lostcarpark: (Lego Spaceman)
My sister killed her old laptop in an unfortunate "spilt milk" accident. Fortunately it was covered by the extended warrenty/insurance she'd taken out. They collected it from her, checked it out, declared it deceased, then sent her vouchers for a new one.

She's left the replacement with me for the last few days to "set it up" for her. Of course it has Vista on it, I thought about putting XP on, but her dislike of Vista isn't as passionate as mine, so it didn't seem worth the effort, so I'm just trying to make it as bearable as possible. Nuked Norton trialware and installed AVG free. Nuked Internet Explorer (well hid - you can't uninstall it without breaking windows) and installed Firefox, nuked MS Works and installed OpenOffice. Nuked MS Live messenger and installed Pidgen. That covers the basics.

For some reason, I couldn't get it to copy any of the above from my network. It would connect to the network and browse for files, but as soon as I tried to copy anything, I got "permission denied". Go figure. Disabling UAC didn't help. As the only reason for connecting to the network was to copy those files, I abandoned it and stuck them on a USB drive.

Meanwhile I'm having much more fun with Linux. After experimenting with several alternative distros on the EeePC, I've gone back to the default Xandros. Everything else I've tried has had incomplete hardware support, and took much longer to boot. A shame, as Ubuntu in particular had some nice extra features. Even the Xandros "advanced desktop" mode (or for anyone familiar with Linux desktops, KDE) adds about five seconds to the boot time. So far I've found nothing that comes close to the ten seconds that the standard Xandros/IceWM manages, which I have to say is an impressive achievement on the part of the Asus developers.

Instead of a shiny new distro, I've been experimenting with customising the standard desktop, and have come up with a few useful scripts. I almost have a script working that sets the Eee clock speed to a battery saving 630Mhz when on battery power, but switches up to a speedy 900Mhz on mains power (the EeePC has a 900Mhz processor underclocked to 630Mhz to help it achieve a decent battery life). There's just one part of it that's giving trouble with file permissions that I think I just need to find the right start-up script to insert a fix.

Oh, and I've just finished making a wallpaper image of some milk bottles with a red "no" sign for Brenda's wallpaper.

Now I must get back to my novel...
lostcarpark: (Default)
Microsoft say they will have sold 100 million copies of Vista by the end of the year. Not bad, eh?

Except that the PC industry were predicting sales of 250 million PCs. That seems quite a big discrepency. Especially when you consider some of those copies would be people who upgraded PCs bought before 2007.

I'm assuming Macs and computers running Unix/Linux are included in the PC figure, but I can't see them accounting for more than 10% of the total. That still leaves well over 200 million, which presumably means that well over half of the PCs sold in 2007 shipped with XP.

It could just be that sales started slowly in the first half of the year. It would be quite interesting to see figures for the second half of the year when Vista could be considered "established".
lostcarpark: (Default)
No, not "Read the 'effing manual" but the even more annoying "Reduced Functionality Mode".

This "feature" was introduced with Windows Vista as part of WGA which is short for "Windows Genuine Advantage". It should be noted that so far this seems to be mainly an advantage to Microsoft. I have experience in XP of the system deciding it's not genuine because of a minor hardware change and been quizzed by a Microsoft employee as a result. But at least XP lets things run relatively normally until you get around to fixing the problem.

Vista's RFM disables all applications except Internet Explorer until you fix the problem, as well as shutting down after an hour of use. Supposedly this is to force you to get the issue resolved quickly.

I fully respect a company's right to protect its revenue, but not at the expense of legitimate customers. So if you're going to implement something like that, you'd better make sure it works. Reliably. All the time. Otherwise you're saying "we're not going to let you use your computer because we think you're a thieving b**tard."

Unfortunately for thousands of users, that's exactly what's happened, and naturally a lot of users haven't been happy about this.

So what a surprise when it's revealed that Service Pack 1 will remove RFM and go back to the lower level annoyances of XP's WGA.

Of course, machines already in RFM won't be able to install it.
lostcarpark: (Lego Spaceman)
My last post on Windows Vista generated more anonymous comments than I think I've ever had. Clearly I must do some more of that!

I accidently discovered that the old Windows menus are still available in Vista, simply by pressing and releasing the Alt key. personally I find this quite useful. I haven't had a chance to check if this works in Office 2007 yet.

I have also been getting more up to speed with the Linux desktop, which I'm liking more and more. My feeling now is that I'd like to get to the point where I can do everything I want in Linux before XP stops being useful.

But rather than knocking Vista, I thought I'd post something constructive. Like some advice to Microsoft on what would win me back to a post-Vista version of Windows.

My first advice is to look at what Linux does well. Microsoft have always been good at looking at their competitors achievements and mimicing them, so why not Linux?

The most obvious area thet could learn from is the whole area of software installation. The Windows way tends to involve finding an application, downloading an installer, running the installer which then does all the things necessary to make that application work. This usually works, but sometimes things conflict and either the application won't work, or something else will stop working. In extreme cases I've seen apps that had entrenched themselves deeply in the system get in a huff with each other and leave the system unbootable. Even when everything works, the system is fiddly, and requires the user to figure out how to download the application, where to save it, and how to run the installer. There can also be complications that you need to install something like the .NET framework to make it work, leaving the software the choice of including it in the installer (making the download bigger than it needs to be) or reqiring extra steps prior to installation.

Contrast this with Linux, where you have a package manager. You simply tick a box for the application you want to install, and Linux takes care of all the grunt work of finding everything needed to install and run the application, and making there are no version conflicts.

How nice it would be to have a package manager for Windows, though I'm sure the supreme court would have a field day when the arguments started over accusations of favourtism over whose applications were included in the package manager. I'm sure there are ways it could be worked out.

While I'm on the subject, the package manager could replace the rather tired Add/Remove programs control panel, as well as the many versions of Windows Update. The beauty of this is when I ask it to check for udates it would check for updates to all applications on my system, cutting out the need for every application to have its own update checking feature, which must add a fair bit of overhead to an average PC.

I also think this could benefit security. if there were a number of package repositories that vetted the packages they include, it might dissuade users from installing every bit of spyware offering a flashing mouse cursor that came their way. Of course, this would favour larger software producers, but I'm sure someone will come up with som,ething to help the little guys.

I was expecting a longer list than one item, but I have gone on a bit. While this would help win me back to Windows, Linux already has it, so it's not going to do it alone. So I'll add some more items here soon. In the meantime, feel free to add your suggestions.
lostcarpark: (Lego Spaceman)
Mark Minasi asks Why exactly does everyone hate Vista?

He comes to the conclusion that it was the same with every new version, and that it will pass and we'll all be happy with Vista soon.

I have to say I beg to differ. I have used almost every previous release of Windows since 1.0 (I was 16 when that came out), and while there have been versions I have had reservations about, I've always been able to see the improvements. I might have waited for a service pack to fix the bugs, but I've generally migrated eventually.

But after a fair bit of experience of Vista on other people's computers, I can't see myself wanting it on my computer. Not now, not at the first service pack, not ever.

There isn't a single reason for this, but rather a multitude of things that contribute to a general feeling of unease.

First are the user interface changes. Microsoft have regularly introduced user interface changes in the past, but they've always made an effort to accommodate their old user base. I knew people who used the Windows 2 file management thingy for years on Windows 3 because it was what they were used to. And there were plenty of people running the Windows 3 file manager on Windows 95. And I still know lots of people who run the Win2K look and feel on XP.

But Vista has dumped the old menu/toolbar system and replaced it with a new "ribbon" system. How much contempt do Microsoft feel they can treat their existing users with? Lots of "power user" commands are just gone. There may be other ways of achieving the same thing, but they take time to figure out, when the old command wasn't doing anyone any harm. A small one I found quite useful was the "Help... About" command. You could open any Explorer Window and use it to find out how much memory the computer had. It's not the end of the world that it's gone, but I found it quite handy and there was no real need to just nuke it.

Office 2007 is, of course, where the real fun begins. It's not part of Vista, but the two are closely related, and shows what MS now think of their existing user base. There should be an option to turn off the new interface and switch back to the old one, but there isn't. Even an option to put the old menu above the new ribbons would give existing users a half-way house. There are some very pretty things in the new UI, but if you're an experienced user and know how to do something the "old way" it can be very frustrating. Where is the "Save As" command on the new interface? The irony is now that the free OpenOffice suite is now easier for an existing user to adapt to than the new version of Office.

But aside from all the user interface changes, there are the new security "enhancements". I can't help feeling that many of these create an illusion of security without actually making the computer any more secure. Take the constant stream of "Windows needs your permission to do this" requests. How long before users stop reading them and just click yes on auto. I know a thing or two about them and I still find myself doing it. I have on occasion clicked without thinking then realised that I shouldn't have, but for many users there is no understanding or realisation. When will Microsoft realise that running in administrator accounts will never really be secure. The only real solution is to use restricted user accounts. It may take a little user training for users, but I don't see how the result could be any worse than what users are put through now. It will also take some thorough beating around the heads of application vendors to get them to produce applications that can work, and preferably install, in user mode accounts.

Finally there's the new swooshy graphics effects that Vista does. They look cute (unless you happen to be one of the not inconsiderable number of people who hate them), until you realise your 3D graphics card is running at full tilt, your CPU is at 97% and your laptop's battery life has been cut to about 7 minutes...

Well, I say finally, but there's probably a few other things I haven't thought of. I hear rumour of some new DRM stuff that I haven't had a chance to check out properly, for example.

I hope never to have a computer with Vista installed. I'm somewhat relieved that the company I work for rolled out XP to desktops last year. Our previous desktop upgrade was to NT4 in about 1998, so I think we're safe from Vista for a while. I still use XP at home, but I'm finding Ubuntu increasingly usable, and if some of the big software vendors realise that there's money in releasing Linux versions of their apps, it could be bye-bye Windows.

Alternatively, maybe Microsoft will one day stop treating their users with contempt and I might like the next version of Windows.

Now all I have to do is wait for the replies telling me I should switch to a Mac.

January 2016

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