Category Archives: Windows

Tafiti – Microsoft Live Search with Silverlight

This is pretty cool: http://www.tafiti.com/

I think my favorite feature is the newspaper layout for the news results. This might actually get me to use Live search once in while instead of Google, although I’m not so sure about the usability. The font size for the web results seems a bit small and I’m not so sure about the two-column layout (but this might be because I’m so used to seeing the summary below each result). The tree view seems to be there purely as eye candy, I can’t how this is usable at all…

Office 2007 Sucks Too

Well, to be fair, Outlook 2007 sucks. I haven’t used the other Office apps enough to say they suck, yet.

Outlook seems to throw a hissy fit anytime I send email to someone from my address book. The message gets stuck in the outbox and the little icon down in the task tray goes spastic, flickering between the “send/receive” icon and the “normal” Outlook icon. I’m not alone with this problem:

http://help.lockergnome.com/office/Outlook-2007-mail-issue-ftopict947727.html
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070522053954AANjpLU

The RTM versions of Vista and Outlook feel like beta versions. Wait for the service packs, people!

Vista Sucks – Ditto

I’ve been running Vista for less than two months and I already have to reinstall it. I’ve had almost the same experience as Milan Negovan:

The Lethal Shutdown

The day before yesterday, I pressed the Shutdown button expecting a prompt (something you can configure in XP). Vista neatly closed the few applications that were running, logged me out and shut down, nice and easy.

Imagine my surprise when I booted it up tonight only to see a Windows 2000-style GÇ£flatGÇ¥ user interface with everything I installed missing, no glass, nothing. Somehow I got downgraded to a non-privileged user, unable to even see anything in the Control Panel. To add insult to injury, every GÇ£zoneGÇ¥ in IE 7 became locked. I was locked out and not given any options to do anything about it.

Vista tells me it can’t load my profile after I log in. I tried creating a second admin user account from scratch and logging in with that, but the result was the same. I cannot enable the “true” administrator account, because Vista won’t let me run the “computer management” applet. It’s like UAC is broken. In a bad way. Instead of prompting me, I just get an access denied message.

When Vista was working, I’ve had a bad experience with the only game I tried to play on it: Halo. The sound is very choppy and it’s almost unplayable because of it. And this is a Microsoft game! I read in few places that the old DirectSound API no longer supports hardware acceleration under Vista, and as a result, sound in pre-DirectX 10 games is handled completely in software (i.e. slow). I set the machine up to dual boot into XP and Halo works great there.

You may have read this advice elsewhere, but I have to agree with it and say it again: If you have a stable computer that’s running XP, DON’T UPGRADE IT. Vista is not worth upgrading to. If you’re going to buy a new computer anyway, consider getting it with XP (Dell still offers XP), especially if you have old (or not so old) games you want to run on it. Microsoft is cutting off supplies of XP at the end of year, so the next few months will be your last chance to get it if you don’t have a license you can transfer. Hopefully by then they’ll have released a service pack (or two) and the story will be better.

On the other hand, part of me thinks Vista is another Windows ME – an unstable OS that earned a bad reputation and one that a lot of people skipped…

iTunes 7.1.x Causes LoaderLock Exceptions When Running Windows Forms in the Debugger

I got burnt by this today.  Seems that the latest version of iTunes for Windows (which I installed this morning) really messes with Visual Studio 2005.  The 1st keystroke entered into a Windows Forms app running in the VS debugger causes VS to throw a “LoaderLock” exception.  This only happens if iTunes is running – shut it down and everthing works normally.

Here’s a discussion about the problem on the MSDN forums:

http://forums.microsoft.com/MSDN/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1332045&SiteID=1

The last comment is from someone at Microsoft pointing the finger at one particular iTunes DLL, named iTunesKeyboardCompatibility.dll.  Maybe they should have named it iTunesKeyboardIncompatibility.dll.

Taking this bit of info, I tried deleting the file and running iTunes.  But the self-healing Windows Installer technology restores the dll on startup.  I shut down iTunes and deleted the file once more, but this time I created a zero-length file of the same name to take its place.  This prevented the original file from being restored when iTunes was started back up.  It immediately complained about the “dll” I created, but after dismissing the error, iTunes and Visual Studio both worked just fine.

I could once again listen to The LOST Podcast with Jay and Jack while debugging my code.

Windows Explorer Periodically Hangs with High CPU Utilization

So my PC at work has been giving me trouble this week. Every so often things would just sort of hang for several seconds. Sometimes it would be when I tried to open an email message in Outlook, sometimes when I was working with a web application in IE, sometimes when killing the screen saver after being away from my desk. There just wasn’t any rhyme or reason to it. One thing I did notice was that each time it happened, the Windows Explorer process, explorer.exe, would be consuming 99 – 100% of the CPU.

My first fear was that Windows had been infected by some nefarious bit of code. I checked the system with a couple virus scanners and anti-spyware tools, but found nothing. I tried using Windows XP’s restore points to roll back to a time before this problem starting happening. All that did was screw up Visual Studio 2005 (which I then had to repair). I tried uninstalling that last couple of applications I had installed. I tried disabling IE add-ons. Nothing helped.

Finally I tried to make some sense of what was going on inside explorer.exe when it was gobbling up CPU cycles by using the Visual Studio debugger and Sysinternals’ Process Explorer. There were enough clues there that led me to think that whatever was happening was centered around the Windows desktop folder. Hmmm. Desktop. I had set my desktop to hide all icons months ago (FYI: right-click the desktop, click “Arrange Icons by”, and then uncheck “Show Desktop Icons) in an effort to unclutter things (and I got tired of fighting every little app that feels it’s important enough to put itself on my desktop). So, I made the desktop icons visible again to see what was there.

Bazillions of files. Covering both my displays and then some. XML files. I knew immediately where they had come from. The application I maintain and support has an option to save the XML requests/responses to and from the server. Where does it save them? To your “working directory”. Where’s the working directory? By default, the Windows desktop. Ugh. I had enabled this logging months ago and forgot to turn it off. It appears that things hit critical mass this week and was causing Explorer to choke (explorer.exe runs the XP desktop, taskbar, and start menu as well as the file explorer).

Things got much faster after nuking all those files. I also checked the utilization of the MFT using defrag c: -a -v and since it was over 90%, I ran this batch file to expand it a bit:

c:
md c:MFT-folder
md C:MFT-files
cd c:MFT-folder
FOR /L %%f in (1,1,5000) do md %%f
cd C:MFT-files
FOR /L %%f in (1,1,50000) do echo Creating files >%%f
cd c:
rd /s c:MFT-folder
rd /s C:MFT-files

It’s usually best to do this after defragging the drive. Basically, you’d like there to always be some space available in the MFT so you don’t have to wait for Windows to expand it, and if you use this method with Windows defrag it will also help prevent the MFT from becoming fragmented.

No Macs at Macworld

It’s official. Apple is no longer a “computer company”. Steve Jobs’s big keynote at Macworld 2007 introduced zero new Macs and no new software (OS X, iLife, iWork, etc.), but instead focused on a TV appliance and of course, the “iPhone”. This was underscored by the announcement that “Apple Computer, Inc.” would now be just “Apple, Inc.”.

This comes at a time when I was giving serious consideration to buying my first Mac. I was hoping there would be an announcement of upgraded Mac Minis, with Core 2 Duo CPUs. But no. Only a $300 streaming media box (obviously designed to drive more revenue to the iTunes store) and a $500-$600 cell phone. Ok, cell phone is an understatement, but I have no interest in it at that price (not to mention the monthly bill to go along with it).

Apple is now a consumer electronics company. Apple is the new Sony.

I think I’ll build a new PC to run Vista on instead.

Windows 2003 Server/IIS6 Kicks Windows 2000 Server/IIS5’s Butt

This is probably old news to many, but believe Microsoft when they say that there are significant performance and scalability improvements in Windows 2003 Server and IIS 6. I’ve been wondering why my “puny” Athlon XP development system at work has seemed so much faster than the “beefy” dual-Xeon production server at work. Besides the hardware differences, the production box runs Windows 2000 Server while the dev box is running Window 2003 Server.

I set up a test environment to compare 2000 vs. 2003 on identical hardware and found that, for my application (.NET smart client that uses a Web Service on the server), that start-up times where 3-4x faster when the server was running Windows 2003. Other operations where at least 2x faster. Needless to say, I’ll be pushing for an OS upgrade…