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.

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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!


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 »


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.


Netbook Shopping

October 11, 2009

While I’m on the subject of Netbooks, here’s a few that I’ve been considering:

Acer 751h Netbook $310 (from Costco.com)

  • Intel Atom Z520 (1.33 GHz, 512KB L2 Cache, 533MHz FSB)
  • 11.6″ WXGA LED-backlit 1366 x 768 resolution
  • 2 GB Memory
  • 250 GB Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
  • WiFi b/g
  • Webcam
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • 3-cell battery
  • 2.8 lbs
  • 11.2″ x 7.8″ x 1.0″

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I actually bought this Acer model from my local Costco store and gave a detailed review in some previous postings. My model only had 1 GB of memory, a 160 GB hard drive, and had the Windows XP Home OS installed. The price I paid was $290, while this slightly upgraded model is going for $310 if you order online. (Note: I noticed yesterday Costco had a blue and red colored model available, but as of today they only show the blue model. They may be closing out this particular model, so you can get it now or wait to see what Costco might be offering in the next few weeks). Read the rest of this entry »


USB Controller Ding-Donging at my door…

September 1, 2009

doorbellOut of the blue my main desktop PC is having issues with my wireless USB mouse, specifically, dropped connections. As I’m using my Logitech mouse, I’m constantly hearing the “Ding-Dong” sound of a USB device disconnecting and reconnecting. It’s a intermittent occurrence, which I can temporarily fix by rebooting my system. More than anything, it’s a giant annoyance! I’m also occassionally having disconnect issues with my wireless WiFi adapter (also a USB device).

I’ve tried using a different wireless USB mouse, but I have the same issue. I just can’t figure this one out. I’m coming to the conclusion that it could be, (1) A hardware issue with my motherboard, (2) USB or BIOS driver issue, (3) Something corrupt with my Vista OS installation. I tried updating all the chip drivers and BIOS for my ASUS motherboard, but that didn’t seem to help. I also change several different BIOS settings which didn’t do anything. I really don’t want to re-install Vista, since I’m planning to install Windows 7 in about two months (when it is officially released). The motherboard is less than 1-year old, so I can’t believe it is the problem (although it might be). Man, this stuff is just so hard to diagnose sometimes.

If this USB ding-dong issue keeps up, I’m thinking about replacing the motherboard. I like the ASUS motherboard I have now, but they no longer make this model. After some Googling and reading customer reviews newegg.com, it appears that the quality of the ASUS motherboards maybe going down hill. The Gigabyte motherboards are getting great reviews on some computer tech sites, but I had problems with two such motherboards during a recent upgrade attempt. Neverthless, I might still try another Gigabyte motherboard because I can buy one at a local Fry’s Electronics store and return it quite easily if it doesn’t work out.


64-Bit or 32-Bit Operating System?

August 30, 2009

32bit_64bitIn the past, it seemed that the 32-bit operating system was the dominate OS among most personal computers. Microsoft Windows, Apple Macs, and most flavors of Linux/Unix ran on 32-bit systems. With the modern CPUs now having 64-bit capability, I’m seeing more and more use of the 64-bit OS. Recently, Apple released their Snow Leopard OS which is apparently completely 64-bit (for the Intel processors). Microsoft offers 64-bit for both their Windows XP and Windows Vista OSes, with the same for the upcoming Windows 7 OS.

I started using Windows XP 64-bit for the first time on my company’s work laptop, and it does seem to run fine. The biggest benefit, is that I’m no longer restricted to 2 GB of memory per application (the 64-bit OS can use all the installed memory). The only issue I have, is that some applications and device drivers won’t work properly. For example, I have a 32-bit version of a PDF creator software that simply crashes when I try to run it. My only recourse, is to find an equivalent 64-bit version or try a different application. It can be a pain, since you don’t know if the application is crashing because it is incompatible or if you’re missing something from the OS installation.

Recently I ordered a new Dell laptop for my son, and I noticed that Dell is installing Windows Vista 64-bit OS on their machines that have more than 2 GB of memory. This seems to be a new standard policy for Dell, since all of their Intel CPU machines are 64-bit compatible. Thus, it appears that the 64-bit OS is now considered a mainstream commodity.

With Windows 7 about to be officially released in 2 months, I’m contemplating whether to install the 32-bit or 64-bit version. I have 4 GB of memory on my Desktop PC (running a Intel Quad 2 Core processor), so my hardware could certainly make use of the 64-bit OS. My only concern is that my existing software won’t run on the machine. Critical software includes my Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 compilers, recorded TV video processing tools (e.g., DVRMSToolbox), TV Tuner card and IR Blaster devices, and Palm WebOS SDK. That’s why I’m leaning a bit toward the Windows 7 Home Professional version, since it has a “Windows XP Compatibilty Mode” which should run applications designed for the WinXP under Windows 7. Whether this will also take care of older 32-bit applications, I’m not sure.

In any case, the distribution CD for Windows 7 comes with both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions, so if the 64-bit OS doesn’t seem to work out for me I can always drop back down to the 32-bit version.


Preparing for Windows 7: Remote Desktop Connnection

August 29, 2009

win7For most of the work I do (web site development, mobile phone app development, etc) I have a Intel Quad processor desktop PC system running Windows Vista in my main home office. I also often work from my kitchen table using my Dell D610 laptop (running Windows XP) so I can help watch my 5 year-old son and our recent addition (4-month old micheavious Labrador Puppy). To make thing easier, I’ll use Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) to remotely connect to my Desktop PC (which is in my home office upstairs) from my Dell laptop.

If you’re unfamiliar with Windows RDC, it allows you to remotely make a connection between two different computers. In my case, my desktop PC is the “Server” and my Dell laptop is the “client”. So, from my laptop it is just like I’m sitting in front of my desktop pc.

It actually works pretty well, as Microsoft’s RDC will resize the displayed application windows to fit my laptop screen resolution quite nicely. Also, the speed of RDC is remarkably quick, where I see virtually no lag in user response. Of course, watching videos or doing any other graphics-intensive activity won’t work very well using RDC since a lot of graphic updates are being sent across the network connection.

Now, my version of Windows Vista is Home Premium which does not allow for RDC (you need to get Home Professional or Ultimate). But, fortunately there is a hack on the internet that allows one to modify the Home Premium installation to allow for Windows RDC.

With Windows 7 OS coming out in October 22nd, I contemplated whether I should pre-order the new OS and, which version should I get. As it turns out, Windows 7 Home Premium also does not have RDC capability, so I would need to get Home Professional or Ultimate. Instead of trying to hack a new Win 7 Home Premium installation, I decided to look around for other alternatives to Windows RDC. Read the rest of this entry »