Archive for May, 2009
Today at the D7 Conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that the new search engine that has been previously known under its code-name “Kumo” is going to be called “Bing” and will launch worldwide on Wednesday, June 3rd.
The search engine is being called a “Decision Engine” because its aim is to help you “navigate through excess information and find the shortest distance to an informed decision,” reads the new website promoting the engine, DiscoverBing.com. Reading between the lines of that statement, it’s clear that the goal of Bing is to help us search better and faster, without having to waste so much time scrolling through useless or irrelevant results, an experience that many of us have had in the past. In fact, it’s more of a common experience than you may have realized – a recent comScore Inc. study across search engines showed that as many as 30% of searches are abandoned without a satisfactory result! They also found that approximately two-thirds of the remaining searches required a refinement or re-query on the search results page. What a waste of time!
Working with Bing Results
As to how Bing is going to refine the search process, that has to do with a combination of features built into Bing. Of course, still at the top of the list is relevant search results – obviously, that’s critical. However, the results on Bing have been refined to surface the best answer for you in the form of a search result called “Best Match” which will appear at the top of your results list. If you want to delve in deeper to the resources of a particular site, a feature called “Deep Links” can help you there. Also, a Quick Preview feature will display a hover-over window that expands the search result caption so you can decide if the result is worth the clickthrough.
Besides the search results themselves, Bing offers other features that help better organize the search experience, including an “Explore Pane” which helps guide your search by letting you filter the results by various search verticals (images, video, shopping, etc.). It also has a “related searches” section which can help you find a better query and beneath that, a search history section where you can easily recall past searches.
As to why Bing’s being called a “decision engine,” that has more to do with how it will help people make key decisions in the following areas: shopping, travel, local business and info, and health-related research. Queries in each of these areas will reveal specialized Bing features that will help make the process of making a decision easier.
For example, a Sentiment Extraction engine will scour user reviews and expert opinions to show whether that product you’re shopping for is worth the money.
If searching for travel, Bing compares the location, price and amenities of multiple hotels and provides a color-coded key of the best values. Also, a Price Predictor actually helps you decide when it’s the best time to buy an airline ticket in order to get the lowest price. These are featured carried over from Microsoft’s acquisition of Farecast, it’s just now better integrated into the search experience.
Videos & Pictures
On Thursday, Hulu announced a new desktop software program for watching videos on your PC without a web browser. The software, simply called Hulu Desktop, was designed to operate with Windows Media Center remote controls. So now, instead of having to choose from a ton of add-ins in Media Center, you can use the official software provided by Hulu themselves to see videos on your desktop.
Unfortunately, what the Hulu site doesn’t explain is how to fully integrate their software with Media Center so you can watch Hulu on Media Center extenders, like the Xbox, which would allow you to watch Hulu on your TV. Fortunately for us, the folks over at Missing Remote have put together a guide on how to add Hulu Desktop to Media Center as a shortcut from the main screen. This isn’t the only way to get this done, but at least it’s well-documented! Thanks guys.
STEPS (via Missing Remote):
Note, the following steps assume you installed into the default Hulu directory, which is C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop. If you changed the directory, simply replace the directories in the ini and xml files.
- Download the file here: HuluMCE Plugin
- Unzip the folder into your Hulu directory (which default is C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop\)
- The files should result in a HuluMCE folder (C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop\HuluMCE).
- IMPORTANT STEP: Browse to the above HuluMCE folder, and Right Click on the HuluMCEreg.xml file and select EDIT
- Replace the username "Mike" from the following line with YOUR USERNAME: imageUrl="C:\Users\Mike\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop\HuluMCE\icon.png"
- Still in the above folder, right click on the InstallHulu.cmd and select Run as Administrator
- A dialog box will appear with the message Success
- Close all your windows, launch Media Center with your remote, and the shortcut for Hulu Desktop will appear under the TV+Movies row, as well as in the Program Library
*NOTE: If you prefer to have the shortcut appear in the TV+Movies row, you will need to edit theHuluMCEreg.xml file (Right click > Edit). On the line which says <category category="Services\TV"/>, replace TV with Pictures. (eg., <category category="Services\Pictures"/> You can visit the followingMSDN Webpage for a full list of category entrypoints you can launch from.
For more details, check out their blog post.
A new Zune released later this year: the Zune HD. Besides the “HD” component, which will deliver HD Radio and HD video, the new Zune will also feature an OLED screen with multitouch capabilities.
If you’re unfamiliar with HD Radio, it’s basically terrestrial radio but broadcast in digital instead of analog. A lot of traditional radio stations broadcast simultaneously in HD Radio along with their analog signals. You can see which ones do so in your area at hdradio.com.
The other major HD feature in the new Zune is support for playing back HD video from the Zune to an HDTV. The Zune will connect through an HDMI docking station to hook up to your TV.
Speaking of the big screen, Zune content will also be available on your TV through another platform: the Xbox Live Marketplace. The new Zune-branded service will soon occupy the first slot in the Xbox user interface, taking over the existing video marketplace. However, details on how this integration will work won’t be revealed until the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next week.
The Zune HD’s OLED screen will be great for watching video with its 16:9 widescreen display (480×272 resolution), especially since OLED delivers richer colors and blacker blacks than an LCD screen. Even better, the screen will offer multitouch capabilities which can also be used in the new full-screen web browser.
The video above is either an exceptionally well-crafted homage to the Half-Life universe, or (more than likely) it’s a viral video hinting at something new from developer Valve. The sound effects and music seem to come from Half-Life and Half-Life 2 (with a little Lost thrown in, as well), and there are strong allusions drawn to the game’s Black Mesa setting. Plus, the video’s titled "What’s in the Box?" and Valve’s last Half-Life release was the Orange Box. Coincidence?
At this point, the meaning of the first-person film is pure conjecture; it could be anything from a teaser to Portal 2 (with malfunctioning Portal technology causing the calamity) to a Samsung phone commercial. But www.whatsinthebox.nl, the website listed on the video’s YouTube posting, contains the heading "Soon the world will find out." Until then, share your thoughts on what you think it all means in the comments section.
UPDATE: It turns out that the video is not officially connected with Valve in any way. It may be well put together, but Doug Lombardi, Valve’s Vice President of Marketing, talked to GameSpy via email, saying, "The Box video was a cool piece from the community. Two in just a few weeks. I hope there’s more on the way." The other video he’s referring to, a short film series called "Escape from City 17," is another fan made internet feature set in the Half-Life universe.
The lack of new official Half-Life news may be disheartening, but I’m excited to see where this dialog-lite feature from the Netherlands goes next.
Windows only: Ever wonder why your laptop’s battery seems to die too quickly? The Windows Help blog points out a hidden command-line switch that generates a report with loads of helpful troubleshooting information.
The report lists all of the devices that are causing problems with sleep mode, explains the different power saving modes your computer supports, and even gives you detailed information on your battery—invaluable information when your system takes forever to go in and out of sleep mode. Generating the report is easy enough—just open up a command prompt in administrator mode using the context menu -> Run as Administrator option, and then type in the following:
The utility will take a while to generate the report, sometimes more than the 60 seconds it quotes you—but when it finishes you can open up the generated file in your favorite web browser. Once you’ve examined the report, you can figure out if you need to do some tweaking or update a driver.
There’s a reason "Out of sight, out of mind" is such a common phrase—people forget things. Enter web site Remindd, a super simple solution to remembering events and appointments that should not be forgotten.
Once you’ve created an account, using the site is straightforward. Enter your reminder name, set a date and time for your reminder, and you’re all set. You’ll receive an alert via email—and SMS, if selected—five minutes before the time you chose. If you don’t enter a time, your reminder will arrive at 12 AM. Be sure to set your time zone; the default is Eastern time.
Following up on the ability to stream Netflix movies to your Xbox 360, Brandon from The Windows Blog tells us about a Netflix partnership that will allow us Media Center users to access 12,000 movies and TV shows from Netflix through Windows Media Center PCs using Silverlight.
The Remote Media Streaming feature in Windows 7 lets a user on the go access music, photos and video from their home PC. However, the feature has a variety of constraints and requirements that limit its usefulness, says CNET’s Ina Fried
(Credit: Ina Fried/CNET)
With many versions of Windows, Microsoft chops features as it gets closer to release.
With Windows 7, Microsoft has actually added a few features as it has gotten closer to launch. One of the most intriguing is a feature that debuted with the most recent release candidate (download) allows a user to stream media from one PC to another over the Internet, a la the Slingbox.
There are some noteworthy limitations. The streaming feature works with unprotected video and music files, so one can’t watch video from iTunes or other copy-protected content.
Also the remote media streaming, as the feature is known, requires both computers to be running Windows 7 and requires some setup work. That said, the feature is nice for the scenarios and locations from which it works. It seems particularly well suited to a Netbook or laptop user that wants to listen to some music or view some photos that they don’t have on their on-the-go machine.
To get a better sense of the product, I decided to put it through its paces. The feature didn’t seem to work when one of the PCs was attached to CNET’s corporate network, but worked fine when I went to a coffee house and streamed the media off of a Windows PC at home. (The remote media streaming requires the PC that houses the content to be part of a home network.)
In addition to music and pictures, Windows 7 also supports video streaming, provided the content is unprotected, such as the HD wildlife clip that ships with Windows 7.
(Credit: Ina Fried/CNET)
Set-up is not overly complex, but nor is it elegant by any means. To get the PC ready, you have to turn on Internet streaming in Windows Media Player. The other piece is associating both machines with the same Windows Live ID. (The feature may eventually support other ID providers, but for now it’s only Windows Live.)
Getting up and running required downloading a Windows Live ID Assistant from the Internet, which sends you to a browser. Again, this wasn’t super-technical, but it would have been nice if it did all that without opening a browser and requiring so many clicks.
Once I thought I had everything set up, I decided to put it to the test. Rather than go too far from home, I headed to Nervous Dog Coffee, my favorite spot for getting caffeinated and trying out new technology.
I started with what I thought was the easiest task–opening a photo. The library showed up quickly but opening the photo was slow. Also unexpected was the fact that instead of just opening that photo, it launched a slideshow of the whole folder.
From there I moved on to music, streaming the Indigo Girls album "All that We Let In." It sounded good, with no noticeable skips, although I could only listen in short bursts as I forgot to bring along headphones.
I then moved onto video, playing a built-in HD clip of wildlife footage that came as part of Windows 7. The clip played with its accompanying audio, though the video was a bit jerky in places.
Satisfied with the results, I packed up the PC and headed into the office. Interestingly, the media-sharing feature didn’t appear to work on the same PC once I got into the office. I tried labeling my office network as both a home and an office network, but perhaps a network firewall or something got in the way.
TV shows recorded in Windows Media Center can also be streamed, although the quality and performance seemed to vary.
Once I switched from a hard-wire connection to CNET’s public wireless network, I was once again able to see content stored on the computer at home. I was even able to stream a Sesame Street episode that I had set to start recording after I left the house.
The quality of that viewing experience varied dramatically. In the best cases, the TV showed up in a small but passable window, while in a couple cases it was in a tiny window or took an unacceptably long time to buffer.
Microsoft says a variety of factors go into the size and quality of the video stream, including the characteristics of the content, the available bandwidth, and the processing power of the serving computer.
At its best, the ability to watch recorded TV is handy; it’s not quite the live TV option that Slingbox provides, but still could be useful for road warriors stuck in an airport or at the hotel. But sometimes the delay was enough to send me over to Hulu for sure.
Overall, I found the media-streaming feature to be a nice addition, but both the limitations and the somewhat complicated set-up leaves me the feeling that it will be the enthusiast rather than the mainstream user that gets around to trying this out.
Windows only: Standing next to Device Remover, the built-in Windows device manager looks like a 90 pound weakling next to the Hulk—it’s just that powerful.
Installing and launching the utility is simple enough—but this is one utility you’ll want to use with a great deal of caution unless you really know what you are doing. You can view almost any data on a device, update or backup drivers, and pretty much control anything you want for the device.
I’ve previously written about a hidden trick for the Windows device manager to remove old drivers after upgrading, but Device Remover lets you easily view all hidden, nonpresent, unplugged, or problem devices and deal with them accordingly—a common scenario for system tweakers.
Device Remover is a free download for Windows, requires the .NET 3.5 Framework, and should be used with caution—with great power comes great system crashes. If you simply want to backup your drivers, you can use DriverMax or previously mentioned Double Driver to make a copy of your system’s drivers.
Thanks to @kirktcampbell for sending this in.
Andy Panda Comic – andypanda.co.uk Archive » The iEverything
Bike to Work is an event Microsoft puts on to encourage employees to consider alternate forms of commuting to work.
The dream of owning a keyboard embedded with a full-blown PC running XP on an Atom N270 processor and 5-inch, 800 x 480 pixel touchscreen display/trackpad is nearly upon us. A dream, quite honestly, nobody had prior to seeing the reveal of the 2-pound Eee Keyboard prototype at CES in January. Engadget Chinese has it on authority that this oddball all-in-one will ship in June with specs that should include a 32GB SSD, 802.11n, Bluetooth, HDMI-out, stereo speakers and mic as we saw during our hands-on with the Eee Keyboard back in March. With any luck, ASUS will also be embedding some form of ultra-wideband HDMI as promised in January alongside one of those UWB monitor prototypes they had on display at CeBIT. One thing’s for sure: all will be revealed at Computex in Taipei in just a few weeks.
The simple desktop customization blends a few important system stats into the background, using a combination of:
The entire desktop configuration including all the customizations can be downloaded in a single file—hit the link for the download. Thanks, inaudiblewhisper!
Want to make your own customized desktop? You can get started creating your own killer desktop with the easy-install Enigma 2.0 package, and then join up with the Lifehacker Desktop Customization Google Group to collaborate on ideas and contribute code snippets and advanced techniques.
Once you’ve created your own beautifully tweaked (and hopefully productive) desktop, post it over in the Lifehacker Desktop Show and Tell Flickr Group complete with a description of the programs and tweaks you used (and preferably links as well!), and we just might feature it here.
Take this for what it is — a totally unverified rumor from a Chinese forum — but a set of specs for a next-gen iPhone have leaked out along with this screenshot, and they’re not entirely far-fetched. According to the alleged leak, iPhone model MB717LL 9 ("iPhone2,1" perhaps?) will have a 600MHz processor (up from the current 400MHz unit), 256MB of RAM (from the current 128MB), 32GB of storage, a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus, as well as a digital compass and FM radio, all while retaining the same battery, basic shape, and screen size. Do we believe it? Well, if we were to conservatively guess at specs for a next-gen Apple phone that’s pretty much what we’d come up with — with the exception of FM — so we’re not shaking our heads too hard. Plus we’ve definitely seen evidence that a compass will figure into the equation, and there’s endless whispers that the camera will see an upgrade. Still, only Steve and the gang know for sure, and we’re (probably) not finding out till they’re ready — WWDC, are you here yet?
Access to premium HD on computers has eluded most for way to long, so as soon as we heard that it was finally possible for anyone to add a CableCARD tuner to just about any Media Center, we just knew we had to try it for ourselves, and more importantly, share with you exactly how to do it. This doesn’t really require any hacking, or anything illegal for that matter — we’re not lawyers — but it isn’t cheap. The internal version of the ATI Digital Cable Tuner pictured above can be found new on eBay for about $195, or new from PC vendors like Cannon PC for just under $300. If that doesn’t seem like a bad deal to you and you already have an HTPC up to the challenge, then you should join us on our journey to HD bliss by clicking through.
Following the guide is simple enough—just create a new shortcut to explorer.exe with
shell:RecycleBinFolderas an argument, assign the Recycle Bin icon in the properties, and then choose Pin to Taskbar on the context menu. Once you are finished, you’ll have a separate recycle icon on the taskbar—useful for quick access to deleted files without having to hunt down an icon on your desktop, especially since Windows 7 doesn’t natively include the ability to pin the Recycle Bin to the desktop.
Microsoft impressed many with its Windows 7 beta, and the new Windows 7 Release Candidate looks even better. More than mere bug fixes, the Windows 7 Release Candidate improves on device management and search-term highlighting, and includes support for a virtual XP mode to run older programs. Preview what’s new in this First Look video, and don’t miss the hand’s on review.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, shares his optimism for emerging innovation in the midst of economic turmoil, and the story of his own entrepreneurial path. He also speaks of his company’s continued investment in Internet-ready hardware and software that seeks progress in healthcare, education, and science.
Windows 7‘s new XP Mode lets you seamlessly run virtualized applications alongside your regular Windows 7 applications—so your outdated software will continue to work. Before we begin, you’ll want to make sure your system meets the requirements:
- Processor: Processor capable of hardware virtualization, with AMD-V™ or Intel® VT turned on in the BIOS.
- Memory: 2GB of memory recommended.
- Hard disk requirement: 20MB hard disk space for installing Windows Virtual PC. Additional 15GB of hard disk space per virtual Windows environment recommended.
Make sure that your processor supports hardware virtualization, and double-check that the hardware virtualization setting is enabled in your BIOS (the setting is often not enabled although your processor may be supported). You can use the official Intel Processor Identification Utility if you are running Intel, or you can can use previously mentioned SecurAble to determine whether or not your AMD or Intel processor will support XP Mode.
Next, you’ll need to install two software packages on your PC:
- Download and install the Windows Virtual PC Beta, which is the virtualization software that powers "XP Mode".
- Download and install the Windows XP Mode Beta, which is a specially crafted XP virtual machine.
Once you’ve completed those steps and restarted your computer, run the Virtual Windows XP item in the start menu, add in a password and make sure to choose to remember the credentials if you want the integration features to work smoothly.
Once the wizard is complete, hopefully you will see a dialog that sets up XP for use, which will take quite a while. If you receive a message that hardware virtualization is not enabled, reboot your computer and check that the BIOS option is enabled, usually found under the advanced settings page.
If all goes well, you’ll see a Virtual Windows XP window, complete with a notification to install antivirus software—since XP Mode is nothing more than Windows XP in a virtual machine, you should take the advice and install your favorite antivirus application, especially if you’ll be downloading files in the VM.
At this point you will need to install your applications in Windows XP, and make sure to choose "All Users" anytime you are asked who to install the software for—the integration features won’t work with software that installs just for your user account. If you can’t install for everybody, you can simply choose "Open All Users" on the start menu, and copy a shortcut to the application into the start menu’s programs folder.
Once your applications are installed and shortcuts are in the All Users start menu, they will magically show up in the Windows 7 start menu under the Windows Virtual PC -> Virtual Windows XP Applications folder.
Youtube – You know that site with videos and all. Yeah! It turns out that its quite popular and you happen to visit and use it quite often. Instead of just searching and playing here are some top Youtube URL tricks that you should know about:
1. View high quality videos
Youtube gives you the option to switch to high quality videos for some of the videos, however you can check if a video is available in high quality format by appending ‘&fmt=18′(stereo, 480 x 270 resolution) or ‘&fmt=22′(stereo, 1280 x 720 resolution) for even higher quality.
2. Embed Higher Quality Videos
While the above trick works for playback, if however you want to embed hig quality videos you need to append “&ap=%2526fmt%3D18″ and “&ap=%2526fmt%3D22″ to the embed url.
3. Cut the chase and link to the interesting part
Linking to a video where the real action starts at 3 minutes 22 seconds, wondered if you could make it start at 03:22? You are in luck. All you have to do is add #t=03m22s (#t=XXmYYs for XX mins and YY seconds) to the end of the URL.
4. Hide the search box
The search box appears when you hover over an embedded video. To hide the search box add ‘&showsearch=0′ to the embed url.
5. Embed only a part of Video
Just append ‘&start=30′ to skip first 30s of the video. In general you can modify the value after start= to the number of seconds you want to skip the video for.
6. Autoplay an embedded video
Normally when you embed a Youtube video and load the page, the player is loaded and it sits there waiting for you to hit the play button. You can make the video play automatically by adding ‘&autoplay=1′ to the url part of the embed code.
7. Loop an embedded video
Append ‘&loop=1′ to make the video start again without user intervention after it reaches the end.
8. Disable Related Videos
Publishing your content in the form of Youtube video? Don’t want people to see other people’s content that may be related but may as well be in competition to you? Just add ‘&rel=0′ to the end of the url part of the embed code and you just turned off the related video suggestions!
9. Bypass Youtube Regional Filtering
Some videos are only available in certain parts of the world. Your IP Address is used to determine your location and then allow or deny access to the video. Change the url from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=<somecode> to http://www.youtube.com/v/<somecode>
10. Download Video
Although not inherently a youtube trick but useful all the same for downloading videos. Just change youtube to kickyoutube in the url of the video and it will take you to kickyoutube.com with all the options for downloading the video you were watching.
For decades, the science fiction and fantasy genres have done more than just inspire conventions and bad fanfic. They’ve given us an array of worship-worthy princesses, bad girls, and aliens.
Below are a ton of Windows 7 Tips & Tricks shared with us by Microsoft as part of the Microsoft Partner Program. Did you know Windows 7 has built-in screen recording? How about control-clicking the taskbar to switch between windows? Read on and learn how you can get even more from Windows 7!.
Shuffling Through Program Windows
If you’re running a number of files from the same program, such as multiple documents in Microsoft Word, Windows 7 allows you to switch through these windows with ease. Simply press down on the Ctrl key while clicking the icon from the taskbar. Each click will change the window to the next in the sequence, in the order that you opened them.
Managing Your Windows
Windows 7 simplifies document and program management by allowing you to “dock” a window or manipulate its size with one mouse maneuver or a simple keystroke. To dock your window on one half of the screen, drag it to the left or right and it will change its size to fit that half of the screen. To manipulate the vertical size of a window, drag the window to the top to maximize it, or double-click the window’s top or bottom border to maximize it vertically while keeping the same width.
You can also perform all of these functions with keystrokes: +Left Arrow and +Right Arrow dock to half the screen +Up Arrow and +Down Arrow maximize and minimize +Shift+Up Arrow and +Shift+Down Arrow maximize and restore vertical size.
Project Your Display With Ease
Multi-Monitor Window Management
Windows 7 makes using multiple monitors as convenient as it should be. When you’re working in multi-monitors, use the keyboard shortcuts +Shift+Left Arrow and +Shift+Right Arrow to toggle between monitors. The new window will keep its relative position
to the top-left origin of the original.
Aero Peek Your Desktop
A lesser-known versatile tool introduced with Windows 7 is the Windows® Aero® feature, “Aero Peek”. Just click the rectangle in the lower right hand corner of the task bar for quick access to your desktop. The keyboard shortcut +Space performs the same function.
We live with enough clutter in our lives. Windows 7 gets rid of all the superfluous windows behind your active window. Just hit +Home to minimize all inactive windows. To restore the windows when you’d like them, just press +Home again.
BigBrains.com can now be instantly translated into 14 languages, with the help of Microsoft Translator Widget. The Microsoft Translator web page widget allows you to bring real-time, in-place translations to your web site. Users can see your pages in their own language, without having to go to a separate translation web site, and share your page with friends in multiple languages. You can learn more about how to use the widget, get help or interact with other website owners on the Microsoft Translator forums.
Amazon’s new Kindle DX boasts a newspaper-friendly screen that’s 2.5x bigger than the standard Kindle, but it’s also got a few tricks of its own (new features in bold):
• 9.7-inch E-Ink screen (1200 x 824 with 16 shades of grey)
• 1/3 of an inch thick (10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38")
• 4GB Storage for 3,500 books (a bump from 1,500)
• Unspecified but "long" battery life
• Native PDF support through built-in reader
• Automatic landscape/portrait text rotation
• Line length adjustments (determine the width of text on the screen)
• Navigation buttons moved to right side of screen only
• EVDO (of course) for 60-second book transfers
Available this summer, there’s no denying it—the Kindle DX looks fantastic, especially with that surprise landscape/portrait rotational sensitivity we find useful in so many smartphones. But $500? Really