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Windows XP Unwired

A First Look at Longhorn

by Wei-Meng Lee, author of Windows XP Unwired

Microsoft released the second build of Windows Longhorn at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in early May. This latest build is much more stable than the one distributed at the Professional Developer Conference (PDC) in 2003, and includes more features as well.

If you haven't obtained the latest build (Build 4074) yet, and are an MSDN subscriber, you can download it from the MSDN Subscriber Download site. The download is about 700+ MB, so you need to have broadband access in order to download it. Also, the image will not fit onto a CD; you need a DVD writer.

In this article, I will walk you through some of the features in the most recent build of Longhorn.

My Test Computer Configuration

I first tried loading Longhorn using Virtual PC and allocated 512MB of memory for the image. However, near the end of the installation, the system took forever to detect hardware on my system, and so I gave up trying on the Virtual PC. You might have luck using the Virtual PC, but I couldn't seem to get it to work.

Instead, I decided to install Longhorn fresh on a new computer. I used my Dell Inspiron 5150 notebook -- a 3.06 GHz Pentium 4 with 512 MB RAM. It has a NVIDIA GeForce FxGo5200 graphics card with 64MB of video RAM. Longhorn installed without any problems.

Start Menu

The Start menu is still the familiar Start menu that you get in Windows XP (see Figure 1).

You do have the option to change it to the classic Start menu, as you can with XP. I still prefer the classic Start menu, which is less cluttered than the default one.

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Start menu in Longhorn.


One new feature of Longhorn is the Sidebar, a placeholder for commonly used items. By default, the Sidebar is docked to the right of the screen. To customize the Sidebar you right-click on it and select the various items (called Tiles) to display in the Sidebar (see Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2. Adding Tiles in the Sidebar.

Some interesting Tiles that you can add into the Sidebar include:

  • News Feed: You can add an RSS news feed and the latest blogs or news will be displayed in the Sidebar. In this release of Longhorn, this feature is not working and the sample blogs are all hard-coded.

  • Slide Show: A series of images are displayed as a slide show. This is useful, for example, if you want to decorate your desktop with your photos taken during your last holiday trip. This version of Longhorn does not allow you to change the images displayed.

The Sidebar with all the Tiles selected is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Sidebar will all Tiles selected.

The Clock tile at the bottom of the Sidebar is quite a nice addition. It displays a clock and a calendar. To ensure the clock displays the local time, you need to set the Clock tile property to use the local time zone (configured in Control Panel, Date and Time). When you click on the Clock tile, an enlarged image of the clock is displayed (see Figure 4). You can also set an alarm by moving the little blue dot on the clock face.

Figure 4
Figure 4. The Clock tile.

If you are running Longhorn on a small monitor, the Sidebar can actually take up quite a substantial portion of your screen. A better way would be to minimize it (see Figure 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5. Minimizing the Sidebar.

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