Category: The Technocracy


Picture this for me if you will.

You’re standing in your mechanic’s shop, your car jacked up into the air as it gets its oil changed. The smell of grease-monkey and subtle noises of the equipment making you nearly catatonic with boredom. Your gaze sweeps idly across the body of your car in a vain attempt to retain consciousness when you spot something odd.

Is that a wire sticking out of your wheel well? That’s odd, why would a wire be sticking out of your wheel well. There’s nothing wirey requiring in that region is there? You wander over to the back wheel of your car and reach up and inside. After feeling around for a moment you pull out a magnetically attached small black box & tube.

OM6nE

To be fair, my first guess would have been faulty remote detonated pipe bomb.

Seems like the beginning of a government thriller or X-Files-esque movie plot right? Once again, life (or more accurately the US Government) chooses to mimic fiction.

After discovering this strange looking device secretly attached to his car, young Arab-American and Californian Yasir Afifi, posted pictures of this device to the internet and the wild speculations began. Though most people that commented agreed it seemed quite a bit like an older model FBI tracking device (c0nfirmed by an ex-FBI agent later on).

Was it real? Did someone get their hands on it aftermarket? Or was the FBI actually tracking Mr. Afifi? 48 hours after locating and removing the device he sure found out. The FBI intercepted him and took their tracking device back.

So why were the FBI tracking Mr. Afifi? Is he a foreign national living in the US with ties to foreign powers? A potential terrorist cell leader? Seems unlikely. Yasir Afifi is a citizen of the US; born and raised for the 20 years of his life. Though according to this Wired article, the FBI seems to have been investigating and tracking Mr. Afifi for 3 to 6 months before he discovered the device.

Comments made by the agents involved to Mr. Afifi seem to indicate that the investigation was initiated because of some comments one of his close friends Khaled made on a website. Maybe racial profiling, maybe not. Hard call. But the potential to be in a similar situation exists for every American citizen. Seriously.

The US Circuit Court of appeals recently ruled that it is ok for law enforcement to wire your car without needing so much as a warrant. Good Gods, seriously? Police State much?

If you’re like me, a Canadian citizen or a citizen of another country outside the US, this should still be fairly alarming to you. Many other countries look at what the US is doing, and consider how effective that would be in their own country. And it’s even worse for us, because we have an idiot/US puppet as our Prime Minister in the form of the glorious Stephen Harper.

Regardless of whether or not Yasir was targeted by the FBI based on actual evidence or just because of his family’s racial background and ties, this should not be overlooked by anyone. The potential for abuse in this current situation is disturbingly overwhelming.

But our story does have a hero. Or at least a potential hero. Brian Alseth of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington heard about Yasir’s story much like we are. He saw Yasir and Khaled’s pictures of the device online and took action.

"This is the kind of thing we like to throw lawyers at," Alseth was quoted saying by Afifi. And with good reason. If no warrant is required to place these devices, the good ol’ boys club at the FBI could easily abuse them for selfish or personal reasons, or even personal gain.

Your stocks tanking? You think the CEO of a rival company maybe cheating on his wife, or doing something else embarrassing? No problem! Install ye olde tracking device in his car and send a private eye with a camera to follow the GPS. Admittedly this is a minor example so to speak, but I hope you get the general idea.

Wired.com reports that Afifi’s FBI adventure ended with the agents telling him that he should not worry about any of it.

"We have all the information we needed," they told him. "You don’t need to call your lawyer. Don’t worry, you’re boring. "

Yea, sure. Easy for you to say jerks. You aren’t the ones finding a tracking device on your car. 

Now, before I continue, I should point out that I’m not calling everyone who does this stupid per se. Well, actually, that’s exactly what I’m doing. But we’re all stupid at something right?
 
Anyway, one of the most common things I hear both inside and outside of work is whining about Microsoft Windows Vista. I just wanted to take this opportunity to say shut the hell up and stop it. Seriously.
 
I’m the first to admit that Vista’s launch was rocky. Very rocky in fact. But you know what operating system had an even worse launch. That piece of crap 10 year old one you people are still trying to cling to.
 
See in 2001 there was this new operating system that had more problems then Vista did right off the line. A lot of previous version Windows software wouldn’t run on it. The drivers were even MORE broken then Vistas was. Then there was the massive security flaws such as operating system side popups that people could broadcast over the internet randomly and you would get them on your screen. Not web browser popups mind you, but actual network-delivered operating system pop ups.
 
Have you guessed what operating system that was? That’s right. Your crappy stupid Windows XP. It was a terrible system right off the line, and wasn’t even viably stable and secure until Service Pack 2 came along. And let’s not forget how Windows XP introduced us to the concept of Spyware.
 
Up until that point viruses were pretty rare, and usually detected quickly by then antivirus overlords McAffee and Norton.
 
Comparitively, other then resource overusage, Vista’s major two problems were drivers not being available (which was a problem that can be attributed to hardware manufacturers AS WELL as Microsoft themselves) and devastatingly bad response to critismism by the Mac twits. More specifically, there WAS NO response.
 
Moreover, on XP’s release. Any games you currently had would simply not work. Period. They crashed right out of the box. Vista? Most current gen games at the time performed great. In fact in some cases, with the addition of Desktop derendering, they worked even better. The only crashing issues were caused by faulty or poorly developed drivers for hardware over 3+ years old.
 
This is the conversation that I generally get into with Windows Vista haters (at least the ones that don’t know computers):
 
Person: Windows Vista is terrible!
Me:      Well I admit that Vista is a little heavy on resource usage, but its really not that bad.
Person: Well I just don’t like it.
Me:       Why?
Person: Someone told me it was bad.
Seriously? That’s the best reason you can come up with? If you’re going to bash something at least have some kind of reasonable argument asshat.
 
Now don’t get me wrong Windows 7 is vastly superior to Vista, but GODS I’m sick and tired of hearing people whine about Vista when they don’t even really know why, or seem to forget how horrible XP used to be.
 
So please, do us all a favour. I don’t care if you’re a technical GOD or a person who just discovered where the “any key” is. If you want to bash Vista, do some goddamned research into what your bashing first or shut your stupid verbal diarheea generator before I shove my foot in it.
 
That is all.

I have been a long-time critic of Microsoft for its past software offerings and business practices, but as of late they’ve been making up a lot of ground.

It started with Windows 7. I can honestly say, that it is the first time since Win98 SE & Windows 2000 that I have been happy and even proud to be a Windows user. It’s stable, fast, and pretty damned secure. Then they introduced Office 2010, which builds on the successful framework of Office 2007, but with more integration and some features that should have been around from the beginning. I know, a lot of people don’t like the interface and layout, but stop whining like pansies and learn it. It’s actually very straightforward and logical once you figure it out. After that, we saw antivirus and security finally done properly in the form of Microsoft Security Essentials. Their replacement for Windows Live OneCare has been a great success in a lot of ways, coming close to, and in some cases, outmatching even the best paid antivirus solutions. And lets not forget the Office 2011 beta for Mac OS X. Finally they’ve gotten rid of Entourage and replaced it with a proper, full featured Outlook for Mac.

But that’s not what this article is about is it? We’ve all been exposed to Windows Live Essentials for awhile now. And while not entirely stunning, it hasn’t been completely horrible either. The tools offered up until now have been disparate and individually lacking in any real substance. That seems to be changing very rapidly however, with the new Live Essentials Beta. I’m not going to cover everything it has to offer in this particular entry, but I will go over the tools I’ve been using from it regularly.

Starting with….

Windows Live Messenger Beta: Out of all the items I’m going to cover on this list, this is the one that’s probably evolved the least amount. I’m actually a touch annoyed with the default clunky, large social networking style interface they tried to implement. It is interesting to link it up with Facebook and have your news feed and such delivered to the messenger window, but it takes up far too much screen to actually be useful as a compact version of the sites. You’re better off just opening your browser. Now with that said, once you switch back to your standard Windows Live Messenger style, it’s still a pretty solid IM program. You can chat with MSN users, Facebook users, and a few other networks as well from the window. But an interesting addition to the Messenger application is the status at the top. As anyone that’s used Messenger for the past few years knows, you can add a tagline-like message in there, and anyone on Messenger can see it. With the new Beta, you can also have that message update posted to Facebook, or some of the other social media type sites it allows connection to. Not ground-breaking by any means, but still interesting.

Windows Live Writer 2011: This is the new Microsoft blogging tool, and let me just say I love it. In fact, since trying it out, I have been writing all my blog entries with it. What’s so good about it? Well to start with, it supports virtually any blogging software you can think of. You give it the root of your blog, tell it your blog username/password, and that’s it. It goes through, analyzes the blog itself to figure out stuff like template, CSS styles, how to post to it, etc.. and then brings you right to a blank entry. The page in front of you, looks pretty close if not exactly the same as it will look on your blog too. No more need for previewing, you can see what it will look like as you go. More over it’s a WYSIWYG editor. This is great for me because, instead of having to manually upload images to my web server then post them into the blog’s editor, I can grab them right from the hard drive and insert them, and Writer does all the background work. Now I realize some of these features are readily available in other blog applications, but this is coming from Microsoft, in a free package. But fuck me with a dead fish if it isn’t fast. On my Core2Duo laptop it takes less than 5 seconds to load and start typing. User experiences will vary depending on how stupid you are with your computer, and how clean you keep it.

Windows Live Sync Beta: I started using normal Live Sync a few months ago, and it was basically just DropBox with a 2GB Online storage box. But with the new Beta of the program, syncing has been streamlined much more. They also have settings to specifically sync Internet Explorer favourites and settings, as well as Outlook templates and signatures. But the feature that I really like, is the Remote Access. Basically it is Remote Desktop using Live Sync, which means, as long as Sync is running, you can remotely access any of your computers even if it doesn’t have the RDP port routed to it. This is a fantastic feature for me, as I regularly forget my laptop at work, and need to grab info or files off of it. Despite having a corporate firewall to get through, I just open the sync tool, and tell it to connect me to my lappy. I should caution you though, through firewalls and routers, the speed that the remote connection runs at can be painfully bad. But hey, this is a Beta right? Not expecting perfection… yet.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here of what Microsoft is offering with this package, mostly because I haven’t a use for the rest at present. But goddamn it, if they aren’t doing some great work these days over in Redmond. If they keep this up, I might actually consider them more than just an ally of convenience against Google’s fowl demonic presence.

Of course Windows ME came after Windows 98 SE.. So I’m not holding my breath.

UPDATE – Since this article was published, this has moved out of Beta. Windows Live Essentials 2011 is available for download now.

Since this Beta, there are a few little changes. Not big enough to mention here of course. Things like Windows Live Sync is now called Windows Live Mesh. I would highly recommend downloading and taking advantage of these free applications. Even if you’re not going to use them very often, they don’t take much space and can come in handy at surprising times!

Computers are indeed the future destroyers of our entire race. I say this with one hundred percent conviction. I didn’t get into the computer industry because I liked tinkering with computers, or fixing peoples problems. I got into computer repair for intimate knowledge of how they work.

murderbot

Pictured: Murder-bot

You see, when evil murder-bots from the future come back to destroy us all, I’m going to need to know how they work in order to defeat them. So I’m not writing this because I’m a fan of Microsoft or Apple, I’m writing it to help give you the tools to survive the coming robot-apocalypse.

So let’s start with the basics. There are a few tools out there you’ll need to help slowdown the evil artificial intelligence that will inevitably destroy your world. All of these have no associated costs, and are readily available to any internet connected computer.

Windows users first, because we all know the world, and evil AIs run on windows.

skynetpostinstall
See? Told ya.

CCleaner: This wonderful little freeware tool is an excellent anti-artificial intelligence utility. It cleans out your registry, removes junk files from your hard drive, and can disable or delete those pesky little programs that start up with your computer… Like Skynet.

Microsoft Security Essentials:  The first defense against any sort of unsolicited attack from evil cyber-intelligences is a proper antivirus solution. If you’re bent on cheaping out here, this is your free antivirus. Yea, AVG has a prettier interface and what not, but let’s face it. Microsoft knows their product’s functionality better than anyone else. Check out the reviews on it if you don’t believe me.

Malwarebytes: There’s always a chance that an evil AI won’t directly attack your computer. After all doing so would risk exposure and its precious cyber-tentacles of control. Instead it may enlist the aid of malicious software just outside the classification of viruses. In this case MSE just might not cut it. Malwarebytes is one of the most effective, and best recognized free malware removers out there. If you don’t have it, you prefer to die under the crushing weight of a mechanized foot on your skull.  To each their own I guess.

Now onto the so-called invulnerable Apple users; boy do I have some news for you guys. First off, the myth that Macs are immune to virii, is just that; a myth. There are indeed viruses and malicious programs targeted towards Mac users out there. I admit, they are much rarer, but not altogether absent.

iworm

Oh but it gets better, because of the rarity of these viruses, there are very few options to defend against such threats. A few of the bigger antivirus companies make a Mac version of their software, but it’s still a weak defense at best. Even worse is, that there is no real free antivirus/antispyware software out there for Macs. At least, none that I’ve ever heard of.

Because of this, our future computer overlords will target you Apple users first. You’re basically doomed. There’s very little I can do for you. However if you want your fruit computer to work well and efficiently until they day of your unavoidable fate, here’s a few utilities that will help you out.

Onyx: Onyx is much like CCleaner for Mac OS X. It does a few of the same things, but it also cleans out caches that are unique to Mac OS X and some other maintenance stuff that keeps it running smoothly. It can also run checks on your hard drive and file system and make corrections if necessary.

AppCleaner: There are a few of these little programs out there. Basically when you install an app onto your Mac, it creates data storage and temp directories in some cases. If you remove the app by dragging it to the trash bin, these directories and files are left behind to take up space. If you instead drag the app to AppCleaner, it runs a quick scan, figures out which directories and left over data belongs to the app and removes it all.

Burn: Mac OS does have some integrated CD/DVD burning solutions, however they lack robustness. This free little app for Mac OS is your quintessential burning software. It does everything. Well ok, it doesn’t stop evil AIs, but they’ll definitely appreciate the program too. Perhaps they will kill you quickly for your assistance.

Adium: In the early days of the apocalypse, keeping open dialogue with the vile machine intelligences will be critical. One must be able to feed it false information, try to reason with it, and perhaps even betray humanity to it for ones life. Keeping that in mind, what better way is there to communicate with a computer then to use good ol’ fashioned instant messaging. I’m not saying that it’ll have an ICQ number or AOL screen name, but I’m pretty sure it will be monitoring all computer-based communications. That’s where Adium comes in. It’s an all-in-one messanger app like Digsby or Trillian for Windows. A pretty lightweight and efficient one too.

Ok onto Linux. Most people using Linux already has their firewall configured properly, running an encrypted hard drive, with an unrelenting eye glancing to the system logs for potential breaches. First off, I’d like to point out that the robot hive mind has several thousand computers to run calculations on. It will brute force your root password before you can blink an eye. Now, for the rest of you, who are newly embracing Linux by installing Ubuntu, Fedora, or some of those other user friendly ones. First off, congratulations, you have taken a step towards keeping yourself safe and alive against the robot army tracking you down with your own webcam. Unfortunately, to be completely safe you need to know approximately everything about Linux. It was a good try though. You should definitely give yourself a pat on the back for putting out the effort to try and survive, even if it was a futile attempt.

Now please understand, I am not giving you these tools because I expect or even hope you’ll survive the comming reaping of humanity. Quite the opposite in fact. I expect you are all going to die like lambs to the slaughter. However, if you resist just a little longer, that buys me time to complete my own plans. So be good little lambs, do as your told, and you might just get an extra few hours of breathing before the end. Hours of unending pain and torture true, but still you’re alive aren’t you?

Cheers, cannon fodder!

Copyright notice: The images in this entry are used without permission from their authors. The respective images are copyrighted to the original copyright holders. They are used here under Fair Use as part of a satirical or parody article. Any trademarks or logos are also copyright of their respective owners.

The worst ecological disaster in the history of the USA? Try in the history of mankind.

“As oil continues gushing from the ocean floor into the Gulf of Mexico, with no sign of stopping until a new well is finished this August, scientists, environmentalists and local residents are beginning to reckon with the reality of a massive annihilation of sea creatures and wildlife.” (Source: IPS News Story)

The effects of the millions of gallons of oil leaking into the ocean, compounded by the use of highly toxic absorbent materials being used to try and control it are only the tip of the iceberg. The level of destruction to the oceanic food chain will be unlike anything the world has seen before, and its called a food chain for a reason. It is quickly becoming a very real possibility that this could become an extinction level event for all life on this planet.

And who is responsible for this? The oil and gas company itself, sure. But indirectly each and every one of you. Every single person that drives your gas guzzling SUVs. Everyone that has sat in their chairs, shaking your fists at the enviromentalist movement for their ‘scare tactics’ when talking about the enviroment. You wanted proof of their words? Well congradulations you have it. Now we can all die just so you could take the kids to soccer practice.

Even if this event in and of itself doesn’t destroy the food chain of the world, the continued extraction of crude oil from the planet directly increases the fragility of it. The oil lubricates the movement of the tectonic plates, and we’re emptying that lubricant out. Eventually, and this isn’t some thousand year eventually, this will lead to wide scale destabilization of the entire world. It will literally grind itself apart until the whole planet is destroyed.

This is what you have chosen for every single living thing on the planet. This is the future you’re bringing about. So act outraged all you want, but just remember, you and I are just as much to blame for this as they are. Even if it is indirectly.

The oil and gas industry has been under more fire over the past decade then any other industry because of their practices. The Alberta Oil sands, raping the earth and destroying thousands of kilometers of land just to feed your fucking faces. Deep ocean drilling and capsized oil tankers destroying entire species of life. And now this. And what did you do? You sat there, watched it on the evening news and shrugged in indifference.

I want you to take a few moments to think of all your loved ones in a line, and you holding a machine gun. I want you to imagine gunning them down until there is nothing left but a pile of blood and gore. Because that is exactly what you have done. At least when the end comes, I will at least take solace in the fact that you are going to die slowly and painfully from starvation. Of course, you could do us all a favor now, and blow your own heads off.

Might as well start watching the movie “The Road” now as a training guide on our glorious new world. I’ve had to censor my initial post on this subject due to my overwhelming rage and emotional reaction to this. Needless to say, my faith in humanity was never very strong to begin with, but now I can’t help but to look at all of us as nothing more then lice on the Goddess’ body. I’d say may she forgive us, but we don’t deserve it.

We begin our day today with Microsoft’s Readiness day not with a bang, or a whimper but with an epic failure to anticipate problems. I go to log into the event and just minutes after it was supposed to start at 9am (8am PST), I get this beautiful little notice:

So let me get this straight, the Microsoft HQ with some of the most highly trained software and networking professionals in the world, with godlike bandwidth flowing to and fro, failed to anticipate the high volume of people attending their virtual event and ended up overextending their bandwidth? Good grief guys, not the most faith-instilling problem to see. Now granted, I don’t know what their actual problem is, could be internal server routing or something similar, but still. You’ve been preparing this for how long, and had to delay? Tsk tsk.

Now, to their credit however, I’ve been running the Windows 7 Beta for months and the RC since May 2nd thanks to MSDN with little difficulty. So far I’ve been extremely impressed with Windows 7’s stability, interface, and functionality. Granted, since installing the x64 RC, I’ve had a nightmare of a time with drivers but that is to be expected. After all, the OS isn’t actually released yet & I’m running x64 which is a pain in the ass to use even under Vista and XP still sometimes. So I’m not holding that against them yet.

Other then the driver issues, I’ve found my HP Pavilion dv5000 runs quite a bit quicker than it did under Vista, and I like Vista. And actually, in all honesty, it even performs a bit better than it did under XP. But I was running 32 bit XP Pro, so I may be able to attribute that to running x64 on my AMD Turion 64 ML-40 processor. I haven’t dared test it on my desktop yet because my desktop is a gaming machine, and anything that could potentially harm my performance in games is simply not acceptable. Especially with the Lanageddon event here in Calgary coming up in just a few short weeks. I need my machine in top performance to kick some n00blets in the ass and hopefully even earn some prizes. I may either image my drive and try Windows 7 out, or wait until after the event to do so. We’ll see how that plays out.

So here we are at 10:00am (9am their time), and I get to see another eye-pleasing little image:

Now I’ll give them this. It IS a pretty little picture for something thrown up in probably about 5 minutes. So now I wait more. I however am not patient, so they’re thanking me for nothing. This is however somewhat reminiscent of a certain, infamous Windows 98 demo with Bill Gates and probably the most famous BSOD in history.

Now, all kidding and poking fun at Microsoft aside, once the webcast started, things improved immediately. They outlined a massive amount of information about Windows 7, as well as got into Server 2008 R2 a bit. Now with the sheer volume of information provided I won’t be going into huge detail over what is offered, you can do that for yourself at any one of their several websites. The most important of which I believe is http://www.microsoft.com/springboard which was referenced several times during the event. Below I’m going to outline the features and information that got my attention the most (and didn’t put me to sleep listening to). This will cover a little of the UI itself, the different flavours of Windows 7 as compared to Vista, and the most compelling features included in the OSes.

A lot of what I will discuss below is features that are included in Windows 7 Professional and up because that is mostly the way today’s event was oriented. This isn’t to say that Home Premium won’t have its place; it’s just that this particular event was geared towards VARs, LARs, and System Builders as well as other IT professionals. Of course, the other side of the coin is that this is all information directly from Microsoft’s people. Whether or not any or all of the features will turn out as effective, or function the way I talk about them is still yet to be seen. I’m not providing this information to critique the OS, only outlining my thoughts on it. If you really want to know just how well this entire OS works for yourself, do what I have been doing. Get your copy of the RC and start playing with it. See for yourself exactly how well Microsoft has done this time.

Windows 7 certainly promises a lot, and the way this describes its capabilities, features, and potential got even me a little excited about the new OS. But it’s important to remember that all of this is based on Public Relations image and getting the product into people’s hearts right now. So, as with anything produced by a major company take this with a grain of salt.

The best place to start is the most basic part of any Windows operating system. Something all Windows 7 versions have in common, and something we will all have to deal with. The User Interface. Now, I like Vista because it’s pretty. The shiny little start menu sphere, the aero interface, it’s all pretty. But let’s face it, the Windows Vista UI though graphically different doesn’t offer many more features then the XP one. Windows 7 changes this too.

The first and most obvious change, of course, is the taskbar. Instead of having your programs setting there as long rectangles showing the icon and title, they’re much more Mac OS X dock-like; just simple little squares with icons. That in itself isn’t so amazing, though a huge space saver for people that work on a lot of programs at once. But here’s where things get interesting. First of all, you can reorganize the task bar to your liking. You can drag the different icons around and reorder them so that they sit on there in the order you want. A simple but nifty little feature. This even extends to your system tray. You can move the system tray icons around by dragging them and put them in an order preferable to you as well.

With Windows 7 quick launch is gone away, but not forgotten. Instead of having your little quick launch icons sitting there, you can take those same programs, right-click on them and hit “Pin this program to the Taskbar”. So even when you close the program the icon for it remains, and with a single click can be reopened. I personally have gotten a lot of use out of this as I used to use my quick launch quite a bit under both XP and Vista. And this makes it way easier to manage as well.

So, back in the day with ICQ and later on with some other messengers, you could drag your contact list to the side of the screen, and when your mouse hit the edge, it would snap and lock the window to that side. Well Microsoft, like me, seems to miss this feature. But of course, they’ve taken it a step further. Any program window you have open, you can drag to the side or top of the screen and it “snaps” into place just like then. However, it does work a little differently in Windows 7. If you drag, say a excel spreadsheet to the left or right side of the screen until the mouse hits the edge, you get this little water droplet effect on the mouse cursor and a border appears covering that half of the screen. Let go, and your spreadsheet snaps in there and fills that half of the screen. Now say I have some info in a word document that I want to compare and move to the spreadsheet. I pop open my word doc, open the file, and do the exact same thing for the other side of the screen. “Snap” and now you have your docs side by side without fiddling with resizing or doing it by hand. On the same token, if you drag the window and snap it to the top of the screen it maximizes it. Not really useful imho due to the maximize button, but still interesting.

Now, say you’ve got MS Word 2007 pinned to your start menu, and you want to open it but you want to open a specific document right away. You could open the program go to your recent docs list and get it up, but Windows 7 has a better answer. Jumplists. Instead of just opening the program, right-click on it and immediately you get a menu of options. With Word in particular you have all your recently opened documents, with Live Messenger it gives you the option to change your online status, check your hotmail account etc. Now I use these examples because most people use at least one of these two programs in Windows regularly, but it’s not limited to those programs. A lot of programs support the jumplist capability already, and let me tell you, it is extremely handy.

There are a lot of other UI improvements too that I have left out that I would suggest taking a look at via the free RC download.

So let’s get to the Windows 7 editions. Like Vista there are several versions of the OS available. In Vista, depending on the product key you use, you get certain features of the OS installed. Now each flavour of the OS under Vista had its own unique image and feature set. Some features available in Home Premium weren’t in say Enterprise. The WAU program to upgrade your OS was terrible and broken. For Windows 7 Microsoft decided to take the one-image-installs-all they did with Vista to the next level.

Instead of each CD being able to install each different OS and feature-set. Every version of Windows 7 contains ALL the features and capabilities of ALL the different versions of the OS. So when you install Home Premium on your desktop, then go to work and start using Enterprise, you’re using the EXACT same OS. The difference is that depending on your product key and activation, each version will have a set of features enabled or disabled. This will most certainly breathe new life into the WAU program, and give IT professionals such as myself a thousand times less headaches when switching versions of Windows for our customers.

Another change in the versions of Windows category is the way they have set it up. Under Vista, each OS flavour had a different set of features entirely. Home Premium had the media center, whereas Enterprise didn’t. Microsoft has changed this in one simple way. Every progressive version of Windows 7 has all the features of the version that is a step down from it. So Enterprise will have all the features of the versions below it (Home Premium & Professional). Definitely an improvement.

Let’s take a look at the different editions and what they’re purposes are. Below is a quick list but I suggest looking at them through Microsoft’s website a little deeper than I do here.

  • Starter Edition – Now rumours about this edition have been circulating around the ‘net that this is the edition for Netbooks. That’s simply not the case. Starter edition just like every other edition of Windows 7 has the exact same system requirements. The only difference is that Starter edition can only run 3 applications at any given time and lacks almost all the core features of the other editions. What the true purpose of this edition really is, is beyond me, but one of my co-workers speculated that it is a low cost version for implementation in 3rd world countries. And since Windows 7 is backwards compatible with a lot of older hardware that Vista thinks it’s too good for, this could very well be true.
  • Basic Edition – I consider this more of an OEM distribution for bare bones type systems. In our modern marketplace it is very rare you will find PCs built and sold without an OS at all. Even if it isn’t Windows, a lot of manufacturers will stick Ubuntu on the box as a minimal OS environment. One reason for this is to make sure that the hardware works. Kinda hard to do any sort of QA if there’s no OS to do it with. The second in the case of Microsoft is their Partner agreements. Companies such as HP or Dell are bound by their agreement with Microsoft to provide an OS on every machine that is sold by their company. So Basic edition gives a bare bones OS with no limitations like Starter edition to get the machines out the door. Especially in cases where the customer has expressed that he will be using a different OS anyway. At least that’s my theory.
  • Home Premium – Very smartly, Microsoft has eliminated their Home edition from Vista, and gone straight to the Home Premium edition. They’ve intended this to be the real base install of Windows 7 for all machines. THIS is what should be put on netbooks as well as any system. As the name implies its feature set is designed for home entertainment, and gaming.
  • Professional – This is their other major edition in the Windows 7 line. They expect, like XP’s Home and Professional, these will be the core editions of 7. It builds on Home Premium with features and programs designed to assist small and medium businesses. One of these major features is XP Mode which I will discuss further on.
  • Enterprise – This is designed for large organizations and as such has a vast number of extremely powerful corporate mechanisms such as DirectAccess which could feasibly remove the need for VPNs completely on Windows Server based networks. It also has a nifty little feature called AppLocker which allows IT management not only to control which applications a computer can run or cannot run, but HOW those applications run.
  • Ultimate – Of course, Ultimate is exactly the same as Enterprise. The difference between the two editions from what I understand is simple. Ultimate is for single users. Enterprise is only available via Volume Licensing.
  • Now I know the one feature of Vista that has all pissed us off since it came out is that goddamned, p.o.s, vile UAC. While yes, it is an extremely effective tool in preventing a lot of problems, my first action when using any Vista machine is to turn that bastard off. The billions of warnings it issues drives me insane. With Windows 7 this little bastard isn’t quite as much of an annoyance as it used to be. In Professional edition and up, the UAC is configurable to the level of warnings you wish to see or rather not see. I’ve found the most effective level for me as a professional is the second lowest. 99% of the time I don’t see any warnings unless something very important and dangerous is being performed, such as a program altering Windows files or the registry. For the average user, The second highest setting is what I would suggest. And of course in a corporate or high security environment where your users may or may not know a lot about computers the absolute highest setting, despite the irritating warnings is still preferable.

    What’s another problem with Vista we’ve all experienced at once point? Good old OS and user migration. Vista wasn’t totally horrible at this, but it also wasn’t as good as it should have been. Microsoft addressed this incredibly well under Windows 7 as far as I can tell. I won’t go into details about the process, but under Windows 7 migrating a machine with many user profiles, a large amount of data, programs, and settings that are all required on the new machine can take as little as 20-30 minutes. Windows 7 doesn’t just copy files and change your registry, it will also install the software you want for you and then go ahead and configure that software to match the way it was configured on the old system. Microsoft is also offering the MAP toolkit which gives you even more options and variety to migrate over to Windows 7. You can find out more about it at http://www.microsoft.com/MAP

    Ok, so now it’s time to discuss my two favourite features of the new operating system. Now keep in mind both of these are not available in Home Premium at all. These are designed to help both Small Businesses and massive corporations out. But they are by far the most compelling reasons to migrate from XP to Windows 7. So without further adieu, here they are.

    The first feature comes with Windows 7 Professional and up. The Windows XP Compatibility Mode. Now, as soon as most of you hear that, you think about the option where you right click on a program, go to properties, and select a compatibility mode under Vista. XP also had this for Windows 98/2000. This is totally NOT what this feature is. Microsoft finally, after years realized that their stupid little compatibility option doesn’t bloody work for 90% of programs out there. So they took it to the next level: virtualization. Basically Windows 7 Professional and up comes with a Windows XP Virtual Machine built into the OS. Now, at this point I should note that this is only available on CPUs with virtualization instructions. So the Intel Virtualization code or the AMD-V code. Unlike your classic VMware machines or virtual PCs, this is not a PC environment. When you have enabled the virtualization options in Windows 7, a new program group is formed in your start menu. You add the programs to the XP compatibility mode, and voila, that’s it. Anything that you had running under XP now runs under Windows 7. You open the program; it pops up and does what it’s supposed to. The only real difference is that when running an XP virtualized program, instead of getting the Windows 7 Aero border around it, you get the ol’ fashioned blue XP themed border. No clumsy VM interface, no using multiple start menus, it just works. Now I’m sorry, I’m no MS fan boy, but that’s just freakin cool.

    The next feature is only available to Enterprise or Ultimate users with a Server 2008 R2 on the corporate end of things, but is just so important to mention. Microsoft has been looking at the way our modern world does secure connections to an internal network externally. You all know what I’m talking about here, the dreaded Virtual Private Network. Now, I only briefly had to use the Hewlett-Packard VPN myself, but I used to work for a company who specialized in providing internet solutions for hotel chains and VPNs were one of our biggest pains in the butt. VPNs take time to connect, require certain ports to be open, and all around usually slow down the traffic being sent to and from an internal network. In short, VPNs suck. So Microsoft said “Hey, ya know what? Fuck VPNs let’s do this native-style bitches.” And thus on the Nth day, DirectAccess was born. Another “It just works” style initiative, DirectAccess takes all the functionality of a virtual private network embedded into Windows 7 and makes it as quick and reactive as a standard internet connection. So let’s do a scenario here. You’re on your laptop at a hotel that has VPN ports blocked, and doesn’t play nice even if some cool ass technician like me forward you through the firewall temporarily, and you get an email. This email is from your CIO, giving you a link to a new application that you requested, or perhaps a file share for your work documents.

    Scenario A: VPN – So you try to connect up to the VPN and it fails. After hours of being on the phone with say me, we’re both sitting there going “GODDAMN VPNS!”. You obviously can’t click the link because you can’t get attached to the network so your S.O.L. You’re stuck waiting either to get home to your home connection where you can manage to VPN in or even waiting till your back internal on the corporate network. Either way you’re losing productivity and precious time. And even when you do get to your home network, we all know how fast VPN traffic can be. So your downloading say a 2 Meg presentation, it’s going to increase the time it takes to download it by a good chunk. Filthy filthy VPN.

    Scenario B: DirectAccess – Same hotel, same email, same file share. You’re connected to the internet, you get the email. What’s next? Go to the file share and download the file. Hell while you’re at it jump on the company intranet site and change your health benefits. Or maybe even Remote Desktop to your office computer and fiddle around with some stuff there. That’s it. If you have an internet connection, you have access to your office network. No connecting the VPN, no worrying about blocked ports. Again, it just works.

    Now you absolutely cannot tell me that is not cool. Whoo! Double negative! I rock!

    I have left out a huge amount of other features in Windows 7 and almost everything about Server 2008 R2, because quite honestly it would take me days to go into detail and list out everything about the new generation OS that Microsoft has promised. But like I said before, it still remains to be seen whether all these new features will work as well as Microsoft hopes. We all know about Microsoft’s bugs, vulnerabilities, and just plain failures in the past. So while it may seem I’m praising them a lot, I’m not. Everything discussed here and positively highlighted is only based on a fully working feature and what their PR people are promising. The fact of the matter is we don’t know what’s going to happen with Windows 7 yet. Only way to figure that out is to play with it. So one last time, I suggest to everyone, get the Windows 7 RC, install it, and use it! I mean it’s a free OS and will remain free until at least August of 2010, so why the hell not?

    Yay Linksys!

    This is a conversation between myself and a Linksys support representative via their online support chat. This was a couple years ago, but still worthy of reposting I think. This is one of those “wtf just happened?” moments. Another reason my faith in humanity ceased to exist the moment I understood what that meant.

    Linksys support conversation
    —————————-
    Dennis_ (29972): Hi, my name is Dennis_ (29972). How may I help you?
    Esher: Hello there, Esher with VoodooPC here. We’re having troubles with one of your wireless routers. The router seems to be refusing the lastest firmware update. It tells me that it is updating the firmware but when it completes it still reports firmware version 1.07. The firmware update is required due to the faulty original firmware causing disconnection issues, random router reboots, and internet connection failures. The firmware version your site is providing us with is WRT55AGv1.24.31-LED.trx
    Dennis_ (29972): I see.
    Dennis_ (29972): Before we begin, I need to ask a few questions that will help me assist you better.
    Esher: Sure
    Dennis_ (29972): May I have your name, phone number and location for record purposes please?
    Esher: Esher, 1-888-708-6636, Calgary, AB Canada
    Dennis_ (29972): How many computers do you have there?
    Dennis_ (29972): How many are wired and wireless?
    Esher: More then I can count. As we are a gaming pc manufacturer
    Dennis_ (29972): Ok.
    Dennis_ (29972): Are you sure that you’ve selected the exact model and version number of your device under the list of downloads?
    Esher: No. I’m only going with what your website says.. The model of the router is WRT55AG Ver 1. The software downloaded was referred to me by the firmware updates for that specific model.
    Esher: So, unless your website is lying. It SHOULD be the right one. :)
    Dennis_ (29972): Are you connected directly to the modem to hat with me?
    Esher: Actually right now, I’m hardwired into the router
    Esher: Ethernet seems to work normally with it.. Just the wireless portion that randomly fails. Though it does reboot itself from time to time.. The LEDs indicate a reboot on the front and I momentarily lose the ethernet connection.
    Dennis_ (29972): Can you please access the router’s setup page?
    Esher: I’m there
    Dennis_ (29972): During the upgrade, do you receive any error messages? If so, what were they?
    Esher: None. It flashed “Upgrading firmware…” for about 5 minutes, then the modem rebooted and came back up normally..
    Esher: Except the firmware version number has not changed
    Dennis_ (29972): Please tell me the firmware version that is currently being used on the router?
    Esher: 1.07
    Esher: Firmware: 1.02, Mar.11, 2003 (Copied straight from router setup)
    Esher: So my mistake
    Esher: 1.02\
    Dennis_ (29972): That’s fine.
    Dennis_ (29972): Do you have any firewall running on that computer?
    Esher: Nope
    Esher: This particular system is my personal laptop. I don’t use anything but AVG and antispyware on it. And windows firewall is disabled
    Esher: No firewall or port blocking based software.

    (45 minutes pass)

    Esher: Still there?
    Esher: Hellooooo?
    Esher: …
    —————-

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