How Microsoft changed the way it builds software with Vista

WSJ has a very interesting story on how Microsoft had to restart a lot of Vista features from a clean code base and throw away a lot of work done on existing windows code base over the years; and from my point of view, the fact that it took this long is surprising, but as they say better late than never.

Want an iPod Nano, then read this first?

Seems like there have been many cases where the iPod Nano gets scratched very easily, making it useless for viewing pictures and song names, etc that is playing. The Register has an article covering it including and the thread on apple’s newsgroup is already up to 240 posts on the issue.

Office 12 XML Schemas

Now that the PDC is done, I can get to talk a little more about Office 12, I have been playing with it for a few weeks and has some very interesting things, but more on that later this week. But, now you can get the proposed schema for Office 12 applications. This of course is draft and is a preview, so I won’t start writing anything against this other than your own learning purposes.

Also incase you have not been following the PDC, Office 12 is not just a release of the new office programs (word, excel, power point, etc), but also incorporates the new versions of Sharepoint (WSS) and Content Management Server (CMS), which makes it huge. One of the pilliars of this is Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF), which I will be posting on also soon.

Getting old versions of Java JDK

Meenakshi wanted an old version of a JDK, and it was quite interesting to try and find an old version at Sun’s site, they don’t plainly display a link – one would suspect that it should be somewhere on the download page itself, but if only things were made using common sense. E.g. Meenakshi wanted to get J2SE 1.4.2_05 (not very old from the current shipping which is 1.4.2_09), try googling it and you will see what I mean. Of course, if Sun had gotten it right in the first place, where every minor upgrade does not break everything in the older versions (even point upgrades for the most part), this would not be an issue to begin with. Like I said, if only common sense was so common.

Anyways, in case you do want to get any older versions I did find a link for downloading old versions from Sun – its at

MS cuts Yukon Feature to meet ship-date

WinITPro is reporting that SQL Server 2005 will ship without data mirroring as they won’t be able to meet the ship date in November this year. This will be a big blow as I know some people already incorporating that in their design of some solutions. What is interesting is why did it take MS so late to realise they won’t be able to make the feature for RTM?

Want a kick-ass laptop – with 6.8ghz CPU and 1 Terabyte ram?

Thanks to Elia for pointing this out. If you are in the market for a new laptop but can wait, then this kick-ass machine can be out soon. Atom Chip corporation is getting ready for the CES 2006 show which is going to be held in January 2006 in Vegas. The computer should demonstrate how Quantum and Quantum-optical devices could operate in consumer electronics. Without proper benchmarking, it is hard to tell if the “AtomChip” 6.8Ghz CPU is faster than current high-end competitors are, but the solid-state drive (in place of the traditional hard disk) should be much much faster.

Here are some shots of the machine running Windows XP with 2 TB of space and 1 TB of memory – drool!


6.8 Ghz and 1 Terabyte of RAM

2 Terabyte of Disk Space

2 Terabytes of Non-Volatile Ram

6.8 Ghz Quantum II Processor with 256 MB of on-board memory

Update: There have been a couple of discussions on this with many people saying this is a hoax, as Windows XP does not support more than 16 GB of memory (I think its less than that, but not gone looking myself). In any case, come January, we would know in CES one way or the other.

MCE Update coming out soon

According to Neowin, MS is going to release the Rollup Update (code names Emerald) to MCE soon, which will incorporate:

  1. 2x HD Tuner supported
  2. No CableCARD
  3. No QAM
  4. DVD Changer
  5. Xbox 360 Extender support
  6. Sonic DVD Burning fixes
  7. Slight improvements in Media Library performance

The update will be free and available via Windows Update.


MS also released some information at the PDC about Diamond (Windows Vista MCE) and Neowin has some screen shots on their site and some more pictures here.

New Laptop Hard Disk and Disk Enclosure

With all the Virtual Machines I have (not all that many really), my external USB 40gb HDD is almost full and its time to buy another one which is a little bigger and faster. My criteria was a 100 gb at least and preferably a 7200 rpm in a 2.5″ factor – which are quite rare these days, but it seems like I found the perfect fit for me. Seagate has their new Momentus 7200 which is a 100 gig HDD, spinning at 7200 rpm and 8mb buffer (you can get the detailed specs here).

But, equally important was the case/enclosure/whatever-you-call-it-in-your-corner, and that is where one of my colleagues pointed me to Avix. This baby, can do a lot, from being a portable DivX player to a powerful car AV Player, and yes also the HDD enclosure I was looking for. If you don’t have the HDD (as in my case), then you can just get the enclosure. Here is the blurb from the site:

AivX is a compact & excellent quality portable DivX player. It gives you freedom to playback all your favorite video and audio files anywhere you go – at home, hotel room, in the office, client office, even on the plane! It supports various video formats such as AVI (DivX 3.x, 4.x, 5.x, XviD), MPG, VOB etc, and surround sound with 5.1ch digital coaxial audio format. A built-in FM Transmitter also makes you enjoy digital movies and music in the car by tuning radio frequency. Besides it can be used as a multimedia player, MP3 player or photo slider on HDTV. AivX also works as a USB 2.0 storage device to backup all your valuable data.

I think I am going to get one of these, does anyone else have one of these, whats the feedback?

Avalon everywhere?

At PDC, Microsoft announced that there will be subsets of Avalon available on other OS’s including Macs where one of the demos at the PDC was actually running on a Mac. There is no linux bits that I am aware of (yet), but its coming soon I would suppose. Ben Galbraith (from Sun) has a post talking about this albeit a skeptical one.

How to screw up your MCE?

Well on one  lovely weekend when there were clear blue skies (big deal here in London), I thought what better way to spend the day then mess up the MCE and stay indoors all day to fix it. And how does one go about doing that? Well here is what I did and lessons learned (hopefully) :).

Firstly, just because there is a new update for the BIOS don’t be compelled to update it (as I did), remember the age old advice, don’t fix it if it ain’t broken. So, when I update the BIOS, which of course was not required, Windows for some reason did not like that and it stopped booting up – I would get a blue screen. Could not even boot up in safe mode, and the recovery console did not help, so all in all the machine was hosed if I may say.

Now that the computer was effectively dead I was glad that the data was on a different drive than the OS itself, so when I reformatted and reinstalled Windows, I would not lose the data. But installing it and getting it to work was a pain in itself. I upgraded the OS on Sat morning and by the time this got up and running it was Sunday afternoon – and in between that time was three complete reinstalls!

So, what was the problem? Well, the OS was installed OK, but when I tried to configure my Tuner card for the TV, it just won’t work. Every time I got a decoder error. But I knew that the TV feed was OK. After the first time it did not work I wanted to roll back the BIOS update, and just the sound of that makes you cringe – assuming it was even possible. In my case it was, but it was quite tricky. Another thing to point out, I don’t think this was an issue just with my TV Tuner card (I have the Hauppage PVR-500 MCE), but I think its with other cards too and is probably more of a OS thing.

First thing I had to do was download the old BIOS and per their instructions boot up using a floppy, run the update and voila I am done. The only problem my computer does not have a floppy drive. After a lot of googling, the answer I came up with was downloading a boot image from Bootdisk, where I could also get a ISO for a floppy image called FlashCD that then I can burn to an CD and boot from that. But, then how do I add the bios updates to the ISO, so when in DOS mode I could update to the older version of the BIOS? The answer again was provided by Bootdisk and it was to use a program called UltraISO which did the amazing job as recommended. Finally I was able to boot in DOS and flash the BIOS to the older version.

Now, that the BIOS was in the old state, I was back to where I had started, but now I had to reinstall the OS a second time. After going to that, and fingers crossed, I was back to square one, I was still getting the Decoder error. By this time it was quite frustrating, and each install was more than the OS, it was also all the drivers (which was about 7-10 different CD’s for the various devices), patches, anti virus and more updates – all of this while sitting on the floor using the TV as the monitor since I was too lazy to unplug everything and move the MCE to the study and hook it up to the KVM switch.

To cut a long story short, after more googling and trawling through newsgroups, the third time I hit up the solution and got it back up and running OK. And the key difference was, once the base OS was installed, install all the device drivers to get all the devices up and running, but don’t install any of the updates and patches, instead configure Media Center and after checking your signal install the relevant patches and updates.

Here is the sequence I finally followed the third time (and by then it was the next day – remember started on Sat and already into Sunday – and I did not want to experiment more and see what else could happen) the advice that I found on this Australian site.

  1. Install the OS
  2. Install all the drivers
  3. For the TV Tuner card make sure you use the right version. E.g. for Hauppage they also make non-MCE compatible cards, make sure you install the MCE drivers for the card.
  4. In my case I got the nVidia display, so I made sure I got the MCE version of the drivers too.
  5. I got a nVidia DVD Decoder as well.
  6. Uninstalled any other DVD software such as Power DVD, etc.
  7. Rebooted (of course)
  8. Voila, we are back in business.

Here are some pictures from the ordeal:

Installing MCE

Tired after going through the painful process – this I think was the second time

This is what the MCE looks like – my earlier post did not show the finished case.

Very tired, to get this to work – looks like in the middle of installing from the looks of the screen.

That is surely a painful smile. 🙂

This was I think the third time.

Stack of driver CD’s and I was also eating there – no food breaks – had to get this back up.

All in all, the moral of the story was, one, keep your data on a different drive than the OS and don’t install updates for the heck of it. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Was an interesting weekend for sure. 😉

Media Center Pictures

A few of you have asked me to upload some pics here of the MCE; and here they are – sorry it took a while, but better late than never. In case you are curious, this is my MCE configuration.

Me and Karan assembling the box – as you can see we just finished screwing in the motherboard

Here is what the finished CPU looks like from the inside – the PCI Express graphics card is on the left rear side (you can see the silver heat sink), also the fan less power supply on the right.

Here is what the front looks like (without the dvd drive cover mounted).

And here I am installing the dvd driver cover so the front has one flush look.

The VFD says “Bahree Khandan Media Center”; Khandan is the Hindi word for Family