Monthly Archives: February 2007

Is Windows getting cheaper or more expensive?

From ZDNET

Quote:

"The short answer is easy: neither. Roughly speaking, the Microsoft product sells for the same price it has had for years.

The full answer is more complicated. There are all sorts of factors that go into one’s sense of whether the leading operating system "feels" more pricey or less expensive–the cost of other PC components and what gets bundled into the operating system are just a couple of them.

Microsoft General Manger Brad Brooks argues that Windows is a bargain, noting that it keeps getting more features for the same price.

"If you break down the cost of the software over the life of the PC, it works out to be less than how much you’d spend on milk for your family over that same period of time," Brooks said."

Read the rest here

Depends on which part of the world you live, but other factors should be taken into account. As the cost of living rises, it eventually affects users buying decision’s and reflects on the price of both hardware and software. In 1985, Windows 1.0 sold for $100, over time, the value of the product increases resulting in increased cost, some of the reason’s include, development time, becomes more feature rich (Windows has more features than ever), the more people involved with the development and marketting of the product. Going back to the where you live point, Windows Vista Ultimate retails for US $399.99. In Jamaica, US $1 is equivalent to Jamaican $66.00 (exchange rate), thats a total cost of $29,399.34. The average PC here cost about $30,000 Jamaican (US $454), if you were to build your own system and add the cost of Vista Ultimate, it would definitely cost a lot ($89,399.34 Jamaican).

Of course, most persons wouldn’t buy the retail version of Ultimate, going for the OEM version at US $269.00 ($17,754) plus the same system would cost ($47,754.00 Jamaican), still a hefty amount. But when you think about the value the product is adding to your life, whether it is getting work done, start your own home based business the potential to make back the investment is there. The hidden cost are definitely there too, additional software such as Office adds more meaningful value to the product as the article notes. But at the same time Microsoft is trying to bring it down for existing users to upgrade to newer versions like Vista. For instance, the Home Basic edition cost $99, which is sorta cheap and offer’s a lot of new features users will want. Its definitely tricky, but I’m sure any consumer who finds it expensive will not upgrade if their existing version is meeting his/her needs.

 

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Windows Vista – Holding Out A Little Longer

Since Windows Vista launched I have been assisting a local print shop in my parish deploy Microsoft’s new operating system and productivity suite. But I’m left with a headache and a disappointed Small Business owner who is now packing his bags and moving back to Windows XP. A lot of the local OEM’s are very hesitant about deploying Vista on newly purchased system’s and they have good reason to be, its just not ready for prime-time. Windows I believe has become a joint effort with each release between Microsoft and the software industry. A new release won’t be considered ready until everybody is ready, and I mean everybody. However if you work in a small business where you use Microsoft technology from top to bottom you will have a better chance of having a smooth migration from Windows XP.

In my case its a different story and that’s just the case of many Small Businesses out there, for instance, our software tools which are used to "run" the business are just not ready. Sage Software, makers of Peach Tree Accounting 2006 Premium said on their website, it works, but for it to "fully" work you need a patch, but this sounds contradictory when I read further on that Peach Tree version 2007 was last tested with Vista in June 2006 and is not guaranteed to work. So how am I suppose to put faith in a patch for 2006 which I need to call the Company to receive? The problem revolves around printing invoices and e-mailing them, it seems the E-mail Print Driver used by the software is trying to run in Kernel Mode in Vista which is interacting at the hardware level and is only designed to work with XP and earlier versions. Because of the deep changes in security Microsoft has added to Vista, certain applications from third party developers need to be re-written so they can operate better under the new user privileges required by the operating system. But for such a popular software package I expected better, and for a Company such as Microsoft, I expected them to have better communication with the folks who write such critical programs used by thousands of businesses.

No word from Sage if they will provide a future patch or Service Release that will fix compatibility with Vista in their existing releases, the Company has also said on their website that their 2007 version was last tested in June of 2006 with Vista and is not guaranteed to work. After browsing the web for help, I stumbled on a forum post which said that Sage won’t be supporting Vista until their 2008 version, Grr!

As for Office 2007, its taking more than 15 minutes to get accustomed to the new user interface. You spend more time searching for features than actually getting the work done, I agree with Long Zheng (istartedsomething.com) 100% that the Office Team was too over confident with the UI and could have taken a graceful approach by implementing a Search box Scout for finding features and commands or include the Classic 1500 toolbar commands as an option for users who are just not ready for Office Fluent. Its getting annoying hearing somebody call your name every 10 seconds about how to find a feature, whether its change case, page borders or spell check. In the print shop, there is a machine dedicated for only printing content, installed are applications for a number of programs so when employee’s receive files from clients or want to print their work, they just do that at that PC. But its not a print machine when 90% of the applications won’t work. So, we can forget about Vista there, Adobe Writer 5, QuickBooks 2006, Quark 5, PageMaker 7, Corel Draw, Print Shop, Hall Mark Card Studio, WinPC Sign – some of which don’t work!

Windows Vista’s built in compatibility tools are not doing a good job of communicating to the user when new updates are available for the latest incompatible software installed on your computer. After receiving this error and blogging the issue, I was notified by Kris Kenney of Canucky.net that there was an update from Sonic available for this issue. You can download it here

We realize we need to upgrade to new versions, but when you look at the big picture, all of these programs worked just fine on XP, so it would then become a case of upgrading for upgrade sake. Heck no! Vista’s AERO UI is a great sell, but the trade off’s are too many to justify right now, and even if new systems were purchased with it, it would be recommended that we format that system and install XP for that machine to be a good citizen in the work group.

This product is pathetically incompatible with Windows Vista, for an industry standard, I’m in awe, for a Company like Microsoft to pass this one buy, tsk, tsk.

Intuits QuickBooks Enterprise 6.0 is the same issue, but I suspect the Company is just forcing users to upgrade to the latest. But it’s starting to seem like a conspiracy here, money does not grow on tree’s the last time I checked.

Bright Spots

The plan going forward is to take it step by step, which means, deploying Office 2007 on XP first. Regardless its a radical change in workflow requiring adjustment to the Office Fluent UI, users are excited about it and are willing to learn. Office 2007’s core app’s are a major leap in features, enhancing content is much easier and more attractive because of the new tools. From the professional looking charts to the elegant cover pages. For a veteran who is knee deep in the productivity suite, benefits are obvious, accomplishing task are much quicker, for example inserting and editing a picture is much faster. Compared to Word 2003’s Insert > Picture > From File > browse Pictures folder, select picture > Open, Office Word 2007 does it quicker, "Insert" tab > click Picture > browse select picture open. It’s small improvements like that which show the value of the new suite and the Office fluent including the incentive to put effort into learning it.

But going back to the main issue, application compatibility is a problem that needs to be ironed out first. We tried Virtual PC as a possible interim solution, but with only a GB of RAM running XP plus the accounting software and Office 2003 is decreasing the performance of the system since a substantial amount has been allocated to the Virtual Machine for it to run acceptably. What’s happening with Vista is a case of too much concentration on getting things to work than getting work done and making employee’s do what they want to do on the PC. I’m confident this will work out over time, but right now is just not the time for Vista.  Regardless of the published compatibility list, its the misses on that list that are the major concern, the tools are currently in the trenches working everyday on Windows XP and 2000 systems that just cannot seem to find a place in Vista land.

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Virtual PC 2007 RTM Released – 32 & 64 Bit

From Microsoft Downloads

Quote

"Overview

Save time and money as Virtual PC allows you to maintain the compatibility of legacy and custom applications during migration to new operating systems and increases the efficiency of support, development, and training staffs.

With Microsoft® Virtual PC 2007, you can create and run one or more virtual machines, each with its own operating system, on a single computer. This provides you with the flexibility to use different operating systems on one physical computer.

For more information about the ways you can use virtual machines, see Virtual PC at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=78095.

System Requirements

  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition (32-bit x86); Windows Server 2003, Standard x64 Edition; Windows Vista Business; Windows Vista Business 64-bit edition; Windows Vista Enterprise; Windows Vista Enterprise 64-bit edition; Windows Vista Ultimate; Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit edition; Windows XP Professional Edition ; Windows XP Professional x64 Edition ; Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

An x64-based or an x86-based computer with a 400 MHz or faster (1 GHz recommended) processor with L2 cache

Processor: AMD Athlon/Duron, Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium II, Intel Pentium III, Intel Pentium 4, Intel Core Duo, and Intel Core2 Duo

RAM: Add the RAM requirement for the host operating system that you will be using to the requirement for the guest operating system that you will be using. If you will be using multiple guest operating systems simultaneously, total the requirements for all the guest operating systems that you need to run simultaneously.

Available disk space: To determine the hard disk space required, add the requirement for each guest operating system that will be installed.

Virtual PC 2007 runs on: Windows Vista™ Business; Windows Vista™ Enterprise; Windows Vista™ Ultimate; Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition; Windows Server 2003, Standard x64 Edition; Windows XP Professional; Windows XP Professional x64 Edition; or Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

Download HERE

Well, its not a major upgrade from version 2004, it supports Vista, but lacks USB Support which is something I really need right now. Hopefully they will fix that in Service Pack 1.

Resources:
Testing Virtual PC 2007 BETA on Windows Vista RC2

 

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Adding Folders and Programs to the ‘Send To’ Context Menu in Windows Vista

The Send To menu available on the right click context menu allows you to quickly send files to various locations in the system. These include:

 

  • Compressed Zipped Folder
  • Desktop (Create Shortcut)
  • Documents Explorer
  • Fax Recipient
  • Mail Recipient
  • Floppy Drive (A:)
  • Optical Drive

But how can you customize this menu in Windows Vista to contain your personal folder or desired system locations for quick access when sending files?

Easy, click Start > All Programs > Accessories > click Run OR use the Windows key + R command to quickly launch the Run command window.

Type in: ‘shell:sendto’ without quotes of course and click OK. The Send To Explorer will then open with a listing of the current locations located in it.

Now, you can simply copy and paste your favourite location to the Send To location for quick access or simply right click and select New to create a New Folder in the location. For example, I will copy and paste a shortcut to Favorites explorer here.

 

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DreamScene – The Issues So Far

Earlier today I detailed steps to acquiring and enabling one of Windows Vista Ultimate’s latest Ultimate Extras, DreamScene. But since using it, I have discovered some issues, minor, but still noticeable:

  • SideBar temporarily distorted when loading the Windows desktop
  • Does not automatically play after logging in, you have to right click and click Play DreamScene
  • Automatically pauses at times, requiring that you re-enable, I don’t know if this is possibly a feature to better utilize system resources when DS is not in use.
  • Audio skips in Windows Media Player while playing DreamScene, pausing DS fixes it.

Overall, its a nice addition to Windows Vista experience, although, gazing at the Windows Desktop is not something I do all day, but those few stolen moments are really a pleasure, whether its after closing programs or a lunch break. I can’t wait to get the other’s I saw at the Vista launch even such as Techy looking backgrounds, the Racoon staring at you all day, and best "I think" of them all, the grass swaying in the evening sunset.

I have not seen any changes in system performance which proves the team working on this has done a lot of work to ensure that your system runs smooth so far.

System Specs:

3.2 Ghz P4 HT (32-Bit)
nVidia Geforce FX 5200 128 MB AGP card
2.6 GBs of RAM

Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86

 

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How to enable Windows DreamScene

Microsoft yesterday released a preview of one of its Windows Vista Ultimate Extras called DreamScene which provides an animated background wallpaper bringing life to the Windows desktop. The installation file is 21 MBs which would be considered huge in comparison to a standard JPEG wallpaper which is also one of the capabilities of DreamScene.

1. Accessing the DreamScene software
Requires that you have Windows Vista Ultimate Edition installed, Ultimate Extras are exclusive to users of this particular edition of Windows Vista. DreamScene also requires that you have the Windows AERO Glass theme enabled.

2. Acquiring the update – Click Start > All Programs > Windows Update. Under the left hand pane, click the “Check for updates” link. A list of updates will then appear. These updates can include a combination of Windows Update’s along with Ultimate Extras.

3. Click the View Available Updates link, Windows DreamScene will be unchecked and listed as an Optional update. Check it, then click the Install button to start the download. After the download has finished you will be asked to restart your system to configure the software.

Selecting DreamScene Content

Click Start > type Personalization in the search box
Click Enter
Click Desktop Background link
Click in the Location list box
From the list, click Windows DreamScene Content, click OK

You will see your desktop turn into an animated Vista, with subtle reflections.

If you wish to temporarily disable the DreamScene animation:

Right click your desktop
From context menu, click Pause Windows DreamScene (Preview)

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Windows Vista Launch Event Summary now on ActiveWin

My summary of the Windows Vista launch activities is now on Activewin, here is a snippet:

Quote:

"I arrived in New York City January 28th, as part of the ActiveWin.com Team for two days of activities concerning the launch of Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system, Windows Vista which has been in testing and development for the past couple of years. The first day’s activity was the launch event which took place at the KODAK Theatre. I along with a few other attendee’s such as Terri Stratton, Michael Reyes, Ryan Hoffman and Brandon Leblanc had to wait outside for a while before receiving badges to enter the conference. My home island of Jamaica has received a renewed level of respect for its tropical climate, the cold was brutal at times, but I managed to muster the strength and fight through it. Eventually, I got into the event with people from other press houses and around the world buzzing with excitement to see Microsoft finally launch the anticipated new generation of software.

Microsoft employee’s were on hand to provide demos of Windows Vista including hardware designed to work with the new OS from both Microsoft and third-party vendors. It was really cool to interact with some of the new devices and software up close. I saw a huge wide screen plasma display showcasing some of Media Center and Vista’s rich visuals. Also displayed were various Windows Media based MP3 players including the recently released Zune which features an awesome interface for playing videos and viewing photos. The navigation controls are very straightforward and works well with Windows Vista and XP. Other noticeable hardware on display include Microsoft’s Wireless Desktop 8000 which cost $250 and includes a cool media center based keyboard with built in navigation controls including quick access buttons. The wireless mouse is also rechargeable, since the keyboard includes a docking station just for it."

Read the rest here

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