Installing the Windows Phone Dev Tools April CTP

As I've got a few hours to kill I'd thought I'll install the new Windows Phone Development Tools that were released in April and play about with them a bit. Let's just say it is going to take a wee bit longer than I thought.

Windows Phone Developer Tools April CTP setup

Urgh.

Turning off IE8's InPrivate mode

There are several cases where end-users might want to disable Internet Explorer 8's InPrivate Browsing mode. There isn't an easy way to do this however, but it can be done.

If you're using Windows Vista/7 Business/Professional or up you can use the Group Policy Editor.

To begin, type gpedit.msc in Start Search and press enter. You'll then want to navigate your way to:

Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer > InPrivate

One of the options is for InPrivate Browsing, not to be confused with InPrivate Filtering. From there you can disable or enable it.

Group Policy Editor showing how to disable InPrivate

For those using Windows Vista/7 Home Basic/Premium. You'll need to edit the registry directly, usual disclaimer applies, be careful.

First you'll want to start the registry editor by typing regedit in Start Search and then pressing enter. You'll then want to make your way over to:

HKEY_Local_Machine\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Privacy

Registry Editor showing how to disable InPrivate Browsing

You may need to create the Internet Explorer and the Privacy keys, you can do this by right-clicking the parent key, in this case Microsoft, clicking New and then choosing key. Name it Internet Explorer, then create a key in Internet Explorer the same way called Privacy.

You'll then need to create a new Dword in the Privacy key called EnableInPrivateBrowsing, giving it a value of 1 will enable it, a value of 0 will disable it.

For those not comfortable using the Registry Editor I've provided some registry files to either enable or disable InPrivate Browsing. You'll need to run them and merge them with your registry.

Download Enable InPrivate or Disable InPrivate.

Experiences with a Dell Inspiron 1546

Time to buy a new Dell, this time for my parents, whose clunky old laptop from early 2002 has finally been put to rest (I've been arguing for its destruction for some time). As per usual I'm given a budget (300-400 this time) and given the task of deciding what to go for. I managed to get an extra 30 out of them in order to ensure it had a decent graphics adapter - they might not care about graphics now, but they won't be saying that when they need the extra power.

I first looked at Intel based systems, but there was no way I could get dedicated graphics without spending closer to 500, so I looked at the AMD systems, in the end I went for a Inspiron 1546 outfitted with an Athlon X2 QL-64, 2GB RAM and a 512MB Radeon HD 4330. Not what I'd call high-end but that graphics card will be enough to handle WorldWide Telescope, World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2 and even Supreme Commander at a push. It set them back 429. Not bad considering the laptop they've using at the moment cost almost 1300.

After it arrived my first task is to set it up for them. They don't want to have to do any configuration they just want to be able to use it. Dell, like many PC manufacturers always preload shed loads of junk on it. After performing the first set up I rebooted to test the boot/login speed. It took 40 seconds after logging in to load the desktop - ouch.

After an hour or so of cleaning it up, removing dozens of Roxio things, DVD burning stuff, McAfee security something or other. Getting rid of an annoying Mac OS style dock thing (what the hell?), an Office trial, Works, loads of driver tools we don't need we finally have a computer almost usable. Except it wouldn't see my wireless network. Hmmmm after another reboot and restarting the router, it was time to try some different channels, sure enough it didn't like that I was using channel 13. Everything else in the house works fine with it, but does the Dell wireless card? No. Good job it hadn't been sent home to my parents before I got it or else they'd have no chance of working out what was wrong with it (their router is also on channel 13) - and potentially would have sent it back faulty. After all that however we have a more respectable login time of at the most 10 seconds, that's after a cold boot.

My usual software picks have been installed, Live Essentials (Dell had it installed, but I removed all the Family Safety, Bing toolbar stuff), WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft Security Essentials, Office, the old XP version of Spider Solitaire (my mum hates the Vista/7 versions), and a handful of other games like Whispered Worlds and Supreme Commander. And then setup their user accounts, their e-mail, set Messenger not to spam windows all over the place on login, and tidy up Internet Explorer 8 a tad by removing the favourites bar.

I use Live Mesh to sync all their documents and internet favourites between their two computers, and to the cloud. Not very practical for someone like me with a 10GB Documents folder, 30GB Pictures folder and so on, but for them whose entire user folders come to less than 200MB it's a no brainer. All their internet favourites, pictures, documents, Spider saved games the lot will be there just as it was. Brilliant. Hopefully Live Mesh won't be crippled as it gets integrated into Windows Live Wave 4, as it is a killer application.

All in all it took about 4 hours to get the machine setup in a state where I'd be happy with my parents using it without running across any unexpected surprises. The computer itself is pretty decent for the money, the screen is a bit low resolution and the colours aren't great, but then it is a cheap machine. Battery life is pretty poor, but that wasn't a consideration when I went for it, they'll be using it entirely on a table in the living room next a plug socket, it won't be going mobile.

The biggest problem as always is the bundleware. It needs to be sorted.

The Sun now bribing people to slag off the government

Looks like the Sun, and no doubt other right-wing press owned by Murdoch or otherwise are up to their old tricks.

The E-mail:From: (removed)
Sent: 27 April 2010 11:15
To: (removed)
Subject: request from Jenna Sloan, The Sun
If you have relevant information for the media professional concerned please click this link to reply: jenna.sloan@the-sun.co.uk
Request deadline: Thursday 29 April, 2010, 4:00 pm
Contact me by e-mail at jenna.sloan@the-sun.co.uk
My request: I?m looking for a teacher and a nurse to be case studies in The Sun next week.
This is for a political, election feature and both must be willing to say why they feel let down by the Labour Government, and why they are thinking about voting Conservative.
We?ll need to picture them, and also have a chat about their political opinions.
We can pay the case studies 100 for their time.
Please do let me know if you think you can help.

I always thought newspapers were supposed to report the news, not invent it. Of course they'll have a hard job finding anybody to say it for free. People who have worked in the NHS or the education systems know full well how much they have improved over the last 13 years. Schools were literally falling apart 13 years ago, with huge class sizes. As for the NHS when you have people dying in the corridors of a hospital because there aren't any beds or dying in the months or years they'd have to wait to see a specialist, things weren't exactly going great which was one of the main reasons Labour was put into power in 1997, to stop the Tory destruction of our public services.

My HTC HD2 game recommendations

I'm going to be posting about some of the software I use on my HTC HD2, there are a lot of Windows Mobile games out there, but what really works well on the HD2? Hopefully this will give you some ideas.

Out are games like Wolf3D and Doom, games I've been playing on Windows Mobile phones for 6 or 7 years, they're just not fun trying to control with the on-screen controls. The good old days when people would just take the source code for a game and port it to Windows Mobile seem to be a fading memory. You didn't have official versions, people just made their own. Nowadays of course with so many phones using a single marketplace as a source for all software, where any software listed must be pre-approved before being sold has stunted such creativity, an application that made farting noises, or changed the colour of the screen would be someone's first applications while getting to grips with developing on the platform, nowadays such applications are products to be sold, with Apple taking a 30% cut. Anyway, on with the topic at hand.

Electopia screenshotElectopia

To showcase the HTC HD2's graphics ability, there's no better game than Electopia. Developed at Southend, you take control of some weird robot thingy and wheel him around the world exploring and shooting stuff. Best of all it is free and can be downloaded from Southend's website. When we'll ever get a full commercial version of the game is unknown. But either way, its a little fun game and it shows off the power of the HD2.

Experiment13 screenshotExperiment13

Experiment13 is a puzzle game, you can almost say it's similar to portal in that you have to make your weird character guy go through portals (without making them yourself), the cool thing is you have to rotate the world to achieve this making it somewhat unique when upfront it looks like it could just be a platformer. It's rendered in 3D and the graphics aren't too bad. It can be downloaded from XDA-Developers.

Hunting screenshotHunting

Hunting is a tower defence game, I don't know about you but I love tower defence games. It's set in a stone-age sort of time so out are the funky missile launchers and cannons, in are weird guys with clubs and bows. The only bad point is it doesn't run in widescreen, and there isn't much variation in the maps. That said, its cheap at 1.19. It can be downloaded from the Marketplace, or there's the demo Hunting Lite.

Meon screenshotMeon

Next up is Meon, this is actually probably the game I've played the most on my HD2. It's another puzzle game where you have to send beams of light to their destination. Sound boring? It's not and is highly addictive. The graphics aren't great, it doesn't make use of the WVGA screen very well, but either way the gameplay is good enough to overcome this. The game itself will set you back 1.69 from the Marketplace, but there is a demo available to called Meon Lite.

Picanrium screenshotPicranium

Picranium is next. Another puzzle game, vaguely similar to minesweeper in that you have to work out what blocks are the actual blocks you need to identify to build the picture, hence the name I assume. But unlike minesweeper you get told the number of blocks in a row or column, you then have to mark them out. Got a little tricky on some levels. Graphics are alright, but would be cool to get a 3D version like on the Nintendo DS. It does make use of multi-touch on the HD2 which is a cool addition. It'll set you back 2.19 from the Marketplace, or there's a demo version called Picranium Lite.

Pocket Lemmings screenshotPocket Lemmings

Need I say more? It's Lemmings. Don't get conned into buying the official versions like Lemmings Tribes, which are slow and rubbish. Go with the original versions. This is a clone resembling the original PC/Amiga/Acorn etc versions made by Johannes Zeppenfeld. Best of all the actual application is free. Like Wolf3D and Doom you do need to provide your own content files, in this case the Lemmings main.dat file which you can find on your old DOS copy. :-) The only problem really is it doesn't support widescreen, but at least it stretches to fill the screen, it's not that noticeable but something that could be improved. You can download the application itself from Johannes' website.

Brain Games 2009 screenshotResco Brain Games 2009

The interface in this game is fantastic, probably one of the best I've come across, makes a change from people using the bog standard and ugly forms found in many Windows Mobile applications. It's got pages and pages of different games, from mathematics, to sorting colour patterns and shooting things, it'll will keep you busy for more than a while and records all your stats, which annoyingly makes you want to complete more and more of it. If you're going to buy it, it isn't cheap at $19.99, but you may be able to find it cheaper from other sources. Here's the official Resco page for it.

Snake screenshotResco Snake

Another Snake game, you control the snake using the accelerometer in the HD2, eat fruit, other snakes, and don't get hurt by the bad guys. Loads of levels, all with different themes with a gradual increase in difficulty making the game quite challenging later on, great user interface, but kinda pricey at $9.99. Official website here.

Xtrakt

One of the better games out there, basically a rail-shooter, although you do have control over the characters location either left or right. Race through a fancy futuristic city on a motorbike type thing and shoot these weird robot thingies. Graphics are pretty good, audio is pretty good. Originally bundled with the Xperia phone but can be found over on XDA Developers.

Time permitting I'll share the handful of other applications I use, which aren't games at a later date.

Microsoft backs Web Open Font Format

In some rather good news, it seems Microsoft have backed the Web Open Font Format (WOFF).

Previously Microsoft have supported Embedded OpenType (EOT), which they developed back in the 1990s, and was supported by Internet Explorer 4 onwards, although no other web browsers bothered implementing it. However back in those days adding an extra 100KB download was a heavy price to pay for embedding fonts into a website, and so it wasn't widely used. The release of the Core Web Fonts which Microsoft released for free back in 1996 were quite honestly better than a lot of fonts people were wanting to embed, or were allowed to embed, as the Core Web Fonts were designed for screen readability, and weren't just quick ports of fonts designed for printing.

However in 2009 the Web Open Font Format starting gaining support, like EOT it kept font foundries happy by preventing the font being downloaded to the computer and used in other applications, which had been the main stumbling block for all other font embedding technologies. Mozilla implemented it Firefox 3.6, Opera also have plans to implement it. The three have recently submitted it to the W3C. It isn't known if support will make it in for IE9, but it seems likely in my opinion. There's no date yet for when Opera plan on implementing it, and Chrome, Safari and the WebKit developers haven't decided who, let alone when is actually going to build support for it.

Internet Explorer and Firefox support would I think be enough to roll this thing out. As many of my readers know the second Windows Vista and Office 2007 came out I switched to using the 6 new fonts included with those on my blog and several other websites, because Segoe UI is gorgeous. Having a font embedding technology will really make the web a lot richer, maybe not for body text (frankly Segoe, Calibri, and even Verdana are hard to beat) but for headers the new choices and variety will really shine and best of all, it will cut down the need for images of text which many websites still use for headers, which don't scale well with high DPI screens and aren't easily search engine readable.

Hopefully in a couple of years web designers won't have to worry about what fonts people have on their machines, and we can just use the fonts we want to use and embed them and count on support across all, or at least most browsers.

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