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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Unicode Blog Sponsorship

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist mentioning it.

Michael Kaplan ends one of his posts with:
This post brought to you by "ᄴ"
... because, as he explains:
3 - Inspired by the television show Sesame Street, which used to suggest that each episode was sponsored by various letters and numbers. While the folks at CTW get the high profile sponsors like A-Z and 0-9, I will be looking to the rest of Unicode to sponsor my posts, from now on....
I just think that's great.

This post sponsored by ₪.

Microsoft Comment Spam Wars Continue

Well the recent rash of comment spam on MSDN weblogs continues, with the IE blog starting to complain, and forcing Andy Boyd to quit his blog and start a new one using WordPress, but not before getting mighty po'd:
I'm tired, of whoever the jackpipe is with the Chinese domain names continually asking me to go to or whatever...

Why start my own you ask? We're Microsoft and have $70B and surely can install some sort of widget to prevent stupid feedback spamming? Well, you'd think so.
I'm pretty sure $70 billion is low-balling it, but still...

Microsoft Announces Interoperability Month

Starting January 18 is Interoperability Month at Microsoft, with a series of 40 webcasts focusing on why it matters to the business, common strategies and methods, and guidance on specific implementation scenarios between the major platform players. Also involved will be giveaways and special technical guidance from MS. More info at
(via NETNew MS blog)

Microsoft Spyware Deal Brings Christmas Present For One Company

When Sunbelt made a deal with Giant Company Software to share their spyware definition files, it had no idea that the deal would soon bring them millions of dollars and large amounts of manpower in the form of Microsoft R&D, all for free. Apparently Sunbelt had a prior deal with Giant, and after some legal wrangling, Microsoft has released a statement that it will provide Sunbelt with spyware definitions through July 2007. From eWeek:
"This is fantastic news for us because we co-own the Giant code and all future definition updates," Sunbelt president Alex Eckelberry said in an interview with "We now get the benefit of the Microsoft research on anti-spyware to give us, bar-none, the best anti-spyware signature database on the market."
Sunbelt's president has already explained that he intends to use the definition files to go head-to-head with the Redmond giant. Great luck for them, but I hope they have some sort of plan for dealing with 7/07, when they have to do the work on their own. My advice? Get bought, probably by McAfee or Symantec, who would love to get their hands on MS's spyware solution.
(via Microsoft Watch)

User Community Rallies Behind MSN Deskbar

The MSN Search Weblog has linked to, a site aiming to put together a database of MSN Deskbar shortcuts (more here). I don't think I'm reaching to suggest that this should scare the hell out of Google. I've been arguing for a while that Google's strategy of appealing to the tech elite would fail as Microsoft reaches out to the masses. MSN has released in the last month Spaces, MSN Desktop Search, and the MSN Deskbar, all of which are appealing to the typical computer user in ways Blogger, GDS, and Google Deskbar can't, and a user-site dedicated to Deskbar shortcuts is only the beginning. Google can release APIs for all its products, but shortcuts work a lot better for most users. Google has got to work at giving its products more mass appeal, because that is the one area MSN is killing them in.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Looking For A Blogger

Since InsideMicrosoft has joined InsideGoogle as a well-trafficked blog, I think the time is ready to expand a little further. I'd like to start another blog, but I won't be writing it. In case it isn't obvious at this point, I'm building a network (and don't be surprised if everything moves to a domain in the next few weeks). So, I haven't settled on the topic of the blog (and it needn't be tech-related), but I am looking for an untapped, dedicated blogger. The blog would have to have a news focus, and be updated constantly and consistently. Feel free to suggest possible topics as well (InsideApple, InsidePolitics, InsideGadgets) that you'd like to see explored. If you know of anyone who I should consider, IM me (check the profile) or comment with contact info.

And yes, there is money involved.

MSN Spaces Gets Upgraded

We got our MSN Spaces improvements today, and Mike Torres has the 411 on what's changed:
  • pinging: Thanks in large part to the work Dave & team did to improve the reliability of, and some minor tweaking and testing of our implementation, our success rate has jumped from about 0-5% during our first week to close to 100% today. This means more and more of your content will start being syndicated around the web (if you have a public space and have pinging turned on).
  • MSN Search results: Due to a goof-up on our part involving the infamous robots.txt file, the search results for spaces have been a little wonky (oops). This will start to heal itself.
  • Blog edit layout: A bunch of people had been kind enough to alert us of what appeared to be a security issue – but was actually just a layout bug (you know who you are! Thanks for looking out!) After today, you don’t have to worry about this happening again.
  • Mobile publishing: This is somewhat of a corner case, but it is a big deal to Microsoft employees and other gadget geeks around the world. Posting an image from the (phenomenal) Audiovox SMT5600 phone via email now works without having to have text in the body of the mail; just a photo will do.
  • “Space not available”: Some of you may have been receiving “Space not available” errors if you setup a space during the first 24 hours the service was live. This problem should now be fixed, and the likelihood of getting into this state on sign-up again is much, much lower. The one gotcha is that if you had one of these spaces, you will have to go into Settings: Permissions and reset your space to Public (or whichever setting you like best.) If you are still seeing this error, please send us Feedback using the link at the bottom of the page and we will look into it.
  • Sign-in/out: We made some updates that will help improve that pesky sign-in/sign-out issue in places like the comments area. If you don’t know what I am talking about, don’t worry about it. It was harmless – but it was pretty darn annoying, so we fixed it.
  • Usability: It is now easier to get into “author” mode from “preview” mode on your own space. Just click “Customize” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, where “Preview my space” is usually shown.
  • A bunch of other random fixes: Without going into too much detail, there were other little things we did to improve your experience with Spaces.
Good stuff. I don't think anyone was expecting the a revolution a week in, but it is so refreshing to see quick fixes. Some Blogger bugs never seem to go away. If this is going to become the new status quo at MSN, with fixes every few weeks, it won't be long before everyone is singing their praises.
(via Scoble)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Realities Of MS

Microsoft Technical Lead Michael Kaplan on his MSDN blog talks about the face that he has Multiple Sclerosis. Michael may be suffering with the disease, but he still has his sense of humor, making too many puns off the acronym MS. Referring to multiple sclerosis (but, of course, not saying so), Michael goes on about how MS is evil, MS sucks, MS is like a virus, and then says, "No this is not a tell-all about a full-time Microsoft employee slamming his employer." It's reassuring to see some strength and humor in the face of such a debilitating condition. Good luck, Michael, and my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Microsoft Spyware Seeker Is Coming

Microsoft announced today that it has acquired GIANT Company Software, makers of anti-spyware and internet security products, for the sole purpose of handing those products over to Windows users. From the press release:
Microsoft plans to make available to Windows customers a beta version of a spyware protection, detection and removal tool, based on the GIANT AntiSpyware product, within one month. The upcoming beta will scan a customer's PC to locate spyware and other deceptive software threats and enable customers to remove them. The tool will be configurable to block known spyware and other unwanted software from being installed on the computer. It will be available for Microsoft Windows 2000 and later versions.
This news comes not long after it was leaked that MS is working on an antivirus solution for customers as well. Both of these programs represents the majority of the user community's failure to avail itself of already available products. Most users who are struck with viruses are not willing to pay for an antivirus, and most users hit with spyware do not scan their computer with free tools like AdAware and Spybot. Because users refuse to arm themselves, but complain about MS software not being secure, Microsoft is buying up companies and devoting millions in company research on projects that should be unnecessary. Well, at least this means that in eight months, every Windows user should have an antivirus and spyware detecting program.
(via the Unofficial Microsoft Weblog)

Postscript - GIANT's spyware research center is called "SpyNet". Sorry, but that creeps me out.

MSN Spaces To Be Upgraded Today

Scoble had a Meetup last night, and he reports that present at the Meetup was Jay Fleugel, lead program manager for MSN Spaces, who announced the service will be seeing an upgrade. Today. A week and a half after it launched.

I'm impressed. Not only are they working even after the product launch to continuously roll out fixes and new features, the changes coming today were recommended by the blogosphere. The team apparently scanned the comments from the various blogs and implemented the two things that were most asked for that could be coded quickly. I wonder what they are? Wanna speculate, faithful readers?

If we see this kind of dedication and rolling upgrades from the MSN Toolbar Suite and MSN Search teams, Google is in for the fight of its life. Who the hell can compete at that sort of level?

Possible changes:
  • No censorship
  • Search-friendly URLs
  • Post timestamp editing
  • New templates
  • More control over RSS feeds (wishful thinking)
  • API support (not even close to likely, not for months)
  • CSS layout editing
  • More comment control (ban IPs, for example)

How To: Google Desktop Via MSN Deskbar

So, I took an idea from a previous post and constructed a Google Desktop Search shortcut for the MSN Deskbar:
You need to replace [gdscode] with your Google Desktop code. Just open a GDS page and look at the URL; you'll see it and know what I mean. Replace [gdscode] with the code and paste the text in the MSN Deskbar, and hit enter. Now, you can search Google Desktop Search via the Deskbar. Just type "gds search", replacing search with whatever you are searching for. To search GDS for fish, just type "gds fish" and hit enter. Is there a simpler way to use Google Desktop Search? No way. Not even Google's Deskbar is that simple. If you like the MSN Toobar Suite, but still need to use GDS (like I do), this is the way to do it.

UPDATE: This works for any search engine, of course. Steve Makowsky puts out the code for Feedster:
You can create any search engine code. Go to your favorite engine and search for anything. In the URL, find the search term, and delete it and everything after it. Copy what's left of the URL to the Deskbar, add "@[shortcut]," to the beginning (comma included, and replacing [shortcut] with whatever shortcut you want), and "$W" to the end. Examples:
Yahoo: @yahoo,$w
Jeeves: @jeeves,$w
Search InsideGoogle using Google: @insidesearch,$w
Once you get used to the shortcut language, it can be like second nature to add shortcuts for every site you like.

UPDATE 2: Steve Makofsky provides a like to Yahoo Maps traffic maps for the MSN Deskbar (which you can read about at InsideGoogle):
UPDATE 3 : has begun the process of creating a database of Deskbar shortcuts. Included in the list is my InsideGoogle search link (for no reason!) and these useful ones:
Slahdot: @slash,$w
Froogle: @froogle,$w
Google News: @google-news,$w
Wikipedia: @wiki,$w
A9: @a9,$w
MSDN: @msdn,$w&View=msdn
See Google, this is what happens when you provide these things for all users. An API may make the geeks salivate, but Microsoft is doing a much better job reaching out to the masses. Worried yet?

Previous tips:
MSN Toolbar Suite Tips 12/13/2004
Using the Windows shortcut key
Arranging emails as conversations
Commands using the = key
How To: Remove MSN Deskbar Buttons 12/14/2004
More MSN Toolbar Suite Tips 12/14/2004
Installing on Windows Server 2003
Saving and constructing custom searches
Add Network Paths

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Index PDFs In MSN Desktop Search

Forget to (or not notice the option to) install the iFilter program to allow indexing of PDFs in MSN Desktop Search? Well, the MSN Search Weblog gives us a link to the download site. They also have some other info, including addressing support for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP x64, additional languages, web history, and Mozilla.

I know the PDF plug-in was available on zero day, but if MSN can release plug-ins on a regular schedule to give the Toolbar Suite added functionality, well, that would be just great. I kept waiting and waiting for Google to add to its desktop search, but nothing has happened for two months. Major points go to whomever continuously supports their desktop search with good plug-ins.

And yes, I used "whom" in a sentence, you crazy people.

Xbox Gaining Lots Of Market Share

Major Nelson from Xbox Live has some stats that should make Microsoft very happy. Microsoft has slashed Playstation 2's market share lead by 70% over the last year, from 27% to just 8%. In November 2003, Playstation 2 had 51% of the market to Xbox's 24%, now PS2 leads 45% to 37%. Xbox console sales increased 48%, compared to PS2's 18% decrease, while Xbox software sales increased 77%, compared to PS2's 1%. Xbox has all of the momentum moving towards the next-gen consoles. I think Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas proved that PS2 is a dead system; every review seemed to mention how much better the game would have played on Xbox.
(via Brian Johnson's MSDN blog)

Using Amazon In Microsoft Office

Charles Maxson has designed a way to get Amazon data from Amazon's Web Service API in a Ui in the Office 2003 Research task pane. Instruction are here (but believe me, it isn't simple), and here's what it looks like in use:

Cool and useful.
(via John R. Durant's MSDN blog)

Microsoft Hit By Rash Of Comment Spam

Lots of MSDN blogs have been hit with comment spam in recent days (examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and that's just today!), forcing Microsoft employees to take drastic measures. Reports are that many of the comment spammers are coming from China.

Desktop Search Roundup + First Impression: Ask Jeeves Desktop Search

Here you go folks: What I think of Jeeves' offering, plus, I declare a winner (for now).

So, I got Jeeves Desktop Search to work. How? By shutting down every single program on my computer. And when that didn't work, I closed my internet connection, and then I was in business. After allocating all my system resources to the program and selecting the "Fast" method of indexing, Jeeves started indexing things.

I don't like at all Jeeves' practice of automatically selecting the first search result and previewing it in the right pane. If I want a preview, I'll click on it. If I wanted a preview when I was trying to open a video in Media Player through Jeeves, well, that just wouldn't make a lot of sense, would it? Don't play my music without prompting! Dont' play movies without prompting! If my hard drive was loaded up with pornographic images, I'd be pretty pissed if Jeeves started playing porno flicks and showing naked pictures while anyone could be looking over my shoulder! And the preview window only displays snippets of text documents, not the whole thing. This preview window is a good idea in concept, and only in concept. I hope they offer thumbnails as an alternative in future releases, since I can't stand the thing. There has got to be a way to turn the thing off.

Otherwise, the program seems decent, indexing as expected in about the same amount of time as everybody else. I kind of like that it doesn't use IE, since I found that I was always "losing" my Google Desktop Search when I clicked on things, so I had to memorize its IP address. On the other hand, MSN's interface does a better job acting as a hybrid of IE, Explorer and its own thing, plus it has more options, so I think it wins on the interface.

Who indexes more? Jeeves found 12,920 files, MSN found 13,275, and Google found 3,126 (not including things like email and AIM, which the others didn't index). I was stunned to discover that Google had indexed so few files. As for relevancy, Google actually loses points because of its cache! Most of its results were files I had already deleted, something it should be smart enough to eaither bump from the index or push to the bottom, with a little "Supplemental Result" tag. MSN and Jeeves don't have any relevancy ranking, but at least MSN makes up for it with the ability to sort columns, something Jeeves barely offers, and both of them have an edge on Google by displaying all the results on the same screen. Ultimately, MSN has the most useful search results page, followed by Jeeves and then Google.

Google is faster. MSN has more cutomizable option (Jeeves has basically none). Google has better online functions. MSN has more features (although Google's cache is very useful). MSN displays metadata, but won't index it. Google handles email best. MSN handles Windows best (naturally). Google handles files better. MSN handles previews best, with image thumbnails, followed by Google's cache and Jeeves preview (which is practically a negative).

So, having tested these three early desktop search offerings from the major search engines, who's the winner?

Interface - MSN, Jeeves, Google
Resources & Speed - Google, MSN, Jeeves
Search Results - MSN, Jeeves, Google
Advanced features - MSN, Google, Jeeves
Internet Options - Google, MSN, Jeeves
Ease of Use - Google, Jeeves, MSN
Index depth - MSN & Jeeves (tie), Google
Index detail - MSN, Jeeves, Google
Email - Google, MSN, Jeeves
Communications - Google, MSN, Jeeves
OS Integration - MSN, Google, Jeeves
File types - Google, MSN, Jeeves
File preview - MSN, Google, Jeeves
Security - MSN, Jeeves, Google

The winner (for now)?
In the category of "Desktop Search", Best Overall Product
- MSN Desktop Search
Google takes second place.

While Google's offering is the only one with seemingly no bugs, and the fastest, smoothest interface, it is also the weakest product, with no interface, no options, and no ability to do anything with your results. Google essentially created a powerful engine, and dumped it on you with no product to take advantage of that engine.

MSN's product is polished. It's powerful. It can do a lot of things. I can use it to browse my computer, something I could never do with Google's. It has kinks, and it needs a ranking system, but its tops in my book.

Jeeves is too rushed, too buggy, too weak. It has promise, and I believe it could pull into second place with a few lines of code allowing customization of the interface and more rankable columns, but without those, it's little more than two windows and a search box. It has no vision, no purpose, but it has a chance, if it sees an upgrade soon.

My plan? I'll keep Google and MSN, but turn off indexing my hard drive in Google. I'll use Google for its communication search (email and IM) and MSN for my hard drive. That makes MSN the desktop search tool I find best, and Google the not-as-good-product with some decent features I really like. Jeeves? It kinda annoys me, and I have no reason to keep it over the others. This is one product, unlike the other two, that has earned its "beta" title.

Bill Gates: FAQ'd

Microsoft has published a FAQ on Bill Gates. It's a Word document, so I'm posting the full text so no one has to go through any annoyances:
Bill Gates Answers Most Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What kind of role did fate or luck play in your success?
A. I get a lot of questions about my success, so I'll answer several and then reflect on the importance of mistakes, the flip side of success.
Luck played an immense role. Some of it came after I entered the business world, but my lucky streak started much earlier than that.
I was fortunate to have family and teachers who encouraged me. Children often thrive when they get that kind of attention.
I was incredibly lucky to become boyhood friends with Paul Allen, whose insights proved crucial to the success of the company we founded together. Without Paul, there would have been no Microsoft.
Our timing in setting up the first software company aimed at personal computers was essential to our success. The timing wasn't entirely luck, but without great luck it couldn't have happened.
The importance of being born at the right time is a point I make in the revised edition of my book, The Road Ahead:
"My friend Warren Buffett, who's often called the world's greatest investor, talks about how grateful he is to live at a time when his particular talents are valuable.
"Warren says if he'd been born a few thousand years ago, he'd probably have been some animal's lunch. But he was born into an age that has a stock market and rewards Warren for his unique understanding of the market.
"Football stars should feel grateful too, Warren says. ‘There just happens to be a game,' he says, ‘where it turns out that a guy who can kick a ball with a funny shape through goal posts a fair percentage of the time can make millions of dollars a year.' "
Like Warren and today's football stars, I was born at the right place and time.
When you're lucky and successful, it's important not to get complacent. Luck can turn sour, and customers demand a lot of the people and companies they make successful. Big mistakes are rarely tolerated. I hope to remain successful, but there are no guarantees.

Q. In the history of Microsoft, what was your happiest moment?
A. If I had to pick one it was the launch of the IBM PC in 1981. Either that or back in 1976 when our version of BASIC first ran on the Altair, the very first personal computer.
But I don't much celebrate milestones such as these because I view my job as a job only partly done. Computers aren't on every desk in every home yet, and they're not as easy to use as they should be. When we achieve these goals, I'll have something to really be happy about.
Like everybody, I hope that my very happiest moments are ahead of me.

Q. How do you spend your time?
A. I spend less time in the office than I used to, partly because I have family now but more because electronic mail has freed me to work at home in the evenings and on weekends. I still work 10 or more hours each weekday, not including business-related social functions, and another 10 or so hours most weekends. And I'm still keenly conscious of how I use my time. I always ask: "Am I doing the things that are the most important?"
As I have for years, I spend about half of my work time with product groups. I spend another quarter of my time in customer-related activities where I get feedback. I spend the rest in general management activities such as board meetings, press interviews, hiring, budget reviews, and writing.
I put in about three hours a day working on my computer. Half of that time may be spent browsing the Web or trying out software, and half may be spent reading and writing e-mail, including reports.
Fortunately, e-mail has given me the flexibility to do many kinds of work from nearly anywhere—and in little snippets of time. If I'm enjoying a nice Saturday or Sunday at home and I come up with a good idea, I can write it up and send it off in half an hour—and then get back to my family.
Once quality-of-service guarantees are available, you'll pay a slight premium for priority communications guaranteed to arrive on time. You won't want or need to guarantee instant delivery of e-mail, voicemail messages or many kinds of Web pages. But for Internet-based "phone" calls, videoconferences, and many kinds of entertainment communications, you'll pay a little extra for top-quality service.
I used to work all night in the office, but it's been quite a while since I lived on catnaps. I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that's what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat. I envy people who thrive on three or four hours of sleep a night. They have so much more time to work, learn, and play.
Because there aren't enough hours in the day, it's tempting to try to do two things at once. Right now I'm perfecting reading a newspaper and riding an exercise bike at the same time—a very practical form of multitasking.

Q. What do you think is more important to your success, raw intelligence or hard work?
A. Hard work, without a doubt. But not just my hard work. What really matters is the hard work of people who come to work with me.
Raw intelligence weighs most heavily in a little contest like a math puzzle. But over a period of years, when you're in business building complex projects and working with customers, success is much more a result of dedication and persistence than brilliance.
I don't mean to discount intelligence. I value it highly, and it is essential to many kinds of success.
But even when intelligence appears to be the reason for a success, hard work probably had a lot to do with it, too. Thomas Edison said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." I believe that.

Q. Please explain the secret of your success.
A. There is no one secret to success. But certain attitudes and approaches contribute to success. I'll describe three that help me.
First, I am acutely conscious of the value of time.
For example, when I go to a meeting I keep specific objectives in mind. There isn't much small talk, especially if I'm with colleagues I know well. We discuss accounts we lost or where overhead is too high, and then we're done. Bang! There are always more challenges than there are hours, so why be wasteful?
Second, I watch the competitive landscape carefully.
Microsoft is always searching for the new thing that is coming along, whether it is in a research lab or at another company. We try to understand what other people are doing, even if their apparent mission is so distant that it is not obvious competition.
We focus on what companies do well, as opposed to what they do poorly. We don't dismiss a company as unimportant just because a lot of things about it may be less than perfect. The company may be doing something important; it may not even know that it is important.
We end up looking at a lot more potential threats than ever become real, and there's a constant flurry of memos from employees who are alarmed about one thing or another. We don't cry wolf too often, though.
Third, I don't settle for platitudes when discussing management challenges.
There is a kernel of wisdom in certain platitudes, such as "Listen to your customers" or "Capture all the information."
A well-chosen platitude can get people thinking in an appropriate framework. At times a manager makes a valid contribution by saying, "Hey, let's think of this from the customer's point of view."
What annoys me is the manager whose only contribution is spouting platitudes. I've been in meetings where clear-cut issues are on the table, and the total contribution of a participant is to say things like, "Well, we should only do what the customer wants. Let's keep that in mind."
This is a poor substitute for thoughtfulness. Of course you want to please customers, but how? What are the trade-offs involved?
In a large company, translating the sentiment behind a platitude into effective action often means setting up a system. This can be a non-trivial problem.
One platitude I embrace is that a company should be customer-driven—it should pay close attention to what customers say they want, and then put that knowledge to work. At Microsoft we pursue the goal through systematic effort. For example, we log every telephone contact with each customer, and analyze the results both to provide better customer service and to improve our products.
We're far from perfect at it, but we're better off with these systems than we would be if we settled for platitudes alone.

Q. When do you think the first computer will become as intelligent as a human?
A. Sometimes when I use software I get the feeling there is something there behind the screen. Could some kind of consciousness emerge from all this information processing? After all, isn't that just what the brain does? (Nicholas Riley, Sussex University, Great Britain,
I don't know when computers will become intelligent.
A lot of people, including me, have been optimistic that we could teach a computer to learn the way a human does. But progress has been incredibly modest over the last 20 years.
Today's computers can play a pretty good game of chess. But computers and humans couldn't be more different in the way they go about trying to win. Any results that appear to be "learning" on the part of a computer are achieved purely through the brute-force enumeration of different possibilities. This is not intelligence.
For the next 20 years, I expect the computer to remain a tool rather than become a fellow thinker. Computers will become truly intelligent someday—but I question whether this will happen in my lifetime.
On the other hand, computers are on the verge of being able to talk, and when they do it will be easy to imagine that they are intelligent.
Within a few years, even small, affordable personal computers may have personalities and possibly idiosyncrasies. These machines will speak rather naturally in a human voice, if that's what we want.
They will behave as if they understand many of the verbal commands we give. They will try to be helpful. They may even act sympathetic when we face frustrations.
Giving computers the trappings of intelligence will make them easier to use. But it won't mean they really think—yet.

Q. Do you regret not finishing college?
A. I quit college to start Microsoft, and I don't regret that. But I enjoyed college a lot, and I wish there had been time for me to finish.
When you hear success stories about people who quit college, it may be tempting to believe that education doesn't matter for the entrepreneurially minded. But unless a person has an idea that's very time-critical, and is concerned that he or she might never have as good an idea ever again, it's probably better to finish.
For one thing, it is unusual for a person to be taken seriously in business when he or she is very young. It is hard for a teenager to raise money and hire good people.
More importantly, college is full of lessons. Besides coursework, there is valuable learning outside the classroom during the college years.
Certainly having a degree can be critical for getting a desirable job later on, For example, even though Microsoft was founded by a couple of college dropouts, it's pretty unusual for us to hire somebody for a key position who is interrupting his or her educational career.

Q. Who coined the name Microsoft?
A. I did, but I don't think coming up with the name was an achievement. It was the obvious name for a company devoted to microcomputer software. One of the benefits of being the first in a field is that you can claim the obvious name.
(via Microsoft Watch)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Who Ripped Off Who?

Todd Bishop has a post about MSN Desktop Search and Apple Spotlight, asking "Which came first?" Eric Longstaff asserts that MSN Desktop Search is too similar to Spotlight to be a coincidence, but Todd refutes that. I agree with his and Paul Thurrott's claim that Google Desktop Search and Spotlight were developed as a response to WinFS. Both companies saw WinFS as what it was, a revolution in operating systems (the new Mac) and search engines (the new Google), but saw the endless delays as an opportunity to steal its thunder and make Microsoft look like a slow, lumbering dinosaur. Microsoft, realizing it needed to release something now, took people from the WinFS team and bought Lookout to scramble together a product that could compete in the intervening years. I'd say they did a pretty good job.

Bill Gates Joins Berkshire Hathaway

Really rich Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has joined the board of really rich company Berkshire Hathaway, which is run by fellow really rich guy Warren Buffet. Gates is a longtime investor in the company and a friend of Buffet. Berkshire Hathaway shares, which I have mentioned are anathema to stock splits, edged up $100, or less than .2 %, to $85,100.
(via MarketWatch)

It's Patch Tuesday

Six security updates today:
Security Bulletin MS04-040 - Critical - HTMP Elements Vulnerability - does not affect XP SP2, 64-bit, or Win 2003 systems - may interfere with WMV HD DVD playback in Windows Media Player

Security Bulletin MS04-041 - Important - Remote Code Execution - affects all versions of Windows - Includes "Table conversion vulnerability" and "Font conversion vulnerability", both allowing a website to execute the Microsoft Word for Windows 6.0 Converter - affects only those with administrator privileges.

Security Bulletin MS04-042 - Important - Remote Code Execution and Denial of Service - affects NT 4.0 SP6 - Includes "Logging Vulnerability" and "DHCP Request Vulnerability" - allows an attacker to send DHCP messages to create DOS attacks.

Security Bulletin MS04-043 - Important - HyperTerminal Vulnerability - affects all versions of Windows, except 98 & Me - Allows an attacker to use a HyperTerminal buffer overrun, exploited through TelNet, to control a system.

Security Bulletin MS04-044 - Important - Windows Kernel Vulnerability and LSASS Vulnerability - affects all versions of Windows, except 98 & Me - a logged on user could take advantage of the Windows Kernel to elevate priveleges and take undue control of the system - may cause NT 4.0 systems with hard disks larger than 7.8 gigabytes to fail, and Veritas Backups to fail.

Security Bulletin MS04-045 - Important - Name Validation Vulnerability and Association Context Vulnerability - Affects NT 4.0 and Win 2000 / 2003 - an attacker can construct a malicious network packet to completely control a system or force a system to restart after a denial of service attack.

More MSN Toolbar Suite Tips

Here's some more MSN Toolbar Suite tips and tricks from Brandon Paddock:
Installing on Windows Server 2003
/c /t: to unpack and then
msiexec /i MsnToolbarSuite.msi TBSDEVCODE=1

More shortcut options:
Type “@” in the bar to see some information about shortcuts you can add.

o If you type “@cmd,=cmd” you can create a shortcut that will open a command prompt when you type “cmd” and press enter.

Custom Searches
You can use the “$w” parameter to specify an input field for your shortcut. For example, you can type @google,$w to create a google query. Then, when you want to run a google search, just type "google something" to search google for “something”.

Furthermore, you can see a list of your current shortcuts by looking in the \Documents and Settings\YourName\Application Data directory for the file MsnDeskbarShortcuts.ini.

Here are some examples:

word= =winword

If you find those useful, you can paste them right in to your MsnDeskbarShortcuts.ini file (you may have to reload the toolbar to make them work, not sure).

Add Network Paths
You can add UNC paths to the index list. Thusly, you can search any anonymously accessible network shares, such as \\jonscomputer\music
These are some excellent tips. If you find any more, please submit them.

Previous tips:
MSN Toolbar Suite Tips 12/13/2004
Using the Windows shortcut key
Arranging emails as conversations
Commands using the = key
How To: Remove MSN Deskbar Buttons 12/14/2004

Firefox Market Share Increases 34%

According to a study by Web analytics firm WebSideStory, Firefox's share of the browser market grew 34% in just one month, from 3.03% on November 5 to 4.06% on December 3. Microsoft Internet Explorer lost 1.09% of its users, dropping to 91.80% over the same period. As this table shows, IE's losses have been trending and accelerating:

U.S. Browser Usage Share

Non-Firefox Netscape and Mozilla browsers2.832.953.05

* WebSideStory did not track the Firefox browser separately until Oct. 2004. The June 4, 2004, figure includes all Netscape and Mozilla-based browsers, including Firefox.

The study encompassed 30 million daily visitors to 20,000 websites in 200 countries.
(via Alex Barnett's MSDN blog)

How To: Remove MSN Deskbar Buttons

Do you want a more minimal MSN Deskbar? Do you not use the drop-down buttefly button or the search arrow? Well, you can remove it. The Channel 9 guys did it in their video, and Gimpster explains in their comments how you can do it.

Here's how it works:
Go to the Registry Editor (you can type "=regedit" in the Deskbar to save time).

Go to My Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MSN Apps\DB.

Right-click and click New > DWORD Value.

Name it "Buttons".

Double-click on it and change its value to "1".

Close the Registry Editor.

Right-click on an empty toolbar space and click Toolbars > MSN Deskbar to clear its checkbox, then do the same thing again to bring it back.

You should be left with something like this:

Pretty cool. Now, where's my Reg Hack for Google?

As always, do not edit the registry unless you know what you are doing. It is very dangerous work.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Bill Gates: Google Is Cool

John Battelle points to a Newsweek article that is just fun to read. The article concerns Microsoft's belated but powerful entry into the search game. Bill mentions how Google is so cool because they all dress in black. The article also explains how Microsoft rejiggered interanl resources in eighteen months to create a search engine on par with Google's, and in nine months to create a possibly superior desktop search tool. A portion of the Desktop Search team came from Longhorn and WinFS, bringing ideas from there into the MSN release. Also, Microsoft believes its desktop search is superior because it has a proper interface, while Google's web / desktop hybrid is more confusing.

MSN Toolbar Suite Tips

The MSN Search Weblog has some tips for the Toolbar Suite:
Start any task, quicker

By default you can jump focus to the Deskbar by pressing CTR+ALT+M. For fans of the Window’s key – go to Deskbar options and enter SHIFT+Q (or any letter not already in use). Now when you press Windows+Q you’ll jump to the Deskbar and be ready to search right away.

Find entire conversations

After finding an email you were looking for, try right-clicking on it. Select “Show Conversation” and we’ll automatically refine the search results to show all the emails from the conversation thread.
Also, Jonathan Hardwick notes that you can preface anything in the Deskbar with the equals sign (=) and turn it into a command. This means by typing =, the Deskbar behaves exactly like Start>Run. Excellent timesaver.

MSN Desktop Search First Impressions

Well, indexing didn't take that long. Much faster than Google's.

Okay, if you've installed the MSN Toolbar Suite and finished indexing, you can click on the search arrow in the MSN Deskbar and get a blank MSN Desktop Search page. You have three options, in addition to the regular Web, News and Images. The Desktop tab has options to search Everything, Documents, Email, Music, and Pictures & Video, plus a drop down list with a ton of options. Files has the same options, except it replaces email with Pictures (what the difference is between "Pictures & Video" and "Pictures"), and the Outlook Express tab has just Email. Search speed is determined by your machine, and you can see the time your search took in the status bar.

The results page has thumbnails of any photos, shows full-size icons, and has sortable columns, all things you don't get with Google. You get file sizes, dates modified, and the author's name. It displays full meta date, but does not index all of it, so while you can search for MP3s by artist, album, but not genre or year. Unlike regular Windows search, you can't search by date or file size, but a simple solution exists: Search by something you do know, like file type, and then sort the columns by that criteria. There appears to be no limit to the number of results you can see per page.

What can you specifically search for?
  • Mail attachments
  • Contacts
  • Outlook data:
    • Email
    • Meetings
    • Tasks
    • Notes
  • Text documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Folders
  • Favorites
  • Programs
What do I like?
Options - MSN gives you a lot of options to consider in your searches, from types of searches, sorting, meta data, all built into the interface (no search limiters to remember, although they work too).
Interface - MSN Desktop Search has an interface, unlike Google, and its very intuitive and familiar. Google Desktop Search asks "What could be more familiar than a web page?" and MSN answers handily. Unlike Google, MSN Desktop Search acts like a normal Windows Explorer, letting you right-click on items and have the normal context menu, but also acts like IE, in that any file that can be run in IE can run in Desktop Search,like MP3s.

Email - No Outlook Express integration (although it indexes the data), and no Hotmail indexing. I can't believe it has no Hotmail indexing. That seems to be a no brainer, and yet, it doesn't happen. Of course, Google can't index Gmail, so I guess everyone left out that feature.
No AIM conversation logs - Just for the AIM logs, I will keep GDS installed. There is unbelievable value in finding a phone number that you lost through an AIM log.

So, which is better? My first impression of MSN Desktop Search is that it outperforms Google. Of course, I was way too impressed with GDS in the first place. I think desktop search is a bit overrated. I don't use GDS anymore, except for AIM searches. Time will tell if MSN proves more useful. It's a better product, but I'll have to see if I actually wind up using it on an everyday basis.

MSN Toolbar Suite vs. Google Desktop Search

While I wait for indexing to complete, here's a comparison of the MSN Toolbar Suite vs. Google Deskbar / Toolbar / Desktop Search:

What Google has that MSN doesn't:
Deskbar has custom searches and API
Indexes AIM convesations and Internet Explorer History
Has buttons for special searches, as opposed to only drop-down selection.
PageRank display
Advanced Google options (cache, translate, backlinks)
Can index Hotmail

What MSN has that Google doesn't:
All the products are integrated, rather than a strange collection of disparate products
Can run Desktop Search from Toolbar and from Windows Explorer
Local Search
Mail notifier
IM status
Go to my MSN Space
More Form Fill options
Highlight search terms
Indexes lots of file types (including PDFs) and metadata

Did I miss any?

How To Use The MSN Toolbar Suite

The MSN Toolbar Suite has a full set of options you can access by right-clicking the MSN butterfly / magnifying glass icon in your system tray (the area with the clock) and clicking Indexing Options. You might want to turn on indexing of file attachment (under Desktop Search), set the MSN Deskbar shortcut key (under Deskbar) from the default Ctrl-Alt-M, customize toolbar buttons (under Toolbar), turn off Form Fill and Highlight, and change some pop-up blocker options (or turn it off if you like some other blocker better).

MSN Toolbar Suite uses the new MSN Beta search engine, so you get Near Me searches built into it, as well as most other categories, like News, Images, Dictionary, and so on. The buttons for Hotmail, Messenger and Spaces include options to share the page you are on via those services, and Hotmail and Messenger have numbers that notify you of new messages and online buddies.

Once you've installed the MSN Toolbar Suite, you should see a Desktop tab in MSN Search (it is also accessible via the drop down green arrow next to the search button. If your coputer is in use, MSN won't index it by default, but you can force it to by right-clicking on the system tray icon, clicking Indexing status, and clicking Index Now. Indexing only takes up 20% of my system resources on my Pentium 2.4 GHz system, and moves at a pace of roughly 13 files per second, even while I'm playing music. If you want indexing to stop, you can tell it to snooze for any amount of time.

That's it for the Toolbar Suite. Next: MSN Desktop Search

MSN Toolbar Suite Launches

Microsoft has launched the MSN Toolbar Suite. The suite contains a new MSN Toolbar, the MSN Deskbar, toolbars for Outlook and Windows Explorer.

From the press release:
  • Quick, precise retrieval of desktop files.
    Consumers can quickly and easily search
    the thousands of files on their PCs, including Outlook Contacts or Calendar files, Adobe PDFs files, or Microsoft Office Word or PowerPoint® files. As a result, consumers will save time and increase their productivity.
  • Information when and where it's needed.
    The MSN toolbars
    save time, allowing consumers to find precisely what they need with less effort, when and where they need it, with less effort and within seconds. The MSN toolbars are conveniently designed to work with Outlook, Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer and the Windows desktop. The MSN Toolbars also give consumers quick access to MSN Messenger, MSN Hotmail® and MSN Spaces, enabling them to initiate common communication tasks right from the bar, including e-mail, instant messaging and inserting URLs into Spaces blogs.
  • Familiar interfaces and useful results.
    Consumers can use desktop search when browsing files in Windows in a comfortable and familiar format, enabling them to open files in their associated application directly from their desktop search results and enabling quick access to actions such as managing, sharing, deleting or playing files.
  • New MSN Search service.
    MSN Toolbar Suite displays Web search results from the recently launched MSN Search Beta release,* a new algorithmic search engine built by Microsoft and designed to help consumers find precisely the information they are looking for by providing more useful answers to their questions and more control over their search experience.
The Toolbar Suite is a 4.7 megabyte download, about 11.5 times that of Google Desktop Search (which makes sense, since it has more programs). I'm putting together a full review right now, but right off the bat, I'm extremely dissapointed that it only supports Outlook and not Outlook Express. This is a free program, so why does it only support the version Outlook you have to pay for?

Scoble Says MSN Toolbar Suite Is "Wicked"

Operating on the assumption that today's big announcement is the Toolbar Suite (since everyone but Bill Gates has said so), Scoble has this to say about the new product:
Everyone lately has been saying "Microsoft is slow" or "Microsoft can't react to Google" or "Microsoft has lost it."

Oh yeah? Come back on Monday. Remember last Sunday when I said I had seen something that left me speechless? Well, in the videos I filmed (and I filmed more than 1.5 hours worth with nearly the entire team working on the thing that's being shipped into beta on Monday) I am heard saying "that's wicked."

The really wicked thing, though, is that this team (the one shipping a beta on Monday) did not exist before last April (and, most of the team didn't join until June or July, which is when they really started their work).

On Monday you'll hear how this team -- in less than seven months -- designed, built, tested, and delivered a pretty darn cool new product.

Can Microsoft move fast? Is seven months fast enough? We'll see.
I might add that this post is mostly about the failure to get WinFS to market in time. Is Scoble saying MS threw enormous resources into Monarch because of the WinFS delays? Seems that way to me. Oh, and what did he say a week ago?
Yesterday had a wonderful Channel 9 interview with another Microsoft team too. Oh, this is gonna be a fun one. I can't talk about it, but they are working very hard to make sure that Santa has a little gift for all of you that you'll like. I hope they get it done, I was very suprised at it. Speechless, actually.
Happy holidays, indeed.

MSN Desktop Search Toolbar Suite Coming Today

Well, someone finally said it out loud.

Neowin "revealed" the worst kept secret in the blogosphere, that Microsoft's big announcement at 1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific today will be the MSN Toolbar Suite, which of course contains the long anticipated MSN Desktop Search. Also expected is the beta release of Microsoft Office Outlook Live (let Mary Jo Foley and BetaNews explain what that does). Neowin says that MSN Toolbar Suite was codenamed "Monarch" and will be available at
(via Scoble)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Code Room: Microsoft Reality Show?

Microsoft Studios and MSDN TV have created a reality show. The Code Room is a reality show where three coders are locked in a room and given a task to code something in a limited amount of time. Try as I might, I can't tell if this is a joke, some nice PR for ASP.NET, or a serious attempt at creating a Microsoft TV series that appeals to geeks and reality show fans. In concept, the show can't possibly appeal to anyone who doesn't work in IT, but the actual pilot is kind of interesting. It's kind of fun, if you give it a chance to grow on you, and is more entertaining than the typical videos MSDN TV puts out. Some thoughts:
  • The host seems to have no idea what everyone else is talking about, but is satisfied with looking perky.
  • I guess if people will watch shows about home remodeling, they might watch this too.
  • At the very least, if all you ever wanted was a look at ASP.NET in action, this is your chance.
  • The main convention of reality television, people not getting along, is intact, so there is some entertainment value.
  • I like how they create the "ticking clock" aspect of the show, by providing the three coders with enough laptop batteries to last five hours. Using a laptop all day, I know there are things they should have done to save battery life, but didn't.
The Code Room web site
The MSDN TV page for the show
(via the Windows Mobile Team blog)

Five Windows Patches Coming

Mary Jo Foley reports via eWeek that five Windows patches are coming this SuperPatch Tuesday. The Security Bulletin Advance Notification, where Microsoft provides advance notice of the patches, reports, "the greatest maximum severity rating for these security updates is Important". eWeek has some speculation as to what security vulnerabilities the updates may address.