Posts Tagged ‘#win7’

Gadget of the year

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis December 30th, 2011

Ok, so a lot of you are on Windows 7 now, so you’re familiar with Gadgets.  They are little add-on programs that stay on your desktop and do things like weather, pictures, news, etc.  I’m surprised at the lack of cool apps for this, but Microsoft doesn’t seem to be pushing (or enticing) developers for it.  If you look at the add-on site, the choices are pretty weak.  I tried and tried to find a weather gadget that I liked, for example, but they were just mediocre.  Then one day I was installing a new Dell for a client and WOW, they had the AccuWeather Dell gadget, and it ROCKS!  It displays a translucent clock that looks like part of your desktop, complete with date and moon phase.  If you hover over it, you get today’s weather, and if you click the drop-down it will show the 5 day forecast.  PERFECT!  The weird part is that if you go to the site, they have some gadgets BUT NOT THIS ONE.  The problem is that it’s a Dell exclusive, but I managed to find it here for your downloading pleasure:-)  Note that you have to install Dell Stage to get it, but then you can turn off the stage part by going to the settings and unchecking “Start With Windows”.

WIN 7 Versioning

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis November 21st, 2011

Remember what I said about changed files?  How, for example, an Outlook file stays in place, so emails you delete are simply GONE?  That’s true, but the new Windows 7 has a way to help.  If you have a scenario like this, perhaps even a draft of a document that you changed for the worse, there’s a new thing called RESTORE PREVIOUS VERSION that’s only available in Windows 7.  It was designed for this type of problem, so that you can go back in time to retrieve files that might have otherwise been irreversibly damaged or changed.  These are ONLY CREATED WTIH RESTORE POINTS or windows backups.   You can restore previous versions under Control Panel, System Protection.

Installing Printers

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 17th, 2011

It’s gotten MUCH easier to install printers these days since Windows 7 hit the streets.  For the most part all you need to do is PLUG IT IN.  If it’s USB, it will automatically find and install the printer drivers needed.  If it’s a network printer, just click Add Printer and have it scan for the device.  In either case, let Windows search for the drivers.  IF it doesn’t find what it needs on the first pass, tell it to search Windows Update and it will eventually find it online, with rare exception.  Note that it may take 10-20 minutes to do this, so be patient.  For multi-function devices (like all-in-one printers) you should install from the disk to get all the extras like scanning, OCR, and photo manipulation.  But WATCH OUT beecause a lot of companies, HP in particular, install lots of BLOATWARE and software you don’t need.  So do an advanced/custom install and uncheck things like SHOP FOR HP SUPPLIES.   I like to start by unchecking EVERYTHING except the drivers, then just pick the other things I want.  If you’re not sure, you probably don’t need it. 


Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis September 12th, 2011

You may have heard about the breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatments, but what about your PC?  I have a lot of customers that think adding RAM will cure their computer’s problems.  Usually it’s slow, and they want a quick fix (see my previous article about this).   Sometimes it CAN help, especially if your PC wasn’t engineered right in the first place.  First of all, there is a “sweet spot” memory limit for Windows;  XP = 500 Mb, Vista = 1 Gb, Win 7 = 2 Gb.  If you don’t have at least this much memory, you should add some.  But for a long time now there’s been a cool thing called DUAL CHANNEL MEMORY on the mainboard of PC’s.  It means that the stuff that gets processed via RAM has twice the pipeline to do so, and can REALLY give your PC a boost.  Cheaper equipment will often have a single stick of memory installed, which is just silly given how cheap the chips are these days.  If you go configure a new computer on the Dell site, for example, you might notice a choice between 2 sticks vs one.  ALWAYS GET TWO!!   It’s better (faster) to get two sticks of 1 Gb RAM than a single stick of 2 Gb, even though it’s’ the same amount of physical memory.  Go figger…

Vista to WIN 7 upgrades

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 3rd, 2011

VistaWindows Vista was a nightmare for everyone involved.  If you have it on any of your PC’s, I highly recommend upgrading to Windows 7.  But upgrade paths for Windows Vista and 7 are weird.  For example, if you have Windows Vista Ultimate you can’t (according to Microsoft) upgrade to Windows 7 Pro.  Even though for all PRACTICAL purposes you already have a product that’s BEYOND Windows Vista Business (the equivalent of 7 or XP Pro).  It’s really pretty silly.  BUT there’s good news; all you have to do is modify the registry in two places and it will do the upgrade.  WARNING:  MODIFYING THE WINDOWS REGISTRY CAN CAUSE YOUR SYSTEM TO BECOME UNSTABLE OR CRASH!  (So be careful and back up prior).  Here’s an article that describes the changes you should make.

Windows Repair

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis July 3rd, 2011

Win 7 BackupBack in the good ol’ days of Windows XP, we could often fix software issues by booting from the Windows disk, and running a repair.  It was successful about 90% of the time when a PC wouldn’t boot from file damage.  Unfortunately the only repair available in Vista or Win 7 is if you create a repair disk from the Backup and Restore section.  There is no longer a way to reinstall unbootable Windows from the installation disk (such that it’s exactly the way you had it before).  You can also create a System Image here, and set up regular backups.  Given these limited options for fixing your software if it breaks, you should do ALL THREE.  It will help you (or your technician) get you back up and running if you have trouble.  Note that the Repair disk set will likely require 2 DVD-R disks.  There are other options for system images that I’ll discuss next time.

Commercial Skip

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis June 22nd, 2011

Screenshot of DVRMS ToolboxOne of the best things about recording TV with Windows Media Center (WMC) is that you can program your PC to automatically skip commercials.  Granted, it’s not that hard to fast forward through each set, but once you’ve experienced Auto Skip I think you’ll be hooked.  It’s not too difficult, and I’ve been able to do this on both the old WMC (2005) and the new one (Win 7).  There are lots of instructions out there to do this, but the key is a program by Babgvant called DVRMS Toolbox.  It can be found here.  It has a lot of other cool features as well, but its popularity has been driven by the commercial skip feature.  I gotta tell ya, it’s AWESOME to watch HDTV with no advertising!


Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis April 22nd, 2011

Right-click.  It’s the other mouse button, and you’d be AMAZED at all the cool stuff you can do with it.  See, in windows 7 and lots of other programs, it’s context-sensitive.  So it depends on WHERE you right click, but you almost always get a bunch of cool choices.  I just discovered a new one:  if you right click on any office program (Word, Excel, etc.) that’s pinned to the task bar, it will show you the most recent set of things you worked on.  That’s BEFORE YOU EVEN OPEN THE PROGRAM.  Killer!  Try right clicking everywhere, and see what you can find.  :-)

Win 7 action center

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis March 12th, 2011

The Action Center in Windows 7 was a much needed improvement.  It gives you a central place to review any problems on your PC, and all the settings like Control Panel.  The easy way to get to it is the little white flag in your bottom right system tray, by the clock.  It notifies you if you need to back up, or update virus protection, and many other things.  To me, the best part is Error Reporting.  Microsoft (MS) tried to implement this idea waaay back in Windows XP, but it didn’t work.  Finally, in this version, if your PC locks up or crashes for some reason, you can opt to tell MS about it, AND THEY ACTUALLY LISTEN.  Keep watching the action center – eventually you’ll get a message in there about how to Solve Problems.  In that section will be an ANSWER TO YOUR ISSUE!  Sometimes it’s bad news; they simply don’t know or don’t have enough information.  But lots of times it will have the correct solution, with links to help you fix it!  Kudos to MS.  :-)

WIN7 Media Center (WMC) VI

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis March 7th, 2011

AUDIO: The connections for a Media Center PC should be to your home theatre amplifier.  Your best bets are SPDIF, or digital output, via old-style RCA jacks (you’ll need a special mini-din to RCA cable) or TOSLINK, which is an optical connector.  Although the fiber optic SPDIF cables can be expensive, I really like ’em because they don’t get any interference – EVER.   No worries about weird interference/noise from these babies.  Optical means no antennae effect.  Another option is the new HDMI connect:  for the first time you can get your audio and video on one connection!  I’ll talk more about video later, but be warned that this connector may not properly transport your audio from the PC.  It will depend on your make, model, and setup.  If you use the other digital connectors I mentioned, just go to the audio configuration page and choose Digital Output – SPDIF as the source.   The result is high quality, Dolby Digital sound that will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF!  The advantage to these three I’ve mentioned?  They are all TRUE DIGITAL which means you never convert back and forth, and lose quality.   I’ll write more later about Digital vs Analog.