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Windows Vista Sidebar

If you have purchased your copy of Windows Vista you have experienced this unique Vista feature. The sidebar can be used to add different features that are easily viewable.

For me the CPU and network activity monitor are very handy. If you have not previously experienced this feature or would like to re-enable the item simply visit the control panel and select the”Windows Sidebar” icon to configure it for start up.

You can view everything from the time, network traffic, CPU usage and much more. Many software vendors are developing applications to work with the Windows sidebar. If the feature or utility you might be looking for isn’t currently available then you might give it just a little more time as I’m sure someone will develop it.

If you would like to review available “gadgets” for the windows sidebar you can simply click here.

Vista- resource hog or not

I recently attempted installation of the Vista Home Premium operating system. I first attempted this operation to see how well it performed with the minimum system requirements. Of course it wasn’t as crisp and quick as I had hoped it would be.

After testing for quite some time I turned off all the fancy shadows and features of the operating system and of course it ran better. As I added my third party applications performance began to lag once again.

Ok… time to try the installation with the recommended requirements. Just to review what the recommended requirements are I have them listed here.

1 Ghz 32 or 64-bit processor
1 GB of system memory
40 GB hard drive with 15 GB available space
128 MB graphics memory card that supports directx 9.0

Even after updating the system configuration with the new hardware… performance did improve. Of course being a tech head I do desire the as fast as possible scenario.

After reviewing my options I decided to attempt using Windows Ready Boost to see if I could boost performance. I added a compatible USB 2.0 drive with 2 GB of capacity and configured ready boost to use the device.

After testing I would have to say I would recommend to anyone that uses Vista (which does seem to be a resource hog) and needs peak performance you may want to consider using the ready boost option. Even though you cannot monitor the ready boost device performance while installed it does appear to have benefits.

As well as the performance benefits it is as well much cheaper to add a USB drive than internal system memory. I guess Microsoft knew we might need some other option to boost performance of their new os. I’m glad they decided to add this option to the operating system.

Vista Parental controls

Finally Microsoft added a feature that is much easier to use than previous utilities to help parents monitor youth activities.

Although features such as this have previously been embedded into the Windows operating system it is not until now that they have been so easy to use. If you have ever configured the Internet Explorer content adviser you know what I am talking about. Another aspect to these utilities that were previously not available are the reporting features.

Microsoft has embedded all the previously available utilities into an easy to use interface and added some new unique features.

With the release of Vista you now have the following abilities to monitor and control how your children interact with the computer and the Internet.

Web restrictions.

 You can restrict the websites that children can visit, make sure children only visit age-appropriate websites, indicate whether you want to allow file downloads, and set up which content you want the content filters to block and allow. You can also block or allow specific websites.

Time limits.

You can set time limits to control when children are allowed to log on to the computer. Time limits prevent children from logging on during the specified hours and, if they are already logged on, they will be automatically logged off. You can set different logon hours for every day of the week.

Games.

You can control access to games, choose an age rating level, choose the types of content you want to block, and decide whether you want to allow or block unrated or specific games.

Allow or block specific programs.

You can prevent children from running programs that you don’t want them to run.

Finally you don’t have to purchase a third party application to monitor and control access to content. Being a father myself I can definitely say I will be interested in learning more about how well parental controls work. I hope Microsoft continues to develope this new utility.
 

Another Feature of Vista

Here as of late I have been writing about some of the features of Windows Vista. This article reviews the bitlocker feature.

Although this utility is not entirely new as it was released previously with Windows 2000 and has been improved upon.

The bitlocker utility can encrypt a hard drive so that if your computer or drive has been stolen the data is less likely to be accessed by prying eyes.

Although no one is quite sure how secure this utility may be as it has not been fully tested by the rest of us. Of course Microsoft will document it as a secure feature they have done so in the past.

Once the general public gets their hands on it thats when it will really be tested. As we know with previous supposed secure features this isn’t always the case.

Just like the SAM database which is supposed to secure user accounts and passwords it as well has been fooled before with those nifty Linux boot disks…The bitlocker utility may as well fall victim of such a utility.

I do have to say kuddos to Microsoft for adding the feature because it can atleast protect your data some what and may reveal itself as a well built security utility.

If you have any experiences to share about this utility…Whether it be good, bad, or otherwise please post a comment and share your experience.

Fiber to the house…Oh yeah!

Are there any other tech heads out there like me who wish deployment of better connectivity technology would move a little faster?

A month or so ago I visited a friend in Florida. While I was there his ISP was installing fiber to the house for Internet connectivity. Of course it made my mouth water thinking of the reliability and speeds he would have.

That is just totally cool that they are converting their entire network for all consumers to fiber connectivity.

After installation he purchased a connectivity package which allowed for up to 20MB download speeds and I believe 6MB upload. Now if you are an avid tech head or a system administrator you know just what that means…..no more slow uploads due to those darn limiting QOS files.

I hope this practice becomes a standard for all high speed Internet ISP’s. I dont know about you but that would enable me to be twice as productive when uploading websites or large files.

Currently I can only dream of a connection like this, but maybe…just maybe one day I will have something comparable.

Unlimited Wireless Broadband?

An associate of mine recently signed up for so called unlimited wireless broadband access with a major provider. They installed their hardware and configured it for broadband access.

After a day of using the service they noted that they kept losing connection once every 30 minutes so they decided to contact the service provider for assistance.

After three days of troubleshooting the connection problem the service provider concluded it may be a tower problem that was at the root of this issue. They suggested waiting a couple of days for the engineers to review the information and they would contact them back.

After waiting an additional day past the set time frame my associate decided to contact the provider back. Of course they apologized for the lack of communication. They reviewed the case file and this time concluded that the issue was not a problem, but rather by design.

They explained that their towers are set by default to log users off automatically regardless of activity. Well this causes problems for users who work through wireless broadband for hours on end. Especially if accessing information remotely.

I think they should rename their “unlimited Internet access” plan to something more precisely descriptive…..such as the unlimited Internet for a brief period of time plan.

Be sure if you are looking into wireless broadband that you ask as many questions as possible about connectivity and speeds before you decide on a particular plan or you will end up where my associate is………trying to get out of their two year contract.

Top 10 humerous Reasons to Buy Vista

I hope you find some humor in this list.

I am by no means saying you shouldn’t upgrade to Windows Vista, but rather pointing out issues that can occur during an upgrade along with some other humerous points. Enjoy!

10. Because you want to upgrade your hardware

9. So your already purchased applications wont work

8. Because you want to have the latest and supposedly greatest

7. Because you just love to be a BETA tester

6. To take advantage of all the annoying security features

5. Because you just want to spend the weekend frustrated after the install fails

4. Because you never heard the old saying “If it isn’t broke don’t try and fix it”

3. So you can see how many new ways hackers can invade your system until Microsoft applies security updates

2. Because you just want to stimulate the economy

1. Last but not least….Because you just love headaches
 

Windows Vista Recovery Environment

Microsoft has added a new feature to the Windows arsenal. The new utility is the Recovery environment utility. This new utility has been added to aid a user in repair of the Windows Vista OS.

This new utility is actually booted from the Vista DVD and has a few new utilities. Included in this new utility are the functions below.

BCDMD
Repairs the MBR, partition table, or boot sector.

ChkDsk
Runs ChkDsk in repair mode.

File Repair
Replaces the corrupt system file with a backup copy.

BootCfg
Reconstructs the BCD.

System Restore
Rolls back the system state by using System Restore.

ACLs fix
Sets the ACLs of the specified file to a default value.

Registry rollback
Replaces the corrupt registry hives with a backup copy.

Change Crash on Audit Failure setting
Disables Windows auditing. Only an administrator can log on to Windows.

Memory Diagnostics
Runs the Windows Memory Diagnostics tool.

You might notice the new Memory diagnostics utility. This utility not only tests RAM but cache memory as well. This can be very handy when experiencing memory errors. Its a great diagnostics utility.

The easily accessible registry rollback utility….. I am sure will be used by many users knowing how the registry can become corrupted.

If you ever have experienced an issue that could not be resolved through normal or safe mode you may want to look into the Recovery Environment utilities as it isn’t necessary to boot to Windows to use this utility. I hope it proves to be as helpful in troubleshooting and repair as I think it will be.

Is your IT department ready for Vista roll out?

If you have ever had difficulties in rolling out a new operating system then Vista will be no different.Your organization may opt to wait for roll out.

Windows Vista will be even more complicated to roll out. Of course any rollout will be easier by implementing group
policies for a more centralized control of how users interact with Windows Vista.

First you as an organization will need to decide which version is right for your infrastructure as some features are not available in some of the versions. Personally if you were to ask me I vote for Utlimate.

Most organizations I have spoke with seem to be set on waiting for rollout until service pack one is completed for Windows Vista. This will make it easier as I am sure they will add more features to the operating system.

One thing is a must as an organization….That is planning. When considering roll out for Windows vista this is one thing you cannot do enough of. There are many new security features embedded in Vista that will make this process more complicated than ever.

Be sure to stay on top of any new developments or changes to Vista by subscribing to RSS feeds for the Vista product. If you have a subscription to Microsoft technet you might find implementation and configuration easier.

Good luck and god bless with your implementation.

Windows Vista UAC

I have completed the new Microsoft Windows Vista course 5118A just this week. In review of my new training on Vista Microsoft has a new and very annoying utility internal to the operating system.

The new utilitiy is the UAC or user account control. If you have recently purchased Windows vista you know just how annoying it can be.

The utility was designed to prevent malicious software from invading your computer and to “protect users from themselves”.

Even logged in as an administrator this utility is still active and still annoying as it monitors even administrative account activity. You can turn this feature off in the accounts control panel, but of course Microsoft does not recommend it.

I know you will be just as frustrated with it as I have been, but it does add an extra security feature while monitoring installation and removal of software. As we know malicious programs can install in the background while browsing the Internet or opening email.

The UAC utility as well monitors the registry for changes and notifies if a program or user attempts to alter it and then prompts for permission.

When looking at it from a security point of view this utility can be a very useful one, but when looking at it from a productivity stand point you will have a different view of this utility.