Monthly Archives: March 2009

Microsoft uses TruCast to build community for Windows 7

From ZDNET Social Business

Stephen Rose, senior community manager at Microsoft, has a big job. He’s responsible for managing a worldwide community of more than 22 million IT professionals who use Microsoft products. An even bigger job: He’s also responsible for creating community around Windows 7.

Rose primarily works with the Springboard group, an offshoot of Microsoft Technet, a central location that holds Microsoft info for IT pros on client operating systems. The Springboard site, according to Rose, is one of the most used sites on Technet. To help create community and awareness for Windows 7, Rose and his team in part created the Springboard Series Technical Expert Panel (STEP), a “by the community, for the community” program to spur advocacy within IT professionals and community influencers withinthe Microsoft, MVP, and MCT communities. Microsoft wanted to inspire influencers to host or speak at user groups, conferences, etc., or to write about their user experiences with Windows 7.

Read the entire article here

Microsoft has really engaged with its community of customers for a good while now. From the first steps that began with Robert Scoble in 2004, community resources such as Channel 9, 8 and 10, Windows and MSDN blogs has really given users such as myself a first point of contact to interact with the people who work on Windows. New social tools such as Facebook and Twitter have also greatly impacted the engagement experience, so I would say major kudos to Microsoft for listening!

Related resources:

Windows 7 Team Blog
Springboard Series Blog
Windows 7 Blog for Developers
Windows 7 Engineering


Filed under Windows 7

Windows Live Essentials the Recap

For the past few months I have looked at Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials suite of free applications that integrates with online services such as Live Spaces, Photos and Mail. I would like to do a recap to get you up to speed.

With the launch of Windows 7, Microsoft has introduced some new scenarios and ways of working with your computer. Core operating system features like Windows Touch, Ink and Speech make up a really strong feature set. The new Scenic user interface in particular with its radically updated Taskbar has kept folks busy learning about its new functionality like Jump List, Aero Peek and Pinning Shortcuts to it plus more, but what about the ‘other’ Windows? Yes, the one that focuses on extending the experiences of the Windows OS to the web and personal activities such as email, photos, videos and expression. Windows Live Essentials is more than just applications though; it’s also a seamless, streamlined set of well integrated software plus services. Microsoft is focused on delivering value beyond the box and based on my experience with the suite since September 2008, I must say, I am highly impressed! Back in January of 2007, Microsoft introduced Windows Vista, which bundled new and improved applications such as Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Mail and Windows Movie Maker. Over time Microsoft updated Photo Gallery and Mail beyond the operating system christening them as ‘Live’ applications. This created a problem of duality, triggering a possibility of confusion between similar applications already built into the OS. So, Microsoft decided from then on that certain programs would be removed from Windows and be made available exclusively through Windows Live instead.

Here is a quote from Windows Live General Manager Brian Hall about the decision:

Removing programs such as Photo Gallery, Mail and Movie Maker from the core operating system will give Microsoft more time to focus on the core operating system experience in addition to improving the efficiency of things like Service Packs which could ultimately be fewer and smaller. Mr. Hall also said that a cleaner operating system eliminates potential confusion for customers faced with two different programs that are similar in function-one already in Windows and the other from Windows Live. He also said that Microsoft is working with OEMs are around Windows 7 so that they can place shortcuts that will link to a download page where you can choose just the programs you.

One thing users must note is that Windows Live Essentials is free! The only thing required is an Internet connection and going to the Windows Live Essential’s home page and download it.

Installing Windows Live Essentials 
Instant and Social Communication with Windows Live Messenger 9 
Managing and Sharing Digital Memories using Windows Live Photo Gallery 2009
A Look at Windows Live Mail 2009 
Online Expression – Using Windows Live Writer 2009
Movies on the Go with Windows Live Movie Maker BETA

Quick Looks

A Quick Look at Windows Live Toolbar
A Quick Look at Windows Live Sync
Windows Live Essentials – Integration with Microsoft Office 2007
A Quick Look at the Microsoft Outlook Connector

Windows Live Family Safety

Windows Vista introduced Parental Controls which made it easy to manage the time your children spend using the computer in addition what type of content they can view on the web and receive reports about their activities online. Windows Live Family Safety is pretty much the same; the difference is it’s more about managing the online activities. With Live Family Safety Filter, you can choose who they communicate with online and generate reports of their online activities other features include:

  • Categorize and block unwanted web content for yourself and your family.
  • Create your own list of allowed or blocked sites.
  • Monitor Family Safety users’ Internet activity.

If you are running any of the consumer editions of Windows Vista such as Home Basic, Premium or Ultimate, you probably don’t need it, but for Vista Business and Windows XP users it should be a welcome addition. To setup the service, you need to have a Windows Live ID (XBOX, Hotmail) that will be your primary account for Family Safety. The Family Safety interface features a Profile Center, with a toggle on or off button. The ‘Customize settings for your family’ area features a link to a dedicated website where Parents can add accounts and customize settings.

Final Conclusion

Windows Live Essentials is deep; it’s deep in features and value. The thing about the suite is the cohesive experience it delivers, focusing primarily on what users enjoy doing on the PC these days. Microsoft for years has provided a complete suite of knowledge worker experiences with Microsoft Office. Windows Live Essentials fills that gap for the consumer. The most exciting thing about Live Essentials is that all these applications and services are free and they make connecting up to family and friends seamless; providing a simplified process of sharing memories, interest and providing safety online. After using the suite since the early betas I am a solidified user and I know you will be too. So I say, go to right now!


  • Its free
  • Integrates well with Windows Live services
  • Small in size, great performance in applications like Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Very complete feature set
  • Makes sharing multimedia easier
  • Synchronization and remote access features makes it easy to maintain data between multiple PC’s.
  • Compliments Windows operating systems such as XP, and specific features such as Parental Controls built into Windows Vista and Windows 7 well.


  • Windows Live Movie Maker needs more work
  • Windows Live Writer needs a more simplified setup process
    – Page Break option, posting a 22 page post is too long for blogging service like Live Spaces.
    – Ability to rename and merge categories.
  • More integration with Windows 7 would be great, especially where Jump List is concerned.
  • Downloading the suite needs to be more appropriate, Web Installer needs to be an option, not the default.


  • Installation: 88%
  • Ease of Use: 95%
  • Features: 95%
  • Manual: N/A
  • Price: N/A%
  • Overall: 90%

So, have you been using Windows Live Essentials? If so, what are your thoughts and what tips do you have for improving the applications? I would definitely love to hear them!


Filed under 7 Journal

Say goodbye to Microsoft Encarta

Arstechnica reports about Microsoft’s decision to discontinue the popular electronic encyclopaedia which I have been a loyal user for many years.

“When I first saw this, I had to do a double take. I made sure it wasn’t April 1 at least three times before I conceded. While looking around Encarta’s homepage today, I stumbled on a message that Microsoft was getting rid of MSN Encarta completely: "On October 31, 2009, MSN Encarta Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009. Additionally, Microsoft will cease to sell Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009." Looks like employees at Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica will be throwing parties tonight.”

Read the entire article here

First Microsoft Picture It!, then Microsoft Money, then Windows Live OneCare, now Encarta, Microsoft’s commercial consumer products are slowly dwindling. I can’t say it wasn’t inevitable, since there was no 2009 release. But Wikipedia has indeed contributed to this decision I believe. I personally use it more than ever. Its just that it lacks the multimedia aspect of Encarta which combines it well written articles. The Internet has changed a lot how we access and consume information, the instantaneous and wealth of resources vastly out numbers 1 DVD on which Encarta includes a thousands of articles by billions. Also, relevancy and constant updates make the Internet a superior choice. Although Wikipedia will now and then be vandalized, the accuracy of information written has been top notch and is a number one reference point for me.

Internet Explorer 8’s features a new tabbed Search on the fly option which allows you to quickly change Search engines based on your query. I use Wikipedia a lot, it’s very cumbersome having to type in the query through Google, search for it then open Wikipedia. With this feature, you are taken immediately to the source, which is sure to be a hit with those who want a more detailed browsing experience with better results. new tabbed search feature makes referencing information from Wikipedia and other sources a great asset.


Filed under Computers and Internet

Recent Windows 7 builds show further application improvements

Using Windows 7 an enthusiast website dedicated to all things Windows 7 reveals an improvement in the recently leaked Windows 7 build 7068. In particular, the Internet Explorer Team continues to further take advantage of UI innovations such as Jump List. Task options include starting a new Tab and InPrivate Mode browsing session.

Internet Explorer 8 Jump List task improvements in recent Windows 7 builds

Microsoft recently released a final version of Windows Internet Explorer 8 for previous versions of Windows, XP, 2003, Vista and Server 2008, you can download that here Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch explained that its decision not to offer IE8 RTW for Windows 7 was related to the enhancements that the next iteration of Windows brings to the table. The IE8 version included in Windows 7 is tailored on such functionality as Aero Peek, Aero Snap, Thumbnail Previews via the Superbar (the evolved Taskbar), Jump Lists, all available only in Windows 7.

“Our next steps start with listening. We’re going to listen for customer and security issues and respond appropriately. We’re going to engage with web sites and developers on compatibility. We’re going to finish Windows 7,”.


Windows Internet Explorer 8 RTM Review
New sound schemes in Windows 7 build 7048
What I like about Internet Explorer 8


In depth look at the Windows 7 Taskbar and Start Menu


Filed under Windows 7

The Faucet continues to leak – Windows 7 build 7070 takes the stage

Yesterday I blogged about the preview of Windows 7 build 7068 by a Microsoft Employee Shinobu Takahashi, now someone’s dad who works at Microsoft according to a posting on the forum Facepunch forums via Arstechnica talks about the availability of the latest build in addition to many more with some being considered for Release Candidate.

“I just came back from Microsoft, since my Dad works there. He works for in the SQL server division and here are some screenshots I took about the new build 7070. I don’t know if there is anything new to this build, but they installed it yesterday, so it probably will be leaked soon. They said it was a major update; maybe not to the user interface but more to the Kernel. Just letting you guys know :P"

Windows 7 build 7070 (click to enlarge)

This build doesn’t seem to introduce any new changes, except for reported improvements to the NT kernel. The screenshots seem to have been taken remotely from an employee PC, which is really a risky move by the individual considering that confidential data could have been exposed. Microsoft is expected to make the escrow build available to technical testers in April along with a speculated Release Candidate build to the public in late May.

I don’t know about you, but this is most times I have seen Windows builds in the products development! 🙂


Arstechnica: First screenshots of build 7070 leak, RC-Escrow coming
Facepunch Forums


Preview Screenshot of Windows 7 build 7068 shows new Desktop Gadgets?
Just a note: More Windows 7 build 7057 screenies surface
Windows 7 build 7048 screenshots hit the net
New sound schemes in Windows 7 build 7048
Beauty abundant in Windows 7 build 7048 Wallpapers


Filed under Windows 7

Windows Live Team – Please! Do something about the Invitation SPAM!

This is what I am seeing everyday when I log into Windows Live Messenger

I am imploring the Windows Live Team to do something about this obnoxious problem. Blocking and ignoring is counter productive. I cannot do this every time I log into Windows Live Messenger. Its frustrating sifting through good and spam. I am not denying that other Social Networks such as Facebook and My Space also face this issue, but not to this extent.


Windows Live Invitations – The Domain’s I block but keep getting invites from
To the Hotmail Team – your Junk Filter is not working
Windows Live: The Spam Issue – Its putting a damper on the Service
The Issue of Windows Live, Privacy and Spam
The Amount of Windows Live Invitation Spam is Unacceptable
CNET: Microsoft ranked fifth worst spam service ISP


Filed under MSN Spaces

Preview Screenshot of Windows 7 build 7068 shows new Desktop Gadgets?

Just saw this over at Arstechnica, a Microsoft employee Shinobu Takahashi, shows some features in one of the latest Windows 7 internal builds, 7068. I can’t tell exactly what’s being said on the page, except for the fact that it has something to do with DPI scaling improvements in Windows 7. However, build 7068 shows that Microsoft is continuing to tweak the OS as it approaches Release Candidate (speculated to be coming in late May), in particular, Desktop Gadgets will be receiving a refresh.

Windows 7 build 7068 (click to enlarge)

As you can see, there is a new Date and Time Gadget, CPU/Memory Meter and Battery Meter Gadgets. The Windows 7 Beta (build 7000) released back in January, still features Gadgets introduced in Vista, along with a new Media Center Gadget. Windows 7 Gadgets support new features such as enlarging, ability to be placed anywhere on the desktop.


Just a note: More Windows 7 build 7057 screenies surface
Windows 7 build 7048 screenshots hit the net
New sound schemes in Windows 7 build 7048
Beauty abundant in Windows 7 build 7048 Wallpapers


What’s coming for Windows 7 Release Candidate?


Filed under Windows 7