Mailbag: August 15, 2010

This week in the mailbag:

Accessing US-Based Web Services Internationally
Windows Weekly Episode 13: The Quickening
Whatever Happened to Windows Gadgets?
Bluetooth and IM on Windows Phone 7
Spelling and Grammar on the SuperSite for Windows

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.)

Accessing US-Based Web Services Internationally

I'm in Europe for three weeks doing a home swap with a family from Weingarten, Germany (so they're in my home now) and once again I've been confronted by the odd things that do and do not work while I'm out of the country. For example, I have successfully purchased some TV show episodes from iTunes, and I purchased 5 songs from Zune Marketplace using my Zune Pass credits. But services like Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu Plus do not work while I'm outside the US. This is particularly annoying because I pay for each of these services, but I know there must be a way to make this work, and I asked Leo about this while recording the latest Windows Weekly podcast. Jim C. has what looks like a workable solution:

I can recommend StrongVPN if you do want to stream Netflix/Hulu over here on this side of the pond. Works great for me.

That is exactly what I'm looking for, though the site looks awfully convoluted. I just wish I had known about this before I left, but it looks like you can get a workable month-long solution for $7 to $10, which is wonderful. We're on the road as I write this, but when we get back to Weingarten this week I'll give it a go.

Update: Kelley T. also recommnds a similar service, My Expat Network. It's a bit less expensive and the site appears a bit more manageable.

Windows Weekly Episode 13: The Quickening

Jared asks a question I actually get pretty regularly:

What happened to Windows Weekly Episode #13?

Leo and I skipped it as a joke. Of course, this was so long ago--almost four years--that it's hard to even remember what was going on in those days.

Bonus points: "The Quickening" is a private joke referring to the second Highlander movie, whose US theatrical release is widely considered to be one of the worst movies to ever hit the silver screen. I use the phrase "The Quickening" perhaps a bit too often.


Whatever Happened to Windows Gadgets?

Roman Z. asks:

I've been loving Windows 7 so far, except for one small feature that has been bothering me. While Windows 7 continues to support Gadgets like Vista did, compared to OS X Widgets library on the Apple website, the Windows Gadgets library is much less diverse, and Gadgets generally have poor UI design (at least not deserving of a Windows 7 desktop), and are poorly [made], oftentimes crashing or not working at all.

Ditto for Chris L.:

Has there been any news if Microsoft would try to push for development of some quality Windows Gadgets and if the Gadgets Gallery online would be updated? It?s like stepping into the past seeing the old Windows Live look, let alone that it appears broken in certain web browsers. Thanks!

Windows Gadgets move forward from Vista to Windows 7 with few changes: The Sidebar container is gone, no Gadgets are running by default when you first install Windows 7, and they pick up a few new features: Windows Touch support, offline capabilities, a new size toggle, high DPI support, and a magnetic edge alignment capability. But you're right, the gadgets themselves haven't changed much at all. Given this, I think Windows Gadgets fits neatly into the "abandonware" category, like other Vista-era technologies (like Windows Sideshow) that are included in Windows 7 almost solely for backwards compatibility reasons. I don't see a huge future for this feature, unfortunately.

Bluetooth and IM on Windows Phone 7

Andrew R. asks:

I haven't seen any information about Bluetooth or Instant Messaging on Windows Phone 7. Do you know whether these features are supported?

There's no instant messaging app built into Windows Phone, but I think it's fair to assume Windows Live Messenger will show up separately, and quickly, in Windows Phone Marketplace.

Bluetooth support in Windows Phone includes:
BT 2.1 + EDR
HFP 1.5 ? Hands-Free Profile
HSP ? Headset Profile
A2DP 1.2 ? Advanced Audio Distribution Profile
AVRCP 1.0 ? A/V Remote Control Profile 1.0
PBAP ? Phone Book Access Profile

I've written a longer post about Windows Phone's Bluetooth support on the Windows Phone Secrets blog if you'd like to know more.

Spelling and Grammar on the SuperSite for Windows

Every once in a while someone will email me with a spelling or grammar correction for an article on the SuperSite. Unless we've exchanged emails before, these people are often unsure whether I'm interested in this kind of feedback. So let me be very clear about this: I am very much interested in this kind of feedback and appreciate it very much.

Since I first started writing this site 12 years ago--literally, 12 years ago this week--the SuperSite has been a one-man show. No one edits the content here, and virtually everything you see here--the text, the graphics, whatever--was created solely by me. This has its good points and bad points, but the key thing to remember is that this is guerilla publishing, not "The Wall Street Journal." So you're getting one man's point of view, one man's information, and, of course, one man's mistakes. I'm human, I work a lot, and I make mistakes. If you see something wrong here on the site, anything, please do let me know. It really is appreciated.

And since I mentioned it, the very first two articles I published on this site--which was originally called the Windows NT 5.0 SuperSite, if you can believe that--are Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2 Technical Reviewer's Workshop Reviewed and Windows NT 5.0 Workstation Beta 2 Reviewed, which date back to August 1998. A lot has changed since then, of course, but this site is still produced as it was 12 years ago, for better or worse.

More next week...