Sunday, February 25, 2007

Vista System

Ok, I've teased you enough with my post about Aero. Here's the story...

I found a Compaq SR2150NX at Staples for $250 after rebates and jumped on it. Sorry, but it's way more than that now.

This is a 3.3GHz, 512MB system. It has a 120MB hard drive and a LightScribe DVD burner and came with Vista Home Basic. That'd never do.

I ordered Vista Home Premium upgrade from Academic Superstore for $69.95 and 1GB of RAM from LD Technology for $61.99.

In my usual manner, I put the memory in before I ever powered it up. I used a paper clip to open the DVD drive and inserted the Vista Home Premium DVD and did the initial boot from that. I deleted the boot partition and recreated it. Then I used the technique described by Marc Liron to do a clean install of the upgrade DVD. Worked like a champ.

With the added 1GB of memory, I had 1.5GB total and the on-board video card had 128MB of RAM so I have Aero!

I ordered a 2GB USB drive from ZipZoomfly for $4.95 after rebate thinking it'd do ReadyBoost but it won't. The A-Data folks won't respond to my inquiries but for $5...

I am waiting for Active Virus Shield to release a Vista version and trying to figure what to do about Tivoli Continuous Data Protection which won't release it's Vista version until April.

I installed the Office 2007 that I got at the Microsoft Launch event so I've got both of the new UIs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Globat Support

I use hosting for my domain ( As you might expect, I tend to hold service organizations to a high standard. Back in 2005, I had problems with Globat (here and here) but in the end, they fixed my problem, probably quicker than I thought as I was having trouble testing it.

This problem in 2005 was when they restructured their e-mail servers. Before and since then, their service has been very good. They do tend to pester you with e-mail offering to upgrade you "automatically" if you don't opt out and I don't like that but if you do decline, they honor that. Their pricing is good especially for the first year then they try to upsell you. What I've found is that if you call and whine, they'll cut you a deal.

Anyway, this isn't about their pricing.

I use FavoriteSync to share my Internet Explorer favorites among several PCs. FavoriteSync will let you use their server to host your favorites for $6 per year but since I had my own web server, I just use it.

About 2 weeks ago, I began getting errors from the FavoriteSync application on my PCs. The error wasn't very clear but it referenced a Windows error "12030." A Google search suggested that this was something on the remote host denying the upload.

It seemed to come and go but I couldn't make any real progress at shooting it. I e-mailed FavoriteSync's support but never heard a word from them. I finally broke down and contacted Globat via chat.

Amazingly they took the information and contacted their Level 2 while I was on the chat with them. They promised me it would be fixed within 24 hours. Yeah, right.

I dutifully captured the chat log expecting I'd need to rub their nose in it in the near future but...

That was a week ago and I haven't had the problem since.

Thanks, Globat!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Take That Paul Thurrott

We've been playing with Office 2007 at work. I think once I get used to the new UI some of the features will be great. But the UI is going to take some time.

In one of Paul Thurrott's articles on Office 2007, he said "the ribbon doesn't really take up that much more onscreen real estate than does a standard set of menus and toolbars in an equivalent Office 2003 application..." I didn't believe that for an instant.

I don't use an external monitor on my laptop so I'm running on a 1024x768 screen. I've worked to minimize the space that my menu bar takes on Word 2003. Here's what mine looks like:

Count 'em. 77 pixels and I probably counted one or two extra.

Now here's Word 2007:

141 pixels. Waaaay too big for me. That's almost 20% of the screen height.

But all is not lost. Double click on one of the tabs and the ribbon will kinda autohide until you single click on a tab to reveal it. Esc will make it hide again. (Paul did mention this.)

The other issue I've had is compatibility with pre-Word 2007 users. Microsoft has changed the default style and default font. To minimize the grief for non-Word 2007 users, go to Change Styles and then Style Set and change to "Office 2003." This fixes the line spacing problem. Then go to Change Styles and then Fonts and set to "Office Classic." This gets you back to Times New Roman. If you leave it as Calibri, it will look nice to you but comes over to pre-Word 2007 users as a substitute non-TrueType font. Finally go to Change Styles and click on "Set as Default."

Now click on the Office logo and find Word Options down at the bottom. Click on Save and set "Save files in this format" to "Word 97-2003 Document."

Now go enjoy!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mio DigiWalker C310x GPS

I've been watching for GPSs for a while. The trigger for me to finally buy one is an upcoming trip to Ireland. DealsPlus had an entry recently for a Mio DigiWalker C310x GPS from Frys for $198 (by the way, the price is still good as I write this).

Of course, I Googled it and found that there was a very active user community. Interestingly, it is a WinCE platform and can be unlocked as simply as holding down 2 of its buttons and resetting it!

It came in just a day before a friend was making a trip to Microsoft so I loaned it to him to get some real world experience. As expected, it was useful to navigate around in the rainy Northwest but unexpectedly he found that it did a really good job of knowing where subtleties like on-ramps were.

It's taken a couple of days to learn my way around the menus. They're not entirely intuitive.

With all the talk on the forums about hacking and skinning, I haven't found that I'm unhappy enough with the out of the box experience to make it work hacking. (I know that's hard to believe!)

People are complaining about the age of the U.S. maps (2005), I haven't had any problems with them so far. There are rumors of a $50 map update in the Spring of 2007. But, what I haven't found is European maps for the C310x.