Why do I need THREE mail clients to choose from?

In an interesting article about having ‘too many choices for turning the computer off’, Joel Spolsky opened up a big can of worms on Vista.  While the OFF buttons are trivial (except for the fact that what LOOKS like an off button is actually a hibernate button), Joel hit upon a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  Giving users choices.  ‘Wait a sec, aren’t choices a GOOD thing?’  Read the article…

On to my little rant…

How many freakin’ email clients do we need!?!  Up through Windows XP, if you wanted a free email client that was almost guaranteed to be installed, you used Outlook Express.  Of course, people got the name confused with Outlook… but that’s a *completely* different topic.  Outlook Express handled all types of email accounts (correct me if I’m wrong, I rarely used Outlook Express), and was a fairly decent newsgroup reader.

Ok, so for Windows Vista, Outlook Express is gone… Bye, bye!  In it’s place is a brand new email client, Windows Mail.  Windows Mail’s functionality is ALMOST the same as Outlook Express.  One interesting difference is that Windows Mail DOESN’T WORK WITH HOTMAIL… Uh… WHY?  Because of Windows Live Mail Desktop (I’m not sure if that’s going to be the final name)

Windows Live Mail Desktop is Windows Mail with support for Windows Live Mail (Hotmail), and RSS feed reading capabilities.  And built in Advertisements.  Ummm… Ok…  What purpose was this built?  2 reasons that I can see.  One, to update Outlook Express on XP.  Ok, laudable goal.  Two, to generate Ad revenue.  Sorry, bzzzt, bleech.  Watching the Channel 9 interview with the team that built this, someone had sold THEM a bill of goods.  When’s the last time you heard a dev team working on a cool new product that their primary mission was that ‘developing this software cost money, so we have to have ads’!?!  Ummm, Outlook Express is free.  Aren’t you getting paid by the sales of Vista?  Isn’t that *enough* money to fund a team writing a piece of client software?

Now, we also have a third Microsoft Option… Outlook.  Awesome product.  The changes to 2007 are incredible… And I use less than 10% of what’s there.  It does everything Windows Live Mail Desktop does, plus LOTS more.  Ok, so it’s not free, but it doesn’t contain blatant advertisement (until you use the help system).

Don’t forget to throw Thunderbird into the mix…

Gawd, just thinking about this give me shivers.  If I was a Windows Tech, I’d have nightmares about configuring email clients.  And having mailbox info moved?  Cold sweats, and I’d be thinking about a new career in something simple, like nuclear physics.

Since I’ve installed Vista, I’ve been trying to work like a normal, cost-conscious, home user.  I set up an Admin account and am running as a Standard User.  I don’t want to spend money on Outlook, and hate adware.  I do have a Hotmail account.  Looks like Thunderbird is going to be tried out on *this* Vista machine.

‘End-of-line’

End rant

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Points to ponder on Microsoft’s Zune

Normally, I don’t like articles that don’t publish the fact that an author might have alternative motives, but Andy Ihnatko’s article about the Microsoft Zune has some interesting points.

First off, why am I upset about the author’s motives?  Andy Ihnatko is the author of a The Mac OS X Tiger Book.  Plus, he writes for MacWorld and The Mac Observer.  Now, I don’t have a problem with a Mac author reviewing and/or trashing the Zune, but the fact is, it’s not made clear that he *is* a Mac author.  It would be like Paul Thurrott publishing in the New York Times about OS X Leopard.

Ok, I’m off my soapbox about disclosure.

Back to the article…

Andy raises two good points.  The potential for misleading pricing, and the ‘music player tax’. 

I’d like to know where the Universal Music CEO quote came from.  If that quote is true, then it’s really scary what the music industry believes.  I personally have never downloaded illegal music, and when I buy an iPod this year, it will not have any illegal music put on it.  Therefore, why should there be a kickback to *any* distributor?  Besides, does anyone SERIOUSLY think that money will go to artists?

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… Oh, excuse me for being cynical.

As for the misleading pricing, I don’t agree that Apple’s fixed pricing is the best option.  It IS a good compromise, balancing a simple pricing structure with a need to generate revenue.  BUT, it completely scares me to hear Microsoft try to go with points.  Again, now it’s much harder to track how much money should go to an artist.  People used x number of points, but how much of that was paid for, how much was earned through sharing, etc…

For me, just the idea of a the record companies will profit from me buying a music PLAYER will cause me to do a LOT of thinking on my music player purchase.

Vista First Impressions

This weekend I installed the ‘Release To Manufacturing’ (RTM) version of Vista.  This is the same disk that will be shipped to the general public at the end of January.  This disk is provided to MSDN Subscribers early, so that developers can make sure that their products work with the new version.  And I’m lucky enough that my company has purchased copies of MSDN for us developers. 

The Good
  • The install was *very* easy.  Not too many questions, setting up the disk was easy, it recognized almost everything, and the process was very smooth.
  • The new UI is nice.  The effects for opening and closing windows are cool.  The live previews on the task bar is pretty cool.
  • The Sidebar looks like it might be more useful than I first thought.  It will *definitely* make Widescreen monitors a hot commodity.  One thing that differentiates the Sidebar from Apple’s Dashboard is that the gadgets can be displayed while other programs are running.
  • IE 7 on Vista looks good.
  • Games are fun, and addictive.
  • Per application sound volume!  Yeah!
The bad
  • Windows Mail that is included with Vista DOESN’T WORK WITH HOTMAIL!!!!!!  Why the hell did they create Windows Mail or re-create Outlook Express if it’s not going to work with Microsoft’s main email provider?  What kills me is that to use Hotmail/Live mail, you are supposed to use Windows Live Mail Desktop.  Why develop 2 email clients?  Is it the fact that Windows Live Mail Desktop includes Advertisements?
  • Sound card drivers.  Ok, so this isn’t a peeve with Microsoft, it’s with companies that support Microsoft.  And really, I can’t blame them, they only got an RC1 a month or so ago.  And, the drivers have to be re-written (again!)
  • The install *still* did not create a password protected Admin user, then a Lower Access User.  Grrr!!!
  • The interface is VERY different.  I’m glad they’ve made the changes, but I can’t help but think people are going to be confused.
  • The little button that looks like the power button on the main menu is actually a ‘suspend’ button.  I agree with Joel Spolsky about the Off menu.
  • Why didn’t Powershell get included ‘out-of-the-box’?
  • Migrating settings from my old OS to my new OS.  Why, oh, why, can’t moving things be easier?
The undecided
  • UAC (User Access Control).  I like the concept behind the feature.  The RTM version is a LOT less annoying.  I don’t like the fact it can be turned off.  If you want to run with no UAC, you should run as the super user.  Anyone else should be *REQUIRED* to input passwords to install software and do things that can mess up the machine.

I will continue to try working with Vista.  Once I get my software setup on Vista, and get the audio drivers for my Firewire card, I’ll have more thoughts.

A really simple thing is changing my outlook on software development

For past several years, I have been a big fan of Agile software development as a process for developing software.  I like the ability for development to turn on a dime.  It suites the companies I have and am currently working for.  But, this weekend changed my mind a little.  Now, I am a lot more apt to like up front design.  Maybe not always, but more than I would of just a couple of weeks ago.  What would cause this change in thinking?  Something very simple.

A jigsaw puzzle.

What!?!  What does a jigsaw puzzle have to do with software development?  And why is it suddenly pertinent to me?

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and worked a jigsaw puzzle.  I do so many things that are *like* it, that it usually wouldn’t be interesting.  Well, this weekend, I was over at a friends house, and they had started working a puzzle.  Being bored and a little sulky, I ended up sitting down with the puzzle for a bit.  In doing so, I discovered a couple of things about myself.

First thing I noticed, it’s damned impossible to do a jigsaw puzzle without the picture of finished puzzle.  Yep.  This is where the design and/or prototype concepts really hit home.  Agile development mainly deals with the pieces.  Imagine, if you will, that a piece of code and it’s test cases are one ‘piece’ of the puzzle.  And, that’s not a BAD thing!  Being able to prove that a piece of the puzzle is a piece of the puzzle is *very* important for software development.  BUT, it’s only one piece of the puzzle!  Without having the design or prototype, figuring out how all the pieces fit together is damn near impossible. 

As I was working on the puzzle with my friend, I noticed that we both would look at the colors, textures, and patterns to match areas of the picture.  We could at least put pieces where we thought they belonged.  This sped the development of the puzzle enormously.  As we were able to hook more and more pieces together, it would become obvious where the connected pieces should go.  The fact that my friend had organized the pieces before just randomly trying to match things up really made the work much more focused.

Last, I discovered that I am neurotic enough to sit down and finish about half of the puzzle over the course of 2 days.  At one point, I started going through the old bubble sort algorithm of taking every piece and comparing it to a spot to get the piece to fit.  If only I could work on my code like this, I’d be in *great* shape!

Why Microsoft is beginning to worry me…

It’s time for Dave to get on his soapbox…

For all the Microsoft fans out there, Christmas is going to last for a couple of months…  Vista has RTM’ed, Office 2007 has RTM’ed, Sharepoint 3.0 has RTM’ed, Exchange 2007 is close to RTM’ing, .NET 3.0 has RTM’ed, Powershell has RTM’ed, Flight Sim X has RTM’ed… you get the picture.  Microsoft has released or is soon to be releasing a BOATLOAD of software.

Now, why does this worry me?

Well, mainly it’s because that almost all of the products are being released at the same time because of their interdependencies.  Vista depends upon .NET 3.0 (and vice-versa).  Exchange depends upon PowerShell.  Office depends upon Sharepoint (and vice-versa here, too).  Flight Sim sorta depends upon Vista and DirectX 10.  It must create a *nightmare* to manage.  Changing one software package could have far, far repercussions.  This has always been on of Microsoft’s biggest problems.  Wanting to be the foundation means that change doesn’t happen very often, and usually isn’t very radical.

Take Vista, for example.  The initial plan for Vista was sweeping.  No legacy code.  Rebuilt from the ground up with all the latest and best technologies.  Major advancements in the OS.  What did we end up with?  Win XP with built in search and an annoying user access feature.  (Yes, I’m exaggerating here)  The problem for Microsoft is that they *can’t* change without breaking lots of legacy code.

One other thing that is bothering me… This article on Betanews.  I can understand why the Windows Live Desktop search team might be ‘shut down’, as searching is now part of the core operating system with Vista.  BUT… Live Desktop Search has been one of the best things that has been added to XP in a LONG time.  Why stop at 3.0?  Are we in for a repeat of the Internet Explorer fiasco?  ‘This doesn’t *need* further development’  NOT what I want to hear from a company that is supposed to be driving the market.

Ok, I’m off my soapbox now…

Stupid PowerShell Tricks #4: Work-around for the recursive delete problem

Now, this *is* a stupid PowerShell trick.  It’s stupid because it should not be needed.  Special thanks to my friend Rick for pointing this out.  He also has an article about the issue here

Here is the issue… When doing the remove-item command, the -recurse flag DOESN’T WORK.  Don’t believe me?  Run the following command:

get-help remove-item -full

Look for the -recurse (SwitchParameter) information.  Note the line ‘The Recurse parameter in this cmdlet does not work properly."

WTF!?! 

This bug was identified in JUNE of 2006.  JUNE!  And it was not fixed!  I mean, at least it is a documented bug, but come one, this is basic core functionality!

Well, there *is* a work around. (Thank goodness).  Because of the object oriented nature of PowerShell, the following command will accomplish the same task:

get-childitem * -include (file specifier) -recurse | remove-item

Also note the get-childitem command.  To do an -include, one MUST specify the path.  That’s what the first * is for.

Cheaper than a ‘Vette

I should have mentioned this a while ago… I have begun to start working out with a band.  The band’s name is ‘Cheaper than a ‘vette’ ( They had this name *BEFORE* I joined!  )  The band leader and lead guitar player is my friend Rich.  They do a lot of different music which is very cool.  It is more in the style of Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and lots of 50’s, 60’s and 70’s rock and roll. 

We created a little block party to have our first gig.  I uploaded pictures taken by my friend Bruce into a new photo album.  We had a complete blast.  The band sounded good, and everyone had a great time.

And, if you really want to see what I look like, check out the picture of the guy with the guitar behind his head.  I was goofing around for photos (wasn’t actually playing at the time!)  And, yes, I was *completely* sober!

How to uninstall Office 2007 beta

This weekend, Office 2007 Released To Manufacturing (RTM) was put up on the MSDN web site for subscribers.  So, I dutifully downloaded Office 2007 Pro, and proceeded to *try* to install it.  I use the word TRY for very good reason.  I had Office 2007 Beta 2 Tech Refresh installed on my computer.  Uninstalling B2TR proved to be a pretty big challenge.  I was initially not able to remove B2TR, something about the installation becoming corrupted.  How, I have no idea.  I couldn’t reinstall Beta 2, because the Tech Refresh had been installed.  And I couldn’t remove the Tech Refresh.  Also, the Tech Refresh wasn’t an install, it was a patch.

Oh boy…

Thank goodness for Patrick Schmid!  His articles on Office 2007 RTM issues and maunally removing the Office 2007 beta saved the day!  Following the instructions on removing Office 2007, I was able to clear out Office 2007 B2TR.  Once that was finished, Office 2007 Pro installed perfectly!

Thanks Patrick!