Patrolling the Longhorn precinct for the latest Windows Vista beta news, commentary, and technical info...
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Incredible Deal on the Dell 2005FPW 20.1" Widescreen LCD
After extensive research and comparison shopping, I recently ordered the Dell 20.1" WSXGA+ LCD monitor. It sports an impressive array of features including:

  • DVI, VGA, S-Video, and Composite inputs
  • Height-adjustable, pivoting, rotateable base
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • 300 nits brightness
  • 600:1 contrast ratio
  • 3 year warranty

I had been considering getting one of these for a while after getting used to the 1680 x 1050 resolution on my laptop. Widescreens make multitasking a breeze and look great for multimedia too. But the decisive factor was the price. By combining a number of promotions (which Dell is famous for-- but I'm glad I'm not a stockholder) I was able to achieve the following order:

Current list price: $699.00
LCD monitor sale: - $120.00
Holiday sale: - $144.75
Small Biz coupon - $100.00 (use Dell SB coupon code 63C1JBV4XV1VMD)
FatWallet rebate - $ 8.36
PayPal cash back - $ 5.01
Shipping FREE
TOTAL $320.88

Not bad! But, hurry if you're interested, since the deal expires around 4:00 AM PST Nov. 30. (UPDATE: It seems that Dell pulled the plug on this too-good-to-be-true deal earlier than expected. It'a good thing I had already done my research and was ready to buy...)

I'll post a review after I receive mine and use it for awhile.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Microsoft Office 12 Beta 1 Released to Testers
As of ten minutes ago, Microsoft has begin distributing the Office 12 Beta-1 bits to members of its closed beta testing team. While I won't be able to comment on any features, I can say I am disappointed--though not surprised--that Beta-1 is not supported on Windows Vista. Beta-on-beta testing is rarely encouraged, but it would have been interesting to try, regardless. We'll just have to wait until Beta 2 to see what the Office 12 UI + Aero combination looks like...

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Sunday, November 13, 2005
Sony's CD "virus" Indicted by Microsoft
Microsoft has indicted and sentenced the rootkit that Sony silently slipped onto thousands of music CDs in order to let them monitor customer usage of digital music. That's right, if you recently bought a CD published by Sony and subsequently inserted it into your PC, you might want to run a security scan. Microsoft will soon update its excellent Windows AntiSpyware tool to enable it to detect and remove the stealth code, which has already been exploited by hackers. Even better, after being blasted by hurricane-force bad PR winds from all directions, Sony has decided to cease manufacturing CDs with the "bonus track." Not that I would ever buy a Sony CD anyways, or any CD at all, for that matter. Here's why.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Pandora 2.0 - Even better, but more work needed
Several weeks ago, I posted about a new service called Pandora that helps you find new music that matches your own musical tastes. Since then, the service has moved from beta to paid service to a new pricing structure that includes both an ad-supported free service and a premium subscription service. I promised that I would follow up with more feedback after using it for a while, and I think the present is as good a time as any, since the service is now available for anyone to try.

My initial dislikes about the Pandora beta back in August were the following:

  • Not enough variety of music in the database
  • No way to save lists of music to purchase later
  • No integration with a subscription download service (such as Rhapsody)

The pros were quite obvious after using the service for just a couple of minutes:

  • Very accurate music recommendations!
  • Sleek interface
  • Allows sharing of custom radio stations with friends

Well, I am happy to report that the newly improved, free Pandora 2.0 still maintains the same benefits and solved two of the three problems listed above. Yes, you can now save lists of songs Pandora has found that you want to lookup again later, and the music selection is much improved (well, at least I can speak for the New Age and Jazz genres).

The remaining drawback is that I still cannot easily use Pandora to find music to download with my Rhapsody subscription. Sure, direct links are nice, but I don't really want to pay $15 per CD when I can pay less for subscription access to a million songs instead. At least I can create a list of songs I like, and then manually pull them up for download in Rhapsody later. Which I suppose is good enough for a free service (we'll see how obnoxious the advertisements become). But the #1 feature Pandora would need to add before I would become a paying subscriber is direct Rhapsody links. I hope that will become a reality sometime soon.