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Like it or Not, 64 Bit is the Future
Windows Server 2008 (formerly and currently known as Longhorn Server) will be Microsoft’s last 32 bit operating system, so get ready to join the 64 bit revolution in the next few years, whether you’re ready or not. We all survived the move from 16 to 32 bits, and I’m sure we’ll survive this one, too. Vista comes in both 32 and 64 bit versions, but based on the speech of one of Microsoft’s general managers at WinHEC last week, you can expect its successor to be 64 bit only. That’s already happened with some products, most notably Exchange Server 2007, which is available for production only in 64 bit. And that’s causing a bit of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Read more about it in Joe Wilcox’s article.

Learn programming the easy way
Here’s a new tool for teaching kids to create graphic software programs, including games and simulations. It’s called Scratch and it runs on Windows and Macintosh OS X, and was created by the same programmers at MIT who made the Lego Mindstorms programming tools. Even if you’re not a kid, you might enjoy playing with it.

Create your own applications and web pages without programming
Don’t want to be a programmer, but want to create web pages and online applications, and do it within a community of other page creators? Microsoft’s new Popfly tools and its corresponding online community are at the pre-beta stage right now (a.k.a. alpha) but it’s available free. It works on the “blocks” concept, too (sound familiar?).

Technologies that flopped
Remember the CueCat? Cute idea, but who really wants to scan bar codes on your computer? We get enough of that with the self-serve checkouts at the grocery store. How about eBook readers? Great idea; Star Trek fans should love them, but none of them ever really caught on. Did anyone really run Microsoft Bob – or is just that no one will admit to it now? From DIVX to SoftRAM to facial recognition systems to WebTV, this little slideshow takes us down memory lane and lets us remember some of those Next Great Things that didn’t quite pan out as intended.

Windows Media Center in Vista
To get Windows Media Center in XP, you had to buy a Media Center PC from a hardware vendor. The OS wasn’t available as standalone software for you to install on your own system. Now the Media Center functionality is built into two versions of Windows Vista that you can buy at retail: Home Premium Edition and Ultimate Edition.

You can do all the same things with Vista’s Media Center: record and playback TV shows (if you have one or more compatible TV tuner cards in your computer), organize and play music, home videos and digital pictures, burn CDs and DVDs, and share the media library with other networked computers. The interface is slicker, CableCard is now supported and you can easily archive TV programs to DVD).

How to block images in HTML mail
To prevent downloading remote content (images stored on a server) in Outlook Express and Windows Mail (Vista), do this:

  1. Select Tools | Options and click the Security tab
  2. Check the box that says “Block images and other external content in HTML mail”
  3. Click OK.

In Outlook 2003, do this:

  1. Click Tools | Options and click the Security tab
  2. Click the button labeled “Change Automatic Download Settings”

In Outlook 2007, do this:

  1. Click Tools | Trust Center and click Automatic Download
  2. Check the box labeled “Don’t download pictures automatically in HTML e-mail or RSS items”

You can unblock picture downloads from a particular address or domain by adding it to the Safe Senders List. Remote images are blocked by default in the latest versions of these programs. You can unblock them for an individual message by right clicking in the notification bar and selecting to download pictures.

BioPassword: New authentication technique
Security experts keep searching for the perfect way to authenticate users – verify that you really are whom you say you are. Typing a password is the traditional way, but passwords can be stolen or guessed. Smart cards can be lost or forgotten. Biometrics (fingerprint or retinal scans) are intrusive and require special equipment. Enter keystroke cadence, which to the user is familiar – you type a password. But the system detects not just whether you entered the correct characters, but whether you typed them the way you type them. Some security pundits think it will be the future authentication method of choice. Of course, if you injure your hand and have to type your password one-handed, you may find your access is denied.

Why can’t I install Vista on more than one computer?
Question: Am I the only one who complains about the cost of buying and installing Vista on more than one computer in the home? I would think that billionaire Bill Gates could afford to allow home users to install the system on more than one computer in the same household. As you know, every kid has his own computer these days and that gets expensive! – Phil S.

ANSWER: No, you aren’t the only one. I love the idea – heck, I think the car dealers should give us extra vehicles for our kids who’ve reached driving age when we buy one for ourselves, too. Seriously, I understand not allowing you to install the software on unlimited numbers of computers, but it would be nice if the operating system license were like the Office license, which allows you to install on both a desktop and a laptop for your own use.

Microsoft has announced a “family plan” for users in the U.S. and Canada. If you buy Ultimate, you can a pretty hefty discount on up to two Home Premium licenses, which you can buy for $49 each. It’s not the solution you want, but maybe it’s a step in the right direction.

My Computer and Explorer quit in XP
If you have the My Computer or Windows Explorer windows open on your XP Home or Pro computer and then you try to open My Network Places or the Shared Documents folder, you may find that My Computer/Explorer quit for no reason, and you get an access violation error message. There is a hotfix available from Microsoft to fix the problem. To find out how to get it, see KB article 831938.

Can’t play iTunes music in Vista
If you have an XP computer on which you have music you bought from the iTunes Music Store, and you upgrade the computer to Vista, you might not be able to play the songs because the computer was deauthorized because of the upgrade. This happens with older versions of iTunes. You’ll need to download and install the latest version and then authorize the computer. To find out how to do this, see KB article 936649.

Until next week,

Deb Shinder, MVP