An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a plumbing nightmare, Microsoft retail store stupidity, the duh-ness of a free Windows 7 upgrade, a worm maker bounty, Zune on Windows Mobile, Microsoft vs. Adobe, and so much more...

WinInfo Blog

It's been one of those weeks. After discovering that the tires on my wife's car needed to be replaced immediately to the tune of $1000, my daughter dropped a bottle in the cellar, soaking the concrete floor with milk, and during the cleanup we discovered that our hot water heater was leaking: Another $1000 fix. Then the tub upstairs and sink in the kitchen both backed up at about the same time, and amazingly the events were unrelated. Fixing the two cost $500, but the day of the fix, the hose from the dishwasher sprung a leak as well, filling the cabinet under the sink with water. Now the entire dishwasher needs to be pulled out to replace this thing, to the tune of another $300 or so. Geesh. On the good news front, that pretty much covers all of the plumbing related silliness that could happen in our house, especially when you add in the sewer backup from the street that caused our basement to flood a few months back. (We're still trying to get the town to pay for that one as the problem was out in their sewer, not in ours.) Good stuff. That it's Friday the 13th is just a coincidence, I'm sure.

All of this housework would be unwelcome under the best of conditions, but it's also happening in the days leading up to a big trip: Our family is heading out on vacation Friday evening to Portugal. This is a trip that we might have opted out of if we had known how bad things were going to get financially in the intervening months, though it was actually pretty inexpensive overall. I actually did check with the airline and with Expedia about cancelling it, but it didn't make sense, so off we go. I have to think that having almost $3000 in additional cash the day of the trip would have been nice, however. Anyway, we'll be in Lisbon through Thursday, but that won't impact WinInfo at all.

Leo and I recorded the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday as usual. It should be up by the end of the weekend as always. Next week's episode will be recorded on Friday because of my trip.
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/Paul/windows-weekly-podcast.aspx

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Short Takes

Third floor: Makeup, women's apparel, Office 2007
Apparently there isn't anything that Microsoft won't copy from a successful competitor. Ending months of speculation, Microsoft this week revealed that it will indeed be creating its own retail stores sometime in the near future. And its hired a former Wal-Mart exec to make it happen. (Apparently people who destroy competition get along well with each other. But I kid.) Beyond that, the details are unclear, as even Microsoft professes to not sure how to proceed. The company doesn't expect to open very many stores, and doesn't yet know where they will be located. It's not sure if the stores should be there to sell products or simply show off Microsoft software and hardware solutions. Hey, whatever it does, this is great timing: I'm pretty sure consumer confidence hasn't been this low since Genghis Khan was making forays into northern China in the early 13th century.

Not news: After a certain time, Vista-based PC buyers will get free Windows 7 upgrade
Every time that Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, it offers free upgrades to that OS to users who buy a PC running the previous Windows version in the months right before and after that new release. Despite this, the Web was a aglow this week with news that Microsoft would--get this--give Vista-based PC buyers a free copy of Windows 7 if they bought that PC close enough to the release of Windows 7. Wake up people. They've been doing this for years. Moving on.

Wanted: Worm creator, dead or alive. Well. Alive, actually
Microsoft this week offered a $250,000 bounty for any information that leads to the arrest of the hacker who created the Conficker (aka Downadup) worm that is expected to eventually infect millions of PCs around the globe. The worm exploits a flaw in Windows that Microsoft fixed months ago, but because so many PCs still don't take advantage of Microsoft's Windows Update service and its auto-updating functionality, many PCs could still be compromised. This isn't the first time Microsoft has used a Wild West technique to capture a hacker: In 2004, the creator of the Sasser worm was tracked to his home in Germany after Microsoft issued a similar reward. That moron was later sentenced to a 21 month suspended sentence and a lifetime of shame.

Confirmed: Zune Software heading to Windows Mobile
And speaking of a lifetime of shame, just days before the Mobile World Congress, where Microsoft is widely expected to unveil a sweeping set of consumer-oriented initiatives around relaunching its flagging Windows Mobile brand, a set of screenshots has leaked of Windows Mobile 6.5, the next version of its mobile device OS. And sure enough, in these shots we can see the Zune device software has heavily influenced the design of Windows Mobile 6.5, up to and including a Marketplace online store option. That said, it looks like the Zune interface is just one of a few UI options. Another features an interesting honeycomb UI, presumably for touch screens, with different applications and launching points accessible from each piece of the comb. Next week should be interesting.

Microsoft and Adobe in war of words of Silverlight
Because an actual war would require more than 17 people to actually use Silverlight. This week, Adobe executive vice president Mark Garrett said that Silverlight usage online was "fizzling out" after a strong start around the time of the Olympics last year. (NBC used Silverlight to provide Olympics videos online.) Microsoft reacted with uncharacteristic fury. "The idea that Silverlight is in anything other than rude health is more to do with what Adobe would like to be the case, rather than what actually is the case," Microsoft director Tim Sneath wrote in a blog posting. "For starters, Silverlight 2 shipped four months ago, and in just the first month of its availability, we saw over 100 million successful installations just on consumer machines. That doesn't sound like 'fizzling out' to me." Huh. I guess more than 17 people are in fact using Silverlight. My bad.

And you thought Windows Update was bad
This week, Apple released yet another astonishing series of security updates for its Mac OS X operating system and Safari Web browser, You'd think given the volume and frequency of these updates, that people would simply have gotten the message: Unlike Microsoft, Apple simply doesn't "get" security, and they have no concept at all of the effects these releases have on their users. And on Windows, of course, the company fools users into download unneeded and unwanted software via its Software Update tool. So I had to laugh when ZD's Ryan Naraine belatedly asked in a blog post about this, "How does Apple get away with this badware behavior?" They get away with it, Ryan, because no one calls them on it. They get away with it because Apple users put up with a level of baloney that Microsoft customers would never put up with. If Microsoft spammed us with updates as often as Apple does--and let's face it, we do get a decent number of updates, regardless--or tried to fool Windows users into downloading unneeded software, there would be a worldwide revolt. But in Appleland, it's just business as usual. Something to keep in mind, along with the Apple Tax, the next time you consider switching after watching one of those annoying and arrogant Apple "I'm a Mac" ads. It's not a religion. It's a business.

January was a big month for the Xbox 360
The biggest ever, in fact, depending on how you look at it. Microsoft this week said that its Xbox 360 posted a record month in January, in that it saw a 33 percent jump in hardware sales year over year. Of course, the 360 is still getting cranked by the Nintendo Wii in the numbers department: Nintendo sold almost 680,000 Wii consoles in January, compared to just 309,000 for the 360 (and 203,000 for the Sony PS3). And I'd also point out that the top three selling console game titles in January all run on the Wii exclusively. So, what is the basis for Microsoft's self-pronounced success? Hey, some people are actually watching Netflix-based movies with the thing. That's gotta count for something.

Monday is a holiday
We will not be publishing WinInfo on Monday because of the President's Day holiday. See you on Tuesday!