Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


How I made Vista work better.

Posted by J Powers at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2009

I hear it all the time – Dang Vista won’t work. They still get frustrated over printer failures, slow programs loading and just basic aggravation to it’s performance. But what’s more interesting is how I fix the problem – and make the program run 200% better.

It’s all about a piece of software that has been a thorn in my side for the last 10 years. Ever since Windows 98, this much needed software has taken a step too far in it’s installation, and when other software gets installed, this software fights with Windows. Worst part is this software expires, which causes more problems than you can imagine.

Symantec.

The latest machine was a HP AMD laptop. The printer spooler was failing. I was getting popups from the Information window because Symantec took over the Firewall. Then it rounded off with a renew subscription error.

Ultimately, all these errors would make the startup time a good 5 minutes. Yeah, you can start after the initial boot-up and sign-in, but as you are working, you are getting all these stupid windows saying there are problems, when in all reality it’s a program you rely on.

Someone gets a new machine and Hey! there’s an anti-virus software you can install. But it’s more than anti-virus. It’s a webscanner. It’s a email scanner. It’s an anti-phishing device . It’s a swiss army knife you can use in any way – until the 1 year trial expires. And then you will get upgrade notices – months in advance – to buy another year.

That is the worst part: this software expires and most procrastinate. Most people I know just pass off on the box and continue. Two to three months after expiration when I look at their machine, I am surprised they haven’t been infected with anything else.

This laptop had one other problem. Within the year that they purchased the machine, they also installed AVG anti-virus.

So for anyone to check email, get on the internet or whatever, they have to run through an expired Anti virus, then one that is working. That’s like sitting in the doctors office and when your name is called, you move to a second waiting room, in where you wait for your name to be called again.

I have been taking Symantec off computers for 10 years. And, yes. For 10 years I have also been removing McAffee. This bloatware is only causing problems, then the user doesn’t want to pay for an upgrade, therefore making the situation worse.

I agree – If you are not in a corporate environment, you should be able to get a basic Anti virus that will not charge you to download the latest definitions. That is why I install a lot of programs like AVG and Avast on machines. I still have to follow up with the customer because of the expiration of the registration keys.

Symantec software (or McAffee)  SHOULD NOT be on new machines. If anything, it should not be pre-loaded, but put on a CD that you physically have to insert and install. If you have to physically install the software, you understand it a little better than something you just have to “Activate”.

In my work, I have pretty much called Symantec more harmful than helpful. No matter what you throw at me in argument, I can bring back with “Yeah, but your software expires and causes more problems in computers”. No wonder people get annoyed with their machines. If I didn’t know about this, I would be swearing at my computer every time it loads.

If you have the software and it’s saying “Pay for another year”, then take some action. At least the un-install process isn’t as annoying as it used to be. I think with McAfee you still have to put in the password you created when you activated it. Hopefully you remember that.

I always say “Ignorance is no excuse”, but on the same token I can’t know everything. Otherwise I would be on Jeopardy answering Alex Trebek’s questions. Or is that asking questions to Alex Trebek’s answers…

From Vista to Windows 7

Posted by Andrew at 7:34 AM on November 10, 2009

Now that the initial hue and cry over the release of Windows 7 has died down a little, I thought that I might report on how I got on upgrading a Vista machine to Windows 7.  Basically, it’s a doddle, but is it worth it?

Being a (somewhat mature) Masters student, I was able to purchase the upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium for about half the current promotional rate.  Here in the UK, that equates to about 40 GBP, including the media.  Fortunately, I was able to download the upgrade rather than wait for the post to arrive but at around 2 GB, I left it downloading overnight.

My laptop is a year-old HP 9800 model with 3 GB RAM and an AMD Turion processor.  It had come with Vista and to be honest, I had no real problems.  My main Microsoft issue is with the ribbon bars in Office 2007!

Consequently, I decided to upgrade Vista rather than start afresh.  When I started the upgrade, the first part of the process was to check compatibility.  No hardware driver issues were reported but I had to uninstall my anti-virus (Kaspersky) and it warned about iTunes registration.  So after sorting those out and rebooting, the upgrade was good to go.

I’m not sure how long it actually took but it was less than six hours – I left it running overnight and was presented with the licence key screen when I got up the next morning.  Few more mouse clicks later and it was all done.

After logging on, everything was as I left it, albeit with a few slight changes to the user interface.  What’s good is that there’s no longer the blue and green slime background, instead a blue one with a bird, somewhat reminiscent of Twitter, but perhaps bearing an olive branch.  I’m sure you’ll have read elsewhere about the various UI changes – I quite like the revised Taskbar with each program taking up one slot.

Windows warned me about the absence of anti-virus software pretty quickly but re-installing the same version of Kaspersky caused no problems.  During the installation, the reduction in user access control prompts was noticeable but the were still some.  I know that there have been some reports to the contrary regarding malware, but there seemed to be a better balance of control now.

But after that, it was pretty much business as usual.  There was some stuff about “Homegroups” and another secret key, but I largely ignored that – I’ll sort it out later once I understand better what it’s about.

Was it any faster?  Hard to say, I’m not a really demanding user but it opened video files, played music, etc. all as I’d expect.  Windows Explorer toolbar still wants me to burn files as a popular activity despite that fact that I’ve never once burnt a CD on the laptop.

Later on, I asked my wife what she thought of Windows 7.  “Windows 7?  I didn’t even realise that you’d done the upgrade.”  Whether that’s a compliment or not, I’m uncertain.  I think it reflects that if you are a Vista user and you are happy enough, it’s not a compelling upgrade.  Perhaps 98 to 98SE would be selling it short and 95 to 98 might be a better comparison.

However, in terms of cost, if I’d paid the full retail post-January 2010 upgrade price, I think I would’ve felt ripped off.  At Microsoft’s current promotional price, it’s ok value and at the student price, good value.  Obviously I’m coming from Vista to 7 and if you were coming from XP, you be getting more value from the upgrade.

Overall, for existing Vista owners it’s painless to upgrade, you’ll feel right at home but you may question the value.

I have a Suggestion for Microsoft…

Posted by susabelle at 6:33 AM on June 26, 2009

How about you sell your new operating system for under $50?  I’ll bet you’ll make as much or more money than selling it for $300 a pop.  Really, I think so!

The main reason I’ve not upgraded my personal laptop from XP is not because the hardware can’t handle it.  The reason is that I do not want to pay $200+ for the version of Windows Vista that I want (Ultimate).  There is not enough compelling reason for me to pay the price for the upgrade.  But if the upgrade were $30, or even $50, I might just be inclined to purchase it.

This is one time where Apple is doing it right.  I may fuss about the high cost of their hardware, but they have it right when it comes to software.  The upgrade to Snow Leopard, which is coming out soon, is just $30.  That’s a price almost anyone can swallow, and will quickly and easily be paid by customers.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has to spend much of their time, energy, and programming to try to staunch the bleeding wound that is pirated Windows software.  There are so many workarounds, even to their highly-touted Windows Genuine Advantage, that there is no reason to even consider paying $200 or better to upgrade to Vista.  I think there would be a lot less piracy of Windows software if the prices were more reasonable than they are.  I also think more people would upgrade to a new operating system if the prices were under $50.  It is likely that Microsoft would easily make as much as they are now using the higher price tiers, and may make even more as people who didn’t want to upgrade in the first place may be tempted to upgrade due to the phenomenally low price.

Of course they could just make the same amount, but they would also be meeting their goal of seeing genuine copies of Windows on machines, instead of all the pirated and/or “borrowed” copies that are floating around out there now.

Four Things the Mac OS Does to Confuse a Windows User

Posted by fogview at 10:43 PM on May 31, 2009

First off I will say that I love the Mac OS and I love the Windows OS. (How about that for staying neutral?) Listeners to my Fogview Podcast know I switched to the Mac about six months ago when my main Windows XP computer died. I had an iMac that I was using for video editing and my photography work so I started using that for my daily work. I know there are a lot of Mac fan-boys out there but I’m not one of them. A computer is a computer and each type has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I enjoy using and learning about the Mac OS but I still do a lot of my work on my new Windows Vista machine.

I found that the Mac has it share of “spinning beach balls” just like Windows has it hourglass when the CPU is overloaded and can’t do one more thing. I have programs crash on the Mac just like they crash on Windows. I don’t have to worry about viruses and spyware on the Mac like I do on Windows, but I know that could change in the future.

Mac_exampleWhat I would like to mention is the four things that still confuse me as a newbie “Mac switcher.”

  1. Closing a window on the Mac doesn’t close the program.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked the close window icon and realize later that the program is still running. Most Window programs go away when they are closed.
  2. The program menu bar is at the top of the screen instead of at the top of the window. This is related to the first item because if I close a program’s window (i.e. iTunes), I now see another program underneath it but I’m still in the program I thought I closed. If I try to access the menu for the program that I see on the screen, I will be accessing the menu for the program I thought I closed. (See the screen shot on the right for an example of what I’m talking about: iTunes menu and Aperture window)
  3. Control = Alt and Alt = Command keys
    Yes, the keys are switched, at least for how I normally think of them in Windows. For example, I press Ctrl-C to copy in Windows, and Command-C in Mac. Alt-tab to switch programs in Windows and Command-tab in Mac. (The last two are not switched, which only adds to the confusion.)
  4. Home and End act like Page Up and Page Down instead of begin/end
    If I’m typing something in Windows, the Home/End keys will move the cursor to the begin/end of the line I’m typing. On the Mac it generally shifts the content of the window up and down on the screen and doesn’t change the cursor location. (I realize that each program can use the Home/End keys as they see fit, but in the Windows world these keys always seem to work the way I expect — or at least the way I’ve come to expect of them.)

Of all the differences I mentioned, #4 is the one thing I have not been able to get use too. I’m always trying to use the Home/End keys on the Mac to move my cursor around when editing text (I admit that I make lots of typing mistakes). I try to use it when entering URLs into the browser, Google search strings, emails I’m composing, and blogs entries (like this one), and I’m always surprised at the results. I would love for a Mac user to tell me what keys will do a similar thing on the Mac.

Learning to use a Mac has been a fun thing and helps to keep my brain engaged. I picked up a great book that helped answer the question of “How do I do that on the Mac.” It’s called “Switching to the Mac, The Missing Manual” by David Pogue. I highly recommend it if you’re thinking about switching too.

I’m not a Mac expert but I will write more in the future about my experience navigating in a Mac world from a Windows map. Stay tuned.

73’s, Tom

It’s Monday, it Must Be Time for a Vista Automatic Update

Posted by susabelle at 5:19 PM on May 12, 2009

I have an annoying thing going on that I want to put a stop to, but don’t know how.

I am getting, almost daily, and sometimes multiple times a day, automatic updates to Vista on my Dell 1525 laptop.  I just installed two in the last ten minutes, and there was one this morning when I woke up and got online.  There was one yesterday.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my Dell desktop running Vista rarely pulls updates, even though it has the exact same settings as the laptop when it comes to auto updates.

Both machines are running Windows Vista Ultimate Enterprise edition.  The desktop machine sits on my home network and never goes anywhere else, and the laptop sits on my home network, as well as the public and authenticated network in the office, and any wifi-capable cafe/bookstore/reststop/airport I end up in.  90% of the time, I am using a wireless network of one form or another on the laptop, and the desktop machine is also accessing the network in my house wirelessly at all times.  These machines are virtually the same, less than two months in age apart, with virtually the same programs installed.

I am befuddled by the constant requests to update I am getting on the laptop.  I have checked the auto update settings on both machines and they look identical (notify, manual install of updates).  I am completely at a loss as to why this is happening.  And I’m starting to get annoyed by it.  The laptop is the machine I use most, and to have it constantly nagging at me about a new update is cramping my style.  The two I just installed, why weren’t they together in one pack to begin with?

Confused.  Anyone else noticing this?  Any solution I should be looking for?

Why Vista is a lot better then People give it Credit!

Posted by geeknews at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2008

As you all know this site is participating in the 31 days of the Dragon where we are giving away a HP HDX Dragon. Thus far the sites that have been giving away a dragon have been having a variety of contest and the folks behind the contest have been having some pretty cool contest.

While reviewing the contest results from windows-now.com I could not help to smile because the contest required people to submit videos on how they use vista. If the 5 videos that are on his website today don’t make you consider the move the all I can say is oh well.

www.windows-now.com

Note: The contest I am having starts on May 28th and if you are not a listener of my podcast this would be a great week to tune in!

I should have upgraded to Vista Sooner!

Posted by geeknews at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2008

Like many others I heard the horror stories of running Vista. One month into using Vista and all I can say is why did I wait so long? I am normally a early adopter but I made the mistake of sitting on the fence this time.

BIG Mistake.

I have been a 100% satisfied with the operating system, and while their are a few things that have changed or act differently, Vista is by far the fastest operating system I have ever run and the most flexible.

This is the first time a Microsoft Operating System simply works no second guessing applications scream its a joy to use. I demand a lot our of operating systems as I run a variety of applications, many at the same time, old and new and they all just work.

To all the nay sayers out their, this OS is absolutely better out of the box than my mac was. I am now converting all of my machines that are capable of running vista. Their is no looking back goodbye XP. [5 Reasons]

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GNC-2006-12-29 #228

Posted by geeknews at 3:11 AM on December 29, 2006

Last show of the year so I do some wrap up stats and of course bring you a full line of tech with a special performance at the end of the show by my two aspiring artist here in the house.

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Someone at Microsoft has lost their minds!

Posted by todd at 1:58 PM on December 28, 2006

Well first Microsoft gives bloggers laptops with Vista loaded on it for review and they are told they can do whatever they want with the laptop as in keep it, give it away when they were done with the review.

But shockingly today Microsoft has asked that the laptops be returned after the people get done doing the reviews. There is a term for that which probably is not politically correct but man oh man has someone at Microsoft definitely reacted negatively to the story yesterday.

Talk about turning a small controversy into a PR fiasco. I am quite literally sitting here shaking my head. [Marshall Kirkpatrick]

Microsoft gives Laptops to Bloggers with Vista Loaded!

Posted by todd at 8:12 PM on December 27, 2006

The first question I have for those that got Laptops from Microsoft is this. Have you ever been critical of the company? My guess is that just like Santa Clause checking his list to see who has been naughty and nice, my guess is that those bloggers that got laptops have been pretty nice to Microsoft.

Don’t get me wrong I think companies sending out software and hardware is a terrific idea but usually when I get gear like that their is a 30 day time limit and I have to send it back. I hope that these bloggers all disclose the gift and manage to stay objective in the opinions they write.

The question is do these bloggers now have to disclose the gift on every article they write about Vista? It will be a interesting experiment to track the blogs and see how they report on Vista thats for sure. [Wired]