Gadget Geek Journey; Desintation 2: Vista Sidebar Gadget

What an interesting day with Windows Vista. It is certainly “polished” than Windows 2000 and XP; things seems to be placed in logical areas. Also took the opportunity to install Adobe Photoshop CS3 Beta, which worked flawlessly – all running successfully in Parallels! Two computers in one is a major time saver.

It was also time to swap to Microsoft Expression Web, to complete the Microsoft-centric development environment. Expression Web certainly feels more polished than Visual Web 2005. I hope to spend more time in this app.
Closing the loop on my Thursday experimentation with and Vista Sidebar gadgets: and the result is a new little gadget I am alpha testing: The Neil Finn Lyric Vista gadget.

And it looks sorta like:

Please right-click, save-as a “.gadget”, double-click and drag and enjoy the words of one of the world’s best lyricists. Comments and feature requests more than welcome.

Best starting place for the proverbial Hello World experience for Vista Sidebar gadgets is

Daniel Moth, from Microsoft UK has an Excellent screencast on the Channel 9 site at gets you going on the first part: at least getting your gadget running and drag and droppable.

You will need to do a little more Javascript, as this triggers events that ensure your sidebar gadget works has some more up-to date info, as the MSDN site is a little behind on updating. I wonder if Microsoft is going to release an Apple Dashcode style of mini development application for widgets? Hope so. Whilst the development process is no more difficult than simple web page design; there are many pieces of wiring that could be made easier with a simple builder.

Parallels Idleness

Post cup noodling around doing not much at all and decided to download the trial version of Parallels Workstation for Debian Linux. After some aptitude fixing packages that were not installed; finally managed to get Parallels booting.

Next step: attempt to get the X11 appearing from the client application (installed on the Debian server) to the display server on my Mac.

Something with the video is hosed; and it’s possible that Vista won’t work over the X11 connection.

Anyway, that killed some bits on the Bigpond and a couple of hours.

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Panasonic does a deal with Connexion, specifically so you can GSM/GPRS whilst Qantas flights.

Peter Jackson to direct “The Hobbit” movie? Oh the horror!

Parallels for Mac is now at build 1910. For those who want to keep their feet in both worlds, you can run Windows XP and Vista at the same time.

Vista RC1++ (alias build 5728), the “show and shine” / “spit and polish” or most correctly, the Rule#12 “Fit and Finish” releases have started.

Microsoft Office 2007 Beta (and the followup Beta 2 Technical Release) is now available for Australians to download. Australia was missing for the first month or so.

I may have killed SVG off too soon, or at least taken an “Adobe-centric” view; and AndrewS comments that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Flash is bogus. Reading some of the posts from the FlashForward Conference, the current, modern mechanism is to use SWFObject.

Parallels 1884 Vista Quick Notes (and update)

Download the 21Mb update to Parallels (to build 1884)

Boot Windows XP to ensure all is OK before I install Vista. Windows XP “seems” to boot a little faster. Unable to quantify exactly how much.

Backup existing 15Gb Windows XP .hdd, just in case. Create a new 15Gb image to install Vista into.

Pararllels settings:

Parallels settings

Install into the fresh 15Gb image, 1024Mb of RAM allocated to image. Vista is marked at (experimental) as OS. Installing onto a MacBook Pro with 2Gb of RAM and MacOS X 10.4.7

  • Beta 2 Build 5384 DVD (thanks, Frank Arrigo at Microsoft Australia)
  • Started install at 11:05am
  • Vista install auto-restarted at 11:35
  • Vista install auto-restarted at 11:43am
  • Questions (location, time, username) at 11:46am
  • Vista install auto-restarted at 11:47am
  • Into Vista Beta 2 at 11:50am
  • Install Parallels Tools from the Parallels VM menu. Note that these don’t seem to be signed drivers, so ignore all the warnings and install away
  • Manual Vista Restart
  • On restart, if the “Welcome Center” doesn’t appear, choose it from the Start menu. Click on Add Hardware.
  • Vista found network card, and automatically configured network. Also note that Vista also finds “PCI Bridge Device” which I asked Vista to ignore
  • Restart; Vista found network card, and automatically configured network. Note that the Network Adaptor settings for the Parallels VM set “Bridged” worked OK

In short, it works. Note that I haven’t stress tested this; and the Parallels guys say its experimental. Beta OS on experimental hypervisor virtualization. Your mileage may actually turn into inchage quickly.

vista login

Vista Desktop first questions

RC1 Note from 8:20pm

You cannot install Vista RC1 on Parallels. Bugger. ISO, DVD burnt or upgrade from Beta 2 to RC1. None of these paths work.

***STOP: 0x000000A5 (0x0001000B, 0x50434146, etc)

The ACPI Bios in this system is not fully compliant to the specification. Please read the Readme.txt for possible workarounds, or contact your system vendor for an updated bios.”

FreeDOS and Parallels

File this into the why basket.


FreeDOS works with Parallels. So now for the full 1987-1992 retro-experience, the MacBook Pro can learn about HIMEM.SYS, FAT32 and other evil that Windows has shielded us from.

How to:

  1. Download FreeDOS ISO image
  2. With Parallels, create a new VM (virtual machine), Hard drive
  3. Set the CD as the boot device, and select the VM
  4. Start the VM
  5. Follow the onscreen install instructions: note, be careful erasing your hard disk image!

The VM settings screen will look something like this:


Uptime: 22 days. And I run Windows XP SP2.

I am not a Mac fan-boy. Been there, done that. And to be truthful, I think I am a little too old for zealotry. The innocent dogmatism of youth has been replaced with that pragmatism to the point of pessimism middle age.

My 15″ MacBook Pro runs MacOS X 10.4.7. The last time I rebooted was the installation of the MacOS X 10.4.7 update. That restart was so long ago, I honestly cannot remember rebooting.


Pop over to a Terminal window, uptime: up 22 days.

Up until May this year I had been a Windows person. Dell this, Windows that. A clean shutdown or restart at least once per week would keep the Dell going. After constantly sleeping/hibernating, things just didn’t feel stable anymore under Windows XP. Maybe it was all the weird VPN networking stuff that I had to run. Or memory not being freed up.

This MacBook Pro gets an equal amount of digital thrashing. It’s turned on and being used at least 14 hours per day. During the day, there are multiple shut-the-laptop lid hibernations, running multiple applications. Installing, launching Mac apps; de-installing (drag-install, drag to trash deinstall). Mad as hatter cats pulling out the magsafe power connector; Dashboard widgets are added, removed and refreshed. PowerPC (Rosetta) applications launching, force-quit Sheepshaver. Wireless network router reconfiguration. The screen in brilliant for spreadsheets – the performance on the Mac and Windows under virtualization are excellent.

During these 22 days I’ve booted Windows XP at least 15 times using Parallels. Most recently to run a TRS-80 emulator, and to take a look at a personal email in an archive .pst file. Even backing up the PC is easy. Drag copy the disk image onto our family file Debian server.

Under Parallels, everything I’ve installed has worked first time. Office 2003, Office 2007 Beta. Adobe Flex 2.0, Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0. Microsoft XML Notepad.

In a smartly organized corporate environment, and some smart configuration created by some smarter infrastructure cookies, a single standard Windows XP image could be created on a server. This could be pulled down when people come into work as their standard “office” suite. Separating the environments for executives could be a mechanism of saving costs.

Without the apple-coloured glasses, there are some deficiencies: the MacBook Pro has an integrated video camera in the lid but there are no device drivers for Parallels; and ACPI is yet to be supported under Parallels: so no Vista Beta/Vista SP1 yet. Not a big gamer thankfully as games performance/Direct3D sucks.

It’s still not a real Windows XP machine. There is no little laser-etched blue OEM badge (the Windows XP Professional installed is a box copy). So 22 days uptime or not, there is something that just doesn’t feel right: running Windows on a Mac is like listening to Country and Western in a Ferrari. You feel, well, dirty.

Still, this MacBook Pro has been the most stable Windows laptop I’ve had the pleasure of using. So, by definition – is the safest way to run Windows XP is under virtualization on MacOS X?

Virtually Emulating First Loves

In an effort to re-ignite my first love whilst on my leave of absence – I’ve been looking for a good TRS-80 emulator to rekindle the flames of technical desire. Also over the last 4 weeks I’ve also had a small “side project” watching the goings on in the desktop virtualization space, especially on the Mac. Parallels has been an excellent investment to get Windows XP running on the MacBook Pro; just waiting for the ACPI/Direct3D (or VMWare for the Mac) version so I can run a build of Windows Vista.

Admission #1: the first computer my dad purchased for me was a TRS-80 Model I. Not the prettiest, nor the most powerful of machines – 1.77Mhz with 16Mb Kilobytes (I even accidently put Mb!) of RAM. Welcome to 1981. That’s right, 1981. 25 years/ a quarter of a century ago.

The best emulator for the TRS-80 is written by Matthew Reed. Found thanks to
Ira Goldklang’s TRS-80 web site. So, I have TRS32 running inside Windows XP in Parallels on MacOS X. Shells within Shells.

Quest for the Key of Night Shade

Admission #2: the TRS-80 we owned stored data onto a cassette, not a floppy disk. Way-back when I was one of those computer-store kids. Thanks to the sales guys at Tandy Electronics/Radio Shack, we’d spend all day sitting on the computers typing in programs and occasionally demonstrating to prospective buyers. As floppy disks were expensive, we didn’t get access to storage – so TRSDOS was not an environment I was ever exposed to. Getting the emulator working involved remembering how to get BASIC working, and learning yet another OS.

Admission #3: I’ve watched zero minutes of Lord of the Rings. Even from DVD. Ever since the school librarian suggested I borrow The Hobbit, attempting to read a single page, and quickly returning the mush – I’ve actively avoided the fantasy genre. World of Warcraft drives me nuts. Sorry Neil and Mark!

Before this dispassion arose, I did get into one fantasy-style game on the TRS-80: “Quest for the Key of Nightshade”. It is strange how you remember names such as these for many years. Last week I found a version of the BASIC program, originally typed all the lines from a computer magazine into Basic and saved to cassette, on Ira’s website. From memory, this was written by a Canadian programmer and won “TRS-80 game of the year 1981” in some US magazine and was reprinted in 1982 by Australian Personal Computer.

The screen dump above is from this game. Ahh, the fond memories of our first loves.

One Mac Head, Two Minds

An excellent article from the New York Times: Weighing a Switch to a Mac. Interesting, as it goes through the two options: BootCamp or Parallels.

You don’t need to leave your Windows-mind behind when switching. Now that I am disconnected from the Adobe-mind, I rarely use Windows applications. But then again, I’ve not really done much in the last two weeks apart from fill this blog up with stuff!