Monday, October 29, 2007

Windows Live Writer

Over the next week or so I really want to dive into the world of Windows Live and Windows Live 2.0, and maybe take some of it for a test run. Now, as you have probably noticed, I've written quite a few blog posts today. Part of that reason is because I haven't written too much lately, and also the other part of the reason is the beta of a program I'm not sure I can live without after today. That program is Windows Live Writer, part of Microsoft's new push for the Windows Live suite. Now, if you aren't familiar with Windows Live at all, I would suggest doing a quick Google or Wikipedia search on it.

First of all, what is Windows Live Writer? It's an application made to simplify posting to your blog with rich media content (meaning pictures, tables, video, etc). Now for all you Myspace / Facebook people, it does not (yet?) support blogging from social networking sites, but it does support the major blog hosting sites. In fact, having impeccable support for Blogger (powered by Google, one of Microsoft's biggest competitors) was a huge plus for me. I do not like all in one solutions, and although Microsoft recommends their own blogging service, I'm very happy to see Microsoft own up and fully support a competitors service. After all, it did garner an additional user!

Now, there are three things that have really impressed me the most on this software. The first and foremost, is that it's simple. Very simple. So simple, in that to get started using the software, all I had to do was type in my web address for my blog, my login, and my password, and Windows Live Writer was able to successfully set up my account in Windows Live Writer to let me start immediately posting to my blog. It even picked up the skin from my blog, allowing me to see exactly how my post appears on my blog before I actually post it, and it does it perfect (again, this is interaction with a competitor's service!). No server settings, no painful uploading quarrels, no setting directories. Just click and go. Even to post to your blog, all you do is click publish, and you immediately have a new post on your blog's site. It's even simpler than doing it through Blogger's own interface! This is just a sign that truly, Windows Live products are mostly being geared towards regular home end users instead of IT Professionals or Businesses, and the result on here so far has been fantastic.

The second part that impressed me? The user interface from Windows Live Writer is gorgeous, and makes using the computer a pleasure again. It doesn't matter if you're using Windows XP or Vista, it's user interface is well designed, sleek, and takes all the extra junk out. While similar in color to the ribbon interface of Office, it is not as quite complex and still has the familiar layout of the File menus, but does not have endless additional buttons you'll never use. It's simple, straightforward, and clean. Take a look. (P.S. the screen shot below is from Wikipedia, and is not my blog or computer).WLWriter 

And finally, the last part that really did impress me, was Microsoft taking notice of the success of plug-ins, and has included plug-in functionality into Windows Live Writer. This was popularized mostly by Mozilla Firefox's well known Add-On infrastructure, and I am glad to see Microsoft implement this solution. It allows regular users to use a clean and light program, while power users can extend needed functionality by plug-ins. The only disappointing news about this is so far there are not any must have plug-ins; however, no worries. After all the product is only in beta, and it takes time for great plug-ins to be developed and catch on.

So, for the first time ever, I am going to hand out a score on techy stuff. The score for Windows Live Writer?

Score: 9/10

Early Christmas List

Because it's never too early to post stuff you can't afford right? Of course not! So here goes a few things!

Computer!! Of course

Yep, that's right, a computer on Ebay. Good for several reasons. One, it's cheaper than buying at retail. Two, it provides a 64-bit extended processor that, though not quite as efficient as Intel Core Duo, still outstrips my current Pentium M (especially with it only at 1Ghz), gives ample room for memory for much larger applications, and an Intel video card (open specs, great for Linux and alternative OS's).

Total Price: Approximately $380.00 (Including Shipping)

Men's Phoenix and Dragon Ring

Why? Because it has my two favorite icons: the Phoenix, symbol of rebirth and healing (Phoenix Tears), and the Dragon, symbol of strength, power, and rule. It's also sterling silver, meaning it's not expensive. My only gripe isn't even with the ring itself, but how it's described. It is *not* a wedding band. Sorry guys.

Total Price: Approximately $29.00 (Including Shipping)

Lot of 5 Xbox Games

Because, unfortunately, I no longer have an Xbox 360 and just a regular Xbox, with a handful of games. However, this lot has two games I'd love (Need For Speed Most Wanted, and Madden), along with a game from a series I love (Oddworld), and one I've always wanted to try (Battlefield).

Total Price: Approximately $22.00 - $37.00 (Bid or Buy It Now).

New Dog. Chinese Food?

Okay, so it's true, we did get a new dog. His name is Domino, and is a black lab mixed with something else that we're not quite sure about. And yes, we're not really supposed to have pets, but so far we haven't really run into too many problems with that, except the occasional dirty look from people without pets. The main problem we have run into with this is taking the dog out to potty, since we cant really do that when the Landlord is working, which means we have to take him out after 7PM, causing the occasional accident (thank god the dog is smart enough to at least not go on the carpet), and we did buy some newspaper for that just in case. If there is one thing though that may make us have an additional meal of Chinese towards the end of the week, it's chewing. So far the dog has chewed completely apart an Xbox controller and Nintendo 64 controller, along with part of our box spring for our bed and recently caught with my shoe! Which may get permanently get stuck up it's behind if I catch that again. We're trying to teach him about the chewing but so far, it's his worse habit. What's even more frustrating is that he wont chew the bones that we bought for him to chew on! Frustrating. But, the dog is cute.


Sometimes it's hard to forget that Life is not a movie. I guess it comes in bad habit of watching a few too many of them. At times, I will look back at life and remember that this truly is not what I expected, but am happy none the less. From watching movies, everything seemed easier, and no matter what it worked out in the end. What they don't show unfortunately is the amount of shear work that has to be put in with every drop in order to make those things work. We also don't think about the situations that happen in movies. Think about it, when a dog goes on the carpet in a movie, it's funny as the character wrinkles her nose and gives a sour face. In real life, it's just sour. I will always be a big fan of movies, and I love them for the shear factor of forgetting reality for an hour and a half, and they always have those little lessons to never forget, but there's much more to learn in real life.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

AOL Radio. Almost.

Okay, I should've known from the beginning because it was an AOL service, but I try to be as little biased as possible. After all, AOL did manage to impress me quite a bit with their features with AOL Music (videos) as shown on the site. It's almost depressing, because it really is a great idea, and has great music.

Taking it from the top, AOL Radio is exactly what it sounds like: Internet Radio by AOL (for both AOL and non-AOL subscribers). It has a decent selection of stations, including select XM stations and it's own brand of stations. It has everything from your usual selection of country, rock, christian, pop, jazz, r&b, etc. What really impressed me the first time I used it was the selection of music from it's Top Country station. I was beyond impressed, it had the best country artists, the quality is great (they're close to CD Quality, much better than FM), with almost no noticeable buffering. Admittedly the first time I used it was while trying out the AOL 9.0 VR, and it worked great. Also, my biggest gripe with regular radio is the barrage of audio ads. With AOL, they display an image ad to the right of the radio instead, meaning it doesn't disrupt the music. The most ads you really get is a 5 second AOL Radio ad approximately every 10 songs (30 to 40 minutes). That was a very non-intrusive way to provide advertisement without getting in the way of the service.

The problems came after trying it outside of AOL. It doesn't work with Firefox, which was it's main killing point (there is no excuse for cutting out Firefox when it has such a large market share around the world). They're excuse? There is a bug with Java and Firefox interacting with Firefox. The sad news, is that bug has been there since Firefox 1.5 and AOL never fixed it. But that's okay, it should be usable with Internet Explorer right? Well, sometimes anyways. It seems it's been having some problems lately connecting, and will sometimes just present an unable to connect error (variant of your browser of course). Server problems?

I really, really like AOL Radio. It's one of the only Internet Radio stations I want to use, but cant because of their inability to fix the bugs and being able to actually get it started. It's great inside of AOL, but with AOL's userbase rapidly declining, they need to make their services more open to third party software and browsers, especially since they want to become more of a content provider (than ISP) such as Google and Yahoo. They have some great services, but they need to work out the kinks to really let them become more accessible and take off.

Monday, October 8, 2007


So I have done a lot of Ebaying latley, trying to look for computers that are pretty cheap to replace my current laptop that is failing. So far I've added quite a few to my watch list (Thank you, Ebay Companion!). If they all end up costing too much, I found one that's a Buy-it-now that would work perfectly, the only immediate upgrade it would need would be a bigger hard drive (and eventually a RAM/GPU upgrade).