Windows Vista SP1 RC Refresh available to the public

via Engadget by Darren Murph on 1/14/08

Just as Microsoft did last month with Vista SP1 release candidate, the latest build (dubbed SP1 RC Refresh) has been loosed from its privately held shackles and is now available for the public to descend upon. According to ZDNet, Redmond decided to make this iteration publicly available “in the interest of gaining additional tester feedback.” Of note, you will likely be forced to install “two or three updates” before SP1 RC Refresh can be installed, but we know you’re quite unconcerned with all the fine print. Nevertheless, that verbiage (and the download link) is waiting below.

[Via ZDNet]

Yahoo launches Messenger for Vista [Updated]

Last night Yahoo launched a new beta, its WPF powered IM client – Yahoo Messenger for Vista. A demo was shown at CES in January 2007, however performance was noted to be poor and as a result there has been a 12 month delay in getting the first beta out. When you also consider that certain features such as voice and video chats have been removed from the publicly available build, it suggest just how troublesome the new client has been to develop.

So how does Yahoo Messenger for Vista compare to existing Yahoo and Windows Live products? Brandon and Long have both express their thoughts, with the consensus seeming to be that poor performance has resulted in a feature-basic client being presented at this time.

Pros:

  • The user interface looks great and is fun to use. For me it was the small things such as changing colour.
  • Tabbed chatting. I’m sure there must have been a good reason why this hasn’t been integrated in Windows Live Messenger yet, unfortunately that reason escapes me for the moment. There have been design ideas around how to implement tabbed chatting in MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger up in the hallways of RedWest for a while now, I wonder when somebody will actually do something with them…
  • File transfers upto 2GB. Oh sure we have Shared Folders in Windows Live, but who actually uses those?
  • An official sidebar gadget. I really don’t know what to say for this one, Microsoft has seemingly abandoned sidebar gadgets to 3rd party developers for the last 12months and here comes Yahoo to ship a gadget at the same time as the beta application itself. Go Yahoo!
  • The complete install took absolutely no time at all. Its just a shame that performance from this point onwards isn’t so good.

Cons:

  • Performance – not great, especially given the 12month gap in getting this from CES to now. Looks like they might need another 6 months or so until release in order to refine it, which although not a bad thing, could mean they drop some more advanced features from the final release.
  • No 64 bit support. Brandon touched upon this, and like him, I’m a recent convert to 64bit. This is definitely an area where Microsoft is improving its own support quite rapidly, hopefully this will filter out to those building on Microsoft technologies. See update below

Althought not perfect, Yahoo have just pushed my expectations up considerably higher with this beta release. You can try it out for yourself here.

Update: Yahoo just released an official version with x64 support. That is a speedy response to user feedback, impressive. WL Messenger team take note please.

Microsoft offers a Vista two-for deal

As 2007 rolls to a close, Microsoft isn’t letting up on its efforts to push Windows Vista.

The latest promotion is aimed at subscribers Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) or TechNet who provided Microsoft with Vista testing feedback.Microsoft offers a Vista two-for deal

“As we approach the one year anniversary of launching Windows Vista we want to remember you as one of the many people who downloaded and tested one of the Windows Vista Beta or Release Candidates through TechNet or MSDN. YOU were a significant contributor to the development of Windows Vista. Your participation was extremely valuable to Microsoft, and we would like to say, ‘Thank You!’” according to an e-mail message I received about the promotion at the end of December.

Under terms of “The Ultimate Offer,” testers can go to any retail or online store and buy a copy of Vista Ultimate (full or upgrade version) for full price and Microsoft will match it with a second complimentary Vista Ultimate Upgrade product key.

To participate in the promotion, invited testers should go to the Vista Tester Offers site. The promotion ends January 15, 2008.

According to the most recently released numbers from Microsoft, the company sold 88 million copies of Vista at retail (to the channel, not necessarily to end users), plus another 42 million licensees through its volume license programs since Vista went on sale. Microsoft officials said at the Vista launch they expected the uptake of Vista to be twice the rate of Windows XP — a rate the company didn’t realize (although how short it fell is up for debate).

MacBook Pro really was PC World’s fastest tested laptop… until the Phantom-X

So there’s a bit of grumbling on the internets that PC World, like, totally sold out and lied about the MacBook Pro being the fastest Vista laptop they ever tested (presumably just so they could get mentioned in that new Apple commercial, right?) shortly before the staff went cow tipping and passed out drunk in a public park. The reality is PC World apparently hadn’t tested a laptop faster than the MacBook Pro at the time, and it wasn’t until weeks later they tested the Eurocom D900C Phantom-X, which handily bested Apple’s lappie by a broad margin. At least that’s what PC World’s editor Harry McCracken told us, but then again we did hear he recently got an Apple tat and is planning a hostile takeover of Macworld magazine in ’08.

Read – PC World’s statement about the MBP
Read – … and their review of the Eurocom
Read – The punter doing the grumbling
Watch – The Apple ad

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The many colors of Vista’s windows

Windows Colors
How many times have you wanted a way to change Windows XP’s color scheme? Blue is nice, olive and silver are also good for a change when you get sick of blue, but what if orange, purple, or black is your favorite color, and you want your computer’s desktop scheme to reflect that? Do you revert back to that Windows 95 goodness in putrid grey because there aren’t so many choices in XP? I hate to say it, but Windows doesn’t have a clue when it comes to color. You’re not a cave-dwelling ancient, so we’ve got to find a better way. Stop the devolving!
Windows Vista has soundly answered this unrequited need for beautiful and colorful Windows. The key word here is “customizable.” To check out the customizable color options, visit your Vista control panel and click on Personalization (or right click your desktop and choose Personalization). This option used to be “Properties” when right-clicking on the Windows XP desktop, if you chose to block that out. You will see a bunch of new options you didn’t have before to customize the look and feel of Windows.

The first option is Window Color and Appearance which will let you change the color of windows with a slider for light to dark blue for example. These options are just one of the things that make Vista a bit more flexible to use and a little more fun. Check out the gallery below for some nice shots of what you can expect to see in Vista’s color options screen and the results.

Halo 2 – Vista vs Xbox

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Over at Gamespot you can see some roll over screenshots that shows you the grapical difference between a Windows Vista installation and a Microsoft Xbox (including one Xbox 360 shot). This isn’t groundbreaking information as the Vista version runs on a much more powerful machine, but it’s still interesting to see the actual side by side (well, roll over) comparison.

Halo 2 – graphical comparison [Gamespot]
via [digg]

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Vista 32-bit activation BIOS crack hits the street

You can coat anything in a rich creamy layer of activation security but the software cracking scene will still find a creative way around it. A post on Digg points to a brand spankin’ new Vista activation crack which promises to be a big pain for Microsoft.

According to the FILENetworks Blog, this Vista activation crack represents a giant leap forward from previous Vista activation “workarounds”. Using an installable software driver, the Vista BIOS emulation crack fools Vista into the belief that it is running on top of an approved vendor’s BIOS, apparently opening up validation free licensing similar to what an OEM would receive.

I don’t support the distribution of pirated software but, I do marvel at the lengths some bedroom software crackers will go to have the latest and greatest scot free.

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