Vista Ultimate – 5 Months Later


OS Factor

If you’re the type that use your computer for email, word processing and casual web browsing then there is no use in upgrading to Vista. If you decide to upgrade anyways the only noticable benefits are the flashy new GUI.

Power users fall into the same category, but the only thing that might hinder them is software compatibility. Currently, some software companies are pushing out Vista patches and updates. Smaller software company seems to have a difficult time catching up. So before you upgrade make sure your application is 100% compatible with Vista.

The Enhancements

Vista is touted for its security. It’s the most secure Windows ever released. I hope so. Too bad the security isn’t transparent which is why many of the software applications are not compatible. My biggest gripe is the User Account Control (UAC). When enabled an annoying pop-up window opens everytime you adjust a setting. Some applications require you to turn it off before installing. And everytime you turn it off or on it requires a system reboot. I immediately turn the UAC off after I installed the OS. Ironically, the User Account Control is where all that awesome security is based. So you have to choose between being annoyed or having a more secured OS.

Vista Media Center

One of my biggest reason for installing Vista was to use its Media Center. The visuals and graphics of the Media Center looks great, but functionality-wise it’s a piece of shit. The previous version, MCE 2005 is so much better in terms of ease of use and compatibility. The way the media is organized in Vista is horrendous. Grouping pictures, music, and videos into one area is NOT an efficient way of organizing. And even more idiotic aspect of Vista is that it doesn’t support third party video codecs. The most advance OS doesn’t even support the industry standard video codec, H.264 (AVC). This is what happens when a company like Microsoft tries to shove and force the use of their own codec down consumers’ throats, they get a crappy product that is ‘broken by design’.

I’ve tried several versions of Vista well before it’s retail release. Each release got better and better, but unfortunately its retail release is somewhat feels a bit incomplete. I have installed Vista Ultimate on my work laptop and my desktop computer and it looks like I will be switching back to XP soon.

My suggestion, save your money and buy something that actually works.

System Upgraded

Alright, so I finally upgraded my Operating System to a Server-Based OS. Now my system is more robust and secure. It only took me an hour an a half which was less than half the time I was expecting.

I spent over a month testing everything on a VMware server and it looks like it paid off. There are a few things that I haven’t implemented yet. The Contact Me function is not going to work. At least until a few more hours. My music site will not be up and will likely be ready by the end of the weekend. What’s my music site you ask? It’s a webscript I use to host and stream all my music. It’s something I use to listen to when I’m at work or away from home. The site is user-restricted and it’ll require me to personally create an account. Currently, there are only a handful of accounts and I don’t think I will be creating anymore soon.

Anyways, if you see any problems with the site please report them to me by leaving a comment. I’m trying to get the Contact Me function as soon as I can. Thanks.

Update: Contact Me page is fully fuctional.

Windows Vista Cometh

Windows Vista is the latest operating system released by Microsoft. It took over 6 years of development and countless delays, but it’s finally here, at least for PC manufacturers. Consumers like us will have to wait for its official release on January 30th 2007.

There will be several versions (editions) of Vista:
Home Basic
Home Premium

Each version differs by its installed applications and features. It’s Microsoft’s way of having price flexibility for those who don’t want to pay for features they don’t want and don’t need.

I got my hands on a copy of Vista RTM (The version Microsoft sends to PC vendors to be installed on their upcoming systems). Don’t ask me how I got it 😀 . Installing Vista is fairly simple. Just put the installation disc into your DVD drive and reboot. Yes, Vista is now on DVD, so if you’re planning on upgrading you’ll need to get a DVD drive. The installation will only request your product key , time setting, and the default language. I installed Vista Ultimate on my system. Vista Ultimate is the version that contains all the features and applications for Vista, which incidentally will be the most expensive when released, $450.

The Vista installation was able to detect most of my hardware and install their drivers, which I was very impressed. And those that weren’t installed were immediately resolved via internet once you login into Windows, given that you have an internet connection.

It’s very apparent that Microsoft has focused on the new look of the new operating system with bright flashy images and icons. It has a very Mac-esque feel to it, but it’s definitely Windows. If you thought the change from Windows 98/2000 to Windows XP was big, then Vista can be a bit overwhelming. Many of the names you normal recognize have changed. Microsoft has axed out “my”. So instead of My Documents, My Music, and My Computers they’re just Documents, Music, and Computer. It may not sound that big of a change, but if you’re use to the previous OS setup then it will take you some time to get use it.

One of the new features for the OS is that Vista is now able to utilize your expensive graphics card. This only applies to the versions that have the new Aero Interface. With the Aero interface your OS will have a glass-like feel. The windows are transparent allowing the background image or other windows to show through. With all the new features Vista requirements are steep. If your system is older than 12-15 months, then chances are you might need to upgrade your system to take full advantage of the new Vista features. Vista also comes with Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Media Player 11, but these applications are already available for download for XP, so you can check them out now and get familiar with them.

The most important features of the new OS is it’s security and stability. Microsoft has designed Vista to be less vunerable to system attacks and malware installation. Installed application data are stored away from the core files of windows which keeps those core files safe from files that may cause problems to the OS. Even when logged in with an administrator account you are always being prompted to verify your actions whether it’s to delete a file, change configurations, and or even accessing certain programs. It can be annoying, but fortunately feature can be turned off.

Other features include a new sidebar where users can install “gadgets” such as a clock, weather indicator, calendar, etc. Each gadget are modules that can be easily added or removed. Another cool feature is the new way to cycle through your windows and applications. If you’re the multi-tasking type that has tons of applications and windows loaded on screen then the feature can come in handy. It’s basically the Alt-Tab feature but with a 3D touch.

So there you go with the preview of the new Windows Vista. If you’re planning on buying upgrades for you system look to upgrade the CPU, RAM, or your video card because those are what going to make a difference in terms of performance.

Final Thoughts:

Vista might be the new “gotta have” piece of software for the PC industry next month. Don’t hop on the bandwagon quite yet and go in your impulse buying-mode and upgrade your system for Vista. Keep in mind that Vista is brand new which means not all of your current software will be compatible, or even your hardware.

There are a few noticeable bugs that are in the RTM version, and I’m hoping they will be addressed by the time of its official consumer release. So if you’re looking to upgrade your OS try to hold off at least 4 – 6 months to have the bugs and glitches ironed out as well has the vendors to push out patches and drivers for their application and hardware.

Enabling IIS Hosted PHP scripts to use SMTP Sendmail

If you’re hosting any PHP scripts that uses the sendmail() function you know that the function will not work when hosted on Windows IIS. The sendmail() function is reserved for webservers running apache. I have found a fairly easy method to enable the mailing features for PHP scripts that uses sendmail.

First, you will need to have the SMTP virtual server installed on your local machine. You’ll need to change the Properties > Access > Relay Restrictions and add the local IP of your server (I didn’t know localhost required permission to relay mail. It took me 2 days to figure that out :p )

You’ll need to download

Once downloaded, extract and copy the sendmail.exe & sendmail.ini file into a directory.
for example: c:\Inetpub\usr\lib\

Edit the sendmail.ini
for example: smtp_server=localhost, smtp_port=25, and default_domain=yourserver. Default_domain can be any name.
(the other variables don’t need to be edited)

You will then need to edit the php.ini in c:\windows\

Search for:

; For Unix only. You may supply arguments as well (default: “sendmail -t -i.”)
;sendmail_path =

You’ll will then need to remove the semi-colon to uncomment out the line and add the path to the sendmail.exe
for example: sendmail_path = c:\Inetpub\usr\lib\sendmail.exe -t -i

(be sure to add the -t -i flags otherwise it will not work.)

Lastly, you will need to edit the permissions to the cmd.exe located in the C:\Windows\System32 folder and add the USERS group and add read/execute access. This allows the sendmail.exe to be executed by the server.

That’s it! Your mail feature will now work with your PHP scripts. Enjoy.

Mac OS X on a PC?

For decades, man has pondered the question, “Can Apple’s OS X operating system be install on a PC?”

Since the 1980s, Apple has been selling a proprietary brand of computers called the “Mac” it’s short for “Macintosh”, incidentally it’s a name of type of apple. Apple’s proprietary OS is unique. In the past the OS can only be installed on specific hardware such as Motorola’s Power PC chip. Getting Apple’s OS to run on anything other than the Mac components was practically impossible. So that left two kinds of computer users; the mac-guy and the PC-guy. Three, if you count the Linux geeks.

There are many reasons to love a Mac as well as many reasons to hate it. The Mac is stable as it’s OS is built on a Unix core, FreeBSD, and is fine-tuned for their proprietary hardware. The OS is colorful and pretty and easy to use. Unlike the PC, the Mac doesn’t have a large library of applications (Software). If you have a Mac and thinking about playing games, you’re shit-out-luck. Also, when you buy a Mac you’re pretty much stuck with all it’s hardware. You can upgrade the hard drive and the RAM which is probably about it. Compared to Intel CPU the Motorola’s Power PC process was never quite has fast.

Anyhow, recently, Apple as opted to switch and use use Intel processors. Now Apple’s computers can utilize Intel’s more powerful CPUs. This switch also enable’s Apple to take advantage of Intel’s economy of scale and decrease their cost of their computers. All of this means that Apple’s OS, called OS X, is now compatible with Intel processors rather than Motorola’s. With the right hack and some code changes, and patching the OS X can be install in a PC.

Don’t worry, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. It’s true those are pictures of the Mac OS X running on my IBM ThinkPad. My laptop is currently running a dual boot of Windows XP and OS X. The installation was quite painless, but it did require quite a bit of time. The ThinkPad is equipped with a 1.5 Ghz Centrino with 512 MB of RAM. The OS X is running natively and the performance is fast. So far everything is working perfectly except for the wireless NIC. Hopefully I can figure out or find a way to get it to work. I’m still fiddling around with this OS. It’s not bad, but so far I still prefer my Windows.

The PC for the living room

With the advent of Tivo and Replay TV a few years back there is a strong market for devices that can record television shows when you’re not at home watching them. It’s seems to make sense. Americans now are working hard and with more hours then ever before. Who has time for television? Well, I do, but not as much as before. The personal computer market is picking up the slack and is giving Tivo some good competition.

There are tons of PVR (Personal Video Recorders) that can be attached to the PC making it a Media Center. The Media Center can record tv shows, has tv guide features, and even display some PC features onto the TV like showing downloaded videos, music, and pictures which is where Tivo falls short. You can count me as one of those consumers who fell into the PVR mix. I didn’t get a Tivo. I built a PC just dedicated for my TV. Some would say its totally a waste of a PC, but i beg to differ.

Here are the specs:

SFF PC: SB86i from Shuttle
CPU: Intel 540 P4 (3.2 GHz)
RAM: 1Gig PC3200
HD: 300 Gig WD (Adding another 300 Gig HD)
PVR: Hauppauge MCE 500 dual tuner
Media Drive: Plextor DVD RW 716A

It totalled out to be about $1,500. That’s a pretty expensive device just for watching TV. What can you say, I’m a geek. What really started my urge to build this was the TV show CSI. It’s an awesome show, and I kept missing the shows everyday. I hate watching a show in the middle of it. It ruins the suspense and the value of it’s endings. With my Media Center I can record every show. With my dual tuner I can record two shows at once if needed. I also have a large collection of DVDs. Making a digital back up of them is a logical idea since most of the damage done to DVD are during the process of taking and putting the DVDs back in it’s case. I was able to store a majority of my DVDs onto my HD so watching a movie is as simple as a push of a button on the remote. All my music is backed up as well, so my TV can act as a jukebox.

What makes a Media Center a ‘Media Center’ is the software you use to put everything together. I use Microsoft’s Media Center Edition 2005 which is the most popular and easy to use. But there are other comercial software that are similar and some provide even more options and better functions. I’m totally happy with my Media Center and after a month and a half of using it, I can’t imagine not having one.