Category Archive 'Windows'
12 Sep 2008

New Windows Ad Campaign – Episode 2

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Those loveable clowns Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld are back. This time intruding on a suburban family in order “to connect with real people.” Our heroes, as Seinfeld explains to Gates, have a problem with being “a little out of it. You’re living in some kind of moon house hovering over Seattle like the mother ship. I got so many cars I get stuck in my own traffic.”

4:30 video

Mildly amusing, at least in parts, but still completely and utterly irrelevant to competition from Mac and Linux, or the merits of Vista as an operating system (or the lack thereof). The complacent condescension of the great men’s self-referential exercise is beginning to wear thin.

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

24 Jul 2008

Microsoft Tries Fighting Back

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Ed Bott likes Microsoft’s initial ad attempting to defend Vista, but observes that it’s going to take more than trying to ridicule the messenger.

That’s a pretty good start. The real hard work begins with the messages that immediately follow this one. Microsoft has to identify the real benefits in Windows Vista and communicate them clearly and crisply. That’s not going to be any easy task.

Not easy at all, IMHO.

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Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points out that MSFT’s ad isn’t going to get it done, because although the earth was not flat, Vista really does suck.

Even the overall message that the ad is trying to convey is uninspiring. For example:

    Meanwhile, a series of independent speed tests found that Windows Vista with SP1 performed comparably to Windows XP SP2.

    Why doesn’t it win? Simple. Behind the scenes, Windows Vista is doing a lot more on your behalf than Windows XP does. It’s indexing your files so you can find them fast, keeping your hard drive organized, saving your work so nothing gets lost, and defending your computer against hackers and phishers.

So, when your favorite first person shooter starts to stutter, or that photo is taking a little too long to open in Photoshop, you can take comfort in the fact that Vista is doing a lot more on your behalf than Windows XP ever did.

I tried Vista recently, and I thought it was doing a lot too much for me. Every mouse click produced a close relative of MS Office’s infamous dancing paperclip freezing the action and popping up to warn me that opening a browser or clicking on an application could expose my system to viruses or possibly initiate a fatal sequence of events leading to the heat death of the universe.

I gathered a distinct impression that Vista’s designers really believed one should take that PC and admire the nice Microsoft wallpaper through the lucite block you had cast around it.

Everyone assured me that one could reduce the level of pestering by tweaking security settings, so I reduced them alright. I just installed XP right over it.

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

10 Mar 2008

I’m Still Using XP

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Yesterday’s New York Times discusses Microsoft’s Vista debacle, which is now producing lawsuits from frustrated consumers.

One year after the birth of Windows Vista, why do so many Windows XP users still decline to “upgrade”?

Microsoft says high prices have been the deterrent. Last month, the company trimmed prices on retail packages of Vista, trying to entice consumers to overcome their reluctance. In the United States, an XP user can now buy Vista Home Premium for $129.95, instead of $159.95.

An alternative theory, however, is that Vista’s reputation precedes it. XP users have heard too many chilling stories from relatives and friends about Vista upgrades that have gone badly. The graphics chip that couldn’t handle Vista’s whizzy special effects. The long delays as it loaded. The applications that ran at slower speeds. The printers, scanners and other hardware peripherals, which work dandily with XP, that lacked the necessary software, the drivers, to work well with Vista.

Can someone tell me again, why is switching XP for Vista an “upgrade”?

14 Mar 2007

Volokh Conspiracy Hijacked by Trojan

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Last Saturday, I clicked on an Instapundit link to a Volokh posting, and got the traditional MS Explorer negative page-not-found response.

The page cannot be displayed

The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings.

Even important blogs have technical difficulties, so I simply shrugged and made a mental note to try again later.

But when the problem was still there on Monday, I concluded there was more to this than meets the eye.

About a year ago, my personal computer was infected by a Trojan, which exploited one of those only-too-numerous Microsoft vulnerabilities. It was the sort of thing which hijacks your computer to send out thousands of replications of itself covertly, degrading system performance significantly in the process.

I would never have known it was there, but for the fact that I could no longer log into Norton to update my antivirus software. The Trojan wrote to my Host file instructions directing all prominent antivirus website addresses to a dead address.

Wikipedia discusses this kind of hijacking technique in its Host file entry.

Further investigation established that my wife’s notebook was blocked from Volokh Conspiracy by the same malware. But a friend in California last night was not impacted by this problem.

I don’t recall exactly which file needs to be edited, but I can tell you that correcting this kind of problem is a lot of work. One has to turn off System Restore, reboot the computer in Safe mode, then edit the Registry to get rid of the illicit Host file entry. Entering Safe Mode is a bummer for me, because it will mess up all the icons on desk top, producing even more work sorting them all out again.

Would readers please check to see if they can link to Volokh Conspiracy, and tell me via email, or in Comments here, if they are also experiencing the same problem?

06 Feb 2007

A Very Unattractive Vista

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Michael Geist, in the Toronto Star, points out some things about Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, which are enough to make me think twice about my future OS plans.

For the past few months the legal and technical communities have dug into Vista’s “fine print.” Those communities have raised red flags about Vista’s legal terms and conditions as well as the technical limitations that have been incorporated into the software at the insistence of the motion picture industry.

The net effect of these concerns may constitute the real Vista revolution as they point to an unprecedented loss of consumer control over their own personal computers. In the name of shielding consumers from computer viruses and protecting copyright owners from potential infringement, Vista seemingly wrestles control of the “user experience” from the user.

Vista’s legal fine print includes extensive provisions granting Microsoft the right to regularly check the legitimacy of the software and holds the prospect of deleting certain programs without the user’s knowledge. During the installation process, users “activate” Vista by associating it with a particular computer or device and transmitting certain hardware information directly to Microsoft.

Even after installation, the legal agreement grants Microsoft the right to revalidate the software or to require users to reactivate it should they make changes to their computer components. In addition, it sets significant limits on the ability to copy or transfer the software, prohibiting anything more than a single backup copy and setting strict limits on transferring the software to different devices or users.

Vista also incorporates Windows Defender, an anti-virus program that actively scans computers for “spyware, adware, and other potentially unwanted software.” The agreement does not define any of these terms, leaving it to Microsoft to determine what constitutes unwanted software.

Once operational, the agreement warns that Windows Defender will, by default, automatically remove software rated “high” or “severe,” even though that may result in other software ceasing to work or mistakenly result in the removal of software that is not unwanted.

For greater certainty, the terms and conditions remove any doubt about who is in control by providing that “this agreement only gives you some rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights.” For those users frustrated by the software’s limitations, Microsoft cautions that “you may not work around any technical limitations in the software.”

Those technical limitations have proven to be even more controversial than the legal ones.

Last December, Peter Gutmann, a computer scientist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand released a paper called “A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection.” The paper pieced together the technical fine print behind Vista, unraveling numerous limitations in the new software seemingly installed at the direct request of Hollywood interests.

Guttman focused primarily on the restrictions associated with the ability to play back high-definition content from the next-generation DVDs such as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD (referred to as “premium content”).

He noted that Vista intentionally degrades the picture quality of premium content when played on most computer monitors.

Guttman’s research suggests that consumers will pay more for less with poorer picture quality yet higher costs since Microsoft needed to obtain licenses from third parties in order to access the technology that protects premium content (those license fees were presumably incorporated into Vista’s price).

Moreover, he calculated that the technological controls would require considerable consumption of computing power with the system conducting 30 checks each second to ensure that there are no attacks on the security of the premium content.

Good grief! I can just imagine how many programs will get removed by Defender.

30 Jan 2007

Vista and Office 2007 Available Today

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Microsoft announces the release of new versions of its flagship products.

Preston Galla of PC Word has 15 reasons to switch to Vista.

But Mike Elgan of Computerworld has some compelling arguments as to why you should wait to get Vista already installed on your next PC, or just switch to a MAC.

23 Feb 2006

Will Apple Switch to Windows?

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John Dvorak is predicting it will. The Joy of Tech mocks, but I think the argument makes an awful lot of sense.

Apple has always said it was a hardware company, not a software company. Now with the cash cow iPod line, it can afford to drop expensive OS development and just make jazzy, high-margin Windows computers to finally get beyond that five-percent market share and compete directly with Dell, HP and the stodgy Chinese makers.

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