Monthly Archives: July 2009

Windows 7 tours gets animated Silverlight browser

[flv:win7tour.mp4 650 340]

Those fun and quirky animated characters at the beginning of every Windows 7 tour video released earlier are back to do more of what they do best, animate! Replacing a static imagery, the new Windows 7 tours page now features a fancier Silverlight player that does a little more than just play videos. Once loaded, each of the four “features” come to life when you hover over them.

Now I know I’m writing about fluff but the reason I’m keeping a sharp eye on these animated characters is because their production value is unusually high if for just a brief video introduction or website animation. I’m going to go out on a digital limb and predict we’ll be seeing more of these guys in the Windows 7 advertising campaigns to come.

Update: Thanks to a heads up from commenter “Martin”, this is the work of Digital Kitchen.

Windows 7 activation cracked via OEM licensing exploit, 85 days ahead of general release (updated)

Screenshot of Windows 7 activated

Image credit: user “arabmed” on forums

The flawless track record of anti-piracy schemes continues to shine as today Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage just failed every paying Windows 7 customer and customers to be. An advantage I’m sure all those people who pre-ordered Windows 7 sees very clearly now. Cue the Microsoft A-Team.

Thinking of simpler times, it looks like things haven’t changed all that much since Windows XP.

P.S.: I am not be posting links to how this is done and I’d encourage commenter not to either. It’s too complicated at the moment. Just kidding ;)

Update: Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage team claims they are able to and will be blacklisting the leaked OEM master key. Users who have used this “hack” are warned their Windows will become deactivated.

Yesterday we were alerted to reports of a leak of a special product key issued to an OEM partner of ours. The key is for use with Windows 7 Ultimate RTM product that is meant to be pre-installed by the OEM on new PCs to be shipped later this year. As such, the use of this key requires having a PC from the manufacturer it was issued to. We’ve worked with that manufacturer so that customers who purchase genuine copies of Windows 7 from this manufacturer will experience no issues validating their copy of Windows 7. At the same time we will seek to alert customers who are using the leaked key that they are running a non-genuine copy of Windows. It’s important to note that no PCs will be sold that will use this key.

Windows 7 already includes an improved ability to detect hacks, also known as activation exploits, and alert customers who are using a pirated copy. There is a hack that is said to enable, when paired with the leaked key, a system to install and use a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate. Both the hack and the key are indications that a copy of Windows may not be genuine. The Windows Activation Technologies included in Windows 7 are designed to handle situations such as this one, and customers using these tools and methods should expect Windows to detect them.

Whilst I acknowledge their noble efforts to prevent piracy for the time being, I can’t help imagining another OEM master key will eventually be leaked that they can’t block because PCs sold would have used it. What will happen then?

Microsoft sponsors Firefox!


Photographs credit: “gnell” /

However the money isn’t going towards the Mozilla Corporation. Instead, it’s gone towards an equal if not better cause, the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center. As it happens, Microsoft China has sponsored a pair of Red Pandas, otherwise affectionately known as the “Firefox”, and named them in true sponsorship spirit “Microsoft” and “Unlimited Potential” respectively.

One of these little guys is facing an identity crisis. A subtle joke? Perhaps. But generous nevertheless. :)

P.S.: Here’s a video of these cute little buggers in action at the park. Obligatory “Om Nom Nom Nom”.

Update 2: Similarly to English, “Microsoft” in Chinese is literally translated as “very soft”. Especially with a lack of differentiation between nouns and pronouns in Chinese, it is a surprisingly appropriate nickname.

Cool Microsoft job ad: Problem Solvers Wanted (updated)


Credit: Creative Spark

Credit where credit is due, this isn’t the first technology job advertisement to feature an “encoded” message, but it’s still nice to see Microsoft UK (note the pound) experimenting with it too. However personally I think it’s way too easy, especially for a challenging employer like Microsoft.

(found via The Chip Shop Awards 2009).

Update: It turns out the Chip Shop Awards is a light-hearted advertising competition that accepts entries which may not be for actual clients or have been published in public. It’s impossible to tell if Microsoft UK officially sanctioned this particular creative, although they probably should.

In the same competition is another “faux” creative worth mentioning for XBOX 360 that makes reference to the 13 year old kid who claimed to the be a father.

Native live font previews in Windows 7


Image credit Windows 95 “Choose Font” dialog:

I’m not sure how many people have noticed this before today, but I think someone at Microsoft deserves some recognition and geek credit for updating the “Choose Font” dialog window for the first time since Windows 95 almost 15 years ago. In Windows 7, this system dialog now presents live previews of the fonts using the actual typeface, similar to what Microsoft Office has done for sometime now.

Although I admit this isn’t a very commonly used user interface item – I’m even surprised I noticed it at all whilst changing the color of my text in Windows Live Messenger, I think it’s pretty cool someone put in the effort to modernize this feature when there was not much incentives to do so – one of many contributing factors to why there are so many UI quirks in Windows. A trend I hope continues for future Windows releases to come.

Speaking of fonts, the typography group at Microsoft also launched this neat mini-site dedicated to fonts in Windows 7. Most notably they point out there are over 40 new fonts in Windows 7 many of which are dedicated to non-English languages. Particular, two new fonts which I think deserve more attention are “Segoe UI Light” and “Segoe UI Semibold” which are excellent variants of Segoe UI.

XPize masks Windows XP UI quirks with a fresh coat of paint, Sevenize to come


For an eight-year old operating system, it now looks more complete than ever before. Whilst I don’t like to encourage extending the lifespan of an OS that should have retired long ago, at the same time I must commend the work of a noble grassroots effort who’s put together a neat resource replacement package called “XPize” now in its fifth and hopefully last version.

The goal of the “ize” projects including “XPize” and “Vize” for Windows XP and Vista respectively is to ensure consistent looking operating system by addressing all the UI quirks Microsoft didn’t. The screenshot above is just a sample of some of the graphics resource replacements XPize 5 implements.

The project now led and solely developed by David Rees who not long ago revived the project after it had become abandoned due to a lack of continued development also includes a completely new open-source resource-patching framework called Anolis, including but not limited to the awesome resource viewer Anolis.Resourcer. Although XPize is built with Anolis, it actually allows anyone to easily put together a resource-replacement package that can be safely installed on any version of Windows, 64-bit included.

Naturally, as the attention turns to Windows 7, David is already beginning work on, you guessed it, “Sevenize“. As a starting point, David hopes to address some of the still outstanding Windows 7 UI quirks published on the Windows 7 Taskforce. Of course if anyone is interested in contributing to the project, keep an eye out for the project website and forums (not yet set up).

And only on Windows can there be an ecosystem around fixing the operating system. ;)