NEWS: “10 Reinvigorating Facts About Microsoft’s Profits”

April 30, 2007

Joe Panettieri writes an interesting article.  Amid all the cries that Microsoft is dead, and that its online services are failing and its gaming console is bleeding the company and Google’s comin’ to get it…

10 Reinvigorating Facts About Microsoft’s Profits

Guess what my guilty pleasure is?

April 28, 2007

Everyone has a guilty pleasure.  For some people it’s watching American Idol.  Some guys like Playboy magazines.  I used to know a girl that liked reading the National Enquirer.  And yet another gal that had a stash of Harlequin novels.

I heart CSI: Miami.  I like the eye candy.  I like the psuedo-science used in the show.  Even with my dislike for Florida (tougue firmly planted in cheek!), I like the Miami scenery.  I like David Caruso’s cheesy one-liners before they play the show’s title sequence.

I think it’s the same part of my brain that loves things like Las Vegas, Sunset Blvd., and videos of people getting absolutely pwned.  It’s banal and silly, but who cares? 

Incidentally, I read somewhere where there’s been a sudden surge in Caruso imitations:  People doing an imitation of David Caruso’s character "Horatio Caine" – here’s the general procedure on "how to be Horatio/Caruso":

  1. Stand up with feet parted by about 9 inches with hands on hips.
  2. Stare down at the floor with sunglasses off in on hand and say just the first part of some cheesy line.  (Jim Carrey’s variation on this goes, "I before E…")
  3. Look up, put on your sunglasses and say the rest of the phrase:  "… except after C."
  4. <Insert the entry music for the Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again" here>

I actually think it’s kind of nice – that a guy like David Caruso, who effectively tanked his career by leaving NYPD Blue for a failed movie career – could resurrect things with a hit TV show many years later, and totally commit himself to the show, kind of like a grand awakening.  In an interview he did, in TV guide that he’s totally wrapped himself in the Horatio Caine character from how he lives his life to the amount of time he puts into the show to ensure it’s a success. 

And additionally, he dedicates himself to having a successful run on CSI: Miami to ensure that he can enjoy his time with his son, whom he’s apparently ridiculously devoted to.  I believe the quote he said was, "I look at my son everyday and am reminded of how unimportant everything else I’ve been pursuing has been."  I’m sure this was in reference to his prior "aggressive" pursuit of fame & fortune in his acting career earlier in life.

It seems pretty clear to me that this guy’s learned one of the most important lessons in life.

Some Useful Windows Tools or “My Top 10 Favorite Software Products”

April 28, 2007

I just saw some guy who posted his top 10 most useful applications on his blog.  He lists, among them "Mozilla Firefox", "Wallpaper Master", "Eudora", and "Partition Magic". 

Wow.  It struck me that his list wasn’t anything like what I’d list out as my own most useful applications which I suppose goes to show how different people’s interests & priorities are.

So instead I compiled a list of my own Top 10 Favorite Software Products in no particular order, however to give you an idea of my mindset, these are the tools in which I say to myself, OMG if I didn’t have this tool, I’d be slummin’ it.  I’ll even write a little explanation of each below.

  1. CCleaner 1.39 & Diskeeper 2007 for Windows Vista (TIE)
    If your PC is slow, you’re gonna be unproductive. 
    I really max out my laptop.  The hard drive’s full, I have memory loaded up, my CPU gets pegged a lot, the NIC is constantly sending and receiving.  And my pet peeve is watching Windows grind to a halt – that happens 3 times out of 4 because the hard drive is creating a bottleneck.  Too much clutter, too much fragmentation, too much space unnecessarily used.  Ultimately, degradation in performance of my PC is the biggest timewaster for me.
    Enter CCleaner which upon every boot, clears out the Temp folders of all major applications, IE temp directory, any dump files or installation turds, cookies, etc. etc.  It’s the ultimate free housecleaner.  Then after finishing the housecleaning, keep everything organized for fast access on your hard drive by continually defragging the file system using Diskeeper 2007 for Windows Vista.
    (Note:  In all fairness, I might also add Raxco’s Perfect Disk 8 which is another really great defragging product.  It’s just that Diskeeper’s folks sent us copies first and thus their product got installed on our new Windows Vista laptops before I ever tried Perfect Disk so I just haven’t had the time to do my own personal little shootout between the two tools but I can tell you that their previous product for Windows XP was pretty awesome.)
  2. Applian Replay AV 8.1 & ZuneIT
    I hate having to be "online" to do research or learning… because when you’re in a car or on a plane, that’s not really an option.  (Although the short lived Internet service on Boeing airliners was sooooooo cool.  Oh I wish they’d bring that back.) 
    Replay AV in a nutshell allows Windows Vista to record & convert any non-DRMed video you find on the Internet or interally on your corporate LAN. (Real, Windows Media, Quicktime, or Flash)  In other words, if you ever want to view a seminar, a LiveMeeting/WebEx, or a broadcast offline or you want to archive it for rebroadcast later, this is the tool for you.  I personally depend heavily on this tool to watch internal presentations & seminars when I’m not connected to the corporate network.  And it works with Windows Vista.
    And ZuneIt falls into the same category.  It allows the archival of content from any number of video sites for offline review by downloading the content in the background and converting it to Windows Media .WMV files in the background.
  3. SlingMedia Player for Windows Mobile
    What?  A TV playback tool can’t be "the most useful" tool you have!  Au Contraire – let me explain.  Imagine sitting next to an executive from one of your customers, and he’s using a Blackberry to read mail.  Now imagine showing them RSS Feed reader on your Windows Mobile device… access to a Sharepoint portal site…. a executive broadcast of Steve Ballmer using Windows Media …then capping it all off with live TV from your DirecTV dish at home.
    Yep.  It’s that effective.  SlingMedia is a closer and it works… it really does.  Not to mention it lets me watch "Heroes" while I’m eating lunch in the commissary of my customer.  <grin>
  4. Deepnet Technologies Blackjack Counter
    I like tools that help me make money.  Even in my spare time.
    A guy named Dan Pronovost wrote a series of applications that allow you to "train" yourself how to count cards in Blackjack, leveraging multiple systems and multiple strategies.  It has the original Thorp HighLow system along with Ken Uston’s count and it even has multi-level counting with the appropriate indicies if you’re really that good.  You can buy Knockout and a few other systems to plug in for a $10 fee each.
    This is a helluva application because it’s available for both Windows & Pocket PC and it’s both a trainer as well as a simulator.  And they support Frank Scobelete’s Speedcount:  An amazingly easy to learn counting system that is far an away better for beginners than any other counting systems I’ve ever seen.  Heck – it’s probably better for a lot of experienced folks being that it doens’t burn out your brain like HighLow can… but I’m not Stanford Wong, so what do I know.
  5. RemotelyAnywhere LogMeIn Free
    Some of the best advice I’ve gotten came from Steve Wynn of Bellagio fame at a recent talk he did at UCLA, and it goes something like this: 
    "Always stay in control.  Always be ready to take complete control on a moment’s notice.  Don’t let anyone else determine your fate."
    Have you ever wanted to be able to remotely control ANY of the 5 or 6 computers in your home from work over a dynamic DHCP cable connection?  Have you ever wanted to be able to provide tech support for your Mom and Dad’s home computer through their PPPoE DSL connection? 
    Enter LogMeIn Free.  This is a free remote control tool+service that you install on PCs & secure with a password.  Every time the computer boots up, it registers with a central directory on the Internet and it’s this registration that enables you to connect to any one of a set of remote computers BEHIND NATTED FIREWALLS & ROUTERS for free.  No other product provides this for free and in fact, it’s so convenient, it’s crazy:  All the machines you have access to are listed on a web page on the Internet and are remotely controllable simply with a mouse click and a password.
  6. Microsoft Foldershare
    Computers are supposed to do work for you, so why should I have to access a remote computer to get a file?  Why should it have preemptively brought the file to me the night before?
    Imagine being able to dynamically & on-the-fly synchronize any folder to any other computer you own and imagine this works across port 443 (SSL) meaning it’ll penetrate most firewalls.  Now imagine this synchronization working bidirectionally so that a change on any one of the computers in this group of PCs will automatically replicate that change to all the other computers – peer-to-peer.  Now imagine it’s free.
    That’s Foldershare.  It’s a piece of software that loads at boottime and it keeps any folder you want in sync with any other folder on any of your other PCs… at home or at work or both.  It’ll keep your "Internet Favorites" in sync across all machines.  It’ll keep your My Documents in sync across all machines.  It’ll keep your Music, cookies, Outlook PST files, Word dictionaries, etc. all in sync across all your computers.  All you have to do is set it up.
  7. DUMeter & Network Utilization Gadget (TIE)
    I’m one of those people that likes to know what the heck’s going on with my computer and one of the things I’m constantly asking is, "Am I getting any I/O over my network connection?  Is it working?"  If I run IE, I expect to see some network traffic and if IE’s slow to respond, I question if it’s the web site, my workstation, or my network config itself.
    DUMeter (for WinXP) is a tool that loads at boottime that tells me in a little windowed histogram if I’m getting any network I/O up or down.  the Network Utilization gadget (for Windows Vista) is probably just as good and it’s free for Windows Vista users.
  8. Spacemonger 1.4
    Have you ever asked yourself, "Where the heck did all my disk space go to?"  Usually it’s occupied by just a few folders containing either a LOT of data or a few individual files that take up a LOT of space.  Sean Werkema’s Spacemonger give you a heatmap so to speak of your hard drive.  It visually maps out your entire hard drive and represents directories & files with rectangles of proportionally large sizes relative to their actual byte size.  It gives you the ability to drill down into directories and delete files & folders that are no longer necessary.  Having free hard drive space is so important to the performance of your computer, this tool is an absolute dream to have available and the 1.4 version is free.  I’ve used it for probably 5 years faithfully and it’s a good piece of software.  There are others but this is lightweight, requires no installer, and is free.  (Note:  I bought the 2.1 version of Spacemonger which is NOT free, however I really don’t use it.  I bought 2.1 exclusively to show my support of Sean’s work and the value I’d gotten out of Spacemonger 1.4.  In fact, I wish we’d just acquire his technology, make him rich, and build it into Windows.  I just wish he didn’t seem so anti-Microsoft at times…)
  9. Microsoft Outlook 2007
    Yeah, this might seem like a colossal "duh", but Outlook 2007 gets the official G4TV XPlay designation of "bitchcakes" from me.  Outlook 2007 is my life.  It contains all my business information and it’s the center of my communications with my friends and clients.  It’s fast, it’s flexible, and it’s intuitive.  And it’s a favorite of mine for certain.

    Here’s just 7 of the reasons I love Outlook:
    NO VPN NECESSARY:  It can securely access a corporate Exchange mail server without a VPN using RPC over HTTPS.
    DELEGATION:  It’s got delegated access to calendars, inbox, etc.. NO ONE ELSE provide anywhere near the support for delegated access that Outlook 2007 does.
    FORMS:  It’s got standards-based XML forms!  It integrates with Infopath to enable you to send forms for other people to fill out directly within email and have the results exported into Excel or a SQL database!  Bitchin’!
    ADDONS:  It’s got a TON of software addons & 3rd party support & it’s easy to program because it’s so extensible.
    POSTMARKING:  In a phrase, postmarks protect you from SPAM.  Postmarks are computationally intensive calculations that have to be executed on the sender’s machine relative to the content of an email, and if you receive an email that has a postmark in it (the results of the calculation), you know that the email is not likely SPAM because it took a lot of CPU power to create the postmark.  The end benefit is that Outlook users can send and receive email amongst each other without getting their email thrown into JunkMail.  Spammers aren’t likely going to try to postmark their SPAM because it would be too inefficient.
    RSS SUPPORT:  Keep up to date with the world by using RSS, but have the content downloaded for reading on an airplace while having it indexed for rapid content searching using Windows Vista Search.
    RIGHTS MANAGEMENT:  Wanna make your email self-destruct after 30 days?  Wanna make your email unforwardable?  Wanna prevent people from cut-and-pasting or printing out your email?  Wanna keep an emails contents internal to the company, never to be forwarded externally?  Outlook’s Rights Management makes that possible.
    I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better mail personal information manager out there.

  10. Zagat-to-Go 5.0 for Windows Mobile
    Have you ever been in a new city and wondered, "Hey – I wonder where there’s some good eatin’?" 
    The Zagat-to-Go application is a program that installs on your Windows Moblie Pocket PC or Smartphone and allows you to sort through the best restaurants in a given city.  The ratings work just like sorting an Excel spreadsheet – even with the 1000+ restaurants in Los Angeles, and all the contact information you might need is in the database.  And the databases for every city are downloadable and updatable as they get revised… all over the cell connection on your Windows Mobile phone.  It has maps, phone numbers that dial straight from the interface, it adds contact information to Pocket Outlook, and it even allows you to add your own notes to each restaurant. 
    It’s great for the person that’s on the road a lot.  Or the chowhound.

BTW:  I have to give that first guy props… on his list of Top 10… he went to "11" just as BBSpot does in tribute to Spinal Tap. <grin>

Xbox 360 Revenue Streams

April 27, 2007

I was reviewing a Powerpoint that a co-worker of mine put together and I noticed an interesting slide in there with some stats that I wasn’t aware of.  It was on Xbox Revenue Streams… i.e. where does Microsoft get and/or plan to get it’s revenue from on the Xbox product line.  Here it is:

  1. Game license revenue
    1. 4.5 games sold per console in the US
    2. Xbox library = 825 games and growing
  2. Downloadable content
    1. 24 million pieces of content downloaded from XBox Live
    2. Content providers = CBS, Viacom/MTV, Paramount, Warner Bros, Lionsgate
      (and he left out several others including NBC, ABC, FOX, Comedy Central, UFC, WWE, etc.)
  3. Subscription fees & points
    1. 57% of Xbox 360 owners connect to Xbox Live, up from 10% of XBox "Original" owners
    2. 3 billion hours of online gaming
    3. 6 million members by June 2007
  4. Add-on hardware
    1. 2.9 accessories sold per console in the US

And then there was this slide:  FUTURES (as in future revenue streams)

  1. Massive
  2. Microsoft Casual Games/Games for Windows
  3. Live Anywhere
  4. Microsoft TV

I’ll explain these latter 4 in another post when I have time but it is very exciting from a Xbox-supporter perspective, because the more money Xbox 360 makes, the more successful it is and its success feeds on itself in a vicious circle.

  1. Microsoft provides seed money to Xbox to R&D consoles & games.
  2. Consumers initially buy consoles & games.
  3. The more games & consoles are bought, the more developers are willing to invest in and create more games.
  4. The more games availble, the more valuable the console is to consumers.
  5. The more consoles & games sold, the more profitable Xbox is to Microsoft
  6. The more profitable it is, the more money Microsoft invest in Xbox to grow its capabilities for consumers, to make developers more powerful, and to compete to stay ahead of other consoles.
  7. Consumer buy more games; developers write more titles
  8. Go to step 3.

Something to save in the” WTF” folder

April 26, 2007

Nuff said.

INFO: HD DVD vs. Blu Ray – a Feature Comparison

April 20, 2007

I wrote this up a while ago in response to some moron that was spewing inaccuracies about HD DVD relative to Blu Ray.  The content has floated around the Internet a couple times so I figure I might as well post it on my own blog.

Bear in mind that I don’t actually CARE in a religious way one way or the other which "company" wins.  I just look at the two specs and see that from a consumer standpoint, it seems very clear to me that Toshiba’s HD DVD standard is by far and away a much better collection of functionality than BluRay in providing high quality video and more interactive capabilities.


Technical Differences Between HD DVD & BluRay High Defnition DVD formats:

HD-DVD will be 30GB. Sony has openly admitted that Blu-Ray discs will continue to be published on 25GB platters for numerous movies, 50GB for others.

This is an important point:  HD-DVD will support playback ‘layering’.  This means that motion picture directors will be able to talk about a movie while it’s playing, and highlight (or "tellustrate") ON SCREEN things going on, like mistakes, bloopers, or rendering errors in computer animation. They’ll also be able to play two movies side-by-side to show two different cuts of a movie in-synch to make better use of film takes.  Or they might have a movie reviewer or commentator talking in a "picture-in-picture" window at the bottom right hand corner of the movie, "layered over" the movie itself.  Or maybe you might want to show a map in a little window on screen that shows where geographically, the scene is taking place.  (Fast & the Furious Tokyo Drift for example, provides a GPS navigation "window" at the top left corner of the screen to show the viewer where the cars are in Tokyo as they drift throughout the city)  BluRay doesn’t support any of this.

HD-DVDs can be produced easily to support the older MPEG1 format of a standard definition movie on one side of the platter and the newer High Def version on the opposite side.  This is known as the "Combo Format" and is prominently labelled on many HD DVD’s.  BluRay can not do this and thus, you never see this "Combo Format" label on any of their disc cases – even though the cases are similar.

HD-DVD has been churning out production units successfully. BluRay has been suffering from production problems because of the accuracy needed for the blue laser and the purported, increase storage. Production problems = higher costs & later release = fewer playerssold = fewer discs sold.

Because of the new laser in BluRay, discs must be thinner and are more prone to production problems, meaning fewer discs off the production line will be functional. Additionally, duplication accuracy will be diminished in BluRay for commercial movies. HD-DVD uses the same relative technology as today’s DVDs resulting in no increase in production errors.  This is a very important point because it’s one of the reasons BluRay discs are more expensive to produce and thus, publishers are less committal to the format.  For example, the Adult movie industry announced that because of the higher cost and difficulty of publishing for BluRay, they would be publishing only to the HD DVD format.

HD-DVD uses iHD, a menuing system based on DHTML which is a lightweight definitive specification for interactive presentations ("menus" similar to web pages on the Internet) that can be guaranteed to be implemented on every HD-DVD player through strict standards. HD DVD publishers can absolutely verify with complete certainty that every HD DVD disc they make will play in every HD DVD player produced.  On the other hand, BluRay requires the usage of a flavor of Java called JEM that because of the varied implementations of Java on players depending on licensing, it will be impossible to guarantee that a BluRay disc’s menuing system will run on all players.  For those that doubt the importance or accuracy of this statement, all you have to do is wait.  Right now as it stands, people are paying a premium for both HD DVD & BluRay players (even though HD DVD players are substantially less expensive) and thus Java licensing costs aren’t a factor.  However as the platforms evolve, it’s easily foreseeable that as cheap players are released from China, Taiwan, and Korea, cost of goods shortcuts will be made – one of which is the Java license fee.

This is a HUGE point. While there are more studios signed up for BluRay than for HD-DVD, this is pretty irrelevant:  The studios will publish to whatever format people are buying. What’s WORSE for BluRay however is that Fox Studios has demanded a higher level of DRM protection than what is available in the BluRay or HD-DVD spec.  BluRay caved in and said they’d do it making managed copy a virtual impossibility, while HD-DVD has not. This means among other things that HD-DVD will enable people to copy and play their movies through stored copies on Home Video Servers, Portable Media Players, Home computers, etc. while it is extremely unlikely that BluRay will.

HD-DVD will definitively release their player through Toshiba at $499 and $799 in March 2006.
BluRay is supposed to release their first player in May 2006 through Pioneer at $1,800 however it is very likely that that release date will slip.
UPDATE:  Since releasing their players, standalone HD DVD players are now going for as low as $329.  And the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player is $199.  In contrast, even the cheapest BluRay Players remain at $489 and the Sony Playstation 3 while having wider distribution than standalone devices, has a $599 pricetag on it along with having only 2M devices sold.

The XBox 360 kiosk in the Taipei train station (or “Why I love our company”)

April 12, 2007

No.  Seriously – I do.  I love this company. Everytime I start to get down from all the terrible, snide remarks people make, the industry critics, the religious technology zealots, the Macintosh users I deal with (although at times, all 4 of these could be one in the same) something happens to make me smile and remind me of why I love this company.

My best friend, Ted, is in Taiwan right now.  He’s taking a vacation to see what life is like back home (he was raised in Taiwan for most of his childhood) and he started taking photos of the Taipei train station.  Yes, you read that right:  All this Xbox 360 stuff is located at the Taipei train station. 

What’s more, this is apparently our spokesperson there.  

She’s a walking billboard.  I believe she’s got the words "XBOX 360" plastered on every piece of clothing she’s wearing.  And judging from what Ted writes, it sounds like even the photo doesn’t do her justice.

It reminds me of the days when we marketed Windows 3.0 to Comdex attendees in Las Vegas by buying the advertising on every cab in the city and bribing every hotel cleaning employee to use a specially created pillowcase with the Windows logo on them on their guests beds when they changed the sheets.

Guerrilla marketing.  Except this time it’s in a train station where we have a captive audience.  And we have a beautiful girl doing the pitch.  And as you can see by the crowd in the picture above, it works. 

Man, I love this company.