Changing of the House

Wow, today was one of the last major milestones on my house.  A lot has changed since I wrote my initial ‘I have a house’ post and took pictures of the dirt.

First, I changed the community that I bought it.  What!?!  One of the perks of working for a home builder is that changing from one community to the other is a little easier than people would expect.  Our company has two communities with the same plans in two different areas where I live.  I like the one I originally picked out, but the other community is literally ‘on the corner’ of block I live at now.  So, after going up to see what my house was going to look like at the close community, I decided to switch to this community.  My house hasn’t even really started construction, and the ones close to me were started to close the first units.  I’m an impatient person, so I decided to switch.

Second, I *almost* bought the house that I had pictured previously, but a misunderstanding about the price I offered caused the unit to be sold to someone else.  smile_sad  Fortunately, the company I worked for was able to quickly rectify my upset state.  

Finally, after a lot of grief given and recieved, I was able to buy a similar unit with a nice incentive.  This one didn’t have all the options selected, so one nice thing is that I was able to pick the options I wanted.  Fortunately, the design center lady was nice and patient, and I was able to get a very nice color scheme done for my townhouse.

Picture will be posted soon!

Life with Vista full time for one week

Ok, here is my one week update with Vista.  Once I was able to get my audio capture card working, I’ve been pretty happy.  Office 2007 installed without a hitch.  Microsoft Money already has a second service pack which fixes the ‘endless service pack install’ issue.

So far, here is what I like:

  1. The gadget bar.  It’s very un-obtrusive, and actually adds some nice functionality.  I have the weather, Usage monitor, and clock all running.  In fact, I have the weather running for here and where my mom lives.  Right now, it’s 24 degrees F, with snow flurries… I’m glad it is 64 degrees here!
  2. Aero glass is nice.  The screen effects are great and smooth.  There are still redraw problems when the system gets bogged down though.
  3. Search.  The search feature built into the main menu works wonders.
  4. The new windows explorer.  Except for a couple of bugs, this has turned out *very* nicely.

There are a couple of things that I think that OS X does better:

  1. Expose.  I’ll leave it at that.
  2. The Dock Bar.  Maybe OS X users don’t have as many programs installed on their PC, I don’t know.  All I know is that the Dock is a much nicer way to see if programs are running, and where they are located at.

Finally, there are some things that one must realize when running Vista:

  1. 2 Gigs of memory is a minimum requirement.  Even as I type these words, they shock me.  I have a reasonably fast machine, but with only 1 gig of memory.  It’s not enough!  Just running the OS and Outlook 2007 will usually eat my memory.  Add in VMWare, RSSBandit and a couple of other programs, and the memory goes bye-bye very quickly.
  2. UAC is your friend.  Turn it on.  It’s annoying, but it will definitely help keep unwanted programs off the computer.

I’ve switched to Vista and am not looking back!  Next stop, Vista 64!

Why do companies pay Developers so much, and then give them crappy computers?

This is #2 on my list of gripes with companies.  (#1 being work spaces).  My friend, let’s call him Fred, recently started a new job.  Fred is a manager/developer, so you would think a nice powerful computer would be in order, right?  Well, they got him an ~$800 notebook with a 14.1" screen.  WTF!?!  Hello, McFly!  How do they expect someone to stare at a tiny screen ALL DAY LONG, run SQL Server and Visual Studio, plus run things like Outlook, OneNote, and any task management software?  I don’t know if they got him a second screen, but even then the screen sizes are disparate.  From personal experience, I can tell you that is a pain in the rear.

The other thing that gets my goat is how hard it is to get good tools for developers.  How many shops are running a decent (non-VSS) version control system?  Why must we rely on finding ‘free’ tools?  Personally, I’ve had to put my own money into programs that I use at work.  Now, that’s OK for code crafting tools, but what about components?  I usually have the ‘buy instead of build’ mentality, becasue, even if you have to spend $30-40K for a component set to cover all of your developers, it’s far cheaper than paying 1 developer 6 months to develop the same component.  Maybe it’s time to reclassify component sets as ‘outsourcing’ <grin>.

Discoveries in Vista…

I may be able to switch over to Vista sooner than I thought.  I finally figured out how to get my M-Audio FW-1814 working with Vista.  Here’s how I got it to work…

  1. After downloading the latest XP drivers, I ran the install program.
  2. The install program chokes with ‘this version of windows is not supported’
  3. After I closed the program, I got an interesting little dialog box.
  4. It asked whether I wanted to run this program in ‘compatibility’ mode.
  5. I said, sure what the heck.
  6. The drivers installed perfectly.

One caveat… I am running my normal account with LUP (Least User Privileges).  I had to log into my Admin account to get the drivers setup correctly.  One interesting thing with Vista is that ‘normal’ users cannot install device drivers AT ALL.  That’s actually a pretty damn good idea in my book.  Now a program can’t install low level driver hooks without the Admin knowing about it.

Now that the audio card is installed, I started playing around with one of the new features… Application based volume.  This is one of the GREATEST FEATURES EVER in Windows, and Apple needs to shamelessly add this to OS X 10.5.  Clicking on the Volume tab brings up all the applications running, and a slider associated with the app.  All one has to do to change the application’s volume is move the slider for the given application.  That selects the PERCENTAGE of the master volume that the applications Volume gets pumped out at.

No more Windows sounds BLASTING out at me when I least expect it!

Life with Vista – Weekend 1

My experiment of trying to live with Vista and cheap is in progress.  So far, so good.  I have updated information to add after working a bit with some software.

First off. I have to take back a bit about my rant on Windows Live Mail Desktop.  Two things that I said have turned out not to be true.  Number one, the ads.  I had tried a previous version that had huge ugly graphic ads that took up a large portion of the space.  Now, they changed it to targeted ads based upon content of the email, just like gmail does.  At least they are text.  The graphics ads are still there, if you turn off the targeted ads.  Second, it picked up and configured my AOL email automatically.  Nice!  Now, if it would just do that for my *other* emails.  WLMD is not too bad, once I started working with it.

Now, on to Vista.  I *still* don’t have drivers for my FireWire Audio card, so it makes it impossible for me to use the OS as my primary.  Which truly sucks, because Vista is nice.  The search feature alone makes it worthwhile to switch.  Windows Desktop Search is a good system, but Vista’s search is built in at the OS level.  It is *very* nice.  Now, it’s easier to tell users how to find a program… ‘Click on the Windows button, and type ‘x”.  No more ‘look for menu x,y, and z’.

Vista also seems faster.  Maybe it is because I don’t have that much loaded on my Vista partition yet, but it feels snappier than Win XP on the same box.  Networking certainly seems faster.

Finally, the games included with Vista are definitely cool.  Between Chess and Mahjong, Vista could eat up a significant amount of time up for me.

More random thoughts on Vista to appear soon!

M-Audio – Dave gives them a thumbs down

In my blog, I’ve talked about my M-Audio Firewire FW-1814.  It’s been a good device. It has worked well for what I needed (Sonar), and generally, I’ve been happy with M-Audio with drivers.  In fact, one of the reasons that I bought this device was because M-Audio had beta drivers for Windows XP 64-bit edition when the OS was in beta itself.

Unfortunately, my goodwill has disappeard.

Why?

First, M-Audio was purchased by Avid Technologies.  From that point on, M-Audio’s hardware and software has focused primarily on Pro Tools.  All drivers are for Pro Tools changes.  Before, there used to be new features added with updates.  Not any more.  Heck, there really haven’t even *been* updates for windows drivers for most of the hardware that M-Audio makes.

Second, no Vista drivers.  None.  Can’t even get into a beta program.  M-Audio used bring out drivers for Beta versions of operating systems.  Now, they won’t even acknowledge that Vista has Released To Manufacturing, and that it is a valid operating system.

Finally, on the subject of Tech Support.  They have a notice that ‘All Tech Support correspondense is confidential’.  WTF!?!  Ummm, so you want to repeat the same answer over and over instead of having public answers?  Jeez.  Talk about paranoid.  Sounds like their tech support will tell different people different answers, and they don’t want to be caught.

Now, maybe I’m way off base here.  Winter NAMM start Jan. 18th, maybe they will have new drivers as part of their announcement.  If they do, I may delete part of this post.

I still plan to sell my FW-1814 to a friend who is going to be working with Windows XP for a while, and buy a MOTU firewire device.  They at least have Vista drivers, and for both x86 and x64 to boot!

Sad News

Today, I was calling my favorite local music store looking for an obscure guitar.  Once I was able to catch my friend, he gave me some seriously bad news.  My friend, Tommy Sal, had passed away on New Year’s Eve. 

Tommy used to be the sales manager for a local guitar store, until he left to open his own store, and a heckofa good guy.  I bought *far* too many PRS guitars from him.  In fact, other than my first Custom 22 and my last PRS, *ALL* of them were bought from Tommy.  In fact, I have a Private Stock that Tommy personally designed for himself, but let me buy it when he saw me fall in love with it on first sight.  It was such a unique design that it even ended up in the PRS Private Stock Calendar.  Tommy also introduced me to a lot of unique people.  I got to meet Paul Reed Smith, Mark Tremonti, and even Joe Satriani!

I was saddened when Tommy moved out of South Florida at the beginning of the year.  I almost got to help him out with his new store web site.  He was starting to gain momentum, and I know he’d have been on top pretty quickly.

God bless you, Tommy.  I’ll miss you…

Tommy, Dave, and Joe Satriani

This is Tommy, myself, and a guitar player by the name of Joe Satriani.