Saturday, June 13, 2009

Workaround for Some Instances of Win 7 WiFi Problem

One of the very few real broken bits in the Win 7 RC is a WiFi problem. The current thread on Microsoft TechNet is here.

On at least a few laptops, the following is a dependable if annoying workaround.

  1. Turn off the WiFi with the laptop hardware switch (“airplane mode”)
  2. Open Start –> Computer –> Manage –> Device Manager –> Network Adapters
  3. Right-click and disable the wireless adapter
  4. Wait a bit and verify the OS has completely lost the wireless adapter (by watching the icon in the tray)
  5. Turn on the WiFi with that hardware switch
  6. Right-click and re-enable the wireless adapter
  7. Wait … potentially a couple of minutes for Windows to find the appropriate network, connect, and recognize the route (if applicable) to the Internet

This maneuver is a hassle, to be sure. But it seems to work 100% of the time on some laptops (including mine) and it is much more convenient than rebooting, which is the only other dependable solution.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

iPhone and Palm Pre – the Obligatory Post

I’ve had my paws on the Pre, and while I have not, of course, gotten hold of a 3GS, it doesn’t really matter.

See, getting my hands on a 3GS might convince me it has a better hardware/software experience. And since the 3G already has a better hardware/software experience than the Pre, I’m going to call it a “gimme” for the new 3GS.

The Pre, for all of its clever conceits compared to most phones, is still clunky, hiccup-y, and jittery next to even the current iPhone model. The graphics aren’t as smooth, the UI is harder to use, the physical keyboard is marginal, and on and on.

On top of that, it is hard to overstate how important the app ecosystem is to this “competition,” and Palm doesn’t even seem to be trying (they’re still saying “real soon now” on the SDK).

No matter how many apps in the App Store are just fart apps, and no matter how beautiful the bundled apps on the Pre are, there is no contest because these guys are playing different games.

Apple has succeeded in making the phone a general computing platform in the mind of the public – something I argued for 3 years ago – and you judge a platform not by its internal specs but by what you can run on it. Palm doesn’t seem to get that. They’ve got a decent bundle of specs but there’s nothing to run on it and there may never be much.

So with Apple still killing in the UX department, and Palm leaving their A-game at home (if they ever had one) as far as the app/platform/dev community goes … is there anything positive to be said for Pre in this contest?

Only this: AT&T’s network is so egregiously ill-behaved in so many prime metro areas that Sprint could actually pull a few people across the line.

I am one these last folks: I would much rather replace my current phone with an iPhone, but the thought of another two years of dropped calls, missed calls, bars-but-no-coverage, data connection unusable half the time … and I’m seriously considering the Pre.

Say what you will about Sprint (I’ve used every major carrier and none is perfect), where they have coverage, the devices just work. You can make or take a phone call. Which, ironically given that smartphones are bordering on augmented reality nowadays, is still the sine qua non for a phone.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Windows 7 RC, One Month In

A month ago, not long after the RC was released, I wiped my ol’ Server 2003R2 notebook (yes), and installed Win7 x64. Time to try a consumer OS on the machine again, finally go 64-bit, and jump without a net (I had a big client demo coming up and decided it would be sink-or-swim with 7).

First, a word about this laptop. Bought in the holiday sale period of ‘07 just for client demos and occasional web surfing, it would take a whole new, um, “lower end” category of Microsoft “Shopper” commercials to capture the spirit of this baby: for $299 I got a mobile Celeron (1.6 GHz, one core, no HT) and 512MB of RAM. Billed as “Vista Basic Ready,” it was being discontinued due to … not really being Vista Basic Ready. Well, duh. I had given up on Vista after my 3.6GHz desktop choked on it, so I put another GB in the laptop and loaded Server 2003R2 (using unofficial XP drivers I grabbed off the net).

So … Windows 7.

Upon install, all of the hardware was supported perfectly, which isn’t a huge surprise since 7 uses Vista-era drivers and this hardware ensemble was originally targeted for Vista.

Except for a compatibility issue with AVG Anti-Virus (which I’ve written about before), it has worked almost perfectly with everything I’ve thrown at it – ranging from Office and Visual Studio 2008 to Alfresco Enterprise (yes, a Java server app), Google Earth, and Ruby. Overall performance has been excellent and better than I would have expected. No, I wouldn’t play games on this machine, and the 5400-rpm hard drive can be a drag just as it is on most laptops.

The two big negatives I’ve seen are as follows and will hopefully be fixed by RTM time.

First, there is a well-documented issue with WiFi. On a cold boot, Windows does just what you want it to do with the WiFi. But, after waking from sleep or hibernate, or trying to switch networks a few times, it just cannot seem to sort itself out. Most of the time you are forced to reboot to get a working connection. This bug is all over Microsoft’s Win 7 feedback forums, I’m just too lazy to look up a link right now. So hopefully it will get a fix.

Second, the integration with other default browsers (I use Chrome) is broken in a bunch of places. Many of the cases where the shell is called to supply a browser to a specific URL do not work (e.g., menu options in twhirl, connections to the web from Office Live). In addition, Windows doesn’t want to associate local .html (or .htm) files with Chrome. Sometimes I can get these things fixed, but then they revert (perhaps partly a result of Chrome’s auto-updates).

These cases all work fine on XP and don’t require in-process loading (suggesting it’s not a x86/x64 issue). It’s inconvenient, and the anti-trust folks will be back after Microsoft if they don’t make other browsers first-class citizens soon. So this bug should get squashed.

Aside from those two admittedly very annoying issues, this is a really solid, fast, and elegant operating system. How serious is the “Microsoft tax” issue on OEM PCs? I don’t know, but if I do pay such an implicit tax on a new machine, I’ll be a heck of a lot happier if I can get a Win 7 license out of the deal and not a Vista license for my trouble.