Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Windows 7 Beta Goes Public

Published by Sunbelt Software Manage Your Profile Privacy Policy
Vol. 2, # 54 - Jan 15, 2009 - Issue # 63 
 Windows 7 Beta Goes Public

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Windows 7 Beta Goes Public
    • Follow-up: Computer/TV Convergence
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Get Vista Service Pack 2 Beta
    • New version of Windows Live Search Mobile released
    • Zune: reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated
    • Making Outlook work better
    • Top 25 most dangerous programming errors
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to turn off DEP for individual programs
  5. Vista Security
    • Don't install that Ideacom driver!
    • New worm exploits a vulnerability that was patched two months ago
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Why doesn't my Vista laptop have parental controls?
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • NEW item missing from Explorer context menu
    • Resize un-resizable windows in Vista
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Your Uninstaller! 2008 - Gets Rid of Hard to Uninstall Programs and Their Traces!

VIPRE and AVG Resource Usage Shoot-Out

Many of you asked how VIPRE compares to the popular AVG. Well, we ran the tests and posted the results. The numbers tell the story. VIPRE took only 28% as long as AVG doing the deep scan. VIPRE takes only 38% of the CPU compared to AVG, and AVG takes 1.5 times the Memory compared to VIPRE. In short: both AVG "Free" and "Paid" use A LOT more resources to do the job, which can slow down your PC dramatically. Here are the details and the graphs:

Editor's Corner

Windows 7 Beta Goes Public

Now you see it; now you don't. Now you do again. It caused a mad rush when Steve Ballmer announced, in his keynote speech last week at CES, that Microsoft was making a public beta of Windows 7 available on Friday. Although a "pre- beta" version was distributed to attendees of the Professional Developers' Conference in October and a "leaked" version has been floating around on the Torrent sites since December, lots of tech enthusiasts were waiting for the official beta.

The beta release was scheduled for last Friday, but apparently the company underestimated the level of interest. Microsoft's web servers were so overwhelmed that they pulled the beta Friday afternoon, posting a notice that "we are adding some additional infrastructure support ... to ensure customers have the best possible experience when downloading the beta." By Saturday morning, the site was back up and running smoothly, and Microsoft posted an apology on the Windows blog.

The good news is that although Microsoft had originally intended to limit the beta to 2.5 million downloads, they have now removed that restriction and will make it available through January 24th, regardless of download number. If you want to be one of the many who are test-driving it now, you can get it at

Meanwhile, the web is abuzz with comments from new beta testers, and those private beta testers who were under Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) can finally talk about the OS since it's gone public. Many of the reviews repeat the same information: Aero Glass is glassier than ever, performance tends to be faster than Vista (or at least faster than Vista was pre-SP1), and gosh, those taskbar icons are BIG.

There has been much rejoicing over the elimination of the sidebar. Although it was a feature that I liked, I'm just as happy with the free floating gadgets in Windows 7 - and I can line them up on the right side of the screen just like the Vista sidebar did. There's one default gadget included in Win7 that didn't come with Vista, and which I really like: the Media Center gadget that gives you one-click access to your recorded TV and other Media Center content. All the rest of the included gadgets are holdovers from Vista. Now that the sidebar is gone, you access the Gadget Gallery by right clicking the desktop.

Speaking of the sidebar being "gone," you'll still see sidebar.exe in the Task Manager's Processes tab if you're running any gadgets on the desktop. Apparently they all run in the same process, as they did when the actual bar was there in Vista. If you close one or more of the gadgets, the amount of memory used by sidebar.exe decreases.

Something else that's gone, but not really, is the much maligned User Account Control (UAC) security feature. It's still there, but it's much more polite and less in-your-face than its Vista counterpart. I've only run across UAC a few times in Win7, even in setting up the OS initially. The best part is that now you can adjust UAC settings to your preference. You'll find this option in the new Action Center in Control (which replaces Vista's Security Center and also incorporates maintenance tasks like Windows Update and Windows Backup). The slider on the UAC configuration screen gives you four options: Always Notify, Notify Only When Programs Try to Make Changes (the default), Notify Only When Programs Try to Make Changes and Don't Dim the Desktop, or Never Notify. The ability to adjust these settings will make many, many people happy.

While you're rooting around in the Control Panel, you might think at first glance that the option for the Classic Control Panel view has been removed. Luckily, you can still get to it by clicking "All Control Panel Items" at the end of the list of Categories. One interesting new Control Panel applet is Biometric Devices. Here you can allow logon via a fingerprint device. Then there's a Clear Type Text Tuner that works like those awful eye exams in the optometrist's office, where they ask you "Which looks better, this one or that one?"

Credential Manager provides a "vault" for storing usernames and passwords for servers, web sites and programs. Windows CardSpace, which you probably never used in Vista, is there for you to not use in Windows 7. The Control Panel also contains a new applet for Windows SideShow, which makes me hope that perhaps more devices will be SideShow enabled. SideShow is a great feature supported by Vista, but few vendor make hardware that takes advantage of it.

You'll notice that the beta is light on built-in applications when compared to Vista. There's no email program, no contacts or calendar, no Windows Messenger. DVD Maker, Fax and Scan and Media Player are there, and of course so is Internet Explorer (version 8). You'll still find most of the same apps in the Accessories folder, including the excellent snipping tool that was introduced with Vista, and there's also a new Sticky Notes application.

Some of the old, familiar apps have gotten updates that make them more usable. For instance, WordPad has a new ribbon style interface that makes it look more like Word, with icons for changing the line spacing, increasing and decreasing paragraph indent, formatting text as a subscript or superscript, inserting pictures, inserting drawings from Paint and more. And speaking of Paint, it got the ribbon treatment, too. It's now easier to crop, resize and rotate, insert shapes, select line width and brushes, and change the view.

I'd have to say that my favorite part of the new OS is the improvement in the area of file organization and search. My first look at Windows Explorer had me hopping mad. "What have they done with my file system hierarchy?" I wanted to know. The familiar file tree that's been in the left pane since, well, forever, was nowhere to be seen. Instead all I saw were a bunch of "libraries." But as I began to work with those libraries and to understand just how powerful this feature is, I stopped missing the file tree. In fact, now when I go back to Vista Explorer, it feels hopelessly cluttered with that (mostly) unnecessary hierarchy. Never fear, though - it's not as if you can't access the hierarchy if you really want to; that's just a click or two away. Read more about how the libraries work, as well as the enhanced search interface, in my blog post, Getting Organized with Win7, at

So ... should you install the Win7 beta? Many readers are asking me that question and my answer is "it depends." I'm liking the new OS a lot, but I haven't made it my primary operating system yet. This is still beta software, after all. And yes, I was running Vista as my primary desktop long before the final version was released, and I'll probably switch over to Win7 for everyday use soon, but that doesn't mean you should.

First, be aware that the beta is scheduled to expire on August 1. So you'll need to have a plan for reverting back to Vista (or XP!) or installing the final release when it stops working. If you've decided to wait for Win7 and skip Vista altogether, know that Microsoft doesn't support upgrading to the Windows 7 beta directly from XP. Upgrading from Vista SP1 is supported. But there's no supported path for rolling back to Vista after you've installed Win7.

My recommendation for those who want to try out the new OS is to do one of two things. The first option is to install Win7 on a separate partition and dual boot it with your current Vista or XP OS. You can select from the boot menu which operating you want to boot into. The second option is to install Win7 in a virtual machine. That's the way I've been running it: it's installed in a VM on our Hyper-V server and I use Remote Desktop to connect to it. You could also install it in a VM on Virtual PC or VMWare. Of course, if you have an extra computer sitting around, doing nothing, you could install Win7 on that. If you're really adventurous, you can even install Win7 on a MacBook (at your own risk):

Whatever method you use, be sure to install update KB961367 immediately, and especially before playing any media with Windows Media Center or Windows Media Player. The update fixes a problem whereby MP3 files were getting corrupted and losing audio, as well as playback issues with DVR-MS (recorded TV) files. Read more about it here:

You can download the update here:

And if you're going to join Windows 7 to your network, you'll want to be sure you have antivirus software installed. Vipre seems to run fine, as do several other AV programs we've tried, but there have been reports of problems with McAfee products:

Tell us about your experiences and opinions. Have you downloaded the Win7 beta? Will you wait a while until others say it's stable? Will you wait until the final release to try it? Or do you have no desire to upgrade and plan to stick with Vista (and/or XP) until your computer gives up the ghost? If you are running the beta, tell us what you think about it. Is it worth the upgrade? What new features do you like best? What changes do you like least? Send us your input at

Follow-up: Computer/TV Convergence

In last week's editorial, I discussed the slow but inevitable convergence of two technologies: television and computers/Internet. A number of our readers weighed in on the subject.

Bill K. and others pointed out that convergence is well and good for those with fast Internet connections, but not everyone has that. He wrote, "I certainly hope that the Internet doesn't kill cable, satellite, or even OTA television. There are large parts of this country that do not have access to broadband Internet service. I live five miles from a small town in south Texas. There is no cable and no DSL available. So OTA and satellite are the only options for television."

Some of you think computer/TV convergence is unnecessary. Farhad A. put it this way: "I don't understand this preference of yours to use a pc as a DVR. I just don't get it. It's not terribly complicated but it's complicated, and it's not terribly frustrating but it can become frustrating, and the whole getting one tuner or a second and an HD card, additional software can all become unnecessarily costly. Satellite providers give away HD DVR's, my local cable company only charges $5/month rental for an HD DVR box...and it all works out into a single unit in your living room."

Sure, that's an option. But that $5 is probably for a single tuner DVR that will only record one program at a time. With several Vista PCs in the house running Media Center, we can record five programs at the same time. It's not often that there are that many good shows broadcasting simultaneously, but it's not rare to have three of our favorites on at the same time. The other problem with the cable company's DVRs is that they usually will hold only a limited number of programs, especially in HD. And if you're a "collector" who wants to keep the programs so you can watch them over again next month or next year, you're out of luck. Using a computer as the DVR lets you add as much hard disk space as you want (we have about 1.5 TB of storage for recorded TV) and you can keep the programs on disk or burn them to DVDs to keep. For a little extra one-time hassle at setup time, you get more flexibility and no monthly fee.

A few folks asked why I didn't mention TiVO. I know it's a popular option and I've written about it before, but again, I don't like the idea of paying a monthly fee for the Guide when I can get it free with Media Center. I did learn from some readers, though, that TiVO service has apparently improved greatly in terms of what you can do with the recordings; they now let you transfer them to your computer that's on the same network. That's a good thing.

John S. noted, "I'm wondering who is taking a top-down systemic look at this phenomenon. Media developers are looking for new and creative ways to deliver their content via the web while cable and phone companies are looking at pricing to cap the use of bandwidth with higher fees. This, despite the fact that they deliver TV programming themselves. I have no idea what cash cows they are trying to protect, but in the end the web will win and the cash cows will come to a bad end. Just ask the record companies how well their strategy to protect CD sales worked out."

Jeff C. says we're behind the times: "Recording and watching TV is SO last year. Everything worth watching is available for FREE online from hulu, surfthechannel, or myriad other sites. They also have content not available on TV, like movies from overseas. All of the networks (and most local stations) have streaming sites with up-to-date news content, no 'latest update at 11.'" We do watch some programs this way, but maybe I just like more obscure content; I have not been able to find everything I want to see on these sites. They do provide another good way to get content, though, and often serve as a great backup when something fails to record.

Dani H. wrote about another alternative for recording TV: "We are in an area where we rely on DTV (digital TV through phone lines). We bought an Archos 5 to record shows for my husband when he goes to work on the "Slope" every 2 weeks for 2 weeks. Have you ever checked out the Archos?" I hadn't, but a little research shows that the Archos is an Internet Media Tablet that includes DVR capabilities.

Kenneth P. wrote, "I think that in time manufacturers would be smart to start including a small pc style interface and network plugs and such on TVs so that you can stream stuff right from your network and\or internet right to your TV without all the hassle." In fact, some TV vendors are already doing so. TVs with Ethernet ports built in were shown by Sony, Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Panasonic and others at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. See this link:

Many of you questioned the quest for ever-better video/audio quality, after you reach a certain point. Joe A. asked, "Does it really matter if I see the freckles or other intricacies of HD or is just watching a decent program/movie/show without getting nauseous from poor quality frames rates or sounds that seem to crescendo when it really shouldn't especially during commercials? I engage in the hi-tech profession as both a hobby and vocation and really can't hear or see the difference between the nouveau high-tech versus the old standards. BTW, I do have 20/20 vision (corrected) and hearing almost as good."

As for the future, there were a few predictions. Ken S. ventured, "Technology is great, and maybe someday it will be a moot point, but I see the day when we all have a data account, it won't matter if it is internet, TV, movies, phone, or any other transmittable media, we will pay by the Kb accordingly, and not a monthly Cable, satellite, or cell phone fee."
Thanks to all of you who wrote on this topic.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones. - Seneca (5 B.C. - 65 A.D.)

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present. - Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 A.D. - 180 A.D.)

The future ain't what it used to be. - Yogi Berra (1925 - )

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your PC. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example; Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, The Sunbelt Personal Firewall looks carefully at the data leaving your computer, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, phone numbers, and social security number do not get stolen by hackers!

Cool Tools


Rip DVDs for your iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV, or iPod Video Nano. Bundle includes video converter too! Free Trial:

Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.

Eliminate your online traces with CyberScrub. Privacy equals security.

Backups? We don't need no stinking backups! Synchronization isn't like backing up, it's better! Easy too!

Cute Reminder is a great way to leave yourself a note of set a reminder in just a click or two!

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

One easy to remember password gives automatic access to all my online passwords and usernames. I love the autofill feature.

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Get Vista Service Pack 2 Beta

If you're not quite ready for a whole beta operating system, but you'd like to get a preview of SP2 for Vista, you can get it via the Customer Preview Program (CPP) on TechNet. It's available for both the 32 bit and 64 bit editions of Vista. Note that you need to have SP1 installed in order to install SP2. As with all beta software, be sure to back up your data before you proceed. Still game? Check it out here:

New version of Windows Live Search Mobile released

Last week, Microsoft released a new version its search and mapping application for Windows Mobile devices, and demonstrated the software at CES. This software competes with Google Mobile App and Yahoo Go, and the location feature can work on some non-GPS phones. You can find out more about Windows Live Search Mobile here:

Zune: reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated

The rumors last week said Microsoft was planning to kill the Zune, but the company says it isn't so. They do plan to port the Zune platform to smart phones and the Xbox, but they'll still make the dedicated Zune MP3 players. Read more here:

Making Outlook work better

I've used Outlook as my email client, contacts management and calendaring solution for well over a decade and I mostly love it. But some folks have complaints about it. This article addresses the 10 most common annoyances and offers some ways to fix them. If you think Outlook is too slow, you have problems finding your Outlook data, or you're looking for tips on organizing and searching your Outlook information, check it out:

Top 25 most dangerous programming errors

We know that all software has vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers, but what are the most dangerous errors made by software developers that leave their programs open to attack? The NSA and Department of Homeland Security teamed up with Microsot and other security software providers to come up with a list. Find out more about them here:

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to turn off DEP for individual programs

Recently, we provided instructions for turning off Data Execution Prevention (DEP) in Vista. You might want to do this because DEP can cause problems for legitimate applications and services. However, DEP is an important security feature that can prevent malicious code from running. Instead of disabling it globally, you can turn it off just for individual programs. Here's how:
  1. Click Start and right click Computer.
  2. Select Properties and click the Advanced tab.
  3. Click the Performance Settings button.
  4. Click the Data Execution Prevention tab.
  5. Check the box that says "Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select."
  6. Click the Add button.
  7. Browse to the Programs Files folder or other location where the executable for the program is located, click it, and click Open.
  8. Click OK when you've finished adding programs.

Vista Security

Don't install that Ideacom driver!

A number of folks are experiencing problems after installing an Ideacom driver update offered by Windows Update on machines that don't have Ideacom touch screens. It can make your mouse or touchpad stop working. To find out more, and what to do if you're one of those who was bitten by this driver update, see Ed Bott's post at

New worm exploits a vulnerability that was patched two months ago

Microsoft released a patch back in October that was aimed at fixing a vulnerability that the company deemed so important that they issued the update outside the normal monthly update cycle. But some folks didn't bother to apply the patch, and now they're being hit by the Conflicker worm, which can lock users out of their accounts, block security software updates and install malware on the machine. Read more about this nasty little worm here:

Vista Question Corner

Why doesn't my Vista laptop have parental controls?

I have an HP desktop computer that runs Vista and it has a feature called parental controls that I use to keep my 12 year old son from accessing certain programs and I can put time limits on when he can use the computer. I do this from the Control Panel User Accounts page. I recently got a new Sony laptop and I wanted to set this up on it so my son could also use it sometimes but I can't find the parental controls. Is this something that HP added and not part of Vista? Is there a way I can get it for the laptop? Thanks. - Ella M.

The Parental Controls feature is built into Windows Vista, but it only comes with certain editions of the operating system: Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate. Most desktop computers sold to consumers come with Vista Home Premium installed. My guess is that your Sony laptop is loaded with Vista Business Edition, which does not include the Parental Controls feature (because it's intended for business, rather than family, use). It is possible to upgrade Business Edition to Ultimate with the Anytime Upgrade program, but it costs $139. Here's the Anytime Upgrade web site:

There are third party parental monitoring services such as Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny and Safe Eyes, but there is an annual fee ($39 or $49 per year), so if you expect to use the computer and OS for several years, the upgrade may work out to be the best bet.

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

NEW item missing from Explorer context menu

Normally, you can right click in Windows Explorer and select New to create a new folder, shortcut or file. But in some cases, you might find that the New command is missing from the context menu. What to do? You can get this option back by editing the Registry. To find out how, see the instructions in this article:

Resize un-resizable windows in Vista

Program windows can usually be resized in Vista by "grabbing" the corner of the window with the pointer and dragging, but this doesn't work with some dialog boxes. However, there is a little third party program called ResizeEnable that you can download to give you this capability. Find out more, including a link to download it, here:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

Your Uninstaller! 2008 - Gets Rid of Hard to Uninstall Programs and Their Traces!

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