Entries Tagged as 'Windows'

Netbook

I purchased a MSI Wind U100 a couple weeks ago for an “on-the-go” computer.

At $299 plus $99 for a 2.5″ SATA2 500GB Seagate hard drive and $15 for an additional 1GB of DDR2 it’s a fairly economical solution to use to browse the web on the go, send/receive email, mapping, GPS, music and videos, contacts, date book, etc.

I looked at all the options, but I choose this one because I wanted 2GB of memory (most of them come with only 512MB built in so you can only have 1.5GB total and a couple only allow 1GB total).

The Atom N270 processor is by no means a top performer, but it does a fairly good job and mine is running Vista Home Premium with no issues at all (it ships with Windows XP Home).

The only thing I dislike about it is the fact that the keyboard is so small; but if you want a small notebook you’re going to have to live with a small keyboard!

No one computer is right for everyone, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for your particular needs, what your intended use is, and your budget.  There are actually models of netbooks you can purchase with an AT&T wireless modem installed for $99 (of course you have a two year contract your saddled with).

Bigger than a PDA, but far more flexible!

Originally posted 2008-12-27 12:00:21.

On the quest…

Shortly after I received my Windows 7 licenses I realized that I was growing tired of paying for software upgrades and simple fixes; further I was growing tired of needing to re-learn how to do simple tasks when the software vendor decided to improve my experience.

I started thinking about ways to reduce and perhaps totally eliminate my dependency on particular software vendors (and that wouldn’t be just Microsoft — Apple plays the exact same game — and don’t get me started on Google).

Certainly there must be quality software out there that was built on the paradigm that computers are tools and that they should improve an individuals quality of life, not create a life centric on a computer and a religion based on software.

I’ve already published many articles about my quest to find an operating system that would is focused on usability; but my quest (with the help of many of my friends and associates) will cover every piece of software you might need or want on your computer to achieve make your day to day life simpler…

This is a big undertaking; and it will take me quite a bit of time to fully explore and write up my findings.  There will be many articles dealing with the same topics as I travel the path.

My feeling is that there are good solutions out there, and that with a little work and guidenace an average computer user can have a computer system that does what he wants without breaking the bank.

Now don’t get me wrong; my feeling is that most open source software is crap (but then again, most commercial software is crap)… but since it always seems to be a compromise, you might as well save a little cash since you’ll never really get what you want.

Originally posted 2010-01-12 01:00:12.

Microsoft Live Essentials

With Windows 7 Microsoft has removed email, instant messaging, address book, calendaring,  and movie maker from the Windows install.  If you run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor it will direct you to Live.com (a Microsoft) site for tools that will add back these features to Windows.

Live.com has offered most all of these tools in one form or another for over a year; and for quite some time now the entire suite of tools.

I’ll just quickly list the features:

  • Live Messanger
  • Live Call
  • Live Mail
  • Live Writer
  • Live Photo Gallery
  • Live Movie Maker
  • Live Toolbar
  • Live Family Saftey

Live Messanger is the replacement for Windows Messanger, MSN Messanger it’s substantially the same as what ever Microsoft messanger you might use — with an updated look and feel and of course, new features.

Live Call is Microsoft’s entry into the voice communications market.  I’ve never used it, so I can’t really comment on it.

Live Mail is the replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail (for you Vista users).  It somewhat resembles both of it’s predecessors, but carries forward many of the refinements from Windows Mail; and introduces a number of “bugs” that had been stomped out long ago in the code line (I reported several during the BETA — they still haven’t been fixed, and I expect until they annoy someone on the Live Mail team they won’t be).  On feature that has been added that many will find useful is the ability to interface with Hot Mail/MSN Mail/Live Mail web mail directly (at no cost).

Live Writer is a WYSIWYG editor for BLOGing.  It interfaces to Live BLOGs as well as a number of blogging engines and web sites.

Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft’s attempt to get some of the media sharing market.  I don’t use it, but I’m sure they’ve figured out some way to make money from it (like all the others).

Live Movie Maker is the replacement for Windows Movie Maker.  I haven’t used it.  The previous software might be fine for novices; but I prefer to use Final Cut Studio on my Mac; so I don’t think my opinion of this software is relevant to the target audience.

Live Toolbar is like most toolbars, a waste.  Whether it’s invasive like most of them or not I can’t say — I have no need for toolbars; and you probably don’t either.

Live Family Saftey is designed to limit access to questionable internet sites and content.  I’ve never used it; but I would guess like most it errors on the side of caution.

There is also a Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, and Office Live Add-In which provide access to Live features directly from Microsoft Office (why?) that you can read about on your own.

Overall, many of the “free” tools in Microsoft Live Essentials are probably well worth the small amount of time and energy to download and install.  One note, make sure you uncheck the items you don’t want (you can add them later if you change your mind) and pay close attention to the attemp to change (and lock) your browser’s home page and search tool.

Microsoft Live Essentials

Originally posted 2009-11-22 01:00:50.

Restoring Windows Boot Manager

If you’ve tried Linux (or another operating system) on your PC, and you’d like to return to just the Windows boot manager (and perhaps remove the other operating system) or if the boot manager that was installed is no longer working here’s a quick way to recover.

First, find your Windows installation disc (or an equivalent Windows installation disc).

Boot into install; on the first setup screen hit Shift+F10, that will open up a command prompt.

Execute the following commands:

  • bootrec /FixMbr
  • bootrec /FixBoot

Now reboot…

The Windows boot manager should be in control — you may need to correct the BCD entries, but generally those will be fine.

You may also want to review: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392

Originally posted 2013-12-30 12:00:31.

Windows Live Essential 2011 – Live Mail

Or perhaps better titled: Why I continue to use a product I hate.

When Outlook Express debuted many years ago Microsoft showed the possibility of creating a email reader for Windows that was clean,simple, and powerful… and for all the problems of Outlook Express it worked.

When Microsoft shipped Windows Vista they abandoned Outlook Express in favor of Windows Mail; largely it appeared to be the same program with a few changes to make it more Vista-like.

But not long after Windows Mail hit the street, Microsoft decided to launch Windows Live Mail, and what appears to be a totally new program modeled after Outlook Express / Windows Mail was launched.  I say it was new because many of the bugs that were present in the BETA of Windows Live Mail were bugs that had been fixed in the Outlook Express code line years before (as an interesting note, several of the bugs I personally reported during the BETA of Windows Live Mail are still present in the newest version – 2011).

The previous version of Live Mail was tolerable; most of the things that were annoying about it had fairly simple ways to resolve them — and in time, maybe we’ll all figure out ways to work around the headaches in 2011; but I just don’t feel like putting so much effort into a POS software package time and time again…

And for those of you who say it’s “FREE” so you get what you get, I’d say, no — it’s not exactly free… Microsoft understands that software like this is necessary in order to have any control over user’s internet habits, so it isn’t free — you’re paying a “price” for it.

Plus, there are other alternatives… Thunderbird for one.

Why don’t I use Thunderbird… simple, there is one “feature” lacking in Thunderbird that prevents me from embracing it.  You cannot export account information and restore it.  Sure Mozbackup will let you backup a complete profile and transfer it to another machine — but I want access to individual email accounts.

Why?  Well, here’s the scenario that I always hit.

I travel, and I tend to take my netbook with me when I travel — and often I’m using my cell phone to access the internet… while it’s “fast” by some standards… if you were to re-sync fifty email accounts each with a dozen IMAP folders, you’d take all day.  Further, most of those email accounts are uninteresting on a day-to-day basis, particularly when I travel — I only want to access a couple of those accounts for sure, but I might want to load an account on demand (you never know).  What I do with Live Mail is I have all the IAF files for all my email accounts stored on the disk (I sync them from my server), and I setup the mail program by loading the three or four that I use routinely, the others I only load as I need them, and I remove them from Live Mail when done.

OK — so that doesn’t fit you… here’s another.

You’ve got several computers, and you’d like to setup your email quickly and painlessly on all of them… but you don’t need all your email accounts on everyone of them — plus you add and remove accounts over time.  Again, Live Mail and it’s import/export handles this nicely.  You simply export a set of IAF files, and then import the ones you want on each machine.

The question is why doesn’t Thunderbird have this ability?

Well, there was a plug in for an older version of Thunderbird that did kinda this; of course it didn’t work that well for the version it was written for, and it doesn’t work at all for newer versions.

One more that I consider an annoyance (but it’s probably slightly more than that) is that there is no easy way in Thunderbird to change the order of accounts in the account window — and they’re not order alphabetically (that would make too much sense), they’re ordered chronologically (based on when you created them).  So you can re-order them, if you delete the accounts and add them back in the order you’d like them to appear; but wait, you can’t add an account any way in Thunderbird by type in all the information again.

And if you’re thinking, OK so write a plug-in that manages account ordering and import/export.  Sure, that would be the “right” thing to do if Thunderbird really had an interface to get to that information easily — but no, it appears you’d have to parse a javaScript settings file… oh joy.

These should be core features of Thunderbird; and in my mind they are huge barriers to wide acceptance.

Originally posted 2010-11-12 02:00:32.

GIMP

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

That’s what the GIMP site says; but what GIMP is is a free Open Source alternative to programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop Pro that runs on Linux, OS-X, and Windows.

GIMP is reasonably easy to use, powerful, and rock solid.

If you understand the principles of image/photo editing you’ll be a pro at using GIMP in no time — far easier to use than Photoshop, far more functional than Paint Shop Pro.  And it’s free — totally free — just download it an install it.  There’s lots of plug-ins for it as well (so make sure you take a look at some of those add ins).  Be sure and review the online documentation, tutorials, and FAQ; plus there are a number of well written books on GIMP available for purchase.

GIMP.org

Originally posted 2010-03-08 02:00:45.

Windows 7 – Multiple Displays

I have multiple displays on both my “high end” workstations.  The one I’ve been testing Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on happens to have two nVidia 9800 PCIe display adapters and three 22″ LCD display panels (I plan on hooking up a 37″ LCD TV to the forth output when I upgrade my 42″ Plasma TV).

The three panels worked great with Vista Ultimate x64, and I didn’t have any problem doing a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on the machine.  The monitors didn’t default to the same arrangement they did on Vista — but it was easy to reorder them.

One problem I’ve noted (and yes we can partially blame this on the PC BIOS) is that if I boot the machine without any of the monitors powered up, I get a different primary monitor and non of the other monitors are active (I can force them active).

This problem is all to reminiscent of the SATA drive problem I found installing on multiple drives — but there’s really no apparent way to force Windows 7 to always pick the same default monitor (whether they are on or off).

So yet another feature that worked fine in Vista that’s broken (or at least changed) in Windows 7.

Make sure you have all your monitors on; or at least your primary monitor; when you boot up Windows 7!!!

 

NOTE:  This problem appears to be related to multiple identical display adapters, and appears to not be an issue if you just have two displays on a single card.

Originally posted 2009-11-19 01:00:03.

Email Readers

I’m going to focus on Microsoft Email Readers… if you want to use Thunderbird it’s fine; but since Microsoft current has FOUR different email programs for the PC (they also have Entourage for the Mac — but that doesn’t run on any flavor of Windows).

  • Outlook
  • Outlook Express
  • Windows Mail
  • Windows Live Mail

Outlook – comes in Office, and it’s a _very_ heavy weight email program.  If all you want to do is read email, this probably isn’t the program for you.  If you want to manager your calendar and your contact as well as email in one program, this would be a good choice.

Personally I tend to only use Outlook to maintain my address book and calendar; mainly because it’s what sync’s my cell phones.  I’ve always found it an horrendously complex email program — and then it trys and hides many of the things in email I want to use!

Outlook Express – I used this with Windows XP, and felt it was an adequate email program.  I actually handled IMAP better than any other client around at the time.  Both Thunderbird and iMail (on the Mac) had issues with very large IMAP stores.

If all you want to do is manage your email, it’s a good choice if you’re running on XP (or an older Windows).

Windows Mail – With Vista Microsoft quietly introduced a new email program.  Well, actually it’s pretty much the same email program as Outlook Express, with only a few improvements.

Again, if all you want to do is manage your email, it’s a good choice if you’re runnin gon Vista.

Windows Live Mail – Microsoft has also been working on developing a new email reader, and they’ve bundled it with their Live services.  You can download it for free (even if you don’t use Live).

This is a very feature full email program.  It will do IMAP and POP3 (so you can use it with your ISP or with GMail)… fully supports SSL & TLS, supports accessing Live Mail directly (that would be MSN, HotMail, and Live).  It will function as a NNTP (that’s News) reader, and as an RSS (that’s Really Simple Syndication) reader.

It stores contacts each in individual XML files (.contacts)… can import accounts from other Microsoft email programs.

It really has a number of nice features, and it’s a reasonably stable program; however, it’s more like a first generation release, so it does have some minor annoyances.

At the moment I’m trying to use Windows Live Mail on all my computers… just because that’s where we’re headed, and it works fairly well (and I do have some old MSN / HotMail / Live accounts it gives me direct access to).

One word of caution… if you decide to try out Windows Live Mail; only install the Live components you need (you can go back and add more later), and watch for the options where it wants to change your system defaults.

Originally posted 2008-05-11 22:12:43.

avast!

A couple weeks ago my avast! anti-virus popped up a Window that wanted to reboot the machine, then indicated to me I had NO protection.

Apparently my one year (actually fourteen month) free subscription was up, and it wanted to enter a new registration code.  The software takes you to a screen where you can purchase a subscription, or you can navigate to the free avast! site and request a new registration code (that’s good for another fourteen months).

Now I think a great deal of avast!, it seems to find more mal-ware than most of it’s competitors, is clean and easy to use,  doesn’t try to take over your computer, and you can’t argue with the price.  But I think it’s a HORRIBLE thing for a anti-virus program to just stop working.  I don’t have any problem with it prohibiting updates of the program or signature file until you update; and I certainly don’t have a problem with it popping up a warning every time you boot (or even including  a warning right above the systray like it does when it detects a potential virus) — but to stop providing the service that you depend on it for without any warning before hand… that’s just wrong.

I certainly hope the avast! people reconsider this draconian behavior; I can’t continue to recommend avast! as a good anti-virus solution if it’s just going to leave you high and dry without a reasonable warning.

Originally posted 2009-02-25 01:00:39.

Windows Security

Sometimes I wonder if Microsoft employees actually run the products they work on.

Elevated security, something that debuted on Windows Vista — and apparently derived from OS-X is a good example.

It’s a great idea.

As a user I should get to decide whether or not a pieced of software is allowed to make changed to my computer.  But the failing of Microsoft is they didn’t really think the problem through before they blindly copied what OS-X did.

In Windows there’s at least two levels of changes that should be approved…

When a piece of software I want is approved for install it should be able to make changes to a set of locations that is owned by the software vendor once I approve it’s installation.  However, it should not be able to make changes to my system configuration unless I specifically approve that.

What Microsoft should have done is something more along the lines of this.

A piece of software is launched and requests the user permission to install itself.  Microsoft fetches the security certificate bound into the executable and presents the user with that information when the system asks for the approval (the dialog should also have an additional detail button).  The user approves it, and the task is run with a security token created on the fly that allows the installer access to the vendors specific structure.

Should the installer desire to change system components it should have to ask to an additional elevation; at which time the operating system should again ask for approval and clearly indicate what system level resources the installer has requested access to.

Installers, would, of course generally be designed not to request access to modify the system (meaning they couldn’t install auto-start, install services, install device drivers, etc without a user knowing these things were going to happen).

When you installed software that did not have a certificate the system would still be able to present two levels of authentication (provided the installer properly requested the different access levels properly).

This would make Windows a far more secure environment… and it would prevent software vendors from install unwanted features onto a system.

Why doesn’t Microsoft implement something like this?

Well, it’s any ones guess… I prefer to believe that the people who design Windows don’t actually use it — but there are lots of conspiracy theories that could be put forth as well.

Originally posted 2010-01-18 01:00:02.