Windows 7 : First impressions

11 01 2009

On Thursday night I took the plunge and installed Windows 7 Beta 1 onto my ‘production’ PC at home. Gutsy move I know, but in my previous experience with operating system beta’s (95, 98, 98 SE, ME, XP and Vista) you need to use it in anger to find the real issues.

The install was painless and only needed a small amount of interaction from me, which was great because I got to watch Iron Man that Father Christmas got me for Christmas ;). Once it was installed my first impression was WOW. Not because I am a Microsoft fanboy (I am), but because it was quick and responsive. For what is supposed to be Beta 1, it is behaving like Beta 2 or something that is way further along in the development cycle.

There are some things that immediately caught my eye:

  • Libraries – Instead of Documents / Photo’s / Videos etc, there is now a concept of libraries, which are virtual containers of folders. They appear to be very much what WinFS was supposed to be.  It was a relatively painless experience adding a new folder to a library, and I even managed to create a couple of new libraries in a matter of seconds.
  • Superbar – This took a bit of getting used to, instead of a taskbar you now have a pseudo taskbar that shows what is running, launch programs and show the status of things like file copies. It’s a bit hard to describe and I am sure a quick Google will find much better descriptions than mine.
  • Sidebar – The sidebar has gone but there are still gadgets thankfully for us gadget developers 🙂 With no sidebar to dock the gadgets in, there are some subtle changes to how they work which I will post about later.
  • Aero Peek – When you choose a program that is running from the superbar, all other windows will change to a transparent glass frame and only the program you selected will be rendered. This is great for finding a program when you have lots of windows open.

From a beta testing perspective, Windows 7 Beta 1 is a bad build, the quality bar is so high it makes it damn hard to find bug which is why we are testing it. It does on the other hand make it a joy to use, and I am certainly looking forward to diving into the depths of what it has to offer.

PDC 2008 : Wrap up

5 11 2008

So the PDC is over and there were a heap of product announcements, some of them really well done and received (Windows 7) some of them not so well done or understood (Azure). Personally I think Azure is going to be huge, and I am really interested to see how people are going to start using it in the real world, specifically how it’s going to impact the partner and enterprise ecosystems.

Anyway, I wanted to go back and look at my Canberra Airport Crystal ball and see what came true or what the Crystal ball was too damn foggy to see clearly.

Lots and lots of Mesh news. As expected, a developers preview of Mesh was released built on the new Azure Services platform, one of Microsoft’s big announcements for PDC. The SDK / framework was released in a limited beta. Yes there was a new Mesh build dropped, moving Mesh from Tech Preview to Beta and introducing a number of new features. The Mac and Mobile clients were released, and I have to admit I am loving using the mobile client to push photos from my phone through to my other machines.

PDC had lots and lots of Windows 7 news. There were some really interesting demonstrations showing off the new feature of Windows 7 including HomeGroups, new Taskbar, Libraries, Aero improvements etc. As predicated there was a build given out to the attendees which everyone is commenting on how stable and snappy it is.  Unfortunately in typical MS style, the builds shown did not necessarily reflect the build given to the attendees, but WithinWindows has worked out how to address that to a certain extent. I am not waiting for the Windows 7 beta to start so I can get my hands on it.
The biggest surprise to me was that there wasn’t much in the way of Office announcements at PDC. I had fully expected some demo’s of the Office 14 suite, but maybe it’s too early in the development cycle to see it. What was announced was Office Web Applications, a set of web based applications including Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote that include a vast majority of the functionality of the desktop clients blowing the current implementation of Google Apps out of the water. There is a pretty snazzy demo on Channel 9 showing the integration between client and web that is an interesting watch.  I have to admit, these apps got me thinking as to some of the scenarios that they could be used in, think Excel Services. Wouldn’t it be awesome to not need any client applications at all and to do everything within SharePoint 14? I am not quite sure when we are going to see more Office 14 related news, stay tuned.

All in all, PDC 2008 delivered a lot of news, a lot of it as predicted from my Canberra Airport crystal ball. Of those items I am particularly interested in Windows 7 (heh I have always been an operating system wh0re) and how people are going to start using the Live Framework in their application. It is certainly going to be a wild ride ahead.

PDC 2008 : I won’t be there

22 08 2008

Unfortunately my powers of persuasion have let me down. After trying to persuade my boss that PDC was in fact a Project management Development Conference and not an awesome nerdfest of coolness it seems, I am left to watching all the announcements and news from my trusty friends Bink, Neowin and Google Reader.

But, this won’t stop me having a quick prediction at what will be announced and released, so without further ado, I peer into my crystal ball, whilst sitting in the departure lounge at Canberra Airport.


  • Mesh will be opened up to allow development and access to the MOE ala Ori Amiga’s Channel 9 video
  • The Mesh SDK will be released
  • Programming in the Mesh will be released / showcased, maybe including Silverlight
  • Obviously a new Mesh build will be dropped
  • Mac and Windows Mobile client will be released
  • Other Wave 3 announcements, maybe the new Messenger?


  • More information about what is coming in Windows 7, but only the concrete changes, those features that are still up for discussion will not be discussed / shown
  • Lots of Windows 7 demo’s, possible early beta client build in the goody bag (might be PDC, might be WinHec)
  • Hints as to the Windows + Live services that will coming, how will Windows 7 interact with the cloud?


  • Office 14 early beta, or at least a sign up
  • Lots of SharePoint news:
    • Two way BDC
    • Better Excel Services
    • Forms Services Improvements
    • Obviously WSS 4.0
  • Consistent Ribbon across other Office applications like Project, OneNote & Visio


  • Lots and lots of cloud stuff
  • More general Silverlight goodness – maybe Silverlight 2.0 RTM?
  • Talk of OSLO and how it will integrate with the various v.Next Developer offerings.

Of course I could be wrong, as I am only a project manager, but we will have to wait until October to find out.

A new year, a new gadget

1 01 2008

During 2007 I worked on a massive project that almost killed both me and the team in terms of the sheer amount of work we managed to squeeze into a very tight timeframe. As the project went on for almost 7 months, we needed a way to let the team members know where we were and how long was left. So I came up with a countdown that was displayed over my desk showing how many days of coding, testing and UAT were left which served to focus the dev team a bit more. It worked a treat but was very manual.

Anyway, during the latter half of last year all our developers laptops were upgraded to run Vista and of course get the excellent Sidebar. So I figured it would be cool to develop a sidebar gadget that provided the same information but could focus the developers every time they looked at their desktop instead of having to look above my desk.

So here is the fruit of my labours, the Countdown gadget.

Countdown Montage 2 Countdown Montage 1   Countdown Montage 3

The gadget at the moment lets you set a date, an event title and a colour for the background.  I have a few other bits I want to introduce like consuming an iCal feed and the ability to check a network drive for a date but they will come in a later iteration.

Of course the use of the gadget is not constrained to just software milestones, you could also use the gadget for things like:

  • Days until birthdays
  • Days until going on holiday
  • Days until public holiday
  • In face, days until ANYTHING YOU WANT!!

At the moment I am after people to test the gadget, once it’s been tested for a week or so and anything nasty has been worked out of it, I will submit it to the Live Gallery and give it to the world.

If you are interested in testing this gadget, drop me a line via or leave a comment on this post.

Update : The testing is over and build 1.0.0 has been released at the Live Gallery for download.

Vista SP1 r0x0rs

9 12 2007

I have been running Vista SP1 builds for the past couple of months. Other than the obvious speed increases that I have already touted on the x64 reliability updates on thing I have noticed is the system has become more stable. The last build and the current build of SP1 (RC preview and now RC1) have been phenomenal. Although I didn’t really appreciate how phenomenal until I checked out my Reliability Monitor this morning.



Back up to 9.03!! I had dropped below that the day after I installed Vista on this box. Now I should say my computer is on 24/7 and get’s used pretty heavily by either myself or my wife and I am still installing stuff and uninstalling it, so our usage patterns haven’t changed. Therefore it must be the SP. so well done MS, SP1 is looking good 🙂

Microsoft’s SharedView – I’m impressed

19 06 2007

The company I work for has invested heavily in all types of software and collaboration tools to enable us to work effectively over state and in some cases international boundaries. We make heavy use of VOIP, Live Communication Server and Live Meeting to facilitate in this.

One of my favourite features is sharing a desktop, which allows you to collaborate real time on a document, or allows multiple parties to see an application and how it is performing (or not in the case of testing). This tends to work really well if you are all on the same network, but it gets a bit curly when different networks, firewalls and policies come into play.

Enter SharedView, currently in beta it is an application that allows you to share your desktop with others that seems to transcend firewall and network issues. Unlike LCS and Live Meeting, it’s interface is intuitive and designed to remove the complexity from Sharing. Once running, SharedView sits in the system tray awaiting an opportunity to assist, when activated it opens up and docks at the top of the screen.

Sharing can be requested in a number of ways, via your messenger buddy list, email and for the technically challenged, telephone instructions. Once a session is established, starting a share is as simply as clicking on Share and choosing the application you wish to share.

SharedView -  Share Menu

Each sharing session has the capacity to upload handouts that any participant can upload or download, a pretty nifty feature.

SharedView -  Handouts

Any of the participants can be given control of the sharing, so it’s possible to get that tester in another state to show you how they caused the bug with a minimum of fuss and maximum efficiency.

Two of the killer features for anyone who has suffered Live Meeting are:

1. The ability to see each users mouse pointer with a handy label identifying it on each persons screen;

2. When SharedView is sharing an Office 2007 application, Track Changes can be configured to be enabled automatically so you can collaborate and see who is changing what.

The integration with Office 2007 is pretty smart, with a new context menu appearing on the office menu allowing you to use SharedView easily:

SharedView - Office Addin

There are some bad sides to this software:

1. It’s still a beta;

2. It looks like it will be advertising supported – there are adverts, granted Microsoft only at the moment all over the software, which are going to annoy;

3. It’s a little slow, but hopefully that will improve in future releases.

All in all I am very impressed with the software and have been actively using it with members of my team and clients for the last week or so. I would heartily recommend it to others. You can download the SharedView beta here.