Haruka's Tech Blog
Injuration: 2009

Windows 7 launched

Microsoft today unleashed their latest and arguably greatest operating system, Windows 7, to the world.

Unless you've been living under a rock recently then you may have heard of Windows 7 and more than likely some of you will be reading this from a Windows 7 computer. Microsoft has put a huge amount of time and effort into Windows 7 and this was clear when Microsoft officials first introduced the OS at the Professional Developers Conference nearly a year ago. At PDC, Microsoft developers introduced new features with excitement and then perfected them over the beta and release candidate stages ready for today.

Yesterday at a launch event in London, Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President of Windows Experience explained that Microsoft had 8 million beta testers for the original beta launched in January and 7 million beta testers that "got the product by other means". A total of 15 million testers meant Microsoft were able to perfect Windows 7 with millions of machine data. Julie joined the Windows team 3 years ago, fresh from overhauling Office with the new ribbon UI. Previously she had worked at Microsoft for 16 years without touching Windows but had used it since Windows 1.0. Julie's work on Windows 7 combined with Steven Sinofsky, President of Windows and Windows live, is undoubtedly the reason Windows 7 worked out so well.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, couldn't be more happy with Windows 7. Today at a packed out audience in New York City, excited Ballmer donned the stage to introduce Windows 7 to the world. Ballmer was passionate, relaxed and jolly whilst introducing Windows 7. Kylie from the Windows adverts introduced Ballmer who seemed excited to see her. The audience aahd and oooed at Kylie and then Ballmer began to talk about 7. After the revelation that 15 million people tried the Windows 7 beta, it was also revealed that with the data Microsoft gathered during the beta test and feedback surveys, 91% of people part of the RC stage said they would recommend Windows 7 to friends and family. Perhaps more interesting was the fact that over 80% of those who identified themselves as Mac users in the surveys said they would recommend Windows 7 too.

Later in the presentation there were several impressive product demos including the introduction of a new Amazon Kindle reader for Windows 7 with some interesting new touch features. The focus throughout the entire presentation was on making the PC simple once again and Microsoft's new vision of 3 screens and the cloud. Without hinting too much on the Windows Mobile side it's clear that Microsoft is pushing hard for cloud computing in 2010 and linking up Windows itself, Windows Mobile and many of the Windows live offerings is the main goal for Microsoft next year. We are expecting the upcoming Professional Developers Conference next month in Los Angeles to have a major focus on cloud computing and the upcoming Office Web Applications and Office 2010. With the public beta of Office 2010 expected to debut at the same time as PDC. Whether Microsoft can regain market share in the mobile market and position itself to offer compelling cloud based services remains to be seen.

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Friday, October 23, 2009

Embedded Video

Was updating the Firefox 3.5 Beta 4 to RC when I came across a link that can play a video without 3rd-party plugins.

Source: http://tinyvid.tv/show/3uwvr4t3wi3rm


Tested on: Firefox 3.5 or any browser that supports HTML 5

If you see a notification to install a Java-plugin, that means your browser is not supported.

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Thursday, June 25, 2009

Microsoft introduces controller free gaming, Project Natal

Microsoft today introduced Project Natal, a method for interacting with games, controller free.

The software giant unveiled the project at a packed out press event for this years E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles, California. The ground breaking technology was introduced by both Stephen Spielberg and gaming legend Peter Molyneux. Both believe the technology has the power to turn games into a true mass entertainment medium. Spielberg said "This is a pivotal moment that will carry with it a wave of change, the ripples of which will reach far beyond video games".

The technology behind Natal is fairly simple, a TV-mounted camera/microphone bar to sense motion, sound and movement. What's new and ground breaking is the tracking of 3D movement as well as 2D movement. The system is also able to scan users faces and sign them into Xbox live, as well as react to vocal tone and pitch, and process this data in real-time.

The technology looks promising and will allow users to interact with the Xbox menu systems, avatars and games specifically designed for the upcoming unit. Microsoft confirmed Natal, which has no official name, release date or price, will also work with existing Xbox 360 consoles as well as all future models.

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Windows 7 RC x64 version

(originally posted on the main blog)

(I uploaded a JPEG version of this, but it mysteriously disappeared on the image hosting site...)

I have used the Windows 7 32-bit (x82) beta version (build 7000) back when it came out earlier in the year. After discovering that my laptop (Acer Extensa 4620) could run 64-bit (x64) version, and with the release of the Release Candidate (RC) version, I decided to replace it.

During the installation process, like the beta, I have to select customize instead of upgrade and select the drive to install on. Had to be careful with this part as there is a long list. Fortunately, the name of the drive, capacity and the amount of free space are shown. Although I have already backed up my files on the drive, formatting the installation drive was not necessary. The Windows folder from the beta had ".old" added to the name. Since I don't need it, I deleted it.

Like the beta, there is the feeling that it's somewhat different from Windows Vista. I have used Vista since 2Q 2007. Have to admit, before Vista SP1, copying files especially, seem as though something is not right about it. Also , it wasn't until a year later, when the warranty expired, that I upgraded from 1GB (512MB + 512MB) to 2.5GB (2GB + 512MB) of RAM.

Anyways, I went to customize the themes and had a pleasant surprise. Besides the default theme, I noticed 5 additional themes (Architecture, Cartoon, Scenery, Nature, and Scene), something that I have not seen since Windows 95 Plus! ages ago. Upon clicking on the theme, Windows would nicely/magically change into the new theme. Exploring further, I notice that the wallpaper could be changed at set fixed intervals from any folder you like. Be it the default images, your drawings, or even... well, basically any supported image. The bar that used to contain widgets is replaced by one that you can drag around the screen and have it to appear at the very top. Access it by selecting "Gadgets" after right clicking on the desktop.

Not sure if it's an Ultimate version-only feature, but after heading to the Windows Update and selecting some optional updates, I was able to change the display language. Requires me to log off first though. Not sure if other updates are the cause of this, but a restart is also needed. Options to install those other languages seem to come and go at random. (Is it me or is WMP12 auto filling in missing info for my mp3 files wrongly from the moment it's opened and files added to the library?)

Another thing that I did not mention in the beta review is the new taskbar. If you hover it, the mini-thumbnail of the window appears. If it's a media player, controls would appear (currently works only with WMP12), if there are multiple windows (and tabs for IE8) of it, it would be grouped with each individual ones appearing. In earlier versions, even though the option isn't available, you could also move the taskbar to any corner of the screen as long as it's not locked. In Windows 7, this is made more obvious, though bottom is still the default. On top of that, you can also choose the following options for the way the icons in the taskbar appear:
  • Always combine, hide labels - (Displayed on most screenshots) This is the default option. Could tell programs from their icons. Also looks nice when it's at the side of the screen, which also takes up fewer screen space if on a widescreen display than to have it at the default bottom.
  • Combine when full -  Self explanatory.
  • Never Combine - (Displayed on the 2 screenshots of this paragraph) If you prefer separate icons for each running program, even if multiple instances of it are opened this option is for you. Multiple tabs in IE8 in a window are still display as a single icon if hovered over though, unless you have multiple windows opened. The closest to the classic option.
Performance ranking - The numbering might be different from Vista, but it still have the same function: scans all your processor, random access memory, graphic memory (for both games and Aero), and the transfer rate of the primary hard disk, and then takes the lowest rating. A blue coloured rating indicates that the ratings are current, grey if new hardware/driver is detected and a rescan is needed for an updated rating. Although it took a while to scan, my system rating fell to 3.2 from 3.4 after the rescan because of Aero support. Everything else remained unchanged.

I did mention that this is the x64 version, so what happens when I try to run a 32-bit program? Well, when installing to the Program Files folder, it would, by default, install into the "Program Files (x86)" folder. However, there may be some obscure programs that don't install there. An example would be visual novels, which seems to still actively support that ancient Windows XP and earlier operating systems and provide false alarms to anti-virus programs. If you're lucky it (visual novels) might actually run on Vista 32-bit. Setting the compatibility mode by right clicking on the program, click on properties, heading to the compatibility tab, enable that check box, and selecting the drop-down list don't seem to work. Speaking of that, the compatibility even includes service packs of earlier operating systems. The only real benefit of using 64-bit over 32-bit is that it could use more than 4GB of memory or more, which includes both system RAM and Video RAM combined.

Microsoft also made some improvements to the power button in the start button by making it obvious what pressing the button would do and having the ability to change that. Here's how different from earlier versions (might be different for corporate PCs):
  • Windows 3.1 & earlier - Except for the NT versions, exiting Windows meant heading back to MS-DOS. I don't know how to shut down in MS-DOS, but I think you could just power it off when nothing is running. For NT versions, it actually shuts down.
  • Windows 9x - pressing "Shut Down" would pop up a window with black dots at every other pixel and a window at the middle with ratio box (drop-down list for ME) for options in question format. In Win95/98 there was also an option to enter MS-DOS from there. Having it to head to sleep or log off instead appears as a separate option in the start menu and may or may not appear.
  • Windows XP - Difference from 9x is that it is now represented in a colourful box and the background actually fades into monochrome instead of a pseudo one. You could switch to other users without logging off. However, to hibernate, you would need to press the Shift key and the standby option would change.
  • Windows Vista - Pressing that button would immediately have the computer to be in standby mode instead of shutting down and, if long enough, hibernate. If there is an update needed to be installed (indicated by a yellow shield with an exclamation mark next to the icon), it would shut down after installing updates. Fortunately, there is an arrow to the right of it for more options. Option to switch/log-off user is integrated in there too.
  • Windows 7 - Same as Vista, but default has changed to shutdown instead and made visible what pressing the button would do.
Looking around, people seem to only know the "Shut Down" and "Restart" options seeing how often they complained on how long it takes to start up. Let me explain how it works in the order that appeared in Windows 7:
  • Switch User - Switch to another user account on the computer without logging off
  • Log Off - Logs you off from your account. Sometimes, you could use this instead of restarting and logging back in
  • Lock - Locks your computer to prevent unauthorized persons from using the computer while you go away. (Shortcut: Winkey + L)
  • Restart - Same procedure as Shut Down, but starts again after shutting down as though you had automatically pressed the power on button again right after it had shut down.
  • Sleep - Have the PC in a low-power state mode and would immediately start back when woken up. Power indicator might be red/ember or flashing green.
  • Hibernate - Somewhere between Shut Down and Sleep. It saves your session and shuts down and resumes back when turning back on. Useful for portable devices or, for some reason, want to temporally unplug the power chord. Slower when compared to sleep, but still a lot faster than shutting it down and turning it back up.
  • Shut Down - Starts the procedure so that the PC could be turn off safely. Older hardware, might display a message saying that it's safe to turn off instead of doing it automatically. Recommended only if you want to install updates, programs you just installed requires restart, but don't want it to start up again (eg. need to leave), or physically unplug the power chord (for desktop or laptop without battery) or battery (for laptop not plugged in) to move stuff around, opening it up, or just save electricity from non-usage for a long period of time.
I'm aware that there is a Windows Virtual PC that included Windows XP available for download, but my PC doesn't meet some of the requirements. Besides, I already have Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 on the Vista partion with the add-ons on all Guest OSes installed (except Win 3.1 & 95) and I only used that to check compatability of my web pages in Windows ME's IE6 or programs that can't work with Vista, the latter, as I found out, was caused by the anti-virus and can't be bothered with the white-listing or disabling it temporalily.

I would like to test on other PCs, but they are quite old (2002 or earlier) or had their curcits burst. (Remember me saying about inserting the RAM wrongly on the  2005 motherboard?) I also don't have the finance to buy a new one. At the current rate, the amount I get from those miserable banners per month won't even cover an item at a 100-yen shop...

What would I do when I'm done with the RC? Well, if they RTM or RC2 comes out or the time it expires in 1Q 2010, I would install some kind of a free Linux distribution on it. Might be Fedora, might be Ubuntu, who knows? No point downloading it now as there could be a new version by then and I already have burned CD images of various distros from some time ago.

That's all I could type for this review. For more detailed info and screnshots, I would like to refer you to Paul Thurrott or anyone who have better insights and could explain stuff that I don't understand like Hyper-V better than me.

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Friday, May 29, 2009

Yahoo! starts shuting down GeoCities

Yahoo! has quietly stop all new registrations today for new customers on the free web hosting service, GeoCities. The service which opened in 1994, lasting almost 15 years, the company as decided to shut down all new registrations, where current accounts will be deactivated later in the year.

Current accounts maybe pushed to purchase a hosting plan later in the future to continue to keep their account. Yahoo! posted this on their web site about why they are not accepting new customers:
"We have decided to discontinue the process of allowing new customers to sign up for GeoCities accounts as we focus on helping our customers explore and build new relationships online in other ways. We will be closing GeoCities later this year."

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Friday, April 24, 2009

Xbox 360 warranty for E74 errors extended

Microsoft today has announced an extension of the Xbox 360 for owners who receive the E74 error. The console receives the E74 error for a number of reasons including problems with the scaler chip (ANA or HANA) or a problem with the AV cable. However the most likely reason is the GPU which overheats and causes the motherboard to bend. Cold soldering joints have also been blamed for the error occurring.

"While the majority of Xbox 360 owners continue to have a great experience with their console, we are aware that a very small percentage of our customers have reported receiving an error that displays ‘E74′ on their screen.

After investigating the issue, we have determined that the E74 error message can indicate the general hardware failure that is associated with three flashing red lights error on the console. As a result, we have decided to cover repairs related to the E74 error message under our three-year warranty program for certain general hardware failures that was announced in July 2007."

As with the red ring of death (RRoD), Microsoft will also refund customers who have previously experienced the E74 error and paid for repairs, in the next 4 to 12 weeks.

Microsoft's latest revision of the Xbox 360, nicknamed Jasper, uses a lower powered 65nm GPU, which many believe have finally solved the E74 errors in new consoles. Before now every 360 included a 90nm GPU.

Reportedly there is only one revision left for the Xbox 360, nicknamed Valhalla, expected later this year. It is believed the CPU and GPU will both be 45nm to further reduce production costs, but that they will also share the same piece of board. This will further benefit the cooling inside, but also reduces the space needed by around 30%. This information leads many to believe we could see a Xbox 360 "Slim" and will be Microsoft's last revision of the 360 before the next generation.

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Apple unveils new iPod Shuffle

Apple surprised many today by unveiling a redesigned iPod Shuffle. The new design gets a memory spec bump to 4GB for $80.00. The new design (seen below) has no screen but Apple did include a new VoiceOver feature.

VoiceOver allows "[w]ith the press of a button, it tells you what song is playing and who's performing it. It can even tell you the names of your play lists, giving you a new way to navigate your music".

The new unit is on sale now in steel gray or charcoal colors and comes with the usual Apple accessories. Apple generally unveils new products on Tuesday but with this unveiling maybe Apple is trying to keep its followers on their toes.

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Thursday, March 12, 2009

Using Windows 7 (beta)

(originally posted here)

Earlier yesterday (Sunday), I had downloaded the beta version of Windows 7. Downloads can only be done up to February 10, 2009, incomplete downloads on that day will have an additional 2 days to complete. Due to the nature of installation, the download file was a DVD iso image (~2GB) and had to be restarted several times. Knowing that this would work until August 1st, 2009, it would be best to install it on a different partion, as a virtual OS, or another PC that you don't mind formatting over. The requirements are a 1Ghz processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of free space, and whatever graphic requirements. It was so good that, apart from some bugs, that it does seem ready to be released as the RTM version. There wasn't any major problems with the hardware or software I tested.

Partitioning wasn't really an issue as there were already 2 equal partions on the laptop drive between Windows Vista (C: Drive) and another without an OS on it (D: Drive). I just need to backup the files on the C: drive and move existing files on the D: drive onto one of the 3 portable hard disk drives I have. By backing up, I mean copying personal files to a different physical drive and not using the program that came with the operating system (or any 3rd party software), mainly because it is more troublesome to recover and, in some circumstances, may not work.

Installation, compared to earlier versions, was quite fast. Except for prompts asking me to restart, and selecting between the Windows 7 Setup and Windows Vista afterwards (this appears if the PC has 2 or more OSes on it), the begining (downloading of updates, upgrade or custom install), and the end (serial key), they never ask me for anything.

(check out someone's post for more details)

One of the first things I did was to check how different things are from Windows Vista Home Basic (and earlier) first hand. I know I have read a lot of reviews, most of it positive, but it would be better if I would experience it first-hand.

I know Aero came with Windows Vista, but the one I had is a Home Basic version, and there isn't any, or the very least, a pseudo version. And the only other operating I have use in recent years are Ubuntu Linux, Windows XP, and a tiny bit of Mac OS 9/X. So, the first time I experience it first-hand and using it as I like, I actually liked it.

The taskbar is different, if you hover over the Windows Media icon in the taskbar, you can control the song from that pops up with the control buttons. For the IE8 (beta) icon, hovering over it would show all the tabs that are open in it. I tried with Crome earlier (at least, the version as as the time of this post), but that don't seem to work unless all the tabs are separated. This is a major overhall since the earlier version was introduced in Windows 95.

The background can be set to change from every 10 seconds to 1 day. Of course, the order can be shuffled. Also, when setting the wallpaper, there is also the option to fill and fit, on top of the existing center, tile, and stretch options.

Movie Maker is missing, but is included in the version of Windows Live Essentials suite that was released last month (January). However, at the current state, the features are somewhat limited as compared to the one that came with Vista.

As a comparisian of how far Windows 7 has come, I have opened smillar things to Windows ME (which came out 10 years ago) and you can see how different it is. Both screenshots were taken on the same day.

Windows 7 (beta)

Windows ME

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Monday, February 2, 2009

Recorded: Google maps car hits a deer

It's a sad fact that deer get hit by cars everyday but not everyday does a Google Maps car hit a deer and record the event. It's a sad fate for the deer but the entire event was recorded and uploaded to the live version of Google Maps.

You can attempt to view the picture here but that particular spot is being hit pretty hard by traffic; a screen capture is posted below.

The Google employee had to have known that they hit the deer but the more interesting thought is why did they proceed to upload the images? Is Google that determined to be the first to map the roads by street view that they don't care what goes live on their site?

Regardless this can be added to the long list of odd and funny things that have been caught on Google Maps.

Google has responded and states "the deer was able to move and had left the area by the time the police arrived".

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Friday, January 30, 2009

Wikimedia Foundation raises $6.2 million for Wikipedia

The Wikimedia Foundation announced Friday that it has reached its goal of raising over $6 million to sustain Wikipedia.

With the help of over 125,000 donors from around the world, the Wikimedia Foundation raised a total of $6.2 million, sustaining Wikipedia for the foreseeable future. The money will be used to maintain and grow the foundation's technical infrastructure.

"This campaign has proven that Wikipedia matters to its users, and that our users strongly support our mission: to bring free knowledge to the planet, free of charge and free of advertising," Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, wrote in a thank you letter posted on Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation's Web site. "We deeply appreciate the generosity of our supporters."

The Wikimedia Foundation was behind in its total contributions in late December, but Wales published a personal appeal on the foundation's site to increase funding. In the eight days trailing that message, more than 50,000 contributions flooded in, totaling $2 million and closing the gap toward the goal.

The Wikimedia Foundation is still accepting funding on its donations page.

Written by Haruka Takahashi on Saturday, January 3, 2009