Monthly Archives: April 2009

It's COMING For You …. No, not the Blob – Windows 7


Yes… I realize this is a long post but there’s lots of good information on everyone’s BFF (sorry) Microsoft.

Microsoft announced on Friday, April 24th, that it will distribute the near-final “release candidate” version of Windows 7 beginning this week.

Subscribers to Microsoft’s MSDN and TechNet developer programs will get the code on April 30, with plans to make it broadly available starting May 5. The May 5 date matches one that was in a note briefly posted on Microsoft’s Web site.

Build 7100 of Windows 7, the version presumed to be the release candidate, has been making the rounds on file-sharing services for the past day or so. The software maker has reportedly given the build to some early testers, though it has declined to confirm that.

Near-Final Release Candidate?
The near-final release candidate version is expected to be the last public milestone before Microsoft finalizes the code for the new operating system. The software maker has refused to commit to launching the product before next January, but Microsoft has been aiming to get the product done so that it can find its way onto PCs sold during this year’s holiday PC buying season.

This “release candidate” timing puts Microsoft within striking distance of a late June, early July release of gold code. Early summer delivery would give some OEMs just enough time to get Windows 7 in market for some back-to-school PCs.

Microsoft’s Sales Are Hurting
They need Windows 7’s released sooner rather than later. A double whammy of falling PC sales (lower revenues)and rising netbook sales (lower margins) brought record Windows sales declines in Microsoft’s fiscal third quarter, ending March 31.

Microsoft’s revenue fell 16 percent to $3.14 billion and operating income declined by 19 percent to $2.51 billion. Windows 7 could give a badly needed boost to back-to-school PC sales and, of course, holiday 2009. Friday Was A Big Announcement Day For Microsoft
Apparently money is so tight in Redmond, the software giant notified its workers that it is cancelling the annual summer picnic for the Seattle area workers.

Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said that the company made the move as part of its effort to pare its expenses and said workers were notified on Friday because this is around the time of year that the company typically sends out a reminder about the event.

Gellos also noted that the event has become a growing logistical challenge as Microsoft’s Puget Sound workforce has grown. “It becomes a bigger and bigger issue every year,” he said. The company now has about 41,000 workers in the region. The annual picnic was one of the few events that brought together the bulk of Microsoft’s Puget Sound workforce, which is spread out over many different parts of the region, including Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond.

Personally, I don’t intend to lose any sleep over these numbers and cut backs, Microsoft is still in great financial shape – we should all be so well off.

One Final Note:
Microsoft is trying to make it easier to sway users of Windows XP onto the latest version of its operating system.

For some time now, Microsoft has been quietly building a “Windows XP mode” that uses virtualization to allow Windows 7 to easily run applications designed for Windows XP. According to sources familiar with the product, the application compatibility mode is built on the Virtual PC technology they acquired in 2003, when it scooped up Connectix.

By adding the compatibility mode, Microsoft is aiming to address one of the key shortcomings of Windows Vista: its compatibility issues with software designed for Windows XP and earlier versions of their operating systems.

Windows XP Mode
Details of the Windows XP mode, previously known as Virtual Windows XP, were first published earlier Friday by the Windows SuperSite blog. The technology has not been part of the beta version of Windows 7 or previously disclosed by Microsoft, but is expected to be released alongside the upcoming release candidate version.

According to the SuperSite report, written by bloggers Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera, the XP mode won’t come in the box with Windows 7, but will be made available as a free download for those who buy the professional, enterprise, or “ultimate” versions of Windows 7. The site also has some screenshots of the mode in action .

Local Recycling Event Benefits Marshfield's Grad Nite Live!


Where: Furnace Brook Middle School
When: Saturday, April 18, 9am to 1pm

Steve Beck has been holding these events since 2002, they have now raised $514,000 for non-profit, educational and community service organizations. Steve’s events have become regular events at many local towns and are usually held twice per year. Agencies that have benefited include Thayer Public Library ($21,000), Dedham HS Music Program ($15,000), Norwell Science Center ($4,000), Martha’s Vineyard Community Service center ($34,000) and a host of high school music, fine arts and girls athletic programs.

It’s So Easy
Local residents can simply put their unwanted electronics into their vehicle and drive to the Marshfield Middle School, where workers will remove the items from their car. Hard drives are destroyed, some items are crushed and sold as construction filler and televisions and monitors are reburbished for resale all over the world. Here’s the listing of what they’ll take at this recycling event:

Grad Nite Live
Grad Nite Live benefits financially as all donations received are given to this worthy organization. In these troubled times, events such as this are necessary to fund important community groups like Grad Nite Live.

For a Cash Donation of any size, folks can drop off the following items in ANY Quantity:

  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • Notebooks
  • DVD/VCR players
  • Turntables and stereo equipment (speakers, etc)
  • Printers
  • Faxes
  • Copiers
  • Air conditioners
  • Microwaves
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Cell phones (are donated to cell phones for soldiers)
  • Routers, hubs and networking equipment
  • PDA’s

Televisions ($10-$20 each – price varies due to size). This is the only item for which there is a charge at this event. Note: This time around, they CANNOT take appliances, lawn mowers or diagnostic equipment.

This event also accepts donations of gently used clothing to benefit the Big Brother Big Sister foundation. There’s no charge to drop off clothing and donors are asked to please put their donations into plastic bags.

Be as generous as you can with your cash donations and help Grad Nite Live continue their good work in our community.

Internet Explorer 8 Features Good But Do You Need To Switch?


I procrastinated for nearly two weeks before installing Microsoft’s latest browser upgrade. To be totally transparent, I never installed IE7 on my production systems because, after testing it, I wasn’t happy with it at all.

I’d been happily using IE6 and some competitor’s products like Firefox and Chrome at both the office and at home, and old habits are hard to break. There’s also the memory of an upgrade I did many years ago that broke my operating system causing me untold hours spent restoring files and other important information – did I mention I didn’t have a backup?

In essence, all browsers have gotten so good at delivering the basics that I find little reason to change. The frills are what sets each browser apart, but getting unique offerings in one means giving up features in another. However thrilling IE8’s new offerings may be, I will still keep Firefox or Chrome installed on my machine.

Most notable in Microsoft’s free browser are tools called Accelerators, which are designed to better mirror how people use the Web these days. Accelerators help you share content and blend services from various sites.

 You can install Accelerators written by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook or any developer that wants to participate — no one needs permission from Microsoft. Using a mapping Accelerator, I can simply right-click on an address to launch an online map from Microsoft, Yahoo or Google or with a dictionary Accelerator, I can right-click on a word to get the definition from, Urban Dictionary or Microsoft’s search engine.

There are Accelerators for e-mail, news stories, currency conversions, eBay auctions, searching through Facebook friends and more. Microsoft’s “Add-ons” Gallery shows more than 110 currently available and you can be sure the list will continue to grow.

Web Slices
IE8 also offers “Web Slices” to quickly alert users to updates on their eBay auctions, stock quotes, sports scores and other frequently viewed services. They appear on your favorites bar just like other bookmarks, but instead of static pages or text headlines, you get the latest photos and other goodies as well.

The new Microsoft browser also makes it easier to switch between search engines from the search box. And it offers a “private” mode during which IE8 doesn’t store the addresses of sites you visit or keep the small advertising data files called cookies.

Firefox lets me quickly find information with an “Awesome Bar” that offers suggestions as I type, based not only on previously visited Web addresses but also the Web page’s title, bookmarks and the descriptive tags I’ve added. Microsoft’s new address bar is an improvement from previous versions but doesn’t go as far.

And Google’s Chrome, which has a private browsing mode similar to IE8’s, lets me enter search queries and Web addresses from a single box, so I don’t have to pause before typing to remind myself which one to use. I’m not ready to give up on any of that yet.

IE8 Tabs Feature
One other notable IE8 feature is grouped tabs. Let’s say you’re on the home page of a news site and want to read a story without losing your place. You can right-click and open that story in a new tab next to your current one showing the home page. That was possible before, but now related tabs are given a common color, so tabs opened from that news site might be assigned green, while ones from Facebook might be yellow.

Still A Dominant Player
Internet Explorer is still the dominant browser, but Microsoft has been gradually losing share to Firefox and other rivals as these competitors innovate. As a result, Microsoft has had to come up with new ideas as well.

Users of Microsoft’s IE7 browser might consider an upgrade. Some sites won’t work with the new version, but it has an IE7 mode available for you to temporarily switch back. I upgraded from IE6 which allows me to use “compatibility mode” in case I encounter a website that doesn’t work. Note: I haven’t experienced this yet so I can’t tell you how it works.

The Bottom Line
If you’re not unhappy with the browser you’re already using, I don’t believe there’s a compelling reason to abandon it unless you’re still on IE6 as I was.

Let me know what you think – Did you upgrade? Are you planning to upgrade? What do you like and dislike about IE8. Post a message and keep the conversation going.

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