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Fences from Stardock (and some Windows 7 screenshots)

Thursday, 19 November 2009 5:46 pm 2 comments

I heard of this great little utility called Fences. Scott Hanselman* mentioned it in a blog post a while back.

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As you can see, it groups controls into little fenced off corrals. If there are too many icons in the corral, it will scroll like so:

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That scrollbar fades in nicely when you hover your mouse anywhere on the corral and fades out when you leave.

There is a nice settings panel:

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Helpfully, it will also  take snapshots of how you’ve arranged your desktop:

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Its immensely useful and you should go check it out. Right now.

While we’re showing off Windows 7 desktop screenshots, this gorgeous theme is available for download.

You can get it from the Windows 7 Theme Gallery here.

If you’re in the US, this theme shipped with Windows 7, if not its the “United States” theme in the gallery. All of the localized themes for all countries are available in addition to one or two jazzier ones.

*PS I’m convinced we have to start calling Scott Manselman “the Ha”. We already call Scott Guthrie “the Gu” – naming conventions, people.

Categories: Personal, Tech, Windows, Windows 7

Windows 7, Part 2 – Norton Internet Security

Friday, 21 August 2009 11:46 am Comments off

Just  quick note to say that Norton Internet Security 2009 now works perfectly on Windows 7.

Symantec just pushed out some updates:

 Capture

And if you are using iTunes, remember to exclude the iTunes Music folder or else you won’t be able to save your iTunes library.

Categories: Software, Tech, Windows, Windows 7

Windows 7 (Part 1)

Sunday, 8 February 2009 6:30 pm Comments off

One question: is it the bees knees??? Yes it is.

At this point every other review is going wax philosophic about how great Windows 7 is, how its what Vista was supposed to be. And then go on to debate whether it should be a Service Pack instead.

I’m going to try avoid all those issues. But I will say this. Microsoft think that it should stand alone as it own OS, and that’s how I’m going to review it.

Its running on a Dell Inspiron 6400, 1.72Ghz dual Core with 1gb RAM.

First off. the problems I’ve had with it have been few and far between.

Now, every time a close the lid and then re-open it, the screen refuses to display the screen again. Its really annoying and requires a restart. The fix is simple – change the power options to do nothing when I close the lid. And it works like a charm now.

Second, IE8 RC wont install here. Don’t ask. But and earlier version of IE8 is installed. No solution as far as I know and I use Firefox anyway.

Third, iTunes runs quite well. Its faster. but not much else. however, it hangs on exit when its saving the iTunes library. And there’s not much choice here but to kill it with task manager.

You can get around this problem, perversely, by running iTunes as an Administrator. I suspect that the UAC tweaks are  the culprit here.

Fourth, every now and again 7 will hang at the shutdown screen (when it says “Shutting down”). This is annoying because you’re not quite sure what’s going on.

Finally, and i don’t know why this happens, the Adobe Bridge Photo Downloader no longer has the “Convert to DNG” option.

Adobe

Before everyone leaves comment, I have installed all the updates delivered to me. And Adobe Bridge tells me its version 2.1.1.9. Since I convert everything to DNG on import, this is really a disaster.

Most programs, actually run in Windows 7 quite well. I did have a problem with Windows Live and Visual Studio 2008 SP1 but hey, all installed eventually.

The Taskbar

7 is done right in a number of ways. The taskbar is particularly important as its the primary focus of any interaction with the OS.

On first use, telling the difference between pinned and active icons can be difficult. Its a very subtle UI cue there.

Taskbar

 

The Icons and notifications are better and never become too cluttered. Handling overflow is done particularly well.

At the bottom right of the taskbar, a little area sits on its own, separated from the rest of the taskbar. Clicking on this shows the desktop. However its not immediately obvious what this is for.

The taskbar itself stays transparent even when viewing a maximised window. I’m not sure about this. There is an argument to keeping the Vista behaviour of a solid taskbar when working with a maximised window.

The Start Menu

The Start Menu isn’t visually different from Vista’s. There are subtle UI cues however, that give away further functionality.

Programs that have been used have arrows next to them. Clicking on this arrow give the documents recently used by this program. the time saving nature of this cannot be over stated.

Taskbar2

The search box now says “Search programs and files” instead of start search. Its more obvious about the function of the search box, and encourages users to use it more. This is one of my favourite features of the Vista-esque UI ( i.e since Vista)

Taskbar search

The Shutdown button is quite blunt as to what it does, differing from Vista’s Off icon. It is possible to change the functionality of these buttons in the power settings and this always confused me. text makes it so much easier to distinguish  what’s going on.

Paint and Wordpad

Both Paint and Wordpad have the new Ribbon toolbar. this makes them much better as applications.

Paint

I tend to use paint quite a lot for situations when its not worth firing up Photoshop or Illustrator. Even in the few times I’ve used it, the Ribbon toolbar makes it so much better to use. and its not crappy old paint anymore either.

A few nice additions include the ability to Zoom right out ( right click to zoom out). This jumped out at me as being new.

Edit: Jordan Hofker pointed out on Freindfeed that its Wordpad not note pad. Many Thanks.

Personalization

The changing backgrounds have been around for ages in third party programs or as part of the Power Toys stuff. however this time its baked right into the OS.

The themes feature is very powerful. Of course I can still remember how Microsoft offered Plus for windows 95. I was too much of a cheapskate to get it, but the idea of a theme has been around for a while.

This marks the first time (that i can remember, anyway) that themes are actually files you can share rather than an amorphous collection of settings.

Whereas before (pre-vista, anyway) settings and dialogs had to be navigated with a map ( literally), important dialogs such as for the mouse pointers, screen resolutions, screen saver and sounds are literally a click away. This will encourage people to get more out of their computers (even the not so computer literate ones).

More later this week as i continue exploring Windows 7.

Windows 7

Monday, 12 January 2009 3:13 pm 2 comments

Yep. I’m writing this from my Windows 7 VM (on Virtual PC 2007 SP2).

Performance wise, The setup inside of the Vm is making it sluggish. But of the gig of RAM its got, its only using 32%. Which is notable. Vista beta 2, on the other hand) on the same machine in a dual boot configuration used up 80% (of one gig of RAM) standing still.

Talking of performance, I’ve backed the VM up to Windows Home Server. It took all of 20 minutes. Which frankly surprised me. given the fact that this was a new OS running under a VM.

So I’m inclined to wonder exactly how similar to Vista is 7, file wise? Since WHS only copies to the server files which it does not have a copy of (or a version of). Or, it could be that 7 is optimised for WHS to backup (Which makes sense on a number of levels, but not to the European Union).

The other thing i notice is the new taskbar. I’ve grown used to the Vista taskbar for some reason or other, but this is a pleasant change. The fact that the  task bar items can be configured to show application names or not, is really neat.

They do, however get confused with the buttons in the Quick Launch bar quite easily.

The UAC logo has changed colour, to yellow and blue, in keeping with the OS colour scheme. The UAC prompts themselves are worded differently.

The absence of a sidebar is nice. And I hope that the performance hit that running Sidebar produced is gone too. Gadgets are still there, just in the background and way less conspicuous.

Its quite a please feel to the whole OS. Does it feel like Vista?? A little. Its familiar territory. But In truth, I’ve yet to explorer the OS thoroughly. So that answer will have to wait.

One thing that is defiantly different is that Google Chrome 1.0 looks different.its a dark Blue instead of alight blue.

Talking of web browsers, i decided to install IE8. Which didn’t install. It didn’t recognize the OS for some strange reason. Must try again cause I hear that a few people have managed to do it.

I must say that I’m impressed enough to be considering upgrading one of my Vista machines to Windows 7.

This Beta 1 makes me look to Beta 2 and Release with a lot of hope that Microsoft have learned their lesson of the Vista Release debacle.

The one thing that no ones said anything much about is the WinFS file system that Vista was supposed to ship.

With Sun’s ZFS redundant file system, Microsoft are lagging behind. Even OSX has ZFS built in ( it has to be enabled with some obscure command line tricks, but its there).

Even if Microsoft released a separate beta version with WinFS, I’d be happy. 

NTFS is old. Time to innovate it.

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