Friday, July 31, 2015

Windows 10: The Basics

Okay, we can get started two ways, you can wait for Microsoft to do the automated in place upgrade or you can download your own installation media (ISO) and run the installer manually and do the in place upgrade.

Here is the link to the media tool creator:
Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

ONCE YOUR CURRENT INSTALL OF WINDOWS SAYS GENUINE AND ACTIVATED (regardless of how it became that way), YOU SHOULD GET A LICENSED COPY OF WINDOWS 10. YMMV!

Download and run and you can download a DVD image of the installer (what i recommend)
Then copy the contents of that to a blank USB flashdrive formatted in fat32 and set as a boot partition.

Then double click the .exe file and follow along.

Once Windows 10 is installed, you can reinstall it from the same USB stick by booting into it from the BIOS/UEFI. Your license is pulled from the Microsoft Servers so once you are online so if the setup prompts you to put in a key you can select the option to skip it.

========================WARNING========================

If you have a realtek WiFi or LAN (Ethernet) or Audio chip in your PC/Tablet/Hybrid, be careful, because the realtek drivers are terrible and they almost never provide updates for newer OSs and when they do, they are very half assed.

My Lenovo Q190, Windows 8.1 with Bing mini desktop HTPC has a realtek ethernet NIC and its supposed to be gigabit, and it was under Windows 8.1, but as of Windows 10 is being throttled to fast ethernet speeds (10/100).

If you have the original Q190 that had a regular home version of Windows 8 that needed to be upgraded to 8.1, the WiFi card on that is a realtek and was non functional after the Windows 8.1 update and will be worse with the throttled ethernet speeds.

Just be careful with driver support on Windows 10!!!!!

Good luck and YMMV.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Analysis of smartphone stew

This is a difficult little article I've been contemplating writing for quite some time.

For smartphones in the modern age there are a multitude of factors people try to pin success on and to some degree they are right. Some say its this feature or that feature, or this particular or that app... yet I will contend that it is a particular mix of applications, features and function that is ultimately necessary for success.

First thing, a smartphone is not the same as a platform. A platform is something that spans and scaled a multitude of both devices, services and consumers.

Windows is a platform and Linux is a platform. They are platforms that fit on silly little fixed function devices, to TVs to Game Consoles to full fledged Super Computers.

Linux has always been a miserable failure in the consumer space until a sugardaddy with deep pockets and a network of pimps got its hands on it in the form of Google acquiring Android. Google funded Android development acquiring people from the now defunct Palm and other companies in the industry building a platform that could both functionally and visually compete with iOS; better known as Android Version 3.0 Honeycomb built for tablets.

Honeycomb was a steaming pile of bularky and an utter failure. Yet it laid the groundwork for Android 4.0 Jellybean where all proprietary code was removed, the problems worked out and the UI and design ported down to phones. Now Android was visually, aesthetically on par with iOS and superior in terms of features.

At that very moment Windows Phone 7 was stuck with the taste of Mangoes in it mouth. The consumer side of the OS was filling out beautifully. Basic functionally like email, messaging, music and social media was utterly perfect compared to Android and iOS. Then Windows Phone 8 happened and we all cried. The near perfect Zune Multimedia Experience was gone, replaced by a rebranded and broken Xbox Music Player. As a matter of fact, the whole consumer entertainment and multimedia aspect of the phone was now broken. However corporate Email was working along with VPNs. So they broke what was working, and fixed what was broken...

Syncing Playlists to WP8 was pointless as it took days for Xbox music to notice a playlist had been synced to the device and after you unsynced it, the playlists would stay on the player, albeit empty and you would have to manually delete them one by one, lest you resynced the playlists and the playlists and music files would duplicate themselves due to a broken file indexing system.This also happened with Photos and Documents.

At this point Android had implemented Android Version 4.3 which has introduced TRIM on the internal flash memory which would alleviate the notable degradation in performance in android phones as the internal memory was used. No one actually got the update through OEMs until 6 months after the fact. As a Samsung S3 user I can say with complete contempt, Samsung, I effing hate you...

At the end of the day, we reach Lollypop and Windows 10...


Android is filled out in terms of features and functionality. Google is mostly reintroducing SDCard support after removing it bit them in the ass.

Windows on the other hand needs to get a couple things right...

  • A basic Music player that can snc music over MTP like my 30 USD Sandisk Sansa and work as reliably. And if we're really lucky, it might have folder navigation support.
  • A Video Player that handles MKVs and allows you to manage videos by folders.
  • A Podcast Player equivalent to Pocketcast on Android and the stock Podcasts app is pretty crappy and overall shit on WP as it is.
  • A reader app for none standard formats like CBR CBZ and other likes it and an easy way to get the actually files into the app, say drag and drop in a folder that the app knows to look in for files (cough... Komik)
  • Roll your own Audiobook app because we cant all afford Audible much less even get service.
  • The ability to let apps create one folder in user accessible memory to store its files (such as a podcast folder for podcasts and not dumping everything in the music folder, and audiobook folder for audiobooks, a comic book folder for comic books etc)

Now these are just apps and scenarios that I deal with every day. Some people may use other things and yes the Facebooks and Netflixes of the world need to be there too.

That said, these are basic things a cheap MP3 player can get right and something you can achieve on Android by installing a few free apps and maybe one or two paid ones. So these need to be gotten right at a structural level in the OS and left alone. Look at iOS, yes iTunes is a bloated mess but everything works and works fairly reliably. Podcasts, Playlists, Music and Videos.

But if Microsoft keeps waiting on developers to provide a solution and don't at least provide a base level reliable app as in the case of audiobooks, music, podcasts and readers, users will leave to get such basic functionality on other platforms.

I know I did for Android so I could reliably sync playlists but after 3 android phones I still cannot because of the misguided handling of SDCard support on android 4.0 and 5.0 and OEM modifications to the OS.

So in other words, if I cant find an Android Phone that can sync playlists reliably, I'm getting an iPhone.

Please get the simple things correct out of the box, at least then we can live with the phone until you get the grand overarching things done.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nokia + Windows Phone ... Thinking within the box brilliance

Precursor

Over the past few years, mobile computing has come through some amazing milestones going from simple pocket PC devices running Palm's OS to Windows Mobile to the current state of affairs here in 2013.

Apple rocked the world showing us what a full PC like OS wrapped witha touch friendly wrapper could offer and then asking us, would we take this and trade battery life for it. The consumer market responded with a resounding YES.

RIM's Blackberry never saw what was coming.

Microsoft on the other hand didnt sit back and do nothing. They took their then mobile OS offering, Windows Mobile 6.0 and cleaned it up, polished it, tool some pointers from Apple and made the UI shell more touch oriented, but too much of the OS was legacy stylus oriented an they were are tat point, putting make up on the pig. In the end they cleaned up WinMo 6.5 with 6.5.7 and left WinMo there.




In the meantime a team of engineers began rethinking what Windows Mobile was and where it should go. They looked at the existing platform and made a hard decision on what to keep and what to get rid of.

The Window Phone 7 Era

With Windows Phone Series 7, later renamed to Windows Phone7,  Microsoft tossed the cat out in a bag eliminating the entire UI and app ecosystem of their older platforms rethinking everything from square one. They utilised their all but failed Zune Music and Video syncing, playback and management system to handle media. Skydrive to handle the transferring of documents and a built in version of Microsof Office that enabled limited editing of files.

Botching Windows Phone 7... not difficult

So what Microsoft botched with Windows Phone 7 were simple little things that matter to mobile users, mainly due to their inexperience in markets where these things matter.

Bluetooth file transfers, simple stupid and how most people get small files and photos from one another in developing markets where ubiquitous mobile internet is non existent and where anything over a 1mb/s home internet connection is a luxery. What was a premium feature back in the 90s, bluetooth became ubiquitous in feature phones after the early 2000s and as such was the method of choice for file transfers.

In developing nations most people use prepaid phones and Windows Phone 7 didn't support all the various ways to input and confirm a prepaid credit input leaving some users holding a phone with no calling credit.

Because there are inexpensive prepaid phone services, many people have 2 or more mobile numbers and Windows Phone allowed a max of only 1 mobile number per contact.

Users for a long time use small MicroSD cards and usually just swap them as they change phones. Windows Phone 7 had no MicroSD card support.

The convenience of dragging and dropping document files to my phone and not needing to upload to skydrive then log into sky drive on my phone and open the file there to make sure it was preloaded before I went anywhere was a pain.

What was done right

In the past with Media Management, syncing music via MTP, through Windows Media Player was spotty, unreliable and overall a hassle. With Zune handling that I can't remember a time I had to plug in my phone to sync anything because that was automatically done every time I plugged my phone in to charge. Even after the Zune Marketplace was shutdown, the Zune desktop software continued to work brilliantly on Windows 7, still doing podcast management perfectly because someone had the forsight to add a "add rss feed" button to manually add podcasts with RSS URLs the old fashioned way.

Automatic Camera Roll uploads are still amazing. Automatically uploading all photos taken via your choice of WIFI, WIFI and Mobile Data and the choice to resize photos for you were all fantastic and something I turned on for everyone I knew, in case they every lost their phone, they wouldn't lose all their photos, but not even that, simply enabling wireless sunc with the Zune desktop software on your home network would sync your camera roll with your PC the minute you put your phone to charge. Thoughtless backup... something a lot of companies thoughtlessly forget.

Dedicated fast smooth camera functionality. As someone who had a Dell Venue Pro, the dedicated camera button was a major pro. The camera on that phone was terrible and always ruined shots, but I would always get the shot. I currently have a Samsung Galaxy 3 and for the great camera it has, unless I plan the shot, I can never open the camera app fast enough to get my shot.

Not the Wild West

Unlike other platforms like Android and Linux in general and even older WinMo 6 and older, the OS is not the wild west letting developers get open access to every resource on the phone. This mean devs have both a harder and easier time. They have a given set of feature with specific ways to access them, but no way to McGyver functionality they need but is not available on the platform.

What you get are applications that are dead simple and functional which is fantastic for users but a bit limiting for developers.

The Nokia Intervention

In late 2011 Nokia and Microsoft went into a partnership which boiled down to if Nokia used Windows Phone 7 exclusively on its smartphones, Microsoft would give them money to see them through a period of financial difficulty.

What resulted was a limited but extremely well built line of smartphones that didn't stand a chance against the over specced Android behemoths that were coming out, but with both Microsoft and Nokia touting one simple but very true line, specs don't always equal performance, especially when a OS is heavily optimised for a specific set of hardware, even though it may be older, not necessarily antiquated.

More so, as the hardware became older it became cheaper and off contract, extremely useable, smooth and well designed smartphones became available to a lower budget class of consumer.

The Windows Phone 8 conundrum

In 2013, Microsoft's next Mobile OS, Windows Phone 8 went Gold. As such new Phone were rumored and with little fanfare, abound in the marketplace.

They made a number of many under the hood changes with WP8, ranging from changing the older Windows CE kernel designed specifically for mobile devices in the early 2000 era where hardware performance was always a challenge, to the WindowsNT kernel; the same one powering Windows on desktops and laptops. This was done because the newer phone harware was being released that was as powerful as a lot of last generation PC hardware, more than enough for a Phone with a well optimised OS.


Even with the WP7 era of Nokia Devices, bugs were always expect with phone and expected to be fixed with later firmware updates. But with WP8 some of the changes were seteps backwars as far as the functionality of the whole OS.

They got rid of locking users out of the phone's file system to a limited degree. Like on more typical phones, plugging it into the PC gave you access to some basic media folders, music, video, pictures, documents,  via the MTP file transfer protocol. You could even slip a Micro SD card in there now for expanded storage. Gone were the Zune based media management and reliance on pervasive internet connections... (oh damn)

However as I have played with numerous Windows Phone 8 devices, what I have seen is MicroSDHC compatibility is a problem. On my Nokia Lumia 820 and other Windows Phone 8 based device, transferring a lot of files to the SD Card causes the whole phone to lock up. Not a problem back in the WP7 days where you had Zune and No SDCard options.

Media management for me dies in WP8. Even backing up files locally became a problem with no local wireless sync. The WIFI cameraroll still works brilliantly though

FM Radio was missing at the WP8 launch and returned with the UPDATE 2 for WP8 but it should have been there to begin with.

Even simple thinks like reading the meta tags on music and showing them to you properly is an issue; where songs are missing and playlists go missing after an unplanned power cycle. When the SDCard causes a lock up and you restart your phone, the phone stops detecting the SDCard entirely until you put it in a PC first.

The Take Away

Windows Phone is the easiest and cleanest platform I have used in the mobile space to date. Out of the box it has one of the best stock keyboards. The most relevantly customiseable homescreen/start screen.

Optimization to the teeth for the hardware its running on, so it feels like you have a $3000 gaming rig when ur running a budget $150 smartphone.

I used a Digicel Smartphone DL600 and Alcatel manufactured phone for $600 TTD and an Nokia Lumia 620 for $600 TTD. It was day and night. The Nokia was a true Windows Phone even at that price. Smooth, clean, responsive. The Digicel was slow laggy and terrible and running stick 4.2.1. Android no less.

Because Nokia was forced to think inside the limitations of the Windows Phone app and hardware limitation, they knew what was the bar they had to hit performance and aesthetically speaking, and what they came up with didnt go bang pop wizz like a lot of LG and Samsung Customisations do, but were subtle and elegant, moreso than even Apple products are.

In the end, Nokia Makes great hardware and so far Windows Phone is the only OS I have used up till now that I can see myself letting other people use, even the techies I know prefer Windows Phone as a whole because it isn't the wild wild west. Things don't break on Windows Phone that aren't already broken.

I installed BBM on android and half my apps started acting wonky including my music player...

MTP synced playlists that worked on Google's Play Music app now show playlists out of order and all mixed up after the 4.2.2 update.

Problems aren't limited to any one platform either,  but where they were working exceptionally well before is terrible when you come back and see them not working at all or just horribly.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nokia Lumia 820 Review - Windows Phone 8 Fail

The Hardware

Call Quality - Excellent (Typical of all Nokia Phones)
The Build Quality - Excellent (Typical of all Nokia Phones)
The screen - Good, vibrant, scratch resistant and repels facial grease, IS NOT GORILLA GLASS and is noticeably more fragile.
Loudspeaker - A little on the soft side

The Software

I have been an avid Windows user since Windows 98, and a Windows Phone user since Windows Phone 7.

Windows over the years has gotten more capable and much faster with time. Windows XP to Vista was a little buggy but it worked. Windows Vista to 7 was just a case of slothering Vista in butter and polishing it up to a fine sheen.

Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 has been the experience nightmares are made of. It was basically going from Windows 7 to Windows 95.

Windows Phone 7 was an elegant experience for me minus some minor quirks here and there. The most noticeable one was the inability to assign more than one mobile number to any one contact which was rather odd. Others were like not being able to multiselect files or difficulty putting ringtones and audiobooks on the device.

They weren't deal breakers and there were some workarounds. That said, everything else in the OS was fully functional. The phones available has very limited storage, most maxing out at 16gbs. However as many figured out, the 1st generation WP7 devices uses MicroSD cards in place of soldered in onboard memory and with a little trick and the right SD Card, could take a 8gb phone and transform it into a 32gb phone. I did it with no problems on my 8gb Dell Venue Pro. Even better, integration with the Zune Desktop Software (ZDS) made syncing music, pictures, podcasts and videos to a lesser extent, a breeze.

When i got home, I put my phone to charge, it would ping my desktop wirelessly, fire up the ZDS and start syncing my new podcasts and music automatically to my phone. When I left for work the next morning, everything just worked.

Window Phone 8 is nothing like that. With this new OS, expandable storage is natively supported except on my Lumia 820 it doesn't work at all. When i put in my Sandisk 64gb MicroSDXC card, and fired up Windows Media Player to Sync my playlists as I did with my Zune and Windows Phones on the ZDS. (I did this with my old sandisk E250 player back in the PlayForSure days as well)

My first thought, "Wow this is slow!!"

Second thought, "why is song taking to long to transfer?"

10 minutes later "why is the same song still transferring"

30 minutes later "oh *uck it froze"

Then something that never happened on my WP7 Dell Venue Pro happened, my Music and Video app crashed, so did my settings app. On shutting it down, it was permanently frozen on the goodbye screen.

I forced restarted it by removing the battery.

When i powered it up, the SD Card was missing... I turned off the phone, removed the card and put it back in, powered the phone on and it was still missing. I took the card out and put it in a card reader on the PC. The disc check utility detected an inconsistency on the Card and ran but found no errors. Once it was back in the phone, the phone saw it once more. I tried syncing a playlist again, it transferred on playlist and froze in the middle of another.

This happened over and over. Then I quick formatted the card back in exfat on my PC and tried syncing playlists directly to the card without the phone between them. Every song synced perfectly.

Once back in my phone, all the songs turned up but... for some odd reason, some songs would turn up with no artist or album information. If i resynced them, or copied them manually, they would then show with the correct info, but then other songs would start doing the same thing, to no fault of the songs themselves because they all worked fine on my Zunes and DVP.

Using explorer to drag and drop lots of small numerous files, music and pics mainly, always results in some sort of freezing during copying.

In the end I gave up although I was able to do some podcast subscriptions directly on my phone by changing my country to USA so I could have some sort of entertainment on my phone for when I was driving or waiting in line. This is still a problem because when I want to view podcasts on my TV or desktop while I work with my nice sounding speakers... I can't.

Over the last 2 days something else has started happening which is doubly annoying. For some odd reason, my music videos and pictures have started duplicating and triplicating themselves.

If i plug in the phone and navigate to the directory, there is only one physical file even thought the phone sees 2 or 3 of them.

Whats worse is if I delete even one of the duplicates, all of the duplicates including the original are deleted.

The Nokia Lumia 820 is a horrible phone

This is coming from someone who has owned only Nokia phones his whole life aside for a Dell Venue Pro and an Ericsson and has been a massive fan of Microsoft's Zune Software and Hardware devices as well as the Windows Phone 7 line of devices.

NOTHING works like it ought to and despite how much I loved WP7, I cannot recommend this phone to anyone out there.

I cannot even return it for a refund because it was bought in the USA and I live in Trinidad and Tobago.

If other Windows Phone 8 handsets give the same problem as this Lumia 820, I recommend avoiding them until Microsoft and the OEM's get their house in order and fix what was not broken in Windows Phone 7.5 to begin with.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Words of Caution, Experience and Concern


Over the last few days I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing for myself in an unusually concentrated dosage, the incredible callousness and stupidity of various technicians when it comes to repairing computers, in particular, installing the operating system, optimising it and other software.

The Problem

Many of the self proclaimed technicians are just idiots who learned how to boot into an OS install disc and follow a few simple steps to reinstall an operating system. The issue arises on the other side of the progress bar where you need to do the actual work, finding the appropriate drivers, which, as I indicated in a previous post, is required to give you full operational efficiency from the parts in your computer. This is true for any operating system, Windows, Linux and even OSX. Apple by far makes it easiest to get these because they have such limited few parts in their SKUs and they make all their machines, they have them all centrally located.

Linux is one of those platforms that supports drivers going back to the stone age of computing. So if you installed it on an oldish machine, 2 maybe 3 years old, most, if not all the parts would already have had their drivers installed as part of the Linux OS and in a really good situation eliminates the need for any driver hunting... period. That said, you will typically encounter parts where you need to locate drivers and if you don't find them on the first page of a search, that means they are going to be rather hard to find and many companies don't have official linux driver downloads. If they do, installing them is not a double click and run affair. In some cased you need to have some technical knowledge to install it in your machine.

With with Windows being so popular almost all manufacturers supply some sort of Windows compatible driver. Typically its pretty straightforward to find drivers, look at the manufacturer of the part, the model number of the part, and search both with the word "Driver". That will typically result in a link to the driver download page.

If you are dealing with a brand named machine, Dell, HP etc, simply go to the manufacturer's website, find their support section and there will have a page to download drivers. Go there, enter the model of the Machine, HP Pavilion DV####. Download the ones relevant to your operating system and machine and install them and you system will begin to shine.

Particularly when installing an new OS on an older system, say one that came with Windows Vista, and they put Windows 7, there will be the odd part with no driver and these individuals who won't install the easily found drivers and updates don't even bother to research these parts and try to source a solution. It, quite frankly is an unfortunate state of affairs.

My Actions

I recently observed a colleague's Windows 7, AMD based Toshiba laptop, the image on the screen was stretched wide (no display driver), the touchpad had no scrolling function (no input driver) and the WIFI was iffy (no network driver). When i investigated, the system had no OEM drivers installed... not one!! Adding insult to injury, no Service Pack 1, no IE 9, not one update. The final straw was the so called technician installing a pirated copy of Windows 7 when the system had a legit Win 7 Home Premium Serial on the sticker below. I found this ineptly stupid. In the end I did not have the time to reinstall windows properly for the person, but I got all the drivers installed, put SP1 and IE9 there and hoped that would suffice until I could redo the system properly. With all of that, I did not charge the person any money.

Another individual had an old Compaq Laptop that originally came with Windows Vista Basic. This thing had a pirated copy of Windows 7 that had been WAT exposed and was giving the piracy prompt. No IE9, but it did have SP1 and the activation method was an old one that Microsoft had rendered useless. No drivers, lots of bloatware and the individual in question only needed PowerPoint and Word. Such an unfortunate situation.

In the end both persons ended up with working systems functioning as they should. The thing that really bites me, is that I will take the 6 hours and install windows, drivers and apps properly and then optimise them and update them. I still find it hard to charge my requisite $400 TTD, but I see people doing this rubbish and charging $600 TTD. In the end I have to undo all the previous damage and start from scratch. I also have to take the time to teach my customers a few things about the systems they use and make them safer for it.

Final Words

In the end, I hope those schemers and cheats get whats coming to them, whatever that may be. They deserve all of it. My contention is that all my customers have never returned and I know them all personally and see their systems fairly frequently and they are still running the OS installs I performed. My success is measured in how few systems I see returned to my desk, not how much money I can scam from uneducated PC users.

I hope with the arrival of Windows 8's restore and refresh features we see a better way for performing maintenance and service on PCs in the future.

The less systems we have going into the hands of these Con Men the better.

For those who at the end of this point still cant understand the point, "Find a good decent technician who takes the time to explain things to you and will go out of his way to do a good job and not charge you for every little thing."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Setting up a USA iTunes account outside of the USA.

The iTunes music store is a region locked store. Basically if you live outside the USA you are only able to purchase a subset of the apps. You don’t have access to everything. On Windows Phone 7, apps like WhatsApp are available everywhere, but on iTunes, only available in the USA…

Its stupid, I know.

For that reason, anyone who purchased an iOS device, i am making this post for you. I will show you step by step how to register a USA iTunes account with full access to the iTunes catalogue.

1. Download and install iTunes

DO NOT sign in!!!

2. After you have downloaded and installed iTunes and gone through the initial setup wizard, look on the left hand side of the iTunes application, there you will see the navigation bar, with your music, videos, podcasts and what we’re here for, the iTunes Store.

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3. Now scroll to the bottom and look for the Country Selector.

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4. Choose the USA store

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5. Double check that you’re not signed in and search for a free app. “Remote” is a easy one.

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6. Hit the “Free” button and install it

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7. Here a popup should appear asking you to either sign in or sign up. You must do the sign up process from here. If you do it any other way you will be prompted to use a USA credit card which most people outside the USA would not have.

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8. Follow the steps below filling out the Sign Up form and getting yourself a USA iTunes account with full access to the iTunes Store.

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9. Pay special attention here. Notice that you have the “NONE” option to choose for a payment option.

If you have friends or family in the USA you can use their address, otherwise you can use a random one (A Best Buy Outlet etc.)

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10. Once you hit the “Create Apple ID” button, you will receive a email with a link to click on and activate the account. Now you would have at your disposal a USA iTunes account.

11. With regards for buying apps and other content, you will need to purchase gift cards as iTunes will not accept credit cards from outside the USA.

Maximus Cards is a great website for purchasing iTunes gift cards, via paypal mastercard, visa, etc. You will be emailed the code for the gift card and copy and paste it into iTunes to be credited the money. The link to redeem gift cards can be found on the right hand side of the iTunes Homepage.

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Happy downloading peeps and a good night/day to all. YAY!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Resintalling Windows - Do's and Dont's

 

When reinstalling Windows, there are rules, standards and personal opinions. The first two are simple and easy, the last will require a good bit of self restraint.

 

Preparation:

Backup all your/your customer’s files (if they haven’t). Try not to leave any of yours behind or you will be cursing yourself under your breath for quite some time.

 

Get all the drivers together.

For the noobs, they are what’s required to make the different part work at their full potential or work at all in some cases. The can be found at your computer manufacturer’s website under the support section. If you have a custom built system, open the side panel and look at the individual parts and do a Google search for the model numbers on the parts. You should find a link to the manufacturers site and the link to download the driver should not be too far off.

(While you’re in there you could dust it out with a clean soft brush or can of compressed air, your choice. I do it for my customers, I don’t charge but I do mention it so they get a sense of value for money)

 

Installing Windows:

Install Windows, plain and simple.

For the noobs, insert the Windows install disc, use the boot key and boot into the disc and follow the setup. The boot key on different systems varies. Dells are F12 HP’s are F11. You will need to do research on others. Normally on the boot screen when the computer is now powering up, it’s usually written somewhere on the screen for a few seconds. Be quick :D

If you want to segregate your windows from your personal files on separate partitions or hard drives, there is a program that does that, but requires a few small steps before you start installing drivers and software.

Windows Profile Relocator

After Windows is done installing, install those drivers you downloaded. Make sure you get all of them. You can tell if you missed any by “right clicking” on “My Computer” and hit “manage”. Select “device manager” and there will be a yellow triangle exclamation mark by any hardware that didn’t have its drivers installed.

Next step, install all available Windows updates…. ALL OF THEM. Don’t give the bad guys an opening to blackball you.

Avoid and hide the Windows Activation Technologies update if you are running a pirated copy of windows.

Concerning an antivirus, Microsoft Security Essentials is the go to AV for me. The definitions are updated a few times a day and there are no heuristics but this also means you almost never see false positives like AVG and Avast!. It does deal with rootkits which the other free AVs do not. It’s also ridiculously lightweight and did I mention it’s free? It’s also based off of the engine behind Microsoft’s Forefront enterprise class, near bulletproof security platform.

 

The hard part:

Different technicians like to do installs a little differently but there is one golden rule, LESS IS MORE. Don’t install every ROM you have collected in the last 20 years, don’t install 10 different calculator application. Don’t install 8 different media players.

We have the internet, ROM encyclopaedias are pointless.

You get the idea.

Pick the best of the best and install that.

Two or three web browsers are a good idea in case the others stop working. Java, Flash install them and make sure they are set to auto update.

Media Players are Awesome, but for the average user, Windows Media Player is just fine. Install a basic codec pack like Win7 Codec Pack or Vista Codec Pack (also works on XP) by Shark007 and this will allow every file format know to geekdom to play back in Windows Media Player.

Ask what services the person uses, Yahoo, Windows Live, Google, and install the corresponding suite.

Context menu items, disable as many of them where they don’t make sense. The Nvidia ATI and Intel graphics managers, put the icon in the system tray and disable the context menu entries to launch them. This keeps context menus clear and helps them appear faster. Use a program like “Shell Extension Viewer x86/x64” to do it for programs that don’t give an in program option to disable context menu entries. I recommend you do this especially for apps like Winzip and 7-Zip that add nearly 10 extra item to the context menu for their one program.

 

What’s in your startup?

Hit the “Start Orb” type “msconfig” right click on the result and choose “run as administrator”. Go to the “startup” tab and deselect any programs that you don’t want to run on startup. If you don’t know what it does, Google the file name and you should find out. Some of these are necessary for windows to run so don’t disable them willy nilly. This should reduce the time it takes for Windows to go from the Welcome Screen to being usable.

There are one or two other apps you can install for the user’s benefit such as Paint.NET, a good simple free video encoder like Freemake Video Encoder. A simple DVD/CD burning program like Nero Burnlite Free. Install a pdf reader that doesn't have all the hooks for the PDF format to mitigate the chance of a malformed PDF exploiting the PC. Sumatra, Foxit are good ones among some others. If you know that your customer is interested in certain things, like say video gaming, install Steam and teach them about it. If they like video editing, sit for 5 mins and show them how to use Windows Live Movie Maker (an excellent piece of video editing software)

As a technician, there are things you need to do for your customers that will keep them coming back to you for all their computer needs.