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Archive for the ‘windows’ Category

Gates and Seinfeld inaugurate millionaire ad campaign

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Microsoft is already getting hammered on this first commercial that is part of a $300 million marketing push by the company to counteract the successful “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ad spots.

If anything this looks like a teaser to me (definitely not yet worth the $10 million Seinfeld is reportedly getting paid for his part on the campaign), but then again it’s also more lighthearted than the Apple ads in a good way…


Written by Julio Franco

September 5th, 2008 at 11:46 am

Speed up Vista using Firefox 3 Beta

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If like me, you spend a sizable amount of your computer time on a web browser, you can forget about RAM or processor upgrades, it’s software where the hole was all this time.

First let me tell you that I’m an avid fan of trying new web browsers, or at least new versions of today’s traditional browsers like Firefox, Opera, IE and Safari, that includes betas and release candidates. But because I had grown so comfortable with my Firefox extensions and overall set up, I was ultimately drawn away from using experimental builds on a daily basis. It’s not until lately that I have seen a large number of Firefox add-ons ported to the Beta version (currently Beta 4) and so I thought it was time for another spin.

Seriously, the browser is speedy. I had previously experienced the improvements in Beta 1, I got a few random crashes then, but no more. I can tell you that on my desktop machine that is currently running Windows Vista on an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, I’m feeling a difference in speed that is way more palpable than when I upgraded from a dual core Athlon CPU, I had less RAM and was running on an older platform. I also have most of my extensions installed, so the comparison is more or less apples to apples. With a load of tabs divided in two windows, and many other programs running at the same time, the mere change in browser suddenly is making for a much smoother working experience.
In fact, I’m currently writing this on Firefox 3 Beta 4 Portable which let’s me run a standalone copy of the browser without sacrificing my older Firefox 2 install, so in case I want to roll back, it’s a non-issue.

I have also tried Internet Explorer 8 in Vista and it does offer similar speed improvements. Likewise, Safari 3.1 on OS X also welcomed me with better performance, but neither of those can replace Firefox for me. Opera lovers must also forgive me but I have not downloaded the latest Opera version yet, although just this past weekend I saw fellow editor Erik Orejuela running a gazillion tabs on it, probably more than Firefox 2 can handle without crashing (he switched after the 2.0.11 fiasco).

My recommendation, give Firefox 3 beta a try now and see how it works for you. Many of the most popular extensions are now usable on the beta (BTW, there is a newly revamped add-ons site). Somehow it seems all browser developers felt the need for speed on this iteration, so you can choose your browser flavor if FF is not your thing.

Written by Julio Franco

March 31st, 2008 at 4:55 am

Vista crashing in the most simple of tasks

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So let me rant for a bit. After defending Windows Vista, not because I like Microsoft but because based on my experiences I have had relatively few problems with the OS, last night I saw it giving me a deja vu of the early Win95 days!

A solid install of Vista now running SP1 was put to the test… burning a data DVD with 1GB worth of files. The result? A 15 minute wait, followed by a hard crash (that is, I had to manually shut down my system to restart). I can forgive all the driver incompatibilities you want, but DVD burning? Good thing, Nero finally works well with Vista.

Written by Julio Franco

March 20th, 2008 at 10:29 pm

I’m a Windows power user

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For all the criticism Vista gets, I happen to be one happy Vista user. Sure, I do have complaints about it, and even with all the patching and SP1 fixes, I still believe the OS has to improve considerably in areas like power consumption, waking up from sleep as quickly as OS X (two critical improvements for building the ultimate laptop-optimized OS), and excessive HDD thrashing, however after some frustrating trial and experiment with the very acclaimed OS X Leopard… I have concluded it’s just not for me. And that’s what this post is about.

Ironically, I happen to be writing this on a MacBook Pro that I bought back in November, but from a Boot Camp Vista install. For me, Vista marries the eye candy of OS X – that XP has lacked for a long time – with all the Windows app compatibility and the environment I have grown to appreciate and customize to my very needs.

To tell you the truth I’m trying to be as neutral as possible here, just because my needs do not reflect everyone else’s. I bought the MacBook with the sole intention of having more current experience with the Mac and being able to give a good assessment on either system when time came, and so far I wouldn’t even go as far as saying OS X is superior to Vista, or vice versa. I have noticed however that the Mac is too strict on the way it wants you to work, I found the system to be too intrusive, sitting between me and the applications I’m working with rather than easing the way along.

Perhaps I’m just too used to Windows… that’s a thought I have had wondering in my mind for the past month, while I concluded that OS X was just going to sit there unused in my brand new laptop. However, during that time I also sat back and put myself on observation mode, looking at how people interact with Windows. I found it extremely impressive how different all people find their way around the OS. Opening files, browsing the web, searching for something, you name it, there’s at least 3 different ways for doing each. In the other hand, I always hear from hardcore OS X users how their system is more streamlined, more consistent and intuitive. Well that might just be the problem for me…

But while on the topic, let’s also consider the audience.

I have to admit I’ve been simply stunned by the mainstream media reviews on either operating system – usually concluding OS X is better – measuring things like boot time as an excuse for a real assessment, or praising the OS for its built-in newbie applications. What’s worse, usually these people use the latest Apple hardware (great hardware ever since they use Intel platforms) against some horrible pre-configured OEM Windows installation from Dell, or whoever. And I guess that makes for a huge difference, where I consider myself a power user, I would never buy an OEM desktop system but build one myself, and I would never use a pre-installed Windows configuration on a laptop without messing around with it for a few hours before finding my place. Finally, if I came across a problem with my OS installation I know I could figure it out myself without ever having to call tech support (never had, never will). For some this may be complete annoyances, but just like any good Linux user loves his ways around the less consumer-oriented OS, for me that’s just part of the ride and part of being a PC enthusiast.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the OS that fits you and your needs. In my case, I’m the most productive under Windows by far, and Vista is in my opinion the best version released so far if you have a speedy-enough system.

Written by Julio Franco

February 18th, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Posted in apple,blog,windows

How to run Windows Live Messenger on Windows XP x64 and Server 2003

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Sorry, Windows Live programs cannot be installed on Windows Server, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, or Windows operating systems earlier than Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Being a new user of Windows XP x64 that message puts me off quite a bit, apparently Microsoft wants you to install the old and ugly MSN Messenger instead of Live Messenger if you happen to run the state of the art version of Windows XP. However, as you will see, Windows Live Messenger can be used in full, but Microsoft in its infinite wisdom just made the installer incompatible!

Live Messenger 8.0 seems to be the latest version on the Microsoft Download Center where support for Windows XP x64 is specifically mentioned. In version 8.1 only Server 2003 is mentioned. If you download v8.5 you will receive the message above during installation… Notice also that the size of the file is reduced considerably because this is just an installer that then downloads the features you choose to install.

On the official download page for Windows Live Messenger you can read this under requirements:

Windows 2003 Server and Windows XP x64 are not supported.

What is so ironic is that Windows Live Messenger is fully compatible with XP x64, as a matter of fact I’m using it right now. So what you have to do is download the file I mentioned that the unsupported installer downloads. Take note though that you will not get any prompts during the install, it is silent, since you are supposed to make those choices in the unsupported installer… What this means is that you are saved the trouble of unticking the boxes about installing MS toolbars and changing your browsers home page to the dreaded MSN sites.

Also worth mentioning is that Windows XP x64 shares its codebase with Windows Server 2003 x64 and even uses the same service packs!) So this should apply to Server 2003 as well, just like drivers for either OS work fine with each other.

You can download the bare MSI file of Windows Live Messenger v8.5.1302.1018 here. While you are at it check out A-Patch that allows you to disable many annoying features of MSN like advertising – it’s beyond me why MS advertises in their own client. And when you have come to your senses you can may as well download a decent chatting client instead ;).

Oh, and here is the command to uninstall the Windows Messenger (not the same as MSN Messenger OR Live Messenger) that is bundled by default with the OS. Just copy and paste the following into Start > Run and Windows Messenger will be gone: RunDll32 advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %windir%\INF\msmsgs.inf,BLC.Remove

Written by Per Hansson

February 4th, 2008 at 11:55 am

Removing ATI’s Catalyst Control Center from the Windows context menu

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One of the worst things about bloated software is the addition of shortcuts and context menus that are better suited as opt-in features rather than self-imposed annoyances. So, call me a purist, but when I recently switched from a GeForce videocard to one of the newer Radeon HD boards, I hated to see a new context menu option added by ATI drivers that looks plain ugly with its red icon and too-wide-to-be-true length.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about…
ati-catalyst-control-center

Looking for a solution I stumbled upon this website that offers the quick & dirty tip, if you want to disable the new link:

Open regedit and go to:
KEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers\ACE
Then then remove the key named “ACE“.

Alternatively, you can download these registry files and run them to disable or enable back the ATI option.

Written by Julio Franco

January 31st, 2008 at 5:18 am

Vista and gaming, a bad combination?

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Last week we posted a new poll on the main site asking readers if they thought Vista is hurting PC gaming, and while I don’t necessarily agree that the question is a completely fair and valid one to ask just like that, looking at the partial results I have to say my experiment has gone just as I expected.

Despite of a mixed initial response from consumers and a growing acceptance for the OS today – after multiple patch releases and more mature drivers getting out of the door – Vista is still getting a lot of bad publicity in Internet circles, especially the blogosphere. It’s not surprising then that over 50% have responded “Yes” to the poll (that Vista is indeed hurting PC gaming). The rest of responses so far are divided between “No” and some maybes, from which the most voted is that high requirements hurts PC gaming more than Vista does or ever could.

And so, what is TechSpot’s official take on the matter?
I wouldn’t dare to say there’s one single answer that satisfies all the staff preferences – especially when we have Per refusing for so many years to upgrade to XP, for god’s sake! :). Personally, Vista has never been a problem for me bar the occasional disk thrashing nuisance, as long a I ran it on a moderately fast system, preferably dual-core setup with 2GB of memory.

Today, the OS is noticeably more polished and things can only get better with SP1, nevertheless the hardware rule still applies if you want no slowdowns and you are used to be a full throttle multi-tasker in XP. Gaming is a completely different world just because driver implementations can make it or break it, but if our recent tests are enough to make a case, (if you have a fast system) and can live with a marginal drop in fps, then you are ready for it, forget about dual booting and learn to live with the better OS.

Written by Julio Franco

January 24th, 2008 at 1:30 am

Burn .ISO files in Windows XP and Vista with ease

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There are a number of programs that can help you burning ISO files in Windows, unfortunately a majority of them are time-limited trials that later on you are forced to either uninstall and look for a new alternative, or just pay for the full version. If you’ve ever been faced with this dilemma or just can’t stand anymore the bloated piece of software Nero has become, then I have a golden tip for you.

Windows enthusiast (we assume) and programmer Alex Feinman offers on his humble website a “powertoy” he calls ISO recorder, available for both Windows XP and Vista that will let you burn ISO files with ease (and for free). The application is also very lightweight, just like the original XP Powertoys we used to love.

Written by Julio Franco

January 15th, 2008 at 2:07 am

Drivers and Windows Vista

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Mostly when people post something about Vista it’s either bashing it or praising it, however those two camps generally agree on one thing; that drivers have matured quite well since its release.

I’m gonna create a third group now; they are both wrong!

UAC, admin accounts, memory requirements and all other stuff aside, I’ve concluded one thing: unless you have a very very top of the line computer you have no business running Vista. And this has actually nothing to do with Vista itself at all, quite the shame because that leaves me out on an otherwise easy punch in the stomach :D

You might have seen my post about performance in Crysis with the 7900GT. I just ran some tests with a 8800GTS 512MB now. What I can conclude from this is that XP will give you 63% better performance in Crysis compared to Vista if you have a 7900GT, and only 16% better if you have a 8800GTS 512MB.

In other words, it’s not just Creative that releases miserable drivers, Nvidia is quite high on the list too (though they still have a long way to catch up with Creative, IMO :D)

Written by Per Hansson

January 3rd, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Reboot or Shutdown from Remote Desktop Connection

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If you have ever feel frustrated because you have been unable to reboot a machine from a remote location (using Microsoft’s own RDC), here’s a solution. While I recall having the option to send a Ctrl+Alt+Del to the remote machine that doesn’t seem to be available in most recent versions of the software, or at least not in the obvious places.

So, what you are left with right now is disconnect and log off options. To be able to reboot or shutdown the remote system you can call up the Command Prompt (cmd.exe) or just type the following in XP’s Run or in Vista’s search line that also serves the purpose of launching programs:

“shutdown -f” to shutdown
“shutdown -r -f” to reboot
“shutdown -i -f” to get a GUI
“shutdown -l -f” to logoff

Written by Julio Franco

December 24th, 2007 at 2:50 pm