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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OSS for Windows @ SourceForge

SourceForge is considered as one of the largest open source repositories for open source software especially for Linux. Interestingly though, a look at the All Time Top 25 Most Popular open source projects here reveals some startling data. Here’s the list comparing the top 25 all time projects and their availability on Windows and Linux.

Name Win Lin
Emule x  
Azeurus x x
Ares Galaxy x  
7-Zip x  
Filezilla x x
GTKWin x  
Audacity x x
DC++ x  
Bittorent x x
Shareza x  
Virtualdub x  
Portableapps x  
CDEx x  
Emule+ x  
Pidgin x x
GuliverKil x  
aMSN x x
WinSCP x  
PDFCreator x  
Simple DirList x x
UltraVNC x  
TightVNC x x
AC3Fiter x  
MinGW x  
ZSNES x x
Total 25 9

This actually shows that open source software is not only available but also more popular on Windows. Note that of the top 25, there were 16 projects available only for Windows and none that were available only for Linux. So do note that considering “open source” does not translate to considering “Linux” since Windows now has a ton of open source projects on it as well. CodePlex is another place where you can find open source projects for Windows exclusively.


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Categories: Windows 7 | Windows Vista | Linux | Rave

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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.

Xming  
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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Making sure your downloads complete on Vista

Vista has a number of new features that optimize the way that your computer functions – especially in the area of power consumption. The new power plans, sleep mode and more intelligent management of hardware resources are some of these. However, there is one small problem that comes with this – if you leave your computer to perform a download, in many cases it just doesn’t complete since Vista automatically puts the computer to sleep after a period of inactivity. This is especially true if you’re downloading on a laptop and on battery.

More...


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Categories: Tips | Windows Vista

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Detailed System Monitor Gadget

System Monitor GadgetIf you're a Vista Sidebar gadget freak like me, then this one is for you. I ran across a gadget called System Monitor from BuildAGadget.com. This is one that can show you a whole bunch of information about your currently running system. This includes:

  1. Date
  2. Time
  3. Single, Dual, Quad core usage stats
  4. Memory usage stats
  5. WiFi signal strength
  6. Battery status and remaining time
  7. IP Address - both internal (NAT) and external
  8. Network tools - like WHOIS, Ping, Trace route, IP and Domain lookups

This basically lets you replace a bunch of other system Sidebar tools. The nice thing is that you can easily enable or disable any of these "monitors" and individually configure settings for them such as what to display (text or graphics), color of the display bar, and other specific information (number of cores/which IPs to show, etc.).

This is a great tool to be quickly informed about a number of system resources and a must if you use the Vista Sidebar.


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Categories: Gadgets | Rave | Windows Vista

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Windows Vista 1-year Security Vulnerability Report

Jeff Jones, the Microsoft Security guy, has just released a 1-year security vulnerability report of Windows Vista versus other operating systems for their first year. The OSs compared are: Windows XP, RedHat Linux Enterprise 4 (Workstation), Ubuntu 6.06 and Apple MacOS X v10.4. Here is a summary of the report.

Metric

Vista

XP

RHEL4ws*

Ubuntu 6.06*

Mac OS X
 10.4

Vulnerabilities fixed

36

65

360

224

116

Security Updates

17

30

125

80

17

Patch Events

9

26

64

65

17

Weeks with at least 1 Patch Event

9

25

44

39

15

*: Reduced feature set over full install

Some points of note are:

  • To do a "fair" comparison between the 2 Windows and the 2 Linux variants here, the vulnerabilities in the Linux columns do not include optional and server components like OpenOffice, Gimp, gcc, Apache, bind etc.
  • Windows on the other hand was analyzed on ALL the components that it ships with - not a reduced set

So what does this mean? Vista is more secure than everything else? Well, if nothing else, it does tend to show that the improved focus on Security during the software development process at Microsoft is actually doing a huge bunch of good. So the next time someone mentions security, Vista and Linux, it might be useful to point them to this resource.


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Categories: Windows Vista

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Windows Vista SP1 Install Experience

I just went ahead and installed the Windows Vista Service Pack 1 from MSDN. I of course took the 64-bit version since that's what I'm running. The install process was very smooth. After a small (8-10 mins) install process after starting the process and going through the obligatory EULA and stuff, the system restarted once and informed me that there are three stages left for the install.

1st Stage: Installation continued at the login prompt area. Proceeded to stage 2 to up to around 8%. System rebooted. Time spent approximately 5 mins.

2nd Stage: A console based install process that seemed to list every single EXE/DLL available in Windows. Showed a huge number (>120,000) with a running count of files being updated. Suddenly jumped to the end much sooner than I expected. Time spent about 3 mins. System rebooted again

3rd Stage: Again a graphical install process at the login prompt area. Took about 5 minutes again.

After the 3rd stage, the system immediately took me to the login box - no reboot. Logged in and was immediately greeted by a Service Pack install success window. Going to the System properties confirmed this.

image

Current status is that the system feels a little laggy - but that is to be expected. All the saved speed boosting information of SuperFetch is wiped out. So all applications will feel a little laggy the first few times they are opened. Let's see how it goes. Will keep noting down any experiences - good or bad - right here.


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Categories: Windows Vista

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