Managed Win7 Taskbar Enhancements

Windows 7 has a ton of new enhancements right there in the Taskbar itself. A quick list of them includes:

  • Unified Launching and Switching
  • Jump Lists
  • Destinations
  • Tasks
  • Thumbnail Toolbars
  • Icon Overlays
  • Progress Bars
  • Notification Area
  • Interactive Thumbnails

Your applications too can start using these features’ in them if you want. The documentation for these are available at MSDN here. The only issue is that this is currently possible only with un-managed APIs – COM & Win32.

So what happens if you’re a .NET WinForms/WPF developer and want these features in your applications as well? Well, fear not there is a way out. There are two open source projects that allow you to use the Win7 taskbar enhancements in your managed code applications as well.

The first is a project on CodePlex called Windows 7 TaskBar Extensions. This is a new project with only a few things currently implemented but seems to be heading in the right direction for a small, lean implementation of the Taskbar features in .NET.

The second is a much more comprehensive project called very simply “Windows 7 Taskbar”. This is based upon the excellent Vista Bridge library and offers all the features that are currently possible. There are a number of sample applications as well that demonstrate many of the different features. The only part that didn’t work for me is creating Jump Lists.

So if you’re a Windows application developer and want to add the new features of Vista and Windows 7 into your application, Vista Bridge and these other two libraries are surely something that you will want to try out.

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Categories: Windows 7 | Rave | Development | Windows Vista

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Using Linux GUI Apps on Windows (Vista, 7)

On an ongoing project I need to work on a Linux machine to run some tools. Normally, I either use Putty to use a command line interface, WinSCP for copying files to & fro and TightVNC for a remote desktop into the Linux machine.

This is when my friend Anindya recommended using XMing – a X-Server and Launcher for Windows. As you may (or may not) know, the Linux GUI shell runs in a “client-server” mode. You can actually go ahead and use a client to run the components on the server and get the view pulled to your machine running Windows. Now, this has been possible earlier as well by doing things like installing GNOME or KDE for Windows, as well as other solutions. However,  these have been fairly cumbersome to use, screws up your Windows installation and generally painful.

XMing on the other hand,  lets you run these apps directly on the Linux machine with their graphical interface as a proper window on your Windows machine. And installing and using Xming is a breeze as well as a small install only. So, if you need to work with X-Windows from within Windows, then Xming is something you should use.

BTW, XMing works perfectly on Windows 7, including showing thumbnails of all the running apps and allowing you to do Aero Peek within them. Take a look at the screen below.

Using XMing to run a gnome-terminal and a revisor session from a Linux machine on Windows 7. Note that the thumbnails show the two apps properly and you can even “peek” between them.

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Categories: Linux | Windows 7 | Windows Vista | Rave

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Tech Crystal Ball 2009

As the year is truly under way now, here are a few predictions I can think of in the technology world that is going to happen this year.

Hardware/Gadgets become cheaper and more powerful

We’ve seen this happen the last couple of years – with dual, quad and now oct-core systems readily available. Devices such as high end mobiles are also becoming quite popular as are Netbooks and LCD TVs. All of these will continue to grow as well as becoming more affordable – both to beat the recession as well as due to innovations in this area.

Hosted Paid Services or Pay-Per-Use Model becomes more popular

Most small to medium companies will start finding value in using hosted services for many of their IT infrastructure requirements rather than doing it all themselves. Hosted Exchange, SharePoint and CRM are going to take off this year in a large way – even in India. (Believe me, I recently moved to this model and it’s not just cheaper, it’s much lesser headache to manage.)

The Pay-Per-Use model will also catch on – for services that are required on a less frequent use basis. For instance, in companies that do not require all the high-end features of Office installed on every desktop, it might make a lot of sense to have a PPU model for certain advanced tasks that can be used as and when required by designated people.

Online Storage Balloons Up

Currently you get a good 5-25 GB in most online storage areas – however I see this to grow to the range of 100-250GB this year for free storage and practically unlimited for paying customers. Everything – documents, photos, music and movies will be allowed to sync back to the “cloud” as it were.

Corollary: Optical Media Starts to go away

As the online storage area heats up, I predict that the requirement for offline optical media will go away – may not happen completely this year – but this year will be that start to the end of optical media.

FOSS vs. Microsoft – the war continues

We won’t see a real respite from the FOSS/MS war. The FOSS camp is going to play the “free” card in these recession times to a lot of people, while MS will need to pull up their socks and show a more cautious approach to handling sales of their products. The PPU and Hosted models will be a great help to them in this war. MS of course has a number of products in the pipeline that can make a huge difference. FOSS does have its own set of drawbacks – like stagnating product lines (OpenOffice for e.g.) and TCO for subscription based supports being higher than MS costs. Both sets will need to offer much better value proposition to customers.

Microsoft - Winners: Windows 7, Office 14, Visual Studio 2010

Windows 7 is going to be the big hype product of the year. The “mistakes” of Vista are hopefully soon going to be forgotten with the pre-beta and the leaked beta already getting excellent reviews. If MS pushes it out this year especially giving a better value proposition including hyping cost savings thanks to “GREEN” systems, it will have a sure-fire winner in it’s hands.

Office 14 hasn’t got too much coverage – but a web-based version – with almost all the features makes perfect sense for the PPU/Hosted model and can help drive up adoption. We’ve yet to see other features that make it into this release, though.

Microsoft – Losing Ground: Windows Mobile, Internet Explorer

I predict that WM and IE will continue to lose ground to others – unless MS does something very, very innovative in both of them. WM is a great platform for business users. However, the interface clunkiness as well as long time gaps between updates don’t let it really go the way it should.

Internet Explorer 8 is right round the corner and is a great browser. But I still feel that there is so much more that it could have done than Web Slices and Accelerators. Hopefully it won’t be plagued with bugs once it comes out.

GREEN Computing

A lot of companies are going to go GREEN – it terms of energy efficiency of their infrastructure. Both hardware and software can help this out tremendously. Vista and Win7’s “sleep” functionality, Hyper-V based server consolidation, efficient cooling and other technologies will become part of mainstream and recommended to use.

All-in-all, this year will have its own ups-and-downs. These are my (current) predictions. I might revisit them 6 months down and see if there are any changes I think that might happen. Here’s wishing you a Happy, Prosperous, Productive and Safe New Year 2009.

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Categories: Microsoft | Windows 7 | Windows Vista | Internet | Gadgets

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