Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The (Relatively) Minimalist Approach to Operating Systems

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Vol. 3, # 73 - May 28, 2009 - Issue # 82 
 The (Relatively) Minimalist Approach to Operating Systems

  1. Editor's Corner
    • The (Relatively) Minimalist Approach to Operating Systems
    • Follow-up: Goods or Service?
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Vista Service Pack 2 ready for download
    • IBM Exec calls Vista "best recruiter for Linux"
    • Why you should create a standalone data partition
    • Zune HD to be unveiled soon
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to view OE message databases without OE
    • How to get your Gmail messages in Windows Mail
  5. Vista Security
    • Secure Development Help is on the way for programmers
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Is there any reason to run 64 bit Vista on a system that maxes out at 4 GB RAM?
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • WMP 11 can't play DRM protected content on Vista
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • Microsoft lifts the three-app limit on Windows 7 Starter Edition
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • CyberScrub Privacy Suite: Completely Erase Evidence of All Internet/Computer Activity & Encrypt Data

Your Current (free) Antivirus Costs You $200!

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! 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

The (Relatively) Minimalist Approach to Operating Systems

Back in February, I asked readers if all the "extras" should be removed from Windows, and many of you responded in favor of doing so.

Since that time, I've received a lot of feedback from folks who installed the Windows 7 beta and/or Release Candidate and most of it has been positive. However, what negative input I have gotten has largely centered on what's "missing." Several people have expressed profound disappointment that there is no email client or photo editing program included in the OS. Some of you didn't realize that those things are free for the taking, downloadable from the Windows Live web site at

The decision not to include these applications by default was made due to the many complaints about each successive version of Windows being "more bloated" than the last. And even though the increase in OS size has been far outstripped by the increase in the size of the typical hard drive (along with rapidly falling prices per gigabyte), there is still a lot to be said for not having a bunch of code that you don't want and never use installed on your system. Personally, I like the fact that Windows Live Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Windows Messenger, etc. have become optional add-on extras.

But then, I access the Internet with a 20 Mbps FiOS connection. I realize the perspective is different for someone who's still stuck with an analog modem and landline. While the downloads for these programs are pretty small (a couple of MB), the aggregate time it takes to download all the programs can be somewhat significant at 56Kbps or less. Perhaps just as importantly, installing a program always introduces some possibility of error in the installation process. Downloads get corrupted, or the wrong settings are accidentally chosen and the program doesn't install in the configuration you wanted. Having the applications already there and ready to go the first time you use the operating system is undeniably more convenient.

At the same time they were making some of the previously included program optional in Windows 7, Microsoft also added some new programs - and not all of them can really be thought of as necessary. For instance, there's a new StickyNotes feature that's handy if you need something like that, but is also a little redundant if you use the Notes feature in Microsoft Office. It seems to me that could have been an optional download. Or how about the Accessibility tools? They certainly ought to be available at no cost, but I know there are many, many people who never use them.

Then there are all those games that come with the OS. Windows 7 has more than ever. In addition to those that are holdovers from Vista, there are several Internet games such as Backgammon, Checkers and Spades. The new games are generally more sophisticated than their predecessors and thus use more disk space. One nice thing about Windows 7 is that it's easy to turn off some or all of the games - and many other Windows components by simply checking or unchecking a box. See

The ISO file for Windows Vista (with SP2) is a bit over 3GB in size. The Windows 7 beta was just under 2.5 GB and the RC is slightly smaller (2.35GB). That's certainly a step in the right direction, but then XP was under 600 MB and Windows 3.11 was about 5 and a half MB. On the other hand, when you think about all that we can do with Windows 7 that we never even dreamed of doing with Windows 3.11, that difference doesn't seem so great.

Of course, the whole idea of minimalism is relative. In the field of home décor, some folks equate it with a "decluttered" look while others take it to the extreme, substituting mats on the floor for chairs and sofas. According to architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, "less is more" (although he apparently didn't apply that philosophy to his name). The core concept of minimalism is to strip a thing down to its bare essentials, but is that really what most of us want from our operating systems today? Some would be happy to go back to the command line interface (CLI), but I think most of us enjoy the visual elements and even the "eye candy" of modern operating systems. After all, even Linux - which evolved from a pure command line environment - now sports a flashy modern look with KDE 4.3 (beta) and Gnome 2.26.

Still, there are those - most of them IT pros - who would like to do away with all the "pretty stuff." Windows PowerShell, a command line interface with more functionality than the standard Windows command prompt, is popular with many network administrators. In response to this target audience, Microsoft made it possible to install Windows Server 2008 in a minimalist configuration called Server Core. There's no operating system graphical user interface (the Windows Explorer shell), although it can run some graphical applications such as Notepad and some Control Panel applets.

I've even heard comments (and not all of them said jokingly) requesting that Microsoft release a "client core" OS. Hey, they've been there and done that; remember MS-DOS? There are certainly times when I prefer to use the CLI for various tasks, but I really don't think I would be happy today working in a text-only environment, even if it is more secure.

What do you think? Would you like to see the super minimalist approach of Server Core applied to the desktop OS? Do you prefer having everything built- in as it was with Vista, so you don't have to worry with downloading and installing programs? Or do you take a middle-of-the-road stand as Microsoft has done with Windows 7? If you've installed Windows 7, were you unhappy to see many features had "gone missing" or were you thrilled to get to pick and choose what you wanted? Which included features do you think should have been optional? Write to us at

Follow-up: Goods or Service?

Last week, we visited the "software as a service" issue from a slightly different perspective: how does the classification impact the vendor's legal responsibility to customers? Many of you had comments, and most of them were not particularly supportive of the "service" model.

Tom L. says, "If I buy a product, and it doesn't work on my computer, I should be able to take it back. Software is not a service unless you are hooked up to the internet and the software is on the internet, i.e. 'Google Docs' which is more common today." And David W. agrees: "Mass marketed software should be treated like any other mass marketed product. The EULA is a 'take it or leave it' document. There is no negotiation or other 'meeting of the minds' to establish a contract. This is part of the reason the UCC was created for products. The same logic should be extended to the mass marketed software." Don B. noted that "My computer is so important to my daily operations than anything that can damage it will be a disaster to me. I do think that software should be sold as goods and be subject to the same laws."

Ken C. wrote: "I think if we held software vendors to the same standard as everyone else who sold a product or service, we would probably get better, more stable products. If the dry cleaner, who is providing a service, trashes your pants they are liable for the damages. If a tattoo artist, who provides a service, and not a tangible product, screws up your new tattoo, they have to fix it or risk a career ending reputation for shoddy work. Companies like Microsoft and the rest should be held to the same accountability for their products and services."

Certainly that sounds right - but the problem is that with the dry cleaner or tattoo artist, there is usually a clear causation that's evident. If a software program installs correctly on 99% of computers with no problems, but that same code brings down the OS when installed on the other 1%, is the problem really the fault of that product or is the real cause something else that was installed on the computer (or a rare hardware configuration)?

As Chris F. said, "You can't bring a TV home and copy it before returning the one you purchased for a full refund. However, they should be the same with regard to the product actually functioning as advertised. There are truth in advertising laws that should be applied to computer software. If a TV manufacturer sold 100% defective TVs it would be out of business in nothing flat. Software vendors routinely ship software with known flaws assuming that the flaw will not cause enough damage to hurt sales, and that they are protected by the EULA."

There are some, though, who see the software vendors' side of things. Rick C. reminds us of the Law of Unintended Consequences: "In this litigation happy society that we live in, I have no doubt that if software were moved into the same realm as hard goods (for example the TV in your article), the first thing that would happen after the first lawsuit was won (or probably even before) is that the price of software will skyrocket to cover the legal and insurance costs. Many of the current software companies will cease to exist, and there will be fewer new start ups because of the risks involved."

Wayne S. reminds us that a software environment is constantly changing: "Software only has a finite window of perfect operation. After Windows updates several times, most software needs updating to keep it functional. Just like Budweiser, it should have a born-on date and a max usable date, or so, of perfect operational capabilities. For example, my Norton System Works will not run on Windows Vista after about a year of Windows updates. Upon trying to reinstall, it still would not function or reinstall."

Steven H. offers a good analogy: "In old fashioned film photography, the film was covered under warranty but not the pictures and certainly not the camera. Bad pics? Here's another can of film for you. Come back and see us again. Same holds true for software. However, it is more than that. The huge combinations of components and software that can be on any single computer makes testing the software for all these combinations impossible. Therefore, vendors must limit their liability or specify what components and installed software products are certified to work with their software."

Obviously, both sides make some valid points. 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

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Quotes of the Week

Never bear more than one trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds - all they have had, all they have now and all they expect to have. - Edward Everett Hale (1822 - 1909)

People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news. - A. J. Liebling (1904 - 1963)

There are two kinds of men who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told and those who can do nothing else. - Cyrus H. Curtis (1850 - 1933)

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


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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.

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

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!

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

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Vista Service Pack 2 ready for download

It's been a while coming, but it's here now. Microsoft has released Vista SP2, which includes bug fixes designed to prevent unexpected system crashes as well as support for recording Blu-ray discs. It's a 348MB download and you can get it now on the Microsoft web site or wait for it to be delivered via Windows Update. Note that you need to have SP1 installed before you can install SP2. Find out more here:

IBM Exec calls Vista "best recruiter for Linux"

Despite the many people who are happily running Vista, an IBM vice president (the one in charge of Linux and open source, not surprisingly) played on the image presented by Apple and perpetuated by so many tech writers by saying that Vista is the "best recruiter for Linux on the desktop."

I find it interesting that those who boast about the growth of Linux always fail to mention that in its upward surge, Linux just recently hit a 1% market share.

Why you should create a standalone data partition

This is something I've been doing for over a decade, but many people just buy a computer off the shelf with a hard drive that's one big partition and never think about it. Still, there are many benefits to creating separate partitions for your operating system(s) and data, and with Vista/Windows 7, it's easy to resize partitions and create new ones without having to buy third party software. Read more here:

Zune HD to be unveiled soon

If you're a fan of Microsoft's Zune music player, you may be happy to know that a new version is in the wings and it will feature an HD radio tuner, HD video out, a touchscreen display, Wi-Fi and a web browser. Even a Macworld writer was impressed with the specs:

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to view OE message databases without OE

If you happen to have a bunch of old Outlook Express database backups but you've moved on to a different mail client and no longer have OE installed, you can still view those messages using a free program called MiTeC Mail Viewer. It installs on most Windows operating systems and the download is only 661 KB. You can get it here:

How to get your Gmail messages in Windows Mail

You can get the messages sent to your Gmail account without going to the Gmail web site - just set up Windows Mail in Vista to get them. First, you need to enable IMAP on the Settings page on the Gmail web site. Just click "Enable IMAP" in the "IMAP Access" section.

Now in Windows Mail, do the following:
  1. Click Tools | Accounts and select "E-mail account" as the account type.
  2. Enter your display name, then in the next box, enterer your Gmail address.
  3. On the "Set up email servers" page, choose IMAP for the incoming email server type in the drop-down box, then enter "" as the incoming server and "" as the outgoing server.
  4. Check the box "Outgoing server requires authentication."
  5. On the next page, enter your gmail address (username) and password. Check the box that says "do not download my email and folders at this time."
  6. Click Finish.
  7. On the Internet Accounts dialog box, highlight the name of the gmail account and click Properties.
  8. Click the Advanced tab, and check the options "this server requires a secure connection (SSL). Set the outgoing mail (SMTP) port to 587 and the incoming mail (IMAP) port to 993.
  9. Click the IMAP tab and uncheck "Store special folders on IMAP server."
You can now configure which folders you want Windows Mail to download by clicking in the left pane of the mail client window. You probably won't wat to download your spam folder and your trash folder, for example. You can now click the Send/Receive button to download your mail.

Vista Security

Secure Development Help is on the way for programmers

If you're an application developer, you might be interested in the release of a free Secure Development Lifecycle (SDL) template as part of Microsoft's initiative to increase the adoption of secure development practices. If you're not, this still affects you because it means more third party applications will be developed with security in mind, and that's a good thing for users, too.

Vista Question Corner

Is there any reason to run 64 bit Vista on a system that maxes out at 4 GB RAM?

I've read a lot about how 64 bit is better, and I am going to be rebuilding my current computer (the software, not the hardware) to get rid of some problems caused by a buggy third party program I installed. I'm wondering if there's any reason for me to install 64 bit Vista instead of 32 bit (my computer processor supports 64 bit). My system will only support 4 GB of RAM so I can't get that benefit. Can you offer any insights or opinions? Thank you. - Kenneth M.

The biggest advantage of 64 bit over 32 bit is the ability to use large amounts of RAM. The 32 bit OS is limited to 4 GB but 64 bit Vista can support from 8 to 128 GB depending on the edition (Home Premium supports 16 GB and Ultimate supports 128). However, you can only use as much RAM as your computer's motherboard will support, so if the hardware limits you to 4 GB, the 64 bit OS won't help you memory-wise. In fact, it may hurt you a little, since 64 bit Vista can use about 12 - 15% more RAM for the OS and services.

I have found 64 bit Windows to be generally more stable than 32 bit on the same machine, but that advantage can be outweighed by the fact that it's harder to find 64 bit hardware drivers, so some of your peripherals may not work. If a driver isn't signed, you can't load it on the 64 bit OS. This is probably one reason for the extra stability, but again makes it more likely you won't be able to use some of your devices. Another consideration is that 64 bit Vista won't run 16 bit applications. So if you still have a few old 16 bit apps you want to run, the only way you'll be able to do that is to install a 32 bit OS in a virtual machine and run them there.

You also have a performance advantage when you run 64 bit programs on the 64 bit OS. Unfortunately, right now there aren't many 64 bit applications; however, Microsoft Office 2010 will be available in a 64 bit version. Overall, though, with a machine with limited RAM, you're probably better off sticking with the 32 bit OS.

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

WMP 11 can't play DRM protected content on Vista

You aren't able to play your DRM-protected music on your Vista computer in Windows Media Player 11 even though you've downloaded the license. Instead you get an error message or WMP just closes down after downloading the license. What's up with that? Most likely, it's because you're using an old Windows XP XDDM driver for your video card. You need the Vista WDDM driver. Find out more in KB article 935336 at

Windows 7 Preview Corner

Microsoft lifts the three-app limit on Windows 7 Starter Edition

There was a good deal of criticism leveled at Microsoft for limiting the low cost Starter Edition (intended for inexpensive netbooks) to running three applications simultaneously (although certain apps were exempt from that limit). The company has now decided to remove that limitation - although it's important to realize that you're still going to be limited by the hardware specs in how many programs you can run with acceptable performance. Read more 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

CyberScrub Privacy Suite: Completely Erase Evidence of All Internet/Computer Activity & Encrypt Data

CyberScrub Privacy Suite removes all evidence of your online activity, erases data beyond recovery, secures your files with strong encryption and enhances overall system performance. This award-winning app sports over 50 new features and enhancements. The CyberScrub Risk Monitor(tm) alerts you automatically when your privacy is at risk. WXPNews readers get an exclusive 20% instant discount with the coupon on the landing page so be sure to write it down or use copy and paste to enter into the coupon field. Download and evaluate with the trial version and get more information. Selected as Microsoft & WUGNET Shareware Pick of the Week!

 About VistaNews

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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.