Category: Whinges

The Trouble With ClearType (and WPF)

Those of you who’ve been reading here a while will know I used to be a huge fan of ClearType. Huge fan! I thought it made fonts really readable.

Then, about two years ago, I started to get headaches. Big, nasty headaches. So I tried fiddling with display options – upped the refresh rate (sort-of worked, for a while), changed the colour scheme… Eventually I found if I turned off ClearType, the headaches went away. Finally, I could get back to the day job.

And then I upgraded my works machine to Windows 7Read More »

…And we are back!

My regular readers (all both of you) may have noticed that Esotechnica has been offline. I’m sure your curiosity has been insatiable, so why the outage?

That’s easy.

I messed it up.

One control panel – many sites. Too much wine, one wrong click…

Safe to say I won’t be doing that again!

Windows Genuine – “Advantage”?

Bit of disk corruption splattered all my emails in Thunderbird.  Fortunately most were still there in Google Mail, and I had a backup (from May) of the profile, and I managed to rebuild most of it.Read More »

Three for tonight: Java, dot Net and Flash

Last night I had a hankering to watch the excellent Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester again. Hence the title: “Plan one,” says Basil Rathbone’s fiendish Ravenhurst: “The untimely demise of my lords Brockhurst, Finsdale, and Pertwee.” “Three for tonight,” Kaye replies, in his hypnotic state. “Proceed.”

Well, here’s my three for tonight: kind of in response to Cracked’s rather wonderful Tech Zombies: 6 technologies that don’t know they’re dead (and hey – I use the phonebook frequently), here’s three that ought to be dead.

dot Net

Maybe surprising this, as it’s one of the ways I make a living. But the truth is that Microsoft has been plugging this so hard they haven’t stepped back to examine whether the game is worth the candle. .Net is so slow that it has made using Windows, Office and other Microsoft products feel as slow as they ran on Windows 3.1 – and that isn’t a compliment. (Note to MS: still haven’t found any function I need in Word that wasn’t there in Word 2.0c, by the way.)

It gets worse. With Windows moving to 64-bit, the poor 64-bit support for the .Net platform is not only irritating, but a serious mistake. To run .Net applications on 64-bit operating systems without them crashing, you need to recompile them, preferably using a later version of the .Net framework. Fine if it’s a homebrew app but if you don’t have the sourcecode for your mission-critical application that runs your company… (And another note to MS: does Visual Studio 2008 do 64-bit .Net debugging yet? I haven’t tried it as so many features I need are missing from 2008 that I use daily in 2005).

Deploying ASP.Net applications is horrendous as well. ASP would just copy pages and run – .Net requires sever-level configuration. Whereas previously you could almost rely on ftp to manage an ASP site, with ASP.Net you often need to call some overstressed sysadmin to make a change in the IIS metabase XML to get things working. That feels like we’re back to OS/2’s cryptic configuration files again to me.

I won’t even go into Microsoft’s excrescent .Net-based attempt to compete with Flash (SilverBlight) because that’s pretty moribund already and only kept alive, albeit on life support, by being free – and therefore about a grand cheaper than Flash studio (although their exclusive deal to stream the Olympics is kill or cure – it’s bound to annoy every single Mac user, Windows 2000 user and non IE/Firefox user on the planet so it’s likely to make a few more enemies as of next week.)

The proper course of action would be for Microsoft to take .Net down to the vets and have it put to sleep, then announce its peaceful demise by desupporting it. Of course, what they will probably do is to bet the company on it and then sit around scratching their heads wondering why Windows is losing market share hand over fist.


Write once, run anywhere. That was the slogan. Except it didn’t actually work like that.

First of all, there are so many gotchas in the JRE and the class library that you need a specific configuration of the JRE for each application. (I have known of a very well-known and respected application vendor that required a version of the JRE that was four years out of date for their application to run properly. This isn’t an uncommon scenario, either: for a while a major UK bank required using the Microsoft JVM to run their Internet banking – for almost a year after Microsoft were forced by Sun’s lawsuit to desupport it and stop offering it for download.)

Then there’s the enormous size of Java these days. Okay, so .Net tips in at 35MB, but the last JRE update I downloaded was over 100MB. Now, my ISP’s download limit is fairly generous, but come on guys – hard disks fill up quicker and quicker these days than they ever did!

Again, the best course of action Sun could take would be to wipe their hands clean of Java, desupport it and consign it to the dustbin of history. Fortunately, they haven’t bet the company on it, and aren’t likely to, but because Java runs in so many mobile phones and runs so many mobile applets – where the specific version of Java is less a problem than the specific phone – it’s likely to be around for a long time to come. Unfortunately.


Where do you start with Flash? Over the years it’s had several owners: FutureWave Software, Macromedia, and now Adobe. It started as a competitor to Macromedia’s ShockWave player, believe it or not (anyone use ShockWave any more?), was acquired by Macromedia and developed into the huge monster we know and presumably love.

It now encompasses everything: vector-based animation, movie playing, menus… in fact if you want to make your site look “cool and groovy”, the general knee-jerk reaction is to get out the Flash API and start coding.

Except that it renders your site almost completely unusable on mobile phones, PDAs, and the smaller PCs that are now the coming thing. It makes your content almost unsearchable by search engines, as well as ruining any chance that your site will be accessible. So you’ve now annoyed everyone with sight/hearing problems, and rendered yourself liable under section 509 or the Disability Discrimination Act, or both, depending on where you do business. Nice move.

What Adobe should do is to just retire the Flash product line, discontinue downloads of the Flash player and say “so long suckers, thanks for all the money”. In reality, what they will do is to cling to it like a shipwrecked sailor on a piece of board, desperately trying to swim to a cash-rich shore.

So there you are – my opinion on why three widely-used technologies should be taken out the back and shot. What do you think?

Vista SP1

The other day I downloaded and installed Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Release Candidate.

Big mistake.

What had been a very reliable, happy computer, turned into a crash-prone bug monster.  Windows Explorer didn’t start properly (no response from the start menu, system tray or task bar); when killed and restarted with Task Manager the system generally had about four or five minutes before locking up completely.  And disk usage was through the roof – it reminded me of the classic “swap of death” that plagued Windows 3…  until it seized completely, of course, with even the mouse pointer frozen to the screen.

After about my seventh or eighth reboot, without being able to actually use my computer, I decided to uninstall the service pack.  Which, without being able to get to control panel very easily, was a bit challenging.  Eventually, I restarted in safe mode and used system restore to get it back off.

This doesn’t bode well, I’m thinking.  Microsoft have already released a “release candidate refresh“, which apparently solves only installation issues. Well, ironically, I didn’t have any issues installing – I just downloaded the offline version and it sat there and did it; it’s only after it was installed that the problems started.

I don’t remember a service pack causing a problem before XP service pack 2, which completely destroyed the installation on my fiancee’s computer, necessitating a nice clean re-install.  I’m hoping that SP 1 doesn’t do the same for Vista.  But I’m by no means convinced that it won’t.

Oh, and before you ask, I have now gone back to non-SP1 Vista.  And everything is running along very nicely again, thank you very for asking.