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Windows 7? When is it a good time?

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

I was reading an article today and it was talking about the “right timing” to upgrade to Windows 7 (a topic which I mentioned briefly in my earlier post).

The author/expert on this topic covered several points and I’ll share the “glaring” ones that I remember.

Firstly, do the right thing and that is – when you buy a new laptop/PC, during this period of time, and if it comes with Vista, make sure that you also get a coupon that allows you the option to upgrade free of charge to Windows 7 (so you know that option is available for you at a later date, should you choose to do so).

Secondly, Windows 7 is built on the Vista platform so be prepared for it to be as “resource intensive” as Vista and based on what I’ve been reading, the experts are now recommending a minimum of 2GB memory to run Windows 7 at an acceptable level.

Despite the doomsday predictions and the currently lukewarm (if not cold) response from corporations holding off ANY plans to upgrade to Windows 7, the security experts openly acknowledge that Vista has indeed addressed many security issues that had so infamously plague the Windows OSes before. So thumbs up to the folks at Windows. Give credit where its due. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you are on Windows XP, do note that currently there is no known straightforward way to upgrade from Windows XP directly to Windows 7 (but probably some smart person out there will come up with something sooner or later). But for now, it can only be done one of two ways: 
1) A clean install (so back up your data if you still want to keep them) or
2) A 2-throng approach. First upgrade from XP to Vista and then do another upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. 

Regardless, its important to be able to do this at one’s own pace instead of being “forced” to upgrade (which could happen if you hold off doing anything until its “way too late in the game”). So for those willing or even excited about Windows 7 and want to start doing some homework in terms of assessing whether your current machine will be able to run Windows 7 adequately, you can choose to download a Compatibility Test from Windows or from an independent 3rd party.

As Randall C.Kennedy from InfoWorld so amply put it: “You simply cannot count on Microsoft to provide an honest assessment of Windows system requirements. And as the โ€œVista Readyโ€ experience has shown us, Microsoftโ€™s vendor partners are no better.”
Read Randall C. Kennedy’s article here.

So I decided to use the one from InfoWorld  to get my “neutral” opinion on it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, ….actually I already know that my computer will be compatible but I just wanted to try out the tool from InfoWorld  ๐Ÿ™‚ )
 
So here is a log of it.

  1. Sign up for a Windows Sentinel Account at InfoWorld
  2. Download and install the Windows Sentinel (also known as DMS Clarity Tracker Agent 6.08) from InfoWorld OR you can find it here.
  3. Download and install the Adobe Air Reader 1.5.2  here. (15.1MB)
  4. Download and install the Desktop Widgets from InfoWorld which gives you 5 tools as follows.
    1. Your Overall Performance
    2. Your Process Performance
    3. Your Network Performance
    4. Your Performance Alerts
    5. Your Compatibility Alerts.

Note 1: You need to do Step 3 before Step 4 as you’ll need Adobe Air Reader to help you install the desktop widgets.
Note 2: You can repeat Step 2 for up to 3 windows-based PC because up to 3 systems can be monitored per user account.
Note 3: When you install the DMS Clarity Tracker Agent, you’ll be asked to configure it. Simply fill in the customer ID that you obtained from InfoWorld or exo.performance.network
indicated in screenshot below. (I just left the proxy stuff blank)

configure

After approximately one hour โ€“ and roughly once each hour after that โ€“ the Tracker Agent will upload the data it has collected to the repository site at which time it will become available to the widget. Youโ€™ll know that the data has arrived when you see the tracked systemโ€™s NetBIOS Machine Name appear in the drop-down list on the Settings pane (refresh the widget page to update this list).

results

P/s: I struggled getting the results for quite some time as the widget wasn’t loading up properly. After a while, I finally realized that I needed to input my email address into the red colour box indicated above before I could get the results. AHHHH!!! Finally. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Getting Vista and XP to talk to each other…..Network and Sharing Center, Network Maps and LLTD

August 18, 2009 1 comment

Though I live in a small shoebox apartment, I am a very lazy person when it comes to walking from computer to computer to get access to a file/application. That’s why its important for me to get my XP and Vista machine to talk to each other. Over the last weekend, I got acquainted with Vista’s new program called Network and Sharing Center. Here’s a log of it: 

To fire up the Network and Sharing Center, proceed to the omnipotent Control Panel. Once you found it,  the screenshot below will show you what it looks like. If you click the option “View full map” on the right hand corner of the diagram, you will get into the network map which provides you with a bird’s eye view of your network and all the machines hooked up to it in a graphical manner. Hover your mouse over any machine and you will get crucial information such as IPv4, IPv6 or MAC addresses. Nifty! 


Sounds easy but if life is ever that straightforward we would all be billionaires by now!!???

When I first started using this program, I was dismayed to find that Vista DID NOT pick up my windows XP machines. It was however able to pick up my QNAP TNAS. Hmm…what’s up about that?!? After some research on the net, I found out that its a common problem and there are many articles online whichly clearly explain what needs to get done to be able to allow network map to work properly. The main reason for that, I would summarize is that network map uses a protocol called Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) and Windows XP doesn’t come installed with it by default. 

So here is what you need to do to get Vista and XP to talk to each other:

1) Download the Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) Responder for Windows XP.
Note: Depending on which service pack (or no service pack), your XP machine has installed, you will need to download different versions of the LLTD responder so beware!
You can get it if you are on Service Pack 2 here.
For Service Pack 3, you will have to download the hotfix here.
2) Ensure that LLTD Responder is installed correctly by doing the following: 
a) Start -> Control Panel -> Network Connections. Click Local Area Network Connection and then Properties. View the items and ensure that LLTD responder check box is ticked.
3) Configure the XP Firewall to allow LLTD (exceptions tab)

Note: By the way, if you haven’t put XP and Vista on the same domain, you should probably get that done. If you haven’t done anything to the domain setting, by default, Windows XP is on MSHOME and Windows Vista is on Workgroup. ๐Ÿ™‚

At some point in time, you may have needed to restart your XP machine to make sure the installation for LLTD responder was set up correctly. When all that is done, hit <F5> on the vista machine to refresh the network map and you should see XP and Vista machines right where they should be.

I’ve included a screenshot of my network map showing up correctly. (For security reasons, I’m blanking out my Aspire MAC address. Ah…I’m so paranoid)

More on LLTD in the next few post.

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Vista – First impression and the Windows Side Panel

August 17, 2009 Leave a comment

My Aspire 5536G runs on Windows Vista Home Premium Edition. This is my first machine that runs Vista so I’m still trying to get used to it. The cool thing about the Aspire deal that I got is that I get an option to upgrade to Windows 7 for free any time within one year from date of purchase. Vista is quite a sad story isn’t it. For all its hype, its looking at a very short lifespan and all I keep hearing about it is how resource-intensive/power-hungry it is. Anyway, I decided that I was going to give it a chance and get to know it better. Besides, my friend is currently beta-testing Windows 7 on his computer and he told me that Windows 7 is still quite unstable with occasional “black screens of death”. (Not to mention all the drivers/applications that are not yet compatible with Windows 7). 

First things first, with a laptop specification like mine (and I’m comparing it to the older models that I used to have), I was expecting everything to happen within a snap of the fingers. What did they say about expectation? The higher the standards, the harder the fall. Alas, I was quite disappointed within the first hour of playing with Vista. Okay, fine, it wasn’t THAATTTT BAD BUT it wasn’t really quite what I expected either. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I took to complaining about it to my colleague who told me that it probably had to do with all the “junk” applications that came pre-loaded from the manufacturer. He promptly demonstrated to me on how much faster his computer was running Vista and offered to help me do a clean install and some tuning. (He is that kind of sweet techie guy). Okay fine, it IS TRUE that ACER pre-loads lots of applications such as games and hehe, after trying them out, I decided that they were so fun that I was going to keep them around for a while longer. Speed through clean install will have to wait. ๐Ÿ™‚ 

With that said, I must say that I am still learning many new things on vista and I thought I would share my experience online. 

For starters, I like the Windows Sidebar. As you can see from screen shot below (and I’m using an old screenshot), the Windows Sidebar is on the right side. Windows provide quite a lot of gadgets (which is what they call these applications) and I have installed the Analog Clock, Calender, Weather as well as CPU meter gadget. I’ve found them all to be rather nifty/useful. Especially CPU meter. If you can recall, we used to have it in the Task Manager on XP/older machines but to access it, you would have to fire up the Task Manager. Troublesome! Now, its installed in a nice graphic on the desktop so anyone can easily view the utilization on CPU and Memory. This makes it so much easier when I monitor the system as I fire up applications. With the tool on the desktop, I can now quickly single-out the resource intensive applications on the fly.

To start up Windows Side Panel, head down to Control Panel and activate Windows Side Bar Properties. Its pretty straight forward to get it set up from there.
 

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Flock Web browser – The ultimate social web browser powered by Mozilla

August 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Long gone are the days that we had to stick with the default web browser Internet Explorer and be satisfied. Nowadays, there are so many other alternative web browsers out there to suit your needs and they can be such a breeze to download, install and use. The popular ones, of course, are IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Being a lazy person, I would say that I’ve been using IE and Firefox for the longest time and between the both of them, they have always met my needs. Not surprisingly, I never felt the need to test out the other web browsers….that is until I chance upon Flock.

My first reaction was: “Who are they?”. If they have been all the rage, forgive me, I am a self confessed “late developer” and am definitely not ahead of the curve on such things.  So back to the question: Who are they?

Flock is the award winning social web browser powered by Mozilla. That’s what they advertise themselves as and let me tell you THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE. You really got to give it to these people. After downloading and using Flock 2.5, I must say that I’ve NEVER enjoyed social networking as much as I have over the past few days. Now, I’m using flock to access all my accounts in one place and its never been so easy to twitter, facebook, upload links on delicious and many more. In fact, I’m even using Flock’s blog editor to write this post now! 

Here’s what the browser looks like on my computer:

Curious? Head over to Flock’s website and download Flock today! (Highly recommended, if social networking is your thing)

Note: In case you are wondering, Flock works well on Windows, Apple and Linux and also in 12 different languages ๐Ÿ™‚



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ACER Aspire 5536G

August 15, 2009 2 comments

There is a new addition to the family. And now we are 4.ย  My Acer Aspire 5536G. For those who already know that I own the Acer 4920 is bound to say: “Acer AGAIN?!?!”

Yah, hehe, I don’t know why, I just like the look and feel of the laptop i guess. More importantly, my Aspire 4920 has indeed served me well over the past few years so I guess you can say that I’m rooting for the Taiwanese manufacturer.

Anyway,ย  comparing to Sony, Toshiba, Compaq/HP, this baby cost me only SGD 1,500. A comparable specification by a different player would have cost me much more.

After playing around with the Aspire 5536G, I must say, for the record, that I really have no regrets and its a great buy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Basic Tech Specs

AMD Turion X2 technology RM-74 (2.2GHz)

ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 Up to 1791 MB HyperMemory

15.6 inch HD LED LCD

4GB Memory

500GB HDD

DVD Super Multi DL drive.

acer5536

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Fixing Master Boot Record (after deleting Ubuntu)

August 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Yes. Its true. I’ve decided to wipe clean Ubuntu 7.0.4 from my Acer Aspire 4920. But before anyone gets into a frenzy about it, NO FRET, I fully intend to install the latest version of Ubuntu 9.0.4 (if that is still the latest version when I get down to do it, that is ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Actually, deleting Ubuntu was pretty straight forward for me. My set up is a dual boot between Windows XP and Ubuntu on my laptop Aspire 4920. So I simply activated Computer Managment MMC, used Disk Management to delete and format the partition that Ubuntu was on. To access Computer Management MMC, simply do the follow
Go to Start->Run and type in this command compmgmt.msc

Next step, fix the Master Boot Record which has been altered by Grub.
The good news is that I had previously configured my Aspire 4920 to default boot up in Windows XP,ย  so that meant I can just ignore the GRUB screen as long as I don’t activate Ubuntu. But hell, what’s the fun in that!!

I searched online for some help and found 2 solutions. Only one worked for me but I’m going to share both here.

1) The popular online solution (which didn’t work for me)
First you need to have a Windows XP CD. Insert it in the CD-Rom, boot from the CD and select “R” Recovery console. There is an option that allows you to FixMBR.
For more information, refer to: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307654
Well, the reason why this solution didn’t work for me was because when I got into recovery console, the damn machine told me that it could not detect my hard drive. I did some research on the net and the alternative is use the Repair installation option but of course they always tell you to BACK UP BEFORE YOU DO IT. So that means I run the risk of losing some important files, hmmm….don’t like that option. No worries, refer to option 2.

2) Also an easy solution (which worked for me)
First, Install a free tool called MBRFix, you can find it here:
http://download.cnet.com/MbrFix/3000-2094_4-10485990.html
Very good tool. The guy who wrote it and sharing it is a life saver. Boot the exe file from command prompt and you will be faced with several options: 13 to be exact.
For more information on command option, refer to this page:
http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/Hard-Disk-Utils/MBRFix.shtml

I chose 2 options, master yoda and fixed the problem. ๐Ÿ™‚

a) MbrFix /drive listpartitions -> This command displays partition information
Note: Replace drive with your actual drive number. So for me, I typed as:
MbrFix /0 listpartitions

b)MbrFix /drive fixmbr -> Update MBR code to W2K/XP/2003 or Vista
(or alternatively you can use the restorembr option).
MbrFix /0 fixmbr

Viola! Windows XP boots up like a charm.

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