Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Windows 7

After playing with the Beta and RC of Windows 7 in virtual machines, I found that there is a fully loaded Enterprise version which is fully functional for 90 days (and potentially more with up to 3 activation period resets - see later) available for free download.

Suffice to say I have now installed on our main home PC as it needed a reinstall of the OS and I thought why not??? I have to say both me and my wife are impressed with this new OS. There was a little teething trouble getting it installed which was for some reason due to it not being able to discern the system partition when trying to install the OS.
It showed up my 4 hard drives, and correctly showed the basic and dynamic volumes. But it threw an error every time I tried to load it on the system drive. I did a bit of googling with the particular error and found it a fairly common issue, and to do with the system partition not being able to be determined.
The workaround was to temporarily disconnect all other drives (3 SATA and 1 IDE) and then the install went swimmingly, both smooth and fast, much more pleasant experience than the XP install ( which it's got to be said, wan't at all bad in the 1st place!)
Once loaded up, I reconnected my drives and all was fine, Windows 7 detected all the drives and volumes (including my spanned volume from Win XP - my main Doxx volume spanned over 3 drives) although there was a 'missing' entry for a drive, which I think was a ghost of the system volume which obviously was present. I removed this and all was well - perhaps this confusion is from having dynamic volumes and contributed to the install baulking when I 1st tried to write to the system drive prior to the disconnections... anyhow...

Here is my main summary points thus far - nothing majorly technical as yet as this is a home PC, but still points of interest are:

• Speed - refreshingly fast boot up/shutdown times, and general speed of OS is FAST, on a fairly basic spec: 1.8Ghz Athlon 64 2800, 2 Gig DDR 400Mhz RAM, Nvidia GeForce FX5200 gfx.
• Sleep - whilst XP took ages to go into sleep mode, and even longer to come out, and would only come out by pressing the power button on the PC, 7 is again very quick, and comes out of sleep with a touch of the keyboard. That was a nice suprise!
• General look and feel and navigation in Windows 7 is great. No where near a cumbersome or overly protective as Vista, and much smoother operation. The new Aero features are cool and helpful - we have 'Peek', 'Shake', 'Snap' and 'Flip'.
• The system protection features are simple to use, a quick and far less annoying than Vista system prompt for an admin password to change anything that normally doens't need accessing is actually a good feature and easy to use. (This is the 1st PC I am using with a standard account rather than running with an admin account as I did in XP)
• Wallpapers, lovely images, wallpaper cycling, windows transparency, themes, colors... all fresh and new and crisp in Windows 7.
• System Tray - simple, clean and elegant, another improvement - all icons are now monochrome which is a better look and handled better.
• Wireless is much quick to connect and stable. The drivers were loaded automatically, which brings me to...
• Driver support - I did not have to visit any of my hardware's vendor's sites to get drivers for my hardware - all drivers were installed automatically through the install process, and after that whilst temporarily connected to the net via a LAN cable, through windows update - all drivers working well if not better than on XP!

I am sure I will think of further benefits, but this is a start!!! The overall feature set is much more rich than XP - things like parental control built in, Bitlocker encryption, and much more.

Yes, we are liking it.

I will have to update this post in a more technical way with regard to networking / domain / security soon, but I am hopefully and expectant that this new platform is actually a good job done by MS!

Okay, an update - a few weeks on and no system crashes, boot speed still very quick - even with the Kaspersky AV running. Shutdown also very quick as is the sleep function. Still liking it. Might even buy it ;)

Friday, September 4, 2009


Upon having aquired a blackberry recently, I had to familiarise myself with the way it works (what the dang is it?), connects and specifically; syncs to Outlook.
This meant getting to grips with Desktop manager, the bluetooth issues, IT policy issues and of course themes!

I found out that first I needed to remove all IT policies. A lot of searching on google showed me that I had to download a 'policy.bin' file and do a little registry hacking to get this profile to be loaded via the desktop manager. See here
This cleared the IT Policy and gave me back control of what was obviously a blackberry connected to a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) in it's prior life, which had restricted many options.
Now, as it blatantly wasn't connecting to the DM software (although it was paring with Windows no problem) I needed to somehow reset the services in the bluetooth options as there was no 'Desktop Connectivity' showing - not in the properties in Windows for the bluetooth device, nor in the bluetooth options on the BB. However resetting the IT Policy didnt do this!
So then after a lot more googling, I find that you can reset to factory defaults using a Java app - 'Jl_Cmder' (see here ), which i did. This gave me a completely free'ed up Blackberry, although not unlocked in terms of network, it was clean in erevery other way...(no little red padlocks!)
Then I just had to make sure that i wasn't using third party bluetooth stack as desktop manager only works with the native XP bluetooth drivers. This is the easy part. (Uninstall the bluetooth stack in Add/Remove programs in XP, and XP will automatically install the native drivers)

This done, I was synching over bluetooth no probs, and it had only take about a week of googling! lol.

Then I find you can download nice themes (not to mention ringtones, apps etc...) which are .alx & .cod files, and upload these via DM. Works fine.

Sufficient to say I am pretty happy now.

I also found a nice tip that by setting various categories on the contacts within different contacts folders from outlook (eg business / personal) you can then on the BB set the 'Filter' option (a quick 2 clicks in the phone book options) to display only these sets of contacts as you require.