PC Apps

Two haystacks, one needle

I was very satisfied with the Windows Vista operating system, with which I’ve been on board since Service Pack 1 was released, and for nearly 2 weeks I’ve been floored by how awesome Windows 7 is.  7 shows many improvements, mostly with the UI, over its predecessor, but a few legacy issues remain.  The most frustrating issue for me is likely one that most users will never experience.

I have several email addresses – a couple for each of my domains, some old ones I can’t afford to abandon, and some disposable ones where I don’t care how much spam accumulates.  To manage all these email addresses reasonably I need a local email client that handles such a scenario elegantly.

Mozilla Thunderbird did the job swimmingly for many years, and I enjoyed it very much while I was still using Windows XP.  Thunderbird gave me the option of segregating each inbox or pooling them in a virtual catchall, did wonders with spam filtering, and was overall lightweight and responsive.  Unfortunately Thunderbird wasn’t without its foibles, and overall is a bit of an afterthought for the Mozilla team which meant there were long lulls between sometimes much-needed patches.  When I moved up to Vista I started looking for a replacement when I realized Thunderbird did not hook into the OS-level search engine.

After writing off Microsoft Outlook Express as a bullseye for viruses for over half a decade I was extremely surprised at how much I enjoyed the default Windows email client, Windows Mail.  It’s an elegant and simple piece of software that isn’t much more sophisticated than Outlook Express, but it played nice with multiple email addresses and it was a dream to be able to search my mail right from the Start button search box, even when my mail client was closed!  I was even more impressed by its successor, Windows Live Mail, which I use to this day, for having an even nicer interface.  Windows Live Mail doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but it interfaces very nicely with many Windows apps, not the least of which being Windows Desktop Search which is core to Vista and 7.  It’s very handy to be able to call up any email by searching for some text I remember existing somewhere in the body, or to find a contact to look up a phone number or address, all without the mail client being open.

My only gripe surfaced when I installed Microsoft Outlook, which I use exclusively for work.  I have a zillion emails spanning many years in my work Inbox so search is essential, but what’s frustrating is that both Vista and 7 seem to prioritize the placement of Outlook search results over those from Windows Live Mail.  I tend to only search Outlook mail from the client itself since I’ve always got it open when I’m working from home, but when the client is closed and I’m on Brian time I have no need to search my work email from the Start button.  Worst of all, I always have sufficient hits in work email for any given keyword that my Outlook results fill the entire Start menu, so if I want to see more results I have to open the fatter search window which ends up giving WAY too much information.

I can find no way to prioritize my Windows Live Mail search results over Outlook.  It’s frustrating that I have no control over the search services which are so central to Vista and 7.

It’s inelegant, but I’m thinking of making use of Windows 7’s XP virtual machine for this situation.  I’ll uninstall Outlook (and my work VPN client while I’m at it) and reinstall them on the virtual machine, effectively making a dual boot to completely segregate my work tasks from my personal-use OS.  I suppose I’ll have to share files with the virtual OS as well, install the rest of the Office suite on there, and who knows what else.  I’ll have to make some network shares and map drives, no doubt.  It’s a kludge and I don’t like it.

How about some search love, Microsoft?

PC Apps

If your Vista is not genuine don’t dual boot Windows 7 Beta

I was thrilled to finally get my grubby mitts on a working copy of the Windows 7 beta, but had a nasty surprise waiting for me when I booted back into Vista:

darting eyes

The claim isn’t entirely inaccurate. Lucky for me I know the easiest (but not only) way to appease Windows Genuine Advantage.

I own a legit copy.

I tried Windows Vista back when it was still in beta and I quite liked the experience, but after it went gold I heard almost nothing but horror stories. I had no intention of even touching it until my curiosity was piqued by good reviews of SP1. I downloaded a pirated copy with SP1 slipstreamed and I loved it. I think it’s Microsoft’s best OS so far.

I loved it so much that I went out and bought it a few months ago. I’ve been dreading having to reinstall so I haven’t done so yet.

I rebooted and was stopped by a dialog before reaching the desktop. I was given the option to enter a new product key now or later. I chose now, typed in my legit key, and successfully activated. For some reason I still had a message in the corner saying “This copy of WIndows is not genuine.” One more reboot took care of that.

legit again

I don’t (only) mean to be self-righteous here. I just wanted to warn the 3 or 4 other people who use a pirated copy of Vista to curb their enthusiasm for Windows 7 (that’s why I SEO’d the heck out of the title).

I just wanted to volunteer to be an unpaid quality control agent for their multi-billion dollar cash cow, but I suppose Microsoft felt I wasn’t giving quite enough.

The scary thing is that I honestly feel a little relieved to be using a legit product key right now, even though I didn’t reinstall. For a split second a product key felt like a tangible thing.

PC Apps

How very forward of you, Firefox

I was catching up on the news of the day by means of my RSS aggregator server’s feed in Firefox. A story on Gamasutra interested me so I clicked the link, and was surprised to see this on my screen:

This was a bit of a shock as I’d visited the site a few hours before, using the same browser, with no such message. I was quite sure I’d disabled Firefox’s phishing filter, though perhaps not since I upgraded to version 3.0 recently. There was no logo or brand on this warning page, and my NoScript extension showed that the page was being generated by my PC and not from a remote web server. I decided to click “Ignore this warning” and proceeded to the Gamasutra site. (I’m not hyperlinking it in case there’s a real threat)

So I’m greeted by this red dropdown warning. I can’t right-click it so it’s not an element being rendered by the browser. It’s part of my browser’s UI. I went back a page and clicked “Why was this site blocked?”

Google. And the report said there were no threats found. I looked through Firefox’s options.

The phishing filter was turned on. I don’t want to send Google a receipt for every single website I browse. I disabled it.