WinInfo Short Takes: Week of December 18 - 15 Dec 2006

An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including some bizarre Seattle weather, a week in Redmond, some Vista anti-piracy moves, Vista keyboard and mouse drivers, GRAW 2, some IDC silliness, Google's bid to out-evil Sauron and much more...

WinInfo Blog

|I've been in Redmond most of the week meeting with various groups at Microsoft, attending a reviewer's workshop, and visiting with friends. It's been a good time, though the weather has been absolutely lousy, though that's been pretty rare in my numerous visits here. In fact, the guys I stay with when I'm out here often joke that I bring the good weather with me. Not this time.

How bad is it? Well, as I write this, the wind is howling outside, the rain is falling in sheets, and the local news is abuzz with reports of power outages. I'm getting nervous about being able to finish this before the power goes down. Yesterday, while searching for a parking spot at the overcrowded Microsoft campus, a tree actually came crashing down right behind my rental car, in a spot in which the car had been just seconds before. A Microsoftie came running over to ask if I was OK, but at least I had my excuse: Thanks to the dearth of parking spots, I was already late for my first meeting.

This is the first time I've been away for work on a long trip in quite some time. I usually get out to the Microsoft campus 6 times or more a year, but this is the first time I've been here since May. Not sure how that happened, especially given all the stuff going on with Vista this year, but there you go. Since I'm skipping out on CES in January--it's just too busy to be useful anymore, and I've got other trips to take that month--this has been a good time to check up on what's coming down the pike.

Short Takes

Microsoft Takes Down Vista Pirates
In a bid to stop nascent Windows Vista piracy, Microsoft on Thursday issued a software update to Windows Update that prevents pirated versions of Vista from validating and being able to download future updates. Pirates had created a "Frankenbuild" of Windows Vista by combining the final code with the validation bits from the publicly available Release Candidate 1 (RC1) version, giving users a way to run a pseudo-final version of the product without having to obtain a Product Key. Microsoft says the move is intend to "send a message" to would-be counterfeiters, though my guess is that the software giant has a lot of work ahead of it. Those software pirates are pretty resourceful, from what I can tell.

IntelliPoint and IntelliType Now Available in Vista Compatible Versions
Microsoft's latest keyboard and mouse driver releases are now officially Vista-compliant, so if you've got a Microsoft mouse or keyboard, head on over to the company's Web site. There, you'll find the new IntelliPoint (mouse) and IntelliType (keyboard) driver downloads. What hasn't been updated, sadly, is the driver for Microsoft's line of LifeCam Web cams. Vista-compatible drivers for those devices will ship in January 2007, according to Microsoft.

GRAW 2 Coming
"Ghost Recon" fans will be excited to hear that developers at Ubisoft are already hard at work on a sequel to "Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter" (GRAW), the hit Xbox 360 title. Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is--GRAW wasn't all that exciting in my opinon--but GRAW 2 will feature improved graphics, new battlegrounds, smarter artificial intelligence, and other improvements. So I'll probably give it a shot. The good news is, we won't have long to wait: GRAW 2 will ship in Spring 2007 for the Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Sony PSP.

This Would be Funny if it Wasn't so Sad
Don't have time to take the kids to the local mall to see Santa Claus? Well, fear not. The good folks at Microsoft, where the solution to everything somehow requires software, have a new service for the truly lazy: You can simply chat with Santa virtually, using Windows Live Messenger. That's right, apparently Santa isn't interested in AIM or Yahoo Messenger for some reason, but if you use WLM, you can add the address [email protected] to your contacts list and chat away. I wish I had made this one up, I really do.

FUD of the Week: IDC Says Microsoft will Drive Users to Linux
I'm a big fan of the "This is the Year of Desktop Linux" stories because, a) it has never happened, and b) it obviously will never happen. But that hasn't stopped the prescient analysts at IDC from predicting that Microsoft, ironically, will be responsible for driving users from Windows to, yes, Linux. How will this happen, you ask? Well, Microsoft's heavy-handed approach to software piracy is so onerous, IDC says, that users will go running to the relative safety and friendliness of Linux instead. Hey, it makes sense. Oh wait, no it doesn't.

Utility Helps You Convert from VMWare to Microsoft's VHD
Microsoft's Andrew Dugdell blogged this week about a cool utility that lets you convert virtual machines in VMWare's virtual hard disk (VMDK) format to Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format, which is convenient if, you know, you're making such a migration. Anyway, interested parties--you know who you are--should check out Dugdell's post about the utility for details.

It's Official: Google is Evil
Apparently, Google's corporate mantra--"Do no evil"--includes a typo, because the company's behavior is decidedly evil. I'm not even sure where to start on this one. There's the license agreement for Google's phishing filter, which basically tells you that, yes, they are going to give away your private information. Then there's the debacle of last week's release of a Google-branded version of Internet Explorer (IE) 7, which conspicuously copied--in a blatant, wholehearted fashion--a similar project from Yahoo. But my favorite little bit of fun out of Mordor, er ah, Google has got to be what happens if you try to change the default search provider on a version of IE 7 in which you've installed the Google toolbar. It actually prevents you from changing the search provider to anything other than Google, using a feature that presents itself as protection against other applications that are trying to surreptitiously change your search provider. And you know how often that happens.

See You Next Week
OK, Short Takes is a little light this week, but the wind is still howling, the rain is still falling, and I'm still pressing my luck. See you next week.

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