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Microsoft surface: stop and go see the video demos

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-May-2007 18:22

A few years ago I was in Redmond, attending a Microsoft conference for web site owners and had the opportunity to see the Microsoft Digital Home. This was around 2004 and we all signed NDAs before steping inside.

One of the things we saw in a demo was this amazing table top in the kitchen where you could drop groceries and have recipes displayed automatically - using the "material" on hand. you could interact with the table top touching or simply placing objects on it.

Today Microsoft has announced Microsoft Surface. It is an evolution of that table top I saw a few years back, with much more functionality.

The idea is to have every day objects that we can interact with, and interact with each other. At a high level, Surface uses cameras to sense objects, hand gestures and touch. This user input is then processed and the result is displayed on the surface using rear projection.

Surface computing, which Microsoft has been working on for a number of years, features four key attributes:

• Direct interaction. Users can actually “grab” digital information with their hands, interacting with content by touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
• Multi-touch. Surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger like a typical touch-screen, but up to dozens of items at once.
• Multi-user. The horizontal form factor makes it easy for several people to gather around surface computers together, providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience.
• Object recognition. Users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content. 

Whatever you are doing now, make some time to watch the videos on the Microsoft Surface website. There's a video review on On10 as well.

Disc Stakka software and drivers for Microsoft Windows Vista are out

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-May-2007 09:27

More and more drivers for Microsoft Windows Vista are coming out. If you have an imation Disc Stakka you can now download the official driver and application from Opdicom.

I need to purchase a second unit, since my first one is already up to the 100 CDs/DVDs limit.

Kiwi Made Windows Vista Sidebar Gadget list updated

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-May-2007 20:02

I've just noticed that Microsoft New Zealand has updated their web page with "Kiwi Made" Windows Vista Sidebar Gadgets, including our very own Geekzone Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar.

The list now includes the following Gadgets:

- Trade Me
- Television New Zealand
- New Zealand Herald
- Geekzone
- DigiRAMA
- TrafficWatch
- PowerShell Gadget

They also have links to gadgets for Air New Zealand flight special, New Zealand radios and New Zealand weather.

Security Enhancements in Windows Vista

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-May-2007 21:40

If you are interested in knowing what security features were introduced with Windows Vista, then the "Security Enhancements in Windows Vista" whitepaper is for you.

This article highlights security enhancements in Windows Vista, the most secure version of Windows yet.

This article includes information about security enhancements in Windows Vista and how Microsoft used the Security Development Lifecycle to increase the security of the Windows operating system.

This is the list of topics covered in that whitepaper:

Security Enhancements in Windows Vista 
Windows Vista: The Most Secure Version of Windows Yet 
A key milestone on the path to Trustworthy Computing 
Windows Vista: New features, new choices 
Engineering a Secure Operating System: The Security Development Lifecycle 
The impact of the SDL 
Security is a process 
Under the Hood of Windows Vista 
Windows service hardening 
More defense-in-depth: NX and ASLR 
64-bit security enhancements: Kernel patch protection and driver signing 
New User, Network, and Application Security Options 
User Account Control 
Windows Defender 
Windows Firewall 
Windows Security Center 
Network Access Protection 
New logon architecture 
Easier smart card deployment 
New Data Protection Options 
BitLocker™ Drive Encryption 
Integrated Rights Management Services client 
Encrypting File System enhancements 
Security Options in Internet Explorer 7 
Microsoft Phishing Filter 
Extended validation SSL certificate support 
Internet Explorer Protected Mode 
URL handling protections 
ActiveX Opt-in 
Fix My Settings 

A Windows Vista website resource

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-May-2007 11:21

Just now I've received an e-mail from a reader in Toronto, Canada, who started Windows Vista Help, a website with resources and information for Windows Vista Users.

The information in the site is in a format that is easy for novices and non-technical users to understand.

If you want to get a bit more information or need some Windows Vista Help, check his site.

Windows Live Folders online storage: here and gone... Back soon

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-May-2007 09:33

It appears Microsoft is finally coming out with its online storage service, called Windows Live Folders and rumoured for a long time to be part of the Windows Live services suite.

There are reports - and even a review! - on

Initially it will allow users to store 500MB online, but since this will be a beta I imagine this limit will be higher in the actual service, and probably you could even purchase additional storage.

The review doesn't say how this service interacts with FolderShare a folder synchronisation and sharing tool acquired by Microsoft a couple of years ago. FolderShare promised lots because of its delta sharing capabilities, though Microsoft removed that functionality because it was based on open-source in the original software.

Windows Live Folders allows you to create private, public and shared folders. Everything is done through the browser.

It looks interesting but it probably requires lots of management, otherwise you will end up filling it fast. My Canon D-SLR currently holds a 2GB SD card, and have two 1GB spare cards. If I take a full card of pictures Windows Live Folders wouldn't have enough space to store it. But for people with office documents this could be ideal.

The login page has been down for a while, but it should be open to beta testers soon.

As usual, we can only draw conclusions when the beta is completed and the final product emerges.

Windows Vista and Microsoft SQL 2005: saga continues

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-May-2007 19:46

A few days ago I posted on how hard it is to install (and uninstall) Microsoft's own SQL 2005 on Windows Vista.

I need the SQL Server Management Studio so I can manage some of my databases. I do not have any Windows XP machine anymore and I must use this.

Of course it warns of problems with Windows Vista just before the installation, but the warning dialog also tells me to install Micorsoft SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 and all will be ok.

After a few days I managed to actually remove the previous failed install and have the correct things installed. But when I tried to apply the Service Pack 2, that's what I get:

That's right: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 failed to install exactly on the component I need most.

Incredible. Both Microsoft's flagship products in their categories won't work with each other. When are they going to learn, if ever? Are these products still in beta?

Closer to going out and getting that Apple Mac.

Don't activate your copy of Windows yet - read this first

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-May-2007 11:45

Scammers all over are making it harder for common people to identify social engineering tricks... Look at the latest phishing scam associated with a trojan for Windows... According to the Symantec Security Response Weblog:

Recently we came across an interesting Trojan sample, detected by Symantec as Trojan.Kardphisher. The Trojan is not very technical - it's really just another classic social-engineering attack. What makes it interesting is that the author has obviously taken great pains to make it appear legitimate.

How legitimate? Look at the screenshot:

The trojan runs on startup and pretend to be a Windows Activation dialog. Note how it asks for name, address, credit card number, expiry date and even ATM PIN!

So, beware. Windows Activation does not ask for this information. Also it offers the option to activate over the phone. If you are in doubt and the machine has been activated before, run an anti-virus!

Windows Live Messenger chats OSD

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-May-2007 08:31

I found this today and it's kind of a cool concept, so I decided to post a short note: a free plugin to enable Windows Live Messenger chats to be shown on-screen:

The software is free and available here.

SQL Server 2005 install woes on Windows Vista

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-May-2007 12:21

How many times do I have to reboot Windows Vista to install SQL Server Client? How many failed attempts are required? Why does the setup die? Is this a bad case of application still in beta?

So frustrating. I cringe every time I have to reboot now.

I am very tempted to go out and buy an Apple Mac.

UPDATE: Install worked, after four attempts. And this is not a machine with lots installed - and it's clean. There is no toolbars and loads of utilities. It's just plain stock Windows Vista. Lesson learned? Don't use the Sleep or Hibernation thing. Every time I use that something goes wrong. Reboot every day.

UPDATE: I can't believe it... After the install finished I clicked Windows Update. It downloaded 340MB for SQL 2005 SP2, and run for ten minutes. Then it return "Update failed to install". I clicked the link "Get Help" and as expect the error code wasn't there. I clicked the button "Try again" and it started downloading the 340MB SP2 again!

How bad a software can be? It's just the client, for goodness sake, it's not the SQL 2005 Server components. Another reboot coming.

UPDATE: Worst decision ever: installing the SQL 2005 Client on this Windows Vista machine. After installing SP2 I wanted to add another feature, but can't because the code files are newer than the installation DVD. And guess what? Uninstall is not working. What a piece of software.

freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

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If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

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