Beta-Boy

This blog WAS about my experiences with the new Microsoft Vista OS. I went back to Windows XP, so I'm no longer updating it. However, I decided to leave it on-line, at least until Vista is officially released. There may be a few tips here that will help other beta users.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

WMP11 and Firefox

Well, I had some problems getting Windows Media content to stream in Firefox. All I got was a white screen where the video should be. After hunting through some forums, I found out that there are two things you have to do. I decided to notate them here, so other people won't have to do like I did, and spend an hour searching for the information.

  1. Copy three .dll files into the Firefox plugins folder. By default, this folder is C:/Program Files/Mozilla Firefox/plugins. The three files can be found here.
  2. Second install the Active-X plug-in for Firefox. Not all sites that stream Windows Media require this plug-in, so it may not be necessary, depending on what you're trying to play. The Active-X plug-in can be found here. (Note: You must install the plug-in for the version of Firefox that you're using. Firefox 1.5.0.4 users can use the plug-in for Firefox 1.5. That one worked for me).
Once I did these two things (and restarted my browser), I was able to stream Windows Media. Hope it works for you too!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Weird

Does this seem weird to anyone else?


A few second after I took this screenshot, Windows finally kicked in and extracted it. Still, it took about 2 minutes to extract a 499 MB file. XP would have done it in about 5 seconds.

Modifying Favorite Folders Pane

By default, Vista shows a list of your favorite folders in the left pane of Windows Explorer. If you would like to add or remove links, you can right-click inside the pane and choose "Open Folder."



Next, you need to go to the folder that you want to add, and create a shortcut to it. By default the shortcut is placed on the Desktop.


Then just cut the folder from the Desktop, and paste it into the Favorites folder.


From here, you can rename it, reorganize it (by dragging and dropping), etc.

If anyone knows of an easier way to do this, please let me know. It seems kind of awkward to have to do it this way all the time.

Installing Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite

Here are instructions for installing Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite on Windows Vista.

The problem that I had is that whenever I tried to open the DVD, it just ran the install program, and the install program locked up on the second screen. Getting around that was pretty simple.

  1. Insert the DVD, cancel auto-run
  2. Go to Computer
  3. Right-click DVD drive, and click Explore
  4. Right-click the install file, and set it to run in compatibility mode with Windows XP Service Pack 2
  5. Run the install program, cancel out the visual themes incompatibility prompt that it gives you, and follow the prompts in the Britannica installer
  6. On the screen where you have to enter the serial number, the box to enter it in does not show up. Just hit the Tab key, and the cursor will go to the box.
  7. When Britannica tries to install QuickTime, Vista pops up telling you that QuickTime has known compatibility issues. It seems that these compatibility issues just have to do with QuickTime updating itself. Just tell it to run the program.
  8. Once it's done, restart the computer (you might not even have to do this), and it will work like a charm...(well, it did for me anyway).
When you open Britannica, Vista pops up a message saying that certain visual elements have been disabled, blah blah blah. I haven't spent a lot of time in it yet, but everything seems to be working so far. I just told Vista to not display that message again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Played With Office 2007 Today

Note: I apologize about the small font in this post. Blogger won't change it, no matter what I do. With many browsers, you can enlarge the font by holding down the Ctrl key and scrolling the mouse wheel. That should make this post more readable.

I didn't blog much today, because A) I had to work on a Psychology paper, and B) I spent a few hours playing around with Office 2007 and OneNote 2007. I'm not going to give a comprehensive review here, but I will give some quick thoughts.

OneNote 2007 has a whole lot of potential...a LOT of potential. If you don't know what OneNote is, you can find out by going here. Basically, it's a personal Content Management System on steroids. I was very impressed after I installed it. Like I said, it's got a lot of potential. As soon as I started using it, though, I could see that user friendliness was going to be a problem.

For instance, it's very easy to create tables to store information in. To test this out, I created a "page" in a "notebook" to store my Web site logins. The first thing that I noticed is that there is no way to sort the table data (at least, not that I've found so far). You have to put the sites in the order that you want them to be, or you're hosed. I'll post an update if I find a way to order tables in OneNote.


(As you can see in the above screenshot, I was able to select the column on the left, but I couldn't find a way to make OneNote sort the table by that column.)


Also, OneNote has a handy way to copy portions of your screen directly into the program. I really like that. No more pasting into Paint and then editing! The downside? You can't seem to paste into a page that you've already started. OneNote insists on making a new page.

I created the above screenshot by using the OneNote cropping tool (Windows key + S), and then pasted it into Paint. If I wanted to put the image into OneNote, though, I could have done it directly without having to use a separate program to edit the image first.

In short, I could see making the move to OneNote 2007...if they get it tweaked, and the bugs worked out. Right now I use Treepad X Enterprise for personal data management. It has about 1/100 of the features of OneNote, but it costs $64.95. I'm sure I'll be shelling out a lot more for OneNote 2007 when it goes to retail, and so I want it to work.

On to Outlook 2007:

Moving right along...I like Outlook 2007 a lot less than OneNote. I wasn't even going to install Outlook 2007 on my laptop, because I just don't need all the bells and whistles that it has. However, I saw that OneNote will let you flag pages for follow-up, and it automatically exports to Outlook 2007. I thought that was pretty cool, so I decided to try it out.

Low and behold, Outlook 2007 is just BUGGY! I can't believe it's even been released for public beta yet!

Okay, I'll be fair...it might not be AS buggy on Windows XP...I haven't tried it there yet.

But, that brings up another point: The beta site for Office 2007 states that it's not certified for Windows Vista yet (or words to that effect). In other words, they don't guarantee that it will work with Vista. I was like....what? You mean to tell me that the two mega-releases coming from Microsoft, due to be released about the same time, aren't even compatible with each other yet?! Someone dropped the ball here, folks...

Anyway, as I was saying, Outlook 2007 is buggy. I started it and opened the Task manager pane, and it kept saying that it was loading. What it was trying to load, I don't know. It led me add tasks, so I ignored it. I had to restart my computer to make it stop doing that.

The second, and more major, problem is that in the "New Task" window stuff is not laid out right. It initially looks ok, but as soon as you make a change, the interface doesn't redraw properly. You can see what I mean in the screenshots below (hopefully they'll come out detailed enough).

Screenshot 1 (above): Everything looks fine


Screenshot 2 (above): I made some changes that redrew the interface, and now there are lines through everything.

The final blow was when I figured out that Outlook won't shut down. You close it, and Vista immediately says that it has stopped responding, and then it auto-restarts it. If you hit cancel fast enough you can make it shut down, but who wants to do that all the time?

The short of it is, I'm very unsatisfied with Office 2007 so far. Microsoft really has no excuse for this. If the problems I'm experiencing are due to Office 2007 not working properly with Vista, then why isn't it compatible at this point? We're just a few short months from release, for crying out loud.

On the other hand, if these bugs (and many more that I did not describe) are happening on XP as well, then why did they put such a shoddy system into public beta?

A Critical View of Vista

Here's a link that I came across this morning. It's a very critical look at Windows Vista. I don't mean critical as in "scrutinizing the OS objectively," I mean critical as in "complaining about everything." Still, it has some info that readers might find interesting.

http://chris.pirillo.com/2006/05/24/windows-vista-feedback/

The writer spent most of his time complaining about the fonts and the layout. (Personally, I don't think liking the size or the type of fonts has anything to do with how well the OS performs. I kind of like the layout....but, anyway....)

Also, he criticized Microsoft for not copying a Mac OS feature at one point, and then just a little while later he criticizes them for copying a Mac OS screensaver. I get the feeling that this guy is just impossible to please.

Anyway, you can read and judge for yourself. I just scanned the article, but it looked like he did make a few valid points.

Cheers!

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Personal Vista Review

If you're new to Vista, and want an indepth overview of its features, here are a couple of sites I recommend:

Windows Vista Homepage

500 Hour Test of Tomorrow's Windows

There are many great reviews on the 'Net, so, instead of trying to compete with them, I thought I would write about my install and setup experience, from Saturday (when I first installed it) until now (Monday).

Saturday, Day 1:

I had signed up for the public beta on Tuesday, 6/13, and then downloaded and burned both versions (32 and 64 bit) to DVD. What I wanted to do was to dual boot Vista with my current OS--Windows XP Media Center. On my lunch break on Saturday I did some poking around on the 'Net and figured out how to do this. It's really simple, but I'm glad I read the instructions first. People are saying that if you don't follow the steps I'm about to give, you can make your computer unbootable (until you reformat). They may be wrong, but I decided not to risk it.

So, first of all, if you want to dual boot XP and Vista, follow these steps:

  1. Create a partition on your hard drive for Vista (or make space on a secondary drive, if you use more than one).

  2. Boot up Windows XP.

  3. Insert the DVD that has the Windows Vista ISO.

  4. Choose a custom install (upgrade will be greyed out)

  5. Point Vista to the partition that you created for it.

  6. Vista will do the rest

Note 1: I am sure there are plenty of other ways you could do this. What people are saying on the forums is that the important thing to NOT do is boot from the Vista DVD and install it. They are saying this will make XP unbootable. Again, I don't know if this is true or not, but I didn't want to find out.

Note 2: If you try these steps and it doesn't work, don't blame me. It is a beta OS after all. Also, always back up your stuff before partitioning! It can go wrong!

So, I followed those steps, and it worked like a charm. Zero problems. Tada! I had XP and Vista dual booting!

Then...I made a stupid mistake. I was setting everything up after work, and I was accessing files from my XP partition, while I was in Vista. Due to that terrible thing called user error, I accidentally made myself owner of the Documents and Settings for my XP user account. Nooooo!!!!!! I realized what I did as soon as I did it, but the damage was already done! I hit cancel, and I found my first problem with Vista:

If you make yourself owner of a file (or files), and realize that it was an accident, and you hit cancel, Vista does not give you an option to undo what you just did.

Vista politely informed me that it saw I cancelled the operation, and if I had started the operation in error, then it politely suggested I undo said operation. It was very polite throughout the whole thing. I DIDN'T WANT POLITE, I WANTED IT TO UNDO WHAT I HAD JUST DONE!!

Fortunately, I had backed up my important XP stuff, and I could still access all my other XP files. I could even still boot into XP, I just couldn't load my old user profile. Probably, with enough blood, sweat, and tears, I could have found a solution. But I was already starting to like some of the features in Vista, so I just backed up everything and reformatted.

Sunday, Day 2:

Sunday after church I tackled the project. First, I backed up all my data to DVD, and I learned about another Vista bug:

Vista doesn't seem to handle the UDF file format for DVDs very well (at least, not with my burner). It wrote all the files to the DVD, but when I put it into my Dad's laptop (an HP dv 4000 with XP service pack 2), it didn't show any files as being on the DVD. I put it back into my laptop, and the files were gone. Also, when I was copying the files to the DVD to burn them, it was very, very slow, and locked up a couple of times.

Oh well. I just used good old ISO format, and Vista burnt the files just fine.

After that I deleted my old partitions, created one master partition, and reinstalled Vista. This time, though, I decided to try out Vista 64 bit.

Vista 64 Bit:

My experience with Vista 64 bit was brief, and about what I expected. I had trouble installing programs, and one of them (MindManager Pro) wouldn't install at all. Also, my audio driver wouldn't install. I finally used the Realtek 64 bit audio driver, and that gave me sound, but it made popping noises when I played MP3s. For a music lover like myself, that just wouldn't do. When I saw that MindManager just wouldn't install, I gave up on the 64 bit version.

To be fair, the problem is probably not with Vista...it's probably with the programs that I was trying to install. None of them were designed to work with 64 bit operating systems. However, I was not planning on running XP at all, so I needed an OS that would work.

Back to Vista 32 bit:

I popped the Vista 32 bit DVD in and restarted, then went to bed.

Monday, Day 3:

On Monday, I started installing programs and drivers. I hit a couple of snags, but I eventually got around them...

Snag #1 - Conexant Audio Driver:

The Conexant AC 97 audio driver just doesn't like to install. I had managed to get it to install Saturday night, but it took me a little while on Monday to figure it out again. Here's what I had to do:

  1. Download the audio driver from hp.com (again, this is for an HP DV 5035 nr laptop)

  2. Run the file, and follow the prompts

  3. The install program will attempt to install the driver, but Vista will pop up an error message saying that the install has failed.

  4. The status bar for the install will keep going for a while. Just let it run, and surf the 'Net or something.

  5. After a few minutes, Vista will pop up an error message saying it detects that your install failed. It asks if you would like to try the install with the recommended settings.

  6. Tell it to use the recommended settings.

  7. Install will succeed.

Snag #2 - Quicken 2003 Basic:

I use Quicken 2003 for my money management, and it didn't want to run either. To be honest, I'm not quite sure how I got it working. I'll just put down exactly what I did, and maybe if people follow these steps it will work for them too.

It is worth noting that, when I tried to run Quicken, an error came up from Microsoft, saying that there are known compatibility issues with Intuit products, and that the problems have been referred to Intuit to fix.

Known compatibility issues or not, I got Quicken 2003 to run. Again, don't ask me how. Here's what I did:

  1. Ran the install program. It went just fine, and it asked me if I wanted to run the program upon completion.

  2. I chose to run the program.

  3. It asked me if I was a Quicken user. I chose yes.

  4. It asked me if I wanted to load a file from my computer, restore a file from backup, or start fresh. I chose to load a file from my computer.

  5. Quicken locked up. I let it sit for a while, and eventually shut the program down.

  6. Quicken would not load again. You click the icon, nothing happens.

  7. I restarted my computer. Quicken still will not load.

  8. I tried telling it to load in compatibility mode for Windows XP service pack 2. Still wouldn't load.

  9. I tried compatibility with Windows 98/ME. Still would not load.

  10. I reinstalled the program, and told it not to run upon completion.

  11. I manually started the program, and it instantly told me that the excutable had failed.

  12. I checked the settings, and realized it had saved the Windows 98/ME compatibility setting. I disabled that setting (no compatibility).

  13. Tried to run the program again, it ran.

  14. I told it I was an existing Quicken user, but this time I told it to start fresh.

  15. I created a new money file, then I went to File > Open, and opened my old money file that I had backed up.

  16. I closed Quicken, and re-opened it.

  17. Quicken works now

Note: It is worth noting that, whenever I try to register Quicken, it locks up. Since I can't register, I can't use their web-based services. I don't use them anyway, so it's not a big deal to me, but it may be to some people.

Other than these two snags, I haven't had any major problems so far. My modem driver and media card driver failed to automatically install, but I haven't played with them yet. I installed Halo just to see how games would work. When I first tried to run it, it told me there was a known compatibility issue, and pointed me to a fix on the Microsoft site. I downloaded the little fix, and Halo runs just fine.

Firefox 1.5.0.4 also installed without a problem. When I went to my first Flash site I found out that Firefox couldn't automatically install the Flash plugin for some reason. I chose to manually install it, and it works fine now. I still can't stream Windows Media content in Firefox, but I haven't taken the time to try to figure that out yet.

MindManager Pro gave me an error when I tried to open my first map (after installing the program). The program crashed after I clicked ok on the error. I was able to restart the program, but it had put the map I had tried to open into read-only mode. I restarted my computer, and MindManager runs just fine, and I'm able to edit the map.

Open Office installed with absolutely no problems, and it runs like a champ. I had downloaded the version of Open Office that did not have Java run-time environment, but when I started the install, it automatically installed Java run-time. I'm guessing Vista did that on its own. Either way, it works.

Well, it's 1:20 AM, and bed time for me. Next, I'll write about some of the pros and cons of Vista. It really looks like it's a great OS so far, at least as far as usability goes. How secure will it be? That remains to be seen.


Initial Thoughts

First of all, it's important to make it clear that I'm not a developer. I'm a pretty computer savvy individual, but I deal with broadband technologies mostly, not with Windows. I'm not an MCSE or anything like that, and I don't really have any plans to become Microsoft certified any time soon (Cisco first!). I installed the Vista beta because I was curious to see how it worked, but I quickly fell in love with it. Yes, it has bugs, but nothing so far that I don't expect to see fixed by release.

Should you install the Vista beta? It's really up to you, but I'll put it this way. If you have to get on forums and ask how to install it and make it work, then you probably don't need to be trying to run it. You do have to jump through some hoops to make everything work properly. Also, if you aren't comfortable with the possibility of losing all your data, then Vista isn't for you.

So, the Microsoft download site for Vista clearly says that it's not intended to be used as a primary OS yet. They tell you not to delete your current OS. But, I did.

Why, you ask? It's simple...VISTA KEEPS UP WITH MY TYPING!!!!! Yes, this makes me a happy, happy man.

You see, every single Windows 98 or XP laptop that I have ever used can't keep up with my typing. I hit keys and nothing happens. I have to slow down to around 40-50 wpm before it can keep up. One of the very first things I noticed about Vista, when I first installed it, was that it actually keeps up with me!

So, if you're a laptop user that types around 120 wpm, and you have the same problem, Vista is your new friend. I'm serious...this alone made me decide to try to go ahead and leave XP behind.

The down side is, I now have no excuse for the typos that I make in this blog. (Just so everyone knows, this is a very informal blog...I really don't care if I make typos).

So, in short, my initial feelings toward Vista were very positive. They still are very positive. I think Microsoft has done a great job with the OS so far. Yes, I know they stole a lot of features from Macs, but I really don't care...I still think Microsoft has done a great job. When commercial companies start putting people in space (and bringing them back down again), I'll think they're doing a great job too, instead of telling them that they're stealing ideas from NASA.

Now, I'll get a little bit more serious, and give a very brief review of Vista.

My System

First of all, let me tell you guys about the system that I'm running, and then I'll describe some of my initial impressions.

I installed Vista build 5384 (32 bit) on my HP 5035nr laptop. Complete system specs can be found here.

Processor: AMD Turion 64 2.2 ghz
RAM: 1 MB
Hard Drive: 80 GB
Display: RADEON XPRESS 200M Series
Audio: Conexant AC-Link Audio (I had a few problems getting the driver for this to install...more on that later.
Wireless NIC: Broadcom 802.11g Network Adapter
Ethernet NIC: Realtek RTL8139/810x Family Fast Ethernet NIC

As you can see, my laptop is decent, but it's hardly a top-of-the-line performance machine. It does run Vista just fine, so if you compare your specs to mine, you can get a feel for how well Vista should perform for you. I don't think I'd want to install it for regular use on a machine much slower than mine. (Keep in mind, the beta version of Vista is the premium edition--Microsoft says that they will be releasing other editions that are designed to work on slower computers).

Now, for some of my initial feelings about Vista.

Introduction

Hi there!

Let me tell you a bit about me, and then a little bit about this blog!

My name is Josh Spiers, and I'm a junior network admin. I'm also going to school full-time, majoring in psychology through Liberty University's distance learning program. The reason that I created this blog is to share my experiences with the new Windows Vista. Hence, the blog title "Beta-Boy." I'm a boy, I'm writing about beta stuff...it ain't rocket science.

Anyway, I just jumped on board the Vista experience when they opened up the public beta a few days ago. So far it's a good experience. So good, in fact, that I just made a leap of faith, and I reformatted and got rid of Windows XP. I may regret that later, but I figure in a worst case scenario I'll just have to set XP up to duel boot, so that I can run a few select apps. So far I've been able to make everything run that I need to, though, so it's going good.

Anyway, that's what I created this blog for. I figure that I'll keep posting until I run out of good things to say, then I'll let this blog fade away into the great Internet graveyard of forgotten sites.

Cheers!