Vista: Are you Ready? Microsoft isn't


At least not yet. There's lots of disgruntledness in the community about Microsoft own lack of preparedness.

If you bought a Zune and run vista, you'll have to resort to some hacking to get your new toy to sync up.

Want to run Visual Studio inside of Vista? Be prepared for a bumpy road.

You're a Microsoft Certified or Gold Partner and you're excited because Vista is now available for download so in an eager rush to be “ready“ you decide to deploy vista using your internal use licenses that you get as part of your partnership benefits. Sorry - there is no Volume License key available to partners yet.


To be fair, Micrsoft has several “release” dates for Vista and depending on who you are - you pick whatever one suits you as your “deadline” for readiness. Here's a run down which might give you some idea of setting your expectations of when to get stuff you need.

RTM/Release to Manufacturing.  This is the date the bits get signed sealed and delivered. This actually happends about 30 days prior to when you think it happens when the would be final code goes into a cooling period of “let's run it internally and see if we can live without wanting to make a last minute change” otherwise known as escrow. This is a deadline for many internal product teams at microsoft.

Release to MSDN for Download.  In the case of Vista, this took about a week. I'm not sure why this takes so long - especially if MSDN could have had the preliminary bits in waiting (i.e. escrow build) a month earlier. Perhaps there is some bureaucracy in play here, but I'm not sure. There are product keys to get ready and the inevitable crunch on the servers when people start downloading. I don't think I've seen a major release of Visual Studio, Office, or Windows that hasn't crippled MSDN. And then there are product keys to get ready, etc.

Launch Day(s): This is mostly just marketing hoopla but there is certainly lots of effort here. This has very little to do with the software actually being complete. We saw this last November with the simultaneous launch of Visual Studio, SQL Server, and BizTalk. BizTalk wasn't ready for release until months after launch

November 30th: For Vista there is some magic date that was announcd. This might be a launch date only or may have some technical deliverables. This was the date that MS announced as the official release of Vista to Partners and Businesses. Perhaps this is the date that the Microsoft Partner Program folks used as their deadline for readying their systems for getting volume license keys. But considering that Partners are the ones that are going to be in most need of being “ready” (after developers) you'd think that the MPP folks would be “ready“. What most annoys me about this is the emails they send out to partners asking us if we're “ready“. How can we be ready if you're not ready.

January 30th: This is the official Consumer release date. You should expect to find Vista on store shelves and preloaded on computers this day. For many stakeholders, this is the deadline of all deadlines. I've heard that the Zune team is using this date as a deadline to get their Vista version to market. I've also heard that many computer makers are using this date as their deadline to get drivers readied.


Toshiba M400, Vista RC2 &amp; Updated Bios 2.03 = goodness

On the Toshiba Vista RC1 Support Page, Toshiba quietly added some updates. The most interesting one, a new bios 2.03. Previously the latest available was 1.70. I didn't immediately notice much difference. I did a recalculation of my Vista score and the numbers are all identical after the update. But I did notice a BIG difference today when I came into the office an plugged in my external ViewSonic 20” VX2025wm external monitor. I'm now geting the fully 1680x1050 resolution of this monitor. Previiously, I could only get 1600x1200 (with goofy scrolling/clipping & flickering) or 1280x1024). This was also the max I could drive on XP as well. No amount of graphics or monitors would fix that problem but 2.03 of the bios seems to add support for this. I may verify this on XP in the next week of so, but so far for Vista RC2, works great.

I also noticed that after the bios and reboot, on restart, there were some new devices detected and installed, namely, Direct Application Launcher Button (x 2). The buttons on the tablet don't seem to do anything different with some preliminary. I had previously installed the Toshiba Tablet PC Buttons Driver  (V2.0.2.0). The Lock/Key button still brings up the full screen lock menu (same as CTRL-ALT-DEL). The “i” (toshiba assist?) doesn't do anything and neither does the presentation button (last on the right). The rotate (hold down Esc) button still rotates in a sequential order - I have never had the automatic orientation sensor work in Vista. One thing I did notice with rotation is that the external monitors stays the way it is and doesn't get all screwy. I can't be sure if that's because of this most recent bios update or not but all is good on that front. The 4 way button & enter still works as expected.

Unifying My RSS Aggregation: IE7/Vista, Outlook 2007, Newsgator, Exchange

Icarumba! All of those things in the title have 1 way or another of storing RSS feeds. But it wasn't as bad as I hoped. Now that I'm using Vista RC2 fulltime, I figured it was time to start looking into the IE7/Vista RSS store. I had been leaning on the newsgator web based reader for all of my RSS consumption needs - and consequently have been falling behind.

I'm an Office/Outlook 2007 newbie since RC2 of vista. I installed Beta 2 of office and the technical refresh. I managed to get it hooked up to our exchange server, although I wasn't able to get HTTP access working the first time - I had to be on the LAN the first time I connected to the Exchange Server. I may have been doing something wrong, but I was able to do that with Outlook 2003.

One of the options that cam up with Outlook 2007 was the ablity to display/aggregate RSS feeds - and furthermore, sync with the IE7 RSS store. I had the RSS gadget on my sidebar staring at me empty for too long - time to make the plunge. What could I do about all my newsgator feeds though? I didn't want to manually add them, and I suppose I could have exported/imported an OPML file. But I kind of like reading blogs occassionally on other machines (my parents house, my wife's computer in the kitchen, etc.) via the browser.

And then I cam across the NewsGator Desktop Sync Beta that promises to keep readmarks in sync between outlook/windows rss and newsgator. Fantastic, it worked, sort of. It fails to import a number of blogs, citing that the feed contains document type definition references which are not support, and a couple of other meaningless error messages. I'll have to investigate this further, but all I could say was “sweet”. Especially when I opened up Outlook Web Access to our exchange server, and could see the RSS feeds in my inbox there as well.

Is this a good thing I asked myself? I mean, if I really wanted to read feeds through a browser I could use Newsgator's online reader which is way better than OWA. Argh, then I got an email from our exchange server: You mail box is now disabled because it is full. Damn. I told you I was behind on my blog reading. I would have loved to been able to read my blogs in outlook...without storing them on my exchange server. I suppose I don't really need them in outlook. The other sad problem with the Newsgator Desktop Sync Beta is that it lost my nice folder structure of how I've organized my blogs. All I get is one big flat list. Yuck, but sweet. :)


Toshiba Protege M400 Tablet PC and Vista RC2

I've been running Vista RC2 since the weekend on my Toshiba M400. I was running RC1 before that, and Beta 2 on and off prior to that. During the RC1 “era” (from an XP upgrade)  I had a lot of junk on my laptop that wouldn't work. So I was backfilling with help from Virtual PC, VMWare, and remote desktop into other machines to get real work done.

RC2 looks pretty good so far. This time I did a clean install and just about everything works like I'd hope, save for the HDD vibration. I did not use all of the drivers from the Toshiba M400 Vista RC1 support page. I used their RAID drivers (have to on a clean install) during the initial install. I am using the common modules after that, then the fingerprint drivers, and the flash memory drivers. A couple of friends at MS hooked me up with another build of the bluetooth monitor - which is not the full stack from this page. I think I'm using just the toshiba bluetooth monitor, and then the rest of the MS stack/utilities from that point up. My dial-up networking over bluetooth to my EVDO Bell Mobility phone wasn't working with the pure Toshiba stuff. Works like a charm now with this setup. Since RC1 I've been getting glass my default after installs. I've noticed however that with RC2, it hasn't been turning glass off when I go into multi-monitor mode. Nice.

I did have one major problem - something got pooched after day 2 with my tablet pc input - data execution protection was turning it off and the machine ran like a dog. It happened on the train home on Monday - I threw the machine into rotated tablet mode for the first time since the install - and the Toshiba rotation utility captured the event and rotated nicely. However, something was wrong. When I clicked on a point on the screen - the actual mouse would be positioned somewhere about 2 feet to the right (off screen). I had to use the touch pad to bring it back over. Going back into landscape mode didn't help either. After a reboot - then I was cooked - DEP errors and even going to “Last Known Good Configuration“ didn't help either. I solved the problem by going back to a system restore point from the day earlier and things were fine after that.

Since that, everything has been roses (knock on wood). Things working include Multi-monitor, rotation, fingerprint, flash media reader, DVD Burner, usb ready-boost. wifi, bluetooth (mouse and DUN are all that I'm using). I even captured a home video over IEEE firewire last night surprisingly simple. I plugged in my camera and it just showed up and offerred to import the video (including rewinding the tape for me). It was almost like a I had a Mac for a moment. When it got to the end of the tape (on my Canon Elura) instead of parsing up the video into scenes like it said it would, it just displayed an error message that said there was no tape in the camera. Fortunately the tmp file was sitting my Videos folder and I was able to rename it and then open it up in Movie Maker, and it it cut it up into scenes very nicely.

I haven't loaded the cross-fire craplet - but that was working on my upgrade with RC1. I'm not using the buttons utility or hotkey display from Toshiba - they've never done anything for me in the past so I'd just as soon as not muddy the waters. The auto-detect orientation button on the M400 never worked with it either (and still doesn't without). Depressing that button does rotate, but it just advances 90 degrees each time. The 4 way joystick seems to have a mind of it's own so I need to figure out what to do with that. Up goes into Windows-Tab carousel mode. Down shows the desktop. Left opens up a new IE window. Right opens up Excel. I'm not sure what press-down does yet - but it's something. ESC stranglely loads up Media player. The Key/lock button is the same as CTRL-ALT-DEL and gives you the option of locking the machine. The “i” info button doesn't do anything and the the presentation mode button doesn't do anything either - although I really want that to use the built-in vista presentation mode accessed from the windows mobility center if I can ever figure out that.

Appcompat is a bit better. VMWare player 1.02 installs and work fine. I have yet to try out Virtual PC but I'm going to have to today or tomorrow (lest I use an old stunt machine for customer session I'm doing tomorrow with team system).

A few weeks ago when I first tried out RC1, and did some goofing around with Acronis True Image to back up my old system on a second drive (in the HDD Adapter slim-drive bay) something wierd happened. My cmos battery appears to have died. I can't keep an accurate time anymore. I suspect it's the battery because at one point I restored back to XP and still had the problem. At the same point I also did the 1.70 bios update so maybe that caused it. It does seem strange that a 6 month old laptop cmos battery would die. I'm told I have to bring it in for service for them to look at that. What a pain.

Visual Studio and Team Systems Service Pack Betas

So we have a few service packs to talk about....

Firstly, Visual Studio 2005, SP1 is now in beta testing. This is a fairly big service pack, lots of bug fixes, and the odd new feature. The list is not complete of things fixed yet but Microsoft promises to update that list when they ship. You can read the announcement here and if you like, register for the beta on the Microsoft Connect Site. In that announcement, Soma also goes on to talk about Vista support and what that means for Visual Studio 2002, 2003, and 2005. Keep in mind, this has little to do with your applications running on Vista - but is about running the development environment on Vista.

Secondly, Brian Harry anounced the beta availability for Team Foundation Server SP1. You can register for the download on the Microsoft Connect Site. I'm most thankful for full-fledged extranet support. As you may know, there are some security hiccups when not using a VPN and trying t pass through a variety of firewalls/proxy servers. This one should have been in the 1.0 release in my opinion, but better late than never.

I do a fair amount of Work Item Type customization for customers so I'm pretty excited about the ability to create custom controls on your work item forms.

Other notable improvements: Better performance and scale, Excel/Project 2007 Support, Support for the new Web Application Projects.

I have it on good authority that you don't have to worry about what version of the client you have for compatibility with the server. So feel free to mix and match, you know, like Garanimals.


You'll find increased scalability and better performance with Work Item Tracking, Version Control, and the Data Warehouse.

Get Rich by Running Windows XP on a MacBook

Colin Nederkoorn is hosting a contest over at to see who can get a MacBook Pro to natively dual boot into Windows XP first. The new MacBook, which is built on a 32-bit dual core Intel CPU, starts shipping February 15th, 2006 and he has his order placed. But if he can't run WinXP on it, he's going to have to send it back

Even though the new MacBook Pro is an Intel based machine, it forgoes a traditional BIOS in favour of a new EFI based hardware abstraction. While Microsoft officially supports EFI motherboards in Windows Vista and and 64-bit versions of Windows, they have stated that they will not support EFI in Windows XP 32-bit. There is hope that a BIOS compatibility mode normally included on Intel's EFI chipsets will be present on the shipping version versions of the MacBook. If not, maybe it can be retrofitted. Apple has publicly stated that they will not do anything specifically to prevent running Windows XP on their hardware so optimism is running high..

Colin has offered $100 of his own money for the contest and invited others to add to the pool which is now over $!

Reflections on the PDC Day 1 Keynote

Bill Gates gave a pretty typical high level keynote to introduce the keynote this morning. He talked about the past, how far we've come, and how now is the most exciting time, and that we are in most exciting industry. Not that I don't disagree, but I swear I've heard this keynote before.

After Bill, a series of VP's and Architect's ran through more product details. Things started to get much more interesting at this point. Chris Capossela gave an end user run down of Windows Vista and Office 12 - which will be both released at the same time near the end of 2006.

The UI is just stunning (as it always is in these demos). It was also nice to see the QuickSearch text box integrated through both products. Not unlike Google Desktop Search, and using the same engine as MSN Desktop Search, the QuickSearch text box gives context sensitive searching through the application. If you're in a document explorer - you can search there for documents. If you are in the start menu, you can easily search for applications (and recent documents). If you are in outlook you can easily search your in-box, contacts, etc. Of course you can do broad computer searches too, but that context is nice.

Chris also showed off Sidebar which isn't really big news, but he also showed the audience Sideshow. Sideshow uses the same dock-able gadgets that Sidebar does, but re-use them on what I can only describe as a built in Pocket PC device that is built into the cabinetry of your laptop. This allows you to check real-time information (email, appointments, etc.) without turning on or booting up your laptop. Expedia had a nice gadget working in Sideshow that showed up to the minute flight status. Nice.

RSS is also taking a prominent position in Vista and Office. An RSS store was announced that would store subscribed RSS feed content. This content would be regularly downloaded automatically, and the content would be available to the Sidebar, Outlook, IE7, and your own applications. Cool.

Office 12 has a new user interface that hopes to make more of its features discoverable. At first glance I wasn't all too excited about this, but I'll reserve my judgment until I play around with it. The quick “wizard“ like features were absolutely stunning though.

The integration with Outlook and Sharepoint is quite impressive. We are all accustomed to having our email/contacts/appointments offline stored in our outlook store. With Office 12, you can keep in sync with any Sharepoint folder to keep those files on your local store. Sweet. Better yet, a special new Sharepoint List for sharing PowerPoint decks. When you upload a PowerPoint file, an item appears in the list for each slide. From within PowerPoint, I can create a new deck, and pull individual slides from the Sharepoint server. You can optionally have it keep that slide up to date so if a new version is uploaded to the server, you'll automatically get it. Corporate plagiarism has just become so much easier.

After Chris's “consumer“ demos, Jim Alchin came out with Don Box, Chris Anderson, Anders Hejlsberg and Scott Guthrie. Jim started by giving some demos of some interesting plumbing bits. One cool thing in Vista is Super Fetch. Super Fetch is a preloaded memory cache of things you'll likely need, but unlike typical hard drive caches, it basis it's decisions on analyzing your behavior over days, weeks, months to determine what an idle machine should be preloading. The second part of his demo tied in very nicely where he showed that any USB Memory Stick could be plugged into a Vista machine and it would automatically start using it for expanded virtual ram. That totally rocks for laptops which can quickly max out their ram capacities.

Don and Anders went on to talk about some big news, namely the Language Integrated Query (LINQ) project. Linq provides a query engine on top of XML, Object and Relational data stores using a common query language reminiscent of SQL. No, this isn't an O/R mapping tool, but you can see how they may have wanted to delay ObjectSpaces until they got Linq out the door. I'll have more on this in my blog in the coming days. Attendees at PDC are getting Linq bits to try out, and don't forget to stop by the track lounge to pick up a copy of a Linq whitepaper. 

Next Don and Chris messed around with Indigo, and they also created a goofy Avalon application. Scott Guthrie came out to show off the Atlas product which is a set of cross browser javascripts and server side ASP.NET 2 controls to make Ajax style programming a snap.

To close out the lengthy presentation, Jim brought out a few other people to demonstrate complete applications to bring up the wow factor, including Microsoft Max and a kiosk application created for the North Face.

UPDATE: Dinesh Kulkarni gives some inside scoop on how ObjectSpaces is dead, or rather morphed into DLinq. It would appear ObjectsSpaces is not something you'll see built down the road on top of Linq.

DevTeach Conference in Montreal

I'm going to be heading out in a couple of weeks to DevTeach in Montreal. In addition to my regular session talk on Datasets, I'll also be participating in an architecture panel discussion as part of Groupe d’usagers Visual Studio Montréal, Software Architecture Special Interest Group's Special Software Architecture Meeting. The meeting is open to conference attendees, members of the user group, and anybody else for $5. Here's the details....

Speaker: Joel Semeniuk, Microsoft Regional Director, Winnipeg

Subject: Software architecture from the trenches


Architecture is the soul of our software. Software Architecture truly helps to define our success since if our architecture fails us, our software fails us. However, what makes a good architecture? What truly drives architectural decisions? Is one architecture better than another? In this session we will explore and discuss some of these questions while taking a close look at a few real-world examples. In each real-world scenario we will explore the resulting architecture and review the constraints the project faced both during design and during production and maintenance phases. We will also look retrospectively at each architecture presented and discuss ways that it could be improved upon with Microsoft .NET 2.0.


Joel Semeniuk is a founder and VP of Software Development at ImagiNET Resources Corp, a Manitoba based Microsoft Gold Partner in Ecommerce and Enterprise Systems. Joel is also the Microsoft Regional Director for Winnipeg, Manitoba. With a degree in Computer Science from the University of Manitoba, Joel has spent the last twelve years providing educational, development and infrastructure consulting services to clients throughout North America. Joel is the author of "Exchange and Outlook: Constructing Collaborative Solutions", from New Riders Publishing and contributing author of "Microsoft Visual Basic.NET 2003 KickStart" from SAMS. Joel has also acted as a technical reviewer on many other books and regularly writes articles for .NET Magazine and Exchange and Outlook Magazine on a variety of infrastructure and development related topics. Reach Joel by email at


Followed by a software architecture expert panel:

Beth Massi, Software Architecture MVP

Joel Semeniuk, Software Architecture MVP, Microsoft Regional Director Winnipeg

Barry Gervin, Software Architecture MVP, Microsoft Regional Director Toronto

Mario Cardinal, Software Architecture MVP

Carol Roy, Microsoft Canada .NET architecture specialist for the public sector


Well known Nick Landry (MVP .NET Compact Framework) will act as the moderator.


Come hear these experts talk about software architecture hot topics.  You'll also have the chance to ask questions and talk to the panelists.


Monday June 20th, 5:30PM to 9:30PM

Location: Sheraton Centre, 1201 Boulevard Rene-Levesque West

Cost: free for all the DevTeach attendees and the Groupe d’usagers Visual Studio Montréal members.  $5 for non members or non DevTeach attendees.

Note: this session will be held in English

More info: or


From Rainier to Orcas and beyond.

This past 3 days I've spent traveling to and from Redmond to visit with a few of the developer tools teams as part of an Software Design Review (SDR). These are a kind of focus group, with the intention of getting qualitative information from folks about what they'd like to see in upcoming development tools. Hopefully I'll be able to talk more about the content after PDC in the fall so stay tuned. It was a refreshing trip in that normally, I'm traveling to either learn or teach. During this trip I was there more to discuss and influence and I got a real sense of just how careful Microsoft listens to the community.

It's fitting that I drove down to Redmond from Vancouver, passing through the town of Everett and past the Whidbey and Orcas islands (part of the San Juan Islands). These names are probably familiar to some of you as code names for Visual Studio 2003 (Everett), 2005 (Whidbey) and beyond (Orcas). For the sake of completeness we should add Rainier as well which was the code name for Visual Studio 2002. Geographically, these go from south east to north west passing more or less through Redmond.

Not unlike the development of these versions, the journey between these stops is a windy road, taking you over hill and vale, and over several bodies of water.  What's after Orcas? Well the next leg of the journey is as ambitious as the following version after Orcas, namely Hawaii. If you look at this path on a map, you'll see that this is indeed quite a leap.

The most interesting thing that happened is that I realized that come Orcas, I'm likely only going to be interested in coding in Visual Basic, and not C#.

Whidbey, ObjectSpaces and Mexico, Oh My!

I'm just heading back home from Vancouver tonight on a red eye. When I get home, I have time for a load of laundry or two and then I'm flying to Mexico. Not just for some R&R, but I've also arranged to speak at the Mayan Riviera .NET User Group. (MR. Nug). I'm not sure what is better - going on vacation, or being able to write it off as a business expense. Unfortunately the only Spanish I know is “Dos cervasa por favor“ therefore this talk will be in English. My apologies.

I'm going to be speaking about the new DataSet that is coming in Whidbey. By the time I get there, beta 2 should be available for download and it should be public knowledge that ObjectSpaces will finally be shipping as part of the whidbey release. I just got a preliminary build last night, so I'm going to try to do a demo of using a dataset with O/R mapping via ObjectSpaces.

As you may have also heard, bundled into 2.0 Typed Datasets are Typed DataAdapters, also known as TableAdapters. In addition to TableAdapters, beta 2 will introduce typed forms, known as TypedForms. These will be precanned forms for both Web and Windows access that couples an easily painted form right on top of a dataset...with zero code. The cool thing about this is that you can simply add a column to your database table, and this will automatically change your data access layer, your middle tier entity and data entry forms. Likewise, you'll be able to simply drag a text box onto your TypedForms and this will automatically modify your database schema to add a new column to the table.

There is also some discussion going on about also adding a TypedReport into the dataset that couples Sql Reporting Services Reports directly into your typed dataset class. This stuff is going to be so easy to use, that it is likely going to make it's way into InfoPath as part of the Office product so that end users can create their own data entry forms and reports in InfoPath. This new edition of InfoPath is going to be named “InfoMaker“. More information on this is available here. This new collection of classes in the dataset are now going to be collectively known as a "DataWindow". Again, more details here. No, it's not a snowy day hell. Hard to believe isn't it. This is surely a day to mark on your calendar.