Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Windows 7: Whose Idea Was It, Really?



  1. Editor's Corner
    • Windows 7: Whose Idea Was It, Really?
    • Follow-up: There's no place like a HomeGroup
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
      • Getting rid of a dual boot configuration
      • Windows 7 market share surpasses Mac's
      • Office 2010 will ship in June
      • More competition for the Kindle: B&N's Nook E-Reader
    • How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features
      • How to find out if your Windows 7 computer is ready for digital cable
    • Windows 7 and Vista Security
      • November security update may cause Windows 7 "black screen of death"
    • Question Corner
      • Help - installing XP killed Windows 7
    • Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting
      • How to add or edit words in the speech dictionary
      • Change default photo editor in Windows 7
    • Fav Links
      • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
    • Product of the Week
      • Acoustica CD-DVD Label Maker

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    Editor's Corner

    Windows 7: Whose Idea Was It, Really?

    You've probably already seen at least a few of those commercials that make up Microsoft's latest marketing campaign, where every computer user and his dog claims that "Windows 7 was
    my idea." Here is an interesting analysis of the last few years in computer advertising, starting with Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials and ending with these latest Windows 7 spots:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Windows-7-Idea

    I agree with the author that these are some of the best Windows commercials yet. The Kylie ads were cute and sweet and probably resulted in a spike in the sales of Win7 computers to grandmas the world over, but the "my idea" commercials don't rely on gimmicks. They get out there and address the Elephant in the Room: the public perception that Vista was a big failure. They show how Windows 7 is different. And instead of claiming the credit for that themselves, they make the customers and their ideas the "hero" of the piece.

    Most Windows users have plenty of ideas about how the operating system could be made to work better for our purposes. How many times have you said, "Why couldn't they have done it this way instead" or "Why didn't they include the ability to do that?" The HomeGroup feature was obviously a response to all those folks who complained that setting up a simple local area network was too complicated. Faster boot time came from all the frustrated Vista users who complained about having to sit around waiting for their computers to start up. The Libraries concept is an attempt to make it easier for users to find their files, in recognition of the fact that storage may be spread across different local hard drives, external drives, and network drives.

    I know there were several new features that appeared in Win7 that I had been saying for years needed to be included in Windows, from something as simple as the persistent Sticky Notes to something as complex as a better way to do remote access securely (DirectAccess). Then there are those features that I had never thought about before - but find incredibly handy now - such as the ability to resize my windows by dragging them to the top or sides of the screen (Aero Snap).

    Sure, some of the new features are mostly aesthetic - like the transparent nature of the taskbar. And the reason for some changes might not be readily apparently; for example, I've heard some people complain that the new taskbar was made taller "for no reason." Actually there
    is a practical reason: to accommodate the touch screen interface that's supported by Windows 7. Now here's one of "my ideas": allow the taskbar to be "shrunk" to a lesser height (or width if you have it placed vertically) for those who don't have touch screens and want to eke out every bit of screen real estate. Currently, even if I select to use small icons, I can't make my taskbar only the height or width of those small icons. Even though I might think I can improve on it, obviously there was a great deal of thought that went into the design of the new taskbar. For a bit of a "behind the scenes" look at how it was engineered, see this blog post from the Windows 7 team:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Windows-7-Taskbar

    Here's one that was "my" idea: BitLocker to Go - although the name wasn't. When Vista came out with BitLocker, I thought it was a great feature but way too limited. Why could you only encrypt one partition, the one on which the operating system was installed? They listened to me (and a whole bunch of other people) and fixed that with Vista Service Pack 1. Now you could encrypt other volumes on the internal hard drives, but you still couldn't encrypt removable drives. It seemed to me that removable drives were the ones that were most in need of protection - especially small sized (but fairly high capacity) flash drives that are so easily lost or stolen. You put your slide show on it and plug it into the classroom computer to give your talk - and leave it behind when the presentation is ove . You slip it into a purse or pocket and forget it's there until days later - and then it's nowhere to be found. You have it sticking in your laptop's USB port at a conference, and someone swipes it when you turn around to greet an old friend.

    And it was absolutely my idea to include QAM support in Windows Media Center and increase the number of tuners we could use. But even though I'm pretty happy with the way Microsoft implemented so many of "my" ideas in Windows 7, I still have lots more that I'm hoping they'll pick up - either in Windows 8 or better, in Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

    My first request is a simple one: build in support for different wallpapers on different monitors. Using multiple monitors is no longer something that only ubergeeks do - it's gone mainstream now that most video cards have at least two ports, good monitors have come down in price, and Windows 7 makes it easier than ever to set up an extended desktop. But we still have to settle for a repetition of the same picture background on every monitor unless we install a third party program such as DisplayFusion. In fact, why doesn't Microsoft just buy that program from Binary Fortress and also incorporate its other multiple monitor features, such as the ability to put a taskbar on each monitor? Meanwhile, if you don't want to wait for Microsoft to add those features, you can download the program here (the basic version with multiple wallpapers is free; for multiple taskbars, you'll need the Pro version for $25):
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Multi-Monitor-Taskbar

    While we're on the subject of backgrounds, how about a GUI dialog box to change the background image on the logon screen? I'm sorry but that blue background with the leaves and bird just doesn't do it for me - especially for my work computer. I want something that's more professional looking. Again, I can install a third party program - or I can edit the registry to change it, but why not just go ahead and make it easy? Of course, businesses could always lock down that option with Group Policy if they don't want users customizing their logon screens. Meanwhile, find the registry editing instructions here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Logon-Background-Image

    We have good multi-touch support now with Windows 7, and it can change the way we interact with our computers. In fact, after using the TouchSmart for a while, I find myself trying to perform actions by touching the screen on my primary workstation - which unfortunately doesn't work, since the monitor isn't a touchscreen model. However, the touch screen doesn't replace the mouse; it merely supplements it. Some things are still more easily done with the pointing device or keyboard. The next step: really good voice support. I don't want a "Star Trek" computer that I have to talk to for everything (and I'm not sure I want my computer talking back to me) but there are times and circumstances when voice command and dictation are extremely convenient options. Speech recognition is definitely improved in Windows 7, but dictation transcription still isn't quite there yet (at least for those of us with Texas accents). I look forward to a time when I can incorporate keyboard and mouse input, touch, and voice all into my computing experience, seamlessly.

    There are many more changes I would like to be able to brag are "my idea" when Windows 8 comes out. How about you? Tell us your ideas for making Windows 7 better - especially the "little things" that sometimes make a ton of difference in usability (and we're talking here about new innovations - not suggestions to "go back to the way XP did it"). What do you think of the "my idea" ad campaign? Is it effective or ho-hum? How does it stack up against the Kylie ads, the Laptop Hunters ads, the "coolness campaign," even the Seinfeld commercials (surely there was somebody, somewhere, who liked those)? We invite you to discuss both topics - the feature set and the marketing tactics - on our forum at
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Forum-Discussion


    Follow-up: There's no place like a HomeGroup

    In last week's editorial, we explored the new HomeGroup networking feature in Windows 7, and readers brought their own experiences - and their questions - to the forum. RBumpus is concerned about how the new file/media sharing model with affect those who have deployed Windows Home Server. First, maybe I didn't make it clear but you don't have to use HomeGroup on your home network; it's just another option. The old options to join a workgroup or domain are still there.

    Next, Windows 7 and Windows Home Server work fine together. If you have Win7 computers on your network, you'll need to install WHS Power Pack 3, which adds support for Windows 7 libraries, enhanced search (Windows Search 4), full image backups of Win7 machines, and enhancements for Media Center. The Power Pack totally integrates WHS and Win7. Read more about it here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Power-Pack-3

    For the reader who is unable to get networking to work with Windows 7, there were no details given but a common problem is not having network discovery turned on. You do this through the Network and Sharing Center in Control Panel. Another common obstacle is firewall settings.

    Some readers have complained that HomeGroup shares are seen by everyone and that it needs to be more secure. As I explained in the original article, the HomeGroup concept is based on the assumption that there is a high level of trust among the members of a household, and by default it's only media (music, pictures, videos) that are shared through the HomeGroup - items that usually are not considered sensitive or confidential. You can belong to a HomeGroup and still share other files the old way, assigning permissions for specific users.

    One reader mentioned problems using NAS with a HomeGroup. Network Attached Storage is not a typical home setup and not something HomeGroup was designed to handle. You should configure your network as a workgroup or domain, as you did with Vista and XP, if you have business-oriented devices and/or sophisticated security requirements. Although I have set up and tested HomeGroups, my production Win7 machines are networked through my domain like previous clients. And in fact, I've had zero problems joining any of the Win7 computers to the domain (which was not always the case with XP machines).

    It's obvious, based on readers' input, that Windows 7 networking works like a dream for some users, and for others, not so much (something I've found to be true of networking in general for lo, these many years that I've been involved with it - regardless of whether the systems were running Windows 3.11, 9x, 2000, XP, Vista, Win7, UNIX, Linux or Mac). I've spent many hours of my life troubleshooting network connections and usually it comes down to one small configuration or a physical layer problem (a bad cable has been the culprit more than once). Recently I've seen a number of cases where Win7 machines weren't able to connect to old wireless access points or wireless routers that don't support strong security. When the WAP was replaced with a more recent one, connectivity was simple.

    As always, thank you to all of those who participated in the discussion.

    'Til next week,
    Deb Shinder, Editor
    feedback@win7news.net

    Follow Deb on Twitter

    PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-WXPNews

    And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-WServerNews

    Join the Win7News fan page on Facebook!
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Win7News-on-Facebook


    Quotes of the Week

    "Imagination rules the world." - Napoleon Bonaparte

    "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." - George S. Patton

    "The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best." - Thomas Sowell


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    News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

    Getting rid of a dual boot configuration

    Many folks took the cautious route and installed Windows 7 in a dual boot configuration with XP or Vista. This gave them the opportunity to try out the new OS with a "security blanket" - the old operating system was still there to boot into if they decided they didn't like the new one. Well, now many of those people have decided to make a full commitment to Windows 7, and want to know how to get rid of the old OS so they can free up some space. Here is Part 1 of an article that tells you how to go about it:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Remove-Dual-Boot


    Windows 7 market share surpasses Mac's

    A month after its release, Windows 7 passed all versions of Mac OS X in market share, up to 5.07% as compared to Mac's 5.00% for the week of November 15-21. Of course, if you compared it to Apple's latest version only (Snow Leopard), Windows 7 would be way out ahead. Windows 7 sales have been good, even in a bad economy, and its share has steadily increased since its release. According to Steve Ballmer, Windows 7 has sold twice as many copies as any other Microsoft OS in the same time span. Read more here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-OS-Market-Share


    Office 2010 will ship in June

    Microsoft has announced an approximate ship date for the next version of Office. Although a public beta is already available, the final release will come in June, and we can expect six versions to choose from (including the free Starter edition). See this article:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Office-2010


    More competition for the Kindle: B&N's Nook E-Reader

    Amazon's Kindle brought ebooks to the masses, but many of us who otherwise like the idea were put off by the high price, proprietary format and sparse feature set (for example, the monochrome display). Now Barnes & Noble is taking a stab at the e-Reader market with its new "Nook," which makes several improvements on the Kindle with a color display and, reportedly, SD card storage. You may have to wait until after Christmas to get it, and the price is still a bit high at $249, but we expect that more competition will eventually lead to lower prices. Meanwhile, I'm not the Nook is the device that will convince me to spring for an e-Reader, but we're getting closer. Check it out here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Virtual-E-reader


    How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features

    How to find out if your Windows 7 computer is ready for digital cable

    Back in the October 1 edition, we told you about the announcement at CEDIA EXPO that Windows 7 computers will be able to use CableCARD digital tuners without buying a special computer that supports CableCARD in the BIOS. Now you can find out if your computer has the specs to do it. Here's how:
    1. Open Windows Media Center
    2. Scroll down to Extras and click on the Extras Gallery
    3. In the Showcase section, you should see the Digital Cable Advisor tool (looks like a coax cable connector). If you don't see it there, go to Media Center Settings | General and ensure that automatic downloads are enabled
    4. Click the Advisor tool's icon and you'll see the "Welcome to the Digital Cable Advisor" screen. Click the Install button and confirm that you want to download the file
    5. Accept the license terms and click Yes at the UAC prompt. Wait for the installation
    6. Click Next to analyze your system, agree to the terms again (!) and click Next again. Then click "Start Test"
    7. When the analysis is complete, click Next
    8. If your system passes, click Update System Settings and click Yes at another UAC prompt
    9. Read the recommendations, and click Done.
    Now your system is ready to use a CableCARD. The next step is to buy a CableCARD tuner and rent a CableCARD from your cable company. Then you can watch and record encrypted HD content via Windows Media Center.


    Windows 7 and Vista Security

    November security update may cause Windows 7 "black screen of death"

    Some Windows 7 computers, along with Vista, XP and even Windows 2000 and NT machines, have recently been displaying a black screen after logon that seems to be related to a November security update. The screen is all black except for an Explorer window, which may or may not be minimized. You can find out more here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Black-Screen

    I haven't seen this on any of my machines, and according to reports, the cases are scattered. Please post to the forum if you encounter this, and let us know whether (and how) you were able to fix it.


    Question Corner

    Help - installing XP killed Windows 7

    QUESTION:
    Now I've done it. I got a new computer that has Windows 7 on it and I like it. But I need to be able to use XP sometimes because of a program that won't install on Windows 7. So I installed XP on a separate partition to dual boot. But now I only get the option to boot to XP, Windows 7 isn't there. The Windows 7 partition and its files seem to be there but it's not on the menu so I can't boot into it. Can you help me undo what I've done? - Sonny L.

    ANSWER:
    If you install Windows 7 on a machine that already has XP installed, Windows 7 will recognize the older OS and give you the option of "Previous version of Windows" along with Windows 7 in the boot menu. But it doesn't work the other way around. When you install XP after Windows 7, XP doesn't recognize the new OS. It overwrites the boot menu and all you see there is XP. Luckily, this can be fixed. Here's how:
    1. Go ahead and boot into XP and open a command window.
    2. Put your Windows 7 DVD in the DVD drive.
    3. At the command prompt, type d:\boot\ bootsec.exe /nt60 all (assuming your DVD drive is drive D; substitute the correct drive letter).
    4. Now when you reboot, you'll see the Windows 7 menu - without XP. Boot into Windows 7 and open an administrative command window (Go to All Programs | Accessories, right click Command Prompt and choose Run as Administrator).
    5. At the command prompt, type: bcdedit /create {ntldr} -d "Windows XP" (include the quotation marks).
    If you don't like editing the Windows 7 boot menu from the command prompt, instead you can use a boot-editing utility such as EasyBCD, which you can download here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-EasyBCD


    Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting

    How to add or edit words in the speech dictionary

    You can add, edit or delete words from the speech dictionary in Windows 7 to make it easier for the speech recognition software to recognize the words that you often use. You can also prevent a word from being dictated. This is useful if speech recognition often mistakes a word you say for something else that you never use. Find out how to modify the speech dictionary here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Speech-Dictionary


    Change default photo editor in Windows 7

    If you upgrade Vista to Windows 7 and you had Windows Photo Gallery set as the default photo editor, you may get an error message in Windows 7 when you right click a photo and try to edit it. You need to change the default photo editor (you can download Windows Live Photo Gallery, or set another program as the default; Windows 7 does not include Photo Gallery built in as Vista did). Find out more here:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-Picture-Right-Click


    Fav Links

    This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

    Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.


    Product of the Week

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