Tech – for Everyone

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

Reflections of

A couple weeks back now, I saw a cardboard box on the side of the road (by somebody’s driveway) upon which someone had scrawled F R E E, in black marker, which had what could only be a keyboard protruding out of it.

Since I was in no real hurry, I decided to pull over, stop, and take a quick look, and see what else was in the box.
(One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure – they say.)

Sure enough: it was a keyboard I’d seen; and the box was full of old computer stuff — a couple more keyboards, a joystick, some floppy discs (still in the cellophane), several mice, and other parts and pieces and doodads. A look at the connecting plugs (and the floppies) told me this stuff dated to the first generation of personal computers — and should have been recycled long ago. Absolutely useless.

I was just about to walk away when I noticed that a bit behind the box was a stack of jewel cases. These jewel cases contained CD’s. The CD’s were install discs for —

  • Star Wars X-Wing Alliance
  • B-17
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III
  • F-22 Lightning 2
  • Comanche 3
  • Operation Flashpoint
  • Homeworld
  • and several other games from that era..

Brings back some memories, doesn’t it? (Well, for some of you, anyway.) These games also date from the first generation — and were written in DOS, if you can believe that.
In spite of the fact that these games are too old to play properly on modern machines, I took some of them. Maybe I could get them to work..

There are methods for getting old games to play on modern machines. My How To for that is here, Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated), which sometimes work.

But for several of these titles (um.. most of these titles) they did not, and if I wanted to proceed in my efforts I would have had to start using virtual environments. But instead, I did what I have not done in ages – I went into the T4E Museum Of Computers and pulled down a 1st Generation computer, and “fired it up”.

This bad boy is a Celeron 333 MHz, that has a whopping 64 Megabytes of RAM, a massive 4 Gigabyte hard drive, and runs the smooth and stable Windows 98 Second Edition. (It even has – hold on to your hats, USB ports!)

Ahhh.. the days of AUTOEXEC.BAT. I had almost forgotten..

[a brief aside: Now.. if you have read this far, I feel I have to be a little clearer, and more precise — the actual “first generation of PC’s” — the Pentium 286, 386, and 486 era, did not have “graphical” user interfaces, nor “video games” as we think of them. No “icons”. Instead, you typed in things like “cd c:\programs\lotus\”. What I meant by “1st Gen” was when people started actually buying PC’s to have in their home..]

I had – also – almost forgotten how slow, and incapable these machines, and Windows 98 were/are. And how many hurdles you had to jump through to get a graphics adapter to work. Can you believe there are people out there advocating going back and running Windows 98.. because Microsoft OSes “have become too ‘bloated’, slow, and unresponsive”? And I still see people who take pains to set their machines to have the “classic” look (spartan) shown above.

Sorry.. I am long-winded today. Back to the story. So installed some of these old games (or, tried to) and went through multiple (slow) reboots, a couple of BSOD‘s, etc., and I came away from it all with one word at the forefront of my mind –> LAME.

I hurried back to my 64-bit Win machine, used my wireless mouse to double-click the icon for Call of Duty Black Ops, and chuckled as I realized my machine has twice as much RAM as the the old PC has hard drive. And my game looks like this..

So there you have it: LAME vs less-lame. The old and the new. Night and day.

I really had forgotten Windows 98. I remembered it being better.. somehow. And the games too. I thought they were “cool”… and I suppose they were. In their day. Now? LAME. (I could only stand to play Heroes for a few minutes.. It was a bit like watching Pong.)

Related reading:

* It is time to face facts and finally dump Windows XP.

* A trip back to the land of Mega

Sorry if I angered anyone. That was not my intent. The above is just my “humble opinion”. My point is, we have evolved and advanced — and the past is, frequently, nostalgia at best. (Again, MHO.)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<


June 16, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech | , , , , , | 12 Comments

Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help!

Attention: I have posted an updated and more complete version of this article, here: Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated)

Reader Asks For Help After Installing Windows 7

Q: I had Windows XP and Windows 7 was recently installed. I hate Windows 7. My kids can’t play their games. Something about hardware acceleration driver. I want to know if I can switch to my XP. I do have the 7 recovery CDs that I made when I got the computer. Is there an easy way of switching? I’m not a tech person. I do not know alot about computers, but I do love and miss my XP. Can you help me?

A: Dear Reader,
Unless the person who upgraded you to Win 7 made a full backup of the XP (such as a “disk image”) before they installed, then no — there is no “easy way” back to XP. You would have to format your hard drive, install XP, install all your programs, and then copy back all your data. (Maybe.. that’s what you mean by “7 recovery CD’s”? Did you run Norton Ghost? Or, Acronis True Image?)
But XP is obsolete, not for sale any more*, not terribly secure, and no longer fully supported by Microsoft (and soon to be unsupported totally). It really isn’t the thing to do to “go back”…

Why don’t we focus on getting the issue resolved so that your kids can play their games? There are several approaches.
1) The “hardware acceleration” is referring to the “video card”, or more accurately, the graphics driver. Most graphics drivers allow you to turn off the hardware acceleration (which should resolve your issue).
Click Start in the lower left corner of Windows.
Click Control Panel, click Appearance and Personalization, click Personalization, click Display Settings, and then click Advanced Settings.
Click the Troubleshoot tab, and then click Change Settings. [Note: Change Settings will be disabled if the graphics card drivers do not support disabling hardware acceleration.]
Move the Hardware Acceleration slider until it is one notch to the right of None. This is the basic acceleration setting.
Click OK twice, and then close the window.
Restart the computer.

[you can also get there via the graphic adapter’s Properties in Device Manager]

The path in your address bar is: Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Display > Change Display Settings > Advanced settings.

Graph_Acc

2) You may need set the troublesome games to launch in “Compatibility Mode”, and tell them to run under Windows XP SP2. This article, https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/compatibility-tricks-for-old-programs-new-machines/ shows you how. The Compat Mode section is about half way down the page.

3) You may also – if the game is old enough – need to turn off a CPU core (or, now, cores), called “setting the affinity”. Also see, Compatibility Tricks for Old Programs, New Machines.

*see Comments

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

Share this post :

January 6, 2010 Posted by | advice, Compatibility Mode, computers, device drivers, how to, PC, performance, software, tech, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7

Part 2 — Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7

In Part1 of this series, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7, I described the install process for Microsoft’s new operating system, and today I will proceed to the next step of setting up a new computer.. transferring all your stuff from the old machine, and ‘tweaking’ things to just your liking.

Last year I wrote wrote about the fastest, easiest, user state migration I had ever had — New PC? Migrate Your User Account The Easy Way — and described a Microsoft download that allowed me to not only transfer settings and preferences (aka ‘tweaks’) and my files (.doc, .jpg, mp3, etc.), but my installed programs as well. (Which to me was about the neatest thing since sliced bread.)
[note: Microsoft has since removed the utility, Windows Easy Transfer Companion, referenced in the link/article above. Apparently, it doesn’t work on Vista SP1, and/or XP SP3.]

For the purposes of this article (and, simulating what the typical user will do with a new computer and/or OS), I took an older machine running XP that had been one of my “daily usage” machines before being relegated to testbed duty and re-attached it to my home network (LAN).

Easy Files and Settings Transfer: On my Windows 7 machine, I typed “File an” into the search area of my Start menu, and Windows Easy Transfer showed up in the results immediately. A click launched the Easy Transfer Wizard, and I was asked if *I was on the new machine or the old?
New.
* How did I want to make the transfer?
Over the network. (the other choices were an Easy Transfer Cable, or an external HD/USB flash drive.)
* Does the old machine have Windows Easy Transfer?
Um.. probably not, so, No.
It offered to provide the program if I would plug in a thumb drive, so.. I did.

It said “Finished” and told me to go plug the thumb drive into the old machine and let it “autoplay”, so.. I did.
The old machine (slow!) did its thing and presented me with a code, 123-456, and told me to go to the Windows 7 machine and enter the code, so.. I did.

Bingo, I was connected, and the Windows Easy Transfer tool started to scan the XP machine for “transferable items”.
transfr1.jpg

When the scan finished, I was provided with a result, and there were some default items already checked off — pictures, music, documents. No surprise there, but I was very pleased to see the “Programs” folder.. could it be?
transfr2.jpg
So.. I drilled down into the “Customize” section and selected the applications I wanted to try to transfer to the new machine (though, I could’ve just done the whole folder). That will save time.. and hunting down install CDs!

I clicked the “Save” button”..

transfr1plus.jpg

And presto. Seven minutes later my “user state” was now on my new machine. And so I have a new “easy champion”, and I confess.. I’m impressed.

Plus number five…

Well, I ran long. Tweaking the Desktop, and “Superbar”, and other personalization’s will have to wait for the next article.

Part 3 – Improvements over Vista?

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

Share this post :

January 13, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, dual boot, file system, how to, PC, performance, Plug and Play, software, tech, tweaks, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Don’t plug in that new computer until…

For those of you lucky folks who will receive a shiny new computer for the holidays, I want to remind you of two things: first, your machine, out-of-the-box, is not properly protected from the dangers of the Internet; and second, an unprotected machine connected to the Web will be infected within minutes of being connected. These infections may be keyloggers, that will steal your login ID’s, passwords and credit card numbers– or they may be tools that turn your machine into a zombie under the control of some distant hacker… or both… or… more.

Because of these two facts, it is very important that you take a few “action steps” before (repeat: BEFORE) you connect it to the Internet. Tell Windows “Validation” to wait. I simply cannot emphasize enough that these steps must be your first priority. Give your PC some protection before exposing it to the Internet.

Tip of the day: Take these 3 steps to protect your new PC.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, most new machines will come with Vista, and so the steps and screenshots will be Vista-oriented. If you do get a new machine that has XP, the steps are nearly identical.. but you can access them in the Protection Center or Network Connections as well.

1) Make sure the firewall is turned on.
A firewall is a very vital layer of protection against Internet dangers, and it acts much like a security guard at a doorway — only allowing authorized people to come and go. A firewall also “cloaks” (hides) you from a hacker’s scanning tools.
Vista’s built-in firewall is better than XP’s, but you may still want to install a 3rd-party firewall (or use the one in a Security “Suite”) at a later date. But, for now, the built-in firewall is much better than no firewall. To make sure it is “enabled” (on), click Start >Control Panel. (You are going to do this for Action Step #2 as well, so don’t ‘red-X’ it right away.)
12.jpg

Now click on the green “Network and Internet” link…
21.jpg

…and then, in the lower-left, click on “Windows Firewall”.
3.jpg
The window that opens should have a green coloring and look like this. If it doesn’t, and is red-colored, click on the “Change settings” link (Vista likes to use hyperlinks and not buttons) and turn it on.

2) Get Windows patched.
Now you will need to connect to the Internet, so go ahead and plug in your Ethernet cord or establish a wireless connection, and then go immediately to Windows Update: either by clicking the blue “Check for updates” (under “Security”) in Control Panel (the skinnier arrow in the first screenshot), or click Start >Programs >Windows Update.
You will be asked to “validate” your copy of Windows, and then it will scan your computer for any missing security patches, “hotfixes”, and updates and install them for you. [Note: if you chose the optional Update method, and “scan for optional updates”, Windows Update will look for newer (Microsoft approved) device drivers as well. This is a good thing to explore.]
This process will protect your machine from specific hacker exploit attacks, and close vulnerabilities in the software.

3) Open the antivirus program and update it.
Most, if not all, new computers come with at least a “trial” antivirus program installed.. usually as part of a trial “security suite” which lasts 30-90 days or so, and for it to be effective it needs to have the latest virus “definitions” added to its database.
Double-click on the Desktop icon (or right-click on the icon in the System Tray) and open the program’s Control panel and click on the “Update” option [Note: this is different than the “upgrade” option, which is asking you to buy.] Quite a few of these programs will detect that the database is empty, and will immediately prompt you to “update now”– do so. I repeat, your antivirus is useless until you do this step.
[If your particular shiny new PC does NOT come with antivirus, download and install one immediately! (Yes. Exclamation point.) I have written the steps for downloading and configuring AVG Free Edition and included the download link, to review it, click here.]

Great! Now you check your e-mail and surf the web over to my list of free anti-spyware apps, download a trialware remover, download the proper security suite remover, install a real security suite, install your applications, choose a Desktop background… Sigh. I’m jealous.

* Some folks may argue with me that Step 3 can and should be done before step 2; that I have those out of order, and that’s fine. The firewall as number one I stand fast by.
Now that your firewall is on, visit my Top 10 Things You Should do to Your Computer article.

Today’s free link: Get more out of your new digital devices by visiting C/Net’s Tips ‘n Tricks department. Sign up for online classes, ask experts, and watch tutorial on Vista, Word, setting up a Home Theater, and more…

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

December 20, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, firewall, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , | Leave a comment

Arrgh!!!+migrate your data to Vista

I am sorry to tell you, Dear Reader, that all my work this morning went “poof”. Today’s article — for some strange technical reason — did not publish to the Web properly. In fact, it published blank space, so my working draft was over-written with a blank page. (This happened once before, but that was a while ago… What’s up, WordPress?)

Needless to say, I am a little bit.. frustrated (I’ll be polite) right now. A bit.. demoralized, and I don’t have it in me to rewrite and the article now.
I will do so, but not today. So, please, tune in tomorrow to see what was supposed to appear here today… and in the meantime, I will repost an article that may be of interest to those of you considering the purchase of a new computer; titled Vista’s painless transfer tool, which appeared 11/02–

Loyal friends and true of this series may have the feeling that I have nothing nice to say about Vista. Today I’m going to prove that concept as untrue. I do have some nice things to say.

But first let me review some of the truths that aren’t so nice:
1) Vista is “resource intensive”. That means it’s big, and it takes a lot of RAM to run properly — Vista should be run on a dual-core CPU and have at least a GigaByte of RAM memory (fast RAM memory), and really should be run on two Gigabytes. And..

2) Vista doesn’t like really old devices. It is becoming easier to find device drivers for older hardware, and this ‘truthism’ is becoming less true, but if you have a really old device, (say a printer that attaches via a parallel port), or an old and never-was-popular device (say a very early Radio Shack TV ‘tuner’ card), then you should be prepared to buy a more up-to-date replacement.

3) The first “Service Pack” hasn’t been released yet.

Because of these facts (as I have mentioned before in such articles as Upgrading to Vista) I have advised my readers not to “upgrade” their existing (and therefore older) machines to Vista — especially without having first run the Vista Upgrade (Compatibility)Advisor tool. And I did warn folks that an Upgrade cannot be undone.
Why pay money for a operating system that will bog down, and your sound card and video capture card won’t run? That’s what will happen if you Upgrade a 2½-to-5 year-old PC. Just because it works dandy-fine on XP, doesn’t mean it’ll work on Vista.

No. Don’t Upgrade to Vista.. upgrade to a new machine (that has Vista on it). I stick by that opinion. Unflinchingly.

Vista is slick. It’s more secure. It’s going to bring us (eventually) advances in our video games. It actually competes with Apple. It doesn’t bury Settings so deeply nor hide them so well. It has new (to Windows) features. And…
1) It does some (most, actually) things better than XP does.

What do I mean? Well, recently I had the unique pleasure of installing a whole new network: everything was new — brand new Vista PCs, new WAPs/routers, and Gigabit Ethernet on Cat6. This was quite a bit of a different experience than adding Vista machines to an existing (XP-based) network.. or even of adding XP machines to a XP-based network. Granted, this was a SOHO network of less than 10 machines, and I wasn’t dealing with Active Directory, but the difference was night and day.

I was most impressed by the fact that each machine joined the network, and saw its neighbors, effortlessly. This was easy to see happening, too. Vista shows you a dynamic network map. Routers and the Internet were automatically detected.
Folder sharing worked as it should.. no strange Permission errors.. no “folder climbing”, as with prior editions. For you audiophiles, Vista and Windows Media Player (can) readily and automatically shares (like a server) each machine’s music libraries.. a couple of clicks, for that.

And this is what blew me away– all the machines were to share an older HP DeskJet. And the network’s owner didn’t want to purchase the equipment make a print server, but to use one of the PCs.. like most people do at home. So I installed the printer and then clicked on “Share this printer”, like I’ve done a thousand times before. Then I went to each machine and opened their Printer section of the Control Panel, and there was the printer! Whoa! All I had to do was make sure it was set as the default printer (one click).
Did I say, “blew my mind”? I was floored. No “Add new printer” wizard. No trying to browse to a \\XPmachine\HPDeskJet share. No error messages. Wow. This was Plug and Play the way it’s supposed to be! Too easy.
My hours spent installing the network was a mere fraction of what I was (from experience) reasonably expecting. Not good for my bottom line; great for Vista owners.

For those of you who have ever used a User State Migration Tool, or Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool, to migrate your data from an old computer to your new computer — or purchased a special program, or cable — you know that getting your new machine exactly as you had your old machine required some time and effort.

The owner of the new network wanted me to replicate his XP set up onto one of the new Vista machines, and the usual method has been to to use one of the techniques mentioned in the paragraph above. But I didn’t. I used an adjunct to Window’s built-in Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool, which will be today’s free link.
I downloaded this program to both his XP machine and the new Vista machine. Then I plugged his XP machine into the new network. Surprise! The XP machine was instantly seen and recognized. (Try doing the reverse, and see if the XP machines find the Vista..)
Then I launched the Windows Easy Transfer Companion on the Vista PC and followed the wizard. The two machines established a connection and the XP machine transferred its installed programs, and all the files, and all of the owners tweaks and settings (like bookmarks, and custom toolbars). All I did was watch.
This was, by far, the fastest and easiest user state migration I’ve ever experienced, and truly was like the title of this article — painless. Again, this is bad for a PC Tech’s bottom line, but great for Vista owners.

Today’s free link: When you buy a new PC, you will almost certainly want to transfer all kinds of things from the machine you’ve been using to the new one. Microsoft has “a companion” for the Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool called the Windows Easy Transfer Companion. It is actually a ‘stand-alone’. This tool not only transfers your documents and personalized Settings tweaks, but the programs you have installed. This is a huge time saver.
I did my transfer over the local network, but you can use the other methods of data storage to make the transfer as well– including USB thumb drives. [Note: while Microsoft still considers this program to be in beta, I experienced absolutely no hiccups or difficulties at all.]

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

Share this post :

November 28, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment