Tag Archives: Microsoft

Apple’s Leopard = Microsoft’s Vista?

I came across an article (technically an opinion piece) this morning while reading through Slashdot.  The article basically says that Leopard is just as bad as Vista (calls it Leoptard, which I found amusing).  Now, I have no problem with Vista, so you might think I have no problem with Leopard either.  I disagree with most of what this guy was saying.  However, there were a few things that I did have in common with him.

First, the crashing.  Yes, Leopard crashed once a day on me… before I installed the Parallels update (released earlier this week), which seemed to fix it (though now Parallels crashes on it’s own, but at least it’s not taking the whole OS with it).  That’s probably what this guy is seeing.  I hadn’t seen Leopard crash without having Parallels running.

Second, the eye candy.  Yes, the new Dock is probably annoying to those used to the old Dock.  However, I like it.  I hadn’t used the old Dock regularly enough to get used to it.  I think it’s slick and shiny and nice.  I think the little blue dots that denote the open applications could be a bit darker or more visible, but I don’t have a problem seeing them.  I actually think, when comparing the 2 Docks that the old one is ugly.

Third, the stacks.  Ok, I’ll bite.  They suck.  They’re annoying and I don’t see why that works better than clicking on the Dock icon and just having that folder open in Finder.  I have also found the stacks to be a little less responsive than they should be, even with 4 GB of RAM.

Fourth, consider any .0 release as “beta”.  That’s annoying.  Sure, with Windows, wait until SP1 is released and things are better.  That shouldn’t be the case.  I heard the same thing about OS X.  Wait until the .1 release is available before upgrading.  Why can’t they just make it and have it just work?  I installed 10.5.1 and I didn’t notice a whole lot of changes.  In fact, I had a change that didn’t work at all.  I went to my brother’s house where he has an Airport network, using Apple’s hardware for his wireless network (as opposed to my home network which cost a whole lot less for a Linksys wireless router).  Anyway, I added his network to my preferred networks and saved it.  Big mistake.  I rebooted and the computer wouldn’t allow me to login.  I had to go in via “Safe Mode” (holding Shift while booting), remove the network, and reboot again.  Then it allowed me to boot (only after removing applications that start on startup, like a MS database thing that installed with Office and iTunes Helper, which isn’t an actual application so I couldn’t put it back).  For sake of truly figuring out what it was, I re-added the applications that start on startup and left the wireless network out of there and it worked.  Added the wireless network and it didn’t work.  Perhaps Leopard just doesn’t like Airport networks?  I have my wireless network saved and it starts up and logs in and connects to the network just fine.

Finally, I’m still waiting for better Active Directory integration.  The Apple people I’ve spoken with say “It just works”.  It doesn’t.  There are things that still just do not work properly (like giving me all my network drives without having to map them myself, I only get my personal drive, but not the department shared drive unless I map it myself, which I did permanently in the Dock).

I would have to say that most of his problems are stupid whining and the crashing is probably related to use of Parallels.  He should download the update and it should then work just fine.  However, since I also have few issues with Vista, I guess I’d say, sure it’s like Vista, but neither are overly problematic.

Google’s Presentation Software Comes Up Very Short

There’s a nice article over on Slate (via Slashdot) about how Google’s presentation software doesn’t even come close to the much loathed MS PowerPoint.   The biggest reasons behind this are the following:

  • Google’s software only works with an active internet connection.  While you can save them as HTML files, you can’t edit them.  This means that you can’t edit them on the plane when flying to a customer to make a sales presentation.
  • PowerPoint offers a whole lot more in the way of customization, including animations; drawing on the slides; custom templates, fonts, colors, etc.; different types of slide transitions.

The only thing that Google offers that PowerPoint does not is live collaboration.  However, as I reported before, MS is releasing something in the near future that will allow for that.  While I said it comes up short, that only applies for people who aren’t already using MS Office.

However, the ultimate presentation software, according to the article is Apple’s Keynote.  The reason being that it offers even more fine tuning over PowerPoint.  While I seem to be an Apple hater based on previous posts, that is very far from the truth.  Keynote is a pretty impressive piece of software.

OpenOffice.org Wants to Compete with MS Outlook

There was a heated discussion on Slashdot regarding OpenOffice.org including Mozilla Thunderbird with the Lighting plugin in OpenOffice.org 3.0. They are looking to compete with Microsoft Outlook with their own PIM. As a user of both Thunderbird and Outlook user, I can say for certain that unless Microsoft opens up the proprietary protocols that Exchange uses with Outlook, this will never come close to replacing Outlook. It might make for a nice PIM, but it will not make a suitable Outlook replacement.

I have used Lightning, and everytime I tried loading it, it would cause Thunderbird to crash on me. It was so annoying that I gave up and stopped using it. I was looking to do just this and replace Outlook with Thunderbird as I do prefer free and open source software. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. I will admit that this was using Thunderbird 1.5 about a year ago. The problems I experienced might have been resolved by now. However, Mozilla seems to be dropping Thunderbird to concentrate solely on Firefox. It leaves me to worry that Thunderbird might get lost and rarely updated. I am also not completely happy that the only way to turn Thunderbird into a full featured PIM is through plugins and extensions.

To fully explain myself, there are features of Outlook when using Exchange that Thunderbird just won’t be able to do, such as syncing the calendar and contact list with the server so that you have all entries automatically in Outlook and on Outlook Web Access. It won’t allow for sharing of calendars or contacts unless the user sends the event or contact to others. I love Thunderbird, but the functionality I get from Outlook when using Exchange is too great to switch back to Thunderbird, at least for work. For home, I just use Gmail and occasionally Thunderbird (though I rarely open Thunderbird).

Flame away, but nothing will sway me on this one. The only arguments I saw on Slashdot about the possibility of this being possible were those people who either did not use Exchange or did not use it for everything that it offered. Yes, I am saying their opinion didn’t matter because they didn’t have all their facts right.

Microsoft Announces Attempt at Competing with Google Documents

Yesterday, Microsoft issued a press release announcing web-based versions of it’s Office software designed to allow users to collaborate live in an online workspace. Unfortunately, potential users will be required to have Microsoft Office installed on the computer they wish to use Office Live Workspace. I can understand Microsoft wanting to keep being able to sell copies fo MS Office. And I can also understand Microsoft wishing to compete with Google, as Google Docs can be considered a reasonable alternative to MS Office, so long as you don’t need any of the more advanced features. What I don’t understand is the need for the MS Office requirement to use it. If Microsoft truly wants to compete with Google, they would release a web-based version of the basic MS Office products (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) for free, cutting out some of the more advanced features, but leaving in some of the features that would make them better than Google Docs, starting some real competition.

I applaud Microsoft for making the attempt, but it falls short of actually being a useful attempt. I don’t see this getting Microsoft anymore business. The only thing it really allows for is easier online collaboration for people who already own MS Office. As some of the tags say in the Slashdot article below, this is too little too late.

Microsoft Prepping Browser-based Word and Excel (Slashdot)

Microsoft punts web-based apps to the masses (The Register)

CNet Blog Suggests MS Abandon Vista… Huh?

So a guy from CNet decided that he knows best and that Microsoft should just abandon Vista and move on.  His reasoning behind it is all the “inexcusable issues” and “features taken from Mac OS X and Linux”.  I wonder if he realizes that many of the features of MacOS X were taken from Unix and Linux windowing systems.  Borrowing concepts and ideas and making them into something your own has long been the way of software and operating systems.

As I posted a while back, I have been using Windows Vista since January.  I reported some issues, but they were in no way the fault of Microsoft or Vista.  The problems I reported were the fault of incompatible memory and HP’s driver for their fingerprint reader (which added a lot of time to system startup).  After the memory was removed and those drivers were removed, I had no issues.  Many of the issues I’ve seen reported were due to driver problems and incompatible hardware and software.  Microsoft did almost everything they could to make sure people were ready for an upgrade to Vista.  They released the Vista Upgrade Advisor that searched your computer’s hardware and software to determine how compatible your computer would be with Vista and inform you of any software to remove prior to upgrading to Vista.  If the customers ignored that and just went for it on an older computer with older software, they might’ve been in for a surprise.  I can’t blame Microsoft for that.

Much of his reasoning sounds to me like personal issues with Microsoft.  It sounds like he just plain doesn’t like Windows and prefers MacOS X.  That’s fine, but offering suggestions to Microsoft when you generally don’t like their products and can’t give concrete reasons why is just silly.  He speaks of the increased cost of Ultimate and how you need it to burn DVD’s.  He’s wrong on that part because Home Premium will do DVD’s.  He ignores the general extra expense of buying an Apple computer, which “just works”.  That could be in part because you can’t run MacOS X on just any hardware.  It has to be hardware from Apple, which doesn’t allow for competition and allows Apple to charge a premium for the same hardware found in just about any computer.  The cost of buying a laptop that comes with Vista Ultimate is still generally less expensive than buying a similarly spec’d Apple laptop.  Apple doesn’t have to worry about drivers.  Microsoft does their best to include what’s known to them in the operating system, but because of the way of hardware, they can’t possibly include it all unless they lock down what their operating system will run on.  That would end competition and be just plain stupid on their part.  As I have said many times, I would love to have a computer with OS X, and I have a computer that could run it, except it wasn’t built by Apple, so I can’t.

He suggests that the UAC is flawed.  The problem he’s having is not Microsoft’s fault, but the fault of software developers who have gotten used to allowing their software to access (read and write to) the system directories rather than stay only within the user profiles.  It’s for this reason that the UAC pops up when running certain pieces of software all the time.  It’s the software developers that need to take a lesson from this and write software the same way they would for a Linux/Unix environment when you can’t access the system directories.

Then there’s this (and I had to quote it because it’s just so ridiculous):

Much talk has been given to Service Pack 1 and how this update should address many of the issues users have with Vista, but I simply don’t agree. Will SP1 eliminate the ridiculous Microsoft licensing schemes? Will SP1 drop the price on the higher-end versions? Will SP1 eliminate the need for users to buy a new computer just to use the faulty OS?

SP1 will do nothing but fix the holes and issues we currently know about and create even more. As we all know from the days of Windows ME and even XP, Microsoft is not the best company at finding and addressing security issues, and chances are, Vista will be no different.

Of course SP1 will not lower the price or eliminate the hardware requirements.  OS X has hardware requirements as well.  I have OS X 10.3 on an old G3 iMac at 433 MHz.  It runs, but most of the pieces of software won’t upgrade (like iTunes, that “just works”, for example) and take forever to load.  The same is true of every version of Windows.  There comes a time when you just need to suck it up, bite the bullet, and buy modern hardware.  If you have legacy applications, run a legacy operating system.  It’s just that.  You can’t expect a company like Microsoft to continue to allow legacy applications running on legacy hardware on their new state-of-the-art operating system.  That’s just ridiculous.  Service Pack 1 may not make Vista 100% perfect, but is OS X or Linux without flaws?  It’s laughable to think that any piece of software is flawless.  What SP1 will do is fix the current known issues.  The fact that some guy, who more likely than not uses MacOS X and Linux predominately, is saying (as if it’s fact) that SP1 will do nothing for Vista is just silly.  He has no idea what it will fix or not fix and won’t know until it’s released.

He uses excuses like the fact that many companies and businesses are slow to adopt Vista as a reason to abandon it.  Name one version of Windows that businesses were quick to switch to.  It doesn’t exist.  Businesses need to have their software tested thoroughly to be sure that they can meet their needs on any major operating system upgrade.  Of course they’re slow to adopt it.  With Vista being that much different, it’ll be slower than most, but the difference is, Vista fixes many of the problems that sat in the other versions and just got passed on from version to version.  It took 5 years to release because it was built from the ground up rather than simply patching holes and adding features to an already bloated system.

You may think I’m just being a “Microsoftie” here, but that’s not the case.  I’ve used all 3 of the operating systems mentioned and they all have their pros and cons.  I use Windows primarily because I work in a Windows environment and have to support it.  It makes my life easier.  Of all the versions of Windows I have used (everything since Windows 3.1 for Workgroups), Vista is definitely my favorite.  You will also find a lot of comments to the blog post linked above that mirror my thoughts and a lot of comments on the following Slashdot discussion doing the same.  The reason for that is because this article is just flamebait.

Microsoft Should Abandon Vista? (Slashdot)

6 Months with Office 2007

I made the switch to Office 2007 about 8 months ago at home and about 6 months ago at work. I decided that if I’m going to have to support it, I need to know it. Here’s my thoughts.

First, the ribbons and lack of menus was a bit daunting at the beginning. After using it for a while, I’ve gotten used to it and I have actually found the ribbons to make a whole lot more sense than the menus. Everything is where it should be rather than where Microsoft decided it should be (I realize they decided the ribbons as well, but they make more sense than many of the menus in previous versions of Office). Because everything is easier to find now, I’ve found that my productivity when using Office products has increased. You can still get to the various menu items when necessary, but the most common commands, many frequently hidden in menus, are now right at your fingertips.

Another major change is that the switch to XML-based files has decreased the file size for documents, especially in Excel.

The Office button (the big button in the upper left of the window) is the only thing that can be a bit confusing for people, as well as the quick access buttons next to it in the title bar. I had to customize that (which is easily done) to get the more common commands that I frequently use available (Print Preview, Print, Save, New File) as the default buttons there weren’t everything I use frequently. That will come to be an issue for those people who aren’t power users, like myself, but expect easy access to some of those buttons that were on the toolbar in previous versions.

Outlook adds a To-do task pane on the right hand side with easy access to the calendar, task list, and upcoming appointments. It’s a really nice feature and prevents you from having to go back and forth between your mail and your calendar just to check on appointments. Outlook is also the only Office application that still has menus. My guess is that is because the program itself doesn’t have any actual file manipulation until you go and write a message. The ribbons are present on the message creation windows, but not Outlook itself.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about Office 2007 (I’m really not a Microsoft fanboi, I just really like the new stuff). Having a new file format is a pain to deal with, but with the converter for Office 2003, it seems to work just fine (except with Access, which has always had its own issues). I’m glad I made the switch and I’m sure most people, after using it for a while and getting used to the ribbons, will feel the same way.

8 Months with Vista

I’ve been using Windows Vista for about 8 months now on my HP nc8430 laptop. It started out a bit rocky, but now I wish I had Vista at home.

When I first installed it, I performed an upgrade to my XP installation. It went as smooth as can be, though it took an awfully long time. I found out later that it was actually moving files around to new directories (Documents and Settings became Users, for example). I decided I wanted to add an additional GB of RAM. Someone gave me a stick that was leftover from some other laptops that got upgrades. It seemed to work out fine when I installed it for a while, but then things got a bit wacky. My computer became basically unusable. I tried pulling it out, but the damage was done. I guess Vista didn’t like it because I decided I wasn’t going to leave it in and performed a full format and install from scratch. This install was the fastest Windows install I had every seen. In half an hour, I had a fully functional installation and none of the issues that I had from that memory remained.

I began installing drivers and applications that I used regularly. The only one that gave me any issue was Dreamweaver MX. It always set off the UAC (which I’ll go into more later) and it always required me to reset the path to my saved site because it is on a network drive. This was fixed when I installed the latest version of Dreamweaver (CS2 or CS3 I believe).

UAC, or User Account Control, isn’t as bad as people say. If you’re a power user, administrator, or just like to play with settings, you’ll run into it regularly. If you’re just an average user, you probably won’t see it much. I see it all the time because Active Directory controls set it off and I’m always resetting passwords for people. Other than that, it’s not a big deal and I really don’t mind. I left it on to see how annoying it would get, and it’s nowhere near annoying as the Apple ads would lead you to believe.

Now, the only issue I saw with running Vista was that my RAM was always sitting at about 50-60% usage. This is because of the indexing of files. It gives it up when other programs need it, so I don’t really mind. The thing that annoyed me, though, was that my computer took forever to startup. I found out later that this was due to the driver for the fingerprint reader and HP’s ProtectTools Security Manager (it ended up losing my identity for my domain account and I had to login to my other account to uninstall those drivers and the ProtectTools). After getting rid of that HP stuff, it started up a whole lot faster. I imagine HP has some work to do on the Vista tools and drivers.

Some features of Vista that I really like include the desktop search, the crash protection (when an application crashes, it won’t take the OS with it), the new networking center, Aero (it’s sexy, I like eye candy, what can I say?), and the new Start Menu setup. I don’t like that it uses so many resources and think MS could have worked on that a bit. I am also not a huge fan of Media Player 11, though it does its job and nicely organizes music.

Of all the different versions of Windows I’ve used (starting around 3.1 for Workgroups and using every one of them through Vista, including NT 4.0, and 2000), this is my favorite. It seems to work the best, even though my laptop only has 1 GB of RAM, and it seems pretty stable (though I have heard the networking stack is not so stable). If you’re getting a new computer and it comes with Windows, don’t question whether or not you should make the switch. Just do it, but don’t get a computer with less than 1 GB of RAM (though at this point, I’d probably recommend 2 GB for longevity).

Now I just need to upgrade Susan’s computer so I can put Vista on that and Ubuntu on my own (she won’t switch to Linux, and I have some Windows apps that I can’t live without… like Quicken, because GnuCash just doesn’t seem like it’d make a good replacement for me).

Next I’ll write about my experience switching to Office 2007 and fun with ribbons!