Mailbag: September 12, 2010

This week in the mailbag:

Can Vail Back Up Itself?
How Not to Write Me an Email
Syncing Folders Between PCs
Can't Pin a Shortcut to UAC to the Windows 7 Taskbar
Some More Missing Features from Windows 7 Starter
Windows Phone 7 Office Support on SharePoint vs. Windows Live SkyDrive

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.)

Dave B. asks:

The most serious flaw with WHS is the inability for Windows Home Server to backup itself. If there is a problem with the WHS server, the operating system, applications, and possibly thousands of configurations have to be manually installed. Does WHS "Vail" fix the most serious problem with WHS, it's inability to backup itself?

Yes, because it's based on Windows 7/Server 2008 R2, Windows Home Server "Vail" includes the newest version of Windows Server Backup, which does support bare metal restore via system imaging.

I don't expect anyone who writes me to suck up to me in some way. But sometimes people go over the top. And a bit less frequently, they go way over the top ... but in the wrong direction. Let's use this morning's little eye-opener from "Gary" (not his real name, according the email) as an example. Here's the structure of his email:

I know your podcast is only concerned with technology, but here's an example in today's newspaper in which Microsoft has done something morally wrong. \[End of paraphrasing.\] Since you are a Microsoft shill, I expect no comment on this or at the very least a dismissal of this email.

Um. What?

In my response to him, I noted that I had actually raised the very issue he noted about Microsoft in the past. And then I noted, verbatim:

I'm not a Microsoft shill, but thanks for reducing my career helping PC users to \[that of\] one mindlessly backing Microsoft. I'll be dismissive of you, not the contents of the article you reference.

Jerk.

Seriously, spare me. If you're trying to reach me, you can tune down the stupidity just a bit. And don't pull out the righteous indignation: If you're going to actually call me a name directly, you're going to get it back in turn. Especially when the point of your email--not the insult, the actual reason for the mail--is incorrect to begin with.

And for the 99 percent of you out there with some class, yes, there really are people like this. I know, it's depressing.


Kevin L. asks:

I have two computers in my house, a laptop and a desktop. The desktop is where I run Carbonite and this is where I would like to keep a copy of all the important documents. What utility would you recommend to sync C:\ users\username\pictures on the laptop to D:\photos on my desktop.

Windows Live Sync 2011 Beta (soon to be Windows Live Mesh) seems like an obvious choice. Microsoft hasn't updated it in a while, but there's also a tool called SyncToy that you might check out.

John O. asks:

I am unable to pin a Windows 7 shortcut that has the UAC shield over-layed on it to my Taskbar or Start Menu. Is this by Microsoft's design due to a security risk or is something else going on? I am able to Pin other shortcuts normally.

Yeah, this is a limitation in Windows 7. You can pin certain items to the taskbar, but not all things. Control Panels can't be pinned individually.

My take on this is that the Windows 7 taskbar is essentially a v1 design and that, over time, it will become more capable and full-featured. In this initial release, you can pin application shortcuts, but not shortcuts for documents. You can pin Explorer, but not multiple shortcuts to individual folders. And you can pin the Control Panel, but not individual control panels. Sadly, because of the monolithic Windows development process, these limitations almost certainly won't be overcome until Windows 8.

I maintain what I consider to be a very complete list of Windows 7 features that explains which are (and are not) available in each Windows 7 product edition. Unlike similar lists, my list is actually based on internal feature reporting services in Windows 7 itself, which is why it's so complete. But it looks like I still missed some. Michael P. writes with the following bit of information:

We have one Windows 7 Starter machine which was unable to print to network printers (a CUPS server via IPP). The machine still has the normal printer dialog, but when you try to enter a TCP/IP printer it immediately fails with a generic error message. When we checked ?Turn Windows Features on or off? the only options under ?Print and Document Server? is ?Windows Fax and Scan? instead of the following 5 entries on Windows 7 Enterprise:

Internet Printing Client
LPD Print Service
LPR Port Monitor
Scan Management
Windows Fax and Scan

Looks like I missed some features. I'll try to figure out the best way to add these to the list, though some of these are very obscure. Internet printing, however, should likely be in there.

Jason A. asks:

I'm excited for Windows Phone 7, especially around the Office suite of tools, but I'm a little worried about how careful Microsoft seems to be when referring to that functionality. They often say that 'OneNote is accessible from SkyDrive and \[Word, Excel, or PowerPoint\] are accessible from a SharePoint server.' My question is, are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents accessible from your SkyDrive on the phone? If so, do they sync back and forth or do you need to download and upload versions?

This is a disappointment for me in Windows Phone 7, because the capabilities you get for accessing online documents are not identical between Windows Live SkyDrive and SharePoint.

OneNote is the only Office Mobile app on Windows Phone 7 that supports direct sync with Windows Live SkyDrive. Why it's not identical to the SharePoint functionality is unclear, but I expect that to change over time.

Put another way, Microsoft provides full document sync between SharePoint and Windows Phone, but only for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. With SkyDrive, it provides OneNote note syncing only.

More next week...