Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Windows 7 - three months on

From ComputerBites

When writing about all the problems you encounter in a school environment what comes across can be a bit negative. What I'd like to do is just quickly go through why Windows 7 is a very good OS.

Speed - Vista wasn't all bad. That's right, I said it. I had it on two computers and, all be it after a lot of tweeking on my main PC, it ran okay. But in a school environment it was slow and we stayed with XP. Windows 7 seems faster right out of the box, no tweeking superfetch, system restore, UAC, readyboost and so on needed. Well that is how it appears. A bit of looking around the web seems to confirm this. I have not done these tests myself but here are the results of some early speed tests:
From ComputerBites

From ComputerBites

Aero Peek - What could have been just a little gimmick to make Windows 7 look pretty has actually turned ot to be pretty useful. Being able to hover over thumbnails of your open documents, websites and programs brings them into full size view without moving what you are working on into the background. Useful for writing when you need to refer back to data, emails or the web.

Maximise half screen - Another thing that could just have benn eye-candy. Being able to drag a document to the side and Windows will automatically make it half your screen size. So you can have two documents side by side without them interfering with each other or trying to line them up.

Jump Lists - I have the remote desktop icon pinned to the taskbar, then in the jump list I have the fourteen servers that I remote to most regularly. It's like recent documents for programs. Another useful addition to save time.

Drivers - When we had XP on all our client machines we had to have a different system image for every chipset and often every motherboard. In a school where there are different machines bought every year at the cheapest possible price that can lead to a lot of time installing and capturing images for a lot of different systems that all together total over 600. Now we deploy all our client OS's using one .WIM file and best of all most of the drivers are included or picked up automatically. You can also deploy drivers to your Windows 7 clients with WDS (windows Deployment Services) if you need to.

64 bit - 32 bit and 64 bit copies of the Operating System in one box! Great news for home users.

Blu-Ray - Read and write high definition.

Attach and create Virtual Hard Disks - Not a feature I have played with yet (been using Vmware for years) but being able to attach and create VHDs is a great feature. Right-click computer > manage > storage > disk management, then the option is under the 'action' tab. Use a virtual machine for testing, trying a new OS or software, security or backups and more.

Libraries - Being a very organised person I am not a big fan but I can certainly see why people will find it useful. Pulling in the file types that my be scattered across your hard drives so you are less likely to lose that video/picture/document/music that you cannot remember where you saved.

Installing - When you have a whole school to reinstall it is helpful when it is fast. It takes us much less time to image a room of Windows 7 computers and automatically joins them to the domain. When it comes to joining domains, it is only a little thing, but if you are a domain admin you don't have to keep providing your password when changing the PC name.

Reliability - So far the only problems I have had is when I used some memory that my motherboard did not like. More stable than Vista. So important on a large network with staff cuts.

Desktop search - If that is the name for it. Loved it in Vista, Love it in 7. Press the Windows key and start typing. Another great time saver and no longer a need to organise your start menu. Quickly find that setting, program, email etc.

Backup and restore - Improved in 7 and so easy. Also includes the ability to create system repair discs. Great for home user who doesn't have access to imaging software or network attached storage. No excuse for losing your valuable data.

Action Center - So much better than being nagged by popups and balloons all the time. A little flag that will take you to areas of concern like out of dat antivirus or a skipped backup. Best of all you can customise it so it only gives you the alerts you want.

Group policy - Better control over your network and clients.

I realise this is getting abit long so without going on for pages and pages some quick mentions to: better Paint (still install paint.net though), Media Center in all main versions, DVD maker included, IE8 (still not as good as Firefox but accelerators quite handy), better firewall, recognising the make/model of USB drives (handy if you have lots of devices connected), better User Account Control and better gadgets no longer confined to the sidebar.

I know people may say that linux or macs could do most or all of these things but the fact of the matter is the powers that be would never allow us to get rid of Windows in school, so I say thank you Microsoft for making things a little easier and little more fun.

Friday, 22 January 2010

My Documents Folders Missing The Username

From ComputerBites

Since we started having Vista computers arrive in school we began notice we could no longer see the username on the documents folders, instead getting lots of folders named NAS\My Documents\My Documents (see picture). This also happens with Windows 7 but we have now found the solution.

If you are redirecting your users documents and are having the same problem:

Go to 'folder options' (via start menu or control panel) and then the 'view' tab.

Untick the box that says 'hide protected operating system files (recommended)'.

Browse to where you keep your users documents.

Inside the first 'My Documents', the one that should say the username, look for a desktop.ini and delete it.

Do this for each affected folder and when you go back to your shares they should all have the users displayed. You could create a script to do this for you and if you assign it as a scheduled task you could have it run automatically at specified intervals.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Why Android?

From ComputerBites
I have been asked by a few people why choose an Android phone rather than an iphone. I didn't want to get into a 'mine is better than yours' or 'google versus apple' thing but I thought I would just list a few reasons one might make that choice.

Choice of Phone - You can choose what's most important to you. Want a hardware keyboard? There is a phone for that. Want to take better photos? There is a phone for that. Want to backup your data to an SD card? There is a phone for that. Want a larger touch screen? There is a phone for that. Want to connect it at work via USB? There is a phone for that (trying to sound like the annoying 'there's an app for that' advert). The only choice of hardware you have with an iphone is 16GB or 32GB.

Camera - While on the subject of hardware the iphone comes with a 3.2 megapixel camera. If taking snaps with your phone is important to you then you could get the Nexus One with a 5 megapixel camera or wait for the 8 megapixel offering coming from Motorola. I can't speak for the iphone but Android 2.0 has built-in flash support, digital zoom, scene mode, white balance, color effect and macro focus.

Keyboard - After using a phone with a hardware keyboard I don't think I could go back to one without. If I do it would certainly have to have a better on screen offering than the iphones. The Android onscreen keyboard (which I use for short, quick messages) learns the words you use and doesn't keep throwing up autocorrects.

Internet browsing - The Android browser is getting Flash support. From Techcrunch: flash hits android when will apple play catch-up?

Software - We've all seen the 'There's an app for that' adverts. Well the Android Market isn't exactly bare, currently over 20,000. If it is a pretty decent app then it is likely you will see it on both platforms. There may be over 100,000 on the iphone store but how many fart machines do you need? The number of quality or essential apps are probably about the same. Long term Android is open source, to be an iphone developer you have to sign up and pay apple $99 or $299. So expect more apps to come, especially with more and more phone manufacturers releasing android handsets and with the Nexus being the most powerful phone currently available expect games to get better too.

Google Maps Navigation - Continuing with software, Google is planning to put SatNav makers out of business. You can get the TomTom app for the iphone for around £60 or get the 'Google SatNAv Killer' for free on Android. Includes Traffic View, Satalite View, Street View, Search By Voice and more. So for the price of an Android phone you get a phone AND a SatNav.

Google Goggles - Another great app the iphone can't beat. Take a picture with your Android phone and Google give you information about your subject. Take pictures of landmarks, paintings, places, product lables and expect information, prices, services and web pages about your subject at your fingertips.

Being able to switch between apps - You get an alert on the iphone and you have to dismiss it to do anything else, including when you are on a call. Also, say you want to look at a spreadsheet while you are talking to someone. On the iphone you have to hang up the call and and re-open the spreadsheet, on Android you can open it, or even switch back to it if it was open, while still on the call. Often I have got some text messages, some emails, maybe a few notifications of updates for games I have downloaded, some google calendar or AK notepad reminders I have setup for myself, a missed call and some music scrobbling to Last.fm. On my phone I can just drag down the notification area, deal with the ones I want to deal with, leave the rest for latter or dismiss. On the iphone I would have to go through each alert one at a time to get to where I want to be.

Being able to increase storage capacity - So you have decided to get the 16GB iphone as it was the one that was free on your contract. You have filled it, now what? With Android you can just get another Micro SD card and the Nexus One can be expanded upto 32GB.

Price - My major reason. When I was looking at smartphones the iphone was a major probability but the price just could not be justified. At the time the iphone was only on o2 so this may eventually start to change. Right now however, with Android you just get more for your money. I had a go at listing all the available price plans but ran out of room so here is what you get for £30 a month:

*A free 16GB iphone on o2 is available if you sign up for £45 per month for 24 months or £75 per month for 18 months.
A free 32GB iphone on o2 is only available on a £75 per month 24 month contract.
A free 16GB handset is available on Vodafone with a £45 or £75 per month contract for 24 months.
A free 32GB iphone is available on a £75 per month 24 month contract.