New Microsoft products unveiled at West Village showcase

By Mike Devine

Hordes of tech-savvy students came together in West Village F this past Wednesday to witness the unveiling of new Microsoft programs and a new game creation system.

The presentation, sponsored by the Northeastern chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (nuACM), featured representatives showcasing the company’s newest products. They included the new Windows Vista operating system and the XNA program, which allows users to build their own video games from scratch.

Among the presenters were Harold Wong, a senior Microsoft technology specialist, and Russ Fustino, founder of the Russ’ Tool Shed Developer Seminar, which travels throughout New England holding sessions on gaming programs and computer software.

The presentation, which ran for roughly two hours, involved a lot of discussion and computer lingo, as well as explanations of the technical aspects of the new programs.

The audience was also treated to a trailer for the upcoming “Halo Wars,” which is the first game from the “Halo” series designed for Xbox 360, and revealed a vast improvement in graphics from the last installment, released in 2004.

The discussion then turned to the new Windows Vista operating system, which is due out for home users in February 2007.

Topics included Vista’s usability, coolness factor, security and other additional features. Wong showed the audience minor changes to the aesthetics, including a new circular start button, a new 3-D ‘flip view’ to see open applications and a color-coded, right-hand corner button set for application windows.

“I am really glad they went over the new file-encryption ability of Vista, and I thought the thumbnails for the applications are pretty cool,” said junior computer science major Jacob Drecksage.

While they were impressed with the new features, the audience appeared to take a deeper interest in the security upgrades and the improvements made to Internet Explorer.

“There have been many great improvements to security for Vista,” Wong said.

He went on to explain the new Windows Defender program, which is Microsoft’s anti-spyware program. Although it has been available to users as a beta program off their website for a while, Wong said it will be included free with Windows Vista.

As for Internet Explorer 7, Wong said it has undergone major changes to improve its security.

“A new feature to Internet Explorer is ‘protected mode,’ which only allows certain sites to write to a temporary file, which will help prevent the installation of unwanted programs,” Wong said.

Once he finished showcasing Windows Vista, Fustino commenced his portion of the presentation.

Decked out in a hard hat and tool belt, Fustino touted the new XNA toolkit.

The presentation revolved around a video game called SpaceWars, which was originally introduced in the early ’60s at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Through the XNA demonstration, Fustino showed the audience how simple it is to manipulate aspects of a basic video game by changing the game’s code. He then demonstrated ways to change the graphics, gameplay and even terrain of the game.

“This program will revolutionize the gaming industry,” he said.

Students appeared impressed by the presentation.

“I was really interested in whether or not WinFS [a Windows file storage system] would be integrated into Longhorn [another name for Windows Vista],” said Praful Makhur, a freshman computer science major.

NuACM public relations officer Matthew Soleyn said the group organized the night to “give students and even faculty an opportunity to learn about the software and technology that they may be using in the near future.”

Next, nuACM is bringing representatives from Google to Northeastern to discuss the technical aspects of the company Oct. 19 as part of a continuing series of speakers that will be featured throughout the semester.

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