A week with Windows 7

I made the jump to Windows 7 this week on one of my laptops.   One of the thing I did in Key West other than take a shed-load of pictures was to help a friend out with his PCs.   He had one with over 100 viruses and needed the pictures out of it, another that he used as a desktop machine, a third that was “Dead” and some others in various repair.   I set him up with the three best, set up his router, and came home with the remainder.

The ones I came home with were better than what I had before, an old Dell Inspiron 600m that is fast enough under Windows XP to do anything I want, but I do budget time with it.   Since I hadn’t moved into either of the two new machines I had the luxury of deciding “What do I want to do with all this stuff”.   Since I am an IT Manager now, I can actually put these things to use.   The widescreen Gateway with the Core Solo processor which is still faster than the Inspiron is now my video editing PC and will get all the things that I do that take time.  Set it up and let it roll on XP.  It is stable and has a 17 inch wide screen, perfect for my web development under Joomla! (yes its a real name), and Video Editing.

I have this machine that was the fastest of the lot, an Acer Aspire 5610 with 2GB of memory.   It is a 2007 vintage from what I can tell, not new, but in physically good condition and pretty much perfect for the upgrade.   I have a (legal) copy of Windows 7 Professional that I won’t share so don’t ask.   I started the upgrade then went for a dog walk.  Yes, that easy.   I didn’t care what was on the machine and just formatted the extra two partitions after merging them and went out with Lettie The Super Dog for a mile around town.

When we got back, about 30 minutes later the Acer was sitting at a prompt asking me for a Key which I have.   I sent it back on its way after a few more prompts, happily installing and set about my normal morning routine.   It finished while I was in the shower and then I restarted it at the Out Of the Box experience screen – or OOBE (Ooo Bee).  Yes, that is what we call it where you enter in your name for a log in.

Basically in short what I’m saying is that if you want a machine that is clean and you don’t want a lot of junk running slowing you down, you will want to do a “Clean Format and Install”.  Go buy yourself a “Thumb Drive” of about 16 GB or so, it will cost less than $40, a copy of Windows 7 Pro (Skip the Home stuff, they leave too much out), and install it yourself. 

If you have Vista, you can do an upgrade but I decided I did not want to go that way with it.   I didn’t care what was on the machine.   If you do, the Upgrade procedure is not completely clean all the time, you may end up formatting the PC and starting over, so make sure you copy your My Documents tree onto that Thumb Drive (USB Key, Flash Drive or what ever name you wish to call it) so you don’t lose your recipes and letters to Mom and pictures of the Dog.   Also make sure you have copies of the programs you installed, back up your favorites and bookmarks to the drive, and just have a good long snoop around your PC and make sure you’ve saved everything you really DO need before installing.

If you have XP, back everything up because there is no way to do this without formatting your hard drive.   The Install of Win 7 will do it for you, but everything on the hard drive will be gone.

Let me repeat… If you are installing Windows 7 on a machine with XP, you will lose everything so back it up first!

I have used Windows 7 since the betas for about 6 or so months, maybe longer.   I’ve used it on some really strange hardware.   The biggest question is what would you install it on.   If your machine came with Vista, you should be safe – they typically come with 2 or 3 GB of memory and Win 7 is really happy there.

If you have an older machine, I would say that you probably have XP.  Windows 7 runs just a teeny bit slower than XP.   If you REALLY want Windows 7 then you can gauge for yourself but I’d recommend going to 2 gigs of memory first.

I have run it on a Pentium 3 1GHz laptop (IBM Thinkpad A30) with 1gb of Memory and it was useable but slow, however it was slow on XP.   I wouldn’t recommend it for long term use.

My personal opinion is that anything Pentium 4 or newer (Core Solo, Pentium M, Faster Celeron, Core Duo and so forth) with 2GB of memory will run fine.   You really want a faster machine.  Something approximately faster than a Pentium 4 2GHz but it will run on a slower chip and if you have a Pentium 4 “class” machine you’re due for a newer PC anyway.

I agree with what Microsoft says the following at this link

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If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here’s what it takes:
  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

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Microsoft Windows Virus Protection for Casual PC Users

In view of the new Clampi virus that goes after your financial information, this seemed timely.   I hadn’t heard of it before I started on this post, but I did and went through the steps below, myself.
When I lived near family I’d go home and visit my Mom, and my Sister and my Nephew.   They were not the most technical people, but understood that there were uses for a home computer.   I got my nephew started when he was 2 with a PC, and he had one ever since.  Mom really didn’t see that she needed to learn although she was curious and my sister was an occasional user.
On the weekends I’d come home, after the long Honey-Do List I’d sit down and see if their PC, my nephew’s mainly, was still working.   This was back in the days before high speed internet was widely popular and they were still on a modem.   Every time I’d sit there, I’d hear “It’s not working right, do you know what’s wrong?”.   Sure, the virus protection was turned off, and after a scan there were sometimes hundreds of viruses.
That a teenager (then) would have viruses on the machine didn’t surprise me, and many people have them without noticing.   I personally run a copy of Symantec Antivirus on XP, don’t bother with anything on Linux or Mac OSX because I don’t do anything even slightly risky there.
I do have a backup plan and here is my recommendation.   For now and into the immediate future what I do is on Windows based PCs to surf via internet explorer, and this is about the only use I have for IE, the following link:
That link brings up Microsoft‘s free scanner.  It does not work unless you go there, answer the questions and start the scanner yourself.   Its best use is an occasional use where “something doesn’t feel right”.
Start the link, I’ll wait…
There’s a lot of text on that page, but if you page down to the button “Full Service Scan” and click it.
There may be a click through “Service Agreement” signing all sorts of legalese rights away, and a good lawyer could get them back, so page down and click “Accept” and a small window should pop up.   If it doesn’t, check your pop up blocker settings and allow the site to pop up.
Make sure that the following boxes are checked:
Comprehensive Scan
Virus Scan
Spyware Scan
All boxes under Performance and Network Scan should be checked.
Under “Comprehensive Scan” there is a link saying “Select Folders” or Customize.  This will allow you to set the scanner to look at drives other than your C Drive.   I’ve got two drives, so I can click there to turn it on to scan them, but if you are like 95% of the people, that link should be unneeded.
This being web software the links may change, so you’ll want to try this out if you’re unsure of your current scanner.   It is free, Microsoft tries to keep it up to date, and they intend to include this in the next operating system I’ve been told, called “Windows 7”.   For those of us out there who haven’t gotten Win 7 yet, and as of this writing, it is not yet out officially, this exercise is a great backup.
Oh by the way, you may want to do this and leave the machine up over night or while you’re at work.   It takes a couple hours for my machine to do a full scan.  It isn’t so much of a “resource hog” that you can’t do other things, but you then won’t have to babysit.  I have it running now as I sit in my Ikea Poang chair and bounce.
It took my system three hours to get to the point that it was through churning.   It came back with a window titled “Results”.   I didn’t have any viruses, thankfully.   But what I did here was to click the boxes that said “Defragment your hard discs” and clicked Next.
When you’re finished the scan, the final window asks you to “Let Windows OneCare take care of your PC”.  That is not necessary.   Click on the link that says “Not Yet, I’m not ready”.  
Now you have the Summary.   Click to clear the box next to “Share information with Microsoft”.  I don’t THINK so.   I personally share as little info as humanly possible.   Make sure that box is cleared, then click on the “Next” Button.
After the window refreshes, you may close that window and any other window you like.  You’re Done.
And so am I.   CYA!

Firefox Tabs Review

To anyone who is technical, this stuff is old news.   To the non technical folks who I speak with on a daily basis, maybe I can explain why I did it.  Does it matter?  Probably not.

Back a couple years back, I had been using IE and I decided I didn’t like it.   Around the same time I was using Linux and I think both are connected.  Firefox had just it the scene, and the browser was one of the choices on the Linux install I used, CentOS, along with Konqueror which just never really felt robust enough.  When compared with IE, Firefox running on a slower Linux machine felt faster, more stable, and there were these neat extensions that allowed me to do all sorts of things like see the weather forecast and control cookies.   I even started playing around with the extension programs for traffic Webcam so that I could look at things through the country at a click.   It was pretty neat, and gave me an opportunity to play with code and see a quick result.

Then I got the chance to move to South Florida and needed to look for work and the Tabs View option in Firefox became the “Killer App”.   So much so that the rest of the industry followed and IE in its lumbering size now has the option to open in tabs.   What this does in Firefox (I never bother with IE since it bogs the entire PC down) is to create virtual windows within “this” browser and load the page in background.   Simple right?  I’m sure there’s a lot of programming effort that happened to make this so useful, but I took this to heart.  When I do a Job Search, I have a folder within my Firefox Bookmarks that has over 115 pages that I want to open, all at once.   The old way to do that was to do a shift click to get the page to open in another browser, and work through the list.   Manually to open a page in a tab in background, Control Click on the link and it loads and is there when you need it.   Try that with 115 pages all at once! 

The wrinkle is that Dice, Monster, and Careerbuilder all allow you to save a search.   Drag the link into the folder in Bookmarks and that page will open next time you start an Open In Tabs.   You can do this on the first page, but when you’re looking at something that has hundreds of links and only 25 per page, you are more interested in having the second and third and subsequent pages in tabs while you’re looking at page one.   So drag those pages into the folder and now you have them all open.   You are only limited by the number of pages you drag into the folder and your PC’s memory.  At the end of an Open In Tabs with 115 pages (literally) Firefox reports as using over 500 Megs of memory and it releases it back to the operating system better now than it used to, although not perfectly since nothing really seems to return all the memory within Windows when written on a “modern language” such as C++.

Simple instructions for Firefox:
  1. Organize Bookmarks by Control + Shift + B 
  2. Create and name a folder where you want it by Right Clicking on the Bookmarks Menu or use an existing one and give it a name if new.
  3. Switch back to the main window in Firefox and surf the pages you need one at a time to set this up.
  4. When the page loads as you want it, drag the icon in the address bar to the left of the “http://” into the Organize Bookmark window and into the folder you created and drop it there.    You can also do this by grabbing that icon, dragging it into the Bookmarks pulldown which will automagically open and you can drag it into the appropriate place.  I do it that way but it is fiddly and I tend to have to do it a couple times before it “sticks”.
  5. Now your Bookmarks Folder has a new link and at the bottom of that Folder when it opens up you will see the Open All In Tabs link.   If you have multiple links, you will get multiple tabs.
  6. Navigate through the tabs by doing a Control + Page Down to move to the next tab on the right, Control + Page Up to move to the next tab on the left.   You may close the tab by either clicking on the little red X box or Control + F4
  7. If you just want to create a blank tab, Control + t will do it for you.
If this helps, great! If it is unclear ask me, since I did this before the second mug of coffee.