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All posts tagged "microsoft"

Friday, December 31, 2010

What The Geeky Got for Gifts

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 05:30 PM

"If you got an iPad as a gift during the holidays, you certainly weren't alone. In a recent poll of holiday gift recipients, iPads accounted for a full 22.7% of all gadget or hardware gifts, making iPads the single largest category in our gift poll, outstripping the nearest runner-up by nearly 14% of votes. That runner-up was Amazon's Kindle - not surprising considering that the Kindle is the best-selling product in Amazon's history."

It's a relatively small sampling size - less than 2400 votes, and only from people who read Mashable - but among the geek-set, there are a couple of stand-out points: the iPad was the #1 gift, more people got Macs (60%) than Windows machines (40%), Android phones let the way in the smartphone category with a hefty 50.3% figure (iPhones were 30%), but Windows Phone 7 devices at 10.3% just eeked out Blackberry devices (9.4%). Not bad for a brand new platform that most people still haven't heard about! Lastly, the Xbox/Kinect one-two punch clobbered the PS3 with a 54.3% figure versus only 11.9% for the PS3. The Kinect really is driving the Xbox 360 to new heights of popularity!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Microsoft's Security Essentials Gets 2.0 Badge

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:30 PM

"Security Essentials 2.0 is available as a free download with several changes over its predecessor. A Microsoft representative today confirmed the release. Microsoft said the updated anti-malware engine makes the software faster and smarter at detecting security hazards. The software also now ties in with Windows Firewall, giving you the option of turning the firewall on or off. When I installed the 2.0 edition, it detected that Windows Firewall was not running and asked if I wanted to enable it."

I have been thoroughly impressed with the performance of Microsoft's Security Essentials. There are a lot of free anti-virus programs out there, and each have their strengths and weaknesses, but so far, I have found Security Essentials to be lightweight, easy to use, it keeps out of my way and it is free. Aside from the performance improvements, it looks like the greatest changes benefit those that live in a Microsoft world. That means Windows Firewall and Internet Explorer integration. Even if you stray from the Redmond path, you still benefit and now that it is out of beta, I cannot imagine anyone who should not upgrade.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

IE9 Trounces Rival Browsers in Socially-Engineered Security Attacks

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 02:37 PM

"A new report from NSS Labs studies how various Web browsers perform when it comes to blocking socially-engineered attacks. The startling results show that Internet Explorer isn't just better than rival browsers like Chrome and Firefox--but leaves competitors completely in the dust."

I've been using IE9 beta on the Lenovo M90z and it's quite impressive; it has the svelte space-saving UI of Chrome, and apparently also has excellent security when it comes to protecting users from socially-engineered attacks. This is a nice win for Microsoft!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where is Windows Going?

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 03:30 PM

"For what it’s worth, the first 25 years of our lives weren’t that smooth, either. So forgive us for favoring words like “commemorate” or “contemplate” instead of “celebrate,” which feels like too rosy a word for an operating system that has given us so much frustration, confusion, and heartache. Hey, maybe now that it’s 25, Windows will behave like a grown-up."

In a world where iPad sales are burning up the charts, Google has released its own OS and notebook PC and everyone lives with instant updates on all their friends, it is easy to say that the computing industry is changing. Windows has come a long way, and it needs to keep changing in order to stay relevant and satisfy the needs of its users. I have to wonder if Windows 8 will be marginalized not because it does not keep up with the needs of its users but because desktop computing is not as important anymore.

If media hype is any indication, people are becoming much more outgoing, and lighter, smaller, more portable devices like smartphones and tablets will dominate the industry, at least on a consumer level. Sure, desktops and notebooks are certain to be around for a long time, but as people move more to cloud computing and services, how important is the underlying structure?

It does look like Windows 8 will potentially address some of those, as while there are a lot of great services and apps out there, there are a lot of great services and apps out there. Of the consumer oriented suggestions, Windows 8 appears to becoming more of a gateway to services regardless of being web or application based, bringing it all together for you. I just hope that with all this integration, consumers will still find time to explore new services and websites instead of staying with what they are comfortable with.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gigaom Asks: Will Microsoft’s Living-Room Quest Finally Pay Off?

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Talk" @ 05:00 AM

"Most of the digerati remain skeptical about Microsoft's long journey to becoming a key player in the digital home. I can't really blame them, given that the sheer number of swings and misses the company has undergone over the past decade may only be second to that of its hometown baseball team. But recently the company has been swinging a hot bat, not only with its Xbox 360, which has been picking up momentum, but also with a legitimate holiday hit in the Kinect. A few months of resurgence doesn't excuse a decade of lost opportunity. But the Kinect, the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live do illustrate that, while Apple and Google are often seen as much more innovative and nimble when it comes to the digital home, Microsoft actually does offer compelling innovations that, every once in a while, it actually executes on. And execution, of course, is key when it comes to staying relevant."

An interesting article was posted on Gigaom discussing Microsofts position in the digital home and how they have succeed or failed with various products such as Media Center, Windows Home Server, and Xbox. The Kinect is proving to be a massive hit I wonder if Microsoft will focus on this the Xbox, and start to push this as the core of the Digital Home, possibly integrating those earlier technologies such as Media Center, and Web TV. However, as we have seen with Microsoft, so often, they get a good idea but never seem to realise the full potential of it

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome to Microsoft TV!

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:00 PM

"Microsoft's partnership with ESPN to bring streaming sports to the Xbox 360 may be the tip of a streaming video iceberg. According to sources speaking to Reuters, the company is working on deals to launch a subscription service to stream video content to Windows PCs or devices such as the Xbox 360."

Boxee, Apple, Google and now Microsoft seems to be getting into the streaming business. We have all heard the word "convergence" tossed around for the past decade, if not longer, and it seems that the pieces are slowly fitting together. Xbox Live has had several streaming services for it for quite some time, so it is no surprise that Microsoft wants to, and has the capability to offer additional streaming services. Microsoft, along with Sony and its PS3, could eventually become credible competitors to the cable and satellite companies. With the install base that Microsoft has, it certainly has a greater chance than many of the other companies.

No Drive Extender? No HP MediaSmart!

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 12:30 PM

"More bad news for fans of little Windows servers for home. HP, makers of the MediaSmart boxes that defined the first release of Windows Home Server, has confirmed that it is canceling plans to support the next major release of the OS, codenamed Vail."

I can hardly say that I am surprised that HP is pulling out of the Windows Home Server market. Whether the removal of Drive Extender support in Vail is a good move or not, the negative buzz across the Internet makes it seem like no one is going to buy a server based on Vail. I do admit that Microsoft's decision has affected me and am already looking at alternatives to Windows Home Server and Drive Extender for my next NAS solution. Maybe Microsoft is right and with multi-terrabyte drives, drive pooling is not really needed anymore by the average home user. What I can see is that Vail no longer looks like a step above other NAS solutions and if my own needs were meager enough, cloud computing would even be enough.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Microsoft a Dying Consumer Brand?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 03:30 PM

"Consumers have turned their backs on Microsoft. A company that once symbolized the future is now living in the past. Microsoft has been late to the game in crucial modern technologies like mobile, search, media, gaming and tablets. It has even fallen behind in Web browsing, a market it once ruled with an iron fist."

This is your typical link-bait article in some ways, and I'm complying by linking to it, but I felt it was worth discussing. Windows 7 is selling like gangbusters, and it's the best OS Microsoft has ever released, so it's hard to blindly say that somehow Microsoft is losing in the consumer space...but I think the author has a point that Microsoft has no answer to the next wave of consumer computing: instant-on appliance-like devices. I don't own an iPad, but I understand what that device represents and why it resonates so powerfully with an increasing number of people. Read more...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Windows Live Photo Gallery Photo Print Ordering Fail

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 04:06 PM

I have this dream. My dream is to be able to set my parents and in-laws up with a photo program that will allow them, from within the application, to order physical prints of the photos they have in their collection with a few clicks. It seems like a small thing, but there's a serious psychological barrier to them opening a Web browser, selecting the images they want to print, uploading them, selecting the print size, and placing the order. Too many steps? Maybe. Intimidated by making a mistake? Perhaps. Regardless of the reason, I'm convinced that if it was done from within an application and streamlined, they'd order more physical prints. Picasa has this function, but they only offer one "choice" of providers: BonusPrint, a truly awful service provider that I don't recommend anyone use.

I was hoping that this new version of Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 would do the trick, but the screen shot above is what I see because I'm in Canada. I've been seeing this "Sorry, we don't care about you as a customer" screen since the first version of Windows Vista in November of 2006. That's damn near four years now, and Microsoft hasn't been able to line up a printing service for Canada? Really? I know we're only a country of 34 million people, but after four years I'd have hoped that someone on the Windows Live Photo Gallery team would have gotten around to arranging a partnership or two.

So, come on Microsoft: either get some partners set up for print ordering, or pull this feature based on geography and hide the button from us so we're not taunted into thinking that this feature actually works.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Make Windows 7 Part Of Your Family

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

"Starting today, customers in the United States can purchase the Windows 7 Family Pack at participating retailers and online at the Microsoft Store. This is your chance to get up to three PCs running Windows 7 Home Premium for the low price of $149.99 ERP. But act fast—Family Pack is only available while supplies last. For those of you living outside of the U.S., Family Pack will be available for purchase on or after Oct. 22. A list of participating countries can be found at the bottom of this post."

You better rush out and get your Windows 7 Family Pack before they run out! These extremely rare packages were raised in a special Microsoft farm. Every day, they are fed a generous diet of organic bits and bytes, and allowed to roam freely on a digital landscape. When the upgrades are all grown up they fit themselves onto a DVD and are lovingly packaged and distributed to various retailers with the promise of making your computing experience a joy to behold. I have had the pleasure of playing with Windows 7 and my little "Windy" is really fun to interact with. It knows how to go online and show me the wonders of the Internet and is even smart enough to play games with me. It even plays nicely with some of my less fortunate computers that house "XP" and "Vista". At $149.99 for a three-pack, the Family Pack is a great deal that I am sure you will not regret!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Is IE9 Doomed Before It's Even Released?

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Software" @ 01:00 PM

"It may be Microsoft's biggest blunder since the brown Zune. Only Microsoft can shoot itself in the foot in such a silly way and it leaves us scratching our heads: What exactly are they thinking? IE9 will not run on Windows XP, has problems on Vista and now we learn that it will only run on Windows 7 with SP1 installed."

This is an interesting move by Microsoft if they do release IE9 with such strict criteria. With so many browsers out there, with so many different versions of Windows, not to mention other operating systems, can Microsoft really expect to get a large market share if it's latest version only works on Win 7 SP1? I think this could be a bad move and may well cost Microsoft the browser war. I see it as Microsoft trying to encourage people to upgrade if they want to use the new version, but surely they must know, people upgrade because they want to and because something is worth upgrading for, not because they are coerced. I have switched products many times because an app will only work on certain versions of software, and I suspect many people out there will feel the same way about this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Zune Marketplace Expands Elsewhere in the World - Sort Of

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 05:44 PM

"REDMOND, Wash. - Sep. 20, 2010 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the further international expansion of Zune, its digital entertainment service. This fall, Zune will expand its music and video footprint and bring the free Zune software, Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service and enhanced features on to new markets, providing a comprehensive entertainment experience on Windows-based PCs, on the go with Windows Phone 7 and in your living room through Xbox LIVE. "The integration between Zune, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE is an exciting expansion in our entertainment offerings," said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president, Interactive Entertainment Business Group at Microsoft. "Zune enables users to access the entertainment they want, wherever they want it - and now, more people than ever will be able to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that the Zune service offers." "

No surprises here, except perhaps that Microsoft has failed to expand the world-wide reach of the Zune Pass as much as I'd hoped they would. I live in Canada and was hoping - no, expecting - to be able to get a Zune Pass to go along with my upcoming Windows Phone 7 purchase. Here are the highlights:

  • The Zune Pass is coming to the U.K., France, Italy and Spain - consumers in that country will get the full subscription package for £8.99 / €9.99. However - and this is a bit of an issue for some - there are no free 10 tracks per month.
  • Music purchase is available in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany - this means MP3s from the Zune Marketplace.
  • Video purchases from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Movie rentals from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Is that a confusing mess, or what? As a Canadian, I can buy videos from the Zune Marketplace, and rent them, but I can't buy music? Or can't get a Zune Pass for the Windows Phone 7 device I'm pretty sure Rogers is going to be launching here in the next 90 days? Ridiculous. And why can someone in Ireland rent a movie, but not buy one? The Germans will be able to purchase MP3s from the Zune Marketplace, but they can't get a Zune Pass? And my head will explode if I try to figure out who can do what with Xbox Live - I've been able to rent movies from Xbox Live for months, but I can't rent them or purchase them on my PC.

This not the unified vision I was hoping to see from Microsoft. This is a slapdash, fragmented effort that fails to deliver a solid entertainment experience to everyone in the countries Microsoft is supporting. Yeah, yeah, I know that this is complicated legal stuff, but if Apple can get it done, why can't Microsoft? I'm tired of having to use a loophole to purchase music from Amazon. I'm tired of iTunes being the only source for video purchases I have available. I was hoping Microsoft was going to deliver a solid solution here, and they haven't. It's no wonder Apple is kicking ass and taking names when this is the best their competition can do.

The glimmer of good news in all this is that there's finally a new release of the Zune desktop software; I hope they've added useful features and improved performance, both of which are sorely needed.

What's your take on this? Am I being too hard on Microsoft? Should I be patting them on the back for achieving a tiny fraction of the digital entertainment unity that Apple has been able to create?

The remainder of the press release is after the break. Read more...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Windows Home Server, Why Do You Continually Fail Me?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 08:20 PM

Through a series of weird circumstances, I decided that one of my my PCs - the one I use for my main media storage and TV viewing - needed to be restored. I figured that since I have my handy HP Windows Home Server, it would be easy enough to get the boot CD, restore from a backup earlier in the month, and keep rocking. Boy was I wrong! Read more...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who Will You Invite Into Your Living Room?

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

"Think about it: unlike so many other sectors of society, the living room is one in which traditional approaches to media still largely dominate. DVD sales still dwarf streaming and online video in both numbers and revenue, while the web has yet to make any serious inroads onto people’s TVs."

I remember when the PlayStation 2 first came out, Sony was touting it as a home entertainment center. Microsoft also made some comments to the same effect when their original XBox was released. Convergence was all the talk. As it turns out, neither really lived up to the hopes of their creators, but it looks as if the battle for the living room is still going strong, but instead of Sony and Microsoft duking it out, two other challengers have entered the ring. Each have their own advantages, though I would think that Sony and Microsoft have an edge, with their well established install base of game consoles. Apple also has some strengths owing to its iTunes empire and iSomething devices. Google seems to have the greatest challenge ahead of them as all they really have is their branding. Of couse, if one company manages to ink deals with a lot of cable companies (something that Microsoft seems to be trying to do, really hard) that may just seal the deal. All I know is that for many years to come, I will have to be satisfied with watching a blank TV screen, in HD, of course, since it will be decades before any of these neat devices comes to Canada.

Whole Home Power Monitoring With Microsoft Hohm

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

"The "smart grid" might not be a reality for most of us yet, but a clever combination of sensors, WiFi, and Web data provides unique feedback on your energy use. We tested the Hohm service with one of these devices, the ingenious PowerCost Monitor from Canada's Blue Line Innovations, to find out just how much you can learn from watching your home's energy use in real-time—and if that knowledge is worth the cost."

A good first step to more efficient energy usage is to get an idea of how much energy you use. There have been several tools in the past which help you do this, from an individual device like with the Kill-A-Watt, to an entire household, with the Black & Decker Power Monitor. Each of them are useful but they act like stand alone devices. Microsoft Hohm seems to be the next logical step, where information can be sent to a server and later analyzed. I live in an apartment, so Hohm seems to not be for me (The tracker attaches to your power meter) but it looks like a great way to get feedback on just how much power is being used. However, I used to live in a house, and Toronto Hydro was piloting a project with "smart meters" that allowed you to monitor your daily power consumption on their website. It was great for tracking but it did lack the real time feature. It is all a great start, though I hope that they will be able to offer a more granular service, such as a room by room, or fuse by fuse, solution.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Microsoft Officially Announce The Arc Touch Mouse

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 02:00 PM

"After the overt teasing, leaking, and then more leaking, Microsoft's finally ready to spit out the details on its Arc Touch Mouse, which at the end of the day is really just... a mouse. As we've seen, the peripheral has an incredibly unique design -- the flat device arches its back to click into a mountain shape, which actually ends up powering the little rodent up. So, where does the whole "touch" factor come into play? Well, very similarly to the Mad Catz Eclipse mouse, the Arc Touch has a capacitive touch strip with sensor pads between the mouse buttons that can be used for scrolling and customizable shortcuts."

Engadget have the news that this funky mouse by Microsoft will be out in December, probably in time for the Christmas shopping season I suspect. They have also posted the above video showing how it works, and how it gets its name of the Arc Touch Mouse. It's definitely a novel design, I just hope that switching it on and off doesn't break it over time.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Windows Live Sync to be Re-Named Windows Live Mesh? Seriously?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 12:00 PM

From the very first day I discovered FolderShare, created by Byte Taxi and later purchased by Microsoft and re-named Live Sync, it's been a transformational technology for me - literally changing the way I'm able to work on multiple devices. Over the years, Live Sync has been ignored, improved, then ignored again - a clear sign that the leadership at Microsoft didn't know what to do with it. And the obvious overlap with Live Mesh didn't help its cause. Things seemed to be getting better about a year ago when Live Sync really started to get some effort put into it, but took a drastic turn for the worse when the Live Sync beta came out in June.

FolderShare was truly dead; the lightweight, super-fast client was replaced by the heavy and slow Live Mesh client. Worse, the performance issues - specifically, the hard drive access load - virtually lock up several of my computers when a sync is happening (and were talking about a Core i7 system with 6 GB of RAM in one instance). It wasn't all bad news though - the 20,000 file library limit was raised to 100,000, so I was finally able to re-unite my photo collection. All in all though, I've been very disappointed in the performance of the new Live Sync client. Read more...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Launches Patent Suit Volley

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 05:00 PM

"They're the everyday fixtures of the Internet experience: pop-up stock quotes on a website, suggestions for related reading near a news article, videos along the side of your screen. Now, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen says he owns the technology behind all these ideas, and he's demanding that some of the world's top Web companies pay up to use them."

Above: He's the dude with the beard.

I've come down hard on patent trolls before, and though I have respect for Allen as the co-founder of Microsoft, the patents he's suing eBay, Google, Facebook, and others for seem like they have the whiff of troll on them. Check them out:

U.S. PATENT NO. 6,263,507:Allows a site to offer suggestions to consumers for items related to what they're currently viewing, or related to online activities of others in the case of social-networking sites. (Accused violators: AOL, Apple, eBay, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, YouTube)

U.S. PATENT NO. 6,034,652, U.S. PATENT NO. 6,788,314:Enables ads, stock quotes, news updates or video images to flash on a computer screen, peripherally to a user's main activity. (AOL, Apple, Google, Yahoo)

U.S. PATENT NO. 6,757,682:Allows readers of a news story to quickly locate stories related to a particular subject, among other things. (AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, YouTube)

Do those seem like true innovations to you? Or more like obvious evolutions of previously established technologies? Should software even be patentable at all?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Windows 95 Celebrates 15 Years...Yesterday

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 05:20 PM

Yeah, yeah, I was too busy to post on this yesterday. ;-) Anyway, 15 years ago Windows 95 was launched. At the time, it was a big deal - and even today, we live in the echoes of the decisions made back then. Some videos below, and an interesting bit of trivia about licensing the Rolling Stones song "Start Me Up".


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Microsoft Attempts to Replace Tripods and Lens Stabilisers

Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 10:00 AM

"Microsoft Research has presented a research paper at the 2010 SIGGRAPH conference that shows a new hardware+software approach to reduce image blur due to camera motion. Their approach takes advantage of inertial measurement sensors attached to a DSLR, measuring the camera's acceleration and angular velocity."

Microsoft has come up with a combined hardware and software solution to eliminate blurred images from camera shake. It takes movement input from the sensors, then takes the data and corrects the original image. It's pretty good, if you read the MS paper and results, but it's also not quite 100%. Don't just throw out your IS/VR/whatever lenses and bodies yet!

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