package includes Encarta Premium 2008, Microsoft Math 2.0 (with a Graphing Calculator, Step-by-Step Equation Solver, Equation Library) and Foreign Language Help. Not very different from Student 2007 besides the Encarta update, but there is one new program: Learning Essentials 2.0 for Students, which has templates and tutorials that transform Word, PowerPoint and Excel into more student-oriented applications, with tips for creating better papers and other things for class assignments.

MapCruncher Lets You Import And Combine Existing Maps With Virtual Earth
Microsoft Research has this useful program called MapCruncher, which lets you take an existing map, like a map of bus routes, tourist hotspots, or hiking paths, and import it into Virtual Earth. You import the map, whether in vector (PDF, WMF, EMF) or raster (JPG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, BMP) format, find 5-10 landmarks on both the imported and Virtual Earth maps, and it creates a mashup for use on a web page, and image tiles to match up with the road and aerial images in Virtual Earth.

To see how it works, look at this mashup of the Louisville, Kentucky bus map. You can find any bus station or route, and with a click swith between bus map, aerial, and road maps. Very cool.

Where The Silverlight Name Came From

Ever wonder how Microsoft came up with the name “Silverlight” for what was Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere? Sean Alexander had some background on it I missed. Included is that the Silverlight name was settled on in mid/late 2006, but was held back behind an intentionally awful codename of WPF/E so the new Silverlight name would be a bigger hit.

July 31st, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Developers, Maps, Silverlight, Virtual Earth, Word, Applications, Windows, Office, General | one comment



60 Million Copies Of Windows Vista Shipped

Microsoft announced to financial analysts last week that it has already shipped over 60 million copies of Windows Vista, in addition to 42 million corporate licenses of the operating system. More than 20 million were sold in the first month, making about 40 million in the last four months. By comparison, computer makers only sold 67 million copies of Windows XP in the first year and total sales were just 46 million after nine months. Analysts believe Microsoft has already sold close to 60 million of the shipped copies.

The Xbox 360 has a lesser quarter, shipping just 700,000 units in the last quarter, down from 1.8 million the same quarter the previous year. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the previous year was the launch year. Also, Microsoft flooded the channel in the holiday season, meaning there were more consoles than necessary, so more than 700,000 may have been sold, even if less were shipped.

Microsoft did break down the revenue of some products, showing that Xbox brought in $4.1 billion in revenue last year, an amazing number comparable to Windows Server and shoulders above SQL Server, advertising, Exchange, and other businesses.

July 30th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Corporate, Xbox 360, Xbox, General | no comments

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Win Seven Game Consoles and a Ton of Other Stuff

EA just released Wing Commander Arena to the Xbox Live Arcade, and to celebrate it, they’re giving away in a contest a grand prize of seven game systems, every copy of Wing Commander released for those systems, and some other cool stuff. Head here to enter.

Winners get:

  • One Sega Genesis w/Sega CD

    * Two Controllers
    * Four-way Controller Adapter
    * Wing Commander (Sega CD)

  • One Super Nintendo

    * One Controller
    * Wing Commander (SNES)
    * Wing Commander: Secret Missions (SNES)

  • One Playstation Console

    * One Controller
    * Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (Playstation)
    * Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (Playstation)

  • One Panasonic 3DO

    * Two Controllers
    * Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (3DO)
    * Super Wing Commander (3DO)

  • One Game Boy Advance

    * Wing Commander Prophecy

  • Gateway 2000 Pentium One PC w/Windows ‘95

    * One CRT Monitor
    * One Mouse
    * One Keyboard
    * One Set of Speakers
    * Wing Commander
    * Wing Commander: Deluxe Edition
    * Wing Commander II: Vengence of the Kilrathi
    * Wing Commander II: Vengence of the Kilrathi Deluxe Edition
    * Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger
    * Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom
    * Wing Commander Academy

  • One Xbox 360 Elite console and 11,200 Microsoft Points
  • Two runners up will receive 11,200 points for Xbox LIVE!

Jeez, that’s seven consoles, fifteen games, a bunch of controllers, a really old computer (where’d they find a Windows 95 system?) and enough Microsoft Points to buy everyone you know, and everyone they know, a copy of Wing Commander Arena. Crazy.
(via Digg)

July 30th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox Live, Xbox 360, Xbox, General | one comment

The iPhone Breaks Drag-and-Drop?

This stunned me: Apparently, you can’t use Google Maps’ website on your iPhone because the gesture-based UI won’t allow for drag-and-drop. The UI interprets all drags of the finger as dragging the page, not elements on the page (even if those elements are designed to be dragged), making it impossible to use Google Maps, Windows Live Maps, any maps mashup, any Web 2.0 site that uses dragging, because they never coded the UI to be smart enough to know the difference.

Yes, the iPhone has a Google Maps application, but that doesn’t cover mashups, it doesn’t cover using a non-Google site, and it completely throws out the window the idea of the iPhone having a “real” web browser and showing the “real” internet. Apple’s given Google a monopoly on the device, hamstringing the ability to use better options, and removing choice –

Wait. Apple? Choice? Forget it, I’m just being silly.

But seriously, short of hacking, it is utterly impossible for a developer to release a Google Maps-like site on the iPhone. Why does Google get that monopoly? Did they pay Apple to lock out competitors? Wouldn’t the Justice Department want to know?
(via Digg)

July 30th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Apple, Google | 5 comments

Windows Vista Performance and Compatibility Fixes Leaked Out

Microsoft has been supplying beta testers with two special patches for Windows Vista, patches that are designed to improve the performance and compatibility of the operating system. The two patches, distributed through Connect to a select group of beta testers, have leaked onto the internet, and you can download them here (or here for 64-bit systems).

What do the patches do? The Vista Performance and Reliability Pack improves some things that hurt the performance of systems running Vista, including file copying, corrupted AVI files, Canon RAW files, memory corruption, and more. The Vista Compatibility and Reliability Pack fixes some common compatibility issues that could hurt your system, including external displays on laptops, video drivers, HD DVD and Blu-Ray playback, printer drivers, and more.

The full list:

938979 Vista Performance and Reliability Pack
This update resolves a number of individual issues which may be affecting some computers running Windows Vista. These issues have been reported by customers using the Error Reporting service, product support, or other means. Installing this update will improve the performance and responsiveness for some scenarios and improves reliability of Windows Vista in a variety of scenarios. Some examples of the improvements contained in this update are:

• Improves performance in resuming back to the desktop from the Photo and Windows Energy screensaver.
• Resolves an issue where some secured web pages using advanced security technologies may not get displayed in Internet Explorer on Windows Vista.
• Resolves an issue where a shared printer may not get installed if the printer is connected to a Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 system and User Access Control is disabled on the Vista client.
• Resolves an issue where creating AVI files on Vista may get corrupted.
• Improves the performance in calculating the ‘estimated time remaining’ when copying/moving large files.
• Improves performance in bringing up Login Screen after resuming from Hibernate.
• Resolves an issue where synchronization of offline files to a server can get corrupted.
• Resolves a compatibility issue with RAW images created by Canon EOS 1D/1DS Digital SLR Camera which can lead to data loss. This only affects RAW images created by these two specific camera models.
• Resolves an issue where a computer can lose its default Gateway address when resuming from sleep mode.
• Improves the performance when copying or moving entire directories containing large amounts of data or files.
• Improves the performance of Vista’s Memory Manager in specific customer scenarios and prevents some issues which may lead to memory corruption.

938194 Vista Compatibility and Reliability Pack
This update resolves a number of individual issues which may be affecting some computers running Windows Vista. These issues have been reported by customers using the Error Reporting service, product support, or other means. Installing this update will improve the reliability and hardware compatibility of Windows Vista in a variety of scenarios. Some examples of the improvements contained in this update are:

• Improved reliability and compatibility of Vista when used with newer graphics cards in several specific scenarios and configurations.
• Improved reliability when working with external displays on a laptop.
• Increased compatibility with many video drivers.
• Improved visual appearance of games with high intensity graphics.
• Improved quality of playback for HD-DVD and Blue-Ray disks on large monitors.
• Improved reliability for Internet Explorer when some third party toolbars are installed on Vista.
• Improved Vista reliability in networking configuration scenarios.
• Improved the reliability of Windows Calendar in Vista.
• Improved reliability of systems that were upgraded from XP to Vista.
• Increased compatibility with many printer drivers.
• Increased reliability and performance of Vista when entering sleep and resuming from sleep.

Some are calling this the Holy Grail for Vista users, that which fixes Vista. Mary Jo Foley notes that these patches are likely to be the centerpiece of Service Pack 1, so getting them now will give you an early preview of how SP1 systems will run. She also notes improvements that have leaked and will be in SP1, incuding booting from EFI

July 30th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Windows | no comments

Remixing The Windows XP Startup Sound

Chris Pirillo posted two remixes of the famous Windows XP startup sound, the one you hear every time you turn on your computer (until you get sick of it and shut it off).

This one is my favorite, a really nice piano tune:

The other one is not as good, but has more pop to it:

There are a ton of other Windows sound remixes on YouTube, like this one, which use a bunch of different system sounds:

This one might do it even better:

July 30th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | XP, Humor, Windows | one comment



Live Search Adds Three Image Filters

Windows Live Search image filter (paris hilton)

Windows Live Search’s image search engine has three new features that let you filter images. You need to type these features alongside your search term in the search box, but their blog post says they are considering ways to add the option to page UI. Adding “filter:face” filters the search to images of faces, “filter:portrait” gets you posed pictures of people, and “filter:bw” gets you black and white images.

You can even combine the filters, searching for portraits in black and white, or faces in black and white. Obviously, you cannot combine the face and portrait filters in the same search.

July 30th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Windows, Search | one comment

Xbox 360 Searches Overtake Wii

hitwise-search-interest-chart-wii-360-ps3.png

Hitwise reports that searches for searches for the Xbox 360 have overtaken those for Nintendo’s Wii for this first time since the Wii’s release, with the PlayStation 3 lagging behind all the way. The chart above should give an idea of the hot buzz the Wii has enjoyed since its release; however, in the last two months, the 360 has enjoyed a nice boost that has taken it past the Wii in the interests of web searchers. The chart below, from Google Trends, shows the 360 (in blue) still hanging behind the Wii, although searches for “Xbox” (as opposed to “Xbox 360″) are more popular than searched for “Wii”.

xbox 360 | wii

Hitwise’s data also shows the Xbox 360 Elite to be the second most popular related search term, which might explain some of the increase in interest, and it also shows more interest by searchers in a price drop for the 360 than for the PlayStation 3.

July 30th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Nintendo, Sony, Xbox 360, Xbox, General | one comment

Xbox 360 HD DVD Player Gets $20 Discount, Bundle

hd-dvd-player-free-movies.jpg

Microsoft announced today a slight discount and a really nice bundle for the HD DVD add-on drive. The drive drops $20 in price from $200 to $180, and adds a new bundle of five free HD DVD movies for any purchase made between August 1 and September 30. Purchasers can choose one free DVD from each of these categories (five total out of 15 options) via a mail-in offer:

  • Category A: Apollo 13, Seabiscuit, The Chronicles of Riddick
  • Category B: Casablance, Constantine, Dukes of Hazzard
  • Category C: Four Brothers, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  • Category D: The Rundown, Blazing Saddles, U2: Rattle and Hum
  • Category E: U-571, The Perfect Storm, We Were Soldiers

Problem is, you don’t get to just choose your five favorites, and there are a few movies on this list that aren’t going to look a lot better in HD DVD (Casablanca? Did they use 5.1 sound in the black and white movie?). If I were buying, I’d pick up Apollo 13, Casablance (It’s a classic, even if it makes no sense on this list), Sky Captain, Blazing Saddles (again, a classic that has no place on this list) and The Perfect Storm (didn’t care for the movie, but it’ll probably look cool).

Which would you pick?

July 26th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox 360, Xbox | one comment

Stuff From Microsoft’s Financial Analyst Meeting

Several bits out of Microsoft’s Financial Analyst Meeting, being held today in Redmond:

  • Steve Ballmer is talking about the “Windows Live Cloud Infrastructure”, which divides Live into four groups: Personal services, like the Windows Live sites, Office Live, search; Developer services, like the Cloud, Silverlight Streaming, BizTalk Services; Business services, like hosted Exchange, Office Live Small Business, CRM Live and the Titan development platform; Service enablers, like Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, adCenter, ActiveX, Ajax, Silverlight, .Net and Win32 Softgrid.
  • Microsoft claims that over the next year, the number of PCs running Windows will top 1 billion for the first time, exceeding the number of cars out there.
  • Also, Microsoft is rolling out some important releases today and tomorrow, including the release candidate of Silverlight 1.0, a CTP of Silverlight 1.1, a preview of Expression Blend 2.0, a public beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008, and early test builds of Rosario, the version of Visual Studio Team that comes after Orcas. Not sure if this was covered at the financial meeting, but important nonetheless.

July 26th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Developers, Live, Corporate, Windows | no comments

Halo’s Master Chief Gets A True Hollywood Story

Okay, it’s a fake True Hollywood Story, and it’s one of the less funny parodies of E!’s True Hollywood Story, but it does tell a story about Halo’s star, Master Chief:

You know, I’m kind of convinced I could do better, though the Hasselhoff bit was hilarious, and made it all worth it.
(via Xbox 360 Fanboy)

I just rewatched the Hasselhoff drunk video, and while it’s sort of sad, every time he picks up that burger, I crack up.

July 26th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Halo, Xbox, Humor, General | one comment



Maddox Takes On The iPhone

iphone-maddox.png*

Maddox, he of The Best Page In The Universe, has written a scathing article comparing the iPhone with the Nokia E70. It’s funny, like everything on that site, but be warned that there is some “saucy” language.

First of all, the E70 has a full keyboard, not some shitty stripped down, tap-and-pray smudgy piece of shit. Nokia uses a technology that’s even more advanced than the iPhone’s tap screen, allowing you to actually feel the keys you press as you’re pressing them! The technology is called “tactile response,” and it allows you to do things like dial a phone number without staring at your screen like a shit-chucking ape. In fact, every other cellphone ever made has this technology, sometimes called “buttons.”

(via Dave Winer)

* - In theory, there may not have been a kitten in the original photo, but you do know what he’s covering? Is it wrong to say he’s in ur photoz, covering ur curses?

July 26th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Apple, Humor | no comments

Digg Switches From Google Ads To Microsoft

Kevin Rose announced yesterday that Digg was dumping Google AdSense as its ad provider, replacing it with an exclusive deal with Microsoft. The deal, which runs three years, is described by Digg’s founder as similar to the one Facebook got, which means it comes with certain revenue guarantees, and it may even come with a payout option if Digg is sold to a company other than Microsoft, just like the Facebook deal.

Digg also used John Battelle’s Federated Media, a high quality blog ad network, for many of its ad sales, and while Digg is keeping FM as an ad partner, it appears they are relying on FM only to fill unsold inventory. One of the challenges faced by a niche ad seller like FM is that sites tend to go with a bigger ad company when they get more mainstream, and FM seems to be playing it like “At least they didn’t abandon us entirely”.

Valleywag says “Break up like a man, Kevin”.

Microsoft’s press release notes Digg gets 17 million monthly unique visitors. Alexa charts seem to indicate Digg peaked late last year:

Anyway, the point: Digg has low quality traffic, because of a very specific, non-diverse, advertising averse audience. I’d say Digg’s users are too “sophistocated” for ads to convert well, but the word sophistocated is unfair, since many of them are also quite young. Ads on Digg don’t perform as well as they would on a similarly trafficked site with a more diverse and older audience. Google was probably having trouble filling enough of Digg’s inventory and producing ads likely to be clicked on, forcing Digg to find an ad provider that uses a less automated approach.

Put it this way: The most common ad you’d see on Digg was for Diggnation, the site’s podcast/videoblog. That ad is a house ad, and appears when there are no ads to display. Considering that I saw that ad more often than not, obviously Google was doing a poor job. Hopefully Microsoft will do better. I hope Rose demanded to see the success of Microsoft’s work with Facebook, or he got a good revenue guarantee, before signing the three-year deal.

Either way, this is excellent for Microsoft, which claims another high profile ad partner. Even if it makes no money off Digg, the deal raises its profile in the online ad world, and could attract other popular websites to join them.

July 26th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Advertising | 3 comments

Microsoft Ships 200,000 More Zunes Than Expected

Halo 3 ZuneLooks like Microsoft beat its projections for Zune shipments, shipping 1.2 million Zunes since releasing the music player late last year. That number is higher than the 1 million Zunes projected for the end of last month, an average of 150,000 Zunes shipped per month. Of course, Microsoft still has a long way to catch the Apple, which sold 9.8 million iPods in the last three months alone.
(via Digg)

July 26th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Zune, Windows Media, Apple | 11 comments

Is the 360 Healthy? Struggling? On The Verge Of Something Magical?

We’re finally getting solid and longish-term enough numbers to get an idea of how this generation of game consoles is doing, and the verdict is… who the hell knows? The Wii is doing incredibly, the Xbox 360 is selling a solid second, but way less than it did a year ago, and the PS3 is kinda slugging along, but a fake price cut might help them out.

Take a look at the weekly NPD numbers for every month since January:

weekly-console-sales-through-june-2007.png

And the cumulative numbers over that period:

total-console-sales-through-june-2007.png

Nintendo put out their earnings report, targeting 16.5 million Wii consoles sold in the next 12 months. The Hollywood Reporter put out a rumor that the Xbox 360 will see a price drop on August 8, in just two weeks. The rumor, based on reports from retailers, is that all 360 consoles will drop $50 to take advantage of a slow season and multiply the Halo 3 effect on console sales.

So, is the 360 struggling, or is this just a down period combined with massive Wii hype? Most likely, we won’t have a real answer until Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, and the holiday shopping season have all been processed.

July 25th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Nintendo, Sony, Xbox 360, Xbox, General | no comments

Microsoft’s Massive Signs EA Sports Ad Deal

Microsoft and its Massive division, which sells ads inside video games, announced a deal to provide advertising inside EA Sports games. Games included in the deal are Madden, NASCAR, Tiger Woods PGA, NHL, and Skate. The deal should bring some good revenue back for the $200 million Microsoft paid for Massive, and dealing with such a large industry player should help Microsoft hold off Google in this growing arena.

One wonders if this deal was helped along by the cozy relationship between Microsoft and EA these days, what with EA Sports and Xbox practically trading division presidents.

July 25th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Advertising, Xbox | no comments

Windows Genuine Advantage Customers Play Role In Piracy Bust

Microsoft was sending around news yesterday about a huge bust of software counterfeiters in China made in conjunction with the FBI. 25 people were arrested in the two-year running operation “Summer Solstice”, seizures of 290,000 counterfeit CDs and Certificates of Authenticity and $7 million in assets in China, as well as $2 million in assets and $700,000 in software in the U.S.. All told, if the fake software seized were sold as retail copies of Windows, it would have been worth half a billion dollars, and the syndicate shut down was responsible for over $2 billion worth of pirated software.

As Microsoft explains, it was able to catch these companies thanks to customers who notified them under the Windows Genuine Advantage program. Under the program, if PC makers install pirated copies of Windows on new PCs or sell fake CDs, the customer will be notified by WGA, and given the opportunity to report where they bought the PC or CD, and get a free copy of the real thing. The customer gets a Genuine copy of Windows, and Microsoft gets evidence towards arresting those who counterfeit Windows by the thousands.

Microsoft isn’t waging a war on users who pirate Windows. In fact, in China, Microsoft encourages piracy, which has led to Windows being installed on 90% of China’s 120 million PCs. Rather, Microsoft wants companies who mass-pirate Windows to be shut down, and I don’t see a problem with that. I want the ability to pirate Windows to be availble to anyone who needs it, but I firmly believe that any company setting up factories to create fake hologrammed Windows Vista DVDs is run by the kind of people I’d like to see behind bars.

The official Windows Vista blog has some stuff on this, including this photo of a Genuine copy of Windows and a fake version:

Which one is the fake one?

Give up?

It’s the one on the right.

Any company that goes to that length to pirate Windows is deceiving their customers. Those phony holograms aren’t there to fool Microsoft or the authorities; they are there to fool the people who purchase the software. Those people are going to get home, happy they could buy the real thing, try to install it, and run into all sorts of problems, with no way to get a refund. Or, they could call Microsoft, get a real copy for free, and send the guy who sold them this crap up the river.

I don’t like DRM, and I don’t like software that is hard to pirate. I want to be able to pirate software, so I can afford it while I’m poor, and I can pay for it when I’m not. WGA doesn’t stop those who need it most to steal Windows (just run the trial version and rearm it over and over), provided they have the technical knowledge and desire to pull it off, but it provides an opportunity to turn in real criminals. It isn’t a crime to steal Windows for your PC, but it is a crime to mass-produce thousands of copies and pass them off as the real thing.



July 25th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Windows | 7 comments

Synchronize Facebook With Outlook

fonebook.png

Fonebook is a really cool application that will allow you to transfer your contacts from Facebook to Outlook 2007/2003. The current version copies profile pictures, web addresses, about me details, and status details (plus birthdays in Outlook 2007) from your Facebook account into Outlook, which makes for an extremely useful automated way of getting pictures of your friends. Sync Facebook to Outlook, then sync it to your phone, and you’ll start to see pictures of your friends when they call you.

Very useful little app. Pick it up here.
(via Jason Langridge, who inspired it)

July 24th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Outlook, Applications, General | 3 comments