Windows Vista

I know that Microsoft does not support and recommends against installing XNA Game Studio Express on Windows Vista. But this free (as in $0) product, that was released today (*), is too cool to skip. Since I only have Windows Vista installed on my machine I had to give it a try anyway.

XNA is a .NET based framework for creating and running your own games on both Windows and the Xbox 360. Microsoft has created a special version of the .NET 2.0 CLR that runs on the Xbox 360. Check out this and this Channel 9 video for more information on XNA. The second part has a very cool demo with live debugging in Visual Studio of a racing game running on an Xbox 360.

In short Microsoft's goal is "Bringing Game Development to the Masses".

XNA Game Studio Express is an add-on for Visual C# Express 2005. Since I read in the readme that it should be able to install on Windows Vista, I went ahead after installing Visual C# Express 2005.

The XNA GSE setup did not succeed because Visual C# Express crashed while registering the project templates. Running with elevated privileges and turning off User Account Control did not help. Forcing an install with no rollback by using "msiexec /i xnagse_setup.msi DISABLEROLLBACK=1" did not help either. Visual C# Express crashed while creating an XNA project.

Then I found out on the XNA Game Studio Express forum that I should install the Beta of Service Pack 1 for Visual C# Express first. This is not necessary on Windows XP, but it is on Windows Vista.

I created an XNA game from the included "Spacewar Starter Kit". The splash screen comes up with music and all but when I move the mouse over it, the cursor disappears. Controlling the game with the keyboard works a little odd because it seems to be optimized for two Xbox 360 controllers. The game has cool stereo sounds. This is a screenshot:

(*) As I found out from Erno de Weerd's blog.

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None other than Jim Allchin, the soon to retire Co-President of the Platform and Services Division at Microsoft, explains the new power management on the Windows Vista Team Blog.

He explains the rationale behind the Sleep and the new Hybrid sleep options.

This had been a mystery for me when I couldn't find the Hibernate option in Windows Vista. Eventually I found the answer in Windows Help and Support. The separate Hibernate option in the shutdown menu is missing by design when Hybrid sleep is enabled. Windows Help explains the difference between Sleep and Hybrid sleep. Hybrid sleep is a combination of Sleep and Hibernate: when your computer goes into hybrid sleep the contents of the RAM is dumped to disk but the RAM remains powered, so your computer is quickly available for use when you return. When you cut off the power to the computer or it looses power, everything is safely on disk and hybrid sleep is indistinguishable from hibernate.

The default Turn off option through the power button in the Start menu is Sleep for laptop computers. For desktop computers it is Hybrid sleep.

Check out Jim's post for the full story.

I'm dictating this post using speech recognition in Windows Vista.  So without touching any keys.  It works remarkably well. I find this the most impressive feature in Windows Vista I've seen so far.  The computer is still getting used to my voice, so I have to correct some words.  You don't even have to touch the keyboard to correct words.  You can move the cursor using voice commands.  I could even assign categories to this post by calling out "show numbers" and choosing user interface elements by calling out the number that is then displayed over the element. 

If you are running Windows Vista and have a microphone try this out by running the speech recognition tutorial.  Press the start button and type "speech recognition" in the search box to find it.

That is all for now.  It does take getting used to and I'm getting tired.

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I've been booting into Windows Vista instead of Windows XP for the past week. The ride is still not very smooth.

I don't leave my computer running when I don't use it. Instead I have grown fond of the hibernate option in Windows XP. To my surprise it was no longer present on my machine in Windows Vista.

I should have a lot of options, but Hibernate is not one of them.

Go read Joel Spolsky's big complaint about the UI design for the whole shutdown story for Vista. And read about the frustration of one of the people involved in trying to design this feature: "The Windows Shutdown Crapfest". 

I found out that I could use the Sleep option instead. It turns out that this dumps the contents of the system RAM to disk and then switches the machine to a low-power mode without turning off. If I just cut the power when my computer is in this state, the situation is indistinguishable from hibernate. When I turn my computer back on, the system RAM is restored from disk and I am back where I left off.

Now comes the really strange part. Using the power options control panel (which has been completely redesigned when compared to XP) I can assign the Hibernate option to the Shutdown button in the Start menu!

I noticed that on other Vista machines the Hibernate option is present. It's a mystery why it is missing on my machine.

Leave a comment if you also don't have the Hibernate options in Windows Vista or if you know what is going on.

[Update 2006-12-03: This missing "Hibernate" issue is caused by having "Hybrid sleep" enabled in the advanced power settings.]

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This post is coming to you from Windows XP. I am glad I didn't flatten my hard disk when installing the RTM build of Windows Vista. On my home machine I am having more problems with the RTM build than with the beta 2, RC1 and RC2 builds!

Yesterday evening when my PC came out of standby, the screen on my main monitor remained black because the monitor stayed in the enery-saving mode. It took a while before I figured out what was going on. I have two monitors connected to my PC. I rarely use the second monitor so it was turned off. Nevertheless it had suddenly been assigned by Vista to be the primary and only monitor. When I turned it on, I could unlock my PC and switch the display back to my main monitor. Annoying, but not fatal.

Wireless networking is still kinda flaky for me in Vista. Just as on XP I regularly have to repair my wireless connection to get it working again when the computer comes out of standby or hibernation.

I was having trouble with the wired LAN connection as well. Windows Vista wasn't able to acquire an IP-address from my DHCP server. Turning off Windows Firewall didn't help. I had to manually configure an IP-adress, default gateway, etc. to get a connection 🙁 On Windows XP I never experienced this issue.

The real problem occurred this morning. During the boot process, after showing the Vista splash screen (which sucks big time BTW *) and playing the startup sound, both monitors turned black because they went into power-saving and there was no way to get anything on the screen.

Hopefully it's just a display driver issue. But it would be strange if a beta version from the ATI site works better than the RTM display driver included with Windows Vista.

So after posting this, it's time to boot into "safe mode" 🙁

Update 20:04: Upgrading to a new display driver gave a bit of trouble. The ATI setup wouldn't work in safe mode, because hardware detection failed. I had to disable the ATI drivers and boot back into normal mode. This time Vista booted with the standard display drivers and I was able to see something again. I could now install the new drivers. Rebooting after installation gave yet another black screen. The only difference: the monitor didn't go into power saving.

So it was back to safe mode again. After some experimentation I managed to get the ATI display driver working after disabling the Hauppage WinTV PVR PCI II driver. This is a Microsoft approved driver. Nevertheless it causes a conflict with the display driver.

*) Where is all the cool stuff that Microsoft was supposed to put in the RTM build? Apart from the problems I am experiencing, I hardly notice any difference with the RC2 build and I am unimpressed by the new Windows Vista sounds. Microsoft hasn't even put a decent graphic on the boot splash screen. It's just a green progress bar with "© Microsoft Corporation" beneath it.

Today November 8th, Microsoft has released Windows Vista to manufacturing. You can watch the announcement by Jim Allchin on Microsoft's clone of YouTube: Soapbox (*). Actually announcement is a bit of an overstatement since he only says the very short line: "It's Time".

If you want to hear more from the man in charge of developing Vista check out:

If you have been following Microsoft's struggle with developing Windows Vista from what started out as Windows "Longhorn" you will notice that Jim sounds and looks far more relaxed in this video than in the public "Longhorn Update" announcement in August 2005.

This public announcement was preceded by the "Longhorn Reset" inside of Microsoft by about a year. Basically Microsoft threw away a lot of the work they had done on Longhorn and started fresh from the codebase of Windows Server 2003 SP1. They only reverse integrated new stuff back in the main tree that passed several quality gates. Microsoft has come a long way since the Longhorn Reset. Some things have gone (think WinFS), security has become even more important (think User Account Control), downlevel support was added (think WPF on XP).

My congratulations go out to Microsoft and its employees on reaching the RTM milestone. I can't wait to get my hands on the RTM build of Windows Vista (the Ultimate Edition of course ;).

*) Notice how Soapbox even uses Flash video like YouTube and not Windows Media Player.

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Internet Explorer 7 was released to manufactering (RTM-ed) by Microsoft yesterday. IE7 can be downloaded from the IE7 site on microsoft.com. The download for Windows XP SP2 is 14.8 MB in size and was digitally signed by Microsoft on October 17, 2006.

I am still debating whether to install it or not on my main OS because I am a bit worried about web site compatibility. A lot of web sites probably delayed updating their site for IE7 (if needed) until the inevitable hit. So it might be better to wait a little till enough other people have hit those sites with IE7 and complained to the site owners. I guess I will probably try it out in a Virtual PC before installing it on my host OS.

Don't be confused by the version number of the IE7 installer executable: the version number of the download is 6.2.29.0. Here are some version numbers of the included components:

mshtml.dll7.0.5730.11Trident rendering engine
wininet.dll7.0.5730.11Internet Extensions for Win32
msfeeds.dll7.0.5730.11RSS platform
jscript.dll5.7.0.5730JavaScript engine
vbscript.dll5.7.0.5730VBScript engine
ieapfltr.dll7.0.5824.16386Microsoft Phishing Filter

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Linking to pictures on Flickr


Now that I got some pictures up on Flickr, it is time to try out the Flickr4Writer that RJ blogged about.


This morning I delayed going to work because I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises I ever saw from my old apartment in Zeist. I had to take some pictures and uploaded them straight away. You can view the entire set on Flickr.


Beautiful sunrise in Zeist  Beautiful sunrise in Zeist  Beautiful sunrise in Zeist


By the way, you can still buy this magnificent view as I haven't sold my current appartment yet. Next Friday I will get the key to my new apartment in Amsterdam in this building:


Apartmentbuilding "De Watertoren"


Vista Media Center


And finally to put some technical content into this post: I have been busy with front-end development lately. We finished a new version of Rabobank TV. No new functionality, just support for new set-top boxes. I cannot disclose which ones yet. I started to really dig into Windows Presentation Foundation and started reading Petzold's Applications = Code + Markup.


I've tried to wrap my head around why Microsoft is unleashing yet another markup language onto the world: Media Center Markup Language (MCML). It allows you to create flashy applications for Windows Vista Media Center. The Media Center UI uses this markup itself, so you can create the same effects that you see in the Windows Media Center shell. That will enable you to create a much richer user experience than you can create with a Hosted HTML Application like Rabobank TV.


However, Rabobank TV must work on a slew of different STBs that have nowhere near the horsepower of a media center. I have seen STBs that take 5 seconds to do a page transition between two HTML pages that takes 0.5s in Windows Media Center.


MCML is so close to WPF that it begs the question why it exists. The answer is that it was created and used in a product long before WPF. It just wasn't exposed in previous versions of Windows Media Center. Moreover MCML can be remoted to Media Center Extenders like the Xbox 360. The extender will render the MCML. WPF (XBAP) applications and Hosted HTML Applications cannot really be remoted to extenders. For WPF and Hosted HTML Applications, Media Center will send 5 FPS of screenshots to your extender. More details in this Channel9 thread.


Will it be worth investing time in learning MCML? Microsoft has said that no MCML design tools will be released. You will have to resort to handcoding XML. Creating WPF applications with Expression Interactive Designer and the "Cider" design tools will certainly be easier.


I guess that it all depends on how succesful Vista Media Center and extenders like the Xbox 360 will be at penetrating the living room. Vista Media Center will be included in Vista Home Premium Edition and Vista Ultimate Edition. Home Basic users will be able to upgrade their Windows edition online without needing a reinstall. So the market potential is bigger than that for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.