Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Old Copycat Debate, Revived

Published by Sunbelt Software FORUMS | RSS | MY PROFILE | PRIVACY  

Vol. 1, # 11 - Nov 19, 2009 - Issue # 11 
 The Old Copycat Debate, Revived

  1. Editor's Corner
    • The Old Copycat Debate, Revived
    • Follow-up: Building Behemoths
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Transparent caching speeds up data access across the network
  4. How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features
    • How to set your computer to wake up for Remote Desktop access
  5. Windows 7 and Vista Security
    • Windows 7 security advisory
  6. Question Corner
    • Can Explorer display the date a file was originally created?
  7. Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • How to stop IE8 from "going mobile"
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • iPod Access for Windows

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Editor's Corner

The Old Copycat Debate, Revived

One of Microsoft's manager's in the U.K. opened up a bag of worms last week when he opined, in a public interview, that Windows 7 was created with a "Mac look and feel." Ouch. Company representatives immediately issued statements noting that the employee in question was not involved in designing Windows 7. Then others sprang to his defense and the story has become much bigger than it ever deserved to be:

Amidst all the internal argumentation, Mac fans gloated over the "admission." But is it even true? I'm writing this on a Windows 7 computer, and I have a Mac running Snow Leopard sitting right across the room. Do they look alike? Not really. Are there similarities? Sure - they both have taskbars (which Apple calls a dock), they both have desktop icons, they both have "pretty" interfaces. The Windows 7 taskbar is far more functional, though: if I hover over a dock icon on the Mac, I get nothing but a pop-up of the application's or folder's name. If I hover over a taskbar icon in Win7, I get a preview of every instance of that app that's open.

Right clicking a dock item in OS X does give me a list of the open windows; for example, if I have three Safari windows open, I see a text list indicating the pages (e.g., "Apple Store," "Wikipedia," and "YouTube." If I don't remember which actual site I was on but would recognize it visually, I'm out of luck. Also on the right click menu for a Safari in the dock are options to hide, quit or open a new window, and options to keep the program in the dock or show it in the Finder (file manager). A right click on the IE taskbar icon shows me a list of the twenty web sites I've visited most frequently, making it easy to go to one of those - along with the options to open a new tab, open a new window, quit the program (close all windows), unpin the app from the taskbar or start "in private" browsing. Some say the ability to pin apps to the taskbar in Windows 7 is a case of copying the dock. But we have been able to put apps on the taskbar since Windows 95, in the form of the Quick Launch bar. There's nothing new about that.

How about desktop gadgets? Did Microsoft copy Mac's widgets? Not really. Leaving aside the fact that gadgets were introduced in Vista, not Windows 7, they don't work the same way as the Mac widgets. Although both are small applications that provide information (clocks, weather, stock market info, etc.), there's a fundamental difference in the way they're implemented. On the Mac, the widgets reside on the "Dashboard." When you have the Dashboard displayed, you can't do anything with your other applications. When you click on an application window, the Dashboard disappears. I can't find a way to be able to work on a document and see my widgets at the same time, as I can so easily do with Windows gadgets.

What else? The Start button? The Mac puts its Apple button on a whole different taskbar, across the top of the screen. It contains some of the same things as the Windows Start menu: recent items, the options to sleep, restart, shutdown or log off. But it's not nearly as flexible; the Windows Start menu displays your favorite applications in the top left section, most recently used apps in the bottom left section, and links to commonly accessed folders and tools (documents, pictures, music, downloads, the computer, the network, devices and printers, Control Panel) in the right section. Windows 7 also places the Search box here, whereas the Mac's search tool is at the far right of the top taskbar.

As I've mentioned before, Apple has "borrowed" or "adapted" just as many ideas from Windows as the other way around. They're just now getting around to releasing a 64 bit desktop OS, they've "copied" Exchange support from Windows, Leopard introduced "stacks" for combining items in the dock (emulating the "groups" that did the same, years before, in Windows). Apple's Quick Look for viewing documents in the Finder without opening them seemed a whole lot like Vista's Explorer preview pane, which came first. I could go on, but here's my point: just because two operating systems have a similar look, or even have similar features, that doesn't mean that one is a "copy" of the other. And if Apple folks think it's such an outrage for Microsoft's operating systems to adopt features that are similar to their own, why don't they feel the same sort of outrage about all the new graphical interfaces for Linux that look so much like Mac and Windows? Heck, if Microsoft were really out to "copy" OS X, wouldn't they have ripped off my very favorite thing about the Mac interface: the genie effect?

Fact is: Those who know the history of computing know that the whole graphical interface idea originated with Xerox at their Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Their GUI introduced the concepts of windows, icons, menus and cut & paste, and both Microsoft and Apple operating systems (along with IBM's OS/2 and every other GUI-based OS in the world) evolved from that common ancestor. But there are enough big differences now between the major operating systems to make each unique, and most folks are likely to find one more to their liking than the other. For consumers, that's a good thing.

And similarities between product lines from different companies certainly isn't confined to the software business. Why do the automobile designs from different car companies tend to look so much alike from year to year? Why do clothing designers all tend to drop or raise hemlines in unison? Why do TV networks "copy" trends (comedies, reality shows, cop dramas, medical dramas) from one another? It's because they're trying to respond to what they think the customers want. Software vendors are bound to do the same thing.

Tell us what you think. Do you think Windows 7 "copies" the look and feel of the Mac, or is it completely different? Should "copying" be prohibited, with a software vendor unable to add new features if a competitor already has something similar? Just how much alike do two things have to be for one to be considered "copying?" Are there features that you wish Microsoft would copy from the Mac or Linux OS? We invite you to join the discussion on this topic in our forum at

Follow-up: Building Behemoths

Based on reader input, it seems quite a few of you have built your own Windows 7 behemoths, or are contemplating doing so. I love reading about your experiences and was glad to hear that for the most part, Windows 7 is working well for you. Thank you to those who offered ideas for alternatives to those pesky F connectors on the coax. I am definitely going to check out both options (BNC to F connectors and mini-coax jumpers).

For the reader who asked about signal loss when splitting the signal, that has been a problem for me in the past. I used a splitter that has a signal amplifier built in. You can also get standalone signal boosters to install behind the splitter. The Hauppauge tuners also have signal strength monitoring software available as a free download, which you can use to determine whether a signal booster might be needed. It shows you the number of uncorrectable errors and the signal to noise ratio. You can get it here:

Even with the signal booster, the picture quality on analog channels is not as good as it was before it was split. Since we almost never want to record multiple SD channels at the same time, I ended up removing one of the two splitters to get better quality. With digital channels, it tends to be more of an "all or nothing" situation - if the signal strength is too low, you don't get a picture at all, rather than getting a degraded picture as you do with analog. Luckily, our HD channels come in crystal clear.

To the one reader who doesn't like the "blow by blow" accounts of my upgrading adventures, I'm sorry that article wasn't interesting to you. In the past, they have been pretty popular with the readers (and apparently were with some of the readers this time, too). One thing I've learned over years of doing these editorials is that some people love to read about the first hand experiences, some like the purely theoretical technical stuff, and others prefer the "social aspects of technology" topics or the straight opinion pieces. It's impossible to please everybody every time. That's the reason I try to mix it up and do different types of articles each week, so that there will be something for everybody.

As always, thanks to all of you who participated in the discussion and, if you don't like the topics I've been choosing, please write to me and let me know what topics you would like to see me address in future newsletters.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing. - Albert Einstein

Believe you can and you're halfway there. - Theodore Roosevelt

It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. - George Washington

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Cool Tools


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News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Transparent caching speeds up data access across the network

Accessing files across a slow network can be a real pain - or at least, it was prior to Windows 7. That's because the client computer always retrieved the file from server, even if it had just recently opened the file and no changes had been made. Now Windows 7 clients can cache remote files on the local disk, and read it from that disk if you need to open it again. But never fear - that doesn't mean you'll get an outdated version of the file. Windows 7 checks with the server to verify that the cached copy is current, and if you make updates, they'll be written to the server. Meanwhile, it can speed up your file access experience considerably. Read more about it here:

How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features

How to set your computer to wake up for Remote Desktop access

If you need to access your computer remotely using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), but you don't want to leave the machine running at full power all the time, you can configure the power settings on your network interface card to allow the NIC to wake the computer up from Sleep mode. Here's how:
  1. Open the Device Manager (either from Control Panel or from the Computer Management Console that's accessed by clicking Start, right clicking Computer and clicking Manage.
  2. Expand the Network Adapters section.
  3. Right click your NIC and click Properties.
  4. Click the Power Management tab.
  5. Click the check the box "Allow this device to wake the computer.
  6. Click OK.

Windows 7 and Vista Security

Windows 7 security advisory

One of the first exploits affecting Windows 7 (and Windows Server 2008 R2), both 32 bit and 64 bit editions, was reported last week and Microsoft has released a security advisory to address it. The vulnerability in the SMB v2 protocol can lead to a denial of service situation and the workaround is to block TCP ports 139 and 445 in the firewall to prevent this. Unfortunately, blocking these ports can impact a number of services and applications. The advisory contains instructions and additional information. See the full text of the advisory here:

Question Corner

Can Explorer display the date a file was originally created?

In Windows 7 in Windows Explorer, when I look at the details view of the files and folders, I want to see the date that a file was first created but it shows me the date it was modified last. Is there a way to change this? I would be most grateful. - Robert L.

You can configure Windows Explorer to display additional columns in the Details view to give you much more information about your files at a glance. First, make sure Explorer has the menu bar displayed (File | Edit | View | Tools | Help) across the top. If it's not there, click Organize | Layout and click to check Menu Bar.

Now, click View | Choose Details. You will see a long list of details that can be displayed, with the default ones checked. In the list, scroll down and click to check "Date Created." Click OK, and a new column should appear in Details view. You can click and drag the column header to move this column to a different location in the row of columns, if you like.

Take a look at the rest of the available details items, too. Depending on the types of files in the folder, you might want to display additional columns. For example, you can display the author of a document, its word count, or the file version. For photo files, you can display the focal length of the camera lens that was used to take it or the ISO speed at which it was taken. There are many, many useful fields from which to choose.

Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting

How to stop IE8 from "going mobile"

I recently had a problem whereby Internet Explorer 8 in Windows 7 on my desktop computer suddenly started redirecting to the mobile versions of web sites. For example, if I typed in the browser's address box, it sent me to, which is formatted for smart phones. This was annoying because the mobile pages often don't have as much information as the regular pages. Here's how I fixed it:
  1. In the menu bar, click Tools | Internet Options.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Under "Reset Internet Explorer Settings," click the Reset button.
  4. In the "Are you sure?" dialog box, note the things that will be reset (and your custom settings for them lost). If you're okay with it, click Reset again.
  5. In the "Resetting Internet Explorer Settings" dialog box, click Close.
  6. In the "For changes to take effect" dialog box, click OK.
  7. Shut down all running instances of IE8, then reopen the browser to apply the change.
Now you should be able to go to the regular sites instead of the mobile ones. However, if this doesn't fix it, do this:
  1. Click Tools | Delete Browsing History
  2. Check Preserve Favorites Website Data, Temporary Internet Files, and History. Click Delete.

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.