Windows

Windows Vista

Oliver Brown
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Well for various reasons I now have Windows Vista. I installed it myself and to be honest everything went smoothly. That’s not to say everything went perfectly, but nothing unsurmountable happened. The first problem was the fact that I bought the upgrade version. I’d previously bought Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 but I was doing a clean install. Previous version of Windows just asked for you to pop the disk of the previous version in this situation - Vista didn’t. It would only let me install from Windows. So I had to install Media Centre first. Then once I had installed Vista it didn’t have drivers for my network card or my sound card (and no network card meant no internet and therefore no video drivers and therefore horrible resolution (at the wrong aspect ratio no less). Well luckily I have another computer with internect access so I got the network drivers (and then the video and sound drivers). Beyond that, I haven’t done much with it yet. The Aero glass lucks cool and stuff and the new games it comes with are at least as entertaining as the old ones were when I first saw them. PS. User Account Control really is as annoying as they say it is for at least two reasons: Firstly it seems to ask you everything twice. Second since I have administrator access anyway it doesn’t really provide any security (it happens so often that you just click accept straight away without reading it).

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So much for Gtk#…

Oliver Brown
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Well I’ve abandoned my plans to use Gtk# in the language app (which actually secretly has a name now). The main reason for changing is simplicity. I had a look at the TreeView control in Gtk and decided it was too much work. Although the theory of good MVC separation is good, the user interface is such a small, simple part of my app it wasn’t worth it. The stuff I need from System.Windows.Forms should work in Mono (and .NET 1.1 and hopefully even the Compact Framework). I still prefer the way Gtk handles layout of controls in general, but I console myself with the Windows form designer in Visual C# Express…

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Microsoft playing nice?

Oliver Brown
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Well it seems despite the massive market share (approaching monopoly status in certain markets), Microsoft are realising that working with other companies can actually be a good thing. Windows Live Messenger’s interoperability with Yahoo! Messenger is a small step, their latest announcement is much bigger.

Ron Hovsepian and Steve Ballmer take the stage together to announce a new collaborative relationship between Novell and Microsoft.

Apparently the deal involves some patent sharing, setting up a research team to work on improved virtualization and Microsoft indirectly selling Novell support to it’s customers who also have Linux servers. Read about the whole deal on Novell’s website.

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Wine Is Not an Emulator

Oliver Brown
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After my post about ReactOS I felt I should mention Wine.

Wine has similar goals to ReactOS, namely to give users the ability to run Windows applications without buying Windows, but goes about it in a different way. Wine is an implementation of the Windows API designed to run in Linux.

This seems like a better approach since a lot of the features of an operating system which have to be implemented by ReactOS already exist in Linux. And of course it can run native Linux apps too. Since it isn’t an emulator, applications theoretically run at the same speed, but the fact that all the library code has been written from scratch this is rarely the case.

Contrary to popular belief regarding Microsoft’s ability to write “good code”, much of the stuff underlying Windows is quite well optimised and being so new, some of the stuff in Wine isn’t. Although in a random twist you can apparently get certain random apps to run faster because the Wine team happen to have written that bit of code better. Even so, it’s still a viable alternative in some situations.

PS. One of the stranger ideas the have is running Wine under Cygwin (a compact implementation of many Linux APIs) on Windows.

ReactOS

Oliver Brown
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My investigations of MythTV and Mono has led me to a few interesting things regarding Linux and operating systems. One of the more interesting, although not immediately useful to most people, is ReactOS.

It’s simply an attempt to create an operating system from scratch that is binary compatible with Microsoft Windows. That is it will be able to run Windows binaries (executables and DLLs). It’s far from feature complete but there a few key apps it can run. For a relatively unimportant but visually impressive example, have a look at Unreal Tournament.

Web access to MCE

Oliver Brown
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One of the coolest features (well reasonably cool but practical) features of Windows Media Center is the ability to go to MSN TV and remotely set programs to record. Unfortunately it’s not available in the UK (in fact I don’t think it’s available outside of North America). There is a less than ideal workaround though. You can run Media Center through remote access. You can’t play videos but the interface works well enough to set programs to record. I’m assuming it will be available in other countries eventually… MCE, Media Center, DVR, PVR, remote access

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Using MCE to make video DVDs

Oliver Brown
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Whether Windows Media Center can create video DVDs (that is DVDs that will play in a normal DVD player and not just a computer (or certain “posh” ones)) is a little hit and miss, mainly because of the complicated OEM nature of MCE. If you buy a media center PC from a shop you’re probably okay. If you buy the OEM version of MCE and install it yourself you’re probably out of luck. You see MCE can’t do it by itself, it requires an extra piece of software called “Sonic” something. If you buy the normal OEM version of MCE you don’t get it - you have to buy the three pack which contains an “extras” disk. If you do buy the Sonic software separately (available from Sonic.com) it does work fine - albeit apparently not from the MCE interface. There is the distinct possibility I did something wrong so I’ll keep fiddling with it. MCE, Media Center, Windows, DVD, Sonic, MyDVD

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Sky Plus and Media Center

Oliver Brown
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Sky+ and Multiroom were installed this morning and everything works great :) First I have to say the actual installation was done well and the engineer guy wasn’t even phased by the idea of connecting up to a computer instead of a TV. He did point out that they don’t supply an S-Video cable (which came with the TV card). Anyway MCE is talking to my Sky box fine. The only niggle is that the IR transmitter is a little in the way (it’s picky about placement - get it wrong and it doesn’t always change channel). There may be a solution though. You can buy a cable that connects from the IR unit (the box that contains the IR receiver and that the IR blaster is connected to) directly to the Sky box. This works in exactly the same way as Sky’s own remote IR receiver. The device was actually originally created to allow TiVo boxes to control Sky boxes. PACELink - rf2Link PVR, DVR, Windows, Media Center

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Cards and cards and cards…

Oliver Brown
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We are long time Sky customers and recently ordered Sky Multiroom so I could connect Sky up to my new Media Center PC. On Thursday they sent us two new viewing cards. I knew we’d need a new one but I didn’t expect two - I just figured that the change in our subscription meant the old one needed changing. Except on Friday they sent us another one. So now we have four, our old one and the three new ones. This could lead to an interesting possibility since we actually have a spare Sky box. So we’ll have three Sky boxes (two normal and one Sky+) and three new cards. That’s a total of four signals required - exactly the amount that a single minidish can handle. Unfortunately after looking around the Sky site I found out that you need a seperate multiroom subscription for each additional box. So why did they send us three new cards? digital TV, Sky, Sky+ Sky Plus, multiroom

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Computer not here…

Oliver Brown
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My new computer has still yet to arrive. I was expecting to be able to write a hands on review of MCE by now… Windows, MCE, Media Centre, Windows XP

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