TechSpot

Technology news and commentary by the TechSpot.com staff

Archive for October, 2008

Offers from our partner Tradepub

without comments

You may not know this but you can receive free technology magazines from our partner Tradepub. Apparently they also do trial software downloads along with technology whitepapers, some of which I have mentioned in the past here in the blog or in the forums when something really interesting pops up. Here’s a couple of new rather interesting offers that I received on my mail earlier today.

Free Trial: 60-Day Trial of Microsoft Office Project

Free eBook: The 7 Things that IT Security Professionals MUST KNOW!

Written by Julio Franco

October 31st, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Posted in blog,deals,software

Cool wallpaper from Microsoft’s PDC

without comments

One thing to love about upcoming operating systems and its public beta releases is that eventually feature details and design elements leak and get distributed all over the web. You may remember how there were several prospective default wallpapers for Vista that made it to the web months before the OS release. Something similar has happened with OS X releases which also come with great wallpapers out of the box.

Now Microsoft is expected to unleash the first public preview of Windows 7 at their Professional Developers Conference this week. Some details have leaked already, but nothing to share just yet in terms of UI elements except for this PDC wallpaper that all computers at the conference are using (courtesy of istartedsomething). I have been using it for the past few hours and I had to recommend it. Nice colors, blends well and is a bit flashy (Vista style) without being too distracting.

Written by Julio Franco

October 28th, 2008 at 6:03 am

Why I wouldn’t buy the new MacBook… and probably you shouldn’t either

with 6 comments

Although I rely on my desktop PC for long work sessions and I stand by the fact no laptop will ever beat a fully equipped desktop (dual monitors, and in general, the works…), there is an obvious need for a laptop whenever I’m on the move.

When my old Thinkpad T needed to retire, I looked into the Vaio TX series, at the time the best 11″ ultra-portable money could buy with its mere 2.9 pounds. That was months before the MacBook Air and other similar ultra-portables arrived to the market. Unfortunately the small size didn’t cut it for me and had to look elsewhere to replace the Thinkpad until I finally decided to get a MacBook Pro. In spite of the fact that I’m a Windows user, I did it with the purpose of checking out the then new Leopard OS X release.

Today the MB Pro remains as my primary laptop. Although I have my gripes about OS X, I have remained more or less content about the hardware which has proved to be of top quality construction, all while running Windows Vista. You have probably heard the stories of how the MB Pro makes for a great Windows laptop anyway, and in my case that has hold true – in fact, I haven’t touched Leopard in months.

And now with the well publicized release of the new MacBooks, I started looking into the possibility of getting a new laptop, but instead of the Pro I was checking the upgraded MacBook which is cheaper, has got many of the Pro’s biggest selling points like the aluminum body, powerful specs, but sports a smaller 13.3-inch screen that is also LED illuminated. Sounds good so far? Until I saw this…

Those images were taken by Gizmodo in their first look at both the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. As you can see, the colors on the standard MacBook get all washed out depending on the viewing angle. Then my disappointment has been further reinforced by the fact that many, many of the outgoing reviews for the MacBook barely touch on this point, just mentioning the use of the glossy display which would be less of an issue if the laptop shipped with a quality LCD panel like its more expensive sibling.

In my experience those screen issues are characteristic of older laptops or current entry level models (any brand). Then again my Thinkpad T42, which admittedly wasn’t entry-level four years ago doesn’t suffer from that issue, and at $1300-1600 for a new MacBook, you can’t call them budget either.

With a strong pro-Apple movement going on around the web and growing Apple laptop sales, the word is that the new MacBook is like a smaller Pro without the discrete graphics. I have to dissent, and now you know why.

Update: I’m glad to see Anandtech’s review of both new Mac laptops give light on my assertions above unlike a majority of reviews I have read so far from so-called experts.

As it turns out, the new MacBook screen is an improvement over the older generation which had an even more lacking viewing angle. Really bad for a laptop at that price point IMO. But if you want a superb quality screen, the MacBook Pro will have to be your choice. As I understand it, the MacBook’s Air screen is not too bad either though I have used them on a very limited basis.

Written by Julio Franco

October 24th, 2008 at 12:16 am

Use the Windows Embedded Theme on XP and Server 2003 (without patching)

with 7 comments

Windows XP has to be the most tweakable and skinnable piece of software ever created. Of course, how to compete with such a dominant and widely used operating system, but then again it might also be its light blue fisher price-like theme that gets in everybody’s nerves eventually.

For some of us, upgrading to Vista has been somewhat of a relief. The rest of Windows users still using XP have probably either gone back to the silver boxy Windows or relied on official or third party patching for getting the job done. Unfortunately last time I checked (a couple of years ago), even the most elaborate skins for popular applications like WindowBlinds lack the finish and subtlety I require.

But don’t despair. My advice, use some of the Microsoft-made themes that replace the original blue theme and make for a much better impression than the built-in silver or green themes.

Windows Embedded Theme for Windows XP/2003

Previously available themes include:
Royale
Royale Noir (by far my favorite)
Zune theme

Now also available (thanks to Sizzled Core), the Windows Embedded theme that uses a strong blue but still looks quite good IMO.

Notice neither of these require UxTheme.dll patching or other workarounds.

Written by Julio Franco

October 13th, 2008 at 6:40 am

7ads6x98y