For the most part, Windows 7 doesn’t present a radical change to the user interface and operating system features for those migrating from Windows Vista. One area, however, that users will find different and which may take some adjusting to is the Windows Taskbar. Here’s quick a look at the new Taskbar in Windows 7 and how you will find it different.

Windows_7_Task_Bar

What Happened  to the Quick Launch Toolbar?

Many Windows users may be accustomed to using and customizing the Quick Launch toolbar, a useful means of always having an always visible icon to your most commonly used programs. In my experience it is not uncommon to find users that add icons to almost all of their applications on this useful toolbar. To these users it may be especially disappointing to find that the Quick Launch toolbar has been removed from the Windows 7 Taskbar.

Windows_7_Toolbars

The Quick Launch bar has now been replaced with the concept of “Pinning” an icon to the taskbar. By dragging an icon to the taskbar in Windows 7 you will be presented with a menu item to “Pin to” taskbar.

Pin_to_Taskbar

Pinning an icon to to the taskbar will basically replicate the Quick Launch bar with some minor differences. First of which is that a pinned icon is not a static icon that allows you to click and open as many instances of the application as you like (useful in the case of your browser or file explorer window), rather once clicking on the icon it will expand to represent the opened window in the taskbar.. This can create confusion as your other icons may get shifted further to the right from where your eye traditionally expects to find it. Clicking again on this icon will either just minimize the application or select the window if in the background.

Windows_7_Task_Bar_1

More Menu Options

The taskbar has become more useful, by right clicking the taskbar you are presented with a new menu of options from which you can quickly arrange your windows or start the Task Manager.

image

This quick reference allows you to quickly and easily arrange all of your open windows or to find your desktop.

Window Preview with Command Buttons

The Windows 7 Taskbar buttons, similar to Windows Vista, make it quick and easy to see a preview of the application window it represents. Hovering your mouse over the taskbar button you will be presented with a miniature preview of the window and not only. Windows 7 also will display command buttons on some relative applications allowing to perform simple tasks without opening the full window (useful for Windows Media Player as there is no longer the Windows Media Player Toolbar, this almost replicates the functionality from within the preview window). Computers that are not able to support the Aero graphical themes will not have the window preview, but will still have a pop-up menu item with a description and with the option to directly close the window.

Taskbar_Preview

Move your mouse over the preview window and the window will appear in full size and all other windows will become invisible until you move your mouse again away from the preview window. So far I find it to be a useful way to find the right window when you have a lot of applications open.

Better Button Grouping

I have never been fond of the button grouping for multiple instances of the same application, but it is useful when the taskbar gets completely full. Apparently Microsoft realized that and has now made this an option under the taskbar properties.

Taskbar_properties

Additionally, the grouping experience has been improved. The grouped button icon has changed, illustrating that the button has multiple instances. Hovering your mouse over the button will provide the “Aero Peek” preview of each of the windows allowing you to quickly open the one you seek.

New Show Desktop Button

Afraid that with the lose of the Quick Launch bar you will no longer have the Show Desktop icon? Fortunately it hasn’t been removed, rather it just changed position. You will now find it hiding in the right hand bottom corner.

Want a quick peek at the desktop without having to close all your windows? Just hover your mouse over this button and all other windows will be invisible until you move your move away from the button.

Enhanced Graphical Effects

A new Windows release would not be the same without an onslaught of newly enhanced graphical effects; not overlooked were the taskbar buttons! Watch the color glow that follows the mouse as you move over each button. Notice that the color reflects the primary color of the icon of the button. Some of the graphical effects are also useful, such as the rolling color across the button to indicate that the specific application is still processing.

Taskbar_Animation

Half our companies IT infrastructure was brought down by a bad virus definition which was downloaded and pushed out to all clients and servers on October 28th, 2009. The virus definition, def. 5474 distributed by Sunbelt Software’s VIPRE Enterprise Antivirus software, mistakenly interpreted the winlogon.exe file to be a virus and immediately put it in quarantine. The winlogon.exe file is a critical windows file required at system logon, if Windows XP cannot find this file when starting up then the system will crash displaying the famous Blue Screen with the an error similar to the following:

STOP: C000021a {Irreversible System Error} Windows logon process terminated unexpectedly with state (0x00000000 0x00000000). The system has been closed.

Unfortunately the timing of the virus definition release corresponded with the schedule of our weekly deep scan on all client PCs. As a result close to half the company found their PCs inaccessible the next morning upon starting-up their computers. We still have to determine why not all of the systems were affected; from our experience it appears to have only affected Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems.

Fortunately after getting in contact with VIPRE support we were able to confirm that the source of the issue was related to a False Positive error in the definition file 5474 and that file definition 5475 was already available with the correction. Unfortunately, VIPRE does not yet have an easy fix to the problem, however in a follow-up email to our support ticket they indicated that “have been working on developing a bootable ISO utility designed to unquarantine the files detected by the FP (false positive)”.

Until the bootable ISO is made available to release the quarantined file the following steps are necessary to make the system once again accessible:

1. Copy the winlogon.exe file from C:\windows\system32\ on a working Windows XP machine to either a floppy disk or burn to a CD-ROM

2. Boot the system from a Windows XP installation disk. Press “R” on the first screen that asks whether to install windows or to recover an existing Windows XP installation. This will open the Recovery Console

3. Select the Operating System that you will be recovering by pressing the corresponding number from the displayed list. Type the password for the local Administrator account.

4. Insert the CD-ROM or Floppy Disk and copy the winlogon.exe file to the C:\windows\system32\ directory. (ex: \\>copy d:\winlogon.exe c:\windows\system32\)

5. Reboot the pressing F8 on start-up to launch Windows in Safe Mode with Command Prompt

6. After Windows starts up login with the local Administrator account

7. Delete the virus definition files. To do so for VIPRE go to the definitions folder (C:\Program Files\Sunbelt Software\SBEAgent\Definitions\) and delete all the contents.

8. Reboot the system

Following this procedure we have been able to get all systems back up and running.

If you have experienced similar issues please leave a comment regarding your experience.

image Many have been anxious for some time now to turn the dial from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, most of which having not yet defined Web 3.0. Well the race to Web 3.0 is under way, especially now that it has its own conference.

On May 19th and 20th there will be held the Web 3.0 Conference in New York City. The conference focuses on the semantic web (the thus far key component of Web 3.0), mashups, text and data analytics, and how they add real-world value to end users and businesses.

The last phase of the web, which has been referred to as Web 2.0, was more about AJAX-driven interactivity and social media. The Web 3.0 conference focuses on technologies that make the Web and data management substantially smarter. RWW

It will be interesting to see Web 3.0 begin to take shape and it’s various flavors of implementation.

 

Once again voting is underway for the 2009 CNet Webware 100 awards. This annual program is a great way to discover and help select the best web apps on the net. All the winners will be announced on May 19 so hurry to get your vote in while you can.

See the previous years’ winners: 2008 | 2007

My list of reasons for wanting an iPhone continue to grow. My  latest was after stumbling on the website everytrail.com, what seems to be a great website for finding and sharing trails … such as biking, hiking and running paths. You can use the site to map and document your favorite trip paths, share them with the community and search based off location or activity. The concept is very cool, especially for those who love the outdoors!

The value of the site is significantly extended for iPhone users through their mobile applications:

EveryTrail
With this geotracking application, you can record your movements, take geotagged photos and immediately upload it all to EveryTrail, the leading online community for travel storytelling.

 

Trails
Trails allows you to record and to save your tracks to EveryTrail. In addition you can import any track from EveryTrail easily and view the route on the map directly on your iPhone.

 

The Bike Computer
The EveryTrail Bike Computer has a large screen that gives you key stats while riding your bike, and best of all, you can upload your ride directly from your phone to EveryTrail.

 Happy Trails!

The progression of web based applications continue to push the barrier between traditional software applications , those you purchase and install on your computer, and online applications or webware, those you can run from your browser. This progression continues to bring us ever closer to the web OS, allowing to run simple thin client devices with a web browser interface from which we can run all of our traditional software applications.

I have always considered the  Web OS theory to be limited to basic productivity applications,  but once again this is being challenged as we see image and photo editing web apps now becoming available with very sophisticated tools. Here are a couple web applications that I recently came across for this purpose:

  • Aviary – Suite of tools including image editing and vector editing. From their website:

Aviary is a suite of powerful creative applications that you can use right in your web browser. We’re on a mission to make creation accessible to artists of all genres, from graphic design to audio editing. Use your account to create, share, and collaborate with our community of artists.

  • Picnik – Simple and easy image editing tool. From their website:

Picnik is photo editing awesomeness, online, in your browser. It’s the easiest way on the Web to fix underexposed photos, remove red-eye, or apply effects to your photos. 

I still have yet to use either solution, but its exciting to see the creation of web based image editing applications. Please let me know if you have used these or other web based image editing apps and what you think of them.

If you love skiing or snowboarding and haven’t made it to the Alps yet then this may be the year to do so! The view of the Alps this morning was amazing as a ton of snow has recently blanketed the rocky peaks. 

Huge snowfalls at the start of this week have brought fantastic early-season conditions to ski resorts across Europe – with more to follow. Resorts in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland have reported falls of up to a metre in the past five days and more than 200 ski areas expect to be open this weekend. The Pyrenees are having their best start to the season for many years and Zermatt has more than 160km of piste open. – Snow-forecast.com

Here is a little taste of what the resorts here have to offer:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Looking for a simple and effective way of creating a list or capturing data on your website? Don’t have the technical skills or time necessary to develop a backend database to capture data from an online form? Fortunately you no longer have to as there are several tools that make it extremely easy and convenient to collect data on your site.

If you want your website to work for you then you should also be using it to capture information. Whether this information is a simple contact/feedback form or a poll on your site, it can be an excellent instrument to bring you and your audience closer together.  Most Internet Marketers know the value of creating a list, which if used correctly can be of great value. So if you haven’t yet implemented or discovered the value of a list here are some quick and easy options for you to use on your website.

Google Docs

Here is just one example of the collaborative power of Google Docs. By simply making a spreadsheet you have the option of adding a form which adds all the available columns and provides the HTML code to embed into your website. Then as your audience fills out the form the data gets collected in your Google Docs spreadsheet. Google is also building in some analysis features which will try to give you a better insight to the data collected.

To try a live example of this go to the Thinkworx home page to sign-up to be notified when the new site is available (form powered by Google Docs). I will try to publish a brief tutorial describing the steps to set-up and customize your form. Subscribe to the RSS feed to be sure not to miss it.

  • Pros – Completely free, easy to use, no limitations on number of responses, easy data extraction
  • Cons – No built in option to customize the format or styles on the form. No form security, limited field types, no payment integration and no automatic notification options.

Wufoo

For your more complex form requirements for more than just building a simple list there are other solutions to make it easy. One of the first that I came across is Wufoo, offering enough features to meet just about any form requirement.

  • Pros – Full website integration including available themes or custom CSS and XHTML markup allowed, reporting tools, notification tools and payment integration. Free version option (limited to 3 forms, 10 fields and 100 entries/month)
  • Cons – Free and paid models have limitations on entries/month

JotForm

A web based WYSIWIG form builder that’s aimed at making form building easy. Build your form without an code.

  • Pros – Unlimited forms for free
  • Cons – 100 submissions/month limitation for free account (paid account gets unlimited submissions)

PollDaddy

Recently purchased by Automattic (makers of  the WordPress blogging platform) and aimed at making online polls and surveys as easy as possible.

  • Pros – Free account giving you unlimited polls/month with unlimited votes/month, also unlimited survey’s/month limited to 100 responses. Styling customization available with skins or your own CSS.
  • Cons – Survey’s are limited in responses relative to program model. Usage is not intended for general forms or list capture.
Let me know what other tools you use to easily add form functionality to your website by making a comment below.
23
Oct

A common feature on many blogs is a Tag/Word Cloud, visualization of word frequency in a given text as a weighted list (frequency determines word size). This can be a helpful tool to quickly see the most common topics in a given text and a creative source of word art. 

Today I was introduced to a fun web applet by Wordle that allows you to input text or an rss feed from which is generated a word cloud. The image above is a word cloud from this blog.

To give it a try I also made a word cloud from the text of the U.S. Constitution seen here below.

Hard Drive CrashRecently I have seen, to each of their owner’s dismay, several computer hard disks that with no prior warning, and obviously in the worst possible moment, have crashed with little hope for recovery, losing all data in the process. A tragic event that too many people can relate to, but sadly enough it seems that few actually learn from. We increasingly confide our most important information and often our most precious moments captured through digital pictures and video on the ever increasing capacity of our local hard disks, confident that the digital nature of the saved material will safely reside there through out all time.

So why do people typically not have a reliable backup of their content? It could be that they mistakenly believe that the dreaded risk of a hard drive crash will never catch-up with them or they may just be procrastinating the day that they will do the backup. While this may be the case for many I think the majority of people are just lacking an adequate technical solution.

Take me for example, if my laptop hard disk crashed today or if my laptop was stolen I would be devastated by the loss of so many projects, many of which currently in progress, my wife would have me beheaded for losing our digital pictures and videos and in addition I would be bewildered by the uncertainty what other critical information will be unrecoverable from this event. Sure I have done several attempts over the years at backing up some portions of my hard disk contents, but I can’t be sure of which versions were saved, where exactly they were saved and, if saved to CD or DVD, if they are still legible.

If you are like most people you may be unaware that good back-up solutions are now available. Lets take a look at just a few options that I would recommend:

  • Mozy Remote Backup *
    Simple client application lets you set what you want to back-up and works in the back-ground to back-up your files to their remote servers without noticeably slowing down your PC. A virtual disk is listed under your System Resources from which you can navigate your backed-up files and through simple selection you can easily restore individual files or entire directories. Available for both Windows and Mac
    Mozy offers 2GB of free storage or unlimited space for only $4.95/month. Simple monthly payment allows you to even try it out first to see if works for you.
  • Elephant Drive *
    Elephant Drive also offers 2GB of free storage or unlimited space for only $4.95/month(with 2 months free). Easily store, share and automatically keep your data backed up on remote servers.
    I still have not tried it out yet, but I am anxious to do so to compare how easy it is to automatically keep your data backed-up and to see how easy it is to restore your files.
  • Dropbox
    Beyond having just a remote back-up you would also like to synchronize your files between 2 or more PCs then try out Dropbox. Local client application creates a Dropbox folder the contents of which will then be stored on a remote server and will also be synchronized with other associated computers. Modification of this file from any source will then have the newer version distributed and updated on all other computers. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux
    Get 2 GB for free otherwise upgrade to 50 GB for $9.99/month or $99/year
  • Jungle Disk
    Powered by Amazon S3, through the local client you add Jungle Disk just like another hard drive in your computer. Drag and drop, copy and delete, use it just like your existing hard drive. Supports Windows, Mac and Linux. Add as many computers as you like without additional charges.
    Unlimited storage for 15 cents per GB. Best part is that you only pay for what you use!

Fortunately I have not yet had to live through the experience of losing my hard disk contents and now, I am happy to say, that I don’t expect I will ever have to. Thanks to online backup services backing up your system could not be easier, all you have to do is simply set it and forget it. Decide what you want to keep backed up and it will do the rest, keeping your back-up up to date with the latest versions of your files. If you are still procrastinating using a backup solution follow one of the links above and try it out before its too late.