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iTunes 8.1 available

March 12, 2009

Apple released iTunes 8.1 yesterday/today. I downloaded and upgraded it as soon as I became aware of the fact. So far it seems to be more stable than the previous version. Apple Insider writes this;

    As anticipated, Apple on Wednesday evening delivered iTunes 8.1 with performance enhancements, support for CD imports to iTunes Plus, and new Genius features. Separately, the company also updated its Front Row media application.
    iTunes 8.1 (65.4 MB) "is now faster and more responsive," Apple says. "You will enjoy noticeable improvements when working with large libraries, browsing the iTunes Store, preparing to sync with iPod or iPhone, and optimizing photos for syncing."
    In addition, iTunes 8.1 provides several other improvements and bug fixes, including:

          • Supports syncing with iPod shuffle (3rd generation).
    • Allows friends to request songs for iTunes DJ.
    • Adds Genius sidebar for your Movies and TV Shows.
    • Improves performance when downloading iTunes Plus songs.
    • Provides AutoFill for manually managed iPods.
    • Allows CDs to be imported at the same sound quality as iTunes Plus.
    • Includes many accessibility improvements.
    • Allows iTunes U and the iTunes Store to be disabled separately using Parental Controls.


    iTunes 8.1 also includes a couple of security enhancements.


    So far so good. Will come back with an update later as to if it solves some of my previous problems with iTunes on Win 7 Beta.

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    My Troubles With Live Mesh

    February 11, 2009

    Live Mesh touts a simple, yet brilliant idea; being able to access my files and folders from anywhere. Whether it is done with syncing the contents between 2 or more computers utilizing peer-to-peer (P2P) technology or via the Live Desktop.

    I decided that I should try to sync my music-collection between my laptop and desktop. Given the 5 GB limitation on what goes to the Live Desktop, I had to choose the P2P solution for my approx 120 GB music collection.

    I recently went through my collection and fine tuned it, with album art and tags, utilizing iTunes, Zune and MediaMonkey. Time consuming but rewarding in the end when everything was in place.

    Then I made the stupid decision to try out the Live Mesh Beta to sync between the two mentioned computers.

    Installing Live Mesh and setting it up is fairly easy, but screwing it up is even easier.

    When choosing to add a folder to your Live Mesh and then in the sync options choosing which computers to sync to, what happens is that on the “other” computer a destination folder is created on the desktop. Here is my first complaint ; why can I not choose destination folder myself? So that I can make two almost synced folders become synced? If that option is in there it so well hidden that I cannot find it.

    Well, Ok I thought. I have enough disk-space on the C-drive of my desktop to add the entire music-collection. The sync started by itself – which is actually my second beef; why can I not force when Live Mesh is to sync or not? Anyway, folder structures were created and the process seemed to go just fine.

    After a few days I found that the process of syncing had stopped, but that the desktop only had approximately 95 GB of the 120 GB it should have… I looked everywhere to find info on how to continue the sync process to no avail. Bummer.

    Then I double-clicked the shortcut for the Live Mesh “music” folder on my laptops desktop with the unintended result of changing the sync folders location on my laptop – not to where the music was, but to my laptops desktop. AND – for some obscure reason – the result is (either from that clicking mistake or something else altogether) is that ALL my music on my laptop has disappeared! The folder structure is basically there. Album art is there. But not A SINGLE MP.3 or AAC file to be found.

    Yes, I have a backup of the collection (unfortunately made before I tuned the collection), but…..

    It is my own fault, I know. I did this on a laptop running a Win 7 Beta OS, with Live Mesh which certainly is in beta, but I am still annoyed (understatement). As it is I have to return to tuning my collection once again, but then I will sync it between the laptop and the desktop using an old and proven way: copy the contents to a removable drive and then onto the desktop. And from then on continue to manually sync the two collections. At least I get to control the procedure and the destination location.

    So: At the moment I can not in any way, shape or form recommend using Live Mesh for syncing important folder/file structures. I have created a work folder I will use to sync between the beforementioned computers, but always keeping a backup around. I do think that Windows Live Sync might be a better tool for that, but that is a different post!

    Edited; 2009-02-12 Typos…

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    The Continuity Between Bush & Obama Foreign Policy

    February 11, 2009

    Stratfor published this very interesting article on Monday this week; A worthwhile read.

    Republished with the permission of Stratfor:

    Stratfor logo

    Munich and the Continuity Between the Bush and Obama Foreign Policies

    February 9, 2009

    Graphic for Geopolitical Intelligence Report

    By George Friedman

    Related Link

    · Foreign Policy and the President’s Irrelevance

    Related Special Topic Page

    · The 2008 U.S. Presidential Race

    While the Munich Security Conference brought together senior leaders from most major countries and many minor ones last weekend, none was more significant than U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. This is because Biden provided the first glimpse of U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama. Most conference attendees were looking forward to a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration. What was interesting about Biden’s speech was how little change there has been in the U.S. position and how much the attendees and the media were cheered by it.

    After Biden’s speech, there was much talk about a change in the tone of U.S. policy. But it is not clear to us whether this was because the tone has changed, or because the attendees’ hearing has. They seemed delighted to be addressed by Biden rather than by former Vice President Dick Cheney — delighted to the extent that this itself represented a change in policy. Thus, in everything Biden said, the conference attendees saw rays of a new policy.

    Policy Continuity: Iran and Russia

    Consider Iran. The Obama administration’s position, as staked out by Biden, is that the United States is prepared to speak directly to Iran provided that the Iranians do two things. First, Tehran must end its nuclear weapons program. Second, Tehran must stop supporting terrorists, by which Biden meant Hamas and Hezbollah. Once the Iranians do that, the Americans will talk to them. The Bush administration was equally prepared to talk to Iran given those preconditions. The Iranians make the point that such concessions come after talks, not before, and that the United States must change its attitude toward Iran before there can be talks, something Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani emphasized after the meeting. Apart from the emphasis on a willingness to talk, the terms Biden laid out for such talks are identical to the terms under the Bush administration.

    Now consider Russia. Officially, the Russians were delighted to hear that the United States was prepared to hit the “reset button” on U.S.-Russian relations. But Moscow cannot have been pleased when it turned out that hitting the reset button did not involve ruling out NATO expansion, ending American missile defense system efforts in Central Europe or publicly acknowledging the existence of a Russian sphere of influence. Biden said, “It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances.” In translation, this means the United States has the right to enter any relationship it wants with independent states, and that independent states have the right to enter any relationship they want. In other words, the Bush administratio n’s commitment to the principle of NATO expansion has not changed.

    Nor could the Russians have been pleased with the announcement just prior to the conference that the United States would continue developing a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The BMD program has been an issue of tremendous importance for Russians, and it is something Obama indicated he would end, or change in some way that might please the Russians. But not only was there no commitment to end the program, there also was no backing away from long-standing U.S. interest in it, or even any indication of the terms under which it might end.

    Given that the United States has asked Russia for a supply route through the former Soviet Union to Afghanistan, and that the Russians have agreed to this in principle, it would seem that that there might be an opening for a deal with the Russians. But just before the Munich conference opened, Kyrgyzstan announced that Manas Air Base, the last air base open to the United States in Central Asia, would no longer be available to American aircraft. This was a tidy little victory for the Russians, who had used political and financial levers to pressure Kyrgyzstan to eject the Americans. The Russians, of course, deny that any such pressure was ever brought to be ar, and that the closure of the base one day before Munich could have been anything more than coincidence.

    But the message to the United States was clear: While Russia agrees in principle to the U.S. supply line, the Americans will have to pay a price for it. In case Washington was under the impression it could get other countries in the former Soviet Union to provide passage, the Russians let the Americans know how much leverage Moscow has in these situations. The U.S. assertion of a right to bilateral relations won’t happen in Russia’s near abroad without Russian help, and that help won’t come without strategic concessions from the United States. In short, the American position on Russia hasn’t changed, and neither has the Russian position.

    The Europeans

    The most interesting — and for us, the most anticipated — part of Biden’s speech had to do with the Europeans, of whom the French and Germans were the most enthusiastic about Bush’s departure and Obama’s arrival. Biden’s speech addressed the core question of the U.S.-European relationship.

    If the Europeans were not prepared to increase their participation in American foreign policy initiatives during the Bush administration, it was assumed that they would be during the Obama administration. The first issue on the table under the new U.S. administration is the plan to increase forces in Afghanistan. Biden called for more NATO involvement in that conflict, which would mean an increase in European forces deployed to Afghanistan. Some countries, along with the head of NATO, support this. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear that Germany is not prepared to send more troops.

    Over the past year or so, Germany has become somewhat estranged from the United States. Dependent on Russian energy, Germany has been unwilling to confront Russia on issues of concern to Washington. Merkel has made it particularly clear that while she does not oppose NATO expansion in principle, she certainly opposes expansion to states that Russian considers deeply within its sphere of influence (primarily Georgia and Ukraine). The Germans have made it abundantly clear that they do not want to see European-Russian relations deteriorate under U.S. prodding. Moreover, Germany has no appetite for continuing its presence in Afghanistan, let alone increasing it.

    NATO faces a substantial split, conditioned partly by Germany’s dependence on Russian energy, but also by deep German unease about any possible resumption of a Cold War with Russia, however mild. The foundation of NATO during the Cold War was the U.S.-German-British relationship. With the Germans unwilling to align with the United States and other NATO members over Russia or Afghanistan, it is unclear whether NATO can continue to function. (Certainly, Merkel cannot be pleased that the United States has not laid the BMD issue in Poland and the Czech Republic to rest.)

    The More Things Change …

    Most interesting here is the continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations in regard to foreign policy. It is certainly reasonable to argue that after only three weeks in office, no major initiatives should be expected of the new president. But major initiatives were implied — such as ending the BMD deployment to Poland and the Czech Republic — and declaring the intention to withdraw BMD would not have required much preparation. But Biden offered no new initiatives beyond expressing a willingness to talk, without indicating any policy shifts regarding the things that have blocked talks. Willingness to talk with the Iranians, the Russians, the Europeans and others shifts the atmospherics — allowing the listener to think things have changed — but does not address the question of what is to be discussed and what is to be offered and accepted.

    Ultimately, the issues dividing the world are not, in our view, subject to personalities, nor does goodwill (or bad will, for that matter) address the fundamental questions. Iran has strategic and ideological reasons for behaving the way it does. So does Russia. So does Germany, and so on. The tensions that exist between those countries and the United States might be mildly exacerbated by personalities, but nations are driven by interest, not personality.

    Biden’s position did not materially shift the Obama administration away from Bush’s foreign policy, because Bush was the prisoner of that policy, not its creator. The Iranians will not make concessions on nuclear weapons prior to holding talks, and they do not regard their support for Hamas or Hezbollah as aiding terrorism. Being willing to talk to the Iranians provided they abandon these things is the same as being unwilling to talk to them.

    There has been no misunderstanding between the United States and Russia that more open dialogue will cure. The Russians see no reason for NATO expansion unless NATO is planning to encircle Russia. It is possible for the West to have relations with Ukraine and Georgia without expanding NATO; Moscow sees the insistence on expansion as implying sinister motives. For its part, the United States refuses to concede that Russia has any interest in the decisions of the former Soviet Union states, something Biden reiterated. Therefore, either the Russians must accept NATO expansion, or the Americans must accept that Russia has an overriding interest in limiting American relations in the former Soviet Union. This is a fundamental issue that any U.S. administration would have to deal with — particularly an administr ation seeking Russian cooperation in Afghanistan.

    As for Germany, NATO was an instrument of rehabilitation and stability after World War II. But Germany now has a complex relationship with Russia, as well as internal issues. It does not want NATO drawing it into adventures that are not in Germany’s primary interest, much less into a confrontation with Russia. No amount of charm, openness or dialogue is going to change this fundamental reality.

    Dialogue does offer certain possibilities. The United States could choose to talk to Iran without preconditions. It could abandon NATO expansion and quietly reduce its influence in the former Soviet Union, or perhaps convince the Russians that they could benefit from this influence. The United States could abandon the BMD system (though this has been complicated by Iran’s recent successful satellite launch), or perhaps get the Russians to participate in the program. The United States could certainly get the Germans to send a small force to Afghanistan above and beyond the present German contingent. All of this is possible.

    What can’t be achieved is a fundamental transformation of the geopolitical realities of the world. No matter how Obama campaigned, it is clear he knows that. Apart from his preoccupation with economic matters, Obama understands that foreign policy is governed by impersonal forces and is not amenable to rhetoric, although rhetoric might make things somewhat easier. No nation gives up its fundamental interests because someone is willing to talk.

    Willingness to talk is important, but what is said is much more important. Obama’s first foray into foreign policy via Biden indicates that, generally speaking, he understands the constraints and pressures that drive American foreign policy, and he understands the limits of presidential power. Atmospherics aside, Biden’s positions — as opposed to his rhetoric — were strikingly similar to Cheney’s foreign policy positions.

    We argued long ago that presidents don’t make history, but that history makes presidents. We see Biden’s speech as a classic example of this principle.

    Tell Stratfor What You Think

    This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

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    What do you think about the new look of my blog?

    February 6, 2009

    I have changed the look of my blog completely now;

    • The theme is changed to Freshy by Jide,
    • The name is changed from NorwegianVista to AboKevin’s Blog
    • The header image is changed and
    • My avatar is changed

    I have also changed the background picture over at twitter so that it corresponds to what I have here and vice versa.

    I am pretty satisfied with it, but I wonder what you think about it?

    Any feedback, whether it is good or bad is welcome. So… what do you think?

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    Brandon LeBlanc of the Windows 7 Team Blog posts a clarifying article on the Windows 7 SKUs

    February 5, 2009

    Brandon LeBlanc has written a post on the Windows 7 Team Blog where he goes into the different SKUs of Windows 7.

    Bloggers and pundits have been all over Microsoft for not making things easier for the consumers by having too many SKUs. I totally disagree and think that things are actually much easier this time around. Yes, there are 6 different SKUs mentioned;

    • Windows 7 Home Premium
    • Windows 7 Professional
    • Windows 7 Starter (OEM only)
    • Windows 7 Home Basic (OEM only)
    • Windows 7 Enterprise (Volume License Agreements Only)
    • Windows 7 Ultimate

    But as Brandon clearly shows Home Premium and Professional are the two different SKUs most consumers will have to choose from. The others ones are aimed at niche markets, and will not even be available for most people.

    He also states that;

    We also make it easy for customers to change down the road. So let’s say I purchase Windows 7 Home Premium and want to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional. With Windows Anytime Upgrade I can, as it makes upgrading to another version of Windows 7 much easier now that we have a single image for every SKU. Users will be able to unlock upgraded editions of Windows 7 without original media or additional software as everything they need in order to upgrade will be on their PC already.

    Because each SKU is a superset of the previous SKU for Windows 7 that means each higher edition SKU will also include every feature the lower edition SKUs has. Windows 7 Professional will have every feature that Windows 7 Home Premium has plus other business-oriented features such as the ability to join a domain.

    I recommend going to the Windows 7 Team Blog and read the post in its entirety. Do I believe that the MS bashers out there will calm down – no, but anyway…


    A closer look at the Windows 7 SKUs – Windows 7 Team Blog – The Windows Blog

    Changing the name of this blog to: AboKevins Blog

    February 5, 2009

    Kenavatar (2) I am now in the process of changing the name of my blog. I have registered the domain name and have transferred my blog to this address. I am in the process of finding a new theme for the blog, as well as changing the top image to incorporate the new name.

    So why the new name? When I started this blog a few years ago (I know, I know – I have not been too active here) Windows Vista was just about to be a Release Candidate and I wanted to blog about it and other MS Tech related news. Well the world has moved on, the new MS OS is now Windows 7, and I felt that the name Norwegian Vista no longer seemed appropriate. I was thinking of keeping it on interpreting the name to be more like the Norwegian Outlook on things tech (no pun intended 😉 ), but decided against it.

    AboKevin happens to be my nickname in Lebanon, since my oldest sons name is Kevin. AboKevin literally means “Father of Kevin”. A nickname like this is given with respect and is something I truly honor and appreciate, and I can think of nothing better as the name for my blog.

    You will continue to be redirected here if you use

    The change of name also underscores something that has already happened to the blog; it is no longer only tech-related. Although tech is most likely also going to be the biggest topic on the blog in the future, I will post more about geopolitics and other topics that I find interesting and worthwhile getting out there.

    Our small family is also growing. I will soon be the father of a third child. We don’t yet know whether it is a boy or a girl (didn’t want to know is more precise) but are really looking forward to the arrival of the fifth member of the family. The arrival is scheduled for later this month, more posts on that to follow.

    Anyway, there you have it: The name of this blog is now AboKevins blog.

    Thank you for your continued interest;

    You can also follow me on twitter!

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    The New Windows 7 Taskbar

    February 4, 2009

    Many bloggers and tech reviewers have written about the new Windows 7 taskbar. A lot of them, including Paul Thurrott, thinks that the default view of the new taskbar is too difficult for previous users of Windows to get used to; a case of simple not easy. (He has more and valid points in this article)

    I decided that I wanted to find out for myself what I really thought about this and have tried it both in the new default setting as well as in an adjusted mode more similar to the Windows Vista way.

    The  Old Way;

    To adjust the taskbars way of working to a manner more resembling what Windows Vista and earlier versions did you will have to do the following;

    1. Right click on the ‘Start’ button and select ‘Properties’

    2. Select the ‘Taskbar’ tab.

    3. In the dropdown menu Taskbar buttons, select ‘Never Combine’

    4. Select to ‘Use small icons’

    5. Click ‘Apply’ then ‘OK’


    The result is a taskbar that looks like this in use;


    As we can see from the screenshot above, active windows have labels and are looking different to non-active applications like the Outlook and Windows Media Player buttons above. Several open windows of one application is also separated, like we see with the Internet Explorer windows.

    This is not exactly like the Old Way but pretty close. There are ways to reactivate the old ‘Quick Launch Toolbar’ if you want that back as well, but…

    What is the point? I think that this kind of old way is more cluttered and busy and not at all appealing to the eye and do not think that it is a better way to use the taskbar.

    The new default mode


    Here we see that the ‘Internet Explorer’ active windows are combined and that there is a frame around the icon to designate that there are active windows. The non-active ‘Windows Media Player’ stands out since it is not emphasized with a frame and glossy look.

    It took some getting used to, but not too long, and I think that it definitely looks better than the so-called ‘Old Way’ I described earlier. It is basically prettier and I find it just as easy as before to glance at the taskbar to find what windows I have opened up.

    So basically I do not understand what people are complaining about. It is not hard to identify active applications and/or applications with multiple windows open in the new taskbar, rather the other way around – easy and I said earlier prettier on the eye (my opinion)

    So there you have it… I actually think that Microsoft got this one right!

    Slightly off topic: Paul linked to an article by Mike Halsey showing how to add a custom toolbar to the taskbar in order to get additional icons in there, like for instance the ‘Recycle Bin’.

    In this screenshot I have activated this feature and have added two often used applications and the Recycle Bin to this part of the taskbar. I like it, and advice you to try it out.


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