Computers, Entertainment, Personal, Technology, Windows

Windows Vista

Well for various reasons I now have Windows Vista. I installed it myself and to be honest everything went smoothly. That’s not to say everything went perfectly, but nothing unsurmountable happened.

The first problem was the fact that I bought the upgrade version. I’d previously bought Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 but I was doing a clean install. Previous version of Windows just asked for you to pop the disk of the previous version in this situation – Vista didn’t. It would only let me install from Windows. So I had to install Media Centre first.

Then once I had installed Vista it didn’t have drivers for my network card or my sound card (and no network card meant no internet and therefore no video drivers and therefore horrible resolution (at the wrong aspect ratio no less). Well luckily I have another computer with internect access so I got the network drivers (and then the video and sound drivers).

Beyond that, I haven’t done much with it yet. The Aero glass lucks cool and stuff and the new games it comes with are at least as entertaining as the old ones were when I first saw them.

PS. User Account Control really is as annoying as they say it is for at least two reasons: Firstly it seems to ask you everything twice. Second since I have administrator access anyway it doesn’t really provide any security (it happens so often that you just click accept straight away without reading it).

Life, Personal

I might need a visa

Julia is currently on an exchange program in America and I plan to visit in November. Which unfortunately means I need to get a visa.

America (like a lot of the world) runs a visa waiver programme whereby people in certain situations don’t need a visa to enter the country. At the moment holders of a UK passport listed as British Nationals going for business or pleasure trips of less than 90 days that haven’t been arrested don’t need a visa. On October 24th that will change. As well as the above requirements you will need a biometric passport.

Biometric passports are being brought in over here slowly. Any passport applications may, or may not receive a biometric passport as the increase the volume of BPs they can produce. Which means I can’t just apply for one.

Sometime in “early October” however the change over to biometrics will be complete and all new UK passports will be biometric. But that is cutting it very close. They do have systems in place whereby the application can be sped up (down to as little as one day) but that involves extra hassle and extra cost. Possibly less than that needed to get a US visa though…

visas, passports, US, America, biometrics


Shiny new credit card

My first blatantly personal post for a while – I now have a new Cahoot credit card. My main reason for getting one is to get an extra month’s interest on most of my income. And that idea is even easier to implement than I thought since you can set up a direct debit to pay off your balance automatically.

And a day after activating the card I got an email saying their default charges (for exceeding spending limit or late payment) have been reduced from £25 to £12.

So all is well in the world.

credit cards, Cahoot, interest, borrowing, finance

Computers, Google, Personal, Technology

Google Checkout

<![CDATA[Google Checkouts has a launched as a rival to PayPal. Competing with PayPal will be difficult, especially with the eBay integration. That could end when GBuy is released though (a competitor to eBay that will obviously integrate with Google Checkout).

On the surface Google Checkout is more expensive – 2.0% + $0.20 per transaction (PayPal is 1.9% + $0.30). However Google will let sellers have $10 of free transactions for every $1 spent on AdWords. The big disadvantage is that it’s only available in the United States. But that won’t last forever.

online auctions]]>

Computers, Life, Personal, Technology

Video card woes

<![CDATA[I now have all the parts of my new computer. Unfortunately all is not well…

After waiting two weeks for my video card, I cancelled the order and ordered a different one from someone else. Both arrived today. Other than the loss of postage to return the first one, it’s not a major problem though. But slightly agravating.

It does mean I should be able to post comments on Windows MCE tomorrow.

Windows, MCE, media center]]>

Computers, Entertainment, Games, Life, Macs, Personal, Technology

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005

<![CDATA[I'm getting a new computer. Well most of a new computer. And I've been considering whether to get Windows Media Centre Edition or not.

The first two versions of MCE were rather lacking but after reading a lot I've decided 2005 is actually quite cool.

What is Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005?

Good question. One I didn’t know the answer to until recently. It’s Windows XP a with range of new utilities for working with video, music and images (as well as bits of hardware associated with them) all wrapped inside one interface. The idea is to have your computer as the hub for your whole home entertainment system.

Digital Video Recording (DVR)

The most useful component is the built in DVR software (sometimes called Personal Video Recorder or PVR). Plug your TV into your TV tuner card and Windows can record stuff straight to your hard drive. But of course most TV tuners come with software to do this. Well MCE does it better to be honest. And you can also get a hardware bundle (ready built systems come with it) that includes a IR blaster. Basically it’s an infra-red transmitter you stick to the front of your set top box (Sky, cable, whatever) to allow your MCE computer to change channels.

Disk space

The lowest quality recording takes up between 1Gb and 1.5Gb per hour. Reasonable hard drives these days are about 200Gb which gives you about 100 hours of video (leaving space for other stuff). Not really suitable for storage but it does allow you to burn things to DVD. Most of the time. The software apparently supports any content restriction specified in incoming media and won’t let you copy such content of the computer that made it.

But it’s still a computer, right?

MCE is actually Windows XP Professional underneath. It took a while to confirm (most references are vague about whether it’s XP Home or XP Pro) but I did find a page on Microsoft’s website saying it’s XP Pro. This means you can do everything with it that you can normally do with a PC.

One final note… you could always install MCE on a Mac.

Microsoft, Windows, MCE, Media Center, Windows XP, DRM, Apple]]>

Computers, Personal, Programming, Technology, Web Programming

ASP.NET sucks

I recently bought a book about ASP.NET: Pro ASP.NET in C# by Apress, mainly because when I was looking for jobs there were lots of ASP.NET jobs advertised. And I have to say I have no idea why. Part of the problem may be that is book isn’t very good (there are bits of vague contradictions and a general obsessive (and inaccurate) preachiness about it) but I think there are major limitations to ASP.NET.

Firstly the inability to post to a different page. Who the hell decided that was good idea? I know it can be faked but that’s just silly. And you can only really have one form on a page. Well you can only have one “rich” form that ASP.NET can access in a clever and high level way.

I’m assuming people will disagree with me (if not, why is it so popular). If you do, please explain why ASP.NET is supposed to be so amazing because I don’t see it…

Updated – Clarifying my position on