Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Using the Right Tool for the Job

Published by Sunbelt Software Manage Your Profile Privacy Policy
Vol. 2, # 67 - Apr 16, 2009 - Issue # 76 
 Using the Right Tool for the Job

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Using the Right Tool for the Job
    • Follow-up: Windows Home Server
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Choosing the best partition manager
    • Free excerpt: Windows Vista - The Pocket Guide
    • SP2 for Office 2007 is on the way
    • Compare fonts with Typetester
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to stop Windows Update from changing the Sleep button function
  5. Vista Security
    • 8 Security Bulletins for April
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Can I turn off the problem reporting?
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • "Import" option not available in Windows Media Center for external drives
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • Use the hidden Power Efficiency Diagnostics Report
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • Mixcraft: Mixcraft Is An Incredibly Easy Multitrack Recording Studio With Effects.

Your Current (free) Antivirus Costs You $200 Per Year

Huh? Yes, you read that right. Do the math with us for a sec. We recently asked you how much you paid for your Personal Computer and peripherals. The vast majority answered that it was about $1,000 total. Now, the average old-style antivirus (paid or free) you install, hijacks about 20% of that PC, in CPU and Memory. Bingo, there's your lost 200 bucks per year! Time to switch don't you think? Get VIPRE. It's not a resource hog, does not slow down your PC, and is only $30 per year. Get your 15-day eval here and experience VIPRE for yourself:

Editor's Corner

Using the Right Tool for the Job

If you need to drive a nail into a piece of wood, you could pound it in with the business end of a crescent wrench or even use a rock; I've done both in a pinch. But given the choice, I'd much prefer to use a hammer - it's designed to do the job and makes it a lot easier. If I need to drive in lots of nails in a short period of time, a nail gun works even better - but it costs a lot more, is more complex to use, presents some safety issues and is overkill for a simple task like putting one nail in the wall to hang a picture.

In the computer world, I am constantly coming across instances where people are using the wrong tools for the job. In some cases, it's because they're making do with what they have - like pressing a rock into service as a makeshift hammer - but other times, the right tools are available; folks just don't use them.

One of my pet peeves is the trend toward using Excel, a spreadsheet program, to create text-based tables. Spreadsheets are designed to crunch numbers, and they do that task very well. That's what all those formulae are about. Using Excel to make text tables is like using that crescent wrench as a hammer; it works, sort of. But it's awkward and turns the job into more work than it ought to be.

Recently, I was one of a group of people who had prepared reports on different matters with the information summarized in table format. I did it in a Word table, which took about ten minutes. One member of the group had put his information in Excel, and the rest of us were asked to convert ours to the same format. It took me an hour to do in Excel what I'd done in ten minutes in Word - because Excel isn't designed for that. By the time I was finished, I was ready to pull my hair out. If you want to use a rock to drive your nails, I really don't care - but don't give me the job of building a house and then force me to do it with a rock when I have a perfectly good hammer - or nail gun - sitting right there.

If Excel was the only program these people have to work with, I'd be more understanding. But I don't know many folks who have Excel installed on their computers and don't also have Word. The second misuse of Excel that I see all the time is a little more understandable. Many people try to use it as a database - but then, many people use the Home and Student, Standard or Small Business editions of Office, none of which includes Access.

MySQL is a free, open source database solution but it's a bit complicated for the typical home user who only wants to organize his books or catalog his DVD collection. When I did that recently, I designed an Access database for it, but even that isn't a no-brainer. Probably the best solution in this type of situation is to buy a program that was made especially for the task at hand. I recently ran across a pair of programs called All My Movies and All My Books that will work well for the typical consumer and are reasonably priced ($59 for both). You can even add movies by scanning the barcodes (if you have the scanner hardware) or entering the barcode number, and the details are imported from Internet movie databases. You can check these programs out at

Another recent case where I see many people using the wrong tool for the job is in choosing a computer or an operating system. It's pretty obvious to most folks that if you need to take your computer with you on the road a lot, it makes sense to buy a laptop rather than a desktop model, and if you really need a "go everywhere" system, the compact model will likely work out better than the behemoth with the 17 inch screen that weighs 10 pounds. Thus I don't see many people packing tower systems in their suitcases. On the other hand, I do often see people struggling to work on little laptops at home. You can get by with a portable as your only computer if all you need to do is check your email or surf the web a little, but I flinch when I see a fellow writer attempting to do extensive research and construct a document, all on a 12 inch laptop screen. Even if you can't afford to buy a desktop computer, it seems your first purchase would be an external monitor so you could get your work done without constantly having to move windows out from under one another.

Or how about the friend who tried to install Vista Ultimate on his netbook? I'm sorry, but that's just asking for trouble. I say "tried to" because, even though this highest powered version of Vista did install on the low powered machine, doing anything with it was almost impossible. Oh, if you had infinite patience, you might be able to use it - just as someone with infinite patience might be able to cut the lawn with a pair of scissors. But in both cases, the average human being would give up in frustration long before the job was done.

Tell us what you think. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you're using the wrong tool for the job when doing computing tasks? Is that inevitable? Do you prefer to use more general tools (for example, Access) that you can fine tune to do exactly what you want in a broad number of different cases, or predesigned ones (such as the All My Movies database) that only do one thing, but do it well without a lot of customization required? Let us know your opinions and experiences; write to

Follow-up: Windows Home Server

In last week's editorial, I took a second look at Microsoft's Windows Home Server (WHS), now that WHS servers have been on the market for a while and PowerPack 1 has added more functionality and improved performance. A surprising number of readers wrote to say that they are currently using WHS on their home networks or they're interested in doing so.

David wrote: "I have been running a home server for a few months on the evaluation copy from Microsoft ... I have three desktops and a couple of laptops on the network. It so far has been effortless in setup and running. I have found that having WHS is the best protection for the computers on the network they are automatically backed up daily ... MS needs to market WHS a little better at least for the home techie. It's good to hear that there is an OEM version and the price range is affordable. I was worried that the price would be such that I would have to abandon what I have set up because of cost."

James F. said, "I've had a HP WHS at home for over a year and love it. You'd think that since I manage several thousand Windows servers at work, I'd want something more sophisticated at home, but when I get home I don't want to have to go to work on my home network. For that reason, I love the simplicity of WHS. It has been pretty reliable with only a couple of minor hiccups. It alerts you if anything is amiss and provides guidance on how to fix the problem. No problems using it with XP Pro, Vista 32 bit and 64 bit varieties. It allows you to connect remotely to XP Pro, Vista Business, and Ultimate. I wish it would work with Basic and Premium, but that is a limitation of the desktop OS and not WHS."

Robert C. had this to say: "I have been running WHS on an E-Machines computer for about 6 months. I have been very happy with the experience, once I got the machine setup. Not only does the WHS remind you about missed backup, but it also gives you warnings about anti-virus software not working or being out of date. Like a ton of other people, would like to be able to share Outlook calendars and run enterprise virus protection from the server."

Those who want a bit more sophistication than a "home" server offers may not be as happy with WHS. Larry W. wrote, "I installed a copy about a year ago. Unfortunately, I find the documentation lacking and no one wants to help you. As a music server it's ok and for the novice who doesn't want it to do much it's ok. However, for someone wanting a poor man's Server it lacks. I use it mainly as a DNS and to control login on my home network. I have an Infrant NAS (Sorry to see they sold out on us) on the network and WHS doesn't work to well with it."

On the other hand, some readers noted that WHS may not be the right answer for those with no computer expertise. Galen H. said, "In my opinion, WHS is really for people who are at least intermediate users. When there is the occasional hiccup, having some computing aptitude is essential to a happy experience with WHS. It is not for the novice. If a person just has two PCs at home, it will be less expensive to just back up with a program like Acronis True Image Home. That is what I used to do, but I wasn't consistent with my backups. Now with WHS, I never have to worry about it."

However, by no means do you have to be an IT pro. Keith A. shared this: "My WHS story involves repurposing a home-brew computer after purchasing a new Dell XPS-420. The homebrew was originally built in late 2005 as our primary home computer ... Once my Dell was up and running, setting up for the home server started by stripping down this machine to a basic configuration of motherboard, a low-cost video card, a DVD drive [for software loads] and 2 250 GB 7200 rpm SATA drives. My OEM copy of WHS was purchased from Fry's and installed error free the 1st try. Since my Dell has Media Center, and there are 3 computers in the house, the WHS is invaluable for file sharing, storing media files consisting of music and TV shows recorded for later showing on the Dell using its add-on CATV Hauppage card." He adds: "some of your readers may want to know that I qualify as a senior citizen. With a little homework, everything I did is very straight forward and can be accomplished by anyone with an interest in the insides of their computer, and a little bit of technical skill that is not difficult to learn!"

And for those who do have experience with business server products, the simplicity of WHS is impressive. Greg A. said, "It was such a snap to setup and not being used to having major configuration items done for you is almost scary .. from a professional point of view and now having worked with WHS I think the interface was executed in a perfect manner for novice users and is a perfect fit for most simple home networks."

Some of you have concerns. Erik F. brought this up: "One thing that I would like to see Microsoft address is the upgrade path for current users. WHS is one system where a format and reinstall of a new OS is never going to be an option. As the stored data amount grows, the ability to reinstall or build another WHS with more updated specs becomes more and more difficult ... I can see a WHS, once in service, staying in service for much longer than any other OS that Microsoft has developed, and having a way to get the newest technology without sacrificing data or extra money is going to be extremely important."

Not everyone uses WHS for their home servers. John C. said, "Regarding servers at home, I already have one and have been running a server since 1997. Initially they were Windows NT based, but I had the opportunity to upgrade two years ago to a Sun Ultra 450 Workstation. Running SAMBA with Solaris 9, this machine is a lot more reliable than any Windows server I have used including the big old Compaq Proliants I have at work ... I found having a server is a lot easier than sharing a hard drive, printer, or another peripheral with the 6 other users in my house."

Allen M. wrote: "I set up my first home server when I went from Win95 to NT4 some time ago ... Today we connect to the internet through a cable modem. There are two servers in the basement, my test web server (DynDNS keeps us connected) and an authentication server which also serves files. Both provide DNS. Our printers have native networking. The servers are running Microsoft Server 2003 .. I can't imagine living without a home network and a fast internet connection."

Finally, there were a few responses that were less than enthusiastic about the whole idea. Bill L. wrote, "If servers are the way of the world, it should just be there. Home PC buyers don't expect to have to purchase anything else to just run their computers. ie I don't think people will pay extra for what they consider a basic service ... ." I'm not sure how a server can "just be there," and obviously the many people who responded above are willing to pay for the benefits of a home server.

Thanks to all of you who wrote this week!

'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

Look for the VistaNews fan page on Facebook!

Quotes of the Week

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. - Abraham Maslow (1908 - 1970)

Give us the tools and we will finish the job. - Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go and duct tape to make them stop. - G. Weilacher

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 computer. 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, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

Cool Tools


GoodSync is an easy and fast way to backup and synchronize your emails, photos, iTunes, MP3s, and other important files.

I need a real program for autofilling my passwords, shipping info not a toolbar widget. Roboform is the real deal!

Ever use a download manager? You might not know what your missing, try this one!

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.

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

Kill the background tasks belonging to (legitimate) software that run all day. Why? To get your speed back!

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Choosing the best partition manager

Today's hard drives are huge: you can buy a 1 TB internal disk for less than $100 now (that's ten cents per gigabyte). But you may not want to leave all that space as one giant partition - especially not if you plan to install multiple operating systems. That means you need to use some sort of tool to create and manage partitions (what are now called volumes in Windows). Unlike previous Windows operating systems, Vista has its own built in tools for resizing existing partitions - but how do they stack up against third party partitioning programs. Is there a reason to spend the money for a separate partition management program? This article compares the Vista tools with three commercial partitioning packages to help you make that decision:

Free excerpt: Windows Vista - The Pocket Guide

If you want to know more about how to customize and configure your Vista computer without buying the book, now you can download a free excerpt from "Windows Vista - The Pocket Guide" that includes tips on personalization, file maintenance, security and performance enhancements. Get it here while supplies last:

SP2 for Office 2007 is on the way

If you've been waiting for it, your wait is almost over. Service Pack 2 for Office 2007 is right around the corner - we finally have a final release date: April 28th. SP2 adds a number of functionalities, including support for the OpenDocument format and the ability to export reports from Access to Excel, along with performance and reliability improvements. You can read more about it here:

Compare fonts with Typetester

Not sure which looks better, Calibri or Tahoma? You can put them side-by-side for a quick and easy comparison, using Typetester. This is a free web-based tool that includes common Windows and Mac default fonts and makes it easy for you to see, at a glance, the differences between them. Check it out here:

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to stop Windows Update from changing the Sleep button function

Vista tries hard to take care of us - and sometimes it tries a little too hard. One big annoyance is the habit of changing the Sleep button to "Install updates and shut down" when there are new updates. If you want to change this behavior, you can do so by editing the registry. Here's how:
  1. Open your registry editor and navigate to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Policies \ Microsoft \ Windows \ WindowsUpdate\AU
  2. In the right details pane, right click an empty space and select New | DWORD value
  3. Name the new value NoAUAsDefaultShutdownOption
  4. Double click the new value and set the value data field to 1
This makes Vista stop replacing the Sleep option with the Install Updates option, but the latter will still be available as a separate option on the Shutdown menu.

Vista Security

8 Security Bulletins for April

This was a relatively heavy month for critical security updates, and some address multiple security issues. In addition, some of the vulnerabilities that these patches address are already being exploited by hackers so it's especially important to make sure your systems are updated this month. Read more about the specific vulnerabilities here:

Vista Question Corner

Can I turn off the problem reporting?

My biggest gripe about Vista is the stupid dialog box that comes up whenever there's a problem, wanting me to send a report to Microsoft. I click "no" every time but is there a way to just turn this off so I don't have to waste my time on it? Thanks. - Kyle B.

You can disable the error reporting service if you never want to send reports. Here's how:
  1. Click Start
  2. In the Search box, type Services and press Enter
  3. In the right pane of the Services console, scroll down to find Windows Error Reporting Service and double click it
  4. On the General tab, set the Startup Type to Disabled

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

"Import" option not available in Windows Media Center for external drives

If you connect an external hard drive or a USB flash drive to your Vista Home Premium or Ultimate computer, you might find that the Import option, for copying files from removable storage, is not available for the drive. This happens because of the way some external drives report themselves to Windows, but there is a workaround. Find it in KB article 929521 at

Windows 7 Preview Corner

Use the hidden Power Efficiency Diagnostics Report

If you're running the Windows 7 beta on a laptop, you can use a hidden tool called the Power Efficiency Diagnostics Report to get an analysis of its battery usage and tips on how to get better battery life. Here's how:
  1. Click Start and type cmd in the Search box
  2. Right click the cmd icon and click Run as Administrator
  3. At the command line, type: powercfg -energy -output \\Energy_Report.html
Insert the name of the folder where you want the report to be saved. Windows will analyze your machine's energy usage and create a report in the folder you named. To view it, double click it and it will open in your default web browser.

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

Mixcraft: Mixcraft Is An Incredibly Easy Multitrack Recording Studio With Effects.

Record your own song or do some creative audio editing. This multi-purpose audio recording software is easy enough to jump into and powerful enough to make your own music hits! Mixcraft(tm) Recording Studio is multitrack audio software with effects, featuring Reverb, Delay, EQ, Compressor, Flanger and Chorus, as well as resonant filters and a powerful loop editor. The high performance 32 bit sound engine supports broadcast quality WAV files and will even import compressed MP3s & WMA files. Use it to record your own music, your band or even a remix for a dance recital. The amazing fact about home recording today is that you really only need a computer and good multitrack recording software such as Mixcraft to create amazing sound! When you've finished your mix, publish it to the Internet as an MP3, WMA or RealAudio file. Download the free trial here now.

 About VistaNews

What Our Lawyers Make Us Say
These documents are provided for informational purposes only. The information contained in this document represents the current view of Sunbelt Software on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Because Sunbelt must respond to changes in market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Sunbelt and Sunbelt cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.


This newsletter and website and may contain links to other websites with whom we have a business relationship. Sunbelt Software does not review or screen these sites, and we are not responsible or liable for their privacy or data security practices, or the content of these sites. Additionally, if you register with any of these sites, any information that you provide in the process of registration, such as your email address, credit card number or other personally identifiable information, will be transferred to these sites. For these reasons, you should be careful to review any privacy and data security policies posted on any of these sites before providing information to them.

The user assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and the use of this document. This document may be copied and distributed subject to the following conditions: 1) All text must be copied without modification and all pages must be included; 2) All copies must contain Sunbelt's copyright notice and any other notices provided therein; and 3) This document may not be distributed for profit. All trademarks acknowledged. Copyright Sunbelt Software, Inc. 1996-2009.

VistaNews Archives
Looking for a past issue? Missing an issue? Accidently deleted an issue? Trying to find that article that pointed you to that cool site? All our newsletters are archived and are searchable:

About Your Subscription to VistaNews
This is a posting from VistaNews. You are subscribed as
Your personal VSN Number is: O52HI2

To manage your profile, please visit our site by clicking on the following link:

If you have feedback or wish to write to the editor, write to us at

Sunbelt Software
33 North Garden Avenue
Clearwater, Florida USA 33755

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for understanding that we need to prevent the nasties.

Terms of Use

Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.