MSN Messenger Live Beta

When I first tried Vista last week I wondered why MSN Messenger was not bundled with the operating system.  I thought at first that Microsoft was giving the other messenging programs a chance by not bundling their program (maybe because of a law suite or something).  Now I think it was because MSN Messenger Live Beta is a separate product.  I am pretty sure that the two will be bundled together upon release.
Anyway, I downloaded the new beta and it does not seem too different from the old version.  One new feature I did notice but have not used yet is the folder sharing.  It seems that the new messenger can be a file sharing service as well.  There is a large warning when you open folder sharing against sharing copyrighted files.  I can see folder sharing as a helpful addition if you were working on a project with a few other people who all used MSN messenger and you wanted to collaborate on some work.  All that work could be stored in the shared folder without using Sharepoint or something.
I only have a few close friends on MSN messenger.  Most of my friends and students actually use Google Talk but I might find a use for the feature in the future.  I also noticed that there is more hype around the voice chat abilities of MSN messenger.  I have used voice and video chat in the past and I would say that MSN does a fine job of it except for one point.
MSN messenger has never supported audio or video conferencing of more than 2 people.  I do  not know if they have changed that in this version but I doubt it.  I do want to see if I can make calls to regular phone numbers or if it is the same service they have always had there you make calls to other MSN messenger contacts.  I will keep you posted on my findings.
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Vista Updates

I loaded the Virtual PC on with Server 2003 and SQL Server and everything is running fine.  I have not installed SuSe yet but I plan to in the next week or so. 
 
I do have an odd situation.  My Aero glass interface is not working.  I keep trying to re-enable it but it will not take.  The OS still looks nice but I want to be able to see the glass instead of just grey and back bars.  I will probably mess with it tonight to see if I can get it all fixed. 

Vista

Thanks to Ian an a new laptop I am now running a copy of Vista.┬á I think it is a very good OS.┬á It is very graphically appealing and feature rich.┬á I enjoy the new “Aero Glass” interface.┬á Borders on windows have a fogged glass look to them.┬á Windows below can be seen.┬á It makes the window borders seem smaller than they actually are and really works better in my massively multitasking environment.┬á The sidebar is nice but it could be improved in much if there were gadgets available for it.┬á So far there are just the ones included with the OS and 8 more online.┬á I wish I could check my mail, view instant messenger conversations in it, and have a better RSS reader along with a number of other fun things.┬á Until then, I will be study looking at a slideshow of my 31,000+ pictures and playing Sudoku which brings me to the games included with the OS.┬á There are a number of much appreciated games included.┬á My personal favorites are Chess and Mahjong.┬á┬á I enjoy both quite a bit but I hear that they will only be available in Vista Ultimate Ed. which has an estimated retail price tag of $649.99.┬á Microsoft, there is still time to add Go to your list of games.┬á <hint, hint>
Vista comes with a picture program similar to Google’s picasa.┬á The program is called Windows Photo Gallery.┬á My favorite feature is the automatic orientation changing it does to my pictures.┬á I do not have to mess with it and already my pictures are all straight.┬á It did take a little messing with to get everything to my liking but now it works perfectly displaying the names of my files and organized by folder.
MSN messenger was not installed by default.  I wanted to see how other MS programs performed in the OS so I downloaded it.  I have installed a number of applications in it including Alcohol 120, Nero 7, NetStumbler, RealVNC, Winamp, and others and all of them performed without issued.  I am, however, having occasional problems with my graphics driver.  Windows allocated 256MB to my graphics card (Thank God I had 1GB) but this OS really loves VRAM.
On the RAM side, I allocated 3GB for the pagefile and I am thinking of adding another 1GB to the machine.  Right now I am indexing all my documents and pictures that I recently dumped onto the computer.  There are thousands of each and I want to explore the searching features of Vista.  You will hear about these features in future blogs.  I also intend to get Virtual PC working and then importing a number of virtual machines in to see how they perform.  I will run Windows 2003, Windows 2000 and a copy of SuSe linux inside the machines and possibly benchmark them.
As always with a new machine or OS, I have been running performance monitor to see how things are going and to get a system baseline.  As you know from a previous entry, I tried this on my Dual Core Mac Mini and found that I desperately needed more RAM.  This machine seems to be holding up fine but unfortunately, I am running on the 32 bit edition instead of the 64 bit.  I am a little bummed about that.  The install of the 64 bit ed. kept failing so I was left with no choice but to use the 32 bit ed. for now.  I think my performance would be better with the other edition.  Oh well.  When I buy the OS, I will get the 64 bit and they should have the major bugs worked out by then.  I do stress the word Major since this is Microsoft I are talking about.
I am very happy with the OS so far in my trials.  It has withstood my intense usage of it.  I am very hard on machines with my mutitasking.  I guess I am a computer slave master.  Here are a few screenshots I took.
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SQL Server Issues

I put SQL Server on a Windows Server 2003 virtual machine on my new 64 bit laptop but Enterprise Manager would not run.  After some searching, I found a guide that helped me fix the issue.  I had to change permissions on various registry entries in the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT and then I had to manually register a few dll files.  Quite a number of services and processes had to be stopped during this procedure. 

New technology works well with new technology but new technology does not work well with old technology.  My situation here is SQL Server 2000 on Windows Server 2003.  If I was running SQL Server 2005, things would be different.  However, I want to learn more about SQL Server 2000 before I learn about 2005.  I like to know the history of technology and what changes were made in different versions. 

Everything seems to be working now.  Problem solved.

Microsoft Certification Upgrades – MCSE and MCSA

I haven’t blogged in a while because I was busy upgrading my MCSE and
MCSA certifications. I took the tests and passed on Tuesday. I got
my MCSE on Windows 2000 almost 3 years ago. I have worked with Server
2003 quite a bit but I never wanted to upgrade because you cannot
upgrade if you obtained the certification more than 3 years past. I
want to be able to upgrade my MCSE again when the LonghornVista
certifications come out. My 2000 cert would have expired in August so
it was about time for the upgrade.It was a tough week preparing for the exams but I do feel better now
because I am back in the hardcore study mode. I had been sort of
taking a break over the last few months but now I am back in the study
mode. If you do not study much for a while, it is harder to study. I
was studying SQL Server months ago but I set that aside in favor of
the Cisco Security Agent and then for the MCSE upgrade. I picked the
book up again Tuesday afternoon and it is my new goal. I have to be
totally committed to it and I can say that I am. I am going to order
a few more books from Amazon tonight and my next goal will be to
obtain the MCDBA (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator). I
attempted to gain the OCP (Oracle Certified Professional) a few years
ago and I am a little sad that I never finished it. Now I have a
chance to get back into databases again.

I installed SQL Server on my Server 2003 R2 machine a while back and
yesterday I opened the Enterprise Manager and found that one of the
services would not start. I researched the problem and found out that
there is a service pack out that I must download. My network is
completely disconnected from the Internet and I had not been keeping
up with the SQL patches so I was unaware of it. I downloaded the
service pack and a few other files and then transferred them to my
network. Everything is now updated fully. I have been relying on SUS
and automatic updates too much for my patch management and there is
the result; a server that is not updated.

Windows on the Mac Update

I got the latest intel update for Mac OSX. It was about 150MB but now
I can see my NTFS partition for Windows within Mac OS. I am glad to
know that I can edit those file whenever I wish. I was about to try
to mount the volume from the Unix shell but it was there before I
could try. 🙂

SQL Server

I am always trying to learn something. I really enjoyed learning
about programming yesterday and now I want to shift my efforts onto
SQL server. I have an install of SQL server 2005 at school and I
might have a copy of SQL Server 2000 at home. I plan to study and
work with it for the next few months. I have one book on it and some
lab manuals. I might order a few more depending on my interest. It
feels good to be learning. Ian and I are going to go to the library
on Saturday to study. We will have lunch too. I sure hope Chris will
join us. It would be fun for Ian to study for the MCSD, Chris to
study for A+ and me to study SQL server. Porter library in Westlake
as wireless internet and a nice atmosphere.

Code Camp Diary

Ian and I left for Code Camp in Pittsburgh early this morning. We
were on the road by 5:30 AM. We drove to Independence to pick up
Richard but then I got a call saying that he could not make it. We
stopped by Panera for breakfast and arrived at the University of
Pittsburgh with plenty of time to spare. The event started at 9:00
AM.

When I picked up my badges, Ian found out he was presenting. He had
to think of something to talk about. He started looking up slides to
download for his presentation. Once I found my badge, I wandered
around the facilities to get my bearings. Ian ended up working on
his presentation during two other presentations. He was able to
download some slides from someone else and then he had to screenshot
some things because he did not have Visual Studio on his laptop.

The first presentation I went to was on using attributes and property
grids to manage system configuration. These property grids (list
views) allow you to create classes and then utilize an input method
similar to the one use on the property sheet in the Visual Studio IDE.
The grids are very customizable and easy to use once you get the hang
of the classes used. I understood most of what the presenter showed
us but there were a few things I missed because it was early in the
morning and because I am more familiar with VB.NET than I am with C#.

The next presentation I went to was on SSIS (SQL Server Integration
Services). This one seemed interesting but I was dissapointed when
my presenter just read
from a piece of paper. I was surprised that they would have a
Microsoft sponsored event with such a low caliber presenter. I read
about SSIS online and learned more in a few minutes than I did in his
entire presentation. Our presenter tried to show us
what he was talking about but he simply followed an online guide or
lab manual. He was always staring down at his paper as he tried to
create the data he wanted to transform.

We had pizza for lunch. I was expecting a little more from Microsoft.
In the past, they have served some nicer meals. Still, I did not
pay for this event so it was nice to receive food and it was on site
so I did not have to lose time trying to find a place to eat. I
guess I am like the cat who comes to a house every day to get a bowl
of milk. If the milk is not there one day, the cat would meow. I am
not ungrateful for what Microsoft provided. I am simply used to
getting ÔÇ£milkÔÇØ. We chatted with a few other developers over lunch and
then headed to the next session. A number of them were mac users so
I got along nicely. They talked about a Macintosh development
environment but I forgot the name. Ian reminded me laterr that it is
called X-code. I would like to try it out. I never really considered
the Macintosh as a development platform but I guess I should.

The session I attended after lunch was on unit and web testing. The
presentation was interesting but I had a seat way in the back. The
presenter used blue text on a blue background so it was very difficult
to read in the back. I mostly just listened to what he had to say and
then watched his examples. It is nice to know about the tools
available in Visual Studio 2005 for testing. Much of it is automated.
Also, for testing web services, you can walk through tests and have
those tests recorded so that they can be performed on other code
modules as well. Reports can be generated to show whcih parts of your
code have been tested and which parts passed or failed. If one part
fails, you can go to the part of the code that failed. Also, the
code in Visual Studio 2005 is highlighted in blue or red to show if it
passed or failed testing. I imagine that this highlighting can be
removed much like tracking changes in a word document. I am eager to
try out the testing tools on my flashcard application. I want to see
if the testing tools are available in Visual Studio Express 2005 because I do not own a copy of Visual Studio 2005. It would also be nice to teach how to use these tools in the classroom.

The next presentation at 2:00 was on the Windows workflow foundation architecture. This allows us to separate application code from workflow logic. It is a download that is part of the .NET framework 3.0 expected in January 2007. I learned a lot in the presentation because I came in knowing nothing. I asked Ian ÔÇ£What the heck is the
workflow foundation?ÔÇØ right before the presentation started. Workflows are a set of activities. The activities can do almost any application or Windows task. The foundation integrates with the shell, Sharepoint, Office, and other apps as well. You must run a script against your SQL server database inorder for the workflows to be properly integrated into the database. Workflows can be tracked and reports can be generated from it. We can create logic for when an
activity starts, when events occur, or when the event finishes. To liken this to something everyone understands, think of how custom animations are designed in Powerpoint. This is an extremely simplistic example. Activities that have been sitting in a queue waiting for some action like management approval can be flagged, terminated, or some other action can be taken.

Workflows could be set up for a technical support center as users request service, technicians are assigned, the problem is raised to a higher level if necessary, and finally the issue is resolved. A visual studio template is used to create a new workflow. This template is a C# project. Once you create a workflow, it appears as a diagram much like those designed in Visio. The familiar toolbox exists on the left hand side of the screen. The toolbox allows you to add C# code to the workflow, events, policies, timers, delays, and other things such as specifying whether or not workflows operate in parallel or sequence. The entire thing is very visual with blocks that can be drilled down into for further detail and customization. Most commonly you would set each state to end starting another state. A GUI can be created for the workflow so that it can be used.

After the workflow event, I went to see IanÔÇÖs event. Ian spoke on code security. He asked everyone the size and complexity of their passwords which did not relate into code security but oh well. Everyone deserves a chance to rant a little when they get their spot on their soapbox. (hehe. No offense Ian.) Ian was having quite a few problems with his computer during his speech. His powerpoint did not display properly and he spent about 10 minutes up front trying to fix it before giving up.

Let me share just a few finishing thoughts. While at code camp I had the odd thought of what Remington College is teaching for programming at some of my other campuses. When I taught the class I had to fight to get us to teach .NET instead of Visual Studio 6.0. Now I have Visual Studio 2005 but I have not seen any copies around at Remington
so it makes me wonder if many campuses are still teaching using Visual Studio 6.0.

It was a very fun event and I look forward to attending another event in the future. It was also nice to spend time with Ian too. I wish Richard could have attended too.

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Microsoft Acquisitions

This is a quote from Penny-Arcade about Microsoft’s recent
acquisition. “I would sooner acquire crabs, but Microsoft has decided
to acquire Lionhead – adding their uniqueness to its own. ” Here is
the comic strip that goes with it.http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic

Windows on a Mac

If you read the Wall Street Journal, you will know that on Wednesday,
Apple released software called Boot Camp that allows users of the
Intel processor macintosh computers to dual boot with Windows XP and
Mac OSX. Naturally, this interested me. I downloaded the software
and repartitioned my drive, allocating 10GB for the Windows partition.
Next, I had to get a copy of Windows XP with SP2 already on it. I
had my class slipstream SP2 onto an installation disk so I was
prepared to slipstream it but Ian had a copy already so I just burned
the disk. I had my own CD key to use. The next step was to burn a CD
of drivers that would allow me to use the mac features within Windows
XP. This also provides support for the Mac hardware including the
wireless Airport card, Bluetooth adapter, and other devices. After
that, I started the Windows XP install just as you normall would do on
a PC. The installation was the part that took the longest. After
installing, I updated to get all the latest patches, I joined it to my
domain and then installed a game to try out the graphics card.

The graphics adapter is amazingly adaptable. (no pun intended) I was
able to adjust the amount of system memory it uses. I have it using
256MB but I might decrease that. My entire system has 2GB of RAM in
it. My bottleneck is the GPU, not the RAM so the additional RAM is
not helpful. I ran Battle for Middle Earth 2 (BFME2) and the graphics
did look pretty bad. I was able to adjust a few thigns to clean it up
but it certainly does not look as nice as Justin’s machine (3.5GHz AMD
Athlon 64, 256MB Graphics card). Another issue is the fact that my
widescreen resolution is not supported in game. I can, however,
utilize the 1920×1200 resolution in the OS.

To switch between Windows and MacOS Tiger, hold down the Option/Alt
key as the computer boots. It will then give you a selection screen.
The screen does not look anything like the boot loaded in Windows.
This is a graphical menu that you click on. Is this functionally any
better than the one included with XP? No, but it does look nice.

I do wish that the two systems could share data on the file system.
MacOS uses the HFS+ file system and Windows uses NTFS. I was hoping
that Apple would write some drivers to allow the XP OS to read from
the HFS disk and vice versa. This is not a large inconvenience though
because I primarily use network storage. There is 1.2TB of storage on
the network that I can take advantage of.

The process was fairly simple and I do not miss the other 10GB so I am
happy to have tried this.