Saturday, March 26, 2005

Return to the dark side ?

Don't get me wrong. I love my PowerBook, and I think OSX is great. I first got my PowerBook when my old Vaio C1MT started to get a little slow and old.. and Sony in their wisdom decided not to ship lpatops in Australia with Bluetooth. But now with the advent of the tiny VGN-T27GP they seem to be taking connected mobile users seriously, so with VirtualPC not quite keeping up with my needs it seemed like an ideal choice.

Now however I've got to get everything re-installed and move my Office suite back across from the old C1MT and get everything back up to speed.

I'm going to miss some things from OSX though. I can't find anything like BluePhoneElite and some of the keystroke combinations I've come to know and love. But in the months I've been away the Windows platform hasn't been standing still either so I think it's going to be fun exploring again.

I'll keep my PowerBook fired up and up-to-date, and keep in touch with the community. Maybe as time goes by it'll be easier to swap between them on an ad hoc basis (mail is the biggest issue - maybe I need an Exchange server !)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cool windows app !

One of my favourite productivity tools on OSX is QuickSilver ... a couple of key strokes to launch any application or open any document.

Finally found a Windows app that's almost as good. It's called SlickRun from Bayden Systems.

Rather than catalogue everything on the disk it operates using 'magic words' - predefined and user extensible shortcuts that you type in once hitting a keystroke to activate the app.

It's very cool, and helps ease this issues of moving from one platform to the other. It's also good as it reduces mouse moments to hunt through menus to find an infrequently used app.

I'd like to see it extend to cataloging a la QuickSilver, and maybe offering a list of matched apps and documents - learning preferences from experience, but it's a worthwhile download as it stands

Friday, March 11, 2005

Ooops - there goes my SQL Server database

I had a very bad moment today. Possibly in the world order of things not catastrophic, but enough to really spoil my day.

As a result of a series of coincidences that can never happen, can't be reproduced and may just occur again when I'm least expecting it my PowerBook suffered a hard-stop today. VirtualPC was open and merrily running a DTS Transfer of some tables in the SQL Instance. The world went grey and the PowerBook restarted....

Moments later I start up VPC and kick off Enterprise Manager and... there it is... the database with all the changes from the last couple of days (and yeah, I was about to back it up when the disaster struck) and right next to it the word suspect. Various assorted attempts to re-attach it failed (full chkdsk to make sure there was no damage and even creating a dummy empty log file to see if I could get it to verify... all failed) and I was resigned to trying to remember what stored procs I'd created and tables I'd added and changed (and there where a lot... it's early days on this particular project and development is at full steam ahead)

A quick Google on the subject to see if I've got any hope revealed a couple of woeful utilities that where no help what-so-ever and then I came across what turned out to be my saviour... MSSQLRecovery from OfficeRecovery wasn't very happy with the file at first - complaining of I/O errors, but replacing the log file with the earlier created empty one seemed to do the trick... and it started tip-toeing through the mess that was my database....

A few nail-biting hours later I was looking through a SQL script to recreate my tables and another to restore the carefully crafted Stored Procedures and the day was a lot better. There are a couple of curiosities in there - but it'll do me good to step through and verify why some things are how they are.

I'm often a little cynical about applications that offer to dig you out of the hell that is a corrupt file... but these guys seem to be as good as their word. If they can do this well for a SQL Server database, I can only imagine how good their Office, Outlook and other database recovery tools are. Hopefully I'll never have to find out ;)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Windows 95 - it just won't go away !

I had quite a challenge today.... a friend who lives a thousand kilometres away had a problem with their laptop. It's a fairly reliable, although a very aged, ThinkPad.... and it always chooses to go wrong either when there is a deadline or overseas trip due. Today was no different.

Windows started fine ... but no icons, Start button or other desktop accoutrements that are pretty critical to getting anything done !

As the problems had started during an email session the first panic was viral or spyware - not only is the ThinkPad a little long in the tooth so is the IBM AV installation (last updated I suspect when we last had a problem - over a year ago !) but luckily files seemed intact (how many people remember that Win95 included a copy of ProgMan - that hangover from Win3.x !) so it was a case of finding out where the trouble was and making it go away.

To cut a long story short (and avoid a long rambling tale of finding install CDs, coping with a missing back-slash key on the keyboard configuration and dictating instructions to a smart, but not command-line computer nerd, person on the end of a phone line) the issue was a corrupt version of explorer.exe ... pretty significant in it's own way.... luckily an extract from to the root of the C drive and fixing the path to point there before c:\windows and we where good to go.

But.. it got me thinking... just how many people out there are still using Windows 95, IE4 and correspondingly archaic versions of MS Office ? They work well enough for day-to-day and as a way of avoiding costly and time consuming upgrades to WinXP and Office 2004 (often on hardware that just wouldn't cope) or a hard to cope with migration to Linux (which may not have drivers for the hardware). I know a recent survey of Mac users showed something like 40% of the user base are still on version9 or earlier - either because OSX doesn't support their hardware or they've not found a compelling reason to upgrade.

While I've never used 'Classic' OS 9 and before and can't see any situation where I'll be supporting people using it the fact I've had a couple of Win95 requests recently makes me wonder if it's worth digging out an old licence and adding another VirtualPC instance so I've got an interface in front of me, rather than relying on memories of almost a decade ago...