Tuesday, 24 April 2007


Internet Explorer 7 was my browser of choice. I have always preferred Internet Explorer to other browsers because it reads HTML correctly. The others don't. The code required to get something working on Firefox and Internet Explorer is about twice as verbose as the code required to get the same page showing correctly on IE. Even then Firefox will probably show it how it feels best. As a web designer I probably notice it more than most people.

That said, Firefox (and Opera, Netscape etc) have been the driving force behind why Internet Explorer 7 is as good as it is now - particularly the tabbed browsing.

I now use Firefox.

Because Vista has sodded Internet Explorer up.

Two little things have got to me to switch to Firefox; tiny little things. The first is the Developer Tool Bar in Internet Explorer. This is an extremely useful tool bar for developers. Really? It allows you to do really handy things like resize the browser to emulate smaller screens, pick up colours with a dropper, measure distances in pixels and view cell and table configuration. Microsoft claims it works with Vista. My computer says otherwise. It installs without a hitch and doesn't do anything. You can download a couple of tools that do the same for Firefox which do work with Vista.

I have been uploading information to a database through a web form. Much of the data is similar so the best way to do this is to submit the entry and then click back to repeat - can't do it. The paranoid operating system wipes out the entries in the form fields to protect me from my wreckless use of the internet.

If there is anybody reading who knows how to enable me to click back to a web page without erasing its contents please let me know. There has to be a setting for it somewhere. Or perhaps Mr Gates is so concerned for our welfare he has completely disabled this facility. I can still use Firefox.

Alternatively if anybody knows a way of getting the Firefox bookmarks to work as effectively as the Internet Explorer 7 favourites then please let me know. I can then kick IE into touch.

Monday, 23 April 2007

File sharing part 2

I may have cracked it. File sharing that is. Printer sharing, as I have mentioned previously, is a far off dream because the drivers for my printer don't exist for Vista.

I had a brainwave. I turned off the Windows Firewall. On XP the Windows Firewall is an inoffensive little beast. In four years of XP bliss I never noticed it working away in the background. On Vista it was turned off by default - which is really weird on a hypochodriac operating system - and I thought nothing of turning it on. Having turned it off again I can now see all the shared folders on the network. I can even go inside some of them and look at files.

One of the folders is misbehaving still. How long must I wait with this screen?

A few minutes is what it says. However the folder in question is actually usable on the network. Maybe it is just a device to keep us from using networking because secretly Microsoft know the operating system is full to the gunwales with security flaws. By making file-sharing so totally impossible we will all give up and buy memory sticks instead.

So how did I get this far? I'm not really sure. But this is something like it.

Click the Windows button and then Network. At the top is a link to Network and Sharing Center (sic - I am British damn it). You can also access this Center via the Control Panel.

Sharing and discovery needs to be turned on. You also need to change settings next to make the workgroup the same as all your other computers; which could well be MSHOME. File sharing should be on and password protected sharing off (unless you are a 14 year old hacker then you can probably get past this facility anyway).

Now, go to the folder you wish to share, right click it, Share. You then need to add Everyone to the list of people that can access the folder, click share and then get the "this may take a few minutes screen". For ever. But after 10 minutes click cancel because it has done it anyway.

To describe it as a bit clunky is an understatement. It is absolutely ridiculous. Vista is too busy saving you from your own feckless nature to trust you to have control of your machine.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Printer and file sharing on Windows Vista

Do you remember the promotional video for XP. It was two American men just starting at university with their laptops. One goes out for a few minutes and the other sets up printer sharing on their computers. All so easy. And it is. Windows XP loves sharing files and printers - only if you allow it of course - but it does it so well.

Vista is the new version of XP. It is therefore better. It just follows. You wouldn't bring something out that was worse than the old one. That would be rediculous! Grabs belly and laughs until the tears come.

Nobody without a degree in computers and a large amount of sedative should attempt to share files or printers on Vista. It's just not worth it. Go out and enjoy the sun. Or cut the grass with an axe or something constructive.

Firstly your printer is not going to be compatible with Vista. Nothing is totally. You wouldn't mind if it was totally incompatible - if it really didn't even try. Seen the Mac advert? Where the Mac and PC hold hands and then the printer holds hands with the Mac. The PC then tries to speak Japanese to the printer and gets it slightly wrong. "Rubbish", you cry - "that doesn't happen on Windows". That's because you run XP. I have 27 pieces of paper with "Unsupported Personality: PCL" written at the top. It did print out lots of stuff I wanted as well but that's how it works with Vista - things only stop working a bit.

So then. Printer sharing. That's easy. Just share the printer surely. Ah no. Every other computer on the network is on the workgroup called "MSHOME". So Microsoft have decided to change the default workgroup to "WORKGROUP". Oh how I laughed when I worked that one out and chaged it back to the usual one. You then have to turn on printer sharing and turn off password protected sharing. While you are at it turn on file sharing, network discovery and public folder sharing.

That's it, you can now share your printer, which doesn't have a suitable driver, with all the other computers on the network. And print out "Unsupported Personality: PCL" to your heart's contentment.

File sharing is much more fun. There is a public folder for you to share stuff in, same as the old days; and sometimes it works. But if you actually want to do something useful like share a folder you use a screen comes up saying "Sharing, this make take a few minutes". It's not wrong. It has never finished yet - even when I try sharing folders with only a few files in. It is just rubbish, absolutely rubbish.

Could it be because the folders are read only? Maybe but unticking the read only box and clicking apply doesn't work - it pretends to so you will go away but as soon as your back is turned it is back to read only.

I have given up. I have a half Gig memory stick and I run upstairs with it, either that or I drag files onto shared folders on the other computers.

Reasons why XP is fab

I am the world's largest fan of Windows XP. It is reliable, it works with a ridiculous amount of software, it is attractive and easy to use for even the most novice users.

But this week I am even more of a fan of Windows XP. I now have Vista installed on my machine. Vista is a thing of beauty. I am intoxicated by its beauty so much that I have resisted the urge to do the sensible thing and put XP back.

I had this computer built for me six months back with a view to installing Vista on it when it came out. It is a pretty decent machine for an office tool. It has 4GB of RAM and a dual core 3.2 GHz Intel Pentium brain. It supports 4 decent sized monitors and has never let me down. Before this week. My computer is fully up to spec for Vista. Vista installed with barely a whimper; and far less histrionics than I expected. There were no problems with any of the drivers and I got Mozilla Thunderbird moved across from the old hard drive complete with addresses, message rules and emails. All joy then.

The first little bug-ette, was trying to use Paint Shop Pro 8. This is a cracking little program; it does just about everything the full blown version of Photoshop does at a fraction of the cost or brain power. Vista welcomed it with open arms. It installed from the disc and gave no hint of disagreement. Until you try and crop anything. Then the program takes its stumps home. No problem; I had expected a few minor incompatibilities so I downloaded the new version. This works fine. I can now edit pictures. Version 11 is better anyway. And I like spending money.

Next little niggle is the sound card. As I said, everything installed nicely with Vista. The sound card is fully functioning, it has an updated driver designed for this operating system and it makes noises - but not like it used to. On XP I could have stereo sound coming out of the computer speakers and out of my audio amp via an optical output. If I wanted I could even have stereo from the computer speakers and Dolby 5.1 from the amp. At the same time. Now I can have either but not both. If I want to switch speakers I have to close Media Player - or whatever - switch default device and start Media Player up again. That's just rubbish.

All well then, apart from a few niggles.

Microsoft hath murder'd sleep. Windows 98 was renowned as a bugger to shut down but XP is usually pretty good. You can even do it without a mouse - press the Windows button and then "U" twice. Off it pops to bed. But then it can take a few minutes to wake up again, especially if you don't have much memory and you run lots of anti-virus and firewall software. So Microsoft decided that we should put our machines to sleep rather than turn them off. Good idea. The machine goes to sleep in seconds and then awakes brightly in the morning ready to start a new day. In theory. However; it hasn't quite worked that way for me yet. Each time I have reawakened it from sleep it has had a minor issue with little unimportant things; each time it's different. Problems have included Internet Explorer, the video card - in various different ways and the network. The only solution is rebooting Vista; which does sort of defeat the object. Turning off Vista is a little bit more protracted than it used to be as well. Why make things harder?

So these are the niggles. When I stop crying I shall tell you about my fun with file sharing.