Category Archives: blog

Changes to the Windows 7 install process


In the past couple of (very exciting) days, I’ve seen a lot of people confused about the Windows 7 setup process, and worst of all, spreading misinformation about version selection during the setup process. Since a lot of people are installing 7 early with good intentions to activate when their product key arrives in October, it’s probably worthwhile to install the same version you’ve preordered.

With that in mind, I want to help set the record straight on the new Windows 7 setup workflow. That is, by default, original copies of Windows 7 does NOT allow you to choose a version during install. Having said that, one can easily workaround the problem if they choose to.

installiconThe source of the confusion seems to have stemmed from people’s knowledge of how Windows Vista’s setup process worked. Although in many areas Vista and 7 are similar, this is one area they differ. Unlike Windows Vista, the Windows 7 setup process does not immediately prompt the user for a product-key.

Instead, users are only asked to enter a product key in final stages of Windows 7 setup – during the out-of-box-experience (OOBE). Previously whereas a product-key would have helped determine the version to install, this is no longer the case and the installer has to assume otherwise.

Up and until RTM, the ISO image files of Windows 7 that Microsoft distributed (and third-parties distributed) are labeled with a version. For the most part, this has been “Ultimate”. Even though the install image “install.wim” in Windows 7 still contains four versions, one version is automatically installed determined by a file called “ei.cfg” in the “sources” directory on the install disk.

To get around this limitation, simply deleting the “ei.cfg” file will allow you to choose a version to install (illustrated above).

P.S. Although this simple hack does allow you to switch between versions of Windows 7 to install, it does not allow you to install other variants of Windows 7 like Windows 7 E or Windows 7 N. You will have to download a new ISO image for that.

When “smart” technology is dumb: a lesson in Intel graphics power-saving features


In all seriousness, for a short while, I actually thought there was something wrong with my eyes. As it turns out, “smart” power saving technology by Intel was not only fooling around with my display’s image quality, but also fooling around with my perception. If technology today can make you doubt reality, this is the closest I’ve come to it.

The mystery started this morning when I noticed on my laptop with a recent install of Windows 7 the colors weren’t quite right. The most obvious symptom was that when I started Firefox 3.5, the toolbars gradually faded in contrast over the period of about 3 seconds. Text became harder to read, pictures appeared discolored. I knew at least static colors in the UI should not change, but it didn’t stop me doubting Firefox. I started noticing similar symptoms in other applications too.


Left: Standard Firefox toolbar. Right: Simulated image of Firefox toolbar with discolored effect.

In the hour that followed, I fiddled with applications, color profiles, color calibration tools and many versions of display drivers until I almost decided to format and reinstall. Whilst the new Windows 7 color calibration tool might seem like a very appropriate tool for this problem, it was a lost cause for me since after calibration the problem crawls right back, like if it was a mutating virus.

What pushed me over the line to doubt my eyes and my color perception was the fact that two screen captures of what appeared to me as obviously two different colors matched in a image editor. Just like those optical illusions where two colors appears different turn out to be the same, you’re forced to admit an error in your own perception.

To get to the point, I was not wrong. The colors of the toolbars did change, but at the same time, they match too. The magic behind this is a feature secluded deep in the depths of the graphics settings called the “Intel Display Power Saving Technology“. It’s a power saving feature in Intel’s latest range of mobile graphics chips which is described to reduce power consumption by “altering the brightness and contrast of the display”. What it did was it dynamically tweaked with the brightness and contrast combination like a sea-saw based on what is being displayed on the screen. This was why the toolbars changed in color when I visited different sites, and why it also matched when put side-by-side.

Intel, whilst this idea is noble in cause, it deserves no right to be turned on by default and tuned to “maximum” like it was. The before and after comparison might be subtle enough, but it was enough to drive me and my eyes crazy. No power saving feature should actually distort people’s perceptions.

I’d encourage everyone using a laptop with a recent Intel graphics accelerator to disable this power saving feature. Your eyes will thank me for it.

Microsoft’s future vision videos for education

Keeping tabs on the latest Microsoft future vision videos is almost becoming a job in itself. Following the critically acclaimed “2019” productivity vision video, the newest member of the “Labs” family – Microsoft Education Labs launched today with two vision videos focused on education in the next five to ten years.

Although these education vision videos are not as flashy in technical wizardry as compared to other videos in the series, it certainly demonstrates what many existing technology today can do for education if there is Utopian-like synergy between the products and services. That and perhaps if every school could afford at least a dozen Surface tables.

Until then, the pen and paper lives on for a little longer.

Microsoft “OneApp”, possible app store for Zune HD?


Whilst attention has shifted towards Windows 7 and Office 2010 for the time being, Microsoft’s other major product launch up for this holiday season, the Zune HD, is always at the back of our heads. On one hand, the unceremonious announcement of the Zune HD late May helped confirm many of the rumored technical specifications of the device, but at the same time there is still a lining of mystery over how its browser works and what other capabilities the device may have.

A trademark application by Microsoft early last week could be an indication of what more the Zune HD might do, applications.

Trademark application 77775625 for the trademark “ONEAPP”, or alternatively pseudo-marked “One Application”, is classified as a trademark for “online retail store services facilitating the download of computer software for use on mobile phones, media players and other portable electronic devices”.

Furthermore, a separate classification describes,

computer software for allowing mobile device users to send messages, make payments and access and play music, games and videos on mobile devices; computer software platforms for developing mobile applications; computer software, namely, software development tools for the creation of mobile applications; computer software for running retail store site for purchase and download of mobile applications over wireless networks

Of course all of this is assuming the mention of “media players” is intentional, but considering the Zune has always been a Windows CE device under heavy disguise, it’s not entirely far-fetched either. Certainly if XNA games is any indication already, then these devices are perfectly capable of running practical applications.

What’s even more interesting is the actual word, “OneApp”, which definitely gives the impression that the applications are somehow universal across classes of devices. It’s no secret that the Windows Mobile 7 team is collaborating with the Zune team. Write-once apps that works on both Windows Mobile and Zune? Wouldn’t that be nice.

How far we’ve come: reflecting on Microsoft’s 2010 collaboration vision video from 2005

It might be the latest hit single from Matchbox Twenty, but in anticipation of the impending (official) reveal of Microsoft Office 2010, I thought it would be fitting to take a moment to reflect on what was envisioned of collaboration technology in 2010 by no other than Microsoft themselves almost half a decade ago in 2005.

Surprisingly, Microsoft has been able to realize many of the concepts illustrated. For example, Office Communicator and an Exchange server allows for a unified communications experience with support for availability information. It just so happens Exchange 2010 enables voicemail messages to be automatically transcribed too.

Furthermore, Windows 7 with DirectAccess allows remote access of internal corporate resources without VPN software. The Microsoft Roundtable is an amazing product too and makes video conferencing a breeze. The only thing that doesn’t appear entirely fulfilled yet is the user experience, although we’re definitely making strides if you look at WPF-powered software such as the Lawson Smart Client.

If this blog is still around in 10 years, I’ll be sure to remind everyone of Microsoft’s 2019 vision too. 🙂