Protect Home Networks from Bad Websites

Here is a quick way to configure your home network to filter access to all those bad websites. This can help to keep inadvertent clicks to mal-ware websites from causing havoc with machines connected to your network—even the machines that belong to guest that are just visiting. At the same time, you can filter access to websites that some in the household should not be visiting.

Here is the short story: set the router that connects your home network to the internet so that its DNS primary and secondary IP addresses to 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220. Continue reading Protect Home Networks from Bad Websites

Retrieving from Old Backups (.bkf) with Windows 7

Okay, I know you have never used the Windows backup tool in Windows versions prior to Windows 7, so this article is not of any use to you. Windows 7 uses an entirely new scheme for storing backups and, out of the box, is not able to read the older backup files. (This might apply to Windows Vista, as well).

Just like VHS tapes and floppy diskettes, backup files that were created with prior versions of Windows are going by the wayside and are not usable, by default, under Windows 7. Fortunately, Microsoft has made a utility available for Windows 7 that can retrieve files from those old backup-files. First, you will need to get Microsoft’s program from Windows NT Backup Restore Utility for Windows 7. Continue reading Retrieving from Old Backups (.bkf) with Windows 7

VMware: Running Your Apps Safely in a Virtual Environment

As a software/techy/geek, I love VMware Workstation for Windows (and Linux and Fusion for OSX). These products allow an operating system to run within the context of the operating system—a computer within a computer, so to speak. This allows a single machine to be used to run any applications without having to to use multiple machines, dual-boot, or reinstall applications. Continue reading VMware: Running Your Apps Safely in a Virtual Environment

Transferring iTunes Content

To retain all the playlist, podcast status, apps, and media organization in your iTunes setup do the following:

  1. Install iTunes.
  2. Make sure iTunes is not running.
  3. Copy all the media files from your old machine to the new. If all the media is in the standard iTunes location, copy to the entire iTunes directory.
    XP:
    C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes
    Win7:
    C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes
    OSX:
    /Users/username/Music/iTunes

    In Finder, navigate to Home Directory, Music, iTunes.

  4. Copy any media outside the iTunes area to their same paths on the new machine.
  5. Start iTunes and let it rebuild its database.

If you are using iTunes to sync your contacts and other personal information with your iPod’s or iPhone’s, then be sure that the application that holds the personal data is installed and up to date before syncing the device.

Upgrading Windows 7, In-place

One cool, little mentioned feature of Windows 7 is that it can be updated to a grander version, as quickly and easily as installing an security update. You can simply enter the license key for the version of Windows 7 that you want to update to and let the system upgrade itself—an Anytime Update license, which can be purchased for an incremental price (compared to paying the full price), can be used as well.

  1. Right-click on Computer to bring up its context menu and select Properties or open the System settings from the Control Panel.
  2. Unless you already have Windows 7 Ultimate installed, the section at the top, “Windows edition” should have a link that says “Get more features with a new edition of Windows 7.” Click on that link.
  3. After entering the license key for the new Windows version, After inputing a valid key the upgrade files will be downloaded and installed on the machine. The machine may reboot a couple of times.

Migrating Skype Chat History

After installing Skype on a new machine, make sure it is not running. Then, the chat history from an old installation can be moved to the new installation. The Skype user directories in the new installation need to be replaced with the ones from the prior installation, adding them, if necessary.

XP:
C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Skype\skypeuser
Win 7:
C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Skype\skypeuser

Username is the windows login name under which the given Skype installation will run. Skypeuser is one or more Skype user ids that will log into Skype under the given windows login. If you are using Windows’ Explorer, make sure that “protected operating system files” are shown. (I replaced the entire Skype directory and that also worked).

See Move Skype History From Windows XP To Windows 7, but realize that it says that only the “chatsync” directories need to be copied over… that will not work, however, the entire parent directory (skypeuser) must be copied.

Finding Free, Useful Windows Applications

Everyone has their favorite set of applications. Over time, these applications accumulate to the point that you do not realize how many of these applications have actually been installed… until they need to be reinstalled, that is. But if you are starting from scratch, either you want to dispense with the past and start fresh or you simply do not know where to start, to cull through all the cruft you’d accumulated on your old machine.

There is a great site that helps with selecting and installing an initial set of high-quality free applications at Ninite.com. The web site presents commonly needed applications in categories and packages them up into a single custom installation executable that is downloaded and installed locally. After downloading, all the applications can be installed, running a single installation program. It’s also a great site to simply survey what applications you might want to consider.

AlternativeTo.net is another site for finding great applications. If you are familiar with an application but it is too expensive, its features not quite right, or it does not exist on the platform you need, this site will return all kinds of alternatives to the familiar one.
Continue reading Finding Free, Useful Windows Applications

Migrating to Windows 7

The change from Windows XP to Vista is Microsoft’s most extreme operating system user interface change since Windows 95. Many, perhaps most, will bypass Vista and move to Windows 7 from XP, directly. Shockingly, Microsoft has not provided a migration path from XP to Vista nor Windows 7. So, if you are moving from XP to Windows 7, you’ll have to recreate all the applications and settings manually. This series of posts tracks my experience and observations in migrating from my 5-year old XP Professional installation to Windows 7.

My XP machine had been running for 5-years, it had become an “old shoe.” I leave my desktop running all the time, but one day, when I decided to reboot—as it had been apt to need occasionally, in recent months—it failed to reboot. After some troubleshooting, I determined it to be the motherboard. My machine is so old that it is not worth repairing, and, anyway, HP does not have any replacement parts for it. Fortunately, my hard disk drive was undisturbed (though its reboot was to have installed the latest OS updates).

I quickly ordered a new machine which came with Windows Home Premium (the minimum Windows OS version that you should get). I had to install all the applications from scratch. Frustratingly, I want to restore the settings and historical data for those applications. In many cases, this can be done manually, but Vista and Windows 7 have reorganized most of the directories that had become familiar on prior versions of Windows. Making things more difficult, I am now using the 64-bit version of Windows which adds even more complexity to its directory structures.

Forthwith, the trials and tribulations of getting up to speed on a Windows 7.

Seattle

Coffee and gadgetsSeattle.

I don’t often seek to fall into the cliches of my travel destinations and even go to lengths to avoid them. However, I find myself, today, smack dab in the middle of one. And it’s not so bad!

I sit here in the cold northwest. The origin of rain and coffee, as I am led to believe. On this winter afternoon, the sun tires of the cold and, itself, leaves to beat the rush hour traffic. It is shortly after 5pm and the sun is already home.

I avoid all that I should be doing and sit here in a coffee cafe. With wifi linked computer. My cell phone. A pastry. My mocha coffee. In Seattle. All by myself with all these people around.

Seattle.

Trivial Ramblings — Ruminations > 140 Characters [technology, software applications, photography, politics, skiing, …]