What I LOVE about Windows Phone 8.1

If you read my previous article you probably think I really do hate Windows Phone 8.1, but I don’t. In fact, I actually love it. I think it is one of the most compelling mobile operating systems that I have ever used. It’s definitely not without its flaws, but please allow me to tell you why I think more people should give it a chance.

Continue reading “What I LOVE about Windows Phone 8.1”

Wubi

If you’ve ever wanted to try out Linux and you’re a PC user. Now you can and you don’t even have to worry about destroying your Windows installation and the best part of it is that you don’t even have to set up a separate partition for it. There are no longer any excuses for not trying Linux out. Ubuntu Linux, that is.

Wubi is a very simple application. You run the application and you give it your preferred username and password. You can change advanced options such as where you want to have Ubuntu installed, which version of Ubuntu Linux you want to use (standard Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu or Ubuntu Studio). Once you complete the two step wizard the program will download the version you chose. You’ll then have to reboot and choose Ubuntu from the operating system list. Ubuntu will then be installed into a directory on your computer inside of your Windows installation. Once Ubuntu is installed you’ll reboot and choose Ubuntu from the list again, then login to your newly installed Ubuntu Linux desktop. Once you are finished using Ubuntu you can simply reboot your system and choose Windows from the list, which is selected by default. So remember when you reboot you have to choose Ubuntu from the list if you want to get back into it.

The great thing about Wubi installing Ubuntu Linux is the fact that it is a really good distribution, especially for people who are more familiar with Windows. With Ubuntu Linux you’ll still have access to the files on your computer by going to Places >> Computer and double clicking on the drive where your files are located.

Also, if you have a good graphics card in your system you can take advantage of it by going ahead and allowing the restricted drivers to be installed onto your system. Don’t worry, in this case restricted means that there are copyrights on some of the drivers and they can’t be used in some countries. Also, I don’t think Ubuntu will support these. However, by using the restricted drivers I was able to enable the desktop effects and put some really awesome eye candy onto my Ubuntu Linux desktop: wobbly windows, virtual desktops that spin on a cube, fancy menu effects, etc. If you’d like to see some of these effects, check out this video I found on YouTube.

If you get tired of having Ubuntu Linux installed you simply reboot into Windows and un-install it like any other application.

Although I think Ubuntu Linux is a great distribution, I still prefer Fedora because that is what I am most familiar with. I would like to see the Wubi project expand. Maybe they could offer an API for other Linux distribution vendor’s to create an installer for their specific Linux distribution.

A suggestion to the developers that I would make is instead of having users click on “Advanced Settings” to make advanced changes such as where you want Linux installed, make it a part of the wizard. My first time going through the wizard, I did not notice it.

Also, one thing that annoyed me was the fact that as Ubuntu Linux downloaded with the Wubi installer program, three pressed copies of Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) were sitting right beside me. It would be good if you could choose to either download the ISO image, allow you to insert your disc into the drive and create an ISO image or to select an ISO image that you may have already downloaded. The only reason that I can think of as to why they would force you to download a copy of Ubuntu is that it is a custom version with a specific installer.

Like I said earlier, if you’ve been wanting to try out Linux, here is your extremely easy option for getting Linux up and running very quickly.

Wubi – The Easiest Way To Linux

Article update: Thursday, September 11, 2008: I have updated the screenshots for this article so that they look nice with the new TechButter theme. Unfortunately, I was unable to download the version of Wubi I wrote about in this article. The article talks about Wubi for Ubuntu 7.04 and the screenshots are for Wubi Ubuntu 8.04.

The software looks the same. The only difference is that there is no longer a wizard. All of the options are on one page. When you click “Next” wubi begins downloading the Ubuntu installer.

In looking for the original version of Wubi I found out that there is a project that is currently in the planning stages that will allow you to install any Linux distribution you choose. The project is called WubiX. Hopefully the project will be out of the planning stage and into production soon.

Internet Explorer 7

Installation

I just downloaded and installed IE7. A MUCH, MUCH needed update to Microsoft's web browser. The installation went very well, there weren't any glitches, it done everything on its own without asking many questions. It is interesting because in older versions of IE, 4 & 5, it would ask you all kinds of questions. Whether you wanted this option or this plugin, etc. I think one of the reasons they done that with the older versions was because they were trying to add more functionality to the operating system. I remember getting web view folders with IE4 and being tickled to death because I was using Windows 95 at the time and it looked like a lot of the features that 98 had. However, they don't need those options now since the only operating systems that can install this version of IE (2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista) have those features built into the OS already.

Upon installing and rebooting the computer I opened up the new version and waited for the run-once website to appear, it never did, it gave a message stating that this website could not be found. This wouldn't be good for a new computer user, they might think that their browser is broken, however, I do realize that Microsoft's servers are probably under a lot of stress from everyone downloading, installing and running the new version, just as I did.

Web Standards

I decided to navigate to my website to see how it rendered. As a web designer I have been anxiously awaiting this version of Internet Explorer because supposedly, I won't have to hack my code anymore to make it work! The rate of adoption will probably be slow and I honestly cannot wait until Microsoft sends it out as a Windows Update. I realize there will be companies that cannot update to this version due to internal applications, but, for everyday users, it will be nice not to have to hear them complaining that my website does not render correctly in their browser because Microsoft refuses to comply with web standards! I am anxiously awaiting to see if this new version is more standards friendly.

I navigated around to a few pages on my website. The navigation menu still does not appear as it does in Mozilla Firefox and Opera. I also clicked over to my Flickr photo sets page and the sets have a gap in them about four rows down.

Anti-Phishing Technology

When I did navigate to my website I got a pop up message about setting up my phishing filter. I'm sure that this is just a standard dialog meant to appear when you access your first website. Hopefully someone hasn't hijacked my website and is installing spyware onto my visitor’s computers! I do think this will be a great addition to the IE browser for those people who have just purchased a new computer and are learning to use the Internet because they don't know about all these security risks, spyware, etc.

Minimalist Layout

I do appreciate the minimalist layout that they have went with in IE7. I suppose this will give room for those spyware toolbars that everyone seems to get.

Tabbed Browsing

I don't think that they made it apparent enough that the browser now supports tabs. However, I do have to give them credit because by default Firefox does not even add the “New Tab” button to the toolbar.

I really do like the quick tabs feature. If you have multiple tabs open you can quickly view all the open tabs and select the one you want to view. I think they will really entice a lot of users with that feature because users will see the true benefits of tabbed browsing by using them.

RSS Reader

They have added an RSS reader into the browser. This will also be another great feature for those casual computer users who don't know anything about RSS. They will know that when they see the orange button light up, they can subscribe to that website and then not actually have to go back to that website to see if there are any updates. One problem with this is that after I had subscribed to a few of my own personal feeds, I did not see how I could pull up the RSS Reader with all of my subscribed feeds. I'm still looking for it. The only way I've been able to get back to subscribed feeds is by going to one of my blogs, looking at the feed and then viewing the subscribed feeds.

Built In Search

The search feature is another nice edition to the browser. Users will no longer have to launch their browser and navigate to their favorite search engine to simply do a search. They can use the built in search tool and they can change which search engine it uses. Of course it uses MSN's Live search by default. I prefer Google, however I don't have any issues with them using their own search engine as the default! (Google did!)

Final first look thoughts

I think they have really done a lot to bring IE up to speed. I think it is a serious competitor to the other browsers. The problem is that a lot of the new features that are in the new version have been in other browsers for several years now. One feature that I see being a killer feature is the anti-phishing technology. It is one thing for Firefox to block pop ups and to block software from being installed on your computer, but, its another thing to be fooled by a website that looks real and is actually a fake.

I think that if Microsoft were to create versions of IE7 that would run on the Mac & on Linux then they would have a lot more users. The problem is, Microsoft is no longer creating a version to run on the Mac and I would SINCERELY doubt that they would create versions to run on Linux, although, I wish they would!

For the new users out there, I think they should have included a “Whats New” guide when the new version launched that gives a guided tour of tabs, phishing, etc. I don't think they've made these features stand out enough. I also don't think that the users will navigate to Microsoft's website to read about them. I really wish more users could understand the true benefits of RSS.

Lastly, I think this is definitely a much needed update to IE and I believe if there is anyone out there running an old version of Internet Explorer and can upgrade to this new version I would highly recommend it. Mainly because of the advanced security but also because of the new features the browser has. I think that many, many people would benefit from using RSS feeds, but most people either don't know they exist or have no clue how to use them.

The only reasons I'll be using IE7 is to check and make sure my websites load properly in it and to access those websites that only work with IE. I don't think I'll be ditching Firefox anytime soon, I'm too happy with it. However, with that said, I strongly urge anyone who uses IE as their default browser to update to this new version.

Update 10/20/06: I found the feeds I subscribed to in the “Favorites Center”

2X ApplicationServer

In July of 2006 Microsoft released a stripped down copy of Windows XP that can be run on old hardware. It’s called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WindowsFLP). The main difference is that some of the applications would not be run locally. The processor intense applications would be run off of a server. The server would be another, more powerful computer running Windows XP. I think that was a great thing for Microsoft to release. The problem is that they didn’t release it to the general public. It is only available to Microsoft Software Assurance customers.

The good news is that 2X Software has a server and client application that you can use to achieve this called 2X Application Server. With the free version you can tunnel up to 5 applications per server onto remote desktops. You can serve applications out to Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows or Linux clients. This is something that WindowsFLP cannot do. To be fair, this does require a machine running Windows Server with the Terminal Services component installed. WindowsFLP only requires another machine with Windows XP.

After installation it was very easy to push out an application to my old Windows XP laptop that has 32 MB RAM and a 200 Mhz processor. I chose Aptana (a web development IDE) as my test application. I installed the client software on the laptop after I had set up the server. In the client application I saw Aptana and double clicked on it to launch it. You can also choose to put a shortcut on your desktop. Aptana started up and looked as though it was starting up on the local machine. I was able to then use the application as if it were installed on the local machine. Though, when you’re accessing files it will bring up a dialog for the drives on the server. On Windows, if you have mapped network drives it will show those in the “My Computer” area.

The Linux side of things was a little more difficult. The 2X Server Client software for Linux is command line only. It took me a few minutes to correctly enter the syntax but I was finally able to pull up the Aptana application on my installation of Fedora. It seemed a lot slower on Linux than it did on Windows.

For you Mac fans out there you should be happy to know that they also have client software for the Mac as well. It works really well. I was able to launch Aptana without any issues. It does look a bit odd on the Mac, though. If you want it to look seamless you might install a program that changes the look of Windows to that of Mac OS X.

2X ApplicationServer for Windows Terminal Services

Article update: Tuesday, September 30, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots of the latest version.

A lot of updates to the application have been made. It looks different and there are many more options. Instead of just a single application at a time, you can now also publish a group of applications. This allows you to group items in a folder. This is sort of like grouping items on the start menu. You can publish a desktop which gives the user access to their remote desktop without having to use another remote desktop client. You can also publish predefined applications (Windows Explorer and other built in components of Windows) and documents.

The latest Mac and Windows clients work really well. Unfortunately, the Linux client is still command line only. I think if there was a GUI version for Linux it would make it easier on the IT staff and the employees who aren’t technical.

Windows Terminal Ware

About Wtware & Reasons For Use

If your business has an assortment of old computers that are planned for removal, you may want to re-consider that plan once you learn more about Wtware. What is it? Wtware allows you to take a really old computer and turn it into a Windows terminal workstation, with very little effort and nothing to install on the client workstation. The only requirement is that you have a Microsoft Windows Server (2000 or 2003) that has Terminal Services Server installed.

Once you get your server set up for accepting clients, you can then insert a CD, floppy, USB thumb drive or use your network card to boot onto the server and use it as a normal workstation. There is nothing to install (unless you want to) and the only thing the computer is doing is displaying to you the desktop on the server.

The beauty of it is that you've saved money by reviving old hardware and the added benefit of only having one machine to install software & updates on. Also, since the machines are now running off the server they will be much faster and to make them faster you will only have to upgrade one machine.

Problems I Had

Unfortunately I ran into problems while I was testing out the software. The first problem arose when I tried testing the software out on my laptop. My laptop is quite old. I do have a PCMCIA network card installed in it, however, Wtware cannot detect my network card during the bootup process but that is the case with almost any other operating system I have had on it, even Windows.

The second problem I came across was with the other computer I have that I tried it on. It did detect the network & video cards without any problems. However I could not get it to accept a default configuration, it seemed as though it wasn't happy with any of the configurations that I chose. It kept asking me to go through each test for the video card again and again even though I had already entered the information into the configuration file on the server for the specs of the machine I was trying to boot from.

Successful Test

Fortunately, I did have a successful test of the software. I opened up Vmware server and created an empty virtual machine. I booted the virtual machine using the Wtware ISO image I had made and previously burned to CD to try and boot the other two machines. This time it worked. I was able to configure everything correctly and in a short amount of time I was booted onto my server.

Easy to setup

Wtware is fairly easy to set up. All I had to do was to install the software and then create a boot disk. You'll follow a wizard to enter DNS & DHCP information. Once you do that you'll burn the ISO image to a CD, take it to the computer you plan to use as a terminal and run some tests to see which settings will work best on that terminal. After that, you'll return to the server and make a configuration file (the name of the file will be that terminals MAC address). You'll enter a few settings in there, return to the other computer and you should be able to boot that computer onto your terminal server, very quickly.

Gripes

Although I think this is a great application I do have a few gripes about it. The first gripe that I have is that the license you purchase can only be used on ONE network card, one MAC address. That means it is tied to that network card, forever. The license is $20. If I'm going to spend $20 on something I should be able to use it on any machine I like and move it to any machine I like. Now, if the license was down in the $1 or $2 range, I might not care. This is one case where I think they should charge a fee for their software ($20 maybe) and then charge a much, much lower rate for the licenses ($1-$2).

The free version also has banner ads that are obtrusive. I realize that they need to be able to get people to upgrade to the paid for version, but why does the ad have to be obtrusive? They are marketing their free version to libraries and schools who can't afford their software.

Free Alternative

After my gripes section above a thought comes to mind. Would I actually pay for and use this software? No, I probably wouldn't. Why? Whenever I need to connect to a Windows terminal server and the machine I am using does not have an operating system already; I would probably simply insert a live Linux CD (DSL, SLAX, Puppy, Ubuntu, etc) and simply use the Terminal Server Client software that is already pre-installed and connect to the remote server. Granted, this process is not as fast as Wtware, but it would work and you could use this alternative on as many machines as you like, without banner ads.

Learn More

Now, I realize even though this program isn't for me that there is truly a market out there for it. I can see businesses that are needing more computers but can't afford brand new computers using this. It is honestly a lot better than waiting on a live Linux CD to boot, then connecting to the server, every time you need to use it.

Windows Terminal Ware