Friday, February 23, 2007

Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 - Free

From the Microsoft Website

Virtual PC lets you create separate virtual machines on your Windows desktop, each of which virtualizes the hardware of a complete physical computer. Use virtual machines to run operating systems such as MS-DOS, Windows, and OS/2. You can run multiple operating systems at once on a single physical computer and switch between them as easily as switching applications—instantly, with a mouse click. Virtual PC is perfect for any scenario in which you need to support multiple operating systems, whether you use it for tech support, legacy application support, training, or just for consolidating physical computers.

Whether Microsoft virtualization technology is an important component of your existing infrastructure or you're just a Virtual PC enthusiast, you can now download Virtual PC 2007 absolutely free.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Windows Desktop Search 3 and Enterprise Search

Microsoft's Enterprise Search handled searching across network drives well. However when I upgraded to Office 2007, I was prompted to install WDS 3. Believing this to be an upgrade I did and was dismayed to discover no support for network drive support. Seeing as 90% of our data is contained on network drives this was a severe blow.

Fortunately Micosoft has now release an update to WDS 3 that brings this capability back.
Note: this install will require a PC restart and a Genuine Advantage check.

Download from Microsoft

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Lock Bumping

Check out a whole bunch of YouTube videos on Lock Bumping.

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Windows Vista Action Pack Subscribers - problems in MS Land

I have written already on the new Windows Vista product from a retail perspective.

Now I write from the Microsoft Partern perspective. My business is a Registered Microsoft Partner and an Microsoft Action Pack Subscriber (MAPS).

Here is an extract from an email I wrote to MS today.

I have been reading a lot about the new Vista Licensing included in MAPS.
Nick Mayhew Blog
David Overton Action Pack FAQ
David Overton Windows Vista Clean Install
David Overton Windows Anytime Upgrade
David Overton Clearing up some things re vista and the action pack
Microsoft Windows Anytime Upgrade
Partner website FAQ

I have a number of concerns that I would like to air, though I am not hopeful of any resolution. Here we go regardless.

First of all I note that the MAPS is targeted at those partners supporting business and as such includes Windows Vista Business edition., not ultimate. Quote "Windows Vista Ultimate—a consumer and small-business edition—is targeted at high-end users, gamers, multimedia professionals, and personal computer enthusiasts." We are a partner who services some businesses, but over 50% of our customers are gamers, high end purchasers (PCS over $4000) and multimedia professionals. As such we need to be able to support this product and by forcing us to effectively pay for an upgrade has marginalised us through the generic demographic assignment so thoughtfully made by MS.
As a follow up to this I note "(Australian Note: Windows Anytime Upgrade is not available in our country at this time - advice coming on what you can do)" So how the heck are we supposed to get Ultimate?

Second I am concerned that MS has not made any provision for the use of VM to make complete installs of Vista (as opposed to upgrades)

Third it is assumed in numerous places in the above websites that partners buy PCS with OEM software. This is not the case. We custom build our PCs for internal business use and demos. We deliberately use specific parts to create PCS that emulate our customers hardware rigs. Most gamers and Multimedia professionals are very particular about the specific hardware requirements and never buy and off the shelf system. Why are we forced to install XP and then upgrade to VISTA, often with poor support by XP for SATA Raid, On board Network adaptors etc. This has just increased our build time for internal PCs.

Fourth, why is there no support for Vista 64 bit. The Beta versions contained 64bit. How are we supposed to trial the full version and demo it to our 64 bit customers?

I realise you are hamstrung by the MS legal eagles on these questions and don’t expect you will change anything because I complain, but can you please continue to pass the message on - maybe if enough of us take the time to register our complaints and ask MS to consider the partners who do not fall into their convenient demographics, they might eventually listen.

Thanks for listening.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Windows Vista and Office 2007 pros and cons of upgrading

I have been playing with Vista and Office 2007 for 3-4 months now.

Interestingly enough, while I took the opportunity to upgrade all our pcs on our network (7 at present) to Office 2007, I have uninstalled Vista from the trial machine and won't be reinstalling it in the near future.

I have done some searching around and I am not alone in this opinion. Robin Good writes an article on the pros and cons of upgrading an quotes from the Becta report on this subject. They found no reason to upgrade either application at the present (in educational institutions).

In contrast I have found Office 2007 to be good and a definite improvement on the old gui - though there is not a lot of functionality increase, there is enough to warrant the change.
For me the most important reasons to change were Smart Art, Smart Art and Smart Art. Seriously this is an awesome improvement on the previous 1980s clip art.
Additionally the improved object formatting for pictures, charts and other objects massively improves the look of these elements in any PowerPoint, excel file or word document. The 3d options are particularly impressive.

The container zip/xml idea for the file formats is a technical discussion for another time, however I will point out what I believe is the most important user application of this concept. The ability to rapidly re theme an entire document with a couple of clicks is awesome. By stripping the formatting styles away from the content the user has the ability to completely redesign a document in a few seconds down to highlights on letters and words, underlines, headers and footers, charts and tables etc.
Check out the excellent articles, tutorials and videos on how to make this work on the Microsoft Office Word Teams Blog.
Building Blocks Part 1
Building Blocks Part 2
Building Blocks Part 3

For me this is a huge productivity gain and one of the main reasons I upgraded.
The backward compatibility of files is good and provides an easy way to save files for users who need the previous versions. I know it was a long time ago but the Office 95 to Office 97 suite change was probably more painful than this one and there was relatively minor gui changes in that upgrade.

I would recommend upgrading to Office 2007 in any of these circumstances;
- where you can ensure that most of your users are upgrading virtually simultaneously
- where you are using Sharepoint 2007
- where most of your documents and excel files are not linked together - test any linked files work before upgrading permanently

Vista however is another story.
As indicated by Robin Good's article there is a large amount of the candy in Vista that is either unnecessary, causes go slows on the PC, or is readily available free (open source).

Simply the biggest problem right now for Vista upgraders is the difficulty getting drivers that work together, and applications that need vendor patches / new versions. In other words, your previous computer worked fine on XP and did all the activities you needed to do, burned CDs, edited PDF documents in Adobe, used virtual cd drives and played your favorite games. After the upgrade to Vista don't expect to be able to perform these fairly basic tasks.

Fortunately there is assistance. The Microsoft supplied Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor is designed to tell you how good Vista is and that your pc can handle it (or may need more RAM etc). However fortunately it also scans applications and hardware and considers whether or not they will work in Vista. I had 9 applications and 5 hardware devices that wouldn't work in Vista on the one PC I ran this on. I am not sure if the application scan and results are performed live on the machine or performed against a checklist of applications in a table in the application. Ethe way, I am not installing Vista!

Good news though for those who must have it. Get The full Vista Ultimate version for the basic upgrade price. Follow these instructions carefully to get Vista cheap and for this to work. The Register performed this and successfully got a full working licensed install of Vista from the upgrade.