Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 Now Available

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Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is now available for testing! If you would like to learn more about it’s release you can find plenty of information on the official release blog post.

If you would like to download and test Internet Explorer 8 yourself, you can find it here:
http://www.microsoft.com/ie8

You’ll find versions for 32- and 64-bit editions of Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008. In addition to English, IE8 Beta 2 is available in Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), and German. Additional languages will be available soon.

If you would like to see an overview of the new features implemented in Internet Explorer 8 then you can find them in great detail here:
http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2008/08/27/internet-explorer-8-beta-2-now-available.aspx

Enjoy the early notification so you can be one of the first to test out Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2!

UPDATE (2008-08-28 @ 12:38 AM):
Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 passes the Acid2 Test! Reports were made back in late December 2007 that internal builds of Internet Explorer were passing the Acid2 Test, but now we have a public release that is passing.

On the Acid3 Test, Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 scores a 21/100 with a notification at the top of the window stating that:

This website wants to run the following add-on: ‘MSXML 3.0 SP10′ from ‘Microsoft Corporation’. If you trust the website and the add-on and want to allow it to run, click here…

After running the “MSXML 3.0 SP10″ add-on, Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 still only scores a 21/100.

Google Suggests: Now out of Beta

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Google Suggests, which is an auto-complete feature for the popular Google search engine, has now graduated from Beat school and is now available directly on Google’s main page! The official announcement is in The Official Google Blog.

Previously the Suggests feature was only available by using a specific link to the beta version or by installing a 3rd party script or plug-in to alter Google’s main page.

If you used or tested Google Suggests while it was in the Beta stage (for around four years) then you probably realized that not much has change at all except possibly performance.

According to Katie Watson, a representative from Google’s Global Communications & Public Affairs, not everyone is able to directly use this feature just yet:

This feature is gradually rolling out over the course of this week. Some people might not be able to see it until as late as Friday, so it could take some time.

If you just can’t wait then you may have to use the old link instead until it becomes live and available to you.

Noah and the Whale – 5 Years Time

So, I came across this song on Virgin Radio (which is an Internet radio station) and now I absolutely love this song!

I thought I would share this song with everyone and just help spread “Noah and the Whale” as much as I can!

I heard the song, typed in some lyrics in Google and bam…I found the song that I was looking for. Now I give it to you in the form of a YouTube video.

Microsoft Desktops: New Virtual Desktop Manager for Windows

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If you’ve ever used Linux for a while and started to get familiar with it then you probably used Workspaces (or at least on occasion).

Most people who get used to Workspaces find it difficult to live without them and switching back to Windows can be difficult or not even fully possible.

Now you can have your Workspaces in Microsoft Windows with Desktops!

Desktops is currently at version 1.0, but runs smoothly. By default it comes with four workspaces and is a single executable file. No installation is required at all!

So far, I really like the direction that Desktops is going! It seems that a lot of work has been put into it to make it work as intended. However, I did find several flaws with the behavior and limitations that Desktops currently has.

Upon starting, you will notice that none of the other workspace areas are activated until you select them. Selecting them takes a short period of time to configure that workspace and show applications that are apparently pre-decided for all workspaces (such as system tray applications and icons).

There was no way to drag windows between workspaces and that caused other limitations. Web browsers such as Opera and Firefox don’t like to run more than one “instance” of the application. It’s easy to open more windows to separate your tabs, but what happens when you’re in another workspace and need a browser window? Clicking the little application icon will most likely result in one of the two.

You will receive a message explaining that there is already an instance of the browser running (in another workspace of course) or your browser will interpret the action to mean that you need another tab and simply open another tab in the window that is not even visible (on another workspace).

These can be frustrating alone, but one of the most frustrating things is that your applications such as Winamp, AIM, Digsby, Trillian, Windows Live Messenger or where you’re using are not accessible via the  system tray in other workspaces so you won’t get a visual notification when that girl that you’re interested in sends you a message on AIM inviting you out with her for a night in the club. ;)

I also noticed that Aero didn’t work on workspaces 2-4 on my system. Maybe it’s still too soon to expect flawless performance though. :P Maybe these will be fixed in the near future.

If you’ve followed little tools like this that Microsoft has released in the past then you may have also seen Virtual Desktop Manager which was released a while back. Another desktop manager worth mentioning is Vista/XP Virtual Desktop Manager which offers some features stunningly close to those found in Linux!

Opera 9.6: Feed Previews

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Opera just released a snapshot today of version 9.6 with several new features. If you want, you can get an overview on all of them here.

For now I will just be talking about the Feed preview feature that they just included. I have been asking for this for a while now since Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari already support this (maybe others as well).

With the preview feature, it’s very easy to look over a feed and decide if the content is worthy of your subscription. Previously in Opera, clicking a feed icon meant that you had to immediately decide if you wanted the feed or not.

You could of course remove the feed later upon realizing it’s not worth following, but it was just extra steps that shouldn’t be there. Now the feeds are not mixed with your other subscriptions unless you decide to add a feed after previewing it.

The design seems to always be generated by Opera on the client side just to add a style that you can easily recognize and get a quick overview. The theme or design that they use is very clean and simple.

They also insert a little badge of honor at the bottom of the page to let you know that Opera generated the preview for you and they even inform you of the address to the feed!

Over all I’m pleased with this addition, however, I do feel that it took far to long to implement.

It’s a little sad sometimes to see our stagnant friend Internet Explorer a head of Opera sometimes in various aspects and implementations. For the most part Opera is usually a head, but at the same time they try to get a feel for things long before they decide to implement them to make sure they are promising…which is a good move, but frustrating sometimes to the end users who are expecting a feature for so long.

EDIT:
Here is a screenshot comparing the same Feed Preview across Opera, Internet Explorer and Firefox respectively. Opera takes the cake on simplicity. :D

If you can take a screenshot of a kyleabaker.com Feed Preview in any other browsers that I didn’t have access to while taking the ones above then please take them and upload them to ImageShack or something and post a link!

Coding: Online Alarm

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I’ve been working on my Online Alarm clock that I start writing more than a year ago! Really, I’ve just been going back to try to finish more of the user interface and clean up more of the code.

The work that I’ve been doing to the user interface includes bringing the design into the years of Web 2.0 with cleaner, larger and simpler layouts.

Just take a look at the difference between the original log-in page (top) compared to the log-in page after I completed functionality and updated the styling to make it a little more Web 2.0 friendly!

It’s amazing to me how you can have a functional web application, but if you don’t make it look nice then it seems like it’s so much more difficult to navigate and use. User interfaces really help sell a product as well, so hopefully I can get this one setup nicely.

I had planned on uploading the source code to the Google Code page that I made for it, but I’m still waiting to work out some kinks.

Mainly, I’m waiting until I get the GUI finished a little more so I will know which MySQL fields are needed and should be installed by an installation script.

The script itself shouldn’t be too difficult, but I really need to map out the process before I start coding it so I can make the installation as simple as possible at the same time.

I’m thinking it will be as simple as uploading all of the files to your server and completing a setup form that just requires server credentials (of course) and an initial Admin username and password. That should be quick and easy and get everything ready to start using!

There is also the issue of completing the admin control panel. If I don’t complete it then the admin will have little control over the service unless they choose to edit everything via phpMyAdmin or something like that.

It shouldn’t be too long before I can bring this project to a version 0.1 level, haha. Then you’ll be able to download the source and do what you wish with it for free (hopefully submit bug reports and patches :P )!

How-To: Share your Internet connection between multiple computers (Ad-Hoc)

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If you’ve ever been in a situation similar to mine where you have multiple computers, one Ethernet cable and no wireless router then don’t sweat it. You’re still in luck!

If one of your computers has at least two network cards, for example an Ethernet port and wireless capabilities, then you can connect one computer via the Ethernet connection and broadcast that same connection over that computer’s wireless card so that other computers can connect. I’ll show you how below.

I will be walking through the steps in Windows Vista, but the steps should be the same across all platforms. If you’re using a different platform then just try to find the same dialogs and options on that system and everything should work fine.

  1. Open the Control Panel. To do this, go to Start->Control Panel
    If you’re in Windows Vista and your Control Panel window looks like this:

    You will need to click on the option labeled “Classic View” in the upper left corner of the window. This will change the layout of the Control Panel so that I don’t have to rewrite this How-To in multiple different directions. After changing the layout, your Control Panel should look like this:
  2. In the image above, the icon for “Network and Sharing Center” is selected. Double click on this option. When the window changes you should see a list of tasks in the left column. Click on the item from the list labeled “Manage network connections“. This will open a new window that should show the network cards available on your computer.
  3. Make sure that your Ethernet cable is plugged into your computer and your Internet source and that the Internet connection is working fine on that computer. Now right click on the option labeled “Local Area Connection” and select “Properties” from the menu (User Account Control will most likely ask you if you wish to continue and just agree and click continue if it does).
  4. The Properties window will open on a tab labeled “Networking” with a list of items that the connection uses. Just ignore all of that and switch to the tab labeled “Sharing.” The options on the “Sharing” tab should be selected as follows. Enable the option labeled “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.” Disable the option labeled “Allow other network users to control or disable the shared Internet connection.” After matching these settings, click “OK” to save the changes.
  5. You can now close the window for “Network Connections” and reopen the window for “Network and Sharing Center.” If you have already closed this window by accident then you can follow steps 1 and 2 again, except this time instead of clicking on the option to “Manage network connections” you want to select the option to “Setup a connection or network.
  6. When the “Setup a connection or network window opens, it will have a list of networks that you can setup. The one that you want to setup is selected in the image above and is labeled “Setup a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network. Setup a temporary network for sharing files or an Internet connection.
  7. When the “Setup a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network” window is open, it will explain a little bit about the network. Just click “Next” until you get to a form that is empty and looks like the form below:

    You need to give the network that you are creating a name that you will be able to recognize and it can be anything that you want!

    You also have the option to add security to your network. I highly advise this as you have more control over your network, so just select the option for “WEP” and below it enter some form of a password.

    You can click the option to “Display characters” while you are entering the key/passphrase. This will make it easier to make a new key for your network.

    Don’t forget to also enable the option to “Save this network” if you plan on using it later!

    If you hover the text box for the key/passphrase, you will see a notification tooltip that explains how the passwords work. You should follow those instructions to create your password and make sure it is the correct length as specified in the tooltip.

  8. Click “Next” to complete the setup and close any open windows. Your Ad-Hoc network is now setup and you should now be able to see a wireless signal on your other computers. Connecting to your network will require the users to know the key/passphrase that you entered, but once connected..all of the other computers should be able to browse the web and connect to instant messengers…anything you need!

If you have any questions then please ask them in the comments! Just remember to follow the steps closely before asking. Enjoy!

HP dv4000 Maintenance

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Well, my HP dv4000 is closing in on being four years old now (by the way, that’s not actually mine in the picture…that’s just the same model. I have taken the stickers off of mine already, haha). It’s been a great laptop and it seems like it is still going to be holding strong for a while longer, but one thing about it is really irritating me.

The cpu fan is so loud sometimes. For some reason it will start making a really loud noise when it spins while other times it’s perfectly quiet and normal.

It kind of sounds like something may be rubbing, so I’m thinking that I will open it up soon and inspect. This is definitely not the first computer that I will have disassembled.

I did a little research and came across a good pdf that HP actually offered on their own web site, but just to be sure that I have it in the future I’m going to host it here as well.

The pdf is a Maintenance and Service Guide for an HP dv4000 notebook pc and a Compaq Presario v4000 notebook pc. It has some very helpful diagrams to show you the order of disassembling the notebook and also how many screws to remove for each part and each step.

If you have the same laptop as me and you’re needing to do some repairs then first of all make sure you feel comfortable with taking it apart yourself and secondly make sure you get a copy of this pdf and follow it closely!

I’ll do a write-up when I actually go through the cleaning process with mine. I actually need to see if the fan is just dusty and dirty or if it’s going bad and needs to be replaced, but I will take pictures and post a write-up regardless.

If anyone else has ever taken apart a laptop to fix a small annoying issue like this then please tell me how it went and if it was worth it in the end! Wish me luck! :D

Gmail: Server Error 502

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Well, Gmail has been down for a while today. I’m hoping it will come back up pretty soon, but if you’re also getting an Error 502 message then you may be waiting for a while as well.

I did a little research (google is your friend..unless it’s Gmail with a 502 message, haha) and it looks like it happens fairly often to people. One person reported not being able to login for up to 4 days!

I also read that sometimes logging in with a different browser will temporarily fix the problem, but it didn’t work for me with Opera, Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Hopefully everyone else is having better luck.

UPDATE: It appears that the Gmail outages were indeed as wide spread as I had assumed. Webmonkey.com even covered the issue in their blog (hours after I released a post about it, haha) and got the following statement from Google on the issue:

Since about 2 p.m. Pacific Time today, many Gmail users have been unable to access their email. We are very sorry for this interruption in service. The issue is being caused by a temporary outage in the contacts system used by Gmail which is preventing Gmail from loading properly. We are starting to roll out a fix now and hope to have the problem resolved as quickly as possible. Even though you may not be able to get to your inbox right now, your mail is safe, including new incoming messages.

We will post an update in the Gmail Help Center ( http://mail.google.com/support/ ) when more information is available.

Gmail seems to be back in order now and apparently came back online around 8pm EST. Hopefully no one is still affected by the outages.

Windows Vista: Wishlist

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As I slowly tweak my installation of Vista Ultimate (64-bit) I’m beginning to realize that I really like the Ubuntu Linux desktop environment.

I keep finding myself tweaking things that are basically already there in Linux. For example, I have dual screens (multiple monitors) on my desktop computer and I hate the fact that Vista will only allow my to have one task bar and in only one monitor.

My solution was to install UltraMon, which allows me to have a task bar on the second monitor that even holds it’s own window list. So now my windows that are open on monitor #2 don’t show up in the task bar of the other monitor. It’s much more organized! This can very easily be accomplished in Linux without the need to install extra software.

On top of that, UltraMon adds some cool little buttons to the top of each window near the minimize, maximize and close buttons. The two buttons that are added allow me to do the following:

  1. Stretch the window across both monitors for a double full screen effect. This can be handy at times!
  2. Move this window to the other monitor. This is very handy indeed. It just switches screens and even holds the same place on the other screen as it did on the first one. This works back and forth.

I would also have them install more gadgets by default in the Windows Sidebar. I had to go and download several that I thought were very useful.

  • System Monitor, which allows me to keep track of several things including: CPU, RAM, Wireless connection with a progress bar for strength, IP Address and External IP Address and even Battery Monitor (which I obviously don’t use on my desktop, but it would be great for my laptop…if it would even hold a charge, lol).
  • Wireless Network, which just shows a better signal meter and percentage as well as the network connecting name. It just looks better than the one you can use with System Monitor.
  • Volume Control, just a meter that looks similar to the wireless signal meter, but you can scroll through the meter to increase or decrease the volume very easily. I love it cause I hate clicking on the tray icon to change the volume setting (you can scroll on the tray icon as well, but there is one cool thing you can’t do with the tray icon..). You can even middle click on the volume gadget meter and it will toggle mute on and off! Very handy and quick!
  • DriveInfo, shows you a hard drive with a progress bar below it indicating the percentage of the drive used. It also shows the amount used in MB/GB/TB what ever you may be using, the drive letter and a number percentage. Just pretty cool for keeping a close eye on your drive…but not wasting any time at all.
  • The last one that I added to the list was the GMail Counter gadget. I love this one. It just gives me a count of the unread messages I have in my inbox and there are others that give you previews (GMail Checker), but I don’t need the previews really. I really like the fact that when it finds new mail, I get any kind of notification sound I want and currently it’s the classic “You’ve Got Mail” alert! I love it!

After adding those gadgets to the list of available ones and adding them to the Windows Sidebar, I had to add a couple weather gadgets. One for home and one for school. That just topped it off!

One thing that also irritates me is the fact that when I’m downloading updates I can’t tell which update it’s currently downloading and how much of it is downloaded other than a rough estimate in the form of a percentage. I loved how in Ubuntu I could drop down a list of the files that are being downloaded and see in real time how much was downloaded for each file as well as over all. Sure they want to keep it simple in Windows, but a drop down arrow with more details wouldn’t be all that hard to add on and would be out of the way.

I also wish that Windows would come with a couple other browsers installed by default. I’d like to see Firefox, Opera, Flock and Safari installed along side Internet Explorer by default. I know Flock is just a derivative of Firefox, but the difference in uses of the browser are enough to make it worth adding.

This would clearly add to the needed space for installations, but I ‘ve got to tell you that Microsoft has never been good at using hard drive space. I’ve currently split an 80GB drive into a partition of 50GB for Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit and 28GB for Ubuntu 8.04 64-bit and ~2GB for Linux Swap space. Of those, Ubuntu is currently fresh installed with about 10 extra installed applications and it’s only using ~6GB of the 28GB available to it. Windows Vista is a fresh install with about 10 installed applications (most of which are the same as the ones I added in Ubuntu) and it’s using ~30GB.

Okay, so I just finished installing Windows Vista SP1 and had to do a couple reboots in the middle of posting this and apparently SP1 actually clears some junk from your computer, because now I’m using ~28GB! That’s almost 2GB less than what I was using before and that’s even after an update with a service pack! It would be really cool to see the installation size continually shrink as the other service packs are released! Maybe to something under 10GB would be great! The fact that Vista is still using ~28-30GB on a fresh install with the exception of ~10 applications (UltrMon, flash, browsers and messengers) is just crazy when you compare the graphically updates to Vista vs. XP and then compare Vista to Ubuntu and the installation size of Ubuntu.

Now that is just sad. Ubuntu supported my wireless card straight from the first time I logged in. In Vista I had to logout, login to Ubuntu, download the drivers and save them on the NTFS partition, reboot into Vista and install them. How sad is that? With all that hard drive space used there wasn’t a single supported driver found! The driver that I had to manually download works perfect, but the fact that it wasn’t already installed with Vista makes me wonder what the ~28-30GB of space is used for!

I’d also like to see a repository similar to the “Add/Remove Applications” feature in Ubuntu and several other Linux distros. This would be a great way to provide alternative applications without wasting installation space by installing them all initially. In Ubuntu, the list is broken down into categories such as Internet, Accessories, etc. and makes the task of finding and searching for new applications very simple. This would probably never reach a Windows system (integrated with the operating system by default), but it would be a major improvement!

In a quick recap, here are the things I’d wish for Vista to be a little better:

  1. Microsoft should either buy UltraMon and work it straight into the operating system or implement their own support for handling multiple taskbars and making workspace functionality better. In Ubuntu I use four workspaces on a daily basis and I find it hard to work without them. Since Windows doesn’t even have spaces it should at least make the best possible use of the limited space available.
  2. The gadgets are a little lame, but they are definitely promising. They can be very handy and I listed a few gadgets that are actually useful and serve a purpose. They speed-up my activities in Vista a little and they should help anyone really. I think Microsoft should be including a larger selection of gadgets by default. Only the best of the best, but a wide range of default ones would be great!
  3. Windows Updates should be a little more helpful and informative. Sometimes I want to know the exact update that is being downloaded while it is being downloaded and even watch the download progress. I want to be able to see what my operating system is doing and not just be told about what it is doing.
  4. I think a wider selection of applications should be installed by default. I listed several of the major web browsers, but I’m not just mentioning this to boost the web browsing industry. I’d like to also see alternative messengers such as Pidgin, Miranda, Trillian, Digsby, etc available for the users to choose from. Maybe even Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk.
  5. Installation size is becoming less and less of a problem or issue these days, but don’t we all like to see that the applications that we are using are optimized as much as they possibly can be? I know I have three other hard drives and almost 2TB of storage space on my desktop, but that doesn’t mean that I want my operating system wasting space when it could be using it much more efficiently.
  6. Microsoft should handle a repository list similar to how Linux does so that we can look through a list of applications that we can install that are very popular. This would mean that we have fast access to installing a wealth of applications and at the same time are not wasting space by having them pre-installed. I know this will probably never happen with Windows since it has survived so long without this feature, but it would dramatically improve the end-users experience with finding and using new software that they may have never heard of before.

That’s about all I care to write about right now, but Vista could use plenty of other improvements such as workspaces and wobbly windows. These can most likely be added on with third party applications, but they should simply be available by default like they are in Ubuntu!

Windows Vista has a major security problem..

Go figure, as soon as I get off my lazy butt and install my copy of Microsoft Vista Ultimate one of my friends sends me a link to some (as he calls it) disheartening news.

Apparently two researchers,  Mark Dowd of IBM Internet Security Systems (ISS) and Alexander Sotirov, of VMware Inc., have found a hole in the way Vista’s security system works. The hole in general is that they took advantage of Vista’s framework and architecture and are now able to do basically anything they want with a Vista system.

“The genius of this is that it’s completely reusable,” said Dino Dai Zovi, a well-known security researcher and author. “They have attacks that let them load chosen content to a chosen location with chosen permissions. That’s completely game over.

Source: SearchSecurity.TechTarget.com

The sad thing is that Microsoft has a very large paid staff who should be able to code better and smarter than this, but it simply doesn’t happen that way. I think they should just open up their source and let the public pick at it until it’s bullet proof like it should be.

Thank’s Phred/fearphage for the link. It’s a very weird coincidence that I hadn’t thought about installing Vista for the longest time and then the day after a major security discovery I install it, lol. Sounds like I’m asking for my data and information to be stolen, haha.