Tags: microsoft


Windows 7 notes

I believe that the Windows 7 beta is being taken down Saturday, so please make sure to download it and try it out!

It should run fine on low-end PCs like netbooks.  I've heard of some people running it successfully with 512MB ram, though that's lower than the official beta requirements, and I've not personally run it on machines with less than 1G.
I guess I should caveat my 'strictly better' speech by noting that the beta comes with an older build of IE8, which could use some polish and speed.

Also, we've discovered an early adopter of the ribbon.  TurboIRC!


TurboIRC joins Paint, Live Moviemaker, and Wordpad as ribbon applications.
Very exciting to see things popping up so soon!

Windows 7

Windows 7 is coming out in beta this weekend.  It's a no-brainer upgrade from Vista, as it is, for my purposes, a strictly superior OS.  And if you're stuck on XP, it's finally time to move on.   If you're running Leopard or Linux, there's probably nothing I can say to convince you anyway.

This article and the article it rebuts may be useful to you if you're running XP.  http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=630 

I installed Windows 7 on my tablet (which was designed for XP) for my trip out east, and used it all weekend for DMing a D&D adventure (using the killer DMing tool, OneNote).  It's fast, responsive, the new handwriting input tip is awesome, and I could swear I gained an hour of battery life just by installing Windows 7.  Also, the new fingerprint scanner drivers are pretty sweet.

One thing Windows 7 introduced is triggered services, which means services that start up automatically when someone needs them.  Pretty obvious addition, and it's a nice middle ground between automatic and manual start services.  Now that services don't have to make the tough choice, it really helps reduce the normal load of background processes.

There are a bunch of cool new features in Windows 7 of the type one will use every day.  They're the kind of features that integrate into your workstyle, and then you go back to an XP or Vista machine and can't stand using it.  As one blogger nicely put it, (paraphrasing) "there's not a lot of wow in Windows 7, which is exactly what's needed.  It's satisfying on a much deeper level."

My favorite things about Windows 7:
    - the new taskbar, especially the jump lists.
    - gestures for docking two windows side-by-side and maximizing
    - the fact that desktop search is significantly faster and searches the control panel now.
    - action-oriented troubleshooting wizards that work and are actually helpful!
    - improved responsiveness
    - improved battery life
    - simplified and customizable Shutdown/sleep/etc button in the start menu
    - Multi-touch
    - Libraries.  Libraries are virtual folders which aggregate various folders across your disks and network.  This means that your experience with different apps doesn't suck when your music isn't in "My Music", because now programs interact with your Music library.

Giving Campaign stories

Some coworkers and I organized a Microsoft bridge night the other friday - what my partner Dell insisted on calling "the prestige event of the year." It was for the annual Giving Campaign. There were 10 tables, at least 50 bucks donated per table, plus the MS dollar-for-dollar match, totaling to over $1000 raised for the United Way of King County.

The most rewarding part was introducing several social players to the rules of duplicate at the beginning of the night. They asked good questions and, although I felt clumsy doing it, I had a fun time teaching. It's a weird feeling when I know several orders of magnitude more about something than someone - I feel like I might run them over if I don't tread lightly, and I'm self-conscious about it.

Anyway, the best thing I could do was just have them get in some practice hands, so that's what we did.

Speaking of the Giving Campaign, I had a strange conversation with an admin on my floor today. She came by and dropped off some sundries, like a water bottle, a bracelet, and a fortune cookie, all with some reference to the giving campaign. The conversation went like this:
"What's this for?" I said.
"It's for the Giving campaign."
"Yeah, but I mean, what specifically?"
"It's just for the Giving campaign."
"Oh, so it's just reminding me to give some money."
"Well, but I can't say that" she said, quite seriously. "I'm just supposed to silently drop these on peoples' desks." She made a motion with her fingers as if to drop something, and then backed away.

Apparently, it is not politically correct to ask someone to donate money or time to charitable causes.

I decree it to be time for the pendulum of political correctness to start swinging the other way.

User in control of windows features


I was reading this Windows 7 Engineering blog post.

Steve points out that there is a perception that all this configurability matters, when in reality in 90% of cases it doesn't.

I'm left thinking "to what extent is it a good idea to give users control of the installed features in cases where it doesn't really matter?"

Is giving them the perception that they are in control of performance a worthwhile thing? Or is it just wasting time? Or is it even dishonest?

Of course, some people just like an uncluttered start menu. The other thing is that some people consider bundling WMP and IE into the OS as evil, and want to remove them on principle. I think that would be nice, but some as Steve points out, many programs assume that they exist and make use of them. Historically one wishes that they had been at least uninstallable, but it may no longer be a real option.

Good online bridge news!

 Here's an email I got from the MSN Zone today, a site I haven't been on in years.  If this means I can get the speed, features, and user community of BBO with a less-garish user interface, I'm psyched! I can't help but wonder if this has anything to do with uncle Bill's frequent partnership with BBO founder Fred Gitelman.  By the way, BBO is built with Visual C++, which I used to work on.
Bridge is back!
We’re delighted to announce that Bridge – one of the original titles on MSN Games – will be returning to the site on July 31st.
We’ve partnered with Bridge Base Online (BBO), the world leader in online bridge services, to deliver a feature-rich game for the MSN Games community.
MSN Games Bridge by Bridge Base Online is designed to offer the best possible online Bridge experience to players.
Features will include:
      o     MSN Bridge Club – Your place to reunite with players from MSN Games.
      o     Quick matchups to allow players to find a game quickly and easily.
      o     Variety of games for players of all standards.
      o     Tournaments and team matches.
      o     Friends & Enemies list: Choose who to play with & who to avoid.
      o     Huge member community.
      o     Live text chat.
      o     Kibitzing – Watch games live.
      o     World class play: BBO hosts most of the world’s top Bridge players.
MSN Games Bridge players will be able to find old friends via a built-in search tool that will allow them to lookup the new BBO identities of players from MSN Games/Zone Bridge.
Mark your calendars for July 31 and don’t forget to bookmark this page: http://games.msn.com/en/bridge.
We look forward to welcoming you to MSN Games Bridge by Bridge Base Online!
MSN Games Team

It's true, we're listening (but not replying)


This is a pretty cool website where people vote on Vista user experience gripes.  These are in some cases incredibly pedantic, in other cases really valuable, but the ones that bubble up to the top are in general high quality gripes that we want to fix!

It's true, we are listening.  The other day I was browsing and found one that I had personally fixed for Windows 7.  The problem?  I'm not allowed to say so on the forum.
All of the entries have this "Status: Not Fixed" field which is beckoning me to reply and say they're fixed.

Ah well.

I just need to wait until 1/23/4567 when we announce the beta.


A parting message

A Microsoft friend is leaving the company.  This was in his parting email.

I'm leaving MS for other pastures, local to the area, that do not start with any of A, L, R, M, G, Y, or S, so we'll snuff that speculation right out

I love this!  But now I feel challenged to figure out what they are.  Here are my guesses
A - Amazon, Adobe
L - 
R - Real
M - I assume he means Microsoft, even though that's kinda obvious.
G - Google
Y - Yahoo?  Do they have stuff here?
S - 

Any help on the others?  He's an audio guy, if that helps.

  • Current Music
    Zune full-on shuffle
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The terrible, horrible, very bad Tablet PC

Recently, I needed to test out a minor feature I added for direct-manipulation-based interaction (aka pen, touch) on a build of Windows 7.  I didn't currently have a machine available to do it, so Chris, my tester, loaned me his Motion PC.

When I was done attempting to use this PC, I was absolutely revolted at how poor the experience was, due to a combination of mostly hardware but also some software issues.  I ended up not testing the feature on that machine because it was so trying to make progress.

Here is what was wrong with that tablet:

  • It was extremely slow to boot.
  • It had a cheap plastic feel to it.
  • Its USB keyboard plugged into the slate-style monitor; however, if there were ever any hooks to attach the keyboard to the monitor, they were missing.  This meant I had to balance both monitor and keyboard on my legs.
  • The stylus was pushed deep into its hole, so I couldn't get it out.  Touch worked sometimes.
  • WIreless ethernet was not working.
  • This particular build of Windows 7 didn't display anything in the programs pane of the start menu, so I had to type in the full path of any programs I wanted to run.
  • It wasn't domain-joined.
  • It wouldn't wake up by me hitting anything on the keyboard.  The key on the monitor to wake the thing up was too small and difficult to press... halfway between a normal button and a reset button.
  • A key was missing from the keyboard.
  • It was a hideous color of grey.
  • There was a gaudy butterfly sticker on the keyboard from its past owner.

The touch screen gives away this wasn't a first generation tablet.
Do not buy this tablet PC.  
It was either this one or its predecessor.

  • Current Music
    The Waterboys - Book of Lightning
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BUILDING NOTICE: Boring Location Markings

We got an email with this title from our facilities services recently.  The building I work in in Microsoft was, just this Monday, apparently marked as a boring location.  I guess I should get a new job now, as I don't intend to be bored at work.

I'm envisioning a gaggle of landscapers and artists coming in and putting brightly colored sculptures and strangely trimmed bushes around our building to avoid it being condemned (as boring).