Sunday, December 26, 2004

CDs/2004: Air — ­­Talkie Walkie


Talkie Walkie is Air's fourth album (not counting their soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicide) and a more natural descendent of 1998's Moon Safari. Trademark layers of melodic synthesizer and strings (arranged by Michel Colombier - sadly one of his last collaborations) compliment Jean-BenoƮt Dunckel and Nicolas Godin's soft vocal harmonies. If I were only allowed to choose one album from 2004, this would be it.

Released: January 26, 2004
Singles: Cherry Blossom Girl, Surfing on a Rocket, Alpha Beta Gaga
Adverts: Alpha Beta Gaga (Orange), Alone in Kyoto (BT)
Film: Alone in Kyoto (Lost in Translation)

CDs/2004: Favourites

I thought, over the next few days, I'd list some of my favourite CDs of 2004.

Overall, 2004 has been a poor year for music, but there have been one or two quality releases. Hopefully 2005 will be much better.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Windows XP SP2: The Inside Story

Paul Thurrott has published an interesting article on the development of Windows XP Service Pack 2: The Inside Story.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System CTP on MSDN

The December 2004 CTP of Visual Studio 2005 Team System has been released on MSDN Subscriber Downloads.

For an installation guide see here.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Whidbey Commands for Visual Studio 2003

I mentioned Gaston Milano in a recent "Avalon" post. Prior to his XamlViewer for Visual Studio 2005 he developed an excellent little utility called WhidbeyCommands for Visual Studio 2003. This installed three extra commands onto each tab:

It turns out that Gaston released two further updates this year. The first, WhidbeyCommands 2.0 for Visual Studio 2003, adds the following to the Solution Explorer context menu:

The "Collapse All Projects" is something I've wanted for a long time and, on its own, is worth the download.

While the second update, WhidbeyCommands 2.1 for Visual Studio 2003, adds the following to the Text Editor context menu:

Demo Font swaps the editor font to a larger, clearer font. This is useful when you have a bunch of developers crowded around your desk trying to help debug some nasty crash.

Wheel Font Sizing is really good if you regularly connect to your machine from several monitors with different resolution (i.e. using Remote Desktop). By pressing Ctrl while rolling the mouse wheel, you can enlarge or reduce the font size.

Download WhidbeyCommands 2.1 for Visual Studio 2003. Before installing, download and install the Microsoft Interop Assemblies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

How Stuff Works

How Stuff Works give clear explanations of things around us such as computers, DVDs etc.

Google for Microsoft

I didn't know this, but Google provide a search engine dedicated to Microsoft-related sites:

MSN Toolbar Suite shortcut:


MSN Toolbar Suite tips

Here are a few tips I use with MSN Toolbar Suite:

First I get rid of the extra buttons on either side of the textbox of the MSN Deskbar. To do this you need to start regedit and browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MSN Apps\DB. Then add a DWORD with the name Buttons and value = 1.

Second I change the default hotkey to SHIFT+S. This means you can use WindowsKey+S to change focus to the Deskbar textbox (I don't know why Shift works). To do this select Option and select Deskbar in the treeview and press SHIFT and S in the textbox.

I'm happy using MSN Search for Web queries, but News and Groups (which is not suplied by MSN Search at the moment) are better handled by Google. So add shortcuts from the Deskbar textbox:

Google Groups:

Google News

Another shortcut I like:


which lets you search by typing "msdn2 System.IO.File" to go directly to a description of the File class in the .NET Framework.


Unstrung seem to have some good wireless telecoms articles/news. No sign of an RSS feed at the moment.

Microsoft release a Christmas Theme for Windows

Microsoft have released a Christmas Theme that includes "new wallpaper, animated cursors, new icons, new sounds and a 3D screensaver".

Sprint Nextel deal confirmed

Sprint to Buy Nextel in $35 Billion Deal. If regulatory approval follows the same nine month path as the Cingular/AT&T Wireless deal, the buyout should close in the second half of 2005.

This solves Nextel's 3G deliberations with them almost certain to move their 15.3 million subscribers to Sprint's future 1xEV-DO network. This will be at the expense of Flarion Technologies' Flash-OFDM. Sprint have already begun their 3G rollout in the hope that this is completed by 2007.

In the shorter-term Motorola agree to make dual-mode phones to bridge Sprint Nextel's incompatible CDMA/iDEN networks.

More details regarding their plans:

Note the following timetable:

Co-location work to start in 2005, but little will change as they await approval – they’ll concentrate on making Sprint’s 1.9GHz network interoperable with Nextel’s 800 MHz, “as well as drafting up site-sharing arrangements”. Co-location work will continue in 2006 with Nextel pushing the plans to move iDEN over to CDMA. This will continue through 2007. Sprint Nextel will then develop VoIP across the cdma2000 1xEV-DO network during 2008. Sprint Nextel expect 14,000 Nextel cell sites will host CDMA equipment by 2008.

Sprint Nextel have an official merger site:

Of particular interest is the Investor briefing and page 13 in particular.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Monday, December 13, 2004

ETSI adopt DVB-H standard

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is to adopt the DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast - Handheld) standard for mobile TV services. (See official deliverable.)

Nokia have issued a press release welcoming this news and promising handsets by 2006.

This could slow the rate of 3G adoption. For example, 3G services currently offer the download of all the goals scored in the Premier League at an expensive per-MB download rate (roughly £1 per minute). O2 are already planning to use DVB-H next year despite having paid £4-billion for their 3G license. It is likely that they'll be offering a service around £8 per month for 16 channels. Premium content is likely to cost more, and is likely to be offered on a pay-per-view basis. Assuming they price this right, it will be difficult to imagine anyone prepared to pay to download a few 10 second clips of the top goals through the expensive mobile network when they can watch the entire match.

The UK is likely to be a good match for DVB-H transmissions since it is based on the system used to transmit the Freeview digital TV service.

For more information see this New Scientist article and this article from Wireless Week. Note the incredible bargain Crown Castle's 5MHz US spectrum deal could be in the future.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Sprint to buy Nextel for $36-billion

According to many reports (e.g. Sprint in talks to buy Nextel for $36B and Sprint, Nextel close to merger) Sprint and Nextel have tentatively agreed on key terms for Sprint to buy Nextel for $36-billion

Regulatory hurdles are expected to be low since federal regulators recently approved the $41-billion acquisition of AT&T Wireless by Cingular.

This makes a lot of sense. Sprint are able to consolidate their No. 3 position behind Cingular and Verizon. Spectrally, such a deal offers many synergies. Sprint’s spectrum in the PCS band is adjacent to the band Nextel are expected to receive through the FCC’s 800MHz rebanding requirement. Furthermore, Nextel have been investigating CDMA technologies to replace their existing iDEN systems.

Friday, December 10, 2004 -- Rent This DVD have introduced a new service called DVD Rental by Post. For £9.99 a month, you can rent up to 6 DVDs with free postage to and from your home. You also get 10% off all DVD purchases.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Process Explorer 8.6

Download here.

New in this release:
  • Multi-row tabs on process properties dialog
  • Image signing verification on process image properties dialog
  • Mini-CPU usage graph on toolbar
  • Command-line option for specifying Process Explorer priority
  • Manual refresh (F5) forces recheck of job and .NET process status
  • Single-clicking on tray icon minimizes and restores main window

Winter Fun Pack 2004 for Windows XP

Winter Fun Pack 2004 for Windows XP

MSN Spaces

MSN Spaces is Microsoft's entry into the world of blogging. Shame they've missed this opportunity and produced something so poor. Hopefully, over time, things will improve.

This is my MSN Spaces blog:

There is nothing there yet, and I'll not use it in the foreseeable future. It's just a placeholder just in case this does get interesting.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Konfabulator 1.8.1

Konfabulator 1.8.1 is now available.

Fixes include:
  • Reduced memory footprint in Task Manager
  • Upgraded the URL object to support POSTing, outputting to a file and returning the HTTP response code
  • Made the Below window level stick to the desktop when choosing Show Desktop from the Task Bar
  • Now reacts properly to monitor configuration changes and move widgets appropriately
  • Now stores unzipped widgets in the local app data folder, not the system's temporary folder
  • Fixed problem where click-through was not working
  • Redid CPU monitoring code to avoid issues with performance counters
  • Attempted to solve the occasional spontaneous unregistering issue
  • Added automatic check for updates, with ability to 'skip' a version

Cingular announce its 3G plans

Cingular Wireless have announced their 3G plans and award Lucent Technologies the contract for its nationwide 3G UMTS deployment.

The network will use a new evolution of UMTS -- High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), which will ultimately support theoretical peak data rates of up to 14.4 Mbps and is necessary to combat Verizon's EV-DO rollout.