Microsoft @ CES

January 9, 2007 at 7:04 am | Posted in Microsoft, Software | 1 Comment

In case you did not know already, the Consumer Electronics Show is going on right now at Las Vegas, and Bill Gates gave the keynote there announcing a bunch of new things in the pipeline for Microsoft.

2007 is definitely going to be the biggest year for Microsoft in a long time. Not only are we releasing Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007. In addition to this, Longhorn Server 2007 is supposed to ship and the Zune is shaping up to be a great Microsoft product.

Anyway, none of the above has anything to do with CES. It’s all old news…So just what is exciting and new that was announced at CES?

  • Windows Home Server. I heard about this about a couple of months ago at Microsoft and was something that I found very interesting. Basically it’s a small server box for your home that is designed to run without any input devices or monitors. Kinda like a Router. It is designed to be your home server, so you can store all your files on it centrally and stream things all over your home. It would be great for any home that has multiple PC’s. It’s designed to take 5 HD’s and no need to open it to add extra hard disks. Target Price: 500$! Here is a sample picture of a prototype device (not final). Look at the guy’s hand to get an idea of the size of the device.

 

  • Ultimate Extras for Windows Ultimate. There are some great new things coming for people who decide to go for the Windows Ultimate SKU. Some of the extras include Texas Hold ‘Em Poker (a very famous poker game that is the latest craze in the US). Some Bitlocker and Encrypted File System enhancements. And finally, Windows DreamScene which basically allows you to use a video as your background. Remember the static view of some grassy hills in Windows XP (called Bliss in your Desktop Background)…anyway, imagine the grass is actually moving as if there is a breeze blowing across it! Yes, I know this has been around in Linux for quite a while…but I use Windows, and I’m happy to have this feature 🙂
  • Xbox Live on Windows Vista. Finally, Windows users will be able to play with Xbox 360 users. DirectX 10 on Vista is just amazing with lots of features and brings Windows gaming in line with console gaming. You can even use an Xbox 360 controller on your PC (in fact, they had an amazing demo of using your Xbox 360 controller to navigate through Virtual Earth in amazing 3D). It just makes sense for Microsoft to provide this seamless integration between Windows gamers and Xbox 360 games!
  • IPTV on Xbox. At some point in the future of 2007, Microsoft plans to introduce IPTV through the Xbox system. If you have ever seen the state of DVR’s and Cable Television you would understand why this is a big deal. My Comcast DVR hi-def box crashes routinely at least once a day…plus the interface is incredibly ugly and slow. If I could get all my shows on my Xbox with in hi-def with DVR capabilities – I would switch in an instant.
  • In-car computing with Ford. Microsoft has partnered with Ford to provide a Windows for Automotive solution built into the cars in the Ford lineup. It has bluetooth, allowing you to make/receive calls. It has TTS to read any messages you may have got. It works with portable music players so you can create playlists using speech recognition and lots lots more.

Anyway – there is probably a lot more I am missing…but here you got an idea of what an exciting future Microsoft has planned. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft has a lot of exciting projects going on right now, and I’m excited to be a part of it all 🙂 (Since I’m a part of it and everything…anyone here want to give me a Microsoft Home Server? :P)

Google Being Evil

December 30, 2006 at 6:09 am | Posted in Software | 1 Comment

I just read a very interesting post written by the author of Firefox, Blake Ross. It is titled Tip: Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose. I strongly recommend you read it.

Basically Google is placing ‘tips’ at the top of its search results. This is all fine, except for Google’s promise not to promote or use any form of unfair advertising throughout its website. Specifically the official line from Google Marketing is:

It’s important to note, however, that our ads are created and managed under the exact same guidelines, principles, practices and algorithms as the ads of any other advertiser…There are no algorithm changes to ’smooth the way’ for Google’s ads.

We’re quite proud of the advertising platform we’ve built and it simply makes sense for us to use it. At the same time, the trust of both our users and our advertisers is of paramount importance. We honor that responsibility, and work hard to earn and keep that trust.

 

I just think it is a bit hypocritical of them to do this. On top of this what’s kinda unfair is that if Microsoft did something like this people will come down on Microsoft very harshly, yet when Google does it, somehow its okay, or people look the other way. To be fair, here is a response from Matt Cutts on the issue.

I think rather than people judging a company based on their reputation, or “coolness” factor, instead you should judge them by their actions. Dare Obasanjo, another Microsoft blogger, also has an interesting post regarding this issue where it seems that Google is artificially placing its own products (such as Gmail) above competitors products (such as Yahoo Mail). The post is called Google’s Strategy Tax- Integrity of Search Results vs. Ads vs. Cross Promotion. In it he uses Google to confirm that there seems to be more links on the web that point to Yahoo Mail, yet Google Mail appears before it in the search results.

It’s interesting and made me wonder, so I thought I’d let you contemplate it too.

Microsoft BlueHat Fall 2006

October 29, 2006 at 12:01 am | Posted in Microsoft, Software | 2 Comments

Last week I got to attend the Fall 2006 Microsoft BlueHat conference. For those that don’t know what this is, it is a conference that is similar to BlackHat. Basically hackers (in the true sense of the word) show up and discuss various security related things. It is a Microsoft-only employee conference (I guess another perk of working here :P).

One talk I attended was titled Skype High. This talk was given by two engineers and it was basically a discussion of the different protection mechanisms that Skype has. They use some pretty advanced tools and techniques, but these two engineers managed to reverse engineer most of them, and actually found some weaknesses (some of which they couldn’t even tell us about…which makes you wonder). It’s also very interesting to know the lengths that Skype has gone to, to obfuscate its code and network layer to prevent other people from interoperating and/or learning how everything works. I am amazed at these two engineers capabilities 🙂

Another talk I attended was Blue Mist which discussed wireless driver vulnerabilities and hardware virtualization root kits. Again, another eye opener at the way hackers operate and weaknesses that are inherent in various technologies. One lesson to learn regarding wireless drivers is that usually hardware vendors are not really interested in writing really secure drivers and are in fact quite sloppy at it. It is also interesting to know how dangerous hardware virtualization root kits are and also how difficult it is to actually defend against them.

Another thing which maybe a lot of people don’t see and which Microsoft has had a bad reputation for is Security. Some people think Microsoft just doesn’t care about security and is very weak when it comes to this regard. This is far from the truth. One of Microsoft’s top priorities (above almost everything else I believe) is security. I was strongly encouraged to attend this conference. I also have already had one Security talk as part of my initial training, given by Michael Howard (one of the authors of Writing Secure Code). I also have another one lined up soon. Upon entering my team as well, we got two books. One was Microsoft Windows Internals and the other one was Writing Secure Code. These were in a sense, our bibles. Also, I’ve gotten to hear of and see some of the security features and enhancements that are coming out in Windows Vista and they show a really strong commitment to providing customers with robust, secure operating system by default. Is it perfect? No. It isn’t. Nothing is perfect. After all, the developers are only human. Plus, if it was perfect, there would probably be no need for a Windows Serviceability team which would put me out of a job 🙂

Just thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to during this past week.

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