Impressions of Win7 Beta Upgrade from Vista Ultimate SP1

Over this past weekend, I upgraded a laptop from Vista Ultimate SP1 to the new Windows 7 Beta (both 64-bit).  I decided to throw caution to the wind and forget the whole VM thing.  The upgrade lasted just under 7 hours but, before you think that might be a long time, the same laptop when upgraded from Vista Home Premium SP1 to Vista Ultimate SP1 took a little over 6 hours 20 minutes.  The laptop is an HP Pavilion dv5 (4gb ram, 2.1ghz AMD dual-core).

There have been no unworkable problems up to this point.  The issues that I have had so far are:

  • Skype 3.8 did not work.  The Win7 installer warned about this and I uninstalled before restarting the upgrade.  After the upgrade, I attempted to install the app (ignoring the compatibility warning) and it did install but crashes without an error dialog shortly after.  The Skype 4 beta 3 release seems to be working properly so far on Windows 7 64-bit so I will see how that goes.
  • Virtual PC did not upgrade properly.  I received a message stating that “Virtual PC could not open the Virtual Machine Network Services driver”.  The VMs did run but without any network access.  Uninstall/Reinstall of VPC fixed this issue for me.

I thought I might have a problem with TortoiseSVN but it has worked after the upgrade without any problems at all.

Visual Studio 2008 and 2005 both work fine after the upgrade.  I was expecting that I might have a problem with the Experimental Hive entries for the VS SDKs after the upgrade, but I didn’t have any problem with those either.

My first impressions of Windows 7 are good but I’m not overwhelmingly impressed in the way that some blogs have expressed.  Memory usage seems slightly better but nothing to bet exited about.  Bootup time has improved for me quite a bit, which is nice.  It is encouraging that performance of the beta appears to me to be at least the same as Vista Ultimate SP1 in the worst case and slightly better in some areas.

Some things have moved around on the Control Panel again so that is a little annoying.  One example is the Startup Applications that used to be found under Programs.  This applet appears to have gone away all together which is puzzling but it is possible that I have overlooked it.  Power users know to go directly to the folder but a regular user would be stuck with whatever installers or the OEMs feel like should run at startup. 

The new taskbar/quickstart toolbar combo is nice but I can’t figure out a way to start a second instance of an application, short of going back to the start menu.  This was a feature of the old quickstart toolbar I would like to have back.  An option on a right-click menu would be good enough.  Hopefully I’m overlooking an option somewhere.  [Update 1/13/09 11:35am – Shift+Click will launch a second instance.  That is about the only combo I didn’t try.  Thanks to Markus Egger on Twitter for that one.]

I Finally Joined Twitter

After spending time listening to the Virtual ALT.NET Meeting last night, I decided that I needed to go ahead and join Twitter because I was clearly missing out on some interesting community discussion.

James Avery had already told me that he found it a great resource, but sometimes I guess I need to hear it from more than one place.

The tipping point for me was the discussion around the VB.NET development community and open source.  There was a great discussion of issues at the VAN and it was kicked off because of the lively discussion that had occurred on Twitter a few hours earlier.

I wished I could have participated a little in the discussion but I’ve had a major cold over the last few days and I was a little drugged up on cold medication.  I ended up leaving the meeting after an hour so I could retire for the night so I missed the last part.  Some of the great discussion:

  • VB.NET community involvement in open source
  • Difficulties encountered when introducing new concepts like IoC and ORM to .NET developers that have not been exposed before.
  • Mass Transit
  • migratordotnet and the newer Fluent Migrator that is being worked on

I’ll definitely be attending the future VAN meetings and hope to participate.

You can find me on Twitter – darrenstokes.

Houston TechFest Coming 1/24/09

The Houston .NET User Group is putting on the second Houston TechFest on January 24 at the University of Houston.  The conference was originally scheduled for the Saturday that Hurricane Ike hit the Houston and Galveston area so this is rescheduled date.

Here are several tracks to choose from concentrating on both java and .NET.

I was out of town for the first TechFest but everyone who attended said it was well worth it.

Virtual ALT.NET Meeting and Houston Geek Dinner Tonight (1/7/09)

Chad Myers announced that there is VAN (Virtual ALT.NET Meeting) tonight.  It is hosted on Live Meeting.

I’ve been wanting to attend one of the Houston Geek Dinners for the Houston ALT.NET group but I keep missing them.  The next geek dinner is tonight and, unfortunately, I am going to miss this one as well.  However the VAN is later in the evening so I’ll be checking that out.

IconLover – my icon tool of choice

I am absolutely terrible at editing graphics.  There are things in life that I am good at and the task of creating graphics for my applications is simply not one of them.  I’ve been in a continual search for an image editing program that makes the task easy for me.  Most of the time, I either contract with a graphics designer or buy image packs, but often the images are still not the exact size or format I need.

If you’ve done any work with Visual Studio add-ins or VSPackages, you know that just getting the background color correct can be a chore.  The Visual Studio graphics editor doesn’t make the task any easier either.

This search has led me to a tool that I plan on sticking with for quite a while:  IconLover.  The tool is easy to use, even for a no talent designer like myself.  My favorite feature is the ability to create image lists in a quick, easy, fashion. 

VSX developers will appreciate this feature a great deal.

By the way, the creator of IconLover, Aha-Soft, didn’t give me a free license or pay me anything for posting this.  I just like the tool and thought I would pass it along.

D2Sig in Houston

This past Thursday, I attended the first meeting of the D2Sig in Houston.  The D2 stands for "Developer 2 Designer" and the group will be focused on the XAML technologies of WPF and Silverlight as well as any area where developers and designers might need to work more closely than they have in the past.

Markus Egger from EPS was the presenter and, as always, he gave a great presentation which included a general overview of WPF, Silverlight, and some demo video of a Surface table in action.

I would recommend this new group to designers or developers in the Houston area that are interested in the these new up and coming technologies.

I’m guessing around 30 or so people showed up to the first meeting so I think that is a pretty good start. 

J Sawyer has an official announcement here for the first meeting with a little more detail.  The upcoming meetings will be the first Tuesday of each month at the Microsoft offices in Houston.

ToolStripComboBox Drop Down Sizing

This last night I worked on a bug where I had a ToolStripComboBox in a Visual Studio custom tool window that holds a list of files but would cut off the filenames in the dropdown list if the paths became too long.

Easy enough to fix, or so I thought.  After trying out about all of the property setting combinations I could think of, I never could get the control to automatically size the dropdown list width to accommodate the widest item currently in the list.  This is sort of ridiculous, in my opinion, but I could not find a way to do this without writing some code to do it.

Here is the code that I wrote so hopefully someone will save some time by seeing this and not spend their Friday night on search engines and MSDN attempting to find a way to accomplish the goal:

[sourcecode language=’csharp’]
int i = cboFile.Items.Add(file);
//make sure dropdownlist width is sized correctly
Graphics g = cboFile.ComboBox.CreateGraphics();
SizeF size = g.MeasureString(file, new Font(cboFile.Font.FontFamily.Name, cboFile.Font.Size));
// Set the DropDownWidth if the item has a greater width
int itemWidth = (int)size.Width + 10; //add a little empty space
if (itemWidth > cboFile.DropDownWidth)
cboFile.DropDownWidth = itemWidth;

You can ignore the definition of "i", I was using that later in the code to do some processing specific to my extension.  It is possible that there is an easier way to do this, but I couldn’t find one.

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I have a confession: I sort of like Vista

Apparently Microsoft has revived the marketing tactics of Folders Instant Coffee from back in the 80’s.  According to this article on cnet news, folks from the MS marketing team have been rounding up Vista skeptics under the guise that they will be shown a new OS code named Mojave.  All of the subjects seem to love the new OS and afterwards are told that they have been shown Vista.

This is sort of like dining in a fine restaurant only to find out that you have been drinking Folders Instant instead of the fine coffee normally sold there.

Until the last few months or so, I was one of those skeptics as well.  I had only used Vista a small amount and all of my primary machines were still XP Pro.  In fact, I had really only significantly used Vista in a Virtual PC image which gives a very poor impression.

My latest laptop runs Vista x64 SP1, shipped that way from HP, with a modest AMD 2.1 ghz dual core processor and 4gb ram which is becoming more common on laptops even at a general retailer like Best Buy.  The laptop was reasonable priced, I thought, ringing up at just under $1100 tax included.

I sort of like it.  Your mileage may vary but there are a few key areas that really make a difference for me.  The first is it just plain looks nicer and is more pleasant to use.  I know mac folks are saying that OSX looks better and has for many years.  I agree with that (I have a few macs myself) but my business is based on windows development so macs are not an option right now.

The other noticeable difference is how much better the networking performs under Vista.  I have to often copy a lot of files between desktops and laptops and XP is terrible at this.  I haven’t done any timings but Vista is dramatically faster.

It isn’t all roses, however.  Vista does require significant hardware over XP.  I purchased an even cheaper laptop (~$700 tax included) this last November to run XP Pro.  The machine actually came with Vista Home Basic but the combination of the underpowered machine and the crapware fiesta installed on it was unbearable.  That machine is a 1.8 ghz dual core machine with 2gb ram and seems to run XP SP2 at about the same speed as my new AMD 2.1 ghz with 4gb ram runs Vista SP1.  Also, the Vista machine does take a little longer to boot up but not significantly longer.

Of coarse, there is also that little problem of every setting being moved to a new dialog or a different path to get to the same dialog.  Honestly though, I haven’t been quite as annoyed by that as I thought I would be based on all of the complaining I have heard from other folks.  It takes a minute to find something and I then I know where it is and go on with my work.  I had the same problem when I tried OSX for the first time.

As far as the 64-bit goes, I haven’t had any significant problem yet.  Since the machine is a laptop, it obviously came with drivers for the hardware on it and my external device needs are modest.  The crash I have had was trying to see if I could run the memory analysis tool on, which didn’t say it would work on 64-bit machines.  That was ugly but, so far, has been the only hiccup.

FYI – On XP, I use TortoiseSVN with the VisualSVN package for Visual Studio integration.  This also works on Vista x64.  You will need to install the 64-bit version of TortoiseSVN (I installed version which was the latest) and then the normal and only install for VisualSVN (1.5.1).  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to install the 32-bit or 64-bit TortoiseSVN client since Visual Studio itself is 32-bit but I finally found a discussion related to this on google groups.  My actual repo is still svn 1.4.x and I haven’t had any problems yet.

Server Room Craziness

A funny post over at The Daily WTF reminded me of a situation I witnessed many years ago at a small client I was working for.

Like the situation described in the post, the client needed to move the door to the server room.  I can’t even remember why but they were moving the door from one wall to another wall.

On the morning that the work was supposed to begin, the crew that was working on removing the door and walling in the opening (there were separate work crews for creating the new opening and closing the old) showed up early and removed the door and closed the opening before anyone arrived to work.  As luck would have it, one of the production servers locked up and needed to be hard rebooted.  The problem was there was no longer a door to the server room.  After considerable debate about the matter, the admin ended up having to actually chop a hole in the wall to the server room with a crowbar that he retrieved from the trunk of his car.

I Need to Try Firefox

I was looking over the traffic profile for the last week on this site and was surprised at the share of traffic that Firefox had.

  1. Firefox – 55.4%
  2. Mozilla Compatible Agent – 10.99%
  3. IE (what I have been using) – 8.7%
  4. Safari – 7.18%
  5. Opera – 3.18%
  6. Mozilla – 3.16%
  7. Everything else was bots and various rss readers

I had tried Firefox a few years ago and I didn’t really see any benefit but it clearly has the dominant market share of people who went to the effort of at least visiting my blog so it must be worth looking at again.  Within the Firefox category:  3.0 had about 30% share, 1.5.x had ~1%, and 2.0.0.x had the rest of the share.

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