How to Create a Windows 7 Firewall Shortcut

How to Create a Windows 7 Firewall Shortcut
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! (But just for a sec while I check something out.)

Ever wondered how to create a Windows 7 firewall shortcut? If not, you’re probably wondering why anyone would do such a thing. Maybe you’re just smiling and nodding, not even sure what in the heck a firewall is in the first place. Well, without going into too much detail that might bore you before we even get started, a firewall can be hardware or software that monitors your computer’s incoming and outgoing traffic to prevent nasty things from happening to it. Windows includes a software-based firewall as part of its operating system. Normally, this is a good thing.

But if you encounter network problems, one of the first things you should do is disable the Windows firewall to see if it’s the cause of the problem — it’s pretty common. However, disabling the Windows firewall entails so many steps, and you’ll want to enable it again once you’ve identified and resolved the problem.

To make it easier to enable and disable the Windows firewall, you can create a Windows firewall shortcut, as described here:

  • Right click on the desktop, point to New, and click Shortcut.
  • In the shortcut location box, type the following: netsh firewall set opmode disable.
  • Click Next.
  • Type in a name for the shortcut (one that makes it easy to identify what the shortcut is for, like Windows Firewall Shortcut: Disable, for instance).
  • Click Finish.
  • Right click the new shortcut on your desktop and click Properties.
  • Select the Shortcut tab and click the Advanced button.
  • Select the Run as administrator option and click OK.

Now, by double clicking the new shortcut, you can disable the Windows firewall. You should also create a similar shortcut to enable the Windows Firewall. Simply repeat the steps outlined above, only adding the following command in step 2: netsh firewall set opmode enable and naming the shortcut something like Windows Firewall Shortcut: Enable.

Of course, you could name it something like Moose Dandruff Odor Shampoo Paternity Test, but that would be totally silly.

Image: from Child-Land, by Oscar Pletsch and M. Rictor via Project Gutenberg

Add a Videos Link to Your Start Menu in Windows 7

Add a Videos Link to Your Start Menu in Windows 7
You don’t have to use The Force to add a Videos link to your Start menu in Windows 7. Just follow these simple steps.

No Videos link in the Windows 7 Start menu? As some green dame once exclaimed in surprise when things weren’t quite going her way, “What a world! What a world!”

Even many of the bookworms among us would confess that videos — especially in the age of the Internet, serve a pretty broad number of purposes. Videos can be used to instruct others, clarify points, document daily life, entertain, convey information with nuances lost in the written word, solve crimes, plan art museum heists, keep a clandestine eye on your belongings when you’re away, and the list goes on.

Online streaming services like YouTube and Ustream have taken off like gangbusters over the past few years, and their popularity shows no sign of stopping. Since we don’t (yet) have holodecks or truly 3D, interactive television, videos are the next best thing to being there. The quality of video has improved vastly since Thomas Edison’s day, but its ability to delight the child in all of us has never diminished.

And as most of us are consumers of video, there are those who must create that video. And those people who frequently work with videos may have noticed that the Windows 7 Start menu does not include a link to the Videos folder. The Start menu only includes links to the Pictures and Music folders. Not very convenient if you create, save, or watch a lot of videos. Why isn’t there a Videos link in the Windows 7 Start menu? Heck, we could ask “why?” about a lot of things that operating systems designers do and do not do, but that’s probably better addressed elsewhere. Let’s focus on how we can get a Videos link in your Windows 7 Start menu, shall we?

If you use the Start menu to access these folders, you can add a Videos link to your Start menu by using the steps described below.

How to Add a Videos Link to Your Start Menu in Windows 7

  • Right click on the Start menu button and click Properties.
  • Verify that the Start Menu tab is active. Click the Customize button.
  • Under the Video section, select either the Display as a link or Display as a menu option.
  • Click OK to close the Customize Start Menu dialog box.
  • Click OK.

The biggest irony of all? At the time of this writing, there’s no video to accompany this post. This will likely change, but in the meantime, somehow, you’ll manage. Might I recommend checking out the Pirillo Vlog? Or even coming to VloggerFair in Seattle this June? We’d love to meet you!

Image: Sith shared by Juliana Coutinho via Flickr

Microsoft: Vista and Windows 7 Users Need to Dump Gadgets

Gadgets or widgets are those cute little icons that appear on our desktops when we turn our computers on. Gadgets were first introduced by Microsoft in 2007 when the company first incorporated them in its release of Vista and again later when it introduced its Windows 7 software. These gadgets are meant to be helpful and to provide you with information about the current weather conditions, the time, or news in your area. While Microsoft refers to these icons as gadgets, other companies, like Yahoo! or Apple, refer to them as widgets, which basically describes an application that appears on one’s desktop.

I must admit that, at the time Microsoft originally introduced the gadget feature, I liked the idea that they were enabled, by default, within the pre-installed Vista operating system. I was further impressed with the vast assortment of different gadgets that Microsoft had made available for the consumer. I know that, when I scrounged through the list of the many options, I found some useful and others not so much. Eventually, I selected three gadgets that I personally liked enough to use and carry over when I later upgraded my computer system to Windows 7.

However, Microsoft now contends that these gadgets are a security problem and have advised all users to dump the gadgets. From what the company tells us, it now appears that these gadgets, when enabled, present a security issue that can expose your Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating system to corruption by outside forces. To assist the user in disabling the gadget portion of the software, Microsoft has set up an advisory site as well as a link to Microsoft Fix it automatically, which will disable gadgets and the sidebar.

However, I would like to make a personal, unsubstantiated observation that I made after reading this article. My feeling — and, again, I am not 100% positive of this — is that Microsoft is looking for an excuse to eliminate gadget development and is simply using the security issue as an excuse to mollify consumers who may be upset by this decision. On the corporate side, however, I must admit that I can see that there is not a lot of money to be made on gadgets. On the other hand, there is a boatload of cash awaiting the company and its developers in the creation and deployment of application software.

While these are my own personal thoughts on Microsoft’s intentions, I base my assumptions on the fact that, when I first bought my first laptop that came pre-installed with Vista, the assortment of gadgets was noteworthy. So, while I do not know the exact number, I seem to recall that at the time there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 gadgets available. However, by the time I replaced that system and bought a new laptop that came pre-installed with Windows 7, the number of available gadget choices had shrunken considerably. From that, I believe one can conclude that, by the time Microsoft released its Windows 7 operating system, it had already decided to eliminate gadgets from its development department. This appears to have now been achieved since it did not include any gadget options within its new Windows 8 operating system package.

With that being said, since there is no longer any support for gadgets within the company, it makes sense that Microsoft would attempt to convince the consumer that security issues were the real issue and encourage them to dump them as soon as possible.

Just my two cents.

Comments welcome.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 7’s Accessibility Features

Like its predecessors, Windows 7 includes several built-in accessibility features. These features make it easier for users with a wide range of physical challenges to use Windows 7 and their computers. Furthermore, many of the accessibility features carried over from previous versions of Windows are improved in Windows 7.

Ease of Access Center

Windows 7's Accessibility FeaturesWhen it comes to finding the accessibility settings and programs, the Ease of Access Center is the central place to go. Some of the features you will find here include:

  • A basic screen narrator that reads the screen text aloud
  • Various settings that make the screen easier to see
  • Speech Recognition that allows you to control your computer with voice commands
  • On-screen keyboard that you can use to type
  • Various settings to adjust the mouse and keyboard
  • Visual notifications to replace audio information

In addition, the Ease of Access Center includes a questionnaire about routine tasks and provides recommendations on the specific accessibility settings and programs that may help you.

To open the Ease of Access Center in Windows, click the Start button, Control Panel, Ease of Access and then Ease of Access Center. Alternatively, you can also use the Windows Logo Key + U. Once you are in the Ease of Access Center, select on of the common tools: Magnifier, Narrator, On-screen Keyboard, and/or High Contract.

If you are unsure which tool to start with, you can complete the questionnaire to get recommendations on the tools and settings you should use. To start the questionnaire, select the Get recommendations to make your computer easier to use option. Windows presents you with a series of statements. Place a check mark beside each of the statements that apply to you and click Next. Repeat these steps until you reach the final screen and click Done.

Windows generates a list of recommendations based on the answers in the questionnaire. Select the recommended options that you want to turn on and click Save.

Using Your Computer Without a Display

Some of the accessibility options built in to Windows 7 are designed to let you use the computer without a display. To find these options, open the Ease of Access Center and click the Use the computer without a display option. From there, you can select the options that you want to use, which includes:

  • Turn on Narrator — When this feature is enabled, a narrator reads the onscreen text aloud and describes some events that happen while you are using the computer.
  • Turn on Audio Descriptions — When you turn on Audio Descriptions, Windows describes what is happening in videos.
  • Turn off all unnecessary animations — Animation effects are disabled when Windows and other elements are closed. How long should Windows notification dialog boxes stay open? This option lets you set how long notifications should remain on screen before they are automatically closed.

Windows 7 also includes various options designed to assist those with visial impairments by making the screen easier to see. To access these options, click the Make the computer easier to see option within the Ease of Access Center. The available options include:

  • Choose a High Contrast Theme — This options lets you set a high-contrast there to heighten color contrast.
  • Turn on or off High Contrast when Left Alt+Left Shift+Print Screen is pressed — This option lets you turn a high contrast theme on or off using the keystrokes.
  • Turn On Narrator — As mentioned earlier, when this feature is enabled, a narrator reads the onscreen text aloud and describes some events that happen while you are using the computer
  • Turn on Audio Descriptions — As mentioned earlier, when you turn on Audio Descriptions, Windows describes what is happening in videos.
  • Change the size of text and icons — This options lets you make text and other items appear larger so they are easier to see.
  • Turn on Magnifier — This option turns on the magnifier. As you move your mouse around your desktop, a portion of the screen is magnified.
  • Adjust the color and transparency of the window borders — This option lets you change the appearance of window borders so they are easier to see.
  • Fine tune display effects — This option lets you customize how certain items appear on the desktop.
  • Make the focus rectangle thicker — This option makes the rectangle around the currently selected item in dialog boxes thicker, thereby making it easier to see.
  • Set the thickness of the blinking cursor — This option lets you make the blinking cursor in dialog boxes and programs thicker, thereby making it easier to see.
  • Turn off all unnecessary animations — As previously mentioned, animation effects are disabled when Windows and other elements are closed.
  • Remove background images — This option turns off all unimportant content and background images to help make the screen easier to see.

Speech Recognition

Windows 7 includes Speech Recognition that lets you control your computer by voice. In addition, you can dictate your text into various programs such as Microsoft Word leaving you a little more hands-free. You can open menu items, toolbars, dialog boxes, and have text typed in using your own voice. In other words, your computer is literally at your command.

To start Speech Recognition, click Start, Control Panel, Ease of Access then Speech Recognition. Select the Start Speech Recognition option. The first time you use Speech Recognition, Windows 7 walks you through the process of setting up your microphone and provides a speech tutorial that helps you get started.

You can also train your computer to better understand you and improve speech recognition accuracy. The more your computer knows about your particular style of speaking and the sounds in your environment, the more accurate it will be. Using the Voice Training Wizard, Windows 7 collects voice samples from you so that it can adjust to your particular speaking style.

On-screen Keyboard

Another accessibility option included with Windows 7 is the on-screen keyboard. You might find this option handy if you have impairments or if your normal keyboard is under repair. To open the onscreen keyboard for the current session, open the Ease of Access Center and select the Start On-Screen Keyboard option. A nifty little keyboard immediately appears on your screen.

You can also tell Windows to launch the onscreen keyboard each time you log on to the computer. Within the Ease of Access Center, under Explore all settings, click use the computer without a mouse or keyboard. Select the Use On-screen Keyboard and click Save.

Once the keyboard is open, you can further configure the layout. From the On-Screen Keyboard, click the Keyboard menu, and select any of the following layout options:

  • Enhanced Keyboard
  • Standard Keyboard
  • Regular Keyboard
  • Block Layout
  • 101 keys
  • 102 keys
  • 106 keys

The on-screen keyboard runs in three different modes which control how you enter data into the keyboard:

  • Clicking mode — In clicking mode, you simply click the on-screen keys.
  • Scanning mode — In scanning mode, you use a hot key or a switch-input device to type highlighted characters.
  • Hovering mode — In hovering mode, you simply use your mouse to point to a key, which is then typed.

You can change the mode by selecting the Settings menu from within the on-screen keyboard, clicking Typing Mode and choosing the mode you want to use.

Keyboard and Mouse Settings

Windows 7 includes various keyboard and mouse settings that make them easier to use. For example, normally you use a mouse to open menus, commands, and dialog boxes. If you find it difficult to use the mouse, you can press the corresponding key strokes instead. Not only can this be easier for users with physical challenges but it can also be faster once you become familiar with some of the common keystrokes.

Settings that make the keyboard easier to use:

  • Turn on Mouse Keys — This option lets you use the arrow keys on your keyboard or the numeric keypad to move the pointer.
  • Turn on Sticky Keys — This option let you press a modifier key and have it remain active until another key is pressed, as opposed to pressing three keys at once.
  • Turn on Toggle Keys — With this option enabled, Windows alerts you each time you press the Caps Lock, Num Lock, or Scroll Lock keys.
  • Turn on Filter Keys — With this option enabled, Windows ignores keystrokes that occur in rapid succession, or keystrokes that are held down for several seconds unintentionally.
  • Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys — This option makes keyboard access in dialog boxes easier by highlighting access keys for the controls in them.
  • Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen — This option prevents windows from automatically resizing and docking along the sides of your screen when you move them there.

Settings that make the mouse easier to use:

  • Change the color and size of mouse pointers — These options let you make the pointer larger and a different color
  • Turn on Mouse Keys — This option lets you use the numeric pad to control the mouse pointer
  • Activate a window by hovering over it with the mouse — This option lets you activate windows by pointing to them as opposed to clicking them
  • Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen — This option prevents windows from automatically resizing and docking along the sides of your screen when you move them there.

This should help acquaint you with the basics of Windows 7’s accessibility features. Did we miss any? Let us know about any of your favorites and how we can benefit from them, too!

My Five Favorite Windows 7 Tips

Over the years, tips and tricks for all versions of Windows have taken us on a roller-coaster ride of experiences — some good and some not so good. Nonetheless, Windows 7 has now taken root and is currently on the peak of its climb having already enthralled many of the users who read articles here at LockerGnome. Given that, I thought I would share my favorite tips for Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7. It is, therefore, not going to be a surprise to us geeks that this system is going to continue to take us for a wild spin that will be unlike any before it — including Windows Vista. With this in mind, we must all be prepared to undergo the twists and bends that this operating system has to offer as we learn to play by a new set of rules and deal with unforeseen problems and unique issues. However, I believe that each of these can best be addressed by some simple tweaks and, over all, should be non-invasive to the operating system. By this I mean that the tips I will be presenting should not, in any way, prevent you from running Windows 7 successfully on your computer. However, on any given day, anything can happen, so I always recommend that you create a System Restore point before making any adjustments to Windows.

Here are my five favorite tips for Windows 7.

Deluxe Control Panel

I personally found it annoying when Microsoft, with the introduction of Windows Vista, decided to revamp Control Panel. Even after years of using this particular feature, it still has me stumbling about looking for the options I need to make some simple adjustments. Therefore, I have a tip which will provide the user with some 250+ options, all located in one simple-to-open folder. Here is how to set up what I fondly call ‘Deluxe Control Panel.’

  • Right click on your Desktop and select New Folder.
  • Name the folder with a name of your choosing like Deluxe Control Panel, or something else you like.
  • After the name, put in a period and then the following string: {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
  • Your entry for the name should look like this: Deluxe Control Panel.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
  • Once you press the Enter key, you’re all set to go. Click on the folder and you will have some 250+ options right at your fingertips, which means no more hunting around looking for an option that is hidden or buried several layers down.

Hidden Feature

When I first started using Windows 7, I could not understand why, when I inserted a blank memory card, the drive did not show up in the Computer section along with other drives. Then I discovered that Microsoft has added a new feature to Windows 7 that keeps the drive hidden when the drive is empty. Using this simple tip, you can change the necessary setting to avoid running into this issue.

Here is how to do it:

  • Open Control Panel and click on Folder Options.
  • Select the View tab.
  • Uncheck Hide empty drives in the Computer folder.
  • Click OK and that’s all there is to it.

Improve System Restore

The System Restore feature has been in place since Windows XP and is either loved or hated by those in computerland. Those who hate this feature believe that the System Restore feature is a waste of system resources (hard disk space), and turn the System Restore feature off completely. These detractors choose, instead, to use third-party software to create an image of the drive that they can then use to recreate a known good state of Windows. Others, such as I, believe that System Restore is a good feature and take advantage of what Microsoft has built into Windows. In fact, I have even increased the amount of space available for this feature from the normal 2% to 5%, believing that it will provide extra protection for my system in case something goes wrong.

Here is how to improve the System Restore feature to your liking:

  • Open Control Panel and click on System.
  • At the next screen, click on System Protection.
  • At the next screen (System Properties should be auto selected; if it is not, manually select this tab), click on the Configure button.
  • From here you can select the option to Turn Off, adjust the size of Disk Space Usage using the slider, or Delete All Restore Points.

Why would you need to delete all previous restore points? Some malware corrupts System Restore points so that when the computer is restarted, your system is reinfected. This is one reason some people do not use System Restore and turn the feature off. With that being said, I have only had to use the System Restore feature twice in the last 10 years to restore my system after installing a software that actually caused issues on my computer. For what it’s worth: I use System Restore and also a third-party imaging software.

Problem Steps Recorder

For any of us who have been anointed with the title ‘guru’ and have become the neighborhood, family, friend, and acquaintance go-to-person when a Windows problem surfaces, you know how frustrating it can be. It is especially frustrating when the person on the other end of the phone, email, or forum posting is an obvious novice when it comes to Windows and their description of the problem includes words such as ‘thingies,’ ‘whatchamacallits,’ and other non-descriptive terms that are not helpful in determining a possible cause of a problem.

Microsoft has added a feature to Windows 7 that can help you diagnose a problem by actually looking at a recording of the problem. It’s called Problem Steps Recorder, and here is how to use it:

  • Press Start, type in PSR, and hit the Enter key.

The Problem Steps Recorder will appear on the screen, and it looks like this:

By simply clicking on Start Record and stopping the recording when done, the file can be emailed to you for your examination. This is one valuable tool that can help us to diagnose problems on a Windows 7 PC.

Create System Repair Disc

As simple as this might seem for the geeks who are reading this, it always amazes me that people either don’t have a System Repair disc or copies of the DVDs that should have been created when they purchased their new computer. When problems rear their ugly heads, it is at that time that the sad truth surfaces and in which the lack of foresight will come back to haunt them and hurt their wallets. To create a System Repair disc, follow these simple instructions:

  • Go to Start, Maintenance, and click on Create a System Repair Disc.

The above screen will appear and all you need to do is click on Create Disc. Either a CD or DVD will work to create the repair disc.

Comments welcome.

How Not to Upgrade from 32-bit Windows 7 to 64-bit Windows 7

Until I purchased my latest computer, I had never given much thought to the difference between the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of Windows. In fact, since I had been using the 32-bit version of Windows since Microsoft first introduced Windows 95, I had never experienced a need to upgrade to the 64-bit OS — despite the knowledge that my previous laptop’s processor supported it. I had even found the need to upgrade negligible when I began using Microsoft’s Windows 7 Ultimate since I was satisfied with running Windows 7 in 32-bit mode. By running my system in this mode, I also found I had no difficulty using Windows XP to operate an older program that I had installed in the days before Windows XP came out.

My satisfaction with the 32-bit system and the way it interfaced with my existing software was obvious when I chose to download the entirety of my antiquated computer system’s program library in preparation for its installation onto my new laptop. However, while I had been careful in my preparations to ensure that this download would result in my new system mimicking my old one, I had not thought about the new laptop arriving pre-installed with the Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium version complete with SP1 revision software. As soon as I saw this, I knew that if I wanted to take advantage of the Windows XP mode, I needed to install either the Professional or the Ultimate version of Windows 7. Obviously, then, that meant that my first order of business was to upgrade the new laptop to Windows 7 Ultimate with SP1 with 64-bit support. The upgrade took only a few minutes and went off without any issues.

Problem 1

Mistakes I Made Changing from 32-bit Windows 7 to 64-bit Windows 7After I finished the upgrade, I installed Windows XP mode from a CD I had made back in 2010. Once again, the installation appeared to go perfectly. So what’s the problem? Simple: Even though it appeared to be installed correctly, XP mode would not activate. The hourglass just continued to spin and spin, but nothing happened.

Thinking that maybe there was an easy fix out there, I went to Microsoft’s site for installing Windows XP mode and learned two things:

  • There is a 64-bit version of Windows XP mode
  • If you have Windows 7 with SP1, the install process has changed.

With this information in hand, I downloaded the new file, uninstalled the old Windows XP mode, and then re-installed the new file, and all was well.

Microsoft Windows Virtual PC has more information about Windows XP mode.

Problem 2

Before I proceed, let me explain that while I use a software called One Click DVD Copy, it is not being done to circumvent any copyright laws. One Click DVD Copy requires DVD43 to function properly and, when activated, can make copies of homemade DVD movies. However, before reloading it onto my new system, I had downloaded and installed what I thought was a fresh copy of DVD43 only to find that my One Click DVD Copy failed to function.

At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was the One Click DVD Copy software or DVD 43 that wasn’t working properly. Upon searching the Internet, however, I was able to locate a 64-bit copy of the DVD43 plug-in. Once this plug-in was in place, the One Click DVD Copy software worked without a hitch.

Problem 3

The next issue I encountered was when I attempted to install and sync my iTunes account with the new laptop.

Everything seemed copacetic until I tried to download the iTunes purchases to my Apple iPad. Once I did this, you would have thought my system was going to have a nervous breakdown. I lost my USB connection and my hard disk sounded like it was going to jump out of the laptop. However, as soon as I uninstalled iTunes, the system returned to normal operation. Obviously, I was disappointed as I had never had such issues with iTunes when using the 32-bit system.

I am not alone, though, since I have read other reviewers who claim to have experienced a similar problem. That sent me on a quest to find a solution that would allow me to download iTunes with 64-bit support. (Success!)

Problem 4

This issue occurred with my Microsoft Wireless Notebook Mouse 3000. It appeared that the auto setup installation was flawless, but the next morning when I booted up my system, the mouse didn’t work.

This is the same mouse I had been using on the old laptop and the only issue I had ever experienced was the need to replace the battery. Of course, then, my first thought was that I needed to check the battery — which I did. It was well charged, so I tried changing USB ports to see if one of them was not working properly. Still no mouse.

That meant that once again I had to set off on a quest to find the hidden answer as to why my mouse wouldn’t work on my new system. After searching through the mother lode of available material out there, I once again found what I needed at Microsoft’s site where I downloaded and installed the 64-bit version of the software for this particular mouse and it now works perfectly.

Looking back on these minor issues, and acknowledging that the majority of new laptops come with the Windows 64-bit pre-installed on them, I have to admit that Microsoft has done a very good job at getting software and hardware companies to offer 64-bit software or drivers for this rendition of Windows. I personally believe that the benefits of using a 64-bit version of Windows far outweigh any negativity or issues that may occur.

Regarding the 64-bit version of Windows that came pre-installed, I was asked the following question:

I read that the new laptop you purchased came with Windows 7 64-bit. I have Windows 7 Home Premium with 32-bit and I want to upgrade to 64-bit. Can I upgrade over the old version?

The answer to this question is, unfortunately, no. The 64-bit version of Windows 7 requires you to start with a clean install. Personally, unless you have a free weekend to kill, I see no benefit to installing the 64-bit version unless you are adding more than 3 GB of RAM to your computer. I also informed the person asking the question that the 64-bit version has been offered by Microsoft since Windows XP was released for home use. In addition, you must remember that your CPU must support 64-bit or it will not work. I received this reply back:

I have a 32-bit processor. :-(

So for him, my answer was discouraging, but for others of you out there who may be considering upgrading your system to a Windows 7 64-bit or are planning on buying a new computer with Windows 7 64-bit pre-installed, you may wish to check out the Microsoft Compatibility Center. The company lists all compatible software that will run on Windows 7 including which software products are 64-bit compatible. The list is quite extensive.

Comments welcome.

7plus for Windows 7

7plus For Windows 7We all know that there just aren’t usually enough hours in the day to get the constructive things done that we’d like to cross off of our to-do lists before heading off to enjoy the leisure activities of our choosing or — most blessed leisure activity of all — sleep. It’s a sad fact of life that labor saving devices designed to give us back this precious time often operate counter to this goal and cause us to take on more work. Don’t have to churn your own butter? Excellent! Then surely you’ll have more time to compile this very important report and have it for the boss by tomorrow morning. No longer need to hang out by the river to scrub clothes clean because one of those new-fangled washing machines will do it for you now? Perfect! Surely you can put stamps on these 1,000 letters begging for fundraising at the nonprofit where you volunteer and have them out by this afternoon! Did Laura Ingalls and her family have to worry about this kind of nonsense in their little house on the prairie?

If you like trying new things that might actually make your constructive time more so, take a look at 7plus for Windows 7. 7plus is a project that adds additional features and functionality to Windows 7 in an attempt to help you be more productive. For example, it lets you upload files to an FTP server from within Windows Explorer using a single hotkey. I know may people who would find this feature alone to be very useful.

There is a lengthy list of features included with 7plus. Here is a quick highlight of some of the features you can expect to see:

  • Upload content to an FTP server within Windows Explorer using one hotkey
  • Create new folders and text files by pressing F8/F7
  • Paste text or image from the clipboard as file
  • Set Windows to always be on top by right clicking the title bar
  • Add tabs for Windows Explorer
  • Show free space and selected file size in the status bar

Download 7plus here and see a complete list of features included with 7plus.

Microsoft TV Commercial Suggests Dumping Old PCs – Should I Listen?

The television industry must be ecstatic that some of the major technology players are hitting the air waves with their commercials. We first saw Google touting the benefits of its Chrome browser over Internet Explorer. A Staples television commercial shows a family coming home to find their home has been burglarized. Sitting on the floor is an old PC that the crooks didn’t even bothering stealing, since it was just too old to bother with.

Microsoft’s new television commercial takes us into new, uncharted territory. The television commercial is an attempt to convince those who are using older computers, in the four-year-old or older range, to dump their Windows XP for Windows 7. These are those older computers that could not be upgraded to Windows Vista or Windows 7.

One would think that Microsoft has a battle in which its enemy is actually itself. Windows XP was so popular that many users do not want to dump their older systems, which they see as being able to do everything they need to do. I still have an older computer in the house running Windows XP. Our middle daughter has a desktop PC, also using Windows XP.

Another reason Microsoft is advertising its PC products may not be operating system related. The marketplace is changing. The change does not include Windows or the PC. Apple made a dent in the PC marketplace with its extremely popular Apple iPad tablet computers. In addition, many more people are using smartphones as computer replacements. Few of these smartphones use Windows Phone 7.

I will soon be in a position where I believe many of you may be finding yourselves. In October, I will be in the market to replace my three-year-old laptop computer. I have already found a perfect replacement from Toshiba. The price for the new laptop will be about $700. But I am also intrigued by the Apple iPad 2, which, combined with a Bluetooth keyboard, would work well for me.

I have been using Google Docs with the Google Chrome Cr-48 computer that I have for testing. I have found that I can use Google Docs and have no need to store anything on the computer itself. Also, I have the Cr-48 setup to print on both my printers, so that is not an issue.

So I will be exploring either buying another laptop, an Apple iPad 2, or maybe just continue using the free Google Chrome Cr-48 that Google was so kind to send me.

What would you do?

Comments welcome.

Microsoft ‘Windows 7 Has Sold More Than 350 Million Licenses’

Because I am an MVP [Microsoft Valuable Professional], some may consider my opinion nothing more than parroting the thoughts of Microsoft as a company. One of the things that I enjoy about being an MVP is the fact that not once has Microsoft told me what to write nor suggested I cease writing about a specific subject, even when that subject line may be critical to Microsoft and their products. With this in mind I would like to express my opinion about a blog article by Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft employee, in which it states in the article that ‘Windows 7 has sold more than 350 million licenses’, and that this has occurred during the past 18 months.

During the past 18 months I have tried different operating systems on my test computer including a variety of Linux versions. I even tried Mint 10 on my personal work laptop and just about had myself convinced that I could make the switch away from Windows and that Linux could serve my needs. Last December I received a beta laptop from Google known as the Cr-48 which uses the Chrome operating system, again hoping that this notebook could ween me away from Windows.

So why would I want to dump Windows for another operating system? I had to ask myself this question and I can honestly say I haven’t a clue. Each time I have tried walking away, I have returned to my Windows system with open arms. The reason is that Windows is what I am familiar with, has the programs I need and I enjoy using Windows 7. Windows 7 has something that no other operating system has. It can handle office suites, business software with ease and also can handle gaming. Linux, Mac and Chrome can not even compete with Windows on this multi-faceted level. Windows is like the swiss army knife of all operating systems.

I think what we are going to see is a separation of operating systems for specific devices. Apple and Android will continue to dominate the tablet market because both of these operating systems are lite in resource usage and work perfectly on small devices. The Apple Mac remains a niche product for those who want a system meeting their specific needs. Windows will continue to dominate for decades to come because it is a good product.

Windows remains the best operating system on the planet. In my opinion it should come as no surprise that Windows 7 has become so popular in the past 18 months. Windows 7 is the operating system to beat and no one has actually been able to top it on the desktop.

I am sure others of you will have different opinions and chose to voice them loudly and clearly.

Comments welcome.

Source – Blogging Windows




Here Is Why The PC Will Not Be Replaced By The iPad Or Tablet

Though the term ‘post PC era’ makes for great journalist headlines, the fact is that the words that Steve Jobs stated have been misinterpreted. Some seem to believe that we are entering into a period of time where the PC or Mac desktop and laptops will be replaced by either the Apple iPad or other brand of tablet computer. Though this makes for great headlines and snappy commentary, the fact is that the PC, whether it be a Windows or Mac machine, is not going anywhere.

In our home we have the following computers that serve a specific purpose:

Desktop PC: I have what I consider to be a fairly powerful computer for gaming which uses Windows 7 and functions very well. The system has a large monitor and superior sound system, to make game playing as realistic as humanely possible.

Laptop PC: I have a 17″ laptop that I use as my main computer. I use the system for blogging, Internet surfing, emails, and social networking. The laptop has a full-sized keyboard, which makes typing easy for me and a pleasure to use.

Google Cr-48 notebook beta: I use the Google Chrome OS notebook about three to four times a week. I use the system mainly when I am outside of the home and will connect via a Wi-Fi or Verizon 3G network. What is attractive about this device is that it is lightweight compared to my laptop, and it can be used easily almost anywhere, since it takes up very little space — I can surf and eat at the same time when outside of the home.

Apple iPad: This is my wife’s computer along with a laptop she also owns. I bought a Bluetooth keyboard and protective case for the iPad. The keyboard, though smallish like the one on the Cr-48, does work well and makes typing easier compared to the on-screen keyboard.

Like many of you, I am in a quandary. I find that I rarely use my desktop any longer for gaming. In fact the system sits alone by itself in a closed bookcase and rarely sees the light of day. I guess my old gaming days have come to an end and I am giving some consideration of selling the unit. My laptop will need to be replaced sometime this year and here is where my problem surfaces. What do I buy to replace the 17″ laptop?

I have been considering another laptop, but most likely will buy a 15.6″ model. The new Toshiba laptops have wide screens that are just as big as the 17″, but weigh a few pounds less. But wait. If I don’t need to lug the 17″ around when I leave the home, does it really matter how much it weighs? I basically use the laptop as a desktop replacement. There are also the Google Chrome notebooks being released in June of this year that could replace my laptop. Or do I get an Apple iPad 2 with Bluetooth keyboard?

Decisions, decisions, and more decisions. But is this decision really that hard to make? The bottom line for me is that each of these machines provides a different user experience and performs a different function. I believe that the computer user of the future will have many different devices in order to take advantage of everything that technology has to offer.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – Macworld

The Bubblies Are Flowing At Microsoft As Windows 7 Bypasses Windows XP

Microsoft has been trying to get users of Windows XP to dump their old computers or to buy a new system with Windows 7 installed. Most of the older Windows XP machines could not be upgraded to Windows 7 because of the steep hardware requirements. So Microsoft has patiently been waiting for the day that Windows XP would finally be over taken by Windows 7. That day has finally arrived but the numbers are very, very close. Windows XP users garner 31.56% and Windows 7 now stands at 31.71% for users in the United States.

It is hard to believe that Windows XP was released almost 10 years ago in August 2001. It is also hard to believe how long Windows XP has remained a viable operating system. I had previously mentioned that both my dentist’s office and local TV stations still were using Windows XP. So it still may take Microsoft another 10 years before they see the last of Windows XP.

So what does this tell us about Windows XP? I believe it demonstrates Microsoft’s ability to build a reliable operating system that just flat-out works. I know that over the years we hear about how wonderful Mac OS is, but the fact is that even Windows XP has double the amount of users compared to all those who are running all versions of the Mac OS. That in itself says quite a bit about a 10-year-old operating system.

But there is one statistic that might not make the folks at Microsoft happy. Worldwide use for Windows XP still remains at about 48%. So while the people in the US may be buying new computers with Windows 7 installed, the rest of the world is hanging onto their old computers using Windows XP.

How long do you think before Windows 7 over takes Windows XP for worldwide use?

Comments as always are welcome.

Source – Royal Pingdom

Source – Statcounter

Samsung’s Slider Tablet Combo Notebook (Say That Three Times Fast!)

A few days ago, I had mentioned that one of the problems with the tablet computers, were that they were not equipped with a real QWERTY keyboard. Though Dell has a device with a flip screen that doubles as both a tablet and notebook, Samsung seems to have the right idea in design and function. Samsung will introduce in March of this year, a tablet computer with a slide out keyboard. The unit, pictured below, has just one small problem. It comes with Windows 7 installed, which has not received rave reviews when running on a tablet computer.

Some of the technical facts are:

As far as technical details are concerned, the 7 Series will be available in 32- or 64GB and Samsung is reporting expandable storage via a 4-in-1 memory card reader which sounds neat on paper but we’d like some more details. There’s also a HDMI port for sharing multimedia on HD TVs which is something we haven’t seen on a lot of tablets so far. Webcam on the front is standard but as far as we can tell there’s no back-facing cam.

The computer will also have an Intel Atom processor at 1.66GHz, but no mention how much RAM the unit will have, but my guess will be about 2 GB of RAM. Windows 7 needs at least that much to function at an acceptable performance rate.

Price for the unit will retail at about $699.

Comments welcome.

Source – Mobile Magazine

Windows 7 For Dummies

There should be an image here!Windows For Dummies is the all-time bestselling guide to the Windows operating system. Windows 7 For Dummies answers all your questions about the interface adjustments and all the new tools in Windows 7.

Whether you’re new to computers or just eager to start using the newest version of Windows, expert author Andy Rathbone will walk you step by step through the most common Windows 7 tasks, including managing files, applications, media, and Internet access. If you’ve never used Windows before, it shows you the things most books assume you already know, like how to navigate the interface, customize the desktop, and work with the file system. Then it helps you get comfortable using all aspects of Windows 7.

  • Nearly ninety percent of the world’s PCs use the Windows operating system
  • Covers basic management of applications, files, and data; creating and printing documents; setting up an Internet connection and e-mail account; and online security
  • Explores using Windows to edit and manage audio, video, and photo files, and how to create CDs, DVDs, and playlists with Media Center
  • Helps you tweak and customize Windows 7 to operate your way and set up user accounts, build a home network, and maintain your PC
  • Provides troubleshooting advice, helps you find missing files and use the Help system, and explains common error messages

Windows 7 For Dummies will have you up and running on the newest version of Windows quickly and easily.

Windows 7 Step By Step

There should be an image here!Experience learning made easy and quickly teach yourself the essentials of working with Windows 7. With Windows 7 Step by Step, you set the pace building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them!

Learn to manage windows and folders, sort and filter files, create an efficient Windows working environment, and safely access the Internet. You ll learn how to install and manage software and hardware, create and manage homegroups, share content with other computers and computer users, and instantly locate content stored on your PC or network.

You’ll also learn how to fine-tune your PC’s performance and resolve common problems. Plus, the supplied practice files give you a chance to hone your skills and put the book’s lessons to work.

Quickly Sync Your Files Online with Dropbox for Windows 7

Dropbox lets you quickly sync your files online, share files, back up your files online, and lets you access them from any computer via Web access. On top of it, Dropbox is free! (Though there is a paid version that offers more features.)

Dropbox includes many handy features, a few of which are outlined below:

  • 2 GB of online storage for free, with up to 100 GB available to paying customers.
  • Sync files of any size or type.
  • Automatically syncs when new files or changes are detected.
  • Work on files in your Dropbox even if you’re offline. Your changes sync once your computer has an Internet connection again.
  • Automatic backup of your files.
  • Copies of your files are stored on Dropbox’s secure servers so you can access them from any computer.
  • Search your entire Dropbox for files.

As I mentioned, these are just a few of the many features found in Dropbox. For a more comprehensive list, see Dropbox Features. Visit to download your copy.