Windows Vista RC2

Another day, another public Windows Vista release candidate, and this time it’s RC2. This is probably as close to the RTM release as Microsofts going to release, and has the build number of 5744 (perhaps hinting at 5800 build number for the final product?)

Zune set for $249.99

Microsoft have set the price of the Zune to $249.99, rejecting the $99 idea mentioned previously.

And they’re even saying they don’t make money with selling the Zune, even though Apple makes a healthy profit on a compariable product.

We had to look at what was in the market and offer a competitive price,” said Scott Erickson, Microsoft’s senior director of product marketing for Zune. “We’re not going to be profitable this holiday but the Zune project is a multiyear strategy.”

Zune for $99

It has been recently speculated that Microsoft may price the Zune at $99 to undercut Apple’s iPod and take a serious chunk out of Apple’s market dominance as quickly as possible. After that, they can then rely on revenue from their subscription based music store and regain the loss from subsidising the Zune.

While this may be their policy on the Xbox, I think it’s unlikely that Microsoft would subsidise their player to that extent without some kind of subscription tie in, either restricting the Zune’s capabilities or just disabling the player until it can be confirmed that the owner has bought a year or two long subscription and activated their Zune. The subscription wouldn’t be essential to fully enjoying using the Zune, unlike Xbox Live being a bit part of the fun in playing the Xbox.

Where are the menu bars in Vista?

Shell Blog has the lowdown on how to incorporate new Vista UI designs into your own applications, with the slow death of the menu bar, and the rise of the command module.

One of the first things people notice when they start using Vista is the absence of menu bars. Explorer, photo gallery, media player, and IE all don’t show menus by default and just use the so-called “command module.â€? What is up with that? Do we hate menu bars? And more importantly — what is the guidance that third-party developers are supposed to follow?

Zune gets official

Officially vapourware that is, although Microsoft announced it yesterday (with far less fanfare than Apple’s announcement of it’s new iPods), there is no release date or even pricing set. They’ve even gone as far as stating that they’re still working on it in an interview with Gizmodo:

Gizmodo: OK, if I’m using a Zune, am I really going to troll Wifi for other people’s music? What is that going to do for battery life?

J Allard: It’s a tough problem, and we’re not done with it yet. What we have is different power modes. Oversimplifying, we have a beacon mode that says “I’m around.” The next level that uses more power says “hey, I want to do something, and share, whether that’s music, photos.”

Many people have proclaimed their disgust at the brown colour, and that it just looks like a previous generation iPod with a bigger screen. But I think Microsoft has done a pretty good job (it looks much better than other third party devices), and the brown colour will match my coat.

Perhaps the one big feature that could’ve made it stand out is integration with Windows Media Centre or the Xbox Media Centre, being able to stream video and music, to and from that through it’s WiFi connection. If you’re going to compete with Apple, at least one-up them with something big, rather than a feature that lets you send pictures of your genitals to other commuters on the bus (you heard it here first).

Microsoft, the king of vapourware, strikes again.

(Update: Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite has some pictures of Zune in action.)

Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh Download

Microsoft has released it’s long awaited Technical Refresh to Office 2007 Beta 2, bringing the product name to a memorable “Microsoft Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh”. This is about as close to a release candidate as you’re going to get from Microsoft. Be sure to download the “Save as PDF or XPS” plugin now that Adobe made them take it out.

If you already have an existing beta 2 installation, then you can download the Technical Refresh as a free patch, otherwise you’ll have to pay a whopping $1.50 for the full download.

Driving Vista

I installed Windows Vista RC1 over the weekend, in what turned out to be a relatively painless install procedure. You give it your product key, your name, your region, and it does the rest. Fantastic.

But the Vista doesn’t come with the full NVIDIA graphics drivers installed for my GeForce 7900GT1 so I headed over to the NVIDIA site to download them.

The standard driver experience seems to be an InstallShield based Windows Installer application, which then gives you a few Accept buttons to click on and then does some “magic” to your computer. However the experience can vary wildly. Sometimes they force you to install some other software that bloats up your computer with the drivers, and sometimes the install doesn’t finish properly and you have no idea whats happened or how to fix them.

Seeing as Microsoft overhauled Vista’s driver management, I hoped to see some kind of unified installation and management application for drivers, ala Windows Installer for application set up packages. This management would handle the installation 2 upgrading and uninstallation of drivers. It would be able to rollback failed attempts to install drivers, it would uninstall previous drivers and install newer versions, and it would keep track of the drivers installed, and when uninstalling, delete all the files associated with it.

But no, we are stick with the old system. The NVIDIA installation seems to have corrupted my second display, and screw up Vista in the process. No error messages, no option to roll back and start again. A restart fixed this, and the driver seems to have installed, but there was no control panel or configuration application. This is something that an OS like Vista (five years in the making) should be able to handle properly and gracefully.

After a few days of using Vista, all it feels like to me is an interface upgrade to Windows. I personally can’t see where five years of work went to, especially from an organisation like Microsoft. Theres no WinFS, perhaps one of the few features that got me excited about Vista, it’s Windows Mail application can’t connect to my IMAP server, and the basic essentials have not been touched3 Even some new applications, like the Sidebar, have serious interface consistency and usability issues.

I think people don’t give Windows XP as much credit it deserves. It’s a stable and mature platform, and Service Pack 2 really gave it the foundation to be a secure operating system too. I think Microsoft struggled to create an operation system that is significantly better than XP, pinning it’s hopes on the legacy of Cairo‘s object-orientated file system. It probably would’ve faired better if it did an internal redesign of Windows instead, reducing the bloat and increasing the stability, something which everyone would probably like.

But what they’ve ended up with is a slower and more unstable operating system that offers very little past XP for the average user. Take-up will be slow, it will happen, but people expecting the kind of difference going from Windows 9t to XP are going to be disappointed, and rightly so.

  1. Although the installed drivers do support DirectX 9 now, so you get the full Aero goodness but not optimal performance. Better than VGA compatible 640×480 16-colour drivers that came as default in XP I suppose.
  2. I’m still skeptical about whether forcing only signed drivers to be installed is a good thing. While I think every manufacturer should go through the Windows Logo driver signing program, small incremental driver updates do seem to work better than just releasing milestone drivers. At least the bugs get fixed quicker, but new bugs get introduced quicker too.
  3. The “new” Control Panel just seems like some forms have been rearranged and a long overdue modernisation performed. Big deal.

Windows Vista RC1

Microsoft has made Windows Vista RC1 available for download for the public, but have given no obvious way to get a product key unless you got one when they released beta 2.

However, if you do want one, here are a few simple steps to getting one:

  1. Browse to Microsoft Connect.
  2. Click on ‘Invitations’ on the left hand side, and log in with your Windows Live ID.
  3. Use the following invitation ID: TE06-KVM4-3RM9.
  4. Then click ‘Product Keys’ on the left again, and click Request Product Key.
  5. This should give you a ‘Longhorn Beta 2’ key, but will work with Vista RC1.

Office 2007 beta 2 download

I don’t know how long this will be up, but here is a direct link to the Microsoft Office 2007 Beta 2 download. Expect a review of Office 2007 and Windows Vista beta 2 versions very soon.

Product keys:

  • Office: MTP6Q-D868F-448FG-B6MG7-3DBKT

The life and death of PDAs

All I ever wanted from my PDA is to keep my contacts, calendar and music synced up with one device (but I’ll live with having a seperate iPod for music for now). But as I use a Mac and Windows based PC, I also needed something that was cross compatible and would do any contact and calendar syncing between the two.

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Open source does not mean free

Everyday I seem to hear people saying that companies, governments and schools should switch to Linux because its free. I don’t know how they understand the open source software philosophy, but to them it’s not free. I agree that for a personal user, you can equip a desktop computer with entirely open source software and not cost you a penny, but for large institutions such as those mentioned, that’s just not the case.

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Firefox browser

I have to admit, I’m quite a strong Microsoft supporter. I’ve been using their technologies for a long time, .NET and Office are just some of their applications I use regurlarly. However, over the past year, I’ve moved away from several of their applications to third party alternatives, and today, there has been another.

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