Microsoft


Vista Flip 3D

Mac users have had Exposé for a while, but now that Vista has been released, Windows users can now enjoy fully the productivity-sapping habit of keeping many windows open, flipping through the open apps and documents with the jaw-dropping coolness of Flip 3D.

I have a rather set morning routine once I get to the office: open my computer, fire up Mail and check my work-related messages. Then iSiloX to start downloading newspapers and blogs for offline reading later on in the day. Then iTunes, to download the latest versions of my podcasts. Then Safari, to check my Gmail account, and my daily bookmarked sites. Then AdiumX, to get onto the local Jabber network. Then I open the first documents I need to work on for that day. And in the ten or fifteen minutes that I spend sleepwalking through that routine, I have, maybe, ten or fifteen windows open all at the same time.

The ironic thing is that I don’t believe in multitasking. I kind of subscribe to Merlin Mann’s proposition that we don’t really work on several things at the same time but instead spend little chunks of time focused on a task for a short period of time before proceeding to another one or returning to the previous one. I know it’s counterproductive, but it’s damn hard habit to break.

What’s your routine and how many windows do you have open on a regular basis?

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Microsoft has recently unveiled their latest Operating System for Mobile Phones, and honestly, I am a little bit excited.

From what I have read, here’s what I think will be the features of Windows Mobile 6 that we should be excited about.

  • Call history of each contact is now placed directly in their respective vCard – This will make it easier for me to see how many times Adel has harassed called me about writing deadlines.
  • A smart calendar view – If Microsoft is to be believed, this means I can look at a week’s worth of appointments and agendas with just one glance.
  • Built-in data encryption – Porn Data stored in a memory can can be easily encrypted. This also extends to the Exchange server for you corporate types.
  • Windows Live! Integration – For an MSN Messenger and Hotmail nut like me, this is awesome.
  • A better looking email client with HTML mail support – I’m not exactly down with the HTML support, but a better looking email client is always a boon.
  • New and improved MS Office suite – Better MS Word? I’m so over that like butter on bread.

And the best new “feature” of Windows Mobile 6 is:

  • Windows Vista compatibility – When in the world did this ever become a “feature”? Windows Mobile 6 should be Vista compatible since it is afterall a Microsoft product. It’s like Casio saying their Diver’s watches are *gasp* water-proof. Oh well, guess we Windows Mobile user should be grateful as Microsoft’s own Zune player wasn’t even initially Vista compatible.

Stupid “Vista compatible” feature aside, I have high hopes for Windows Mobile 6 and there’s a good chance I won’t be disappointed.

You might remember this big flap some weeks ago when the integrity and impartiality of some American bloggers were thrown into question when Microsoft‘s public relations group, Edelman PR, gifted them with Vista-ready notebooks – which they accepted.

When it hit the fan, Microsoft and Edelman PR quickly backpedaled and said the notebooks were just for “review”, and were supposed to be returned afterwards. It may or may not have been a misunderstanding, but the damage had been done, both for Microsoft and the concerned bloggers.

I am extremely saddened to say that a similar situation occurred here in the Philippines as well.

I will not speak for anyone or implicate anyone else in this except myself. It’s been gnawing at me for weeks. I have not been able to sleep well, and cannot look at myself in the mirror.

Some weeks before the launch of Microsoft Vista, Microsoft organized a special private overnight boot camp/workshop for select IT journalists in resort city Tagaytay at the Taal Vista Lodge (Vista – get it?). I was invited, and I went.

At the event, Microsoft gifted me with a Vista-ready notebook, for me to take home and keep for myself. No strings attached, no questions asked.

I’m ashamed to say that I accepted it:

It’s wonderful. It features all four of the the Windows Vista Key Business Scenarios:

Unlike many notebooks, this one has all, and I mean all, of the hardware requirements:

It’s whisper-quiet, and never overheats. The power requirements are negligible, and it’s eminently portable. Aside from that, it features lots of storage space, and with an optional stylus it works as a special tablet with impeccable handwriting recognition:

God help me, I could not resist. I confess. I took it home. It’s still with me. And I’m not giving it back.

I’m so sorry.

BREAKING UPDATE: PWiT reader jan2x asked if you can load Linux on my Vista notebook. I tried it and it works! See here:

UPDATE 2: Bernie J. asked me to try Mac OS X. It works too! Is there no end to this notebook’s flexibility? Dear Lord! The possibilities are endless!

I’ve been evaluating Microsoft Vista, and aside from the other important productive aspects of the operating system, I was pleasantly intrigued by the video-based wallpaper used at the live demo by Jojo Ayson at the business launch at the Shang Makati last Feb.1. In the demo in the ballroom, the big video screen show a pleasantly babbling brook underlying the icons, windows and toolbars of Vista. Nice, refreshing, peaceful and thoroughly CPU-hogging I supposed, but I wanted to it try out for myself.

Back at the batcave, the evaluation copy of Vista I had on the Toshiba Qosmio G30 didn’t seem to have Dreamscene, which is what they called it over at Redmond. I clicked high and low and it simply wasn’t there. A quick check on the net told me it was still in beta; I didn’t know if it was in the shipping copies but since I didn’t have one I couldn’t tell. (If you’re one of the few who have the official retail version, chime in and tell us if it’s there please; I’m not about to plunk down 20K just to find out.)

What I did find out was that there were standalone beta installer packages on the net. Naughty me, I downloaded a copy and loaded it up, but it didn’t take, which served me right. What I did get though were the small WMVs of the video files for Dreamscene included in the package – two of them at least: no babbling brook, but there was the green grass and blue sky with rolling clouds, and the aurora borealis wallpaper.

Ching! A bright light blinked on in my head.

Would these work on my Mac?

It’s not in the Mac OS X box, but there’s been something like it available as shareware since last year – a shareware app called DesktopMagik, from stupidFish Programming. I was fortunate enough to download a free registered copy last year as part of the MacAppADay Promo, and hardly used it since trying it out. Among other things, it lets you put video on your desktop as wallpaper (yeah, there are lotsa others for the Mac and the PC that do the same thing, but who can pass up a free app?)

So I used Quicktime to convert the WMV file to MOV (by way of the wonderfully free Flip4Mac codec that lets Quicktime use WMV files), then imported it into DesktopMagik.

Worked like a charm. My Mac looks like it’s running Vista (sort of like a frog with two heads). Now I have beautiful rolling clouds on a blue sky, casting shadows on a verdant field of grass as they float serenely overhead. Nice, refreshing, peaceful – and CPU-hogging too. A consistent 25% according to my process viewer.

Mac or PC, you can’t win ’em all.

Full disclosure first. I’m a Mac user, happy with my Powerbook and OS X. It’s not to say I know squat about Windows. I started with it before most of you were born. I can assemble a PC, and I used to hack into the registry with cheerful abandon.

That said, I’m not setting out to deliberately bash Microsoft despite what bogs11 might claim. In fact, I’m trying desperately to give it a chance. I’m willing to give it every opportunity to, if not outright impress me, let it show me that the five years of development accounted for something, that it was worth the wait.

I don’t have an answer yet. The jury is still out on Windows Vista. But I can tell you now, it doesn’t look good.

I’m just getting my feet wet, and in the next few weeks I mean to be submerged in deep Vista doodoo. I intend to not just wade, but to dive in, breath held, and swim its depths, taking big muscular strokes, arms and legs flailing mightily with gusto. But as things go this early in the game, it doesn’t bode well for Vista, gentle reader. Much as I am trying so hard to like it, it’s making things difficult for me from the get-go. I might likely drown, but I’m game.

Yesterday we installed a fresh, shrink-wrapped evaluation copy of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition on a Toshiba Qosmio G30 laptop.

If you haven’t heard of the G30 yet, you will. It’s the Incredible Hulk of laptops. Words fail me, so I’ll just quote Engadget‘s Paul Miller:

Seeing how HD DVD burners are still quite a new idea for the desktop set, you can imagine our delight at discovering Toshiba’s new Qosmio G30 laptop, which sports the elusive drive within its portable frame. Well, almost portable. At 10.6 pounds, we’re not sure any mortal lap — not to mention tray table — could support this thing, but we really expected nothing less the first time around. The 17-inch display rocks it True HD style at 1920 x 1200, plus if you get bored with your selection of HD DVDs, there’s always the analog and digital TV tuners to keep you entertained. Other specs on the G30/97A include a 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 processor, 1GB of RAM, dual 160GB HDDs, NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 graphics with 256MB of RAM, and just about every kind of connectivity you could think of — USB 2.0, Firewire, PCMCIA, ExpressCard/54, multi-card reader, 802.11a/b/g, gigabit Ethernet, modem, VGA, S-video, S/PDIF and HDMI.

It also costs US$3320, or in Tagalog, about P169,000. With the kind indulgence of my fellow PWiTs, a little plugging: We’ll have the full hands-on review in the March issue of Mobile Philippines, so we’ll save the comments for then. Besides, this post is about the Vista experience, not the laptop we put it on.

But we will say this – after installation and tweaking, you can run a Vista feature that rates the new host computer’s suitability and capability to run the OS. It has a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most suitable.

The Vista-ready Toshiba Qosmio G30, that beautiful monster of technological excess so completely and thoroughly shameless that, right out of the box, it uses dual 100GB hard disks in a raid configuration and happens to be the world’s first laptop with an HD-DVD writer in it, that wonderful hunk of 21st century laptopology rated a …1.

Vista generously supplies you with details about why your hardware would be rated that way. Two of the four reasons it cited were pretty interesting. It blames three device drivers that were causing Windows to start slow – all three of which were device drivers from Microsoft itself. The other telling detail cited was that visual performance was less than optimal because of low memory. The G30 uses an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 with 256MB of RAM; for laptops, there are few better at the moment.

If a P169K Toshiba Qosmio G30 rated a 1, I shudder to think what an under-P50K Vista-ready laptop would score. What’re us mortals with modest hardware and shallow pockets to do? Vista Ultimate itself alone costs nearly P20K.

It took us five hours to install the Vista DVD on the G30. It tanked halfway through the first two tries (an hour lost each time), and then three hours for the whole thing to complete, along with a dizzying sequence of restarts. Most of the built-in features of the G30 refused to run afterwards, including the biometeric fingerprint reader, the webcam, the power management software and several others, despite scouring the net for driver updates over and over.

Right after installation the desktop looked as blocky and garish as an Andy Warhol Tomato Soup limited print – Vista didn’t have drivers for the G30’s NVidia display hardware, and any tweaking Kiven and I did couldn’t improve the look. We had a nightmare searching for the correct driver – spent a couple of hours looking for and downloading the proper one. The first versions we got were supposed to work, but it kept telling us it had to abort the installation because it couldn’t find compatible hardware in the system to update. Arghhh.

Finally we managed to download the right one.

Aero looked beautiful indeed, bright and shiny like a newly minted P10 coin. So I went straight for the killer feature that everyone who gets Vista wants to try out first – Flip 3D, the window browsing function that draws rapturous oohs and ahhs from everyone who’s never used a Mac. Just hold down the Windows key and hit Tab. Boom. Then hit tab-tab-tab-tab. It’s like flicking through a stack of pretty postcards. So is this worth getting that beefier new video card? At least that translucency thing is cool-looking.

We haven’t given it the full workout yet, but Vista does seem more secure (it had better be – it asks for permission to do nearly everything – “You attempted to press the spacebar. Windows is in protected mode. Allow?” Joke, but you get the idea). Hibernation is still a bummer though. It only survives the trauma of waking up three out of five times, often resulting in a crash-dump-and-reboot.

Like I said, it don’t look too good. So far. A full exhaustive review will come out in our mags sometime in the future. In the meantime we’ll keep at it, and give you updates about our experiences when we can.

Microsoft is getting a whole lotta love for the revamped look and feel of its 2007 Microsoft Office suite.

Office 2007Click on the image to see the new toolbar ribbon in full.

Note the large round button on the upper-left corner. This is the Office Button, and it’s the one-stop shop for all the critical functions that can be performed on the document.

The menu interface is now–to borrow a term from Genius– activity-based. Or as Microsoft puts it, results-oriented. So the options now come in friendlier phrases (“Package for CD”) rather than the traditionally terse menu-hopping madness (“File… Open…”). And the ribbon tabs are now context-sensitive, so that if, say, you click on a chart, then the chart menu pops into the ribbon.

In short, the orientation is now more towards the needs of laymen rather than geeks. The difference is that whereas in the old Office, only geeks would know how to fiddle with hold-and-click layouts to touch up a piechart, the new Office uses Galleries that offer end-results in ordinary language (i.e. “Show Legend at Bottom”), along with live previews of how the option would affect the file. That, plus you will now notice lots of explanatory texts to clarify each option that you choose.

Also new is the Mini Toolbar. Highlight text on your Word document and the toolbar pops up right next to it, giving you access to the most common formatting options so that you need not drag your mouse all the way to the Ribbon menu on top.

It’s all a big plus for ease of use. The geeks who know how to fiddle with hold-and-click layouts to touch up a piechart might not lift an eyelid, but for the average user who wants to do more but is too afraid to budge, this would give a sense of relief.

Here are a few more screen shots. Click to see the larger image:

2007 Microsoft Word Microsoft Office

2007 Microsoft OutlookMicrosoft Outlook

2007 Microsoft Powerpoint Powerpoint

2007 Microsoft Excel Excel

Now if only Office was made available at a much cheaper price so that it can see a more realistic wide rollout…

Reports have it that the newly released Microsoft Vista doesn’t make nice with iTunes 7.0.2.

If you upgrade from Windows XP to Vista, your iTunes won’t be able to play your purchased music (if you have any, that is). Bummer. It’s a highly specialized problem to be sure – you’ve got to be one of the few Pinoys who’ve already upgraded to Vista by now, and at the same time a Pinoy who can actually buy stuff off of the iTunes Store – at this time there can’t be many of these poor unfortunate creatures. But theoretically they can, or probably will, exist.

If you’re one of these rare breed (or will be in the near future), fear not. Download your solution here.

Sadly, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are currently several other big issues between iTunes and iPods and Microsoft’s new OS, including the possibility of corrupting your iPod from within Vista if you use the Safely Eject Hardware command to disconnect your player (use iTunes itself through the Eject iPod command from the Controls menu instead), or being unable to sync info like contacts and calendars, and more. Apple‘s working on fixing the problems though.

Haaay. Part of the expected upgrade blues. We’ll have to live with these things for a while.

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