Vista Beta Data Dying

Vista beta testers had a pretty good thing going. They got the software for free in return for living with a bug or two.

Those happy days are ending in a little more than a month. If these users don't move to the final rev of Vista by May 31, the beta will stop working and all their data will simply vanish. Ouch!

Longhorn Beta 3 Makes Public Debut
Longhorn is one step closer to shipping with the release of a third beta that's available to the public at large.

Users can put the new PowerShell command line through its paces, as well as new security features.

Perhaps the biggest new idea is that of server roles. Similar to today's Windows Small Business Server and Storage Server, Longhorn will come out in special role- or application-specific versions, including streaming media, Active Directory Lightweight Directory and print server editions.

Microsoft says all of Longhorn's features are done -- now it comes down to making sure they all work!

An EPIC Battle Against Google
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) believes that Google and DoubleClick already know too much about us, and the combination will be a disaster for personal privacy. The group is filing suit with the Federal Trade Commission to stop the merger.

EPIC members worry that the two companies can blend Web surfing histories and search histories, and find out just what kind of creeps many of us are.

Do you worry about Web privacy, and should we have to opt in to such intrusions? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Sun Still Back on Track
I've always liked Sun Microsystems. It's feisty, clever and always doing new things (kinda like our friends up in Redmond).

Unlike Microsoft, Sun hasn't been consistently profitable and doesn't have any monopolies it can leverage. But Sun can be proud of one thing: It rang up a decent profit -- some $67 million -- this past quarter.

That wasn't nearly enough for Wall Street, which wanted a little more ching. Sun's stock fell sharply right after the profits were announced.

Doug's Mailbag: BlackBerry How-Tos, More
Yesterday, I shared my frustration about my BlackBerry 7130, whose cramped keyboard and one-key-for-two-letters philosophy both conspire to distort what I type. You read about my plight; now here are your words of advice:

BlackBerry 7130, where one key represents two letters. I had one of those for about a year -- got pretty good at typing with it, too. There is a predictive text function on it. You just have to hit the right key once, and not worry that you are typing nonsense initially. The BlackBerry did a good job of figuring out the correct words. Uncommon words, or your own abbreviations -- well, the thing would learn those as you corrected the "guesses" the BlackBerry initially made. There is even a dictionary-type applet you can access that would show what you added to the predictive text.

I had a Sony cell phone about eight years ago in Europe that did this. It worked awesome, and had only 10 keys to work with at the time. In comparison, I have a Treo 700w now -- and I'm pretty sure I typed better on the old BlackBerry.
-Todd

I got myself a smart phone/PDA last year after researching as many of the options as I could. I've been a Cingular customer since the late '90s, and I got myself an 8125 with a slide-out keyboard. The beautiful thing about the 8125 is that I don't have to thumb the keys; I can actually finger-type on it. I've answered several e-mails using its keyboard, as well as entering search terms into Google Mobile. I wouldn't want to write a novel on the 8125, but it's very serviceable for quick responses to e-mail messages. Admittedly, it's a little less handy because you have to slide the display out past the hidden keyboard, but that's a small price to pay for having a real keyboard.
-Dennis

Both my counterpart and I are using the 7130 BlackBerry. Occasionally, it can be wrong (if I type "No" I get "Bo," or "Ha" turns into "Ga"), but it works pretty well. It took some time getting used to it, and I found that the best way to do it was to type the entire word (not looking at it as it put the letters in) and let it finish the word before trying to correct it. Also, as you continue to use it, the software will create a list of your common words. And it does a good job of using your contacts and your addresses in your address book for auto-completion, as well.
-Gregory

We have been using BlackBerrys, almost entirely the 7100 series, here at AmSurg for over three years now. I understand your frustration. However, as a trainer, I advise my students to give themselves two to four weeks to feel comfortable with the unit and the way it works. And this can vary with the individual's age, I've noticed.

There are two modes to use for typing; sounds like you were using the SmartType mode. This is the more efficient mode, though it doesn't seem so at first. There is also the multi-tap mode where, like other cell phones, you hit the key twice for the second letter. Did you know to cradle the phone with fingers of both hands and use your thumbs to do the typing? With just a little practice, you will soon be flying.

Recently, I saw a co-worker sitting at his desk and typing away on his BlackBerry. He said he can type faster on it than on a regular keyboard. Oh yes, and he's 6-foot-9, so he doesn't have little hands, either. Yes, I'm a CrackBerry -- even signed up for the CrackBerry e-mail address when CrackBerry.com was introduced.
-Karen

Just a quick note about your difficulty with the 7130: I have a Pearl, which uses the same technology (SureType). With the Pearl, it uses predictive text, but if you are typing something irregular, like your e-mail address, you use the trackball ("Pearl") to toggle through letter combination options. Additionally, most of the folks I e-mail are contacts, so I rarely type out an e-mail address. I'll admit, typing e-mail addresses and the like can be challenging, but the predictive text is amazingly accurate for normal words, and I can type out an e-mail message in no time at all. It also learns what letter combinations you often use, so it gets even more accurate with time. While the keyboard can be a drawback for some, the payoff is that you get a really compact device. The Pearl has a very small footprint, and can easily fit in a pocket (a Treo takes a pretty big pocket).

As much as it may sound like it, I'm not a BlackBerry fan boy. I went with the Pearl because we still use Exchange 2000, so I don't have the ability to directly push to a Windows Mobile device yet, and I didn't want to use a desktop redirector. That being said, I've been very happy with my choice. Hopefully with the virtual BlackBerry on WM6, eventually we'll get the best of both worlds.
-Jason

You've probably gotten a lot of e-mails about this by now, but BlackBerry does make a BlackBerry Connect client for the Windows Mobile devices.

I had an 8700c for a few months, and hated the keyboard on it. Back in December, the company allowed me to try out a Cingular 8525 (aka HTC TyTn, Hermes and a lot of other names) and wow, I'd never go back to BlackBerry. The keyboard is so much easier to use, and I love the larger screen. The best part is, with the Windows Mobile platform, I can use just about any Pocket PC program on it. There are some Windows Mobile quirks after you've gotten used to all of the shortcuts on the BlackBerry OS, but once you get over those, it's a much more customizable device.
-Christopher

Speaking of Microsoft's plan to equip Windows Mobile 6 with some BlackBerry features, Bruce brings up an interesting question:

Will Microsoft innovation for BlackBerry bring along the usual crop of features that foist viruses on the unwary? Viruses are an invention of Microsoft's innovation features for Windows that violate ring security model.
-Bruce

Tired of all the complications your BlackBerry brings? Here's one reader's solution:

I don't have a BlackBerry. I don't need one and, quite frankly, I don't want one. Talking with others who have and use them, these units are great for receiving e-mail but difficult for sending. Here is the simplest solution, people: Use your computer. I'm sure you remember how to use it. Problem solved.
-Les

But for you legions of BlackBerry die-hards, this might be just the thing for you:

I just read your story, "CrackBerry Software Can't Be Stopped." I always keep a lookout for any headline that has "CrackBerry" in it (these days, that happens more often that you might think!).

I'm one of the founders of CrackBerry.com, which we like to think of as the '#1 Site for BlackBerry Users & Abusers.' Check us out when you get a chance.
-Kevin

And now, for something completely different. Michael got the runaround from HP -- have you experienced something similar? Let us know at dbarney@redmondmag.com:

Today, I had to restore an HP Pavilion dv4000 PC (specifically, a dv4155cl) and needed to download drivers from the HP Web site -- usually an uneventful, normal process. However, the site listed all the drivers I needed except for the video driver. I searched the site for a driver for the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 series and I found nothing. This took about half-an-hour.

Not necessarily being aware of any unusual modifications that may have been made to the driver to satisfy the HP-specific hardware, I initiated an online chat session with "Silvester."' He (she?) eventually directed me to an FTP location where I could then download the driver to my desktop.

Something is wrong with this picture. Why would the video drivers not be provided at the HP site's download location? After all, these things are pretty generic. Is there an issue with ownership? Why do I need to check in with HP for video drivers? Fortunately I had a second machine to initiate the Web contact and the download. Windows XP does not install network drivers for this machine when it's rebuilt from scratch. Doing some random sampling, I found that the same issue applied to some other HP models.

Has anyone else seen this, or am I only imagining it?

I'm an IT professional who supports many, many different types of machines. I can't possibly imagine even the above-average user trying to figure out how to reconfigure his machine after a catastrophic failure (read: hard-drive crash).

The recovery/driver disk is not shipped with this particular machine and, therefore, is not immediately available. I can order it and wait for a couple of weeks. This is customer-friendly? I found it to be a severe pain in a lower extremity to waste as much time as I did(about an hour) when what I wanted to do shouldn't have taken more than a few minutes. This is time I will have to bill my customer.

If this is the direction that HP wishes to take its customer support, then I will find a different supplier. I don't need to spend hours trying to find basic support items for what a supplier, in this case HP, feels is "legacy" equipment. I believe that there are a few other suppliers available who, at least at present, provide much better support. I will also recommend to my customers that they may not want to follow an HP path when their supplier throws rocks at them and digs potholes in their path. Not everybody wants to buy new equipment when their video driver is not available from their current supplier.

Anyhow, now that this is off my chest, I think I'll find some adult liquid refreshment and drown my sorrows. After all, it is after 5:00.
-Michael

Let us know what you think! Leave a comment below, or send an e-mail to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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