Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tips to boost Windows Vista performance

Windows Vista is packed with cool eye candy, handy new features, and improved security. But all this comes at a price -- and many new Vista users are paying that price in the form of decreased performance as compared to Windows XP. Performance issues are the most common complaint I hear from readers who've just installed Vista or bought a new Vista machine, and my own experience shows that the concerns are valid.

Vista Ultimate runs great on my primary desktop computer, a fast Dell XPS with 4 GB of RAM. No noticeable performance problems there. So I expected the same when I bought a new laptop. I loved my little Sony TX model with XP, so I looked to replace it with an almost identical model running Vista Business Edition. It came with 1 GB of RAM (the XP machine has 512 MB), which I thought would be enough. However, I noticed from the beginning that the new computer took minutes to boot up instead of seconds, and running more than a couple of applications at a time slowed things down to an unacceptable level. Running Vista became the hurry up and wait experience that I'd heard about from other users.

I bought another 512 MB of RAM for it, maxing out its memory capacity, and got a 4GB USB drive optimized for ReadyBoost. All that helped some, but it was still significantly slower than its XP counterpart.

That's when I went looking for more ways to improve the performance of my laptop. Here's a look at some of the things that worked -- and some that didn't.

Read the full article here: Tips to boost Windows Vista performance

Monday, May 26, 2008

Microsoft Fights Back From Underdog Status on Search

After vague statements over the last weeks about internal investments that will allow it to compete in search without Yahoo, Microsoft on Wednesday laid out more of its vision for improving on its current "underdog" position in search.

While describing some new search technologies from Microsoft and some future ideas, executives were also cautious to repeat that theirs is a long-term vision that may take a while to spell success for the company. They spoke during an annual get together for advertisers, this year hosted on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington.

"I have to say, it's kind of fun to be the underdog," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates confessed. The company has put an unusual effort toward building the team that's working on search, he said. "We've done more on this to build a great team then on any effort I can remember," he said.

Users should expect to see new features every six months from Microsoft's search group, he said. "We have a long-term commitment," Gates said. The company is willing to experiment, he said.

Wednesday's launch of Cashback represents the latest new feature. When Web users search for a product on Live.com, results may feature a Cashback tag. If users end up buying a product with the tag, they’ll receive money back.

Microsoft expects that the concept will create a whole new business model, though it also expects that it might take some time for it to shake up the industry. "We understand this is a journey. When you change the user experience or business model, it takes time to percolate through to behavior changes," said Satya Nadella, senior vice president of the search, portal and advertising platform group at Microsoft.

Gates pointed out how Cashback is different than existing search advertising methods. "In search, when you get those ads, in a sense you don’t get anything back in return," he said. That compares to other media like TV or radio, where in exchange for advertisements, viewers and listeners get content.

Cashback "gives you a reason why you should use a particular search," he said.

Over 700 merchants including eBay, Barnes and Noble, Sears, Circuit City, Home Depot, Zappos.com, Overstock.com and Kmart have signed up to advertise as part of the Cashback program. "That confirms there is this opportunity for change," Gates said.

Microsoft also showed off search features in beta release based on the company's recent acquisition of Farecast. When Internet users search on Live.com for flights, results will include information collected by Farecast that predict when a traveler can get the best deal on a flight. Microsoft has also used that technology to now offer similar information to people looking for hotel deals.

In addition, Microsoft showed off innovations it has made in video search as well. When users search for videos on Live.com, they see a page of videos and, on the right hand column, options for refining the search. They'll also see a list of other related videos that might interest them. In addition, users can hover over the video with their mouse and the video starts to play. Gates showed off the results for a video search for Tiger Woods in Live.com and compared it to a Google video result for the same topic.

"Make no mistake, we're about having the best search, the best results, so people want to use it for quality alone but also some of these innovations in the business model will excite and drive that," Gates said.

Still, he cautioned that the software required to drive the innovations that Microsoft envisions could take many years and billions of dollars to develop, he said.

While the effort to show off new search capabilities at Microsoft seemed to correlate with the company's recent decision to pull its acquisition offer for Yahoo, none of the executives referred to the ongoing discussions with its search rival. Neither Gates nor Nadella took questions from the conference attendees.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Windows 2008 Exams On Last Leg of Development

Microsoft's Learning Group closes beta testing on several new Windows Server 2008 exams, with release soon after the software launches next month.

Windows Server 2008 rounds the corner toward release at the end of next month. And the Microsoft Learning Group, for its part, has been keeping pace with new exams that are slated to be generally available at Prometric testing centers soon after the software hits shelves. According to blog posts from Trika Harms zum Spreckel, a member of the marketing team in the Microsoft Learning Group, MCPs will see a healthy mix of MCTS and MCITP exams in the weeks to come.

The MCITP: Enterprise Administrator title, on the other hand, requires a bit more network design-based expertise and an understanding of network infrastructure in the context of the enterprise. So, Microsoft makes the bar for obtaining this title a bit higher, with candidates having to pass at least four of the following MCTS level exams: 70-640, 70-642, 70-643 and 70-620 TS: Windows Vista, Configuring or 70-624 TS: Deploying Vista and Office Desktops (70-620 and 70-624 have been available since soon after the release of Vista last year). Over on the Professional level, candidates finally have need to pass one more exam, 70-647, to obtain MCITP nirvana.

Windows 2008 Exams On Last Leg of Development


I was struck by an odd observation this week. Desperately in need of shelf space, I began going through stacks of old books and tossing them or packing them away for storage.

Among the books on NetWare 3 — the first Novell certification I earned — I realized that there isn’t a single thing in them that would be meaningful today; they were tossed. The first Microsoft certification I earned was on Windows 95 and, similarly, those books were tossed because nothing in them has merit anymore. Same story for Cisco and many others.

Then, there was “Inside Unix.” This was a book for which I actually wrote a few chapters in 1993 and was published in 1994. As I looked through this 14-year-old text, it struck me how it still contains much of what you’d need to know to pass a Linux certification today. While Microsoft, Novell, Cisco, Oracle and so many others have updated their products to the point where the exams no longer resemble the originals, Linux — so often the darling of the cutting-edge — still measures expertise in terms of knowing how to work with tools that are just plain old.

Read the full article here: LINUX CERTS AND THE CUTTING EDGE