Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why do I love PCs?

There comes a time in a man's life when he has to ask himself why he contiues to pursue a certain hobby. I enjoyed my Jeep TJ & XJ because they provided me with a way to be creative and pretend that I was an engineer. But the TJ was becoming too costly and I was not receiving much benefit from it Other than being an exceptionally small work truck.

So with my career moving back towards the realm of information systems, I once again have been working to learn as much as I can about Windows, Linux, and other system platforms. I have taught myself how to program and even created a few neat automations over the last couple of years. But I also have severely mucked up a computer beyond all recognition.

It started this morning when I decided to move from Vista the the XP partition on my desktop machine. All started out well until I launched XP and then Media Center and Firefox crashed. It messed up the orientation of my display and my wide screen monitor was in portrait mode. It took about 45 minute to recover windows and start backing things up.

I expect that the backups of all my data and file archives will take another two hours. Once done, it is time to blow away the partitions and start from scratch. Wow! what a way to spend a holiday weekend.

In all it should not take me more than today to get this done, but it is still going to be a royal pain. Maybe I will take something new away from this experience considering this is my first re-install of XP Media Center.

Friday, May 25, 2007

To WordPress or Not???

It is the Friday prior to a holiday weekend and the concept of a weekend computer project is tempting me. Many are on the plate and among the items to look at are learning how to use MS Expressions Web, updating the department websites and portals at work, or setting up wordpress on my web address and seeing if I can move my blog from blogger. The word press thing would make life much easier, but I think that huge move is going to be the big loser for the time being. The winner of the above contest was not even listed in the short list above because writing a project plan for a sales and use tax project is not the most mouth watering topic. Also not listed above but a finalist would be to update process flows from a Six Sigma study so that they can be leveraged in SOX audit. (Shudder...)

Perhaps this memorial day, I will toast my once enjoyable life and be thankful that I do have a job that I love despite the boring nature of some of the work that crosses my desk. Not every project can be as exciting as rolling out a new reporting tool or putting in e-Procurement. And not every project can be as challenging as creating a new set of reporting dashboards for quick snapshots of a business's health.

So it is off to the races and the winner is.........

(Wait til later this weekend to find out.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Firewalls? But Vista Already Has A Firewall

Yea, that is what I thought as well. I thought that Vista had firewalling software. But, Vista's great firewall is missing one function that is as important as anything else to me and that is protecting the computer from software that is trying to talk to the outside web.

Is this bad. Not really because with Vista it is extremely difficult to install a piece of trojan code on a computer because of the flashy-thingy boxes that stall the system and pop-up asking permission. Really annoying considering that Linux does the same thing when it asks for an admin password but does it well without annoying the bloody hell out of you.

But, somehow things were not right on my PC and I decided to go in search of a firewall program. My favorite for the longest time has been ZoneAlarm and I have never had an issue running ZoneAlarm since I went DSL in 2003. Now that I am surfing at broadband speeds with my cable modem, ZoneAlarm is doing just fine. Until Vista. Now, I find out that Vista and ZoneAlarm do not play well together.

Based on good things that I have heard in the computer media, I decided to try Comodo. I downloaded the software and was even impressed that their operations have been certified by KPMG and qualifying for the AICPA WebTrust seal. Not bad for a company thats claim to fame is a free firewall.

But the Comodo Firewall did not play well with Vista either. So I was in search for another firewall program. I went to CNET looked at their ratings for many products. The one that appeared to be best PC Tools Firewall Plus. So I downloaded the product and installed it on Vista. After the obligatory system restart, Vista is now running without issues. But I will say that Media Center is quite a chatty program. It is always wanting to talk on the internet. Same goes with Microsoft Sync which is always trying to connect to the internet. I suspected that Office Groove would be the big culprit of wanting to talk to the internet, but it has relatively quiet.

So hopefully, this will make for a more secure experience with Vista. Maybe this will help even help with the bluescreens. Perhaps.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Onward and Upward!

Taking the path of least resistance is always the easiest way to go and that is true with Vista. Bashing the Vista OS is just getting to be less and less of a challenge considering that it uses tremendous amount of memory, has memory faults out the wazoo, and blue screens like mad. Well, after craziness that occurred when Vista flashed the bluescreen of death last week while trying to watch a movie through Media Center, the proof was there that Vista really does not need another Blogger bashing it on the web.

So I shall move on to other things such as reviewing software and describing the process I go through as I learn new applications. I plan on starting with Microsoft Expressions Web as well as the other Expressions products. I also plan on including some tips and tricks using tools that I have used for the last ten years in my job. So with that in place, it is time for onward and upward.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blue, Silver, & Black???

I finally found the place in Vista where I could change the color of my desktop in Vista. Please note that I am not talking about where I adjust the color of the candy like Aero-Glass interface but where I change the color of default blue to something more eye appealing or more bold. It happened while I was looking to blow away the Ribbon toolbar in Excel and I found the Excel options button hidden under the Office logo button. Great! So I eagerly clicked on the Color Scheme button to change Vista to look like something more Earthy and human looking. Something like Ubuntu!

That is when I found Blue, Silver & Black. Three options available just like Windows XP. What a crock of ....... Microsoft should be much better than this. Three options is not any more than what we had in the days of my IBM XT running an RGB monitor. EGA gave us 16 colors. VGA allowed us to use 256 simultaneous colors.

Now, these three colors are in addition to the additional variation that are found in the Areo Glass controls. Also, I still have not found a way to change the color of the start menu and taskbar unless I disable the aero interface and resort to using the old style windows interface.

Oh well, Beggers cannot be choosers, but at the price Microsoft is charging, I hardly call myself a begger for the money I have to shell out to keep my software licensed and legal.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Hatred Continues!

If anyone is reading my blog, then they would know that my relationship with Vista is more of a hate thing than love. Yea, the Media Center feature are much nice than those in Windows XP. I have not had to hack Vista Home Premium to view HBO content which is a plus. But Vista is a pantload to deal with and once again it has proved to me that it is a bad OS.

The story begins with my installation of some updates on my computer as recommend by the Windows. I went ahead and had Vista download all the recommended updates and intstall them to the PC without me doing a lot of research. What a mistake! The next thing I know is that I no longer had any sound. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

So I looked at the updates installed and then tried to roll back the drivers related to my tv tuner. That did not work. So I tried rolling back all the other drivers that I could related to sound and nothing was working. I still had no sound.

Well... I grabbed the DVD filled with all the related driver software that I could find and tried reinstalling the sound drivers for my computer and that did not work either. I had not been fussing with this thing for an hour and their was no solution in sight.

Then I just gave it a few moments to percolate when I finally figured out that I could try to roll back to my last restore point and maybe things would work. It was not a guaranteed fix considereing that it did not work for Paul Thurrott when he tried to restore a system that had blue screened due to a bad driver as described in this past week's episode of Window's Weekly with Leo Leporte. But I gave it a shot and an hour and 15 minutes after making my computer a mute, it once again could make noise. What a relief. And yet another Vista lesson learned.

The sad part is that Vista just is not quite ready for prime time. If this was Windows 95, then I could expect this kind of silly issues. Windows NT had its fair share of quirks that led to issues with sound as well as graphics and even fatal blue screens. But I have not had this kind of issues since I moved my computers to Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Even Windows ME was much easier to deal with than this crappy program.

Life with Vista is a very trying experience and I do not feel that it this "pretty" windows is doing anything more for me other than create a hard time. This having a computer crash crap was cool when I was in college and did not have to be productive, but fast forward 15 years and it is the birds.

Thanks Microsoft for the crappy OS.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A week with Vista

I have to admit that the thought of installing Vista last November sounded like an exciting but expensive proposition. I knew when it was rolled out last December to the small business crowd that I could have spent some dough and got Vista ahead of the official release at the end of January, but I waited. I looked at the software a little more seriously and decided that the best path would not to be to purchase a new PC with Vista, but to purchase a PC with Doze XP and get an upgrade to the Home Premium version of Vista along with my Business edition that I got with my MS software license.

In February, I installed the business edition on its own partition while keep XP on the system. Vista was not bad, but it was far from perfect. It took a lot more effort to use the Office 2007 apps because the ribbon was just is not as intuitive as the menu system that I have used for the last 15 years. Plus, all of my work is in the 2003 version of Office so it is really hard to work on the new version of Office while everything I perform for work is on the older version.

So last weekend, my Home Premium Edition arrived in the mail so I took the time to wipe the business edition off the hard drive and I put the Home version with the Media Center tools to use with my tuner in the media center PC. I also installed both the 2007 version of the Office as well as all of my old 2003 software. Now, I had a system that I could use XP to keep my iPod working and my Vista version to work with part of the time using my usual apps in addition to my migrating to that horrible ribbon interface. (Perhaps the ribbon bar is good for Word, but it does not make any sense in Excel and Access. Perhaps time will change that opinion.)

I have to admit that Vista is more appealing to view with the Aero Glass interface. Although, the eyecandy in Ubuntu Fiesty Fawn does a lot more than the see through look of the windows borders. Now that I have been working with the Vista for a week, the one thing that I have noticed more than anything else is that everything that is not "Glass" is blue and there is no way to change it. I have a hard time believing that Microsoft would release an OS and GUI without the ability to change the colors of the interface, but this time they have succeeded. I know that the Fisher Price interface was limited, but this is ridiculous. Oh well, yet another reason to go with Ubuntu flavor of Linux.

And the most shocking thing that happened to me today was I experienced a "Blue Screen of Death" for the first time in about 4 years. That is right, XP has not blue screened on one of my PC's in the since the the middle of 2002 when I loaded it on a Pentium II running 128 MB of ram. Now I am running Vista and it crashes as much as Windows 95. Talk about steps backwards, this is worse than Windows ME.

Maybe I will be more pleased with Vista in a few more weeks, but the first week has been terrible. It should get better. Yea, it should but I have a feelin' that I will just grow accustomed to the bugs and the fact that I will be running a computer with both XP and Vista. Yep, the more thing change the more they stay the same. Perhaps Vista would have been better had Program Manager made an encore appearance.