Only showing posts in the "Software" category

Guilty Confessions

I know, I haven’t blogged much lately, and I’m sorry. Ironically, I have less time to blog in the holidays than during the semester. “What?!” you say. In the holidays I am doing things that I like, for example writing my Command Console C++ program, and thus I am less likely to spend time on things I like less than coding eg blogging. But during the semester, procrastinating from working means that I “make” time to blog (so that I don’t work).

Anyway, the last blog I wrote (Smackdown for Conroe) you can pretty much forget, since apparently, reverse hyperthreading is not real. So the Conroes are kicking the crap out of the AMD AM2 CPUs. Ah well, such is life in IT. You buy some tech and it gets outdated straight away.

I also have another guilty confession. I have started to use Windows Live Messenger (WLM). I normally use Skype, but unfortunately I need WLM to talk to people at university, so I’ve had to install it.

It really is an inferior piece of software compared to Skype. The instant messaging experience is crap. For example, Skype manages somehow to remember when a conversation gets broken across a 6 hour gap and brings up the previous messages sent, so I can remember what we were talking about. WLM just erases it and starts afresh.

Skype also doesn’t have advertising crap shoved in your face, like WLM does. However, I have ripped that crap out of the software with a patch called A-Patch. It also lets you remove other annoying things like “Buy a Webcam” links and other useless teeny-bopper buttons and rubbish.

Skype also, in instant messaging, shows the difference between who’s message is who’s by putting a colour background behind the “Daniel says:” part and different colour background behind the “Daniel’s friend says:” part. In comparison, WLM relies on you to change your text colour. Too bad if yours is the same as someone else’s.

However, I will give some kudos to the WLM development team. It has come a long way since I used to use it years ago. The fact that voice chat works now, the shared folders feature, etc are all good new things that WLM has.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

You may think, from the title of this blog, that this would have something to do with Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Well, you'd be wrong. In fact, the cliché title only refers to the fact that this blog is going to cover lots of different topics because I am too lazy to do lots of little blogs. So I will now unload the demented, crazy thoughts that are generated in my brain daily, to procrastinate from studying for Introduction to Business Information Systems.

Windows Vista. There was a time, only a few months back, I would slobber at the very thought of it. This creation of excess spittle has ceased of late.

I was chatting with some of my lecturers, and one of them was telling me about his experience with Vista Beta 2 (which, by the way, you can get legally free from here). What he had to say was disheartening and he wasn't talking about the release date. Apparently, Vista is a resource hog. To a massive extent. Now, I expected that, what with their SuperCache feature that pre-caches stuff so that things will run faster. Naturally, the more stuff cached, the bigger the memory footprint.

However, it isn't just memory that Vista chews through. It is CPU as well. "CPU?" you ask. "What does it need CPU for?" A very good question, James. The flash "Aero" interface, that's what for. Apparently, ALT+TABBING can take up to 30% of your processor. Because the entire interface is a 3D thing, it eats resources like a mulcher eats a tree.

The hardware requirements for the Aero interface are also ridiculous. You need at least 128MB of graphics card RAM to use the fancy effects. "Say what??". That's right. 128 megabytes of graphics RAM. So that piece of crap 64MB Geforce 5200Go I have in my laptop can burn in hell, apparently.

I'm sorry, 128MB? I'm no staunch fan of Apple's OSX, but their OS has equivalent fancy interface effects and they don't need 128MB of graphics RAM.

A ridiculous fact I was told is that OSX is made by 60 developers, and Windows is made by thousands. Why in the devil's name is Vista so bad then? My lecturer said it was because their developers simply don't know how to write a good desktop graphics application. Although I find that a little hard to believe (its not like Microsoft is full of morons) however, the facts stand.

Another thing that continually sucks my mouth dry of spittle like a desert drinks water is Vista's ever retreating release date. In a recent Inquirer article it was said Vista was late because the management at Microsoft sucks. Now, I could have told them that. There is no other excuse for a bunch of very bright programmers to perform so badly. On a massive project like an Operating System I'd imagine that coordination and management would be paramount.

Another astounding fact that I got out of that Inquirer article is that the average Microsoft programmer writes 1000 lines of code a year. Is it just me or does that seem ridiculously low (no seriously, email me if you don't think so).

Another spittle drying fact of Vista is its new approach to security. The OS will prompt you for admin credentials for a lot of things; so many that people bitch about the inundation of dialogs. Now, I am a control freak so I probably wouldn't mind this as much as the average Joe, but apparently it is ridiculous. It also, thankfully, has improved in the transition between Beta 1 and Beta 2, although its still annoying.

So, I was doing some thinking (as I do), and came up with a shocking logical conclusion. If Vista uses 30% of the CPU to do things as simple as ALT+TAB then laptop batteries will smoke and burn in hell. No, seriously. In hell.

The reason batteries last as long as they do in laptops is because most of the time the computer does almost nothing. For example, I normally get around 3 hours out of my battery. However, you can blow this away to 40 minutes (or less) if you try and play games which are processor and GPU intensive. So with Vista continually using a large portion of your CPU to do mundane things, laptop batteries will be going flat as quickly as a tire punctured with a explosion from a block of C4 goes flat. And that's pretty fast. So this must be why Microsoft is pushing for all laptop hard drives to have a large cache of flash memory by mid-2007 (I can't find the Inquirer article that said that, otherwise I'd link it) to save battery life. Because Vista is going to drink it up.

Let's switch topics shall we? Ah, Origami UMPCs. I don't know whether you know about Microsoft's plan to have small computers that are bigger than a PDA but smaller than a laptop that have the functionality of a full laptop. Sounds good in theory, apparently it sucks in reality. Apparently, the problem with UMPCs is that they don't fit into any market area well enough. They are trying to create a new market, but their problems make them completely unattractive to punters.

The main problem with UMPCs is their crappy battery life. You get 2 hours. That's it. That's really useless for any real task that you would want to do on a real computer, since that's what UMPCs are supposed to be like. This is because of a few factors. Firstly, they can't be too heavy, so a small battery is needed to keep the weight down. Secondly, the first generation of UMPCs use power hungry screens that are not suited to power saving but are cheap to make. *Shhhhh* Yes, that's the sound of battery life getting flushed down the toilet.

The second problem is that they are apparently too heavy. Around 850g. The easiest way to use a UMPC is to hold it in one hand and use the touch screen with the other. Well, holding 800g in one hand for any length of time is too much. I was laughed at by my friends who reckon that 850g is not that much and I am a weakling. Yeah, OK, I'm not strong, but I don't think most people could continuously hold just under 1KG up for any long period of time. The solution? Smaller battery. But that would destroy battery life. See the problem?

The technology needed to make UMPCs work simply doesn't exist yet. Once high-power, lightweight and cheap batteries are made then perhaps the UMPC idea would take off. I'd like one.

Another topic change and this time we can look at something slightly more funny: breaking Notepad! Notepad is possibly the simplest program in Windows and you can make it break by doing these things: first open a blank Notepad and type without the quotes "this app can break". Save the file as a text file somewhere. Then close Notepad and reopen the text file by double clicking on it in Explorer. Whoops! Its a bit broken! Apparently, some dodgy implementation of Unicode is to blame for this. Go check it out on the INQ.