Is Windows 7 beta about to go public?

An intriguing link has appeared on the Windows 7 home page entitled “Download the Windows 7 Beta”. Currently it gives a 404 HTTP error. Is it due to start serving up the public beta of Windows 7 soon though, or has April 1st come early for Microsoft?

Windows 7 beta link

UPDATE: Having checked back at 23:00 GMT, the link has gone. So was it a wind-up, or did someone at Microsoft leak the link? Guess time will tell…

UPDATE 2: Apparently the official line is that it was a CMS publishing error and the beta will be unveiled on the 7th January. See here and here. The second link ist auf Deutsch.

UPDATE 3: As of 8/1/2009. Windows 7 beta, build 7000 is of course available on various torrent feeds, but it is also alleged to be available on MSDN, Connect and TechNet. With the boss on a course, I’ve not been able to check MSDN for myself. I did check on Connect though and it’s not available to me, so presumably one must already have been invited to join the beta programme to be able to access it there. However, it is due to be available to the first 2.5 million subscribers from the Windows 7  website as of tomorrow (9/1/2009).

Pure Text: A wonderfully simple solution to pasting HTML as plain text

Something that irritates me with far too frequent regularity is copying and pasting of text in Windows. The reason is that I tend to copyfrom sources that use formatted text, such as web pages, word documents and emails. Programs by default keep the formatting when pasting. It is very rarely the case that I want to keep that formatting though.

MS Office applications have special paste options, but accessing the “paste without formatting” option tends to take far too many mouse clicks. Also WordPress can be expanded via a plugin to provide a paste as plain text option. To get it to work in Firefox though, one must hack an obscure config file. To get around it, I’ve resorted to leaving Notepad++ open simply so I can paste into there first. This removes the formatting and I can then cut and paste to the true destination. It’s still a faff, but much less so that the previous options.

I have recently discovered a simple, free, application that effortlessly solves the problem. Pure Text sits unobtrusively in system tray and provides a new paste from clipboard option to all applications. By default the keyboard shortcut is Windows-P. Hit that key combination and it pastes the clipboard contents as plain text. Simple.

My only gripe is that it clutters the system tray, rather than being configured from the control panel. It’s a really minor irritation though compared with its usefulness.

Warning: deactivate “lighter menus” plugin before upgrading to WordPress 2.7

I have just upgraded to WordPress 2.7 and had a bit of a shock when I visited the admin area of my blog. The old drop-down menus supplied by the Lighter Menus plugin had gone, but the new funky menu down the left hand side didn’t appear. So I had no way of navigating around the admin area.

Luckily the solution was straight forward. I simply visited the URL wp-admin/plugins.php and disabled the lighter menus plugin and the 2.7 menus sprung into life.

I’m really glad therefore that WordPress uses nice simple URLs to navigate around the admin area, rather than fancy cookie-based navigation that some systems use. Anyway, if you use WordPress and are considering upgrading to 2.7, make sure you turn off the lighter menus plugin (assuming you have it installed) before upgrading and you’ll save yourself a bit of hassle.

Apple on apple: what you get when you cross an Apple fan boy with an orchard of apples

Demonstrating that the devotion of Apple fan boys to all things Apple, one japanese fanboy has achieved the ultimate in devotion: Apple branded apples.

Apple branded apples
Apple branded apples

The orchard owner apparently stuck various Apple stickers on his fruit whilst they were still green and unripe. The sun then rippened the fruit, save for the covered bits. When harvested, and the stickers were removed, he had himself a box of fruit bearing the Apple (and iPod) logos:

Box of Apple-branded apples
Box of Apple-branded apples

I guess this proves there really is no limit to the madness of the Apple fanboy…

Balsamiq mockups: draw detailed GUI mockups in minutes

Since the launch of AIR, Adobe have had a product marketplace for applications written using AIR. In amongst the dozens of twitter clients that clog up its pages, one can occasionally find a real gem of a product. One such application is Balsamiq Mockups.

If like me, you hate creating mock-ups with pen and paper, then normally you are limited to two choices:

  1. Use some sort of overly-complex CAD or structured drawing package like Visio
  2. Use a paint program like MS Paint or Paint Shop Pro.

Both solutions are far from ideal, and it will often take far longer to create (and modify) the resultant mock-up than it would take to draw it with pen and paper.

Balsamiq Mockups addresses this issue really nicely. I offers an interface that is is simple to use, is geared specifically toward drawing mock-ups, and – as an added bonus – the skins applied to the components makes then look like they were drawn with pen and paper. It only costs $79 a license too.

As an experiment, I downloaded the trial version, ran it and attempted to create a mock-up myself. It is of a AIR-based Google chart generator that I started working on months ago (but haven’t got anywhere with due to other commitments, so don’t hold your breath for it if you think it would be useful).

The total time taken, including installation, learning to navigate around the tool, drawing the mock-up and taking a screen grab of it took about 20 minutes. With a bit of experience, I could easily have created this in just a couple of minutes, far faster than using pen and paper. Yet the resultant drawing is fully editable, unlike a pen and paper version. It really is an easy tool to use and I’ve become an instant fan of it 🙂