WinInfo Daily Update, June 9, 2006: Short Takes

Well, Microsoft has made Windows Vista Beta 2 available to the public. I think that's a mistake, because Beta 2 is buggy, unreliable, and unstable, and I've been having crazy performance issues with it on multiple systems. That said, if I know the typical WinInfo reader like I think I do, you're downloading it now. So I figured I should at least provide you with a few comments about the experience you're about to have.

First, understand the stages of beta testing. After the initial excitement comes the waiting, as it takes far longer to install Vista than you thought it would. Then, the first boot, and the excitement returns. Then, you install applications and go through a rollercoaster experience of highs and lows as applications either do or do not install properly. Then, reality sets in: The more applications you install on Vista, the bigger your chances of problems. And don't get me started on sound card drivers. Hey, what's a blue screen among friends?

Know that you're going to need a DVD burner to create the Vista DVD from the downloadable ISO. If you're foolhardy enough to download the x64 version, you'll need a dual-layer DVD burner with dual-layer media. You've been warned.

The version you're testing is Ultimate Edition. That means it has every single feature you can get in Vista, including a few that'll be cut from the final version. Actually, some features are missing too, such as Virtual PC Express. The point is, the version you're testing now includes features you won't see in the version you'll probably be running a year from now, because Microsoft will price Ultimate Edition like it's a door prize at a Republican fundraiser. Don't get TOO used to it.

Do not, under any circumstances, upgrade a perfectly good copy of Windows XP to Vista Beta 2. There is a special place in hell for people that foolhardy. Again, you've been warned. Do, however, consider dual booting XP and Vista. That way you can get back to a working OS when Vista inevitably does something so egregious that you never want to look at its translucent glass interface ever again. For me, it was the third blue screen in 30 minutes, after which I lost an accumulated page or so of text in Word. Anyway, I can't give you a quickie guide to dual booting here, obviously, but you'll need an extra partition or hard drive on which to install Vista. Have it ready before you start the install.

Here's my best Vista tip: If you do decide to dual boot, you can trigger the install in two ways: from within XP, or by rebooting the computer and booting from the DVD. If you use the former method, XP will be on the C drive and Vista will be on the D drive on both installs by default. However, if you install by booting from the DVD, XP will be on the C drive while you're in XP, and Vista will be on the C drive while you're in Vista. The latter is preferable, I've found.

Finally, consider waiting for Release Candidate 1 (RC1). I know you won't, and you know you won't, but you'd free up a lot of time and save yourself some anger and frustration if you could wait. I would wait, but you know, I have this job to do. Sometimes, I wish things were different. Sometimes.

Microsoft Concocts Yet Another Reason to Love Windows Genuine Advantage

I was sitting around the other day listing all the things I just love about Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), Microsoft's antipiracy tool. But then I discovered a hidden WGA feature that I'd never heard about, mostly because Microsoft had kept it a secret. It turns out that WGA actually connects to a Microsoft server every time you boot your PC. That's right. It's spyware. Microsoft actually installs a tool on your PC that does nothing more than check to ensure that you're not pirating Windows, and it does this check every single day and then sends the results back to Microsoft. This insidious behavior was first discovered by Lauren Weinstein, the co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility, and it's touched off a debate about disclosure and privacy. But seriously, this situation is ridiculous. It's bad enough that we're treated like pirates. Do we have to be spied on every single day as well?

Microsoft Ships Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003

Microsoft this week finalized its high performance computing server, Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 (WCC03), which it'll begin shipping to customers in August. WCC03 is designed to take the complexity out of high-performance clustered computing servers and will let Windows Server compete with the big boys for the first time in scientific, military, government, and research markets. Some of Microsoft's early adopters are heavy hitters in the energy, science, and aerospace markets, and the company has a wide range of partners and developers backing the product. But I have to wonder. Is there some reason this thing has to have "2003" in its title? That was three years ago.

Users Freaking Over Vista Battery Life Issues

There's a big debate going on right now about Vista and battery life, or to put it more correctly, Vista and the lack of battery life. Turns out Vista gets a lot less battery life than does XP on identical notebooks, and many users are pointing to Vista's hardware-accelerated 3-D UI as the culprit. I have no doubts about that assertion, but I'd also caution people to remember that Vista is still a beta, and performance work is still to come. Microsoft says it'll improve Vista's battery life, but I have to think that its battery life will never be as good as that of XP, unless you turn off Aero Glass. And at that point, why bother running Vista?

DOJ to Force Internet Search Companies to Save Data

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is trying to force Internet search companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to retain customer use data for up to two years so that the information can be used to help catch sexual predators and terrorists. The agency has met privately with the companies, privacy groups, and children's advocacy groups so that everyone understands what it's trying to achieve. We can expect Google to complain about this requirement and fight it in court. After all, it bows only to governments that commit massive human rights violations.

Vonage Sued by Investors

When Internet phone company Vonage went public last week, it was supposed to touch off a new round of online euphoria. But something horrible happened. Vonage's shares closed down during its initial public offering (IPO) and then the company's stock lost 30 percent of its value in the first week. Here's the problem: As part of its New Age image, Vonage had given its users the chance to purchase 13.5 percent of its IPO shares. But because the stock has declined so sharply, those people will lose money. Many are threatening not to pay for their shares, and a group of shareholders is now suing the company. And, in a final nod to Bizarro world, Vonage is investigating whether it can sue those customers who don't pay for the shares they requested. Yikes.

AMD's Advantage Vanishes When Core 2 Released

According to leading hardware analysts, AMD's technological lead over market leader Intel will evaporate when Intel ships its Core 2 Duo line of processors later this year. A slew of independent benchmarks pitting Intel's upcoming chips against AMD's best microprocessors might provide AMD with some sobering news. Not only are the Intel chips faster, but they're much cheaper in many cases and suck up less power. AMD has enjoyed a multiyear lead over Intel in such technologies as multicore processors and x64 compatibility. But with the Core 2 Duo, which will ship in variants for notebooks, desktops, and servers, Intel seems to have finally caught up and even surpassed AMD in many meaningful ways (but not, curiously, in x64). I hope that AMD has a few surprises left. We all know what happens when you wake the sleeping giant.

Yahoo! Messenger Support Coming Soon to Windows Live Messenger

I've gotten a few email messages recently from people wondering when Yahoo!'s Messenger service will be integrated with Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger, the next-generation MSN Messenger. This week, Microsoft revealed that it's been working on integrating the services and will soon ship a software update that'll let Windows Live Messenger customers communicate with their buddies using Yahoo! Messenger. Given that we can expect to see Windows Live Messenger in final form late next week, according to reports, maybe that will also be the date when the integration happens. You never know.

Microsoft Expands into Book Search

In its latest bid to copy everything Google does (I hear it's even trying to out-capitulate Google in China), Microsoft this week announced that it's expanding its book search service to better compete with a similar Google service. I don't have more to say about this; I was really just looking for a way to work "out-capitulate" into Short Takes.

Microsoft Celebrates TechEd 2006 with Worst Patch Day in Months

Next Tuesday, Microsoft will unleash 12 security patches on customers as part of its regularly scheduled Patch Tuesday. And good news, folks: Many of the patches will fix critical security problems. This is the largest number of patches since February 2005, and given some of the problems we've had with recent patches, I'm sure users will be a little more leery (not to mention weary) about installing them. Hey, it could be worse. Wait, could it actually be worse?

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend, Who, Frankly, Has Worn Out His Welcome Customers still running Windows 98 and Millennium Edition (Me) have one more month to go before Microsoft finally pulls the support plug on these aging and increasingly dangerous OSs. The company will issue its final patches for Win98 and Me on July 11, the next Patch Tuesday, and then it'll stop providing security patches for them altogether. Anyone still running these systems deserves the computing equivalent of a Purple Heart. I wonder if Microsoft hands those out.

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