Jeremy's almost but not quite entirely moribund blog

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tax brackets, for dummies

I recently agreed to do some consulting work for a company I used to work for full-time. Yesterday, I talked to my neighbor, an accountant, about the tax implications of being an independent contractor in addition to earning a regular paycheck. One of my concerns was that earnings from my contractor work would push me into a new tax bracket and I could wind up consulting for less than nothing after Uncle Sam took his cut.

Well, turns out tax brackets don't work that way. If my total income breaks $100 into the next tax bracket, only that $100 is taxed at the higher rate.

Okay, that's good to know. Now all I have to worry about is the Alternative Minimum Tax...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

More fun with Windows Vista

A few more notes on Windows Vista:
  • Installing a real video driver fixes OpenGL. Neither NVIDIA nor HP provides a driver that works out of the box, but I just snagged the latest ForceWare driver and manually added the PCI ID of my video chip to the nv_disp.inf. Works like a charm.
  • You can turn off the User Account Control obnoxiousness. But then you have to turn off Windows Secuirty Center alerts too, because otherwise it will annoy you about it with a red taskbar icon until you change it back. There's no way to tell the Security Center to ignore this one warning (like you can for firewall or AV).
  • Unlike XP's Luna theme, which gave you exactly three colors to choose from (Bland Silver, Drab Green, and Retina-Burning Blue), Vista's Aero lets you pick any color you want. It also lets you use the Windows 2000 look, but they took out most of the color schemes. THEY KILLED EGGPLANT!!111eleventyone
  • There's a funny surprise in the EULA. You are allowed to use Vista (Ultimate) inside a virtual machine--but you are NOT allowed to use any DRM'd media inside the virtual machine. Microsoft apparently only wants to let people use DRM protected by physical TPM chips gooped up with epoxy. They'll never learn.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

First look at Windows Vista

Today I got my first look at Windows Vista (on a company-owned laptop). Impressions:
  • Aero Glass looks nice. Very smooth and polished, and a definite step up from XP's Luna theme. I think it also bears a strong resemblance to another operating system sold by a company named after fruit, but that shouldn't surprise anybody. The Win+Tab rolodex-style window switching isn't nearly as cool as Apple's Expose feature, for what that's worth.
  • Solitaire has been seriously overhauled. (For the first time in, what, 15 years?)
  • Microsoft went and hid all the preferences again. It took me forever to figure out how to prevent it from hiding filename extensions from me.
  • File copying in Explorer has been improved somewhat--if it can't read a single file, it lets you retry or skip rather than just blowing up. (Finally catching up with DOS there.) Explorer's old functionality bothered me so much I went and wrote my own copy utility. Vista is halfway tolerable, although it has some quirks and it still nags you with eleventy billion different "Are you sure?" messages. Fortunately, PerigeeCopy seems to work on Vista... ;)
  • User Access Control (UAC) is downright obnoxious. A popup repeatedly prompts you to confirm seemingly random operations such as changing the system font size. Fortunately, it can be turned off.
  • There's a built-in benchmark that assigns a numeric score to your PC. My laptop (actually, it belongs to the company I use it to do consulting work for) scores 4.5 (which is pretty downright l33t--they say 5 is a top-of-the-line rating).
  • OpenGL is totally, totally b0rked. IIRC, Vista implements OpenGL as a wrapper on top of DirectX, and it's garbage. Even a dirt-simple game like Descent I (d1x_oglmw) is unplayable. (It works fine on XP on the same machine, which has a GeForce Go 7600 256MB video chip, for what that's worth.) Perhaps a real video driver (instead of the one that came with Vista) would fix the problem. It'd be nice if I could find one. Neither HP nor has a Vista driver for the GF7 Go series yet...