Posts Tagged ‘microsoft’

Since I got my work MacBook Pro, I’ve been using my Windows XP laptop less and less.  I went three weeks without even opening it, at one point.  When I did finally open it again, XP took so long to boot I knew it was reinstall time.  A part of my Windows experience for as long as I can remember is having to format my hard drive and starting over.  Performance goes back to the good old days, when it’s nice and fast.  No more weird program glitches.  So rather than reinstall XP, I decided to forget Windows and just install Ubuntu.  Ubuntu set up so easily it was shocking.  Good times.

But I knew Windows 7 Beta was coming out soon so I held out 40 GB of unused space to install it.  Aside from several false starts downloading it (resulting in a wasted 1.5 GB of bandwidth), I finally got it.  I’ve downloaded so much today, I’m a little worried Comcast is going to shut me down.  Installation went well — no hitches.  It had to install updates and reboot before it detected my correct system settings, but after that, everything is good.

First thing I didn’t like is a generated password for a “home workgroup”.  Please, give me the option to enter my own password.  For the most part, the UI feels like XP.  I haven’t used Vista for more than a few minutes at a time, so I can’t really compare to it.  The default background is pretty drab, but since it’s a “Betta” fish, I appreciate the joke.  The task bar is a little cleaner.  Chrome installed with no problems.  Internet Explorer turned me off immediately, but nothing new there.

The snipping tool that comes with it lets you take a variety of screenshots, including free form ones.  That’s a new one for me.  The games stuff seems bundled by providers.  I have no idea who these providers might be, but I imagine that might be useful.  Most online game providers ship their software with spyware, though, so I avoid them.  Update:  I mean providers beyond Microsoft, there are some default games that are fairly decent that come with it.


Windows free-form snip example.

Windows free-form snip example.

Naturally, there are the standard complaints about not having virus scan installed and that Windows defender hasn’t been run.  There’s a great big warning when you try to run something for the first time you downloaded off the net.  Same as Mac there, no surprises. Also, after installing it, it overwrote the MBR (or however that works), so I no longer can boot from my Ubuntu installation if I want to.  I’ll probably just reinstall Ubuntu since it’s so fast and easy and probably will be less of a headache than fooling with grub.

The biggest bonus to Windows 7 Beta is that I can run Chrome again.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it.  WordPress dashboard runs so much faster under Chrome than Firefox or Safari.

Microsoft just announced a research project called U Rank, which aims to do pretty much just that.  You rank search results, share with friends, blah blah blah.  Basically it’s Mahalo with Microsoft branding plus a few trinkets.  And it’s backed by Live Search so you can feel confident the baseline results will be easy to beat.  According to their website, here are some of the things you might do with U Rank:

  • Organize and annotate results: write notes to summarize important information under each URL
  • Lists: keep lists while you’re researching
  • Collaboration: Share URLs with friends
  • Recommendations: Tell your friends what you like
  • Multimedia results: Mix video and images with web results for added context
  • Ego-boosting: Make sure your home page is #1 (at least for you and your friends)
  • Easy to explore what your friends are sharing
  • Short-cuts: Move your favorite sites up; then put an ! in front of the query and go straight to the top result

The first two are great and are obviously missing from other services like Google, though Google has means of achieving those things other than their main search product (e.g. Google Bookmarks and Google Notebook).  Mixing in video and multimedia content is ok, I reckon.  Doing it manually, though?  Meh. The last one is probably useless.  It will be fun for the first couple days and then you’ll return to using bookmarks or whatever you do already to keep track of favorite sites.

The rest of the features are social networking junk.  The third is somewhat useful, but when you want to share something with friends, you normally want to push it on them and make sure they get it.  So you IM them the link or email it to them.  I’m not sure any link I’ve shared on a website or in Google Reader has ever been viewed by anyone else.  The fourth one is no different than sharing the link in my mind.  I wonder what the use case for that is.  If it’s automated recommendations, that might be cool, though I’ve never seen it done well except for on StumbleUpon, and that’s more because the UI makes it easy to ignore bad recommendations.

Like Mahalo and Wikia Search, the main features require critical mass in community size.  What good is sharing crap with my friends if none of my friends use U Rank?  And ego-boosting is a fun toy for about 2 minutes until you realize it’s just information masturbation.

“Hey, ma, I’m number one in the search results!  Look at it on your computer.”
“You’re still on page 16 for me, dear.”

And yes, I’ve done it.  Just search for “mendicant bug” on Wikia.

So minus critical mass, U Rank is Live Search with window dressing and some annotation tools.  The annotation tools will probably be worth checking out, but will it be enough to lure me away from the trusted Googles?  I highly doubt it.  

I’m just not sold on this whole user-driven search idea.  With web search you are searching a ginormous collection of transient documents.  Human annotation can’t keep up with it.  That’s the whole point!  In order for it to, you’d need a lot of people using the service, and you’re just not going to get that.  As it stands right now, Google gets about 60% of the market share for searches.  Yahoo comes in a very distant second with about 20% and the rest are floating at under 10%.  Mahalo and friends get less than 3% of the search engine market share to divy up amongst themselves.  Is that enough to provide meaningful results?  Jason Calacanis might think so, but I’m skeptical.

Rumors are brewing that Microsoft is going to announce the release of a new product called Worldwide Telescope later this month. WT should allow users to zoom in on parts of the sky for which data exists. Data will be drawn from a number of ground-based telescopes as well as Hubble. Google Sky does this already in a nauseatingly ugly way. It’s bad. Epic fail there. Stellarium, on the other hand, is an open source star charting program that blows Google Sky away. I’ve been using it for a few years now and have been very happy with it. From the sound of the TechCrunch article, though, Worldwide Telescope could blow Stellarium away. I really hope so. And if it’s free, I’ll be forced to give Microsoft props for doing something right for a change.

Microsoft Yahoo! Live ™

Posted: 1 February 2008 in Uncategorized
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CNN is reporting that Microsoft is making eyes at Yahoo! to the tune of $31 per share, or about $44.6 billion. If such a deal ever materialized, it would definitely make things interesting for Google. Personally I consider both Microsoft Live search and Yahoo to be inferior products to the Google, but two wrongs make a right, wrong? [hat tip] There has been talk the SEC might try to block such a move due to monopoly worries. I’m not convinced there is anything to worry about, but what do I know.

What I am interested in knowing, though, is how this will affect both Microsoft and Yahoo’s research arms. Will they become bigger and better than ever or will there be some cuts? I certainly hope the former is true.


Check out the comments on the Google Blogoscoped article regarding the monopoly worries. I just read them after posting and they pretty much shoot down the idea of an SEC action on those grounds.

Bill’s Last Keynote

Posted: 8 January 2008 in Uncategorized
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I wonder if a campaign like this, executed a few years ago, would have helped endear him more to the public?  He actually comes across as somewhat human.

Die, PC Speaker

Posted: 13 December 2007 in Uncategorized
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Whenever I’m in the lab and mistype my password logging into my laptop, there is an insanely loud beep from the PC speaker. Why not use the actual speakers on the machine rather than resorting to the PC speaker, a relic from the times when computers and dinosaurs walked side-by-side and computers had to be loud in order to be heard over the rumbling of the earth? Tonight I was messing around on the command line in MySQL and entered a bad command only to have my ears blown away by this 270 decibel dinosaur-alerting screech.

So I went searching for a solution to my problem and I was willing to do anything — even if it meant opening my system and ripping out the little speaker’s still-beeping heart. I gotta hand it to Microsoft, though, they make things easy. Psyche!

Under Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager, you get a screen like so:

device manager

You would think that the PC Speaker would be under “Sound, video and game controllers”, but you’d be wrong. PC Speaker is hidden under System Devices. Disabling that does absolutely nothing. This is because Microsoft practices something called function obfuscation. Basically, if you expect something to do something because doing so would be intuitive, the actual function is performed by something else.

The Microsoft developers had this conversation:

Bob: Ok, we need to add the PC Speaker to the Device Manager.
Jim: I think we should add it to “Display Adapters” since it is displaying sound in the air.
Bob: Good point.
Jill: Wait, that is really messed up. People might guess that.
Bob: I just had an idea. People might guess that.
Jill: That’s what I said.
Bob: Be quiet, Jill, men are talking.
Jill: <storms out of the room>
Jim: I know, let’s make it a hidden option called Beep.
Bob: Brilliant. It’ll be years before anyone finds it.

To make a long story about a really boring topic that just totally pissed me off so I had to vent short:

Under View, choose the option “Show hidden devices.” This will reveal the “Non-plug and play devices” node in the tree under which is the “Beep” device. Click on the Driver tab and click “Stop” and under Startup choose the type as “Disabled”. Now wasn’t that easy?

The Computer and Communications Industry Assocation is a nonprofit organization with members including Google, Microsoft, RedHat, Sun, and the Linux Foundation. To boil it down: they’re a lobbying group for the computing industry. I’m not saying they are therefore bad: it’s the unfortunate state of Washington that everything and everyone has to have a lobbyist in order to get anything done. For the moment I consider this group to be one of the “ok” guys (I’m not sure I’ll call them the “good” guys yet).

So yesterday, they released a study that reports that fair use exceptions in US copyright law account for $4.5 trillion in revenue each year: 18% of US economic growth. I’m not sure what economic growth is referring to here exactly. It’s not GDP because GDP is $13.13 trillion per year, which would make that percentage about 34%. This $4.5 trillion compares to the $1.3 trillion estimated to be the value that copyright industries contribute [source]. The fair use exception value is growing at a fast rate too, 31% since 2002.

So if fair use is that much better for business, why not expand it? Would it only eat into that $1.3 trillion or would it expand the economy even further?