Windows 7 64-Bit OS not for me?

October 21, 2009

I had big plans to upgrade my main desktop PC to a 64-bit OS when Windows 7 came out (which is tomorrow). I currently have Vista 32-bit OS installed on it, with 4 GB of memory (although the system can only utilize 3 GB currently under the 32-bit OS). More memory, possibly faster execution was the main reason to go to 64-bit. Also, 64-bit OSes (Windows and Vista) have been around for a significant number of years now, so you would think now is a good time to jump from 32-bit to 64-bit. In fact, all Dell systems that have more than 2 GB of memory seem to come installed with Vista 64 (and now Windows 7 64) bit OSes.

So in preparation, I download and ran the Windows 7 Advisor program supplied by Microsoft which scans your current computer (and attached peripherals)  and reports back which devices are compatible with Win7 and which are not (for both the 32-bit and 64-bit OSes). I discovered through this program that my CanoScan 30 scanner does not have a 64-bit driver available (and Canon isn’t planning to release one). Also for my Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150 TV Tuner card, the provided 64-bit driver will only work on machines that have less than 3 GB of memory. For some reason there’s a hardware/firmware limitation which causes the tuner card to operate erratically if the system has 4 or more GB of RAM!

Since I use my home PC to record TV shows on a daily basis, this is a real consideration to NOT upgrade to a 64-bit OS. It makes me wonder what other hardware issues I might have if I jump to the 64-bit realm. And how much benefit will I gain going to 64-bit? I have a feeling not so much, considering I would have to probably get a new scanner and TV Tuner card.

So the real issue isn’t upgrading from Vista to Windows 7, but upgrading to the 64-bit OS. So my big plans of making the switch have been shot down, and I’m going to stay in the 32-bit world for now. Maybe in a few years when my TV tuner card fails and my scanner conks  out I’ll make the switch, but for tomorrow I’m staying with the trusty 32-bit OS.

Here’s a link to a posting that has some good information regarding the 64-bit OS upgrade.

So if you’re planning to do the big upgrade, I highly recommend you use the Windows 7 Advisor program to scan your system and give you a prediction to what devices you might have issues with after the upgrade.


Thursday is a big day…. Windows 7 released!

October 19, 2009

win7Being the big nerd that I am, I’ll be getting Windows 7 Professional on Thursday to install on my main desktop system. I’ve tested the release candidate a few months ago on my old Dell D610 Latitude laptop and it ran pretty good, so I’m certain it will be an improvement over my existing Vista installation. I’m also going to install the 64-bit version, since my PC can handle it and I already have 4 GB of RAM memory installed.

I’ve decided to go with the “Professional” version rather than the “Home Premium” because I like Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection implementation. In my opinion, it’s much better than the alternatives (i.e., logmein.com, realVNC, uVNC, etc.) and it works great in my home network and outside network environments. I know that someone will probably come along with a hack to add this feature to the Home Premium version, but I just want it working now, out of the box.

So, my plan is to first hit up my local Costco store when it opens at 10 am and hope they have the Pro version available (It should be selling for $10 less than the retail price). If they don’t have Win7 available I’ll next visit my local OfficeDepot store followed by Staples. One of those three should have Win7 available. If I totally strike out, I can always try my local Fry’s Electronics (albeit, the drive will be 30 miles round trip) or I might simply order it via Amazon.com and wait until next week to install it. Read the rest of this entry »


Remotely connecting to your PC

October 15, 2009

remote_desktopOften I need to work from my kitchen table because I have to keep an eye on my young son or new Labrador puppy from wrecking the house. As such, I use my trusty Dell Latitude D610 laptop to remotely connect to my office desktop PC (located upstairs in my home). What that means, is that I’m controlling my desktop PC from my laptop running applications, etc. just as if I was sitting in front of my PC.

How I do this, is by using an application called Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) which is provided by Microsoft with their Windows XP Professional and Vista Professional OS. A small server is running on my desktop PC, and I can make a connection to it from any PC or laptop on my home network using RDC. Since my home network connection is pretty fast, I see very little response delay using this setup.

Unfortunately, Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows 7 Home Premium both don’t have the Remote Desktop Server software to use the RDC feature. You will need to get the Professional version of either OS package to have the Remote Desktop Server software. As such, I decided to look into other similar alternatives, as I use the RDC feature quite heavily for my own personal use. Read the rest of this entry »


So what Firefox plugins do I use?

October 14, 2009

I created a posting on my DellMini blog yesterday that discusses how I configured my FireFox web browser to maximize the viewable page area. I basically used a series of FireFox addons to hide the main window caption title bar, hide the menu bar, and so forth. The most effective tip was to use the F11 function key to completely hide all interface controls temporarily and completely fill the screen with the viewable page (I just found this tip recently). These are great tips for Netbook owners, since the vertical resolution of their miniature laptops is usually 600 pixels.

Just in case you’re curious what I’ve got loaded with my FireFox installation, here’s my list of addons:

firefox_addons

Not too many plugins to slow down the opening of FireFox, but just enough to keep me browsing effectively.

Now, I’ve also looked at using Google’s Chrome web browser, because it is suppose to be lightweight and will startup faster than FireFox.It does indeed seem to startup and run faster than FireFox and has a very minimalistic appearance which I like. However, Chrome doesn’t seem to have the extensive number of addon plugins as does FireFox. A lot of the plugins that I have loaded currently in FireFox do not exist in Chrome. So, being a creature of habit I’ll probably stick with using FireFox since it has been working well for me over the last several years.


The Usefulness of Forums

October 12, 2009

Over the years I’ve visited various forums in search of answers to my questions and issues. Most of the time, someone else had the same question or issue I have, and I can often find a good solution. However, it seems that most hardware and software-related forums are turning into “fanboy” sites, where people want to pat themselves on the back and feel good about whatever hardware or software they own. For example, the two Palm Pre Forums that I frequently visit are filled with such fanatics who love their Palm Pre and are blind to any hardware or software issues it may have. If anyone posts anything a bit negative about the Pre, they are immediately engulfed with hateful responses, most of which are accusations that the original poster is an Apple iPhone fanboy spreading negativism. What’s strange, is that these posters are using the term “fanboy” as something evil and negative when in fact THEY are fanboys themselves (in this case, a Pre fanboy)!

It seems that a lot of people don’t want to read or hear about what’s wrong with their hardware device or software package because it might make them appear foolish in purchasing that product. As such, these forums have turned into “Fan Clubs” more so than helpful forums. Read the rest of this entry »


Dell Netbook 6-cell battery is ridiculously big!

October 12, 2009

When I put in my order for the Dell Inspiron 11z Netbook, I contemplated getting the 6-cell battery since it advertises 8+ hours of life over the 3 hours for the standard 3-cell battery. However, I decided to just go with the 3-cell since 3 hours is probably enough for me to go without charging it. I’m glad I didn’t get the 6-cell battery, because it is humongously large and hideous!

wart_battery

It sticks out the bottom like a big wart on this sleek and elegant system. What’s the deal with that? If I had a choice, I would rather it protruded straight out the back than down like it is currently designed. Apparently this is the same battery used in the Dell Mini 10 also.

With a price tag of $150 US, I’ll go looking for a power outlet every 3 hours than pay that amount for the giant wart battery!

An extra 3-cell battery is going for $130 on the Dell web site, but since it is the same battery as used on the Dell Mini 10 you can get one for $43 on eBay.com. Carrying two small batteries has got to be a better deal  than one giant battery that makes the 11z or Mini 10 look so junky!


I love Costco’s return policy

October 12, 2009

costcoAlthough I rarely return anything to Costco, I do appreciate their liberal no-hassle return policy. The last time I returned something was earlier this year when I returned a Dell Mini 9 Netbook (which I ordered online) because of the non-standard keyboard configuration. Costco cheerfully refunded my purchase, tax and shipping costs included.

So I stopped by my local Costco store this morning to return the Acer 751h netbook that I bought last Friday, and again it was a simple process. The clerk began the refund procedure without asking me a word about the netbook. It wasn’t until he was about half way through the process when he casually asked why I was returning it (in more of an inquisitive manner). I just told him it didn’t meet all my needs and he handed me my refund receipt and said have a good day. It’s because of this I really like buying electronic merchandise from Costco, just in case I get a defective unit or if I decide I don’t like it.

As a side comment, the Costco clerk told me that they have been getting a lot of returns with this Acer netbook. When I asked why, he stated that customers were complaining of “slowness”. Whether that’s really true or not, we won’t know. “Slowness” is such a subjective term, since it is relative to something else (a speedy desktop PC or MacBook Pro perhaps?). At least the returns weren’t because of some more serious problem (e.g., crashes, not booting up, freezing, etc).

So although I returned the Acer Netbook, I still recommend you check one out if you’re looking for a good portable machine. And definitely buy it from Costco if you can! 🙂