Posts in category microsoft - page 9

Vista: no pretty picture for me

Windows Vista logoThe Microsoft blogosphere is full of posts announcing the release of Windows Longhorn Vista to manufacturing.

It’s done – the code is finalized and any bugs and fixes will have to wait for Microsoft Update to deliver.

What can we look forward to?

Ease of use: New start bar

I’m fine with the one I have – though there are a multitude of free alternatives.

Ease of use: Thumbnail’s of documents in Explorer

The only time thumbnails make sense is for pictures or occasionally videos and XP already does that. I really can’t tell which document is which from a 64×64 pixel tile of the front page.

Ease of use: Thumbnail’s of minimized windows in the task bar

Already have something very similar using the alt-tab switcher in the Power Toys kit for XP.

Ease of use: Task switching via a 3D show of Windows

Not needed, see above. I’d probably use it as much as I use Expose – ie. rarely.

Ease of use: Glass-like interface

I’m not sure how this semi-transparency actually helps. It doesn’t really on Mac OS X and that doesn’t use the blur shader Aero does. Also won’t work under virtual machines.

Security: Finer grain of user control & family safety settings

Probably of some use to parents and control freaks.

Windows Defender anti-spyware included

Plenty of free alternatives.

Search faster and save search ‘folders’

The message from MS is search don’t organize. Personally I only search when something is misplaced – I’d rather not adopt misplacement as a filing strategy. It’s difficult to ensure all your files are safely backed up if you don’t even know where they are. Free alternatives available.

Internet Explorer 7

Available for XP.

Sorry, I’m a full-screens task switching person and if I really want gadgets there’s Konfabulator for free right now.

Performance: Sleep mode

An interesting mode – standby but with a backup copy on disk. Could be useful on the very rare occasion my PC is asleep when a power-cut hits.

Performance: SuperFetch

Windows thinks it can pre-cache my apps based on a schedule? I’m not convinced it won’t be loading VS 2005 into memory just as I’m about to fire off a game of HL2.

Performance: ReadyBoost

Use USB storage instead of buying RAM because it’s confusing to know what RAM to buy. Probably not a big hit with the tech savvy.

Performance: ReadyDrive

Replacing the RAM cache on hard drives with Flash RAM. I don’t see why it needs an OS upgrade to achieve that. If you have a UPS or a rock solid electrical supply you could just turn on write back caching.

Windows backup: System restore

Apparently even better than that in XP. I can’t think of a scenario where it wasn’t already adequate.

Windows backup: Backup

Could be very useful for some people especially if it doesn’t mind the fact those users no longer know where their files are thanks to search.

Myself, I’m using Subversion as a distributed backup and synchronization platform.

Windows backup: Previous versions

Nice idea, could be useful to some. Again, Subversion here.

Networking: Lots of new features

I can’t remember the last time I had a problem with networking. Network map looks pretty.

Windows slideshow

Requires a laptop with necessary hardware.

Speech recognition

Somebody somewhere honestly believes we want to tell our computers what to do verbally. Quite how this would work in an office I have no idea – people talking all over each other and revealing company and personal secrets… Not to mention sore throats from talking all day and germ spreading.

And that’s the picture for *accurate* voice recognition. Next!

Help & feedback, Windows Update

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Windows Mail & Calendar

Sorry, long since switched to web & mobile phone respectively.


Windows Media Center

Interesting that it’s now included but my home server acts as my media portal. There’s no guarantee that Vista Server will include the media center when it finally arrives much later.

Windows Media Player 11

Available for XP.


Parental controls: no thanks. Easy access: I have desktop icons. 360 controller support: Available for XP.


Visual Studio 2003 isn’t supported on Vista and that’s the only version of Visual Studio that supports all those .NET 1.1 apps.

In summary

If you are an experienced user you probably already have everything you need without Vista.

Some of what’s new is already available for XP, other additions are playing catch-up to Apple oblivious to the fact that Mac users are slowly moving to web-based alternatives.

It seems the interesting new take on licensing has been revoked and Microsoft is keeping a bit quiet about the whole Trusted Computing plan that makes your PC do what Microsoft want and not what you want.

And all this can be yours from a much as £325 ($617 USD) for Windows Ultimate according to!

UK upgrade pricing has been announced but being that Windows Ultimate actually costs $399 in the USA it would seem they are using an unfavorable exchange rate of $1.22 instead of the $1.90 the real world is using.

Nothing like profiteering off the English I guess. By this estimation the US price of $159 for Home Premium Upgrade will work out at £130 ($247).

Yikes! This release has as much appeal as Windows ME. Still, the packaging looks pretty:

Windows Vista packaging

I guess they learned something from their own iPod packaging parody video after all.


Reinstalling Windows XP on a 750GB monster

My first ever hard-disk was a whopping 2GB when 340MB was considered high-end.  £800 meant it was a steal – an end-of-line trade-only offer…

A massive double-height 5.25″ SCSI behemoth from DEC that sounded like a turbine powering up. It had a gyroscopic effect that could whip your hand off and a seek noise that resonated through the house in the early hours of the morning as another caller trawled Black Ice BBS’s file library.

But it did take a while to fill up.

The 300GB that was in my home desktop shared no characteristics other than the fact it too has outlived it’s usefulness.

Loaded with the majority of Windows games I’ve ever owned, comprehensive libraries of emulator images, checked-out source trees, MP3 library or humorous nuggets from the like of YouTube I think I might possibly miss.

Installation of the 750GB Seagate wasn’t without the odd snag.  The BIOS and Windows recognized it fine but the season changed while waiting for it to format. Copying was slow too until I discovered it running in PIO mode which flooded the P4 CPU with interrupts.  Sticking it on a different SATA connector brought UDMA and speed to the table.

The data was transferred and re-organized over the course of an evening or two.  Dewey would have been proud but then came the horror.

Reinstalling Windows XP.

Windows itself actually installed just fine until Windows Activation reared it’s ugly head and decided I’d been through this enough times and would have to convince Microsoft India over the phone that I’m not a software-stealing pirate.

A little sweet-talking, with a slight diversion into honesty and how yes I have multiple copies on the same physical machine, it’s called VirtualPC, and I’m back on track installing the usual array of tools, options and preferences as fast as the MX1000 will whip around the screen.

I decided to break with tradition and switch Watercolor Visual Style for a QNX one and give Miranda a go instead of Trillian.

I’m such a dare-devil.

Then came the task of installing all those games and applications again… except I’ve been through this before many many times and I’ve got a trick or two up my sleeve.

My games should live in c:\Games and applications in c:\Apps but they only get there once I’m sure they are independent from my Windows installation.  Until they graduate they live in c:\Program Files with the rest of the mess.

The procedure is quite simple.  If it’s worth keeping:

  1. Move correct folder from c:\Program Files to new home
  2. Create shortcut on desktop to the executable
  3. Try and launch via shortcut
  4. Copy any missing files it complains about from old Windows directories to new home
  5. Copy missing config/settings from c:\Documents and Settings to new home
  6. If settings still missing reboot into old HD
  7. Fire up Regedit, find the registry keys and export to a .reg file
  8. Reboot into new HD
  9. Open .reg file in Notepad and adjust paths to new home
  10. Run registry file and save to new home for next time

If that fails then you’ve got to dig out the original media again but you might be able to avoid downloading and reinstalling those hefty patches all over again.

Reinstall into c:\Program Files and once done try running the patched version from it’s new home instead.  If that one now works then just delete (not uninstall) the version from c:\Program Files :)

You can end up with a Windows machine just loaded will all your favorite games and apps without hardly any window cruft accumulating :)

It’s basically the same principle behind portable applications but instead of making it totally portable on a memory stick you just make it portable between installations of Windows.

The next step is to use some of the 400GB left to store CD images the games I still play that annoying always want the CD to launch despite taking up so much space on the hard disk.  I get bored of digging out the CD from my library every time.

I can’t imagine CD copy protection will make my life very easy.


One small step for web standards, one giant download for automatic update

Automatic Update screen-shot showing Internet Explorer 7.0 downloadInternet Explorer 7 has just offered to install itself on my machine helpfully already downloaded, all 14.8MB, by Windows Automatic Update.

One can assume that IE’s market share will shift from 6 to 7 practically overnight unless significant numbers reject the update or have switched Automatic Update off completely.

This shift should hopefully mean that web developers can finally start using more of the CSS and XHTML standards we’ve been experimenting with for the last few years whilst waiting for Microsoft to play catch-up.

Sure IE7 isn’t perfect but the improved PNG support is better than a kick in the teeth.

Even if you don’t like Firefox you can thank it’s increasing presence for putting the pressure on Microsoft enough to reassemble an IE team for another release.

Happy All Hallows Eve and goodbye October 2006,


Icon and task-bar tools for Windows

A few things bug me about the Windows user interface and as I currently have no inclination to head over to Vista I thought it was about time I dug around and found some tools to address the job.

Icons blown away

Windows will often make a mess of your desktop by moving the icons around normally because the resolution switched.

I can understand this happening if I switch resolution but sometimes even an Alt-Tab from a game will be enough to open the Window and let your icons scatter to the wind.

WinTidy comes to the rescue and although it comes with source the license is a little confusing as is the technique it uses to obtain the icon positions by sending messages to the ListView control inside the explorer.exe process.

Still, it works and even lets you choose icon positions per resolution if you so wish.

Taskbar reordering

Mac OS X lets you reorder the dock, Firefox and IE7 let you reorder tabs but Windows Explorer doesn’t want to know – it’ll just about give you the time of day.

TaskbarShuffle comes to the rescue and lets you just pick up those task-bar buttons and reorder them until your heart is content.