Monthly Archives: November 2008

Man I would love to win one of these 50 Magical HP Giveaways

Hey everyone, want to make your Christmas special? Enter the HP Magic Giveaway Contest on Gearlive.com and get the chance to win 4 computers and accessories you can share with family and friends or give to a charity you have in mind. 🙂

Some persons Christmas will be very special this year!

Here is a list of the prizes:

NeoWin.net has a link to a Google Calendar with the starting dates for each contest.

A few websites have already started their contest:

Contest Updates:

Its quite overwhelming when you think about what HP, Microsoft and so many sites are giving away. HP has exemplified something here, the gift of giving, so why not do the same? If I were to win all this hardware, I definitely could not keep it all. My brother would absolutely love an upgrade from his XP machine to the HP HDX 18 and my other brother would be excited about the HP Mini 1000. Why I would love to win this contest is specifically for the HP Touch Smart and media smart. The all in one printer and laptop I most likely would give away as a Christmas gift to a lucky member at the up coming Church harvest. A lot of folks are in rough economic times (world-wide)right now, giving somebody a laptop might not necessarily make ones life completely better, but its a nice gesture that will make their holidays a very special and memorable one in addition to starting off the New Year with a bang. This collection of devices is screaming, show the good in you, so why not make the ‘smart’ choice of sharing the magic too.

Learn more about the contest and all 50 participating websites:

http://www.hp.com/united-states/campaigns/blogger-magic/

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CNET: Microsoft ranked fifth worst spam service ISP

Quote: Microsoft is listed fifth in the Top 10 list of the worst spam service ISPs compiled by Spamhaus.org.

Spammers are advertising links to sites that "peddle fake pharmacy products, porn, and Nigerian 419 scams" on Microsoft’s Live.com and Livefilestore.com sites because they know that the Microsoft sites won’t get blocked by antispam groups, writes Brian Krebs on his Security Fix Blog at the Washington Post.

Spamhaus has been alerting Microsoft to the problem for some time, but to no avail, Richard Cox, Spamhaus’ chief information officer, told Krebs. Other security companies, including McAfee and Marshal, have also been warning about increases in spam and scams on Microsoft-hosted sites.

Read more here

I think I have said all I needed to say about this issue and the evidence is all over my Live Space to prove it.

http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!20273.entry
http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!18809.entry
http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!20330.entry

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A Look at Windows Backup and Windows Update in 7

Last week we focused on improvements to Windows Live Messenger 9.0 and the next version of Windows Media Player 12. This week we take a look at the improved capabilities in two important utilities that come with Windows 7, Update and Backup. The changes are not particularly overwhelming, but there are some nice additions and rearrangements that make the user experience even more welcoming. Previously I looked at Windows Vista Ultimate’s Complete PC Backup feature in a tutorial here. Not much has changed in Windows 7 with the exception of support for Network backups which I will take a look at in this preview article. Lets start off with Windows Backup and Restore Center.

Backup and Restore explorer in Windows 7

Requirements for Backup, (click image to enlarge)

In Windows Vista you will know it as Back and Restore Center, in Windows 7 you will find Backup and Restore in Control Panel under System and Security.To start a Backup, it must be configured first. To start the process, you must first click the ‘Setup Backup..’ button which will initialize a wizard that will display your available volumes (storage) for backup. The following volumes detected cannot be used for backup because one is a partition that is on the same physical disk as Windows 7 and for Complete PC Backup, there is just not enough space anyway. You wouldn’t want your backup which is a part of the same physical volume to fail also if the system volume also went out the door. Doing backups on external storage also requires that it be using the NT file system. So my thumb drive would definitely not meet that requirement. Reasons include security and permission attributes which FAT/FAT32 lack. Also, NT file system on thumb drives are just not stable enough based on my personal experiences.

 

 

I have decided to try one of the new options available in Backup for Windows 7, ‘Network Locations’. Currently I have a test server setup with Windows Server 2008 R2 and I created a Mapped Network drive, so we will use that as the location of our backup. Once I click the ‘Add Network Location’ button the Windows Backup wizard begins and I am presented with a dialog detailing information about selecting the networking location. In the ‘Network Share’ field, I type in the path or browse to it. Next, you will need to authenticate yourself if necessary and click OK. After that, you will now see the Network Share displayed in the main Windows Backup wizard. We click Next which presents us with two options – ‘What do you want to back up?’

Network path to where your Backup will be stored.

Because I do not have enough disk space on my network share, I will carefully choose what I want to backup. Lets take a look though at the two available choices:

– Let Windows choose (recommended)
Windows will automatically select user files (such as pictures, music, videos, and documents). A system image (which includes system files, such as drivers and registry settings, Windows, and all of your programs) will also created, These items will be backed up on a regular schedule.

This is probably the best method of backing up even in Vista today because it guarantees complete safety and redundancy in case of recovery. Your systems current state is backed up and can be easily restored without the needing to reinstall the operating system from scratch and your applications. There is also no need to re-apply your personal settings.

– Let me choose
You can select folders, file types, and whether to include a system image in the backup.

I wouldn’t describe this option for advanced users, but there is more flexbility about what gets backed up, you must also factor in available storage to do backup of necessary files and settings. These include, folders, filetypes, and whether to includes a system image in the backup. You get to choose what to keep, its as simple as that and thats the option I have chosen.

– Selecting what you want:
I have decided against backing up everything and decided instead just to backup everything that’s a part of my Library or User folder (Vista users). If you have any data in your Public folder, you might want to add that to your folder options.

 

User files is divided into two categories:
Include common user file types – Common user file types stored on this computer (such as pictures, documents, music, videos, etc.) will be backed up. Some of the other file types include, E-mail messages and contact lists that stored on the computer, Compressed files which include archive file formats such as zip, rar, cab, and Additional files. Windows Backup will of course have the common sense to exclude program and temporary files.

Choose specific drives or folders to include or exclude – I have personally chosen this option because of the flexibility it provides. I only want personal files to be backed up.
System files – A system image will be created which includes system files, such as drivers and registry settings, Windows and all your programs. I just don’t have the disk space for this, so I will uncheck this option also.

The next part of the wizard presents you with the option of choosing the folders your want to include or exclude in your backup. You might say, didn’t we just do that in the previous wizard. Yes, you did, but as you can see in my selection, I have chosen my user folder ‘Andre Da Costa’. Within this folder are sub folders, not just other libraries such as Pictures, Music, Videos etc., but personal folders which I have created. I have the option of excluding one or more of my own folders or libraries from the backup process itself but I do not plan on doing so. Once I have done that, I simply click OK, then ‘Next’, which presents a ‘Reviews’ page confirming our selection such as Location, Selection of file or system settings, User Data and a time to schedule Backups. Click Finish to begin the process.

I noticed a couple things, the Backup and Restore Explorer, displays progress information during the backup process in addition to the location it is being backed up to. During the backup process I connected to the Internet and noticed the Network share I created on the Server had changed to disconnected, but the backup was still in progress. When I checked the Computer Explorer, the Mapped Network drive was still showing as connected. The backup itself completed successfully, but there seems to be some issues there where Network and Sharing Center is concerned.

Backing up Files, progress and status in the Backup and Restore explorer

I noticed that my network shared turned to disconnected when I connected to the Internet, but the drive was still connected in Computer explorer and the backup process completed successfully.

Backup represented by machine name on Network share in explorer.

Restoration
Checking the Backup location, I can see my backup which is represented by my machine name ‘WIN7-DELL8300’. Restoring your data is very easy, under Restore in Backup and Restore explorer, click the ‘Restore files saved on another location’ link which will present the Restore Files dialog. As you can see, my backup is not automatically displayed, so I will have to browse my Network share for it. Once you have located your Backup location, simply select it and click OK and you will now see it displayed in the table with information such as Backup Period, Computer and Backup location. Users have the choice just as in Vista to select which files and folders get restored, its handy just in case you have an updated version of a file that you would prefer to keep instead of restoring the older version. Next, you can choose to restore your files and folders in their default locations or a separate location. Simply click Restore and the restoring of your files will begin. You might encounter some conflicts with certain files, I recommend not copying a file that has not been updated since the last backup.

Doing your restoration.

Click image to enlarge

Creating a Recovery disk, optical drives required. Microsoft, please support thumb drives.

Vista introduced huge improvements to how users kept their personal data secure. Windows 7 improves on that experience by providing additional offsite backup options will surely make you feel more confident. I like the improvements to the Backup Explorer itself and the progress and status information. There are indeed some glitches to be worked out, but over all, at this stage of development its very solid. In addition to file and folder backups, Complete PC Backups (system image) can also be stored on a network share, I believe features such as WAKE on LAN must be enabled to ensure network connectivity is available when you boot into System Recovery and source the location of your System Image. Other convenient additions I admire is the ability to create a stand alone system recovery disc for booting into the recovery environment if you don’t have your Windows 7 OS disc. I wish the feature itself supported expanded options such as using your thumb drive as an option for creating the recovery environment since my computer supports booting from one. You can do this now using the free X-Image and WAIK tools, but its rather lengthy process and requires downloading large amounts of data to create a simple WinPE bootable thumb drive. My Computer currently on which Windows 7 is being tested is having issues with the optical drives right now.

Windows Update in Windows 7, (click to enlarge)

Windows Update
Updating your computer and Windows is an important ritual for everyone, especially in a connected world. Windows Update first made its debut in Windows with the release of Windows 98 and has been included in every version of Windows since. Windows Update has been a handy resource for getting the latest updates for the operating system, your PC and devices, it has taken on new capabilities such as support for Microsoft Office and other Microsoft software programs. With the release of Vista, Microsoft removed Windows Update from the web browser to its own dedicated Explorer shell built into the OS which provides a centralized location to manage, download and review your update history offline. It features tight integration with Programs and Features giving you the option of easily removing installed updates.

New options available in Windows 7

In Windows 7, there are some slight changes, mostly visual, the main Windows Update page, displays a large yellow banner with information such as the amount of available updates and the total size of updates which is new. You can immediately review and download the most important updates or select only optional updates to install from the main page. You have the option also in Change Settings to Allow standard users to install updates which is something I am glad to see. Windows 7 Ultimate users will notice that there is something missing in this area – Windows Ultimate Extras. Microsoft has confirmed that Ultimate Extras will not be returning in this release. There is no word of whether they will be a core part of the OS new theming capabilities or optional downloads from Microsoft or third parties.

More flexibility in Windows 7, standard users can also install updates.

A improvements to selecting updates has been added, Windows Update now categories important versus optional updates. Important updates can be defined as critical whether it be an update that protects your computer from a vulnerability, adds stability or functionality while Optional Updates provide features that are not critical. On the left, you will find a quick details pane which provides information about the update such as associated application or component in addition to links with more information. These changes are not significant, but they do make the maintenance of your computer less of a chore while adding flexibility to an already solid set of experiences.

Previously:

Instant and Social Communication with Windows Live Messenger 9
Playing with Windows Media Player 12

Resources:

Speaking of Recovery Tools – Windows Vista Backup Center

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E7 Blog – The Windows Taskbar

The Windows Team delves into some of the improvements that have been made to the popular Windows Taskbar in Windows 7. Interestingly, the new Touch focused Taskbar’s history goes back as far as Windows 1.0 and the Windows Team has a screenshot that proves it.

Quote: Windows 1.0 supported zoomed (full-screen), tiled and icon (minimized) windows. Since there was no support for overlapping [that big debate between charless and billg, Steven], a dedicated portion of the desktop was kept visible at the bottom of the screen to surface non-tiled and non-zoomed windows. By minimizing a window or dragging it to the bottom of the screen, the person was able to populate this rudimentary taskbar with a large icon corresponding to the running window. She could then get back to this window by clicking or dragging this icon to the desktop. As simple as this mechanism seems today, it cemented an important concept that is with us even in Windows 7—when people switch between tasks, they are really switching between windows. Although it took Windows 95 to introduce a mature taskbar with launching, switching and notification functionality, the experience of surfacing and switching between windows via a dedicated region at the bottom of the screen is as ancient as Windows 1.0.

Read more here

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Instant and Social Communication with Windows Live Messenger 9

This week we continue in a series of experiences with features and improvements coming in the next version of Microsoft’s client desktop operating system, Windows 7 and Windows Live wave 3 services. Windows Live Messenger 9.0 is Microsoft’s latest version of its Instant Messaging software that allows you to communicate by text, video or ink with Hotmail, MSN, Live and even Yahoo! contacts. Windows Live Messenger’s support of standard features such as video conferencing I believe make it the ultimate social networking tool regardless of all the Facebook’s and My Spaces out there. Version 9 in particular focuses deeply on social networking and personalization. Creating a personal identity with the service and expressing it to others through your contacts is one of the major benefits of this new update.

Setting up Messenger and First sign in experiences (click to enlarge)

Getting started:
You can obtain Windows Live Messenger currently in BETA form by going to http://download.live.com I have been working with Build 14.0.5027.908 released as part of the public BETA of Windows Live Wave 3 suite over a couple of months now. I do hope Microsoft decides to make components of the suite available as stand alone installers although you can pick and choose which programs you want during the wizard. If you have used Windows Live Messenger before, getting started with the service is a cinch. There are no clear differences between the sign in screen in version 9.0 compared to 8.5. Your personalization such as themes and color scheme is retained if you upgrade from a previous version.
Signing in for the first time you can clearly see some differences in the contacts interface, large Vista profile displays replace Messenger buddy icons. Its a bit overwhelming at first so the first thing I did was to customize that feature to display the much smaller familiar indicators which are now square dots represented by different colors such as:

Green – Available/Online, Orange – Away, Red – Busy, Grey semi transparent – Offline,
Any color with a red slash – Blocked

Animated Display glistens when you change your status

When you are not signed in, WLM 9 displays just a single Messenger buddy icon with red X over it similar to not connected to a Network status icon in the Vista notification Area. The old Messenger business card is now consolidated into a floating widget with a list of options such as: Sending an offline instant message, Email, Enter a mobile number, View contact card and online profile. The open your email inbox button is more distinctive with a gold icon envelope along with a number indicating the amount of messages you have unread. ‘What’s new list’ which I have turned off is taking a page from the ad banner in the main messenger window by advertising fellow contact activities, whether they have changed a background, playing a song or changed their personal messages. Because of the limitation of my screen resolution on my desktop I have turned it off, but on my laptop its on. Its a cool feature that makes engaging with your friends a lot more fun and of course social.

Contact widget now simplified

Your display picture plays a distinctive role in this new release giving you visual cues that clearly identify you or your contacts status. Each time you change your status, your Display picture animates with a cool glistening effect. Speaking of display pictures, Messenger 9 includes some new bundled animated gifs called WeeMee’s that are not really impressive but are ok, they include shooting star, musical notes, city light, fish tank and sunlight. You can download additional ones and I am sure there will be more available once the service is finalized.  Since we are on the topic of themes, I got to say its probably the most dramatic in this release and focuses on making you express yourself clearly in your conversations. A contact can now see your theme and you can see theirs, in addition to that they are customizable and they blend in really nicely.

Scenes and WeeMee’s allow you to customize your visual experience

You can choose a background header known as a ‘Scene’ along with a color for the main window, WLM 9 comes with 8 of them. I hope there are more by the final release although you are free to create your own, I do like the bundled ones. I would also like the option of themes applied across all services, so a Scene color scheme and background image is also reflected in my Live Messenger on other PCs, Live Hotmail and Spaces for example. Also, changing your Scene is not as obvious as one would think, since its a hidden tool that is activated when you hover your mouse pointer over the upper right hand corner of the main window which folds back like a creased page revealing a paint brush. Maybe it would have been better to make it be a button beside the search box on the main window, since there are other buttons there for changing the appearance of contacts, adding a contact or group and show drop down menus.


The new groups feature goes beyond Messenger with support for up to 20 members.

Groups – grouping contacts is a regular activity for messenger users. Its especially necessary if you have a lot of IM contacts that range in colleagues, friends and family and would like to make it easier to differentiate them for easier management, discovery and communication. WLM 9 adds a dedicated groups feature that goes beyond just creating organized groups for your contacts. These groups are sociable allowing you to invite friends and be invited to your own friends groups. Creating a Group is very simple, just click the ‘Add a contact or group’ button next to the search box > click ‘Create group’. This will start the ‘Create a group’ wizard, just type in the name of your group, and click Next. The wizard will create your group and at the end you can start adding contacts, click next and ‘Done’ to confirm the invitation. One problem I discovered during the adding process, you could not scroll through your contact list in the main window, so when you wanted to reference an existing contact, you were stuck doing so from memory or opening up your Live Contacts to do so.

A nice check off list from your IM contact list would also have been nice to send out mass invitations. There is another limitation, you are limited to only 20 members in your group which I think is a shame. I have friends who share the same interest and that goes well beyond 20 friends.  Hopefully this limit will change by either the final version or post WLM 9 RTW. It is believed that Groups will be a replacement for MSN Groups now called Windows Live Groups (surprise), which makes it even more difficult for groups to be a viable solution for persons who want to be able to do something on a large scale. The inability to create subgroups or sub-topic groups is something I wish the WLM 9 Team could have worked on. When you look at the ease of use provided by Facebook to easily create a Group and invite as many people as you want or have as many people as you want join, its quite obvious who is in its infancy and who delivers a mature social experience in this regard.

Conversation windows 8.5 left, 9.0 right

Favorites – Its true, we have a person or group of persons we regularly chat with on our contact list. WLM 9 emphasizes this with the new ‘Favorites’ group which is easily identified by a Star. There are a couple ways to get your special contacts into the Favorites group, you can easily drag and drop drop into that group, right click the Favorites title and click ‘Edit Favorites’ and click your contact from the displayed list, you can also do a quick filtered search. The significance is not really clear, I already had a list called colleague with all the friends I chat with regularly, so Favorites is really just a pre-canned feature for those who never thought of simply creating a ‘New Category’ and dragging existing contacts into it. The only difference I see is that, Favorites IM contacts display pictures are larger and its the first group that you see when you log into Messenger. If you find the large display pictures distracting, you can customize them by clicking the "Change Contact list layout" button or going to Show Menu > Tools > Options > Layout and choose and appropriate size.  It would still be nice if the WLM Team could add support for rearranging categories themselves. I would love to have my Family category be second after the Favorites group and the ability to turn an existing category into a second set of Favorites group also.
Search – an essential feature especially if you have have hundreds of contacts. The Search facility itself does not feature any major changes, the same filtered Search experience is what you can expect. It would be nice to have Boolean logic that can deliver better results and information about your contact list. For instance, if I do a search for ‘kind: blocked’ all the contacts that are blocked on my list show up or if I do a search ‘available’ all the contacts on my list that are available show up or ‘recent: conversations’. It makes it especially convenient when you have a lot of contacts in different categories. I would also like to see a feature of search that integrates with Groups, I give some of my IM contacts a Nickname, each with the word ‘HEART’. When I do a filtered search, it would be nice to to have the option of creating an on the fly group from all these contacts with HEART in their name.

What’s new in options:
Layout –
here you can customize the layout of your contact list, which includes setting the display picture size that’s right for you, showing the Tab bar, Favorites or What’s new list. Contacts can be labeled by Display name or First and Last name and you can organize contacts into Categories or Online Status. Contacts can also be set to be sorted by Status or alphabetically by default. Users have the option of controlling offline contacts to either show in a separate category or separate into categories such as Offline or SMS.

Sign in now replaces General option from 8.5, now listing options for how Messenger starts up and signs into the service. A new option available in this category is ‘Sign in at more than one place’. Security reasons might come to mind if you plan to do this in a public setting, but if you leave your computer on at home and sign into Messenger at work you will be able to sign in at both locations and receive IM messages from both places. Its also great for working with different devices, so you can stay signed in on a mobile phone and your desktop at the same time. Also, options applied on one device, whether its closing a window or receiving a message are applied to all devices. You do have the option of changing how this works whether you want to Keep signed in or sign yourself out everywhere else, you can also define locations by giving it a name. This feature is specific to WLM 9.0.

Alerts and Sounds have been separated into different categories. Alerts displays its traditional options such as when a Contact comes online, messages received and email alerts. Sounds itself contains some dramatic changes giving reason to why its now separated. Here you can assign a collection of pre-canned sounds for different alerts such as: Contacts Sign in, new instant messages, email message, incoming voice or video call, outgoing voice or video call, new Windows Live Alert and even Nudges. Users can have a distinct ‘Sign in’ sound when they come online; these range in Band intro, Electric Guitar, Gong or your own personal song from your music library. Just click Add New Sound, browse to where the song is located, select it and use the Cropping tool to define a 5 second piece of the song you find appropriate with the option of Fade in and Fade Out. Its really cool, but I have discovered some users are beginning to annoy me with their custom sounds, so I did the next best thing ‘Mute my contacts ‘Signature sound’. 🙂

Phone – Provides the option of setting your mobile phone at http://mobile.live.com/signup to receive messages from your contacts. Unfortunately, none of the carriers here in Jamaica such as Digicel, Cable & Wireless (LIME) and CLARO are supported, meaning its at US thing for now.

Messages includes some added options for setting up PhotoIM invitations which is a new way of sharing your photos. Sharing Folders seems to be gone.

Signing into multiple locations is a cinch. (click to enlarge)

Conversations
For users of older versions of Messenger (which is a lot), a lot of the social experiences that you would get from two users running WLM 9.0 won’t be available to you. A WLM 9 user chatting with a WLM 8.5 user results in just a standard conversation window with the exception of custom color, you also don’t get the option of doing Photo Sharing with older versions of Messenger. But the fact that people who use Messenger often upgrade to the latest version and Microsoft’s advertising of the latest version in older versions makes that a non issue.  There are still some small benefits which we will discuss, such as the new Status Display frames are part of the conversation window, you get the same conversation layout which is a grouping of sequential messages. This can be turned off in Tools > Options > Messages if you prefer the old layout. The Display pictures are now moved over to the left side of the window and are significantly larger, you can adjust this or turn them off all together. The ‘Enter your message here’ is more compact compared to 8.5 but at the same time its much neater and organized. A horizontal scroll list toolbar displays your emoticon gallery, winks, nudges, voice clips, font and window background options. You can also easily switch between handwriting and keyboard text there.

 

Sharing Photos has never been this fun!

Photo-sharing
Probably the best feature added to conversations in Windows Live Messenger 9, but could have exceeded expectations by supporting video sharing like Yahoo! Messenger. I love the ability to really  engage with friends, and find features like sharing photos a great way to do that. Your photo libraries and contacts can be viewed at the same time. To initiate Photo-sharing, simply click the Photos button in the conversation window to send an invitation to the recipient which must be accepted. Once that is done, photos can be added by you or the other person which are displayed in a slideshow format within the conversation window with messages displayed as commentary. You can even revert the window back to full conversation and view small thumbnails at the top of the window.

Yahoo! vs. Live
Its clear who is innovating and winning at the same time. Yahoo Messenger which is currently at version 9 released not too long ago doesn’t offer anything significantly new from version 8.1. Releases of Windows Live Messenger have been rapid and constantly bringing new features like Nudges, Ink recognition, tight integration across Windows Live services and now respectable social networking capabilities. The only thing I see thats new in Yahoo! is the ability to change the skin and share videos from YouTube easily, something I hope the WLM Team sees and also implements. The social networking aspects of WLM are a good start but are still in their infancy, over time I do hope they mature and focus better on the needs of users, Groups for instance needs to go beyond 20 members.

Conclusions
I love the deep customizations, I love the synergies between the Live Services and Windows. Features like Scenes, WeeMee’s are nice additions that add continued fun to a string of interactive features Messenger has been bringing to users over past six versions. The interface is slick but at times it can seem crowded and I hope this does not affect the programs future. It would be nice to have a light mode that users can sign in with just essentials to do text messaging with users since it takes a while depending on your connection to load all these features when you use the service on a different computer. I would also like if your message history could be synced to travel with you wherever you go, but I guess that’s where Live Mesh comes in. The new multiple sign in feature will be great for persons who use IM across multiple devices particular cell phones and to keep the conversation between contacts seamless across them uninterrupted. Should you upgrade? This a weird question to ask, its a free product, small, takes no time to download and its not disruptive as upgrading your Office suite or web browser. So, yeah I say, definitely download it and it won’t be a great experience unless all or most of your contacts are using the latest version. I didn’t get to look at everything in this short experimental preview such as Video Conferencing, but I will be giving you an update before the service goes final, so stay tuned.

Thanks Jeff Hatfield for the help with Photo Sharing. 🙂

Previously:

Playing with Windows Media Player 12

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The perfect compliment to Windows 7 – HP TouchSmart tx2 Notebook PC

When Windows 7 is released, having it will be one thing, getting to use all its features ‘seamlessly’ will be another. Hewlett Packard the number one PC manufacturer has been innovating aggressively for the past few years and stepping out of their comfort zone being one of the first Company’s to support Tablet PC computing back in 2002. HP has remained committed to the form factor and have managed to introduce concepts and products to market even before it reaches a mass scale through products like Microsoft Windows. The Company recently introduced their TouchSmart All-In-One Desktop which supports of course Touch which is a big feature being touted by Microsoft in its next release of Windows, 7. HP has gone further by introducing their first ‘multi-touch’ notebooks, here are some of the features:

The HP TouchSmart tx2 Notebook PC

  • 12.1 inch screen – swivels 180 degrees
  • Advanced Micro Devices Home Turion Platform
  • 4.5 Pounts
  • Media Center Remote
  • Built in Webcam (of course)
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Multi-Touch capability
  • Supports multiple roles as a PC, Display or Tablet
  • Built-in wireless connectivity
  • Rechargeable Digital ink pen
  • Imprint Finish – looks like clouds to me or soap suds

Standard: Windows Vista Home Premium – not sure if its 32 or 64 bit.

Optional features:

  • Optional Stand which can used as power source and Internet connection

Starting price 1,149

Learn more HERE

Quite an impressive set of features and probably the best way to get a smooth upgrade path to some of the new features coming in Windows 7. Microsoft used HP’s Touchsmart displays during demos at the PDC 2008. Its one of the draw backs of Vista when it was released, there wasn’t a lot of form factors out there taking advantage of lot of its unique features like Tablet PC and Sideshow (which the TouchSmart lacks but could easily be supplemented by a Windows Mobile device). With HP pioneering and Microsoft software exploiting this form factor and creating synergies it looks like a lot of users will have systems in 2010 that are more than ready to use all of the OS’s features.

More about Multi-Touch in Windows 7:

Microsoft is always looking to new ways to advance and make the PC experience more natural through new input methods. Windows XP Tablet PC edition was a good example of this by allowing us to use inking capabilities with new form factor devices called Tablet PC’s. Microsoft tirelessly works to promote the platform and has gone beyond that in recent years, the latest endeavor being the Microsoft Surface Table. Although the Surface remains an expensive proposition (think US $13,000), the Windows Team realizes that to make the experience more ubiquitous, Windows would be a best place for this feature to gain wider availability not only just for persons in offices, but also the consumer. In Windows 7 controlling the computer by touching the screen is a core user experience, with visual feedback provided for tap and double-tap gestures.

The Start menu, Windows Taskbar and Windows Explorer are touch friendly, with larger icons that are easier to select with your finger, Browsing the web with Internet Explorer 8 is easier too – just use your finger to scroll down a web page or browse your favorite links. You can even use your finger to arrange the pictures in a photo album. Windows 7 also includes multi-touch technology, which lets you control what happens on the screen with more than one finger. You can zoom in on an image by moving two fingers close together, like you’re pinching something, or zoom out by moving two fingers apart. You can rotate n image on the screen by rotating one finger around another and can right click by holding one finger on your target and tapping the screen with a second finger. Touch Gestures provide direct visual feedback and interact with underlying content in a natural and intuitive way.

Learn more about Windows 7 in ActiveWin’s review here

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Improvements coming to Windows Live Spaces!

This has been the week for news about Windows Live. After my paranoid post about Live Spaces being doomed, Jamie Thomson gave me a tutorial on some of the changes he has seen in the next update to the blogging service. Now comes some great news from the Space Craft about what to expect:

Your space is all about your content, the way you want to show it, so we’re reducing the amount of clutter and giving you more freedom by:

  • Removing the horizontal ad from the top of your space
  • Making all of the modules optional (even the Title and Tagline module, which previously couldn’t be removed)
  • Using a simpler header that has less text than other pages in Windows Live
  • Letting you change themes, fonts, colors, and background images on your space using the customize menu
  • Letting you rename or not show the title of each module on your space by using the settings menu for each module in customize mode
  • Letting you select exactly which photo albums to show in your photos module – you can even customize what parts of the photos interface to display

Read the entire entry here

This release is heavily focused on consumer experiences such as photos. Its particularly nice to see the removal of the horizontal ad which just kills the space. I hope they do this for Hotmail too. I still have suggestions that I hope the Spaces Team takes into consideration, here are 7 I came up with:

1. I am working across multiple computers, so that level of personalization I would be able to add through tools like Windows Live Writer is not there, example, tagging, adding photos, videos, wrapping text and so on. I hope the web interface form improves in the future to support something as simple as tagging because I think it helps a great deal with reaching out to your audience.

2. Why not make ‘Joe’s profile, blog name… Photos, Blog, Lists, More’ inline with the Windows Live Logo to conserve and provide more space? I believe it would look better that way or at least provide the option to.

3. As Brett noted, please implement a solution to deal with the comment spam, its causing a lot of problems over at my blog, especially from Chinese commenter’s. I have suggested implementing and option of blocking users from a specific region/location. So, I would prefer to get comments from North America, Europe, Caribbean and certain parts of Asia.
Please see the following post I have made about it:
http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!20273.entry
http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!18809.entry

4.Ability to customize permalinks so they are not so ghastly. A post about ‘Going to the beach this summer’ isn’t adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E8E5CC039D51E3DB!20273.entry, but something more elegant like http://adacosta.spaces.live.com/blog/going-to-the-beach-this-summer-11-19-08.entry

5. Ability to customize the header/banner part of the space with your own personal image. Just like you can now in Windows Live Messenger 9.

6. The search experience is lousy, I can’t give my readers the opportunity to search my Live Space in a relevant and natural way (I don’t know if this is attributed to the lousy Windows Live Search). I have tried to relay my feedback to the Spaces Team, but sometimes it just falls on deaf airs it seems. Please let me see search results similar to how I see results on Google.

7. Double post, I didn’t purposely click Add two times, its your server that did it. I commented on a friends blog and it said said ‘issue trying to connect to server’, all of a sudden I see six of the same comments from me. Its ridiculous.

8. Last but not least, performance, please make the load times faster especially for dial up users. I want you to add whatever secret sauce you added to Windows Live Hotmail wave 3. That thing is blazing fast.

These are just some of the things I have in mind I believe could make me feel more comfortable on this platform. I have been a fan of the service since December 9, 2004 and I want to continue my relationship with the service and see it grow into something we can all appreciate and respect.

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