OOBE and Desktop Support

I’m doing something we call “Desktop Support” this week.

It isn’t strictly speaking, Desktop Support since I am working with some 5 year old laptops, but the discipline is the same.

When Kevin came back from Key West, he brought back two computers that needed some help from someone who I do some occasional work for. A friend and in this case a client. He gets these machines about every six months and when I go down there, I set them right. I don’t mind helping him out since we’ve known each other for quite a while.

It was easier this way since he’s due to come up here – or I’m due to go down there soon. I could use a week off my quirky little island, and Key West is a fascinating place, although it’s losing a lot of that wonderful Conch flavor since the locals are being edged out and it’s changing into a combination “1% and day tripper” compound.

The first computer wouldn’t see the internet. I fixed that in five minutes – the little switch that controls Wifi was turned off. After I updated antivirus to Microsoft Security Essentials, and all the software, it’s been set aside. Got to do all this sitting in my comfy chair while watching the TV.

The second one was the trial. It may or may not have a bad hard drive on it. Starting the machine took about a half hour and then it would go “zombie” on me. Meaning it would forget it was a computer and just not do much other than run the clock and make the mouse move very slowly. I was able to grab the personal items from it and put them on the other laptop so the decision was made to completely reload this beast.

See that is where the Desktop Support comes in. It’s a 17 inch monster that will level your tables and hold down papers in a hurricane.

It also needed me to start it on its way for that reload.

5:30AM I was up, clicking on the button saying “Next” to load Windows Vista onto the hard drive before going out for the dog walk.

Yes, Windows Vista. Every Tech Guy’s least favorite current operating system.

Oddly it seems to be taking to that machine fairly well. The load took about the same time as it took me to walk Lettie, feed both her and myself, then sit down with the coffee to click through some buttons.

The problem is that I had the “Oobe Experience”.

I’m not used to home computers. I have never actually gone to a store and bought a computer retail. I’ve always gotten computers meant for the “corporate” market which means the extra software that was installed was a minimum.

This is an HP and apparently HP is well known for putting “crapware” on their computers.

Or at least they did when I started with this HP a year ago.

When you load a computer with a “retail” or “OEM” copy of windows, you get just the operating system. Period.

When you get a computer from the store meant for the home market you get all sorts of icons on the desktop that the manufacturer was paid to put there by the website or software company.

When that computer gets to me, I remove them all. No questions, they’re gone.

Why? Well all that crapware takes up space and slows you down.

When I started the computer the first time this morning, I didn’t expect it to even work, after all I suspect that the hard drive is failing. It took me about 30 minutes to come up to a desktop since all those pieces of software were coming up, demanding attention, begging for my contact information, and generally being a nuisance.

I’ll be removing all of that later. Toolbars on browsers first, since we all seem to live with browsers and the operating system is more of a background thing. I’ll be getting rid of Norton, Ebay, HP Games, MSN, Sling Box, Microsoft Office Trial, and a few others.

After all, it’s Vista. If you want to speed up a Vista computer, here’s a hint – remove it and install Windows XP or Windows 7 depending on how comfortable you are with either. I’d say Windows 7 since I’ve grown to like it but I know of a few folks who still have XP and don’t want to change.

If it becomes mine, it’s getting LinuxCentOS or Ubuntu are excellent choices, and I could use a proper Linux Server here.

One more “helpful hint”. When you are installing new software, always, I mean ALWAYS, take the “expert” or “Advanced” or “Custom” install. You will find out that you have the choice to not have the “Ask Toolbar” or the “Yahoo Toolbar” or the “Google Toolbar” added to your browser. They just slow you down and spy on what ever you are doing anyway – you simply do NOT need them.

Now why the video of the little lamb?

 It’s cute. Enjoy.

Playing with Microsoft Surface Globe

If you want to show off, and you have a tablet computer running Windows 7, and you can connect it up to a big screen, Microsoft Surface Globe is how to do it.

I do demos of software, videos, websites, and graphics here in my house.  With my little 12 inch “convertible tablet”, it’s fairly easy to do.   Turn on the TV, wait for it to come on to being a TV instead of “starting up”.  Then plug in the HDMI cable to the spare port on the set and my laptop and most of the time they’ll just “come on”.  I’ll see my laptop in full screen on the TV, in this case it’s 46 inches.

Without getting into the technical stuff behind the scenes, today’s cheaper TV sets blow away the best of the old school boat anchor computer monitors that we used to be amazed at.  I managed to have a 21 inch thing that made the desktop bow downward and still didn’t have the resolution of the laptop I have here.  Now a “consumer good” that is “off the shelf” will cost less than that old thing did and just work better.

Plus I could hang it on the wall if I didn’t get static from people about wanting to do that.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah) You Know Who You Are.

But I’m getting away from this software and showing off. 

See Microsoft has been working on bringing the whole iPad and Android tablet experience to the desktop computer and laptop computer scene for quite a while, but it never really gelled.  Windows 7 on a tablet is usable, but if you have a keyboard attached, the touchscreen will leave you hamstrung.  Sure you can use a stylus to write, touch something to select it, or even have an onscreen keyboard but you’re left feeling like you’re talking to a “C-” student.  Ok, you can do better, now come back when you’ve tried again.

Surface Globe is one thing that shows the promise of the technology that they’re working on. 

Instead of using your mouse on a tablet computer or the track pad on this HP Touchsmart tm2 that is truly abysmal, you can use the fingers you were born with and leave wonderful fingerprints on your laptop screen.   Hooked up to my TV set I can get fully immersed in the maps that I used to read as a kid when I was bored.  Just wash your hands first.

I’ll dig deeper into that link later.  It looks like I may be able to do some upgrades…

Completely familiar gestures to the iPad user and Android Tablet folks, you can pull and stretch the map like you’re kneading dough and drill down to where you want to see.  The one thing I wish it had was street view.  That’s a Google Earth thing since they sent the cars around and Microsoft didn’t.  

Remember, Surface Globe is a “Proof of Concept” app.  It works incredibly well, I’m a fan, but there are things that you can’t do with it that other software can let you do. 

Trying to use Google Earth like you would on an iPad didn’t work on the version I have on this machine.  It’s older, and perhaps I should check into an upgrade, but for now, it’s useful the way I use it. 

Since I’m adding links to this article for my own memory – here’s the download link for Earth.  Just remember you don’t need Chrome and to click on the Advanced Setup.  When there on that web page, click “off” the boxes that say allow Google to automatically upgrade since you don’t want that extra spyware on your computer.

All of this has me looking forward to Windows 8.  Sure, my machine works incredibly well on Windows 7.  It has been rock solid and stable.  If there have been problems with the laptop it is from manufacture (the trackpad is terrible) and from applications that just go mental.   We’ve all got stories like that.

Oh and removing all that crapware like Norton and going with Microsoft Security Essentials certainly helped here. 

I’m skeptical about the whole “Metro” look and feel.  Sure, Apple would sue them if they dared to come too close to their iPad iOS interface.  Then again, Xerox was the one who invented the whole icon on computer way of doing things with a Graphical User Interface so it really is revisionist in my eyes for Apple to claim it’s theirs. 

In trying not to look like the iPad, Windows treads carefully with Metro.  Things look blocky and all the pictures I’ve seen of Metro look like they were built in a rush.  Squares and Rectangles in rigid rows done with primary colors look primitive.   I’m all about the way things work, but they could have done a little more work with that “look and feel”. 

There’s so much promise in Surface that Windows 8 will be something I’ll get very quickly on release.  I’m trying to figure out now how I can get the beta installed on this machine and run it beside my current Windows 7.

Until I figure all that out, I’ll be flying around the world kneading my way through maps.  I’ll also be looking forward to the next version and if it is compatible.

Now that I have Google Earth’s latest version here, I’ll have to play around with that.   Mrs Dog has been taking me around for some rather odd walks lately