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Windows Live Essentials are all the extra apps Microsoft is no longer allowed to bundle with Windows; you can include Paint and WordPad but not Photo Gallery and Writer - or a mail client. And the name is odd; on the one hand, Microsoft needs a home for all the extra tools that co-ordinate with the Live services (Hotmail, Messenger, Spaces, SkyDrive, MSN and to a lesser extend, Bing) - but on the other no-one is going to claim that the Bing Bar is an essential tool when just about every browser has a search tool you can set to use any search engine you want. The Family Safety tool ought to be essential, but it's still too complex (link all the users to Live accounts by hand) for what it does. Writer would be great but it still doesn't understand LiveJournal properly.

But Live Mail and Movie Maker are excellent at what they do (I maded a funny cat video in Movie Maker but luckily for you I ated it). The new social pane in Messenger is now how I read Facebook (and I wish Twitter would get its head out of its policy so I could read Twitter through it). I set up Sync and forgot about it and now my IE favourites and my Outook signatures are the same on both machines (I want it to do ribbon corrections and AutoCorrect settings and other customisations as well though) - and if I wanted to, I could remote desktop into any machine with Sync on. I do miss the 5GB of sync space from when it was Mesh; 2GB is mean so I'm only doing peer-to-peer syncing, but I'll use that to migrate everything to a new PC any time I get a new PC to work on because it's blissfully simple.

And Photo Gallery is great; it doesn't make me import all the images into another library, it just indexes them. All my favourite bugs are fixed (when I import photos I can pick tags from the existing database rather than typing them in wrong by hand, I can pick and choose which things are fixed when I use the automatic fix tools (contrast yes, straightening no) and I can open any image folder, not just the ones I've told Photo Gallery about). And the nifty 'combine the heads' tool that Bill Gates previewed back at CES 2007 (!) is finally available. This is me, making all the Google Wave team look happy at the same time...

For a more considered review with details and images that show the features in action, check out my piece on Tom's Guide. There's a companion piece about Five ways Hotmail beats Gmail - it's interesting to watch Google add in as many of the features Microsoft has put into the new Hotmail in Gmail since the announcement, but with a much more Google interface (ie ugly) - if Apple UI makes Microsoft UI look bad, Google UI makes Microsoft UI look amazingly friendly and smooth; if only Microsoft could put this consistently into all the products and not fall back to its own butt-ugly old-fashioned dialog boxes.

Also, if I see one more dialog asking me to make MSN my home page there are going to be consequences!


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
6th Jul, 2010 15:19 (UTC)
As one of the comments on the Hotmail vs Gmail article says, you've been reading too many internet / mobile ads! 10 Gig isn't "unlimited"! It is true that Hotmail is now better than it was - after years of looking abandoned - but I don't think it's better. Gmail is faster, its search is better, and IME its spam filter has a much smaller false positive rate. I also became converted to tagging vs folders. Even the Gmail ads are less annoying.

I see you can use Hotmail to read email from various accounts - can you get it to use a different server to send it, as you can with Gmail? Gmail's help told me how, Hotmail's didn't even cover reading various accounts well.

I must be quite strange: I remove the 'search bar' from browsers wherever possible, but then I do not stick 'facebook' into Google in order to find the evil Facebook etc.

Some of the Live 'Essentials' look more interesting.
6th Jul, 2010 15:25 (UTC)
one of the things that writers get used to is having the editor say 'unlimited' when you say 'as many as you want' which is what was in the copy I wrote.

Personally, I find Hotmail faster than Gmail and it has a lot less spam; I suspect it's horses for courses.

6th Jul, 2010 16:09 (UTC)
Ah. I'd still argue that's another way of saying 'unlimited' in a situation where it's not though.

Do you know if using another smtp server is doable in Hotmail? If not, can it be told to automatically bcc an address every time you send email 'from' a particular address. I can't find anything that even thinks you might want to, but having an accessible archive of sent mail - without having to log into people's Hotmail accounts! - is important for what we need to do.

Oh, the biggest improvement of Hotmail in recent years was to remove the requirement to log in every 30 days or so or lose all your old emails. It's why I went to Gmail when it started for everything except 'I don't care about this' lists etc.
6th Jul, 2010 16:26 (UTC)
you can send and receive multiple accounts from the new Hotmail. When you add a new account it says 'When you compose a new message, you can choose to send it from any of the following accounts.'

the auto-bcc is something that needs a script so I'd be surprised it would work but you can have all messages autoforward to one other account.

the only reason I still have a gmail account is the ability to forward *specific* messages to my main email so I use it as a privacy shield for some very specific things. but I'm deeply unhappy with the level of email indexing that goes on in Gmail because keeping unique information anonymous once it's in a database is impossible - statistically speaking it requires very little additional information to correlate. And you can get unique information *out* of the index by using the economics of Google Adwords bidding to compare two options. Hotmail is far from perfect but the new update has made it usable for me again (and I know as a power user I'm not the target user, so I haven't been able to talk Ms into adding conditional forwarding).
6th Jul, 2010 16:37 (UTC)
Alas, it's only a subset of sent mail that needs to be handled this way, everything 'from' an address (and Gmail will do this via allowing you to use a different server, so mail 'from' me@somewhere actually is from somewhere's server).

Yes, there are privacy issues with Google. Yes, there are privacy issues with Live.

Alas2, looking at the Live site reveals something not mentioned in your article: "Windows Live Essentials beta requires Windows 7 or Windows Vista" and I (along with millions of others) are still using XP when I do Windows.

That requirement's not really for technical reasons is it?
6th Jul, 2010 16:42 (UTC)
for many of the apps it is; they use Direct2D and other technologies that just don't perform well enough in XP. Photo Fuse and the Movie Maker tools wouldn't work well on XP. For Mail and the rest, it keeps things simple - I can't see anyone distributing a suite of software where part of it works on XP and part doesn't. Also when XP is a 9 year old OS that's been superceded in security, performance and features I'm not sure why people expect companies to keep on doing the extra work of coding for it. we're all hollering at companies to dump IE6 so the Web can move on; it's time for XP to die a death as well. Want modern software? Get a modern OS.

Hotmail, obviously, doesn't require any version of Windows at all.
6th Jul, 2010 17:46 (UTC)
in case anyone is reading this for the information rather than the opinion, you pick which account specific messages are sent from and then they are sent from that account, through that SMTP server.

I'm always keen on leads for privacy stories that are based on facts rather than opinions; what are the privacy aspects of Live you have issues with?
6th Jul, 2010 18:05 (UTC)
By default it takes that I would expect to be private (who I am communicating with) and uses it for commercial gain.

Have you been to its opt-out of 'personalized' ads page recently?

"The server's security certificate is revoked!

You attempted to reach choice.live.com, but the certificate that the server presented has been revoked by its issuer. This means that the security credentials that the server presented absolutely should not be trusted. You may be communicating with an attacker. You should not proceed."
6th Jul, 2010 18:16 (UTC)
I see no certificate errors on the site when I visit it (in IE8); the certificate is valid until 03/11/2010 and nothing in the root certificates shows up as out of date or revoked.

https://choice.live.com/AdvertisementChoice/ seems pretty comprehensive. Can you point out what portion of it you see as saying it takes 'who you are communicating with' to use for advertising because I've not spotted anything like that?
6th Jul, 2010 18:24 (UTC)
I'm using Chrome, because IE won't run on this netbook (I'm in a park), and it's worked just now.


Display of Advertising (Opt-Out)

.. (b) the pages you view and links you click when using Microsoft’s and its advertising partners’ Web sites and services, and (c) the search terms you enter when using Microsoft’s Internet search services, such as Bing, and (d) information about the users you most frequently interact with through Microsoft’s communications or social networking services .."
6th Jul, 2010 18:46 (UTC)
(Problems with the certificate again just now. It may be T-Mobile playing up.)
6th Jul, 2010 19:49 (UTC)
thanks; I've asked for comment on that phrase.
2nd Aug, 2010 14:54 (UTC)
it took a while for them to find the right person to answer it and it took me a while to fit it into the blog schedule, but the answer is at
6th Jul, 2010 18:44 (UTC)
For Gmail, yes, that's right. It means you don't send mails with headers saying 'you@gmail on behalf of you@somewhere' as well as being able to do anything on the server that you normally would be able to do = win. Hotmail also adds that 'on behalf' info, so users should make sure they're not using their hotslut@hotmail account to send work emails...

Gmail will also let you say 'check this other account's email now, please', whereas I can't find how to get Hotmail to even tell you when it last checked.
6th Jul, 2010 16:32 (UTC)
nothing is unlimited when it comes to bandwidth or storage. as many as you want: I don't think many people want to send more than a few hundred photos a month (10gb = 200 5mb photos or 400 2.4mb photos or 800 1.2mb photos with 30 day expiry). Most people want to send 5-10 photos to a bunch of friends and the photo albums are a great way of doing it because they're much easier for eg Aged Parents to deal with (nice slideshow).

but if you read as far as the comments you already saw my response so this is otiose.
6th Jul, 2010 17:52 (UTC)
I had to look that up.

No, it's a sore point. '10 Gb of' is both shorter and more accurate than 'unlimited' or even 'as many as you want'.

The use of 'unlimited' in ads is inevitably a lie. It is a disgrace that the ASA take the position that it's ok with an asterisk indicating some tiny print saying 'we're lying' because everyone does it.

The worst example I can remember said something like 'UNLIMITED internet, .. UNLIMITED internet .. Yes, we mean UNLIMITED' and it turned out it meant 30 megabytes a day.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


full steam ahead
Mary Branscombe
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