Tag: "microsoft"

BitLocker To Go - encryption for USB flash drives

With Windows 7 Microsoft is expanding BitLocker so users can easily encrypt USB flash drives.  What does this look like?  Well it looks a bit like this:

It then has a look at the drive for a few seconds and asks you how you want to unlock the drive, using either a password (8 characters minimum) or using a smart card and a PIN.

It then forces you to either save the keys used for encryption or print them off, good for sticking in a safe somewhere - good idea because if you forget your password and don't know the keys your data is gone.

After clicking next it'll go ahead and encrypt the drive.  This can take a while, especially on larger drives.

Once that's completed you'll be prompted to enter your password when inserting the drive.  You also get the option of automatically unlocking the drive for your user account.

If you want to read the drive on Windows Vista or Windows XP you can, as it comes with a small application that can decrypt the device to allow reading, but not writing.

Cosmos view in WorldWide Telescope

A new feature that WorldWide Telescope implemented in a recent release was the Cosmos view.

This takes data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey which is in the process of mapping the distance to a million or so galaxies. You've probably seen images like this one:

Which are taken from the SDSS and similar surveys. Now however you can view the data in 3D in WorldWide Telescope.

No these images don't do it justice. Instead open up WWT go down in the bottom-left corner of WWT and tell it to look at the Solar System, then click View at the top, and check the Cosmos box, if you haven't done this before you'll get a message recommending that you have at least 256MB of video memory else performance will suffer. Once enabled just keep zooming out from the Solar System.

Wizzing around the large scale super-structure of the universe = epic win. The only trouble now is I can't wait until the whole sky is mapped, out to say 10 billion light years, I've got a feeling I'll be waiting a while for that.

The case against unbundling Internet Explorer from Windows

Yes this thing just won't go away will it. Crippling the user experience to keep companies that are mostly a waste of space like Opera (although their mobile browsers are capable and fairly successful) in business is unacceptable.

We've seen this before, when the Java VM was unbundled from Windows it caused pain, not just to a few people but hundreds of millions who were forced to go to Sun's website and dig around and find the Java runtime - sure that was slightly different to this - but the end result is the same the user experience is reduced and millions of hours are wasted. Today we have to put up with junkware being installed along with Java - which is why it is banned from my machines.

We saw the same thing with media players. We see RealOne complain to the EU, a company which produces a horrible media player that had utterly failed in the marketplace, not because Windows comes with a media player (back then nobody used it, Winamp was probably the most popular), but because it was terrible. What do we get? The waste of space N versions of Windows - which nobody, ever has or will buy.

Operating systems should come with internet browsers, just like they should come with networking stacks and more than 2 fonts. Just like cars should come with more than 2 wheels.

The EC has showed once again they are clueless when it comes to technology. Hopefully they won't come up with too many whacky plans, like actually removing IE from Windows - too many 3rd party applications depend on it, and it brings about the interesting problem of trying to download another browser from the internet without a web browser to start with. I don't want to be ordering web browsers on CD and waiting 6-8 weeks for delivery. Thank you.

Audigy 2 ZS drivers for Windows 7

I've been getting truck loads of e-mail on which drivers I'm using with my Audigy 2 ZS on Windows 7. To try and stem the tide here's the quick findings:

1) The Audigy 2 ZS drivers that Windows installs from Windows Update for both 32-bit and 64-bit occationally produce garbled audio. These are dated 2006 and are probably identical to the original Windows Vista release.

2) Newer drivers resolve this, or at least it hasn't happened in the last week I've been using these drivers. I've been using the modified 'Danial_K' drivers on both Vista and 7. They fix the garbled audio issue on Windows 7. Creative’s own newer Vista release may fix it, but I haven't tested them.

3) They do have some problems however, CMSS doesn't work, and some of the Creative apps don't work on 64-bit.

4) Updated: Download the updated drivers from here.

For X-Fi people, I know the drivers from Creative's website will install if you run them in compatibility mode as they do a version check off the bat which would fail.

Due to the volume of e-mail I'm getting on this issue I won't be able to respond to all of them, don't take it personally.

New build of Windows Live Essentials released

The new build of Windows Live Essentials beta has been released, this is part of the Wave 3 rollout.

Quick thoughts...

Windows Live Messenger has had a large overhaul since 8.5. It is much better looking and intergrated better with the web services now.

Windows Live Mail has reached the point where I would recommend people to use this over Outlook Express or Windows Mail, it looks clean and is faster than the Wave 2 release.

Windows Live Photo Gallery has a few new features, the new cleaner look. I don't like the inconsistency with the UI compared with Media Player and Photo Gallery on Windows Vista however.

Windows Live Movie Maker is still much earlier in development and is lacking many of the features of the versions that shipped with Windows.

Windows Live Writer has had an overhaul, a couple of new bits, but largely still seems to function the same way as the Wave 2 release.

Haven't used the Toolbar or Family safety so can't comment on them. In my opinion this is a very near final release, it still has the beta tags but over the last day or so has proved to be stable and usable. You can download the pack from download.live.com.

Windows Live Wave 3 looks good

There I said it – the Wave 3 web stuff looks good. It is a dramatic improvement and really marks a turning point in the Windows Live services. I was originally not going to bother writing about this, I was planning to just cover the software side of the release (rumour has it the release candidates will be made available next week) but I thought this was worthy of some mention and I encourage you to check it out if you haven't already.

Not all parts of it are on the same release, Hotmail, Calendar and People won't be updated to match the rest (there are some subtle differences between them) until early next year.

What's the deal with this release? I suppose I would sum it up as being sort of a Facebook-lite, Spaces has been de-centralised from a lot of the social-networking stuff and the old profiles have been pushed forward instead.

The good:

Looks attractive, well integrated.

When viewing a contacts status on say their profile – it actually changes in real time; you don't need to reload the page. Very nice, lots of fancy AJAX tricks like that used throughout.

Photos taken out of Spaces, stored in SkyDrive now with 25GB of storage (holy moly this web server only has a 13GB drive).

Photo slideshows have no competition if you're using Silverlight.

Spaces actually looks respectable now, hell it actually looks nice, time will tell if they've tackled the comment spam problems though.

Nice to see Profiles being used again, I had a look down my contact list; most haven't been updated in years back when they were integrated tighter with Messenger. Nice to see this being overhauled, previous efforts at social-networking were centred around Spaces and were a complete failure, this is a much better direction to take.

The bad:

Animated graphical ads still around, albeit in better locations. I haven't clicked on an animated ad this millennium. They're annoying, when I'm trying to read something I don't want zero-priority interrupts being sent to my brain thanks. Text ads or at least static graphics please.

Contacts are a bit confusing and how they're handled with regard to Messenger, your Network and so on. I hope that's related to Hotmail being a release behind.

Home has some limited customization options; I'd like to see more. It does have a few nice surprises like being able to see your Office Live Workspaces on there too.

My.live.com which I use as my homepage hasn't been updated. Apparently this is owned by the Live Search team and not the Windows Live team. Guys – update it, hand it over to the Windows Live team if you don't want it, this makes a good home page for power users.

Now I just need to wait for the client-side applications. We'll be relying on these guys for the Windows 7 era applications - let's hope they can bring some dramatic improvements.

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