A picture is worth a 1000 words

Microsoft 10 Comments

Here’s the compose mail UI from Apple’s Mail.app (this is how I use it every day):

Here’s what is apparently the compose mail UI from Microsoft’s upcoming Outlook 12:

An hour and a half with IE7b2 Preview

Microsoft 4 Comments

The following are my unedited notes from downloading, installing, and playing with IE7b2 Preview for a while this morning. Caveats: I don’t use IE6 at all except for testing. I also don’t use Windows except for ocassional games and site testing. I am a very comfortable OS X/Firefox user, and that is likely reflected in my notes here.


Notes on downloading and installing IE7b2 Preview

1) The download page doesn’t work at all for me in the latest version of Firefox on Windows XP. It works fine in Firefox on OS X. I had to start IE6 in order to download the software.

2) Before you can install IE7b2 Preview, it forces you to validate your version of Windows with the Windows Genuine Advantage. I have a legal copy of the software so this is not a problem. I love being assumed guilty until proven innocent.

3) “Get the latest updates for installation”. This is fine. I don’t mind getting updates at all. What’s troubling is the “and download and run the Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool”. In order to get updates, I have to consent to downloading and running this extra thing. That annoys me. I have no idea what it will look for and uninstall on my behalf. There are no links for further information. When I consented to this (which I didn’t want to do but I wanted the updates), it downloaded and ran the tool without any feedback or information about what it was doing or why (if anything). This just makes me cranky.

4) After all this, it made me reboot my computer. Awesome.

Rebooted

Started. The “runonce” page that allows you to enable anti-phishing etc. is pretty slick, but there are three options at the bottom (save settings, …and two others that I forget already and can’t seem to view again…I guess that’s what “runonce” means) that were confusing.

A running commentary…

* Uh, where’s the Home button?

* Where the f&#^ are the menus?

* Where’s the Stop button? Why does the Stop button look like a Close button?

* Why are the Forward/Back buttons overlaying a dropdown list button?

* What’s the ‘Page’ button? Ok, it’s a button that replicates the rt-click Context Menu. No…no it’s not…the Context Menu doesn’t have this stuff on it…er…doesn’t have all this stuff on it. Some menu items are on both, but not all of them. The drop-list arrow on the side of the Page button doesn’t do anything. Why is “Save Background As…” on the Context Menu but not the Page menu? Why is “Save As…” on the Page menu but not the Context menu?

* God, moving the Home button is lame.

* Where can I access/change my preferences? Are there any preferences? Are there menus anywhere? How do I get to them? What the hell?

* Oh, ok…so don’t remove the “Tools” button/menu/dropbox thingy. Prefs are accessed through there and are still called “Internet Options”.

* “Add or remove search providers” is a bald-faced lie. There is no way to add them through the preferences…you have to use the Search button drop menu (I want to call this the Spotlight menu because it’s a white magnifying glass on a blue background which, in OS X, is Spotlight…worlds collide etc etc).

* Just noticed that “Find on this Page…” is on the Search button drop menu. “Find on this page…” is on neither the Context Menu (rt-click) nor the Page Menu (the new button thing). Ctrl-F works as a shortcut.

* Whoa, ok, just got a popup bubble telling me the Phishing filter is currently not available. Which appears to be a lie because I just used the Phishing verifier thing to check a site.

* Popup bubble about the phishing filter made me totally forget what I was doing.

* Where’s the throbber? Ah, tabs. Check.

* Just for fun, removed all the extra buttons from the right of the tabs (Tools, Page, Messenger, etc). First off this just broke the chrome, adding a big gap under the tabs. Closing all but one tab fixed this (for no apparent reason). Then one of the buttons I removed came back (which is good because without anything there you have no way to access the “Customize” menu for that little sub-bar). Removed the button again (it’s the Messenger button). It came back again. Removed it again. It came back again. That’s definitely broken. Tried removing the Messenger and just leaving Home there…that seemed to work ok. Removed Home…Messenger came back.

* Oh look “Classic Menu”. Selected this. Old skool menus! But they’re below the Fwd/Back buttons and address bar. Not very classic. Still can’t get rid of all the buttons from the “non-classic” menus.

* I can find no way to put the Home button in the top bar with the Fwd/Back buttons. I cannot find a way to move the Refresh and Stop buttons to the left of the address bar.

* The page zoom feature is pretty cool. It’s in the “Page” menu button drop thing, so I’ll add that button back. Only now it’s off the side of the UI and I have to access it via the double-arrow “see the rest of this toolbar” thing in spite of there being only one button on the UI there (before there were 5-6). Maximizing the browser window doesn’t change this. Removing all buttons and re-adding them doesn’t change this. I can’t fix this.

* I can’t remove the zoom menu off the status bar (bottom of the window). There are a bunch of separators in the status bar with nothing between them. I wonder what those are for.

* Added Google as my default search provider. Changed to AskJeeves. There’s no icon in the bar, just the name of the search engine in grey text in the box. Clicking the box erases the search engine name, and doing a search fills the box with the search term which stays there. To see which engine you’re using you have to delete the previous search term and click away from the box. Wildly suboptimal.

* Just went for the Home button in the wrong place again.

* “Advanced” “Internet Options” still includes about 4000 things I don’t understand or care about.

* “Page” menu has “View Source” in it. “View” menu has “Source” in it. Context Menu has “View Source” in it. “View” menu item would be better as “Page Source”, I think, and “View Page Source” elsewhere. The View menu confuses me, actually, and Firefox (I just noticed) has it too. Hum. I don’t use the menus much apparently.

* Holy crap, IE has extensions (“Addons”). Go to “Find More Add-ons…”, site with list, check out RSS Tools…let’s check out “RssReader”. Hm. Ok, go to Download.com to download it. It downloads as a .zip file to my Desktop. Unzip, double-click setup.exe. Install. No indication whether I have to restart my browser. No indication of anything at all. Nothing new in the “Manage Add-ons” dialogue. No change in how the RSS Feed button works. WTF. It is, however, flagged as a new program in my Start menu…and …apparently it’s a totally separate application. I think I just hit the jackpot of user experience confusion. I have no idea why this is considered an “Add-on”.

* My page is zoomed. I didn’t zoom the page. I wonder what happened to do that.

* Looking for more add-ons, on the Privacy add-ons page I notice that the “Sponsored Links” are all online dating services. Now i can’t figure out how to get to the top level of the Add-ons site. Grr.

* Going to MSDN brings up an “Information bar” at the top of my page: “This site might require the following add-on:… Click here to allow the control to run…”. Confusing terminology: “add-on” and “control”, pick one. Second, clicking here doesn’t allow the control to run, it pops up a menu. The top item is “Run ActiveX Control”, second is “What’s the Risk?”, last is “More information”. Being paranoid, I click “What’s the Risk?” This opens Windows Internet Explorer help, on the “Web browser add-ons: what you need to know” page. Great, except it doesn’t say jack about “risk”. It tells you what add-ons are, that some can shut down your browser unexpectedly, how to enable/disable them. Nothing, not one thing, about the risks of running known or unknown activeX controls. I do not run it.

* For some reason a new post on my weblog (dria.org) isn’t showing up when I view the RSS feed with IE7. It doesn’t seem to be catching the update, in spite of the page itself displaying fine. Stuck in the cache? Nothing I do will make it show up (it shows up OK in Firefox on the mac…). Weird.

I’m done for now. When I get a chance maybe I’ll play with it some more.

And there you have it. That was not a great first impression, let me tell you.

Funny video

Mac Stuff, Microsoft 2 Comments

This video is pretty amusing if you’re a Mac user and paid any attention to the latest talk about all the “new” features Windows Vista is introducing.

Seriously, Macs do all this stuff already, and more. You should try one out.

Just for fun…

General, Mac Stuff, Microsoft 4 Comments

Just for fun, I’m going to fire up the PC, finally (ho ho) update to XP SP2, and then install the new MSN Toolbar to see what tabbed browsing in IE is like. According to Asa, it’s in the range of “not so good”. We will see!

Update 1: Windows takes for-frickin’-ever to update.

Update 2: Apparently my “disk defragmenter module” has encountered a problem and has to close. I “Don’t Send” an error report. Rebooting.

Update 3: The first batch up updates didn’t include SP2. Updating again. I am wearing a dull stare.

Update 4: Rebooting again.

Update 5: Got distracted by work for a while. Checked Windows box. It came back up ok. Decided to let Windows have Automatic Updates, as I just don’t care any more. Windows told me I had no antivirus software installed, and told me to “Click this balloon to solve this problem.” I do not click. I do not believe it.

Update 6: It’s late. I’m going to bed. I’ll continue on with this tomorrow.

About Longhorn

Microsoft No Comments

As many people may have noticed, Microsoft has been yelling a lot this week about how awesome Longhorn is, how it’s graphically superior, how it represents a massive investment in security improvements, how it has all sorts of new and awesome features.

They’re having issues with their tenses. Everything I’ve read this week is in the present tense, like Longhorn is available right now. But it’s not. Current promise is that it will ship “in time for Christmas 2006″. Let me check my calendar…Christmas 2006 is in twenty months. That’s not now. That’s not anywhere close enough to being now to talk about it in the present tense.

The big conference (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) doesn’t seem to be going very well. There’s a bunch of stories coming out of it, but some of the really exciting quotes are along the lines of, “it’s like watching a train wreck,” and:

Longhorn is in complete disarray and in danger of collapsing under its own weight: Since WinHEC 2004, Microsoft hasn’t shipped a single public beta release of the product, which is now delayed until late 2006. Now, we get a new build of Longhorn, finally, but it’s surprisingly similar to the version we got last year. In fact, it’s almost less exciting, because it looks more like the existing Windows version—Windows XP—than the year-ago version did. You can literally see the backtracking.

Just for fun, I went out and grabbed a handful of screenshots from the various previews of Longhorn that Microsoft has given over the years (2002-2005)….

Update: I’ve removed the screenshots because apparently Microsoft is being retarded about it, and I just don’t feel like dealing with that (not that my blog gets enough traffic to get noticed, but still, better safe than…not).

Dips.

I am my Brand Identity(tm)

General, Microsoft No Comments

“The newest version of MSN Messenger allows consumers to download free backgrounds, pictures and other content tied to specific ad campaigns. The hope is that users will then share those downloads with other consumers — providing another boost to advertisers, who pay Microsoft for the privilege.”

Apparently this is a feature.

Guess who’s not going to opt-in?

Microsoft No Comments

That’s right, me!

Microsoft fired another salvo Wednesday in its fight with Google and Yahoo for Internet supremacy, unveiling a new technology designed to capture online search advertising dollars.

The new tool will allow advertisers to buy not just keywords but also the demographics of the person searching on those keywords.

MSN can do that most effectively when the search is conducted by a registered user who has already provided some personal details to the site. MSN attracts more than 380 million unique users worldwide per month.

I like Google’s ad keywords. The idea of it does not offend me, and the results are unobtrusive and occassionally useful. But the second you start mixing my personal information into the equation, it stops being harmless. I don’t want anyone (particularly Microsoft, thank you) tracking, compiling, and recording my searches, attaching those to my personal profile, and then having the audacity to sell that to advertisers.

Update!

Personal identifying information is not included in the data dump.

I don’t care. I don’t want to give Microsoft any sort of marketable demographic data or anything that will give them more money than they already have. I just don’t like MS. Luckily, I can avoid the whole thing by just not signing up for or using any Microsoft services ever again. Happily, Turbine (the makers of Asheron’s Call) bought themselves back from Microsoft and no longer fall under the “MSN Passport” umbrella. That and MSN Messenger were the only reasons I had Microsoft-related online accounts, neither of which are any longer an issue.

A Guy, Ranting

Microsoft, Ranting No Comments

This guy rants about Microsoft, and does so quite effectively. Yes, it’s anti-MS and pro-Mac, but whatever. I’m a new convert and I Believe.

Google vs MSN Search (a somewhat biased test drive)

General, Microsoft No Comments

RAWR!

As pretty much everyone who uses the Internet daily knows, Microsoft formally launched it’s revamped MSN Search site. This is a direct, intentional, focused, and admitted attack against everyone’s internet darling, Google (and probably Yahoo, but I can’t remember the last time I visited their site, so they’re irrelevant to me).

Personally, I think Wikipedia is doing something more interesting than MSN Search, but that’s because it’s different, innovative, extraordinarily useful, and basically a collective work of genius. Having more than one search engine is a good thing, sure, but it’s not interesting. But I digress…

I decided to do a side-by-side test drive of Google vs the New and Improved MSN Search. I compared straight up searches — number of results, first link returned, displayed Ads on the results pages. I got some unexpected results.

An Aside:

The first round of tests I did were a relevation, only in that I was on the UK MSN Search site and there was little indication that this was the case. I thought the results were a little off (what being UK-centric), but I didn’t realize the problem until I went to link to it and noticed the “.co.uk” URL bit. For some reason, I’ve never had this problem with Google, I’m just not entirely sure why.

While using the UK version of MSN Search first was an accident, it revealed something interesting — the results are different, even if you don’t use the “Only From United Kingdom” checkbox. What’s more is that some of the searches on the UK site produced more results than on the US site, which has no “Only From United States” checkbox. If the US version is the canonical “use this to search everywhere” site, why would it produce fewer results? If it’s not a canonical site, why doesn’t it have a “Only From United States” checkbox?

Microsoft, in response to people pointing out that they do not return as many results as Google has used the (very valid) defense that no one really has the time to dig through X million results. This is very true, and an interesting comment on the state of the Interweb (and the tools we use to find crap on it).

My results (summarized below), however, seem to indicate that this is more an “excuse” than an “innovation”, since some searches on MSN Search returned many more results than Google. Why the discrepency? Why on these particular search terms? Will MSN continue loading up its database until all terms return more results than Google?

Also, over the course of 30 searches, Google displayed 89 ads, most of which were relevant to the searches I was doing. MSN Search displayed 210, many of which were “correct” for the search term, but totally incorrect in reality.

For example, when I searched for “Thunderbird” on Google, there were no ads displayed, and the top link was to the Mozilla Thunderbird page. On the other hand, when I Googled for “Ford Thunderbird”, 3 car-related ads were displayed, and the top link was to the Ford site for their Thunderbird car. Searching MSN for “Thunderbird” did give me the Mozilla Thunderbird page as the first result, but it also displayed 11 ads about cars. “Ford Thunderbird” on MSN Search gave me the Ford site as top link, and the same 11 ads.

MSN needs to seriously work on their ad relevance. Also, redisplaying the ads from the top of the page at the bottom of the page? Totally unnecessary, and more than a little annoying. Stop sucking up so much of my browser’s real estate, thanks.

Ok, on to the summary of results. The following list contains the exact term I searched on in both Google (google.com) and MSN Search (search.msn.com), with the rough percentage of results MSN Search returned compared to Google. So if Google had 100 results, and MSN had 10, then the percentage is 10% (explanation for people like me who are really bad with numbers). Here’s the list:

  • Linux – 43%
  • Windows – 52%
  • Mozilla – 33%
  • .NET – 1.4% (??)
  • Firefox – 5%
  • Internet Explorer – 5%
  • PowerMac – 50%
  • OSX – 47%
  • Apple – 53%
  • iTunes – 19%
  • Windows Media Player – 146%
  • OpenOffice – 29%
  • MS Office – 61%
  • Thunderbird – 63%
  • Outlook – 67%
  • Outlook Live – 31%
  • Donair Recipe – 10%
  • Jeffrey Steingarten – 13%
  • IBM – 44%
  • SCO – 59%
  • Internet Security – 178%
  • Spyware – 23%
  • Windows Vulnerabilities – 10%
  • Linux Vulnerabilities – 13%
  • Mac OS X Vulnerabilities – 10%
  • Microsoft Security – 172%
  • Open Source – 222%
  • Free Software – 614%
  • Google – 7%
  • MSN Search – 63%

I don’t have any theories (conspiracy-like or no) about these results, I just find them odd as hell in some places. Presumably Microsoft is targeting certain areas of the web with their spiders, which would explain these results to some extent. I wonder how often their results will be updated and maintained. How are they sorting returned results — is it a formula akin to Google’s? Will people be able to cheat that formula through link spamming and such more easily than they can with Google?

I don’t know. Personally the ads on MSN are annoying enough to make me steer clear — during my experiment I accidentally clicked through on at least 5-6 ads on the MSN site, and none on Google. I also like my ads to be relevant and unobtrusive.

I also don’t particularly care for or trust Microsoft, so I’ll be sticking with Google, but you probably guessed that part already :)

They really are adorable…

Microsoft No Comments

1995: Hey, let’s compete in the browser world by giving away Internet Explorer for free, while Netscape keeps trying to charge for theirs!

2005: Hey, let’s compete in the email world by charging $60/a to subscribe to our mail client and web-based mail service while Thunderbird and Google offer theirs for free!

Microsoft launches Outlook Live!

Seriously, WTF?

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