Tag Archives: Vista

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 Vista performance issues

Vista is buggy. That much is obvious to anyone who runs it but it has been improving in stability as the patches are rolled out. However it runs extremely slowly too and this became startlingly obvious to me in the last few weeks as I have been testing browsers on different platforms.

It turns out I can run Internet Explorer 8 faster on my older Mac than I can on my newer Vista machine (both 2ghz Intel core duo with 2gb ram)!

When I ran the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark tests on IE8, it completed the test in 9.9 seconds on my Mac (running XP in Parallels).

However, when I installed Internet Explorer 8 on my Vista laptop, IE8 completed the test in 19,906.4ms.

Vista is more than twice as slow as XP running in Parallels on my Mac.

Vista is a huge embarrassment for Microsoft. They spent a fortune developing it and you speak to any Microsoft employee now and if the topic turns to Vista they get visibly uncomfortable. To the extent that Microsoft are now starting to talk up Windows 7 with Bill Gates calling it a big step forward. It needs to be.

Screaming fast browser II

I wrote a post the other day giving speeds of various browsers running the SunSpider JavaScript Benchnark tests.

Since writing the post Firefox has released Firefox 3.0b3 and Robert made me aware in the comments of the previous browser speed post that Opera 9.5 beta was released so I decided to check those two browsers as well.

on Vista the performance times came in at:

Opera 9.5b – 16,293.6ms

Firefox 3.0b3 – 19,345.4ms

WebKit r30123 – 8,920.2ms

While on OS X:

Firefox 3.0b3 – 9,822.4ms

Opera 9.5b – 8,953.6ms

WebKit r30123 – 5,744.8ms

So while the Opera 9.5b browser is the second fastest browser tested and is showing very respectable times, it is still taking nearlt twice as long as the Safari Webkit browser to render pages.

Note, I re-tested the WebKit so that the results of these browsers would be directly comparable. It is also worth noting that Firefox 3.0b3 is significantly faster on Vista than was Firefox 3.0b2 while on OS X Firefox 3.0b3 is only marginally faster than Firefox 3.0b2.

Screaming fast browser?

After reading Seth Weintraub’s post on how the upcoming versions of Safari are blisteringly fast I decided to download the latest nightly (WebKit r30123) and check it out for myself.

To check the different browser versions I used the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark.

The results were pretty amazing – on Vista the performance times came in at:

Internet Explorer 7 -   66,870.6ms

Firefox 2.0.0.12 -       34,121.0ms

Firefox 3.0b2 –           29,293.6ms

Safari 3.04 -               21,930.4ms

WebKit r30123 -          9,094.2ms

While on OS X:

Flock 1.08 -               30,476.8ms

Firefox 3.0b2 –           10,863.4ms

Safari 3.04 -               13,534.0ms

WebKit r30123 -          5,720.0ms

That’s pretty spectacular performance – and seeing as I use Safari quite a bit on my iPod Touch, I may just have to switch default browsers for a while to see how I get on with Safari Webkit!

UPDATE – post updated with results for Firefox 3.0b2 on Vista

Microsoft will Open Source Windows (or die!)

I have said on a number of occasions that Microsoft should Open Source their Windows Operating System (and their Internet Explorer).

However, it bears repeating.

I realise it is unlikely to happen in the near term but, I firmly believe it will happen in the not-too-distant future (when Microsoft realises that they can’t compete with Open Source).

If you take it simply from a numbers perspective, Microsoft has 70,000 employees. If we say 40,000 are actively programming code for Microsoft (the rest being admin, management, marketing, etc.) then you are looking at a maximum of 10,000 who would have contributed to the development of Vista, Microsoft’s current Windows incarnation. I suspect the number is lower.

Vista is estimated to have cost Microsoft $10 billion and six years to develop and they still shipped a fairly shoddy product.

Presumably Microsoft will want to re-coup that investment before it even thinks about Open Sourcing Windows.

Compare that with the various Linux distros. It is estimated that around 100,000 people have contributed to Linux’ development! I recently installed Ubuntu on my laptop and it simply blows Vista away in terms of performance and reliability.

Why are Ubuntu and the other Linux distros so good?
Lots of reasons but a few jump out:

  1. With open source development, you are getting the “Wisdom of Crowds” – the more people involved in the development, the better the end-result
  2. Open-source development is peer reviewed so bugs are caught earlier in the process and any which make it into a release are fixed quickly
  3. In open source projects the code is written by people who self-select for jobs they have an interest/skillset in
  4. Feel free to add more in the comments!

The upsides for Microsoft of open sourcing Windows are myriad, for example:

  1. If/when Microsoft open source Windows, their Windows piracy concerns will suddenly disappear
  2. Microsoft drastically improves its reputation as an anti-competitive bullying monopolist
  3. The next operating system they write would cost a fraction of the $10bn spent on Vista and would be much higher quality

The economics of Open Source are counter-intuitive. IBM spends around $100m a year on Linux development. If the entire Linux community puts in $1 billion worth of effort and even half of that is useful to IBM’s customers, then IBM gets $500m of development for $100m worth of expenditure.

If Microsoft could, in one fell swoop, get rid of their Windows piracy concerns, write better quality software, improve their corporate image, and radically reduce their development costs, do you think they would do it?

Backup software for Vista?

I want to install a copy of Ubuntu on my laptop.

However, when Vista was installed on it, a single partition was made of the hard drive so if I try to install Ubuntu now, it will overwrite the Vista partition (I assume, anyone knowing better, feel free to jump in!).

I presume that what I need to do is backup my Vista install, partition the drive into one partition for Vista and one for Ubuntu, restore the Vista into its partition and install Ubuntu into its partition.

Can anyone recommend software to allow me to backup my Vista install (including all my installed apps and settings), so that I can restore it again later.

In case it is relevant, I don’t have a floppy drive for the laptop.

Update – since posting this I came across Wubi – an Ubuntu installer which installs Ubuntu into a Windows partition. This could be an easier solution. I’ll try that and see how I get on.

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?

Microsoft post Vista fixes

Microsoft has released two significant fixes for Windows Vista today. One is a performance related fix and the other is a reliability related fix.

These fixes have to be manually applied for now although according to Mary Jo Foley:
Microsoft is promising to make the two new Vista fix packs available via Windows Update at a “later date.” The full statement, provided by a Microsoft spokeswoman:

“The two updates will be available on Microsoft’s download center today, and will be available through Windows Update at a later date.”

I downloaded and applied these patches to my Vista machine this morning but I haven’t noticed any significant difference to it yet. Probably because I don’t use the machine that much because of Vista’s performance and reliability issues!!!

This is a step towards the release of Vista Service Pack one (SP1). This will be the point where Vista comes out of what most companies would call Alpha and goes to Beta-equivalent quality. As I have said previously, Vista won’t approach production quality, at least until it reaches SP2.

Windows Live OneCare is crap

I have talked about what a piece of sh*t Windows Live OneCare is previously.

OneCare is Microsoft’s entry into the security arena. I have serious reservations about the ethics of Microsoft selling OneCare. It suddenly gives Microsoft a financial incentive to write buggy software. You can just imagine if, up to now, there was a financial dis-incentive for Microsoft to write buggy software and the quality of the software was poor just how bad the software will be now that they are selling OneCare.

That may go some way to explaining the many bugs in Vista!

Having said all that, I was contacted by Microsoft yesterday to tell me that they were sending me a new version of OneCare to install on the Vista laptop they sent me earlier this year.

I’ll give it another go, I said. Just to try it out and see how effective it is. Silly me.

I spent four hours today trying to get this piece of crap to work on the laptop. The last two of those four hours I was on to Microsoft tech support. They eventually gave up at 3:30pm and said they’d have to escalate it and I would get call back in an hour. That was eight hours ago. I’m still waiting for the call.

OneCare Startup Error

The number of re-starts required for this was completely ridiculous. It seemed like any time any change at all was made to OneCare, a re-start was required.

When nothing else worked, I had to uninstall Norton Internet Security. Restart required.

Onecare Cleanup Tool

To install OneCare, if you have a previous version installed (working or not) you have to uninstall the previous version. To uninstall OneCare, you have to download something called OneCare Cleanup Tool! You find this out after you do a normal uninstall and it still doesn’t uninstall properly. Seriously! How bloody difficult would it have been to build the Cleanup Tool into the installer?

Even Microsoft don’t know what the errors OneCare throws up means. At one point I received the error “No plans available”
Onecare- No Plans Available

Of course, copying the error text and putting it into a search box on OneCare support yields the helpful answer “We did not find any results for ….”
no plans available?

Windows Live OneCare is unusable. Don’t even bother wasting your time trying it.

UPDATE: It is now 30 hours since Microsoft tech support told me they would ring me “in an hour” and still no-one has called me back.

Unseemly haste in Vista SP1 a sign of desperation?

I came across two Vista related stories on Techmeme this morning.

The first from Ken Fisher on Ars Technica, talks about how Microsoft’s OEM partners are struggling with the number of customers who want to downgrade their computers from Vista to XP. Ken goes on to state

the “must wait for Service Pack 1″ meme is also so firmly established that Vista uptake will continue to be soft among businesses for quite some time, certainly into early 2008 when we expect to see Vista’s first service pack

Then I read Mary Jo Foley’s story about how Vista’s first service pack (SP1) will be released in Beta next week and released to the public in November after an unusually short testing time of four months (previous service packs have taken up to a year in Beta before being released).

According to Mary Jo,

here’s a list of other fixes likely to make it in:

* Performance tweaks lessening the amount of time it takes to copy files and shut down Vista machines (Yeah, I know Microsoft said Viista shutdown speed wasn’t an issue. Guess users weren’t so crazy, after all.)
* Improved transfer performance and decreased CPU utilization via support for SD Advanced Direct Memory Access (DMA)
* Support for ExFat, the Windows file format for flash memory storage and other consumer devices
* Improvements to BitLocker Drive Encryption to allow not just encryption of the whole Vista volume, but also locally created data volumes
* The ability to boot Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) on an x64 machine
* Improved success rate for firewalled MeetingSpace and Remote Assistance connections

Two things occur to me
1. The haste to get SP1 out the door seems to speak to nervousness on Microsoft’s part about Vista sales. No surprise there. Vista is still quite buggy and
2. If SP1 is rushed out the door, there is the possibility that bugs will be introduced by SP1 which will further erode confidence in Vista!

Microsoft need to tread quite carefully on this one.