Microsoft’s Silverlight Gaffe

14 March, 2009
I’m not sure whether this could be classified as false advertising or what, but I don’t think Microsoft can count megabytes… Perhaps it’s that large for Windows, but I’m pretty sure Microsoft’s able to update information based on the detected operating system.
Click the image for a larger size.
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Windows 7 Editions

4 February, 2009

I’d say Microsoft made its best post-Vista move recently. Windows 7 will come in the same options as Vista (except Business is now Professional again), except only Home Business and Professional will be publicly available for retail.

Starter Editions will now be available internationally and Home Basic will be around only in selected countries (shouldn’t it be the other way around?).
Overall, I think this was a nice move on Microsoft’s part.

Microsoft Previews Future Windows UI

19 January, 2009

Microsoft seems to be previewing the future of the Windows UI with Office 14. Take a look at SharePoint’s window border. It may be that, with Microsoft flattening the Windows interface in Windows 7 (as can be easily seen in the new Explorers – the file manager and Internet Explorer), Office is to follow suit. Besides a flatter and brighter ribbon, the Aero interface is to be flatter as well. 

Either that or the user who leaked the screenshot applied a special theme… 
via ArsTechnica

Is Research the Best Part of Microsoft?

10 January, 2009

Here’s something I was genuinely thinking lately: is Microsoft Research the best thing Microsoft has to offer today? Seriously, think about it. Forget Windows 7; forget Office 14; forget Live Search; forget the Zune. Here are a few things, oriented to both developers and consumers, that are currently being offered from Microsoft Research:

  • Songsmith – Ok, I must admit that the ad is really cheesy, but it seems like a feature that Apple should have put in GarageBand. It’s easier to sing into a microphone and have the program make up the song for you rather than pulling out instruments and messing around with them.”Songsmith comes up with a music that matches your voice,” touts the ad, which seems very interesting. Even better would be a mixture of the two. (By the way, is it just me or is that a MacBook Pro they used, using a flower sticker to cover up the Apple logo?)  
  • Kodu – I’d bet a lot of younger children would like to write their own games on their computer. With Kodu, anyone (but it’s being marketed for children) can visually develop a game without typing out any code. I’m not sure if you need some Kodu interpreter to run the games or if they can run as stand-alone application on PCs and Xboxe 360s, but it seems very enticing.
  • WorldWide Telescope – It seems that WWT (as Microsoft abbreviates it) is a sort of Google Earth for the rest of the universe. 
  • Boogie and Spec# – Boogie is an “intermediate program verification language” and Spec# is something similar, except it developed separately into a separate programming language. Neither of the websites make it very clear as to what each of the products is.
  • Coconut – a .NET library for working with matrix mathematics
  • Domestic 2.0 – this is more of a philosophical project that tries to design new user experiences based on their socio-domestic background. 
Sadly, many of the projects have incomplete descriptions, such as HDR Image Hallucination, Chalice, and  CAPTCHA 2.0 .
Besides these main projects, there are numerous other small projects being developed.  I think it’s time for Micrsofot to drop Office with OpenOffice and Symphony (which is based on OpenOffice) as completely viable office suite alternatives and focus more on these interesting products that very few people know about.

Windows 7 Beta Review

9 January, 2009

So, I went onto MSDN, downloaded my copy of Windows 7 Beta (build 7000), and here are a few notes of what I think of the new version of Windows, specifically my overall impression of it, the new Aero and system-wide features, the interface redesigns, and the overall usability of the new operating system.

Setup is surprisingly beautiful for Microsoft’s previous standards, especially the boot screen, which says “Starting Windows” and after a while little balls come flying out and turn into a flashing Windows logo, and the “Setup is checking your computer” part. 

I originally thought the taskbar would look too big, but it looks really nice and the look was well thought-out. When you hover over an inactive application’s icon, a little blue light appears under it, with two lines on the side. I decided to launch IE. On hovering, a white light follows the mouse cursor and the background adapts to the app. It’s nice to be able to close an app via thumbnails. It really reminds me of the dock in Mac OS X, or (as some Microsoft reps like to call it), a copy of the Windows 1 and Windows 2 desktop. Right…

As far as moving taskbar icons is concerned, GNOME has already had that for a while now.

The notification bar seems too empty. The icons are too small. Perhaps 2 rows like in KDE? on hover, a blue triangle appears under the icons.

Aero Peek isn’t very obvious. You have to hover over the “Show Desktop” button. It can also be enabled when you hover over a thumbnail so you can see where the window is on the desktop.

Aero Snaps was already available in previous versions of Windows, but fairly hidden and called “Arrange windows horizontally/vertically” and “Cascade windows” instead of “Snaps.”

Windows is still obviously document-focused instead of app-focused like OS X. If you have two windows of Word open and one of Paint, and you use “Aero Shake” (when you shake a window to minimize all the other ones), all other windows go down and all you have is a lone window. Very useful, though

Jump lists are nice. Not much to say about them, though, except there isn’t an exact standard to what their content should be.

Control Panel has been revamped; the view is simpler, and finally, Wallpaper Slideshows are available (like in KDE and Mac OS X). Interestingly enough, wallpapers are now called backgrounds. Yet another feature copied from GNOME.
The new redesigned Paint is really interesting. The tools are clearer and there are new shapes. Unlike the Office apps, which have a big round button with the app icon that is the “File” menu, the file menu is a separate drop-down menu in the ribbon. There are now 4 different brush styles. Upon being created, a new shape is treated like an object, so it can be moved around and manipulated without messing with the rest of the image. What would be nice is to be able to go back and separately select that shape again. Now, it’s more obvious that you can personalize the color palette. The bottom of the window has become more useful, easing magnification and with quicker access to selection size and overall window size.
There is still no spell checking in Wordpad.

Gadgets are now seen as separate Windows, which may go in front of others, closed, etc. I’m glad there’s no sidebar anymore, and the new free gadgets remind me of KDE 4.

XPS viewer isn’t IE and is obviously written in WPF.

Now, let’s take a look at what the new Explorers have to offer:
IE8

  • Interface is too flat
  • there’s a special toolbar just for web slices and bookmarks. a bookmark bar is what I’ve been waiting for for a long time.
  • on first open, you have an option to turn on Suggested Sites, a web slice that recommends sites based on your browsing history.
  • Nicely enough, the default search provider is Google (finally!)

Explorer (file browser)

  • brighter look
  • cleaner than the Vista explorer
  • you can now resize the space between the address bar and the search bar
Libraries are a bit strange. It seems like a plan to replace file folders, which still exist. It’s a nice concept, but very strangely implemented. The Start Menu shortcuts link directly to the libraries. Even when clicking the user’s name link, you get a list of your libraries. The only user folders MS expects to be accessed with frequency now are Desktop and Downloads. In fact, after going back to the user folder, what had been renamed in Vista do “Documents,” “Pictures,” “Videos,” and “Music” have now been suffixed with “My” (“My Documents,” “My Pictures,” etc), like the older versions of Windows. However, Microsoft thinks users will rarely access their “user folder” anymore (even save dialogs offer you to save your files in libraries instead of actual directory folders).

I find it a nice touch that, unless you’re hovering over the drop-down lists on the sidebar, the little arrows for the lists are hidden.

So,  there are a lot of new features, new looks, new designs, and Windows 7 is really stable (although it boots up rather slowly). It’s still the same old Windows, though. It still has the same basic functionality since the one established in 1995, but the revamp is a nice one.

Windows 7 Beta coming in January

27 December, 2008


Apparently, some people have already gotten their hands on the Windows 7 Beta, which is supposed to be released in January. To avoid any problems, I’ll be waiting until then to try it out and post a review of what I think of the new OS.

Here’s an existing review, which, surprisingly enough, recommends the beta for daily production use.

Ubuntu 8.10: Featureless Ibex?

24 November, 2008

A few days after Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex was released, I decided to give it a test drive in my trial of VMware Fusion. I was hoping for an awesome new experience, like I got back in the days of Gutsy Gibbon, but I didn’t get an Intrepid Ibex. Just a Featureless Ibex.

Sure, all operating systems have come of age and are focusing on having better internals while maintaining the pretty look they’ve had for all this years. I mean, that’s the main focus of Snow Leopard and Windows 7, if I’m not mistaken, and Ubuntu’s joined the bandwagon.
Sure, it’s nice to see that Nautilus has tabs and you can drag files to them and choose to open a folder in a new tab, that Dictionary is now in the Office menu, that there are more Tango-compliant icons, and that you can create a USB startup disk. But what else?
Where is the exciting list of 30 new user-end features? Where’s the rest of the wallpapers? It’s nice for users to have a nice selection of desktop decoration out of the box. There needs to be more wallpaper choice than either one creative picture and solid color. Ironically enough, a lot of the available themes have no matching wallpaper, resulting in ugly desktops. I must congratulate Windows 7 for having easy wallpaper-theme matching in the new themes preferences, however. 
Overall, I was disappointed with Intrepid Ibex, and I hope we can see a lot more from Jaunty Jackalope next year, but I still love Ubuntu. It has the best support and is the most stable, but I think it needs to have more user-end features and fix stability problems during updates.