Switching

Some of you know this already, but I use a Mac at home and work on and support Windows machines at work.  If you switch between the two operating systems, like I do, you may find that you sometimes get your keyboard shortcuts confused.  This, of course, happens to me all the time.

Today, while at work on my Windows 7 machine, I selected a file and hit the space-bar expecting to see a preview of that file.  It was only at that moment I realized just how often I use that awesome feature of Leopard when I’m on my iMac at home.

Sigh.

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Does Not Compute

If you’re unfamiliar, Microsoft has a troubleshooting feature called “Guided Help” which is supposed to be able to automatically fix common problems for you.  Great idea, if it works.  I’ve never used it, but this Microsoft Knowledge Base article does not instill in me confidence in this feature.

From the article:

Guided Help is available to help recover a corrupted registry that prevents Windows XP from starting. Guided Help can automatically perform the steps for you.

And a couple of paragraphs down:

Requirements to install and to use this Guided Help

You must be logged on to Windows by using a computer administrator account to install and to use this Guided Help.

I have to go lie down, because my head hurts now.

Stupid Outlook

Why, oh why, can’t Outlook figure out that if I go into my “Sent items” folder and pull up an email I set to someone, and hit reply (because I want to follow up that message with more information) that I’m not trying to reply to myself!?

Seriously.  Other email clients get this right and put the person that the email was originally to as the recipient, why can’t Outlook?  (And why can’t I remember this when I’m using Outlook and continuously accidentally sending emails to myself?)

More on Windows 7

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

Okay, I’ll try to keep this short and to the point, unlike my last rambling post.

First, the Good:

  • The search feature, built into the Start menu, is surprisingly fast.  It’s right up there with Spotlight.  In fact, it’s now my de facto way of launching apps – just hit the Windows key and start typing.
  • Copying files across the network seems quicker than XP (but, sadly, still slower than OS X).
  • Right-clicking icons in the task bar brings up a menu with either frequently used or recent items (depending on the app), which you can “pin” items to.
  • The new Task Manager, with more information on processes and the addition of the Services tab, from which you can start and stop services or launch the Services management console.  (Although, Process Explorer is still better.)
  • The Resource Monitor, which can be launched from Task Manager.  Wow.  There’s too much here to even go into.
  • Temporarily show the Desktop by hovering the cursor at the end of the taskbar, it makes all running apps “invisible”.  (Not as useful as Expose on the Mac though, where I can hit F-11 to swipe away all open windows, then grab something on the desktop and pull it into whatever I’m working on.)
  • Temporarily show any open window (even if it’s minimized) by hovering over the taskbar icon for the app, which displays a mini-preview of all windows in that app, then hovering over the mini-preview.  Again, this makes other apps “invisible”.  Useful if you’re working in one app and need to see something in another app without actually switching to it.

The Bad:

  • IE8 is actually worse than IE7 at displaying some websites.  Turning on Compatibility Mode (to make it act like IE7) fixes some problems.  Why can’t MS get CSS right?  Every other browser on the planet can properly display CSS, why not IE?
  • The download dialog in IE 8 hang at 99%, even though the download is actually complete.  Eventually the dialog will close, but it’s an annoying, weird bug.
  • Some windows and dialog boxes (open/close) do a poor job of hiding .tmp files.  Again, weird and annoying.

The Ugly:

This one’s a deal breaker for me.  I cannot get Active Directory Users and Computers working in Windows 7.  I know this is an issue under Vista, too, so I followed all of the advice I could find for getting the Server 2003 administrative tools to work under Vista, but still no ADUC.  Other tools, like DHCP and DNS, work fine.  I even tried installing the Server 2008 RSAT for Vista, but the installer says that that update is not for my version of Windows.  Ugh.  So, for now, I either need to keep my other machine up and running, or remote into one of the domain controllers whenever I need to change a password.


So there you have it.  So far so good (mostly).  If I think of anything else, I’ll post it.

Windows 7

I’ve been playing around with Windows 7 for a couple of days, so I wanted to share some thoughts.  Bear in mind, that I’ve never really used Vista (apart from support some clients at my old job who had it), and I’m going from XP to 7.  Now, the general consensus on the ‘net is that people who are coming from Vista are going to love 7, and people coming from XP are going to hate it.  I don’t think that’s true, not for me, anyway.  I don’t hate it.

There are some things that I’m not used to, and some things that are down right annoying (thankfully, I found fairly quickly how to change the settings for the warning dialogs to not take over your entire computer).  There are some things that I like.

The one major thing that I’m not used to and find a little annoying (but I haven’t turned it off yet) is the way windows kind of fade into view.  It’s a neat effect, and it looks good, but to me it makes things feel slow.  Which is funny, because I’m sure it’s not taking longer for the window to actually display and become responsive than it did in XP, it just feels like it.  I haven’t turned it off, though, as it doesn’t really bother me.  Except in some wizard dialogs.  For some reason it sometimes sees each dialog in a wizard as a new window, and not just the same window showing a new step (which is how I see wizards, as a series of steps in the same window), so each step will fade into and out of view. It’s extremely annoying, but not all wizards do this (I’ve only seen it a couple of times).

I’m still getting used to the layout of the Explorer windows.  I find it interesting, though, that most folders show in details view by default, which I like, as it’s my preferred way to browse files.  Media folders (pictures and video, anyway) seem to be the exception here, as they display thumbnail previews of the files.  Actually, one thing I really love, if you have a sub-folder in the Pictures folder (with pictures inside the sub-folder), it looks like the folder is open with some of the actual pictures inside visible.  It’s very cool.  (You can also change the size of the icons in a very OS X fashion.)

A more practical thing that I really like is how quickly it comes out of sleep or hibernation.  The sleep/hibernation functions in Windows have always been severely poor; my XP machine takes nearly as long to come out of hibernation to a fully responsive system as it did to cold boot, and sleep doesn’t work at all (it comes out of sleep with none of the programs still running).  So, this is a huge improvement.

I like the desktop gadgets.  Similar to OS X’s Dashboard, but right on the desktop. Which, to me, is a little more practical.  I hardly ever use Dashboard (it’s kind of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing for me), but I’ve got a few desktop gadgets running in 7.  The only time where Dashboard’s method (hiding in another layer) would be better is if you had a mess of gadgets/widgets running.  I only have two (System Monitor and Weather), so they’re not intrusive, being on the desktop.  I guess it just depends on the individual and how they use it.  (I think Dashboard would win out here if it gave you the option of keeping some widgets on the desktop – but there are third party solutions for that.)

So far, it’s been pretty stable.  It has crashed and rebooted a couple of times, but that seemed to be a problem with the driver for the video card and the screen saver (for whatever reason).  Simple fix – turn off the screen saver (completely unnecessary with LCD displays and sleep mode, but sometimes eye candy is just fun).  Occasionally, Explorer has had to quit and restart (which it did on it’s own) for some unknown reason, but apart from the dialog telling me it was doing that, it hasn’t caused any problems.

As this post is running a little long, I’ll update later with some more things that I (really) like (maybe with some screen shots), and one thing that I absolutely hate.

Stupid Windows Tricks

I need to install some software on a user’s machine.  The software requires ~2.2 GB of space to install, and I notice the user’s hard drive only has ~3.5 GB of space left on it.  So, I run Disk Cleanup, delete old service pack uninstall directories, delete old user profiles, etc., and only wind up with ~5.5 GB free.

I decide to turn off System Restore to free up some extra space.  System Restore is set to take up no more than ~3.6 GB of space.  Turning it off frees up nearly 20 GB of space on the drive!

Nice going, Microsoft.  It looks like System Restore is worse at cleaning up after itself than Word is.

Seriously, who programs this crap?

A Not-So-Perfect Storm

Readers react to David Pogue’s review of the BlackBerry Storm.

A couple of choice quotes:

I think there’s an important distinction between quality control (whether or not something works as designed) and quality of design. This device fails miserably in both categories.

The bottom line: BlackBerry has created the Zune of touchscreen phones.

I think the lesson here is, if you’re going to try to imitate Apple, you’d better make a product that’s better than what they already offer.  And by better, I don’t mean just claiming more features; I mean better design and implementation.  I think that’s the problem with companies like RIM and Microsoft, they focus on “features, features, features” and simply neglect design and usability.  And, when I talk about design here, I’m not just referring to how the thing looks; design has a major impact on usability.  That’s something people fail to grasp when they take Apple to task for focusing so much on design.