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     Oct 31, 2009
Microsoft reliable as ever
By Martin J Young

HUA HIN, Thailand - It was to be expected, less than a week after the official launch of Windows 7, Microsoft's all singing and dancing new operating system, that reports would emerge from disgruntled users complaining about their upgrade woes.

The problems arise when you try to upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7, something Microsoft has been actively encouraging consumers to do.

The company support forum has seen a growing thread of complaints from people who have tried to upgrade their systems

only to have the process stop about two-thirds of the way through and who then have tried an endless rebooting cycle that leaves the system in limbo.

Some are not even able to go back to their previous version of Vista and are faced with what is effectively a dead computer. Microsoft technicians are working on solutions as the list of complaints grows longer. A similar situation happened with Vista upgrades back in 2007.

It seems that the company have replaced their infamous Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) with a Boot Cycle Of Death (BCOD) for some unfortunate upgrades. Those who read last week's IT World will have gleaned that a clean install is the best way to go with any new operating system. We did also mention the importance of data backup before installing the new system.

Documentation on upgrading for those that still want to make the giant leap into the digital abyss can be found here.

Unofficial guides to cleanly install the software from upgrade discs have also appeared online, to the annoyance of Microsoft's legal heavyweights. Cost saving is the deciding factor here, as the upgrade is substantially cheaper than the full version; naturally the software giant is spitting fire about the violation of their end user license agreements.

Software controllers for devices and hardware have had a bumpy first ride with Windows 7, during a number of installations on various computers several drivers have been missing in action. Depending on the age of the hardware, Windows 7 may not have drivers that XP installed automatically; the only solution is a manual search, download and installation.

Newer hardware is better supported but Windows 7 doesn't have everything, and some users may find themselves laboriously scouring the labyrinthine websites of manufacturers such as Hewlett Packard for their hardware drivers, and even then they may not find them.

The fundamental hurdle any software company faces with a major operating system release is the fact that no two computers are the same, so there are bound to be teething problems. Every computer has different hardware and specifications, software and applications, Internet, connectivity and personal settings, so the likelihood of a smooth upgrade for everyone is very slim.

These issues are likely to be ironed out over the coming months as Microsoft releases updates and security patches for their new operating system and ultimately wraps them all up in Service Pack 1 some time next year. All this is bound to bog down what is now being labeled as a "snappy" desktop. The whole cycle will then start again with Windows 8 or whatever Microsoft decides to call the next one.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is set to shake up the World Wide Web with its plans to introduce non-Latin domain names. The initial proposal, approved in 2008, received the final go-ahead this week; the body will now begin accepting web names in Asian, Arabic and other scripts in November.

The first non-Latin or internationalized domain names (IDNs) could be online by the middle of next year. More than half the Internet's 1.6 billion users use non-English-based scripted language so the change is important for the expansion of Internet coverage across the globe. The technicalities behind the translation system and changes applied to the Domain Name System are extremely complicated, and testing has been going on for a couple of years now.

China and Thailand have already implemented workarounds that allow users to type in names in their own language, but these have yet to be internationally approved and may only work on some computers.

As in the past with new domain protocols, the likelihood is that these names will not be available to the general public and the only way to get them will be via a registered company with legitimate interest in the Internet address.

The net result will be an expansion of the Internet in terms of resources and users. Small local businesses are likely to benefit as their Internet and email addresses can now be in their own language.

Apple's iPhone becomes available in China today, Friday, at a relatively pricey 6,999 yuan (US$1,024) for the 32-gigabyte iPhone 3GS. The gadgets are being sold by China Unicom at a price that is 25% higher than the US$800 or so paid in Hong Kong, where consumers have different wireless carriers.

With a service plan, the phone will cost at least $3,120 over two years, compared with about $2,600 for customers in the US, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The high price may hold back sales even among the mainland's style- and gadget-mad mainland consumers. Alternative smart phones that deliver email and video and made by domestic Chinese companies are available at about $205, the report said.

In its never-ending quest of mapping the planet and helping people get around, Google has announced upgrades to its GPS navigation system for Android-powered smart-phones. The new navigation application includes updated maps and business data, improved search options, live traffic data, accurate route searches, satellite and street views. At present, availability covers only certain parts of the United States; the rest of us can quite literally get lost.

Motorola has finally rolled out its new Android 2.0 powered smart-phone called Droid. It has a full querty keyboard and a host of other gizmos, but like most good things there is a catch - it is available for use only on Verizon Wireless networks at US$199 with a lock-in contract. The unit is expected to compete with Apple's iPhone, which is available in the US only from AT&T, and Research In Motion's Blackberry.

Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

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