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Windows Virtual Desktops

January 5th, 2008 by Patrick S

I love Windows as much as the next guy however there are certain features on Linux that I really wish were in Windows. E.g. The Power of Bash or Multiple (Virtual) Desktops.

Thanks to Microsoft’s Code Plex program I stumbled across a program that allows users to run multiple desktops within Windows XP & Vista. Its a completely open-source program (yay) and even supports Vista’s DWM based aero interface (They seem to have found a way around the slowness of the SDK however).
This virtual desktop program takes advantage of this new API and uses some tricks of its own to provide a powerful virtual desktop manager with a full screen thumbnail based preview. You can have as many desktops as you want and can seamlessly switch between them.

Some of the programs key features include:

  • Multiple-monitor support
  • Per-desktop backgrounds
  • Sticky windows to exclude windows from the virtual desktop manager
  • Live Vista thumbnails of all of your windows (Will only work in Vista-XP does not support WDM)
  • An infinite number of desktops only limited by the amount of memory in your computer

Download and toy around Virtual Desktop Manager here http://www.codeplex.com/vdm

VDM

Pretty cool huh?

Posted in Computing, Reviews, Windows Vista, Windows XP | 2 Comments »

Book review: Professional Windows Desktop and Server Hardening by Wrox

June 5th, 2007 by Jabez Gan [MVP]

I am currently reading the book Professional Windows Desktop and Server Hardening by publisher Wrox (http://www.wrox.com/WileyCDA/WroxTitle/productCd-0764599909.html), and will be posting tips that administrators missed out most of the time.

Today, I’ll be giving some quick tips about Conventional and Unconventional Defences. I won’t be surprised that some of you already know about them, but just don’t remember about these defences when you implement a network.

1. To Linux fans out there: Whatever is Popular Gets Hacked. How true is this statement? You might be saying that Windows is full of exploits because it is unstable and vunerable. If it’s the days of Windows 9x/NT, I would agree with you that Windows isn’t that secure. However things have changed, thus vunerabilities have decreased tremendously.

If you think about Apache, you’ll notice that it has more vunerabilities than IIS. (Since Apache is more widely used).

2. Don’t Let End Users Make Security Decisions. Heck I don’t even trust end users myself, so why should we let them make security decisions? They will only increase our workload when they submit support tickets!

3. Security-by-Obscurity Works! Change to some random port for our RDP (remote desktop protocol) instead of the usual 3389. Change to some random port for our HTTP instead of the default port 80 (do this only for internal users, not external users).

4. Assume Firewalls and Antivirus Software Will Fail. I’ve been doing some consulting for a few companies, and this statement is true. Updated antivirus software with properly configured firewall isn’t enough. Malware nowadays comes through port 80 and Antivirus doesn’t work as great when it comes to detecting new viruses.

5. Minimize Potential Attack Vectors, Decrease Attack Space. Everybody knows this. Disable services or programs that you do not need. Close the ports you do not need. Use IPSec for communications between machines.

6. RunAs. Remember the long forgotten RunAs? Administrators should provide users (and themselves) with limited user accounts (LUA) and use the RunAs if they want to install applications. Also, I’ve learnt not to provide users with the permission to install new applications. It must be done by an administrator.

7. Keep Patches Updated. To cut things short, Keep Patches Updated. All of you know why.

8. Use a Host-Based Firewall. Who said Windows XP SP2’s firewall isn’t good? It is a host based firewall… Nah, it doesn’t provide Outgoing firewall monitoring. So use a 3rd party instead. 😉

9. Rename Admin and Highly Privileged Accounts. Scripts or hackers will try to hack through the system through the default administrator account. So on every installation of Windows (or any OS or applications), rename the default high privileged accounts.

10. Install High-Risk Software (IIS) to Non-Default Folders.  I know lots of you out there will just install everything to the default folder, but here’s a tip: Don’t! Take the hassle to reconfigure things if you have IIS installed to the default folder. I know it will break some web app (if you have any) but do you want to fix your web app or secure your server?

Here’s 10 tips from the book and has been forgotten by most IT Pros out there.  Stay tuned! There’s more coming in the coming days/weeks!

Posted in Reviews, Windows Server System | 1 Comment »

Top 10 .NET Framework Technologies to Learn in 2007

June 1st, 2007 by kenlin@HK [MVP]

Found this interesting topic, i read 2 guys thinking from their blog, and i wanna share with you guys.


From http://weblogs.asp.net/pleloup

Everybody has an opinion, and yours may differ based on your personal observations and experiences.

I’ve been working with the .NET Framework since the first BETA in 2000, and I’ve seen a lot of stuff come and go.  The following are what I consider to be my Top 10 List of things about .NET you must learn, going forward with the technology from 2007 on:

1) WCF (Windows Communication Foundation):  While WCF is certainly less “sexy” than say WPF / Silverlight, it is going to represent the backbone of solving business problems with .NET going forward from here. Big organizations are starting to embrace it, and it provides a cohesive framework for solving business problems in a distributed, integrated way. WCF integrates Remoting, WebServices, EnterpriseServices and Transactions, WSE, MSMQ, and much more into a cohesive programming framework. If you intend to make it your business to study just one new .NET technology this year, make it WCF.

2) ADO.NET (and LINQ): ADO.NET is how you talk to a data store, and databases are such a ubiquitous part of what you will do as a developer that you have NO CHOICE but to become extremely competent in this area. The next big thing in how to talk to data is LINQ with language extensions and entity objects that “represent” mappings of data and its relationships. If you don’t become at least familiar with all this stuff, somebody else is going to eat your lunch.

3) WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation): Everything you learned about Windows Forms, pages in a browser, and UI elements is going to go out the window, because Microsoft has already declared that WPF is the new way we’re gonna do this stuff. Its already built in to Windows Vista, and the XPS (XML Paper Specification) is already built into the printer subsystem. Don’t hang on to the old- get with the new just as fast as you can get your little tushy in gear! And besides that, WPF is just so friggin’ cool, it will knock your socks off in hi-def streaming video!

4) SQL Server 2005 (and on): I understand this isn’t really .NET, but then again it really is. SQL Server 2005 hosts CLR integration of managed code. That’s not only revolutionary, it provides a power to the programmer that you cannot get on other platforms. You have to learn everything you can about SQL Server 2005 including Service Broker, because it will help you to be a better programmer and problem – solver.

5) ASP.NET 2.0:  Even non “web programmers” need to understand how this works. The feature set has grown and matured, and you are looking at dynamic languages, LINQ, AJAX, and much more being integrated into the ASP.NET Framework (not to forget Silverlight – the sexiest technology of all of them!).

6) Security. Developers are notoriously weak on security (“Who cares about permission sets – I’m just a Code Monkey”). Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and there are evil people out there who jump with glee when they can mess up your day. The more you become an expert about security, the higher your pay will be: expert security consultants make upwards of $300 / hr.

7) TDD (Test Driven Development): Unit, regression and integration testing aren’t a luxury – if you want to develop robust systems then you must  have a test protocol. And to do testing right, you need to study how to write tests and what tests to write. There are several excellent books on TDD and at least one that specifically focuses on .NET.

8) Networking (System.Net and related): Networking — TCP, UDP, HTTP, FTP, and on — are an integral part of what you need to know how to do in order to glue programs together and make them be able to talk with each other and your data. The more you know about this area, the better equipped you’ll be to make the right kind of choices when you are tasked with creating business logic through code.

9) Threading:  When asked to develop a multi-threaded object or to use a ThreadPool, 95 out of 100 programmers who claim to be professional .NET developers fall flat on their faces! You need to study all the threading primitives, know how they are used, be able to use the .NET or a custom ThreadPool, and manage threads in your applications.

10) Learning. That’s right, I classify learning as a technology. People need to become smarter about how to learn, and especially, WHAT to learn. Just as you become a better programmer when you learn to use the Google or other search engines more effectively, you become a better programmer when you can detail for yourself what you need to learn to be better at your craft, and write down a plan for implementing that learning process.


From http://blogs.msdn.com/kaevans

There is an interesting post on the Help.Net blog about the Top 10 .NET Framework Technologies to Learn in 2007. No Sliverlight? No SharePoint? I like the list, but I don’t think it hits the mark for where the money is at. That’s why companies employ developers… to reduce cost or increase revenue. That’s why we write code… that’s how we pay our bills.

If you haven’t already signed up for our Web Experience Expo events in New York City, Los Angeles, or Denver… there’s still a few registration spots left in each, and most of these 10 technologies are covered. No, I didn’t pick these top 10 in a thinly-veiled attempt to market the event… I picked the top 10 as topics for the regional events. Trust me, these are the topics that customers want to hear about, these are the things that company executives recognize as key value propositions of the Microsoft platform.

Here’s a recipe for financial success in 2007, in order.

  1. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. We get so many requests to talk about Windows SharePoint Services and its capabilities that our team at Microsoft cannot keep up. MOSS 2007 finally steps up to the plate in the major leagues and fixes so many of the problems that previous versions of SharePoint had. There is a distinct lack of tools for extending various sections of MOSS, which equates to a somewhat unapproachable API. Be one of the few that can make MOSS dance, and you have big consulting dollars. Create some great add-ins and wizards for common tasks, and make money selling them. There’s a lot left on the table here for developers. And if you know ASP.NET 2.0, your life will be all the easier. I don’t think I can stress this enough, MOSS is the single largest area of opportunity for developers and architects.
  2. Silverlight. The post-MIX buzz wasn’t just on blogs. Some of the largest companies I work with (yep, many of the same ones you saw as MIX demos) are looking hard at Silverlight. Expect some incredibly cool implementations that many other sites are bound to want to imitate. The whole RIA and AJAX thing is just going to get louder, looks like a good wave to ride for awhile. There’s a lot of excitement beyond the developer level, at the executive level, for Silverlight.
  3. ASP.NET. If you can’t recite the Page and Control Lifecycle for ASP.NET, you should start committing it to memory. Reiterating that SharePoint technologies are built upon ASP.NET 2.0. The more I see how companies are making decisions to base their entire infrastructure around SharePoint, the more I think that there will be work for years to come for ASP.NET developers. Re-familiarize yourself with JavaScript, learn what JSON can do for you. Get to know the ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 library, there’s going to be a lot of JSON-related work for awhile to come, especially since this is getting rolled into the next version of ASP.NET. Get to know IIS, especially IIS7.
  4. Windows Workflow Foundation. If you don’t get why this is a game-changer and is near the top in a short list of technologies, then you haven’t spent time really looking at it yet. Look at how MOSS 2007 implements WF with out-of-box workflow templates for approvals. Go look at DinnerNow.net and look at how WF was used in that solution. Instead of trying to refactor 10-15 ASP.NET pages to make changes to a process, why not just load up the WF designer and encapsulate the process visually? I heard a great explanation this week by Ted Pattison.  The CLR is a boundary for applications because your types can only live within their created AppDomain, within a process.  WF extends the CLR across processes and provides out of box services for persistence and isolation.  This is the stuff that companies are looking for… how to make the hard stuff easier.  Spend the time understanding it, see how the paradigm shift of how to build applications will make your programming life better.
  5. Windows Communication Foundation. We are seeing more and more companies allocating budgets to figure out what SOA means to them and why they care. A big reason is that WCF can be faster than what you are using today. We are seeing a lot of companies that are starting to get the whole loosely coupled, message-based architecture idea. And those same customers are starting to see that if you are going to build an architecture based on WS-* you would be crazy not to use Microsoft’s stack. Yep… another area to focus on for developers and architects. There’s a ton of room for ISV’s and SI’s alike.
  6. SQL Server Integration Services. SQL Server 2005 has a huge surface area to cover, it would be ridiculous to try to say “focus on SQL Server 2005”. And if you are using any of the above technologies, you know how to write TSQL. What you might not have focused on is how to use SSIS to process data visually. I see developers all the time trying to figure out how to move huge amounts of data from one store to another and map values, fields, and columns programmatically. This is what SSIS excels at.
  7. Domain Specific Languages. I will admit, this seemed like a very half-baked concept that Microsoft was limping into. We introduced the DSL Toolkit amidst a ton of blog buzz… and then seemingly nothing. After watching the Patterns & Practices group churn out some incredibly useful software factories, you can’t help but give Software Factories and DSLs a second look. Try baking your company’s architectural approach and tools into a set of reusable designers through the DSL Toolkit. I know it’s got a steep learning curve, but the results can be amazing. We have been working with a partner on a proof of concept that we will be unveiling this week in New York City… I can’t wait to see people’s faces when they see DSL taken past a Hello, World demo.
  8. Identity Metasystem. Spend your time understanding how to use CardSpace to secure your ASP.NET and WCF apps. CardSpace is an identity selector for the Identity Metasystem. The really cool part is how you build a website that accepts Information Cards. The real interesting meat is how you build your own Secure Token Issuing Service. Not straight-forward to implement yet, so getting into this now will put you much farther than everyone else as various solutions continue to introduce themselves into the marketplace. Spend your time figuring out how to leverage CardSpace for your web site, there is starting to be a huge demand for people who understand how to make the end-user’s experience better where security is concerned.
  9. Visual Studio Tools for Office. I’ve never been an Office client developer before, and this one took me awhile to understand. VSTO will be a game-changer for application developers. When you see Office 2007 with MOSS 2007 and its out of box functionality for content types, you might say “hmm, ok, that’s cool.” Once you see how easy it is to use the Ribbon API and create your own task panes in Excel and Word, you might think “OK, I see where that could be useful.” Once you see the whole thing together in a solution with SharePoint, then you will have the a-ha moment. It’s not just about VSTO, it’s about how you can integrate client applications with SharePoint. Get to know SharePoint, get to know VSTO. This is how many companies are seeing the future, and seeing that they can put together solutions much faster than you can with any other platform or technology.
  10. Virtual Earth. There are so many opportunities for Virtual Earth in everything from mashups to blogs to corporate applications that it is just amazing. How about a SharePoint app that surfaces all of your backend data from SAP, provides data visualizations using Silverlight, and enables mapping through Virtual Earth? Just look at the Accruent demo to get a taste of what other companies are seeing.

 

Posted in .NET Framework, Reviews | 3 Comments »

Customizing ASP.NET Membership and Profile: What Goes Where?

June 1st, 2007 by kenlin@HK [MVP]

Recent, I start playing the Membership class but not touching the Profile class yet. I search a lot and a question comes up to my mind. The standard Membership and its related table does not fits my DB and application design( as this is usual case I think), so I search around and thinking that i should implement the Profile or extend the Membership. Well, I got an answer after searching, I should implement Profile as itis the easier step.

The following is copying from Kirk Allen Evans’ Blog in MSDN blog

I have been working with two separate customers over the past few days on the same problem.  Both have an existing web application that they are migrating to ASP.NET 2.0.  They both wrote their own authentication functionality, and are now considering how to leverage the existing store with ASP.NET 2.0 Membership.

Consider a table that looks something like this:

UserID int
UserName nvarchar(50)
PasswordHash nvarchar(50)
OfficePhone nchar(10)
CellPhone nchar(10)
Pager nchar(10)

Obviously, this looks a lot different than the schema for Membership that is created when you run aspnet_regsql.  If you want to retrofit your existing table into the Membership system, do you create a custom MembershipUser type and expose the OfficePhone, CellPhone, and Pager values as public properties, or do you leverage the Profile system instead?

You could extend the MembershipUser class and expose a few properties, but that ties your application to that specific provider.  For instance, any time you want to access the Pager value, you would need to do something like:

CustomMembershipUser u = Membership.GetUser("bob",true) As CustomMembershipUser;
if(null != u)
{
    TextBox1.Text = u.Pager;
}

You would not only have to cast to your custom MembershipUser type, but you also need to check to see if the correct type is returned, lest someone switch to a different provider.  This is the real aversion I have to extending MembershipUser, since your application cannot easily take advantage of new providers later without rework. 

A better approach would be to split the information into two providers, Membership and Profile.  The Membership API is only concerned with authentication, where the Profile API allows you to access any other characteristic data regarding a user.  Since the attributes OfficePhone, CellPhone, and Pager are not related to Authentication in our system, it makes sense to classify them as attributes of the entity and store them via the Profile API.

The really interesting part is that you can achieve this without making changes to the backing store, only customizing the internal implementation within your custom Profile provider.  That is, you could create a custom Profile that leverages the same exact store as Membership on the backend, but this is completely transparent to the developer and the end user. 

Splitting this into the 2 APIs with a common backing store is a good approach because it allows you to swap out the backend providers at a later time, or make changes to the APIs independently of each other.  Suppose you want to move to Active Directory at some later point, leveraging Active Directory Application Mode for application-specific catalog extensions without affecting the global catalog.  Leveraging AD for the backing store would allow you to modify user profile data on a global basis so that it is available across the enterprise (the same properties show up in your Outlook contacts, Office Communicator presence information, Address Book, and your applications) without maintaining it separately in multiple locations.  If you extend MembershipUser as discussed previously, this is going to be a much more difficult migration.  Leverage Profile as suggested, and you will be able to simply swap out providers.

See Scott Guthrie’s blog entry for an example of implementing a Membership and Profile system.

 

Posted in .NET Framework, Reviews | Comments Off on Customizing ASP.NET Membership and Profile: What Goes Where?

Events Fire Ordering in Master page / Content Pages

May 31st, 2007 by kenlin@HK [MVP]

Recent I work a lot on the Web Application in .NET 2.0. I tried to use the MasterPage with ContentPage. However, I found out that the even fire is…..not in general ordering. ie, I have one MasterPage and one ContentPage, A button in that ContentPage, When you click the button in debug mode, you will found out that the

1) ContentPage.Load fire;
2) then MasterPage.Load;
3) ContentPage.Button.Click.

When you work with master pages and content pages, both can use the same events (such as Page_Load).Be sure you know which events come before others. You are bringing two classes together to create a singlepage class, and a specific order is required. When an end user requests a content page in the browser, the event ordering is as follows:Master page child controls initialization: All server controls contained within the master page are first initialized.
Content page child controls initialization: All server controls contained in the content page are initialized.
Master page initialization: The master page itself is initialized.
Content page initialization: The content page is initialized.
Content page load: The content page is loaded (this is the Page_Load event followed by the Page_LoadComplete event).
Master page load: The master page is loaded (this is also the Page_Load event).
Master page child controls load: The server controls on the master page are loaded onto the page.
Content page child controls load: The server controls on the content page are loaded onto the page.

Anyway, I have some problem now, cause I have to set the value when button.click and get the value when another/same contentPage load. But….Ordering is…..Button.Click is fire the last. I have to search more in order to solve it.

Posted in .NET Framework, Reviews | Comments Off on Events Fire Ordering in Master page / Content Pages

The Google controversy

December 29th, 2006 by André Nogueira

As you may or may not be aware, there has been some controversy regarding Google’s tips on some search phrases.

Some see this as a good thing (it’s helping users), some as a bad thing (they’re using their position as a monopoly), and some really just don’t care (it’s their webpage, people see it’s not a search result, what’s the big deal?).

Personally, I think this is a bad thing – but one which I’ve seen coming for a long time. It’s not the tip per se. After all, most companies would do this anyway. It’s the fact that Google says they’re not like most companies.

Remember the lawsuit against Microsoft regarding IE7? They said Microsoft was using their monopolist position to increase usage of Windows Live Search – the default search engine in Internet Explorer 7. They said they “don’t think it’s right for Microsoft to just set the default to MSN on install”, that “users should choose” and that “companies should compete for users based on the quality of their search services” – this despite the fact that it’s very easy to change the default IE search engine. (link)

Fast forward to this week, and we see that Google has done something as “bad” as what they said Microsoft did – if not worse. They are using the trust people have in them to advertise their own products. Unlike IE7, where competitors could easily add a link for users to change their default browser, here there is no way for Google’s competitors to create an ad like Google’s. A “tip” with a picture is very different from a link which is clearly marked as being “sponsored”.

As I said, I’d expect this from most companies. But not from a company whose PR department doesn’t get tired of saying “We’re not like most companies”. I see this not as a “meaningless tip”, but as a sign of what’s to come – Google betraying the trust people have in them.

And what do you think of this? Feel free to comment!

Posted in Computing, Daily Life, Rants, Reviews, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Windows Vista Volume Activation 2.0 Technical Guidance

November 13th, 2006 by kenlin@HK [MVP]

The Windows Vista Volume Activation 2.0 Technical Guidance is now live on
TechNet and Microsoft Download Center since 08/11/2006. This includes the
Volume Activation 2.0 Step-by-Step Guide, FAQ and other supporting
materials.  To view these materials online, go to:

TechNet: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=75673

Download Center: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=75674

 

Posted in Learning, Reviews, Windows Vista | Comments Off on Windows Vista Volume Activation 2.0 Technical Guidance

Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 – head to head

October 26th, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

 

The top two browsing programs of net users got a big update this month as Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) and Mozilla unleashed Firefox 2.0. Here we take a quick spin through some of the features to be seen in the new versions.

Both browsers offer ease of surfing

Microsoft’s IE7 program is the beefier of the two browsers with the download package weighing in at 14.8 megabytes (MB). By contrast Firefox is a svelte 5.4MB. However, neither should tax a broadband connection. Differences start to show up once the software is downloaded. Once it is done installing, IE7 demands a re-start before you can use it. Firefox installs without that need. It’s a minor difference and a minor inconvenience for those that choose Internet Explorer.

Both take about the same amount of time to install and get started-up but once they are running more subtle differences start to become apparent. At first glance Firefox 2.0 looks more familiar as its main page layout hardly differs from earlier versions. But IE7 does look changed because, for a start, the grey menu bar is hidden. It can be resurrected by hitting the “alt” key but you might be surprised by how much you need to call on it when you can’t find it.

Hidden information

With IE7 Microsoft has brought tabs to its browser but both deals with them in slightly different ways. With IE7 a blank tab is always available but with Firefox the new tab only appears, and takes up some screen space, when you open one up.

IE7 has a neat feature that lets you see thumbnails of all of the tabs you have open at any one time, letting you leap to the one you need with a click. However, it seems to take a moment longer than Firefox 2.0 to close tabs when you are done with them. Opening up quite a few webpage’s in each browser shows up another quirk. Firefox 2.0 seems to do a better job of using the text that webpage’s use to describe themselves.

Often in IE7, the only information you get about a webpage you have open but hidden on the bottom taskbar is “http://” – the rest of the title is obscured. Again, a minor difference and a minor niggle – searching a webpage is still more elegant in Firefox 2.0 than IE7.

Calling up the search function in Firefox prompts the appearance of a text box tied to the bottom of the page and typing your search term in that takes you to the first appearance of that word or phrase on the page – provided it is there, of course. In IE searching calls up a floating box in which you have to type your text and then click or hit a key to find the term or phrase.

Feeding frenzy

One of the very useful inclusions in Firefox 2.0 is a live spell checker that watches over your metaphorical shoulder as you type text into any field on any webpage. It is possible to add a similar function to IE7 but only via an add-on. It will be interesting to see how many people download and install it. When it comes to RSS – the system that feeds updates of webpage’s to those interested – Firefox 2.0 does a slightly better job of making it easy to subscribe to new feeds.

With only a click it was possible to add a feed to popular blog-following sites such as Bloglines to IE7 and Firefox. Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 also benefit from thousands of plug-ins, or add-ons – that can be installed to add more functionality to the browser. These range from RSS readers to Instant Messaging clients, Voice over IP programs, and mini iTunes controls – all accessed from inside the web browser page.

Finally, both IE7 and Firefox 2.0 have introduced systems that warn users when they are about to visit a site that is known to be used by phishing gangs. These pages are made to look like that of a bank to trick people into handing over confidential information. Firefox handles this by updating a locally held list of known phishing sites every time you use the browser.

Microsoft’s IE7 checks in via the web to make sure a site is safe to visit. In the short tests run by the BBC news website, IE7 occasionally took longer to load a page as it carried out a check to see if it was a phishing site. Despite these minor differences, Firefox 2.0 and IE7 are now broadly comparable – something that could not be said of IE6 and Firefox. But it will be up to users to choose which one best meets their needs.

Source: BBC News – Browsers go head-to-head

Posted in Internet Explorer, Reviews | 6 Comments »

Most update build number for Windows Vista

September 5th, 2006 by kenlin@HK [MVP]

Build 5536.16385 (released 24/08/2006)
This is Pre-RC1, Unlike Beta 2, only the x86 (32bit) version of 5536 is made available.
However, the 32bit version will run fine on 64bit CPU’s. This pre-RC1 build is available for a
limited time – Microsoft will close the program when they reach 100,000 downloads. 

Build 5600.16384 (released on 01/09/2006)
Now it is only available to Beta Testers.
Next week, a broader set of technical customers will get them via MSDN and TechNet.

NOTE:
There are a lot of improvements since Beta 2. MSFT has made some UI Adjustments,
added more device drivers, and enhanced performance. If you are an ISV, RC1 is the
build you should use for certifying your application.

You should use your same key(s) from previous releases.  To generate a new key,
please request from key package “5342 and Up – Ultimate” and “Beta 2 Home
Basic/Home Premium/Business (v.5384)”.

Minimum Hardware Requirement for this 2 builds
Processor: 800 MHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor2
System Memory: 512 MB
GPU: SVGA (800×600)
HDD: 20 GB
HDD Free Space: 15 GB
DVD-ROM Drive

Posted in Beta News, Reviews, Windows Vista | 8 Comments »

Vista’s New ‘Copy’ Dialog

August 24th, 2006 by kenlin@HK [MVP]

Info from LonghornBlogs.com :

Some of the more useful improvements to Windows Vista come in the underlying file system. There are a ton of improvements under the hood to make files easier to deal with. One of the more subtle but important differences from Windows XP is the way discrepancies are handled during file transactions.

In Windows XP, if a file encountered some kind of error (file already exists, etc.), it was handled at the time it occurred, interrupting whatever you were doing. If the same thing happens on Windows Vista, the operation continues, and you are prompted to resolve the conflicts at the end of the process.

The UK’s Official Windows Vista Magazine covers it as one of their favorite features:

vista-save-same-filename.jpg

 

Posted in Microsoft, Reviews, Windows Vista | Comments Off on Vista’s New ‘Copy’ Dialog

Vista and old computers – will they get along?

August 18th, 2006 by André Nogueira

Vista is a brand new OS, but most people still have old computers. Will these handle Vista or is XP all they can take?

I had a 5 year old computer lying around, so I thought I’d use it to test Vista. It has a Pentium III CPU at 1Ghz, 768 Mb of Ram and a Geforce 5700 LE 256 AGP 4x graphics card.

Home Premium Build 5472 takes only 39 minutes to install – 36 minutes from the time it starts copying files to the time the login screen is presented, and another 3 minutes until it finished logging in for the first time. Subsequent logins are pretty fast, so I guess it’s building the profile and user preferences when you login for the first time.

Using all the default settings and programs (ie I didn’t disable any program or service) Vista runs pretty well – as well as XP, if not a bit better. Using all the average applications (IE, Office 2003, Messenger, etc) doesn’t create any problem, and it’s very responsive. I didn’t try any processor intensive applications mainly because I couldn’t think of any an average user is bound to use – suggestions are welcomed! I could try games, but modern games won’t work well even in XP because of the old CPU.

With the Geforce 5700 LE I have all the eye candy enabled and working – Aero Glass with transparencies and Flip 3D. Again it doesn’t slow the computer down in any way and the system continues to be very responsive and fast.

Live TV in Media Center works fine in Media Center 2005 with one tuner enabled, but Live TV in Vista’s Media Center still isn’t working well – I can hear the sound, but I get at most 5 or 6 frames per second. It’s been getting better with each build though, so I hope Media Center will work on this computer by the time Vista RTMs.

Windows Search and the Sidebar also don’t pose any problems – they were both enabled and running the whole time, and Windows Search worked quite well.

Comparing this to my laptop – a Centrino 1.6 with 512Mb of Ram and an ATI 9700 64Mb – I have to say this 5 year old computer wins hands down.

Although the laptop has a much better CPU, the old desktop has the advantage of having more video memory and more RAM – the two things that really count in Vista. 64Mb of video memory isn’t enough for Vista – even though it works, 128 is HIGHLY recommended. Same thing for the 512Mb of RAM – either you disable a lot of services and applications (Windows Search, Sidebar, etc) or 512 simply isn’t enough.

Keep in mind that these are still beta versions of Vista and that not everything is optimized, though – 512 is not enough now, but might be acceptable when Vista RTMs. Vista’s performance has been increasing with each build – Beta 2 wouldn’t even run properly on this 5 year old computer, and build 5472 is as good or even better than XP!

So the bottom line is, you won’t need a new computer to run Vista and use everything it has to offer. This computer had 512Mb of RAM and a Geforce 2 MX 400 graphics card, but for less than €40 I was able to buy used parts and make it “Vista-ready”. I also had to buy a new 300 watts power supply unit – unfortunately the new graphics card was more than my 230W old power supply could handle!

Have you tried Vista on older computers too? Let us know about your experience! 🙂

Posted in MS News, Reviews, Windows Vista | 2 Comments »

Windows Live Core Services – Your opinion really does matter!

July 2nd, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

The core services that most people use at the moment stand at:

  • Windows Live Messenger (released)
  • Windows Live Spaces (still under the MSN brand, but debuting next week)
  • Windows Live Mail (beta)
  • Live.com (beta)

All of these products have and will have competing products, as you can see below:

  • Windows Live Messenger
    1) Yahoo! Messenger
    2) Google Talk
    3) AOL Instant Messenger
     
  • Windows Live Spaces
    1) Blogger
    2) WordPress
    3) MySpace
     
  • Windows Live Mail
    1) Yahoo! Mail
    2) Gmail
    3) Lycos Mail
     
  • Live.com
    1) Google Personalised Homepage
    2) If you can think of any more to go here – leave a comment and let me know!

Whichever instant messaging client, which ever blog community, web-based email service, and personlised homepage you might use – could you please leave a comment on which one you use and why you wouldn’t or haven’t picked a Windows Live product to use instead?

It doesn’t matter what you use – whether you use all non-Windows Live applications/services or whether you use a few, but please leave your feedback as a comment below on the pros and cons of the service you use, and why you use that service over another client or product. All information will be forwarded onto the Windows Live teams, but generally this is to see how popular the Windows Live services are to MSBLOG readers. Thanks very much! 🙂

Posted in Reviews, Windows Live | 28 Comments »

ReadyBoost-Speed up your Vista PC by using a USB key as Ram

May 15th, 2006 by Patrick S

YES! the title is indeed correct, you can use your USB key as RAM for your vista PC to give it a speed boost (cause lets face it, vista sys req’s are demanding especially for us people with older hardware).

How to do it?

Its simple really. I got my small 256MB USB player and plugged it into the USB port of my PC. The auto-play menu appears and then you select speed up my system from the menu.

autoplay menu

After that is done it will show a window like this:

 

 

From this menu you can choose how much of the USB key memory you want to allocate to the system. You can also choose weather you want to enable the memory allocation feature (disabling this will free up the space on your key) The more memory you allocate to you storage device the higher the overall preformance of your system. (In order to return to this dialog box, open the Computer window, right-click the drive (F: in this case) and select Properties. From there, click the Memory tab (as shown in the previous screen capture and adjust the settings as needed).  

  

For the inquisitive, opening the drive in an Explorer window reveals that ReadyBoost has created a cache file of the specified size.

blat

 

Here is my cache file: I allocated 440MB to the system. Attempting to insert another USB key for windows to use as memory will fail as currently Windows only supports one external RAM device at any one time. 

Here is my cache file: I allocated 440MB to the system. Attempting to insert another USB key for windows to use as memory will fail as currently Windows only supports one external RAM device at any one time.This works with any external storage device e.g. CF/SD cards etc however there are some requirements:

  • The USB Key must be at least USB 2.0
  • The device must be able to do 3.5 MB/s for 4 KB random reads uniformly across the entire device and 2.5 MB/s for 512 KB random writes uniformly across the device.
  • The USB Key has to have at least 64mb of free space

source help 

-Patrick S (Sorry there is no glass i had to do it via Remote)

Posted in Reviews, Windows Vista | 11 Comments »

Latest build of Windows Vista reviewed (with some comparison with Mac OS X)

April 23rd, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

How can Windows Vista beat the pants off Mac OS X? It’s not really that difficult to be quite honest, seeing as you’ve got a platform which supports over 90% of all applications out there, and the fact that you don’t now need a specific computer to run Vista on.

I’ll grant the fact that Apple has created the “Boot Camp” software which enables Mac hardware users to split the hard drive in half and stick Windows XP on it – that’s a good move from Apple, but even still, if I was to buy a Mac, I wouldn’t even bother with OS X because it’s complicated to use and simply, it doesn’t support half the file types out there in the world.

I saw this video some time ago (I’ll try and dig it out from my vast storage server) of a bloke who hates the Mac OS X system so much that he deliberately recorded and edited everything you could see… on a Mac. But I’m not here to talk about the Mac as much; I’m here to talk about Vista and what’s new in the latest build. I’ll start with whatever I think of first, and carry on working my way through.

Searching
Wow… compared to Windows XP, has anyone realised how fast this is? You can search for anything and it’ll pop up a whole load of results within the first few seconds of it searching. Granted that the SearchIndexer.exe application crashes sometimes, but regardless of that it’s really smooth.

You can save your searches, you can modify the search to a whole load of different subsections including specific size ranges, data ranges and modified/created dates. You may think that’s standard, but it’s easier to search, it’s faster to search and it takes the hassle and pain out of searching, something which had to be fixed ever since Windows 2000 Professional hit the shelves over half a decade ago.

Windows Internet Explorer 7
Nothing much has changed in this build from the previous build of Vista, even the public-Beta 2 preview that was released to Windows XP, there’s very little difference. What I did notice, is that in the About box, it now says “Windows Internet Explorer 7+” whatever that means… but it obviously means that something’s coming after 7…

PNG transparency still works a treat, and it seems much smoother with the user interface. The Glass area’s haven’t changed, but the entire application seems more streamlined. You have a strip of toolbar options which can be played with instead of having a chunky Classic menu (which can be viewed at any time by pressing Alt on the keyboard). There are even more icons and minor changes – especially with the Feeds icon and the Favourites area of IE7. As expected, the favourites you store still link in with the Sidebar gadgets… of which reminds me…

Windows Sidebar (ahhhhhh :))
You’ve got to love the Sidebar. I missed it when it left after 4053 Alpha builds, but am so glad that it’s back and better than ever. We see even more Gadgets making an appearance in this build, such as the Stock Checker which enables you to check stock quotes. You have the option of even more skins for the clock (and some rather funky looking futuristic ones), a calculatopr has been added, sticky notes enabling you to leave a note on the desktop, but two especially cool Gadgets. The CPU Meter and the Weather Gadget – the CPU one you can probably work out for yourself, but it measures what the Performance tab in the Task Manager shows you, and the Weather Gadget lets you type in your local city and have a visually rich graphic showing you the weather. If it’s sunny in that area, it’ll tell you. If it’s snowing or raining, or even cloudy, it’ll tell you. Even if it’s nighttime, it’ll tell you! It’s absolutely great – now I don’t even need to step outside the house to see what the weather’s like!

I’ll say this though – back to the original title of this entry – placing all the Gadgets on the desktop really can make it look like the Dashboard on Mac OS X, but it looks so much better and the content is much richer. Windows 1, Mac OS X 0.

UAP (User Account Protection)
Not a huge amount of change you may notice, except for the background dimming whilst a UAP dialog asking for authentication appears, but a lot has improved. It prevents standard users from creating silly mistakes that can harm the operating system, but really does it’s job.

I tried removing registry entries, playing around with system settings and that kinda thing whilst logged in as a standard user. I really couldn’t do it without entering in my administrators password. We’ll end up seeing a lot more improvements coming to UAP over the next few builds, because some critisise it saying it doesn’t implement the UX (user experience) guidelines because there are so many dialog boxes, but before you know it, I’m sure it’ll appear much more appealing to users.

Installation
This build installs in less than an hour, almost guaranteed. I’ve installed it now on 3 machines at home, with WinSAT Ratings of 2 to 4, including one on Virtual Server 2005 R2 and they all complete within the hour. The general view of the installation is much easier to understand what happens, because it breaks it down in about 10 or so seperate categories all counting up what’s happened. Before you know it, the installation’s been copied and expanded etc. and the time goes by quicker because you’re being updated about the installation much more regularly.

We’ll see staged and unstaged installations being rolled into Vista, enabling system administrators to have a whole load of computers running exactly the same because they’re from the same installation package which is useful for corporate networks and school systems.

Aero Glass
As a “colleague” of mine in the newsgroups said, Aero Glass does need a little work on it, seeing as it’s difficult to tell whether a window is active or inactive. I agree – the only difference I see is brightness and cloudyness of the window.

Nevertheless, a good example for a “full Glass demo” would be to “Add Gadgets” to the Windows Sidebar, stick a nice wallpaper on such as the palm-tree wallpaper in the “Vistas” category, then apply and move around the Add Gadgets window. Pay special attention to the diagonal lines, also known as “Glass refraction”. You can see the shadows and blending behind them, you can see the transparency but you must understand the complexity of the whole thing. Each pixel is updated every refresh rate, so if you played a video behind the Glass enabled window, you’d see the whole thing blur and refract.

What people may see as a gimick or a bit of eye-candy, I see as a technology as something beautiful. It really is like a set of glasses or spectacles, that’s probably the best way to describe it being a glasses wearer myself.

Fine details
Finally for now, the fine details that are there. The icons have nearly all but been updated to brand new icons. There are brand new wallpapers in there (of which may stick for the public beta, we just don’t know yet) and the animations that are present in the dialog boxes when you copy, move or delete files – it’s all there just the smallest of details.

Messaging
Windows Mail, the sometimes critically acclaimed new version of Outlook Express ships with the new operating system. Some people don’t like it, I for one am still getting used to it. However with it comes advanced searching of emails in the content bar at the top. You can type in and click andthere you have any email you search for. It also has integrated public newsgroup support so instead of having to configure it, you can access them instantly.

With newsgroups in mind, the MVP support people will have it much easier to select out nominated MVP’s also. With newsgroup post rating, you can rate a post on how useful it is, giving the user extra points or negative points depending on your opinion of the post. This helps other users pick out genuine helpers and also dull out the ones that spam.

Windows Explorer
Explorer has come along a long way since Windows XP. You still have the ability to search straight away from the folder your in. You have favourite links down the left hand side which enables you go straight to places where you might need to go in a hurry.

You have different panes such as the navigation pane and task pane which run seamlessly with the display enabling you to perform functions with your files with a touch of a button and not need to click through multiple displays. Not to mention, the views menu, enabling you full control of the view of your files. Yeh you’ve got the standard settings such as “list” or “large icons” and “small icons” but with the new slider menu, you can set custom views with your files and folders enabling you an in-between setting which many users have been wanting for some time.

External protection
The firewall has been advanced and set to “on” by default, and also had bugs that were present in Windows XP fixed. Windows Defender (previously known as AntiSpyware) has been integrated as part of the system, and set so it runs all the time but as part of the svchost.exe (the Generic Host for Win32 Services) so it runs in the background. The Security Center has had a bit of a facelift and enables you to customise the settings a lot more. Such things as UAP, it will alert you whether it’s running or not, but doesn’t let you change whether it’s on or not as this is part of the user protection again.

Finally…
If anyone can think of anything else to add to this, leave a comment. But although there isn’t a huge comparison to Mac OS X in this entry, I still think that overall if you read again, these features totally outnumber what’s there in Mac OS X in my honest opinion.

Slate me if you will, but that’s my opinion from a technological professional.

Posted in Reviews, Windows Vista | 20 Comments »

Microsoft Fingerprint Reader-My Review:

March 16th, 2006 by Patrick S

Well i thought i might begin to write a hardware/sodtware review every-now-and-then. This is my 1st try so its average! 

Upon opening my newly acquired Microsoft Finger Print reader (the standalone unit) I couldn’t help notice how small it was…I was expecting something a bit larger to be honest.
I figured that I am sick of having to enter incredibly long passwords to get into websites (e.g Connect and BP) or to get into my operating system (Being the secure freak that I am) and a biometric solution was in order.
Basically on just about any logon screen I simply touch my finger onto the glowing oval that is the reader and I am “in”. The supplied software auto-fills the user field and hits the appropriate button e.g. ‘Sign-In’   
The install of the product was so easy and fast, after the install was complete I then assigned my 10 fingers to the reader. After I had done this I was done, my operating system from then on used my fingerprint as my password (I could type it in if need be) From there I went to any site that I often used a password-placed my finger on the reader and “bingo” I am asked to supply credentials for the form on the page for the reader to auto fill from then on.
The only quarrel I had with it was if I wanted to use the classic windows logon screen (same screen shown when you want to connect to a domain) the fingerprint reader was rendered useless-it was simply incompatible, however if I had to describe the Microsoft Fingerprint reader in an incredibly short, however meaningful sentence I would say: ‘Awesome, convenient and ever so helpful-I am not sure what I would have done without it’
As good as the reader is on Windows XP, it will not support anything lower-sorry win 3.11 fanboy’s (*ehm*, Dennis 😉 )
Patrick S

fo login window

Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments »