It’s a good time to be in computers (Apple and Microsoft are finally building what *I* want!)

I’ve been working with computers for more than 30 years (I started *very* young!) and the computer eco system has never, ever been better.  Up until recently, I truly thought the best, most fun years where when I was young, hacking away at a Commodore 64, and understanding every little bit of what it could do, and still always being blown away with what other people were doing (I’m still amazed at the computer game Elite on the Commodore 64)

But, with the recent releases by Apple and Microsoft, I can’t think of a better time to be a computer junkie.  Both companies are finally building the things that I’ve always wanted…

Let’s start with Apple

With the release of the latest iPhones and Apple Watch, the wireless hardware side of Apple is hard to imagine getting better.  The iPhone is amazing.  From what I’ve read, the camera is top notch.  A friend of mine recently let me use her DSLR, and the photos were amazing.  My iPhone 7’s camera all of a sudden felt like crap.  The iPhone XS seems to have fixed that situation.  From what I’ve read of the initial reviews of the XS, the camera improvements bring the photography to another level.  I’m hoping that my photos get better with the new phone, lol.  The Apple watch finally seems to be useful, with the LTE from the 3rd generation plus the bigger screen and 64-bit of the 4 finally making it something more than a novelty.  I’ve ordered both the iPhone and the Watch, and look forward to using them extensively.  Another aspect of the wireless side of Apple that has been impressive is the AirPods.  I cannot imagine living without them.  Finally, the iPad is my defacto computer.  I use my iPad for everything except programming and mixing, and it does actually help me with mixing 🙂  I’m really looking forward to the rumored new iPads, but even the current one is more than I really need.

The computer side of Apple is doing very well, too.  The latest MacBook Pro, with 6 cores, is exactly what I would want.  The biggest drawback to any notebook is expandability, and with Thunderbolt 3, Apple has really solved that problem.  Apple also invested big in getting external graphics cards to work the way one would want in macOS Mojave.  Having the eGPUs work is huge, as the iMac and the notebooks aren’t as ‘hardware limited’ as they used to be.  The current iMac has some of the best screens out there, and rumored iMac update will have the 6 core processors.  The iMac Pro is exactly what I would want from a computer.  I’m really looking forward to the Mac Mini and Mac Pro updates, but they no longer are what I would ‘have to have’, like I did with the original Mac Pro.

For Microsoft, things are good, too.

Microsoft’s software has grown in leaps and bounds in the last several years.  Steve Ballmer leaving Microsoft was one of the best things to ever happen to the company, at least from a developer’s point of view.  Microsoft embracing cross platform with Linux, Git, and .NET Core has been amazing.  Buying Xamarin, and incorporating it into Visual Studio has enabled easier cross platform development.  Windows 10 is a great operating system.

It’s a good time to be a computer junkie…


I can’t believe I’m saying this…

This is the first Apple event I’m not really interested in.  WWDC (dub-dub) has become Apple’s launch pad for the next version of their iOS and OS X (and now watch OS).  There have been several hardware announcements at dub-dub which were very exciting, such as the retina MacBook Pro and the radically redesigned MacPro, but last year had nothing hardware-wise, and this year is looking the same.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting no Apple TV, and just about every system short of the Mac Pro has been updated in the last 12 months.  I doubt that a new type of product would be announced so soon after the watch, and certainly not at a developers conference.

So far, the rumors and banners point to updates to OS X, version 11, iOS 9, the first real OS for the Apple Watch, and a music subscription service.  Ho-hum…  I’m *very* happy with OS X 10.10 and iOS 8.  Is there room for improvement?  Of course!  Is there going to be anything radical?  Probably not.  This is one of the real challenges of creating an OS update on a yearly schedule… it’s hard to do anything truly different in that amount of time.

The rumored music service actually bothers me on many levels.  First and foremost, it’s the return of DRM.  I currently like the fact that if I buy a song on iTunes, I can play it in one of my transcription programs.  If I want to pull it into a video, that’s no problem.  With the subscription service, it’s back to the bad old days of songs being locked into the players.  Also, unless Apple ups their game to lossless, I’m not going to be terribly interested.  I feel like the subscription services are starting to really hurt the music industry, as artists are getting even less and less for their work.  Check out this article on Rolling Stone for more info

What is ironic is that Microsofts Windows 10 (or WinX as I like to call it) is starting to be VERY interesting.  The latest beta of WinX is very stable and very cool.  Microsoft has realized that they have to do a better job with Windows, and it shows.  WinX is the most OS X like version of Windows that I’ve seen.  Plus, Microsoft is putting a lot of focus on being able to deploy WinX and be more developer / administrator friendly.  The latest PowerShell has a ton of features that make dealing with large numbers of computers easier.  I don’t see Apple trying to really push beyond what is in the basic Unix system.

Well, tomorrow should be interesting, but not for the usual reasons!

How to access session information inside of a .NET webmethod call

Many thanks to the following StackOverflow question:

My current project is using Knockout.js / jQuery to get data to HTML5 pages, and I need to get information about the logged in user.  There are several ways to do this, but one of the simplest is to let the web services access the user information stored on the session.

Thoughts about the tech industry (Apple Watch launch and Microsoft state included)

April 10th, 2015… the first day the public gets to see the Apple Watch and new Macbook in person.  Products the tech pundits are calling ‘ho-hum at best’.  I’m constantly amazed at how short the media’s memory is.  Full disclosure, I’m an Apple fanboi.  For some reason, I remember hearing the exact same media comments about, oh, let’s see… 1st Macbook Air (overpriced, slow), the 1st iPhone (what!?! no physical keyboard, removable battery or media slot!?!),  the iPad (it’s just a big iPad), etc…  The list goes on and on.  I think the tech pundits miss a lot of points.  The bell curve of the world population doesn’t need the most expandable, Swiss Army knife, biggest, latest-and-greatest CPU phone.  What people want is something that is they can identify with.  Since Apple tends to focus on the user experience from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, and end-to-end, they’ve done incredibly well.  And, I think that they will continue to do well with both the Apple Watch and the new Macbook.  In two to three years, both products will have iterated to bring the functionality up to the form.  Heck, the first really slam dunk, no brainer to buy iPhone has been the 6.  Up until that point, there’s always been something that’s made people crazy with the iPhones (mainly battery life!)

On my personal opinion, I’m not terribly thrilled about how Apple is launching products.  For a company that used to do announcements and shipping on the same day, it seems like lately there’s been a lot of announcements with 3+ months of lead time.  Between the Mac Pro, Photos, and Apple Watch, each one has had an announcement time of over 6 months ahead of shipping.  I realize that this is one way to beat the leaks, as the latest leaks seem to be pretty dead on target, but 6 month pre announcements have gotten ridiculous.

As to Microsoft… talk about a company that really HAS turned it around.  Windows 10 is shaping up to be a very good release.  I currently use Windows 10 as my main work desktop OS, with very little issues.  The fact that since Windows 8, it has been possible to do an inlace OS upgrade has been nothing short of a miracle from Redmond.  The current beta test release system seems to be working very well for Microsoft.  Of course, there are some snags here and there, but nothing that can’t be worked around at this point.

Also, I like the fact that Azure is doing well.  Because of Azure, Microsoft has really stepped up their game in several areas.  Deployments are now THE first class citizen.  The tools that have been built to handle the Azure systems are working their way down into the core products.  PowerShell and Desired State Configuration and really starting to be expanded, and those improvements help Windows in many way.

The other interesting things that Microsoft is doing is in .NET world.  Between open sourcing a majority of .NET, embracing the open source community projects, creating a cross platform .NET runtime environment and speeding up the time between Visual Studio updates, I feel that there is a LOT of development growth going on.  The .NET renaissance is happening.  It may be stealing everything from the Java community, true, but considering how stagnant Java *seems* to have become lately, I think the future looks bright for the .NET tools.

I just wonder how long before Apple buys Microsoft or IBM?

More Developer’s Express Fun, this time with nested reports and running totals…

Since I’ve gone back to programming, more things on this blog have been to help me remember what I did!  This is one of the programming posts, music will be on my next entry, I promise!

More Developer’s Express fun…  I both love and hate some of the things that DevExpress does with their tools.  I’ve recently started using the XtraReports suite for some ‘more than trivial’ reports, and hit a snag.  I had a devil of a time trying to solve this issue, it took almost a day to figure out a way to make this work.

Here’s the setup:

I had a report that had three different sets of data.  The exact information is a Point of Sale daily report, needing sales, taxes, and payments, but that’s not pertinent to the problem here…  To use the three disparate data sources, I started off using three sub reports with a master report that would only have one record.  This worked grand!  I was able to do the reports with no problem… but… I needed to have a total of all three sub reports.  This is where my implementation came crashing down.  The XtraReports sub reports have a great way to send information to the sub report, but it doesn’t have a very good way to get the information BACK to the original report.  I tried everything I could think of for almost a day, but with no luck in using the sub reports.

After reading a LOT of pages and articles, I found out that the XtraReports had a very neat feature.  The reports have what DevExpress calls a ‘DetailReportBand’ on a report.  This allows you to have a fully nested sub report inside of the main report without it being an actual sub report in a completely separate report.  Hmmm… combine this with the parameters feature, and I may have something…  It was easy enough to move the sub reports into Detail Report Bands, and it actually simplified the code a bit.  Hoo-rah!  I still had to get the running total, though.

After a couple of false starts, I did get the running total working.  To get this to work, a report parameter needs to be added to the report.  Then, the easiest way that I found to get the subtotals into the parameter was to use the sub report’s summary total XrLabel’s SummaryCalculated event to add the amount to the parameter.  Then, at the end, it was straight forward to set a label to the parameter to show the overall total.

I know this blog post may not make a lot of sense to most, but it will help me in the future when I have to do this again, and can’t remember what I did!

Everything old is new again (or the more things change, the more they stay the same)

Trends tend to go in cycles.  With computers, we’ve seen the old become the new back to the old, and back to the new.  Take the transformation from mainframes to PCs back to big servers.  Same thing has happened with computer languages.  One of the most notable things has been the rebirth of the command prompt…  In the dark ages, mainframe / Unix admins used the command prompt to manage the system because nothing else existed.  Then came the GUI tool.  Wonderful!  Visual!  Easy to see, easy to learn.  Unfortunately, difficult to automate.  For one or two servers, that wasn’t a problem.  As tools like Amazon’s Cloud computing, and Microsoft’s Windows Azure become more prevalent, though, managing by GUI becomes very difficult.  For Unix / Linux systems, there is a very rich scripting ecosystem.  But what about for Windows systems?

Enter Windows PowerShell

PowerShell started as a way manage systems via the command line using .NET, and has expanded to encompass everything from Exchange to SQL Server to Windows Azure.  The current version of PowerShell is vastly different from the original v1.0, with almost all commands being pipe-able and reusable.  The new remoting features are amazing.  There is even a built in web site to allow accessing the command line via a web server.  Yes, Unix/Linux admins will go ‘so what, this has all been done with Unix before’.  This is VERY true.  It’s just nice to have this built into Windows as a native component rather than as a third party add-in.  Also, PowerShell is built around .NET with all of the latest and greatest concepts such as fully dynamic objects and duck typing.

Having said all that, PowerShell is one of my top things ‘to learn’.  After checking out the initial Jump Start Course on the Microsoft Virtual Academy, I’ve been trying to ‘live in PowerShell’.  It certainly makes sense when working with multiple machines.  The remoting alone makes managing multiple web servers in a farm easier.

Fun stuff!

How I learned to stop worrying, and like Window 8.1.1 (Update 1)…

I had an interesting experience this evening…

One of my friends / family / customers was still running Windows XP on a 6 or 7 year old machine, and was concerned about Windows XP security support finally being cancelled.  The person loved the machine that I had built for them, but just wanted to upgrade.  So, my suggestion was to get a new SSD, and put Windows 8.1 Update 1 on it, as the person didn’t use many programs on the computer, mainly email, surfing, and some Microsoft Office.  The idea got approved, and I ordered a SanDisk Extreme II SSD and a copy of Windows 8.1.

Tonight, I was able to get by and install the new drive and software.  Challenge #1 turned out to be that the current hard drive in the computer was PATA!!!!  Have seen THAT in a LONG time.  I didn’t think that I had a SATA cable, but we were lucky enough to have the box from the original motherboard that did have the SATA cables in it.  Disaster #1 averted 🙂

After that, the install was *fairly* smooth.  The combination of Windows 8.1 and the SSD made the old computer MUCH faster.  Boot time dropped from over 2 to 3 minutes down to 23 seconds.  Plus, the screen looked a TON better.  The person had been running a 1920×1080 monitor / TV at a much lower resolution, so the screen looked terrible.  With Window 8.1, we were able to leave the resolution at 1920 x 1080, but change the scaling to 180%.  MUCH better!  The text was sharp but easier to read.  The system was faster and much more responsive.  Pinning the apps to the task bar felt very ‘mac like’ for some reason 🙂  Adding a network printer was so simple, it wasn’t even funny.  All in all, an excellent upgrade for a minimal amount of money.

What’s this? A GOOD week for Microsoft?

Ok, I admit it… I’m an Apple snob.  Apple has been firing on all cylinders since the launch of OS X 10.4, and hasn’t appeared to be slowing down.  The switch to Intel drew me in, and I haven’t looked back.  For work though, I live in a different world.  I’m fortunate to work at a company that allows me to have a Mac Pro desktop, a Macbook Pro laptop, and an iPhone; iPhones and iPads rule the roost for phones and tablets.  With Parallels, VMWare, RDP, and Back to My Mac, I can live in both worlds and be VERY happy.  So, I do still keep up with Microsoft.

This week was a big week for the Evil Empire (Microsoft, not Apple!).  Lots of goodies came out:

  1. Windows 8.1 – This goes a LONG way to fixing the absolute nuclear disaster that Windows 8 is.  8.1 doesn’t fix everything, but it does fix a lot.  It’s amazing that Microsoft realized how bad 8 was and worked quickly to resolve.  Even better, 8.1 is a free, IN PLACE upgrade to Windows 8.  Microsoft is finally learning how to do in place updates.  Hopefully the days of reinstalling everything for the Windows crowd will soon be behind them.  Also, Windows 8.1 is a more efficient OS.  On the Virtual Machines that I run at work and home, Win 8.1 is MUCH faster than 7.  My guess is that the reduced video card requirements help out in that area.
  2. Visual Studio 2013 – This update is a lot bigger than most people realize.  Visual Studio 2012 had the same flaw that Windows 8 had… it completely failed at doing the job it was supposed to do.  The .NET 4.5 framework has gotten better and better, but VS 2012 made developing for it truly horrible.  VS 2013 fixed a LOT of the issues.  The Team Foundation part of VS 2013 is very usable, and the new IDE tools in 2013 make programs like Resharper and CodeRush not so much requirements any more.  Plus, the Database tools have come back, and are better than ever.  The loss of the scripting engine in the IDE still hasn’t been addressed, and it’s doubtful that it ever will come back, unless it is as Powershell.
  3. Remote Desktop Client for non-Windows platforms – Microsoft released Remote Desktop clients for Android and iOS, plus did a SIGNIFICANT upgrade to the Mac desktop client.  It’s funny, almost all the news sites have talked about the Android / iOS client, but none have reviewed the OS X client.  It’s not perfect, but it certainly addresses a LOT of features that have been missing.  Being able to use the Remote Desktop with a remote desktop gateway and true multi-monitor support have been great.

Hopefully, this represents a new direction from Microsoft.  Many of their products have finally matured to the point of going from ‘it sorta works’ to ‘I love working with it’.  Some of the examples are: receiving SMTP finally, which makes using the service with a non-Microsoft email client useful (deletes and reads are global!!! Horrray!)  Skydrive rocks.  Azure being competitive.  Lots of little things across the board that just seem to finally be coming together.

Good job Microsoft!

Safari 4 public beta released today

Today, Apple released a public beta of Safari 4.  I pulled the Windows version, and all I can say is ‘WOW’!  It definitely has some nice features, like the ‘Top Sites’ feature.  Coverflow for bookmarks is interesting IF it would automatically load the pages (I haven’t seen that behavior yet).  The tabs at the top is OK, makes sense, but does break a lot of UI conventions.  The Windows version looks like a Windows application, not a ‘Mac-skinned wanna be’.  Can’t wait to try the Mac version at home.  The new Developer tools are nice, as well.  The new Safari really rocks!

When did ‘Unlimited’ become ‘NOT Unlimited’?

This boils my blood…

I have AT&T / Bellsouth / FastAccess.  I am CERTAINLY not happy about seeing caps like this.  Do these companies NOT remember how quickly people switched on the Dial-up from per-hour billing to unlimited dialup?  My main problem is that the companies have sold the cable / DSL services as ‘unlimited usage’.  To force people to switch the their plans is almost ‘bait-and-switch’.  I totally understand that the companies need to fund their upgrades, but sheesh, what more do they want?  When I first started with DSL, OVER 10 YEARS AGO, 1.5 megabit DSL was the fastest thing out there, and it was $60 a month.  Now, 1.5 is $32.  They’ve lowered the price to entice more people to use it, but don’t budget for growth?  How’s that the consumer’s fault?  Heck, I can’t even GET 6 megabit DSL because the switch that they put into my community won’t DO 6 meg.  And guess what?  That’s a NEW switch, not an old one.  What are they thinking? 

Come on ISPs!  Wake up!  Think about the today AND the future, not just what you can put in your pocket today!

As if Microsoft could not shoot themselves in the foot even MORE…

Ok, the words "absolutely scary" come to mind with this Excel 2007 bug.  Serious doesn’t even BEGIN to describe this problem.  Ok, so putting in numbers that evaluate to 65535 get an incorrect return value.  It’s specific, why should anyone worry?  Weellll… That’s because now no one know what ELSE will evaluate incorrectly.  What other number combinations will screw up?  Could you imagine saying to a CEO that the company balances are wrong because of Excel is buggy?

Follow up to Mac Tuesday predictions…

Hmmm, my ‘Mac Tuesday predictions’ weren’t that far off the mark.  Here is a little recap:

  1. The iMac update happened, just no quad coresmile_sad.  They did, however, add the Core 2 Duo Extreme to the top of the line iMac.  Nice!
  2. No Pro or Plain-Old-Mac.  That was wishing on my part…  The Mini got an update to Core 2 Duo and 1 gig of memory.  That could be a sweet little computer.
  3. iWork, iLife, and .Mac all got updated.  No firming up of the Leopard date.  But, no announcement that Leopard is going to be delayed, either.

Not too bad.  Most of the rumor sites missed the Mini update (insert your favorite Mini joke here).  My ‘it would be cool if they did this’ stuff certainly didn’t show up.

I’m looking forward to the next event…

Mac Tuesday speculation

Old news for all of the Mac-addicts out there, but August 7th there is going to be a Apple Event.  My friend Rick and I were discussing what would be announced on Tuesday, and came up with some interesting thoughts, ideas, and wishes.  Here’s a list of things we discussed:

  1. iMac updates.  The iMac is due for a refresh.
  1. Most of the rumor sites have been talking about sleek new iMac cases. 
  2. If the iMac is updated, my money is on seeing the first Quad-Core iMac.
  3. The new keyboard rumor that is floating around the Internet looks interesting. 
  • Major Mac Pro / possible Plain-Old-Mac (POM) announcement.
    1. This hasn’t been discussed by the rumor sites, but it is interesting that the Intel Mac Pro was originally announced on August 7th, 2006.  Coincidence?  Hmmm…. 🙂
    2. The refurbished store lists EVERY ONE of the Mac Pros as being available.  For the past year, I’ve been watching for a decent priced refurb of a Mac Pro.  NEVER has everyone of them been listed.  In fact, I’ve never seen more than 3 of the 5 listed.  To have all 5 listed, with some of them showing 3-5 day availability brings about some very interesting thoughts.
    3. 8-core Macs are the most prominently featured Mac Pros.  Since Intel provides a Quad Core 2 Duo processor with less expensive memory, I could see the Pros going 8 Core only, and a basic Pro or POM being created with less expensive chipsets.
    4. Plain-Old-Mac to replace the Mini or as a new mid-level Mac.  Intel based components have gotten ridiculously inexpensive.  A decent Windows-based Intel system can be had for $400-500.  I can easily see Apple producing a nice, upgrade-able small computer that has the Intel Core 2 Duo / Quad architecture, but is a little more reasonably priced.  I certainly DON’T need a monitor, but I DO want to put a nice video card in.
    5. Minis are not being listed on the refurbished store at all.  My guess is that they are being stockpiled for replacements and repairs.
  • Software
    1. Leopard shipping date and pricing announcement.  October is less than 3 months away, and it will take at least 2-4 weeks before the shipping date to get the media ready to ship.  So, they are less than two months from completing Leopard.  They should have a very good idea at this point for the shipping date.
    2. iLife hasn’t been updated in almost 2 years.  It’s a little out of character, but with the ‘all-hands’ development of the iPhone, it’s understandable why it has been delayed.
    3. iWork is in need of an update as well.  Spreadsheet anyone?
    4. .Mac has need an update.  I think the email portion got updated recently, but that doesn’t seem worth $100 a year.

    I wish everything thing on this list comes true.  Seeing all of the demos of Leopard has made me REALLY want to dive head first back into the Mac world with a nice desktop.  I’ve installed Boot Camp for some of my customers and it works perfectly.  The worst thing I’d have would be a very expensive PC, but I think I can live with that!

    Please note, ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE NO BASIS OF *REAL* KNOWLEDGE OR INSIDE INFORMATION.  Any resemblance to what is announced on Tuesday is pure luck or some pretty good speculation.  If even more than one or two of these items turn out to be true, I’ll be playing the lottery on Wednesday and the stock market on Thursday!

    This makes me want my Mac back…

    No, it’s not an iPhone!  (Ok, obligatory iPhone reference is done now).  It is the latest version of NetNewsWire.  This is one of the pieces of software that got me to buy my friend Rick’s Mac Mini.  NetNewsWire is the best feed reader out there.  Period.  NOTHING comes close.  I liked it enough that I bought it.  For me to invest my own money in a program is a BIG deal.  I’ve tried almost everything to get the same functionality on the Windows side, but nothing came close.  Omea Reader was close, but the company stopped actively developing it.  What is scary is that Microsoft’s Window’s Live Mail for the Desktop is pretty darn close, too.  At least, that was with NetNewsWire 2.1.  With 3.0 being out now, all bets are off.

    Dang, and I just got over my Apple fixation!

    Steve Jobs just saved me a LOT of money!

    Today was the opening of WWDC, Apple’s yearly developer conference.  This time around, I was hoping for an inexpensive, upgradable Macintosh with no attached monitor.  Alas, I did not get my wish. 

    As a software developer, the growing number of people using the OS X and Safari platform has gotten my attention.  It’s also gotten Microsoft’s attention.  Silverlight, which is bringing a pretty full featured version of .NET to OS X proves that Microsoft sees needing to have a development platform for OS X.  Every day, new things seem to be happening for the Mac.  So, it is a natural desire to have one to work with.  My main business justification, though, was testing applications in Safari.

    So, with my wish not being fulfilled, I had decided to order a refurbished Mac Pro.  It would meet my requirements, but cost a LOT of money.  Really, it is like swatting a fly with a Buick.  Overkill to say the least.

    Fortunately, Steve saved me.  They did one thing that was rumored a LONG time ago… they released Safari as a Windows application.  Wow!  No need for me to buy a Mac now for testing!  Yeah!

    I can’t help but wonder if Apple might be shooting themselves in the foot with the release of Safari on Windows, though.  I can see the main reasons why they did do this.  Now, development shops will have NO EXCUSE not to test their web pages with Safari.  Does that mean that they will?  Just ask the Firefox crowd. smile_regular  I think there will be some hasty upgrades to the current web page editing software packages to allow Safari to be one of the tested browsers. 

    On the downside though, Apple will lose sales of Macintosh hardware.  Me and the company I work for are perfect examples.  I’ve been pushing to get a Mac Pro as my work computer because of it’s power and versatility.  Do I really need a Quad processor to develop?  No, but I need something to run OS X so that I could test Safari.  Was I going to get a Mac?  Probably not, but there was a possibility.  Now?  There is absolutely no reason for my company to buy a Mac.  Same for my home situation.  I don’t really need a Mac to test now.

    Thanks again Steve, and I hope the decision pays off!

    iTunes 7.2 is out!

    Apple released iTunes 7.2 this morning.  Why is this important?  Two reasons.  First, Windows Vista is now considered a supported operating system.  Yeah!  Us Vista users are VERY happy about that!  Second, and FAR more important, one can now download Higher quality DRM-free music.  This is a significant milestone, one that I personally hope people don’t abuse.

    Why is DRM-free music so important?  Well, first off, DRM-free music isn’t ‘free’, it’s actually MORE expensive than the current DRM music.  DRM-free music is music that is not locked into any one computer or device.  It means that if you buy a track, it’s YOURS.  You can play it on ANY player that supports AAC (Apple’s format).  You can convert it to .mp3 without needing to burn it to a CD and re-rip it to get around the copy protection.  You can make copies.  You can play it on any computer you access.  You generally can do whatever the heck you want with it, including sharing.  Now, the caveat.  IT IS STILL ILLEGAL TO GIVE A COPY TO SOMEONE ELSE.  Please keep that in mind.  It’s one thing to play the music for someone on one of your devices, it is quite another to give them a copy of the track.

    Why am I stressing that sharing is illegal?  Because, if the sharing gets out of hand, the record companies will go back to not selling DRM-free music.  Personally, I will be buying tracks and albums from iTunes Plus (the DRM-free service).  I’m voting with my wallet.  This is something that we need to support.  Copy protection usually helps no one, and the quicker that the record companies and movie studios see that, they can spend the money making better music and movies and not freaking out over lost revenue.

    My friend Rick has a good summary of iTunes 7.2 up on his blog as well.

    Update: Rick pointed out that AAC is NOT Apple’s format.  It is actually an industry standard format.

    A Bevy of Betas from Microsoft!

    Wow!  Microsoft has been BUSY!!!  New betas for everyone to play with…

    First up, and probably least important…  Windows Live Messenger 8.5.  Nothing I’ve seen so far ‘jumps out’ as gotta have features.  Nice upgrade, more Vista visuals, but nothing that is ‘can’t live without’.

    Second, and this one is more important to me than the third, but for everyone else is probably least important, is Windows Live Writer.  This one gets a WOW! OMG! upgrade.  MUCH cleaner.  Better organized.  They fixed the annoying bugs in the editing window.  This is one serious piece of software for writing blog entries.  The fact that it’s free makes it even better.  Works with LOTS of different blog engines, not just the Microsoft ones.  Spelling is now inline, just like Word.  You will see me writing more entries just because this is that much more useable.

    Finally, and this is a big one, Windows Live Mail.  This is something that EVERYONE who has Windows should download.  I’ve got to get this to my customers who have been BEGGING for a spam filter in Outlook Express.  This is a MAJOR upgrade to Outlook Express / Windows Mail.  Now, not only are newsgroups supported, but a feed reader has been built in.  It supports all types of email services, and best of all, NO GRAPHICAL ADS!  There are text ads if you use the Internet search feature, but one can turn these off by changing the view to disable Active Search.

    One little side note about Windows Live Mail.  There is no direct way to import an OPML / XML feed list inside of the program.  There is an INDIRECT way to get it imported, though!  If one has IE 7, all one has to do is import the feed list into IE 7.  The feeds will then automatically show up in WLM… Nice!

    Have fun with the new toys!

    How to fix the Microsoft Vista Weather Gadget when it gets ‘stuck’

    This has been bugging me the last two weeks… The Weather Gadgets in Vista got stuck, showing data from some day two weeks ago.  When I switched the display to celcius, it worked fine, so it *wasn’t* the weather service.  It turns out that one must delete following directory:

    C:Users<username>AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindows LiveServicesCacheweather

    After that, everything is cleared up!

    I did my part for MacHeist!

    For anyone looking for some cool, cheap Mac software, check out MacHeist.  It only last for a bit longer.  There has been a some controversy about the concept, but it reminds me of Programmer’s Paradise’s system.  Jason, from Unsanity (makers of ShapeShifter in the bundle) sumed the whole ‘debate’ rather nicely with this article.  Well put Jason!  His thoughts put me over the edge to buy the darned thing.  Now, just looking forward to getting my Mac Pro!

    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…

    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!

    All I want for Christmas is a Mac Pro (why Microsoft might be in trouble)

    This morning, I hit the final straw.  I’m officially tired of Microsoft (again!).  I had been very happy with most everything that I’ve seen, but today just leaves me shaking my head at some decisions.  Here is a list of things I think might be giving Microsoft some issue.

    First off, the rushed release of Vista.  RC1 was out for 2 weeks before being supplemented with an ‘interim build’.  The interim build was replaced by RC2 two weeks later!  "Hello! McFly!"  I participated in the Windows XP 64 beta.  RC1 was released for 3 MONTHS!  RC2 had another 3 months of testing time.  That’s 6 months between release candidate and going gold.  Yes, that’s a LONG time in the software business, but XP 64 is one of the best OSes Microsoft has released.  (David now puts his flame suit on).  Vista just feels half baked.  I’ve run it on VMWare, and on a spare hard drive.  I’ve yet to see any audio drivers for high end audio cards, even in alpha or beta format, other than Creative.  That’s scary, because one of the major changes to Vista is the audio subsystem.

    Second, Microsoft caved into the damned Anti-virus companies.  I’m very over Symantec and McCafee crying ‘Microsoft won’t let us insert crappy code into a supposedly stable system’.  Ummm, isn’t the point of having a closed system is that *no one* will be able to add code?  Ie, no viruses get in?  Now, virus writers will exploit the hooks that being added for the anti-virus writers.  As a tech, I tell everyone to avoid Symantec.  Their firewall causes many more problems than it solves.  Same thing with their Anti-virus software.

    One more thing, why, oh, why did they specify that the OS ‘phone home’?  Vista has a new ‘feature’ that will degrade the OS’s functionality if it can’t contact Microsoft and validate itself.  What!?!  So, if the validation screws up (and Microsoft’s validation has done that in the past) or if the servers are down, or if my ISP is down, or if I just forget to turn on my modem, my INSTALLED functionality may go away WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME!?!  Don’t believe me on this stuff?  Check out Wendy Seltzer’s post about it.  What happens if I have a computer I don’t WANT to have connected to the internet?

    Finally, what really pissed me off this morning is a bug in the beta tech refresh of Outlook 2007.  I am using Outlook to read blogs.  I had noticed that their hadn’t been much traffic on some of the RSS feeds that normally have a post or two every couple of days.  So, I click on a couple of folders, do a refresh, and BAM! posts show up!  WTF?  I had to go into every feed, then do a refresh, and a LOT of things popped up.  Now, that’s unforgivable.  That is like not picking up email.  It’s *not* acceptable.  I don’t know if the issue I saw will be fixed by RTM in two weeks or not.  I honestly don’t care.  I’m switching back to Omea reader until I get my Christmas wish.

    And if you don’t think the Mac Pro is becoming the ultimate developer machine, check out this article on Scoble’s site.

    Great question asked yesterday…

    Yesterday was a red-letter day for the PC industry… The CIO of my company asked if anyone in the company had a Mac!  No one has one on their desk, but I happen to have one at home.  He need our company web sites to be checked on Safari, and to make sure that they worked on the user registration information.  I was *VERY* happy to volunteer my Mac and time to test it out.  Everything ran great, and looked even better on the mac than the PC.  Safari has some features that are great.  The auto fill-in feature works incredibly well.  And, it works like you expect it to, not some half-geek / half-idiot designed user interface.
    Now, if only I can convince them that a Mac Pro would be an incredible development machine…