Saturday, 31 January 2009

Java Bug with IE

I recently had an issue on both Vista x64 SP1 and Windows 7 Beta with IE opening tabs very slowly.

This was following an update to Java to 6.0 update 10 (or 6.0 update 11) where whenever I opened a tab or Window or popup or anything in IE, the following command would run:

"C:\PROGRA~2\Java\jre6\bin\ssvagent.exe"  -new

This would use up 100% of one of my cores and the tab/window would not complete loading until it had finished, which sometimes took 10 seconds or so.

I figured out that it was to do with the next generation browser plug-in which launches the java applet as a separate process instead of within the browser process. Sun have included this new plug-in since Java 6 update 10 which would explain the issue.

This proved to be highly irritating, so I set about finding a fix and noticed that there were 2 BHO add-ons registered in IE with ‘ssv’ in the name:

Java(tm) Plug-In 2 SSV Helper

Java(tm) Plug-In SSV Helper

So I figured I would disable them to see if it impacts functionality.

The upshot is that it doesn’t impact functionality at all, the 2nd generation plug-in works just fine without those BHO’s enabled. :)

By the way, I recommend process explorer for troubleshooting these painful hanging issues. It is part of the excellent Sysinternals tools and is written by an expert in the Windows Kernel, Mark Russinovich.

Download it here.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Windows 7 Beta UI changes

So, if you read the last post, you will see that I now have a fully working Windows 7 system, with fairly little work and only a small amount of swearing required to get it to that stage.

Firstly, regarding the new or changed UI parts of the OS. As everyone knows, the taskbar has been changed substantially, the quick launch bar has been removed and you now pin applications to the taskbar, a bit like, dare I say it, OS X’s dock. At first glance I thought ‘this is shit, I’m really not going to like this’ because it’s a big change for Windows and lets face it, us humans are scared of change and the unknown.

However, I decided to leave it in the default ‘hide labels’ mode, and believe it or not, it works rather nicely and when I have a shitload of programs open, my taskbar doesn’t end up ridiculously full. Hovering over the running program icon gives you a pop up with all of the open Windows like the screenshot below:


As you can see, I have 2 instances of Windows Live Messenger running, logged into 2 different MSN accounts. The first 2 are the hidden WLM main Windows, to show you are signed in. (On Vista these are the icons in the system tray). The 3rd is the main window for the first instance, and the second is a conversation from the first instance also.

See screenshots while I was running IE with 2 instances, 1 with 3 tabs open and the other with 2 tabs open.


And if I right click on the IE icon:


So, while those UI changes are fairly radical, they are actually very usable and very easy to get used to.

The Notification Area has also been changed substantially with a different method of choosing what you want to be shown. It then hides the rest of the icons in a little box which is accessible by clicking the little up arrow to the right of the Notification Area.

The use of Aero for resizing windows is a major step forwards. If you want a window maximised, move the window to the top of the screen and hold it for a second until you see the outline go right round the screen. Pull it back from the top of the screen it goes back to the size it was, see screenshot (Poor but you can see the outline):


If you drag a window to the left edge of the screen it will maximise it to fill that half of the screen, similarly if you drag a window to the edge of the right hand side of the screen it will maximise that to fill the right half of the screen. This makes copying between programs very easy. Also, if you resize the bottom of a window down to the taskbar so it touches the taskbar, it will also do the same at the top so it touches the top of the screen as well. Any movement of the window cancels these out and the window goes back to it’s original size.

The new theme selectors are much better too and the desktop slideshow, although it’s been around for years on KDE, is a welcome addition for Windows 7.

Sorry for the waffling about this new UI, it’s just there is a lot of changes to the way Aero works and the UI in itself, so much so that I haven’t got onto application compatibility yet which I will do in the next post. :-)

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Windows 7 Beta Installation/Configuration

Well, I have been using Windows 7 beta for 2 days now and I'm pretty impressed to say the least. This post is about the installation and setup, including driver issues encountered. I will post again about the UI and Application compatibility.

As a tester of Vista during the beta stage I was expecting the experience to be pretty similar. I was expecting that there would be quite a lot of bugs and Win 7 wouldn’t really be that usable. How wrong could I be……

The specs of my box are pretty good, it’s an Apple Mac Pro with 2 Dual Core Xeon 5150’s, 8GB DDR2 ECC Fully Buffered RAM, an ATI Radeon X1900 and 4 SATA HD’s of varying sizes.

The first issue I had was nothing to do with Windows, it’s due to Apples piss poor EFI/Virtualised BIOS implementation which they used, which doesn’t allow keyboard input during the boot stage. This problem only affects x64 versions of Vista SP1 and Windows 7, because they are the only ones with the capability of EFI boot. So, the first thing I had to do was extract all the files out of the ISO into the [win7source] directory and use the oscdimg.exe command like so:

oscdimg.exe -n -m -bC:\[win7source]\boot\ C:\[win7source] C:\Win7noefix64.iso

For info, the oscdimg.exe binary is part of the Windows Automated Installer Kit which is a 1 GB download, but you can download the oscdimg.exe binary (zipped) here.

This creates a nice new ISO image which will get past the limitations of Crapple’s shoddy programming.

Once that was done I could start the install and I installed it onto a nice new 500GB SATA drive which I bought for the occasion from PC World of all places for the sum of £30. It was an unbranded drive in the store and the Hitachi Deskstars were all £49 or more, so considering what I was going to use it for I bought the cheapest, and it actually turned out to be a Hitachi Deskstar when I opened the box. :-)

Install of Windows 7 went without a hitch, probably took about 20 mins all told.

First boot into it and all good, I joined it to my AD domain, rebooted…then logged in with my AD user account…all worked fine, folder redirection works properly redirecting your folders into the Libraries…which is a nice feature.

I then installed the Boot Camp drivers for Windows Vista x64. The install went perfectly, but the Realtek Audio didn’t work. I downloaded the latest and greatest Realtek HDA zip driver from their website and attempted the install, which failed. I then attempted to install it from the device manager using the Update Driver > Browse function……which worked perfectly. I then had sound.

The other thing is the graphics were a bit glitchy and there was no Catalyst Control centre.

So, I tried the Radeon driver available in Windows update, which fucked up and turned the Aero off. So, I rebooted…no joy. So I decided to install the Vista 8.12 Catalyst Drivers, which also didn’t work. But, when I rolled back the driver in the device manager, the MS supplied one started working again and was interacting with Catalyst Control Centre. At this point it was late, I had work the next day and it was pissing me off because I found a bug with Windows Media centre as well, so I put it to bed for the night.

Next day, after work, I started on the graphic problem again. Having read on the interweb that the Catalyst 8.12 Drivers were shit, even in Vista, I decided to try the 8.11 drivers instead. However, 8.12 would not uninstall in any way. So, I remembered I’d had a similar issue on a box years ago and used the Catalyst uninstaller to blow the shit away and have a nice clean start. So, I ran that and it did the trick.

I installed Catalyst 8.11 for Vista x64, rebooted, and hey presto, graphics were much smoother.

As yet, I have not found a driver that does not work with Windows 7 x64 which works on Vista x64 which means that the Windows Kernel Team need a big shoutout for making it as compatible as possible with Vista.