Mailbag: June 27, 2010

This week's Mailbag is a few days late, sorry about that! I drove cross-country over the weekend and am finally catching up.

This week in the mailbag:

An Office 2010 Technology Guarantee Reminder
Why LogMeIn Pro?
iOS4 on an iPhone 3G
TechNet Subscription Questions Remain
Xbox 360 and Scratched Discs: Some Advice
Check out the Firefox 4 Preview

Have a question? I can't guarantee an answer, but I'll try. Drop me a note! (And let me know if you'd prefer not to have your name published.)

An Office 2010 Technology Guarantee Reminder

Frank M. writes in with some timely advice:

Now that Office 2010 is available you might wish to remind readers/listeners about the Office 2010 Technology Guarantee program. Here's the link.

Thanks! I had meant to write this up and just didn't have time. I purchased a copy of Office 2007 Home and Student for my kids' netbooks and used the tech guarantee to upgrade them to Office 2010. It was quite seamless, all you need to do is install and activate a valid copy of Office 2007 and then follow the instructions on the site above to retrieve the product ID. You can download Office 2010 for free from the site (which I did; it comes as a single installer file perfect for netbooks) or order an install DVD for a small fee.

Why LogMeIn Pro?

Moon C. asks:

I recently read your article about Travel Tech and you mentioned that you use Logmein Pro for remote file retrieval. I was wondering whether you can comment on why you don't use Live Mesh (Remote Desktop or Web Desktop) or Remote Desktop (Home Server's Remote Desktop/Remote File Access or just the built-in Windows stuff)? Is Logmein significantly better?

LogMeIn provides a File Manager feature I use more often than remote desktop; this lets me copy files from my home server while I'm on the road (and vice versa) using a nice, graphical, FTP-like interface. But LogMeIn's remote deskop feature is also nicer than that of Live Mesh/Live Sync. Incidentally, Windows Home Server provides similar functionality, but it has trouble with less sophisticated routers, like the one I'm required to use because I have FIOS Internet access. LogMeIn has no such issues.

I've been using LogMeIn for several years and had used it before Windows Home Server came out as well. It works very well.


iOS4 on an iPhone 3G

I've gotten a number of emails from people asking about using the recently-released iOS4 on a 2008-era iPhone 3G. But I've also gotten email from people cautioning against such an upgrade. This note from Grant R. is particularly relevant:

I own an IPhone 3g and recently upgraded to IOS4. What a mistake. The performance drawbacks are simply not worth the gains described on your review.

Ios4 with the IPhone 3g is painfully slow. I sit there waiting or the phone to register a touch, start an app, or get my call going! I wait a good 10 seconds just to see my text message.

My own iPhone 3G has some kind of hardware issue, and it's painfully slow whether it's using iPhone OS 3.x or iOS 4. But reading this and other similar emails, it's become clear to me that those with such a device should simply skip this upgrade. (2009-era iPhone 3GS and iPod touch devices work fine, however.) I absolutely do see the same behavior. But I had attributed it to the phone, not the upgrade.

TechNet Subscription Questions Remain

My tips about purchasing a TechNet subscription to save money on multiple installs of Microsoft products have generated, literally, hundreds of emails. Some believe this deal is too good to be true. Some are worried that the installs somehow expire after a year. Some think there is no way Microsoft intends for people to use this software at home. All of these concerns are unfounded. While I did mention this on the latest episode (#162) of the Windows Weekly podcast, I'd like to reiterate a basic point here: You're either going to do this or you're not. But it's a tremendous and valid deal. Here are two interesting notes from readers that I think are relevant on this topic. First, Guillermo K. writes:

I actually got the subscription but because of a billing issue I had to do it over the phone so I took advantage of the call and went ahead and asked about the licensing. This is what they told me. It pretty much validates everything you said. Basically the 1 year subscription means you can "download new keys" for one year. After that you can even see the old keys in your account AND they will continue to activate (up to 10 times per key and it doesnt even have to be 10 times on the same hardware). He added that even if I renew the subscription i would still be limited (through the web interface) to my original 10 keys but that I can CALL and ask for more if I need them (up to 10 new ones per year).

Toby M. adds:

On episode 63 of Ping on MSDN's Channel 9, they mentioned you, your blog post about subscribing to TechNet, and what a sweet deal it is from MSFT. No words of telling people they can't use it.

Not that they officially speak for Microsoft on the matter but I still thought it was cool even if she didn?t quite get your last name correct and the link on the episode?s landing page isn?t to your blog.

Hey, I'll take what I can get as long as the word gets out. :)

One more thing about TechNet Subscriptions.

I had mentioned that there was a list of software available with each subscription. You can find it here in Excel format. Note, however, that the list is a bit out of date: It says that Office 2007 comes with each subscription, but doesn't mention Office 2010. No fears, Office 2010 is part of the package as well.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in with the URL for that list.

Update: I was speaking with a colleague about the TechNet subscription offerings and he felt that I should reemphasize that these offerings are not intended for use by multiple people, even within the same household. TechNet subscriptions are designed so that an individual can evaluate Microsoft software on multiple PCs, yes, but the licensing does not provide for sharing software with friends and family. I've tried to make this very clear but it's clear that some misinterpret how its meant to be used.

Xbox 360 and Scratched Discs: Some Advice

With all the improvements in the new Xbox 360 S console, one important problem hasn't been fixed: This new console can still inadvertantly scratch the heck out of your game discs. This typically happens when you move the console while it's running with a disc in the drive, and it will almost certainly happen if you accidentally knock it over.

I don't know of a way to prevent this entirely, though your best bet is to orient the console horizontally rather than vertically. But I do have some advice that will help should a disc become scratched and unplayable: Install it to the console's hard drive. If you haven't scratched a particular disc yet, do it now. If you have, try to borrow a good disc from a friend or rent it locally, and then use that to install the game to the hard drive. Then, you can continue to play the game, even with a scratched disc. (The Xbox 360 requires the original game disc to be inserted for the game to play, but it plays off the hard drive, not the disc.) We've done this numerous times and it's always worked.

Check out the Firefox 4 Preview

A number of readers have written in to tell me that the upcoming Firefox 4 release, which features a brand-new, Windows-friendly UI (finally!), is available in pre-release form. The current versions, like all Firefox pre-release versions, go by the moniker Minefield, but it offers up a nice look at the future, and I have to say, it's quite nice. Previously, Mozilla would provide mock-ups of a future Firefox release and then deliver a product that looked nothing like the mockups. This time, it's exactly what they promised, and it looks great in Windows Vista/7. If you're the adventurous type, you can download this release from Mozilla's Firefox Nightly Builds page.

Thanks to everyone that's written in about this.

More next week...