Vista Beta 2

Vista - DesktopFirst screen from my freshly installed Vista Beta 2. After partitioning my drive to allow for dual booting with XP and getting an iso image to finally burn correctly I installed Vista tonight. It took around an hour and a half to install but this was unattended so you could wander off and watch some football while it churned.

Flickr set is up although with only a few screens to begin with. Quick impressions – boot time is long, looks to be more security aware, couple of nice window opening effects, alt tab nice, speed seems ok which was surprising, Windows Update managed to install all my drivers which considering the pc is two years old was pretty impressive, XP still works, there still some Win 95 icons in there – it’s not crashed yet. I’m really wanting to test out day to day functionality like search, robustness etc as I’ve almost made my mind up that my next pc will be a mac…the beta will be a good test before I switch. More updates when I’ve used it in anger.

Ok – first night with it. Not done much except install Office Beta and also anti-virus. Thought I would use AVG free but once downloaded I tried to run it but Vista wouldn’t let me install – there are issues that might break Vista and I should contact the suppliers to pester them for a fix. Sigh. Microsoft though have sorted out a PC-Cillin anti-virus package that runs for the length of the Vista beta – that installed with no issues.

Tried Media Centre – worked OK although it seemed to crash on building my music library. Started it off well before the England game tonight but by half-time it stil hadn’t doen anything. Stopped the program, set-up library via Media Player 11 and it seems to be ok now. It’s either really slow (pc left unattended for 90 minutes yet failed to import 5000 tracks) or it crapped out.

Saying that system feels really usable. Office works well and one O/S has loaded it doesn’t feel any slower than XP. Need to delve into search though and see how that works. Pop-ups asking for permission to run apps and install programs is a tad frustrating too.

Garden Blitz

What a lovely day spent outside. Weather has been great and the garden looks a whole lot better now that the grass and hedge have been cut. Bit of weeding too and some watering as the ground was bone dry. Flickr set now up.
Rhododendron

The table and chairs outside make a big difference – like a new room has been added. Yep – Shakeel was right for once 😉

As the outside was tidied it was only right that the desktop had a summer feel too. Aerial Windowblinds theme and Fantasy Island background – and nothing else completes the clean look.
Desktop

Genuine Windows Update

Heard it from one of the guys at work today who was annoyed that his pirated Windows was now suffering from pop-ups telling him so and confirmed on tech sites also – Microsoft are updating their Windows Genuine Advantage software this week to make sure that those without officially licensed copies of Windows will know that it is pirated and keep nagging you until:

  • You buy a Windows license OR
  • You agree to not receive Windows updates from Microsoft

I guess it’s to be expected of Microsoft but seems a strange time to do it less than 12 months away from the launch of Vista. Crackers will undoubtedly get round it and you can disable the service although you will no longer be able to download updates. Time to budget for purchasing an O/S. It seems daft that people are willing to spend £30-£40 on a variety of games but not the £60-£100 on an operating system.

Spring Clean

The PC had got slow again so it was time to format and re-install. What a difference. Applications now start quickly, disk usage dramatically reduced – feels like a fresh machine. It’s a pity Windows requires this type of start again approach and something that hopefully Vista will resolve. For the mac users out there – as time goes on does the mac O/S start to slow down? Anyway – new (old) desktop to celebrate.

XP - Fresh Start

Trying to keep to ‘core’ apps only so no Yahoo Widgets, no Objectdock, only MSN Messenger installed etc etc. Highly recommend XP users to format the disk (once you’ve backed up key data) and start again. Go on – you know you want to.

iTunes 5.0

New iTunes version 5.0 with a new look and some new features even for old iPod users. Playlists within folders, contact and calender synch with Outlook, far better search (allegedly like spotlight in OS X), shuffle options (woo), parental controls (woo – this is irony by the way) and album reviews in the music store. Was that really worth an update to a version 5.0.

On installing it seemed to update my whole library. On syncing with the iPod it’s refreshing ALL the tracks. That’s 22 gigs it’s writing back to the iPod. Strange. Even odder – some tracks won’t write to the iPod – they did yesterday. I updated the iPod firmware and all seems well by going from version 2.2 to 2.3.

The new search is great – fast and accurate. Folders are also nice as the parent folder will display a sum of all the child playlists. Not convinced on the new look which is better than the old brushed metal but seems to have an odd double pixel around the left and right window border.

Now You See It

New monitor with flashYet another game show reference – this could be a trend. Anyway – the new monitor has arrived and it’s fantastic. Why didn’t I buy an LCD ages ago. It’s a 19 inch LG (LG 1980Q to be precise) and I can’t fault it’s image or the design of the monitor itself – there’s just so much room on my desk now. The screen rotates and mirrors as it’s physically moved and the buttons are heat sensitive – well there had to be a gimmick of some sort to make it worth purchasing. Highly recommended.

Note – no dead pixels yet although I’ve avoided temptation after the PSP hunt.

 

MSN Toolbar Suite...

…is it’s official name but it includes MSN Desktop Search, Microsoft’s entry into the desktop search market. First impressions were very good. It quickly indexed (my recently formatted) drives and allowed me to content search Office App files, Outlook mail, Text files and also title search all files including music and pictures. Results returned were quick and accurate. It also worked across a network. Great – as fast as Google desktop with a lot more content. Annoyingly you also had to install the MSN Toolbar at the same time which meant IE and Control Panel etc. had a MSN search bar – once installed you can remove.

However after a reboot it stopped working. Only logging in as administrator allowed the desktop search to work – anything else failed. So it’s uninstalled but one to keep an eye on. MS have created a Wiki to track developments.

Re-installing XP

The new PC (who am I kidding – it’s 6 months old and out of date) was struggling with Windows. Seemed to have a lag at the start where no matter what program I selected it would wait for a couple of minutes before launching. After that it was fine. Shutdown also had the odd blue screen. I spent the last 2 or 3 weeks trying to find the problem but gave in at the weekend and formatted it again.

I’ve always been against re-installing everything every 6 months or so but the results have been dramatic. No startup lag, no shutdown problems and I’ve got most of the programs I use re-installed. Only snag was that I forgot a couple of things before formatting. I had an electronic download of Half-Life 2 via Steam. 3 gig download later and it was sorted (apart from the game save – swine). Also, I was sure I had moved my Outlook folder to My Documents (which is backed up and on a separate drive). Nope – looks like I hadn’t. SWINE. I still don’t understand why something like Outlook keeps the main pst file outside My Documents but that’s an excuse really for my fools rush in attitude. Got all important e-mails re-sent though so nothing lost. One utility that is a nice find is Startup Control Panel. It’s a small download and install which allows you to easily control what will be automatically started the next time XP boots. Accessible via Control Panel it’s and essential app.

So I thoroughly recommend that you do a proper (format the drive and re-install) refresh of Windows and applications at least once a year. Also – sort out a good backup regime. I’m trialling Norton Ghost with a main backup and incremental’s (weekly) onto my old pc. So far so good. End of public service announcement.

IrfanView

I used to love Paint Shop Pro. Around version 7 though it started to bloat beyond belief. All I wanted was a quick to load image viewer in which I could easily resize/resample images to a variety of different formats. Ta-ra – IrfanView. Loads instantly, works quickly, can be a bit quirky but apart from that it’s great. It’s now my must have graphics package.