Monthly Archives: August 2009

Hardware already exists for Windows Mobile 7?

csr-winmobile7

A tiny piece of silicon has caught the attention of my peripheral vision perhaps providing some clues to just how far Microsoft is in to the development of Windows Mobile 7, or from the glass is half full perspective – how close Windows Mobile 7 might be to market.

Cambridge Silicon Radio, a UK company that specializes in chips for mobile devices (who just merged with the world’s #1 supplier of GPS chips SiRF), announced mid-June the UniFi CSR6026/CSR6028 chip, a single-chip solution to deliver WiFi 802.11n support in mobile embedded devices such as smartphones. The most noteworthy of its specifications is a mention of “Windows Mobile 7″ in its list of supported operating systems, on top of “Windows Mobile 6.x, Windows CE 6.1 and 5, Linux v2.6, Android”.

Assuming the specification is accurate (and it’s hard to imagine it being a typo of Windows Mobile 6.5), it means either CSR engineers are in possession of an operational time machine or that the kernel or hardware interface layer of Windows Mobile 7 have already been finalized by Microsoft. I’ll let you decide which one is more plausible.

student-wm7

On a related note, a student newspaper at the University of Waterloo interviews student Naheed Hirji who worked at Microsoft during winter break on Windows Mobile 7. Whilst Naheed appears extremely well trained by the Microsoft public relations folks on disclosure, he confirms WM7 is to be released in 2010 and reveals “the aim of Windows Mobile 7 is to be a hybrid between business and consumer oriented phones”. Right, whatever that’s suppose to mean. You win this round ambiguous marketing speak!

Windows 7 “busy” cursor misses a beat

First of all, a brief warning. This is one of those things that (like the arrow in the FedEx logo) cannot be “unseen”. Once you’re aware of it it will probably annoy you until the end of time. However fear not, thankfully there’s a simple solution to relieve the impending agony.

A sharp-eyed and on-beat user at the Windows 7 Taskforce has noted the default “busy” animated cursor in Windows 7 actually stutters a little during its animation loop. If you’re not seeing it at first, watch closely just before the shining highlight returns to the 12 o’clock position, skipping a beat somewhere around “11″ on the clock face. …Yes, there it is.

If you’d like to test the phenomenon for yourself, simply hover over this paragraph which overrides the cursor to display the busy cursor via CSS.

What’s most bizarre is although the style of the cursor is not new to Windows 7, the same cursor in Windows Vista actually does not exhibit the same phenomenon. A closeup of the cursors in slow-motion is provided below for forensic analysis.

Windows 7 “busy” cursor

Windows Vista “busy” cursor

Diving deeper into the guts of cursor files, its revealed the Windows 7 cursor is actually designed to display each frame for 3 “jiffies” (1/60 of a second) whereas the Vista cursor displays each frame for 2 jiffies. As the cursor animation is comprised of 18 frames in total, that’s a discrepancy of 0.3 of a second per loop. It’s not certain if this is indeed what’s causing the stutter, but it’s a good sign something changed.

Nevertheless if this stutter now bugs you, the brilliantly simple fix is to use the Vista cursor instead! If you don’t have a copy of Vista handy, you can get the cursor file here, copy to “%SYSTEMROOT%\Cursors” and configure your “Pointer” settings from the “Mouse” control panel.

After that’s all done, simply hover over the test area from above to appreciate the elegance and bliss of a smooth animated cursor again.

Update: Leo Davidson has tracked down the root cause of the issue and also made a proper fix download available here.

Windows 7 C edition. C is for Cookie.

Photo credit: BBBBianca / Flickr.com

Following the trend of Microsoft branded food-related products with the Windows toaster last month, now a Windows 7-branded cookie has appeared in China. One can only assume it will be packed with every pirated of copy of Windows 7 to satisfy your hunger during installation of the operating system.

In Europe, the cookie will only be sold unbaked. To promote competition, the European Commission advises purchasers to choose from a range of ovens in which they may bake their cookie.

Microsoft is now the proud new owner of Office.com

officecom

As of two days ago, Microsoft has been indeed confirmed to be the new owners of the Office.com domain that one clever commenter on this blog made a note of almost a month ago (thanks Bob).

The transition of this valuable domain from its previous owners ContactOffice Group – an European company specializing in virtual office solutions since the late 90s – to Microsoft seemed to have occurred on August 4 2009 as the domain’s Whois record notes.

[whois.markmonitor.com]
Registrant:
        Domain Administrator
        Microsoft Corporation
        One Microsoft Way 
         Redmond WA 98052
        US
        domains@microsoft.com +1.4258828080 Fax: +1.4259367329

    Domain Name: office.com

    Created on..............: 1999-04-19.
    Expires on..............: 2019-04-19.
    Record last updated on..: 2009-08-04.

One would be wise to assume Microsoft paid quite a pretty penny for this rare single-noun and vowels-intact domain that now make its Office Web application suite far more convenient to remember and access. The current Office URL, http://office.microsoft.com, never quite rolled off the tongue.

Now’s a good time as any to start F5-ing the site for updates.

Update: Robin Wauters from TechCrunch corrects a minor detail that the ContactOffice Group didn’t actually own the domain per se, but licensed it from a third-party under a sharing agreement.

Resource-spotting, trainspotting of the digital age?

taskmanperf

Several days ago, some Windows 7 users made an interesting observation that the Windows 7 disk checking utility consumes a large amount of memory in a very short time. This story has since gained momentum in the blogosphere under the snowball effect leading to the sensationalist belief this was a “showstopper” bug for Microsoft.

Whilst I agree there is some merit to debate the technical aspects of this phenomenon – why this process functioned properly in previous versions of Windows without much RAM, at the same time I’m surprised at just how many users still in this day and age are superfluously concerned about resource utilization, which I’m coining “resource-spotting” – a nod to trainspotting. To put that in context, if you ran this tool without the Task Manager side-by-side, would you be none the wiser?

Time and time again, I come across people who watch their Task Manager window like if it’s the Olympics 100m sprint. The same people who probably also have the “CPU Meter” gadget on their desktop. I admit there was a time when it might have been useful to minimize the “baseload” of CPU and RAM utilization to maximize performance, but with the prevalence exponentially more powerful hardware and more preemptive resource optimizations, it’s just no longer practical or relevant.

Take for example Windows Vista and Windows 7. These are modern operating systems with a number of background services that aim to optimize performance by identifying and precaching resources you may need to use before you use them. For this reason, around 70% of your RAM when idling (in my case 4GB out of 6GB) is actually utilized for caching. Of course when other applications need RAM, the cache is automatically reduced to accommodate other processes.

Another common example I see often these days is people complaining about Firefox’s memory footprint, or any next-generation browser for that matter. As a fulltime Firefox user, I confess Firefox is my most memory-consuming process for the most of my day, but I’m not at all concerned about this and why should I? If I can keep open dozens of tabs open which are all equally responsive to switch between and AJAX-heavy webpages load and perform extremely well, why should I use a slower but less memory-intensive browser if I have the memory to spare?

To me, what’s more disappointing about resource utilization is under-utilization. If I have the resources to spare, at any point in time where performance can be improved by utilizing more resources but isn’t, that’s a much worse deficiency of modern computing than a large number in a table of numbers.

Win your way to TechEd AU with a WinMo application

codemasonsguild

It would appear that a conference sells out pretty fast when a free netbook with Windows 7 is up for grabs, as Microsoft TechEd Australia helped demonstrate over the past couple of weeks. If you’ve missed out however, there is another way to get in. Free as a matter of fact, and the odds are pretty good!

The Codemasons’ Guild, a fancy (but admittedly shorter) name for the Microsoft Australia Windows Mobile developers club, is hosting two separate competitions that gives three (3) Australian developers and two (2) Australian higher-education students an all-expense paid trip to TechEd plus extras.

The competitions wittingly named “Master Codemason” and “Student APPrentice” asks developers and students respectively to come up with an interesting Windows Mobile application idea that fits one of twelve broad categories. Although one could argue fart-noise applications falls into either “entertainment” or “health”, I’d personally advise against them.

Whilst the site is a little contradictory in its terminology, it’s my understanding that besides a brief text description of the application, you will also need to submit some functional code and screenshots/videos of the application running on device or emulator. It doesn’t have to be perfect however as part of the prize is some technical mentoring to ready the application to market, but don’t leave it at “Hello World” either.

The competition closes August 17 for students and August 21 for developers so you better get your thinking caps on. You can find more details including but not limited to the enthralling terms and conditions of the competition at the official website.