WinInfo Short Takes - 08 Jun 2007

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, which should be available online in the next day or two. We touched on a wide range of topics as you might expect, given the week off last week.

After recently (and laboriously) moving my iTunes library from my MacBook to my Windows Vista-based Media Center PC, I've begun experiencing some odd problems, and I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas. Basically, content downloaded from the iTunes Store (whether it's purchased or a podcast) is sometimes deleted. I've had to contact Apple Support to get some purchased material redownloaded, but I've also discovered that the files that got deleted are ones that aren't automatically copied into the correct folder upon download; instead, they're in temporary folders and have names such as "download.m4p." When you shut down iTunes, these folders are removed and the files are deleted. So now I know what to look for, but I'd like prevent this problem. I've searched the Web, but haven't found anything about this problem. Drop me a note if you have any thoughts. Thanks!

If you're an Xbox Live Achievements junkie--and let's face it, you know who you are--you're going to want to pick up a copy of "Halo 2 for Windows Vista." Yeah, it requires a pretty good PC, and yeah, you obviously have to be running Vista. But if you meet these requirements and have a wired Xbox 360 controller, plug it into your PC and enter Achievements bliss. "Halo 2 for Windows Vista" coughs up Achievements faster than a PEZ dispenser on crack: You get Achievements for almost anything you do online (heck, my son got eight Achievements in just two multiplayer matches) and 30 points every time you complete a level in single player mode. In less than 48 hours, I racked up more than 600 points playing this silly game. So if you're looking for a quick way to bolster your points, you've found the game. It's absolutely ridiculous. My "Halo 2 for Windows Vista" review is on the SuperSite.

Europe: No Zune for You! (In 2007, Anyway)

The six people waiting to buy a Zune in Europe will have to wait a bit longer, but let's face it: People who want a Zune will need to get used to disappointment anyway. After launching the Zune in the United States in November 2006, Microsoft said that its European customers would have to wait until sometime in 2007 to get the portable digital audio device. But now the company has backtracked--I know, I know, Microsoft never delays product releases--and announced that the Zune won't be available in Europe until 2008. Looks like Apple is safe for the time being: Had the Zune been launched in Europe this year, Microsoft might have been able to reduce the iPod's market share from 90 percent to, say, 89.91 percent.

Xbox 360 Quality Concerns Are Finally Being Raised

After both of my Xbox 360s failed within days of each other early this year, I began to suspect that stories about the Xbox 360's failure rates were more substantial than Microsoft has revealed. (Not coincidentally, Microsoft has quietly improved the Xbox 360 warranty several times, ensuring that most broken consoles are fixed free of charge, no doubt in a bid to keep complaints to a minimum.) But now, we're finally seeing some high profile complaints. This week, "The Motley Fool" published an investing blog that calls the buggy Xbox 360 console the "Xbotch," and the UK's "Guardian Unlimited" found itself quite limited when it tried to get to the root of the Xbox 360's problems. "That's not information we're able to give out," an electronics retailer told "Guardian Unlimited" when asked about Xbox 360 failure rates. "It's commercially sensitive." I'm sure it is. Here's the really scary part: Although one might expect hardware failure rates to go down over time as problems are fixed, Xbox 360 failure rates have actually gone up. So if you're using an Xbox 360, heads-up: It's a ticking time bomb. My guess is that most Xbox 360s will eventually fail. They just don't appear to be well made.

Windows Mobile Device Center 6.1 for Windows Vista Ships

This week, Microsoft shipped a minor update to its Vista-based Windows Mobile Device Center, which adds support for new Windows Mobile 6.0 devices and some other minor features. If you're stuck in the no man's land of ActiveSync, Windows Mobile Device Center 6.1 is like a dream come true: It's clean, simple, and actually works logically. Windows Mobile device users will want to upgrade to Vista simply to use this application. Good stuff.

Harvard Dropout Gates Gets Honorary Degree

I think the argument about whether Bill Gates made the right choices in life is pretty much moot at this point: This week, Gates gave the commencement address at Harvard University, the school he dropped out of more than 30 years ago to form Microsoft, the world's first and most successful software company. But Gates wasn't at Harvard to promote technology. Instead, he talked up his other passion, humanitarian work. Gates discussed reducing inequity around the world, a goal that he described as the "highest human achievement." Gates is the world's most-giving philanthropist, and he's pledged to give away most of his vast fortune before he dies. To date, he's put his money where his mouth is, so to speak, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working with a $60 billion budget. Anyway, Harvard finally bestowed Gates with the one thing he didn't get in the 1970s: The institution provided him with an honorary degree. It's the perfect gift for the man who has everything.

Will Apple Finally Start Talking About Next Mac OS X?

It was the OS that was going to ship before Vista. And then around the same time as Vista. And then shortly after Vista. Now, Mac OS X 10.5--better known by its code name Leopard--will be lucky to ship before Vista SP1. But the most depressing thing for those who are actually interested in OSs is that Apple has been surprisingly mum about this release and even chose to ignore it at the Macworld Conference back in January. Is there any meat there? Well, let's hope we'll find out next week at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), unless, of course, Apple chooses to once again upstage the Mac with the iPhone. I do have one little tidbit to discuss about WWDC, however: Apple is targeting Windows developers at the show for the first time. I'll have a write-up about this interesting development sometime before Monday on the SuperSite for Windows. Stay tuned.

Windows Server 2003 SP2 Heads to Automatic Updates Next Week

This week, the Windows Server team at Microsoft revealed that the latest service pack for the Windows Server 2003 family, SP2, will ship via Automatic Updates starting next week. That means that any unpatched Windows 2003-based servers will automatically download (but not install) the update unless they're manually configured not to do so. For environments that don't want to receive the update, there is a blocker tool available.

Windows Home Server Release Candidate to Be Released Soon

And speaking of upcoming updates, Josh at Windows Connected says that we can expect a release candidate version of Windows Home Server to be released in the next week or so, welcome news for those who, like me, are currently running beta versions of this release. Windows Home Server is currently slated for a third quarter 2007 release, just in time for the holiday season, and will be sold both with preconfigured Windows Home Server hardware and a la carte, so that small system builders can do their own thing.

Sony, Microsoft Mix It Up on Vista Hardware Support

This week, in a bizarre war of words, Sony claimed that Vista doesn't support certain new hardware types, such as Intel's Turbo Memory--code-named Robson--and hybrid hard disk drives, hardware that Microsoft specifically said was supported. Microsoft denied Sony's claims, saying that Vista was indeed completely compatible with this hardware. Because I'm typing this article in Vista on a Lenovo notebook with Turbo Memory installed, configured, and working correctly, I think I'm going to have to take Microsoft's side on this one.

A Final Thought: Cross-Platform Video Games

So last week, Microsoft shipped a middling game, "Shadowrun," which features one innovative feature: It comes in versions for both Vista-based PCs and the Xbox 360, letting PC-based gamers compete online against console-based gamers for the first time. But Microsoft also shipped a long-overdue version of the Xbox classic, "Halo 2," for the PC last week. "Halo 2 for Windows Vista" doesn't feature any cross-platform support, and it comes almost three years after the original Xbox version. Now guess which game will sell better. There's a reason "Halo 2 for Windows Vista" will kill "Shadowrun" in the market. What gamers want, ultimately, are good games. So instead of offering needless connectivity between consoles and PCs, Microsoft should work to ensure that the best Xbox 360 games are ported to the PC (and vice versa). And it needs to happen much more quickly than the almost three years it took Microsoft to ship "Halo 2 for Windows Vista." Perhaps Microsoft and its partners could follow the DVD movie model: Ship a game, such as "Gears of War," one holiday season for the Xbox 360 and then ship it for the PC within a year. (Blockbuster games could have longer cycles to maximize revenues, of course, but the maximum should be one year.) I don't see why Microsoft can't require Xbox 360 game makers to use this model. If Microsoft is serious about Windows gaming, this cycle is the way to do it. You shouldn't have to own a particular hardware platform to get a particular game. After all, the money's in the games anyway, not the hardware.

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