Tag Archives: windows-vista

Which is More Usable – a Mac or Windows PC?


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During live calls the other night, I had a guy ask me whether I felt that Macs are becoming more mainstream than Windows machines. He went on to say how he knew that in the past Macs weren’t very “user friendly,” and that he feels they are much more so now. The user interface on a Mac has certainly changed over the years, yes.

But you have to look at it like this: it’s still completely different than what Windows users are used to. Many long-time Windows power users give up when trying out a Mac. They feel they cannot find their way around. I’ve seen it happen many times. With that said, though, it all comes down to a matter of opinion and preference. I cannot possibly tell you which is better for you – or anyone else – to use. It depends what your likes and needs are.

I made a change to Mac as my primary system back when I was completely disgusted with Windows Vista. Vista had zero usability as far as I was concerned. The Mac operating system had what I needed, and works well for me. I don’t have a problem with Windows 7. In fact, I have a machine right in my office that runs it. For my needs, though, Apple builds a better system.

The only similarity between Microsoft and Apple is the fact that they both create an operating system. That’s where it begins – and where it ends. Apple makes a piece of hardware to go with that software and attempt to control it. Some people don’t like that. However, as consumers, we SHOULD like it. We know who manufactured each and every part inside of our Mac system. We know who to blame if it goes wrong. We know who to contact if things go awry.

Apple is pretty much the only company on the planet that controls everything from stem to stern… hardware, software and service. Don’t get all freaked out because you have to pay for Apple’s One Care. You have to pay for ANY extended warranty, right? It doesn’t fail me – ever. Every problem I’ve had was covered under the repair system. I don’t have to question “who is to blame for this problem?” It was all made by Apple, and it all goes back to Apple.

If I had to wager a guess, I’d say that HP will come the closest to being what Apple is as a company. Its problem, though, is that it currently has to support another company’s operating system.

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Windows 7 Gadgets


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We are typically talking tech in our community, and that goes for our sister community, as well! PC PitStop has been kind enough to work with us on a number of occasions. So, when they asked me to answer some tech questions from their community, I was only to happy to help! This particular question comes in from Carlos. He wonders if Windows 7 has a sidebar like the one found in Windows Vista.

The answer, in short, is yes – sort of. You can certainly load gadgets in Windows 7. They are no longer on the side of the screen as they were on Vista. You can take them and load them anywhere on your desktop. If you have two screens on your computer, you can run more gadgets.

Keep in mind that each gadget is a separate program, and will be running in memory. Open up your search command in Windows 7. Search for gadgets, and the Desktop Gadget Gallery will show up. There are tons of them available that you can grab to add to your gallery, including one to help you watch my stream.

The complete answer is yes – and no – to Carlos’ question. You can use the same gadgets you’ve come to love. However, there’s no actual sidebar where they have to be kept. Put them wherever you want and enjoy them on your terms. Design your desktop to suit your needs and style. As has been said somewhere before… Windows 7 was YOUR idea.

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The Top Windows 7 Tips and Tricks List

Community member Michael Coombes saw one of my recent videos on Window 7 and he thought it would be prudent to pass along a few more tips and tricks.

  • Windows key + Left: docks current window to the left side of the screen.
  • Windows key + Right: docks current window to the right side of the screen.
  • Windows key + Up: maximizes and/or restores foreground window.
  • Windows key + Down: minimizes active window.
  • If you want a more Vista-esque taskbar rather than the superbar (why anyone would revert is beyond me), right-click the Taskbar, go to Properties, check the ‘Use small icons’ option, then change the “Taskbar Buttons” option to ‘Never combine.’
  • Windows 7 now burns ISO files themselves instead of making users grapple with third-party applications.
  • For those lucky people with a multi-monitor setup, Windows + SHIFT + Left (or Right) will shift a window from monitor to monitor.
  • Gone is the “Add Font” dialog. It’s been replaced with a much nicer system. Download a font and double-click it (you’ll be greeted with the familar font window, but you should notice it now has a ‘Install’ button).
  • Windows 7 now includes Gabriola. This is an elaborate display typeface that takes advantage of OpenType layout to create a variety of stylistic sets.
  • If you press Windows + 1, it will create a new instance of the first icon in the task bar. This is handy if you do a lot of coding and need to open several instances of a program.
  • If you right-click on a Taskbar icon, it brings up the much talked about Jump List. However, the same can be done by clicking with the left mouse button and dragging the icon “out” (so to speak). This was specifically designed for touch-enabled computers, such as your lovely HP TouchSmart PC.
  • To run a program as an Administrator, it’s now as easy as holding CTRL + SHIFT when you open the application.
  • With Windows 7, you can now create a ‘System Repair Disc.’ This is a CD bootable version of Windows 7 that includes the command prompt and a suite of system tools. Very handy for those really tough spots (which, with this still in beta, could be just around the corner). To get to this, simply open the Start Menu and type: “system repair disc” in the search field.

I’m sure there are plenty more Windows 7 tricks up floating around, but these are just the ones that Michael shared with us. Have you discovered any others? Leave a comment and keep expanding this list!

Top 5 Windows Vista Security Tips

Geek!This is Dragon’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

  1. Check your spyware protection through the Windows Security Center. If you’ve used Windows XP, then you already know about Windows Security Center, the all-in-one monitoring tool that helps you keep track of your firewall, automatic updates, and antivirus software. Windows Security Center for Windows Vista has more security categories. It now warns you if your antispyware software is not up and running like it should be.
  2. Keep Windows Vista up-to-date. Every platform always has things that doesn’t work the way it should, that errors are called bugs, and the only secure way to fix those bugs is keeping your operating system up to date. It is inevitable that additional bugs and security holes will be discovered over time. Once a security exploit has been made public, you can bet that hackers will be all over it. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of the patch management process. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because Windows Vista was designed to be secure that it doesn’t need to be frequently patched.
  3. Use the network profiles. Prior to the release of Windows Vista, Windows treated all network connections equally. In Vista, however, you can use the Network and Sharing Center to designate a network as public, private or a domain network. Networks are designated as domain networks automatically when the machine uses the network to log on to a domain. It is important to select an appropriate network profile because Windows implements various security features based on the type of network you’re connected to. For example, Vista disables the network mapping feature if you are connected to a public network. The Windows Firewall also contains network profile-specific settings.
  4. Use the 64-bit version of Windows Vista. The 64-bit version of Vista is far more secure than the 32-bit version. Why? Because the 64-bit version contains a security feature called “Address Space Layout Randomizer”, which causes a random offset to be applied when system files are loaded. This means that unlike the 32-bit version of Vista, system files are rarely located in the same memory location twice in a row. This randomization foils many of the exploits that are commonly used against Windows XP. Another security feature found only in the 64-bit version is “Data Execution Prevention”. This feature keeps executable code from running in certain areas of the system’s memory. The 32-bit version of Vista includes a less sophisticated version of this feature that is implemented through software, but the 64-bit version enforces Data Execution Prevention at the hardware level.
  5. Use AlertCon or another Gadget related to security on your Sidebar. Do you like to know what the general security posture of the Internet is? Internet Security Systems (ISS) provides an overall “barometer” of Internet-wide security issues. Like the DHS terror alert levels, ISS has a four-level Internet threat level meter called AlertCon that immediately alerts users when there is some type of large-scale worm or virus infestation or other such network-disrupting activity. This gadget displays the current AlertCon status from the ISS web site (www.iss.net). The status will auto-refresh every sixty minutes.My Top Picks for Vista Sidebar Gadgets related to security and helping you to monitor your computer security are: Terror Alert Level, AlertCon, Wireless Network Controller, Memory Meter and Network Activity.

Let me know what do you think about my Top 5 Windows Vista Security Tips. If you disagree with my top five or something is missing in my post, please feel free to express your ideas in the comments below, everybody will appreciate it.

Dual Boot Between Windows XP and Vista

Elian emailed me the other day with quite a quandary. He’s from the Netherlands, but this seems to be a universal problem:

One of my friends has a computer with windows vista on it. So today he wanted to install windows XP on it because he couldn’t play older games he wanted to. I’ve done it myself successfully but I installed XP before I installed vista. Now his computer keeps booting XP without the boot manager screen (witch appears on my screen every time I boot my computer up). I think this problem could be solved by editing the boot.ini file. Programs like partition magic have an app witch enables you to make the choice on witch partition you want to boot up. I’d like to know how to solve this problem.

A few hours later, he returned with the discovery of VistaBootPro – a free solution for those of you in a dual-booting boat. Vista or XP – why not have both?

Time for an Upgrade: PC or Mac?

Peter Cochrane from Northern Ireland, U.K., submitted the following email. But instead of giving my response, I thought it would be interesting to hear what you’d suggest…

Hey Chris, been watching / browsing your YouTube channel for about a month now and I gotta say – great! One thing I found particularly funny was the following: I found “the iPhone rant”, then right after the video I happened to click on next was the one where you’re holding your iPhone, pretty funny in light of some stuff you had to say in the rant video! But mostly I find it very informative and much easier to check up on than reading text in a blog or review. Keep up the good work!

I know you have vast experience with PCs and know a good lot about Macs and OS X. What I’d like to know is or have your opinion on is this: what do I buy – a PC, or a Mac? The particular Mac I was looking at was the iMac for two reasons, it looks great and I can’t afford a Mac Pro (by the time I customise it!). To help you answer this question, I have included what my uses / needs for a computer system are – and I’ll also detail any other relevant information, such as our current wireless network.

He goes on to list:

  1. Web browsing
  2. Gaming [loves CoD2]
  3. Office 2007 [Not a must if he makes the switch]
  4. Synching an iPhone [when he gets one]
  5. Netgear Router compatibility
  6. Lexmark X3480 printer compatibility

We have these coupons and discounts for those of you ready to make the switch from PC to Mac:

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Sounds like a difficult decision he’s going to have to make… what would you do? 🙂

Windows Vista Network Tip

The user known as “alpha” emailed me the following excerpt from Tim Anderson’s ITWriting:

The Microsoft Windows Vista OS enables the TCP Window Scaling option by default (previous Windows OSes had this option disabled). The TCP Window Scaling option is described in RFC 1323 (TCP Extensions for High Performance), and allows for the device to advertise a receive window larger than 65 K than TCP originally specified. This is useful in the higher speed networks of today, where more data can be outstanding on the wire before it is acknowledged. This slow performance, or dropped TCP connections is caused by some versions of Cisco IOS® Firewall software not supporting the TCP Window Scaling option. This causes it to have a much smaller TCP window than the endpoints actually have. This causes the Cisco IOS router that runs the IOS Firewall feature set to drop packets that it believes are outside the TCP window, but which really are not.

So, through many firewalls, many protocals fall apart. And here is a solution, that worked perfectly for me, and several of my clients clients. Drop to a command prompt and run:

netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=disabled

If the command returns this response, “Set global command failed on IPv4 The requested operation requires elevation”, then you need to do this: Click start (windows symbol), Accessories, right click on “Command Prompt”, then choose “Run as Administrator”, then try the netsh command (above) again.

And appended the following:

Which could be why a number of people have experienced poor net connections since moving to vista. While this isn’t directly vistas problem (tho the enabling of non-standard things by default is a boneheaded manuvour) it does show how the tech world has steadfastly refused to take note of the changes that came with the new flavour of MS’s operating system, as well as highlighting the failure to implement any kind of feature check within the OS itself too… wouldn’t it be cool if windows reported these problems to you “windows has detected a problem with your networking, click here to load standard protocal settings, click here to do nothing and not bother you again with this message”. And that last part “click here to no bother you with this message” is something I am dieing to have because I’m fed up of having my computing interrupted by crap that I already know about because I just clicked on the button to do it!!

Oh how I wish the “pro” versions of their software was actually designed with the pro in mind!

Do I Recommend Vista for Christmas?

LordKelvin asks:

Chris, I have been an XP user for some time now, and I am thinking of upgrading to Vista (mostly because it has DirectX10). However, I have also heard rumors that it’s UI stinks, and that it has many issues. What is your opinion on what I should do, and do you know any other way to get DX 10? Thanks for reading.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it makes you feel any better, Jeb asked me the same question earlier today:

Hi Chris, I just found your chat room today for the first time. I wanted to know about vista. Through my school, I have the opportunity to download Vista Business and Vista Business 64bit. Do you recommend either over XP? I know Vista has many problems right now, however, I’m dying to play Halo 2, but very unwilling to buy a console to do it. (I love the keyboard and mouse setup.)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it makes you feel any better, Xenopax asked me the same question earlier today:

I’ve got a couple of question’s yesterday I was looking at download.Com’s Top Downloaded and I say that AVG Free was the top Anti Virus Program so I was just wondering what Anti Virus do you use?My other question is should I upgrade to vista I heard some good things and bad things about vista but I was just wondering should I upgrade now or wait tell ever thing gets fixed?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it makes you feel any better, Bob sent me a barely-intelligible question earlier today:

im gona get the 8800gt then but which one alpha dog, zotac 512 amp, msi, xfx……. i installed vista home premium 64 bit yesterday but after installing the driver for my x850xt the screen turned black and didnt change so i restared my pc several times but still no luck so i called an expert in who reformatted my hdd then reinstalled vista it is all good now as i have not installed any drivers. When i buy the 8800gt and plug it in and install the drivers do you think the same problem will hapen????

If it’s broke, don’t use it. If it makes you feel any better, I sang this song earlier today:

Solving Vista Problems Sometimes Creates More Problems

Bill Weber has been watching the YouTube videos for a while – and he felt compelled to write me about his experiences with Windows Vista:

Thanks for all the fun moments from the Help-a-Thons and providing YouTube fodder for years to come. Some moments are truly memorable, and I don’t just mean those where you are answering questions! *laughs* I’m glad you’re still continuing to help people with their technical issues.

While I’m on the subject, I wanted to comment on Windows Vista. Unfortunately, I bought a new computer instead of building my own, and it had Vista Home Premium installed. After using XP and giving Microsoft enough time (so I thought) to work out the kinks in the new OS, I thought I’d try it. Boy… is it fragile! When faced with a bad program installation or conflicting software issues, it just turned into “Vista Whack-a-Mole.” Solve one problem, three more crop up. I had the infamous “no network – server execution failed” error. This causes a red “X” over the network icon in the system tray, although connecting to the internet proceeds more-or-less normally. Apparently people have been experiencing this issue since February, and attibute it to AOL / AIM software. I use AOL proper, and had few problems with it in XP.

Microsoft has never responded to this issue, and the only workaround users could come up with was to elevate localhost or localgroup (depending on the Vista version) to the Administrators group, causing a huge security hole. In addition to this problem, I was experiencing hangs on shutdown, three minute waits for the “available disks” box to refresh in System Restore, and failure to create restore points about 70% of the time. Indeed, I couldn’t even install the drivers and software for my SoundBlaster audio card, presumably because every time Vista attempted to create a restore point, it would hang, and wait until the restore point timed out before proceeding, causing installation to take HOURS.

In attempting to fix these problems, I also lost my TV card…i.e., Windows Media Center would not record or show “live TV” stating “your card could not be found/is not installed.” No amount of reinstalling drivers or anything else would fix that, which was the last straw. I re-installed Vista from scratch, and haven’t restored all my programs yet. I’m most fearful of installing Norton Systemworks and the ZoneAlarm suite. I know Symantec states these programs will not work together, but if one installs ZoneAlarm AFTER Systemworks, they’ll work side-by-side with little problem…at least they DID for a while.

Personally, I like the ZoneAlarm software, having used it for years, and also like the WinDoctor element of Systemworks. I don’t know of any other registry checker that allows the user to MANUALLY choose (or just skip) a registry “fix.” I apologize if this is the wrong method of asking a question (and I don’t really expect an e-mailed reply; I’m just throwing it out there) but: regarding Vista, what registry checker and antivirus program combination would you recommend? I was never thrilled with Norton AV, so I really didn’t want to go completely with Symantec. I’m just sorry I spent money on two programs that are incompatible with each other. I downloaded Systemworks, so it’s not like I can just run the Symantec products from disk without installing them. Symantec also invades every area of your OS with their product (LiveUpdate services, startup config entries); I was looking for something a bit less invasive that doesn’t require a special program to “clean up” their sloppy uninstall, which Symantec is well-noted for.

So… Vista stinks and is very fragile, and I don’t think Microsoft is supporting it as they should. I’m backing up every time I install any major program, which is a pain and TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE all because of a flawed OS. I’d like to continue to use ZoneAlarm suite as my antivirus and anti-spyware program, but need a good registry checker which allows a lot of MANUAL control over the “errors” it finds. Too many just “fix” supposed registry errors willy-nilly, causing more problems than leaving said items alone, especially with Vista. If you reply, just a few words and/or links would be sufficient. Thanks so much for your time.

Another Inconvenient Truth?

The headline for this post was not written by me, but Scott Graham:

Windows Vista? What more can I say, I personally have had (in the past) a few speed-bumps along the way but not much to “rant” about. Friends and family on the other hand, not so good. Blue screen of death, “do you want to open this, do you want to do that?” it feels like Vista is a letdown and them problems seem to be dominating the consumer’s choice over whether or not to purchase the OS. Only a week before the release of Leopard (OS X) did I receive an email regarding a move from a Window’s power-user to Mac simply because of Windows Vista. Now of course with the release of Leopard I now couldn’t recommend a Mac more but should Windows power-users consider a move to Mac before looking at Windows alternatives?

Should they? Hell yes. Do they? Hell no.

This morning, I finally had a reason to use the Windows DVD Maker for a project (Spike TV wants to use some of my wacky YouTube videos for one of their shows). The experience with this particular Vista program was impressively simple – up until the point where I went to burn the DVD. 4.8% into the process, I received a generic dialog claiming that “An error occurred when burning the DVD.” No word on what caused this error, or how to fix it.

The process in iDVD was a bit more involved, but at least it worked for me in the end (and let it be known that iDVD is slightly more complicated, but not overwhelming). I could’ve downloaded DVD Styler, as recommended to me by someone in the chat room, but I’m guessing that most users would stick with what ships on their computer OOTB.

It would seem whilst some stick with Vista despite the bumpy ride, some have been polluted with the thought that Windows is a Vista territory – end of. This is simply not true, even with the pending removal on XP sales at the end of this year in my opinion people should think before they take that leap to another platform – after all isn’t a £30 OEM copy of XP more suitable than a £1200 Mac, after all most of the people who have came to me with this problem do little more than basic web-surfing and the occasional game or photo sharing etc.

Depends on how tired you are of waiting for Godot.

I want all of you Vista users to do this for me: fire up Windows Media Player 11 right now. For some of us, the URGE graphic looks wonky. URGE is no longer URGE, but Rhapsody – and the Windows Media Player team hasn’t bothered to update the client since this service change, and (consequently) the title bar of the Windows Media Player looks like ass for some of us. No word on when this is going to be updated. No word on why Windows Media Player 11 still launches on some Windows XP computers with white pixels in the upper corners, either. Feedback I submitted through the official channels as a WMP beta tester (and former Microsoft MVP) was routinely dismissed. Feh.

In my opinion people should instead of simply being told “what is wrong” with Vista should be told what the alternatives are (e.g. XP) before they jump in the deep end. What do you think to what I believe is an ever-growing “myth” that Windows is becoming completely Vista territory and should as a result users having issues (whilst Leopard remains a superb OS) should take this giant leap to an entirely new environment over a few driver problems that may well be a thing of the past after the pending release of SP1?

Rinse and repeat. In the time that it’s taken Microsoft to get from XP to Vista, Apple has released 10.0, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4, and now 10.5. With each release, the OS X core gets a little bit better. Knowing that all software has bugs, Apple has also released incremental patches with frequency – rather than scheduling massive update roll-ups (“Service Packs”) to their customer base. Windows users are typically made to hunt down patches from an unweildy Knowkeldge Base (and in some cases, request the patch from Microsoft before they can download it).

“What is wrong” is less about Vista itself, and more about the corporate decisions that gave you Vista – and will potentially give you “Windows 7” in 2009. It’s coming from the same company, folks. And if you’re ready to call me a Micorosft basher, take a step back. I like many things that Microsoft produces.

Xbox 360 is pure awesomeness at its core – and if it didn’t have the Microsoft brand stamped upon it, I’d have no idea it came from the same company. Maybe the Windows, Office, Mobile, and Zune divisions need to take a page from the Xbox book? Scratch that. They need to take the Xbox book, period.

P.S:.May I also just say another big thank you for your videos regarding Macs and in particular OS X, it has really inspired had me to go out and get the MacBook Pro which should be here anytime soon (I hope).

Be prepared to get attacked for that decision, as well as to face a completely different set of problems.