Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Tis the Season (Again!) for Online Shopping

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001
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Vol. 9, #101 - Dec 8, 2009 - Issue #409



 'Tis the Season (Again!) for Online Shopping


  1. Editor's Corner
    • 'Tis the Season (Again!) for Online Shopping
    • Follow-up: Chrome OS
    • Quotes of the Week

  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Yahoo and Microsoft finalize Partnership
    • Bing puts bling in maps feature
    • Microsoft tries again to placate the EU and other browser makes
    • Banned in Boston - and everywhere else

  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • Get rid of the Automatic Updates restart dialog box

  5. XP Security News
    • On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me ...

  6. XP Question Corner
    • My computer's clock is losing time

  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • My Documents opens when you start the computer

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

  9. Product of the Week
    • Total Video Converter: An All-In-One Video And Audio Conversion Tool.






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 Editor's Corner

'Tis the Season (Again!) for Online Shopping

Once upon a time, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas meant numerous exhausting trips to the stores and malls. It meant fighting the crowds (sometimes literally) to snag that last Cabbage Patch Kid or Hello Kitty for the little ones in our lives, or that on-sale cashmere sweater for mom, or that very cool big boy toy for the hubby (Dad was easy: socks and ties). Today, it's possible to get all of your gift-giving taken care of without ever leaving the house. Online shopping has morphed from a niche market utilized only by techies to a mainstream activity that's engaged in by almost everyone who has computer access. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that even in this less-than-stellar economic climate, e-commerce sales for the first quarter of 2009 totaled more than $30 billion:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Sales-Dip

The fear of conducting financial transactions over the 'Net has faded as more and more people do their banking online and pay their regular bills online. People have come to realize that although there's a risk associated with transmitting your credit card information through the web, there's also a risk associated with giving your card to a store or restaurant employee, who disappears with it into a back room. Even if you never let go of your card, it's not necessarily safe - just witness the many incidences where people became victims of identity theft just by using their debit cards at an ATM - which had been rigged to copy the information:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-ATM-Identity-Theft

Sometimes, shopping online is the only way to get what you want. I searched in vain at local outlets for something that had been common when I was young but seems to have disappeared, at least around here: so-called "ice tea spoons." These are spoons with normal sized bowls but longer than usual handles, for stirring sugar that's added to sweetened tea. Then I looked on Amazon, and sure enough, I found them there - a box of 12 for only 9.29:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Iced-Teaspoon

This year, because of the recession, it may be even harder to find what you want in the stores because they're carrying low inventories. Even if you see it advertised, it may be sold out by the time you get there. I've been waiting for months for the release of the Omnia II smart phone by Verizon. It finally happened last Wednesday, but I had a busy week and wasn't able to get over to the Verizon Store until Saturday. I was ready to buy, but they had none left in stock. I had them check several other stores in neighboring cities and came up empty there, too. I ended up having to order the phone over the Internet, even though I was really eager to get it and willing to pay the extra $20 to have it that day. Oh, well - it's supposed to be delivered to my door next Tuesday and I saved a few bucks.

In fact, saving money is the biggest reason that many of my friends are giving for doing more of their shopping online this year. One reason buying online costs you less is because many online retailers don't charge sales taxes on your purchases. What you might not know is that your state probably requires you to pay a "use tax" on those out-of-state purchases. Almost nobody does, and most people don't even know how to go about it, but the law is there:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Tax-Free-Online

Since that isn't working so well, it's likely that sooner or later, online retailers will be required to collect sales taxes just like your local stores do. In fact, as the article above notes, New York state has already passed a law requiring them to collect sales taxes from customers who live in New York. It's under appeal now. Of course, we already pay sales taxes on some online purchases. When I buy from Dell, sales tax gets added onto my purchase since I'm in Texas and so are they. In fact, the company doesn't have to be headquartered in your state. If the company has any physical presence in your state, it's supposed to charge you sales taxes.

Even if you give the government its due, though, it's likely that you'll save money by buying online. Because many online retailers don't have the overhead of "bricks and mortar" stores and sales people, they can set their prices lower. When it comes to things like computer components, I can almost always get a better price at NewEgg or Amazon than at my local Fry's. I don't expect to ever completely stop frequenting the physical retail stores, though. There are two reasons: sometimes I need something right now, not a few days or even one day later. And sometimes I really need to see and/or touch the product before I buy it. There are times when I don't even know the name of the item I want. Sure, I could go to the B&M store and find it, find out its name and then come home and buy it online, but chances are - unless it's really a big ticket item - if I make the trek to the store, I'll just go ahead and get it there.

Black Friday is one day that I stay as far away from the stores as possible. If I must shop on that day, online is definitely my preferred way to do it. I guess I'm not the only one who feels that way. According to the Oregon Business Report, overall spending was up by half a percentage point this year on Black Friday ($54 million more than last year) - but online spending was up 17% over the same period last year. On the other hand, those statistics show that shoppers spent about 14% less per transaction this year than last year:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Retail-Trends

"Cyber Monday" is the Monday after the traditional Black Friday weekend. It was created in 2005 by the National Retail Federation. The premise at that time was that many people only had high speed Internet access at work, so they did their online shopping on the first work day following Thanksgiving. This year's Cyber Monday sales were up (11% over last year) but that's only one measure of its popularity. Many people were "cyber window shopping" - surfing the e-commerce sites without necessarily making purchases.

In fact, the Cyber Monday traffic was so heavy that, according to Ben Rushlo, director of competitive research at Keynote Systems (a mobile Internet test and measurement company), "More users, shopping online, brought sites that were relatively stable on Black Friday to their knees on Cyber Monday. In every vertical Keynote measures (Apparel, Books & Music and Electronics) at least one site had what would be classified as a 'meltdown.' In total, six of the measured sites crumbled during some part of the day (some for the entire day). Another 9 sites had major slowdowns or periods of instability during the day on Monday."

Which brings us to a potential problem with online shopping. As crowded as the B&M stores might get during the holiday shopping season, it's highly unlikely that they will be shut down completely by the crowds. You'll usually be able to squeeze in. But if an Internet site gets overwhelmed, it can crash the servers - and it's disconcerting, at the least, if that happens when you're right in the middle of a credit card transaction.

Still, according to Ben, the large sites such as Wal-Mart, Sears, Best Buy and NewEgg performed fine on Cyber Monday. Most of the sites that experienced problems were apparently apparel outlets - perhaps indicating that shoppers are being more pragmatic this year and buying clothes rather than trinkets. Maybe these sites were just caught by surprise when their popularity exceeded their bandwidth.

Tell us what you think about online shopping. Are you doing more of it this year? Do you find it a blessing to be able to sit at home at your computer in your pajamas and do your Christmas shopping? Or do you think it takes away something from the spirit of the season, not to be out there among the crowds, putting your life on the line for the sake of the best sales? How much money do you estimate you save (including cost of gas/transportation and the value of your time traveling to and from the mall) by buying online? Do you pay the use taxes on your purchases? Do you think online purchases should be subject to sales taxes like local purchases? Is the trend toward buying online harming your local economy by taking sales away from the businesses in your neighborhood? We invite you to join the discussion in our forum at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Forum-Discussion


Follow-up: Chrome OS

In last week's editorial, I took a quick peek at the new (beta) Google Chrome operating system and some of its features and - in my opinion - where it's lacking. A number of readers had something to say on the subject, too, and the article obviously inspired some lively discussion on the forum (which was, after all, the point).

Based on the forum posts, many of you still aren't ready to accept an OS that lives in the cloud, and that was one of the points I was trying to make in the original piece. There are security issues, there are trust issues, there are control issues - and there are even economic issues. Thanks to Dumbo469 and mattern1974 for pointing out something that those of us in the urban/suburban U.S. with low priced unlimited data plans sometimes forget: that not everybody has such access and bandwidth limitations make cloud based computing an expensive proposition for many folks in other countries or in rural parts of ours, even if the OS and hardware are free.

For those who decided that I "asked the wrong questions," please feel free to ask your own. There are no "official" forum questions - my thoughts on the editorial subjects are my own, just as yours are yours. They're designed to serve as a taking-off point to get people thinking and talking - no more and no less. to respond to another criticism, the article in no way attempted to conclude what Chrome is or isn't. In fact it said, more than once, that the current iteration is a beta and "we'll have to wait a little longer to find out exactly how Chrome shakes out."

SMF likens the Chrome OS to mainframe computing, giving the IT department complete control over everything and taking all decisions out of the hands of users. This is actually a very good analogy - but I would comment that there is a reason that companies moved from the mainframe model to the PC model in the first place, and those are the same reasons that I don't believe Chrome (or other similar "operating systems") will take over the corporate desktop anytime soon, either. Even with the advent of terminal services and low-cost "thin clients" years ago, most businesses are still full of full-fledged PCs for all but the most basic tasks.

As always, thanks to all of you for participating!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor
feedback@wxpnews.com

Follow Deb on Twitter

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called Win7News? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Win7News

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-WServerNews

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Quotes of the Week

"Why do you have to be a non-conformist like everybody else?" - James Thurber (1894 - 1961)

"If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much." - Donald Rumsfeld (1932 - )

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. - Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)






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 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

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Search for a driver and you get a ton of Driver Software offers instead. But how do you know which one is good? Try Driver Genius 9.0. Free scan.
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PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-PC-Tune-Up

Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-WhiteSmoke





 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Yahoo and Microsoft finalize Partnership

It's been a long time in the making, but last Friday Microsoft and Yahoo announced that they've finally reached an agreement on partnering up on Internet search, with Yahoo using the Bing search engine on its own site and will handle web advertising sales, to the benefit of both companies (and to provide stiffer competition to Google's dominance of that space). Read more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Yahoo-MS-Search-Deal


Bing puts bling in maps feature

Last week, Microsoft released a beta of their new Silverlight version of Bing Maps and it's cool. The Streetside view is like Google's street view - but better. The images are higher resolution and look really great. I like the enhanced bird's eye view, too. Photosynth is now integrated into the Maps feature, as well - and be sure to check out the "mapplications" gallery. Read more about it and see samples (and a link to try it out yourself) here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Bing-Maps


Microsoft tries again to placate the EU and other browser makes

Remember when the EU and makers of other web browsers complained about Microsoft including Internet Explorer in the operating system? So Microsoft offered to release a European version of Windows 7 with no browser and they complained about that. So then Microsoft offered to include a "ballot" from which computer users could pick a browser when they installed the operating system. Well, they were upset then that the ballot listed browsers in alphabetical order, giving Apple Safari an unfair advantage. So now Microsoft has agreed to a ballot screen that randomly lists the top fair browsers. But wait a minute - isn't that unfair to the makers of browser number six? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Browser-Exclusivity


Banned in Boston - and everywhere else

Xbox Live is an online multi-player gaming service operating by Microsoft for users of its Xbox game console. But if you use a pirated copy of the game software - or if you cheat by using a exploit in the code - your Xbox can be banned permanently from participating in the online games. If you're thinking of buying a used Xbox system on eBay or some other venue, be aware of this if you want to play games online. Read more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Pirated-Games





 How To: Using XP Features

Get rid of the Automatic Updates restart dialog box

After XP downloads and installs automatic updates, it wants to restart. A dialog box pops up, asking if you want to restart your computer now. But if you're busy working on your machine, you might not want to restart just yet. You can select to "Restart later" but then you'll just have to go through the same thing again - and again, until you give in and reboot. However, you can temporarily get rid of the message. Here's how:

  1. Click Start | Run
  2. Type cmd to open a command window
  3. At the command prompt, type net stop "automatic updates"
This stops the message from popping up again. It only stops the service until you reboot, then the service will start again on its own.




 XP Security News

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me ...

Fixes for twelve security vulnerabilities. Patch Tuesday comes this week, and Microsoft has announced plans to offer six updates to patch twelve vulnerabilities, including a critical vulnerability in Internet Explorer that can affect all current versions of Windows. Half of the updates to be released are classified as "critical." You can read more about them here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-IE-Hole





 XP Question Corner

My computer's clock is losing time

QUESTION:
Okay, I've had this happen with a watch before but not a computer. Lately it seems like the clock is running slow, that is, I'll set the time and then a day later, it's fallen behind. I don't know if this is a hardware or software problem. Can you help? - Victor L.

ANSWER:
There is a known issue whereby XP may display the wrong time or appear to be losing time. This can be a problem with the time server that the XP machine contacts over the Internet to get the right time, or it can be a problem with your system itself. First make sure you have the "Automatically synchronize with an Internet time server" option checked on the Internet Time tab when you double click the clock in the system tray. If that's already okay, try this:

  1. Log in as administrator
  2. Click Start | Run and type cmd to open a command window
  3. At the command prompt, type these commands, in this order:
    • net stop w32time
    • w32tm /unregister
    • w32tm /register
    • net start w32time

  4. Reboot the operating system
Another cause can be a CMOS battery that is dying. You'll need to open the case and replace it.




 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

My Documents opens when you start the computer

If the My Documents folder opens every time you start your XP computer, you can stop this behavior by editing the registry. For step-by-step instructions, see KB article 555294. As always when working with the registry, be sure to back it up before you make changes.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-My-Documents





 Fav Links

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

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






 Product of the Week

Total Video Converter: An All-In-One Video And Audio Conversion Tool.

This utility is a powerful yet simple to use all-in-one video conversion utility. Easily converts video and audio between almost any format with speed and quality for use with your iPhone, iPod, Zune, PSP etc. Sports a very user-friendly interface and makes converting video format as easy as ABC. It extracts audio tracks from movie and video files so you can move them to your favorite video capable mobile device. WXPNews readers download the trial version or buy it now at a great price here.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/091208-Video-Converter




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What Our Lawyers Make Us Say
These documents are provided for informational purposes only. The information contained in this document represents the current view of Sunbelt Software on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Because Sunbelt must respond to changes in market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Sunbelt and Sunbelt cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.

INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND FREEDOM FROM INFRINGEMENT.

This newsletter and website and may contain links to other websites with whom we have a business relationship. Sunbelt Software does not review or screen these sites, and we are not responsible or liable for their privacy or data security practices, or the content of these sites. Additionally, if you register with any of these sites, any information that you provide in the process of registration, such as your email address, credit card number or other personally identifiable information, will be transferred to these sites. For these reasons, you should be careful to review any privacy and data security policies posted on any of these sites before providing information to them.

The user assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and the use of this document. This document may be copied and distributed subject to the following conditions: 1) All text must be copied without modification and all pages must be included; 2) All copies must contain Sunbelt's copyright notice and any other notices provided therein; and 3) This document may not be distributed for profit. All trademarks acknowledged. Copyright Sunbelt Software, Inc. 1996-2009.

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Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware"


Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware"

Link to Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware

Posted: 02 Dec 2009 02:10 PM PST
What's the best free mp3 tag editor? Our editor JoJo believes he's found the answer.
Posted: 02 Dec 2009 02:09 PM PST
Joining and splitting videos and mp3 files can be a pain but with these free tools it's a piece of cake.

Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware"


Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware"

Link to Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware

Posted: 30 Nov 2009 07:04 PM PST
Most powerful audiovisual format conversion programs are quite hard to use but this one is different. This freebie allows you to convert and do basic editing on a wide range of of sound and video formats with remarkable ease. Just the thing for getting stuff onto your iPod, iPhone, PS3 or other digital media device.

It's so refreshing to see a product where somebody has actually thought about how the product will be used. Sadly, I don't see it all that often.
Posted: 30 Nov 2009 04:55 PM PST
After doing a Windows 7 installation on a neighbor's PC I kept getting calls that they weren't satisfied with any of the standard Win7 wallpapers. I then remembered a terrific free wallpaper that uses changing images of the planet Earth. I wasn't sure whether it would work on Windows 7 but guess what? It not only works but I'm no longer getting any more dissatisfied calls from my neighbors. In fact they love this wallpaper and I suspect you will too.

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

    Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

    We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product.

    Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:
    http://www.win7news.net/091203-VIPRE



    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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    Cool Tools

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    WhiteSmoke 2009 is an innovative proofreading and editing tool with a single aim - to help you write better.
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    Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.
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    Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time. Set it and forget it.
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    Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions
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    Kill the background tasks belonging to (legitimate) software that run all day. Why? To get your speed back! But which ones can I kill? Try this:
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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

    Acoustica CD-DVD Label Maker

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    Daves Computer Tips

    CNET News.com

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    Group Blogs and Websites for Free

    Added Comment: Blastgroups provides lots of freebies. However it has a confusing interface. I have been doing computers since the 70's and it IS confusing to me. However if you can wade through, you will get LOTS of great stuff for your group. - Computer Doc Blastgroups Claims that it is FREE and you can ... Create a free website for your: Sports Team–Club–Family–Friends Church–Work–School–Organization What can you add to a BlastGroup? Calendars – Photo Albums – Forums – Blogs Email Lists – Videos – Audio – Links – Files I just discovered this site and have NOT tried them. If you try them and have some comments, they are certainly VERY WELCOME! I am signing up today so that I can see how it works and report back to you. The other one I am familiar with like this is Airset.com. I loved airset until I realized that geeks like me would have no problem with it BUT perhaps the average computer user may. -Charles