Making a “Lucky” Future Windows

A posting on Microsoft Watch by Joe Wilcox: “10 Ways Microsoft Can Make Windows 7 Lucky” provides intriguing 10 things Microsoft can do to make the next version of Windows.

I personally know very little of what is going on in the Windows world, so it’s tough to comment on whether Joe is on the mark, or not.

However, one point hit home for me:

8. Windows 7 must give much, through sync. Synchronization is the other killer UI, and it’s essential to fulfilling Ozzie’s mesh vision. Windows 7 needs a synchronization engine bound to the IP stack. This sync platform would become the hub for data exchange regardless of format or service. It’s a tough challenge and maybe even beyond Microsoft resources for Windows 7.

As the number of devices grow: from iPhones to Intel Atom-based mini PCs, to laptops to multiple-core desktops: the concept of where our data lives needs to change. Roll on Dataportability, Meshing and Clouding.

Weekend Project: Windows Media Center

Yes, I know that the correct english spelling of Center is Centre.

Windows Media Centre

Thanks to the generosity of Jeffa, I scored an old Mini-ATX case with power supply. Yeah, being the junior on the team – I get all the hand-me-downs.

Some hundreds of dollars later from AUSPCMarket, and I have my first ever:

  1. AMD based PC (AMD Athlan64 x2 6000+)
  2. Gigabyte Motherboard PC (GA-MA69GM-S2H)
  3. Self-constructed PC (only a screwdriver required)
  4. Media Center PC (Vista Ultimate)
  5. Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 8000

Not being a hardware type, the moving of cables, CPUs, fans, more cables and stuff made the physical construction a little longer than an expert. There are still some internal wiring bits to complete: hard disk light at the front and CD audio. Also missed that the our Acer LCD TV has VGA and PC Audio. The cables I purchased were not correct.

The toughest part was installing the power to the SATA DVD/CD drive, and ensuring the CD eject button had enough clearance to work.

The first PATA (this was a surprise!) hard disk was stuffed, so off to plan B with a 500Gb PATA and we’re away. The motherboard would not boot up with this hard disk attached; so the old disk is a throw away.

Using the onboard graphics and USB based TV tuner is probably sub-optimal. Need to fix these.

To add/change

  1. Dual channel PCI DVB-T card
  2. DivX support (complete at 9:40pm)
  3. TV Guide so I can record TV successfully.

Oh, and the cats love the extra space. The case and CPU are quiet and relatively cool. The cave aspect of the case make it a perfect hunting spot:


iTunes, iPod Touch and Windows

iTunes, iPod Touch and Windows Integration

It’s nearly a week since I upgraded my iPod from a generation 3 to one of the cool, uber-geek iPod Touch devices. As a 99.5% Windows Vista user, I am impressed.

The iPod Touch works on our home wifi. In the morning I check emails and other overnight happenings from the comfort of my bed in Safari.  The synchronisation between my Internet Explorer (Vista) and Safari (iPod Touch) browsers works well.

It beeps at me when I have an appointment. My contacts are in there.

All it needs is a mini email application. A slightly less finiky onscreen keyboard. A camera and a VoIP. Oh, that’s right — that’s an iPhone!

Geek Project: Debian to Windows Home Server

Do you have an old PC lying around in your house?

Do you have a swarm of laptops needing to be backed up?

Do you have a collection of photos, videos that need to be stored centrally?

Like me, it’s is time to install a server on your home network.

Last year, I transformed an old Dell 8200 PC into our home server. This year, I am going to upgrade to Windows Home Server. Now available: for example: Eyo in Australia have it on their web site for AU$230.00

Generating PDF via OpenXML, PowerShell…

Colleague in crime, and fellow Aussie (well, at least he’s naturalised now), Dave Glover has a post that crosses some old territories of mine.

Using Powershell, .Net, OpenXML and some code that I barely understand because it’s not Python; he’s been able to generate 60 to 70 documents per second.

Linking it here as it intersects the Adobe / Microsoft world.

Alive at Pamplona

Hey, Jeffa The Geek Stories has the scoop, before The New Inventors: watch the interview with the Alive Tec CEO Bruce Satchwell – that blue device attached to the patient is made on the Gold Coast!

Emailing Bruce last night, apart from complementing me on my sharp eyes and good memory – he also broke the news that Alive’s Web Developer, Tim Hilliard, is wearing the monitor for the running of the bulls in Pamplona in a couple of weeks.

Alive  have made a very crude map of the bull run route using Windows Live maps.

Map view!130&encType=1

Birdseye view!130&encType=1

Youtube video of the run in 2006

I hope this doesn’t end in tears.

Questions from Brisbug, 17th June 2007


First flight to Brisbane, Sydney Airport 17th June 2007. Up at 4.30am, at the airport at 5.45am. Up so early, even the cats were surprised. Actually one of the cats didn’t even bother to come out and visit as it was so early. Motor into Windor to present to 25-30 members of the Brisbug User Group.

brisbugjun07 003

There were some unanswered questions, which I will tackle here:

Office Publisher 2007, breaking links. Break Forward Link: this is the process of removing the linkage from the current Text Box to the next, and retaining the text. From my quick research, Publisher 2007 does not change the functionality compared to previous versions.

Changing the selection/highlight colour in Word/Excel. This is relatively easy: Microsoft Word, as other well written Windows programs, respect the setting “Selected Item” colour in the Display Control Panel. This allows you to change the background colour that shows highlighted items, including text. Also note that Word 2007 has a zoom to make it easier to see text on screen.

OEM Windows XP Service Pack 2, Media Center. Install issue related to CDs with poor wording for insert CD (near bottom of chat transcript from May 2006). Seems like its an issue that is related to the wording of the install screen, not an error with the installer.

Links: Office 2007 file opening with previous versions of Office: If you have a mixture of Office 2007 and older versions on your home network, this is the link to the plugin.

Update: 28th June 2007: Office 2003 vs. 2007 menus:

Excel Finance function changes. The financial functions in Excel, apart from Nett Present Value and Compounding Interest, have sort of baffled me. From the help file:

Easy formula writing

The following improvements make formula writing much easier in Office Excel 2007.

Resizable formula bar   The formula bar automatically resizes to accommodate long, complex formulas, which prevents the formulas from covering other data in your worksheet. You can also write longer formulas with more levels of nesting than you could in earlier versions of Excel.

Function AutoComplete   With Function AutoComplete, you can quickly write the proper formula syntax. From easily detecting the functions that you want to use to getting help completing the formula arguments, you will be able to get formulas right the first time and every time.

Autocomplete assists with the writing of a formula. The most linked reference on the web for Financial function (now the how, more the why) is from here.

Tool of choice: Windows LiveWriter

I’ve been dog-fooding (that is, internally testing) Windows LiveWriter – for creating editing and posting to my three Blogs. Install, and it just works.

Tim Heuer’s Flickr4Writer plugin is a must-have. A major time saver.

There are many positive stories about LiveWriter, this however James Clarke’s takes the cake: JetFuel: Silverlight plugin for LiveWriter.  Something else to play with!

Gadget Geek Journey; Desintation 1:

Time to get serious on my resolutions. Well, at least one anyway; I’ll start the waist shrinking/walking later. It’s Thursday Geekout time!

Inspired by Robert Scoble’s gadget posting, and a general feeling that gadgets are where it is at for non-professional programmers like myself.

So, first port-of-call then on to the Developer center

Decision time: what to gadget up? A Cricket gadget is underway. I am sure that one of the various national religions of football will follow come March. For weather I can use my real window to look outside. (note: growing up on a farm, you learn to read the weather by looking through the window at the clouds). Neil Finn Lyrics!

So, there is some magic back-end code that is pulling the data from a small database, and rendering text smartly onto a random Neil Finn image. This will be the first step. No need to confuse myself with too much shenanigans just yet.

Off to the Developer’s Guide, and download the examples from the .zip. Oooh, css xml javascript. Easy. I have a localhost web server running, so that’s no stress. Text editor open, coding music in the ears.

How to test out the gadget? OK, I need Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005. Now is a good time as any to test it out. There is a method of harnessing your local gadget to Internet Explorer and the servers to test out before embarrassing yourself publicly! Hmm, seems like you can directly access the test harness with the correctly formed URL. There are three versions of this URL that I can find.

OK, it seems that the gadget testing Javascript harnesses, Internet Explorer 7 and cross-site scripting are in the midst of a conspiracy to stop testing. Time to hit the production servers with the code.

This posting on the new Gadgets forums helps: just go straight into, cross your fingers!

Works first time! After an hour of cleaning up and renaming things as per the recommendations, here it is:

Click: Neil Finn Lyric Gadget

Further comment gadgets are simple to create. XML file manifest, or list of what’s important; a CSS file to style your content and the Javascript. This Javascript contains the logic of your gadget which is essentially inserting HTML into the stream. It can gather text externally to generate this HTML into something more interesting than a picture.