Monthly Archives: June 2006

First encounter with Vista

We were out seeing friends on Saturday night, and during the evening they mentioned that they’d downloaded the DVD of the Windows Vista beta – would I like to see it? I’ve been following the saga of Vista for a long time, and I’ve seen hundreds of screenshots by now – but I’d never seen it running. So, I interrupted the socialising to go and have a play with this wonder of technology.

I should mention that although I’m skeptical of MS-hype, and generally don’t have favourable feelings towards their products, I’ve been becoming increasingly intrigued by what Vista was rumoured to have to offer. In particular, who doesn’t like eye candy? 🙂

Hmm. Well, the eye candy (and OS overall) are not so impressive when it is running in Microsoft Virtual Server, thinking it has a basic graphics card. I mean wow, it was SLOOOOW. On the other hand, I could forgive that, since it was a virtual machine. Naturally the high-end Aero graphics stuff was all switched off, since the virtual machine wasn’t exposing the features of the card in the host machine.

Based on 20 minutes playing, I think my overall impressions can be summarised as follows:

  • Not much new. The shell is pretty similar to XP.
  • … except, everything has moved around. Trying to get to various computer properties seemed to involve going through different dialogs. Time to re-learn where all the settings can be found.
  • All very grey. Which is a bit dull, really.
  • Documents and Settings has become Users (I think, from memory). The root of the C drive now just has Windows, Users, and Program Files.
  • Every time we wanted to do anything like, ooo, look at the event log or examine the system properties, we were prompted to allow access to this program – this is the MS approach to increased security, I believe – it got very old, very quickly.
  • Solution to the amusing problem of having an item called Shut Down on a menu accessed via a button labelled Start? Don’t label it Start anymore, bung a Windows logo there instead….
  • Including Media Center (this was the Ultimate version) is quite nice. I suspect that everyone will be buying Ultimate, I mean, why not get everything bundled in if you can?

Obviously I could download and install the beta for myself, but it does seem a bit of a hassle and I’m perfectly happy with the Linux experience on my main machines at home. So this was a good way for me to be able to play with it without contaminating my own machines or wasting my broadband connection.

What is really new, though? Why, fundamentally, would I want to spend £150 on an upgrade? (I’m guessing at prices, here, can’t be bothered to go look it up). We have the same basic user interface; the same way of organising files, folders, etc.. The MS hype pages do a reasonable job of explaining some of the new features, and encouraging me to get inexplicably excited, but I have to ask myself why I’d bother. I’m far more interested in the next (and free) version of my favourite Linux distribution – and I’ve not even been tracking those too closely, since the one I have does everything I want, already.

More on Paul Thurrott’s Windows Supersite, which I’ve been following for many years. He’s looked at a newer build than the one I played with, and he’s also got much more in-depth reviews of the various features which I didn’t stop to look at.

What do my readers you think? Anyone else played with Vista yet?

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Custom header image

If you’re following my blog via a feed, you won’t have seen this, but I’ve taken advantage of the custom header feature recently added to WordPress.com – partly to liven things up slightly, and partly to differentiate myself from Aidy, who is using the same theme at the moment. Not sure whether I’m going to change themes yet, I’ve been happy with this one since I moved to WP.com.

A few of points to note about the custom header:

  • I had to add the text to the image myself (which I did using The GIMP) as although you can change the colour of the header text using the WP configuration tools, you can’t reposition it. It turned out that the Contempt theme uses Trebuchet MS as the header font, so I stuck with that for my header image.
  • I also had fun getting an image of the right size… although you can crop the image using the admin console, I found it easier to do that myself, otherwise I couldn’t get the elements I wanted in the right places… the dimensions for the image in the Contempt theme turn out to be 750×140.
  • Finally, even when your image is the right size, you still have to “crop” it (i.e. select the whole thing) or you end up with a black header after you click Save.

Before anyone asks – it shows an old tin mine in Cornwall, not far from St Agnes, and it was taken during our holiday last year. We’ll be off there again in less than a month 🙂

If you are following my feed, click on this post and come and have a look at the site – let me know what you think!

DB2 v9 goodness – new Express-C, and XML support

I’ve mentioned DB2 version 9 previously (it was known as “Viper” during the development and beta phases)…

We’ve just made the Express-C version available for download. DB2 Express-C is a free version of our full DB2 offering.

There’s also a new article on developerWorks that discusses how to get the most out of the new pureXML® support, including examples showing how XML is stored and how it can be queried and transformed using SQL, SQL/XML, XQuery, and XQuery with embedded SQL. I attended an internal presentation on this technology at IBM Hursley recently, and it is absolutely brilliant. I can see that it is going to add another new dimension to the ways in which our customers can access their data.

Your input on the future of Lotus Notes

Mary Beth Raven, one of the designers of the next version of Lotus Notes, is requesting user feedback on some of the design changes that will be happening for Hannover. So far the response has been surprisingly small, given the vast number of Notes users that we know are out there. If you are one of them, do go and talk to the development team via her developerWorks blog.

Weekend trips

On Friday evening we went to Kew Gardens. We’re Friends of Kew, so we get invited to various out-of-hours events, but this was the first time we’d been able to make it. The idea was that we could visit and take a picnic, or just walk around and relax at a time when the gardens were quieter than usual. In the end, we went on a tour of the grounds on the land train, seeing some of the parts of the gardens that we’d not visited before – such as the newly-reopened Kew Palace. Afterwards, we wandered up to the Pagoda hoping to get to go inside (the building has recently reopened to the public and the views are supposed to be great)… unfortunately we got there too late. I spotted more parts of the gardens that we must visit in future, though.

Saturday marked five years since Ola and I first met. Our first meeting was in Oxford, so it seemed like a nice idea to go back there. Since the weather was so good, we decided to go punting… it has been about eight years since I last got into a punt, but I was glad to find that it all came back very quickly. Ola had a go at driving, and she did really well for a first go, but I think she was most contented when sitting back and drifting along the river!

Check out the photos – click one from the selection below, or visit the (small) set from Oxford.

Pagoda on a summer evening House by the Isis Setting off