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Windows 7 – dry run or why Intel does not like Microsoft

Finally, I got a couple of free minutes to install Windows 7 x64 on my work machine. I have to admin, that installation was extremely fast. I just put DVD and keep talking with one of our architects near whiteboard. We enough to close only one issue, while Windows was installed and running. 

Windows 7 beta fish

There are number of visual glitches, but it’s beta after all. Next thing is to install drivers. Everything was great (it even find and install fingerprint reader), except three strange drivers on my Lenovo W500, that Windows 7 refused to find:

  • PCI Serial Port
  • PCI Simple Communications Controller
  • SM Bus Controller

What can be those drivers? The clue was in SM Bus. It something related to board chipset. So, just checked Intel AMT, Intel PM45 and Intel LMS. My approximation was right, Windows 7 (and Microsoft Windows Update service) has no information regarding Intel stuff while all other (more rare drivers were installed fluently). I also need to install three of those drivers in Windows Vista compatibility mode in order to make it works.

Why this happen? Why it’s so hard to two huge conglomerates to work together in order to bring customers better installation experience? It seemed, that Lenovo did huge work with Microsoft to adopt its hardware drivers for Windows 7. Even switchable graphic cards worked perfect without additional drivers. So why Lenovo can, while Intel cannot?

I believe, that the problem is with Intel, who self fighting not to loss high end (and cost) processors, when the market requests low cost Atom-based machines with low power, yet good performing graphic processors.

Regarding biometric devices and switchable graphics. If you want to be able to login to domain with your fingerprint, be sure, that you visited Control Panel\Hardware and Sound\Biometric Devices\Change settings and check this option. By default it’s off.

Login to domain with fingerprint on Windows 7

Also it not seemed, that Windows 7 supports hybrid graphic cards. So unless I’ll find a way to get rid of this issue, I have to use Lenovo switchable graphics utility…

Next thing was to install gentlemen’s assembly:

  • Windows Live Essentials
  • Microsoft Office 2007 + SPs
  • Total Commander
  • Skype
  • Virtual PC 2008 SP1
  • Visual Studio 2008 + SP1

All installations were fine, except small problem with business edition of Skype. Newly introduced Action Center advised me to install 4.0 beta version of Skype to prevent compatibility issues.

Windows 7 Action Center

Another problem (not really Windows, but Microsoft related) is a time, that takes to install Visual Studio. For some reason installation of Office (which is not smaller, then VS) takes about 5 minutes on my machine, when for Visual Studio it takes more, then 40 minutes to be installed.Devdiv guys, please do something with this installer.

So two restarts and here we go. Windows 7 with all necessary software installed. Now issues started.

The only disappointment was because of Windows Experience Index (140GB 7200RPM hard disk is not big and fast enough for this version of OS). If this not, what is?

image

But it can be fixed easily by disabling cache on disk Device Manager –> Disk Drives –> Uncheck “Disk write caching policy”.

image

After doing this your system will run much faster and score will be increased.

image

I cannot understand the reason it checked by default for non solid state drives, which unsuitable for fast caching.

Switchable graphic cards are also seemed, to be an issue for Windows 7. It does not supported by now to switch graphic cards. All you can do is to pitch BIOS for denying OS from display driver detection and set the card you want. Here how my machine scores looks like with second graphic card enabled.

image

Taskbar is for fun, not for work

First of all new branded taskbar. How I supposed to distinct what running and what don’t? Shinny borders and backgrounds? Cool, but not really helpful for me. Just for test try to set “Hide when minimized” option for Outlook 2007 and then detect whether it running or not. Ah, yes, I have to go via tinny arrow to configure taskbar icons – too bad.

Another issue with this bar is configuration of shortcuts. Just in case, sometimes I want to run programs minimized or maximized or set start keys (right click on shortcut and Properties). How should I do it for pinned items?

 image

I understand, that for 5 years Microsoft tried somehow to prevent from developers to junk users notification area on taskbar, by hiding, swapping and moving things there. Finally, they managed to solve it by putting all trash into big shiny icons? Just take a look on Microsoft Messenger appearance in tasksbar. You have to run it in Vista compatibility mode in order to prevent it putting icon in this area? Too bad! This not called “feature complete” for sure.

Software compatibility

Yes, not everything perfect. For example drag and drop (DragonDrop) for Virtual PC will not work in regular mode in Windows 7. You have to create shared folder to workaround it. All programs, required elevated permission (those which triggered UAC on Vista all the time) will ask you for run only once, but if you accidently pressed anything else, then Allow, you’ll never be able to run it again (unless resetting UAC credentials in Windows). Also all those great programs, not required installations or any registry changes (for example Notepad++ or WinSCP will always treated as suspicious by Windows Defender, thus will start very slow all the time and some times required to be sent “for inspection”. This is general fail of Defender. Why me (as user) should wait you (as service provider) to check something. Do it on background, if you want to…

My first BSoD

Yes, I did it. I never was able to get Blue Screen of Death on Windows Vista. Here it happened after another restart. The reason was very funny: I did not closed Outlook before restarted Windows 7 (this fade screen with your applications will be forcibly closed). Yes, it was not really major BSoD. Windows made memory dump to prevent future crashes and send information. BTW, if you want to be able to report problems, you should use keys from Connect website, rather, then from MSDN. Beta reporting services is sensitive to product key.

Background services or what is really missing

My overall experience of Windows 7 is 7 of 10. It is major improvement of Windows Vista, but it still far from being perfect. I would advice to add OS foreground task dispatching. There are too many developers (also Microsoft’s, who trying to perform long tasks in UI thread). I think, that operation system should handle such cases and dispatch jobs to background to prevent UI freeze.

image

Another thing, is to find good compromise between annoying user and smart operations. Other words, do not try to assume what customer want to do, let him to decide (or at least enable such option). Good example for this is very odd Clear Type wizard. What would you answer to such question?

Click whatever it looks the same, just fix it!

Why I need to see the same stuff three times, when all I want it file manager?

You have a lot of documents, misics, pictures and videos

Stop trying to replace software. You already screwed with Microsoft Valet.

image

ISO file burn directly from Windows is really great feature, but an ability to mount iso images as virtual disks would be much better.

Other words, if you, Microsoft, want to create great operation system – do operation system, do not try to complete OS issues with another nice to have features. But no words – great work. Thank you.

Ah, and do not forget to fire everybody in IE dev team… It awful and has no future.

Next time we’ll speak about developer point of view to Windows 7.

Microsoft Tag vs. QR tag

One of Microsoft’s announcements on CES09 was Microsoft Tag. Do you remember last try of Microsoft to create mobile barcodes on Live platform? I remember it. So why Windows Live Barcode was deprecated, while Microsoft creates new one? What the key difference between Quick Response approach, barely adopted by industry and new colorful MS stuff? Let’s try to understand differences and approximate future fail or success on this technology.

QR vs. Microsoft tag

Key differences:

  • The only information contains inside MS Tag is ID, which should be used to fetch all relevant information from tag server while QR contains all necessary information and can be used offline. Both technologies have it own advantages and disadvantages. From one hand, you can manage and fix results all the time, from the other hand, what happen with fraud and offline usage?
  • MS Tag using High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) technology, which makes able to encode more information into relatively small area. Also because of small amount of information, errors can be handled easily for MS Tag. For encode 1 byte we need 8 symbols in QR codes, while in MS Tag only 4.
  • MS Tag using thee base colors (CMYK) while QR only two (BW), thus in offset print MS Tag is much more sensitive to the quality of color plates. From other hand, if I my approximation is right, MS Tag can be printed in gray palette too, due to the fact, that it uses color differences, rather then color codes for decoding. Also it seemed, that hardware used for four barcodes will be more expensive, than similar hardware for two colors.
  • Because of the fact, that QR is mature technology (first ISS was presented in October 1997), there are huge amount of devices, supports it natively, while MS Tag is rather new. From other hand, http://gettag.mobi/ provides WM,J2ME, IPhone, Blackberry and Symbian native clients for reading MS Tags. So it seemed, that very soon (if Microsoft will not abandon it again) this will be distributed de-facto.
  • QR Code® is registered trademark of Denso Wave Inc, which makes this technology problematic for future enhancements, also HCCB, used for MS Tag is licensed by Microsoft, however as far as I understand from their IPL site, it can be used as far as remains under MS patent agreement. But maybe an appliance of this technology is protected.

Bottom line – I’m very skeptic with MS Tags, however let’s give it a chance and see whether MS Tag will become another Semacode, ShotCode, PDF417, Dot Code, Aztec Code, etc. or become Barcode technology we see every day everywhere…

Meanwhile, you can create your own MS Tag, download free reader for your mobile device from http://gettag.mobi and decide whether you like it or not. For me, this technology is cool, but the code itself is very ugly :)

Be good people and have a nice day.

Arabic and Hebrew languages bidirectional support for Silverlight 2.0 beta 2

Those days, I’m, together with guys from Microsoft Egypt and Santeon, finishing development of bidirectional input and output support for Silverlight. I want you to take part in alpha testing of this solution. Please see the test form here and try it.

Also, you can download latest development build or compiled binary version with debug symbols and try it yourself. Please, if you’re in any issue, report it, by using issue tracker in CodePlex.

In order to use it, all you have to do is to use custom namespace within your project and then, you’ll be able to get almost all controls, you know, but with Arabic and Hebrew RTL and LTR support. You have to set one property: FlowDirection to change the rendering method (exactly as in WPF). Here an example of usage.

<UserControl x:Class=”BidiTest2.Page”
    xmlns=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation”
    xmlns:x=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml”
    xmlns:l=”clr-namespace:System.Windows.BidiControls;assembly=BidiControls”>

<l:TextBlock FlowDirection=”LeftToRight” Text=”שלום עולם”/>

<l:TextBox FlowDirection=”RightToLeft” Text=”{Binding Text, Mode=TwoWay}”/>

That’s all. Thank you for your cooperation.

image

Action required: Smart client users group

Recently I browsed INETA to seek for some group and was really surprising. There is no Smart Client user group registered there. Maybe there is a reason? Let’s understand what Smart Client is?

According wikipedia, the term “Smart Client” is meant to refer to simultaneously capturing the benefits of a “thin client” (zero-install, auto-update) and a “fat client” (high performance, high productivity). However, I think, that this term is much wider. It is not only thin-fat client application, it’s also most of applications we’re using today.

image

Thick Client

We always want to provide our users with best experience and increase their performance. However we are (as developers) want to avoid complicated development and deployment. This why we should know as much as possible about user’s system, when users do not want to have real footprint in their systems. That’s dilemma. Is it possible to solve it? Let’s look deeper…

Are we really need installation? Most of old software installations put things in registry. It because you were never sure what client has in his system and were our application can put files or temporary data. Today, when we have local application or user isolated storage, so we not really need to use registry. Maybe only for our own ego – this is cool to have something like “HKLM/Software/MYNAME” in 1,000,000 user’s computers…

No installation is good, but what to me with maintenance. We want our system connected…

Thin Client

Could you imagine your user to visit product site twice a week to see what’s going on? I can not. However I know, that if I’ll ask him first about automatic updates and he’ll agree to forget about application maintenance, his experience will be much better.

So,we are connected. What now? I want to make time reporting system. Web service? Maybe some kind of distributed application. Maybe, even Twitter? This way we can be sure, that our data is safe and if user reinstall whole system, he do not really need to care about backups.

But users not always have internet access. Sometimes they are offline. How to solve the problem of occasionally connected users? I do not want him every lunch want for two minutes, until I realize, that there is no internet connection and will not even give him a chance to use the application?

image

So, we also want our system to be useful offline. But what’s up with Web 10.0? We want millions. We want very broad reach for our application. Also we want to be able to manage application updates remotely?

Let’s take a look into other pan of application development. Do you like JavaScript? I do not! I think it’s too complicated to develop things for web. We should invest into at least 50% of coverage and integration tests, while giving customers pretty poor user experience. What is we want to provide the same look and feel everywhere? In web, desktop, mobile and other devices? Our customers want the application everywhere?

Summary

This is exactly what Smart client designed for. Technologies such as .NET, WPF, Silverlight from Microsoft, Flex, Thermo from Adobe and others tries to make you to be there with your application. But how to do it? How to answer all those hard questions, I asked?

I want to announce new (currently virtual) user group, dedicated to Smart Client development. I do not want to restrict this group geographically, due to fact, that current infrastructures allows us to forget about distances and be together. Join today “Smart Client development” user group.

In order to join, just send me an email to tamir [at] khason.biz with information about you. I put the request to create this user group in INETA. Once it will be opened, I’ll send everyone email to register and connect them selves to this group.

Be in touch.

OpenUp Sidebar gadget

OpenUp competition is on the air? Authors of contributed projects are stressed and want to know what’s going on with their pet project on CodePlex.

What can they do about stress? To get it under control and download new gadget, I built to help them to relieve stress. Just look on your side bar and see three top rated projects (by CodePlex)

image

Click on it or drag it out of SideBar to see all submitted projects and it’s rating

image

Take it easy and return to work. You should continue development of your projects.

Download OpenUp gadget >>

Note: this is very first version with number of bugs. Those days I have no time to fix them, so you can either use it “as-is” or fix bugs and resubmit.

Gas Price Windows Vista SideBar gadget – new version is available for download

This post is dedicated to some people in Microsoft and it’s subsidiaries. It begun about year ago, when I developed Gas Price information gadget (do not download it there). Before I started, I sent some personal email to those in MSN, who maintains it’s Auto section. I wait two days and got no response, so wrote this post about HTML scrapping and then I finished the gadget, that uses this technology.

image
© Christopher Robbins

Couple of weeks later, Senior Channel Manager of MSN Marketplace replayed to me. He asked whether I want to convert this gadget to “legal” one by gifting all rights to Microsoft. I asked about my benefits of doing it (my time costs money) and the conversation ended – he even did not responded. I was waiting for “YES” or “NO”, but got only silent.

Year after he mailed me again with warning, that they going to “protect” Auto section in order to prevent unauthorized content grabbing. He asked again about possibility to “legalize” the gadget – I told, that they can do with this gadget whatever they want, so handed it off to MSN team. Nothing happened. No one took care on this.

A month later, I asked again by proposing to allow Windows Vista SideBar referrer too aside with affiliate sites for MSN Auto images, thus the gadget can continue to work and MSN remains protected from other “grabbers”. But he demand to completely remove any reference to MSN from the gadget. The same time I got some proposals of using another data for this very popular gadget and populize other resources instead of very unpopular crappy MSN.

I decided to build new version of the gadget (here you can download) and did it today (my spare time – not work [this is for my manager]). This version even better, then previous one. It contains more information, that updates more frequently. I also includes distance from station and gas stations in Canada. So, this how it looks today

image

As you can see this one is much better and uses Automotive.com information. So what I have to do? Submit it instead of old one, right? This the response, I got from automatic system upon submission.

Your item appears to be either missing a valid signature or a valid certificate. You may also want to check the signature to make sure that it includes the date

Just to make things clear, I signed the code with private signature. They want me to sign it with Trusted Authority. This is very smart request, however I do not want to pay $200-$400 to make their sidebar better! There is neither ROI, nor benefit for me to pay money for something, I’m giving for free to anyone.

Just in case, signing code with certificate, trusted by authority even do not removes regular live gallery end-user warning.

Unverified submission.

Only install applications from developers you trust. This is a third-party application, and it could access your computer’s files, show you objectionable content, or change its behavior at any time.

So why me to pay? Only because I want to be nice to Microsoft and replace my old gadget by new one to serve dozen thousands of people, who using Windows Vista with SideBar and my gadget?

NO WAY! I will not submit it there. I will never contribute anything for free to Windows Vista Live Gallery. They want me (and million of other developers) to submit it to Google or Yahoo? I’ll do it! I’ll force my customers to use 3rd party addons and visit 3rd party websites to get the information they want to get without paying anyone. At least their marketing guys know how to make developer not to suffer from his own good wish.

Thank you and good buy! You want to win web? You just impossible to do it.

Download Gas Price gadget for Windows Vista SideBar >> (it signed with personal certificate, so do it for your own risk :) )

P.S. Next week, I have a meeting with Steve Ballmer and I’m going to ask him all those questions. If you have any questions and want me to ask him, please send it to me or leave a comment.

UPD (18-May): Some issues were fixed (zips starting with 0, negative prices, sorting). You can download new version of the gadget from the same url and update your local version. Great thank to all, who reported issues.

Deep Zoom composer for download

One of best technologies, presented at Mix’08 was HardRock Memorabilia. It uses technology, previously named Seadragon to adapt image resolution and size to what you’re currently viewing. It montages number of images in different resolutions and then dispatches them upon your request. Take a look into Silverlight 2.0 poster, created by Joe Stegman

Now, the million dollar question, how to use it in my application? Simple just download and use it :)

Download Deep Zoom Composer for Silverlight>>

Some new post-mix downloads

Today is download day at MSDN. There are some very interesting things published.

Enough for this morning. Warm up your download machines and start downloading.

Tafiti goes open source (well, actually, shared source under MS-PL)

All those, how want to implement data visualization in Silverlight (as Tafiti does), can look into this CodePlex project and use it for your own. Notice, you can download, modify and, even, resell this code, due to fact, that it’s under MS-PL shared source licence. Well done, Live team.

A couple of updates – mega update post

Today, only updates

Yahoo finally releases Yahoo! Messenger for Vista – this was one of very first prototypes, shown in Mix last year. I did not install it, however, here a couple of review Erik Burke, Tim Sneath and Ryan Stewart. As for me, they lost "wow effect" last year

image Microsoft Expression Blend 2 – December Preview. What’s new? VS2008 integration, inheritance, no SL2.0 support (strange, maybe, because of breaking changes toward near beta)

 

 

 

Vista SP1 RC1 available for MSDN subscribers (via Nick Whites). Nothing special, 40 minutes of installation, profile information loss and performance fixes

 

Office 2007 SP1 is expected to ship 10-December week. This time it is not RC or Beta, but final product (via Mary Jo Foley). Great work.

 

Windows XP SP3 is very close to RC1, but nothing about public beta yet.

 

Starting today, you can configure Messenger presence.  Some cool features become available (via Angus Logan). Here is how.

 

PDC 2008 (canceled last year) will be on October 27-30 in LA (hello, Peter). It promised to be great event about the company’s emerging services platform efforts, .NET, Windows and Mobile technologies.

 

imageA little about mobile devices, while waiting for my new mega-device (more information soon): Dell is about to enter mobile phone industry in 2008, Opera compiled their browser for Brew platform (hello, Pelephone), while Google create their mobile version for IPhone.  Windows Mobile 6.1 is going to be cool. Here screenshorts. Meanwhile, you can update your Mobile Office to version 6.1 for free or your Nokia (N-series) with Internet Radio application. As for me, 8 hours speak time and 30 days standby, quad-band. Those are features, that you need from your handy.

 

Well, that’s it for now. Have a nice weekend.

 

Now I have a question for you. What do you think, about such format of posts? Should ?I go on with it or continue to write post-per-event?

 

Thank you

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