November 2006
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Archive for November 3rd, 2006

Vista Beta test

Posted in Geekery on November 3rd, 2006

A few thoughts after having run Vista for the week:

The stupid thng couldn’t identify a simple network card, but it did correctly identify my Creative Zen Micro MP3 player, and asked me if I wanted to sync my music files when I plugged it in.

They almost have security figured out. It only asked me to create user passwords on install, not a user and an administrator password. When installing software or mucking with system settings, it pops up a window telling you that something possibly hinky is going on and asks permission to continue. Better than before, but still not on a par with the Unix / Linux model.

The built-in games have a new look to them, and a couple new additions. These include Chess, Mah-Jong and another bouncing-ball based game where you draw lines on the board to deflect the path of a ball towards a goal. Beats playing solitaire all day.

Hardware management now includes a way to rate your PC for performance, which is pretty cool. If ths works right, game publishers will be able to give you rating numbers to hit, instead of making you remember all the minutiae of your system specs. “Graphics score of 3.7 or better” is so much easier than “Video card: 32 MB with 3D Transform and Lighting capable, DirectX┬« 9.0 or later.”

(As a side note, those are the specs for Microsoft’s Halo, which makes me think the rating system won’t work. Sure, Halo will run with 32MB of video RAM, but you’ll get maybe 4 FPS.)

As for software compatability, there are some quirks still. Yahoo! Widgets must be launched through Widget preferences; double-clicking a widget file in Explorer won’t launch it. Settlers: Heritage of Kings installed and plays just fine, and the no-cd patch still works. OpenOffice.org gave me no problems. I haven’t tried the new version of Outlook Express (which is back to being Microsoft Mail again.)

All in all, it looks like the extra time the developers took has been for the better. Time will tell.

The Force is at OMSI

Posted in Geekery on November 3rd, 2006

The Pookster has recently joined a Brownie Troop, and tonight they had a special event at OMSI, which is always a fun place to visit. This month, they are having a special Star Wars exhibit, featuring a nice batch of movie props – including the original 4-foot model of the Millenium Falcon.

As many times as I have watched the original trilogy, this is the first time I’ve had leisure to really stop and look at the old Lady, and it was really neat to see all the detail. She sits behind glass, so it is hard to tell for sure, but it appears they used a combination of aluminum and plastic in the manufacture.

They really did go all out in the construction – the use of metal appears to be solely for the purpose of correctly rendering the dings and dents she has accrued over her lifetime of service. The ventral plating on the starboard side has a delightfully nasty-looking curl to it, as if Han bounced that side off a docking clamp making a getaway.

If you look closely, you can see where the makers utilized existing pieces to speed the process. On the ventral surface back toward the engines, it appears that the forks off a Harley FLHTC adorn the plating. On either side, at the point where the mandibles join the main disc you can see the side of an automotive transmission casing. (It’s mounted backwards, with the output shaft pointing forward.)

Well worth the money to see the exhibit, even if you didn’t like the second trilogy.