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.

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.”

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?

Gartner Agrees with

Windows Vista the last of its kind: Windows will go virtual, Gartner agrees with my assessment that the future of Windows is componentised, virtualized and smaller.

Gartner expects a significant update to Vista in late 2008 or 2009 that will add virtualisation (in the form of a component called a hypervisor) and a service partition.

You read it here first, 4 days ago.

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.

Being the Forest, Forgetting the Trees

Microsoft is on the cusp of shipping a whole forest of new products. Vista, .Net 3.0, Office 2007 and * stuff than you can poke a branch/stick at. All of which presents Microsoft with some tall challenges. How does a single tree get noticed? How does the world find the saplings that are going to be the next Sequoiadendron giganteum? Does the forest work together as a cohesive eco-system?

Today, thanks to Microsoft Australia’s, Frank Arrigo, I attended the Blogger’s Brunch. Great of Microsoft to reach out to a section of the local technology blogging community. None of the attendees (except Angus Kidman and Nic) are famous in the blogosphere, but on the internets – noone knows you are an Australian.

Whilst having been a Microsoft customer since 1984 (Microsoft Basic 1.0 on a Macintosh 128K – and the box is in storage somewhere), I am a relative noob to “marketectural” Microsoft. The speak is strangely familiar to my ears.

The following are some random thoughts and un-expressed questions from this morning’s session:

  • To the Microsoft PR people. Sorry it paralleled Microsoft-Groove/Ray Ozzie history with Apple-NeXT/Steve Jobs. To Frank Arrigo. Sorry I stated that the * people are having fun being compatible with all the versions of Internet Explorer rather than implement Firefox support. Both of these were intended as jokes, not memes.
  • Today’s Australian Financial Review’s IT section has quotes from various large Australian financial organisations stating that they are taking a wait-and-see approach to Windows Vista. Some are only now installing Windows XP. These organisations state they will install Vista in 2-3 years. I find this quite interesting as it has taken them 4-5 years to install Windows XP. Personally, I am concerned if a large financial organisation is not running a recent, up to date, tested and secure OS on all their desktop computers. I’d love to know what features in upcoming products are direct feedback from Australian customers. This would show that the software development process is a two-way street.
  • Sharepoint should evolve into * server for the Enterprise. If Vista has all the hooks, and the connected/disconnected world and new applications are going to be mashed (lashed?) together with live stuff, this seems like a logical move. However, large organizations will be reluctant to put all their data into the world’s cloud for all to stumble upon. I am no expert on Sharepoint and all the positioning stuff, but it seems there might be a little “tension” (not a bad thing, mind you) between these two environments.* is garnering the mindshare as it is new-ish; many of the APIs and licensing models are to be determined. Come to think about it, these are probably the two reasons why they are still separate. Revenue and developer penetration.
  • After hearing about the IT professionals fawned over the coolness of Vista infrastructure deployment … I left the session (both mentally and physically) asking “what are Microsoft’s customers going to do with all these fine trees?”Customers doing meaningful stuff with Microsoft’s software so that they can impress their customers is where it is at. Marketing people might call it Unlocking the value of the platform.
  • Virtualization on the desktop has been one of my “things” for a while, so it’s interesting to hear that VirtualPC is to be included in the Enterprise version of Vista. Whilst listening to the intricacies of Vista vs XP deployment, my mind was racing thinking about the future of operating systems.So here goes: why is the Enterprise desktop so fat? Why not have a Singularity-based OS with .Net 3.0 Framework as the API. Win32 + other legacy apps could be virtualized to the desktop. As the world and work becomes more connected, the smart client at the edge of the network will have a different face.

In summary, I groked that Microsoft groks (sorry, Heinlein) the world as it exists today. Ensuring that no trees are felled in the rush to market is going to be an interesting challenge.

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!

WindowsXP Reinstall

What a few days. My Windows XP install on the Dell has been unstable for a few months; and I thought I had managed to recover XP enough to have a stable platform. Unfortunately, on Friday night it finally exploded. Also two Outlook .pst files went west (thank goodness for backups!). Completely erased the hard drive, reinstalled XP, and all the required updates. Sometime between installing these updates and the virus checker, I was infected with a ping-flooding virus. All is cool now. Just recovering the final pieces now.

WindowsXP works

I’ve just installed WindowsXP. Just installed over the top of a pretty stable Windows2000 – and it just worked. Even the local Apache and PHP install are working fine. The DirectCD software and ZoneAlarms software barfed up their cookies – but both of these have a duplicate in WindowsXP itself. It must be difficult for utility vendors in niche areas to compete with the Microsoft OS juggernaut.

Its pretty, and I have yet to find “the one thing” that would never make me use Windows2000. I must say it feels faster. It’s difficult to spend time looking at all the new features at once; but coming from Windows2000 everything seems in its logical place

The Christmas/New Year break is nearly upon us. I think that my projects will be related to C# (the Microsoft language & environment) and some other “unannounced Adobe products”