Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Holy cow! Is it that time again?

Yup.  It's time to start thinking about another MySQL Conference.  The Call for Participation is now up and I've been told that we will definitely have a Windows/.NET track again this year.  The Conference will be held at the same location as last year from April 23 to April 26, 2007.  Our conferences have grown every year and I expect this year to be no different, so get those proposals in before the November 7 deadline and hopefully I'll see you there!

Maybe I'm just cranky

What on earth is going on with mail clients in Windows?  I'm running Vista but the same problem exists with pre-Vista systems.  In Vista we have Outlook Exp Windows Mail.  Now, Vista has been in development for several decades now (it seems) so one would think Windows Mail would be finely tuned with several cool new features.  How about RSS reading?  How about much better reply quoting (see Thunderbird)?  How about the option to have most recently updated threads bubble to the top like with Outlook?  No, no, and no.  Ok, I get it.  It's just weak enough to only be  useful for mom and dad but any serious user should consider Outlook.

If that's the case then what's the deal with Live Mail Desktop?  Another email client?  No wait.  Another crappy email client.  This one is worse than Windows mail (if that's possible).  Let me count the ways..

  1. Advertising bar that apparently doesn't go away unless you subscribe to some kind of pro account.  It's actually not very big but even on a 1280 x 1024 screen I feel cramped.
  2. Pointing it at my corporate IMAP account shot memory usage up to 170 megs and the app became totally non-responsive.  It may have eventually come back; I didn't wait around to see.
  3. Selecting the option to group my emails by conversation does... nothing.
  4. Moving over the email list turns the email icon on each item into a checkbox.  What for?  Got me.
  5. You would think that a brand new email client that runs on Vista would detect that its running on Vista and use the spankin' new Contacts folder right?  Bzzt.  No, it uses  your contacts from Hotmail.  So, now I have how many places where I have contacts?  Hotmail, Windows contacts, and Outlook contacts.  Priceless...
  6. The fun isn't limited to contacts either.  There is a nice calendar button in Live Mail Desktop.  Clicking it, I was sure that Windows calendar would show.  Uh, nope.  It shot me over to Hotmail calendar which is not even in the top 10 of best web calendars.  Again, how hard would it be to have Sync center keep my Hotmail calendar and contacts synced with my Vista desktop and have Live Mail Desktop use the local contacts and calendar.  Would have made too much sense.

I simply could go on and on about how bad Live Mail Desktop is.  Here's a thought.  Instead of having two crappy mail clients (Outlook Express/Windows Mail and Live Mail Desktop), combine the teams and create one kick-butt mail client that works with the major web mail players, uses Vista features when run on Vista, and gives some serious competition to Thunderbird in the free email client market.  Then again, maybe I'm just cranky.

Build 5728 good but still not RC1

Running Vista x64 build 5728 here and while things are pretty stable it is clear that Microsoft is still committing large amounts of code.  Here's a list of things that are not working that well:

  • VIA 8237 SATA drivers still suck.  Great they I can install Vista on an SATA driver without installing an OEM driver during install, but after reboot there are so many IRQ requests across the bus that the mouse skips and the sound cuts out all the time.  Installing the Windows XP x64 driver from MSI fixed it.
  • Installing the latest NVIDIA drivers seemed to work ok although it had no effect on my Windows Experience Index.  However, running Windows media center failed with a black screen and essentially locked up the machine.  Vista kept telling me that a kernel driver had failed and had successfully recovered but the machine was essentially unusable.  I was able to logoff to kill media center.  One bright spot here is that rolling back to the WDDM Microsoft video driver did not require a reboot.
  • Media Center seems to be working ok although the guide seems a bit more jittery than 5600.
  • Windows Calendar loses its font settings after being used for awhile.  The UI controls start using a chunky, bold font.
  • This may not be a bug but its really confusing.  I use two Dell 19" LCD screens side-by-side and I have some wide screen backgrounds that I've wanted to use with Vista.  In Windows Server 2003, I pick the background and it fills both screens, treating them both as a single screen.  With Vista, the non-tiled option scrunches the background on to both screens.  Choosing the tiled option (which should scrunch) actually displays the background spanned across both screens.  It's working for me but this can't be right.
  • Sync Center still is a complete no-show.  I've heard that it works for Windows Mobile 5 devices but I have not yet heard any official statement that pre-5 devices will not be supported.  I can sync media and program files but not contacts, calendar, or emails.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It's just great innovation, man!

As I'm sure you are aware by now, Python 2.5 has just been released.  Let me first just send out some big kudos to the python community for actually releasing a product in a timely manner.  As "others" have yet to discover, there is a benefit to not waiting 5 years between releases.

However, my real point behind this post is to ask everyone to count how many times they will hear some Windows blogger or Windows-centric news site complain that the Python community stole the "with" concept from C#.  I'm guessing it will be pretty close to zero.  Now, what if Microsoft had implemented the with keyword after some other languages?  Yeah, you know what would have been said.

If Microsoft acquires or copies technology then everyone complains that they never invent anything.  Let some open source guys copy something and it's just great innovation, man! 

BTW, how long till this Python thing runs its course?  Ruby (the next thing) seems to already be displacing it somewhat.  I still don't  understand how a language that uses characters you can't see to control program flow can be truly successful.  We'll see...

Xgl is cool but it takes more than that

I normally run Windows Vista RC1 x64 but recently decided it was time for my semi-annual Linux test.  This is where I install the latest released version of a popular Linux distro and attempt to use it for as long as I can stand.  The idea of a free (as in speech) desktop is appealing but it's a non-starter if it holds me back in any way.  Remember I said that I normally run Windows so I am referring to holding me back in any way that I'm not used to.

Anyway, the candidate was Ubuntu 6.06 and I only used it for a few hours.  Two of those hours were spent trying to get my dual-screen setup working.  Another hour was spent getting Skype to work (it did work but I had to google for several posts and then force install some packages).  Evolution crashed every time it exited.  My USB headphone worked but only after I logged out and back in.  Even then I could not get my main speakers and the USB headphones to work at the same time.  I was not able to play any of my ripped music, which is encoded to either MP3 or WMA (yes I know there are solutions for this but by this time I had lost interest).

Lately we've heard alot about XGL and all of it's eye candy.  Larry recently blogged on this and posted a link to the shell team's blog.  This post specifically talks about there not being "floppy" windows in Vista.  While including links to some cool demos from 2003, the gist of the post is that while wobbling  your windows is technically possible, it might not be the right thing for the shipping product.  The point is made that Microsoft has issues to consider that a Linux vendor can't possibly imagine.  The videos in the link clearly show that technically Microsoft has everything they need to shake, rattle, and roll Windows anyway you want.  I also think Larry is right that we will likely see DWM hacks for Vista that add wobbly windows and all sorts of other goodies.

ESR recently suggested that the Linux community needs to make compromises in order to more directly challlenge the Microsoft monopoly.  He's right.  The gap is widening and wobbly windows is not nearly enough to close it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Would love to try out Max

The Max team has released a new version of their product that includes some nice RSS reading features.  A coworker of mine asked me if I had tried it out just a day or so after it was released so it must interesting.  Of course I wouldn't know.  I would explain if I could.

My first attempt at installing Max was on Vista RC1 x64.  It promptly told me that x64 systems were not supported.  Later I tried installing on Vista RC1 x32.  Bzzt.  XP SP2 is required.  So I dig around and find the Max MSI file and, using Orca,  convince it that installing is ok.  After installing, it explained to me that I needed a newer version of .NET 3.0.  Huh?

Let me see if I get this right.  Microsoft works for 5 years to build an OS that seems to barely be an upgrade to XP.  Vista RC1 is the first build that comes with .NET 3.0 baked right in and Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to show the world that Vista and .NET 3.0 are the way and the light.  And yet an app that is an excellent demonstration of .NET 3.0 doesn't work on Vista?  Are you kidding me?

I have *tons* of apps (both managed and unmanaged) that work and have worked on all the versions of Vista and don't seem to care if you are on x32 or x64 but _somehow_ this photo sharing and RSS reading tool is so coupled with the system that it can't possible run on x64 or on Vista RC1.  After reading in the Max forums, someone from the Max team posted that in fact Max works on Vista but they didn't want to expose the users to any potential bugs so they disabled it.  Where do they get these people?  I"m running Vista RC1 and reading email on Outlook 2007 beta 2.  I surf web pages on FireFox beta 2 and use Google which, we all know, is always in beta.  Find bugs?  Believe me, that's what you want us to do.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

RC1 Rocks!

My last post on the less than stellar quality of the SATA drivers notwithstanding, my overall experience with RC1 has been great.  Speed is excellent, stabilty is great, and media center is now working!

I now have a dual-tuner PVR 500 complete with FM tuner working smoothly under RC1 media center.  So far everything I've tried to install and run has worked great.  Still trying to get VMWare Server to work but no luck so far.  That's ok, I've got Virtual Server R2 beta 2 to play with.

The next thing is getting drivers installed for my OfficeJet 6110 and Canon S900.

Oh, I almost forgot.  There is one thing that's not working.  Sync center apparently still does not allow syncing calendar and contacts to PocketPC or Smart Phones.  That particular feature seems to be going backward.  Beta 2 would at least bring up Sync Center and tell me that Outlook was not configured.  Now, Sync Center doesn't even appear when I plug in my smart phone. 

Aside from not being able to sync my calendar and contacts to my phone, I'm very pleased with my new daily workstation.

SATA drivers in RC1 suck

So finally Windows has SATA drivers baked in.  I've been told that not all chipsets are supported but many are.  Mine is a VIA 8237 and RC1 installs just fine without loading any OEM drivers at install time.

The problem is that the drivers for my system were causing terrible stuttering and skipping the audio.  It as also causing the mouse to skip sporadically.  A little research shows that lots of folks have been having this issue so I think it reaches beyond VIA 8237 systems. 

A quick update of the SATA drivers to the XP64 drivers from my board's manufacturer's website and all was smooth again.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

PVR 500 supported right in Vista 5536. Sweet!

I have this Hauppauge PVR 500 dual-tuner TV card that is apparently completely incompatible with my VIA-based Athlon XP 1700+ system.  So I decided to slap it into my dual opteron box running Vista 5536.  As I was rebooting after installing the card, I was wondering if the official Hauppauge drivers would install properly.  No worries!  Vista notified me that it had drivers for them and they installed perfectly.  Cool.

A few minutes later and I had media center up and running and connected to my XBox 360.  The interface seems snappier on the 360 as well.  Now, all is not sweet in the land of milk and honey.  Tuning TV worked but everytime it tried to record it would just repeat the first few seconds over and over.  Oh well, guess I'll try RC1.