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Posts Tagged ‘windows’

In this post on anti-Windows-Vista-bias, I wrote

Now, there’s nothing wrong with not liking a product- but the strange thing is that Vista loathing seems to be strongest among those who have never used the software (or barely used it).

It seems the Microsoft marketing team noticed this too, for there is now an entire website built around this concept! Or maybe they visited my blog and took my observations too seriously? ;-)

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(None of what follows is intended to be of any use to geeks, experts, macboys or linux fans. All I have attempted is to lump together some advice that might help a typical windows user. )

1. BACKUP, backup, backup! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do so. Not only do you get the insurance of never losing critical files, you can also, by making a full system backup, get back to all your painfully installed programs and optimized settings in a heartbeat. (Let’s face it, all hard-drives die one day.) I recommend backing up important files to an external hard drive or USB stick every week, and backing up your whole hard drive onto an external drive every few months. The former can be done manually or via several free programs, for the latter you will probably need to get a program for the purpose. If you are a user of Vista Business or Ultimate, you already have such a program built into the OS.

2. Do the research, read the reviews. But also keep your bias detector on. Notwithstanding the criticisms you may have heard from friends, Windows Vista has some excellent features (search, backup, security, organization and lots more) which make it the best Windows version yet. If your computer has a dual core processor and over 1.5 GHz of RAM, and you are still stuck with XP, upgrade! But don’t fall for Microsoft’s bs about ‘in-place upgrades’: always do a clean upgrade when you can.

3. Hack your browsers to become faster! Follow this tip (works with any version of IE or Firefox). And yes, if you are using IE 7, do disable the phishing filter. Warning: In changing the registry value as described in the linked tip, you will be violating internet standards. Proceed at your own risk.

4. Want a one-click DVD ripping software that just works? Try DVDFab. It is shareware (you can use it for free for a month, after which you will need to buy it). But there is no program that matches it in quality of output, configurability or ease of use. Highly recommended! Warning: Ripping copy-protected DVDs is illegal in most jurisdictions. While DVDFab removes copy protection from commercial DVDs, this post in no way encourages or endorses such illegal activity. Proceed at your own risk.

5. Use VLC media player for playing video. Nothing, simply nothing, works better. Anything that plays, can be played on VLC. No silly codec messages, no freezes. Of course, VLC can play music too, but you’d probably prefer a good music organizing program for that. I use Windows Media Player 11 for hearing and organizing my music.

6. If you have Windows Vista, make sure you are using the sidebar to its full potential.

7. Annoyed by the prompts by Vista’s User Account control? Prefer that such messages disappear when your are logged in as an administrator? Follow these steps. They get rid of the annoying prompts, moreover, IE and programs continue to run in standard user mode, keeping your computer secure. 

8. This is a simple feature of Windows but many people seem to be unaware of it. When you want to view two program windows simutaneously on your screen, select them both on the taskbar (by selecting one, holding down ‘ctrl’ and selecting the other) and then right-click. You will see options like “show windows side-by-side”.

9. Another Vista tip: use the search feature for opening programs and files. Much faster than navigating the start menu or going to the individual folder.

10. If you mess up anything while using a text editor, or press the wrong key, just right click and select ‘undo’ (or simply press Control+z). This tip works in loads of programs and can be a real time-saver.

11. Do you have stuff on your computer you dont want others to access? If you want to encrypt files, folders, or entire partitions into password-protected entities unviewable (and indeed undiscoverable) by anyone but yourself, use the amazing program called Truecrypt.

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I have posted about the anti-Vista bias before. Now, there’s nothing wrong with not liking a product- but the strange thing is that Vista loathing seems to be strongest among those who have never used the software (or barely used it). The latest example is my officemate who bought a new laptop the other day that came pre-loaded with Windows Vista Home Basic. He immediately proceeded to delete the incumbent operating system and install XP (though after grudgingly acknowledging that Vista “does look good”). Since then he has been struggling to download the drivers necessary for the downgrade, going through so much pain just so he can get back to warm fuzzy XP. He is almost done now; Vista is completely gone, XP is back, his system works fine except it still shows an unknown device for which the driver is missing (and he doesn’t know what device that is). I am sure he will figure it out by tomorrow. And the total amount of time he spent on Vista was about three minutes.

Bias is an unfortunate and immensely complex thing, affected as it is by so many externalities, but it is always funny to see it in action. 

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Microsoft faces new European Union Antitrust probes.

Antitrust laws are a severe limitation on the liberty of a private organization. They, in essence, penalize a company — and take away certain elements of its freedom to operate autonomously — for being too successful or influential. The dominant view is that these curtailments of liberty are outweighed by the benefits they give to the consumer by promoting competition and preventing monopolies from taking advantage of their position. However, if history has taught us anything – if there is any lesson to be drawn from the emergence of Firefox, the toppling of the Detroit three by Toyota in US sales, the fairy-tale of Google and the ascendancy of Apple from nowhere to the pre-eminent position it is in today – it is that you cannot keep a good product down. In this age of instant dissemination of information, companies do not need the help of antitrust laws to rise to the top. And the consumer doesn’t either.

I am against antitrust laws for all but the most extreme situations – and in my book the present one, like all previous cases that have involved Microsoft, does not cut it.

Follow up: The Economist has a nice article about illiberal EU laws that ostensibly strive to stop ‘destructive competition’. Much as I like Europe, sometimes I am glad I live in a country where the government does not clamp down on choice or ban discounts.

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After much empirical evidence I have come to the following conclusion:

Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP sucks. It is insecure, clunky and really slow. And it actually gets worse with time. Go with Firefox any day.

Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista rocks (and is arguably superior to Firefox 2).

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One feature of Windows Vista that hasn’t gotten as much attention as it deserves is the sidebar. It is frequently regarded as mere eye candy. Yet the sidebar can be a really nifty tool – and substantially enhance your productivity- when populated with the right gadgets. You can get one-click access to commonly accessed folders and applications, keep an eye on the weather, check traffic conditions on the freeways, monitor processor and ram performance- all without opening a window.

Vista_screenshot_1 Vista_screenshot_2

To really take advantage of the sidebar, you should set it to “always on top”. This shouldn’t be a problem if you have a wide screen monitor. I also like to keep the sidebar on the left side rather the (default) right. That serves two purposes: it gives a cool margine-like feel to my windows; also, by moving my windows to the right, it nicely makes up for the fact that the text on most web-pages is left-aligned.

There are lots of cool gadgets out there that you can put on the sidebar. It is also possible to drag any gadget from the sidebar to somewhere else on the screen- gadgets frequently respond to this advancement by becoming larger or changing shape. Some must-have gadgets are:

1) A weather tool bar — I like the one that uses the Weather Channel feed, other good ones are accuweather and wunderground. Update: I now prefer the weatherbug gadget, mainly because it has many more weather stations, including one that’s located right where I live.

2) An app launcher — This outstanding gadget gives you one click access from the sidebar to your favourite folders, applications, links – you name it! It is a real time saver and also frees up valuable screen real estate.

3) A sticky note — Valuable for reminders.

4) A dictionary — I like this one. Update: I now use the more versatile and powerful Ultimate Explorer.

5) A CPU/RAM monitor — There are many gadgets that do this task, including one that comes by default with the operating system, but quite simply nothing beats this particular monitor, a fantastic creation that works better than any other similar utility that I’ve tried.

There are many more beautiful – and useful – gadgets. Radios, video and music players, rss readers, clocks, calculators, games… go explore!

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There, I said it!

No seriously, it is beautiful, has plenty of great features, and works like a dream. The only trouble I’ve had so far is some compatibility issues with one third-party program, and it got fixed once I wrote to them.

It is astonishing how many people engage in Vista bashing because it is a Microsoft product and it is cool to hate Microsoft; and what confounds me more is that when I ask them some questions I realize that most of them haven’t even tried out the darned OS

But by far the funniest group are the Mac fanboys. They are like the weather at London; it is impossible to try to reason with them (and no, I do NOT claim that Apple makes bad computers). Anyway here is a nice article for those who think Apple is holier than Microsoft.

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