Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Not every Windows user is going to like Windows 7

Not every Windows user is going to like Windows 7.

And, it’s true– you cannot please all the people, all the time.

I have been using Windows 7 as my main desktop OS for a while now, and have written several installments of  “A Tech’s Impressions” series, (see, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 — Part 1 of a series) with more on the way. This article is not one of them – it’s more a (my) look at psychology than technology.

It is hard to be a reader of technology-oriented websites, or business analysis sources, and be unaware that Windows Vista was not a pop sensation (it did not “go viral”) … and that many people are (deliberately) “sticking with XP”.
For a multitude of “reasons”.

In fact, many flat-out say Vista was a flop. From a marketing and sales standpoint, I think I have to agree. It was, to me, mind-bogglingly stupid (and I’m being polite) to 1) let Vista be released without driver support, 2) To not hammer home to the public the fact that Vista was NEVER meant for old machines, and 3) To let 18 months (!) of brilliant “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” ads run unanswered.
ImaMac
And.. when the long awaited Microsoft reply finally came?
An equally stupid (and vaguely insulting) move; a campaign called “Mojave”, that nobody saw. (see, Marketing the Microsoft Way–”Mojave”). They got a little smarter with the following “I’m a PC” campaign.. but that was way too little, far too late.
The number of Apple machines jumped from somewhere around 5-7% to 10-15% (I don’t care about that though. Good for Apple). Microsoft’s revenue declined, and has announced a 5,000 -employee layoff. (see, Gartner: Blame Vista for Microsoft layoffs.)

But Vista is stuck with an (IMHO) undeserving bad rap, and many people have chosen to stay with a less secure and aging operating system. (Me? I’ll never go back. I retired the last of my XP systems a while ago.)
XP was released in 2001. In computer years, that’s five iterations of Moore’s Law ago -more people used floppy disks than thumb drives- and in human perspective.. the Trade Towers were still standing.

Microsoft has clearly learned a few things from Vista’s “failure”, and made some changes, evident already in the Windows 7 beta release. I am eager to see if that “education” will change how Windows 7 is marketed to the masses.

Let’s get back to the topic: built on the Vista kernel, tweaked for friendliness and one-click-simple, loaded with device drivers, faster, etc., etc., Windows 7 is what Vista should have been, and all the standard reasons to avoid it (or.. “wait for Service Pack 1”) seem to me to have been already addressed and answered. I boldly predict that you will not see the same “this sucks!” or “my doohickie won’t work!” reaction that Vista saw.

But people will still find ways to avoid “going viral” over Windows 7.. and find excuses to stick with old OS’s on old equipment. For instance, I know a retired Admin who won’t run anything except Windows 2000.. it, quote, “does everything I want, or need”.
Some folks will move to Server 2008 (and say they aren’t runninspockg Vista/7) because they don’t care for the “eye candy”.
Yet others will stick with XP.. because they’ve become intimate with it over the years (or claim “it’s faster”…).

People are a “trip” (to use some California lingo), and seem to me full of idiosyncrasies; and as Mr. Spock kept pointing out, don’t always react logically. I do know one thing — people are inherently resistant to change, and find it stressful.

Is Windows 7 a big change? Well, it looks different, but, no. Does it have some new “must have” feature? Well, no. (see, What’s really new in Windows 7?) Is it “better”? Well, from what I’ve seen so far, yes. (And I think 7 will go a long ways towards moving us into 64-bit computing.) Can it run on older workstations (one reason Vista was not adopted by the enterprise) or does it require a hardware upgrade? Less stringent than Vista, but, sheeze.. just how long do you want to run that single-core+512MB’s?!

The official release date of Windows 7, and finding it on computers in stores, is a ways off yet (October?).. probably coinciding with next year’s Holiday shopping period. A very good argument can be made that Windows 7’s success or failure will not be due to consumer opinion, but the state of the economy. But.. I will be carefully watching the consumer’s reaction.

One thing I’ll be watching is if Apple’s new “Snow Leopard” continues to eat into the “Microsoft share”…

Today’s free link: Fighting malware: An interview with Paul Ferguson

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 23, 2009 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, Microsoft, tech, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Hacker Theft Could be the Largest Credit Card Crime in History

Hackers breach Heartland Payment credit card system

Heartland Payment Systems hpy on Tuesday disclosed that intruders hacked into the computers it uses to process 100 million payment card transactions per month for 175,000 merchants. The number of victims is still unknown.

Heartland’s disclosure coincides with reports of heightened criminal activities involving stolen payment card numbers. Security firm CardCops has been tracking a 20% year-over-year increase in Internet chat room activity where hackers test batches of payment card numbers to make sure that they’re active.

To read the full news story, click here.

My two cents: This is why, folks, you don’t want to get all excited about “cloud computing”, or allow your governments to create large “databases”.. like a “national health registry”, or “crime database”.. and why I don’t use “online backup” to store my files.
Why trust someone else’s server? The Conficker outbreak shows you how well servers get patched..

I feel bad for the folks at HPS.. the cost to “clean this up” is going to be astounding.. For more on that see, Credit card hackers find new, rich targets.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 22, 2009 Posted by | computers, cyber crime, News, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Portable Word/Reader Questions*

One of my more popular articles discussed using a thumb drive to run applications (to read it, click here), and my two previous articles discussed Microsoft Word (click on “MS Word” in the Tag Cloud), which led to two reader questions which I think are worth posting — in the Q’s and their A’s format.

Q: Is there a version of Word I can run on my U3 thumb drive?
A: There are tremendous advantages to running programs from a thumb drive (particularly when using someone-elses’ computer), and there are many programs already developed that are designed to do this, which are called “portable”.
The answer to this question is: no… and yes. Microsoft has not released a portable version of any of the programs in the Office suite, and I have not read of any plans to do so in the future. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot find warez and hacks out there. Loyal friends and true of this blog know that I would never advocate advocate the use of this kind of software; aside from the question of legality, the security risks are simply too great.

That is not to say you cannot run a word processor from your thumb drive. If you have loaded your thumb drive with the Portable Apps suite, palogo.jpg(wildly popular, and previously recommended here) you already have the free Open Source suite of programs called Open Office which includes a “clone” of Word called Write. This works so much like Word that there’s practically a zero learning-curve.
Users of the U3 system of thumb drives u3logo1.jpgneed to download Open Office to add it to the installed programs. To do this manually, visit http://software.u3.com/, which will show you all of the U3 programs available– listed by category. But the easiest way is to plug in your thumb drive and launch the U3 “Launchpad” from the System Tray, and click on the “Add programs>>” link.

You might also want to consider using MS Works, which is Word compatible. For more on that, click here.

Q: Can I use portable Write to read Word documents?
A: The two main portable word processors (and there are others, if you’re the experimental sort) — Open Office’s Write, and the platform-independent AbiWord— allow you to open, and edit MS Word documents. They also allow you to save to HTML, PDF, and Word formats (this step is taken in the Save As menu) which allows you to send your documents to anyone.

Today’s free link(s): You needn’t put these word processors on a thumb drive to use them (and get to know and love them). Click the links in the paragraph above to get free word processing power for your regular computer as well.

* Original posting 10/19/07

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 21, 2009 Posted by | advice, Plug and Play, Portable Computing, tech, thumb drives, word processors | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WOT In Action

Have you installed the safer surfing WOT toolbar yet? I install it on all my friend’s and family’s machines (and offer to, to all my clients) because its red – yellow – green “traffic signal” warning system is simple enough for young children.

Here, it’s warning of a dangerous hyperlink embedded in a phishing email that’s attempting to steal my identity and banking login…
WOT_at_work
..and should you be so foolish as to ignore (or.. simply not notice) the red circle, and click on the link anyway, and try to go to the website..
totalprotectwot
A warning curtain intervenes. It tells you why the website has “earned” the very bad red rating. You must click “Go to site” to proceed to the website itself. (I won’t say that if you do do that, you deserve whatever bad things happen to you and/or your machine.. but, I might think it…)

These ratings are determined by you, me, and other Internet surfers… not some faceless giant corporation or government agency. It is “people driven”, and you get a vote.

Check it out. Visit http://mywot.com today. Protect yourself from “phraud”, and “phishing”, and “rogue antivirus” programs .. like TotalProtect2009. (See Is that anti-spyware program really spyware? and Total Protect 2009/ TotalProtect2009 – 3 Removal Solutions)

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 20, 2009 Posted by | advice, browsers, computers, cyber crime, Firefox, IE 7, Internet, searching, security, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get Your Russian Brides Here

Spam — that wonderful garbage that makes up 90%+ of all the packets traveling the Internet at any given time (and usually sent by [our] zombie computers as part of a “botnet”) — is usually quite predictable in its content.

But yesterday I noticed a new batch.. and had to laugh.
capture1.jpg

January 19, 2009 Posted by | computers, cyber crime, spam and junk mail | , , , , | 3 Comments

A Tech’s First Impression Of Windows 7

Part 3 – Improvements over Vista?

I have now been using Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, for a week. I configured it to my taste (aka “preferences”), and installed my primary applications (and a few games) and done lots of things to try to break it.

Yes, you read that last part correctly – I said “try to break it”. You see, there simply is no better way (many people feel) to test a thing than to fill it up with High-Octane, put the petal to the metal, use the gears to keep the RPM’s well into the red, and go! go! go! until a piston sails up and through the hood. Of course.. for this to really mean anything.. you must do this several times in a row.bell_x-1

Not only is this method fun, but this is how “limits” are discovered. Ask Chuck Yeager. (Geeks call this “benchmarking”.)

Some findings: I have found that it is fairly easy to get a fail on IE 8, the newest release of the venerable Internet Explorer web browser (which is still a beta also). Open too many tabs (6+), or a Microsoft.com page using Silverlight, and you’ll get a “Not responding” fairly quick. But, I have also found that it is extremely difficult to get Windows 7 itself to fail. Win 7 is fast and it’s stable.

In fact, despite my best efforts and determination, I have yet to have a lockup, or BSOD¹. Improved multi-processor/multi-threading ability is noticeable. No Windows Update fails either, as still befalls Vista SP1 (you know the ones.. you have to reboot 3 times and/or use Startup Repair to get to your Desktop?)

After my admittedly amateur and unscientifical-style testing, I would be willing to quite prematurely guestimate that Windows 7 is one-hundred and thirty two point six times (132.6x ) more stable than Vista was, and at least .. oh, um, let me say, one magnitude more stable than Vista w/SP1.

All jocularity aside, only time will tell how accurate my estimates and impressions are. But I’m impressed. Quite impressed. This is a beta, after all. (I’m willing to wager that this is a historic first — “beta” and “stable” are never used in the same sentence. I’ll come back to some of the reasons for this.)

Plus number 6.

Other differences: While retaining most of what we’ve come to know in Windows, (such as, by default, the Taskbar is on the bottom, Start button on the left, everything “interesting” is found in Control Panel, etc.) there are some changes.. changes that affected me in my daily usage. First up on that list is the Taskbar has changed in appearance and behavior.

The Taskbar (aka “Superbar”) is similar to Vista’s in that it has a “hover” feature, as shown below…

Windows 7 "Superbar"

Windows 7 "Superbar"

though it has been enhanced to show thumbnails of the program’s open windows (or tabs, as in this case) for easier selection, and direct-action “maximize”.

But look closer. Quick Launch and tabs are combined into “pinned” icons, and the System Tray (the icons down by the clock) are now an “up arrow”. To make a program a “Quick Launch”, or visa-versa, you simply drag-and-drop (and select “pin to taskbar”, no more “lock”/”unlock”), and open programs – “tabs” – ‘stack’ to the right.

It’s weird how much I miss the by-the-clock icons.. though they’ve never really served any truly practical purpose (except maybe as a source for context menu shortcuts). I find myself clicking the arrow, to make the System Tray visible, and reassure myself – yes, they’re still there.
I’ve been running (and troubleshooting) Microsoft operating systems since Windows 3.11, and I just expect those things to be there…

Speaking of things that are missing: menus have been consolidated and “pruned”. They seem to me less cluttered, more intuitive, and easier to navigate. This is most noticeable when trying to access system tools and the elements that make up the Control Panel. Long-time Windows users and über geeks may feel that Microsoft has unnecessarily moved a few things (and occasionally get annoyed, at first), but newbies and flexible-types will find things “friendlier”… IMHO.

Plus number 7.

And Defender is nowhere to be found in Programs or the Start menu: it’s in Control Panel.
(Don’t ask. Haven’t even a guess.)

And, when you first get started, “Network” is missing from the Start menu.
But that’s a topic for Part 4..

Link for Part 1 of this series, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 1 of a series
Link to Part 2, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 2 — Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7

¹ Blue Screen Of Death (see Troubleshooting the Blue Screen Of Death)

Today’s free link: What’s really new in Windows 7?

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

January 17, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, PC, performance, software, System Tray, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Potential ‘big bad### botnet’ spreading fast*

The ‘Downadup’ worm is spreading quickly and now infects more than 3.5 million PCs, according to the security company F-Secure.

In a blog post on Wednesday, F-Secure put the total number of infected machines at an estimated 3,521,230 — a rise of more than a million machines over the previous day’s tally…

Wow. A million new infections in one day..

Folks, to read the rest of this article (clipped from ZDNet) by David Meyer and Tom Espiner, click here.

[update 1/19/09: over 8 million now. Here’s the latest (and how that number is arrived at), Calculating the Size of the Downadup Outbreak]

January 16, 2009 Posted by | computers, cyber crime, News | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments