The Verge makes an interesting point about Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda: for the most part, Microsoft doesn’t care what hardware you run their stuff on, they just want you to buy the software. So it’s less likely to be about trying to gain Xbox exclusives and more likely to be about getting more games for Game Pass.

It reminds me of a blog post I read a few years back comparing the core businesses of various major tech players:

  • Apple sells hardware, and their software and media stores are a way to give you something to do with the hardware.
  • Microsoft sells software, and the hardware is to give you something to run their software on.
  • Google sells ads on services, and their hardware, operating systems, and software (Android, Pixel, Chromebooks, Chrome, etc. ) are there to connect you to their services.
  • Amazon sells stuff, and their hardware is a way to sell you virtual (and sometimes physical) stuff.

That’s why, for instance, you can run Gmail on anything, and Microsoft Office on almost anything, but iTunes, the main Apple program that actually runs on a non-Apple system, is designed primarily to hook you up with an iPhone (previously an iPod). And it’s why you can read Kindle eBooks on a Kindle device, or a Kindle app on an Android or iOS device, and they make it really easy to buy e-books from them, but really inconvenient to import anything from another eBook store.

Facebook is similar to Google in that their core strategy is a service with ads, and their apps and (when they branch out into it with things like Portal) hardware are ways to keep you using their services. Heck, they’re even tying the Oculus headsets to Facebook accounts now.

The post predates the rise of smart speakers and doorbells…but remember how the Echo was originally mostly a way to voice-order things through Amazon? Or Amazon Key, whose primary purpose was to allow delivery services to drop off packages inside your house so you wouldn’t have to worry about porch pirates?

Plus of course everyone wants to sell you subscriptions now!

And yet…it still fits remarkably well.

There’s got to be a better way to do this. Actually, I know there’s a better way to do this, because Minecraft already does it in Java Edition.

How to try out snapshots in Minecraft Java Edition:

  • Change the version in the launcher.

How to go back to the stable version:

  • Change the version in the launcher.

How to try out betas in Minecraft Windows 10 Edition:

  • Log in as someone who Microsoft knows is an adult, because Xbox Insider only allows 18 and up.
  • Sign up for Xbox Insider
  • Sign up for the Minecraft beta in Xbox Insider
  • Download updates on your Microsoft Store apps and hope it installs the beta.

How to go back to the stable version:

  • Leave the beta in Xbox Insider
  • Download updates on your Microsoft Store apps and hope it goes back to the other version.
  • Back up your saved games, which are buried deep in a hidden folder with cryptic names. Seriously, they’re in $homedir\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MinecraftUWP_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalState\games\com.mojang\
  • Uninstall Minecraft fromĀ every account on the computer, which will also erase all of your saved worlds, which is why you needed to back them up first. (oops.)
  • Reinstall Minecraft
  • Restore your saved games

There’s a known issue where leaving the beta doesn’t always work — especially if there are multiple accounts on the computer that have Minecraft installed. The only reliable fix so far is to uninstall every copy of Minecraft (Bedrock edition) on the computer, in every user’s account.

I’m just glad I found out that uninstalling the app deletes all your worlds before having to uninstall it on the kid’s login!

Oop Store

The Microsoft Store for Windows really feels a lot more fragile to me than either the standard run-an-installer paradigm or the Linux style package manager. I haven’t dug into its inner workings, but it seems like something that came out of the mobile and console ecosystems…and hasn’t been completely adapted to running on a general computer.

For example: Applications are only accessible for the user who installed them, like on Android. But sometimes it downloads the app all over again, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s not even clear how much is stored system-wide vs. per-user.

As near as I can tell, the Microsoft Store will only download the application if it’s newer than a version that’s already on the computer. So if the beta is newer than the stable release, and the beta still exists somewhere on the computer (like in another user’s account), it’ll just use that one instead of re-downloading it.

Unsaved

But regardless of how it handles multiple installations on the same computer, it’s inexcusable that there is literally no way to reinstall a broken copy of the game and keep your potentially years of progress on a world without first digging into a hidden folder, then through seven levels of folders with generic or cryptic names just to find your saved games and manually copying your saved games before you uninstall and reinstall the game.

It shouldn’t delete your games (at least not without asking).

And it should keep them somewhere you can find more easily.

Two billboards featuring the tablet and keyboard for the Surface tablet.

I like the use of dual billboards in this Windows 8/Microsoft Surface tablet ad. It’s a creative use of the structure that only works in places that have this sort of setup, and works more effectively than cramming the whole thing onto one billboard would.

(Posted on Instagram a month and a half ago, and I kept meaning to post it here and forgetting.)

You know how it goes. You install something that you think might be useful or interesting, and it installs something else that just. won’t. go. away. I ran into the problem while setting up a new Windows 7 system at work. I installed Windows Live Essentials mainly so that I’d have them available if I ever had to talk someone through tech support, and it included Windows Live Messenger.

I don’t use Windows Live Messenger. I don’t even have an account on Windows Live Messenger. But every time I logged in to my system, WLM would pop up a window and ask me to log in. Every single time.

There was no obvious way to disable it, and most of the suggestions I found online only applied to earlier versions of Windows.

It doesn’t provide an option to stop it from launching on startup. Or rather, it does, but only if you’ve logged into WLM. Since I didn’t have an account, I couldn’t do that, and I wasn’t about to create one just to turn it off!

It wasn’t in the Start-Up folder.

I didn’t see it in Services, so I couldn’t disable it there.

I tried running System Configuration and disabling it in the Startup tab, but that didn’t work.

I couldn’t even find it in the list of programs to uninstall.

But you know what?

I finally got rid of it! And it was easier than I expected.

It turns out that if you uninstall Windows Live Essentials, you don’t have to remove the whole thing. You can choose which pieces to remove! Just tell it to uninstall, and it’ll bring up a checklist of the pieces that are on the system. Check off Windows Live Messenger, leave the pieces you want to keep, and hit Continue.

Done!

  • Odd: the Weather Channel Android app is 3 times the size of Sherpa. What did they do, forget to compress the graphics? #
  • Never underestimate the bandwidth of a truck full of disks on the freeway. Or a pigeon w/a datacard. #
  • Realized while writing “Go to Help…” that it would be easy to make a very unfortunate typo. #
  • WTF? MS Word 2007 *still* has no keyboard shortcut for Find Next…and it’s not listed in the Customize Keyboard dialog! #
  • Aha! It’s called “RepeatFind” even though the button is “Find Next” and DOES have keys…Shift+F4 & Ctrl+Alt+Y??? Standard is F3 or Ctrl+G! #
  • Saw a good typo on a tech forum: Windows XP “Service Park 2” #