Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

What is a simpler time?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

What is your definition of a simpler time? In our efforts to make everything easier are we neglecting what is… simple?

In the new millinium the 1950’s are considered a simpler time. In the 1950’s the 1920’s were considered a simpler time. What are these people that search for this simplicity really looking for? Usability experts look to make the computer or your electronic devices think like you do. With this logic your DVR will know you so well that when you get home from work it will probably listen to the tone of your voice and decide if you want to watch an episode of “Lost” or the local college basketball game. That sounds pretty simple (by the way Sony, you can have that idea for free) but I don’t think that’s what we’re really looking for.

Maybe we’re looking for freedom. Freedom sounds simple, right? You wake up in the morning and the government wants nothing more than for you to be happily content. Nobody want’s anything from you or gives you anything so you have no expectation either way. Cave men had it that way but that simple kind of scares us. Knowing what needs to be done like hunting down your food. Let’s fast forward to at least the age of bartering.

Let me propose this concept for your approval. You are living in the simpler time if you chose to only accept it. Not because you can talk to your phone and tell it who to call or even the fact that everyone has a phone on them all the time. Not because your TV has a thousand channels and you can even have the TV in your car. Not because the internet allows you to find someone somewhere that had the same problem as you and has solved it or allows you to find a product you could find for cheap in your local store. These are not the answers but in all actuality the causes of more of the problems. Psychology studies have shown that more choice actually causes people to get more unhappy. Thus as our lives seemingly become more simple they do get more complex.

These are the good old simple days. Just narrow your choices intentionally. Take the first parking spot you see and walk to the door to the mall. Realize that once you’ve made a decision on a product you’ve got the best thing possible at there and there could be no better. Realize that almost any computer you get (at least for the average user) is so much more than enough. If you could take a time machine back to any time in history they would tell about some of the complexities in life that you would absolutely laugh at while hopping back into your time machine back to the present. Keep reading my blog. I definitely try to keep it simple.

Service Pack 3 for all my friends

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Let’s face it. Vista really isn’t making it happen for Microsoft or users. If you’re one of the people that is really enjoying Vista then more power to you. However, I’m finding that more and more people are looking to make their new PC purchase and asking me if I could install Windows XP on their hardware. At this point I tell them that I could go to the site that they are looking for thier hardware and find out if they could put XP on it instead. Dell has quite a few tricks to get this done on their hardware but they do realize that people do hate Vista.

This is where service pack 3 is a gem for me. If I have to be the one to install a new system with Windows (whether it’s an Service Pack 1 or 2 disk from the PC they’re thowing away) then the almost 90 updates from service pack 2 to present all being in one file is great.

Microsoft does recommend you to use Windows update unless you’re installing to multiple machines. I disagree. I’m big on going to www. microsoft.com then going to the “downloads and trials” and downloading the one big 350 mg file. Then I run it from the hard drive. Quick and easy.

I’ve heard a couple people say that they’ve had minor issues but I haven’t seen anything on this and I’ve installed it quite a few times already. Definitely run it if you’ve cleaned up a past virus/spyware computer. you never know what was effected that this will fix.

Addicted to IM

Friday, April 18th, 2008

As an agent of change I continually invite you to look at what you’re doing everyday and say, “Maybe there a better and cheaper way.” I continually look at my everyday processes and think that. Well, today I’m going to address my changes with concern to my addiction to instant messaging.

pidgin.jpgtrillianlogo.jpg  When it comes to me sitting down doing mindless work I never want to be alone. Therefore, I sit down at a computer and fire up an instant messenger client. Here’s where I’m inconsistent. If I’m at a Linux machine I use Pidgin (it’s time to stop saying it but… “formerly called Gaim”). On a Windows machine I use Trillian. On a Mac I use Adium. Also, even though it’s known mostly for internet telephony I use Skype for those very few people that stay on Skype at work. Just for good measure I’ve added a new one to the flock. If I’m at a computer that isn’t mine I use Meebo.com to log into all my accounts.

I’ve been using Trillian for the longest and I’m finally going to have to end my many years with the program. It’s not that it did anything bad but it didn’t do anything really good. Pidgin however is open source and it’s great. It works on Windows and Linux/Unix/BSD (Amiga too reportedly). Since it is open source I’m looking forward to a OS X port soon but for now on that front I have to stick to Adium.

Here’s where the better comes in. Pidgin seems to be able to connect to every protocol imaginable. It does: AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk, Jabber, ICQ, Groupwise and believe it or not even Skype (with an easy to install plugin). Think that’s it? No. That’s only half the list that I know of. That’s the cool part of it.

Get addicted to Instant messaging again at home and in the office. Trust me, it’s a lot more productive than talking to people on the phone too. You can work and still keep in contact with all your friends. Let me warn you though, if you decide to use it from work you may decide to use the built in encryption or Off the record plugin (which also does make one for Trillian).

Wireless USB. Very cool!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

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This has to be one of the coolest tech toys (everything’s a toy for me). It’s a USB hub that’s actually wireless. Now I don’t know how this got past me because I remember hearing more than a year ago that these were coming. Just didn’t know they’d been out.

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Now the new “coolest of the cool” award goes to Belkin’s Network USB. How it works is really cool, you put up to 5 devices on this hub and any user on the network can request use of a device from another computer using it. The only problem here is that it isn’t cross platform. It’s only for Windows right now but Mac software is coming. Hopefully, Linux is as well.

Is there a bug in the code?

Friday, February 1st, 2008

As of late I guess I may seem quite opinionated but I have found that I never find bugs or have to many features I really want that don’t come soon or aren’t thought of and just not apparent. I never have to file bug reports. I finally put in some feature requests.

I was just online and looked a a program called GOM Player that looks good however, I love my VLC. Then I find out that it’s only on Windows. I went to their forums to request a feature and found that they are already in the process of a Linux version but no Mac version. Since I really love my VLC I went to them to request the only real feature I liked in GOM which is Flash playback. It’s already in one of the nightly builds just needs more tuning. Thanks VLC. Just for the sake of it I told GOM that all the way cross platform is a good idea since I like all my clients and family sticking to the same interface.

However, it had me thinking. How do other people search through the bug report lists for programs and find so many that they need to request. I think I’m not critcal enough.

The age of altruism or just business as usual

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

If anyone has been following the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) drama it really makes you think about perception.  Perception has always and will always be the key to marketing any company.  I’m finding that the newest drama is the competition from Intel and Microsoft over needy children.  The OLPC is supposed to bet the “$100 laptop.”  It is supposed to be a cheap way to get computers to deprived countries and children.  Their plan is to also offer it to the everyday person and when they buy it they a PC gets donated to a developing country.  A very altruistic goal to say the least.

Here’s where the sharks enter the pool because they realize there are a lot of guppies.  Microsoft starts talking about building a “Classmate PC.”

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The real problem in Microsoft’s view is the fact that the OLPC runs Linux.  Microsoft couldn’t fear the growth of Linux more.  I’m sure that a million Microsoft zealots would love to debate that point but nothing helps Linux more than the idea of community behind it. It’s dripping wet with the altruistic mentality.  Linux taking over the server market slowly is almost acceptable but the desktop?  They already have enough competition from Mac on the desktop. Vista’s huge failure with anyone that knows better is fueling Mac and Linux.

Microsoft is no dummy though.  What do they do?  Jump on the bandwagon of “Let’s help the children.”  It gives Microsoft zealots a flag to wave.  It gives Microsoft the illusion of caring more about the people.  It also,  a good way to get the best marketing their is: Free marketing from the news.

History tends to repeat itself.  Right now we are heading for a 70’s movement developing hippies and flower children out of business men. Everybody wants to go “Green” now.  Automobile makers are thinking about how to save the planet through alternative fuels in the same way.  Big business wants to jump on board quick.

Don’t be fooled people.  For the same reason electric cars were always the ugliest cars Microsoft isn’t truly jumping into the classmate PC.  To care more about community would make them open the source code to some of their products.  It couldn’t hurt much.  They own most of the market.  Here’s an idea for them. Open the source code to something very off-beat like Visio.  It’s not a product that really effects the bottom line too much but it really makes it look like a serious effort. The average person doesn’t use it but after it’s free and open more people may want to outside of the networking community.

Trust me, I understand all sides.  I don’t mind Microsoft making it’s money.  That’s what America is all about.  However, altruism, community, and green living should be what humans are all about and that’s what open source and Linux are.  My mother was an art teacher so I grew up art and the joys of it so I understand how Apple thinks: Design and user experience are the joys of computing.  I get it.  However, if you’re going to pretend like you care… Please!  Really care.

Your ultimate USB drive toolkit

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Being a computer guy I’m often asked by people to look at their computer and tell them what’s wrong or can I help them figure something out. For that reason, I’m doing this post on some real tech tricks to make you look like a star. All that from a USB drive.

The first thing you have to realize is that being prepared for anything is always your goal. I’m never unarmed. There are a couple things that are always on my person like most men: wallet, keys, watch, cell phone, and most times my PDA (an HP IPAQ) . Turning any of these items into multipurpose tools makes you ready for anything. Women can of course get more mileage out of this because they carry a purse. Now, for the really techy, I will continue with a blog post on the ultimate home support system because there are a lot of times I connect to my systems at home from a client’s site. I put a USB stick on my keyring that has a ton of goodies as well as my IPAQ. Today we’ll focus on the USB stick.

For the quick and easy route I’d suggest a simple USB stick (doesn’t have to be U3) but you want it to 1 gig or bigger. This will work on a drive as small as 128mb but I always like to keep extra space on the drive in case I need to copy a lot of files over to it for backup purposes. The last thing you want to do with a machine that is on it’s last leg is turn it off and hope it comes back on.

For a long time now I’d been downloading applications individually and copying them to the drive. You’re still going to install some extra ones to the drive but first download this handy set of tools: PCRepairsystem.zip . It’s a fabulous set of tools from the site Daily Cup of Tech. It’s a zip file that you just download and extract to your USB drive. Pull out your drive and stick it back in and you’re done! Well, almost done. When you put it in it puts a little coffee bean next to your computer’s clock on the task bar. Right clicking on that clock brings up a list of programs that do everything from drive repair to rootkit revealers to CD burning. These will serve you well. Get to know what each program does and you have most everything you need.

Next make a visit to www.portableapps.com. This site is full of applications that you may already be using all the time except these are made to run straight from a USB drive. Believe me, having access to a computer and not having administrative rights can totally shut you down because you can’t just download and install the applications you wanted until this.

Take a look around and get what you like. These are some of the ones that I put on my stick and the reasons why.

Firefox: Always want a fully capable web browser.
Clamwin: To be able to walk up and scan a computer for virus’ is absolutely essential.
WinSCP: If you have access to another machine with a secure connection you can FTP or SSH to and from it. Openoffice: A full Microsoft Office competitor on a USB stick? You can’t beat that.
VLC: Will view any video or play any audio.
Gimp: A Photoshop like program. You may need to resize or edit photos or something for someone.

Now with all of these you have to save the file to your desktop then install them and give your USB drive letter in the install path. For example, where it says “Install path: \openoffice” put H: (or whatever your drive’s letter is) in front to make it H:\openoffice.

In closing, I’d suggest you open every program you put on your USB drive before leaving home. The last thing you want to do is be surprised while you’re on location. A good example of this is that the first time you run Clamwin it wants to download the virus database. Assuming you’re at a site with dialup or no internet on the machine you’ve just wasted a ton of time or won’t even be able to fix the problem.

Also, the program SIW on the PCRepairkit should be your first stop when looking at a system. It will tell you everything about the machine. Save this to your USB stick. Should anything happen to the computer you know what it had before.

That’s it! Go out there and make the world a better place with safe computing.

Oh, and just for your convenience, keep some music, podcasts, or things to read on your USB stick. You might get stuck somewhere for a long time. No need to be bored while a virus scan or drive repair runs.  I also put my resume on the drive.  As a consultant you have this time as a window of opportunity if someone really likes you and may have a big project coming up.

The perfect unattended Windows install

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Let me just start by saying that I don’t read licenses on different things that much so I want you to be forewarned that you should check on the legality of doing this but it’s worked for me.

My issue is that I encounter a lot of computers that I need to reinstall Windows on. The thing is, I have this down to a science (almost) with Linux (read my blog post on PXE) but I end up having a lot of people that need it for Windows. I totally HATE installing Windows. It’s the most boring thing that I ever have to do. I have to wait a long time and have to keep going back to see if it’s asking me a question. I really hate that because I’m a serious multitasker. I want to go through as much configuration as possible before hand and come back and it’s done. Ready to use. Well, here’s my ideas for a Windows computer install.

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MS Office is now the bullseye

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I’ve never smoked cigarettes but for a couple years now I’ve totally understood that addiction. I’ll tell you what mine has been: Microsoft Office. I’d do anything to get a hold of it in my past. I worked a deal a while back to buy some licenses from a vendor that I bought a lot of products through so I still use it. However, that was quite a few years ago and right now I’m seeing no compelling reason to upgrade to Office 2007. FYI, my wife’s new Macbook came with Office 2007 so I may play with it more there.

I’ve blogged a long time ago about my dependence on Microsoft Outlook and Access. I’ve been trying to find a way around them to little avail. Well, that’s what it would seem like but I actually have found solutions but I still have that Office monkey on my back. At home and for my consulting I work in Linux, Windows, and Mac and one of the major themes of this blog is working well in all three or whatever you’re given. Well, with my laptop I primarily boot into Linux, my desktop I primarily use Windows and and my wife is on a Mac. The rest of my systems are a mixture of the three except I run all Linux servers. So, for consistency at home and for offices I really want to run the same software throughout.

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Ride this computer till the wheels fall off

Friday, August 17th, 2007

I don’t know what to think of myself. I don’t like pack rats but I must admit to my one weakness. Trying to breath life into old machines. Believe me, I’m good at it. I’m the guy that has all these extra PC’s in my garage that I put together to see what I can do. I have a drawer full of old memory chips and I’m not afraid to use them.

The funny part is when people see my house or office sometimes. I have guests over and they naturally assume that I have spent tens of thousands on all my equipment but I haven’t. I’ve spent a tenth of that cost because most of these are computers that people either didn’t want or companies told me I could take home. Throwing Linux on these machines is like a fresh coat of paint that looks good. Windows and Mac people come and feel right at home based on what screen I give them. Of course I do have some pretty fast machines around too for the database and multimedia stuff but that’s not the norm.

Before you think about throwing out that machine you’re using figure out what you really need a computer for. What you’re running might just need a little cleaning up and it’s as good as new again. Windows and Mac computers just get a little slow because of all the bloated software that is or was installed. Backup all your info and then wipe your drive. Re-installing it with a restore CD you got with the computer and building it back up can most times make you fall in love with it again.