Monday, October 27, 2008

Free Nero 9 Available for Download

One year after the release of Nero 8, Nero has made available for download the next iteration of the integrated digital media and home entertainment software suite.

Simply Create, Rip, Burn, Copy, Share, Backup, Play, and Enjoy

box-nero9-96 (18965 Byte) nero 9 is the next generation of the world’s most trusted integrated digital media and home entertainment software suite. It features new cutting-edge functionality that makes enjoying digital media content simple.

This easy-to-use yet powerful multimedia suite, gives you the freedom to create, rip, copy, burn, edit, share, and upload online. Whatever you want – music, video, photo, and data – enjoy and share with family and friends anytime, anywhere.

With easy-to-use Nero StartSmart command center, your digital life has never been more flexible, feasible, and fun.

A trial version of Nero 9 is up for grabs for free (just 370 MB) as Nero announced the availability of the successor of version 8. Nero 9 introduces enhancements across the table, from the graphical user interface to high definition support to autobackup and data protection. According to the developer, Nero 9 is the direct result of intimately incorporating user input into the product.

"In developing Nero 9, we polled more than 3,000 of our worldwide customers to determine the functionality that they really wanted from the suite. This type of feedback has been invaluable to us over the last decade and has shown us that our consumers are increasingly living digital lives where the PC is the center of the home. They require cutting-edge multimedia capabilities which allow them to enjoy and share their content online and across devices with unparalleled ease of use," revealed Jürgen Kurz, senior vice president, Business Line PC and Consumer Electronics, Nero AG.

On the surface, Nero 9 sports an overhauled graphical user interface designed to streamline access to the basic functions of the solution from burning to ripping, to playback, and to backup. Under the hood, the suite brings capabilities including movie ad-removal (Ad Spotter), audio extraction (Music Grabber), high-quality live TV, automatic backup, etc.

Nero enumerated some of the highlights of Nero 9:

- Fast and easy rip, burn, Autobackup, and copy functions
- Backup files to CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray Discs
- Create professional-looking DVD movies with integrated 3D menus
- Copy, burn, share, upload, and create music mixes like a DJ
- Convert music, photos, and DVDs to play on your iPod and other mobile devices
- Quick photo and video upload to My Nero, YouTube, and MySpace
- Watch, record, pause, and customize your live TV experience
- Play AVCHD and other HD formats
- When you buy Nero 9, you get Nero BackItUp 4 FREE!


Nero 9 ( (link 1)
Nero 9 ( (link 2)

Windows Genuine Advantage Notification Wga crack

You should know by now that Microsoft enhanced Windows anti piracy measures with Genuine Advantage Wga

Is holding out for Windows 7 a gamble worth taking?

With more and more information about Windows 7 coming out almost daily, I’m getting increasing numbers of emails from people wanting my advice on whether they should skip Vista and hold out for Windows 7 or make the plunge now and make plans relating to “7? once the OS is out.

Having discussed this issue with several people I’ve come to a conclusion that it’s far too early to make any plans relating to Windows 7 and your OS migration plans should be based solely on Vista in the here and now and not on what Windows 7 might or might not bring.

The first thing that you need to bear in mind is that there no firm date for the release of Windows 7. The ballpark guess range is between late 2009 or early 2010. Pundits are carpet-bombing that range with guesses as to when we’ll see Windows 7, but remember that they are all guesses right now. And there’s even no guarantee that the 7’s release date won’t fall outside of this range. After all, quality of the release will count more than ever. Peter Bright of Ars Technica put it well:

Though Microsoft’s customers clearly won’t tolerate a kind of Duke Nukem Forever “when it’s finished” approach—the software does need to ship, after all—a first-rate Windows 7 in the first half of 2010 will make customers much happier than another release with Vista-like teething trouble in late 2009.

BINGO! Microsoft can’t afford to botch the release of Windows 7 in the way it did with Vista. If Microsoft doesn’t get plenty of “WOW!” right from the start with Windows 7, the Redmond giant has a big problem on its hands.

But here’s my worry in advising people to skip over Vista and wait for Windows 7. Vista, as it stands now with SP1, is a pretty decent version of Windows. Compatibility issues have largely been fixed (if you hardware of software isn’t supported by now, it’s unlikely to be supported), performance is on-par or marginally better than XP (depending on the benchmark that you choose), and reliability is light-years ahead of what it was when Vista was first released. But these fixes took months. What if Windows 7 is plagued by the same issues and that OS takes a year to fix? Taking the most optimistic release date that we have (mid-2009) that would mean that Windows 7 wouldn’t be “ready” until mid-2010. This has several implications:

* That makes XP awfully old (9 years old).
* It’s likely that hardware/software support will be getting patchy.
* The abandonment of support for XP by your vendor would likely push you into having to come up with a migration plan, rather than come up with one at your own speed.

Jump or be pushed? Which is best? You decide!


Microsoft: Pirates prefer Windows XP over Vista

Software counterfeiters pass on Windows Vista and instead prefer to pirate Windows XP, a Microsoft Corp. attorney said today, outlining a practice that tracks with the leanings of many of the company's customers.

While explaining the "Global Anti-Piracy Day" educational and enforcement effort Microsoft launched today, Bonnie MacNaughton, a senior attorney with the company, acknowledged that pirates prefer Windows XP over Vista.

"Historically, counterfeiters tend to focus on the 'n-1' version of software," MacNaughton said. "Because of the more robust antipiracy and security features in Vista, most sophisticated piracy rings still continue to focus on XP. But that's changing over time."

That pirates have stuck with XP -- which retains the bulk of the Windows operating system's market share -- is "very consistent with what we've seen in counterfeiting in the past," said MacNaughton. "There's usually a lag of between one and two years [before they can] figure out how to replicate those antipiracy and security features."

Counterfeiters currently copy Office 2003 rather than the newer Office 2007 for the same reasons, she said.

MacNaughton also touted the day's announcements of new initiatives and lawsuit filings scheduled to take place in 49 countries, ranging from Argentina to the U.S. "As counterfeiters have gotten more sophisticated, we have realized that this is not a situation that we can address alone," she said. "And we want to stress [today] the collaboration with Microsoft's partners and customers, and governments."

In the U.S., Microsoft filed 20 new lawsuits in federal court against software resellers that, according to the company's allegations, either sold pirated copies of Microsoft Windows XP Professional and Office or installed the counterfeit software on new PCs. Nine of the lawsuits were filed in California; two each were filed in Ohio, Oregon and Texas; and others were filed in Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota and New York.

MacNaughton also said that Microsoft is planning on another antipiracy educational effort early next year to make sure that customers know Windows XP's lifespan is coming to an end. "We're expecting that counterfeiters will attempt to fill the void at XP's end of sales," she said.

Microsoft will halt Windows XP Professional sales to small mom-and-pop computer sellers after Jan. 31, 2009. Larger computer manufacturers, such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., however, will be able to obtain XP media for "downgrades" from Vista Business and Vista Ultimate licenses through the end of July 2009. Microsoft only recently said that it would extend shipments of XP to OEMs; previously, it had said it would stop the practice in January.


Top 10 Recommended Programs for Windows Vista

Just to be different for a change, I’ve decided to write up a quick news post concerning some of the more interesting programs I currently have installed on my Windows Vista notebook and recommend my favorites onto you, the readers of However, I must first point out that while some of you may not consider some of the items I list as ‘essential’, please bear in mind that all of the programs I catalogue below just happen to be things that I happen to find very useful and help make my computing-life a whole heck of alot easier.

And with that said, let’s get on with the show and I’ll introduce my Top 10 Recommended Programs for Windows Vista for January ‘08. I may even reduce it to a ‘Top 5′ in the future and turn this a monthly event! Depending on whether or not I can come across enough great programs for Windows Vista, that is. Software doesn’t grow on trees, you know!

10. WinRAR

“WinRAR is a powerful archive manager. It can backup your data and reduce size of email attachments, decompress RAR, ZIP and other files downloaded from Internet and create new archives in RAR and ZIP file format.” — couldn’t have said it better myself.

9. Eraser

Eraser is an advanced security tool (for Windows), which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.

8. SonicStage

A fantastic music player and a great alternative to iTunes and WinAmp. It’s also the only program compatible with my Sony Walkman Bean MP3 player. ;)

7. TextPad

TextPad is an award winning text editor for Windows XP and Windows Vista. It’s certainly a much better alternative to Windows’ built-in NotePad and WordPad. An absolute much download for web designers who spend the majority of their time coding up templates in HTML and programming complex applications in PHP and JavaScript.

6. Spybot: Search and Destroy

Spybot: Search and Destroy is a program dedicated to eliminating all the nasty spyware and malware that resides on your computer. A fantastic piece of software and comes very highly recommended if you intend to keep your computer safe and sound from spyware.

5. AVG Anti-Virus Professional

Security protection against viruses, worms, trojans and potentially unwanted programs.

4. ZoneAlarm Pro Firewall

Shield yourself with an unrivaled firewall enhanced with powerful anti-spyware and unique identity protection services.

3. SmartFTP

SmartFTP is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client which allows you to transfer files between your local computer and a server on the Internet. Much better than its closest competitors, CuteFTP and FileZilla, in my opinion.

2. Firefox

A genuinely incredible internet browser that, in my humble opinion, sets the standard for all current and next generation web browsers. Firefox is an absolute shining example of how it should be done. And this is coming from someone who has tasted what Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Maxthon, Netscape and a wealth of other browsers have to offer. Get Firefox now!

1. Adobe Photoshop CS3

Adobe Photoshop CS3 — without a doubt the finest graphics editing software available today and an absolute must for digital photography enthusiasts and web designers. Sadly, it doesn’t come cheap, though. Adobe Photoshop CS3 currently retails for the rather terrifying price of US$649 and Photoshop CS3 Extended Edition retails for US$999. Unless, of course, you are upgrading from a previous version of Photoshop, whereby you are eligible to purchase at a discount price.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Windows 7: Not Windows 7 at All, It Is Windows 6.1

Windows 7 is not Windows 7 at all, it's actually Windows 6.1. After revealing that there is no difference between the Windows 7 codename, product number and the official brand of the next iteration of the Windows client, Microsoft indicated that things are a tad different when it comes down to the actual code of the operating system. Mike Nash, Corporate Vice President, Windows Product Management, indicated that the Windows 7 code would in fact be packed and labeled as Windows 6.1 compared to 6.0.6001 which is Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

“We decided to ship the Windows 7 code as Windows 6.1 - which is what you will see in the actual version of the product in cmd.exe or computer properties,” Nash stated, revealing that this detail changes nothing about the true nature of Windows 7. “There's been some fodder about whether using 6.1 in the code is an indicator of the relevance of Windows 7. It is not. Windows 7 is a significant and evolutionary advancement of the client operating system. It is in every way a major effort in design, engineering and innovation. The only thing to read into the code versioning is that we are absolutely committed to making sure application compatibility is optimized for our customers.”

Nash explained that Windows 7 would be nothing more than the brand of the next version of Windows. The close connection between the seventh release of Windows, the codename, and the official name is however broken when it comes down to the Windows codebase. The move is necessary to support Microsoft's promise that Windows 7 will not impact hardware and software products already compatible with Windows Vista.

“We learned a lot about using 5.1 for XP and how that helped developers with version checking for API compatibility. We also had the lesson reinforced when we applied the version number in the Windows Vista code as Windows 6.0-- that changing basic version numbers can cause application compatibility issues. So we decided to ship the Windows 7 code as Windows 6.1 - which is what you will see in the actual version of the product in cmd.exe or computer properties,” Nash stated.

How can I install Windows XP Pro on my computer?

As a Microsoft Windows XP Professional support professional, one of your tasks may be to install the operating system.

Step #1: Plan your installation

When you run the Windows XP Professional Setup program, you must provide information about how to install and configure the operating system. Thorough planning can make your installation of Windows XP Professional more efficient by helping you to avoid potential problems during installation. An understanding of the configuration options will also help to ensure that you have properly configured your system.

I won't go into that part right now but here are some of the most important things you should take into consideration when planning for your XP installation:

  • Check System Requirements

  • Check Hardware and Software Compatibility

  • Determine Disk Partitioning Options

  • Choose the Appropriate File System: FAT, FAT32, NTFS

  • Decide on a Workgroup or Domain Installation

  • Complete a Pre-Installation Checklist

After you made sure you can go on, start the installation process.

Step #2: Beginning the installation process

You can install Windows XP in several methods - all are valid and good, it all depends upon your needs and your limitations.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Turn your PC into a Mac!!

Here is a bonus how-to for you this week. After becoming obsessed with a story on Wired News from last month about people getting their Windows PCs to have the same look and feel of Mac OS X, we convinced staff member Kurt Williams to give us the lowdown on how we could do it ourselves:

So, you wanna make your ugly Windows XP interface look like Mac OS X, huh? It's really not all that difficult to do, and with a little luck, you'll be able to convince all but the most die-hard Mac users that you run an Apple computer. First, here's a list of the programs you'll need:
  • StyleXP or WindowBlinds (skins the Graphical User Interface of your operating system)
  • ObjectBar (the white Finder bar on the top of Macs; has File, Edit, View, etc. on it.)
  • ObjectDock, YzDock (discontinued), or MobyDock (The dock on the bottom of a Mac that contains icons and shortcuts to programs)
  • Trillian (chat program that can be skinned to resemble iChat)
  • YzToolbar (skins the toolbar icons in your Windows windows)
  • YzShadow (puts a lovely drop shadow under your windows á la Mac OS X)
  • Rainlendar (popular skinable desktop calendar)
  • Rainmeter (skinnable desktop system statistics)
  • Samurize (like Konfabulator for the Mac; can display just about anything, such as clocks, uptime, and the weather)
  • iTunes for Windows (self-explanatory)
  • Icons (The pretty little pictures on your desktop that point you somewhere. There are millions out there, but try the link provided for over a 1,000 lifted from Mac OS X 10.3 aka Panther)

That's pretty much what you'll want for starters. You don't need all of these, and in fact, you really only need a few to get a reasonably good looking OS X facsimile, but if you're gonna do this you might as well do it right. Now on to the guide.

This guide assumes that you have either downloaded/purchased the programs listed and 0that you know your way around a computer, at least to a reasonable extent.

1) I use StyleXP for my visual style, so that's what I'll detail here. WindowBlinds isn't that different, but if you prefer it, be my guest. The first thing you'll need to do is download a skin. I recommend Kol's website, StudioTwentyEight for some excellent skins, but feel free to look around for any others that might interest you. Download your ZIP, and extract it to C:\WINDOWS\Resources\Themes. Open up StyleXP and load up that baby. Your windows should now look like the skin you downloaded. If you chose Panther (an excellent choice) then they should look somewhat like this:


2) Time to find a good ObjectBar skin. I'd suggest crni's website for some excellent themes. Download the one you like best and extract it to your ObjectBar folder. Open the new folder in there (named something like the theme you downloaded) and double-click the .OBTHEME icon. The top of your screen should now look something like this, depending on your theme (Milk for me):

3) Next up is the dock. Open up whichever version you settled on downloading. This is pretty easy to set up. Basically all you need to do is drag shortcuts or executables to the dock and ta da, you have a shortcut. To change it's icon, right-click and select "change icon" or some variation. To get new icons to select, make sure you put them in the icons subfolder (for YzDock) or the main dock folder (for ObjectDock). Easy as pie. When you have the icons and programs you like, it should look something like this:


trillian 4) For those that don't know, Trillian is a nifty chat program that sticks AIM, MSN, ICQ, and IRC into one program. If you don't use it, you should if for no other reason that it can look a lot like iChat. You may or may not need the Pro version to get the skin to work. I've heard mixed reports, but if it doesn't work right, I'd say you need the Pro version. An excellent choice for skins are Danimator's iChat skins. Extract it to your Trillian skin directory, open up Trillian's preferences, go to skins, and select the new skin you want to use. You can follow the readme for some more precise directions to get it looking perfect. When you're done, it should look like this:

5) YzToolbar and YzShadow are pretty self-explanatory. Just install 'em and run 'em. You can find good YzToolbar skins on the net: I'd recommend Aqua-Soft or AquaXP. Depending on skin (Milk, for me) and settings, it should look something like this:



6) Rainlendar and Rainmeter are also pretty easy to install and set-up. Just run the installer, and find a good skin. Again, there's many to choose from. I'd suggest searching the forums at the aforementioned Aqua-Soft and AquaXP. Here's the Rainlender skin I use.


OS X7) Samurize is a bit complicated, so if you're going to try and use it, be forewarned that it can be a very big hassle, if it works at all. I'm not even going to try and explain it in this brief overview, but if you are serious about it, check out the Samurize forums at Aqua-Soft and AquaXP. Here's an example of what it can do:

8) If you listen to music on your computer, no Aqua-fication can be complete without the authentic iTunes for Windows. Apple provides plenty of documentation on how to install and use it, so I'll leave that part to them. If you want to make it look more like iTunes for Macintosh, check out localhost's multi-plugin.

And the final result:

Mac OS X

So that's pretty much all there is to it. Good luck!

Run Mac OS X on non apple PC

People have long wanted to run the Mac OS operating system on PC hardware, specifically on Intel and AMD architectures. But despite pleas and prayers, that wish remains unfulfilled.

Although running Mac OS natively on PC hardware is not possible, there is another option--running Mac OS X on an emulator. In this article, I will show you how to install and run Mac OS X Panther on your PC using PearPC, a free, architecture-independent PowerPC platform that runs on PCs. To check out PearPC's features, go to the PearPC-PowerPC Architecture Emulator web site.

Here are the steps you'll take to use PearPC to install Mac OS X:

  1. Download the PearPC PowerPC Architecture Emulator.
  2. Obtain hard disk images for use with PearPC.
  3. Obtain images of your client OS installation disk.
  4. Configure PearPC to use the hard disk image and the OS images.

Downloading PearPC

Download the PearPC PowerPC Architecture Emulator. Once it's downloaded, extract its content to a folder, say, [Desktop]:\PearPC. This is the folder that is going to contain all of the files you'll see in the next couple of sections.

Note: [Desktop] refers to the path of my Windows desktop; that is, C:\Documents and Settings\Wei-Meng Lee\Desktop\.

Hard disk images

To install Mac OS X on the emulator, you need a hard disk image. You can download preformatted hard disk images from Two disk sizes are available: 3GB and 6GB. If you plan to install the full Mac OS X, then use the 6GB image. If you have limited disk space on your hard drive, use the smaller, 3GB image. Be aware that the default install of Mac OS X takes up a little more than 3GB, and so you need to unselect certain components during installation if you use the 3GB image.

The disk images come in two formats: BZ2 and RAR. I used the 6GB RAR disk images. You need to uncompress the disk image before you can use it. To uncompress the RAR image, I used WinRAR from Uncompress the image and save it in the [Desktop]:\PearPC folder.

Making images of your client OS

To install Mac OS X on your hard disk image, you need to make copies of your Mac OS X installation disk in ISO format. You can use Nero or any other disk utility to save CDs or DVDs in ISO format. In my case, I have saved the images in the C:\PearPC folder. I have named the first disk Panther1.iso.

Note: You need to purchase Mac OS X in order to run Mac OS X in PearPC.

Configuring PearPC

Once you've taken the previous steps, you're ready for the final step: configuring PearPC to use the all the relevant disk images. To do it, you need to create a configuration file. You can find the instructions on how to create one manually at Or you can download a Windows application that does all the hard work for you. In my case, I used the PearPC Control Panel to help me manage my Mac OS X emulation.

Launch PearPC Control Panel and click on the Create New Configuration File icon. You will see the first screen as shown in Figure 1. Click on Continue to proceed to the next step.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Using the Create Configuration File wizard

In the next screen, you have to supply a few pieces of information (see Figure 2). First, specify the location of the PearPC emulator. In my case, it is [Desktop]:\PearPC\ppc.exe.

Next, specify the location of the hard disk image; that is, [Desktop]:\PearPC\macosx_6gb.img.

Note: Be sure to replace [Desktop] with your own desktop path.

Also, set the amount of memory you want to set aside for Mac OS X. (I have allocated 255MB.) Click on Continue.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Creating a new configuration file

In the next screen, you have the option to specify the screen resolution and color depth to use. Click on Finish when done (see Figure 3).

Note: I tried to enable networking, but I never got it to work. Also, use G3 and not G4 CPU emulation.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Specifying additional options

Give a name to the configuration file and save the file in the location specified (see Figure 4). Name it Mac OS X Panther and save it in the location [Desktop]:\PearPC\macosxpanther.cfg. Click on Finish.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Completing the wizard

You should now see the icon for your Mac OS X Panther in the PearPC Control Panel (see Figure 5). You need to complete one final step before you start installing Mac OS X on your PC--check the "CD-ROM device is installed" option and specify the location of the Mac OS install disk image. In my case, it is [Desktop]:\Panther1.iso. This is the image that will be used to boot up the emulator.

Figure 5
Figure 5. The completed configuration file

Figure 6 shows the files in my [Desktop]:\PearPC folder. The important files are highlighted.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Files in the PearPC folder

That's it! Double-click on the Mac OS X Panther icon and you should see the PearPC 0.3.0 window pop up (see Figure 7). Your Mac OS X installation should start soon afterward.

Note: It took me quite a while to get my Mac OS X to install. I encountered a number of failed attempts--when I booted into Mac OS X, it prompted me to restart my machine. But after several attempts, it worked.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Installing Mac OS X

Once the OS is installed, you will be asked to restart the machine. For subsequent attempts to run Mac OS X on your emulator, you should uncheck the "CD-ROM device is installed" option so that it can boot directly from the hard disk image. If the installation is performed correctly, you should see something like Figure 8 when Mac OS X boots up.

Figure 8
Figure 8. Mac OS X booting up

Figure 9 shows I am having fun with my newly installed Mac on my PC.

Figure 9
Figure 9. Running Mac OS X on a PC!

And if you still doubt if I am really running Mac OS X on my PC, Figure 10 will prove it to you.

Figure 10
Figure 10. Running Mac OS X in my Windows XP PC


Before installing PearPC and using Mac OS X, you need to keep several things in mind:

  1. You need a license to run Mac OS X. That is, you need to buy a copy of Mac OS X.
  2. The installation process takes time. Don't install Mac OS X on a slow machine; I tried the steps outlined in this article on three different machines--933MHz, 1.7GHz, and 3.0GHz, all equipped with 512MB of RAM. The 3.0GHz machine installed significantly faster compared with the rest, but it still took me several hours to get all of the installation done. Also, make sure you have lots of free hard disk space. The hard disk image itself takes up 6GB, and the additional installation disk images are going to take up a few more gigabytes.
  3. Even though the installation process is painfully slow, once the system is installed it is actually quite responsive. While you won't be able to fully experience Mac OS X as if you were using a real Mac, the emulation provides a good way for you to try out Mac OS X before you head to the nearest Apple shop to get the latest iMac.

Have fun, and let me know if PearPC works for you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vista SP1 Performance

Poor performance was one of the sins associated with Windows Vista RTM, especially in comparison to Windows XP throughout 2007.
In this context, the Service Pack 1 for the operating system was long overdue as Microsoft faced what it seemed to be an ever increasing wave of criticism because of the sluggish pace at which Vista performed common tasks through which XP seemed to breeze with no issues. This situation was remedied with the introduction of SP1, and now Windows Vista's performance is placed under the microscope by a panel of IT professionals and Microsoft employees in a Springboard Series Virtual Roundtable with Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich (transcript available for download here).
The conclusion of the Springboard Series Virtual Roundtable focused on Vista performance is that the advent of Service Pack 1 helped clear the operating system of the problems it had as a RTM version. At the same time, it wasn't just the service pack, as much as it was the ecosystem of hardware and software solutions built around the platform growing more mature. In this regard, the optimization of computers' BIOS and drivers has contributed to speeding up Windows Vista, according to Gabe Aul, a principal group program manager for Microsoft specializing in Windows performance.
“So the scenario is that if a critical driver to the boot process, boots their driver, is not self-signed, embedded signed, then the system has to check the catalog file to see if there is a signature there in order for it to allow to progress,” Aul stated. “What happens though is that on a lot of systems, especially if you have gone through multiple driver updates, catalog files can accumulate and, suddenly, during the boot process you are scanning through a number of catalog files while you are waiting for, in order for the system to continue to load. So, embedding signing the driver will skip that step and that can save a considerable amount of time. Five to ten seconds on boot depending on the number of drivers and catalog files that are on the system.”
Aul also indicated that Vista is in fact superior to CP when it comes down to launching applications. This is where Vista-exclusive technologies come in, with the focus on superfetch. Aul explained that on XP, the cold launch of applications involved accessing the disk for all the bits and hitting a bottleneck for performance. This is no longer valid in Windows Vista because of the caching performed by superfetch.
“Having that stuff cached by superfetch means that your cold launch time if you’ve never launched this app in this session but superfetch has cached the data that predicts what I need, then than warm launch, or that cold launch time will be very, very close to warm. And, so, you should see with Vista that the app launch times are much more consistent than they were with XP when it could be very fast or very slow,” Aul explained.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Windows XP gets another lifeline

Bowing to continued demand, Microsoft has again extended the life of Windows XP.
Although the largest PC makers can't sell XP anymore (except for ultra-low-cost machines), they can sell Vista Ultimate and Vista Business machines with XP discs in the box, or even Vista machines that are "factory downgraded" to Windows XP.

That option was supposed to go away early next year, as Microsoft was going to stop supplying Windows XP media after January 31. However, the company now says it will offer
the discs through July 31, giving the option a six-month extension. (Update: PC makers will also be able to sell the factory downgraded machines online as well.)

~"Three months after Microsoft stopped selling new copies of Windows XP, the software remains a top seller on


In a statement provided to CNET News, Microsoft tried to put the best face on the move.

"As more customers make the move to Windows Vista, we want to make sure that they are making that transition with confidence and that it is as smooth as possible," Microsoft said. "Providing downgrade media for a few more months is part of that commitment, as is the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program, which provides one-on-one, customized support for our small-business customers."

CEO Steve Ballmer said on Thursday in France that 180 million copies of Vista have been sold, but he noted that businesses continue to move at their own pace. When asked about whether companies should move to Vista or wait for Windows 7, even Ballmer said it depends on the business.

"So, my point isn't to encourage you to do it immediately; of course, we'd love you to do it immediately," Ballmer said. "My real advice is to do it in the natural rhythm of your PC upgrade cycle...Most of you will not upgrade the software on existing hardware. Some will. Most of you will actually choose to buy new machines when you move forward, and so we should work with you in that context."

The less major computer makers, known as system builders in Microsoft parlance, are still able to sell XP machines without having to do the Vista downgrade thing. That option is set to end Jan. 31 and Microsoft says that date isn't being extended.

Microsoft stopped selling Windows XP on June 30, though it continues to be available as retail supplies last. It has been a top seller on Amazon for some time, and several versions of XP are still among the retailer's top 25 best-selling software titles.

The six-month extension for XP discs was noted earlier by The Register, a tech news site.

Study: Microsoft Cashback attracting visitors

Microsoft's Cashback program, which offers people discounts on products purchased through the company's Live search engine, is attracting visitors, research firm Hitwise said Friday.

The Cashback service is attracting attention of visitors to Microsoft's search sites, Hitwise reported.

The Cashback program is attracting attention of visitors to Microsoft's search sites, Hitwise reported.

(Credit: Hitwise)

"We see an interesting trend where the share of visits to the Cashback section of MSN Live is increasing," said research director Heather Dougherty on the company's blog. "Eleven weeks ago, MSN Cashback represented 3.75 percent of the traffic to and grew to 6.29 percent last week. This rise in Cashback's traffic underscores the interest in the program, which is likely to be getting a boost from shoppers looking to save money and stretch their budgets given the current economic climate."

While Cashback accounts for an increasing fraction of Microsoft searches, though, the company's overall search share has stayed level at about 5.4 percent in July, August, and September, Hitwise said. Over that period, Yahoo dropped from 18.7 percent to 18.1 percent, while Google increased from 70.8 percent to 71.2 percent.

The Cashback site on its own ranked 12th in search engine traffic for the week ending September 27, Dougherty said.

Paying people to search, in effect, has its limits, though. One analyst said Microsoft's newer SearchPerks incentive, which gives points for searching that can be redeemed for prizes, smacks of desperation and could hurt the company's reputation. (Also, it requires Internet Explorer to sign up.)

Microsoft, though, appears more worried about getting brand recognition in search in the first place than about having that brand hurt. "We know we have some challenges with the brand and perception. Simple awareness is still a challenge for us," said spokeswoman Whitney Burk earlier. And paying people to search can work: "Over the long-term these programs have changed people's behavior."

Monday, October 6, 2008

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Microsoft's 'Cloud' OS arriving in October

Microsoft's cloud OS is a mere few weeks away from becoming a reality according to Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer, talking to partner event in London reiterated the need for an operating system that would suit the increasing demand of consumers for 'cloud' computing, or internet-based services and data storage.

"We need a new operating system designed for the cloud and we will introduce one in about four weeks, we'll even have a name to give you by then. But let's just call it for the purposes of today 'Windows Cloud'," said Ballmer.

Windows in the cloud

"Just like Windows Server looked a lot like Windows but with new properties, new characteristics and new features, so will Windows Cloud look a lot like Windows Server.

"We're not driving an agenda towards being service providers, but we've gotta build a service that is Windows in the cloud."

The chances are that any new OS will use much of the company's existing platform, leaning heavily on the existing Live services like 'SkyDrive' storage, Hotmail and Messenger – but also have geo replication and a new search oriented architecture (SOA) model.

Interesting times

With Windows 7 finally entering its pre-Beta stage at the forthcoming Professional Developers Conference at the end of October, Microsoft's desire to get back on track after the towering failure of Vista to convince business or consumer fields that Windows is here to stay is palpable.

However, with cloud computing and Midori both hitting the agenda again, the company is hedging its bets for the next generation of OS.

Ballmer insisted that Midori – the codename for a project to find a post-Windows OS – is still merely research.

"Our big problem is there's just no secret that gets kept in Microsoft. The guy in the office next door to somebody working on Midori is not supposed to know about Midori," added Ballmer.

"The last thing we want is for somebody else to obsolete us, if we're gonna get obseleted [sic] we better do it to ourselves."

Microsoft Confirms 'Windows Cloud' OS

At its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) event later this month, Microsoft will publicly unveil its 'Windows Cloud' Internet-based operating system, the company confirmed. I've been told several times by Microsoft representatives in the recent past that this system would in fact be the focus of PDC this year.

"We need a new operating system designed for the cloud and we will introduce one in about four weeks," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said yesterday in London. "We'll even have a name to give you by then. But let's just call it for the purposes of today 'Windows Cloud.' Just like Windows Server looked a lot like Windows but with new properties, new characteristics and new features, so will Windows Cloud look a lot like Windows Server.'"

This platform has been in the works for a long time, and the most obvious public face of Microsoft cloud work right now is the Live Mesh project that was championed by Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie. A session description for the PDC describes a "Microsoft cloud platform" that provides "scalability and availability" and "service isolation and protection."

In an official statement, Microsoft confirmed the coming platform. "Microsoft is investing heavily in its Software + Services vision, particularly as it relates to the services platform to deliver a set of solutions that address our customer's needs," an official statement reads. "We are working with many of our customers, partners and our broad developer community to understand their needs for extensible, scalable services platforms."

While Microsoft has been slowly and methodically embracing cloud computing for a few years now, this explicit admission that it is working on a Windows OS that runs in the Internet cloud should put an end to any naysaying. "We've gotta build a service that is Windows in the cloud," Ballmer said.

Yes you do, Steve. Yes, you do.

Windows XP gets another six months

Given its history of moving deadlines at a moment's notice, it hardly seems surprising that Microsoft is keeping Windows XP alive even longer than expected, but its latest move looks particularly bad for Vista.

The apparent decision to allow OEM computer sellers to offer disks that downgrade installations of Windows Vista to XP until the end of July next year clearly bumps up against the period when Windows 7 might be released.

Unpromising outlook

Microsoft had previously said it would end the scheme next January, but the continued lack of demand for Vista appears to be behind the change of heart.

If the move is confirmed, it's yet more bad news for Vista, as XP users may have the option to skip the unloved OS entirely and move straight to Windows 7.