Win 7 Breaks VPN Clients

If you’re like me, you’re already a huge fan of Windows 7. Its simply the best OS Microsoft have produced to date. But as good an operating system that it is, it has one serious draw back. Most existing VPN clients don’t work with it.

In my line of work I use 2 custom VPN clients at the moment, and there simply isn’t a work around to get these clients working, except for running XP Mode.

Microsoft assure that VPN client vendors are upgrading their software to work with Win 7, so future versions should be fine, but at this very minute, if you’re using VPN on a daily basis, then be aware of this issue, more information can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd787668%28WS.10%29.aspx

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What was wrong with Vista?

Windows 7 will be released any day now, so its a good time to reflect on exactly why Windows Vista was such a huge failure in the market place. I believe the following points pretty much some it up.

  1. The main reason why Vista failed was because it was the first OS by Microsoft to integrate hardware acceleration into the user interface. Typically running Vista meant having to upgrade hardware, the corporate world were simply not willing to roll out new hardware for no perceived value other than a flashy user interface. The actual visual effects were not typically usable, more of a novelty (need I mention the winkey tab effect). Win 7 however allows some level of interaction with the direct 3d interface, giving it purpose. Lets not forget that its nearly defacto for hardware to now have direct 3d processing capabilities, and the overall price of this capability has dropped considerably.
  2. Windows Vista added very little new value to the world of computing. Windows XP can do anything Windows Vista can. Some argue that Windows Vista is more secure, however Microsoft had at the time released XP Service Pack 3, which really evened out the scales. Win 7 might not do a whole lot more, but what it has done is added better support for multi core computing, added some useful user interface features, and really polished things up under the hood.
  3. Hardware manufacturers were slow to deliver drivers for Vista. For the first year of operation Vista was not widely supported, and mostly XP drivers did not work with Vista. Windows 7 in contrast does support Vista drivers.
  4. Vista got a terrible name quickly, and home users and gamers ran a mile. Microsoft marketed Windows Vista all over the place, they spent an enormous amount on bill board and tv campaigns and everyone was excited to rush out and get it. However the excitement quickly turned into frustration and anger. Gamers found their games ran slower (sometimes by as much as 30%) than on XP.  No matter how you look at it, What ever XP did, Vista took longer to do it. Most people felt cheated.
  5. Vista was the first OS to support DX10 gaming, however neither DX10 gaming was really advanced, nor the hardware to run DX10 games, meaning most people just ended up blaming Vista for this.
  6. Finally Vista just ended up becoming an embarrassment, even after service pack 1 was released, and hardware support improved, Vista never dropped the stigma attached with the name Vista. Microsoft ultimately took a word with no meaning to anyone “Vista” and turned it into one of those words that when you hear makes you feel sick in your stomach.

Windows 7 Dooms day posts and Win XP

This is just a short message to those of you compelled enough to write articles on why it’s a good idea to avoid Windows 7. Example

I’ll start off by saying the longer you’ve been in this game the less you see : Linux vs Windows vs Mac, and the more you start accepting that its likely all 3 will be around and each OS has its individual strengths and weaknesses. There should be enough Linux vs Windows vs Mac posts on the internet to full a public library, so I don’t see how contributing yet another page on the subject will help anyone. Our attention should be focused on getting these systems to talk to each other in a standardized way. I would say its even more crucial that we even more clearly define web standards, so web apps work without propriety technologies like Active-x.

So should Win 7 be avoided? From a technical point of view it would make sense to use the OS that is best for the job you need it for. If you’re happy with XP and it does everything you want it to do, then by all means continue using XP. If you, like me want to get the most out of my computer, and are not scared to try new things, and are excited about new technology then I don’t see any compelling reason why anyone would want to avoid Win 7, unless perhaps you’re running old hardware.

Windows 7 IS a better operating system than XP, and why wouldn’t it be. I won’t talk here about visual effects and crap, lets skip straight to the core. Win 7 loads devices and drivers in parallel. Windows 7 is optimized for multi core systems. Windows 7’s explorer.exe process has been revamped, and its coded better than anything Microsoft has ever released. I’ll also mention networking and file sharing has got a lot better. Loading drivers for devices in Win 7 is also a heck of a lot easier, if you’ve got compatible hardware, you’ll never have to fumble for the installation disk.

Lets be frank though Microsoft did release a dud operating system, called Windows Vista, and this has caused people to distrust MS. But lets get back to business and get on with things. Win 7 is worth any money you’ll spend on it, and its time to move on with the times.

When will Google release an OS?

Its 2009, and the OS war still readily continues, Microsoft still have control, but for how long? I’ve been around computers for over 2 decades, and it’s become pretty clear over the years that Microsoft products are popular mainly because of the existing hook Microsoft have on the market. With MS, its all about marketing from this point on.  Microsoft generally do NOT provide us with the best solutions for the task.

Its proven that Linux is far superior to Windows. Oracle is more advanced than SQL. SharePoint is perhaps the least friendly collaboration tool. Windows Live search is just a joke compared to Google. MSN Messenger does not come close to comparing with Skype. The list continues. In Microsofts defense, Microsoft Office and Visual Studio are good solid applications. With the exception of the Office Automation APIs which are COM based, outdated and full of bugs.

In 2009, as much as I support the efforts of all Linux developers, and really enjoy using the OS, it seems that Linux is just not getting the support it needs to become mainstream. What Linux really needs is more backing from the important players in this game. Skype, Adobe, the Gaming industry and Google to name a few. This is not going to happen until one or more of these players can find a way to loosen the grip MS have on consumers.

The best way I can describe this situation is : Imagine for a minute that you’re dating a partner that makes you unhappy, in order to be with someone who makes you happy, you first need to drop the dead wood. Microsoft is this bad partner, that is indeed hindering the future of computing and future possibilities.

Is Google our new hope? Possibly! You have to admit that there is nothing inferior about any product Google have released. The company is alive with ideas that are mainly beneficial to us. What I really admire about Google is the quality of their work. Google, more than any company are in the position to know what end users really want, what true business needs we’re demanding.

Googles latest ambition is to replace conventional email, I believe they will succeed. MS will once again be forced into the position of playing catch up. Google Wave will become the next standard in communication. Wave does far more than replace the nature of email, it will also revamp the way web applications communicate with each other. You can see where this is heading right? Essentially we have the building blocks for an operating system.

If Google had to produce an operating system, I can assure you, it would far exceed anything we’ve ever seen before. It would be a smart, purpose driven operating system. I would imagine, lean, reliable and efficient. Would this be enough to break the MS Stronghold? Possibly!

Why do large corporates get involved with Microsoft if  it’s not the most cost effective or ideal solution? Microsoft have provided MOSS to be the heart of information sharing within an organisation, a product that’s so complex, outdated, and lacking that its crying out to be replaced. Imagine if these corporates could tap into the vast power of Googles information indexing, search and collaboration? Imagine how all round producivity would increase? Imagine bridging VPN access without costly solutions? I can assure you this would be a good day for IT in general if Google were to take some control of the situation. Imagine from an IT service point of view, a user never loosing another document? Imagine never loosing another email? Imagine Operating Systems so specific to the task that it would be impossible to accidently download a virus or crash the OS. This is the future, and Google I believe will make all of this a reality. I expect within the next 10 years the face of IT will change, but it will not change quick enough, so long as Microsoft still have the stronghold on the products we use, and still manage to lock themselves into the pockets of large corporates in every way shape or form.

We want our Skype now God damn it

Mac and Linux users read on

Skype was originally intended to be a cross browser platform communication tool. But this is not truly the case anymore. Skype, the company now focuses its full attention on developing for the Windows platform. Essentially they’ve practically abandoned their Mac and Linux community. This is a major disappointment for these people who do not use Windows, mainly because Skype uses a proprietry protocol and so its not even possible to reinvent the Skype client for these  platforms.

Skype have been promising Linux users a new client for so long, one Linux user quoted : “We’ve been in the dark so long, its about time we found another light”.

Skype should just be honest and explain to the Linux and Mac community that they  should find other software, because frankly “Skype don’t give a damn”. Instead Skype make bold politically correct statements and promises that development will continue for these platforms. Really? Seeing is believing. Skype now version 4 for Windows, is currently in version 2 for Linux, and Skype v2 is just too dodgy to mention.

Skype 4 also refuses to run under Wine, so you can’t just push this as the solution.

Skype wake up, Bad Dog Skype!

Less Commonly discussed Windows 7 Features.

Lately when you hear about Windows 7, all you’re hearing about is Shake, the new task bar, and Homegroup.

I’ve just installed it as a primary OS, and these are some more obscure facts.

  1. Windows 7, comes with IE8. IE8 has not been released yet. I think its kinda cool that IE8 was included and not older IE7.
  2. Skype 3.8 (Latest at the time) has compatibility issues. The solution is to download Skype 4 Beta 3. But as everyone knows Skype 4 Beta Sucks, still I’m in a good mood, so I’ll comply for now.
  3. UAC is a lot less intrusive, and not so annoying, usually its the first thing I turn off, well its been 30 minutes and its still on 🙂
  4. The “Vista Search Sucks Issue” IS finally fixed. THANK YOU MICROSOFT for doing something right! Its not 100%, but it does mean I can uninstall custom search tools, and find non indexed files again.
  5. The task bar and quick launch are combined, when a window requires an action, its icon glows on the task bar, doesn’t flash and annoy +10 points to the developers who thought of this.
  6. AVG free works with Windows 7, sorry can’t afford Nod32 🙂
  7. Its very easy to secure a removable HDD using BitLocker, right click action and follow a Wizard. Unfortunately its not so easy to secure your system drive.
  8. Paint still sucks, its interface has been redesigned to use a ribbon, but its still a sad little application.
  9. There is no “classic” view in the control panel, but the control panel looks pretty easy to use, so no complaints there.
  10. Windows and Icons draw quicker with less all round lag.
  11. Media Player 12 is clean. A lot of people give media player a bad wrap, but its a first class media player, has been since version 11.  
  12. Same games as Vista. Exactly the same, not enhanced or rewritten.
  13. Same defragmentation tool, no user interface.
  14. No need to store everything in txt files, you can now create notes, which are also indexed for each searching. Just good for real basis notes.
  15. New command line – called Windows Powershell, this is really worth a look at for most developers
  16. Calculator looks better, has some new conversion features
  17. Gadgets are suddenly usable, because they’re not attached to the side bar.
  18. Still no iPod integration with Media Player.

My thoughts on Windows 7

I see Windows 7 as a true “Take it or leave it” offer. Microsoft are well aware that You’ll end up taking it, after all anything is better than Vista and XP is getting kinda old.

To be fair, it seems the boys in Redmond are doing something right. I won’t lie to you and say Windows 7 is the perfect operating system, but again anything has to be better than Vista.

What’s really good about Windows 7?
Microsoft have finally caught on to parallel loading of device drivers and services in Windows 7.  Services now finally also load on demand, so Windows 7 will boot faster than XP or Vista. I guess technologically this is a huge leap forward for Microsoft Operating Systems. Most people can’t believe this – “loads quicker than XP? Are you sure”, if you think about it, its again no great shakes, Operating Systems are supposed to get better in time, not worse!

Why most people will upgrade from XP or Vista?

The gaming community need an OS capable of running DX-10, so ANYTHING has to be better than Vista, and XP only has support for DX-9.

 General computer users will be sold new equipment with Windows 7 preloaded, and typically they won’t get any choice in the matter, exactly the same way as right now if you rush out to buy a laptop, you’ll find its Vista Ready.

XP die hard users are not that in love with XP, but its a practical option at the moment, if Windows 7 can run leaner than Vista, then perhaps XP Users will consider an upgrade. One concern here is that I’ve noticed a lot of the compatibility marketing assumes an upgrade from Windows Vista. I’ve seen no assurance about a clean upgrade from XP.

Corporates that are currently still on XP, will need to make some kind of jump. Microsoft are fully aware that upgrading to Vista, usually involved an all out hardware upgrade rollout, a hoop most corporates were not stupid enough to jump through. I believe (and this is just a hunch), Windows 7 business edition might run in an “extra” lean business mode, to send out a message to corporates that this Windows is designed for work purposes, not a “WoW toy”. I also predict Microsoft will tie in some motivation in the form of network wide management, etc to add some real value business value to Windows 7.

 Final thoughts

Do I personally think Windows 7 will be another reject?
I think it would be a lot more interesting to see the events unfold if Windows 7 was to be another complete disaster released by Microsoft. Linux would certainly get some more followers. Don’t hold your breath though, this simply won’t happen. I don’t think Windows 7 will be an amazing operating system, but it will be better than Windows Vista, unfortunately it will never be as lean as XP. I personally have stopped using Microsoft desktop operating systems, and have opted to use their server os’s which have leaner kernels.

Final Final Thoughts

One problem Windows 7 still has, which will annoy some of you, is the Vista style search. The search is fine for searching through “my documents”, but unfortunately won’t search your whole computer (even if you tell it too). Microsoft have redefined the meaning of “everywhere” to the locally logged in user’s folders, typically C:\Users\username. I’ve heard its possible to change the search provider, but a lot of the search functionality is hard coded into the start menu unfortunately.

Why Factory State For Notebooks is a bad idea

In this article, I will speak about my experience with Sony and Toshiba.

My Sony Vaio has 3 utility CD’s (That I had to burn) that can be used to restore the Vaio to “Factory State”. What makes me laugh is that whenever you have a problem with a Sony Vaio Laptop and need to contact support, they always ask you “What software does you computer have installed?” followed my their typical response – “Sir, please restore your computer to factory state and see if the problem persists”. To these guys its as if “Factory State” is some magical best possible software configuration where all problems can be simplified to either “Customer is at fault” or “The Vaio might need to go in for technical repairs”.

Its not really that I have a problem with Factory State, a laptop needs an OS right? What I have a problem with is the room full of people who decide what exactly will constitute “Factory State”, clearly these people have no interest in actually using the computer they’re selling. I myself am a computer expert, 10 years in the field and I know that when I buy a computer, the first thing I need to do is “fix it”, because it will arrive “broken” with its factory software configuration. Now you mighy be thinking, yeah yeah, most people are not that clued up on computers, and don’t mind a bit of bloat wear. This statement might have been true a few years ago, but the problem is “Factory State” has become so overbloated that its now noticable even to novice users. I’ve seen this with my friends, who know absolutely nothing about computers, they come to me and say “My computer is taking too long to start up, I think its because when I bought it, it comes with all these programs I don’t need”. Good old me ends up spending 2 hours, tweaking the startup and uninstalling the bloat on the PC.

Below I have documented the steps I need to take to fix a PC from “Factory State”.

  1. I removed the start up nag thats showing me about special offers from Symantec and Microsoft Office Home Student.
  2. I then needed to purge ALL SYMANTEC PRODUCTS from the system.  These products severly affect system performance. This involves uninstalling 4 products, and so 4 restarts…. but at least no more Norton.
  3. Because my laptop is running Windows Vista (and I wish I had an XP option, but I do not) I needed to get rid of UAC – thats right turn it off, do not pass begin or collect 200.
  4. Get rid of Microsoft Works – its completely outdated and there is actually no point at all in this product, originally intended to be the poor mans word, now MS Word Home and Student 2007 is affordable to the man on the street, and Open Office better still is FREE!  
  5. Have a coffee 🙂
  6. Install windows updates, “Factory State” does not get updated or patched, so its old, pre Vista SP1 days.
  7. Get rid of an installed copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition that is installed, but not activated. Note: this isn’t free software, Sony and Toshiba are not bundling any value in this for you.
  8. Change the power setting to performance, and not Vaio Optimised (i.e: slow performance, better battery)
  9. reboot
  10. Get rid of the google toolbar for IE, I don’t do bloat, full stop!
  11. Uninstall Google Earth, its not a bad program, but its now an outdated version, bottom line: if I wanted it on there I would have downloaded it and installed it myself.
  12. Uninstall Google Talk, I never use it.
  13. Oops just missed an activation assistant for Microsoft Office – better get rid of this too, and
  14. reboot
  15. uninstall SQL 2005, thats been included despite it having compatibility issues with this version of Vista (This is a Sony only issue)
  16. reboot
  17. Uninstall Proprietry Video and Photo Viewing Applications – not going to name them all, but there are so many (at least 9).  They’re usually total crap, and not required
  18. Uninstall the advertising screen saver
  19. Uninstall 1 AC3 Codec I don’t really trust at all
  20. EEEEwwww Roxio – this has to go! And now that its on, it could have major issues trying to install Nero after it. Lets hope for the best, this time.
  21. Picasso 2 – offically bloat
  22. Uninstall SQL Server native Client – getting bored already with this – Yawn!
  23. Uninstall Skype, its an older version!
  24. Get rid of the damn side bar already!
  25. Uninstall the 56k fax modem (not sure why they would include this hardware on such a modern PC, but its completely useless to me)
  26. Smoke all SonicStage Products, not sure who these guys are or what they do, but not interested!
  27. Reboot
  28. Install some more updates, that are coming through on Windows Automatic Updates
  29. Turn off most of the Vista Fuzz, that slows the PC down considerably (Core Duo 2 2.2GHz)
  30. Set the page file to fixed size
  31. Turn off Vista Indexing for the OS drive (another feature that just slows you down)
  32. Install some more Vista Updates
  33. Reboot
  34. Shutdown all unrequired services that are not required by most users (e.g: fax)
  35. Remove “buy from Ebay” desktop advertisment icons
  36. Clean up general clutter on the desktop from advertising companies
  37. Remove duplicate and unneeded items from the start menu
  38. Turn off system restore!
  39. Get rid of everything relating to tablet PC, I don’t own one, and more than likely never will!
  40. Get rid of Vaio AV launcher crap, thats what Media centre is for.

I know its a bit of a long post, but I have to tell you after all the work, the notebook is finally ready, and in my opinion now “Factory State”.

How do Mac Users survive without Internet Explorer?

We all know Macs are perfect and people that use Macs like to think of them as im-mac-ulate 🙂

I was just thinking about one very real problem that comes with your Mac, the day you buy it. This is compatibility with the majority of computer users, who mostly all run PC’s.

As a PC user I’ve recently installed non IE browsers. FireFox, Chrome and Opera. These 3 browsers are all great in their own rights, but every now and again a page comes up that has some kind of error on it, and will only open up in IE. As a windows user, I can switch to IE and view the page as it was intended, this is not the best solution, but it does mean that I can complete the reason I visited that site.

A Mac user would not have this option, and that smug Mac user might just loose out completely because of this.