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Free Apple Mac style Dock with Windows Vista and RocketDock

One of the distinctive features of Apple computers is a piece of software called "The Dock". The Dock is sort of an always there menu with big icons that spawn your most frequently used programs. Docks also can run small programs or docklets that can do things like display a clock or show you the weather. Docks also can be configured to display running programs that have been minimized in a mini window. You bring a running program to the front, or launch a program by hovering over the dock with your mouse, and clicking on the icon.

I suppose that people who don't know any better might think that this is something you can only get from Apple, but as it turns out there are docks for Linux and Windows. At home I have a Gateway computer running Windows Vista business, and I wanted to add a Dock. After a bit of hunting, I found some recommendations and settled upon RocketDock from Punk Labs. Punk Labs as it turns out is really a couple (he's a programmer, she's a designer) who go by the pseudonyms of PolyVector and Skunkie respectively. The about screen describes RocketDock tongue in cheek as a "peace offering" from the pair of self admitted Apple fans to Windows users everywhere.

The RocketDock website provides links to the various versions and a straightforward online manual. You get most of the features of the Apple Dock program, and it's very easy to work with. Once installed and running, the RocketDock appears at the top of the screen, with a set of default icons. Right click on the RocketDock and you get a menu that lets you adjust Dock settings. There are various themes that will style the look and feel of the RocketDock, and the RocketDock site offers an Extra's link with downloads to styles and docklet programs other people have contributed. While it's just a quibble with this otherwise great program, there's not much in the way of Docklets available, but I found it hard to resist adding on the simple analog style clock. Continue reading "Free Apple Mac style Dock with Windows Vista and RocketDock"

Fun with Windows Vista and the Maxtor Shared Storage Drive

I have a pair of 200 gigabyte Maxtor Shared Storage drives -- which are relatively inexpensive network storage drives that integrate with windows client machines. They come with an ethernet port you use to connect to a switch or hub on your home LAN, and will plug and play by negotiating an IP via DHCP. Maxtor (now owned by Seagate) provided a windows client that helps with finding and setting up the drives, since they advertise themselves as Workgroup peers that can be shared. I use the drives to store things like digital camera pictures and DVD's I've ripped in order to play them through my Tivo Series 2. They also come with some software that makes it easy to backup the My Documents area of our windows machines.

With Windows XP, the Shared Storage drives worked fairly reliably, but after I upgraded my Gateway desktop to Vista Business edition, I found myself unable to connect to the drives I'd mapped to it. Trying to mount them manually, I'd receive a login dialog. The name and password I use from my XP Pro based computer works fine, but on Vista the drive would reject the same credentials.

It took me a while to sit down and dig into the issue, and my first guess was that firmware might fix the problem. The Shared Storage drive predates Vista, so it wasn't a total surprise to me that authentication didn't work. The bundled web interface allows you to login with a browser, and administer the drive, setting up user accounts and mounting and unmounting USB devices you can connect to either of 2 provided USB ports. We have a printer attached.

After logging into the webserver, it displays a menu that includes the Firmware version -- mine was 1.2. A quick search of the Seagate site, and I found Maxtor offering version 2.6.2 firmware! The Advanced Settings | System Maintenance menu | System update menu provided a simple upload and update process that was completed in about 2 minutes. Despite the major point upgrade to the drive bios, I still was unable to login to the drive from Vista. What made this even more confusing is that I somehow had been able to successfully find the unit on the Windows network, authenticate to it and map a drive when I had first done the Vista upgrade. A bit of googling on the problem, and I discovered something surprising about the Maxtor unit I'd never suspected -- it is actually a linux box.... Continue reading "Fun with Windows Vista and the Maxtor Shared Storage Drive"