Monday, April 30, 2007

Windows Vista – A positive review?



Windows Vista – A positive review?

There have been many negative reviews floating around the internet for Vista. I think that it must be an unwritten law that if you are posting anything you need to be an avid Microsoft hater and an Open source fanatic. This mentality on the internet has meant that most people are unwilling to give Vista a proper try and immediately write it off as just more Microsoft crap.

I have been using Vista since the Public Beta process and have grown quite fond of it in that time. I installed RTM in December and am currently using the Ultimate version. My initial impressions of the operating system were to be honest not much. It looked pretty and most things functioned that way that I thought they should however I just did not feel that it made a difference in the way I did anything.

2 weeks ago my work laptop’s hard disk died and the IT department rebuilt it with Windows XP. This was the first time I had used XP since December, I couldn’t believe how much I had come to relay on the new Vista features. How could I have put up with this operating system for so long? How could I have not instantly liked Vista? Well it is the little things that I miss most about Vista.

The Start Menu

The best feature of Windows Vista is the Start Menu. The integration of search as the primary method of launching programs remain one of the best innovations I have seen for a long time (Note I have never used a Mac and therefore haven’t been exposed to spotlight) while it was hard to retrain myself to use the searching rather than navigating through all the menus, it has been next to impossible breaking the habit of search and I am now often having trouble locating the exact program I wish to use.

Aero Glass

Well this topic has been covered to death; the new default theme is sleek and efficient. It is not too much needless eye candy but good functional use of composite windows. However flip 3D is complete overkill and not all that useful, it is still far more efficient to use Alt-Tab. I like the new theme and have found it hard to go back to the bright teletubby view of Windows XP.

Internet Explorer 7

The complete rewrite of IE has produced a vastly superior product to IE6. The addition of tabbed browsing, which is the finest new feature, along with the added security stoping the browser from executing code at higher privileges has made the browser worth using. I stop using IE when Firefox 1 came out however with IE7 I was using it more and more. Given that I am now back on XP with only IE6 I immediately installed Firefox again just to keep me sane.

Features I don’t like

1. Network and Sharing centre. I have found this to be really annoying; it takes 3 extra steps to do simple things like find the IP address.

2. UAC. This has been the subject of excessive hyperbole on the internet. It really isn’t as bad as many think, however it is still irritating when you are trying to install a few programs at once or when you need a program to permanently launch with elevated permissions.

Overall all the little things in Vista have made it a great product to use that is superior to XP in many ways. The real question is doesn’t it adequately represent 5 years of development at Microsoft, definitely not. It is more of a minor evolutionary upgrade than the major computing revolution that Microsoft’s marketing team would have us believe. I personally will be installing Vista again because I have found it to be better however I know many could not justify the price and to all of them I recommend that you stay using XP.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Odin’s view on File sharing

Odin’s view on File sharing

The argument about file sharing has been raised since napster was first on the scene in 1999 and really hasn’t changed much since. I think that file sharing has benefited the music industry more than any other invention ever yet the short-sightedness of groups like the RIAA and MPAA have failed to noticed the real benefit a medium for people to test there product instantly at no cost to the creators of the content.

I will be the first to admit that I have a large collection of music and videos downloaded from the internet almost 2.5k Mp3s and about 100GB of movies and television shows. The money hungry RIAA and MPAA can also rest assured that even with all that content available at my disposable I still purchase large amounts of DVDs and Audio CDs. Generally when I hear about something new that might be interesting I get straight onto emule to download the content. If I like it enough to purchase it I will, however if it really isn’t that good it will just go straight into the archive with the rest of my mp3s never to be listened to again.

I know I am not alone with this mentality, many of my friends operate the same way. The example that always give is that in 1999 when I was a very young 15 I heard on the grape vine about a band called Metallica and the fact that they had some good music. Well I fired up napster and downloaded 4 or 5 of Metallica’s songs and instantly fell in love. Well since that time I have acquired all the Metallica albums, all the live DVDs 5 of the tab booklets and been to 2 of there live shows. The large investment I made in there music just never would have happened if I wasn’t presented with their music on napster and given the choice to like it.

About half way through writing this article I noticed on the www.dreamtheater.net that they had released their new single Constant Motion for free download. Now here is a band that gets exactly what I was talking about you can let people make the choice about your music the ones who would have bought the album most likely still will.

NOTE: I know this is quite poorly written, I am tired and hung over but still felt the need to convey my thoughts on this matter. I will do some more research

100 page impressions

100 page impressions

Wow I didn’t think this would come after only 3 blogs but somehow enough people have already found me that I have 100 page impressions. All I can say is wow. I know for many people on the internet that really isn’t much at all. However I have never done anything like this before and I am really enjoying the experience of making the blogs. It was a lot of hard work last night doing the review of Longhorn it took me almost 6 hours but that article along has drawn almost 70 of the 100 views so it was definitely worth it. I will continue writing up good blogs as I think of them. I think next on the cards I will write about my experience getting Samba to Query Active Directory for usernames and passwords on Linux machines, but it might take me a couple of days to put that together so I think I might right about my opinions on the whole Music and Movie download scene on the internet.

Windows Longhorn Beta 3 Review

Windows Longhorn Server Beta 3 Review

Introduction

Windows Longhorn Server Beta 3 is currently feature complete however there are still many bugs limiting its overall performance and even in some cases as with Active Directory Right Management Service the bugs were bad enough to stop the application from installing. Overall Longhorn will be an evolutionary release containing many new features however many businesses will have trouble justifying the expense of the upgrades.

For a large gallery of pictures please click here

Installation Configuration

The installation of Longhorn server is almost exactly the same as the process for Vista http://techitz.blogspot.com/ has a good amount of screen shots from the installation.

I ran the installation through a VMWare server that was running a P4 2.8G with 1.2 GB of RAM running Windows Vista. I allocated 10GB of hard disk space and 512MB of RAM to the virtual machine. This configuration was not adequate performance wise and I would not recommend running Longhorn server with less than 2GB of RAM.

Common Server tasks

Longhorn has been made completely role based meaning that the base install contains very few setup services and comes with a firewall so it looks like it has a very secure default install.

Microsoft has made a MMC plug-in called Server Manager that is basically a central area to manage both the installation and ongoing server management. I have found this to be a great addition to the system as it was very easy for me someone completely unfamiliar with all the changes in Longhorn to get everything done that I was able to previously do in Windows 2003.

The server is installed without setting an administrator password which seems rather unsecured to me. The first item that everybody should do straight after installation is set the password.

Terminal Server

The first thing that I did was set up Terminal Server so that I could connect remotely to the server from my laptop. Anyone who has had any experience with setting this up in past versions will have no problem as it is exactly the same.

Terminal Server has some great new features which look like that have been ripped directly out of Citrix products. The ability to just push one app to certain clients sound perfect but it doesn’t seam anywhere near as powerful as Citrix.

File Server

The basic file server setup is exactly that same as in the past with the dual NTFS and sharing permissions to be set on the folder that you want shared. This part has basically remained unchanged since the very early days of Windows NT. What is a new and exciting feature for companies with a mixed (UNIX,Linux) environments is the ability to directly set up NFS shares directly through the same dialogs as the standard SMB shares.

Active Directory and Management

The active directory installation and setup was very similar to Windows 2003. It actively setup the DNS at the same time making the process very easy. I had no problem adding both Windows XP and Vista computers to the domain and authenticating of it. Active Directory also has some extra features designed for integration with Unix such as NIS, which I have been unable to test but I am fairly excited about.

I was unable to get any group policy working to test any of that due to some bugs preventing its installation.

Conclusions

I have not yet spent enough time with Longhorn to make any solid conclusions, however I think this release will make quite a few very good feature improvements. There are still many very obvious bugs in the code however as a Microsoft product still in beta I expected nothing less.


Microsoft have also still not gotten out of the habit of requiring users make a ridiculous amount of reboots while setting up there system. I had to reboot the system 7 times in the first 2 hours while I was doing all my configurations. This is just stupid in this day in age where I can do almost everything on a operating system like Linux without ever needing to do a system reboot.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The State of Public Transport in Melbourne Australia


Well if you have read my first blog you will know that I just recently lost my drivers license. This situation has led to many problems the worst of which is catching public transport in Melbourne.

For those who don’t know the structure of Melbourne it has grown mostly by Urban Sprawl primarily designed for car use. There is a limited rail network which was mostly constructed between 1880 and 1930, during the period after the Victorian gold rush but before the on set of the great depression. These early rail links formed all the population growth corridors though the outer suburbs. However with the advent of the car Victorias transport strategy largely shifted solely to moving people around via roads. Throughout the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s Melbourne went on a major freeway building regime constructing large corridors channelling traffic from the outer suburbs straight into the city. Melbourne has one of the largest contiguous freeway networks for a city of its size. Melbourne is a city built for the car, and until I lost my license I liked it that way.

Melbourne public transport system incorporates 3 distinct networks, rail, tram and buses. As said earlier the rail system was built very early on in the cities history and is completely inadequate to server today’s population which has tripled since the 1930’s when they stopped building new lines. The tram network as a whole functions fairly well except it only serves the inner suburbs and completely chokes the traffic on the roads they run along. My real problem lies with the bus network.

If you can use one word to describe the state of the bus network in Melbourne it would be “CRAP”. I live in what would be classified as the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. An area that was largely just cow paddock 30 years ago and thus it completely missed out on any rail or tram services so all we have to move us around is the buses. I also have the misfortune needing to catch 2 buses to get to my final destination which often means large waiting times at either end when I have to transfer.

Driving to work in a car takes me 26 minutes non peak or 40 minutes in peak time. It is a north-south journey so it doesn’t get too much traffic. This same journey daily on a bus takes me 1:30 non peak or up too 2 hours during peak. The worst thing is that the bus routes I take are some of the best in Melbourne. They are these new so called smart buses and unlike most bus routes they run in what is pretty close to a direct route.

The buses are everyday no matter what time I am on completely full of people often requiring me to stand up for the entire journey. The main users of public transport are recently immigrated people from either Asia or India who are unable to speak English and delay the buses further taking a large amount of time communicating which ticket they need.

I think public transport will always be much less comfortable than personal transport and once I have my licence back I will go straight to the Car Lot and purchase a new car so that I will never have to get on a bus again. However there are things this government can do that will help alleviate the major problems on the network today.

  1. Improve all major roads and include dedicated bus lines. This does not mean closing down existing public lanes but adding new lanes specifically for high volume transport. On roads where traffic is being pushed onto newly built freeways such as Springvale and Stud rds close down 1 lane for buses.
  2. Straighten up bus routes. Most of the buses in Melbourne run on zig-zag lines through back streets and take the most indirect route to the final destination. Buses should travel the same path that people would drive.
  3. Increase frequency. A “good” bus in Melbourne will run every 15-20min all day with very few running more than that and the vast majority running far less. There are many buses that only run once an hour out of peak. This is just an unacceptable situation making people wait for extremely long times to get connecting routes in the daily commutes just to get to work. Buses should run every 5 – 10 minutes this will reduce the over crowding and minimize waiting times.

Implementing these 3 action items will greatly increase the patronage on public transport in Melbourne however even with these benefits I for one will still be an avid user of private transport and will take my car to work regardless of the price of petrol.

A breif history of the last few months

Well since this is my first blog(How exciting) I thought I would give who ever is reading this a background story about my life leading up to this point. This will outline my work history and what was a pretty disastrous time for me over the last few months.

I am a 22 year old IT Project Manager working for a top fortune 50 company in Melbourne, Australia. It has been a long road to get to that point at such a young age but all I can say is my hard work has prevailed.

I have just been through what I would consider some of the toughest months of my life from Dec 06 - Mar 07. One act of stupidity cost me the majority of what I valued in my life. I drunk drove, blew 0.15 after crashing heavily into the concrete barrier on the Monash Freeway. I had my license immediately suspended and still six months later I am waiting to hear back from the court to find out how long I have lost it for. This also wrote my car off putting me $7000 out of pocket. 5 days later I got fired from my job because they wrongly believed that to be effective in my job I needed a license. 1 stupid decision that I can not remember making turned my life upside down.

From that moment on I spent the next 3 months desperately looking for work dealing with pretentious recruiters who had no idea how to look for IT staff yet thought they knew everything. Somehow I managed to get passed this people on many occasions to the clients interviewer where 9/10 the problem was either that I was too young or too inexperienced to do the jobs even though they involved half the amount of work that I was doing in my previous job, or they had issue with the fact that I got fired from my last job because I lost my license.

Finally I found interviewer that looked past the fact that I was young and did not have a license. They gave me the chance to perform which I have. I have already taken on more projects above and beyond what I was hired to do.

That horrible chapter was finally closed.

Prior to all this drama I was an IT manager at Kings Transport where I personally ran the entire IT systems for 300 users. I had 4 staff under me and I ran the majority of the IT projects within the company, doing everything from website designs, software development and building moves. It was the most intense 18 months of my life and even with a sour ending I am very greatful that it happened.

I started at Kings in the June of 2005 as a System Administrator, and through what was a series of good fortune for myself everyone above me kept leaving the company which basically meant that I got promoted very quickly. I was often working 60 hour weeks as IT manager which basically meant that I got burnt out very quickly.

Before I worked at Kings I was a manager at KFC in Rowville. I started there when I was 15 and worked my way up through the ranks until I was a manager. I spent a total of 6 years there from 1999 to 2005. While for the majority of the time I was a manager I really did not enjoy the job, it was a great learning experience that taught me heaps. I continue to draw on my experience from this time and would recommend working at fast food outlets to all teenagers.

My social life at the moment I must admit is pretty boring, I love to go out and drink lots and dance at clubs however many of my friends work right through the weekend so often if I really want to go out I need to go by myself. It makes life hard going by yourself but I do always manage to have a really good time out.