Some good Microsoft experiences

And they weren’t even Xbox 360 or Live related.

Maybe my move to Seattle has mellowed me. Maybe I’ve grown up a little and realized that “hating” takes too much energy. I dunno, maybe it’s just the little things that impress me.

This weekend I had two Microsoft experiences that were really nice. Every good story starts with something bad happening and that bad thing for me was trying to load Windows XP Media Center Edition onto my MacBook. I’d bought Parallels so that I could effectively have two laptops in one. The Windows laptop would function as a test bed for new software and website rendering and the Mac laptop would do everything else.

On top of that, I’ve really wanted to play with MCE because I love 10 ft interfaces (ok, it’s a laptop, but work with me here) and the HCI aspects of working with computers in different ways. Unfortunately, Parallels mentions nowhere in its docs that it supports MCE, but I figure, what the heck, it’s really just a 10ft interface tacked onto XP, right?

My attempt to load MCE onto the MacBook in Parallels failed, so (assuming it was Parallels fault) I decided to put it onto my most recent PC. That too failed.

The install always failed on the SP2 disc so I realized that that disc must be bad (and for some reason, MCE wouldn’t work without it). At this point, I had a failed Parallels install, a PC that was essentially broken and no way to create a SP2 disc to finish the install properly.

So I decided to install Vista. Now, I’ve read every horror story about how Vista isn’t ready for prime time and that there is no way that MS will ship even in January. Admittedly, not being a super Windows nerd, maybe I don’t know all the things that are “wrong” with Vista, but I found it in general to be a pleasant, mostly bug free beta. I actually kind of liked it.

The new interface is much more slick and I seemed to be able to get around the system much much better. Naturally, there are some driver issues (I can’t get my sound card to work), but given this is a beta, I can’t really fault that. The new version of MCE is very nice and usable on a projection screen. All and all, I don’t think IT departments will be beating down Microsoft’s door for this, but for consumers, I think that Vista has come a long way.

My second good Microsoft experience came when I decided to install an old copy of XP on my Macbook. Now, I was convinced that I would be able to run the copy for only 30 days because I had activated this copy of Windows on an old machine that I had upgraded from Windows ME. To my pleasant surprise, I was able to activate the copy, but I really couldn’t figure out why.

It turns out, Microsoft had actually thought about this. I spoke to a Microsoft employee this weekend and he explained that they really only limit activations that are close together in time. He didn’t know what the time limit was, but I hadn’t activated this copy of XP in at least 4 years, which must have qualified. This was certainly unexpected and gave me a new respect for MS’ activation program.

Maybe my expectations of Microsoft are so low that these things impressed me, but I don’t think so. I’m really happy someone at Microsoft actually thought about these things and included it into the process.

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