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All posts tagged "microsoft"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The New and Improved Microsoft Security Essentials!

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM

"Microsoft Security Essentials was first released in September 2009 and is our award-winning no-cost light weight anti-malware service. It’s designed to help address the ongoing security needs of PCs running genuine Windows – helping keep people protected from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software."

I must admit that I currently use Microsoft Security Essentials as my default choice for my Windows based computers. While there are many choices out there, both at a cost and for free, I have found Microsoft's solution to be fairly lightweight and unobtrusive. However, it did seem a bit lacking, acting much like a traditional anti-virus solution one would get five years ago. Their newest beta appears to have changed that, putting it more in line with current generation "Internet Security" solutions. I am disappointed that it only integrates with Internet Explorer and not other browsers, but it is not surprising. As this is a beta, it has not been widely deployed yet, though I am hoping that it will not be a hog when it gets released for real. What is important for you in your anti-virus/trojan/malware/phishing software? Yes, there are some of you who do not use any, but for those that do, do you put thought in what you pick, or does a brand name do it all for you?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Windows 8 Media Center to Abandon Broadcast TV Tuners?

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 PM

"A week or two ago, details of Windows 8 leaked.... The pages that have been posted on various sites are marked 'Windows 8 discussion, this is not a plan of record', so they must be taken as such and not necessarily as what might eventually appear in Windows 8. That said.... one page in particular caught my eye, titled 'Consuming TV in Windows'. The page states 'Our view is that broadcast TV for PCs via tuner cards will be replaced by Internet-sourced TV and broadcast TV via DLNA-connected tuners.'"

It seems too early to get excited about Windows 8 yet, but already some writers appear to be up in arms about the possibility that the Windows 8 Media Center will drop support for broadcast TV tuners in favor of web-based television. Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows provides "A First Peek" at Windows 8 (apparently due in mid-2012), and does mention that it will likely mark a "move away from traditional TV tuners in Windows"; but that statement is open to interpretation, and is hardly in the category of "We will no longer support...!" Do you currently use a broadcast TV tuner in conjunction with Windows Media Center? And, if so, how worried are you about the possibility that eventually, maybe, some day Microsoft will no longer support that functionality?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Today is the Last Day for Windows Anytime Upgrade

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Software" @ 06:30 AM

"Saturday, July 3 is the last day Windows Anytime Upgrade (WAU) can be used in the U.S. for upgrading Windows 7 on a new PC. WAU gives purchasers of PCs the opportunity to upgrade their version of Windows 7 to a more feature rich edition. This can be done through retail channels, but WAU offers an extra discount."

If you are in the US, today is your last shot. So before you start celebrating the long holiday weekend do yourself a favor and cure any of your computers of Windows 7 Starter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Microsoft Instaload Technology Allows Batteries to be Inserted Either Way

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 12:30 PM

"Microsoft Corp. today announced a new technology aimed at improving the battery installation process called InstaLoad battery installation technology, which allows users to easily install a battery without regard to positive and negative polarity. Never again will people have to squint to see battery installation diagrams - the device simply works regardless if the battery is installed positive-side-up or positive-side-down. InstaLoad is a patented battery contact design now available for license by third-party device suppliers, with companies like Duracell already lining up to endorse the technology for use in their own products."

If you've ever replaced batteries in something, only to have it not work because you got the polarity wrong, you'll appreciate Microsoft's technology here. Sometimes the ideas that seem the simplest end up having the most impact - and this could very well be one of them, as long as the licensing fees as low enough to warrant no barriers to adoption. If Duracell is already on board, that's a very good sign - the real proof will be in whether or not this makes it to products in the market over the next year or two. And hopefully it will help Microsoft's rather beat-up stock price...(says the shareholder right here).

Microsoft's Sync Strategy: A Bit of a Mess?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 12:00 PM

"It's fair to say that Microsoft's product offerings are something of a mess. Windows Live Sync and Live Mesh overlap (the difference being that the former is PC-to-PC, the latter is PC-to-cloud), Live Mesh and My Phone overlap (they're both device-to-cloud), and SkyDrive, Live Mesh, and My Phone all overlap (they all incorporate their own cloud storage)."

This article overstates the case slightly - Live Mesh was always a technology preview, nothing more. Live Sync is the consumer-facing sync product from Windows Live, and the new version is using Mesh on the back-end, so it's easy to see that Microsoft's long term plan was to migrate from the original FolderShare code to Mesh. Now that's not to say that the new version of Live Sync is fact, I think it's almost a disaster in terms of performance. And the limit of 2 GB on Skydrive sync is puzzling...why not let them use the full 25 GB offered by Skydrive and become a market leader in one fell swoop? Maybe there are concerns of people using their 25 GB for piracy and copyright theft?I expect Mesh to be shut down as a service before the end of the year, and hopefully the Skydrive storage component will get increased over time. I think it makes sense for the phone sync component to stand alone for now - it's based on an acquisition by Microsoft - though I hope it comes into alignment with the other services over the next year. Read more...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Windows Live Sync Wave 4 Beta: Some Improvements, Some Big Problems

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 07:46 PM

If you haven't already checked out the new Windows Live Essentials Beta (also known as Windows Live Wave 4), you should - it's definitely worth a look.

The new Windows Live Mail client is a quantum leap forward - the speed improvements they made to IMAP accounts alone make it worth the upgrade. Windows Live Movie Maker is also much-improved, with Zune HD, Windows Phone, and custom output profiles. Windows Live Sync, what I believe is the most underrated part of the Windows Live suite, has finally received a huge update that's long overdue. Year after year, Windows Live Sync - formerly known as Foldershare, created by Byte Taxi and purchased by Microsoft in 2005 - limped along with nary an improvement to the user interface in sight. That's finally changed...but not all of it is good. Read more...

Twitter Blocks New Windows Live Integration

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 03:30 PM

I just received this email from Microsoft a few minutes ago:

Given that this feature just launched with the Wave 4 Windows Live Essentials Beta last week, it's quite curious that two days from now, it will stop working. Sounds like Microsoft and Twitter weren't talking to each other much leading up to this - what I can't figure out is why wouldn't Twitter want this? Twitter feeds get pulled and posted in hundreds of different ways, so why would it be a problem for Microsoft to automatically import them and share them out via Windows Live?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Windows Live Welcomes You to the Social

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 07:00 AM

"Depending on the program and what services you connect to your Windows Live account, you can share what you've been doing on other web sites, see friends and updates, or share your Windows Live activity. We'd recommended you manage your services on the Windows Live account page, where you can get a better idea of all the accounts you're connecting, since connecting to your accounts from within the apps is somewhat cumbersome."

Microsoft may have failed to become the only go to place for social networking, but they are trying to make sure that you can keep up to date with all the different options available. And when you are not finding out who ate what for dinner, the rest of Windows Live Essentials provides a lot of other useful tools. Overall, I have found that the Windows Live Essentials is a pretty good toolkit that adds to the whole Windows experience and is probably Microsoft's answer to Apple's iLife and Google's ever growing lab of beta programs.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Internet Explorer 9 Demos Hardware Acceleration

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM

"For hardware companies, it's like a dream come true: after years of failed attempts at using 3D on the web, graphical user interfaces and video will make their GPUs indispensable to practically all web users. This is yet one more reason to demand a graphics processor in your computer. And because all this new stuff is based on DirectX, AMD and NVIDIA did not have to sweat too much (if at all): it's all supported in the existing drivers."

Good thing that Internet Explorer 9 will only be used by proper notebooks and desktops. If Internet Explorer 9 were to be used by netbooks, it would be crippled by poorly performing hardware acceleration. But that is okay, because Intel believes that netbooks do not need to have good 3D capabilities. Yes, I am not willing to let that one go. The writing is on the wall, and hardware acceleration is becoming more common for more and more tasks. Sure, I cannot imagine how one would use thousands of browser elements to manage my webmail, but the capability should be there, and someone else could come up with some wonderful new way that could only be possible through innovations such as this. And this will not just be a Internet Explorer thing. From the looks of it, it is where the future of web browsers lie.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Microsoft Antitrust Case: 10 Years Later

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 06:00 PM

"It was 10 years ago this week that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered Microsoft split in two as a remedy for abusing its Windows monopoly. That judgment was tossed out on appeal, but the eventual antitrust settlement has had plenty of repercussions. From crapware to insecurity, here's ... what 10 years of antitrust regulation has really accomplished."

Columnist Ed Bott, at ZDNET.COM, finds four "significant developments" that he thinks have resulted from the now over 10-year-old United States v. Microsoft antitrust case. Two of these are mentioned in the above summary (increased "crapware," and decreased security); read his article for the other two, along with additional interesting thoughts, including his assessment of the three technology companies that exercise "effective monopolies" in specific market areas. For more background on the case, the Public Broadcasting Corporation's Online NewsHour makes a good reference - or you can go directly to the source: the US Department of Justice "Current Case" site, which shows eleven case related documents in 2009 alone! In theory, this was a major antitrust settlement: How well did it work? (Are "we" - the computing public - better off because of it?) Do you agree with Ed Bott's assessment of the fallout?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Windows Embedded Compact 7 Demo

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Software" @ 06:00 AM

"So, there may never be a Windows 7 Phone tablet, but that device above looks pretty darn close to what one may have looked like. In actuality that's just the tablet that Microsoft has been using at Computex to demo its new Windows Embedded Compact 7 supporting Silverlight for Windows Embedded, Flash 10.1, and multitouch within the browser."

Apparently this UI is just for demo purposes and the hardware manufacturers will be creating the UI. Sound awful strange to me, hopefully that will change before we see a final product because I think Microsoft has a winning design. What they need to work on is the name. Windows Embedded Compact 7 doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Microsoft on the Road to Nowhere

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:00 AM

"And indeed, if you look at Microsoft’s stock chart for the period in question, you see a nearly flat line, up only about 6%. The analysis is a little more favorable if you use the proper measure, adjusted closing price, which accounts not just for splits but for dividends and distributions. If you invested $1000 in Microsoft stock on January 2, 2001, and reinvested all your dividends, you have roughly $1,468 today, or a 47% return over nearly 10 years."

It was big news last week when word came that Apple's market cap surpassed Microsoft's. Unsurprisingly, fanboys from both camps started talking about the event in earnest. Behind this announcement, however, is an interesting tale of the PC industry in general. A lot of what writer Ed Bott makes sense. The PC has increasingly become a commodity with little differentiating competitors where Apple has branched out and remained as much a brand as a product. Ballmer definitely is being offered up as the sacrificial lamb for all that is wrong with Microsoft, though I wonder if Bill Gates would have done any better.

Tags: microsoft, apple

Friday, May 28, 2010

Apple Ousts Microsoft as Technology Company with the Biggest Market Cap

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone News" @ 04:30 PM

"In the less-than-three months since Apple first passed Wal-Mart to hold the third highest market capitalization among U.S. companies, Apple's stock price has continued to increase while second-place Microsoft has seen its shares drift downward. The combination of events has quickly closed the gap between the two companies, and today Apple finally surpassed Microsoft in market capitalization for the first time in 20 years, although second-by-second fluctuations currently see the two companies frequently swapping positions."

This happened two days ago, but the results are still basically the same: Apple is now worth more than Microsoft. Looking back a decade or so, I doubt anyone could have predicted this - Apple was on the verge of going bankrupt, and Microsoft had more money than they knew what to do with. Microsoft is still worth a great deal in terms of market cap, but so is Apple. Personally, the stock market puzzles me - it's irrational and often ignorant. Microsoft posted some stunning results last quarter, earning a huge bump in profit, and their stock barely blipped. Not a great time to be a Microsoft shareholder (which I am, in a small way).

It's Official Robbie Bach and J Allard are Stepping Down

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone News" @ 04:00 PM

I posted about this rumour recently, but now it's official: J Allard has left he building...although it seems he's going to be sticking around a little bit, working on special projects for Steve Ballmer. Robbie Bach, on the other hand, is full-on retiring and leaving Microsoft. Bach has worked at Microsoft for 22 years, a long time in the tech industry. Who's stepping in to fill the voice? No one for now:

"Underscoring the strength of the leadership teams in place for the entertainment and mobile businesses, the company announced that Senior Vice President Don Mattrick will continue to lead the Interactive Entertainment Business and Senior Vice President Andy Lees will continue to lead the Mobile Communications Business. Each will report directly to CEO Steve Ballmer effective July 1."

Ballmer says that Bach just wanted to retire - it's not a reflection of his performance. J Allard wrote a really great letter about his time at Microsoft - it's worth reading, but this one quote really stood out to me:

"Please, put my headcount and that cardkey "invitation" to good use. Find a college student that claims we don't get it and blogs tirelessly about our lack of agility. Track down an EE that has been focusing on fuel cells and has radical thoughts about power management. Or a social networking whiz who is tired of building little islands that go hot and cold and can't break the mainstream. Hire a designer who's given shape to 2 decades of beautiful automobiles and thinks we can sculpt technology to better connect to users. Infuse them with our purpose. Give them the tools. Give them lots of rope. Learn from them. Support where they take you. Invite them to redefine The Tribe."

I couldn't agree more. If anything has been shown by the past few years of Microsoft's performance in the mobile space, they need to bring in more fresh blood, with fresh ideas, and continue to agitate and move the company forward. Zune is still a USA-only product, Microsoft has no OS capable of running on thin and light tablets, and Windows Phone 7 is long overdue. Microsoft is in a rough spot with all things mobility. Good thing the Xbox 360 and Windows 7 rock!

Where in the World is Microsoft's Slate?

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 11:00 AM

"Microsoft could also build its own device from start to finish, using Windows 7, Windows Phone 7, or potentially some other software. That could allow for a more tightly integrated experience but runs the risk of further alienating partners. The company's recent decision to kill the Courier project suggests that Microsoft may have considered and rejected this option. "

Image credit: Gizmodo

I would have to agree with Forrester research. While Microsoft has had a strong brand name (good or evil, take your pick) it is definitely losing mindshare these days with the successes that Apple has had. More importantly, it looks as if the computing landscape is changing, with other devices being used in combination with your traditional PC. What Microsoft could see is the erosion of what people think Microsoft is for which may make it harder for the company to stay relevant. With consumer expectations in mind, I believe that Windows Phone 7 may be the best option, since it is designed to be instant on and power sipping. Of course, Windows Phone 7 is not out yet, so that may end up being a horrible disaster. The 800lb gorilla needs to wake up!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hohm is Where the Efficiency is

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM

This is all well and good, but the value of the site remains low for most US residents. Although residents of parts of California, Washington, and the Midwest can connect their utility providers directly to Hohm, providing more accurate monitoring, for most the option is unavailable.

The Microsoft Hohm service is a neat site that offers the ability to track your power consumption. While it is still in development, and of course, very unlikely to be seen in Canada, it is definitely a good service. Being able to identify your power consumption patterns can go a long way to reducing it. If helping the environment is not enough of an incentive, it can help you save money! It does not offer the ability to track things down to the per device level, but it is a start. I am hoping that some day, a company will come out with a product that will allow very detailed power consumption that can run through something like Z-Wave.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And the Mouse Came Back, the Very Next Day

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 10:00 AM

"Many tech pundits have already started drafting an obituary of the computer mouse like the one above, but let's be clear: we think the death of the mouse is greatly exaggerated. In fact, we're so convinced the mouse isn't dead that we've been testing some of the best on the market for the last couple of months. Click on below to find out why we think the lowly mouse has more than a few good years left, and which ones out there deserve your attention."

I do not know if the mouse will ever fully go away, but I can certainly see other user interfaces eating away at its marketshare. Yes, I am thinking of touch, but I also believe that voice recognition, while still very clunky, can also play a role in our future in interacting with technology. Mice are a fact of life in computing today, and the classic mouse + keyboard combination is difficult to beat for a lot of productivity work. As for mice, well, I am a Logitech man. Always have been and always will be. The basic shape they use works well with me, and I have yet to find anything that works as smoothly for me as their MX series. Anyone have a favourite mouse that they are still clinging on to and hoping it will never fail?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's New in Windows Live Wave 4

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 04:30 PM

"Following the announcement of Messenger and Hotmail Wave 4, the next step for Microsoft's Windows Live Wave 4 announcement is the new Essentials. Today the Windows Live Essentials Preview website ( briefly went online for a short while before locking out all users with a login ID and password again. Fortunately, we were able to capture some of the information from the website, and just like before, we only chose those that we think might most interest you (those marked with Star are new ones we haven't mentioned before, other ones we have conveniently linked you to our previous coverage)..."

I was initially a bit dubious when Microsoft announced that Windows 7 wasn't going to come with an email client, photo gallery software, etc. but I was all aboard with more frequent updates; they let Windows Mail on Vista languish without any significant updates. Windows Live Photo Gallery seems to be getting the lion's share of the updates, but the other apps are getting updated as well. My wish list for Windows Live Movie Maker is really short: MPEG (h.264) output. Windows Live Sync, the most overlooked program in the Live family, is getting some updates as well, but there's no mention of the most glaring problem with it today: the 20,000 file limit per library. I really hope Microsoft gets the message that the 20,000 file limit sucks for those of us trying to keep our photo libraries in sync across multiple machines. I've had to break apart my photo library into two separate folders to keep things working...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Has J Allard Left Microsoft?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone Talk" @ 10:30 AM

"Over the past month or so, I've been asking around about Allard's whereabouts. One of my sources who has been a pretty reliable tipster in the past told me that Allard is on sabbatical and is unlikely to return to Microsoft. His name is still in the Global Address Book inside Microsoft, I hear, and his bio page is still unaltered on the Microsoft Corporate Web site, where he still is listed as Chief Experience Officer and Chief Technology Officer, Entertainment and Devices Division."

The rumour mill is saying that J Allard has left Microsoft - and possibly over the fate of the now-dead Courier project. If it's true that he left Microsoft, it bodes ill for the company. Products are rarely truly created by one person, but teams and divisions of people can certainly be inspired by one person. Microsoft isn't typically known for having very creative, boundary-pushing people working for them, but J Allard was both of those. If he's really gone, I truly wonder what the devices and entertainment division - which includes Windows Phone, Xbox, and Zune - is going to do.

[Silly side note: my one and only J Allard moment was when I walked past him going into a bathroom at the Microsoft campus, inside the old Zune team building...and he happened to have a broken arm in a cast at the time. Memories, meeeemories...]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hotmail Updates Makes It The New Hotness

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM

"In all then we have a mixture of long overdue, interesting and genuinely exciting new features here. Hotmail has been something of a laughing stock in recent years, but with these major changes it looks like it won't be the butt of geeky jokes for much longer. A video preview of the new Hotmail system can be found at the link below and the upgraded service will go live worldwide "in mid-summer"."

If you are not like me, you probably use one of the free webmail services out there. And if you use Hotmail, you probably have noticed or will notice some changes that are afoot. In a world of Tweeting and Facebook, it is nice to know that the good old standby, email, has not been forgotten. Of the changes you can expect, the ones I think people will probably find most useful is the integration with social networking sites and an updated mobile interface. I, unashamedly, use Outlook as my primary email client, mostly because it does serve my needs. With that, I am also a traditionalist when it comes to email and communicating with people. I do not post things on my Facebook wall for the world to see, nor do I tweet what I had to dinner. So while all this integration is great, I am just comforted that if the major webmail providers have seen fit to keep updating their webmail clients, email is not going away!

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