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Review: Windows Remote Desktop Client for Mac 2.0 (beta)

As many mac users would know (even though we hate to admit it) there are sometimes where we need to run a Windows based application. Most recently for me, this has been the application to submit my tax return to the government. For recent mac purchasers, this problem has been solved with solutions like Boot Camp, Parallels and Fusion, but for old-timers like me who haven’t made the switch to an Intel based mac yet, we still have to have a Windows PC around or go through the painful virtulisation software that is available to run Windows on our PowerPC CPU’s.
However, there’s one other solution that has been great for me, and that is the ability to use my Windows based PC (back in my parents house) remotely through the Remote Desktop Server/Client setup. Thankfully, Microsoft has recently released a beta of the client, which offers quite a few new features over the previous version, and a couple of things that I’d like to see changed.

Universal Binary

This is really a no brainer, but an important step-up from the PowerPC only version that preceeded the new beta.

Built for the Mac

Unlike the previous version (1.6), the 2.0 beta has been intergrated nicely with the Mac OS X user interface and experience. There’s now an option to go Full Screen, and like in DVD player, the menu bar pops out when you place your cursor at the top of the screen to allow you to drop back to the normal size. You can also resize the window and the remote desktop will scale accordingly.
The added functionality of a preference pane, and the inclusion of the default shortcut of Cmd+, is also worth a mention. Within the preferences, they’ve grouped everything under tabs, similar to the previous iteration of the software, but with far more added functionality. The keyboard mapping feature has been updated and makes for a Mac to Windows transition a breeze.
RDC_Preferences
The brand new Preferences pane which adds some great functionality to the RDC client.
RDC_KeyboardMapping
Keyboard Mapping features

A new Connection Window

While a minor change, the new connection window has taken receipt of a new Vista-like graphic. Unfortunately, it looses the ‘Options’ disclosure triange which allowed for a user to quickly change the information about the connection they were about to establish. This selection has been moved to the Preferences pane, but it would have been nice to see it in both locations for better ease of use.
RDC_1.6_Connection
The old Remote Desktop Connection Window
RDC_2.0_Connection
A refreshed RDC 2.0 (beta) screen.

As you can see above, Microsoft has followed Apple’s lead with the UI design by doing away with the brushed metal look and going for the gradient look now found in iTunes and several other Mac applications.

Other Features

Microsoft also claims a host of other features, most of which I haven’t been able to try out but some are worth a mention here.

  • Multiple Sessions
    Lets you connect to multiple Windows-based computers at the same time.
  • Improved Printing Support
  • Remote Desktop Protocol 6.0
    Allows for connections to Windows Vista machines

Stability

Despite being a beta product, I’ve found this version to be very stable. I’ve only had one crash which occourred when I closed the connected session window by clicking on the red button at the top left corner of the window. The scaling works extremely well, and moving from window to full screen view makes for no trouble at all. Microsoft seems to have worked hard on this, all-be-it light weight, application, making sure that stability hasn’t been compromised with the addition of more Mac like features that the end-user will no doubt take advantage of.

If you’ve used the RDC client for Mac in the past, I highly recommend you get the latest beta. It’s a much needed overhaul to a robust application that has served me very well over the past 2 and a half years since I first got my PowerBook. The RDC Client for Mac beta is available from Mactopia at http://www.microsoft.com/mac/.

- james

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Microsoft steps up advertising for Zune

In anticipation of the Zune’s US release on 14th of this month, Microsoft have stepped up their online presence on top of their TV advertising and street advertising with the release of some new Flash banner ads that I came across on Technorati.

Zune vertical ad 2 Zune vertical ad 1

I don’t know about you, but I find these ads pretty vauge in what they’re supposed to be describing. It doesn’t even show the product as the most important part of the ad. At least in the ad on the right the guy is actually listening to a Zune, which is more than I can say for the girl almost eating a microphone.

Perhaps they’re going for the social route, trying to show off all the features, but it’s going to be hard to do that when no one outside the tech/gadget community really knows that the device is. The device sure does look nice though, even if it is brown!

I’d love to get my hands on one of these devices and do a review sometime, but I doubt that will happen any time soon.

-james

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Microsoft TechEd Australia: Student Day

Well, TechEd, held last week, was really quite a waste of time! Gab (a friend from Uni) and I went down for Studnet Day in hope of finding some really cool displays, but the most exciting thing was a huge ammount of Xbox’s and a huge array of Dell’s showing Vista. We all laughed when Gab got a Microsoft app running inside Vista to crash, but unfortunately he closed the window before I got a photo!
However, kudos must go to the guy at the ComputerAssociates stall who gave us a CA Towel, beanie and Pen! I was quite impressed by the display at the Intel stand with a really awesome gaming rigg running Fear through a large flat screen HDTV.
As always, I took some shots of the event, and here’s the best of the selection.
TechEd Display
Gab on the XBox
Dell's at TechEd
Vista
Gab Playing Fear
XBox Car
I’ve hopefuly got a copy of Vista in the mail, but I’m not sure if it will arrive – not that I’ve got a machine to run it on at the moment anyway!
-james

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UMPC @ CeBIT Australia

The device I loved the most at CeBIT was the Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC) which, though not well publicised, proved to be a product that seemed to generate alot of interest. For the first generation of UMPCs it seemed to be quite a decent little unit, although I think there needs to be some improvement before I’d ever consider buying one.
The model on display sported a 1Ghz processor from VIA, 512 MB RAM and a 40Gb Hard drive. For a system of this size, I felt that those were some specs that I thought I’d need to go past twice for it to really sink in. The 512MB RAM really helps make the system that little more responsive, and makes it seem a little snappier than lower end laptops from Dell and other manufacturers that only come with 256MB RAM as standard. It was obvious, how ever, that this machine was running on a processor that was alot slower than the reasonably fast machines I work on from day to day, and the performance of the device did suffer. It took quite a while for Windows to fully boot up after it crashed, but the device was running extremely warm and had probably got alot of use over the past 2 days on the show floor.
eo UMPC v7110
The eo v7110 on display had some great usability functions, such as a couple of buttons to directly change system settings such as display resoloution (natively at 800×600 but a maxium of 1024×768 is supported) and another button to go directly to the WinXP Tablet Edition Control Panel (above), which saves alot of messing around trying to navigate through the Start menu.
Another feature that I found impressive, and was much publicised in the tech media, was the thumb pads that can be seen in the picture below. These keyboard like buttons allow you to type with your thumbs, although, if you have large thumbs like me, it would probably be easier for you to use the stylus and write. With a little bit of training it would be very likely that one could become accustomed to the buttons and use them with reasonable efficency.
eo UMPC v7110
The eo UMPC v7110 is avaliable in Australia through TegaTech and is avaliable in black and white in two different component specifications. Apart from not having any money to buy this gadget, I think I’ll wait a while before I even consider looking at buying a UMPC. I can see they have a very good practical application, but for their reasonably high price range and low performance compared to portable laptops in the same price range, I don’t think it would be feasible to buy one at this stage.

-james

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