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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Steve Ballmer's $100 PC Is Here

SolarPC announces in a press release that it has built the first fully functional $100 modern PC, the SolarLite. It is the size of a book (9" x 7" x 1.75"), weighs 3 pounds, and consumes only 10 watts, allowing it to run off of a solar power cell, car battery, or human-powered (bicycle) generator. The kicker? The press release clearly states
In addition, it serves as a response to last month's challenge by Microsoft's Steve Ballmer for the computer industry to build a $100 PC.
Now, I'll be the first to say that this could be one of those cases where a company makes an outlandish claim in order to get a mention on Slashdot and some early financing, but what if it were true? Ballmer's point was that a $100 PC would allow people to concentrate on software, not hardware, meaning people could afford the software and not pirate it. God knows, if I had to buy a $300 video card to play Half-Life 2, I would have downloaded the game. Hardware purchases can make it harder to pay for software, and there is a decent PC that can be sold for $100, making it a nice commodity.

What does my ideal $100 PC have? No monitor, keyboard, or software, since most people have those, and those who don't can get their own at reasonable costs. As for the hardware: 1 gigahertz processor, 10 gigabyte hard drive, 128 megabytes of RAM, a 48x CD drive, and onboard sound and video. Based on prices on Froogle, that can be had for $70, so since OEM's get sweetheart deals, it should be doable to put it all together in a working system.

Microsoft Opens Up To The Public

Mary Jo Foley of Microsoft Watch has an article where she sums up the Redmond giants (largely succesful) moves towards being open and honest with its userbase and developers. Microsoft chose this year to try to be more transparent, taking ideas from the open source community about explaining what is in working on. MS was willing to admit when it screwed up (WinFS) and allow more personal channels to the outside world (more than 1,000 employee blogs). It's a great trend, and if a huge supposedly impersonal corporation can pull it off maybe others will follow. Surprisingly, one of the least transparent companies (my opinion)? Google, which never tells anybody what its working on (much like a director who's afraid of blowing the surprise ending).

Friday, November 26, 2004

Windows Upgrade Shuts Down Portion Of UK Government

An upgrade from Windows 2000 to XP shut down the UK Department for Work and Pensions for four days this week. The problems shut down over 60,000 computers in what is one of the worst IT failures in the government's history. I bet this news makes the U.S. Air Force nervous.
(via Slashdot)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Steal Windows? Microsoft Is Giving It Away!

Microsoft's latest anti-piracy measure is perhaps its most magnanimous gesture ever. Instead of prosecuting those with pirated copies of Windows, MS is offering to replace it with the real thing, for free. If you bought a PC with a non-licensed version of Windows XP installed, Microsoft will give you up to five brand-new licensed copies. According to Alex Hilton, Microsoft's license compliance manager, "Our goal is not to prosecute the individual; our goal is to get to the source". This sounds like a great idea. If you want to steal Windows for your own PC, that's still illegal, but at least its on a much smaller scale. But any fly by night bargain PC manufacturer who pirated thousands of copies deserves to get caught. I just wonder if regular downloaders will try to "turn in" copies they downloaded for the real thing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day! Except for those of you in Turkey, for whom I say, "Happy Day In Turkey!" Or vegetarians: "Happy Non-Turkey Based Synthetic Alternative Day!"

Today's Google Doodle (at least according to Rustybrick, since I'm not seeing anything now):

Ask Jeeves:

Referencing the Jeeves Macy's balloon:


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Kilobits, Kilobytes, What The Hell?

I was just chatting with Matt, our Sports Editor, and he mentioned that he tested out his bandwith with the CNet Bandwidth meter and the meter and remarked that he was shocked that he apparently had a 2,454.06 kbps speed connection, when he thought he had only 300. I had to explain that 300 Kb = 2,400 kb, because the 300 is kilobytes and the 2,400 is kilobits, since a bit is 1/8th of a byte. I upgraded my connection for free (thanks Verizon!) to 1.5 mbps yesterday, but I know that is still a little under 200 Kbps. Don't most consumer have absolutely no idea about these distinctions? And why are ISPs using bits, a scale that has no useful meaning at all, instead of bytes, which are standard usable units? I felt like it was the biggest rip-off in the world years ago when I found out my 56k connection was barely good for 7 real k's.

Windows Update Removes Swastika Font

I installed an update for Windows today, which removed the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font. Microsoft says it wants to remove the font because it contains an offensive symbol. Since Microsoft won't easily say what the symbol is (although it did release this letter when it issued the update last year), I did some digging and found this cached page at (via About)that explains it all:
Swastika Prompts Microsoft Font Recall

Microsoft has announced the recall of the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font due to the inclusion of a swastika. The poster of a similar article at Metafilter asks if it is really all that offensive. I often find the use of the character offensive, but the character itself..? We’ve been over this ground before here and elsewhere, but the whole symbol vs. meaning debate is one which type aficionados are deeply aware. There is even an organized movement afoot to “detoxify” the symbol.

CNet Reviews Seven Search Toolbars

CNet has a comprehensive review of seven major search toolbars. The ratings:
  1. Google & Yahoo - 8.3 (out of 10) (tied) - Yahoo gets the Editor's Choice nod because of its antispyware features.
  2. A9 - 7.3 - loses points for not having special searches (news, stock market) and no pop-up blocker whitelist options.
  3. HotBot & Alta Vista - 7 (tied) - Few special searches or added features (plus HotBot loses points for having such a lousy index).
  4. MSN - 6.7 - New toobar coming out next month, as part of Desktop Search.
  5. Ask Jeeves - 6.3 - Has the most features, but not a very good piece of software, and puts an annoying frame around web pages it finds..
You can also check out CNet's "performance comparison" (literally counting which site has the most results) of the major search engines.

Microsoft Targets The Older Generation

Stuff reports that Microsoft released MSN TV 2 last month, targeting it at a bit of an older crowd. Microsoft is aiming MSN TV for the elderly, who are less familiar with computers, but are still very interested in learning to surf the web and send email. MSN TV's average user is 57, and set top boxes retail for $200. MSN TV 2 represents the second significant upgrade for the system since Microsoft bought it (formerly WebTV) back in 1997. The most interesting fact?
Interestingly, though, MSN TV's biggest competition may be older PCs. Sheldon, the product marketing executive, said these machines are increasingly being refurbished and given to older family members so they can connect to the Internet.

Monday, November 22, 2004

1980s: Steve Jobs Predicted Microsoft "Is Going Out Of Business"

Jeff Raikes jumped from Apple to Microsoft in the early 1980s. This article recounts a speech he gave at Seattle University's Albers School of Business last week, were he espused many of the lessons he's learned at Microsoft. Worth reading. However, most interestingly is what he says Apple's Steve Jobs told him.
Apple's Steve Jobs wasn't pleased. Taking the job was risky, Jobs told Raikes, because Microsoft was going to go out of business.
Or not.

Want To Be Hotmail UK's Suave Super Spy?

In order to commemorate the launch of Hotmail UK, the Record reports that Microsoft is auctioning off on eBay a number of "Hot" email addresses, with the proceeds all going to the children's charity NSPCC. Among the addresses are Darth Vader, Bridget Jones,Princess and Superman, and the top bidded address, I would bid for charity, but not for use, since any email address mentioned in a news article is already on spam lists.
'Be shaken not stirred and always get the girl with 'Protect the free world from the forces of evil with, and'

Getting In On The Halo 2 Hype

Larry Hyrb notes a Redmond-area bank that is trying to woo Halo 2-loving customers. Gotta love that.

As for me, Halo 2 is pretty cool (my brother swears by it), but Half-Life 2 is taking up most of my time.
(via Seattle PI)

Air Force To Streamline Microsoft Installations

The Air Force announced that as part of its deal with Microsoft it will provide a single version of Windows and other Microsoft products for all of its computers. It will use the same standardized installation for all 525,000 computers, installing on each system the same versions of Windows, Office 2003, Exchange, and System Management Server 2003, as well as a centralized system for patching and updating all the software. The arrangement consolidates the contracts the Air Force uses, reducing them from 38 to two, and saves them $100 million.

Bill Gates: Spam Will Be Gone In Two Years

From WebProNews:
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes spam will be a thing of the past within two years. He did not elaborate on his definition of spam.

"Spam is a major security problem," Mr Gates told a group in Madrid. "We hope this problem will be under control within two years,"

Gates comments come on the heels of Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer's remark that he and Bill Gates are the most spammed individuals in the world.

The level of spam has gone down as "new technologies are bringing it under control", Mr Gates said. "Governments are also increasingly handing out tough sentences to spammers they catch."
Good luck!