Windows 'Vienna' Development Timeline

I posted this on slashdot, but old posts on slashdot can be difficult to find, and I just know I'm going to want to point to this in a few years and say, "See, see! I predicted that!" So I'm posting it here too. Note that I of course don't expect most of the exact details to come out; it's the overall general flow of the thing that seems likely to be dead-on accurate. So here it is, my projection for the development timeline for the next major version of Microsoft Windows:

2007 Q1 Vista released; work on Vienna begins.
2007 Q4 Microsoft announces Vienna will contain innovative new filesystem
2008 Q2 Microsoft projects release date for 'Vienna' as late 2010 or early 2011
2008 Q3 Microsoft announces Vienna will revolutionize the internet desktop
2009 Q2 Microsoft announces Vienna's filesystem will make search irrelevant
2009 Q4 Microsoft projects release date for Vienna as second half of 2011
2010 Q1 Microsoft announces Vienna will be inherently more secure than Vista
2010 Q2 Microsoft announces Vienna's new API will make developers' jobs easy
2010 Q4 Microsoft announces Vienna will have built-in internet telephony (VOIP)
2011 Q2 Microsoft projects release date for Vienna in early 2012
2011 Q3 Microsoft announces Vienna will work with next-generation security hardware
2012 Q1 Microsoft announces partnership with wireless internet provider to enhance Vienna's
internet telephony, allowing users to go "unplugged"
2012 Q2 Microsoft projects Vienna release date pushed back to 2013
2012 Q3 Microsoft announces Vienna's wireless internet telephony will make cellphones obsolete
2013 Q1 Microsoft announces Vienna's wireless internet telephony will be more secure than cellphones
2013 Q3 Microsoft announces Vienna kernel will be most secure OS kernel ever
2013 Q4 Microsoft projects Vienna release date in early 2014
2014 Q1 Microsoft announces the new filesystem may not be ready for RTM but will ship
just after Vienna in a service pack
2014 Q2 Microsoft announces Vienna public beta will be forthcoming later in the year
2014 Q3 Microsoft announces the new developer API will be spun off as a separate project from Vienna
2014 Q4 Microsoft promises Vienna release no later than 2015 Q2
2015 Q1 Deal with wireless internet company falls through
2015 Q2 Microsoft announces innovative filesystem will be in release after Vienna
2015 Q2 Microsoft announces Vienna will still feature "unplugged" internet telephony,
but user will have choice of third-party wireless providers
2015 Q3 Microsoft releases limited beta of Vienna to select individuals and companies
2015 Q3 Reviews of Vienna start coming out; reviewers note internet telephony not present
2015 Q4 Microsoft announces final product name for Vienna will be Windows Fiesta
2015 Q4 Microsoft confirms internet telephony will not be ready to ship with first release
2016 Q1 Microsoft releases public beta of Fiesta to a wider audience
2016 Q2 Microsoft announces final release date for Fiesta in November; nobody believes it
2016 October Microsoft announces Windows Fiesta will be available to select customers in
November, retail version will ship in January
2016 November Microsoft announces Fiesta now available to select customers
2017 January Microsoft actually releases Windows Fiesta

I suppose I could be wrong. In theory. Time will tell.

Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course

For Christmas one of the things I got was a learning-to-play-piano book that is intended for Adults. The difference between the kids' primer I was using and this is much greater than I would have thought. The kids' primer I had already nearly exhausted, although I had only scarcely begun to look at chords. This book, within the first few pages, already has me playing melodic and harmonic seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths. I think the fourths and fifths are not perfect, since at this point I am still using almost exclusively the white keys, but nonetheless, it's still significant progress over the single CEG cord the other book taught me. And it's a much thicker book, ninety some pages. And it explains things better.

I'm really gonna get somewhere with this one.

Gift Exchange 2006

When you have to plan around five people's work schedules spanning every major type of shift (day, evening, night, and split) ranging from entry-level to professional, in both sectors, you never know when you're going to end up doing things. I went to work on Saturday morning not knowing when we were going to have our family gift exchange, since Hannah wouldn't know her work schedule until Saturday afternoon. (Her job, being entry-level and blue collar, has the least predictable schedule. Hers is also the night-shift job.) When she did find out, things worked out so that the best available time was Saturday evening. By the time I got home, Dad was getting ready to go pick up a couple of pizzas so we could eat first.

The upshot of this is that I am now free to discuss what I got people. (I don't think anyone in my family reads blogs in general, let alone mine, but my preferred location for keeping a secret is in my own head.)

It was a good year. There are a couple of people in my family that I often find hard to buy for, so some years I end up in the last week or so scrounging around for a suboptimal idea. Not this year.

The one I'm most pleased about is the one that virtually fell into my lap circa June. My dad is one of the hard-to-buy-for people. Everyone has trouble buying for him except Mom, who generally gets him practical things like clothing, which he needs but doesn't find very exciting. I like to go for something a bit more interesting. This year I think I did okay. I'll tell it the way he experienced it.

First, among his "stocking stuffers" (small, inexpensive items), he opened a VHS tape (a pretty large item for a stocking stuffer): a TNG episode, Encounter at Farpoint, the double-long series premier. Clearly secondhand, and (showing up in the stocking like it did) clearly obtained cheaply, but nonetheless clearly something he was pleased to have.

A while later on he opened a small box and found another videotape, another double-long TNG episode, Redeption, originally a cliffhanger spanning from the end of one season to the beginning of the next.

Then a little further along, he unwraps another small box and finds another, this time All Good Things, the double-long series finale.

Finally, when everything is just about finished, we come to his last present, which is fairly large and heavy enough that Hannah (who has done warehouse work and is easily the strongest member of the family) chose to slide it across the carpet rather than lift it. As the paper comes off, it's obviously a Wayne Dalton commercial garage door opener box. (This is the kind of box that's made from double-thick corrugated cardboard with two layers of corrugation. We had a couple of those box around the house from when Dad used to install doors and openers for a living.)

Inside, under a thin layer of tissue paper, are more videotapes, all of them TNG episodes. Both pleased and puzzled, he asks, "But what did you weight the box with?" Several of us burst into spontaneous laughter. "There can't be that many videotapes," he says. But there are. Seven seasons.

What happened was, somebody was determined to clear off some shelves and donated a whole passel of stuff to the Friends of the Library book sale, and the complete set of TNG episodes was included. (There were also some TOS episodes, a number of Star Trek books, plus some non-Trek stuff.) Employees are privileged to be able to buy such items without waiting for the sale. We pay the same price anyone else would pay at the sale, but it was nonetheless quite a good deal. When I bought them, I didn't know if the set was complete, so I looked up the episode lists on the internet, and they were all there. Some of my coworkers who knew about it couldn't believe I kept a lid on it for so many months.

Chords... sort of.

My mom heard me playing one of the primer pieces this evening and remarked, "Wow, Nathan, you're playing chords!" Well, sort of. Almost. "Chord", in the singular, is more like it at this point -- specifically, CEG. Hey, you have to start somewhere.

I'm also getting a bit better at playing explicitely marked accidentals (even if the note repeats within the measure and isn't marked again the second time), and at shifting my hand from one position to another (mostly, from thumb-on-C to pinkie-on-C and back; these two positions seem to cover most situations at the difficulty level I'm playing at at this point).

I still need to learn to read durations. I can play the notes with (approximately) the correct durations, when the piece is easy enough that I can find them in time, but only if I know the piece (and therefore know the rhythm). So learning to read the durations is an important upcoming goal.

Okay, we're ready.

Last night, my mom said, "Okay, I'm ready to open Christmas presents." I think that's the first time she's been the antsy one. (Usually it's Dad or Hannah. Of course, Hannah no longer lives here (though she stops by to visit several times a week), and Dad had just finished shopping the day before.) Maybe it's because most of us finished shopping early this year. I got (what would usually be) my hardest shopping done last summer, because an opportunity just fell in my lap, and I think mom got started pretty early too.

I do have something left to wrap still, but my shopping has been done for nearly a week, and Sarah (who is easy to buy for) was the last one I finished; the hard shopping has been done for even longer. Normally about this time I'd have either Dad or Hannah left to buy for (both of whom generally tend toward "hard to buy for") and would be resigning myself to doing something suboptimal for lack of better ideas. Not this year. It's been a good year.

I've been playing Christmas songs, in addition to the primer material and some hymns, on the piano. Mom's been playing Christmas songs too. She plays them much better, of course. But I play them better than I did a week ago. I'm still having a bit of trouble with Joy to the World though, which is one of my favorites. And of course I have scarcely even looked at playing harmony parts yet.

The primer book has started me in on chords, but only in the most introductory fashion, i.e., the left hand has one chord (usually CEG) to play and only plays it when the right hand, which is playing the rest of the song, plays a certain note (usually C). Gotta start somehow, I guess. Maybe next week I can advance to playing two chords.

Legato of Three sheet music unearthed

`ευρηκα. For several years I have not known where the original sheet music for Legato of Three was located. Tonight I found it. It had gotten buried under some other papers (including: interactive fiction design notes, a poem about Spam, and a note from Jason Horst about the merits of Butterfinger candy bars) when I was leaving the college dorm. Tonight I finally sorted the right stack of papers and there it was.

This means it will now be possible to reconstruct what the piece would have sounded like, if the limits of the monophonic PC speaker had not forced it into a serialized form.

Don't get me wrong: I like the serialized form, and the piece was written in full knowledge and with the intention that it would end up in that form, so I will always consider that the canonical form of the piece. Nonetheless, I would like to hear what it sounds like with the parts played in parallel. Now, once I transcribe and sequence it, I can.

I say transcribe, because the sheet music was written using a specialized system. If you look at the scanned excerpt, you can immediately see that not all of the notation is standard. For instance, octaves are represented in colors, so that all of the parts fit on one staff. (Brown notes are lowest, then blue, light green, dark green, red, and yellow notes are highest. Legato of Three does not contain any yellow notes, and the excerpt shown doesn't have any brown notes either.) Sharps and flats are represented positionally, e.g., C sharp is actually between C and D. (Legato of Three, being in C Major, has few if any sharps or flats, but you still have to get used to the staff having a position for them.)

Nonetheless, the notation is unabiguous, so I will be able to transcribe and sequence it. I'm looking forward to hearing the new parallel-parts version.

Piano After One Week

Actually, it may have been a week and a half. I neglected to jot down the initial date.

The story is that for several years I've regretted that my parents never made me take piano lessons as a child. Lots of kids are required to learn an instrument. Some resent it, and some don't, and some grow up to play as an adult, and some don't, but if they learned as a kid, they have the choice to play as an adult or not. So I'd been wishing I'd been made to learn to play. I don't want to play formally or anything, just for my own enjoyment, messing around at home, I'd like to be able to sit down with sheet music and turn it into something audible. There's a piano in the living room, after all. It's not a fancy or expensive piano, but it plays notes okay.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago this subject came up in a conversation with my mom, and she said, "So, why don't you learn?" I started thinking about it, and she dug up a couple of my kid sister's old piano primers, and I've been sitting down at the piano for about ten or fifteen minutes a day for a week or so now.

It's actually coming along rather faster than I expected. I expected to be three months getting to where I am now. Indeed, I expected to play nothing but scales for two weeks. But I'm tearing through the primer three or four pages a day, and supplementing it with a piece or two out of the hymnal. (I have at this point to select pieces carefully. They've pretty much gotta be in C major for now. I can play accidentals if they're explicitely marked on a per-note basis, e.g., the sharps in A Mighty Fortress.)

I don't want to give the impression that I'm some kind of piano whiz or something. I haven't even started to look at chords yet, and I have trouble reading timing fast enough to keep up with it. I can play timing well enough to suit myself on tunes I know (except when I have to pause to figure out an interval; I get quicker at this every day), and I know how to read the note durations in theory, but I can't yet read both the intervals and the durations fast enough to play them that way.

Still, I'm learning quickly. Two days ago I couldn't play anything with intervals much larger than two white keys (i.e., I could only skip over one key, discounting the black ones, which I still mostly ignore at this point) unless I sat there and counted for several seconds between notes. Today I'm jumping from C to G and stuff without messing up the timing (on hymns I know). That's progress.

I'm looking forward to learning how to play chords, and to learning to play with a key signature other than C major. I wonder which one the primer will have me do first?

So for all those adults out there who have wanted to learn to do something but thought you were too old... maybe middle-age isn't too old to learn new tricks. I'll post about my progress periodically.

Hollywood Gets Everything Wrong

There's a pretty good writeup over yonder about the ways in which Hollywood always gets computer technology wrong. The thing is, they get other subjects even wronger. I used to think that movie makers were particularly messed up when it came to the subjects I knew best, particularly Bible topics and to a lesser extent math and science. Later when I studied computer science I found out how badly they mangle that too. But I've since taken a more critical look and have become convinced that Hollywood actually gets all subjects wrong without discrimination. Medicine, law, foreign cultures, perhaps even movie-making, I'm now convinced they mung everything until it's no good.

Whatever you think you know because you learned it in a movie is probably wrong, possibly very wrong.

Ways to test websites in IE

Many webmasters are familiar with the problem: your computer probably has at most one version of Internet Explorer installed, but you want to test your website in every version that still sees significant usage. Recently I've discovered a number of solutions for this.

First, some time ago, some people figured out how to (ab)use the local-DLL workaround to keep installations of different versions of IE on a single Windows PC. MultiIE improved on that a bit, but now these folks have packaged up all the major versions you'd want (except 7.0, which presumably you're meant to just install in the normal way) in a simple and convenient installer. Very nice.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has come out with a solution based on their virtualization software. It doesn't include as many versions, but because it uses virtualization it is cleaner in some ways, running the browser in a VirtualPC where it has no access to your main system, and (more or less) vice versa. They've chosen to make this available free of charge, even though it technically includes a complete WinXP environment in the VPC box. It's time-bombed for April, but they say they intend to continue releasing these as time passes.

As if that weren't good enough, today I discovered IEs4Linux, which installed quickly and easily on my Ubuntu workstation at work, and runs with no problems. It uses wine, but it sets everything up nice and automatic (and runs IE in a regular window, like any other application), avoiding the usual hassles of dealing with wine. This is absolutely fantastic: I've now got IE5, IE5.5, and IE6 available. They take about 20 seconds to start up, but once they're running their resource consumption and performance are within my definition of reasonable. (Now to go home and see if it's as easy to install on FreeBSD as it is on Ubuntu...)

Finally, I discovered the browsershots service a few weeks ago, and it's really cool too.

Testing websites in different browsers just gets easier all the time.

Terry Pratchett Reprise

Most sci-fi and fantasy authors publish their best books first, and then once they've made a name for themselves and gathered a crowd of readers who are fans of their characters and universe, they just keep writing stories in that setting, which usually are not as good as the first ones.

Terry Pratchett appears to be an exception here. The first book I picked up, Guards! Guards!, was significantly better than the second book I picked up, The Light Fantastic, which being only the second Discworld book was published much earlier. I expected it to be better, because the first couple of books an author manages are often his best, but it was very disappointing in that regard. When I wrote my previous assessment, I hadn't finished it, but its ending (the last third of the book or so) was terribly anticlimactic and, I thought, boring. I barely made myself finish it. This is in contrast to Guards! Guards!, which was a little hard to get into at first but then captured my attention better as it went.

Now I'm reading Mort, which was published later than TLF and shows every sign of being rather better. (I can't compare it to Guards! Guards! yet, maybe when I'm further into the book.)

Maybe it's Rincewind and Twoflower I don't like. They're not very interesting characters, and they're not really sympathetic characters (i.e., ones the reader can easily identify with) either. Actually, of all the characters in The Light Fantastic, Cohen and the university Chancellor (the one who got whacked by Twoflower's luggage) were the only major characters I thought were really well-written and interesting. Well, and maybe the Gnome, but that's really a minor character. (There were also cameo appearances, as it were, from a couple of other potentially interesting characters, e.g., Death's daughter, who as it happens seems likely to show up in the book I'm reading now. But these did not have a very large role in the book.)

Legato of Three now available in mp3 format

I've gone through the necessary steps to set up a record label account on, and learning enough about lame to do the encoding according to their policy, so I've made Legato of Three available there, in mp3 format. (It's still also available in MIDI format upon request, and I can make it available in WAV or FLAC format if someone wants to host a file that's 6.6 MB or 1.9 MB respectively.)

Doing Things the Easy Way

We celebrated my mom's birthday today. I baked the cake last night. I have a confession to make: I used a box mix. I did make some minor adjustments -- used a quarter cup of oil and half a cup of applesauce instead of half a cup of oil, and threw in some chocolate chips and a little extra cocoa -- but it was basically a box-mix cake.

Thing is, it was good enough. Everyone liked it. (We did of course make homemade frosting. That frosting you can buy at the store is just *nasty*.) There were no complaints. And it was easy.

OTOH, when I made banana cream pies last week, I made crust from a shortbread cookie recipe, and that was much better than the frozen crusts you can get. So I haven't gone over completely to the dark side yet, I guess.

Terry Pratchett

After years of hearing people rave about the Discworld novels, I've finally given in and am reading a couple of them. They are interesting enough to read through without risking serious boredom, but they are in many respects rather disappointing.

In the first place, the author just doesn't have enough restraint. He hints too strongly and too often about what is going to come, so that what might have been interesting or surprising twists become expected and mundane. For instance, the first of the books that I picked up was Guards! Guards!, and it starts out with an explanation of where the dragons went, in short, that they did not die off but are dormant. Now, a good author, after introducing a little explanatory nugget like that, would have proceded to let it simmer in the back of the reader's mind for a while, distracting him with other aspects of the story, so that when a dragon shows up in the storyline eight or ten chapters later, it comes as a bit of a surprise, even though the reader knew it was possible. Pratchett doesn't handle it that way. The characters are talking about dragons, and plotting to summon one, a mere eleven pages later.

Then there's the satire. Satire is supposed to be subtle. Pratchett's satire is about as subtle as flashing neon lights.

Perhaps the most annoying thing is the way Pratchett treats the fourth wall. A lot of authors, even some quite good ones, occasionally break the fourth wall and speak to the reader, but Pratchett charges through it repeatedly to pester the reader, which after about the third time in a single paragraph gets rather old. The best example I can think of is in The Light Fantastic (the second Discworld book, and coincidentally the second one I picked up to read), when he is describing the heroine whom Trymon sent to find Rincewind. First he mentions the writer and the cover artist, then he mentions the narrative itself, and discusses a specific action the writer might take. Then he editorializes about the sort of writing that results and about the character. Then he pretends to get back to the story and actually describes the character, only to go off again with a metacomment. At this point the gag, neither very interesting nor very funny in the first place, is Officially Worn Out(TM), but Pratchett isn't done. Next he pretends once again to get back to the story, briefly describing some additional characters, only to say that they don't need much description because they won't last long in the story. Then he directly addresses the reader in the second person, offering to let the reader make a decision about the attire of the characters.

It isn't that Pratchett isn't capable of interesting writing. He is, and occasionally he even does a little of it. (Cohen, for instance, is an interesting character.) But the author continuously makes such a nuissance of himself that I want to put the book down in disgust.

I checked out three of his books from the library, and I'll probably read the third one (Mort) when I finish the second. But I'm unlikely to check out any more. The people who compare Pratchett favorably to Niven are on drugs.