Tag Archives: Windows XP


ASUS eeePC with Evesham Laptop

Ever since Psion pulled out of the PDA market I’ve been on the look-out for a device that gave me the calendar/diary functionality that I had with my Series 5, but allowed me to work on the move without having to lug a laptop around. With the PDA market heading in the direction of portrait orientation touch screens, although I’ve been able to get calendar and diary functionality, there has never been a keyboard equipped device that has really met my needs, such that my Series 5 periodically gets dusted off when I need something small on which to type.

The big issue with carrying on with just the Series 5 however has been the lack of communication options. It has neither Bluetooth or Wi-Fi functionality, so getting the kind of web and e-mail access I can get even from a device like an iPod Touch.

Just before Christmas, ASUS, a Tiwanese technology company better known for producing components rather than whole devices came out with a new sub-notebook called the eeePC – the name coming from their slogan that it is “Easy to learn, Easy to work and Easy to playâ€? with the device. In a slight bit of irony, some are classing the computer into a new category called Netbooks – one of the last Psion products was the Psion Netbook a sub-notebook of similar size to the eeePC that once again pre-empts many of the ideas that the wider market is now exploring many years before they became fashionable.

The eeePC is pretty limited by modern standards, coming with a relatively slow processor, limited RAM, and a solid-state drive that varies between 2Gb and 8Gb depending on the model. Operating system wise it ships with a version of Xandros Linux, but it does include full instructions and the relevant drivers to allow Windows XP to be installed. However the switch to Windows XP would bring a serious nose-dive in terms of the performance of the device. The other compromise in terms of design is the screen, which is a small 7“ screen that displays only 800480 pixels.

The target market for the device is apparently education, certainly indicated by the choice of RM as a distributor in the UK. The units are very much built to a price, are intended to be robust – the only moving part is a small fan to keep it cool – but that doesn’t need to run often. Out of the box the suite of software includes a modern web browser in the form of Firefox, and also an install of OpenOffice an open source office application suite that can quite happily cope with the various standard document formats. Alongside this it has Skype support – including video on the webcam equipped models with the latest software updates – and can hook up to most IM networks. It even has a copy of Kontact to provide PIM functionality. There are a few educational applications, but it is targeted primarily as a small, easy to use device for producing documents and browsing the internet.

Having said that, they are also being sold to consumers, ASUS seeing that such a device might be popular outside education circles. With a retail price of £250 for the mid-range 4Gb model, they have been flying off the shelves, with resellers often warning that availability was difficult.

Evesham, ASUS eeePC and Psion 5mx

After the initial rush though, and with a new higher spec model about to appear, the demand has slowed somewhat, such that I could just walk into our local PCWorld in Reading yesterday and pick one up. They didn’t have the full range of colours however – although Expansys, RM and Clove list anything other than the black or white as delayed or unavailable – so I couldn’t get a black one. However when I asked they did have the blue and green units that seem to be like gold dust everywhere else. More than that when I enquired further, the assistant said that they had 26 of the blue, and similar numbers of the green. Certainly if you’re in the market for an eeePC, especially if you want a coloured model, it might be worth checking out your local PCWorld rather than going for one of the internet retailers.

So what’s it like in use? The keyboard is a little cramped, but has more space than my Series 5. Screen wise some of the websites don’t quite fit in, but generally it’s a nice little machine. I had no trouble hooking it up to my router either via a wire or wirelessly. It even quite happily read the memory card out of my camera in the built in reader. There are some more things to try however. It has an external VGA port, so can apparently drive a full size screen or projector. It also includes three USB ports so it will be interesting to try some USB devices (some of the 3G USB modems apparently do work). It’s nowhere near the size of the Series 5, however as a small, easily portable device for reading e-mails, writing documents and browsing the web on the go it is great, and an absolute bargain for £250.

Microsoft Extends Windows XP

So after my having rolled my laptop back to Windows XP comes news that due to customer demand Microsoft is extending the life of Windows XP by six months – the official line is that it is to help customers who need more time to switch to Vista. Needless to say they deny that the change is due to slow sales of the new OS… Whilst on the subject, thanks to Martin for highlighting this cartoon on a similar subject.

Windows Vista – First Experiences

So this afternoon I decided to give Windows Vista a go, to be more precise, Windows Vista x64…

After a bit of messing around with Partition Magic, and some deleting of installed software I managed to clear enough space for a new partition, with just enough space for an install, but not much else. Since I have a backup of the machine anyway, and the machine is not my main computer, I decided to get the full experience I should just go the whole hog and install onto the main partition – after all there is not much point in having the OS installed if I have no space to install software!

So I set the installation going. Helpfully it detected my current Windows XP install, and moved it to a folder called Windows.old. Upgrading wasn’t an option since as a quick look at the upgrade matrix published back in July my existing XP64 installation won’t upgrade.

Now I guess this is proof that I’ve been in MacOS X too long, as something like this isn’t usually a problem, as the recommended way to upgrade MacOS X is to do a clean install, and then use the migration assistant described in detail over at Mac Dev Center.com to pull all the relevant settings and applications out of the backed up folders.

Now I’m aware that the PC equivalent can’t do applications, but it seems that even though the install creates the Windows.old folders, it can’t cope with pulling settings from it – it only works with another machine.

Ok, not too much of a problem, I can just mount up my backup image in a virtual machine using something like Virtual PC or Virtual Server – but no, neither of these can run under Vista. In much the same way as with the various editions of Visual Studio (even Visual Studio 2005 – their current version), they don’t work, the best option is to run a beta version of the upcoming release.

Having said that, it’s not all bad news. The driver support in the 64-bit Vista is better than XP64. All but the sound driver and the wireless networking installed off the installation DVD. The sound driver the OS found online, and it was only the wireless networking that had me rummaging around on the internet.

It does look rather pretty too, with some font changes, and various bits of MacOS X-ish eye candy. As with Office 2007 if you scratch at the new paint job a bit, you can quickly find bits of classic windows peeking through. Quite often if you click through some of the nice user friendly screens, or go for an advanced option you find a decidedly familiar window popping up, scarcely changed from Windows XP.

The new security features are rather amusing at the moment, but I suspect will become rather annoying. As Coding Horror highlights, referring to an original article by Paul Thurrott, Microsoft have opted for their traditional security through warning dialogs – as in a number of previous products, when something happens that could be potentially risky, it displays a warning, with the option to allow, or cancel what is happening. However it rarely gives much detail about what is going on, and pressing allow will allow it to carry on. Ok but these dialogs come up so frequently, even for really basic tasks, that I am sure most people will just ignore them. Bear in mind that I’m running as an Administrator currently – if I were a normal user it would be asking for passwords all the time. The other security feature that had my jaw on the floor was when I tried to delete an empty, but protected folder on my hard drive. Vista correctly informed me that the folder belonged to another user, and was protected. However it then offered to unprotect it for me. Without asking for a password or anything, it took ownership of the folder, changed the access rights and deleted it! True you can turn this off – but it somewhat defeats the object, and if it’s off, the machine keeps complaining about the fact too. Hopefully I can try and find some happy medium between the annoyance of totally on, and the complaining of totally off, but I doubt it.

So will Vista have me switching back full time to a PC – not a chance. On a positive note it is better than XP, but still it is not a patch on MacOS X, and that is even before we see Leopard…

Update: Ironically, and totally coincidentally it seems Dave Oliver has been giving Vista a try too. The big difference is that he’s using Vista 32 – where the upgrade advisor works (on 64-bit it suggests running it, and takes you to the download page. It’s only when you download the thing that it says it won’t work on 64-bit operating systems.) It seems he’s had many more driver issues than me, significantly that it failed to recognise his graphics card.

I’m currently seeing how various games run under Vista – annoyingly the security features are coming in to play and the OS is asking again for permission when I insert every new CD of a multi-CD installation, despite it being the one installer running the whole process.

Redesign the Psion 5mx

Mobility Guru recently posted an article proposing producing a redesign of the Psion 5mx. For much the same reasons as I discussed a couple of months ago they like the small form factor, however they then list the OS, EPOC as a flaw and propose that a new Psion 5mx should use Windows Mobile, or even Windows XP instead!

The fact is that my Psion 5mx running EPOC is still the most stable computer I own, and compared to the number of times I have to reset my Windows Mobile PDA over the average day, I wouldn’t be keen on trading in the Psion for a Windows Mobile replacement. Give me a Psion 5mx running EPOC, Symbian, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and I’ll be happy…

PC Pro Schizophrenic Over Apple?

I’ve commented before over the changing attitude of PCPro to the Mac. Since then, the MacBook has even turned up, and done relatively well in a comparison of budget laptops in the magazine. However in the November issue, that turned up in the post this morning, they are getting increasingly schizophrenic. Of course this is quite obviously because they give their columnists a large degree of editorial freedom, but it still makes interesting reading.

Leafing through the new magazine, the first indication was a big two page advert for the MacBook, with the black version on one page, and the white version on the other. It is a typical Apple minimalist creation compared to most PC adverts, in that it doesn’t have masses of machine specs, nor does it even have a prominent Apple logo. In the past you’d occasionally find adverts for Apple products like the iPod, but I have rarely seen adverts for the computers in PC magazines, perhaps it is an indication that Apple is looking more seriously at going after PC owners as a potential market.

The next thing I came across was an opinion piece by Ross Burridge, the magazines reviews editor. Now if bits of this had turned up in a Mac magazine, I would have regarded it as sarcasm, but as it is in a PC magazine, I’m sure he is quite serious. The point of the article was to counter the complaint that Microsoft hasn’t really done much with Windows XP. It is a familiar practice to look at the Windows platform, highlighting that the last major OS release was Windows XP back in 2001, and then compare this with the multiple OS releases that Apple have released over the same period. Not surprisingly he turns this argument around, pointing out that there have other versions of Windows XP released in the intervening period, for example the various tablet and media centre editions. He compares this with the ‘nominally improved’ versions of MacOS X that have been released over the same period. Whilst you could argue that only nominal improvements were needed because the original was pretty good anyway, his statement is incorrect. The version of MacOS X that was around when Windows XP was first released was version 10.1, Puma which was regarded by many as not being stable enough to use as a main operating system, and missing a number of key features. Indeed at that time, Apple were still shipping Macs with MacOS 9 as boot up default. Certainly I’d challenge anybody to compare Puma with a current version of MacOS X and only find nominal improvements. Finally he caps it off by quoting £400 as the amount that a Mac user will have spent on upgrades over the same period which is also somewhat of an exaggeration. True the more frequent big number upgrades will cost more in the long run, but £400 certainly seems like he’s including iLife upgrades too, something which the same magazine said wasn’t part of the OS for the purposes of their comparison article. Oh and he also uses the classic argument that Windows is safer because it has lots of anti-virus software, making it safer if some mythical really bad MacOS X virus comes along.

However the schizophrenia really kicks in when you get to the Jon Honeyball Advanced Windows column. He quite frequently mentions his Apple machines in the column anyway, but this month he starts off talking about his visit to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, where he was asking questions about the upcoming version of MacOS X, Leopard. The two features he particularly picks on are Time Machine and the updated Spotlight. With Time Machine he raises concerns over the frequency of full backups as opposed to incremental backups, something that is controllable through the backup software included with Vista, however he concludes that because Time Machine is so well integrated into the OS, whilst the Vista backup solution is hidden away (backup software is not even installed as part of an XP Home install, you have to manually install it from the CD) and so is unlikely to be used by an average home user. Moving on to Spotlight he focuses in on the new network search functionality, and concludes that it will be unlikely to scale well, however for the home market with a small network of machines it is fine. He then uses this as a starting point to compare the attitudes of Apple and Microsoft to the home/SoHo user. Interesting points he makes are that Apple have a straightforward policy whereby everybody gets the same version, whilst Microsoft have an array of options, with some features missing from the cheaper versions. Indeed he quotes one of his friends as saying that the Microsoft attitude is to “make it so complicated that hopefully they’ll all buy the most expensive version out of fearâ€?. Ultimately he concludes that the battle for the home market is about to heat up again, and that in his opinion the wining product is not the one from Microsoft, indeed he even goes so far as to highlight that he is advising home users to upgrade to Apple machines – something that is quite a surprise from an Advanced Windows column!

So can we expect PC Pro to become a Mac magazine any time soon? I doubt it – PC Pro has a primary focus on business computing. However, if Jon Honeyball’s predictions about who will win the home market come true, it will certainly be interesting to see how the magazine changes…

The Predictable Windows V MacOS X Comparison Article?

Every so often, editors of PC and Mac magazines seem to feel the need to do a comparison article, where they compare Windows XP with MacOS X. To some extent this tends to be a fairly pointless exercise, and entirely predictable – the PC magazines always put Windows on top, the Mac magazines always ensure that MacOS X wins.

The article in the July 2006 issue of PC Pro is no exception. The cover splashes with ‘Vista vs Apple – The essential guide to choosing your next operating system’, before spending ten pages going through all the aspects of the two systems proving that Windows is the best choice, indeed they put Vista ahead in every category.

However some interesting observations about the comparison. Firstly, the playing field is not exactly level as they compare Windows Vista – the next generation Windows that is still in beta – with the current generation of MacOS X. Now to be a fair comparison, either they need to compare Vista with Leopard, the version of MacOS X that is expected to come out about the same time as Vista, or compare current Windows XP with Tiger. They also are slightly odd over iLife. They heavily down-mark the Mac for not including iLife – which is true if you are buying a boxed copy of Tiger for an existing Mac – however all new Macs include iLife for free. If you are a PC owner, the only way you’re going to get MacOS X, is to buy a Mac. Indeed the article even concedes later on that a lot of PC owners will need to buy a new PC to run Vista anyway.

What is more interesting though is some of the comments in the text. Firstly, they highlight at one point in the article that, as with most magazines, the whole article has been written and put together on a Mac. In the conclusion, despite the scores at the bottom, there is a fairly startling admission for a PC magazine, that there is little to separate the next generation Windows from the current MacOS X, and more than that that 80% of users will find that Tiger meets all of their needs. The article even dares to suggest that with the current prices of Macs, and the industry standard software that is available on the platform that a Mac would make a good choice for a business machine, and it is largely down to the fact that Windows is the de-facto standard that most business purchasers would go for a Windows machine. Indeed even the editor seems to be falling for the Mac somewhat by highlighting that they have yet to find a PC manufacturer who can compete with the Mac Mini. Strange times indeed…