January 2006 - Posts

Coaxial to DVI Conversion
22 January 06 02:50 PM | russnem | 7 comment(s)
I have an extra 19 inch LCD display and it occurred to me that I could use that as my office television. The thing is, I need to convert the coaxial signal coming from my TiVo to a DVI input or a VGA input. Does anyone know if this is even possible?
Switching Back
15 January 06 05:58 PM | russnem | 1 comment(s)

The first computer I ever bought was a Macintosh LC while I was late in my freshman year of college in NYC. I used it for papers, CompuServe, and (of course) Flight Simulator. There was no Internet back then.

I loved the Mac while I had it, but then I got a job on Wall Street and was forced to make the switch to MS-DOS, which included Lotus 1-2-3 and Word Perfect. This led to Windows 3.11, Microsoft Office, and Windows 95, and to my long career in software design and development. Software development in the Microsoft family of tools has been great and I have been quite the loyal Microsoft puppy since then, even to the point of wishing Macs "would just go away".

This all changed about three weeks ago. I bought my wife an iPod Nano for Christmas. The device was truly amazing. I also downloaded iTunes for her Windows XP laptop and was shocked at how much more intuitive and easy it was to use versus Windows Media Player 10.

Part of her gift was the ability to go to the Apple store at the mall and pick two accessories for her new iPod. While we were there we saw the PowerBook and its great price as compared to many Windows-based laptops. It was very impressive. It came with so much software. It was so light. It was tiny. It just became so apparent to us both that we had found the perfect laptop for Roseanne to take back to school full-time. We bought it (getting a student discount, which was really nice) and I had it up and running on our network in short order.

There were two specific things that I needed to do to the domain controller / Exchange server. First, I needed to turn off network encryption as the default setting and change it to "when available". Second, I needed to make the IMAP4 service enabled and automatic as opposed to disabled. Now she can get to all of her network shares using her old domain user name and password, and she can use the built-in Mail program to get her Exchange mail.

So easy, reliable, impressive, and sleek is the PowerBook that I have abandoned the idea of getting a new Dell desktop machine (which I've been thinking about for months) and I have decided on the new PowerMac G5. I'll use my laptop as my development machine when I need to work on my .NET applications. The Mac is just so stable, easy and enjoyable to use, and it offers so much more capability and compatibility with regard to working with digital media that I've decided to switch back and make Windows my secondary operating system.

Classic example: Shouldn't I be able to put a DVD into my computer and watch it? No questions asked? Nothing to configure? Cuz you can do that on a Mac as soon as you turn it on after you take it out of the box. You can't do that on Windows XP unless (and I'm not even sure THIS is true) you get the special "Media Center Edition" (which in my opinion doesn't even come close to being as useful, feature-packed, or easy to use as TiVo). Sometimes laptops will ship with a third party DVD decoding package such as InterVideo WinDVD, but that goes back to my first point about this. DVDs have been out for years and years. Mainstream Windows still has no native way to play them. In fact just tonight I put a DVD into my Windows XP machine to watch and instead of playing the DVD, the entire operating system froze and I had to hold the power button in for five seconds to get the thing to reboot.

Mac OS 10.4.3 is absolutely amazing. You get "behind the wheel" of the thing and it just FEELS stronger and tougher than Windows XP. There's a lot more power built right in to the operating system, such as native support for burning or watching DVDs, finding information, files, or programs using a simple text box called "Spotlight" (think Google Desktop Search, but 10 versions from now), and visually OS X is just light years ahead. It also features iChat, an unbelievably powerful and easy to use IM / chat application that makes MSN Messenger look like the old text-based CompuServe that I used to use in college.

On top of all these great features that don't exist in Windows is the following point: They all work. Well. Period. And I didn't even have to do anything to get them to work.

As I said, Windows is not gone from my life completely. I still need to use it to develop .NET applications. But as my full-time operating system? Sorry, it just doesn't measure up. I was able to install one pre-beta version of Vista as well as the full beta 1, and it doesn't even come close to comparing to OS X either. And it won't even come out for at least another year.

I'd be curious to hear about anyone else's thoughts and opinions on operating systems if you care to share them.

Windows Live Messenger Beta
07 January 06 12:56 PM | russnem | 95 comment(s)

Today I downloaded and installed the Windows Live Messenger Beta and I have to say that I feel the team behind this product is really heading down the wrong road.

It's clear that their INTENT was to make it really easy to use and user-friendly, but in truth the interface is quite clumsy and kind of follows the general "More is Better" motto that I feel exists behind many Microsoft products with the exception of the developer tools. This approach bubbles many of the features to the top in a (hopeful at best) attempt at a user interface, but unfortunately as with Windows Media Player 10 and many other products this new version of Messenger misses the mark.

So awkward and unappealing is the user interface that I actually have no desire to dig deeper and play with any new or improved features in the product.

I generally dislike giving negative reviews. I feel it can be discouraging to those who worked hard on a product and take pride in it. In this case, however, I really feel that instead of keeping up with the Jones', it's time to step out AHEAD of the Jones' - and not just with Messenger.

[12 hours later]
I have uninstalled the Windows Live Messenger Beta and put the latest release version of MSN Messenger back on my system and I'm a lot happier.

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