Looking at Windows – every single day.

August 23, 2011

Windows 8: Updates to Copying Files

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It looks like nothing is being overlooked in the next generation of Windows, that includes file management such as copying files from one location to another.

When copying files in Windows 7 each copy task gets its own dialog window, which can be a pain when attempting to monitor the current progress of each. But this will change with Windows 8, and the following areas the team would like to improve upon in the file copying experience:
  • Unification - Instead of having each dialog having its own dedicated window, they will all be accessible in one unified experience.
  • Simplification - Only give people the information they need instead of confusing users with a bunch of useless information.
  • More control - Give users more control over their copying operations.
The image to the left shows an example of the new copy dialog to look forward to in Windows 8 -- so long as nothing more is changed much.

Now users can pause copy operations in case they want to finish one file transfer in a more timely fashion, and of course cancelling an operation is simple as well. Each location is also clickable as well, allowing a user to open the location in Explorer -- which may be somwhat useful.

As you can see the "less detailed" dialog no longer contains a time estimation (just the percentage of completion) -- to which a reference to this XKCD comic was made -- but it is still there, but only exposed when viewing more details.

Here is an image of the new detailed mode, which contains the current transfer speeds and a history of transfer speeds. When an operation is paused the graph will go from green to yellow, which some have requested be changed -- such as me, as it really ought to be red.


The blog post writer (it was either Alex Simons or Steven Sinofsky, or an article written by Alex Simons published by Sinofsky, not really clear) said they did not invest in making the estimated time left more accurate as there are way to many variables such as network bandwidth and the possibility of other CPU taxing operations starting at any given time.

Finally, the file conflict dialog will also be getting an update, but one some have also complained about, such as being a user experience disaster. So take a look:


The items on the left are the source files and the items on the right are destination files. Files with the larger file size and most recent modification date will be in bold.

I have to agree that this new dialog isn't that great compared to the current file conflict resolution dialog in Windows 7. The dialog does not make it clear as to what happens if neither file is selected, nor is there any "mass apply" option (other than the check boxes above all items) such as replacing the destination files with larger, smaller, newer or older versions. Can't imagine what a pain this dialog may be with hundreds of items needing resolution.

Some of these updates are well welcomed such as the ability to pause a transfer operation and unification of all dialogs, but there are a few things still missing -- which I read in the comments area.

Other welcomed additions would be the ability to queue operations, and well, a not disaster-of-a-resolution-dialog. Oh, and here is another: how about a decent ZIP archive extractor. Yes, there are things such as WinZip and 7-zip, but that is no excuse for ZIP's (which are natively supported) to be extremely slow (such as extraction).

Oh, I almost forgot! Windows will no longer have annoying "Are you sure?" dialogs such as when moving a file to the Recycle Bin or when merging folders.

You can check out these new features in action in the following video (requires HTML5):


Notice the ribbon in the Explorer interface -- its just hiding!

I apologize for how little I have been posting... School will start again in a few weeks which is when I was posting en masse because I used it to give me a break from school work. Hopefully I will resume posting regularly then.

August 10, 2011

Yahoo! Search Gains, Google Stumbles, and Bing Stays Flat

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searchYahoo! Search has gained 0.2 percentage points (from 15.9% to 16.1%) search market share for the month of July 2011, but Google dropped 0.4 percentage points (from 65.5% down to 65.1%) during the same time period according to the latest data from comScore. However Bing remained stagnant at 14.4%.

This means that Bing now commands 30.5% of the search market, compared to Google's 65.1%.

If you are wondering where the rest of of 0.2 percentage points went, 0.1 went to AOL – but the remaining 0.1 must have been lost to a rounding error.

While Google may have lost some market share – again – they didn't lose in overall search volume. In this case Google gained 2% in overall search volume (going from 10.948 billion to 11.158 billion), along with Yahoo! gaining 4% (2.65 billion to 2.764 billion) and Bing gaining 3% in search volume (2.405 billion to 2.473 billion).

August 6, 2011

A Look Into Windows 7's Sales

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Every time Microsoft announces how many Windows 7 licenses they have sold, they tend to mention "7 copies per second." I have began to look into this claim (I know, I know – just now, almost two years later) and I have found quite a few interesting things.

First off, I want to make something very clear about the numbers I came up with, at least for the very first report – it may be a bit off. Keep in mind that before Windows 7 launched on October 22, 2009, Microsoft offered up pre-order options for Windows 7. This means that for the first report it also includes all pre-order sales as well, which can (and as you will see) certainly screw up the data.

I did try to find the pre-order dates, but the problem was they were all over the place. Microsoft did not offer pre-orders to the entire world at once, and there was only a limited supply, and I couldn't find out information about when their supplies "dried up."
Just thought I would let you know, and so – hopefully – no one will point this out as a "gotcha!"

Let's start off by taking a look at the graph of the number of Windows 7 licenses sold over time, starting from December 31, 2009 (the first report I found of license numbers) and ending on July 11, 2011.

Windows 7 License Sales

As you can see Windows 7 sales actually started out pretty slow, but things did pick up after they reported 100 million licenses on April 23, 2010.

Now let's take a look at the number of licenses sold per second. The next graph will show the number of licenses sold per second overall (LSSL – Licenses per Second Since Launch) and then the number of licenses sold per second for the time period between reports (LSOP – Licenses per Second Over Period).

Windows 7 Licenses per Second

Yeah, do you see what I see? I have no idea what happened between March 4, 2010 and April 23, 2010, but the demand for Windows 7 certainly plummeted. But as I mentioned before, the first report of Windows 7 sales were propped up by pre-order sales.

But anyways, as you can see there are a few times during which Windows 7 was not actually selling at or over 7 copies a second. These would be: April 23, 2010 (6.29 LSSL and 2.23 LSOP), March 4, 2010 (5.6 LSOP), and April 22, 2011 (6.65 LSOP).

I also generated a graph showing Windows 7 licenses per day, but of course it looks almost identical to the per second graph, only with different labels. But hey, here you go:

Windows 7 Licenses per Day

So there you have it... Some graphs about Windows 7 license sales, fun right?

If you want to see the data for yourself, and who knows, maybe point out some errors in my calculations (because the 2.23 copies per second seems very low, but I did it multiple times and checked the data and it seemed fine), you can check out the following spreadsheet on Office Web Apps:


Conclusion


Oh, you wanted some sort of conclusion? There isn't much I can say that isn't apparent in the graphs I created. They show that, for the most part, Windows 7 licenses were being purchased at or above 7 copies every second overall, except for one time (April 23, 2010).

However, if you break down the number of copies sold per second over each individual reporting period there are a few times during which Windows 7 did not sell at or above 7 copies a second – one of which was as low as 2.23 copies a second.

As usual, just found this interesting ;-).

Sources:

Microsoft's Credit Rating Higher than Uncle Sam's

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1312642999_creditcardWe should all know by now that Apple has more money than Uncle Sam, which should be of little surprise.

But now Microsoft has a higher credit rating than Uncle Sam, which was recently downgraded by S&P from AAA to AA+.

Microsoft is only one of four companies to still have an AAA crediting rating, the others being Johnson & Johnson, Exxon Mobil, and some company called Automatic Data Processing.

But I think we all saw this coming, did we not?

For the record, Apple does not have a credit rating because they don't need one – this should also be of little surprise.

August 5, 2011

How To Run ASP.NET on XAMPP

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Due to the fact that the forums are now gone, I figured I should make a new tutorial on how to run ASP on XAMPP – especially since I can see many are still interested in this topic.

Step 1: Download & Install XAMPP

XAMPP Installer

I think you saw this coming: If you haven't yet done so, you will need to download and install XAMPP.

XAMPP for Windows Installer can be downloaded here: http://www.apachefriends.org/en/xampp-windows.html.

Step 2: Download & Install mod_aspdotnet

Next you will need to download and install mod_aspdotnet, which will allow ASP.NET pages to be ran under XAMPP.

You can download the latest version of mod_aspdotnet here: http://sourceforge.net/project/platformdownload.php?group_id=175077.

When running the installer, it may take a few minutes before you can click "Next," so be patient.

Once you can proceed you will be asked where you want to install mod_aspdotnet. The installer was able to automatically detect my Apache directory, but if it couldn't – or if it didn't select the one under XAMPP – use C:\xampp\apache assuming you did not change the installation directory in step #1.

Now sit back while the installer does its thing – which can also take awhile.

Step 3: Editing Configuration Files

Now you will need the help of Notepad (or my favorite, Notepad2) to open up the following configuration file: C:\xampp\htdocs\apache\conf\extra\httpd-xampp.conf

Once open, find <IfModule alias_module>, and place the following text between the aforementioned <IfModule> tag, but before the </IfModule> tag.

# ASP.NET on XAMPP
LoadModule aspdotnet_module "modules/mod_aspdotnet.so"
AddHandler asp.net asax ascx ashx asmx aspx axd config cs csproj licx rem resources resx soap vb vbproj vsdisco webinfo
<IfModule mod_aspdotnet.cpp>
  AspNetMount /aspdocs "c:/xampp/aspdocs"
  Alias /aspdocs "c:/xampp/aspdocs"
  <Directory "c:/xampp/aspdocs">
    Options FollowSymlinks ExecCGI
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all
    DirectoryIndex index.htm index.aspx index.asp
  </Directory>
  AliasMatch /aspnet_client/system_web/(\d+)_(\d+)_(\d+)_(\d+)/(.*) "C:/Windows/Microsoft.NET/Framework/v$1.$2.$3/ASP.NETClientFiles/$4"
  <Directory "C:/Windows/Microsoft.NET/Framework/v*/ASP.NETClientFiles">
    Options FollowSymlinks
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all
  </Directory>
</IfModule>
# /ASP.NET on XAMPP

Now save the file.

Step 4: Restart Apache

Finally, restart Apache via the XAMPP Control Panel (it may be hidden in the task bar in the notifications area) by stopping and then starting Apache.

Congratulations, you can now run ASP.NET pages on XAMPP!

However, you cannot run ASP.NET pages just anywhere. In order to view these types of pages (or at least actually run them) you will need to place them all in C:\xampp\aspdocs and point your browser to http://localhost/aspdocs.

Test Drive

If you want to make sure it is working as it should be, try out the following test page:

<%@ Page Language="C#"%>
<html>
<head>
    <title>ASP.NET Test Page</title>
</head>
<body>
<%
for(int fontSize = 1; fontSize < 7; fontSize++)
{
    Response.Write("<p style=\"font-size: " + (fontSize * 10) + "pt; text-align: center;\">It Works!</p>");
}
%>
</body>
</html>

This should output seven "It Works!" messages, each bigger than the last.

Troubleshooting

I did receive comment pertaining to issues with this tutorial, which caused Apache to hang when trying to restart it – but I never had this issue.

Someone on the forums said in order to fix the hang issue you need to supply the direct path to the mod_aspdotnet.so file in the configuration edits I detailed above. In other words, replace modules/mod_aspdotnet.so with C:/xampp/apache/modules/mod_aspdotnet.so.

If you have any other problems, please leave a comment and I will try to help as best as I can!

I cannot take all the credit for this tutorial, you can find my original source here: How to make Apache run ASP.NET / ASP.NET 2.0.

Thousands of MinWin References in Windows 8

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There are well over 6,000 references to MinWin in the next major version of Windows, Windows 8, at least according to a recent news article from Softpedia. This is 60 times more than the amount of references to MinWin in Windows 7, which only has around 100.

But what is MinWin, you ask? It is the very core of Windows – but it's not just the Windows NT kernel. MinWin is Microsoft's effort "to create the smallest, standalone, bootable, core of Windows, that's still usable," says Marius Oiaga. This core of Windows contains the executive subsystem, memory management, networking, file system drivers, and of course the NT kernel, according to Mark Russinovich. That all means that the core of Windows (MinWin) makes no references to the rest of the Windows operating system as we know it, along with that MinWin can be modified without having any affects on the rest of the operating system.

Did I mention that MinWin is about 40MB? Softpedia mentions that work was being done to get it down to 30 to even 25MB – not bad.

It is no surprise that MinWin is becoming more and more significant (even though small in relation to the rest of Windows), especially with Windows coming to new form factors such as tablets.

I personally find MinWin fascinating because this shows that Microsoft is serious about having "Windows everywhere." With MinWin being about 40MB it can be used on a slew of devices – tablets, media centers (televisions, set-top boxes, etc.), and even phones.

How awesome would that be for the next version of Windows and Windows Phone to be running under the same "core"? Even the next Xbox could use MinWin as well. The major difference between each of these would be pretty much the interfaces – which we can see all also starting to merge ala Windows 8 and the next Xbox Dashboard update. While there could certainly be differences in the API's offered, they might not have to be either thanks to the .NET Framework – except for stuff such as cellphone features. This is all in my imagination, of course.

But still, just thought it was interesting...

August 4, 2011

Hotmail -- Now With 90% Less Spam

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It is a pretty well-known fact that Hotmail has major issues when it comes to dealing with spam, due to this Hotmail received a "deservedly bad reputation for it," according to Dick Craddock, Group Program Manager of Hotmail.

I couldn't have put it better myself. I can still remember when that Spam folder in Hotmail had 3-5 messages in it while my inbox contained 10 or more spam emails. But hey, I guess it is better that real emails don't get flagged as spam, right? – haha, talk about being in denial.

But with the most recent Wave (or major) update Microsoft introduced many new technologies to keep such unwanted messages out of your inbox. In fact, the Hotmail spam filter uses the SmartScreen filter, something Internet Explorer uses to protect people from phishing and other malware infested websites and downloads.

According to Microsoft, the spam epidemic over at Hotmail peaked in 2006, but since then Spam In The Inbox (SITI – I didn't come up with this word, apparently Microsoft uses this lingo) for the Hotmail service has been reduced a staggering 90%.

Spam In The Inbox

Craddock also states that in the past year SITI has been reduced by another 40% – or from 5% true SITI to 3%.

Craddock goes on to say that Microsoft has helped reduce the amount of spam being sent on the Internet overall by 15%, thanks to "disruptive actions" such as taking down the Waledac and Rustock botnets. For those unaware, the Rustock botnet was one of the single largest sources of spam, "capable of sending up to 30 billion spam messages a day."

Kicking Spam to the Curb

So how does Hotmail keep spam in the place it belongs? Craddock says they have invested in a variety of filters such as connection-time filtering, content filtering, blocklist and safelist preferences, and much more.

Hotmail's spam filter is also personalized to each individual account, "using information about the people you send email to and receive it from and also which email messages you actually read." The most recent Wave also introduced a trusted sender feature which will display a safety logo next to emails which come from legitimate senders, like banks and other types of services commonly imitated for malicious purposes.

Stopping Spammers in Their Tracks

Hotmail is also very well-known for being a source of spam itself.

A reason this is true, according to Craddock, is because spammers do what is called "reputation hijacking," and "Hotmail maintains a good reputation among all email providers; simply put, email from Hotmail gets delivered, and the spammers know that." I am guessing that some email providers may sometimes mark email from specific domains as spam no matter what if most messages coming from the domain are spam, but that is not realistic with Hotmail (or Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.)

Thankfully the amount of spam coming from Hotmail has been reduced by 75% in the past year, and Craddock has given some information on how this was accomplished:

  • Account Reputation – As a Hotmail account is used a reputation is gained. The service see's such things as receiving email from people you have sent email to as "good behavior" and therefore increases your reputation as being good. Sending a lot of emails and getting delivery errors causes an accounts reputation to turn sour – obviously there is much more to reputation determination. If an account appears to have a bad reputation the account could be prevented from sending email all together.
  • Account Creation Limits – To prevent the mass creation of accounts, Microsoft limits the number of Hotmail accounts which can be created in a single day by IP address.
  • Outbound Spam Filtering – As email messages come in, they are ran through a spam filter to determine whether they are, well, spam. So why not do the same as the message leaves? That is what Hotmail does... As the messages leave, they "look for suspicious content that matches known spam campaigns."

These safeguards work well at preventing spam from brand new accounts, and existing accounts whose sole purpose is to send spam. With these new safeguards in place, spammers have apparently turned to other methods of sending spam: hijacking accounts.

Craddock says that now most spam comes from hijacked accounts, but they have done work to mitigate those issues as well.

Hotmail will look for unusual behaviors, like unusual IP addresses, sending much more email than usual, sending emails which trigger the aforementioned outbound spam filters, and more. Recently a "My Friend's Been Hacked!" link has been added to the "Mark as" menu in Hotmail.

Craddock finishes off by saying:

We've made tremendous progress in our battle against spam, but we know that spam and hijacking will continue to be a big problem for all service providers as long as there is economic incentive for the bad guys to do what they do. So we’re not letting up. We continue to invest in research and development to find ways to make it even harder for the spammers to get spam into your Inbox and to use Hotmail as a way of sending spam.

Well, now you know some of the ways Hotmail keeps spam out of your inbox, and how they prevent Hotmail from being a source of that annoying spam. I think all Hotmail users are very thankful – because I know I am. I still continue to use my Hotmail account as much as I always have and I can honestly say the spam filter has become significantly better – though I still see one spam message every now and again.

Report Junk to Microsoft

I just have one last thing to say, and I guess it is somewhat of a tip: opt-in to reporting junk to Microsoft.

Yes, you read that right... If you are using Hotmail and have ever clicked the "Mark as Junk" button, you may not be accomplishing much of anything. Because for some odd reason Hotmail does not default to reporting junk messages to the spam filter – except probably your own customized filter, but it won't help anyone else, as they you.

If you would like to opt-in to actually having the Junk button report the message to Microsoft as spam, please do the following:

  1. Go to https://mail.live.com/?rru=options
  2. Under Preventing junk email, click Filters and reporting.
  3. Select the Report junk option under Report junk messages.

I never really noticed this option until a year or so ago, and I know this option still isn't enabled by default – which I checked when I recently setup my grandmothers first email account.