Active Desktop, I barely knew ye

Windows Vista. It’s big, bad and insists its new technologies upon unsuspecting users while not actually working quite right.

The Vista Sidebar is one such culprint. Ever since the early previews of Vista (aka Longhorn), there was a giant box hanging around the desktop on the right side that had a giant clock in it.

Of course, that has now become sidebar gadgets – which can live on your desktop.

It’s a poor tradeoff though. We’ve lost Active Desktop.

Foisted upon an unsuspecting user base. Active Desktop was pitched as a portal to an always-on internet with IE4 or Windows 98. The fact that barely anyone had an always-on internet connection seemed irrelevant. But you could put loads of webpages in little windows on your desktop, or just replace your wallpaper with a web page or HTML page.

Until recently, I’ve found this pointless – but for networks running an intranet such as Sharepoint, it’s the perfect solution. A user logs on, and on their desktop appears the site’s intranet. At a single glance you have all the information you need from your intranet. If you click on a click, a new IE window opens, and you carry on from there. Simple, and very effective.

Vista comes along and as surprisingly AD was put into Windows, it was taken away again. Gone forever (probably). Now, considering how much old Windows fluff is still hanging around in Vista (old Font dialog box, anyone?) it seems that this is a bit of an own goal on Microsoft’s front.

The suggestion now is that I have to write desktop gadgets to do the same jobs as a webpage would. And to make matters worse (and here’s the kicker), Desktop Gadgets does not support roaming profiles! So you move from one computer to another, and the sidebar smugly sits there with its clock, photo slideshow and newsfeeder. So even if I did make those gadgets, they would currently be about as much use as a Dell laptop battery.

Fantastic! So for network administrators – there is now no native way to access an intranet or any other application service with a user specifically going there. And I can really see illiterate computer users making sure that they start IE and go to the intranet when they log in. Yeah, right!

Thank you Microsoft, good night!