Essential Utility: htop

Screenshot of htop in action.I've been rebuilding my Dell PowerEdge 830 server after a meltdown last week. This time I decided to go with Ubuntu Server 8.10 as the base operating system with Windows running under VMware Server 2.0.

Since this is a pretty small server, I'm always checking up on resource usage and top is a useful tool for this purpose. I find that I'd like to take actions based on what is happening in top and need to keep another shell open to issue commands. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a better version of top, that acted a little like the Windows Task Manager?

On Linux, there is an improved version of this tool called htop. This offers colour coding, CPU meters, and other nice things through the shell. Go check it out if you run Linux servers.

Tagged with dell, htop, linux, server and ubuntu.

First impressions of Windows 7 Beta 1

After a very quick install on a Dell XPS M1710 laptop, and a few hours of messing around, I have come to the conclusion that this is going to be the best release of Windows yet. At the same time, it's not very exciting for the alpha geek in me. Perhaps it is good to have regular stable releases and leave the fireworks to user ap­pli­ca­tions?

Before I list some of the things that I like, or didn't as the case may be, I have a tip for anyone trying to get Aero running on the M1710. For some reason, Beta 1 doesn't have drivers in the box for the NVIDIA GeForce 9700M GT. Just download the mobile drivers from the NVIDIA website and install the Vista version using the "Have a disk..." option. Ignore any warnings about com­pat­i­bil­i­ty, the Vista drivers are close enough and I would expect NVIDIA to release some beta drivers for Windows 7.

What I liked

Per­for­mance im­prove­ments

This has been a problem for a large number of Vista users and Microsoft have made big strides according to my un­sci­en­tif­ic testing. Little things like searching for programs on the Start menu is noticeably quicker than Vista on the same machine. No doubt anti-virus vendors are working on ways to reduce the per­for­mance.

System protection

You can now reserve a percentage of disk space to storage of old versions of user and system files (just like Recycle Bin has done since Windows 95). This is something I would want to increase for someone like my Mum.

Task bar ap­pli­ca­tion in­te­gra­tion

The thumbnails introduced in Vista are now more useful since you view individual tabs in an ap­pli­ca­tion like Internet Explorer 8. When you have a long running task like a file copy, the progress is shown directly on the task bar when minimised.

Easier wireless network access

Clicking the network icon in the task no­ti­fi­ca­tion area now shows a list of network con­nec­tions. This makes it much easier to connect, and is similar to the experience in Apple OS X.

No­ti­fi­ca­tion area grouping

I find the pollution of the task no­ti­fi­ca­tion area to be a real pain. Every ap­pli­ca­tion thinks it belongs there and needs to be visible. With Vista you could force some items to be hidden, in Windows 7 they are grouped under a single icon. It only takes simple stuff to improve the overall experience.

Requires more thought

Taskbar ap­pli­ca­tion iden­ti­fi­ca­tion

So is Internet Explorer running, or do you have a shortcut pinned to the task bar? It's hard to see on the task bar, but I can see the rationale for this design decision. It would be nice if there was an option for clearer iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, such as the name of the ap­pli­ca­tion appearing on the task bar. I suspect more use of Windows 7 will result in a change in my ex­pec­ta­tion for this aspect of task bar operation.

IE 8 rendering issues

There is a still a lot of work to do here. I suspect that a lot of people will enable com­pat­i­bil­i­ty mode to enable sites to load. One site with problems was GMail (I'm using Google Apps for e-mail).

Tagged with internet-explorer, task-bar, dell, geforce, nvidia, review, windows and windows7.