Archive for the ‘Software’ Category



March 28, 2008

For our one (and only) reader that is a bit confused as to the complete and total lack of updates, well, we moved. Head over to our new home for all things tech with podcasts featuring yours truly and Ivan.

Windows Vista SP1 Added Bonus: Anti-Virus May Stop Working

February 23, 2008

Windows Vista SP1 Potential ProblemsThe BBC has this excellent story about how the newest update (actually, its called a Service Pack because it is huge) for Windows Vista will cause some third-party programs to stop functioning, lose specific features or both. The affected programs are listed on the left. I am really having trouble recommending Vista as it is, but this makes it downright impossible.


Addictive Game With Hell In The Title:Located In Different Country

November 19, 2007

LondonOver Halloween, Flagship Studios (renegades from software publishing company Blizzard who made the incredibly addictive Diablo II computer game) released Hellgate:London to the US and UK markets. You are in a future London ravaged by demons, zombies and other such vileness with a rag-tag band of humans (stuck to navigating/living within the London Underground’s bombed out remains) who can wield magic and heavy weaponry and are aiming to take the battle to our new evil overlords. The game features impressive lighting effects, multiple character classes which actually play differently, and an amazing random dungeon generator which makes virtually every level you play different from the last, ensuring quite a large amount of replayability.

It’s also just as addictive as Diablo II.

It has that feeling you receive when you only want one more chip, one more serving of stuffing or just one more piece of fudge. You tell yourself you will only play until the next level/upgrade/unlock and then you are suddenly rationalizing with yourself how 2 hours of sleep really is enough the day before you have a test because the test is fleeting but this is saving the world!

However, all great addictions have a few side effects, and in Hellgate:London’s, it is crashes. Lots of crashes. Lots and lots of crashes. You will be running along defending all that is good in the world and suddenly your character freezes, in mid-stride, while the sound loops endlessly through your speakers. The only escape is to restart the computer. You are teased with this addictive confection of a game until it randomly decides to stop working, melts all over your hands and not in your mouth, and then you have to hard reboot your computer to get anything running again.

So with this terrible problem, why are people still playing it and why is it the most popular game currently in the US?


Windows Vista Part II.5 – Remember when…

November 12, 2007

NostalgiaApparently customers are never happy. With all of the information you have heard from friends, read online or in magazines, or perhaps even seen on television, something new is often met with a bit of defiance, some ridicule and sometimes, downright resistance. We’ve taken a look at Vista’s reception from the public in previous posts, but if you think back a few years, say to 2002, Microsoft released another operating system that also received a mixed reaction… what was it called? Oh yes, Windows XP. (Note: click the link on the bottom of the story to progress through this nearly identical laundry list of complaints that we once had against our current PC savior, Windows XP)

A great big thanks to Chrispynutt who pointed this out to me while waxing philosophic about what the future name of Microsoft’s next big operating system would be; mine was Windows Marmalade, his was Windows Live Treacle. What’s yours?


Vista Aside: The HORROR… Of Microsoft Word 2007

November 5, 2007

Not XMLI know you are eagerly awaiting the next part in my series on Vista, but I simply had to take a moment and warn you about Office 2007, and more importantly, Word 2007.

Microsoft releases a new version of its office suite roughly every few years and Office 2007 has quite a few major changes. With a layout influenced by the glassy look of Vista, the total lack of drop-down context menus and a new ‘ribbon’ interface, all of the Microsoft Office programs have gone under the knife for the programming equivalent of Botox. However, like Botox, there are a few unwelcome side affects. Like, say, not being able to open a saved 2007 Word file in anything other than Word 2007.

Microsoft, in its dedication to open source programming, has began using an XML format as the default way it saves its Word documents. XML (according to computer book publisher O’Reilly) is:

XML is a markup language for documents containing structured information.

Structured information contains both content (words, pictures, etc.) and some indication of what role that content plays (for example, content in a section heading has a different meaning from content in a footnote, which means something different than content in a figure caption or content in a database table, etc.). Almost all documents have some structure.

A markup language is a mechanism to identify structures in a document. The XML specification defines a standard way to add markup to documents.”

At first you would think this is a good idea, being that XML is a free standard and available to everyone, which is true. However, it is also true that unless you download some kind of converter, Word 2003, Word XP, Open Office, Wordperfect and all the other major word processing programs cannot open the XML based “.docx” file!

Now you can go into Word and change the default save format from the mysterious “.docx” to the standard “.doc”… its just that you’ve never had to do this before with a Microsoft Office program. You save a Word document, you have a Word “.doc” now. That’s just how it is supposed to be. Thankfully, we live in a world rich with opportunity, and there are multiple folks who have created converters to allow you to travel from the land of “.docx” back to the friendly shores of “.doc”:

This little exercise in frustration aside, Office 2007 is the newest suite of productivity tools on the block and I am genuinely curious if anyone else has an experience, good or bad, that they would like to share.


Windows Vista Part II: Electric Boogaloo

October 29, 2007

Aero Flip 3dOur previous post explained what Vista is and how people are responding to the program. Now it’s time to look directly at the features that make, and break, Microsoft’s newest OS.

Just what is so great about Vista? Well, there are a few things that really separate it from Microsoft’s previous operating system, Windows XP:

  • Included Programs/Features:
    • CD & DVD Burning
    • Basic Picture Editing & Slide Show Tools
    • Enhanced Movie Editing
    • Windows Contacts –address book revamped
    • Windows Mail – outlook express revamped
    • DirectX 10 Support
    • Games Explorer
  • Improved Back-Up Option
    • Uses Zip files for backup and recovery

Well then, what’s so bad about Vista compared to XP? Again there are a few different things that separate it from its older computing cousin:

  • System requirements are much, MUCH higher
  • Requires new drivers for hardware: printers, scanners, video cards, etc.
    • If no Vista drivers, then you have to buy something Vista compatible
  • Performance is sluggish overall compared to XP
  • Does not network well with older versions of Windows
  • Does not support some Microsoft created technologies (Zune Player)
  • Does not support some older programs that previously worked in XP
  • Has issues with some new programs: Incredimail, Roxio CD Creator, etc.

Am I missing anything here from either side? Go ahead and let me know with a comment while I finish up the final installment in, Windows Vista Part III: Upgrade, Install or Ignore.


Windows Vista Part I: Who’s Buying?

October 25, 2007

Vista LogoMicrosoft’s latest operating system, Windows Vista, was first released to the public on January 30th, 2007, while businesses were given early access in November of 2006. Vista has been available to you and me for over 8 months now, and what a turbulent 8 months it has been. First, various printer manufacturers did not create new drivers for many of their popular printers (I faced the brunt of this at Office Max from May to August), and some still have not made new drivers (the software that allows your computer to talk to the printer), compatible with Vista. This forced customers to either buy a new printer (not popular) or simply refuse to upgrade (very popular).

Then users discovered that programs which had previously worked fine in Windows XP, suddenly ceased working or displayed incredibly odd behavior when installed on a Windows Vista system. As if these were not enough, Microsoft set a deadline for all computer manufacturers to offer only Vista and not XP, regardless of what customers wanted. Combine this with the horror stories regarding the numerous problems people have discovered when migrating to Microsoft’s new operating system, and you have a nice collection of Vista-phobic computer users running around. So, in light of these setbacks, what happened?

According to Microsoft, more than 20,000 licenses were sold in the first month of availability, making Vista one of the fastest selling operating system Microsoft has ever had.

However, according to just about everyone else, those numbers were connected mainly with new computer sales.   And all currently shipping computers are pre-loaded with… Windows Vista.  Apparently people have Vista and they are using it, often whether they like it or not. The fact that Microsoft has given computer manufacturers the option to downgrade some users of Vista to Windows XP is very interesting.

So just what is so special about this Microsoft operating system that even makes the idea of an upgrade necessary? That will be Part II in our look at Windows Vista.