My Adventures in Vista

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Over the past week or so, I have installed Vista (Ultimate Edition) on three computers, with mostly positive results.

Computer One: The Mothership; RAID 0

First, I did a clean install on my primary computer, which I built myself a couple of years ago.  It has a RAID 0 set, as well as 3 other drives for music and video creation and storage.  I was a little nervous about installing Vista on my existing RAID set.  While I have an 80G partition solely for the OS, I did not want to lose all the music and video files on the two other partitions.  I know from prior experience that you have to load the RAID drivers in order for Windows to see the RAID disk configuration, but since I was dealing with a RAID set that contains a lot of huge, not all the way backed up, music and video files, I was concerned that I might accidentally send my RAID set into the ether, with all of the songs I have written and recorded and all the videos I have made along for the ride.  My worry was for naught, as Vista immediately prompted me to install the RAID drivers from a floppy or CD and as soon as I did, it notified me that it could see and install onto my C drive.  Installation was pretty quick and it wasn’t long before I was running Vista on a clean C partition and able to access my music and video files on the D and E partition.

Vista even stores your XP user data in a backup file on the C drive.  Once I knew that I was up and running, I deleted the old data to save space.

My Vista user experience has been mostly positive, after I disabled the unbelievably annoying User Account Control.  I don’t find Vista to be a revolutionary change from XP, but the more I use it, the more intuitive it seems.  The only problem that persists is that when I bring Windows back up after the screensaver has been active for a few hours, my Taskbar looks weird and mouse clicks, including the one to Restart, are non-responsive.  I have to Control-Alt-Delete and then Restart from that screen, where the mouse once again works correctly.  Annoying, but not the end of the world.

Computer Two: The Backup Server

Next, I did a clean install on a relatively new HP Media Center computer that I bought a few months ago after the power supplies on the Mothership exploded (literally) twice in a three day period.  This computer now serves as a backup server for our home network (for which I use and recommend Fileback PC).  The install worked like a charm and, perhaps because this computer is newer, I have had no problems whatsover, including no Taskbar issues like I described above.

A happy by-product of this upgrade was the extermination of all the bloatware and upsell pitches that HP puts on these otherwise very nice computers.

Computer Three: The X41 Tablet

Having had two pleasant upgrade experiences, I decided to push the envelope a little by doing a clean install on my trusty Thinkpad X41 Tablet.  Since the X41 does not have an internal CD or DVD drive, I had to dig up an external DVD drive.  This computer has a 1.5 GHz Pentium M chip and only 512 MB of RAM- paltry by today’s Vista standards.  Installation took longer, but it worked and so far I see no sluggishness.  Vista did not intall drivers for the thumbprint reader, but the first time I booted up, Vista prompted me to visit the manufacturer’s web site (via a supplied link) and download the new drivers.  That’s a very handy feature that saves a lot of time.

Conclusions:

Microsoft has clearly worked hard to make the installation process easier and faster.  Only time will tell how much better Vista is than XP, but so far I’m pretty impressed.

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Windows Update Problems

Ed Bott, writing at ZDNet, posts about problems he has been having with Windows Update.

Me too.

It’s bad enough that you can’t use Windows Update manually via Firefox. And it’s bad enough that both Zone Alarm and Norton Antivirus (last year’s model for the reasons stated here, which is soon to be uninstalled forever as I move to the stupidly named but generally well received Windows Live OneCare) can trip up the Windows installer program and make it hard to install updates.

But now it seems the Windows Update servers are having problems of their own. I have had a constant yellow updates available icon in my system tray for the past week- and updates often either don’t work or seem to work, only to be followed by the immediate reappearance of the yellow update icon.

This problem, while a mild annoyance for desktops that are always connected to the internet, is a royal pain for laptops that are updated periodically. I haven’t been able to successfully install any updates on my Thinkpad in over a week.

I hope this causes Microsoft to rethink its decision to semi-push installs of Internet Explorer 7. My hunch is that Microsoft will still want to get IE 7 out there to stem the flow to the superior Firefox.

One of the many ways Firefox is eating IE 7’s lunch is in update ease. It’s simple as pie in Firefox.

Not so for IE 7- at least not at the moment.

Google and Firefox Go to the Dark Side

Google, looking for the its first hit in a decade and hoping to avoid the oldies tour, and Firefox, perhaps wanting to ratchet down all the love it has been receiving, have joined the Bloatware 2006 Tour, headlined by none other than Real Player.

The only reason I can think of why Google and Firefox would agree to partner up with Real Networks is because Real Networks isn’t Microsoft.

Note to Google and Firefox: Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is NOT your friend.

As of now, all of the comments to the Download Squad post linked above agree that this is a bad move for Google and Firefox. And all agree that Real Alternative should be used in lieu of Real Player.

I’ve long been on record as far as my opinion of Real Player goes.

More Hotmail Spam?

Am I the only one who has noticed a marked increase in the amount of spam getting through the Hotmail spam filters?

It was almost non-existant until a week or so ago, now I have 10-15 spams getting through every day.

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Will Zune Stumble and Fall Like Origami?

zuneWord about Microsoft’s upcoming media player continues to crawl around the blogosphere, with Engadget reporting today that the device, currently dubbed Zune, will support wireless song transfers. I’m sure that will either require a potload of DRM or invoke the wrath of the priority-challenged RIAA.

Anyway, Gizmodo reports that the Zune device is the flagship product of a new line of portable devices. Everybody seems to have a plan to dethrone the iPod. Here is Microsoft’s:

“Microsoft’s concentrating on features the iPod doesn’t have, instead of trying to beat Apple at their own game. The tipmeister reiterates that ad-hoc networking feature will be there, as well as a possible buffered internet radio streaming feature. If you’re within range of a WiFi signal and you’re listening to a station, the device will snatch as much of the feed as it can so when you wander out of WiFi signal, it’ll keep playing the stream as if you were in range. This might not make its way into the final product, so don’t get your hopes up too high.”

I’m guessing once the RIAA gets wind of this most excellent and logical feature, it will let slip the lawyers of war and yet another great idea will be canned in the name of preserving a dying business model.

What I am more interested in, however, is Microsoft’s marketing, or lack thereof, with respect to new products. Microsoft doesn’t seem to know how to manage a proper build up to release- particularly with hardware.

Recall the great buzz that was generated prior to the release of Origami, now renamed a buzz-killing UMPC. I wondered at the time whether Microsoft would walk the walk or toss the product out there and let it twist in the wind.

Well, I have read many reviews of UMPCs, and most of them have been negative. My blogging pal James Kendrick believes the bad reviews are a result of a misunderstanding of the UMPC’s purpose and features. While I have never held a UMPC, I tend to agree with James (I would love to have a UMPC to read news, etc. around the house and on trips). But in the face of a lot of negative press, Microsoft seems to have moved on to phones and iPod killers, etc.

Robert Scoble used to try as hard as he could to manage the build-up to release of new products. But Robert has left Microsoft and there’s no one left with the mindshare to try to point bloggers, and the three non-bloggers who read blogs, in the right direction. Sometimes, how people feel about something depends more on their expectations than the actual thing itself. Einstein, relativity and all that.

Get enough press, real and citizen, to understand a product and write about it from a place of understanding and you’ll go a long way towards ensuring a successful release. Let people speculate wildly, toss something out and forget about it and you’ve ensured the opposite.

Someone needs to step up for Microsoft and help inform, direct and manage expectations.

Otherwise, I predict another stumble out of the gate for Zune.

What’s Old is New: Microsoft Phones

According to the New York Times, Microsoft has plans to change the telecommunications world the way it changed the computing world in the 1980’s. And, I suppose, the way it tried and failed to change the telecommunications world the last time it made a newer, better phone- back in the nineties.

The trick seems to be that this time, instead of just linking your phone and your computer, Microsoft is going to link your phone, your computer AND your cell phone.

Wow.

John Markoff wrote the very thought that came to mind when I saw the headline:

“Microsoft’s challenge is to convince corporate clients that they need to adopt a growing suite of the company’s desktop and server-based software at a time when inexpensive and modular Web services are becoming increasingly popular.”

It’s not only that they are cheap, it’s that most companies already have newish phones and big companies don’t like to change their phone systems because they have to buy and install new equipment and, perhaps more importantly, retrain all of the end users.

The idea of putting another Microsoft (phone, this time) on every desktop will require people who are not risk takers to overcome their risk aversion. This is something that Scoble and I talked about earlier this year, and it is as big a hurdle as ever to making inroads into corporate IT departments.

Microsoft is touting the fact that their system will allow email to be read by the telephone. Why? Everyone and their cat have Blackberries, etc. and can get their mail anywhere. It’s better to go the other way and have voicemail delivered via email- which I have been doing for many years via my firm’s existing telephone system.

Not that there isn’t room for vast improvement in office telecommunications.

Am I the only person who can’t believe that in 2006 we still can’t dial an office phone from within Outlook by clicking a button? That fact blows my mind almost as much as the fact that Hillary Clinton might be our next President.

Give me dialing from Outlook. Not all the other bells and whistles that no one will use.

Alec Saunders talks about Microsoft’s 10-year plan for phones. Is it a 10-year plan or an every 10 year plan? What’s different about this decade that gives Microsoft a better chance of success. Going for the corporate user? Maybe, but that seems like a tougher sell to me than the phone-hungry consumer browsing Circuit City.

As a gadget hound, I am intrigued by the prospect of a nifty new Microsoft phone. The chances of our IT department ever putting one on my desk, however, is between slim and none.

And slim just left the building.

Elvis, Gates and Kinky Friedman

Perhaps unable to go on after Elvis left the building, Bill Gates is stepping down at Microsoft, to devote more time to his charitable foundation. The foundation has donated $10.5 billion in 12 years of operation.

Meanwhile, Kinky Friedman continues to slap around the other candidates, proving that if he were to somehow get elected Governor of Texas, we’d be in for an interesting time. His camp had this to say recently about candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn asking to be listed on the November ballot as Carole Keeton “Grandma” Strayhorn:

“Strayhorn’s demand that her political slogan be put on the ballot is completely absurd and reveals a politician fast becoming irrelevant,” said spokesman Robert Black. “Kinky Friedman may tell jokes, but the Strayhorn campaign is teetering on the edge of becoming one.”

Maybe Bill should fund Kinky who should hire Scoble as the official Texas evangelist and podcaster. We already have a state bird and a state flower.

This would keep the band together and be good for Texas at the same time.

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