Archive for February, 2012

R.I.P. Windows Live

R.I.P. Windows Live

Windows Live, R.I.P.

Windows Live appears to be on its last legs, with Windows 8 ushering in a new generation of monosyllabic, Metrofied analogs. Here’s a scorecard of what’s changing.

By Woody Leonhard, Infoworld Feb 27, 2012 5:40 pm

All indications are that “Windows Live” won’t be part of the Windows 8 lexicon. Microsoft seems to be re-(re-re-re)-branding the ragtag collection of applications formerly known as Windows Live-something, gussying up some of them, assigning them shorter monikers, and casting them center stage for the Metro part of Windows 8.

For those of you who depend on one or more of the current Windows Live lineup, you may find yourself stuck with orphaned apps — which, given the status of the “legacy” Windows 7 desktop in Windows 8, shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Windows Live started in 2005 as a re-re-branding of some MSN applications and gradually took on new cloud features. Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Calendar, Windows Live Contacts, and Windows Live ID have almost nothing in common, except they all run in the cloud.

“Windows Live” as a brand took on greater prominence when Microsoft decided to pull many applications out of Windows, with the Vista deadlines imminent, and thrust them into a post-Vista-ship-date collection of downloadable PC programs known as Windows Live Essentials. Such Windows apps as Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Movie Maker, and Windows Live Photo Gallery also have almost nothing in common, except they run on Windows and they’re available for free download to any Windows customer.

All of that’s changing. Here’s a scorecard, for what we’ve seen and what’s been rumored to date:

  • Windows Live ID (formerly known as Microsoft Wallet, Microsoft Passport, .Net Passport, and Microsoft Passport Network), which now operates from the Windows Live Account site (confused yet?), will be rebranded Microsoft Your Account and referred to informally as “your Microsoft Account.” You can see it by signing on to the new Microsoft Your Account site. It’s no longer Live in name, but your Microsoft Account name is taking on sweeping new capabilities, including everything from log-on verification on local machines to billing history in the Windows Store, Xbox purchases, and ownership verficiation for cloud storage. Just don’t call it a Live ID.
  • Windows Live Hotmail (formerly Hotmail, Microsoft Hotmail, and MSN Hotmail) is now just Hotmail. If you log into Hotmail, you go to the Windows Live Home page, at, but the name Hotmail appears all by itself.
  • Windows Live SkyDrive has already turned into just plain SkyDrive. Parts of Ray Ozzie’s Windows Live Mesh — formerly Live Mesh, Windows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare — have been folded into SkyDrive, although Microsoft has squashed PC-to-PC sync; the only way to synchronize files is through the SkyDrive cloud. It appears as if Mesh has met its match. (You can download the new Live-less logos for Hotmail and SkyDrive from the official Windows Live Image Gallery, if you don’t mind the non-sequitir.)
  • Windows Live Calendar has already appeared in numerous Metro demos as Calendar. Windows Live Contacts is now called People. Windows Live Photo Gallery morphs into Photos. Perhaps someone discovered that putting the full name of all of those apps on Metro-size tiles would drive the display font down to about 4 points. At any rate, at this point, nobody knows what the tile-ized applications will look like.
  • Windows Live Messenger sits perched in a particularly precarious position, with Lync on one side and Microsoft Skype on the other. It’s been integrated in various degrees into all sorts of sites and apps, including Internet Explorer, Hotmail, SkyDrive, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Windows Live Photo Ga — er, Photos, Bing, Xbox Live, Windows Phone, the Zune (which is also biting the dust) and it’s available for iPhone and iPad from the Apple App Store. It looks like Windows Live Messenger will be called Messaging, or perhaps Messenger, but it’s ripe for inclusion in either Skype or Lync or both.

Tom Warren at The Verge quotes unnamed sources as saying that Messaging, Mail, Calendar, and People “are designed to be core Windows communications apps,” although that characterization has to make one wonder where Skype fits into the mix. Warren also says that “the Music and Video applications are currently branded with Zune, but are built by the Xbox team. We are hearing that this branding will be removed shortly before the Windows 8 release, moving to Xbox Live for Windows as the entertainment brand for Windows 8 Music, Video and Games.” One must also wonder why Xbox would retain the recently dearly departed “Live” designation.

Missing in action, so far: Windows Live Family Safety, Windows Live Movie Maker, and Windows Live Writer. It’s easy to imagine Live Writer going away, absorbed by Word 15 and the new SkyDrive. But the other two aren’t so readily dismissed.

We also have no idea which, if any, of the new Live-less apps will ship with Windows 8, and which will have to be downloaded from the Windows Store. Microsoft may not make that decision until it’s close to the final release.

There are much greater concerns, of course. What happens to the Windows Live programs that run on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7? Remember, the ones that existed before we’d ever heard of Metro tiles? Is Microsoft going to pour any money into improving those “legacy” apps — particularly when the revenue from all of them put together probably wouldn’t pay Bing’s bills for a day? If it won’t run on a tile, will Microsoft turn a blind eye?

Compare and contrast with Apple’s branding. We have iMail (formerly known as iMail, then iMail, and uh iMail, and iMail) and iTunes (aka iTunes, iTunes, and … you get the idea). The toughest rebranding hurdle Apple customers had to clear came when the term “Mac OS” turned into “OS.”

This story, “Windows Live, R.I.P.,” was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

For more IT analysis and commentary on emerging technologies, visit Story copyright © 2011 InfoWorld Media Group. All rights reserved.


These are awesome movies!

This soothing time-lapse is a perfect follow up to one of our latest posts about how to photograph the Milky Way.

Home, let me come home [Explored]

A painting of pastel colors - New York from the Rock at Sunset

en route to laguardia at night, new york city

Eye Painter

Working the night shift...

Photos from Edwin_Abedi, 1982Chris911 (Thank you 100.000 Times), andrew c mace, vulture labs, and chewie2008~.

SkyDrive to allow unlimited photo and document storage

Tim Schiesser11 September 2011 – 09:06 51 Comments

Windows Live SkyDrive is about to get a considerable boost to the free storage space allowed with the service. Liveside reported earlier today that the popular Microsoft service will get a storage upgrade, allowing unlimited storage space for both Office documents and photos, leaving the original 25 GB for any other files you wish to store in the cloud.

This increase will be added to Windows Live SkyDrive Wave 5 sometime in the near future, and will be quite considerable when you take into account the 70 million people that use the service today. There are also plans to expand the realms of SkyDrive, as Microsoft is currently developing native clients for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android along with the client embedded into Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft has been good at consistently increasing the space allowed for SkyDrive users. When the service launched in 2007 it only offered 500 MB, which increased to 5 GB the next year. With the launch of SkyDrive Wave 3 in late 2008 this got a huge increase to the current 25 GB – more than Google offers for free across their services and more than Dropbox’s 2 GB. With unlimited storage available for documents and photos, SkyDrive should cement itself in the top spot of providing cloud storage.

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How to Photograph the Milky Way

via Photography Blogger by Luis Argerich on 2/24/12

Photographing our own galaxy: The Milky Way is a great experience. From a dark location without light pollution the dusty band of the Milky Way is a wonderful sight to the naked eye and it looks even better in long exposure photographs. Summer in the North Hemisphere and Winter in the South Hemisphere is the best time to photograph the Milky Way and here’s a short article about how to do it.

Good preparation is critical if you want to get a good shot of the Milky Way. I use Stellarium (free) to forecast how the sky will look from any location at a given time. For the Milky Way, you will get a good shot around 3am in March, around 2am in April, around 1am in May, and at midnight on June. In July and August you the ideal times are from 9 or 10pm.
The brightest part of the Milky Way is towards the direction of Scorpius/Sagitarius. Look for those constellations on Stellarium and take note of the direction where you need to point the camera and the best time of the night to do it (when the constellations are higher in the sky).
Then you need to find a location that has little or no light pollution in the direction of your shot. This can be hard depending on where you’re at. Rural areas are fine but make sure the Milky Way is not in the direction of a town or city.

Setup & Taking the shot
To take a good photo of the Milky Way you need to avoid star trails. Use a very wide lens, a fast one if you have it and a solid tripod with a good ballhead.
The following procedure will help you frame the shot and take the best possible exposure.
First Stage: Framing
– lens wide open
– ridiculous ISO (12800,25600 etc)
– 2 or 4 second exposures
Use this short exposures moving the camera around to find the framing you like. The photos are useless but we are using the camera as an extra pair of eyes, eyes that are far more sensible to the light than ours.
Once the framing is found we move to stage 2, the exposure.

Second Stage: Exposure
– lens wide open
– ISO800 or 1600
– 20 seconds exposure
Take a shot and in the camera LCD examine the stars near the borders of the frame (not the center) if you see trails, then repeat with a shorter exposure. If you don’t see trails repeat with a longer exposure. Do this until you find the longest exposure you can afford without trails.
Note: when you check the stars for trails you might see the stars at the borders display a strange triangular shape. That’s called “comma” and is an optical defect on the lens. To solve that close the aperture 1 step (for example move from F2 to F2.8). Some lenses are good at F2.8 others at F4 and others around F5 for night time photography.

Following these steps you will get a shot with a framing you like and the longest possible exposure time without trails or optical defects. That’s your Milky Way photograph!
The Milky Way will move in the sky following Earth’s rotation as the stars move, this means you will have different compositions at different times of the night. You can get the band of our galaxy in vertical or horizontal orientation and in the middle you will have a diagonal.
The Milky Way is huge, you can attempt a panorama to get the whole band of the Milky Way in the sky. Just make sure to allow a gentle 40% overlap between shots to make things easier to your stitching software. Besides that it’s like any other panorama.

Microsoft To Replace “Live” Branding With “Microsoft Account” In Windows 8

via TechCrunch by Devin Coldewey on 2/24/12

winliveThe long-running “Live” name Microsoft has placed on its many connected services (Mail, messenger, photos, etc) is coming to an end in Windows 8, as part of their ongoing, major brand rehaul. Zune, of course, has been on its way out for some time, but will receive the coup de grace in Windows 8.
Their main services are being rolled into bundled applications with a native Metro look and simpler names — Mail instead of Windows Live Mail, Photos instead of Windows Live Photo Gallery, and so on. The new apps will be tightly integrated, as we’ve seen in demos, and will retain much of the Live cross-service functionality. They’ll be unified by a single “Microsoft Account.”
But Live isn’t going away entirely: the name is too strong to take away from Xbox Live and its subsidiary components, and in fact Xbox Live may be coming to Windows as the main entertainment brand — for music, games, and video content. This will replace Zune, which Microsoft has been gradually sweeping under the rug over the past two years. Zune fans mustn’t despair, though: Zune pass functionality will remain intact, and chances are the old desktop player and Zune hardware will continue to be supported in some way. And the fact is that Zune has left an indelible mark on Microsoft’s operations, pioneering the look and feel found in Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8.
Smaller services, like Writer and Games for Windows Live, will likely be rolled into existing products. It’s in major brand shakedowns like this that one starts to realize just how many platforms and pieces of software Microsoft actually has and supports. This coalescence of services is probably coming as a huge relief to the company, though the labor involved in repurposing them is, naturally, Herculean.
Conspicuously absent from the lineup mentioned is Messenger, which may be seeing some integration with Skype. A multi-service messenger/video-chat app with Skype built in seems likely, though Skype would definitely have to have a discrete presence as well for power users.
No doubt they’ll leave behind many irate users who want things to remain the same — and indeed how Microsoft intends to accommodate these legacy users isn’t clear. Their new clean-break approach maroons many people on the old Windows XP/7 mainland, where they’ll likely remain until the launch quakes of Windows 8 clear away and the new land is safe for colonization.

The Windows Experience Index Determines and Rates the Performance Of Your Computer

via VikiTech – Daily Tech Updates by Melissa on 2/24/12

Windows 7Did you know Windows 7 comes with a built-in feature to test how your computer stacks up to even the most challenging of tasks? The Windows Experience Index helps users determine what a computer can do, how it rates against other computers running Windows and whether it is time for an upgrade.
Since most users do not even know this feature exists, it can come to a shock to Windows users when they finally find it and see what score their system gets. We will take a look at the Windows Experience Index and we will see how your Windows-based machine rates.

How to use the Windows Experience Index

The Windows Experience Index gives a Windows-based computer two scores: A base score and a sub score. The sub score is given in each category and the base score equals your lowest sub score. The base score does not function as a comparative average of how your computer stacks up on the Windows Experience Index, it gives you an idea of where it is failing.
Windows approved software will often give you the version of the operating system it works for, such as Ultimate or Enterprise along with the minimum base score it can operate under. You can then pick this type of software as another way to know it will work with your computer and operating system.
Windows will base your scores on a scale of 1.0 to 7.9. Your base score represents the bare minimum of how your particular set up will perform. This will always be the lowest score out of all the assessment scores given.
In order to see what your base score is and sub scores, open your “Start Menu.”
Start Menu
In the search box, type in “Performance Information and Tools.” Click on it when it pops up.
Searching for the Windows Experience Index
This will open the Windows Experience Index. Most computers with Windows 7 will start with the base score out of the box.
Windows Experience Index subscore
At the bottom left hand corner of the window you will see the last time the test was run. On the right hand corner, you will see a link to click called Re-run the assessment.
Last scan run and re-run the assessment link
Before you re-run the assessment, you want to close all open programs and any background processes that are unnecessary. Anything open and eating up memory can change the outcome of the assessment. Once you are ready, you can then proceed forward.
Click “Re-run the assessment.”
The assessment will pop-up and begin running.
Running the assessment
This will take a bit of time, so it is best to step away from the computer and take a break until it is done. Anything you do with the computer while it is running can affect the outcome.
Once the assessment is over, your score will either stay the same, upgrade or downgrade. Very rarely will your score downgrade, if it does, you may be having hardware issues and should look into getting your computer checked out to ensure it is working properly.
New assessment score
You will see which score is the lowest and you will see where your computer is failing to perform.
If you make any hardware upgrades, you always want to re-run the assessment to see how it has improved Windows 7’s performance.

What does your score mean on the Windows Experience Index?

Depending on your sub score, your computer will only be able to truly function in Windows 7 by improving on it.
For office work, you want to ensure your sub score is 2.0 or higher. For gaming and other graphic-based programs, you want a sub score of 3.0 or higher. If you want to use your computer as a media center, you want to ensure it has a sub score of 4.0 or higher.
Some ways to improve your base score in Windows 7 include:

  • Make sure you are plugged into the wall instead of running on batteries
  • Ensure you have enough space on your hard drive for the assessment tool to run
  • Check that your display drivers and memory drivers are up to date

Some hardware upgrades that will improve your base score in Windows 7 include:

  • Upgrading RAM
  • Installing a new hard drive disk
  • Utilizing an off-board video or graphics card with fan

The Windows Experience Index can help you determine if your computer needs upgrades, might be running slowly or it is time for a whole new system or set-up.

Can the Windows Experience Index indicate if you need a new computer?

The Windows Experience Index is a great built-in tool for the operating system, because it can tell you what areas of your operating system need improvement. If you buy a computer, it may not always live up to your expectations but there are steps you can take to make it better. The Windows Experience Index is a great way to start figuring out what areas of your computer might be in trouble. Start with your base score and see what area needs improvement, from there you can gauge what you can and cannot do to make your computer even better.
Run the Windows Experience Index today and see what score you receive. If you have upgraded your computer’s components since the last time you installed new hardware, run it again. See if your score has improved and what else you can do to get the absolute most out of Windows 7. Depending on what you want to do with your computer, it may guide you to improve your operating system.

Rumor: Google Drive Will Play Nice WIth Third-Party Apps [Google]

via Gizmodo by Adrian Covert on 2/24/12

Click here to read Rumor: Google Drive Will Play Nice WIth Third-Party Apps

Google Drive—Google’s rumored cloud storage service—is all but official, yet one question remains: how much freedom will we have with the space? If this alleged Google Drive code suggesting third-party apps will be allowed to access the storage is legit, it might be as open as we all hope. More »

Calling Chicken Little: Clouds Getting Lower

via Wired: Wired Science by Wired UK on 2/24/12

By Duncan Geere, Wired UK
Chicken Licken was right, the sky really is falling. NASA satellite data has shown that the Earth’s cloud tops have been lowering over the last decade.

Wired U.K.
Cloud-top height fell 1 percent on average between March 2000 and February 2010, according to measurements from the multi-angle imaging spectroradiometer mounted on NASA’s Terra satellite. That 1 percent means a reduction of 30 to 40 meters in the average maximum height of clouds, during the 00s.

While the short record means it’s difficult to draw any strong conclusions from the data, it does hint towards a longer-term trend. Roger Davies, the lead researcher on the project, warns that it’s something that should be monitored in the coming decades to determine how significant it is for global temperatures.
If there is indeed a consistent reduction in cloud height, and this isn’t just natural variability, then Earth would begin cooling to space more efficiently, reducing the surface temperatures and slowing the effects of climate change. “We don’t know exactly what causes the cloud heights to lower,” Davies said in a press release. “But it must be due to a change in the circulation patterns that give rise to cloud formation at high altitude.”
The Terra spacecraft, which launched in 1999 and records three-dimensional images of clouds around the globe, will continue gathering data in the coming years.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech [high-resolution]

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