COMPUTER geeks know what the proverbial "Win telâ portmanteau really means. It's borne from the idea that software company M icrosoft and computer chip giant Intel are in harmony when developing their nex t generation products. For years, these two have been working closely together to develop applications that complement each other. That is, until Microsoft's highly-criticized Windows Vista came out. Not even the much-vaunted Intel Core i7 could save the buggy operating system. At one point, a laptop manufacturer had the idea of running Windows Vista on a mini-notebook, which of course, didn't sit well with techie guys who are famili ar with the OS' problems and the notebook computer's underpowered processor. But that was before Microsoft launched a beta version of their next generation OS Windows 7. The software firm claims that Windows 7 is capable of running on netbooks, particularly those that have Intel's Atom processor for ultra-portabl e computers Since Microsoft activated a download site for Windows 7, many have tested it on various PCs, mostly on Intel processors and some on AMDs. There are a couple o f tests published online on how Windows 7 beta ran on legacy Pentium 4 processo rs and so far they have worked but only with a few glitches. Test unit After hours of waiting to downlo ad Windows 7 beta from the Microsoft website it was time to try it on an Atom-b ased processor to see if it could deliver on was it promised. The test unit is an MSI Wind Nettop 110, powered by an Intel Atom N230. The Wind Nettop has a 1 Gigabyte memory and a total of 80 Gigabytes of hard disk space. It also has a d edicated 64 megabyte Intel graphics card but can be managed to share extra 64 M b from the memory. This particular model is supposed to be running Linux but it has an installed M icrosoft Windows XP (obviously, not the original). The XP runs pretty much aver age on the Wind Nettop 110 and can play most videos but with some lag when the videos are encoded in high-quality AVI or MPEG and are played in full screen. I t can also do a bit of video editing with Windows Movie Maker but the system ca n't seem to handle the extra video editing load if there is a web browser runni ng. Still, it is still fully functional if some work is done separately and not simultaneously with another. Installation Installation is straightforward. Wi ndows 7 (Ultimate Edition) can be installed from a copied bootable DVD but it c an also be done via a large capacity USB drive. The target hard disk has to be formatted first before installation. The BIOS has to be set to a primary boot a nd it can either be the USB drive or the optical drive. From there, the Windows 7 disk or thumbdrive will automatically install the operating system. Surprisingly, installation was very quick and the Nettop 110 was up and running within 15 minutes. With a few tweaks on the network settings, the unit connect ed to our corporate network as well as to the Internet. Look and feel Upon startup the user will be treated to a new and flashy Microsoft lo go. Loading time is just about the same as Windows XP, which is approximately o ne minute. The initial startup was quick because many applications once present in XP and Vista were now removed from Windows 7. In fact, Windows 7 seems to r un somewhat faster on the Atom than a Celeron-powered Windows XP or even Window s Vista on a dual core computer. Windows 7 looks like a mix between a functional XP and a flashy Vista. The Task bar has the most changes visually. It has a Pin option wherein logos of commonl y used applications can be clicked without having to open these from the deskto p. It also allows users to reorganize the taskbar buttons to make it easier to access other applications. Windows 7 also retains two functions of Vista: the first is the Aero and the ot her is a quick view panel for all active but minimized applications. Aero in pa rticular runs smoothly when the graphics card is set to use 128 Mb. However, th ere is some lag when using graphics-heavy applications, such as Windows Movie M aker (which has to be downloaded), Quicktime and other video-viewing applicatio ns. Compatible software I was half expecting the OS to bog down at the start or if not a few h ours later given that I was installing a variety of applications and drivers to make it run like it was my personal unit. Thankfully, nearly all of the applic ations that I installed were able to identify Windows 7 as Windows Vista, large ly due to both OS' compatibility. Some of the applications installed were Mozil la Firefox, Google Chrome, Java, Adobe Reader and Quicktime. Kaspersky was also installed for security purposes since Microsoft has removed some security opti ons previously present in Vista and XP. Google Earth was a sweet surprise. Rendering of satellite images, photos and vi deos were still fast even on the Atom and Windows 7. Again, there is some lag b ut one can get past this if only for the compatibility of the beta-tested OS wi th Google Earth. Long-term use Both the Windows 7 and Intel Atom performed well even when they were r unning for nearly two days. Lag happens when the unit is "awakened" from hibern ation but this is understandable given the limitations of the processor. The test unit does produce noticeable heat after prolonged use but it had never once crashed, owing it to the Atom's ability to manage heat dissipation, as we ll as the OS' minimal presence of active but unused applications. Overall, Windows 7 beta has so far delivered what it promised. With official la unch in 2010, Microsoft is at least making good on its promise to ensure that t he next Windows iteration is trouble-free. The beta version is still far from t he finished product. Hopefully, Microsoft stays on track. By then, Intel would have improved on the Atom processor, which is already becoming popular among bu dget-conscious users.
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Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON--Microsoft plunged into the crowded field of online entertainment and celebrity news on Thursday, taking the wraps off a new website known as Wonderwall. Wonderwall.com is a joint venture between MSN, the Internet arm of the US softw are giant, and BermanBraun Interactive, a media company based in Santa Monica, California. "Wonderwall offers people an engaging and visually dynamic perspective on the d ay's hottest pop culture stories, personalities and trends," MSN and BermanBrau n said in a statement. The main feature of Wonderwall.com is a nearly full-screen wall of p ictures with links to stories, photo galleries and video. The wall can be scrolled horizontally, an experience MSN and BermanBraun likene d to "flipping through a favorite magazine." The site features a feed of the latest celebrity news and categories such as "T op Celebs" and "LOL Pics," the "funniest photos of celebs from around the Web." "Wonderwall offers a clever, thought-provoking and amusing voice to fans of cel ebrity and is a great addition to MSN's portfolio of entertainment content," sa id Rob Bennett, general manager of network programming for MSN. Entertainment and celebrity news are among the most popular subjects for Web su rfers and Wonderwall will be competing for audience with sites such as TMZ.com, people.com and perezhilton.com, to name just a few.
PANGASINAN, Philippines -- A few Filipino owners have reported being affected b y the "Zune Bug," a problem connected to the deviceâs internal clock that froze some Microsoft Zune digital music players on January 1, 2009. The creator of local Zune fan site ZunePH has posted two messages as of January 1 discussing the pro blem. The creator also warned owners of the 30 Gigabyte version of Zune, which came o ut in 2006. This model is said to have a problem counting leap years and would not boot up. "Very weird! Must have something to do with date stamps of the devic e, like Y2K [year 2000] scare. I hope this gets fixed asap [as soon as possible ]," the creator said. However, the creator later posted a statement from Microsoft that declared the problem is "self-resolving." Four replies in the local Zune fans blog indicated that they have been affected by the said flaw in the device. One comment indicated that he did not notice the flaw until news came out about it. Another anonymous user reported of being affected by the bug and tried to charg e then drain its internal battery to no avail. User "Justin" feared that he might have ruined his 30 Gb Zune, which froze up d uring a reformatting process that he initiated after noticing the problem. Microsoft Philippines officials were unavailable for comment as of this writing .
An internal clock driver problem caused Microsoft's Zune players to malfunction , Agence France-Presse reports. Excerpt:
Thousands of the MP3 music players froze on New Year's Eve around t he world due to what Microsoft described as a bug in the device's internal cloc k. The bug only affected the original, 30-gigabyte version of the music player tha t was introduced by the Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft in 2006 as its answ er to Apple's wildly popular iPod. Later devices with 80GB and 120GB of memory were not affected.This forum offered an explanation. It says:
After doing some poking around in the source code for the Zune's cl ock driver (available free from the Freescale website), I found the root cause of the now-infamous Zune 30 leapyear issue that struck everyone on New Year's E ve. The Zune's real-time clock stores the time in terms of days and seconds since J anuary 1st, 1980. When the Zune's clock is accessed, the driver turns the numbe r of days into years/months/days and the number of seconds into hours/minutes/s econds. Likewise, when the clock is set, the driver does the opposite. The Zune frontend first accesses the clock toward the end of the boot sequence. Doing this triggers the code that reads the clock and converts it to a date an d time. Below is the part of this code that determines the year component of th e date.Zune.net has already posted a solution to this problem here.
By Glenn Chapman Agence France-Presse SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft on Wednesday released an emergency patch to fix a pe rilous software flaw allowing hackers to hijack Internet Explorer browsers and take over computers. The US software giant said security update MS08-078 addresses a vulnerability c yber-criminals can exploit to their advantage. "Microsoft encourages all IE customers to test and deploy this update as soon a s possible," said Microsoft security response communications head Christopher B udd. The threat led Microsoft to mobilize security engineering teams worldwide to de liver a software cure "in the unprecedented time of eight days." According to researchers at software security firm Trend Micro, atta cks based on the vulnerability in the world's most popular Web browser were spr eading "like wildfire" with millions of computers already compromised. Microsoft typically releases patches for its software on the second Tuesday of each month and rushing this fix to computer users out-of-cycle is testimony to the severe danger of the threat, according to Trend Micro. "People should run, not walk, to get it installed," said Trend Micro advanced t hreat researcher Paul Ferguson. "This vulnerability is being actively exploited by cyber-criminals and getting worse every day." The IE software patch will be automatically applied to hundreds of millions of personal computers due to standard update settings in the machines, according t o Microsoft Security Response Alliance director Mike Reavey. Wednesday morning, business networks using IE began getting the critical fix th rough routine patching processes. Reavey said Microsoft went into "emergency response" mode on December 9 after i t first learned of the attacks on IE browsers. A day later, Microsoft published a security advisory that "listed workarounds t hat blocked all known attacks." "Over the course of the next eight days, this advisory was updated five times, adding newer workarounds and mitigations," Reavey said. "We also continually mo nitored the threat environment, noting when the attacks began to change in natu re and scope." Trend Micro has identified about 10,000 websites that have been infected with m alicious software that can be surreptitiously slipped into visitors' unprotecte d IE browsers to take advantage of the flaw. A major Internet portal in Taiwan is among the legitimate websites unknowingly tainted with malicious software aimed at IE's weak spot, according to Ferguson. Hackers can take control of infected computers, steal data, redirect browsers t o dubious websites, and use machines for devious activities such as attacks on other networks, according to security specialists. "What makes this so insidious is it takes advantage of a big gaping hole of IE, which has the largest install base of any browser on the market," Ferguson sai d. IE is used on nearly three-quarters of the world's computers, according to indu stry statistics from November. Reavey said the patch consists of more than 300 distinct updates for more than half-a-dozen versions of IE in scores of languages. Analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley said it was "amazing" th at Microsoft was able to turn out a complex critical fix in a week when such jo bs typically can take a month or longer of intense work. "Even with that, the release Emergency Response process isn't over," Reavey sai d. "There is additional support to customers and additional refinement of our p roduct development efforts." Trend Micro urges IE users to heed precautionary advice from Microsoft, or avoi d using the browsers, until the patches are applied. The "exploit" is similar to one used recently to steal user names, passwords an d other information from people playing online games in China, according to Tre nd Micro.
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net YES, Microsoft is the biggest software company in the world but every now and t hen it dips its toes in hardware, most notably the Xbox and (less notably) its Zune mp3 player. But I'm guessing, it still surprises some people that Microsoft makes mouse, ke yboards and webcams. Microsoft demonstrated some of the latest gadgets to come out of its pockets, i ncluding a Bluetrack-equipped mouse that can glide on any surface (except glass ), a webcam that does more than show your face and one helluva keyboard intende d for hardcore gamers. Microsoft executives kept the lid on SRPs but forking some 5,000 pesos (or roug hly $100) for a webcam, for example -- in this era where even netbooks come rea dy with integrated cameras -- could tickle the fancy of only the uber-gadget fr eaks. Here's my video report:
By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.net MAKATI City, Philippines -- Just three months after releasing the HTC Touch Dia mond in the Philippines, mobile handset manufacturer HTC launched its Touch Pro , the companyâs most powerful business mobile phone yet. The Touch Pro is the fourth generation of the HTC Touch series and is very simi lar to the Touch Diamond with the addition of a sliding QWERTY keyboard and a g lobal positioning system (GPS). The Touch Pro also has a much improved Touch FLO 3D, the touch screen interface that is unique to the HTC Touch series. The Touch Pro shares several similarities to the Touch Diamond, such as a 2.8-i nch screen, 3.2 megapixel camera, and Qualcomm 528 megahertz processor. Just like the Touch Diamond, the Touch Pro also has quadband cellula r network capability, EDGE, UMTS, and HSDPA. It also runs Microsoft Windows Mob ile 6.1. Touch Pro, however, has bigger RAM (288 MB compared to just 192 MB for the Touc h Diamond, including a microSDHC memory card slot), longer battery life, an int egrated GPS antenna and a wireless fidelity antenna. Even with the inclusion of a sliding QWERTY keyboard, the Touch Pro is only sli ghtly heavier than the Touch Diamond at only 165 grams. At P50,800 the HTC Touch Pro is also more expensive than the Touch Diamond, whi ch only cost P42,000 when it was launched in the Philippines in June. It is pri marily targeted at business users since it also includes several business appli cations such as Internet Explorer Mobile, Opera Browser, and Microsoft Office M obile. Despite the higher price, HTC Southeast Asia Managing Director Kevin Hou is co nfident that the new HTC Touch Pro will sell in the Philippines, especially as more business users choose handsets with touch screen interfaces. Hou said that the entry of touch screen mobile phones have enabled the developm ent of more efficient user interfaces and more interactive applications. Hou is optimistic that the business for mid-level to high-end business phones w ill continue to grow as phones become more like computers.
Yup, it's official. G oogle has unveiled its new browser as it officially joins the browser wars. Remember the days when Mozilla launched Netscape and later Microsoft came into the picture with its Internet Explorer? Those were exciting times. Now, we have Google entering the fray. Why is Google launching its own browser, dubbed Chrome? "Because we believe we can add value for users and, at the same time, help driv e innovation on the web," writes
All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser . We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, w e shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends -- all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what ki nd of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elem ents out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pa ges to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern pl atform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build. Just as Microsoft announced updates to its Internet Exp lorer, Google has come out with what it touts to be a "simple and streamlin ed" browser that can work on Windows -- Microsoft's domain. Currently, it is on ly available in the Windows operating system, with Mac and Linux versions follo wing soon. "This is just the beginning -- Google Chrome is far from done. We're releasing this beta for Windows to start the broader discussion and hear from you as quic kly as possible. We're hard at work building versions for Mac and Linux too, an d will continue to make it even faster and more robust," adds Pichai. Google runs on Apple Safari web browser technology. In a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP), it says that Chrome is "Google's lat est weapon in its bid to become the leader in all Internet areas." Microsoft won the major browser wars in the 1990s defeating Netscape Navigator. "According to various estimates, Internet Explorer, which is the default browse r on computers with Windows operating systems, is used by between 60 and 80 per cent of Internet users around the world, with Mozilla Firefox a long way back i n second place," AFP reported.
By Erwin Oliva INQUIRER.net WHILE COVERI NG the Microsoft Imagine Cup annual software design competition, I got to m eet several teams of college students from different top local universities. Th eir objective: design a software application that would help promote a sustaina ble environment. One idea from Team Prairie Watch of the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde invo lved tagging endangered animals with a little webcam and streaming the video that this little gadget captures on the web. They had a working prototype that looked promising. Another idea developed by Team Tala was a computer game that would teach kids about the environment. Team Tala was a mixed team of stu dents from the University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Phi lippines and the Philippine Christian University. Here's my video interview with Team Prairie Watch. And here's the video interview with Team Tala. What caught my attention (but unfortunately it didn't win) was a software appli cation developed by Team IMI 2.0 from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. They devel oped a software application that applied the "crowd sourcing" idea to calamity and disaster reporting. As explained to me by the students and their teacher, the software application uses Microsoft Virtual Earth as the user interface to allow people to report calamities a nd disasters. They could either submit written reports via text or chat, or upl oad video clips. Designed with the government in mind, the application uses a v irtual map to pinpoint areas of disaster and calamaties. If you click on an ico n, you will be able to get more information. This application can best serve agencies like the National Disaster Coordinatin g Council. This will allow citizens to submit pertinent information (which shou ld go through verification) and contribute to information gathered by the gover nment. In calamity and disaster reporting, verified information is crucial. As their teacher explained, it is like the "911 for calamities and disaster on the Web." The application hopes to bridge the gap of information from those who wa nt to help and from those needing help during a disaster. Another interesting software application, which I found intriguing, was called "Gigo," as in "garbage in, garbage out." It was developed by the youngest final ists from Team Tibecom of Ateneo. They were freshmen and they won second place. First place went to another team from Ateneo, dubbed Team Pi/4, who developed a system that hopes to help consumers make environmentally-friendly decisions w hen buying products. Gigo works like "Google for trash." A widget or gadget is downloaded to a person's desktop, so that they can conduct searches on common p roducts and find out how these could be recycled. It also empowers people by te aching them how to deal with trash and non-biodegradable products, such as styr ofoam. Here's the video interview with Team Tibecom. And here's the video interview with Team Pi/4. One thing that I observed after the winners were declared was that students who were able to explain their projects clearly came out on top. So it is also imp ortant that ideas are presented clearly. This was the lesson I learned earlier in a bootcamphosted by Morph Labs.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net MICROSOFT might have forced itself too much when it attempted to subdue Apple i n the handheld media player business when it launched the 30 Figabyte Zune abou t a year ago. Sad to say, it didn't fare as hoped. A year later, Microsoft agai n makes an attempt but has added to its repertoire two new models aimed at the Apple iPod's smaller iteration, the Nano. It recently launched the Zune 4, Zune 8 and Zune 80, all of which now feature the Zune Pad, a look-alike of iPod's t ried-and-tested Click Wheel. Zune 4 For this review, the Zune 4 will be the featured model and it's the one Microso ft is pitting against the iPod nano 4 gigabyte, and as such, uses flash memory instead of the small hard disk drives of its big brothers. Physically, the smal ler Zune is nearly identical in shape and size to the first and second generati on iPod nano. Its dimensions are 1.6 inches by 3.6 inches by 0.33 inches, and i t weighs 47 grams. It also comes in four colors (red, pink, green and black) of which the front is in matte finish, which gives it a rugged look. The screen i s twice as large as that of the first generation iPod nano and is about the sam e size as that of the current generation iPod nano. Nevertheless, the Zune's sc reen is equally bright. The Zune has a total of three buttons (except for the lock slider at the top of the unit). Two smaller buttons on the left and right side below the glass scre en serve as the play/pause and back buttons. The large oval button below the s creen is Microsoft's pride and joy with the smaller Zunes: the Zune Pad. Much l ike the iPod Click Wheel, the Zune Pad is largely the unit's full control inter face. It can be used as a four-way directional button but its best feature is i ts slider option where the user can just flick his or her thumb left-to-right o r up and down to navigate through the unit's options. Whereas the user has to r otate the Click Wheel on the iPod to navigate through voluminous content, the Z une user can just flick, then hold in one direction until the desired song, pho to, or video is found. It's also easy to deduce that the Zune Pad will be nearl y as sensitive as the Click Wheel especially when the lock slider is not activa ted. Luckily, even without it, the user can put the Zune in a side pocket and n ot worry about the songs being changed while walking about. On to the interface Of course, what's a review without talking about the interface, right? As state d earlier, the flash-based Zune has a bright LCD display panel that looks as go od as the iPod nano. The text in the menu screen is automatically big and canno t be changed in any way. The text gets smaller once the user goes through the c ontent listing. The main menu is divided into music, videos, pictures, radio, p odcasts, settings, and social. For both the music and video menus, the user can play them straight ahead or pause them in the middle of the song. It shows the track listing, the title of the song/video and the album cover, if available. The Zune can play MP3, AAC and WMA files for music; WMV and MPEG-4 for video; a nd JPEG for photos. The radio section is nothing really special but it does add a bit more variety to the Zune. Radio stations can be saved and accessed easily but they cannot be given station names, which could have been a treat for FM radio users. Inciden tally, the Zune's radio antenna is strong enough to receive signals even inside buildings, something that the iPod's external FM radio antenna was having prob lems with. The Zune also features integrated wireless connectivity, which allows a user to send songs to other nearby Zune players. However, the Zune has a digital right s management feature, meaning a song sent from one Zune to another can only be played a few times before it is locked down or removed from the recipient unit. In which case, the user has to buy the song when connecting the Zune to the In ternet. Of course, all songs that are already within a user's hard drive and up loaded to the Zune will not be locked down, even if Microsoft is a staunch supp orter of DRM and copyright. Zune software The Zune software is unlike any file management software for digital music devi ces. Instead, it looks like a bigger version of the Zune device's interface. It also looks like it was designed using Macromedia Flash. The main interface can be viewed from the top left side of the Zune software and these are also divid ed according to music, videos, pictures, and podcasts. It also has an interface for socials, which is actually the download area for the user's e-mail. The pr oblem here is that the user has to have an online Zune account, which as of thi s writing is limited to the US and some European countries. With the Flash-like look of the Zune software, it does make it easier and more pleasing to navigate through the content on the user's PC. The user can also ed it the properties of the songs and videos and rate these according to preferenc e. Content can be dragged and dropped directly into the Zune device, or burned onto a blank CD or DVD. If the user does have a Zune account, the Zune software can connect to the Zune Marketplace and buy new songs, videos or download podcasts directly into the Z une device. While some of the content is free, the rest, especially music, has to be bought at around 80 cents. Of course, this only works if the user does ha ve a credit card account. Problems The Zune is not without its problems. The first is the lack of equalizer contro l that is present in nearly all other MP3 devices in its class. While this can be fixed by actually enhancing the file conversion option when ripping songs fr om CDs, this takes a lot of time. Users would rather use an onboard equalizer t han go back and convert an entire library. The headphone of the Zune also leave s something to be desired as it lacks the ergonomic shape of an iPod earphone s et or the lossless quality of Samsung's Yepp earphones. Ordinary users might no t notice the difference but audio freaks would feel indifferent toward the Zune 's earphones. Using a different earphone might just do the trick. Battery life is also another issue. It seems to run just a bit shorter than the iPod nano. Continuous music playback takes about 18 to 20 hours before the bat tery runs out, compared to nearly 24 hours for the iPod nano. Video playback is about three hours while radio use is about 10 hours. Activating the Zune's wir eless connectivity feature will drastically reduce battery life by as much as 5 0 percent, but most of the time, the user won't have to worry about this since it won't be activated unless there's another Zune around with which you can sha re music. Despite these problems with the flash-based Zune, it does give the iPod nano a new challenger in the flash-based multimedia device market. The most lovable fe ature of the Zune is the Zune Pad, as well as its bright LCD screen that can pl ay videos pretty well for a unit of that size. The rugged design of the Zune is also encouraging to users who don't like to rely on a silicon protector or sol id casing to save the player from scratches. It can go without these anyway. Th e easy-to-use Zune software also takes away much of the hassle of using a devic e management application in a PC. It would have been great though if the softwa re developers made the Zune a Windows taskbar enhancement so that it doesn't ha ve to be minimized often when not in active use.