Archive for January 13th, 2009

Published by Derek Moore on 13 Jan 2009

Why doesn’t Windows 7 have docklets?

When I use XP, I simply cannot use it on a day-to-day basis without ObjectDock.  I use it primarily for both my main apps, and for quick access to certain folders.  It’s handy to be able to just fling my mouse over to the side of the screen, and have a large target to click, rather than picking out a tiny little button in the QuickLaunch toolbar.

Now, OD, and other apps like it, are simply copying the OS X dock .. and that’s fine.  But guess what? So is Windows 7, in their new dock taskbar .. and that’s fine, too.  And that’s because its a good idea.  And good ideas should never be proprietary.  By combining running and non-running apps into the same space, you place the icons in the same order all the time, so that you always know where everything is.

But, there’s one other big use for docks: docklets.  There’s no such formal name in OS X, but in the Windows docks, docklets are miniature apps which run inside the dock itself.  In essence, they are basically widgets or gadgets that confine themselves to that dock’s icon, or an icon-sized window that the app author can paint however he likes.

For instance, I have a OD docklet that not only runs iTunes when I click it, but also displays the album cover of the song I’m listening to instead of the iTunes icon.  I also have a Thunderbird icon which doubles as an IMAP email checker.  There are thousands of docklets that give you weather updates, monitor RSS feeds, display system monitors, etc.

And this is where 7’s new taskbar is not doing it for me.  As a software author, I would love to be able to design an app that can change my app’s dock icon to whatever I want; whether its to draw a miniature calendar with upcoming appointments, or to display the iTunes album art instead of a static iTunes icon.

Adding such functionality into 7 shouldn’t be that difficult for Microsoft, given that their already extensive work into gadgets, and they’re existing partnership with Stardock (to create the Dreamscenes in Vista Ultimate).  In the end, giving programmers more control gives users a better experience down the line.

Published by Derek Moore on 13 Jan 2009

My Initial Windows 7 Thoughts

Story time, kids…  For Christmas, I got a new laptop.  I had needed one badly, and I managed to get a deal on Black Friday that was too good to pass up.  I mention this because, on the laptop was ..  Windows Vista.  Something which heretofore, I had never personally used.  Now, normally, as a computer geek, I would use the latest and greatest.  And as a programmer, I need to be on the forefront of this type of stuff.  But I had heard so much junk about Vista, that I was hesitant to use it, especially on my primary machine.

After using this laptop for over 6 weeks, I’ve been happy with Vista for the most part.  Despite all the naysayers out there, Vista isn’t that bad.  It’s definitely prettier, makes XP feel old.  But, it does come with a price…

Vista is a complete memory hog.  Even after I got rid of HP’s crapware on the laptop, the amount of Windows services that run in Vista is simply staggering.

So, during PDC in October ‘08, the new head of Windows, Steven Sinofsky, showed off a netbook running 7 … in 512 MB of RAM!  As soon as I saw this, I decided I had to try 7 as soon as it came out.

So, now that day is here.  In addition to installing it on a rusting bucket of bolts, I decided to also install it dual-boot on my main desktop PC.  For the record, my main desktop PC is only about 6 months old.  The parts in the case are these:

  • CPU: Core 2 Quad Q6600, overclocked to 3GHz (no more, because I like quiet+fast)
  • RAM: 2GB (2 x 1GB) PC2 6400
  • GPU: Geforce 8600GT (yea, I know .. “meh”)
  • HDD: 640GB SATA Western Digital

My initial impressions show Sinofsky to be right; the Core 2 Quad runs Win7 slightly faster than XP.  And post install, it also used up about the same amount of memory as XP.  Which is to say that 7 uses up far less memory than Vista.

Stay tuned.  I’ve also got some thoughts about the new Taskbar for my next post.