Operating Systems Archive

Where’s Outlook Express or Windows Mail gone in Windows 7?

In Windows XP and Vista, there was a free entry-level desktop email client that could work with most Internet mail systems as part of the operating system. This client, either Outlook Express in XP or Windows Mail in Vista, often offered enough for people who used their home ISP’s POP3/SMTP or IMAP email facilities rather than use a Web-mail service like Hotmail, GMail or Yahoo Mail.

Windows Vista also had a free calendar program, known as Windows Calendar, as part of the distribution.

This situation was primarily reflected in the provision of Microsoft Office 2007 Home And Student Edition, which didn’t come with Microsoft Outlook. The user would typically run Windows Mail or Outlook Express for their POP3 email or use a Web-hosted mail service for their email and online calendar needs.

The Windows 7 situation

Now Microsoft have removed the email client from the Windows 7 distribution. most likely to comply with various competition directives and orders. It is also because there are a few desktop personal-information-management programs available for free as companion tools for some of the other Web browsers like Firefox and Opera. This would require the user to work with a Web-email service or, if they want to do so, use Windows Live Mail as their desktop email service.

The Windows Live Mail program can work with multiple POP3 or IMAP email services and even become a front-end for Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail service. It also has an integrated calendar function and the contacts are integrated with Windows Live services. This may mean those of you who use Windows Live Messenger / MSN Messenger can keep the contacts’ Messenger IDs as part of the contact database, which can allow the program to show “presence” information about the contacts.

There is some improvement in handling the sending of digital images. Here, if you register with Windows Live, you can send a “photo email” when you send pictures by email. This is an email message with thumbnails of the pictures, but the pictures have a hyperlink to the high-resolution image that is also held on the Windows Live server for a month. Any user who views the email in an HTML-enable desktop email client or Webmail service can click on the pictures to view or download the high-resolution image. 

You also benefit from the ability for Windows Live Mail to monitor your RSS feeds that you subscribe to through the Windows Feed Platform that is part of Internet Explorer 7 and 8. This will provide a “river of news” view sorted by the “press time” of each article; but can allow you to view the contents of a particular feed. It also can handle newsgroups based on the classic USENET method if you do still subscribe to them.

Where do I get Windows Live Mail?

You have to download the program for free from Microsoft’s Web site at http://get.live.com and if you want to benefit from Windows Live fully, you don’t have to maintain a Hotmail account. Instead, you can create a Windows Live account with your regular email address such as the email address your company or ISP gave you.

You also have the chance to pick up Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live (MSN) Messenger, Windows Live Writer which is a “blogger’s friend” (and the software I use for writing articles for this blog), Windows Live Movie Maker amongst other good software, It is also worth knowing that Windows XP and Vista users can run Windows Live Mail and these other programs on their computers if they are after better functionality.

Once you have this program set up on your Windows XP, Vista or 7 computer, you have the essential tools needed for personal email and information management.

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Windows 7 – How it will benefit the small business and work-home laptop users

There have been some significant advances in Windows 7 that benefit the small business and the mobile laptop users. This includes people who use their computers for both their work use and home / community use.

Location Aware Printing for “work-home” laptops

If you run Windows 7 Professional or above on your laptop, this operating system has another feature to support the “work-home” laptop. It is in the form of “Location Aware Printing” where the default printer is determined based on which network the computer is connected to. The network can be determined by factors like the domain Windows is associated with, the SSID of a wireless network or the MAC of the Internet Gateway or DHCP Server that it gets its IP address from.

The printer can be a network printer that exists on the network like the HP OfficeJet at your workplace or your Epson WiFi-enabled all-in-one at home, a locally-connected printer like your Canon portable USB printer or a software-based virtual printer like your fax software’s “print-to-fax” function or “print-to-PDF” software.

At the moment, there isn’t ready support for handling location-aware printing in locations where there are many printers in the same facility, such as the typical workplace or educational institution with its many rooms.

Inherent support for mobile broadband services

Windows 7 has inherent support for 3G wireless broadband services thus eliminating the need to run operator-provided software to use the 3G modem. It also caters for laptops that have integrated 3G modems, which is a feature becoming more common with units that are supplied through mobile-phone outlets. In some cases, you may not need to install any software provided by the 3G provider to use wireless broadband Internet service.

This is similar to when Microsoft implemented Dial Up Networking in Windows 95 and users didn’t have to run any other software to get online with their dial-up Internet service.

Wi-Fi Wireless Flexibility for the business partner and hotspot surfer

Windows 7 has improved the Wi-Fi wireless infrastructure thus allowing a Wi-Fi equipped computer with an appropriate hardware driver for its wireless card to do more tricks. It can become a wireless-wireless LAN bridge which can allow for such things as running Wi-Fi devices that can’t go beyond regular WPA2-PSK authentication and don’t have an easy-to-use Web browser with networks that implement WPA2-Enterprise authentication at workplaces or Web-based authentication at hotspots. A good use for this could be for a business partner to take pictures with his Wi-Fi digital camera and upload them to his laptop or a site worker who wants to play his Roberts Stream 202 Internet radio at a wireless hotspot just by using his laptop (which will alert him to new work) as a gateway. It can also allow for “bonding” of multiple Wi-Fi signals for greater throughput, which can come in handy with multi-access-point networks.

Improved business network functionality

The Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate computer has improved business network functionality, which can come in handy with corporate or business-partner networks. One feature that I like is “network-specific” security that accounts for VPN and DirectAccess network setups. Here, you can set up a “domain-driven” business network profile for the VPN tunnel while you have a “private-network” security rule that applies to your home network or a “public-network” security rule that applies to public networks like wireless hotspots. This still allows business-driven network tools like system management tools or desktop-based MIS “dashboards” to operate “through the tunnel” with your computer being secure enough for the network you are in.

Speaking of DirectAccess, this is an improved IPv6-IPSec VPN replacement provided with Windows 7 Ultimate that does away with the need for extra weight associated with a lot of VPN software. The software sets up a separate IPv6 path to the DirectAccess server that your employer or business partner provides and makes the access to business resources more transparent. This function will require the use of a Windows Server 2008 R2 box installed at the workplace by your employer or IT contractor and your computer to run Windows 7 Ultimate.

Conclusion

This series of Windows 7 articles shows how your Windows-based computer and network can be improved when you deploy Windows 7.

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Windows 7 – What does it mean for multimedia and the home media network

Improved sound-reproduction infrastructure

Some of you may use two or more sound cards in your computer; such as using the sound circuitry that is part of your motherboad as well as an aftermarket sound card. Windows 7 caters for that by allowing you to relegate a particular sound subsystem to a particular program or activity. A common use would be to use a Bluetooth headset for Skype and related VoIP communications, gaming taunts and similar applications while you have your music playing through the main speakers. Similar you could connect a “good” sound card to a good sound system for recording and playback while the onboard sound infrastructure can be used for system sounds.

Even the ability to send digital audio signals to home-theatre equipment via the HDMI port has been improved. It includes the ability to pass the high-definition audio streams from BluRay and similar applications as a raw bitstream. It will also provide the multiple-sound-device functionality as mentioned previously with HDMI audio setups that use a dedicated sound infrastructure rather than feeding an SP-DIF audio bitstream from the computer’s main sound card.

As well, there is functionality that permits the music or video sound to be reduced in volume whenever a VoIP or similar call comes in even if the call goes through a different sound device, which makes life easier when you take these calls using the computer.

DirectX and Gaming

DirectX in Windows 7 has been taken up to version 11 and this has brought forward a lot of improvements as far as computer games go. This also includes a lot of work “under the bonnet” to improve game responsiveness with the screen and sound and bring up PC gaming to current-generation console level.s

Streamlined network management

The network management functions are similar to what Windows Vista users have expected in the Network And Sharing Center, But this interface has been streamlined and made easier to use. The “full map” is still available and you can gain access to shared resources or UPnP-provided device management pages when you click on the various devices.

HomeGroup

This feature is a way of establishing a “circle of trust” within a home network when it comes to sharing resources around that network. This is based on a computer-generated password that is used across the HomeGroup to authenticate all of the computers on the network to the resource pool. At the moment, this only works across Windows 7 boxes on the network, but it may be worth keeping an eye out for Microsoft and third-party downloads that allow Windows 2000 / XP / Vista, Macintosh and Linux boxes to work in with a HomeGroup setup.

This is another way that Microsoft implemented a practice commonly associated with locks and keys, Here, the identifying factor that only allows the lock to work with particular keys is already determined by the tumblers that are integrated in the lock’s mechanism and these tumblers are configured to work that way either by the manufacturer or by a locksmith when you have the lock rekeyed.

The first instance of this was with Windows Connect Now, which was implemented in Windows XP Service Pack 2 as a way of configuring a highly-secure wireless network. Here, the WPA-PSK passphrase was determined randomly by Windows Connect Now and used as part of a “configuration manifest” file to be transferred to routers and other computers using a USB memory key. This was extended to Windows Vista through the WPA-PSK passphrase being uploaded to a compliant wireless router using an Ethernet connection, and was integrated in to Wireless Protected Setup which is implemented as part of Windows Vista Service Pack 2.

Another advantage provided with HomeGroup is that it can work with “work-home” laptops that move between a domain-managed business network and a home network. HomeGroup can also cater for other small networks, because there is the option to share particular resources with particular users as you were able to do son with any Windows-based CIFS network.

Improved DLNA support

Windows Media Player 12, which is part of the Windows 7 distribution or, in some cases, available as a free download from Microsoft, has DLNA built in to its ecosystem. This doesn’t just stop at sharing media files with DLNA / UPnP AV media devices or streaming media files from other DLNA / UPnP AV media servers like NAS boxes. It allows you to “push” content to DLNA / UPnP AV media devices that present themselves as “MediaRenderer” devices. This is typically provided in the form of the “Play To” right-click shortcut for multimedia files.

Remote Media Streaming

You can stream content from one Windows 7 computer to another over the Internet as long as you use the same identifier, like a Windows Live ID. with each of them. This can be useful for situations like temporary accommodation like hotels, holiday homes or serviced apartments where you may have your computer at home running and you may want to play media at your temporary location. I have discussed this feature before on this blog and have raised issues regarding VPN operation and the computer that is pulling the media being able to serve it to DLNA-compliant media hardware on its local network.

Inherent support for current digital-TV standards and Internet TV

Windows 7 provides its Media Center application with inherent operating-system support for currently-deployed digital-TV standards so there isn’t much need for TV tuner card manufacturers to supply software to work with the current standards. As well, this operating system provides improved support for “over-the-top” Internet TV services that may be released in your country. In some cases, this may do away with the need for the coaxial TV cable to the computer or the need to sign up to cable services full of “fodder channels” to gain access to the “good channels”.

Next article in the series will touch on how Windows 7 will benefit the small business and the work-home laptop.

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Windows 7 – Welcome to the new operating system

windows7bootAfter Microsoft had the PR fiasco with Windows Vista, they decided to re-engineer the Windows platform and released the new Windows 7 operating system. One main benefit is that the operating system has been stable even during the public beta and release-candidate versions.

Packages

Each package in Windows 7 is a superset of the package below it. So a Professional package doesn’t omit the multimedia features that are part of Home Premium. This is unlike Windows Vista where you lost the multimedia features and advanced games if you got the Business package, which goes against the reality of small-business users who use the multimedia functionality to while away long plane trips or play casual games to while away long processes such as being put on hold in a phone call. The three main packages that I will be covering and recommending are listed below; and I would recommend that users factor in having their Windows 7 operating system be one of these packages when they have the operating system pre-installed on their new computer.

Home Premium

This one is perfect for a regular home desktop or laptop user because of integrating functions that are part of home computing life.

Professional

This package is suitable for tertiary students, SOHO users and small businesses who want proper functionality for their business or study life. Most of the functionality that this package has is to do with connectivity, especially with college / university networks in the case of students and business networks, whether managed by IT staff or a business IT-support contractor; or managed by yourself.

Ultimate

This package, which is the “Fairmont Ghia” of the Windows 7 lineup, is what I would recommend if you work in a high-risk environment with highly-valuable highly-sensitive customer data. This would cover medical professionals, lawyers, accountancy-related professionals, people who deal with highly-valuable merchandise like those in the arts and antiques trade, and those who are working on highly-valuable content. This is because of the built-in security functionality offered through the BitLocker and BitLocker To Go volume-encrypting functionality.

Simple yet secure

One of the main complaints with Windows Vista, especially from home and small-business users was the way the User Account Control system worked. This included tasks that typically wouldn’t affect the stability or security of the system, such as setting the DPI of the screen or adding some peripherals requiring the user to complete the User Account Control process as part of the task.

The idea initially was for the operating system to work on “least privilege” with the system invoking higher privilege levels as required. Now Microsoft have improved the way that this protection works by having certain tasks like DPI setup and peripheral installation being in the scope of all privilege levels. As well, the level of User Account Control interaction can be varied by the user or system administrator to suit their needs.

Improved hardware installation and utilisation

Most device drivers for any computer peripherals will be loaded and kept up-to-date through the Windows Update function that is part of the operating system. In some cases, the hardware will primarily work with “class drivers” that pertain to the kind of device being installed. This of course is supported through USB, Bluetooth, UPnP / DLNA and similar standards that exist for types of devices that use particular physical or logical connection methods. In a few cases, mostly with legacy devices, you may have to supply the manufacturer-supplied files to the computer, either by downloading the file from the manufacturer’s Web site or loading an “install” program from a CD-ROM supplied with the device.

As well, printers, scanners, multimedia hardware, portable peripherals (digital cameras, mobile phones, portable media players, etc) and other selected hardware classes will appear on a visual “inventory” window called the Devices And Printers Folder. When you click on a device icon, which will be a photorealistic representation of the physical device, you will open up the Device Stage window. In this window, you will have a photographic representation of the device and a list of tasks appropriate to that particular device model like a printer’s desktop “ink monitor” application or "Sync media files” for a media player. You will also have links to the device manufacturer’s homepage and the particular device page managed by your device’s manufacturer for that device. This can help with such things as knowing where to find new firmware for your device. Devices that are the backbone of the system like the motherboard’s chipsets and the CPU will be hidden from this window. Multi-function devices like the printer/scanner combos will typically have their functions grouped together for that same physical device, rather than each function being a separate device.

This will make you want to use the value-added functions of your peripheral devices more frequently rather than underutilising the devices.

As far as router setup goes, Windows 7, like Windows Vista SP2, supports the quick and easy setup of wireless network segments using WPS. This includes support for “push-push” WPS installations where you only need to push the WPS button on the router.

Improved User Interface

This operating system has major improvements over the way the desktop works. This includes use of “Aero Shake”, which lets you hide all the programs other than the one you want to focus on just by dragging and shaking the program’s window with the mouse, drag-to-edge window “tiling”, amongst other functions that make it easier to see what is on the desktop especially if you have many programs running.

As well, programs that are in the Quick Launch bar on the Taskbar now can support “Jump Lists” which are like Start Menu shortcuts and Recent Items lists implemented for that program. You will still have the regular Start Menu which will be similar to what you have experienced with Windows Vista.

Logical file collections

A file collection or “library”, like “Documents”, “Pictures” or “Music” can be considered as a logical file collection which encompasses user-defined folders on any volume available to the system. This can cater for people who have files held on different partitions, other hard drives such as the second internal hard disk in many power-users’ desktops or external hard disks, or network-accessible locations.

The practice of adding or removing folders in a logical collection is very similar to moving or copying folders using Windows Explorer.

Improved support for alternate input methods

Windows 7 has inherent support for touchscreens, including multi-touch touchscreens. This can allow for “touch me” operation of the Windows 7 user interface and allow for programs to support touch-driven user interface. It can lead to the computer having an “iPhone” user interface for common tasks. Infact companies who are making premium “all-in-one” desktop computers are implementing the touchscreen user interface in these computers as a “luxury statement”.

The tablet-based user interface has been improved for people who own tablet-compliant laptops such as the “swivel-head” laptops that can work as a tablet computer or a conventional laptop computer. There have been improvements in handwriting recognition and now you can use the tablet interface to write “sums” or other maths equations through the use of a “Math Input Panel”. Even the on-screen keyboard has been improved with predictable text input similar to most of the new mobile phones.

Next article

I will be talking about Windows 7 more in the next instalment, where it will touch on how it will improve the home media network.

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Invitation to comment about Windows 7

Anyone who is reading this blog and has Windows 7 running on a new or existing PC is invited to post their experiences about the operating system in the Comments thread after this post. It doesn’t matter if you bought the operating system as an upgrade or full-version package, or had it as part of a newly-bought computer. This also includes those of you who work at workplaces that have had Windows 7 rolled out as part of a technology upgrade.

If you are reading this blog in the European Union and have installed Windows 7 on the computer or bought a computer with Windows 7 as standard, did you have to go through the "browser ballot” screen and, if so, what Web browser have you elected to use as your standard browser?

How did you go about installing it, whether as an upgrade over an existing XP or Vista installation or as a clean install of the C: drive? If you bought a new computer with it preloaded, how did the experience go with first-time setup?

How easy is Windows 7 to use compared to your previous Windows XP or Vista experiences? Was there an increased learning curve when it came to doing the tasks that you want to do?

How did your Windows 7 computer co-exist with Windows XP or Vista computers on the same network? Was it also easier to bring a work-home laptop home and integrate it in to your home network?

All comments on this post are moderated, like other comments on any post in this blog and I will remove any comment spam, or comments that attempt to humiliate other users about their operating environments.

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New product launches – Windows 7, new Apple Macintosh range

Windows 7, the operating system that all of the Windows user community have been waiting for is now out on the shelves.

This is not Microsoft propaganda, but I have heard from some hardcore PC enthusiasts who have tried pre-release issues of the operating system and they have found that it was worth its salt. They have considered it as a very stable and capable operating system for “standards-based” Windows computing environments.

At the same time,Apple had launched new hardware for their Macintosh platform, which would be seen as a way to steal Microsoft’s thunder. This hardware lineup was hot on the heels of MacOS X being brought to Snow Leopard, thus allowing newer Macs to work at their best. But I also see it as a coup for diehard Mac users running older PowerPC hardware to consider a Snow-Leopard-driven hardware upgrade.

The activity that I have seen for both the Windows and MacOS X platforms has certainly showed me that this year is definitely a big year for the two most popular general-purpose computing platforms.

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Apple Snow Leopard – Is it worth it for your existing Mac

There is all the recent talk about Apple releasing the Snow Leopard variant of the MacOS X operating system this Friday (August 28 2009) and you may be interested in upgrading your Macintosh computer to it. If you do upgrade your Mac to this operating system, especially if the computer is relatively recent – made after early 2006, you may notice that most of the improvements will be invisible on the user interface.

Intel-only deployment

The main issue with this operating system update is that it is engineered for Macintosh systems that have Intel-based internal architecture. This typical will apply to Macs that have been bought over the last few years, such as the MacBook laptops and the new iMacs. It won’t work with Macintosh computers that were based on the PowerPC architecture, which may apply to older computers.

What do you get for most Mac users

Under-the-hood improvements

The improvements are mainly that the operating system has been rewritten and profiled for the new Intel architectures such as the 64-bit processors and multi-core processor architectures. This also includes the applications that are part of the operating system like the Safari Web browser or QuickTime. There has been logic installed so that all of the cores in the Intel multi-core processors can he used.

Another feature that is worth its salt is that the eject procedure for removeable media is improved. If the eject process is stopped because an application has the removeable medium, you are offered the ability to quit the application that has the removeable medium so it releases possession of the files on that medium.

Accessibility improvements

The accessibility improvements mainly benefit those who have vision difficulties. It mainly is in the form of the VoiceOver Integraded screen-reader that works tightly with the operating system and applications. It allows for MacBook computers with multi-touch trackpads to have the trackpad seen as an alternate screen map and allows for use of the trackpad as a “rotary control”. There is also support for more of the Braille user-interface devices for those who cannot see at all.

WiFi networking improvements

The home network hasn’t been forgotten about with Snow Leopard. The Apple AirPort menu, which is the control point for Apple’s AirPort WiFi implementations, can provide detailed information about the wireless networks that the WiFi-equipped Macintosh computer can receive. This is achieved by the user holding down the [Option] key while clicking on the Apple Airport icon at the top right of the screen. Then you see detailed information like the channel and band in use by the access point, the network’s operating mode and security mode; and the access point’s BSSID under the network’s SSID.

There is an automatic time-zone setup feature for WiFi-equipped Macs; which is linked to a Skyhook Wireless database of access points and localities. This can allow the MacBook to show local time when it is taken overseas or interstate without user intervention. This is due to Apple using this data as part of their iPhone software.

An “all-Apple” network which use Bonjour discovery will have “Wake On WiFi” behaviour with newer Apple Macs and provide improved native file sharing due to this Apple-developed protocol. I am not sure whether the “Wake On WiFi” behaviour and improved file sharing behaviour will be made to work with networks that use other brands of network peripherals.

Is it worth it for the existing Mac user

For most Macintosh users with recently-built equipment running OS X Leopard, the cost is typically around $A39 / $US30 per computer, but people who just bought a Macintosh but didnt have it delivered with Snow Leopard can upgrade the operating system through Apple for $A14.95. It would then be worth it to have the computer running quickly and smoothly.

As far as whether it is worth going ahead, some Mac users may pass this upgrade up because there is no visible improvement in the user interface or no brand-new keynote functionality. But for most, if not all, Mac users who are running relatively-new setups, the performance boost that this operating system upgrade provides would make it worth it to take the plunge. This is more so because of the fact that most Mac users are typically working “hands-on” with graphics-based applications like CAD or image editing.

Invitation to comment

If any Mac user who is reading this article about Snow Leopard, they can leave a comment about how their computer has performed under the upgrade compared to before.

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Third-party popup blockers and Internet Explorer 7 / 8

There is a very common mistake that I have seen being made concerning the implementation of popup-blocking software. It typically involves one running a third-party popup blocker like one that is part of an add-on toolbar like Google Toolbar in one of the recent crop of browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 that has integrated popup-control functionality.

The problem can lead to popups that are to be part of your Web experience, such as a transaction wizard, being blocked or, at worst, the browser program hanging or crashing frequently. This is due to competition between the different programs to manage the same site or pop-up screen.

To avoid this, make sure that you are running one popup blocker program only, whether the third-party program or the one that is integrated in your browser. Personally, I would prefer to use the one that is integrated in the browser because of it being tightly linked with the browser’s code, thus avoiding use of unnecessary system resources.

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Vista SP2 to land in April 2009-ish? – The Register

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/01/vista_sp2_april_rtm/

My comments

At least there is some accurate information regarding the arrival of Vista Service Pack 2 and what it will contain. This service pack could draw more people towards Windows Vista and offer something that can avoid the idea of going “back to XP”.

At least there are a few options that may benefit the laptop user and the modern WiFi-driven home computing environment. One would be to work hand in glove with WPS configuration as more routers come with “over-the-air” WPS configuration. As well, the Bluetooth Feature Pack which will offer what is expected of a Bluetooth setup will be available for people who buy Bluetooth functionality independent of the operationg system. This would encompass system builders; and those of us who provide Bluetooth functionality via an aftermarket device such as a USB dongle or move to Vista by buying it through the retail channel. The other desireable feature would be for the operating system to “natively” burn data to Blu-Ray discs; which would definitely come in handy with backing up hard disks or archiving old data.

In my honest opinion, this service pack can “tide us over” until Windows 7 comes on the scene as the next operating system.

Come on “I’m A PC”!

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