An often irreverent look at some of the week's other news, including a wet spring in New England, Windows 2000 UR1, WSUS RTW, new Office 12 file formats, more OS X on Intel, Longhorn vs. managed code stupidity, XP x64 upgrade confusion, and so much more!

Short Takes Blog

I read a story yesterday that caused me to bang my head repeatedly on the table, triggering a sort of reverse "Flowers for Algernon" effect. Apparently, Arizona is experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures around 110 degrees for the past week. Believe it or not, I'm jealous. Here in Massachusetts, temperatures have been in the 40s or 50s almost the entire month--or 10 to 20 degrees below normal--and it's been raining, every ... single ... day, for a week. I suddenly understand the somewhat suicidal feelings that overcome people in the Pacific Northwest, although I know from experience that it's never this bad there. Anyway, thanks to the record-breaking weather, I've had enough. I need sun. I need it now.

Update: As I wrote this, the sun peeked out from behind the mantel of clouds that has blanketed this area for a week. Because my request for sun worked, I'll try another request: I need money. I need it now.

If you haven't visited the SuperSite for Windows recently, please do: I've been kicking butt with my Xbox 360 coverage and have recently uploaded a slew of Xbox 360 screen shot galleries, which you might find interesting. As is typically the case, many of these screen shots are of cut scenes and not of actual game play, but I'll update them--and add more--as new imagery becomes available. I'm serious about Xbox 360. It's a first-class citizen on the SuperSite now, along with Windows XP, Longhorn, and Windows Server, because it's a major part of Microsoft's strategy going forward. Plus, it's just freaking cool.

That said, I recently renewed my Xbox Live subscription and have been regularly humbled in my Halo 2 and DOOM 3 death matches online. This is disconcerting because I'm actually pretty good at this kind of thing, but then I've done most of my gaming on the PC, with its familiar keyboard and mouse combination. I'll keep practicing. But in the meantime, if you're interested in beating me up virtually, my Gamertag is Paul Thurrott. If you want to literally beat me up, contact me via email, and I'll let you know when I'll be in town.

Monday is the Memorial Day holiday in the United States, so we're closed on Monday. If anything important comes up, I'll post it to the WinInfo Daily Update Web site. Otherwise, have a great weekend, and we'll be back on Tuesday. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

This Week's Other News

Exclusive: WMP 11 to Be Major Release; Beta This November
   Microsoft's original plans for Windows Media Player (WMP) 11--formerly code-named Aurora--were fairly low-key, with just a few minor new features. That's all changed: Microsoft has canceled Aurora, and the company is moving the Longhorn media player to XP. Now code-named Polaris, WMP 11 will be a major release. There's just one problem: Instead of shipping in November, as per the original plan, WMP 11 will now ship in a public beta during that month, coinciding with Longhorn Beta 2. The final release is roughly scheduled for early 2006. You heard it here first.

Exclusive: Windows 2000 UR1, WSUS Coming in Early June
   Windows enterprise customers will be happy to hear about two impending releases that will coincide with the start of the Microsoft TechEd 2005 trade show in early June. First, Microsoft will ship Update Rollup 1 (UR1) for Windows 2000--you know, that "thing" that replaces Win2K Service Pack 5 (SP5)--on June 1. On June 6, the company will release Windows Server Update Services (WSUS, formerly Software Update Services--SUS--2.0) to the Web (a type of shipment Microsoft calls Release To Web--RTW).

Exclusive: Steve Ballmer to Champion New Office 12 File Formats
   Speaking of TechEd, you can expect Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to announce details about the new file formats that Microsoft Office 12 will use. Microsoft Chairman and (ugh) Chief Software Architect Bill Gates briefly hinted at these file formats this past month at the
company's CEO Summit.

Now "Fortune Magazine" Has Corroborated My OS X on Intel Report
   I reported earlier this week that "The Wall Street Journal" had corroborated my earlier report about Apple Computer considering a move to Intel microprocessors. Now, "Fortune Magazine" has corroborated another part of my report, noting that it, too, has discovered that Intel is currently testing OS X running on Intel hardware in its labs. I took a big chance writing about what many people consider to be the longest-running rumor in the tech industry. But I'm glad I did. Coupled with two independent sources, the enormity of this news simply puts it over the top. Now, with mainstream business publications confirming details of the companies' collaboration, I guess I can breathe a sigh of relief. Apple might simply be pressuring its current chip supplier, IBM, rather than actively moving to Intel. But Apple and Intel are clearly exploring the possibilities.

Not News: Longhorn Won't Be All Managed Code
   I've received a couple of email messages from people who are concerned about a "breaking news story" that claims Longhorn (gasp) won't be rewritten in Microsoft .NET managed code. News flash time: Microsoft never planned to rewrite Longhorn in .NET managed code. Like its predecessors, Longhorn is built on an upgraded version of the same Windows NT kernel that Microsoft has been using for its enterprise-class OSs since 1993. That kernel, and most of the Win32-based subsystems that populate the rest of the OS, are written in C, C++, and, occasionally, assembly language. Longhorn is late enough without Microsoft undertaking the dubious task of rewriting key portions of this code in C# or whatever. Will there be new C# code in Longhorn? Of course. Will there be new C/C++ code in Longhorn? Again, of course. That was the plan all along.

Not News: Xbox 360 Controllers Will Be Windows Compatible
   I wrote about this on May 13, but in case you missed it, the Xbox 360 controllers will be compatible with Windows-based PCs, using an included controller-to-USB cable (the Xbox 360 controllers are typically used wirelessly). For some reason, this was a news story on May 16 as well. More here .

Microsoft Ends x64 Upgrade Confusion
   When Microsoft first unleashed XP Professional x64 Edition last month, some people were confused about who qualifies for the free upgrade (customers who got XP Pro with a new PC, primarily) and where they would get it (usually from a PC maker). Now, the confusion is over: All XP Pro users, regardless of how they acquired their copies of XP, are now eligible for a free upgrade to XP x64. The details of the new agreement are available at the newly renamed XP Pro x64 Edition Advancement Program Web site. Just one bit of caution: You almost certainly don't want XP x64 because of driver and application compatibility issues. If you do "upgrade," you lose the ability to reinstall your old 32-bit version of XP.

Intel Aims for the Home
   I attended a Webcast of a live event yesterday in which Intel spelled out its plans for reinventing the company and tackling the consumer market. First, Intel is now a platforms company, not just a microprocessor company; this means that Intel is now concerned with the entire PC "ecosystem" and will work to ensure that future PCs are more device-like (read: reliable and quiet) and secure. Intel has unleashed its first mainstream dual-core processor for home users, the Pentium D. This processor features x64 compatibility and will ship with a new chipset that's capable of accessing 8GB of RAM. It all sounds interesting, but we'll need to see what PC makers do with it. All the usual suspects (e.g., Dell, HP) have already announced new systems based on the Pentium D.

Palm This: PalmSource Palms Off Palm Name to palmONE
   Here's some funny naming confusion. When the original Palm split into palmONE and PalmSource, the former took control of devices, whereas the latter got the Palm OS, which it then licensed to palmONE and other companies, such as Sony. Now, palmONE has repurchased the rights to the Palm name and will change its company name back to Palm. As for PalmSource--which, remember, makes the Palm OS--no one knows for sure what its plans are. For the short term, PalmSource will continue to be called PalmSource, but the company will eventually change its name ... to something. I hope it's something that doesn't have the word Palm in it.

OneNote PowerToy Contest
   Microsoft is hosting a PowerToy for OneNote contest , in which contestants can submit small tools that enhance Microsoft's note-taking application in unique ways. I have a suggestion: How about a PowerToy that locks notes so that they can't be accidentally edited at a later date? If I take notes during a meeting, for example, I don't want to go in later and accidentally delete portions of those notes (which I've done), something that's made all too easy by the fact that OneNote doesn't ever prompt you to save changes when you've made an edit. It's the one truly silly problem in an otherwise excellent application. Surely someone out there can fix this.

New Netscape 8.01 Release Breaks IE
   The irony is somewhat delicious. Last week, Netscape released the latest version of its once-interesting Web browser, Netscape 8, and then immediately updated it to Netscape 8.01 when the company discovered that the original version included a massive security flaw. Netscape 8 is based on Mozilla Firefox but is bloated and lame-looking. It does have one cool feature, however: You can switch, on the fly, between Mozilla and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) rendering modes, making it a perfect browser for testing Web pages or occasionally dropping into IE when you hit a site that's incompatible with Mozilla. There's just one problem: According to Microsoft, Netscape 8 breaks IE's XML rendering capabilities. And the only way to fix it is to uninstall Netscape 8. So let me get this straight. Microsoft, which invented the concept of breaking competitor's applications, is complaining that another application breaks one of its own? Isn't IE technically broken, anyway? Seriously, unless you really need it for specific sites, you shouldn't use IE at all, just as you shouldn't drive a car in which the seatbelts have been ripped out. It's called common sense.