Tuesday, April 28, 2009

OPINION - Windows Operator Systems

I will state up front that this article is my personal opinion and I make no effort to be objective.

I have used Microsoft Windows since Win98SE and have been very satisfied even with (to be expected) problems.

I have some experience with Vista at work, but none with Windows 7 which is still under development. But I have monitored various sites on both Vista and Windows 7 for problems and other's opinions.

My general preferences for any version of Windows is, "I do NOT like Eye Candy." What I mean by Eye Candy is something that looks pretty but has no real function (especially if all the feature does is take up space).

Example: The Sidebar in Explorer; not needed and just takes up space in the window display. Everything is the Sidebar is available in the Menu Bar, or via a right-click Context Menu, or can be added to the Tool Bar.

  1. WinXP SP2/SP3

  2. I am very, very happy with WinXP especially after release of SP2.

    For those who are unaware of Microsoft's release history, as an example, the original WinXP was very buggy, SP1 was an improvement, and with the release of SP2 it was very stable. This does NOT mean that there no problems, but the problems after SP2 were mostly due to new threats or venerabilities.

    WinXP became the standard for Microsoft's Windows world wide.

    There was one feature that I never liked that started with WinXP, the integration of the Browser (IE) functions with the GUI (Graphical User Interface). In Win98SE, the WEB browser was just another application. In fact I use Netscape which is now owned by AOL.

    The release of SP3 was a roll-up of all previous updates/changes from SP2 and a few added features that were of interest to advanced users.

  3. Vista

  4. Then came Vista (aka Windows Vista).

    As expected from the release history above, the original Vista was very buggy. With the release of Vista SP1 it was greatly improved.

    But, in my opinion (very frankly), Vista sucks. Why? The driving force behind Vista SEEMS to be security, but to the point of making things very difficult. Most especially with Vista Home.

    Vista is very dumbed-down, with nags and confirmations for things that were easy to change in WinXP. What makes this a big fault with Vista, is that they did NOT make it EASY (have USER OPTIONS) to make Vista behave like WinXP. Vista acts like EVERY user is a novice (aka dumb).

    Then they took away some features that every user of WinXP was familiar with, like the Menu Bar. So far, I have found only IE7 can have the Menu Bar as an option. I have YET to find a way to have Explorer (aka My Computer) have a Menu Bar.

    Another that gives us a problem at work with Vista, in User Accounts they took away the option Change the way users log on or off. We do work for the government, and they expect to have the WinXP style Logon Dialog, which is what you get when you UNCHECK Use the Welcome Screen in the Change the way users log on or off dialog in WinXP. We are still researching a workaround.

    Also, the Vista default interface (Taskbar and Start Menu Properties & Explorer Properties) make it even MORE difficult to find what you want than the default WinXP interface. Vista's saving grace in this instance it the ability to change these options to Classic View.

    An example of what I mean, I never understood WHY WinXP use the Categorized View of Control Panel, especially for casual/novice users. Just HOW do users decide what category what they want to do falls under? The Classic View of Control Panel shows everything you can set/change, no guessing.

    Also, here an excerpt from ComputerWorld:

    "Visual Tour: 20 Things You Won't Like About Windows Vista" by Scot Finnie 6/1/2006

    NOTE: This evaluation is from the Vista Beta 2 release

    20 Things You Won't Like

    So, why is the year-old Mac OS X Tiger so much better than Windows Vista, which Microsoft won't even ship before January 2007? It isn't that Apple has put more effort into its operating system; Microsoft has mounted a gargantuan effort on Windows Vista. It's that the two companies have very different goals. I've come to believe that Microsoft has lost touch with its user base.

    Instead, Microsoft is focused on casting off its yoke as the industry's security whipping boy. It's also intent on raising the bar to 64-bit architecture, driving the need for advanced video hardware and dual-core motherboards, and pushing the RAM standard to 2GB -- all to help spur hardware and software sales over the next several years. Even though there are many great aspects of Windows Vista, taken as a whole, this next one could be Microsoft's first significant operating system failure in quite some time -- at least, as it's configured in Beta 2.

    Here are the 20 Vista behaviors and functionalities that could turn off Windows users. Windows newbies may not mind some of these things, but they will definitely try the patience of the millions of Windows users who've got real experience and muscle memory invested in Microsoft's desktop operating system.

    (just the paragraph headers)

    • 20. Minimum video system requirements are more like maximum

    • 19. Aero stratification will cause businesses woe

    • 18. User Account Controls $#^%!~\!!!

    • 17. Two words: Secure Desktop

    • 16. (skip, applies to Vista Beta 2 only)

    • 15. Some first-blush networking peeves

    • 14. Windows peer networking is still balky

    • 13. Network settings user experience went backwards

    • 12. Too many Network Control Panel applets, wizards and dialogs

    • 11. Display settings have changed for no apparently good reason

    • 10. Where are the file menus?

    • 9. (skip, applies Windows Defender Beta 2)

    • 8. Problems without solutions

    • 7. Lack of Windows Sidebar Gadgets (vs Live)

    • 6. Media Center isn't all there and falls flat

    • 5. Faulty assumption on the Start Menu

    • 4. Installation takes forever

    • 3. Version control

    • 2. Price

    • 1. Little originality, sometimes with a loss of elegance

  5. Windows 7

  6. Windows 7 is still under development, but both Microsoft and Wikipedia have pages with info.

    Note the Removed features section in Wikipedia article.

    The biggest killer for me, is removal of Classic Start Menu. NO WAY JOSE!

Again, in my opinion, if Microsoft was GENUINELY interested in users, the would NEVER take away user options. It is OK to set defaults to what Microsoft envisions, but you keep the free choice of users to change back to what they are already comfortable with. What users of WinXP have come to expect.

You do not want a large learning-curve for a OS upgrade. You want the upgrade to be transparent and easy to use. A truly user-friendly upgrade would be to offer the OPTION for the user to tell Setup to use ALL old settings. In the case of a WinXP to Vista upgrade, Vista's Setup should have offered to use ALL WinXP settings.

OK, I think I've ranted enough.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

WINXP - Keeping Hardware Drivers Up-to-Date

This post is about ways to keep your PC's hardware drivers updated. Sometimes it is not easy. First, some definitions.

  • Firmware are NOT Drivers. They are code on ICs on your hardware.

    The over-riding rule in Firmware, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This is especially true of the BIOS Firmware on your motherboard.

    There is NO "rollback" when updating Firmware.

    You update Firmware ONLY is something does not work, and you get the update from the manufacturer of the hardware, NOT a 3rd party.


  • Drivers are files that are part of your OS (WinXP) and allow you OS to "talk to" the hardware.

    WinXP has a rollback feature for drivers.

    It is relatively easy to upgrade or downgrade drivers.

There exists easy driver updates, especially if the manufacturer provides an WEB base utility like nVidia does.

But not all manufacturers have easy driver updates. You have to go to their Support and see if they have a driver-download page. Even then, there is a very, very confusing issue with knowing if you need an updated driver.

It has to do with the version stated for the driver files. Here's an example that happened to me recently, there was a driver update VIA Rhine Ethernet v1.14, no problem, my DRIVER was v2.25, no need to update. WRONG!

The v1.14 is the version of the driver update FILE, not the version of the driver. The driver inside the FILE was VIA Rhine Fast Ethernet v3.35

What you can do is use a driver WEB site. Here are 2 that I use.
  • DriverAgent

  • This site has a tool that will scan your system and show you what drivers you have AND if there are updated versions. Note, it will show ALL drivers in WinXP, therefore you should only consider updating the ones you actually use.

  • DriverGuide

  • This is a good site for finding older drivers for hardware no longer supported. You have to know what version of the hardware is AND what version of the driver you have (if you have it).

    They also have their own Driver Scan tool.

  • Uniblue DriverScanner (update 7/20/2009)

  • Just discovered this one. Has a very good GUI, free to download and run a Scan, but you have to Register (aka pay $29.95 to download driver updates).
    Also includes a Driver Backup which you should do BEFORE updating your drivers.

    Found 2 outdated drivers on my home system, one of witch improved my gaming after installing. Less, much less, lockups that required manual Restart.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PC SECURITY - Virus Threats and Reality

I am posting this because of the 4/2009 issue of the Conficker Worm as a "Doomsday" threat. (suggest you read the article at link)

While we all need to be diligent in protecting our PCs from all threats that come over the Network or World Wide WEB, we also need to NOT panic.

Also, there are numerous emails circulating (SPAM emails), with dire warnings about viruses, that have been out there for years. They are about old threats that, usually, have been already dealt with by all current AntiVirus/Anti-Spyware utilities.

As I posted in a previous articles (1)(2)(3), you should be running a good AntiVirus utility AND an additional Anti-Spyware utility. In both case, you MUST keep the Threat Definitions up-to-date, regardless of the cost.

There are very good sites you can use to see what the REAL current threats are:

I use all three.