This summer, a good portion of the work I was involved with took place on a Windows Vista system, so it’s only proper for me to have found out a few things about it. As I stated in my initial review, Microsoft’s latest and greatest left me somewhat impressed, but otherwise XP still rocks the house.
The first thing that many fear about Vista is the performance. We were running Vista on an HP laptop with a 1.8 GHz AMD Turion (whatever the mobile line is called) and 1.25 GB of RAM, and the machine almost never was significantly slow. Aero Glass performed nicely – the effects were never dropped, and Pinnacle Studio 11 Plus ran well most of the time. However, toward the end of the summer, Windows would frequently pop up dialogs alerting us that the computer was low on memory, although the system never crashed or hung.
The eye candy that Aero brings is certainly a welcome addition, but it doesn’t revolutionize the way you use the computer. Of all things, the transparent window frames are the least exciting part. I personally enjoyed the minimize and restore effects the most.
Vista actually does bring something in the way of productivity enhancements. The search box integrated into the Start menu makes it a breeze to find programs that could otherwise be buried folders-deep in the menu. Another useful addition is scrolling in the All Programs list, which lets you use the scroll wheel on the mouse to navigate through the list.
I’m still more convinced that even Mac OS X Tiger (but even more so Leopard) beats Windows Vista in terms of productiveness and design. Spotlight was around before Windows’ desktop search, Dashboard before Widgets, Exposé before Flip 3D, etc. I don’t want to go into Mac vs. Windows arguments, but I’m more than willing to give OS X a try.
I couldn’t get my hands on a machine with Vista Ultimate at CompUSA today, but I did manage to find one with Home Premium or Basic. Despite all the hype I talked about earlier, there isn’t much that significantly improves your compter. And it’s kind of hard to believe, but Windows Photo Gallery actually crashed on me.
This is not to say that I hate or dislike Vista in any way. I was trying out Vista for the first time today. If it was my computer, maybe I would have gotten a little further with the experimentation. I guess I have to wait for my next computer (which may actually be a Mac) to get the full Vista experience.
Notes for members of the Cult of Mac: I took a slightly deeper look at the Macs, and I liked what I saw even more so than previous examinations. Earlier, I have looked at Macs (all types) that have Boot Camp and Windows XP on them, and all seems swell. Perhaps a MacBook or MacBook Pro is in order?
SixApart is showcasing how their MoveableType Enterprise blogging platform and Microsoft Word link together to create the ultimate hook into existing productivity apps. It’s nice to see how the daddy (no way – WordPress rules) of blogging tools is connecting with existing programs to help bring users toward a unified environment for al their dialy tasks.
What I’m trying to say here is that I think a Word addon for WordPress blogging would be a great idea. You don’t really need much to do it – you already have xmlrpc.php on the server side, so all you need to do is build a client. I looked around for some info on this, and found a locked thread on the WordPress support forums, which was mostly suggesting other desktop blogging apps.
So, are there any WP + Word combos out there, or in development?
Update: I have gotten word that Word has blogging capabilities in the box, in the form of the Publishing tools. I have yet to experiment with it (I haven’t even tried a beta of Office 2007), but PC World says they are there.
It’s hard to believe that the news hasn’t made it over to this corner of the blogosphere, but let it be known: Windows Vista has been officially released as of Tuesday, January 30. From what I here and see, Vista is the biggest and baddest Microsoft ever put churned out, with millions of lines of code. There are a number of new features and improvements in Windows Vista, some purely fluff in many people’s opinions, and some deep under the hood.
Slightly unrelated, but worth mentioning:
How much more astonishing, then, is what Microsoft has accomplished. Apple had it easy: it kept its PC box closed, maintaining control over the hardware so it would perfectly suit its software. But Microsoft faced hundreds of thousands of boards, drives and chips like those I had spread out before me a few weeks ago, all of differing technological vintages, made by hundreds of companies with wildly different goals. Microsoft has taken these objects, along with the many thousands of PC programs now sold, and tried to create a system that would overlook their dizzying differences, bind them to a coherent vision and force them, in all their variety, to leave techne behind for the uncharted possibilities of magic.
Quoted from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/07/arts/design/07conn.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5070&en=4ad77c80c0fb9cb9&ex=1171515600&emc=eta1
Vista unlocks a new user interface, officially dubbed Aero Glass, which showcases of the power of your graphics hardware with transparent window frames and title bars and other special effects. In PC World’s feature article from the January 2007 issue, the author says a lot about how eye candy makes his day. Readers wrote back arguing against that, saying that a nice look isn’t the only thing that he should be proud of.
A number of new applications are included in Vista. They somewhat mimic Mac OS X with the new photo organization tool, a DVD-authoring program, and a calendaring app. Unfortunately for some, the Vista version of WordPad has dropped support for the Microsoft Word format, most probably in a push for users to but the new Office 2007. Most of the new apps are crude but effective for novice to intermediate PC users.
Aside from Aero, the desktop in general has gotten a few enhancements. The new Sidebar functionality is similar to OS X Widgets. The Sidebar gadgets can place hooks into the OS, providing system-level information to the user. Also, upon mousing over a taskbar button, the user is shown a small preview of the window’s contents, and can even display live content. Last in my (non-fully inclusive) list of features is Flip 3D, a replacement for the Windows + Tab keystroke that allows the user to switch windows in style. It shows the windows in a slanted stack.
Once you get past the surface, there are some under the hood (in one case, more over the hood than under) improvements in the areas of security and performance. The new user Account Control nags at the user for even seemingly non-administrative tasks, but helps protect the user from attacks and their own mistakes. Vista includes Internet Explorer 7, which is also available for Windows XP, and includes some of the much wanted features from today’s other browsers (like tabs and feed-reading capabilities). Also up are new graphics and programming frameworks for building richer applications and games.
Most of the notable enhancements that Windows Vista shows at this point are more eye candy than useful additions. However, as time goes on (and hardware compatibility rises), more of the monstrosity’s features will be put to use, giving users more reasons to enjoy the new OS. However, if you feel that windows XP is sufficient, stick with it, and wait for your next computer to get Vista.
For once, Microsoft made a product that [everyone says] is so good that PC World gave it a product rating of 90, which not many products get. The player got a major facelift in just about all aspects, and sports many new and useful features.
The library has new views and layouts, and searching is both fast and easy. Burning discs is also smarter, with a feature that will figure out how many CDs you need to burn your selection. I would have to say that the Sync area got the best enhancements, giving you real, libary-oriented views of your player’s contents (meaning views like Artist, Album, Genre, Songs, and more; unlike the way Windows Media Player 10 just gave you a very basic tree list of your songs).
There is one thing that I’m not used to: Now Playing is not an actual playlist, it’s just a listing of the songs that are, well, ‘now playing’, for lack of a better term. With this new ideology, I find that the only way to easily just play a song now without losing the rest of my current playlist is to add the song to a playlist (in fact, I’m now only using a playlist to manage my now playing list). Also, I am looking forward to easily being able to sync a playlist to a device without transferring the songs contained in it. Someone at MisticRiver said it’s possible, but he wasn’t being too clear in his response.
My overall rating of windows Media Player 11 is 8/10, or Very Good, with a little room for improvment. It’s good to see Microsoft is setting a good trend with windows Media Player, which began with version 9. Let’s hope it continues to version 12 and beyond.
Microsoft has expanded on their Live idea by developing various applications that connect with the Web in some way or another. One of their best ones is, in my opinion, the Windows Live Writer application, which lets you post to your blog from your desktop.
Upon the first launch of the program, you will be asked to configure Writer (which is currently in Beta) for you blog. Just enter you blog’s address, and your username and password, and the wizard will get to work figuring out all the specifics of your blog (type of blogging system, template formatting, and more). The whole process took only a few minutes to complete over my relatively slow (meaning 95 Kbps tops for downloads) DSL line.
Once it’s all set up, you are presented with the post editing screen, where you type the content of your posts. You can also view the post as it would appear on your blog, or edit the raw HTML of the post. In addition, the latest versions allow you to add tags from a variety of blog search and social networking sites (Technorati, del.icio.us, and few others).
I haven’t yet experimented with pictures, maps or third party plugins, but the potential of Writer’s feature set looks positive. Just for your info, I wrote this post in Writer, illustrating it’s usefulness.
More information at Live ideas
I attended the MSDN Event in New York City yesterday. In my opinion, it was a very good presentation and demonstration of ASP.Net 2.0. Susan Wisowaty was the presenter. She did an excellent job on explaining how the new features work and illustrating them. Some quick observations: It was in the Regal movie theater, the whole place was filled, it started more than 10 minutes late. I was most interested in the first session, “Developing Compelling User Interfaces with Ease in ASP.NET 2.0.” She made such a good demo on using skins, master pages and navigation controls.
Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition Beta is one of Microsoft’s new incarnamtions. Designed for beginners and hobbyists, it is easy to use and learn … (like other Visual Basic editions, like versions 6 and earlier) and is free to download. Microsoft doesn’t provide that much information on VB2005EE home page, but I’m sure more will be released soon, along with the 1.0 release of it. As time goes on, I’ll cover more on this topic.