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  • David Wayne Johnson 11:46 pm on November 10, 2011 Permalink |  

    8 Is Enough: Post-Setup Configuration 


    Every Windows power user has a default set of steps they perform right after installing Windows, which involves configuring Windows the way they want it, downloading any pending Windows Updates (a painful multi-step process today), setting up a backup regimen, installing key applications, and the like. I’m no different, and over the years I’ve honed the post-Setup configuration with each passing Windows release, as well as the set of applications I install. This is changing, again, with Windows 8, and will change even more as useful Metro-style apps become available.

    For now, with the Windows Developer Preview, we’re pretty much stuck with installing and using "classic" desktop-style applications, not newer Metro-style apps. So the list of stock applications I install hasn’t changed, yet, compared to what I use with Windows 7. I’ll discuss application compatibility in a future "8 is Enough" article, but the short version is that it’s been pretty successful overall, with just a few notable exceptions. Ditto for hardware compatibility.

    Post-Setup configuration is another matter entirely, as this process has already changed dramatically since Windows 7, and I expect the Developer Preview experience to closely match that of the final shipping version of Windows 8. (There will be some differences, of course. Microsoft will make changes to Windows 8 based on feedback, and some configuration options–like themes–just aren’t available yet in this earlier preview build.)

    A couple of notes up-front:

    User accounts. You can now choose between an old-fashioned local user account and signing in with your Windows Live ID. I recommend the latter, if you have one, since it comes with some additional functionality. I’ll write more about this in the future, and as the feature develops.

    Security software. Windows 8 ships with the equivalent of Microsoft Security Essentials built right in, so there’s no reason to download and install this software separately (or trigger the download through Windows Update). Windows 8’s security software is now managed through the reinvigorated Windows Defender, which also provides real-time protection against malware too.

    Two places for configuration. As with Windows 8 itself, the Windows 8 post-configuration tasks (and any future configuration) occur through two separate user experiences. That is, there are separate Metro-style and desktop versions of Control Panel, each of which provides different options. You’ll want to examine and use both.

    OK, so you’ve installed Windows 8 and you’re staring at the new Start screen in disbelief. Now what? Per the first article in this series, you may want to cull unwanted tiles from the Start screen and organize the remaining tiles in a way you like. There’s a lot less reason to do this now than will be the case in the future (remember, few Metro-style apps are available right now), but I don’t like how every single shortcut that’s added to the Start menu during application installs is also plastered as a tile on the Start screen. You may want to spend some time cleaning it up. (I did.)

    Windows Update

    As with Windows 7, it’s probably a good idea to get Windows Update up to date first. You can access a minimal version of Windows Update through the Metro-style Control Panel, but you’re better off just hitting the desktop and launching the classic version first. Of course, there’s no obvious way to do this, since the old Start menu is gone. That’s OK, since Windows 8 includes a new version of Start Menu Search, which I call Start Screen Search.

    From the Start Screen, simply start typing (no need to tap the Windows key first): windows update. As you can see below, the new Search experience appears when you type, and by default, you’ll see a list of apps and applications that meet the criteria of your search.

    search_01_0

    For windows update, there aren’t any apps or applications, but there are some Control Panel choices. So click the Settings choice to change the search results list from apps and applications to Control Panel. You’ll see something like this:

    search_02_0

    Click "Check for updates". The Windows desktop will appear, with the classic version of Windows Update. So install any pending updates, restart as need, rinse, wash, and repeat.

    Device manager

    Once that’s done, it’s probably a good idea to check and make sure that all of the devices attached to your PC are correctly identified and provided with an up-to-date driver. In Windows 8, as with previous Windows versions, the best way to do so is via Device Manager. The process for finding and launching this interface is similar to how we found Windows Update: Use Start Screen Search, this time with the search term device man. You see Device Manager located under Settings.

    device_man_0

    If there are any missing device drivers, remember that Windows 8 is fully compatible with Windows 7 drivers, so the process for finding and installing them is the same as it is with that OS.

    Application install

    Once the system is properly configured with updates and your hardware is working properly, it’s time to install whatever applications you typically use. (In the future, this will involve installing Metro-style apps as well.) There’s nothing unusual about this process per se, and it should work as it does in Windows 7. (Again, there are a few application compatibility issues I’ve seen; I’ll discuss this in a future article.)

    Control Panel (Metro)

    You should spend a bit of time examining each setting in the new Metro-style Control Panel.

    control_panel_metro_0

    Some of the notable settings include:

    New account protection options. While you can and should protect your PC and user account with a password (mandatory for Windows Live ID-type accounts, of course), you may want to make the logon process simpler, especially if you’re using a touch-enabled device. So in addition to standard alphanumeric passwords, Windows 8 supports two new alternatives: Picture password and PIN logon. With Picture password, you can optionally configure a photo that you’ll use as the basis for some touch gestures (two touches and a swipe). Apply these gestures over the photo to logon. With PIN login, you can use four numbers to logon, instead of your full password, similar to how you can access your bank account with an ATM card. Neither of these approaches replaces your account password. Instead, they are used to make logging in simpler.

    Wireless. Windows 8 supports an Airplane Mode, similar to that feature on a smart phone. This option only appears on PCs with wireless networking capabilities, and only makes sense on portable computers.

    Location awareness. Cribbing from another smart phone feature, Windows 8 can also relay your location information to compatible (Metro-style) apps. Note that this feature is disabled by default because of privacy implications. You can find it in the Privacy settings area of Control Panel.

    PC Reset. This is one of Windows 8’s greatest features. It allows you to completely reinstall Windows in just minutes and, optionally, restore all of your data (documents, photos, music, and so on) and other personal files, and Metro-style apps and their settings. This can be found in General.

    Sync PC. If you logon with a Windows Live ID, you can optionally sync configured settings to the cloud (in SkyDrive) and then reapply those settings anytime you logon to another Windows 8-based PC. Synced settings include personalization (colors, background, and lock screen), themes (background image, sounds, and other desktop configurations), ease of access, language, apps settings, web browser (IE history and favorites), and more.

    Homegroup. If you use homegroup sharing as I do, you’ll want to enable this feature, logon to your homegroup, and then configure which homegroup features (documents, music, pictures, videos, and printers and devices) your PC shares.

    Control Panel (Classic)

    In the Developer Preview, the classic Control Panels appears to look and work just much that in Windows 7. There are a few differences, including a few new control panels like Location Settings (previously called Location and Other Sensors), File History, Language (previously part of Region and Language), Region (previously part of Region and Language), and Taskbar (previously Taskbar and Start Menu). There are also some control panels missing since Windows 7, including Backup and Restore* and Getting Started. (Desktop Gadgets is present in the Developer Preview but could be removed, as Microsoft is not supporting this feature further.)

    (*Note: Windows Backup is actually available in the Developer Preview. Just choose Restore Windows 7 Backups and then click Set up backup.)

    Configuring Startup Applications

    In previous versions of Windows, you would use different tools and methods to prevent applications from auto-starting when Windows booted. In Windows 8, this is now consolidated in the new Task Manager. To find this interface, right-click on an empty area of the taskbar (in the Windows desktop) and choose Task Manager. You’ll see a window like the following:

    taskman_01_0

    Click the More Details button to expand the view. The window will change to resemble this:

    taskman_02_0

    Click the new Startup tab to view the Startup process management functionality. As you can see, each application and process that auto-starts when Windows boots is listed here. (Note that no Metro-style apps are listed. According to Microsoft, Metro-style apps cannot be auto-started at boot time.)

    taskman_03_0

    To prevent any of these items from auto-starting at boot, right-click and choose Disable. Repeat for each item you’d like to prevent auto-starting.

    taskman_04_0

    Final thoughts

    At this point, you should have a fairly clean and well-configured Windows 8 PC on your hands. Of course, there’s a lot more going on here, and additional worries around hardware and application compatibility that could prevent this from happening fully. I’ll look at these issues, and other related Windows 8 Developer Preview concerns, in future articles in this series.

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  • David Wayne Johnson 11:45 pm on November 10, 2011 Permalink |  

    Q:How can I deploy Windows 8 to a Virtual Hard Disk on my Machine for easy Dual-Boot? 


    A: Windows 7 introduced the ability to install an OS on a physical box to a virtual hard disk (VHD), and the process is exactly the same for Windows 8. I’ve done this for both Windows 8 client and Windows 8 server.

    Just replace Windows 7 with Windows 8 media.

    If this is an existing machine, and you want to dual boot rather than wipe the disk, then don’t perform the first three blocks of commands. The process will be as follows:

    1. Boot from the Windows 8 media (USB, CD, etc.).

    2. At the Install screen, press Shift+F10 to open a command prompt.

    3. Start diskpart and create the VHD file you want to install to:

    create vdisk file=c:\wind8.vhd maximum=8000 type=expandable

    select vdisk file=c:\win8.vhd

    attach disk

    create partition primary

    format fs=ntfs label=”Windows 8” quick

    4. Exit diskpart, and when you install Windows 8 you’ll be able to select your VHD volume (ignore the warning that you won’t be able to install).

     
  • David Wayne Johnson 4:47 am on September 18, 2011 Permalink |
    Tags: Product Key, Windows 8   

    Windows 8 Product Key, When Resetting, Reinstalling 


     

    The installation of the Windows 8 operating system should not pose problems to the majority of users. Installation is pretty straightforward and users do not need to enter a product key during installation. It may however come as a shock to some users that they have to enter the Windows 8 product key when they try to reinstall or reset the operating system.

    We have already talked about resetting the operating system. This basically resets the operating system to the state right after installation. All personal files and applications are removed from the computer, and settings are returned to their defaults. The option to reset the PC is available in the Control Panel of the operating system.

    Reinstallation on the other hand simply refers to installing the operating system a second time on a computer.

    You might be asked to enter the Windows product key in both situations. On a side note: I reinstalled Windows 8 and was not asked to enter a product key.

    The problem here is that Microsoft is not supplying the product key with the operating system. You won’t find it in a text document that is part of the installation files nor on the official website.

    You find the answer in a forum thread (!) over at the Microsoft Developer Network forum. A user asked the following question on the forum:

    I’m reinstalling Windows Developer Preview and need to enter a product key. What key do I use?

    A Microsoft employee replied with this answer:

    If you need to reinstall Windows Developer Preview or use the Reset functionality, you might be asked to enter this product key:

    6RH4V-HNTWC-JQKG8-RFR3R-36498

    If you’re running a server version of Windows Developer Preview, you can use this product key:

    4Y8N3-H7MMW-C76VJ-YD3XV-MBDKV

    Note: These product keys are only for use with the Windows Developer Preview version of Windows 8.

    There you have it. If you need to reinstall Windows 8, you need to use the product key 6RH4V-HNTWC-JQKG8-RFR3R-36498.

    If you need to reinstall the server version of Windows 8, you use the product key 4Y8N3-H7MMW-C76VJ-YD3XV-MBDKV instead.

    The keys are only compatible with the developer preview of Windows 8. It is likely that they wont work in the beta or release candidate, and 100% certain that they won’t work in a final version of the operating system.

     
  • David Wayne Johnson 2:21 pm on February 17, 2011 Permalink |  

    >WARNING: 5 Reasons why you should NEVER fix a computer for free. 


    >

    It is in our nature to love the puzzle. We are obsessed. The lot of us. We love puzzles. We love the challenge. We thrive on finding the answer. We hate disarray. It bothers us deep in our soul.
    We love the accolades. We love to be seen as the digital white knight who fixed the server, the computer, the email, and anything else that life depends on.
    We love it so much, we sometimes make horrible decisions. Sometimes, we work “FOR FREE.”
    We’ve all done it. A friend, a neighbour, a relative, a good client, a bad client, a pretty girl… Whoever it was, and for whatever reason, we all threw them a technological bone and fixed something for free. In rare instances, it can be a rewarding experience. Perhaps your buddy gave you a beer. Maybe someone said thank you. Maybe there was a smile on their face, and that was rewarding enough.
    More likely, however, that five minute task you thought you were signing up for turned into 40 minutes, then an hour, then a commitment. Wow. You didn’t see that coming.
    There are 5 reasons you should ALWAYS hand out a bill.

    1

    You Break it You Bought it.

    When you sit down to fix a problem that presented as a simple one you are creating a contract. Not a legal contract, but a social one. The computer owner is trusting their computer with you. It’s their baby, and you’re the doctor. So you sit down, and begin to fix a problem.
    In the process, something else breaks. You fixed one thing, but something else goes awry. What’s the best part? Neither you nor the user notice it is broken until a day later when they call you to blame you for breaking something else. “I thought you were going to fix it.” They complain.This is the primary reason you charge money to fix something. You break it, you bought it. The user / owner will expect you to warranty your service even though THEY received all the value of your time, and you received nothing in exchange.

    2

    People don’t respect things that are free.

    I learned that quote from a man who runs a non-profit organization. Image that. A man who solicits donations for a living candidly told me “people don’t respect things that are free.” You know what? He’s right.
    Free advice. Free upgrade. Free entry. None are valued. Free advice is seldom wanted. Free upgrade was something you were going to get anyway. Free entry? The band playing tonight must not be any good.
    People associate the value of service with the amount of money that is exchanged for it. How else do you think that lawyer can get away with charging $400 an hour? People naturally make the assumption that if it costs an arm and a leg, then it must be worth it.
    So, if customers and friends will assume that the most expensive car is the best one, what will they assume of the free car? Do you want the heart surgeon who charges $500,000 per surgery or the one who works for beer to operate on your mother?

    3

    They will expect it forever.

    In law, the concept of a precedent is vitally important. Judges and lawyers look to previous cases to decide what the interpretation of the law was because if a case was settled one way before, chances are, it will be settled that way again.
    Gamblers playing craps look at the past behaviour of the dice to, mistakenly, assume that the good luck will continue.
    Users will figure if you fixed it once for free, you’ll do it forever for free. There is no reason why they should respect the thousands of hours you have spent learning and researching the art of computer science. There is no reason that they should respect the certifications you hold. There is no reason that they should honour your abilities by paying your fees. Why? Because you did it for free. Once!
    When they come back and you try to get fees, they will meet you with resistance in the form of guilt. “I thought we were friends” they cry. “You didn’t charge me anything last time.” They argue.
    Setup the expectation that they are going to pay (or barter) from the onset. Demand the respect that you deserve. Make sure they understand you are a professional. After all, that is the difference between a professional and an amateur. Professionals get compensated for their skills.

    4

    The demands will only grow with time.

    Give them an inch, and they will take you through three operating system upgrades, two virus infections, and a crashed hard drive. Once you’ve set the precedent and created the expectation that you are their knight in shining armour, they will begin to call you for everything. They will suck up your time and resources. They will not be grateful. They will involve you in 30 minute hypothetical conversations then disagree with your expertise.

    5

    It Weakens Your Backbone

    Working for free is not only unprofitable, it weakens your constitution as a professional consultant. For many consultants, asking for money is difficult. They email out a silent invoice after the fact and hope they get paid. This practice can lead to unbalanced books, debt, and a going out of business sign. The simple fact is: if you don’t ask for your money, you’re not going to get paid. No one just hands out checks.
    Setting up the expectation, especially when you fix a computer for the first time for a client, is vitally important in establishing boundaries that ensure you are paid in a timely fashion. Working for free, throwing out freebies, “comp”-ing your time hurts your ability to ask for the sale. It hurts your credibility because the client will assume that if you’re not charging them for a given task, you didn’t know what you were doing or you made mistakes.
    It may give you butterflies, but ask for the money. Do it openly and notoriously. Your clients will take it as a sign of confidence.

     
  • David Wayne Johnson 10:33 am on January 20, 2011 Permalink |  

    >Microsoft releases Attack Surface Analyser 


    >

    Attack Surface Analyzer is developed by the Security Engineering group, building on the work of our Security Science team. It is the same tool used by Microsoft’s internal product groups to catalogue changes made to operating system attack surface by the installation of new software.
    Attack Surface Analyzer takes a snapshot of your system state before and after the installation of product(s) and displays the changes to a number of key elements of the Windows attack surface.
    This allows:
    – Developers to view changes in the attack surface resulting from the introduction of their code on to the Windows platform
    – IT Professionals to assess the aggregate Attack Surface change by the installation of an organization’s line of business applications
    – IT Security Auditors evaluate the risk of a particular piece of software installed on the Windows platform during threat risk reviews
    – IT Security Incident Responders to gain a better understanding of the state of a systems security during investigations (if a baseline scan was taken of the system during the deployment phase)

    Attack Surface Analyzer is available immediately at Microsoft’s download center.

     
  • David Wayne Johnson 10:05 pm on November 24, 2009 Permalink |  

    >Ex-Geek Squad Agent Tells The Truth! 


    >

    Alright, I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) and full time student at New Horizons getting certified in Linux and Cisco Systems. I have lived entirely off of eBay for the past year and a half and last month I decided to take a job on the side to help pay some bills while attending school. I got a referral from my "Placement Coordinator" at New Horizons for a job as a Geek Squad agent at Best Buy. After 3 interviews and numerous certification exams, I was in. I was the only one out of 34 applicants from New Horizons alone to be accepted.
    From day one, I was absolutely amazed at what Geek Squad really does. They are absolutely NOT technicians. Agents are not certified in computer repair or diagnostics! They are certified in sales, customer profiling, and situational tactics. I kid you not! I had to take 2 (100 question) exams based entirely on "expected computer repair costs from urban environments in today’s economy" and how to get the upper hand. Needless to say, I quit today after 52 days of work.
    So here is what I have say about Geek Squad:
    1. DO NOT take your computer to Geek Squad for a software issue!
    Reason: Geek Squad charges $70 for a diagnostic (which is a program built into every computer’s BIOS, it’s nothing special). A "Repair" (which is just removing virus infections or reinstalling the OS if needed) is $130. A grand total of $200. And that’s only if you don’t care that they wipe the hard drive clean! If you have ANY files that you want backed up, even 2-3 pictures, it will cost you AT LEAST another $100. And the "Advanced Data Management Transfer" that they mention is just dragging and dropping your files onto a DVD and burning it. If your OS is corrupt and you can’t get to your files, move the HDD to another computer and drag-&-drop your files over. DON’T take it to the Geek Squad.
    2. Geek Squad CANNOT do ANY hardware repairs in-store.
    Reason: Any client with a hardware issue must send their unit to service; A: for liability reasons and B: because no agent is trained in hardware repair. It takes AT LEAST 2 1/2 weeks to get a response from service and again, you will be charged to backup files.
    3. Never have an "Optimization" done by Geek Squad.
    Reason: Whenever you purchase a new computer from Best Buy, you are pressured into thinking that the computer already has issues. Best Buy’s salespeople will say: "Oh this computer really needs a new PC setup to create a user account and an optimization to speed it up, oh and you HAVE to get an anti-virus program, and you won’t be able to type anything without Microsoft Office". It’s absolute bullshit.
    Here’s what we do for an optimization:
    -Open up the control panel and uninstall trial software
    -Remove unwanted desktop icons and shortcuts
    -Run Windows Updates
    That’s it.
    4. Agents DO lie to customers!

    During my fist interview, I was asked by our SSM how much I normally charge to backup someone’s files and install an upgraded operating system on a computer with a virus. I said $50, because that’s what I always charge. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t take very long. Well, I was told that the store would charge $600!!! Here’s the layout:
    1. Diagnostic and Repair (to find and remove the virus) – $200
    2. Backup Files (drag-&-drop) – $150
    3. Perform a clean install of a new OS – $130 (which would format the HDD and remove the virus anyway)
    4. Purchase the operating system ($120 for a standard edition of Windows 7)
    -If you just want a restore, they HAVE to have your original recovery discs (that aren’t included in 50% of new computers) and all they do is put the discs in and hit "Run".
    All for a whopping $600… the price of a brand new badass computer with every bell and whistle available. It’s insane, absolutely insane.
    Here’s what I was told: 90% of people don’t know anything about computers. They know that technology is a huge industry and it is commonly expensive. The fact is, people are dumb, they don’t know anything about computers so we have the upper hand. If a customer comes in with a computer and says it’s slow, just open up Computer Management, find some random errors and say "Oh yeah, you have a really bad virus, your banking information is vulnerable". And they will pay whatever it takes to get their files back and for their computer to be safe.
    And let me tell you a little secret: There is only ONE tool that Geek Squad uses that isn’t readily available to the public. It’s called "MRI" and you know what? It’s all over the internet. Search for MRI on isohunt.com and you’ll find it. Most of the time a new updated version of MRI is available online long before it hits the store!
    So all I really have to say is: Stay away from Geek Squad. If you have computer issues, look on Craigslist, find someone who knows what their doing and get it done quick and cheap. I live in Gainesville FL and know for a fact that there are at least 1,000 UF students that could do everything Geek Squad does in about an hour for $20 or so. Don’t trust Geek Squad!!!
    -Ryan MacNeille – thetechstop.info
    PS – DON’T EVER EVER EVER INSTALL LIMEWIRE!!! – THEIR CALLED TORRENTS PEOPLE! GOOGLE IT!!! DOWNLOADING THE LATEST BRITNEY SPEARS SONG IS NOT WORTH A VIRUS!!!

     
  • David Wayne Johnson 8:04 pm on October 19, 2009 Permalink |  

    >New Windows Messages Introduced With Vista 


    >

     

    1. A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer. Smash forehead on keyboard to continue.
    2. Path not found. Try the grass shortcut.
    3. Bad command or file name! Go stand in the corner.
    4. User Error: Replace user.
    5. No network provider accepted the given network path. In plain English, we have not got a clue what’s wrong.
    6. File not found. Should I fake it? (Y/N)
    7. Vista_error 16547: LPT1 not found. Use backup. (PENCIL & PAPER.SYS)

     
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