Archive for February, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 RC

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Last week, Microsoft pushed out the Release Candidate version of IE9. Somewhat overshadowed by the Nokia-Microsoft partnership announcement, the release nonetheless came as a pleasant surprise. I updated to it almost straight away from the beta version I had been running. Installation was smooth and went without any hitches. A single reboot later and I was in business.

Visually, the RC release is near similar to the Beta, but it has some improvements. The ability to have your tabs on a row below the address bar is natural feeling for one, it’s how almost every browser does it. I’ve finally figured out where the RSS button vanished off to as well, it’s part of the Command Bar which needs to be explicitly enabled for the button to be visible. I honestly think that it’s not a good place for the button to be, as it will get overlooked very easily.

Performance wise, the RC is feeling faster than the Beta, and it appears to be compatible with far more sites than the beta was. I’ve found myself needing to use the compatibility button a lot less with this version so far. Even on my dog slow 384k ADSL line, pages load damn fast. From an unofficial and completely subjective point of view, it’s about as fast as Chrome on many of the sites I’ve visited.

Stability wise, it’s been good so far at home, though a little less so at work. I’ve found that although the RC plays well enough with Spiceworks, updating a ticket status causes the tab to crash. Hopefully that will get fixed in the final release of IE.

The one major impression I’m taking away with IE9 is that with its almost 100% standards support and massive speed increase, organisations have little to no reason to want to move to another browser unless for specialist reasons. Internet Explorer is still king of manageability vie Group Policy, something no competing browser has or seems to want to have. If Firefox had Group Policy control built into it, it could have murdered IE years ago in the corporate market, but for whatever reason, it never added such support.

Overall, I’m keen to get to the final release of IE9. I am also grateful to all the competition for forcing Microsoft to become innovative again when it comes to web browsing. Battle for market share is really going to hot up soon I think, IE9 is going to surprise many people.

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My thoughts on the Nokia-Microsoft partnership

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment


Yesterday, the cellular phone industry was given a pretty good shaking by the news that Nokia will be using Windows Phone 7 in the future as their main OS. Such an idea must have seemed absolute insane to many people, given the fact that Nokia has been running on the Symbian OS since kingdom come, with Meego on the horizon eventually offering a much more modern system. I should point out that the rumours had been swirling for some time, so to me it wasn’t such a shock. Symbian will still be around, but the reality is that the platform has been put out to pasture by this news.

Thanks to the iPhone and Android ecosystems, Nokia has been on a decline for years now. Build quality in phones started slipping. Symbian, which worked brilliantly in phones with keypads, suddenly couldn’t cope with being a touch driven interface. The fairly small and useful Nokia PC Suite got replaced by the bloated Ovi Suite software, making certain functions frustrating to achieve. Nokia realised that Symbian wasn’t working, so decided to merge their fledgling Maemo Linux OS with Moblin, forming the Meego project. Meego certainly looks interesting, but it wasn’t developing at the pace Nokia needed. Every passing week, more and more Android phones were being sold.

In the same boat, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS went down the toilet. While it offered a ton of features and functionality, the OS itself was littered with history and legacy. While a resistive touch screen and stylus can have pin point accuracy, it’s not a fun method of navigating a phone in this day and age. Microsoft was eventually forced to wake from its stupor by the rise of Android and iPhone, to the point where they developed the stunning ,if still a little rough, Windows Phone 7 OS.

I’ve been fascinated by the reactions on the internet to the news of the partnership. There appears to be a small group that is pretty happy at the news and are happy that Nokia will survive. A much larger percentage however is doing the typical internet reaction at some piece of news: frothing at the mouth, calling for boycotts, writing inflaming comments, predicting the doom of Nokia and Microsoft, demanding that Nokia adopt Android instead etc etc.…

Frankly, I think that if WP7 lets Nokia get back to working on their hardware, it will be a huge blessing. I was a major fan of Nokia in the past, but their build quality has slipped over the years. I’ve owned 3 Nokia phones, with the N80 being the worst of the lot. My dad has the N97, my mom the 5800 XpressMusic. The N97 seemed like a great phone to get him at the time, but it has had serious amounts of issues over the past 2 years. Phone freezing, GPS useless, other software issues all mostly ruined a potentially great phone. The 5800 is behaving better, but the build quality feels really cheap and plasticky sometimes.

In turn, Nokia adopting WP7 will allow Microsoft to compete in markets they currently only have a vague/no presence in, or to offer much more services due to Nokia already having billing services in place, approval from content regulators and so forth. If developers buy into the vision, they will be able to bring their apps from the Ovi Store into the Windows Phone Marketplace, an exciting Market that is growing at a stunning rate. Granted, applications will need to be ported or rewritten, but in turn developers will need to spend less time in the future expending effort to cover 4-5 platforms.

In the end, some Nokia diehards are never going to accept WP7 and will move onto other platforms. Some of the technorati are going to bash whatever comes out, without even trying the software and hardware. In my view, it may hurt now in the short term, but in the long run, Nokia and Microsoft stand to possibly reshape the mobile landscape. Google has already started the trash talk, perhaps a sign that it is worried. Time will tell how this entire partnership works out, but for my end, I’m excited at the news. WP7 just got the recognition it deserves, and things can only get more interesting from here on out.

Be careful when cleaning out Windows 7 profiles

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

If you run Windows 7 in a domain environment, the computer is eventually going to get cluttered up with user profiles under the C:\Users folder, depending of course on whether you have roaming profiles etc…

A week ago my colleague and I decided that we needed to clean out this directory on our Windows 7 staff boxes for a number of reasons, including the fact that a drive mapped via Group Policy Preferences was not showing up. We duly proceeded to do so, not unduly concerned. I have personally done this step a number of times in the past on Windows XP and have never had any issues. After clean up, people who logged back into Windows XP simply got a fresh and clean profile.

After the directories had been removed, we let some staff log in, only to find out that we had created a bigger problem than we had hoped to cure. After the log on procedure was done, Windows 7 moaned that the user was being logged on with a temporary profile. We were flabbergasted and worried about this, as this was a major step backwards.

Temp Profile

After a bit of research on the net, I discovered that Vista and 7 store information about the profiles in the Registry. More specifically, the location of the files comprising the profile. Deleting the profile folder is only a partial delete and is probably considered a “hack job” method of cleaning up.

The location of the information in the Registry is as follows: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList. Below this key, you will see a list of numbers starting with S. The S and the rest of the string is the value of the unique Security Identifier (SID) for each account on your computer. You need to delete each S number for each profile folder you deleted under C:\Users. If you have a handful of computers it is easy enough to do by hand, but in a large environment I can only imagine what a nightmare it can become.

Once that is done, the next time the user logs in, they won’t get moaned at by Windows that they are using a temporary profile. I have seen that at first login, most of the users drive mappings, printers and so on will be missing. A simple log off and back on solves that particular problem.

An interesting situation that almost gave me a minor heart attack, and definitely not something I will be doing in the future again any time soon.