Posts in category microsoft - page 8

My windows 64-bit experiences

Windows XP 64-bit has been on the market for some time and both Intel and AMD’s current processors are 64-bit. Even cheap office Dell boxes are coming equipped with the 64-bit Core 2 Duo. (This is the x64/x86-64/EM64T/AMD64 architecture which comprises of 64-bit extensions on top of the existing x86 32-bit architecture and not to be confused with Intel’s IA64 Itanium stuff or DEC’s Alpha 64)

You can run 32-bit Windows XP on these processors but if you want to use more than 2-3GB of RAM then you’ll need to switch to Windows XP 64-bit edition (or Vista 64-bit if you’re really brave).

With all this in mind I was a little surprised at the state of 64-bit Windows software when I finally got my hands on my first x64 machine. Here’s what I found.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Installing Microsoft SQL Server 64-bit (any edition) complained about a missing or corrupt sqlclin_x64.msi file which could leave you running in circles.

This problem occurs if you have the 32-bit native client already installed. Unhelpfully Add or Remove Programs describes both versions as Microsoft SQL Server Native Client regardless of whether you have the 32-bit or 64-bit version installed. The SQL Installer fails to check for the 64-bit version and throws this cryptic error message at you instead.

Solution: Remove Microsoft SQL Server Native Client.

Internet Explorer only sites that use Flash

There are a number of IE only web-sites that use Flash – Microsoft’s Online Learning is one such example. The problem is that Adobe have not made a 64-bit version of the Flash player available.

Solution: Create a shortcut to C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\IExplore.exe to run 32-bit Internet Explorer for now.

Mozilla Firefox

There is no official 64-bit Windows version of Firefox although the 32-bit version runs just fine.

Solution: Try one of the unofficial builds although they are a little dated and there is no patching policy.


There is no 64-bit version of TortoiseCVS and the 32-bit version will not run from the 64-bit Windows Explorer.

Solution: Install the 32-bit version and run from the 32-bit version of Windows Explorer (a pain).

A 64-bit version of TortoiseSVN is now available.

Note: If you like to be able to access TortoiseSVN from the File dialogs in Visual Studio 2005 you will also need to install the 32-bit version as VS 2005’s devenv.exe is a 32-bit application.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2005

Whilst the Profession and Team editions will let you write 64-bit applications Visual Studio 2005 itself is 32-bit only and has some additional performance and compatibility problems beyond those experienced on x86 32-bit Windows.

Service Pack 1 resolves some issues relating to debugging on 64-bit but leaves a whole host of other x64 issues unresolved including debugging SQL code.

Solution: None.

.NET Reflector

Fails to draw properly the debugging or lower left info pane. Curious considering it is a .NET application that shouldn’t care whether it is running on 32-bit or 64-bit architectures. So much for VM abstraction.

Solution: None.

This bug has been subsequently fixed.


Overall a very disappointing state of affairs.


Xbox 360 misleading advertising?

Xbox 360 advert adjusted for realityI really enjoy my Xbox 360 – surprising considering I held the opinion my Xbox 1 was an ugly waste of space and that my PlayStation 2 satisfied my needs.

Microsoft have done many things right with this machine (Online, XNA, dashboard, media center, high-def). Sure, the hard disk should have been bigger especially now they are selling movies but my real complaint is that there STILL aren’t enough titles I want to play on it.

Imagine my surprise when flicking through this months PC Gamer (UK) magazine and finding an advert on page 59 with the words

“Feel the intense power of having way too many options to choose from. Jump in. Xbox 360”

Followed by a giant hand-print of hundreds of games. Wow, I must have missed something. There must be lots of games just waiting for me!

A quick scan through revealed a lot of dull EA Sports licenses (FIFA, NHL, Madden, NBA blah blah blah) and a lot of duplicated titles.

A thought struck me – If I crossed out all the duplicate images what would we have left?

Something a little closer to reality. Click the image to zoom.


Yes, dupes of Burnout, FEAR and Ultimate Alliance were missed. I’m not taking a new photo :p


Office ribbon – patenting look and feel?

Word's Ribbon on VistaMicrosoft took a brave step with the 2007 version of Office and decided to replace tool bars and menus with a single ‘ribbon’.

The ribbon is in effect a tabbed tool bar with large context-aware icons that show you more interactively what will happen when you use them and put the various options and selections right in there. It’s a concept I find that works very well indeed although some reviewers have been less enthusiastic.

Jensen Harris, Group Program Manager of the Microsoft Office User Experience Team, has been blogging about the forthcoming UI changes for some time but only recently dropped the bombshell.

Microsoft believe they own this concept and will license it to you for free providing you don’t compete with them.

If you’re not familiar with the history of computing or have been bombarded with FBI-copyright-warnings since birth you might think this is perfectly reasonable. The core problem however is that graphical user interfaces, like much of human endeavor, has been an iterative process of refinement and the concepts need to be free for the next iteration to happen.

Or, as Sir Isaac Newton said

If I have seen a little farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.

The ribbon would be nothing without the developments that came before it. The tool bar, the tab, the icon or going back even further the window, the mouse and the document model.

Microsoft invented none of these things nor do they license them from somebody else indeed the whole concept of suing over “Look and Feel” died back with Apple’s failure to get a judgment over Microsoft for Windows borrowing UI concepts and Lotus also failing with their 1-2-3 interface being used in by Borland in their Quattro product.

The United States copyright and patents offices typically understand how damaging copyright on human interaction can be and indeed this is why a typeface (font) is not actually copyright-able. (TrueType, PostScript and OpenType font files *are* copyright-able but only because they contain a list of instructions – a program – to rendering the font).

Much of the common GUI we see today started with a special group at Xerox Parc which was then copied by the likes of Apple, Digital Research, IBM, Amiga, Next, Acorn and indeed Microsoft.

If you could patent basic user-interface concepts for 50 75 years either Xerox or Apple would be the only people able to produce such a graphical interface (depends on how water-tight Apple’s license with Xerox was).

You could likely say goodbye to scroll-bars, tabs, docks, dragging, drop-down menus, tear-off menus, recycle bins, radio buttons and other plethora of concepts we’ve gained along the way as they’d be little incentive to innovate when the government has given you the exclusive right to basic concepts.

I can’t help but wonder if this whole thing kicked off because Creative believe they own the idea of a very simple menu as used in the iPod and indeed are trying to sue Apple about it.


Microsoft withdraws Sysinternals source code

Anyone involved in support or development on Windows platforms has almost certainly come across the excellent tools from Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, collectively known as SysInternals (free tools) and Winternals (pay tools).

These tools are well written, small, powerful and provide insightful information and control. The gems include Process Explorer – a powerful replacement for Task Manager that can show you which files are locked by which processes etc. the excellent RegMon and FileMon for keeping an eye on what files and registry entries applications are utilizing and many other invaluable utilities for dealing with the trickiest situation.

SysInternals has been around since 1996, gradually improving their tools whilst they also demonstrated how to delve into the guts of Windows itself. Indeed these techniques formed the basis of Mark’s books Inside Windows 2000 and Microsoft Windows Internals which utilize a number of undocumented, and therefore unsupported, internal API calls to achieve these seemingly magical feats.

When Microsoft purchased SysInternals and Winternals as you can imagine a number of people were worried.

Techies feared loosing access to some great tools whilst developers about loosing the ongoing source and details of such powerful APIs that didn’t officially exist with SysInternal’s tools, source and books providing the best source of information.

There was no need to worry however the press announcement stated:

Customers will be able to continue building on SysInternals’ advanced utilities, technical information and source code for utilities related to Windows.

Good news there then. At least if it were true.

The replacement for SysInternal’s site came on-line a few days ago and included in the bunch of small updates and new Process Monitor application (replacement for RegMon and FileMon) was the following snippet hidden away in the Sysinternals Site Migration page.

Source Code: The number of source code downloads didn’t justify the migration, support, and possible integration problems it might cause with other Windows components down the road.

There has been some discussion that these internal APIs were being used for malware. I don’t see how denying the source now the malware authors know-how or the source and Windows Internals books are in free circulation.

Just as I thought Microsoft were opening up their own code (WTL, Wix etc.) and their staff they go and pull such a cheap stupid damaging trick.

I’ve posted a news article to Slashdot about it so my apologies if you’re already had my much shorter summary. They like em that way and I didn’t want them linking back here for fear of turning my Shuttle server into a melted heap with all the traffic.


Slashdot rejected it and went with Justin Long no longer being the Mac – a story that wasn’t even true.

Microsoft have usefully packed the whole Sysinternals suite up into a single download.