Entries Tagged as 'Computers'

Amazon Merchants

Once again I’ve been disappointed with the “service” and “products” provided by an Amazon merchant.

I’ve ask Amazon how to inhibit the display of any and all items except those sold by them; I don’t care to deal with the questionable merchants that use Amazon’s sites.  And obviously Amazon doesn’t stand behind them either (look over their A-Z Guarantee, and notice that a person who buys an item every day has the same lifetime limits as one who rarely buys — sounds to me like Amazon is afraid to offer a real guarantee — why should I have more confidence).

Anyway, rather than play the game with Amazon I’ve just opened a charge dispute with my credit card company (which in this case happens to be an Amazon credit card).

If Amazon doesn’t have a way to block the display non-Amazon merchandise I’ll close my account (and credit card).

Originally posted 2009-04-08 12:00:24.

Tablet Wars

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Not really — and it doesn’t have much impact without a score playing — but, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Apple iPad appears to have sparked an all out battle for control of the tablet market.

A number of “new” tablets (and tablet prototypes) are being shown, some with a price tag as low as $199!!!

Maybe the competitors won’t be quite as “slick” as Apple’s iPad, but they’re all guaranteed to be more powerful, more affordable, and more open.

Freescale 7′ Tablet $199

ODROID Tablet

EAFT Magic Tile and Compal Tablets

ICD Tegra 2 Tablet

Originally posted 2010-05-06 02:00:15.

Windows Security

Sometimes I wonder if Microsoft employees actually run the products they work on.

Elevated security, something that debuted on Windows Vista — and apparently derived from OS-X is a good example.

It’s a great idea.

As a user I should get to decide whether or not a pieced of software is allowed to make changed to my computer.  But the failing of Microsoft is they didn’t really think the problem through before they blindly copied what OS-X did.

In Windows there’s at least two levels of changes that should be approved…

When a piece of software I want is approved for install it should be able to make changes to a set of locations that is owned by the software vendor once I approve it’s installation.  However, it should not be able to make changes to my system configuration unless I specifically approve that.

What Microsoft should have done is something more along the lines of this.

A piece of software is launched and requests the user permission to install itself.  Microsoft fetches the security certificate bound into the executable and presents the user with that information when the system asks for the approval (the dialog should also have an additional detail button).  The user approves it, and the task is run with a security token created on the fly that allows the installer access to the vendors specific structure.

Should the installer desire to change system components it should have to ask to an additional elevation; at which time the operating system should again ask for approval and clearly indicate what system level resources the installer has requested access to.

Installers, would, of course generally be designed not to request access to modify the system (meaning they couldn’t install auto-start, install services, install device drivers, etc without a user knowing these things were going to happen).

When you installed software that did not have a certificate the system would still be able to present two levels of authentication (provided the installer properly requested the different access levels properly).

This would make Windows a far more secure environment… and it would prevent software vendors from install unwanted features onto a system.

Why doesn’t Microsoft implement something like this?

Well, it’s any ones guess… I prefer to believe that the people who design Windows don’t actually use it — but there are lots of conspiracy theories that could be put forth as well.

Originally posted 2010-01-18 01:00:02.

Virtulization, Virtulization, Virtulization

For a decade now I’ve been a fan of virtulization (of course, that’s partially predicated on understanding what virtualization is, and how it works — and it’s limitation).

For software developers it offers a large number of practical uses… but more and more the average computer user is discovering the benefits of using virtual machines.

In Windows 7 Microsoft has built the “Windows XP” compatibility feature on top of virtualization (which means to use it you’ll need a processor that supports hardware virtualization — so many low end computers and notebooks aren’t going to have the ability to use the XP compatability feature).

While Windows 7 might make running older programs a seamless, you can (of course) install another virtualization package and still run older software.

Which virtualization package to choose???

Well, for me it’s an easy choice…

  • Windows Server 2008 on machines that have hardware virtualization – HyperV
  • Windows 7 on machines that have hardware virtualization – Virtual PC
  • All others (Windows, OS-X, Linux) – Virtual Box

Now, the disclaimers… if I were running a commercial enterprise; and I didn’t want to spend the money to buy Windows Server 2008, Microsoft does offer Windows Server 2008 – Virtual Server Edition for no cost (you really need one Windows Server 2008 in order to effectively manage it — but you can install the tools on Vista if you really don’t have it in your budget to buy a single license).

And no, I wouldn’t choose Linux OR OS-X as the platform to run a commercial virtualization infrastructure on… simply because device support for modern hardware (and modern hardware is what you’re going to base a commercial virtualization infrastructure on if you’re serious) is unparalleled PERIOD.

If you’re running Vista or Vista 64 you may decide to user Virtual PC ( a better choice would be Virtual Server 2005 R2); but Virtual Box is being actively developed, and it’s hardware reference for virtualization is much more modern (and I feel a better choice).

To make it simple… the choice comes down to Microsoft HyperV derived technology or Virtual Box.  Perhaps if I were a *nix biggot I’d put Xen in the loop, but like with so many Linux centric projects there are TOO MANY distributions, and too many splinter efforts.

One last note; keep in mind that you need a license for any operating system that you run in a virtual environment.

Originally posted 2009-08-12 01:00:34.

MoneyDance

A little over a year ago Microsoft announced the end of Microsoft Money…

In the beginning I used a program written by a friend of mine to manage my check book (he actually marketed it), it was basic, and worked reasonably well.

Then I switch to Quicken… which never worked reasonably or well… but did the job (sort of like hammering a nail with a screwdriver rather than a hammer).  Obviously from what I’ve said I never liked it and never wanted to contemplate going back — financial management is about function, not form (or in Quicken’s case, pretty pictures, graphics, and selling as much of your information to anyone who will pay anything for it they can).

One of my friends used MoneyDance, and I’d pointed him that way when he decided gnucash just wasn’t what he wanted… so at the end of last year when I decided to make a decision to move to a financial management (tracking) software that was a little more current I paid for MoneyDance… and honestly, I’ve regretted it ever since.

The program basically works, and works on OS-X, Linux, and Windows… but one of the whole reasons to use financial management software is to be able to download transactions from your financial institutions and them just basically automatically match up with what you’ve entered and be done with balancing your records with your statement in a matter of a very few minutes…

And there in is the problem.

If you just let MoneyDance import and process those imported transactions you will have the biggest mess you’ve every seen — and the more accounts you have and the more transfers between accounts you do — well, let’s just say “exponential” growth only give you an idea of how bad it gets.

But, of course, like most “commercial” pieces of software, MoneyDance recently released a new version (I’m never in a hurry to upgrade to anything — even if I’m having minor problems I like to wait and make sure there’s no major regressions).  I did, however, install the update this weekend.

All I have to say is: are you F^(#ing kidding me… how is is possible to make an almost completely broken “feature” worse???

Now the transaction matching not only seems to do a worse job, but it’s on the side now rather than the bottom, so it obscures most of the (wrong) transaction it wants to match to so you have no idea what the F^(# it’s about to screw up…

My personal feeling is that you’re better of using crayons in a drawing book to track your financial records than wasting your time or money on MoneyDance… this has to be one of the absolute worst products I’ve ever seen, and based on the “features” that actually work you can stick with Microsoft Money, a 20 year old version of Quicken, or use a free program like gnucash… or a spreadsheet, because at the end of the day all you’re going to get with MoneyDance that works well enough to trust is a simple ledger.

Needless to say at the end of the year, I won’t be using MoneyDance, and if I can figure out how to get this years financial data out of it I will delete it (of course, this years data has very little value since to really “fix” the issues I’d have to go back and manually re-key everything).

Do before you reach for your credit card; consider saving your money and trying something else.

Originally posted 2011-08-08 02:00:00.

ISO Recorder

Alex Freinman offers a very useful and very free tool that allows you to write ISO images directly to disc without needing to go through several steps.  MSDN as well recommends it use (not exclusively).

Originally posted 2008-12-02 12:00:21.

avast!

A couple weeks ago my avast! anti-virus popped up a Window that wanted to reboot the machine, then indicated to me I had NO protection.

Apparently my one year (actually fourteen month) free subscription was up, and it wanted to enter a new registration code.  The software takes you to a screen where you can purchase a subscription, or you can navigate to the free avast! site and request a new registration code (that’s good for another fourteen months).

Now I think a great deal of avast!, it seems to find more mal-ware than most of it’s competitors, is clean and easy to use,  doesn’t try to take over your computer, and you can’t argue with the price.  But I think it’s a HORRIBLE thing for a anti-virus program to just stop working.  I don’t have any problem with it prohibiting updates of the program or signature file until you update; and I certainly don’t have a problem with it popping up a warning every time you boot (or even including  a warning right above the systray like it does when it detects a potential virus) — but to stop providing the service that you depend on it for without any warning before hand… that’s just wrong.

I certainly hope the avast! people reconsider this draconian behavior; I can’t continue to recommend avast! as a good anti-virus solution if it’s just going to leave you high and dry without a reasonable warning.

Originally posted 2009-02-25 01:00:39.

VMware Fusion

Last week I decide to upgrade my copy of VMware Fusion 1.1.3 (Build 94249) to Fusion 2 (it was free, and looked like a pretty compelling upgrade, and I already decided I wasn’t going to spend more money with Parallels).

I downloaded VMware Fusion 2.0.1 (Build 128865) and installed it on my Mac Pro and upgraded my Windows XP machine (following all the instructions).

Then I launched my Windows XP virtual machine, it seemed to run just fine, so I shut down — and my Mac rebooted.

I tried this a few more times; and yep, every time I shut down the virtual machine (that had been working perfectly for a very long time) it reboot my Mac Pro.

So I decided to give it a try on my MacBook Pro.  Well, at least it didn’t reboot my MacBook Pro — but on both the MacBook Pro and on the MacMini I got an error when I shutdown the virtual machine and ended up rebooting before I could run it again.

Four machines, all four of them exhibit problems that ten minutes of QA should have uncovered (of course I probably have run Fusion 2.0.1 on more machines that VMware has).

There is absolutely no excuse for publishing software like this… if I had actually paid for the upgrade I’d be looking for a refund.  Instead I’m just going to remove this crappy software from my Macs and go with a much better overall virtualization solution — VirtualBox.  And if I decide I want a commercial solution, I can always upgrade my copy of Parallels Desktop.

At least when software is FREE you stand a chance of getting what you pay for.

NOTE:

The only reason I was interested in trying Fusion 2.0.1 is that it includes “experimental” support for running OS-X as a guest.  But if it won’t run something that’s supported, I’m not sure I care to even try something “experimental” — glad I waited until it was out of BETA to take a look at it.

Originally posted 2009-02-05 01:00:17.

Virtual machines need regular defragging, researcher says

This comes from an article on ComputerWorld, all I can say is duh!

Virtual disks require the same fragmentation as the same operating system would running on physical machines; plus if you choose dynamically expanding containers for the disk on the host, you’ll likely need to power down the machine and periodically defragment the host as well.

You’d think that an article that starts with a title like that couldn’t possible get any more asinine; well, you’d be wrong:

Windows, as well as third-party software firms, offer defragmenters to reassemble fragmented files. Fragmentation is not as large of a problem on Unix systems, due to the way that the OS writes files to disk.

Apparently the author seems to think that just because Windows includes software to defragment the file system, it must be much more susceptible to fragmentation.  He’d be right if we were talking about Windows 98 or if people choose not to run NTFS… but he and the article he references are dead wrong.

NTFS has almost identical abilities as EXT2, EXT3, and EXT4 file systems to avoid fragmentation — the difference is that NTFS supports defragmentation of the file system (and Windows ships with a rudimentary defragmenter).  In fact, if *nix file system were so impervious to fragmentation, why would the ability to defragment be one of the major feature additions in EXT4 (though not fully implemented yet)?

There are many thing about *nix type operating systems that can clearly be pointed to as superior than Windows, the resistance to fragmentation simply isn’t one; WAKE UP and live in the current millennium, we don’t need to confuse FAT16/FAT32 with Windows.

Virtual machines need regular defragging, researcher says
By Joab Jackson on ComputerWorld

Originally posted 2010-10-12 02:00:44.

Cyberduck

For those who like the “keep-it-simple” model, and don’t need advanced control of a FTP, SFTP, SCP connection, you might want to consider a long term Mac solution now available for Windows as well.

It’s a very simple, clean interface.  On the Mac it’s a pretty seamless experience, but not integrated into finder.  On Windows the interface isn’t completely Window-like, but quite easy to use and navigate (it leverages a bit much off the Mac version)

While I think this is a very good, and certainly good value (free) I tend to use FileZilla; but I probably have more specific needs for file transfers than many users.

http://cyberduck.ch/

Originally posted 2011-09-14 02:00:27.