Thursday, June 01, 2006

Get a taste of Vista on XP

Craving for Vista? The next version of Windows, named Vista won't be avaliable to consumers until next year, and considering it's thrist of computing resources, your existing system might not be powerful enough to run it smoothly. Bellow is a screen shot of my desktop with some of the stuff I'll be showing off :)

Some features of Vista can already be tried out on XP, here's some:

1. IE 7 beta (download English version, Beta 2)
Do more with Internet Explorer 7
Yup, IE 7 is here, the first version of IE in history that has temped me to try it. Thanks to the pressure from Firefox, this supposed "Vista only" update is now avaliable for XP. The best new feature that I like is the new rendering engine that is updated and more standards compliant, which means that I can use more CSS coding in my future websites, and I could expect that my site would look more like it should be in a standards compliant browser such as Firefox. If you haven't done a website yourself, you might not know that the old IE 6 used to screw up your site frequently, requiring you to do specific tweaks to your HTML code, just to make it look right in IE, I hope those day would go away with people upgrading to IE7, or Firefox.

Other new features include all the features that you'd expect from a modern browser, including tabs, RSS, search box...etc, which is all already standard features on all other major browsers, like Firefox, Safari and Opera. Now, threatend by the popularity of Firefox, Microsoft finally put them in IE, by heavily copying features from major competetors, of course. One good thing is the tab implementation, which offers a clear new tab button out of the box. Firefox completely hid the tab function by default, requiring you to activate it. Another suprise is that the search box defaulted to Google, instead of MSN. It is said that it's because that's the settings it detected on my system(maybe Google desktop did the settings some how?), nice!

However, it's still in beta, which isn't stable enough. It terminates it self when you are low on memory, and it eats up your memory pretty fast. Also, you need to first click on Flash movies to "activate it", then it'll run, which is ridiculus. Firefox is still my top choice for it's stability, security and easy customisation; but IE 7 sure is a nice toy :)

2. Windows Media Player 11 beta (English beta here)
Simplicity In Design
The last version, WMP10 took a page from iTunes, and made it my video player of choice. It has nice media file organisation capabilities, and video controls just the way you'd expect it to be. However, it still can't beat iTunes, as iTunes is still king of user friendlyness. With this update, it's copying the album art view from Sony's Sonicstage, and entering the "cool looks club". You can even make it search for album info and pictures for any song, but this feature is real slow, and some times screws up. It's yet another nice toy, with great usability. However, iTunes is still easier to use, and Sonicstage still looks better then WMP11. (Sonicstage CP4.0 rocks, it's only flaw is lack of multi-language support for files)

3. Google desktop (get it here)
Google Desktop
2 major features of Vista are integrated file search and the sidebar with gadgets (well, toys like a clock and the news on your desktop). You can get both with Google desktop. Once the software finished scanning your harddisk, the search is blazing fast, narowing your list as you type in each letter. However, since I have my files quite organised, I found my self less frequently using search. Also, I tend to remember my files by location, instead of file name, which retards me from doing a search. the sidebar, on the other hand, takes up too much space on my small screen, and the widgets (gadgets in Microsoft jargon) arn't as good looking as Konfabulator's, mentioned below.

4. Yahoo Widgets(previously Konfabulator) (US & Taiwan versions)
Yahoo! Widget Engine Icon
Why use a "sidebar" when you can move each widget around? Here is the pioneer of the concept: get info from the web onto your desktop without opening your browser, and making your desktop beautiful at the same time. Since then, we've got clones such as Apple's MacOS X dashboard, Google desktop's sidebar, Microsoft's Vista Gadgets and Opera Widgets. But I still like the first one best. You can get traffic updates, news feeds, email notifications, weather and clocks and calanders on your screen in the form of wonderfull eyecandys.

5. XP power toys Alt-Tab Replacement
(choose Alt-Tab Replacement from the list on the right side)

Vista offers screenshots of the opened windows when you use Alt-Tab to switch between apps, to help you choose the one you want. Here's the equivilant in XP. (You can't see the app titles because it's darkblue on a black background, that because I installed something else to change the look.)

At the end of this post, here's another of my screen shots. This one better reflects my software usage, since I normally don't use WMP11 for music, nor IE7 for browsing. I use Sonicstage (official site & download link) when I want the cool look, and always use Firefox as my browser. The floting clock and circular memory meter is part of Yahoo Widgets. You may notice that my MSN messenger is skinned with Wave11. Also, my whole system (including the black statusbar) is skinned with Brico Pack Vista Inspirat (This is a system hack, it might screw up your system, so if you don't know what you're doing, don't do it) Last, I've got Objectdock on the bottom, to get a Mac like dock :)

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