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In a classic Dilbert strip, Tina the Tech Writer is forced to write docs for code that doesn’t exist yet. Her last line: “If you call our tech support, we’ll blame Microsoft.”

Works for me! I blame Microsoft for why I don’t have a new Lounge today. OK, so time spent job searching is a larger factor. But still, I’d rather blame Microsoft.

In particular, I blame Windows 7. Now by and large, I’m loving the Windows 7 beta. It’s a thousand little things I didn’t know I needed, but now I need. And it’s running amazingly well on my old Toshiba Portege M200. Soon I hope to test it on my Gateway, which has a lot more power.

But there’s one area where I’ve found a bug; and it’s a critical bug for the Lounge. In fact, it’s in the critical Lounge application: Windows Journal.

I love Windows Journal. It’s simple, it’s powerful, it’s free with Windows. You grab a Tablet PC pen, and you draw. That simple, and that powerful. Simple, because it just works like a pen and paper. Powerful, because even though it doesn’t have the drawing features of a higher-end paint package like Paint Shop Pro, it has two very powerful features:

  1. You can print documents to it. Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, Web pages, whatever: print to Journal, and then you can draw on top of the “printed” document. I use this as a presenter: I print my Powerpoint slides to Journal, and then present from those. As I present, I can hand-write notes in answer to audience questions. This is the only way to present, in my opinion. (Actually, not quite the only way; but that’s an announcement I’m saving until I finish some code…)
  2. You can do a text search of your hand-written notes. So not only can you write on your document, you can search for what you wrote. Again, this is great power for a presenter. (But again, look for an announcement soon…)

So I do love Journal. I call it the Killer Tablet PC App Microsoft Doesn’t Know They Have. Journal by itself is reason enough to have a Tablet PC, but Microsoft seldom seems to mention it. (A search for “Windows Journal” on Microsoft’s own site finds more hits for the Journal Viewer than for Journal itself; and Journal seems to have no specific page there, just a couple of “how to” articles.)

And I can’t draw the Lounge without Journal. Every episode, every panel, it’s all done in Journal.

And therein lies the problem: in Windows 7 beta, Journal is broken. When I open old episodes, some of the contents are drawn in the wrong place. Even worse, some aren’t. That means pieces of the episodes actually move around.

As an example, here’s Episode 32 as I drew it in Journal for Windows XP, then pasted into Paint Shop Pro for cropping and converting (click pictures for larger images):

Episode 32

Now it’s not high art, but it all looks like I intended it to look.

And here is how that page looks under Windows 7 beta Journal:


Notice the vertical stripe of missing Ink on the right. That’s bad. But it gets worse. Without me touching the image at all – all I did was switch to Paint Shop Pro to save the screen shot, switch to Live Writer to edit this post, and switch back – I get this:


I’m not sure I can describe all the things wrong with that image. Some parts of it have moved. Some parts haven’t: the panel borders are all drawn the same as the rest of the image, after all; and the nose of the Gremlin in panel 3 hasn’t moved at all. But the tail of the Gremlin has moved into panel 4!

Now a suggestion by Jennifer Marsman made me try an experiment; and her intuition is good: the Ink hasn’t actually moved, it’s just drawn in the wrong place! If I use the Journal selection tool and click in the image, I get this:


Notice how part of the Gremlin and passengers in panel 2 are really exactly where they belong; but they’re drawn to the right of where they belong. (Why only part? I can’t guess. I don’t know the internals of Journal. May be something to do with Grouping.)

Now Stacy Vicknair has asked if this bug is so bad that it stops me from drawing the Lounge? My answer is a definite maybe. See, I’m busy, and I’m lazy. If I draw something well enough once, I try to copy and paste it in other places where I need it. I’ve got 32 Episodes in, plus 3 Lounge-based conference talks and a Lounge book proposal. (Oops! Did I say that?) At this point, I probably draw less than half of each Episode. The rest is paste, resize, and edit. (I even wrote LoungeWorks, a set of Ink tools that give me power features not found in Journal: rotate, mirror, and scale.) But now, if I can’t reliably see where things are, it gets much harder to draw new Episodes. And with most of my time devoted to the job search, “harder” is not a feature for me right now.

I’m posting this in hopes of getting the attention of someone on the Journal team at Microsoft. I really want to use Windows 7, but I must have a working Journal for the Lounge. I’m not a fan of dual-booting, especially when my M200 has a rather small drive. I’ll dual boot if I have to; but I’d be happier to help Microsoft fix this. If anyone knows anyone on the Journal team, please pass the word: I’ll be happy to share the file that shows this bug, if that will help them to fix it.

I’ll also be happy to share another Journal file with an even more painful bug. Actually, I have multiple files with the same problem. They’re Web pages that I printed to Journal (XP) for later markup. If I try to open any of these in Win7 Journal, Journal hangs, and then Win7 terminates it. Worse: the recovery code “helpfully” tries to reopen that file next time I start Journal, and crashes again. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until I move the file so Journal can’t find it.

Journal team, I hope this helps! Contact me if you need more info. If you can’t figure out my email, you can always try @umlguy on Twitter.

Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 5:22 PM Ulterior Motive Lounge , Tablet PCs , Windows 7 | Back to top

Comments on this post: I blame Microsoft

# re: I blame Microsoft
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At least he didn't blame me...
Left by EditorBill on Apr 01, 2009 7:13 PM

# re: I blame Microsoft
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Shout out to me! Forgive me if I missed it in the article, but have you tried starting a brand new Journal ep from scratch yet? Have you had issues with brand spanking new content?

I realize that might be an impossibility, due to loss of copied content shared between eps. Also have you tried copying a complete episode from a saved journal enrty in to a brand spanking new one? I wonder if you'll see any different results.
Left by Stacy Vicknair on Apr 03, 2009 3:45 PM

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