Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

MicroHooSoft: The Undoing of an Empire?

Posted on February 11th, 2008 in Internet & Networking, Windows | No Comments »

“Do you MicroHoo?” Nah, doesn’t have the same ring does it? however, judging from the recent semi-hostile bid from the folks at Redmond, product branding and name recognition are just a couple of trivial details Microsoft has not thought through with regards to the software giant’s bid to take over number two Internet search provider Yahoo. The past week’s happenings surrounding the possible acquisition of Yahoo have proved almost as interesting a drama as the political primaries, and they’re arguably just as pointless in the final assessment. Look at the players and consider what each has to lose and win and see why:


While Microsoft has done many things right; a consistent and successful Internet strategy has not been one of them. Therefore, their desire to purchase an under-valued web pioneer (Yahoo) is not surprising, and on the surface looks like a shrewd move even at the current offer of 44 Billion. Notice I say “current” – expect this number to go up! The thought of the Operating System / Application behemoth mated with Yahoo’s online market share congers thoughts of a technological juggernaut previously unequaled.

Fear mongers are quick to point out that such a marriage would certainly result in a monopoly that would crush all competition and leave only Google and Microsoft to slug it out for technological and market dominance on the web. Perhaps, perhaps not – Microsoft does not have the best track record absorbing companies, and they have never bit off a mouthful like this before.


While Google may be the reigning Silicon Valley media darling don’t kid yourself, Yahoo is no also ran. The undisputed veteran of the portal, Yahoo has over a decade in the space. Unlike others who have come and gone (remember: AltaVista or Dogpile?) Yahoo has not just rested on its past success, but has remained relevant via a combination of internal innovations, brilliant partnerships and enlightened acquisitions.

Yep, Yahoo has a lot going for her – and its not surprising that she is looking for a bigger Valentine’s gift then the current 62% per share premium MS is offering. But other than cash, certain to please share holders, what does Microsoft have to offer Yahoo long term?

Or does it matter, has Yahoo’s usefulness as an innovator been out lived? Yahoo Mail and Messenger platforms boast large users, but so do Hotmail and MSN Messenger, is there any motivation, specifically a financial one for them to be consolidated? Sure Flickr is sexy and drives traffic, but can it be monetized successfully? By these standards Yahoo should take the money and run, what Microsoft does with the brand and properties becomes secondary.


And then there is the 800 pound gorilla in the mix – Google. Frankly, there are so many upsides for Google with the possibility of a Microsoft/Yahoo merger, the entire Mountain View campus has to be watching with unabated glee. That comment might surprise some, but think about it, to start with the longer this drama plays out the more uncertainty is injected into Yahoo and Microsoft web plans and futures. Google is already firing on all cylinders in the web space and quickly reading its entry salvo into the mobile space this year. Market and personnel uncertainty at MS and Yahoo, would only serve to distract these competitors and allow Google to move even farther ahead.

So will there be a Wedding?

Others have speculated that the DOJ and EU will likely block this merger, and I don’t really have an option on that aspect of the merger. I tend to think not, as the inflated demands that Yahoo is now seeking, but its just as well for both Microsoft and Yahoo if there is no deal.

Should this take over proceed I have to believe it will be a catastrophic disaster for both, especially Microsoft. Some point to long term synergies of the two firms, and that might even be true, but the short term consequences will be staggering. For 12 to 24 months Microsoft’s focus will be redirected drastically into the morphing of Yahoo services under the MS brand. Backend systems will be impacted, staff will be transferred, you know – general chaos!

Compounding this Microsoft is struggling with its worst OS launch since Windows ME, Apple is having a real impact in the PC space, Linux is eroding Windows market share and oh yea, the 800 pound gorilla – Google – just keeps on rolling.

So MSYahoo, or MicroHoo or YaSoft, Do a deal if you must, someday we will look you up on the internet WayBack machine.

Year of the home NAS – A Tera-byte in every pot!

Posted on February 5th, 2008 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

The digital home is here, and to feed a hungry media rich world you need a terabyte or more; at least that’s what NAS vendors (Network Attached Storage) are banking on this year. Large hard drives are nothing new, what’s novel for 2008 is the appearance high capacity, inexpensive, consumer friendly NAS systems for the home.

Despite CES 2008 being largely unimpressive, with regards to new innovative product launches, there was one interesting theme that persistent all over the show floor; the appearance of RAID based NAS boxes for the home. In the past home based storage has been limited to external USB or Firewire boxes, but not any more. Thanks to the raise of home networking and the digital lifestyle, every member of the family from parents to teens and even little ones have storage needs.

Here are a few of the standouts in the home storage arena:

Netgear – Ready NAS Duo

HP – MediaSmart Server

Lacie Ethernet Disk mini – Home Edition

The truly unique aspect about these offerings if just how consumer friendly they are! No need to be a network admin or have your local geek force out to install them.

If you have been looking to add storage to your home computer this is the method you should employ, any of the above products will do wonderfully.

Any Friend of Apache, is a Friend of Mine!

Posted on January 30th, 2008 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

I’ll gladly concede that backend web server technology is about as sexy as a 1980s’ Volvo 240GL. But having said that, the good folks at Apache friends are making a hot rod out of these mundane, but critical applications.

The XAMPP project is an easy to install and configure bundle containing the Apache web server, MySQL, PHP and Perl. The emphasis here is on EASY! If that does not sound appealing, then you have not experienced the full pain of trying to deploy these services individually. XAMPP eliminates these wows with an all inclusive package for Linux, Mac, Windows and Solaris. Oh, and did I forget to mention you get all this for free.

Recently I deployed the Linux package onto a Ubuntu 7.10 server in my office. The process was painless, and I was able to deliver web services to my designer in less then 30 minutes.

So next time you are setting up a web server do yourself a favor – install XAMPP!

CES 2008: Gaming gets Ugly but Thin is always in!

Posted on January 12th, 2008 in Games, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »


Now I realize I’m not the target demographic for high end gaming systems, but is it a prerequisite that all of the fastest systems on the planet be enclosed in oversized hideous, demonic or blingified cases? Judging from Cooler Master and many other high end system builders the answer is still a responding – Yes!


While the gamers or going after the seriously “over-the-top” look others like upstarts LimePC and DMP are going green and thinking small and thin. One of DMP’s models is pictured below – bear in mind this fully functioning computer is about the same size as a couple of decks of playing cards.


DMP Small Form Factor

Lime PC is looking to offer compact form factor systems running a Debian based distro called, you guessed it, LimeOS. But interestingly they will feature not only a fully functioning PC (similar in size to DMPs pictured above) , but a couple of smaller touch screen based models, one a sub 2 pound tablet style system and the other an iPhone/iTouch size system. Lime does not expect to ship till later this year, but keep an eye on them for new systems looking to challenge the conventional PC marketplace.

New Simplified Vista Naming

Posted on November 26th, 2007 in Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

As the one year anniversary of Windows Vista rolls around many people will be buying new computers this holiday season, and it seams an appropriate time to post this little Vista buying guide.

Occasionally, I am forced to explain the Vista SKU landscape for customers who are contemplating an upgrade. While I try to explain to them that friends don’t let friends buy Vista – some insist, if you are in a similar position, I’ve prepared this short guide to assist you in your selection process.

Vista Barely Basic – This ships on most low end systems and is designed to force users into immediate hardware upgrades as they discover anything less then 4 Gig of Ram on a multi-core processor will result in performance worse then a 386SX/25 running Windows 95.

Vista Home Worthless
– in an effort to target the home market and highlight the new Aero interface, Vista Home Worthless and it’s Media Center equipped sibling, Vista Home Pathetic, boast reduced networking capabilities compared to every previous version of windows and a new 99% game incompatibility mode.

Vista Business Incomplete
– Business runs on Windows and what better way to distract employees and reduce worker productivity than to introduce them to this exciting new OS! With new security features like the UAC (Uncontrollable Anytime Crashing) and a new massively incompatible driver model – it will leave both your users and IT support staff in a quandary.

Vista Ultimate (a.k.a. Ubuntu) – The Ultimate edition is simply put, the one you want – and I’m not talking about the $399 dollar one, I’m instead encouraging you to download the latest Free Ubuntu distro. Chalked full of “Eye-Candy” that exceeds the capabilities of any version of Vista, superior driver compatibilities and best of all you will enter a blue screen of death free zone.

Vista Robbins – 31 Flavors of Vista?

Needless to say, its a pretty sad state of affairs when you have practically as many flavors of a Windows operating system as a major ice cream parlor has options for a double cone! Even sadder still when you consider all the offerings of Vista are fundamentally broken.

One year into this latest remake of Windows and I continue to ask where is the Wow? Vista has done it predecessors proud, that is if you count it as the latest member of the Windows ME and MS BOB family tree!

Open Office “Switch” Update: Spell Checker – Not all that and a bag of chips

Posted on October 24th, 2007 in Apple, Business & Industry, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

Its month three since I jettisoned Microsoft Word and Excel, and switched to Open Office as my full-time spreadsheet and document editor. And while the experience has been overall very positive, I’m quite disappointed with the spell checker correction algorithm.

Good spell check has always been a big part of my word-processing needs – Yes, I’m a horrific speller – and the heuristics for the auto-correction is just not on par with Microsoft Word.

Also lacking is the facility for managing custom dictionaries. I was unable to easily port my existing Word compatible dictionary; and by easily I mean the ability to do it in under an hour!

I’ll have more updates on my experiences switching in future posts, but for now I need to mind my spelling.

Office 2007 – Why Bother?

Posted on October 1st, 2007 in Business & Industry, Windows | 1 Comment »

So I thought you’d like to read about something other than Halo 3 or yet another Apple iPhone story this week, I for one have pretty much had my fill, and there is no shortage of stories about these out there to titillate your pallet should you need. Instead let’s talk about a really sizzling product: Microsoft Office. /end sarcasm


About a year into the life of Office 2007 and I have to tell ya, I’m still scratching my head and asking, “Why did we need this Office Upgrade?” And from experiences working with many different customers they are asking the same question; opting not to adopt it as well! While some in the industry are arguing that this is due to Microsoft’s downward slide into technological irrelevance, and that is certainly a factor, Office 2007’s lack of penetration has more to do with it’s own failings as a product and other worth competitors stealing market share.


Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – or the DOCX format


In addition to a total menu redesign, that repeals existing Office users, the new DOCX format by default is causing many companies anxiety as they grapple with significant incompatibility’s between their existing Office versions. This is a major problem. Companies are faced with a tough choice – complete, wholesale upgrade to 2007, mixed 2000/XP/2003/2007 and deal with multiple format types, or just stay back on your tried and true version of Office.


There’s the core rub, Office 2003 and before are pretty dang good. Much like the XP vs. Vista conundrum, Microsoft is again competing against itself, and many users actually prefer the previous generation product.


Think Different – Think Free


Open Office is more then just fine, its a serious challenge. Free, powerful and portable Open Office, is not just a Microsoft disgruntles’ Linux only copy cat of MS Office. Besides the price being right (did I mention its FREE again), OO is winning hearts and minds for more than just fiduciary reasons.


While Office 2007 is running many away, due to it’s new file formats, some are running the the Open Doc (ODF) non-proprietary formats OO supports. In the spirit of full disclosure, this post was edited in Open Office 2.3. Personally I’ve found OO’s interoperability back and forth to DOC format (Office 2003 at least) to be superb.


Another extremely compelling aspect of Open Office is it’s cross platform uniformity and availability. Regardless of your environment, Windows, OSX or Linux, Open Office is basically the same application. This commonality across platforms is something I appreciate more and more move from machine to machine. Compare this to the Office family, and regard less of the price, there is no smooth transition between Windows and Mac, and no option on Linux.


It’s worth pointing out that Open Office is just part of a larger sea change that is rolling ashore on the computing coastline. Wonderful applications like GIMP, VLC and others are not only no cost, there best of bread, and quickly becoming the applications of choice for many.


So Good Luck with that Microsoft


MS Office has long been a cash machine for the company, practically like a mint printing out millions annually for the software giant. In the past companies marched in lock and step to the Microsoft dictated upgrade cycle. Now all that is being questioned.


With Redmond fending off the epic level of user discontentment surrounding Vista, the last thing they want to deal with is stagnant sales of Office, yet that is the situation at hand.


In the meantime I’ll keep using Outlook 2003 and Open Office as my migration path out of the Microsoft controlled upgrade ferris wheel.


You don’t have Skype yet?

Posted on September 14th, 2007 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

I’ve had an epiphany; not everyone on the internet uses Skype yet, and some of these people are even in my family! If you are now shaking your head in disgust; you feel me, there is no need for you to keep reading. If on the other hand you don’t know of this “Skype” I speak of? Read on – your diligence will be rewarded.

Every now and then a program comes along the so redefines or expands how we use computers that it is termed a Killer App. WordStar and VisiCalc where some of the first such, defining and practically inventing the word processing and spreadsheet markets. In the 80s’ PageMaker, Photoshop and Illustrator did it for desktop publishing. More recently, Mosaic (and its predecessors Netscape, Internet Explorer and Firefox) redefined the way we think of the Internet.

Simply put, Skype is the “Killer App” of today’s internet. For its millions of current users, Skype is an indispensable part of daily life. What does it do? In addition to being a really good text IM client, Skype delivers excellent quality voice/video chat, and it does it for free. Computer to computer calls feature gorgeous clarity with support for up to 10 callers. Solid multi platform support, in addition to the Windows version, the Mac and Linux versions interoperate seamlessly – so no one is left out based on their OS. And for mere pennies a minute you can dial out from your computer to international phones. In fact you can buy a year of unlimited computer to domestic telephone service for a flat $30 – And you thought services like Vonage were a deal!

In addition to superb call quality and free or very discounted phone service, its one of the best VoIP (Voice over IP – or the whole idea of talking over the internet) clients I’ve ever used, due to tight integration with Programs like Outlook, IE and Firefox.

So what are you waiting for, go download it free now – I’m waiting to hear from you.

VMware Converter – How sweet it is!

Posted on June 12th, 2007 in Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

As most of you have heard me pontificate about to no end; Virtualization is here and is changing the IT landscape. And if the reasons for migrating to a virtualized environment were not compelling enough on there own merits, the good people at VMware have made the move even easer with the windows based Converter product.

Converter, yet another free offering from VMware, is simply put – amazing software. After you load the small (about 20M) app on your windows system you answer a few wizard like questions, specify a disk target and let’er rip. Converter then turns your live physical system into a ready to go VM package. Did I mention it does this LIVE, to any Win XP, 2000 or 2003 system!

In fact the blog your reading right now is hosted on a “converted” VM. In my case the Windows web server the blog was hosted on, a Pentium III 733, was getting a bit long in the tooth, I loaded the converter and after about an hour of processing the system was moved over to a Linux VMware host.

If you are an existing VMware user checkout, and if this whole VMware thing is a mystery to you – go download your free copy of VM today (Http://, it will change the way you think about computing.

“I’m givin’er all she’s got Captain”

Posted on May 30th, 2007 in Internet & Networking, Windows | 1 Comment »

It seams no matter how fast things get in this zany PC computing world, they just aren’t fast enough! As soon as you get one bottleneck eliminated another one pops up.  Such has been my life the last few days.

Some back story – if you are a regular reader, you know I have been working with Vista Media Center as a potential solution for my trusty Direct TV Tivo.  Ironically while working to replace my old Hughes DVR2, I picked up a second one and quickly hacked it up to 100+ hours of recording; I know, I must really have some issues, but I digress. At any rate, my efforts thus far to supplant the Tivo with a new HiDef capable device have lead me down a very rocky path.

As I blaze a trail to this promise land of HD goodness, I’m reminded yet again of the woeful inadequacies of PC architectures.  See to enjoy that glorious 1080p image I need to move lots of data to the flat screen; and standing in the way between those digital bits and a CSI autopsy so clear that you have to wince, is a cadre of cruel components.

While most of these are pretty easy to remedy – More RAM, Faster CPU, etc – one remains for me to beat my head against: I/O. See for successful 1080 playback you are looking at some serious data transfer, and whether it’s streaming form the local Hard Drive or across the net, it’s proving to be a serious challenge. Alas, I/O performance has set itself up like a massively walled city, constricting the poor plebs passage to and fro through a small constricted city gate.

But since I’m not content to take the simple route, slap a blistering RAID 0 in the local Media Center – heck, where’s the fun in that – I’m presently scratching my noggin whilst endeavoring to move this HD content over the network from my home server. Attempting to move this data via WiFi, would be ridiculous!  This makes me wonder what so many device manufactures are thinking about, integrating wireless into solutions like the Apple TV or the SMC SMCWMR-AG, to cite a couple.

Presently I’ve hardwired the Media Center box on a 100Mbit switched port to my Gigabit connected file server, and am still experiencing stuttering with 1080 content.  Seams I can play 720 with reasonable success, but the added burden of 1080 is just too much. And considering the MC platform is running on a Pentium D 2.8 with an Nvidia PCIe 7300 card, it’s hard to imagine that it does not have the processor power to decode and play the images.

Further testing in this matter is required. But while I do that, check out a great source of Vista MCE info I have found  The Green Button. Nice forums with a strong hacking community, if you are working on a Media Center implementation I highly recommend them.