Sunday, July 15, 2007

Vista IS quite a change, not just a new interface.

I'm a bit tired of hearing about how Windows Vista is no good, it's just a bloated new version with a new useless graphical user interface with a lot of bling bling. I'm far from a Microsoft "fanboy" but come on. It's a great upgrade. As far as "cool" effects go, well it is behind MacOS X , and basically Linux too, in some of those areas...

Wikipedia lists a couple of sections with the new and improved features, first the obvious ones like the late but very improved security, and to the right there are further links to descriptions of things such as the the totally rewritten network stack etc.

For some more interesting technical details about what has happened with the actual kernel:
Inside the Windows Vista Kernel: Part 1
Thread priority and scheduling
File-based symbolic links
Canceling I/O operations

Inside the Windows Vista Kernel: Part 2
Memory management
Startup and shutdown
Power management

Inside the Windows Vista Kernel: Part 3

A part from the kernel we have the much improved network stack (better performance and wireless connections are now actually not just emulated wired connections among other things), new and better driver model, and for gamers of course DirectX 10. Shadow copy ("previous versions") is another really cool feature, and it really works and has saved me at least once from a couple of hours of frustration.

For me Vista's instant search for everything you do (with a simple win-key activation, an important detail), snappier interface (thanks to various system improvements), quick startup-times and improved security, quite a few small improved details in the interface (like the address bar's breadcrumbs feature) etc are most welcome.

Having said all that, there is one thing that annoys me a bit in Vista. The focus handling in the file explorer. It is not always totally clear where exactly the focus is and in one instance it switches focus from the right pane to the left (tree) pane. The concept of inactive focus (the focus in the non-focused pane) can be confusing if you are not paying attention. A number of times I've accidently deleted the wrong folder with my usual shift-delete key combination (no confirmation). For example: If you select a folder in the tree, and then select files from inside that folder in the right pane and press delete to delete just those files, it is possible that it could delete the entire folder as it never actually switched focus to the right pane. Instead it just highlights them with the secondary/grey focus color.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tools and nice software for Windows, mostly Vista

Some current favourite tools, utilities and programs I'm using with Windows Vista. Some might be useful for other OSes or older Windows versions too. In general these are small efficient tools. In no particular order:

vista codec pack - thin and slim codec pack, that does just exactly what I want and nothing more and is customizable, easy to install and uninstall correctly.
quicktime alternate -non-bloated quicktime player (the above contained codecs play quicktime too though)

putty, pscp -ssh, scp/sftp clients
winscp -scp/sftp program with a friendly interface
daemon tools -mount disk images as real cd/dvds etc
notepad2 -replace notepad, still quick 'n easy but a lot more powerful
imgburn -burning cd & dvds
powershell -Microsoft's new powerful command shell
7-zip -program for all de-/compression needs
synctoy -an excellent small program that just works and works well. Part of Microsofts powertoy suite and synchronizes files across folders/drives/shares/etc.
jdiskreport -find out what is taking up all that disk space on your drives

azureus -bittorrent client

Live Messenger -actually quite nice, especially when cleaned up with the following program:
a-patch -modifying live messenger, remove ads etc
miranda -slim multi im-client

yod'm 3d -desktop manager, 3D cube spinning to switch.
start++ -improve the Vista built-in search even further, useful!
atimobility modder -driverheaven, fix ati catalyst drivers to run on all notebooks
switcher -exposé or similar for Vista

wireshark -the sniffing tool
nmap -port scanner
backtrack -linux live cd for security stuff

Current start page for web browsing

Organizer client
Private: GMail, Google Calendar
Work: MS Outlook 2007, actually quite nice

I'm too lazy to provide links but they should not be hard to find with google.

Anyone have any tools and utilities tips they would like to share?

Update: Niclas reminded me of synctoy, an excellent small program that just works and works well. Part of Microsofts powertoy suite and synchronizes files across folders/drives/shares/etc.

Update 2 (July 15th): Yesterday I came across another thin and slim codec pack, Vista codec pack, that does exactly what I want and nothing more and is customizable and easy to install and uninstall correctly. It actually played some 1080p hd files better than the friendly CCCP so after some testing I'm definately switching over to this one now. Other minor tweaks to the list as well