Friday, December 23, 2016

Windows 7. Finally a deserving candidate to replace Windows XP.

Back some time ago, I wrote a piece on the failure of the Microsoft Vista operating system.  Poorly designed, and failing to offer any significant benefits over its predecessor - Windows XP, Vista sales came in well below projections.  In fact, Vista was so poorly received, that consumers forced Microsoft to indefinitely postpone the retirement of XP.  As a result, despite the availability of Vista, most purchasers of new PCs opted for XP over the newer offering.

Microsoft apparently learned some lessons.  The latest operating system, Windows 7, has been a hit.  Reliable and reasonably easy to use, Windows 7 is finally replacing Windows XP as the operating system to order on new computers.  It contains a myriad of features that make using the computer much more pleasant, and it's a much sleeker offering than prior Microsoft offerings.

Most of the dental software providers certify that their software will run under Windows 7, and most can take advantage of the benefits associated with the 64 bit version of Windows compared to the older 32 bit implementation.  Even though Microsoft does not plan to stop supporting XP with patches, updates, and tech support until 2014, there’s no reason to put off moving to Windows 7 when you set out to upgrade hardware, or when you run into memory limitations associated with 32 bit operating systems. 

There are a few caveats. 

A Windows XP computer cannot be upgraded to Windows 7 - meaning you can’t replace the XP operating system with Windows 7 while leaving the installed applications (Word, Quickbooks, Dentrix) and settings intact.  It’s necessary to start from scratch, which forces re-installation of all of the applications, and restoration of all of the data files and personalized settings.  This isn’t such a bad thing, since I rarely do upgrades even when they are possible.  Using an operating system for a year or two makes so many changes, and leaves behind so much residual “crud” that it makes sense to start with a formatted drive and a fresh build.

Second, the user interface is sufficiently different from XP that a learning curve will apply to anyone switching to the new version of Windows.  The good news is that online help is readily available, and most users will get the hang of things in a few weeks.

Finally, anyone who is nursing really old computer equipment will find that Windows 7 will not recognize these old items during the installation.  As a result, computers older than three or four years might need significant hardware upgrades to function with the new software.  Things can be done to “kludge” Windows into working with these “antiques”, but the cost of consulting hours will make hardware replacement the more cost effective choice.  I wouldn't attempt to install 7 on any computer that sports a CPU older than a Intel Core II, and I would max out the memory installed on the motherboard.  Memory is inexpensive these days, and the 64 bit version of Windows 7 no longer has the 3 gigabyte memory limitation associated with Windows XP.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Tip of the Week. Mark Minasi Manuals Recommended.

In my humble opinion, Mark Minasi authors the best manuals for Microsoft Windows anywhere. Starting with a book on OS-2, Mark has been providing professionally written documentation since 1988. I can’t say that these books are appropriate for absolute beginners, but they’re just the thing for intermediate and advanced users who wish to master a new version of Windows.

You can find his books at , Amazon. Com, or your local bookseller.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Why I continue to use a desktop even though I own two laptops.

The majority of my customers have firmly embraced the laptop as their daily computer system. Offering the ability to carry web access, financial data and word processing documents on business trips, vacations and to customer sites, people of all ages are abandoning traditional desktops for the more modern equivalent. Even though my job as a consultant would be exceedingly difficult without my trusty laptop, I’d never relinquish my desktop computer for most day-to-day tasks.
First, desktop computers can be customized with the kinds of options that drastically improve performance, response and usability. My desktop sports three hundred gigabytes of ultra-fast, SCSI, 15,000 RPM disk drive storage along with another terabyte of generic, backup disk space. This means that programs load like lightening off of the SCSI disks, while the SATA drives provide enough storage to archive music, movies and customer data. Most laptops are only available with generic disk storage that rarely exceeds the two hundred gigabyte level.
Second, my desktop is easy to upgrade when technology changes the state of the art. When gigabit Ethernet replaced the old 100 megabyte standard, I simply replaced the old 100 meg card in my desktop with a gigabit replacement. The upgrade cost me a total of $39.00. Most laptops don’t have an easy way to replace parts that are usually an integrated part of the laptop, so I’m still working with 100 megabit performance on my trusty Thinkpad laptop.
The main reason though for returning to a desktop computer is the ability to work with dual displays. Think about it: the average laptop offers a wide-screen, 14 or 15 inch panel to display Word documents, web sites, or mail messages. My desktop sports two, 23 inch Samsung LCD monitors that display one, giant-sized Windows desktop spread across the two screens. This gives me the ability to display a full-sized Word window on one screen, while displaying a full-sized web page in the other. I can drag and drop between the two screens, and easily move windows around as if the screens were melded into one. The best part is that this technology has become very affordable in recent years. Whereas five years ago, two, 21 inch monitors would cost $2800, we can now purchase two decent-quality, 23 inch, LCD monitors for $320 apiece. Coupled to a $69 graphics card with two outputs gives a professional-quality workstation for not much more than a standard PC. I would sooner give up my favorite horse, Brandy, than go back to a PC with a single screen.
Note: Most desktop PCs that are less than three years old can be easily upgraded to dual monitors at a very reasonable cost. Please call us if you have any interest.