OSes


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?

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.

On a ride home I was telling my brother about a good friend of mine who had recently bought a Macbook on his trip to the States. A lifelong Windows user, my friend was just starting out on the Mac platform and he was consulting me now and then about his transitioning concerns. One of his concerns was that after using his Macbook for a couple of weeks, he still didn’t have a proper anti-virus program and he was starting to get worried for his safety, so to speak. What was a good anti-virus program to get?

I told my friend Vince that you can easily get any number of excellent anti-virus programs for Macs – excellent because they do their job well; it’s either that, or they have nothing much to do for Macs because there aren’t any real threats worth protecting them from anyway. No rush, Vince. Haven’t seen actual Mac malware since …since never. Well, at least in the OS X era.

I told him I’d been using Macs for years, and was yet to encounter an honest-to-goodness virus. Honest to God and cross my heart. This, even with having my Mac online virtually 24-7 on broadband, gleefully downloading everything in sight, opening emailed attachments with impunity, and generally being wide open to the public via ethernet, wifi and bluetooth all this time. No viruses. Period.

My brother chimes in with his argument that there are no viruses for Macs because Mac users are in the miniscule minority, and virus authors feel the segment is hardly worth the effort. It isn’t because the platform is bullet-proof, or at least of tougher hide than your usual run-of-the-mill Windows machine.

I’m not too sure; I might invite some amount of flaming here – but having a target market (literally a target of the bullseye kind) composed of influential creative types like artists, editors, designers, writers, filmmakers, celebrities and a vast array of “elitist” types should be extremely attractive to malware freaks, for the very reason that attacks in that market would get them the most amount of mileage, as compared to targeting the regular joes. Doesn’t that make some kind of twisted sense?

I’m not a programmer so I can’t in all honesty speak of OS X’s mylar hide, or if it really does have one; my brother could very well be right that the kooks don’t care about infecting Mac users with Unix-flavored malware. But the point of it is, despite all that sturm und drang about virii for the Mac, the simple fact is there aren’t any worth writing home about. Or more to the point, getting anti-virus software for.

I have anti-virus solutions on my Mac. I’m not that blissfully ignorant. But truth be told, I never really use them, and actually forget to until a topic like this comes up. I run a checker maybe once every year, even if they get automatically updated periodically. So after this recent conversation with my bro, I fired up the Mac version of Sophos to check my Powerbook. Just to be sure.

It took over three hours to thoroughly scan my system. Over 400,000 files.

Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. After being spread-eagled on the internet unprotected nearly 24-7 for years, still. No. Viruses.

Sophos did return nine errors. Two of them were corrupted files, and the rest were encrypted ones, four of them from Microsoft Office. But the system was clean, for whatever reason, whether it be invulnerability or belittlement. Which is the important thing at the end of the day.

This situation won’t last of course. I will wake up one day soon to see my Mac infected to the gills (and I feel that day is not long in coming because Macs are getting more market share by the day), but for now everything is peaceful. Which is more than I can say for other platforms, which seem to be proud that they’re constantly the target of virus writers because of their popularity, and spend too much of their time protecting themselves and being constantly vigilant – instead of just being productive.

(Trivia game: a big wet kiss on the PWiT for the one who can tell us who originally uttered the line that makes up the post title.)

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.

This piece of news item from Inquirer.net caught my eye. Making free and open source software (FOSS) widely available to the Filipino masses surely is an idea whose time has come.

I find it rather sad to see people spending thousands upon thousands of pesos to acquire a computer only to end up scrimping on spending for legitimate copies of software to install on those expensive equipment. A lot of people I see doing this even have the audacity to flaunt that they earn money using unlicensed/illegal copy of software.

For the average user who normally does email, web surfing and even some multi-media management, all one need is a single installation CD of Ubuntu Linux. In its default installation, Ubuntu Linux includes an Office suite (OpenOffice.Org), a web browser, a mail client and a media player — everything a typical user needs to be productive with a computer. For the more savvy user, it even has a bundled BitTorrent client for their downloading needs. All these programs are bundled with the installation CD of Ubuntu Linux. Compare that with installing Windows. Once installed, one needs to do another installation for MS Office. Althought there is a built-in web browser, email client and multi-media manager that comes with Windows, the typical user opt to “buy” better versions of these in their favorite stalls in Greenhills because most of these users find the bundled stuff “bitin” — it does not do what they want them to do.

Hopefully, this government-backed project will wean the typical Pinoy users from using pirated software and start using free and open source software instead.

I can’t handle talking about it right now.

Here.