An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a surprising side-trip to Northern Ireland, the 2008 Summer Olympics, Microsoft vs. VMWare, Samsung's lousy SSDs, IBM and Lenovo sitting in a Microsoft-free tree, and much, much more...

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We've just completed our second week in Ireland, which means we're almost done: We come home early next week. Dublin is the type of place you can pretty much see in a few days, and we've done virtually all there is to do here. Some of the more surprising sites here have been outside Dublin. As is the case in the west of Ireland, the east is dotted with various castles, ruins, and other sites, many of which are excellent.

We also took a three-day trip up to Northern Ireland, including the amazing coastline and Belfast. I'll say this: Virtually every guidebook and TV show about Ireland treats Northern Ireland as an afterthought, but having been all over this place--including such storied coastlines as the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula--nothing rivals the coasts of Northern Ireland, nothing. It is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places on earth, and from what I can tell, virtually no one even knows about it. Imagine Dingle without any tourists. Yes, I'm serious.

Now, there are of course popular places in Northern Ireland. Sites such as Dunluce Castle, the Giant's Causeway, and the Carrik-a-Rede rope bridge were all packed with Europeans on holiday, as you might expect, plus one or two Americans. (We ran into a couple from Vermont, for example.) But almost the entire coast from Carrick-Fergus up to the northern tip of Northern Ireland is untouched by tourism, with small picturesque villages, startlingly green vistas, amazing cliffs, and gorgeous seaside.

Belfast was also interesting, though it's sort of a one-horse town at this point with nothing but upside that just needs time to heal. That said, it was quite safe and the downtown area was pretty and prosperous. We took one of the famous taxi tours of the murals and political sites from "the troubles" and actually ran into Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, which was hilarious. (Why do I recognize this guy? Gerry? You mean...?) He was heading to work, like most other residents at that time of the morning.

Leo and I had to take off this week, so hopefully Windows Weekly will return next week. Oddly, it wasn't my fault, despite the fact that I'm on the other side of the world and have a pretty sad DSL connection here. Leo's on vacation.
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/Paul/windows-weekly-podcast.aspx

But wait, there more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed and the SuperSite Blog. I'm still posting while away, though not as frequently as usual.

Short Takes

The Big News this Week: The Olympics
The opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics are just three hours away as I write this--1:00 Dublin time, 8:00 pm China time--and while I don't think we need to get into a heated discussion about which country has the best Hurling team, I would like to remind US-based viewers to please visit the amazing NBC Olympics Web site, which has been built, somewhat courageously, with Microsoft Silverlight 2.0 technology. (It's still only in Beta 2 form as the Olympics begin.) The site, available now at http://www.nbcolympics.com/, will deliver an amazing array of content, including 2,200 hours of live video and 3,000 hours of on-demand video. Thanks to Silverlight, users will be able to watch multiple video streams simultaneously in a picture-in-picture format. That way, you don't have to miss the action, even when multiple events are vying for your attention. The Silverlight-based Olympics site was one of the obvious highlights of Microsoft's Web-oriented MIX show earlier this year. You're not going to want to miss this one.

Microsoft Takes First Chunk of Virtualization Market
Well, Hyper-V is so new we haven't completely taken off the shrinkwrap yet, but Microsoft has already seized a healthy chunk of the virtualization market. The software giant now owns 13 percent of that market, compared to 82 percent for market leader VMWare, according to analysts at IDC. (Open source virtualization solution Xen came in third with 3 percent.) To put this number in perspective, think about how successful everyone tells you that Apple with the Mac, and then remember that the 13 percent figure is over four times higher than the Mac's market share in the PC market and twice as high as the Mac's market share in its most successful market by far, the US. Yeah, I did just make that comparison. Deal with it.

Samsung Talking with Microsoft to Improve SSD Performance
Storage maker Samsung revealed this week that it is talking to Microsoft about ways to improve the performance of Windows Vista on Samsung's solid state drives (SSDs), a new type of no-moving-parts storage device that is replacing hard drives in low-capacity devices and computers. SSDs were supposed to be the holy grail of mobile computing, offering better performance and battery life, but Samsung has complained this year that Windows Vista runs poorly when installed on its drives. (Coincidentally or not, Vista runs fine on other companies' SSDs.) Samsung says it would like to help Microsoft optimize Vista for the unique characteristics of its drives, which fetch and cache data differently than traditional hard drives. Regardless of this work, SSDs remain too expensive to go mainstream just yet, and their relatively tiny storage capacities--up to 128 GB--are holding back adoption as well.

IBM, Lenovo Say They're Seeking Microsoft-Free Desktops
Earlier this week, IBM announced an initiative in which it would promote PC desktops running Ubuntu, Novell SuSE, or Red Hat versions of Linux instead of Microsoft's Windows, and IBM's Lotus Notes collaboration solution and Lotus Symphony office productivity suite instead of Microsoft Office. Yes, I know that sounds like the start of a bad joke, but PC maker Lenovo's not laughing. On Thursday, that company confirmed that it was examining IBM's plans to see whether it could offer such a solution to customers. The timing is related to Windows Vista, but don't read anything silly into that. The concern here isn't about popularity or viability--as Vista has already been sold to hundreds of millions of customers--but rather about technical resources. As a major new Windows release, Vista demands a modern PC, and IBM would like to position its solution as something customers could install on existing, older PCs. So will this amount to anything? To find out, I suggest you download and install Lotus Symphony yourself. It's free, and as you mouse around its ancient-looking user interface, you'll suddenly realize that this was all a joke after all.

Yahoo! Board Not as Universally Liked as Previously Thought
A week ago, we braced for a volatile Yahoo! board meeting, expecting some shareholders to call for various members of the board to resign. That didn't happen and, even more surprisingly, all of the existing board members coasted through the meeting while posting higher-than-expected favorability ratings. Or did they? Days after the meeting had ended and all of the Yahoo! board members returned to the comfort of their favorite golf courses and country clubs, some new results emerged: It turns out that those favorability ratings were all quite a bit lower than originally announced. The firm responsible for tallying the vote claims a "truncation error" caused the math malfunction. (I guess math really is hard.) Roughly speaking, the disapproval rating of the more controversial board members was about double the original figures. CEO Jerry Yang's disapproval rating jumped from 14.6 percent to 33.7 percent. Chairman Roy Bostock saw his jump from 20.5 percent to 39.5 percent. So I'm still wondering: When are these clowns going to resign and let some adults steer the ship for a while?

How Bad is Apple's MobileMe? They've Taken the Guy Responsible Out Back
Well, OK, they didn't actually pull a "Sopranos" on Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of applications marketing, but they did take responsibility of the beleaguered online service away from him. Now, MobileMe will be part of internet services VP Eddy Cue's responsibilities, and he's been charged by CEO/iGod Steve Jobs to fix it and fix it fast. I have to be honest here. Given the train wreck that is MobileMe and Apple's past experiences with .Mac and iPhone synching, I don't expect much of the important problems with the service to improve. They'll make uptime changes, and fix the Mac stuff. But Windows users should simply avoid MobileMe: We're going to see over-the-air solutions for Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft stuff soon.

See you next week ... Back in the good ol' US of A.