We've all used the web to research and help diagnose what might be causing that nagging ailment, whether it be related to sudden fatique or a new pain not associated with an obvious injury. But when you use the web in place of a doctor, do you tend to worry that your symptoms are indicative of a worst case scenario? If so, your real ailment might be cyberchondria.
Earlier this week, Microsoft researchers published the results of a study examining health-related web inquiries as well as a survey of the company's employees. The results of the study indicate that people who use search engines as a self-diagnosis tool often conclude the worst about whatever it is that ails them.
"People tend to look at just the first couple of results," said Eric Horvitz, an artificial intelligence researcher at Microsoft Research. "If they find 'brain tumor' or 'A.L.S.,' that's their launching point."
According to the study conducted by Horvitz, who holds a medical degree, and his fellow investigator Ryen W. White, a specialist in information retrieval technology, web searches for ailments like headaches and chest pain were equally or more likely to land surfers on pages describing dire conditions as benign ones. For someone who is suffering from a headache, search results would link the symptom to brain tumors just as often as they would with caffeine withdrawal, even though the chance of having a brain tumor is highly unlikely.
The researchers suggest that a combination of human nature to jump to worst-case conclusions combined with a reliance on web search rankings contribute to the tendency to be a cyberchondriac.
Does this describe you or anyone you know? Hit the jump and tell us.
A recent posting to the Engineering Windows 7 blog (one of our favorite sites for Windows 7 news, by the way) has some very useful information about the mysterious WinSxS directory in Windows 7 (and Vista), and how Microsoft is trying to curb Windows' appetite for disk space in Windows 7.
The C:\Windows\WinSxS folder (first introduced in Vista) looks as if it is a huge gobbler of disk space, (it uses 3.5GB of disk space on a new system, and can use 10GB or more as a system is used) but what does it do, and is that space really being "used up?"
As it turns out, both Windows Vista and Windows 7 use the WinSxS folder to point to files that are actually found elsewhere in Windows; in other words, the amount of space that the WinSxS properties sheet says is in use isn't accurate. So, what's the folder for?
By using the WinSxS folder to store what the blog calls the "installation and servicing state" of all system components, Microsoft makes it easier to roll out Vista installations with imaging technology and to patch the image offline (Windows XP and earlier versions aren't image-friendly, and require third-party tools and clunky workarounds to permit image-based deployment). Also, if you get rid of the WinSxS folder, you make it difficult to keep Windows running reliably. So, the word on the street is, "keep the WinSxS folder." To remove old files replaced by Windows Vista SP1, the blog entry provides a link to information about the command-line VSP1CLN.exe tool.
To find out how Microsoft is working to put Windows 7 on a disk-space diet, join us after the jump.
There’s been some loose talk of Microsoft looking to release Service Pack 2 for Vista just as soon as they can. They’ve been reportedly rushing it so that there will be more incentive for people to buy Vista, instead of just waiting for Windows 7.
According to some inside sources, a release candidate for SP2 will be available in February 2009, with the final version scheduled for release to manufacturing in April 2009. When a version is labeled as RTM it’s not always available for download, but it has been put out in disc form, including OEMs.
Following suit with pervious service packs, it’s expected that Microsoft will release Vista’s SP2 in language waves. The previous service packs give us reason to believe that the English, German, Japanese, French and Spanish versions will be the first available, with Chinese, Korean and Brazilian Portuguese available not long after.
Ask three people what "Windows Live" is - and you might get more than three answers: "It's a social network" (Windows Live Spaces); "a photo organizing service" (Windows Live Photo Gallery); "an email client" (Windows Live Hotmail)...but no matter how many answers you get, you probably won't hear "a major search provider". Yes, despite Microsoft's lavishing of money, time, attention, and even offering cash back for searches, Windows Live Search is not a major contender in the search space currently dominated by Google and Yahoo.
Would a name change help? TechCrunch claims that a rebranding of Live Search as Kumo (Japanese for "cloud" or "spider") may be on tap for early 2009.
Will breaking Live Search away from the rest of the diverse Windows Live family with a new name help it prosper, or are you looking for better features? Join us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
New versions of Windows have featured new versions of DirectX, the 3D audio and graphics family of APIs, and it now appears that Windows 7 will be no exception. According to PC Games Hardware, Microsoft's Ben Basaric, Product Marketing Manager Windows, says that Redmond will be bundling DirectX 11 with Windows 7, after all. Earlier this week, PCGH had reported that the pairing of DirectX 11 and Windows 7 was "unlikely."
So, what's new in DirectX 11? As we reported this summer, DX 11 will include compute shader technology, enabling the GPU to perform operations other than 3D graphics; better multi-core resource handling; more efficient utilization of the processing pipeline; hardware tesselation support for more detailed 3D models.
For you chance to sound off about your plans to buy DirectX 11-compliant hardware, and how long you'll have to wait for it, join us after the jump.
When can you expect to buy DirectX 11-compliant GPUs? AMD says its first DirectX 11 parts will be available in late 2009 - right about the time Windows 7 is expected to arrive. New operating system and new graphics hardware? Hopefully, that's a recipe for more realistic 3D graphics than ever before. If Microsoft and OEMs continue to work as closely as the Engineering Windows 7 blog suggests, that's much more likely than a repeat of the poorly handled integration of hardware and Windows Vista at rollout.
How about you? Are you going to wait for DirectX 11 before you buy a new graphics card, or are NVIDIA and ATI's current products tempting you to make the jump now? Hit Comment and tell us what your heart (and your wallet) are telling you.
This holiday season, Microsoft is taking aim at arch-rival Apple's iPod - and its companion iTunes software. This week, Microsoft cut the retail prices on 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB Zunes as well as on the Car Pack, Home/AV Pack, and Dock Pack. With the 8GB Zune now selling for $139 (was $149) and the 16GB model now selling for $179 (was $199), Microsoft is undercutting the price of comparable Nanos by $10 (8GB) and by $20 (16GB). The 4GB Zune anchors the lineup at $99, down $30 from its old price.
The Car Pack now sells for $69 (was $79), but the Home/AV Pack, also formerly $79, is now just $59. The Dock Pack is also cheaper at $39 (was $49).
To find out how Microsoft plans to use Zune software to drive hardware sales, join us after the jump.
Because hackers target Microsoft's Windows operating systems more than any other OSes, one could argue that it would be only fitting for the software maker to offer its users a free security suite, and that's exactly what Microsoft intends to do. Noting the rapid increase in the prominence of malware, Microsoft says it will discontinue retails sales of it's fee-based Live OneCare subscription service by June 30, 2009 and replace it with a free security suite currently code-named "Morrow."
"Customers around the world have told us that they need comprehensive, ongoing protection from new and existing threats, and we take that concern seriously,” said Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management for the Online Services and Windows Division at Microsoft. “This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware."
Morrow, which will offer protection against viruses, spyware, rootkis, Trojans, and other malware, will be built to use fewer resources, which Microsoft claims will make it well suited for both low bandwidth situations and low-power PCs. According to Microsoft, Morrow's protection will be on the same level as the company's enterprise solutions.
While that sounds like good news for Windows users, McAfee sees it as an even better opportunity for themselves and doesn't appear worried that it might lose paying customers to Morrow.
"Consumers have voted; OneCare, in its two years on the market, has achieved less than 2 percent market share," he said in an interview. "Microsoft is giving up and has defaulted to a dressed-down freeware model that does not meet consumer security needs. This is good news for McAfee."
Is McAfee underestimating Morrow? Hit the jump and give us your thoughts.
During the press briefing for Windows 7 at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), corporate vice president for Windows product management Mike Nash insisted Microsoft had learned from the Vista experience.
Judging by early Windows 7 code released at PDC, the signs are that it really has....Windows 7 feels more polished than Vista, even in the preview, and performance is good.
Anderson noted the new Device Stage, BitLocker to Go, and improvements in Windows Media Player. To find out what other features Anderson likes in the next Windows, join us after the jump.
According to a filing released Thursday, the Vista Capable program originally included support for the Windows Driver Display Model (WDDM) as part of the requirement for support of core Windows features. Although OEMs such as Dell, Sony, and Fujitsu all asked for waivers from the WDDM requirement for various computer models that used Intel chipsets with integrated graphics that could not run WDDM drivers, Microsoft refused all three companies' request for waivers because of the improvements in stability and features resulting from WDDM drivers.
However, when Intel came calling on Microsoft , it was a different story. After a series of email exchanges between Intel and Microsoft, Microsoft dropped the WDDM driver requirement, enabling Intel and its OEM partners to market systems with Intel 915 integrated graphics as being "Vista Capable" - even though their integrated graphics would never support Aero Glass or be supported by a WDDM driver.
To find out why some OEM vendors were pleased with Microsoft's relaxing of the WDDM rules, and some weren't, join us after the jump.
Microsoft lobbed another artillery shell towards brick and mortar retailers on Thursday with the debut of its new U.S. online marketplace. Microsoft has been slowly expanding its direct to consumer sales channel over the past several months and launched its first pilot program in the UK and Germany back in July. Currently the online marketplace offers everything from Mice and Keyboards to Xbox games and consoles. Landmark PC software products such as Windows and Office will also naturally be made available.
A disproportionately large percentage of our readers have been shopping on Newegg and Tiger Direct for years. And the idea of buying items online isn’t all that unique to most of us. Perhaps the most interesting new feature of the online marketplace however, is the option to download software and install it without the need for the physical media. Downloaded software can be burned by the customer to a DVD, but this process is optional. Microsoft will also allow repeat downloads of its software, and offer remote access to product keys. According to Microsoft’s Trevin Chow; "There is no longer any need to pay for shipping costs and waiting for the big brown truck to drive across the country."
We all know that online software distribution is hardly a novel concept, and people have been downloading productivity software and OS’s such as Open Office and Linux for years. Despite these facts however, this is still a huge step for the Redmond based software giant and a further reminder that internet distribution is here to stay. Let’s just hope they find new ways to compress this stuff. I’m not sure how much more of this my bandwidth cap will take!