Webapps on the desktop, netbooks, politics and more in what I’ve read

As noted on twitter, I’m glad to be home – what a long week this has been.  I’m off to get the kids to bed, and later this weekend, more on our upcoming daylight saving time updates and work on a post for our Daylight Saving Time Help and Support Center.

But first, here’s the recent reading list. 

If you’re looking for more substantial reading suggestions, I suggest A list of 40 upcoming fiction and nonfiction books the Seattle Times — "Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times book editor, and Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times book critic, preview new fiction and nonfiction being released this fall." (By Mary Ann Gwinn; and Michael Upchurch Seattle Times book editor; Seattle Times book critic, Sept 21, 2008)

And for the traveler in you, there’s Oregon wine country, one sip at a time | Seattle Times Newspaper: “Napa Northwest: Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley is the gateway to wine country in the Pacific Northwest.” By Carol Pucci, Seattle Times travel writer, Sept 21, 2008.  Related is the article on how Northwest artisans are crafting a renaissance in handmade hard ciders — “Handcrafted hard ciders are enjoying a renaissance in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to a handful of local artisans and a plentiful supply of specialty apples.” By Braiden Rex-Johnson

Enjoy your weekend.

Microsoft Taking Media Center to Headless Appliances’ – Chris Lanier’s Blog — “I’ve just gotten a tip from a very reliable source that Microsoft is looking to take Media Center off the desktop and turn it into a CE appliance. The only information that I have is that it is planned to be a headless device of some sort. Other details are very scarce at this point with no timeline to speak of, but I’ve been assured that Microsoft is actively working on such a project. Is the Home Server “Media Center UI integration” that I just said wouldn’t happen the start of this project? Does it even have anything to do with Windows Home Server? Might Softsled be making an appearance in this all? Maybe that technology they got from WebGuide? I have no idea, because clearly such a product would go against everything I’ve ever said about Media Center.”

Windows Live Wire: Building Windows Live – “This wave includes significant updates to our software applications for your Windows PC, and in the next few hours, we will release public betas of the latest version of the Windows Live suite of PC applications, including Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Writer, Toolbar, and Family Safety. You’ll find new features across the products and most notably, Windows Live Messenger has been almost entirely redesigned. I’m sure many of you will have questions, and, over the coming weeks, we’ll have individuals from the engineering team share more about what we have built and why we made the investments we made. Our intent is to post regularly to this blog, and if there are topics you think we should cover, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

How to Run Web Apps from Your Desktop – Features by PC Magazine – “A wave of online-only applications means never having to install software. But you can still run Web apps as if they were local—even when you’re not online. by Eric Griffith You’ve heard their buzzed-about names: Zoho. Google Docs. Gmail. Yahoo! Calendar. Photoshop Express. Meebo. Picnik. Adobe Buzzword. Gliffy. 30 Boxes. Remember The Milk. Jumpcut. ooVoo. Bloglines. Maybe you even read our story last week about one man’s experience using nothing but Web apps. Well, these are just a sampling of the amazing consumer software that does all of its work—from word processing to e-mail to IMs to video editing—entirely in your Web browser. The above Web apps (sometimes called rich Internet applications) aren’t limited entirely to a browser gulag. There are ways to run them independently, like any other installed application (with some caveats). Imagine running Gmail on the desktop, in a separate process, just like you would Outlook or Thunderbird.”

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley Aren’t Dead Yet: Roy C. Smith ( Opinion) Sept. 26 — “With their new capital infusions, Wall Street’s last surviving stand-alone global investment banks are loading up for the future, even while reports circulate that their era has ended. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley are looking through the fog of the current financial mess — the superheated fumes from which singed them both last week — and see a market rich with opportunities for firms with their special talents, connections, and appetite for risk.”

The Digital TV Transition Video Feature – Video by PC Magazine — In this Video: The cutoff date for analog broadcast television is a year away. PC Magazine’s Robert Heron shows you how it’ll affect you, whether you get your TV signal from cable, a satellite dish, or an antenna.

Netbooks have officially arrived – Engadget — by Thomas Ricker, posted Sep 25th 2008 at 7:50AM "Thought that Atom CPU shortage a few months back was just posturing by Intel? Take a look at the top 10 list of best selling "Laptop Computers" over at Amazon. All but one laptop (the 13.3-inch MacBook) is a netbook and 8 of the 10 devices are powered by Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom processor. Guess this makes it official: the age of the netbook has indeed, arrived."

Checking your RAM (Computer’s Memory) For Errors using Microsoft Windows Diagnostic | – Telluride Tech – “Case Study: On my older Dell Dimension with 1K of RAM, applications that I would run would crash at random times, at random spots. The crash could happen soon after the application was started or 5-20 minutes later. Possible Causes: ■Bad "bit" of memory (RAM) ■Some other reason. Possible Solution: For this blog post, I will test the RAM in the machine. Since I am running Windows on this machine, I will use the Microsoft Windows Diagnostic. Steps: You can find this diagnostic and instructions here:” 

E-mail, photo programs stripped from Windows 7 | Beyond Binary – A blog by Ina Fried – CNET News — September 22, 2008 4:03 PM PDT – Ina Fried says that "Microsoft has decided that Windows 7 won’t include built-in programs for e-mail, photo editing, and movie making, as was done with Windows Vista, CNET has learned." "The software maker included Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Mail, and Windows Movie Maker as part of Vista, but later chose to offer separate downloadable Windows Live programs that essentially replaced those components with versions that could connect to online services from Microsoft and others."

How NOT to Run a Recall: Ask Sony Blog Archive in Alice Hill’s Real Tech News – Independent Tech — By Michael Santo Editor-in-Chief, RealTechNews — “You’ll remember that earlier this month I wrote about Sony’s recall of 19 models in the VAIO TZ series notebooks manufactured between May 2007 and July 2008. Apparently, as the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission said: Irregularly positioned wires near the computer’s hinge and/or a dislodged screw inside the hinge can cause a short circuit and overheating. Sony has received 15 reports of overheating, including one consumer who suffered a minor burn. Yeah, well, that’s all well and good (or bad, rather), but here’s how it works (my wife’s Vaio TZ-250 was among the recalled laptops)…”

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism | Newsweek Politics: Campaign 2008 | — "I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn’t: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn’t be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn’t ready for? He wouldn’t. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House."

Engadget Cares: save us from Apple’s groundbreaking, developer-shackling App Store – Engadget’s Ryan Block posted (Sep 25th 2008 at 2:07PM) that "Engadget editor-at-large and gdgt co-founder Ryan Block contributes Engadget Cares, a friendly advice column for the people who make your technology. " it’s not just about the draconian SDK agreement (which we’ll get to in a minute), or the uncertainty that runs through every developer — large and small — as they wonder whether you’ll give the all-important thumbs-up to the app they’ve just invested all that blood / sweat / tears / money into (we’ll get to that, too). What seems to the rest of us like nefarious intent may simply be Apple coming to grips with its own successes by reacting with the same kneejerk response it plies to most everything else: control and micromanagement."

Road to G1 has been a three-year endeavor for Google, HTC – Engadget’s Chris Ziegler posted Sep 25th 2008 at 2:41PM "How many Google and HTC engineers does it take to build an Android phone? We don’t have the punchline to that one, exactly — but at least we have a pretty good idea of how long it takes. HTC’s Chief Marketing Officer has revealed that it kicked off negotiations with Google some five years ago — before it had even acquired Android, interestingly — and has been deeply embedded in the Android team for the past three years. That’s a long frickin’ time, but we figure the first model’s probably ten times harder to throw together than its successors are, so hopefully we’ll see a nice cadence of "HTC Innovation" from here on out. We know it’s been said many times before, but it probably bears repeating: Touch Pro and Touch HD with Android, guys. Please."

Ubuntu alpha apparently breaking hardware, shattering dreams – again, Engadget’s Donald Melanson posted Sep 26th 2008 at 12:56PM “Well, it looks like the good times that are the Ubuntu alpha testing process hit a bit of a snag recently, as one of the latest kernels apparently had the nasty side effect of irreparably damaging some users’ hardware — specifically, certain Intel network cards. So far, it seems that only laptops have been affected by the bug, which corrupts the NVRAM used to store data like MAC addresses, but folks don’t seem to be ruling out the possibility that it could affect desktops as well. What’s more, while a warning has been added to the ISO download, it hasn’t been pulled altogether, with the only explanation given being that it would delay the 8.10 release schedule too much. Not entirely surprisingly, that has prompted at least a few folks to give up on testing alpha versions of the OS, at least until this whole thing gets sorted out.”

Switched On: With friends like Google, does Apple need Microsoft? – Engadget notes that “Nevertheless, Google’s task is a lot more daunting than Microsoft’s was at the dawn of Windows for several reasons. First, unlike Microsoft of yore, Google has no incumbent operating system like DOS that makes Android a natural successor to whatever major manufacturers handset are using now. Second, while Microsoft has always had to account for many hardware variations among PCs, smartphones vary even more in terms of their capabilities and design. And third, at least in the U.S., there is a layer of carrier distribution control that is far more restrictive than the scrutiny of many IT managers that made Windows a corporate standard. Indeed, while a goal of Android is to make phones more PC-like in terms of the freedom they afford developers, tethering and VoIP apps won’t likely get far due to carrier oversight”

Downgrading New PCs from Windows Vista to Windows XP Pro | How-to Guides for running your business from — “Recognizing this reality, in September 2007 Microsoft quietly gave in and granted ‘downgrade rights’ (Word doc) to businesses who ordered new PCs with Windows Vista, allowing them revert to Windows XP Pro if they so chose. This program extends until January 1, 2009, and similar deadlines have been extended before. Since September ’07, when you buy new PCs for your business, you get a license for both Windows Vista Business (or Ultimate) and Windows XP Professional. That’s all well and good, but obviously you can’t simply flip a switch to roll back to XP Pro. While your Vista Business or Vista Ultimate license includes rights to use of Windows XP Pro, what you really need is a CD to load it with.”
Little firm is happy to be ‘running with the big boys’ – 25 Sep 2008 – NZ Herald: New Zealand Business, Markets, Currency and Personal Finance News — “Microsoft says its gold partners "represent the highest level of competence and expertise with Microsoft technologies, and have the closest working relationship with Microsoft". But for the chosen few – including Hamilton-based NetValue – there is a much more elite membership, two levels above gold, called "high-potential managed independent software vendor" status. Only about 400 companies in the world are in the high-potential partner club and NetValue chief executive Graham Gayland says he is not aware of any other HPM ISV companies in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Smartparts Sets New Standard for WiFi Enabled Digital Picture Frames — "New SPX8WF Can Receive Images From Windows Live Photo Gallery — Engadget says that "Just in case you’re not kosher with covering up your entire wall with a 32-inch digital photo frame, Smartparts is also introducing an entirely more reasonable frame at Photokina. The 8-inch SPX8WF packs the same 802.11b/g support as its (much) larger sibling, enabling it to integrate nicely with Windows Live Photo Gallery and display customized RSS feeds. Also of note, this little bugger comes with its own unique e-mail address which is hosted on Smartparts servers. What for, you ask? In order to send out any of your loaded images to friends who you think care, that’s what for. As for specs, you’ve got an 800 x 600 resolution LCD, multicard reader, 512MB of internal memory and a real wood frame. Check it this November for $149.99."

Your Government: How To Write To Congress — “Writing to Congress is the single best way to express your view on public policy. The average consumer has a surprising ability to influence legislation by crafting a well written missive. Let’s find out what the common mistakes to avoid are, how the process works, and the best ways to ensure your letter has the greatest impact.”

Android: How the T-Mobile G1 Stacks Up To Its Frienemies — “The T-Mobile G1 launched today with a rich feature set, but how does it, powered by the Android OS, stack up against competition from Apple, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile? We pieced together this chart so you can size up the G1 against its competition at a glance. Click through for the image big-sized. And keep in mind that MicroSD cards max at 8GB for the time being, even though some of these phones technically support more.”

Microsoft’s "Sinofsky" mistake |Enterprise Desktop | Randall C. Kennedy | InfoWorld — "Why Microsoft’s choice of a no-nonsense show runner for Windows 7 has failed to energize the enterprise desktop community." Interesting comments – but the guy’s not in touch with reality, IMHO.

Redmond strikes back: a review of the new 3G Zune: By Nate Anderson, Frank Caron, September 21, 2008 – 11:05PM CT — “Third time’s the charm. It’s taken three generations of Zunes to avoid the curse of the squi-. First-gen Zunes were all about the Social—and "squirting" your tunes to other Zunes. The term, widely mocked, gave way to the second-gen "squircle" controller, which sent shivers down the spines of Microsoft’s PR team. The third generation of Zunes leaked out of Redmond a bit earlier than planned, but everything is now official and on store shelves, the new firmware and client software is out, and there’s a refreshing lack of new squi- about the whole experience.” 

New Dell Studio Slim Desktop PC — “The Studio Slim desktop boasts a stylish design with state-of-the-art-technologies that make a home media center more affordable than ever. Integrated HDMI and 1394 adapter Home theater upgrades include Blu-ray™ and TV tuner Slimline design sets up vertically or horizontally”

T-mobile G1: Android and T-Mobile G1’s Five Most Obnoxious Flaws — “While I was more impressed by the T-Mobile G1 than I thought I’d be, the list of catches for Android and the phone are quickly piling up—some that might very well be dealbreakers. Topping the list, it’s tightly integrated with your Google account—so tightly that you can only use one Google account with the phone. If you want to switch to another account, you have to do a whole factory reset. Update: Added a new, deeply aggravating bonus flaw.”

TV: Netflix Fires Shots Across Traditional TVs Bow by Signing Deals with CBS, Disney — “Netflix has just inked deals with CBS and Disney to start adding shows to its streaming service the day after they air. The shows will include crime dramas your parents like such as CSI and NCIS as well as shows your younger cousins like such as Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. But more exciting than the specific shows is the precedent this sets: yet another reason to cancel cable. If Netflix keeps this up and adds more shows that will be available the day after they air, there will be even fewer reasons to keep paying ungodly sums of money to Comcast or Time Warner for cable TV. Instead, you’ll be able to fire up your Roku or Xbox 360 to watch whatever shows you want”

FormatFactory – File format convert tools ( — Lifehacker reported on this Windows-only "free media file converter, FormatFactory… a handy all-in-one utility for taking one kind of audio, video, or picture file and converting it to another. The interface is a dead-simple drag-and-drop affair, and it’s meant for running batches of files through converters—FLVs to Windows Media, MPEGs to iPod-friendly video, DVDs to DivX files, etc. You won’t get a lot of options for quality control, compression rate, or other tweaks, but for some folks, that’s really a benefit. FormatFactory is a free download for Windows systems only."

Michael Gerson on Sarah Palin | Newsweek Politics: Campaign 2008 | — What we talk about when we talk about experience, by Michael Gerson | NEWSWEEK Published Sep 20, 2008 — “From the magazine issue dated Sep 29, 2008 The closest I have ever come to witnessing a Bryan moment was Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican convention—the triumph of another backwoods, highly religious populist. Palin praised the honesty and sincerity of small towns; pressed her credentials as a hockey mom, member of the PTA and small-town mayor; and railed against the "Washington elite," "power brokers" and (a little close to home) "reporters and commentators." If hats had been in style, they would have been thrown.”

Hi. I’m a PC … and I Was Made on a Mac [UPDATED] (John Paczkowski, AllThingsD) — Sept 19, 2008 "The irony is enough to make your head explode. The latest evolution of Microsoft’s (MSFT) new ad campaign–the one designed to seize back control of the Windows PC image that Apple has so mercilessly tarred and feathered–wasn’t even made on a PC. "It was made on a Mac. Metadata in the images of the stereotyped PC user featured on Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” site reveal that they were produced using Macs running Adobe Creative Suite 3, not PCs running Microsoft Expression Studio software. MS said: "As is common in almost all campaign workflow, agencies and production houses use a wide variety of software and hardware to create, edit and distribute content, including both Macs and PCs."

Unlike Fed, Microsoft and HP Have No Debt and Billions in Cash | John Paczkowski | Digital Daily | AllThingsD — “Looks like this period of “rapid and profound change” on Wall Street hasn’t much fazed Microsoft (MSFT) and Hewlett Packard (HPQ). This morning Microsoft’s board authorized a new five-year $40 billion share buyback plan and an 18 percent dividend boost.”

Information Overload: Information Overload is Filter Failure, Says Shirky — “Technologist Clay Shirky argues that information overload isn’t the problem tech journalism makes it out to be: it’s really a failure of information filters. At the Web 2.0 Expo last week, Shirky said that the internet has made it easier and cheaper for publishers to broadcast information—so now the onus is on the consumer to filter out the noise (much like client-side spam filters). Hit the play button below to hear Shirky’s well-argued points.”

Tags: articles, what I read, Microsoft, blogs

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