Windows 7 beta Review

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I have been running win 7 build 7.0 beta for the past month and I think I’m ready to offer my opinion about this widely praised OS.

 

Pre Installing 

As at the time I was thinking of trying win 7, I was in need of a laptop because our old laptop was giving up on me. It was too slow and I couldn’t do pretty much anything with it. So I decide to retire our old laptop and migrate it into either the Fedora or Ubuntun world. Haven’t decided yet. With that decision made, I set out to buy a new laptop. I kept going between windows pc or Mac pc. Why? , well, I’m not an apple fun boy but I was interested in developing for the IPhone which meant having a Mac. But I could bring myself to justify the amount I would pay for a Mac in relation to how much time I will actually spend using it (which will only be during development for the Mac environment). Then there was the thought of running windows on the Mac using VMware fusion. I had heard some good stories about fusion.

After a couple of discussions with a few friends, I made the discussion to go for a 64bit windows laptop. I discarded the taught of buy a Mac and running windows virtually because, I mainly live in windows. Emulation seems to take away the optimum performance of any OS and I do push my laptops really hard. I could have gone for a dual booth on a Mac but by then, I had already fallen in love with Sony’s Vaio FW. It was perfect in every way. So in the end, I ended up with a 64bit Sony Vaio FW . See the specs below.

 

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Installation Experience

Installation was smooth as a baby’s ass. Wow, that different from what I have experienced so far. In any case, I think MS did a good job with installation improvements. My installation path was an upgrade from vista home to win 7 ultimate so I hope others with different upgrade or new installation path will go as smooth as mine. I can only hope since this is a beta.

 

UAC configuration

This is a lot easier since you can now choose your own configuration and not be bothered by unnecessary pop up’s. One up for the MS guys.

Device Discovery

This is by far my favorite since it looks like a lot of work has been done here. I was able to discover my Xbox, router, cellphone (through Bluetooth), wireless printer and more in just a few seconds. Win 7 really made it easy for me and I hope the  final version will even be better.

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Software Installation

I didn’t have any issues except for IE 7 and Microsoft Expression suite. IE 8 64bit works just fine and works really really fast. IE 7 will start but doesn’t allow any interaction with it. I don’t know if its because I did an upgrade from Vista home to window 7 Ultimate. The expression suite also installed with no issue but will error out when running blend or designer. Personally, I don’t care for designer since I do all my vector work in illustrator and export to xaml when I need to. I just needed Blend for the composition of my application. I will have to resort to my desktop for now till I have a solution around this.

 

UI Features

I was really hoping for some ground breaking but ….its better than it was before. The peek feature is my favorite were you can peek a window and go back to the one you were working on without switching between windows. The grouping of apps at the bottom also makes sense and works very well for me. A bit of style would make these features look great but style is what Microsoft lacks, not like Apple. With that said, the UI is functional and lets you do your work and that’s all one can really ask for.

 

Overall, I will switch to win 7 in a heart beat as its proven to be a lot better than my vista desktop. I think MS got it right this time and if they keep this up, they will have customers like me on their side. That doesn’t mean I giving up on Mac. I like the work of the Mac boys. The look to design first for inspiration. They look to groundbreaking but unfortunately, they are not business worthy at the moment. Not because you cannot run a business with a Mac, but finding all the different software you need to run a business can be more challenging in Mac world than in the windows world. Plus their pride in the “no-virus” selling point  scares the hell out of me because no OS is bullet proof and I have more confidence in the support and speed of the MS security team (since they have been dealing with this shit for a long time) than the 2-5 man security team at Apple.

Note: I really don’t the size of the security team hiding at the Cupertino-based company’s basement. I was mealy making a point.

 

Wish List

  1. Spellchecker feature built into the OS or as an add-on so all content applications can make use of it instead of rolling out their own
  2. Map feature should be build into or be an add-on to the OS for allow mapping needs to be met by any application that needs it
  3. Location based feature build into the OS
  4. An OS that knows its environment, that can adjust the light, sound(noise cancellation etc) properties depending on the surrounding.

These are the things I consider moving forward. Up until now, I still cannot believe that laptops and pc don’t come with prebuilt radio receives in them but they are present in the tiny mp3 players we buy.

What do you say dear reader. What are your thoughts.

Browser Spring is full of great browsers, only one will be kingpin!

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It’s amazing how the web has been ignited again in the name of the best JavaScript engine and browser layout engine. Everywhere I turn, there is talk of Ajax, JavaScript frameworks etc. The web has entered another phase; were application are heavily rendered on the client-side instead of the server-side; hence; the need for better JavaScript and rendering engines. The cloud is everywhere and people want to access it from many different devices. The browser war has even made its way to the mobile platform with contenders like Mobile IE, Safari, Opera etc. All these exciting work comes with the duty to support if not all, the major browsers in our applications.  There are lots of browsers but I will concentrate on the major ones in this post. With that said, Let introduce our contenting fellows.

Meet Mater (alias Internet Explore)

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Take your time to absorb his looks. Not handsome but has been around the block for a long time. Internet Explore 1.0 debuted in 1995 to facilitate the growing hunger of the mass to access the world wide web. The use-to-be-great Netscape battled it out with IE till around 1999. IE won hands down not because of Microsoft strategy to include IE in its OS, but because IE stayed on the edge and was the only browser at that time to support a large part of of W3C Dom and CSS standards. After its success over Netscape, Internet Explorer basically stood still from 1999 to 2003 with not much activities except for the usual patches and updates here and there. It was the kingpin of Browser Spring till 2003 when Apple rebelled with Safari. By then most users were sick and tired of the old IE, for nothing had happened to it in a period of 3 years.

Meet   Lightning McQueen ( Firefox )

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Catchewwww, yep, that’s the sound of spend and beauty. It’s lightning mcqueen zipping through browser spring. First released on November 9th 2004, Firefox was the resurrection/rebirth of Netscape but engineered without all the mistakes made by its predecessor. It packed the goody’s on W3C Dom and CSS  standards. Better yet, it was free; not like its father, Netscape. The Netscape/Mozilla team had learnt their lesson and had created a monster, formidable to stand toe to toe with IE. Firefox 2.0 push the game much further, introducing great features such as tab browsing which has now become the standard to most browsers and the extension manager, which by far; has become the most used feature set of Firefox. Firefox boost of both rendering speed (using Gecko) as well as JavaScript execution speed. It made it’s mark, and is hear to stay.

Meet Sally (Google Chrome)

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Fed up with the timeline it takes to release new standards by W3C to support the modern use of browsers, Google decide to spit out Sally with her V8 cafe. V8(Chromes JavaScript engine) and Chrome have been touted as the fastest browser and JavaScript engine as of early 2008 (inception of chrome). Chrome took a different route with JavaScript by building its engine to compile JavaScript to native machine code making it fast. My first impression with Chrome was that of –“here goes another browser for developers to worry about”. Well, I will have to say, I have been very impressed with chrome and look forward to more in the future. After all, Google’s cash making machine primarily comes from search and it’s web apps. Thus, the better the browser,the better their applications’ performance.

Meet  iHudson (Safari)

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Safari was developed by Apple in 2003, to ship with their flagship OS X 10. Apple boasted that Safari was the fasters browser there was but there had actually been no proof. In 2007, a windows version was released, becoming the second Apple product to trend on Microsoft territory after iTunes. Team Safari just announced a couple of months ago, their new JavaScript engine named SquirrelFish; to be the fastest JavaScript engine at present beating Google chrome’s V8. Sally must not be pleased.

Javascript Benchmarks

On same computer, an average of 10 test run on each browser


Browsers

V8 Benchmark Suite-v1 Sunspider  Javascript Benchmark
Internet Explorer 8 beta 70 7890.8ms +/- 1.3%
Safari (Windows) 3.0 71 browse froze everytime
Firefox 3.0 231
3361.6ms +/- 1.5%
Google Chrome 1.0 3200
1250.4ms +/- 8.8%

War in Browser Spring

Its amazing how all these enhancement to the web has suddenly sprung up. Every browser has to stay on the edge just to be competitive. I, for one, I’m no one to complain. Competition breads the best in everything. In the end, the end user benefits. As a developer for the web (sometimes), I’m pleased to see such excitement. IE has itself to blame; for it stayed in dormant state for way to long. Microsoft has the tendency to do that. They lack innovation in some area and I fear the browser is one of them. I could be wrong with IE 8.  MS is slated to release IE 8 sometime next year which is suppose to be more standard compliant  and supports CSS 2.1.

Who do you think will be kingpin? Let me know your thoughts.

Google Gears

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Google  gearslogo_153x43    which has been greatly talk about since its release by the web giant Google has spurred a lot of talk about how web application will be in the current and near future. Gears offers to provide features that are currently needed to speed up “heavy” (memory and data) intensive web application as well as provide off-line abilities.  Gear provides the following accents for web applications :

Local Database

This is used to stored user application data locally on the users computer, providing if not exactly, close off-line db store to OS desktop applications. Gears uses the open-source db SQLite for this functionality and supports normal SQL query.

 

Local Server

The local Serve allows you to cache application information on the client and and serve them locally instead of going back to the server. It can also to automatic updates for URL resource behind the scene.

  

Applications manage the cache using two classes:

  • ResourceStore – for capturing ad-hoc URLs using JavaScript. The ResourceStore allows an application to capture user data files that need to be addressed with a URL, such as a PDF file or an image.
  • ManagedResourceStore – for capturing a related set of URLs that are declared in a manifest file, and are updated automatically. The ManagedResourceStore allows the set of resources needed to run a web application to be captured.

For both types of stores, the set of URLs captured is explicitly controlled by the web application.

Serving and updating cached resources

The LocalServer intercepts HTTP/HTTPS requests and serves them from the cache when all of these conditions are met:

  • The URL is cached in a ResourceStore or ManagedResourceStore,
  • The store’s enabled attribute is set to true, and
  • If the store has a requiredCookie attribute, the request must have a cookie that matches. For further details read Cookies and the LocalServer.

The LocalServer always serves a cached resource when the conditions are met, regardless of the network connection. The URLs contained in a store are eligible for local serving without requiring the application to open the store.

To disable local serving of stored resources and force URLs to be served using the regular network connection, the application can set the store’s enabled attribute to false.

 

WorkerPool

This allows you application to spin off asynchronies processes (with JavaScript) without halting the browser or slowing its responsiveness.

 

These are all great features that web developer have  been wanting for many year now.  A co-worker asked “This is all great news but why do we need another 3rd party engine in our browser to make this happen. We already have flash and the upcoming Silverlight from MS “. Well, flash and Silverlight offer’s similar features like local data store but they also add the extra hefty runtime engine to make it all happen instead of improving the existing and most widely used tools (HTML , CSS, JavaScript etc) .

That’s not to say that Flash, Silverlight and others are about to be left in the dust. If the is one thing they “still” have over Goggle gears, it’s the fact that the UI presentation is the same in any browser. That take away the hustle of testing web application in multiple browsers due to different implementation of the W3C standards. This might change as  like IE (with IE 8 coming up) are becoming more compliant then ever.

There is a lot of speculation as to what will happen to Gears or flash /Silverlight etc, but for now, a better solution for developing off-line web application (using our long existing knowledge of JavaScript, CSS, HTML ) have arrived and should be well noted. Gears is not for every application but if the features fits what you are looking for in your app, take a good look at it.