Category Archives: Software

Microsoft Visual Web Developer Express

Am I the only one who didn’t know this existed? It’s like a HomeSite clone, but I wonder if it works any better than the classic HTML editor from yesteryear (which hasn’t improved a bit since it left Nick’s hands).

Visual Web Developer provides a powerful WYSIWYG visual design surface to create your Web applications and includes all of the common formatting controls such as font selection, font sizes, font formatting, bullets and numbering, and more.

But here’s what impresses me the most. We’ll see if it actually lives up to its hype, though:

You write HTML the way you want it to look. Visual Web Developer leaves it that way. Period. Your white space, indentation, casing, word wrapping, and carriage returns are retained throughout development. When you write your HTML code and then switch to design mode, rest assured that it will remain as you wrote it.

In many ways, I wish TopStyle would evolve to the point where HomeSite once stood. I’m gonna give Visual Web Developer Express Edtion a shot, if only because they have a tutorial on Microsoft for Displaying Your iTunes Library. I don’t use iTunes, but it’s impressive that someone at Microsoft recognizes the fact that Apple’s iTunes pwns the market.

65 More Windows Vista Mistakes

I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Even after my problems with Outlook 2007, and my original feedback on Windows Vista, I went deeper into Windows Vista’s second beta. This time, I didn’t concentrate so much on the font issues (so that I couldn’t be accused of being such a nitpicker). Don’t get me wrong; there are still thousands of UI oversights still sitting within Windows. I intend to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don’t just want to hear about how some of my problems were addressed – I won’t rest until all of them are. I keep being told that a lot of it will be happening soon, but… I’ll believe it when I see it. This isn’t just about fonts and icons, my friends – it’s about something I intend on using as my primary operating system for the next… seven (?) years.
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Microsoft Calculator Plus

In traipsing around Microsoft.com, I stumbled across what I believed was the Calculator PowerToy – a nice upgrade to the calculator that ships with Windows. Turns out, Microsoft Calculator Plus is an entirely new calculator (which sadly looks better in “Classic View” than in the default skin). Give Calculator Plus a try and you’ll wonder why they’re not shipping this version with Vista. At least, Calculator Plus not in Windows Vista Beta 2. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Microsoft (itself) already has an infinitely better version of a calculator available for free download on their site, yet they’re not including it (yet?) in Windows Vista. Why!? Are they afraid the DOJ is going to come after them for cornering the desktop calculator market? “Calculator Plus offers conversions between different measurement units for area, temperature, volume and more. It also includes all the mathematical functions offered in Microsoft Calculator.” Finally!

U3 Uninstaller

When I was troubleshooting my ReadyBoost issues with the PNY Attache 4GB USB 2.0 thumb drive, I got silly and purchased two 2GB SanDisk high-speed USB (2.0) memory sticks. For those of you keeping track, that’s two 2 twos I snagged. The Cruzer Micro was the only thing the store had on hand that was both high-speed and high-capacity. However, these SanDisk Cruzer Micro “thumb drives” also came with the dreaded U3 software – which I don’t want (and I don’t need). You can’t just go and reformat the entire USB key, mind you – you have to find the uninstaller first. Geeky Jock to the rescue! I downloaded the U3 remover utility from his site and now my Cruzer Micro USB flash memory sticks are 100% without annoyances. I laud SanDisk and U3 for doing something interesting, but you should at least give the user the *EASY* option to remove this so-called feature from a product they paid good money for. U3 isn’t necessarily bad – it’s just terribly annoying. Oh, and I wound up getting Vista to recognize the PNY Attache 4GB USB 2.0 memory key (after connecting and removing it a few times, per a Gnomie’s suggestion).

Removable Media Drive Icons in Windows XP

Many new systems today are coming with integrated digital media readers instead of floppy drives. I say that’s a good thing. However, these manufacturers have a penchant for slapping in crappy icons for those drives – if they even bother to include icons at all. There’s no way of telling which drive letter belongs to which type of removable media – CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, MMC, or SmartMedia. I lived with this problem until today. Ponzi’s new machine installed a craptacular array of icons for her removable media drives. I set out to figure out where they were coming from, and ran into some amount of difficulties at first. I didn’t know where the icons were sitting; they were likely buried in a DLL. Then, I noticed that the CompactFlash drive was labeled “CompactFlashI/II.” Awesome! Now I had something to search for in the system Registry.

Less than a minute later, I was staring down the barrel of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Explorer DriveIcons! Each drive letter has a separate key, mind you. Once I found this location, it was relatively easy for me to change. The drive letters and icon locations for your system will definitely be different, but you can base your tweak on mine. I’ve yet to find amazing removable drive icons, but Windows XP stores a couple of good ones within Shell32.dll in the %windir%system32 directory. If you’d rather not navigate on your own, I’ve zipped the REG file (and the icons I’m currently using from XP) in RemovableDriveIcons.zip. Again, you will need to view and edit the REG file to change the local paths and drive letters on your system. This should be completely safe, but I’m not responsible for anything you choose to do with this.

Removable Media Drive Icons in Windows XP

And for heaven’s sake – if you know of better removable media icons out there, let me know where to get ’em. I’ve gotta find a single theme for CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, MMC, and SmartMedia.

65 Reasons Why Outlook 2007 Will Suck

It started with a small list of Outlook look-outs. But the closer I look at Outlook 2007’s second beta, the more I’m starting to worry. It’s worse than I thought. I know many people disagreed with my assessment of Outlook 2003 (what, with it sucking – though not sucking as much as Outlook XP). However, I’ve been partially vindicated.

The major shortcoming of Outlook XP/2003 was in combining the Exchange and Internet code into a single experience. The good news is: the team has rectified the situation in Outlook 2007 by enabling separate Exchange / Internet environments. Still, they’re not even close to being out of the “Approved by Pirillo” forest. Many of the items on the following list may seem superficial, but it’s obvious that nobody is paying attention to these details that (when added up) make for a disappointing ride that isn’t as good as one would come to expect from the second-most profitable area of Microsoft. I hold the entire Outlook team responsible for these usability nightmares and interface inconsistencies.

Remember, this list is an extended addendum to my original assessment of Outlook 2007 (and initial bug reports). I stopped at 65 this time because that’s how old I turned after compiling this list.
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Outlook 2007 Might Not Suck!

I can’t believe this. I’m giving Microsoft Office Beta 2 a shot, after receiving the DVD set at WinHEC yesterday. It’s running on my Vista Beta 2 laptop right now. The first thing I did? Fire up Outlook to see if they had addressed a few of the larger bugs I’ve been submitting to them since before Outlook XP was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public. It’s not perfect, but it’s showing a bit of promise. They have a lot of UI work to clean up before I could give this my stamp of approval. Here’s my first round of feedback…
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Microsoft Slows Microsoft Down

Microsoft Slows Microsoft Down.PNG

The screen shot from Windows Vista proves it. Any comment, Brandon? Of course, I’d expect a lot of these kinds of bugs in beta builds – especially when one beta is combined with another beta. The search “engine” is light years better than it was in previous verisons of Windows, or so the Search team tells me. I haven’t yet tried to copy my PST over into Outlook. I’ll be using Vista more and more on the road, as it’s now my laptop OS.

Windows Vista Feedback

I spent a few hours with Windows Vista last night, per Jim Allchin’s request to send him feedback about what I discovered in terms of discrepancies and oversights. I took that task seriously, and stayed up late to compile this far-from-comprehensive list. I sent it to him at 1am, and I hope he doesn’t have a filter that keeps him from seeing it. I realize this list is lengthy, but… these reasons are exactly why I’m afraid Vista won’t be as polished as originally anticipated. I warn you, this list is long – and it’s only going to get longer, the deeper I dive into Vista Beta 2. This list is longer than the interview! If you think this list is long, check out my follow-up list of 65 More Windows Vista Mistakes.
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