Table of Contents




Technology Today June 2009
by Robert Sanborn

Windows 7

After having a miserable time with both Vista and Windows 7 on my notebook, I gave it up and reinstalled Windows XP and to this time, a couple of months, and many trips later, it has worked flawlessly. Notebook will spend the rest of his days with XP and that will be just fine for what I use him for when traveling.  As for Windows 7, I decided to give it a try on my test computer. That was the my Media Center machine that for years, would just not work that well because I am convinced, of the drivers and conflicts between Media Center and the dual video card and the TV tuner card inside that computer.  I had never been a fan of Media Center XP and from the many other computers I have had to look at with it installed, can easily see why, just too buggy, too many conflicts, and too many headaches.

There is even a separate website for looking at Windows 7 and you will soon see tons more sites popping up all over the place. But, if you really need to know whether your current computer will work with Windows 7, download the Upgrade Advisor: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/upgrade-advisor.aspx.

A couple of things you will find about Windows 7 and if you are a Vista user, the changes won’t be that radical unless you start to dig into the file structure to find things. If you go blindly along, you will do just fine but as soon as you want to stash something like you did in your DOS to XP days, you might run into some snags.  Another thing is that Windows 7 doesn’t come with a mail program any more. All I can say is hooray to see Outlook Express finally go by the wayside. Vista users will already know that it was replaced by Vista Mail but Windows 7 sends you to the cloud for Windows Live Mail. http://download.live.com/wlmail?wa=wsignin1.0.

So far, I have had it on my test system for a couple of weeks and it has really run very smoothly. A quick word of caution is that you cannot upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, you have to nuke the system and start over, but before you do, use the Upgrade advisor and the new Windows Easy Transfer Wizard to save your files and emails to an external hard drive. When installing it, Windows 7 will automatically load as many drivers as it can from its own database and if you do run into snags, just like Vista, it will be because of the hardware.  I installed Skype on the computer and while I could hear sounds just fine through the speakers, I discovered that the microphone and headphones I plug in produce nothing at all.  Checked the device manager and only found a single driver for sound that would only power the speakers so I needed to download the Intel Vista drivers for my computer. Took care of that problem. The second problem was I could not get my Creative camera to work, didn’t like the drivers built in and when I try to install the CD, even though Vista compatible, the software pops up and says I have an unsupported operating system.  (got the same results when I tried to load my copy of Norton Internet Security 2009 on the computer as well.)  The way around the camera was to plug it back in, and when Windows couldn’t find the driver, just point to the correct folder on the Creative CD and it loaded just fine so now I can make and send Skype video calls just fine.

As to the Norton, and I suspect nearly all the other security packages, they will have to come up with all new versions for Windows 7.  When I went online to chat with their tech support people, they told me that I would have to wait for the new version but Microsoft’s website points to a spot on Symantec’s that you can download a beta of their NIS 2009 product and use that.

One thing I do notice with Windows 7 is that the screen changes are really quick. When you minimize a screen to the task bar it accumulates with other like screens in a stack. For instance, I have three different tabs open in Internet Explorer 8 and when you point the mouse to them, a small preview screen with all three of them pops up on the screen just above the task bar. Point to any of the preview screens and the full version pops up quickly so as you point from one screen to the other, the full version pops up on the screen in front of you. Pretty cool and incredibly fast. Point your mouse back to the task bar and they instantly minimize again.

Right now they are telling us that this Release Candidate (RC) version of Windows 7 will expire in June 2010. I expect to see it on the shelves long before then.

More from the CES Mailbag

I don’t know about you but the confusion regarding cabling is getting worse. If you look at several websites, think Monster, you need to have an HDMI cable built to very exacting specifications in order to get the best resolution out of your high definition television. Yet, there are tons of companies out there selling very inexpensive HDMI cables for a lot of different applications that make a lot of sense. One is Flexicord, a cable that holds its shape and comes in lengths up to 10 feet. One of the CES innovations award winners. http://www.flexicord.com/.   Want a really cool looking web camera, check out the Minoru 3D Webcam at http://www.minoru3d.com/. It is a 3D camera so get your glasses ready.

So speaking of Monster, www.monstercable.com, one of the things they did at CES was to bring in some very expensive test equipment to show you what happens when you go cheap on your HDMI cable for your high definition television.  They plug in a cable, and then can show you what happens to the screen resolutions as they boost the signal that the cable has to deal with all the way up to 1080p. the dangers of cheap cables was really evident when you use a much longer cable to connect your equipment.  In one example, the cheap cable did just fine at 1080i but not at the higher 1080p resolution as you could see pixels losing themselves and the images broke up.  Look for the Monster Home Theater Connection Guide on their website for some excellent tools and ideas.

One of Monster’s ideas for going green sounded pretty good and that was their Digital Life Power Centers. Basically a surge and power strip with a real twist. You plug your computer into the main outlet and the peripherals such as speakers, printers, monitors, and what else, into what Monster calls their “GreenPower” outlets. When you turn your computer off, it automatically turns off all the other devices. Turn the computer back on, and the other devices turn on as well.

GPS Tagging, where the GPS coordinates of the location you took a picture is imbedded into the picture, is gaining more ground and Sony has come out with a GPS Tagging Camcorder.  The Sony HDR-XR520V 240GB High Definition Handycam® Camcorder is quite pricy at $1500 but it includes everything you need for high definition film. Find it at www.sonystyle.com.

Blue Ray is getting more and more mainstream as I see prices of movies dropping to reasonable levels but if you want that Blue Ray experience without having to pay the prices yet for the players, then look for what they call “Up Conversion” capability in the DVD players.  What they do is to give you an HD like image on your HDTV from standard DVDs.  Might be the best alternative yet for those with large DVD collections that don’t want to replace them all with the new Blue Ray Discs.

Lenmar has come out with a universal power port hub for charging a myriad array of devices and this looks to be a winner. It did win a CES Innovations award, but what is neat about it is that you can charge up to six different devices at the same time. The PowerPort Hub can handle your cell phone, PDA, MP3 Player, iPod, Blackberry, and any other device that uses the mini-USB connector. The good news is that more and more devices are changing over to use that connector.  The bad news is that of the devices that I have; my HP PDA, Jawbone Bluetooth Headset, Sandisk MP3 Player, and my Energizer USB Battery charger all use the larger standard size USB connectors to charge.  Fortunately, the PowerPort Hub has two standard sized USB ports and comes with a number of tips for other devices.

One thing that can make a world of difference when using a computer is keeping the screen clean. Sounds silly but turn your monitor to the light sometime and you will be amazed at how much dust and dirt has accumulated. But what has always bothered me is the best way to keep them clean. One company I ran into was Purosol, www.purosol.com, and they have developed a unique chemically safe product for flat screens such as notebooks, monitors, and LCD or Plasma televisions. What this does is besides removing the dust and prints, works to keep them off. Sounds great so ask me again next month as to how well it actually works. For now, it is the cleanest that my notebook and desktop screens have been in a very long while.  You can get a tiny 1 oz sample kit for $10 plus shipping to try it out and then go for the larger quantities later when you feel confident. That tiny sample will actually clean your screen about 50 times so start there.

Another product that we will really need as digital cameras get more and more pixels is a way to store them while we are taking more pictures. I have always used the approach of taking a bunch of digital memory cards with me when I go on trips but I find myself needing more and more cards because of the high quality of the images.  Nexto has a unique solution in the eXtreme ND-2700, http://www.nextodiusa.com/, in that it really is a high speed storage box for keeping all those images. It will read the Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) cards and all their kin, or, just connect your device via a USB cable to it and transfer images that way. When you are ready to connect to your computer, use either USB 2.0 or eSata connection for high speed data transfer. Like some of the MP3 players I see, it has a single navigation Best of all to me, it also includes data verification of the files you transfer and has diagnostic capabilities to check the memory cards you use. Amazon has it for around $210 for a 160Gig version, larger storage versions are available.

Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at robert@pcll.com


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