Vista sucks, let me count the ways

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Microsoft's Windows Vista has become the most hated release of Windows yet - missing features (hardware accelerated GUI, database-based filing system, smart search engine, etc), irritating features (the security requesters), confusing number of editions (seven available in the USA, two more in Europe), confusing graphics system (DirectX 10.0, incompatible with the upcoming DX10.1, slower than DX9), and more.

The latest thorn in its side has been the controversy over network throttling when media is being played. The problem is that when Windows is playing audio, even if the player is paused, it limits the network speed to half what it should be. Just wonderful. You buy a multi-gigahertz machine with multiple gigs of ram, several hundred gigs of disk space, but yet playing music makes your network speed drop to half what it should be.

Needless to say this hasn't sat well with, well, anyone outside of Microsoft. While there haven't been any public floggings yet (aw!), Microsoft's uber guru Mark Russinovich replied saying (paraphrase) "well, the network uses a lot of CPU, so to make sure the audio plays we naturally had to throttle the network". 41% CPU usage for copying a file across the network!! ZOMGZ!!!1!

So, to set the record straight, Linux kernel hacker Robert Love responded with a wonderful reply that cut Mr Russinovich's reply to shreds, simply saying that Vista is poorly designed and that Linux doesn't suffer from the same stupid bugs. Thank you, Mr Love.

Linux (and every other well designed OS): (best French accent) douze points

Windows Vista: (best French accent) nil point

Xenu's Link Sleuth - still the best link checker

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A very important tool in a web developer's toolkit is a good link checker. There are tonnes of different ones on the market, some that promise to make your whites whiter and floss your cat, but in the end you just want a simple program that will check your site for broken links, maybe broken code too if you're so interested. A few of the features I'm always looking for include:

  • Option to include or exclude external links, e.g. if a page on mysite.com links to yoursite.com I may not care if that site itself is working.
  • The option to override what is considered an external link, which is useful if you put your media files on a separate hostname.
  • An option on how many checks it runs simultaneously. Some can handle hundreds of outgoing simultaneous requests (if your machine and net connection can cope) but I tend to turn this down and leave it running in the background.

After years of trying different ones I continually return to Xenu's Link Sleuth, a simple yet powerful app that does what is needed, without a load of unwanted fancy options. Xenu's doesn't confuse you with a list of unimportant non-broken URLs, and it doesn't take a ten-page wizard interface to set up each project, instead you can simply paste in the starting point and let it go to town, selecting extra options if you specifically need to. Why does it have to be more complicated than that?

Though it is a Windows app and I use a Mac, it works fine in Parallels for Mac, and probably would work in Crossover Office too; failing that, there's always holding on to a PC for these occasional tasks ;-)

A great utility that is well worth using.

The world wisens up about OOXML

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The world is finally realizing that Microsoft's OOXML "format" is the old dog's usual tricks - incomplete, relies heavily on undocumented tricks to work, which puts full control back in their hands. This week both Brazil and India have decided to vote "no" at the upcoming ISO meeting where OOXML's fate will be decided. Good to see that, despite Microsoft's attempts, some countries can't be bought off.

Radiant is a great CMS

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I just wanted to pass on the meme on a great RoR-based CMS - Radiant. It is OSS, very stable, fairly actively developed and has a really good plugin system.

While searching for a RoR-based CMS I looked at it a few others:
Mephisto

  • Development has dried up due to the developers not having the time to continue it.
  • No support for snippets (see below).

RailFrog

  • Development seems to have dried up, the last messages on the blog were from 2006 and talked about a complete rewrite, which is usually a bad sign IMHO.

Some of the benefits that got me hooked on Radiant include:

  • snippets (keep your content DRY),
  • separate layouts vs content,
  • layouts support custom mimetypes (ensure your RSS feeds get the right content type),
  • the ability to structure the pages in a heirarchy,
  • a set of custom tags for manipulating the content,
  • built-in support for textile.
  • Some existing plugins that make life evey easier, specifically Google Analytics and Virtual Domains (multiple sites from one install!).

The few limitations I see are:

  • the plugin system needs to be improved to make extending the pages list easier,
  • the blog-like functionality needs improving,
  • some of the documentation needs work.

I've already used it on one site and am working to move all of our more static sites over to it - the less static ones will have to wait until I write a few plugins.

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