Sunday, August 31, 2008
The reason for this is the fact that, in comparison with the March 2008 release of IE8, the second Beta is packed with features and functionality aimed at the home and business users, on top of what has already been available to IT professionals and web content developers and designers. In this regard, IE8 Beta 1 was more of a skeleton on which Microsoft built Beta 2. Now, although Microsoft is not touting IE8 Beta 2 as a feature-complete version, it is clear that the Redmond company will move further only with the process of fine-tuning the browser got with Release to Web (RTW).
However, in no way is IE8 Beta 2 more than a Beta. The browser continues to have issues related to memory leaks, especially on websites containing Adobe Flash content. At the same time, tabs can become inaccessible following a crash recovery, but also unresponsive, failing to allow end users to close them. Beta 2 is not yet ready for production environments, but by all means, test driving the browser is an entirely different matter altogether. And there are plenty of reasons to do so, even for the most hardcore Firefox and Opera fans.
12 Reasons to Test Drive IE8 Beta 2
“IE8 brings some changes that allow much more customization that I think users will be happy with. You can unlock the toolbars and drag the IE menu bar to a variety of places in IE8. You can also right click in IE8's menu and choose Customize where you can have the refresh and stop buttons moved to the front of the Address Bar. Those who also prefer not to have the Favorites Bar showing will be pleased to know you can turn it off (although I don't know why you would want to!),” revealed Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc.
2. Smart Address Bar – well, Opera 9.5 has it, and Firefox 3.0 has it, and Internet Explorer 8 does not fall behind in this category. The Smart Address bar is nothing short of a breath of fresh air when it comes down to navigation enhancements. This means that all that end users have to remember about an Internet location that they visited once is a keyword, or part of the name. No more digging through the browser's history for websites. The Smart Address bar does all the heavy lifting for the users, searching across Favorites, History, and even RSS feeds.
“Based on our observations of IE7 and IE8 Beta 1 usage, we learned that roughly 80% of the time people’s destination on the web is a previously visited site. In the past, people would use their Favorites or History, or they’d just go through all the steps to navigate to the website again. The Smart Address Bar enables you to find Favorites and sites in your history by just typing a few letters. That’s much fewer steps than using the Favorites and History center. We also added the capability to search the title, web address and even folders for those who have organized their favorites,” explained IE Lead Program Manager Paul Cutsinger.
3. Tabbed Browsing Evolution – speaking of navigation, in IE8 Beta 2, tabbed browsing has evolved to a new level. In this context, not only does the browser group all tabs opened from the same location into groups, assigning a particular color to them, but New Tabs now offers a range of comprehensive options instead of a useless pseudo-blank page. Users are now able to navigate back to closed tabs, to relaunch the last browser session, to start InPrivate browsing, or to execute an Accelerator.
4. New Search/Find Experience – IE8 Beta 2 sports an entirely revamped search/find experience, and one that was long overdue for that matter. With this development release, Find On Page behaves as a toolbar that performs result counting and highlighting. “We’d heard from many, many users that the Find dialog in IE6 and IE7 was always getting in the way, making it hard to actually find content on the page. So, we’ve added a Find bar at the top of the page (finally!) that lets you more easily find content on the page,” Cutsinger added.
5. Web Slices – not new to Beta 2, since they were initially made available with IE8 Beta 1 as early as March of this year, Web Slices resides in the Favorites Bar and allows users to subscribe only to a certain portion of a website. With this feature, IE8 is capable of providing visual notifications to users in accordance with the updates introduced to the webpage area where they subscribed.
6. Accelerators (formerly Activities) - “Copy-navigate-paste is old. Accelerators are services that you access directly from the webpage in the context of what you’re doing, letting you bookmark, define, email, map and more with a simple selection. Even your search providers are available as Accelerators. Some Accelerators provide previews so that you can view the result without having to leave the current webpage. Clicking on an Accelerator opens a new tab with the full result,” explained Jane Kim – IE Program Manager.
7. Suggestions – there are two types of suggestions that IE8 Beta 2 offers. The Search Box Suggestions is designed as an enhancement to the search field, which is integrated by default into the UI of Internet Explorer 8. Users can now receive real time suggestion for their queries from their favorite search provider. In addition, IE8 Beta 2 can also go as far as to serve Suggested Sites.
“In IE8 we make it easier to find sites you might like. Once you turn on Suggested Sites, IE looks at what sites you visit and then offers recommendations of other similar or related sites, right from the Favorites Bar. If you don’t have Suggested Sites on already, try it out by going to the Favorites Center and clicking on the ‘Turn on Suggested Sites’ button at the bottom of the menu,” Kim said.
8. Reliability – with Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft is validating the proverbial “better late than never” approach, and is finally making it possible for users to recover tabs and browser sessions. The lack of recovery capabilities was one of the critical shortcomings in Internet Explorer versions so far but, with IE8, it is now a thing of the past. Also, a big plus for IE8 is automatic recovery for crashed tabs, browser instances and sessions, providing a great continuity and workflow experience for users.
“The reliability improvements in IE8 Beta 2 are big. Crash recovery is nice, but not crashing is even better. Because in IE8 Loosely-Coupled IE (LCIE) separates the frame (the address bar, back button, etc.) from the tabs, and the tabs (mostly) from each other, crashes are more contained and affect fewer tabs than before. We think users will also appreciate having close boxes on all their toolbars so that disabling ones they don’t want – while leaving the ones they do – is easier,” stated IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch.
10. Security – when it comes down to security, IE8 kicks it up a notch compared with IE7. In the next iteration of Internet Explorer, Microsoft included features and capabilities such as: the SmartScreen filter, the Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) filter, Data execution prevention (DEP) (only on Vista SP1), Cross-document messaging, Cross-domain requests, Domain highlighting, Per-site ActiveX and Per-user ActiveX – all designed to bulletproof the browser as much as possible.
11. Privacy – Microsoft is without a doubt well ahead of the game in regard to user privacy, while Google is at the opposite pole. With Internet Explorer 8, the Redmond company introduced a range of enhancements set up to put users firmly in control of their information. The features available or expanded with this release include InPrivate Browsing, Delete Browsing History, InPrivate Blocking, and InPrivate Subscriptions.
12. Compatibility - “IE8 is more interoperable with other web browsers and web standards. The contribution of CSS 2.1 test cases to the W3C is an important in order to really establish a standard way to assess standards support. We think that CSS 2.1 remains the most important place to deliver excellent interoperability between browsers. We think developers will enjoy the improvements to the built-in tools, as well as the other opportunities to integrate their sites in the user’s daily life with Accelerators and Web Slices,” stated Microsoft ISV Architect Evangelist Bruce Kyle.
At the same time, IE8 Beta 2 sports the new Compatibility View feature. While IE8's rendering engine has been configured by default to support modern web standards, the Redmond company is fighting to avoid breaking compatibility with legacy web content tailored exclusively for IE7 or IE6. This is where Compatibility View comes into play.
Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is available for download via this link.
Friday, August 29, 2008
The next big step in evolution for Microsoft Windows OSs is Vista. But before Vista, there was over 20 years of Windows based operating systems that slowly transformed the computer from a confounding object to a household gadget.
1983 – First version of Windows is announced.
1985 – Windows 1.0 is released, introducing tiled windows and a graphical user interface. Mouse prompts and bitmap displays come into use as well as the ability to run more than one application at once.
1987 – Windows 2.0 released. Inter–application communication, improved graphics support, the ability to overlap windows and the first windows based applications are developed.
1990 – Windows 3.0 emerges with improved graphics with 16 color ability and icons. File, print and program managers included.
The NT Years
1993 – Windows NT 3.1 released. NT stands for New Technology and was a 32–bit OS. First OS to unite support for high–end, client and server business applications with security features.
1993 – Windows for Workgroups 3.11 supported peer to peer workgroups and networks.
1994 – Windows NT Workstation 3.5 appears with more security, OpenGL graphics standard and more.
The Modern Era
1995 – Windows 95 is released. This is likely the first OS that most people remember using. It added more Internet and mobile capacities, dial–up networking, plug and play abilities and enhanced 32–bit operating.
1996 – Windows NT Workstation 4.0, included the Windows 95 interface with increased networking and administration abilities.
1998 – Windows 98 is released and is an upgrade to Windows 95.
1999 – Windows 98 Second Edition or Windows SE emerges with improved hardware and Internet abilities.
2000 – Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) appears for home use.
2000 – Windows 2000 Professional released as an improvement over the NT business OSs with improved networking and the ability to work with wireless products or connections.
The XP Age
2001 – Windows XP is released. XP stands for experience. Has added multi media abilities, a new interface and increased multi–tasking support.
2001 – Windows XP Professional appears. This XP OS is still in use in an upgraded form.
2001 – Windows XP Home Edition is released for home users and is currently available in its upgraded form.
2001 – Windows XP Home Edition emerges for 64–bit computing.
2002 – Media Center appears for home entertainment use.
2002 – Windows XP Tablet PC Edition appears for tablet PC use.
The Dawn of Vista
2007– Vista is been released with the intention of eventually replacing all XP versions of Windows. Currently, this OS is having a rocky start and is in the laborious phase of working out numerous bugs.
Building upon Window’s past, Vista is a combination of New Technology (NT) and Experience (XP) and will hybrid into a New Experience.Surely now people with good configured PC's are rating Vista with sp1 4.5 stars out of five.
But Windows is still more planning to get the ultimate OS that is Windows 7.Actually 7 stands for the 7 th version of Windows OS. Lots more posts to come on this blog for more Vista and Windows 7.
Read more on this blog...
Microsoft Corporation. (2007). Windows History: Windows Desktop Products History. Retrieved August 25, 2007, from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/WinHistoryDesktop.mspx
Microsoft Corporation. (2007). Windows History: Windows Desktop Timeline. Retrieved August 25, 2007, from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/WinHistoryProGraphic.mspx
We evaluated the Operating System (OS) in terms of how well it applied to general home use; for example, an OS for home use should have basic Internet security and be easy to use.
OSs for office or business use need advanced Internet security, the ability to network and ought to include administration tools.
Rates how well suited an OS is for entertainment, such as whether it can play/record television and music without additional software.
All OSs should offer regularly updated security features such as firewalls, pop–up blockers, antivirus and antispyware software and more to protect the PC. OSs for business or network use require additional security and allow the administrator to set security restrictions per group or per user.
This criterion rates how applicable the OS is for use in a network. We looked at networking and administration tools and security.
Rates how practical the program is for the intended use; for example, since the new Vista requires 1GB of RAM to run at its fullest potential it may be impractical for some computers.
We looked at laptop specific features, such as battery saving functions, to rate how fitting the OS is for laptop use.
Ease of Use
All OSs should be easy to use; we looked at its search functions and more to judge the ease of use.
Since OSs perform many functions, extraordinary support is mandatory. Generally, Microsoft offers more one–on–one support to its business customers and self–guided support for individuals.
Media/Entertainment FeaturesPlays DVDs
Program has the ability to play DVDs without additional software.
If computer is able, it can be connected to a television signal and play and record television shows.
Operating system can support more than one television signal, so it can record one program while another is being watched.
Supports Over-the-Air HDTV
Can play an HDTV program accessed through an antenna.
Has a feature that can be used to organize video collections.
Television Program Guide
Through an Internet connection can access a television schedule.
Movie Finder Service
With Internet access, the program can look for downloadable movies through online movie services.
A program offered by Microsoft that can create, edit and share home movies. This software is compatible with P2 for Windows XP Home Edition, XP Professional or Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Media Center XP and Vista.
Has a feature to organize audio files.
Without additional software, the operating system can be used to create playlists of favorite audio or video files.
Plays Internet/FM Radio
Can play Internet or FM radio stations.
Records Internet/FM Radio
OS can record Internet or FM radio.
Has the ability to rotate the orientation of images without the use of additional photo editing software.
Program can be used to share images by email as well as by publishing or printing.
Photo Editor/ Slideshow
OS can perform simple photo editing functions such as the elimination of red eye and can create and display slide shows.
Contains a photo organizer that can be used to manage and archive images.
Syncs to Portable Devices
Easily syncs with portable devices such as mp3 players, handhelds, PDAs and more.
Without third–party software can burn DVDs and CDs.
Supports Xbox 360 Access to Files
This is a feature unique to the newer OS’s such as Vista and Media Center with Update Rollup 2. With media center extender technology, an Xbox 360 can access files on the media center pc, so movies stored on the pc can play on a television connected to an Xbox 360 in a different room.
Plug and Play Gaming Controls Available
Input devices such as a joystick can be simply plugged in and immediately utilized.
Security FeaturesInternet Connection Firewall
OS can automatically protect PCs from unauthorized access through an Internet connection.
Firewall Exceptions Lists
User can add approved addresses to an exceptions list so files can be downloaded without being blocked.
Blocks pop-ups while computer is online.
Pop-up Blocker Exception Lists
User can select which pop–ups are to be allowed to display.
Program has the ability to combat malicious content.
Blocks Unapproved Downloads
OS has the ability to block downloads that are not approved by the user or administrator.
Blocks Downloads from Specific Publishers
Can block downloads from specified publishers.
Evaluates Downloads for Irregularities
Scans downloads for questionable content prior to completing transfer.
Blocks macros or batch files from executing commands.
Malicious Software Removal Tool
This feature is new to Vista, it periodically scans the PC looking for known prevalent viruses. The tools abilities are continually improved through updates.
New to Vista, this feature enables parents to set restrictions on their children’s use of the computer, such as which sites they can visit and which programs they can use.
Security Control Guidance
This feature in Vista helps users decide what security controls to employ.
User-Level Access Control
Administrator can set unique access restrictions per user.
Restrictions can be placed on selected files, applications and other resources.
IEEE 802.1x Security Protocol
Has security features for wireless connections.
Encrypting File System
Protects data in files stored on a disk using the NTFS file system.
Networking FeaturesSimple Networking
OS has the ability to manage a simple network of computers, such as several home computers.
Has an easy–to–run wizard that can help inexperienced users network several computers.
Content can be accessed from a remote computer.
Remote Access (within network)
Computer content can be accessed from a different computer within the same network.
Complete remote access to a Windows XP Professional PC from another Windows PC including desktop, applications, files and settings.
Roaming User Profiles
Users can access documents based on their profiles setting from any computer.
Supports Multiple Users
OS can set up multiple user profiles.
Automated checks that look for network problems.
Administers can implement policies throughout their network or per individual computers.
Policies can be arranged into logical units, such as by department or location, and then setting can be assigned to an entire group.
User State Migration Tool
This tool is similar to the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, but additionally permits administrators to customize specific settings such as modifications to the registry. The USMT is intended for administrators only; individual users do not have to use the User State Migration tool and the computer must be connected to a Microsoft Windows server–based domain controller.
Remote Installation Service
Operating systems can be remotely installed across a network.
Windows XP Professional systems can be joined to a Windows Server domain for management and security purposes.
Program supports languages besides US English.
Multi-lingual User Interface (MUI) Add-on
An interface language can be added to get localized dialog boxes, menus, help files, dictionaries, proofing tools and other tools accessed through the main interface. Often this is a free add–on.
OS has the ability to communicate in Unicode.
International Text Display
Program can display unique text in languages besides English.
Laptop FeaturesBattery Life Enhancements
OS has features that help lower power use to extend a laptop’s battery life.
Can suspend laptop to reduce power consumption.
The sleep mode in Vista switches the computer to a low power mode while retaining data in such a manner that upon restart the information is promptly retrieved for a quick start up.
Saves Online Files for Offline Use
Temporarily saves online files and folders so they can be viewed when the laptop is offline.
Detects/Connects to Wireless Access Points
Automatically searches for and connects to wireless Internet.
Adjusts to Static or Dynamic IP Addresses Automatically
Enables the computer to work from a different network location without the user having to change settings.
ReadyDrive (Flash Drives)
Vista feature that enables PCs equipped with hybrid hard discs to boot up and recover from hibernation quickly. Additionally, it has power saving qualities for hybrid or flash type discs.
Windows Vista SideShow technology allows laptop manufacturers to add a secondary or auxiliary display in laptop designs. The secondary display is intended for quick access to routine information such as phone numbers and schedules while the laptop is in on, off or in sleep mode.
Other FeaturesDual Monitor Support
PC can be configured to support two monitors.
Can run programs intended for older operating systems such as Windows 2000 or 98.
Users can search for any type of file from one search bar.
Software Installation and Maintenance
The OS can automatically install, configure, repair or remove software applications.
This is a Vista feature that enables users to search for anything by entering a word, name or phrase. This can be used to find help topics as well as lost files.
Automatically Adjusts to Hardware
Vista OS can automatically detect hardware capacities and adjust accordingly.
Detects/Connects to Wireless Access Points
System can scan for and connect to wireless Internet.
Files and Settings Transfer Wizard
This wizard makes it easy for users to change to a new operating system without losing their files or settings.
Scalable Processor Support
Supports dual processors like the Pentium D or the Athlon 64 X2.
OS evaluates which applications are used most often and preloads them for quick access.
Backup and Restore Center
Windows Vista tool that helps users back up files and folders as well as access restore wizards. The system restore features enables user to restore their OS to its original configuration or to a different restore point without losing data.
Enables the PC to use a portable storage device like a USB thumb drive to improve system performance, similar to adding RAM.
Speech Recognition/ Voice Control
OS can recognize voice and support voice commands with the use of a microphone.
An email feature for home PCs that has useful filters and search tools.
A Vista tool for time management includes a calendar, task lists, evites and more.
Tablet PC Support
Besides Windows PC tablet edition, Vista can support tablet PC functions.
Detects Network-Connected Projectors
OS can look for and connect to a wireless accessible projector.
Windows Meeting Space (Collaboration)
Formally Windows Collaboration, Vista allows up to 10 users to securely share a session within a common group area with the ability to support joint edits.
Mobile users can configure a presentation settings that can be quickly utilized when connected to a display device. For example, the presentation setting can display a different wallpaper than the one displayed with the user's personal settings.
Supports Screen Rotation
Program has the ability to re–orientate the screen display when the monitor is flipped or turned on its side.
This type of memory enables a program to run in a memory space address(s) that may or may not be tied to physical memory. This allows large dynamic programs to run using less RAM.
For the purpose of this review, this refers to the total number of bytes that can be saved in paging files. This is not related to the amount of physical space.
The amount of non–wired memory available for virtual memory use.
Amount of memory dedicated to be used as a real memory buffer.
Generally, acts as a buffer between the processor and RAM to speed up processing.
System RequirementsProcessing Speed (MHz)
Or front bus speed (FSB), is the physical interface between the processor and the main memory in Intel chipsets, generally the higher the MHz, the faster information processes.
Random Access Memory (RAM) is a form of computer short term memory.
Hard Disk Space (GB)
The amount of memory space in gigabytes available on the hard drive disk.
CD ROM Drive
A drive that plays CDs.
DVD ROM Drive
This kind of drive plays DVDs.
In order to utilize some media center functions, a remote control with the corresponding remote control receiver is required.
The media center requires an Internet connection for updates, television schedules and online content.
With a TV signal the media center OS can play and record television.
Technical Help/SupportRemote Assistance
A technical support associate can access the user’s desktop for remote assistance.
Users can contact customer support through IM.
Microsoft posts telephone numbers that can be used to contact customer and technical support. However, often a fee is required.
Questions or comments can be submitted to Microsoft through various email addresses.
On the Microsoft website users can search a large database of information related to the Windows OSs.
OS can be restored to its original configuration.
Support offers troubleshooting to help solve common problems.
Has a wizard that can automatically install the program.
Device Driver Rollback
Can replace a device driver with the previously installed version.
Offers online numerous driver downloads and updates.
OS can be set to automatically accept updates.
Online, Microsoft posts tutorials on how to perform specific OS functions.
Microsoft offers webcast and podcast training online.
An online user forum and newsgroups are hosted on the Microsoft site for users to interact and share tips.
Microsoft offers support for its international subscribers.
Support Service Packages
Extended support packages are available for purchase.
Consulting services are available for help with installing, networking or other business applications.
Periodically, Microsoft offers free online training; some presentations are fee–based.
Microsoft offers training for those who want to become certified Window OS consultants.
Windows Live OneCare
A maintenance program that includes antispyware, antivirus and firewall updates as well as performance tune–ups and help with data back–up and restore.
When purchasing a new computer, you have several Vista operating systems to choose from including the Home, Professional and Enterprise Editions. You may also be wondering how the Vista versions compare to the XP version you have become accustomed to.
Luckily, choosing a Windows Operating System (OS) isn't rocket science, but you do have to think about what you plan to do with your new computer. Vista is available in five versions and runs best on high–end systems. Vista also has laptop and tablet PC features and is ready for flash drives. Here is a brief outline of the Vista operating systems.
- Windows Vista Home Basic – This is for basic computing; it has enough security for home use and can be installed on a simple network. This OS will run on PCs with at least 512 MB of RAM.
Replaces: Windows XP Home
- Windows Vista Home Premium – Has the computing elements of the Home version with the Media Center. A capable PC with this OS can be connected to a home entertainment system and will play movies, music, organize photos and access online content. This OS requires a high–end PC and a fast Internet connection.
Replaces: Windows XP Media Center
- Windows Vista Business – This is for basic computing and has administration and networking tools and security devices for business use. It can run on basic PCs.
- Windows Vista Enterprise – For large–scale, global companies. This version can handle multiple languages, a mobile workforce and Unicode.
- Windows Vista Ultimate – Contains all business and home computing elements as well as the Media Center. Basically, this version does everything and requires a good system to run.
Replaces: Windows XP Professonal and Professional x64
When considering a new Windows operating system it is most important to think about how you intend to use the computer. After deciding your computer's primary function, you will need to decide what kind of networking and administrations tools you need and the level of security you desire.
Below are the criteria TopTenREVIEWS used to evaluate Windows Operating Systems:
- Home Use – We assessed the operating system in terms of how well it supports general home use; for example, it should have basic Internet security and be easy to use.
- Office Use – OSs for office or business use need sophisticated Internet security, the capacity to network and ought to include administration tools.
- Multimedia/Entertainment Use – Some OSs are designed to entertain, these can play/record television and music without supplementary software.
- Security – All OSs should provide frequently updated security features such as firewalls, pop–up blockers, antivirus and antispyware software and more. OSs for business or network use require additional security and administrator tools.
- Networking – Business and home OSs can be used in a network. These systems should offer administration tools and security.
- Practical Use – The operating system should be practical for its intended use; for example, since the new Vista requires 1GB of RAM to run at its fullest potential it may not function well on some computers.
- Laptop Use – Laptop or mobile specific features are important. These features include battery saving functions and more.
- Ease of Use – All OSs should be straightforward; we looked at its search functions and more to rate the ease of use.
- Technical Help/Support – Since OSs perform numerous functions, above average support is needed. Generally, Microsoft offers more support choices to its business customers and mostly self–guided support for individuals.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is out and about in English, Chinese Simplified, German and Japanese, since August 27, 2008. The second milestone of the successor of IE7 is designed to integrate with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. However, upgrading from IE8 Beta 1 to Beta 2 is not an as streamlined process as it might seem, requiring some effort on the part of the end user, less on XP and Windows Server 2003 and more on Vista and Windows Server 2008.
"If you have Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 installed, the IE8 installer will automatically uninstall any earlier versions and then install the latest version of IE8 Beta2 for you. You will be prompted to reboot twice. The first reboot is to remove IE8 Beta 1 from your machine and the second one to complete the IE8 Beta 2 installation. When you launch Internet Explorer, you can open the Help->About Internet Explorer dialog to see the version number 8.0.6001.18241," revealed Jane Maliouta, IE program manager.
This is valid for both XP and Windows Server 2003. On multi-core XPSP2 x86 machines users will also need to deploy KB932823 or KB946501. However, there is a scenario involving Windows XP SP3 when end users will be forced to manually uninstall the IE8 Beta 1. This will happen if IE8 Beta 1 was installed before deploying XP SP3. In this context, integrating IE8 Beta 2 into the mix will make it a permanent installation, without any options to remove the browser afterwards. Maliouta recommended that end users uninstall Service Pack 3, then IE8 Beta 1, and only then install SP3 again and on top IE8 Beta 2.
"Internet Explorer Beta 2 will be offered to those Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 systems that have IE8 Beta 1 installed and have Automatic Updates turned on. A prompt in your Windows task bar will alert you when IE8 Beta 2 is ready for installation. The language version of IE8 Beta 2 offered is based on your Windows Operating System Language version. For example, if your computer is running a Chinese Simplified or German version of Windows, you will be offered IE8 Beta 2 in Chinese Simplified or German respectively. For any other Windows languages, Internet Explorer 8 will be offered to you in English. Again, this only applies to those systems that have IE8 Beta 1 installed," Maliouta stated.
As far as Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 are concerned, Microsoft advises users to manually remove IE8 Beta 1 before deploying IE8 Beta 2. In addition, KB937287, KB957055 and KB943302 updates are required in order for the IE8 Beta 2 installation to get the green light. "After IE8 Beta 2installation is complete, the final screen of the Install Wizard indicates that Internet Explorer installation completed successfully. After you restart your computer and launch Internet Explorer, you can open the Help->About Internet Explorer dialog to see the version number 8.0.6001.18241," Maliouta said.
Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) Beta 2 is available for download here.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Making a 64-bit copy of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 confirm that it is actually Vista SP1 might require a minimum amount of effort on behalf of the end user, such as right-clicking My Computer and selecting Properties, but things are a tad different when an application is programmed to identify the operating system versions or the service pack releases. According to Scott McArthur, Support Escalation engineer with the Setup & Cluster team, Microsoft Corporation Enterprise Support, application compatibility problems can emerge when a program will look for the service pack version in the wrong location in the registry. The example given involved an application designed especially for Vista SP1 failing to install on an x64 copy of Vista SP1.
"The application was checking for the OS version in a registry value, specifically: HKLM – SOFTWARE – Wow6432Node – Microsoft - Windows NT – CurrentVersion - CSDVersion. On the x64 version of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, however this value does not exist. The correct value does show up under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE – SOFTWARE – Microsoft - Windows NT – CurrentVersion - CSDVersion however. This highlights an inherent problem with relying on the registry method to capture this information. As operating systems evolve, there is no guarantee that registry information will persist between operating systems, or in some cases there may be changes between service packs for the same operating system," McArthur explained.
In this context, there are additional methods that can be used in order to avoid such a problem. WMI queries or application programming interfaces are excellent alternatives to make an application installer dig through the registry only to find nothing, even if the right operating system and service pack are in place. McArthur advised developers to turn to the GetVersionEx function in order to test the platform version. At the same time, there are additional functions designed especially for service packs.
McArthur enumerated, "szCSDVersion: A null-terminated string, such as "Service Pack 3", that indicates the latest Service Pack installed on the system. If no Service Pack has been installed, the string is empty. wServicePackMajor: The major version number of the latest Service Pack installed on the system. For example, for Service Pack 3, the major version number is 3. If no Service Pack has been installed, the value is zero. wServicePackMinor: The minor version number of the latest Service Pack installed on the system. For example, for Service Pack 3, the minor version number is 0."
Just because Windows XP is no longer sold by retail outlets or preloaded on new computers shipping from original equipment manufacturers, it does not mean that the Redmond company will not continue to activate new installations of Windows Vista's precursor.
Microsoft indicated that the retail and OEM availability end date "has no bearing on one's ability to activate XP installations," according to PC World, and that end users will continue to be able to activate new installations of the operating system for the foreseeable future. In fact, Microsoft is prepared to keep Windows XP alive until April 8, 2014, the date at which Extended Support will be cut off, with Mainstream Support scheduled to run out by April 14, 2009.
But at the same time it cannot be any other way. Windows XP is still very much available via machines from System Builders, and will continue to be so until January 31, 2009. On top of this, Microsoft has already announced that it was extending the availability of XP on ultra-low-cost desktops and laptops until at least June 30, 2010 or one year following the general availability of Windows 7, whichever comes first.
And in the end, Windows XP continues to be available to business customers along Windows Vista. As long as the downgrade rights permit the installation of XP under a Vista license, Microsoft will have to keep XP activations alive. And even with Windows 7 Beta 1 on the horizon, Microsoft has failed to give any indication as to when it plans to discontinue sales of Windows Vista, which in mid-2008 has reached the 180 million sold licenses milestone.
Still, Microsoft can use any good news about Windows Vista, and a new Forrester report has got some. The long-winded title: "Corporate Desktop Operating System Trends, Q4 2007 Through Q2 2008: Windows Vista Deployments Are Finally Ramping Up, While Mac Continues Its Slow March on the Enterprise." The analyst firm monthly surveyed more than 50,000 enterprise end users from 2,500 organizations to compile the operating system trends.
"A new trend has emerged," writes report author Benjamin Gray. "Windows Vista migrations are now coming from Windows XP machines, which is a shift from when Forrester previously reported on these desktop OS trends." He emphasized that "the earliest adopters were mostly limited to Windows 2000 shops that were finally replacing their aging hardware with the newer Windows Vista OS preinstalled."
But earlier Forrester data also showed percentage growth gains of three-to-one to Windows XP compared with moves to Vista from Windows 2000. So there's a dark lining to this silver cloud. Windows 2000 migrations to Vista may be subsiding, but XP got more of them.
But while milestones have the potential to offer a consistent growth in terms of performance, they also come with inherent setbacks when it comes down to compatibility. According to Christopher Flores, Director Windows Communications, over the past three months Microsoft has noticed an increasing trend in the adoption of 64-bit editions of Windows Vista to outpace the 32-bit variant of the Windows operating system.
The translation is simple. The Windows client is at a juncture, a point marked by the transition from x86 to x64. And 64-bit Windows is starting to become mainstream with 32-bit versions of the platform beginning to fade into the background. This scenario is possible mainly through the new direction adopted by Original Equipment Manufacturers. While end users have failed to crowd to the new 64-bit technologies and software by themselves, OEMs are offering the necessary catalyst, by adjusting their offerings to reflect the fact that x64 is the future.
"This change begs a few questions: is the 64 bit market ready to go mainstream? Will consumers realize the benefits from larger chips and 4GB or more of memory? The answer to both of these questions is yes - but a qualified yes. Preconfigured 64-bit PCs obtained from retailers or PC manufacturers should work quite well. This is in stark contrast to the experience of many technology enthusiasts who built their 64-bit PC from scratch and may have had to scour the Web looking for drivers. So, unless you really love to tinker with your PC, we suggest you buy a pre-built 64-bit PC at retail or directly from a PC manufacturer," Flores stated.
64-bit CPUs and Windows platforms do offer enhanced performance and the possibility to go well beyond the 4 GB RAM limitation of 32-bit Windows (the high end editions of x64 Vista support up to 128 GB of system memory). But they also bring to the table incompatibility issues related mainly to drivers, but also to software.
"In the future, we expect both compatibility and performance of 64-bit PCs to continue to improve. Most hardware devices have 64-bit drivers today and most software products work unmodified because of the 32-bit emulation technology in 64-bit Windows Vista (called WOW64). But there are some gaps, especially in the long tail of the market, but we expect rapid improvement now that 64-bit PCs are getting so popular. Over time we'll see more 64-bit-optimized programs hit the market, which promise dramatic performance and experience improvements," Flores added.
Both Flores and technology Evangelist Keith Combs, pointed to the Windows Vista Compatibility Center as a resource for end users to check whether a certain application is compatible with 64-bit Windows. Alternatively, the presence of the Works with Windows Vista or Certified for Windows Vista logos is a guarantee that the hardware and software products are compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista editions. Since this is still the transition from x86 to x64, 128-bit Windows is not even on the horizon, as the 64-bit version of the Windows client is yet to actually become mainstream. Still, the soil seems fertile for 32-bit to be left behind, and Microsoft Evangelist Neil Hutson welcomed the idea.
"I think that this is great news for the industry. This gives the OS more space to breathe (in 32-bit it is always competing with Apps for Memory and processor) and will give consumers and application developer writers more opportunities to build and use a new generation applications running on the client which can use this new capability. Finally the feedback that I am getting from the external community about 64-bit Vista is really encouraging; they love it and would not go back. Let’s hope the trend continues. And no I will not be evangelizing 128bit!!!" Hutson stated.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Developed under the codename Windows Fiji, and released to manufacturing under the label Windows Media Center TV Pack 2008, the first major update to the Windows Media Center component included by default in the Home Premium and Ultimate SKUs of Windows Vista RTM and SP1, is right on track to be a disappointment. First off, although it started along as a major out-of-band release set up to build on what Windows Media Center in Vista brought to the table, the Windows Fiji project managed to lose some features along the way. Additionally, Vista Home Premium and Ultimate users will not be getting their hands on the update, unless they buy OEM products with Windows Fiji preinstalled following the release on September 3 at CEDIA.
"On July 16th, 2008, Microsoft released an update to the version of Windows Media Center included with Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate to our OEM partners – this update is referred to as the "Windows Media Center TV Pack". In order to ensure that users get the best experience possible, this update will only be available from OEMs, as they are best positioned to provide the testing and hardware configurations for a great customer experience. This is due to the fact that in some geographies there are specific technical and hardware requirements for the Windows Media Center TV Pack that are best handled by the OEMs. We are working closely with our OEM partners as they finalize their decisions on Windows Media Center TV Pack products," revealed Ben Reed, product marketing manager, Windows Media Center via Mary Jo Foley.
Reed explained that the final feature set for the Windows Media Center TV Pack 2008 code going gold was optimized following the testing of a variety of features during the beta stages of the development process. This is Microsoft's explanation for cutting native support for H.264 video standard, or for subscription-based satellite tuners, although Reed attempted not to deliver a very clear justification. However, the promise is that Windows Media Center will continue to evolve although, the software giant provided no details on the matter and the next step for WMC is theoretically Windows 7.
Reed added that "The Windows Media Center TV Pack is primarily targeted at adding support for additional international broadcast standards including:
- Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting – Terrestrial (ISDB-T) Digital television standard for Japan
- Digital Video Broadcasting – Satellite (DVB-S) free-to-air satellite standards in Europe
- Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial (DVB-T) digital television with improved user experience in Europe
- ClearQAM (Unencrypted Digital Cable) in the United States
- Interactive television with integrated Broadcast Markup language (BML) in Japan and Multimedia and Hypermedia information coding Expert Group (MHEG) (MHEG5) in Europe."
The Office 2007 System is evolving, and so is Office 2003. As a direct result of end user feedback, Microsoft has worked to bridge Windows Live Translator with its Office productivity suites. For the time being, Windows Live Translator will have to be manually integrated into Office, but the Redmond company also plans to offer the additional feature as an update. At this point in time, there is no telling when users will no longer be required to go through a setup stage in order to enjoy the benefits of Machine Translation right with their copy of Windows.
"We have officially handed over our code to the Microsoft Office team for the integration of the translation tool directly in the Research Task Pane. Once they have finished their own testing and ‘flipped the switch’ on their side, the feature will auto-update in existing versions of Office," revealed a member of the Machine Translation Team at Microsoft.
However, at the same time, manually configuring the service is nothing short of an easy task. The setup process has to start with navigating to the Review Tab, the "Proofing" ribbon, and then to the Research Options dialog. Via the "Research options" hyperlink located at the very bottom of the panel, users will be able to navigate and select a wide variety of extra services, but Windows Live Translator can be accessed by entering the following URL into the Add Services dialog box: "http://www.windowslivetranslator.com/officetrans/register.asmx".
Up next, the Windows Live Translator service will have to be installed. The feature will be offered as one of the options in the Research Pane, although the users might be required to perform an additional installation, if Office Word will prompt them to do so. Extra steps are designed to select the machine translation engine, the languages of Windows Live Translator and the bilingual dictionaries.
"The feature is really easy to use, and you can translate a block of text or an entire document, from within Office," the Microsoft Machine Translation Team member added. And, indeed, all that end users will have to do is select a piece of text or a single word and hit Translate, point Windows Live Translator to a language pair and insert the translated text into the document.
With the release of the gold version of Service Pack 1, but also with the maturing of the software and hardware environment orbiting around the Windows client, Windows Vista's compatibility level has continually increased. Still, Microsoft is very much hammering away at the operating system with its evangelism wheels in motion to gather additional support for the platform. On top of the compatibility improvements delivered via SP1, the Redmond giant continues to kick the platform up a notch with the introduction of Application Compatibility updates. The latest release in this regard went live on August 12, Microsoft's traditional Patch Tuesday.
The August 2008 Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Application Compatibility Update is being distributed through the Windows Update infrastructure, but is also served through the Microsoft Download Center. The end purpose of the update is to provide resolves to specific application compatibility problems with the latest Windows client and server operating systems.
In this context, Vista RTM, SP1 and Windows Server 2008 have been updated to play nice with Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5. As far as the two solutions are concerned, Microsoft indicated that it has improved their functionality for the two operating systems.
On top of this, the Redmond giant has also hard blocked One Key Recovery 5.0, a piece of software which caused black screens of death for Vista RTM to Vista SP1 upgrades. "The update puts a hard block on the application. A hard block prevents an application that is incompatible with Windows Vista from running on the system. Microsoft puts a hard block on a non-Microsoft application only when the manufacturer of the application gives its consent," the company informed.
One Key Recovery 5.0 was incompatible with Windows Vista, and in this sense the reason for the black screen of death which followed the reboot after an SP1 installation on top of Vista RTM. The fix is only provided for Vista, although Windows XP SP3 is also affected. "'Windows Vista Application Compatibility Updates are cumulative. Each update contains all the improvements that were included in previous application compatibility updates," Microsoft added.
The August 2008 Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Application Compatibility Update is available for download via the following links:
- Update for Windows Server 2008 (KB954336)
- Update for Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems (KB954336)
- Update for Windows Server 2008 x64 Edition (KB954336)
- Update for Windows Vista (KB954336)
- Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB954336)
The fact of the matter is that Microsoft has been cooking an official Windows 7 blog for quite some time. You have been able to read about it first right here on Softpedia, as early as the end of June 2008, but at that time, the Redmond giant's Windows 7 blogging initiatives were little contoured outside the company. This is no longer the case as the Engineering Windows 7 blog is now live.
"Beginning with this post together we are going to start looking forward towards the "Windows 7" project. We know there are tons of questions about the specifics of the project and strong desire to know what’s in store for the next major release of Windows. Believe us, we are just as excited to start talking about the release. Over the past 18 months since Windows Vista’s broad availability, the team has been hard at work creating the next Windows product," cordially revealed Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan.
Now Sinofsky and DeVaan are no ordinary Windows bloggers. Far from it, in fact. The first is none other than Steven (affectionately) "codenamed Translucency" Sinofsky, senior vice president, Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, and the reason why Microsoft is largely mute on Windows 7. The latter is senior vice president of the Windows Core Operating System Division, and together with Sinofsky, makes the duo leading the Windows 7 project.
"Planning a product like Windows involves systematic learning from customers of all types. In terms of planning the release we’ve been working with a wide variety of customers and partners (PC makers, hardware developers, enterprise customers, developers, and more) since the start of the project. We also continue our broad consumer learning through telemetry (Customer Experience Improvement Program), usability studies, and more," the two added.
Vista SP1 Evolves with New Reliability and Performance Boost - Available also for Windows Server 2008
And with Windows XP available only on ultra-low-cost desktops and laptops and via downgrade rights, the focus falls entirely on the Windows Vista platform, now with Service Pack 1. But even Vista SP1 needs additional work, and the latest evolution involves a newly released reliability and performance update straight from Microsoft. And since Vista SP1 shares its core and codebase with Windows Server 2008, the update is also available for the latest version of the Windows Server operating system.
"This update resolves issues that may affect some Windows Vista SP1-based or Windows Server 2008-based computers. These issues have been reported by customers who use the Error Reporting service or Microsoft Customer Support Services. This update improves the performance, stability, and reliability of Windows Vista SP1 and of Windows Server 2008 in various scenarios," Microsoft informed.
The refresh is designed to integrate seamlessly with just the gold variants of Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 RTM/SP1. Microsoft has indicated repeatedly a strong commitment not to rely exclusively on service pack releases in order to "grow" its software products. And in this regard, releases served via Windows Update offer illustrative examples of how Microsoft is leaning on incremental updates rather than major refreshes in order to increase the quality of the user experience.
Here are the items included in the reliability and performance update, as revealed by Microsoft:
"• Improvements to the stability of Windows Vista SP1-based or Windows Server 2008-based computers that use Windows ReadyBoost technology.
• Improvements to the performance of wireless adapters when you switch between preferred networks after the computer resumes from hibernation.
• New functionality to prevent a data loss scenario when certain registry keys are missing while the Microsoft Disk Cleanup tool is running.
• Improvements to system reliability when Group Policy settings and SMB signing are used.
• Improvements to the stability of systems on which Nvidia graphics cards are installed."
The download pages of the update can be accessed via the links below in accordance with the specific versions of Vista and Windows Server 2008:
- Windows Vista, 32-bit versions
- Windows Vista, 64-bit versions
- Windows Server 2008, 32-bit versions
- Windows Server 2008, 64-bit versions
- Windows Server 2008, Itanium-based versions
Windows 7 Server and Windows Server 2008 R2 are both, much in the same sense, future iterations of the Windows Server platform.
It has become an established tradition with the Redmond company to release minor and major versions of the Windows Server operating system alternatively. In this context, Windows Server 2008 R2 fitted the role of a minor update, while Microsoft already confirmed Windows 7 Server as the next major release of Windows Server. However, a new piece of information coming from the Redmond giant now indicates that Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 Server are one and the same thing.
IT Professional Martijn Brant revealed a fragment of text included in the TechNet newsletter from Microsoft Netherlands, signed by Microsoft veteran Tony Krijnen: ""Zo hebben Daniël en ik net een uitgebreide training achter de rug over de mogelijkheden van Windows 7 (Windows Server 2008 R2) en alles over het Software+Services concept". (Translation: Daniël and I just completed an extended training on the features of Windows 7 (Windows Server 2008 R2) and on everything related to the Software+Services concept)." (via Bink.nu)
Microsoft has not officially confirmed any connection between Windows 7 Server and Windows Server 2008 R2. In fact, the software company has managed not to say much about either of the two future versions of Windows Server – and certainly not to reveal any detail that could point to a potential connection between the two.
The new details coming from Microsoft Netherlands do however catalyze an interesting scenario. Windows 7 Server as the successor of Windows Server 2008, mirroring the relationship between Windows 7 and Windows Vista, could only have been delivered in 2011 or 2012. But, if Windows 7 Server and Windows Server 2008 R2 are one and the same, this could mean yet another synchronized launch for the Windows client and server operating systems. In this regard, it is possible that Microsoft is cooking a joint launch of Windows 7 and Windows 7 Server/Windows Server 2008 R2 for the end of 2009, but no later than 2010.