Tag Archives: Mac

Worldwide Telescope launches half-baked!

Microsoft launched their much-hyped WorldWide Telescope this morning.

The application has a lot of promise as an educational tool, in that it can make astronomy fun and engaging.

First off, there is no Mac version. Boo! For this reason alone, I should have just walked away. But I didn’t because it promised so much and I quite enjoy astronomy.

I checked out the system requirements (bearing in mind how optimistic Microsoft are on these typically – did you ever try to run XP on 64mb RAM? Ha!).

On the System Requirements page it told me I needed a 2.2GHz Mac to run WorldWide Telescope if I wanted to do so on XP or Vista (recommended) via Bootcamp (no mention of Parallels or VMWare. Given that my Mac is 2.16 GHz, and hasn’t BootCamp setup (I use Parallels), I gave up on that option.

Worldwide Telescope system requirements

I then went about installing it on my Vaio. The installation went ok (although I wasn’t made aware until half-way through that I’d have to install Direct X).

When I launched it on the Viao though, the first obvious problem was that you can’t choose Ireland as an option to set as your location. What a crock! Seriously. The country options go Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy. WTF? People in countries like Yemen, Uzbekistan, Lomé, Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, North Korea and Myanmar, for instance have no problem setting their location. But no Ireland option. What did we do to annoy Microsoft Research?

The second issue was even more annoying though. The application wouldn’t run on the Vaio. It crashed the display driver.
WorldWide Telescope Error

This is, unfortunately, typical Microsoft software behaviour. Launch bloated, Windows only, error-prone software with the minimum of QA or testing. Let the unsuspecting public be your free testing department and hopefully get the software right by the third revision.

It is no wonder so many people are afraid of computers when the software released by the world’s largest manufacturer is so prone to crash.

Microsoft needs a new strategy for its Windows platform

I have Vista installed on this laptop. I haven’t booted up Vista in weeks. Why? Because I installed Ubuntu on another partition and it is so much faster, and more secure (since Microsoft instructed me to remove Norton and then failed to get OneCare to work on this laptop).

Many others are eschewing Vista, not just because of the speed and stability issues it has but also because of the steep learning curve on moving from XP to Vista.

On the other hand Apple’s star seems to be in the ascendancy. In their financial statement released yesterday, for the quarter ended September 29th, they report:

Apple shipped 2,164,000 Macintosh® computers, representing 34 percent growth over the year-ago quarter and exceeding the previous quarterly record for Mac® shipments by 400,000. The Company sold 10,200,000 iPods during the quarter, representing 17 percent growth over the year-ago quarter. Quarterly iPhone™ sales were 1,119,000, bringing cumulative fiscal 2007 sales to 1,389,000.

“We are very pleased to have generated over $24 billion in revenue and $3.5 billion in net income in fiscal 2007,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’re looking forward to a strong December quarter as we enter the holiday season with Apple’s best products ever.”

“Apple ended the fiscal year with $15.4 billion in cash and no debt,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

Why are Apple’s Mac sales doing so well and Vista so poorly?

At least part of the answer has to be in Apple’s strategy of releasing new versions every 12-18 months. Steve Jobs referred to this strategy in a piece in the New York Times yesterday when he said:

“I’m quite pleased with the pace of new operating systems every 12 to 18 months for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We’ve put out major releases on the average of one a year, and it’s given us the ability to polish and polish and improve and improve.”

Apple introduced OS X in 2001 and since then has brought out four newer versions (Puma, Jaguar, Panther, and Tiger) with a fifth version (Leopard – OS X 10.5) due to ship this coming Friday.

Ubuntu releases new versions on a pre-defined six monthly schedule.

Xp was also released in 2001 but the next version of Windows, Vista, didn’t ship until January 2007.

The gently, gently upgrade strategy appears to be working for Apple and Ubuntu as their uptake soars.

Microsoft needs a new strategy for its Windows platform. Its current strategy certainly isn’t working.

I have a dirty little secret to confess

I never thought I’d say this but I’m using my Vista machine more than my Mac these days!

Why?

Well, there are a number of reasons – the Vista machine is a Vaio SZ3. It is small, light and has a significantly better battery life than my 15′ MacBook Pro so I’m far more likely to take it with me when travelling.

Having said that, the keyboard on the MacBook Pro is far nicer to type on. The MacBook Pro is waaaaay quieter, and the screen on the MacBook Pro at 1440×900 is significantly better than the Vaio’s 1280×800.

So again, why have I started to use the PC more?
I think the answer is Cleartype. Cleartype is a font rendering technology developed by Microsoft which makes onscreen text easier to read.

By definition, I read enormous amounts of text every day online. If I look at the same text on my Mac and PC, I can’t really discern any difference. But when I read for hours at a time, I definitely notice that I prefer reading on the PC screen!

Other tasks like audio, video or photo work, I still do on the Mac but, for now, most of my reading is done on the PC.

Is this a slippery slope?

Skitch invites anyone?

I have a couple of Skitch invites. Skitch is a very cool image, super easy to use, doodling tool for Mac which I have written about previously

If anyone is interested in trying it out leave a comment or email me (tom@tomrafteryit.net) with your details.

OS X to Vista networking help needed

Anyone know of any good resources for networking a Mac (running OS X) and a PC (running Vista) on a peer-to-peer lan network?

I’m asking because I have a 4.75gb file on my Vista machine which I want to transfer to the Mac and it is too big to burn to DVD.

I have turned on File Sharing for Windows on the Mac but although the two machines are on the same subnet (192.168.2.x), and both can ping the router (192.168.2.254) neither can ping the other!

I have tried both wireless and wired networks, to no avail!

Does Silverlight kill Internet connectivity on Macs?

I had a problem with my MacBookPro the other day. It lost Internet connectivity. It couldn’t get an IP address from the DSL router. Restarting the router didn’t help. Nor did stopping and starting Airport or using a wired connection.

At first I figured the router was fried. But then, I restarted the Mac and lo! connectivity came back.

I wrote it off as a once off and didn’t think any more of it.

Then over the next few days I had problems with Firefox freezing. Uninstalling plugins didn’t help. What did fix it was closing all the tabs which contained Silverlight content.

Then the problem with the Mac losing Internet connectivity recurred. Several times. Both at the home office and outside of it.

I finally had an Aha! moment. I searched the hard drive for all occurrences of Silverlight, found the Silverlight plugin, deleted it and re-started the Mac.

I haven’t lost Internet connectivity since!

Has anyone else had this happen to them?

Windows Live OneCare is a POS

Windows Live OneCare is a fantastic idea. Write buggy insecure software and then charge the people who buy your software extra if they want to buy OneCare, which is supposed to protect them from the errors you created in the first place.

Anyone else see a conflict of interest here? Why fix the software, when fixing it, only gives people a reason not to buy OneCare!

Anyway, a trial version of OneCare came on the Vista laptop that Microsoft sent me. This morning I was sent an Activation key to upgrade from the trial version to a full version. Excellent, that will get rid of the nagware screens Microsoft have in the trial version and allow me to update the virus definitions.

Ah, the naivete, if only life (with Vista) were that simple.

Three hours and countless restarts later I was still battling unsuccessfully to Activate OneCare.

First off, if you want to go from the trial version to a full version you have to uninstall the trial version (requires a restart) and download and install the full version (requires a restart). Why? Why can’t you simply add an activation code to the trial version and it change automatically to the full version?

Anyway, after going through this process I was faced with the following unhelpful error message:

Windows Live OneCare's unhelpful error message

When you click the Get Help button, you are brought to a screen which asks you what the error is! I dunno. You tell me. You are the one with the bloody problem.

“OneCare has encountered a problem” doesn’t elicit any helpful responses unsurprisingly!

I decided to make sure I had done a full uninstall. So I uninstalled OneCare (and restarted) and then I ran the OneCareCleanup tool (has to be run as Administrator and requires a restart).

I then reinstalled OneCare and sure enough an Activation screen appeared – wohoo, I thought, success at last. Silly me.

Windows Live OneCare Activation screen

I clicked on the Activate button, the screen closed and nothing happened after that. I decided to try a restart as almost everything else in this process had required a restart! Still no joy.

I tried going further in the Windows Live OneCare Support pages. Could I contact someone to help out? Of course not. Why? Because Windows Live OneCare determined that I was still in the Free Trial Period so I was only entitled to email support (24 hour turnaround).

Windows Live OneCare lack of Tech Support

AAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I give up.

My move from OS X to Vista – Day 5

I love having lots of screen space. My MacBook Pro has a maximum screen resolution of 1440×900, which, while not great, is better than the 1280×800 maximum on the Vaio which Microsoft sent me.

To get the most out of these screen resolutions on the Mac, I position the Dock on the right hand side and turn Hiding on. I put the Dock on the right (as opposed to the default option of the bottom) because the laptop display is widescreen. As a result, I have more horizontal than vertical space on the screen and most websites require more vertical than horizontal scrolling!

It is possible to mirror this on Vista by sending the Taskbar to the right and turning on hiding, however when you do that, you immediately miss the clock! I don’t wear a watch and therefore always check the time on whatever computer I am on (and I make sure my computer synchs with a timeserver so the time is accurate!).

In fact, in OS X I have the current time and lots of other information in the menubar at the top of the screen (see image below):
My menubar

I miss not having all that information available at a glance, at all times, in Vista.

My move from OS X to Vista – Day 1

This is my first blog post from within Vista – I’ll try to put up a post a day on the move across.

Of course I am also moving from a Mac to a Sony Vaio so I will also be referencing that move in these posts.

The first thing I had to do when moving from my Mac to this Vista machine was to decide on a Windows compatible RSS reader. I use NetNewsWire on the Mac.

I quickly settled on Google Reader because I could quickly export my opml file from NetNewsWire, import it into Google Reader on the Mac, log into Google Reader on the Vaio and all my feeds were there. I realise NewsGator have an online reader which is sunched with my NetNewsWire which I could have used but Google Reader is the better product.

Then, I decided to try Outlook 2007 as my email client. The setup was painless enough (I went with IMAP so the mails will be left on the server and I will be able to retrieve them from the Mac if I revert!).

However I did run into one very annoying issue with Outlook 2007. When I exported my OPML file from NetNewsWire, I asked it to keep the folder structure I had set up. Google recognised this structure no problem at all however Outlook ignored the structure and just brought in the feeds. Worse than that, if you want to delete the feeds from Outlook, you have to select the feeds individually. With several hundred feeds, this took some time. Grrrr.

In fairness to Outlook though, I had exactly the same issues when I imported me feeds into Thunderbird. Annoying.

Switching from OS X to Vista (kinda)

Microsoft gave me a Sony Vaio laptop with Vista Ultimate and Office Ultimate installed to try out. I have been toying with the Vaio but not using it heavily. To be fair to Microsoft, I’m going to try to switch as much as possible of my work from my MacBook Pro to the Vaio to see how I get on over the next few weeks.

A lot of my work is done online so that part shouldn’t be too difficult (I installed Firefox on the laptop last night!). However, for presentations I will continue to use the Mac as there is no comparison in the quality of presentations created in Keynote versus those done in  PowerPoint.

Oh, and for my photos I will continue to use iPhoto because that is where my current extensive library of photos resides.

The most difficult move will be my email I suspect. I love Apple’s Mail app. It will take a lot to win me back to Outlook.

Wish me luck!