Monthly Archives: April 2008

Giveaway: HP Pavilion HDX “Dragon” Notebook

I’ve given away some mousepads, headwear, reading material and a couple of software licenses before but I think this might top all of that in terms of size, weight, usefulness and most importantly, value.

Some of you might remember the HP Pavilion HDX 9000 “Dragon” Entertainment Notebook (possibly inspired by War and Peace) computer I reviewed last September, well there’s no better way to put it except HP is giving 31 (thirty-one) of them away. This site will be giving away one of them.

If the sheer number of them isn’t existing enough, the upgraded model they’re giving away is actually not even fresh on the market. The specifications include:

  • Operating system: Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core2 Extreme Processor X9000 (2.80GHz, 6MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
  • Display: 20.1″ diagonal WUXGA High-Definition HP Ultra Brightview Widescreen (1920×1200)
  • Memory: 4GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm)
  • Graphics Card: 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS
  • Personalization: HP Imprint Finish (Dragon) + Fingerprint Reader + Webcam + Microphone
  • Networking: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 4965AGN Network Connection and Bluetooth(TM)
  • Hard Drive: 500GB 5400RPM SATA Dual Hard Drive (250GB x 2)
  • Optical: Blu-Ray ROM with SuperMulti DVD+/-R/RW Double Layer
  • TV & Entertainment Experience: Integrated HP HDTV Hybrid TV Tuner and 4 Altec Lansing speakers + the HP Triple Bass Reflex subwoofer
  • Primary Battery: 9 Cell Lithium Ion Battery

But the excitement (for you) doesn’t stop there. The good people at HP and BuzzCorps also thought of what the winners might want to do with their new portable powerhouse – perhaps edit some pictures and videos, play a few games or watch some movies – and that’s the reason why they’re also throwing in:

Microsoft Office 2007, Corel PaintShop Pro Photo X2, Corel Painter 4, Ulead VideoStudio 11.5 Plus

Viva Pinata, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Microsoft Flight Simulator X Acceleration Expansion Pack, Gear of War

Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End (Blu Ray)

The competition works like this. The 31 machines are distributed amongst 31 technology blogs – some you probably read already and some you might not have heard of. Each blog will draw a winner on each day starting from May 9 to June 8. How each blog will pick a winner is unique but they will only accept entries starting from 7 days before the draw. Going to each blog to submit an entry is allowed and encouraged.

The schedule (iCal download) is as follows:

Remember to check out those sites at least 7 days before the giveaway draw date to find out how to enter. As for this site, how I’ll be doing the competition is still undecided. Keep a watchful eye.

Search Commands now available from Office Labs

Microsoft Office Labs, probably best known for their concept video of the future of personal health which was shown at MIX08 (video), have just launched their public website today at Similarly to Microsoft’s other product-development group Live Labs, Office Labs aims to test ideas for Office by building prototypes and collect usage data from the people who risk testing them. It’s win-win for everyone.

One of the tools they are making available today is the long-awaited Search Commands, codename “Scout” . For those who remember, the same tool made a cameo on the IEBlog about a month ago.

The Office add-in as of today supports Word, Excel and Powerpoint and like what was shown in a concept a year ago allows users to search for commands in the Office applications directly from the Ribbon. They can then quickly those commands by a numbered keyboard shortcut, giving quick access to commands or tools if you don’t know where they are in the Ribbon bar.

What’s interesting is that for this release they’ve also added “Guided Help” functionality. Guided Help was a feature in the beta releases of Windows Vista (but mysteriously taken out of the final release and still missing), it allows the system to “show you” how to troubleshoot tasks by highlighting what you need to click. Here, it offers a quick tutorial on how to use Search Commands.

I’ve only played it for a few minutes, but it seems to do exactly what it says it does and the results show up pretty instantly. However the only feature that’s missing is a As David kindly noted in the comments below, “Win+Y” is the quick-access shortcut key that jumps focus to the search field. Very cool.

Go download Search Commands and try it for yourself.

How to install Live Mesh client on non-US systems

If you live outside of the United States and have just received a Live Mesh invite, your excitement may have been watered by those little words telling you you cannot install the Live Mesh desktop client onto your computer because it is not using US-English. Apparently they didn’t get the message on globalization.

Well after a little investigation and experimentation, that’s actually not as much as a show-stopper as some of you may think. It involves a simple little Windows configuration change and a restart and you’ll be right back on track.

Step 1: Open the “Regional and Language Options” dialog. Type “Regional” into the Start menu and you should find it.

Step 2: Click on the “Administrative” tab.

Step 3: Click “Change system locale” and confirm the UAC dialog.

Step 4: In the drop-down list, find “English (United States)”. Click OK and OK again to restart the computer.

Step 5: Install Live Mesh client software.

Step 6: Revert your system locale to your original setting. You can continue to use the Live Mesh software once it has been installed without the locale being “English (United States)”.

Do you want a Live Mesh invite? Have an invite to share? Visit

You might have heard the buzz about Microsoft’s Live Mesh software-as-a-service platform launched over the past week and wondered what all the fuss is about. Well you probably didn’t get very far before you were stopped in the registration process to find out it was invite-only. Apparently it’s a necessary to help them scale with demand.

Today, LiveSide reported how existing Live Mesh users can invite other users using the folder sharing dialog and thus it’s beginning spread slowly since each person who accepts the invitation also receive a few invitations of their own to give out.

As soon as I got my own invite, I started thinking of the original “Gmail invite sharing” website and began to build one for Live Mesh. Thus, was born. If you would like a Live Mesh invite or have one to share, I encourage you to check it out.

In case you were wondering, this only took me roughly seven hours from to design, develop, test and deploy using PHP and MySQL. I owe most of it to Dreamweaver and Uniform Server.

Microsoft sponsored site “Carbon Grove” forces users to use Internet Explorer

When most companies are working towards making the web more standardized and interoperable, it feels as if Microsoft wants to take users back to the last decade when sites were specifically designed for and only one browser, in this case, Internet Explorer.

I only say this because Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team has recently sponsored a climate-change edumacation site called “Carbon Grove” designed exclusively for and only works on Internet Explorer 7 and 8.

To be clear, I actually don’t mind their sponsorship. The Internet Explorer team could very well sponsor this site if they wanted to and I’d be glad to take their money, but it shouldn’t influence who should or should not be able to access the website – adding “artificial incompatibility” – especially when there’s nothing technically preventing it so.

The main feature of the website is a Silverlight application and because Silverlight is supported on at least IE, Firefox and Safari, there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t work otherwise.

If you try to access the website with Firefox and spoof your user-agent to appear as Internet Explorer 7, you are presented with a Silverlight error which you can’t avoid even if you have the right version of Silverlight installed.

However to prove a point, I did a little bit of HTML hacking with Firebug on Firefox and what do you know, it works flawlessly.

The developers at Jackson Fish Market – a Seattle startup by three former Microsoft designers whom I regard highly – have assured me there’s no code or logic which prevents non-IE browsers from accessing the site besides the user-agent checker and I believe them. The Silverlight install prompt which blocks access is most likely a side-effect as a result of modifying the user-agent. The issue is that I shouldn’t have to lie about my user-agent in the first place.

Having said that, these developers have designed Silverlight sites (ex. Tafiti) before that work flawlessly across many browsers so it’s not like they don’t know how.

The fact is, somewhere along the line, someone said “this site should only work in Internet Explorer” knowingly it works perfectly fine on most other browsers. That I think is anti-competitive.

To be honest, with all the advancements Internet Explorer 8 makes towards working better with existing standards and even adopting the latest web standards ahead of competing browsers, I thought very highly of them. But this, is just ugly.

Ultimate Extras sound schemes: a comparison

Windows Vista Ultimate Extras Sound SchemesNot anyone can say they received some Ultimate Extras for a birthday present. Yesterday of course was my birthday and the day a new wave of extras was released, included is the third pack of DreamScenes as well as two new Windows sound schemes.

You probably all know where I stand on the Ultimate Extras program as a whole, if you don’t, basically I think it’s a great idea off the rails. Having said that I think it’s pretty unique and frankly quite cool. Maybe not “I forgive you for Ultimate Extras” cool, but certainly something worth some value. Of course I’m talking about the two new sound schemes called “Glass” and “Pearl”.

I composed this short comparison between the new sound schemes and the original. Note this is only a fraction of all the sounds which replace not all but most of the existing Windows sounds.

[flv:ultimatesounds.flv 500 313]

As you probably noticed these sounds are significantly different to the default and are actually very viable alternatives. There’s actually a pretty interesting and thorough story about the sounds on the website.

Some people have called this a 30-second fad and I agree up to an extent only because the first thing you do is go through the list of sounds and play each one, but after using them for a day the feeling is similar to when you first installed the Royale theme for Windows XP. It’s different at first, then it becomes a part of your experience you forget just how much better it is until you switch back to the original. If you’re wondering, I’m currently sticking with “Glass”.

If you have Ultimate Extras, go get it and try it on. If you don’t, wait patiently, I mean it’s just a bunch of WAV files. *wink*

Not too long ago they’ve also mentioned new Windows Movie Maker and DVD Maker effects and templates as extras which I assume will be next. After that, all bets are off.