Windows 7, again

Got it installed and seems like a clean update on Vista. Somebody must have cracked the whip on simplicity, since nearly everything involving user interaction got simpler. Since it is mostly feature extensions on Vista, it is quite stable.

Some less noticed changes:
* IE8 now runs all tabs and windows in separate processes, so there is no longer a distinction between tabs and windows. There is also (finally) a Mozilla style jump-highlight in-page search. There is a convenient “In Private” mode that leaves behind nothing, but it is kind of stupid in that it doesn’t sandbox in cookies to delete them afterwards but in fact doesn’t appear to store them at all, breaking some sites… or maybe it’s just a bug. There are also these “accelerators” to web services (like smart tags on crack), not that useful in my opinion.
* English ink input in continuous mode now displays recognitions in-place, rather than in typeface underneath.
* Services for Unix (the POSIX subsystem) is much much improved and is actually usable for compilation.
* Monad (or PowerShell), which got dropped from Vista, is in. Very nice.
* Desktop backgrounds now come in sets of images, rather than one image.
* Yet another new directory structure for user home directory. The “data” folders in the home directory like Pictures, Music, Movies, Documents are now symbolically separated into a “Libraries” indexing structure (kind of like in WMP), and apparently you can create multiple libraries. Not sure if this is implemented cleanly enough, but intersting.

That’s about it.

credit creation

So finally, the Fed is taking home loans onto its balance sheet, a tool Bernanke proposed years ago to combat deflation. (Interesting, the list of reflationary tools proposed were: drop short-term interest rate, cap long-term rate, buy private debt, buy foreign debt, tax cut, and government purchases; so there are just a few more options left.)

Fed Easing Liquidity in Funding Markets

By Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer

The Fed announced the creation of a new tool, called the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF), geared to provide primary dealers — big Wall Street investment firms and banks that trade directly with the Fed — with 28-day loans of Treasury securities, rather than overnight loans. They would pledge other securities — including federal agency residential-mortgage-backed securities, such as those of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — as collateral for the loans of Treasury securities. Fed officials said that’s the first time they’ll be accepting mortgage-backed securities through this type of lending program.

Unfortunately, that does tend to make the Fed less credit-worthy, say if the banks were unable to repay their 28-day debts. And since the Fed is where the government keeps its money:

U.S. Treasuries Riskier Than German Debt, Default Swaps Show

By Abigail Moses

March 11 (Bloomberg) — The risk of losses on U.S. Treasury notes exceeded German bunds for the first time ever amid investor concern the subprime mortgage crisis is sapping government reserves, credit-default swaps prices show.

Zune, XBox, Trojan horse

It looks like the Zune is a flop. At least in the conventional sense of market share against the iPod and portable music players. This is predictable with the kind of PR that came before its release.

However, I highly doubt the Zune was meant to be just a music player. Earthlings know that the industry vision has been that of a central computational and storage hub in the home or on the network, and portable anywhere devices as terminals. It’s old news, but I guess it’s time to get pushy when vanilla home PC’s are already in pretty much every home and old usage models require no more computational power than is already available.

In this context, the Zune is a way to dump a preferred portable devices platform out there so Microsoft can write software for it. Windows Mobile on PDA is another one of those things, but far more people buy music players and cell phones than full-blown PDA’s (I’m guessing). One has to be a bit deceptive about what is really going on when pushing these devices, which is why the Zune is “just” a portable music player, when in fact, it is a big screen with computational capabilities and built-in wireless, so with a software change it immediately becomes a generic portable device. Microsoft has done this before, certainly. The XBox was “just” a gaming console — for a while. Not any more, despite J Allard’s early protests to the contrary. It’s clearly a computational and storage hub that just happens to be accepted in the living room. Intentionally implementing an accepted specialized device within a generic platform embodiment so that the specialization can later be removed is like Trojan horse marketing, I suppose (no revelation here, just a personal reflection), but it remains the case that the Trojan horse must be a gift worthwhile enough to be accepted.

By that measure, the XBox achieved a level of success as a gaming console by having some compelling features, but the Zune did not. The Zune was too similar to practically everything else. Maybe if the Trojan horse were a cell phone instead (iPhone?) or a car-device (GPS+music player?), Microsoft would have had more success. Actually the GPS+music player idea isn’t bad. It is getting pretty popular, but only a bunch of small random brands are selling it, with inconsistent interfaces and idiotic software as a result. There is where Microsoft could have made a difference — as it already has a well regarded PC-based navigation solution and user base from that.

So there you go, Microsoft. Keep the 2-cent change.