Ninite – A great automatic software installer

October 31, 2009

niniteIf you check out my Netbook Blog, you’ll see that I recently purchased a Dell 11z netbook system. The bad thing, is that it arrived with Windows Vista installed and not Windows 7 (which is what I expected). As such, I have to wait about 10 days to get the Dell OEM Windows 7 install DVDs in the mail (ugh).

So I’m in a dilemma– should I install all my standard apps under Vista and use my netbook for the next 10 days and then later wipe out Vista with a clean Windows 7 installation and RE-install all my apps again? I normally install about 10-12 standard applications that I use for my work (most of which take a considerable amount of time to install) and I don’t want to do these installations twice in such a close period of time. So, I decided to just install the FireFox web browser and use my new netbook at a very minimal level until the Windows 7 OS DVD arrives.

This morning, I stumbled upon a wonderful utility called Ninite which seems to be the answer to my prayers. The http://www.ninite.com web site has a list of programs that you can select, afterwhich you download an installer program that runs on your system and automatically installs all the selected applications using the default settings. So I was able to use this free service to download and install the latest versions of 18 different applications completely automatically. I launched the installer and 15 minutes later it was done, with no user interaction on my part.

ninite_1

Since I normally select all the default settings when I install apps, this utility was perfect for my needs. It also answers “no” for apps that try to install junk (like Yahoo toolbar add-ons, etc). What’s really nice, is that nearly all of my standard apps are among the listed available applications for installation, especially some of the programming apps I use.

So now I can use all my favorite apps on my new Dell netbook under Vista, and later do the same fast installation under Windows 7 and be up and running. Great, great utility!

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Windows 7 Family Pack – 3 copies for $150

October 27, 2009

win7_familypackIf you’re like me and you have several computers in your home, Microsoft is offering a Windows 7 Family Pack for those wanting to upgrade multiple PCs. You get 3 licensed copies of Windows 7 Home Premium for the price of $150 US. Since a single copy of Win 7 Home Premium is selling for $120 US, that’s a good deal. Note, this is for an “upgrade” price, so you need to have a copy of XP or Vista on your machine. However, I did a clean upgrade where my PC’s hard drive was wiped clean, so I’m not sure how the upgrade checks for a prior Windows copy?

In my home, we have lots of PCs and laptops so I do plan to get the family pack to upgrade a few laptops and one desktop PC. If you want to save even more money, you can order your family pack from Costco for $140 US. Now, I don’t think Microsoft will be offering the family pack indefinitely, so I suggest you not wait forever to get one if you’re considering it.


Workaround for incompatible apps in Windows 7

October 27, 2009

After dumping the 64-bit version of Windows 7 and going back to the 32-bit version, the first thing I did after the OS install was to get my Belkin N+ USB wireless adapter working so I could download OS updates from the Internet. So I needed to run an installer program to install the required drivers for the Belkin device. When I tried to do so, I immediately got an “Application can only run on Windows 2000/XP/Vista 32/Vista 64 platforms” and the installer quit. What the heck? I was able to get the the 64-bit version of this installer to work on Windows 7 64-bit, but the 32-bit version won’t install in Windows 7 32-bit?

So, I called the Belkin support line by phone and spoke with their India out-source support person. In speaking with her, she obviously wasn’t much of a tech person and basically told me that the Belkin USB wireless adapter that I bought three weeks ago was not compatible with the Windows 7 OS. Her suggestion was for me to return the device for a refund. Now, that is absolutely ridiculous, since Windows 7 is based on the Vista OS, and as such the driver for Vista 32-bit OS should work with Windows 7 32-bit.

So after some googling, I discovered an answer to this problem: Troubleshooting Compatibility option

If you right click on an application, you will see the “Troubleshooting compatibility” item in the popup context menu as shown below:

troubleshoot_0 Read the rest of this entry »


Dumped 64-bit, went back to 32-bit OS

October 27, 2009

trash_canI was really looking forward to switching to the 64-bit OS with my Windows 7 OS upgrade, but after using and configuring my new system for the last few days, I’ve decided to go back to the 32-bit OS world.

When you are using a Windows 64-bit system, it’s very clear that you have two distinct executables (32 and 64-bit) on your system. In fact, you have a C:\Program Files folder for 64-bit files and a C:\Program Files (x86) for 32-bit files. The problem I was having, is certain 32-bit applications just don’t run well (or at all) under the 64-bit OS. Maybe it’s poor programming on the developer’s part, but these applications simply crash or don’t runl. I had a few different applications that I used for video conversions, and I really want those apps to work.

Of course, I could use Window 7’s new XP-Mode and run theses app in a virtual XP environment (since I purchase Windows 7 Professional), at least that is what I thought. Apparently, to use this feature you need a special CPU that has “virtualization hardware”, which unfortunately, I do not have in my new Intel Quad 2 Core processor (I guess I didn’t pick the right model). So, this feature isn’t available on all modern processor, just specific ones.

Also, some of my existing hardware didn’t have 64-bit drivers (e.g., Canon Scanner, USB-to-DB25 Printer cable) so I needed to get new hardware to replace perfectly good equipment.

As such, I decided to avoid all the headache and go back to the 32-bit OS. The advantages of utilizing more than 3.25 GB of RAM just wasn’t big enough to justify all the issues I was having with the 64-bit OS. So after doing a clean install of the Windows 7 32-bit OS this time, I was back up and running. My Canon scanner is working again, along with my USB-to-DB25 printer cable setup. My software is working once more, and I’m out of the 64-bit fog.

From what I can tell, the operational speed isn’t any faster with the 64-bit over the 32-bit OS. But one thing is clear, I can certainly install and run my 32-bit apps again. Whew. So maybe by the end of next year, the 64-bit OS will be in full swing and developers will have fully working 64-bit drivers, apps, etc. so the headaches I ran into will vanish. I plan to stick to the 32-bit OS for as long as it works for me, and won’t be upgrading until everybody is on board the 64-bit train.


My Intel Core 2 Quad CPU can’t run Windows 7 XP-Mode!!

October 25, 2009

win7One of the reasons why I bought the Windows 7 Professional version was to have the ability to run in “XP Mode”, which basically uses the Microsoft Virtual PC application to simulate a PC running Windows XP. This is a useful feature in case you have an application that just doesn’t want to run under Windows 7, so you can run it in XP-mode in a virtual PC inside a window. With Win 7 Pro, Microsoft provides you with a free copy of XP, so you should be all set. So I thought.

Apparently, you need to have a computer with a CPU that is “Hardware-assisted Virtualization” capable. And guess what? I don’t have one!

What’s really amazing, is that I have an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU (Model Q8200 @ 2.33 GHz) with 4 GB of RAM running Windows 7 64-bit OS and I can’t use this feature. My machine isn’t powerful enough. What the heck!!??

xp-mode

It seems that certain CPUs have this HAV technology that is a requirement for Microsoft Virtual PC in this mode. I can understand if I was running a Intel Solo or older Centrino CPU, but my Quad CPU isn’t good enough?

So beware of all the advertised capabilities for the various Windows 7 versions, as some of them may require a machine with the very latest CPU (or mor expensive CPU) to utilize them.

What is truly bizarre is that I was using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 with this very same computer (and my previous Core 2 Duo) with no problems. But for some reason, Microsoft decided to add on this ridiculous feature (probably to make people upgrade their computer).

My only recourse now, is to use a product such as VirtualBox (by Sun Microsystems) that emulates a x86 environment, and then install Windows XP inside it. Of course, that also means I need to find a copy of Windows XP to install, as the “free” one provided with Windows 7 Pro is not usable.


How to backup your Outlook 2007 database and settings

October 24, 2009

outlookIf you’re an Outlook 2007 user and are planning to upgrade your system to Windows 7, then you probably want to backup your Outlook database file. This is especially true if you are planning to do a “clean” installation, where all the data on your hard drive is completely wiped off when the new OS is installed.

What you want to do is copy your Outlook PST file which contains all your emails, calendar appointments, tasks, etc. that you typically use in Outlook. This is normally a very large file, and sometimes is hard to find on your system. The following link explains how you can find this PST file and back it up.

Next, you probably want to avoid having to enter all your various email settings again into Outlook to download and send messages. To do this, you can use the information available on that same link previously mentioned which explains how to backup and restore your email settings in Outlook 2007.

Finally, if you have “rules” defined in Outlook, you can export them following the instructions on this link. With these three bases covered, you should be ready for the Windows 7 clean install and can restore Outlook to its original condition after the upgrade.


Bit the Bullet and installed Windows 7 64-bit

October 23, 2009

win7After doing my usual obsessing over whether or not to install Windows 7 and then whether to install the 64-bit OS version, I finally decided to bite the bullet and install Windows 7 64-bit OS on my main desktop PC. I’ve always wanted to upgrade from a 32-bit to 64-bit OS (primarily so I can gain access to more than 3 GB of RAM memory), so I saw this as my change to do so. I didn’t expect any noticeable speed improvements going from 32 to 64-bit for my individual applications (as my current 32-bit Vista machine was working just fine), but I often run 5 or more applications at the same time so having the ability for the OS to use more than 3 GB of RAM was a really good thing for me.

Since I wasn’t having any big issues with running Vista, it was harder for me to decide on doing the upgrade to Windows 7. From what I could tell during my beta testing of Win7, it was basically an “improved” Vista OS. It wasn’t as earth shattering as when I upgraded from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. I understand from what I’ve read that Win7 has been re-written, tuned up, and is more efficient than Vista, so that was a very slight reason for me to do the upgrade. Eventually I would upgrade to Win7, so why not do it now?

So, I threw caution to the wind and began the process of upgrading my main desktop PC (home-built Intel Quad 2 Core machine with 4 GB of RAM, 500 GB 7200 RPM disk drive, and 256 MB Video card). Since I was planning to do a clean install (where all the data on the main hard drive would be wiped out), I copied all my user files over to a 2nd external drive for safe keeping. Once that was done, I inserted the Windows 7 Professional Upgrade Install DVD in the DVD-ROM drive and booted up from that device. I then followed the steps to delete the existing partition on the main 500 GB hard drive and begin installing the new 64-bit OS. From the time I booted up my machine with the install DVD to when I was able to log in after the OS installation, only 15 minutes had past. So, I was able to do the complete install in only 15 minutes, a real world record when it comes to Window OS installations! Read the rest of this entry »