The Search Is On!

Microsoft is serious about keeping up with Google. It's not just a matter of money (in this case, billions), but more an issue of pride. If Google beats Microsoft in search, it legitimizes all of Google's other efforts.

Microsoft -- which, I understand, does much better in search in places like Europe -- is revamping Live Search. Instead of tricky new techniques, Microsoft is improving the basics, increasing the amount of sites it searches for matches. It also features new fuzzy approaches that better understand how badly we spell and gives us what we want anyway.

To his great credit, Bill Gates has been thinking and talking about fuzzy search and natural languages interfaces longer than some of us have been alive.

(So how old are you? I'm looking for the oldest and youngest Redmond Report readers. Here's a hint: My dad, mom and youngest son all read this newsletter. Send your age and thoughts to dbarney@redmondmag.com -- relatives are welcome to write in, as well!)

Low-Power Data
Advocates for "green" IT focus on efficient hardware, using virtualization to put more apps on fewer servers (the old power-supply-per-app equation) and making sure PCs and laptops have proper power management.

Now the Green Data Project is suggesting you look at the data itself. The idea is that we store a lot of data we don't really need, and then back up and archive all this junk. Disks, arrays, NAS boxes and SANs all take power, and the more we can reduce the growth of these devices (scaling back may be an impossible task), the more we can contain greenhouse gases.

How do we green our data? First, we have to take control of what we store, setting policies and training users so they aren't just saving junk they'll never need. Then, IT has to intelligently archive data that's rarely used, but important to keep.

What should we do about storage needs that are spiraling out of control? Share your thoughts at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

XP Run Extended
Consumers haven't had much to say about Vista. They just head on down to Wal-Mart, buy a new machine with Vista and go home to compute.

IT is a tougher lot. You guys are waiting for Vista to prove its compatibility, performance and ease of learning.

IT (even in my own company) is sticking to XP. Microsoft is getting this message and -- like it has done so many times with so many products -- is extending the life of XP. (Anybody remember how many lifelines Microsoft threw NT's way?)

In this case, XP will be sold for an extra five months, or until the middle of next year. My guess? XP will get several more extensions while Vista gets a service pack or two.

While critics may say soft Vista sales are bad news for Microsoft, keep in mind what's being sold instead -- not Linux or Mac OS, but XP!

How long should Microsoft keep selling XP, and what are your Vista plans? Let us all know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Excel Flunks Basic Math
If you were in IT in 1994, you probably remember Intel's huge Pentium recall because of floating point math errors. The errors seemed tiny on the surface (Byte magazine estimated an error every 9 billion calculations), but a small error carried across a massive set of spreadsheets and other apps equals big, big problems.

Today's Excel has a similar problem but since this is software, not processors, fixing this bug shouldn't cost the $200 million or so that Intel shelled out.

Microsoft says that Excel can produce an error when calculating a problem that should return 65,535 or 65,536 as is its result. Somehow, Excel adds 34,465 (or 34,464) and gives 100,000 as the sum. Weird.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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