Ian Bell over at Digital Trends caught my attention when he repeatedly claimed that some users who have Windows Update configured a certain way would get Bing Desktop automatically.
The article in question is a review of Bing Desktop - which is basically an application which places a search box on your desktop, along with the Bing image of the day as your wallpaper. Straight forward enough right, they take some pot shots at it - they're a pretty anti-Microsoft website. The author of the article however accurately stated that it is an "optional" update.
Digital Trends CEO, however commented several times on the article:
It's not optional for everyone. There is an option to have Windows automatically add ALL updates when they are available. Its the first thing Windows asked on a new computer. So some people are getting it installed whether they really want it or not.
The problem I have with this is how Microsoft is pushing it to users. Some people have Windows setup to automatically install ALL updates. Well, this isn't an update, its a new feature and it shouldn't be pushed to consumer desktops through this manner. Shame on Microsoft for getting desperate here.
Oh, and cant wait for some press release to come out next month saying that Bing has grown 2000% in the last month (since this update was pushed).
And dead wrong. The guy lacks even the most basic understanding of how Windows Update works. Yet loudly proclaims his misconceptions as fact to further push his bias agenda.
Windows Update breaks updates into three categories.
Important - security fixes.
Recommended - bug fixes, updates to .NET Framework, etc.
Optional - extra things like language packs, Bing Desktop, updates to Zune, Windows Live Essentials and device drivers etc.
There are several settings which control how updates are installed and if they're installed automatically.
Microsoft, wisely recommend that important updates are installed automatically. You can also, if you opt-in, tell it to install recommended updates automatically. Considering this is usually for bug fixes in Windows, and to update various optional components of Windows, this is usually a good idea.
There's also the option, again opt-in, for getting updates from Microsoft Update. If checked this allows other Microsoft software like Office, Zune, Windows Live Essentials and Bing Desktop in this case to use/appear on Windows Update to get their own updates seamlessly too or present themselves to end-users.
Under no circumstances are these optional updates ever installed automatically, nor is there any setting which in the slightest implies they are. The FAQ in Help and Support clearly states this:
You can set Windows to automatically install important and recommended updates, or to install important updates only. Important updates provide significant benefits, such as improved security and reliability. Recommended updates can address non-critical problems and help enhance your computing experience. Optional updates are not downloaded or installed automatically. For more information, see Turn automatic updating on or off and Change how Windows installs or notifies you about updates.
Quite clear. No Windows user will wake up one morning and have Bing Desktop sneakily installed on their computer, you need to make at least seven mouse clicks to tell Windows to download it, not counting the clicks required to finish installing it.
So pack it in with the baseless anti-Microsoft rhetoric.
The technology press continue to amuse me, long have they spouted the myth about the death of Internet Explorer. They always tout the gradual erosion in the usage share of Internet Explorer, a few years ago we'd see articles every month about how usage share has declined.
Today Internet Explorer remains healthy with 56.77% (according to Net Applications). Over the last year it had four months of growth, but overall is down 4.81%. Coincidently the tech press' old darling Firefox lost 2.47% share during the same period, losing 11% of its users, compared to Internet Explorer that only lost 8% of its users.
But how is Google, the darling of the technology press doing in its core business of search?
Using the same logic that the press apply to Internet Explorer, Google Search is far beyond a sinking ship, its a shipwreck that's on fire and is about to explode.
Google have dropped from 74.5% marketshare last year to 65% this year (According to Compete). Google managed to shed 9.5% share to its main rival Bing. With numbers like that more than 12% of Google's users in the last year have moved over to Bing.
That's double the marketshare that Internet Explorer lost in the same period.
Yet we don't hear a peep about this.
Of course Internet Explorer isn't really a sinking ship, Internet Explorer 8 was the fastest growing browser ever, and version 9 not only offers fantastic HTML5 support, it is also the fastest browser on the planet. Nor is Google Search a shipwreck on fire about to explode, I actually use it for most of my complicated search queries, because it handles them better than Bing, which is better at more mainstream stuff.
The point of this post has simply been to highlight the hypocrisy in the technology press. They can't call Internet Explorer a disaster, and cite losing 5% marketshare without calling Google Search an even bigger disaster.
With a fair bit of hype Google launched their "Instant" search yesterday. Well Catherine was getting it, it wasn't showing up on my machine despite being behind the same router and using the same browser. Today it is.
Google describe it as:
The new experience transforms search, delivering results instantly, in a way that has never been done before. Now, results appear automatically.
Very nice. Basically it returns results for every character you type, well less so if you type fast. At the moment it's being pretty slow here, and only kicks in after I've typed a word or two. Was a bit faster yesterday so I assume their servers are under more load than usual due to all the coverage.
But Long Zheng in about two hours put together the same thing over a year ago with Bing's AJAX APIs.
Never been done before? Get real Google. You also lose points for using the word "magic" in your little marketing video.
I'll stick to using Bing as my default search engine, I only ever copy and paste things into Google, such as error messages as Google seem to do better in that regard and as such Google Instant isn't much use to me.
Longtime readers will know I am a huge fan of WorldWide Telescope. To put it mildly, WorldWide Telescope is the best astronomy program ever. If I had this when I was a kid I would never turn it off, it would autostart with the computer and I would be constantly looking at everything.
Anyway as you may recall a Silverlight based web version of WorldWide Telescope was released last year. It wasn't as well featured as the Windows client, nor anywhere near as fast. But it covered the basics. Essentially that's what has been intergrated into the new Bing Maps.
What's really cool is if you're currently in Streetside view, turn on the WorldWide Telescope application, and look up, you see stars! The screenshots in this post are of me stood, virtually of course, along University Drive in Phoenix. You can scroll through time as well to see the stars as they would appear above that location.
You can zoom in too. Below showing the Andromeda galaxy, you can access all the additional images as well, I could view it in infra-red with just a click of a mouse using images from the Spitzer space telescope for example.
If you're not in Streetside view, it still works, you just lose the perspective of having the ground under your feet, being able to see the complete sky instead without it being blocked out by the Earth.
All in all, good stuff. The only thing I can really complain about is performance, unlike the Windows client, it doesn't have anywhere near the same sort of silky-smooth frame rate. So yes I would still recommend the Windows client. But its nice having the option in the new Bing Maps too.
Here's a video of it in action demonstrated by Blaise Aguera y Arcas at TED this year in addition to some of the other improvements in the new Bing Maps:
Well after years of complaining it looks like Multimap is no longer linked from the UK Bing page. Instead it links to Bing Maps directly. How it should have been.
Best of all Bing Maps now have Ordnance Survey maps too, which previously only Multimap had.
What's so cool about Ordnance Survey maps? You're not going to find the Hundred Stone, the old dismantled railway, old Roman villas or Jack the Treacle Eater on a "modern" map.