I generally prefer to run Sun’s VirtualBox for virtualization – but the fact that Microsoft provides a free version of XP for virtualization was too good to pass up for my testing purposes. Installing XP Mode was easy enough – but what I found interesting was how Microsoft integrated the XP Mode. While you can run a version of XP in a virtualized environment (much like VMWare and VirtualBox) – Microsoft has also allowed users to run applications installed within the hypervisor without opening the entire virtualized environment. So for example, in the Programs List, you would see the following:
If you look, you can see that you can actually execute applications installed within Virtual PC directly (just as if you were running a native application). It takes a second to boot (because Virtual PC loads dependencies into the background) – but I thought that this was a pretty nifty implementation. I wish that it didn’t require maintaining XP separately – but it’s a good first step I suppose.
One of the benefits of having a large flat screen TV is the wide abundance of video inputs. At present, there are 8 on our TV, 4 HD, 2 RCA style, 1 cable and 1 PC connection (DVI). This leaves lots of room for experimentation.
As noted on Saturday (http://blog.reeset.net/archives/614), I picked up a netbook, the MSI Wind (http://www.msimobile.com/level3_productpage.aspx?cid=3&id=40). Officially, the netbook is for my wife – who has taken up blogging and book reviewing as a hobby. It gives her a chance to work away from the desktop and in the living room with me in the evening. However, unofficially, it’s also a toy for me to try new things, as well as play with a netbook (as well as evaluate the feasibility of getting these for work).
Anyway, one of the first things that I did with the Netbook was drop Windows XP for the test build of Windows 7. I’ve been looking for a place to try it, and since my wife has been using Vista for a little over a year (I like the parental controls) – I figured that Windows 7 wouldn’t be too much of a difference. As I noted in the previous post, I was very pleased with how well it has run on this netbook. In all honest, it boots faster than the original XP system (takes about 10 seconds to go from a cold boot to active) – can run the areo interface on much lighter hardware than Vista (the netbook for example has no problem with it using the integrated video card), and as I spend time working with the system, have been really impressed with the polish in a beta build (especially when you consider what the first public Vista beta looked like).
So, that was a long explanation for my current project. I have a lot of computers at home. The oldest machine that I still use occasionally is a machine that I purchased from Dell in 1998 (I just keep updating the components) up to our current desktop. Well, yesterday, I was sitting around and wanted to watch an episode of the Simpsons . I didn’t have the particular episode that I was interested in watching, so I went online and found it (on hulu I think). Anyway, I hooked up the netbook and feed the video directly to the TV and it worked so well through the DVI cable that I thought I’d setup my own Media PC and see how well I could get it to work.
So….I dusted off a 4 year old media pc that I rarely turn on and decided to wipe the hard-drive and install Windows 7 and see how the new media functionality worked on it (as well as see how Windows 7 worked on a really old system that I wouldn’t touch Vista with). Again, like with the netbook, the install took approximately 20 minutes to install and apply current updates and create user account. As well, Windows 7 recognized all the old hardware, and appropriate drivers were added. From there, I moved the computer next to the TV and let the experiment begin. I figure, if I like this setup, I’ll likely end up purchasing a light-weight PC that I can use as a media machine – but for now – this will do. With the current setup, the machine can stream content directly to the TV (unfortunately, not recording yet – though I might pick up a cheap TV input card so I can setup a simplified DVR recorder). So right now, I’m hanging out at home watching the last episode of the Office (which I missed), an episode of He Man, masters of the Universe (I love old cartoons) and then an episode of Married…With Children (another one of my guilty pleasures). I’ve been primarily watching episodes via Hulu – and I’m surprised at the video quality. It’s not DVD quality – but certainly as good an anything off VHS or cable. I’m not sure if this is because of Hulu’s quality, my high speed internet (thank you Monmouth-Independence) or a combination of things.
But so far, so good. It looks like this little setup will work great for testing and seeing why so many people are getting DVR devices. If anyone has done something similar, give me a shout. Otherwise, I’ll continue to post updates as I (and my boys) spend time feeding videos through our new test media PC (the boys like watching cartoons online as much as I do, though they seem to be more interested in the current content on Cartoon Network).
So like most folks, I’m hanging out today kind of watching the super bowl – but am also playing with a new toy, my MSI Wind netbook. This is a nifty little device, running a 1.6 ghz, 1 gb, 160 gb HD, 10.1 inch monitor weight about 2 lbs. The machine came installed by default with Windows XP – but part of the reason why I decided to pick up this little device was to have a platform to test Windows 7, and the netbook seemed like as good as place as any to test out the claims that this OS will take less resources, be more efficient, etc. So, occasionally, I may jot down a few notes of my experiences using my little advice.
First thoughts are I like this little machine. It has a full keyboard so I don’t feel cramped typing, has an expandable drive (so soon I’ll have 2 GBs on the machine), 3 USB drives, an SD card reader – all the stuff that you really need to get things onto and off of the machine. The device seems fairly rugged and cannot believe how light it is. I’ve tried the ASUS, Acer and HP netbooks and I really like the design that the folks at MSI have used here. Oh, and the 6 cell battery – looks like I’ve been getting about 3 1/2 hours of burn time. Oh, and this is quiet and cool. The laptops that I have at home simply run hot (I’m rarely cold during the winter so long as I have my laptop). This little device simply doesn’t put out much heat and is super quiet. A nice, unexpected change from previous hardware used.
Windows 7…At home, I use a wide number of operating systems. I have a couple of flavors of linux, XP and Vista (no mac since they won’t let me virtualize it), mostly to test various projects that I work on under different systems. One of the hallmark of Windows installs tends to be scary installs. I was pleasantly surprised to see that install tool approximately 18 minutes on this netbook – all hardware was recognized, drivers loaded. Since, I’ve loaded Google Chrome, Office 2007, Live Writer (which is what I’m using now) and MarcEdit. Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed with the way the system handles. At this point, I have Chrome open, streaming a video from youtube (bruises from chairlift), 5 other tabs, IE with 3 tabs (one my exchange mail), 3 word documents, an excel document (~4 mbs in size) and MarcEdit and still have ~200 mbs of RAM free and not a hint of sluggishness. This is something I’ll track as I continue working on this little box.