Posted tagged ‘howto’

Yet another apology – and a PDF on flashing your BIOS

May 28, 2008

So I haven’t been on the blog in a while.  I guess there’s two reasons:

1 – I’m actually getting significant traffic for older posts so I don’t have to post 16 things a day just to get hits.

2 – I’m still completely busy.  I have been sick on and off in addition to my earlier complaints.  I still haven’t finished my article for the Daily Yonder, but I am a few weeks from finishing my 12-credit Leadership/Professionalism course.

So anyway, I’m back with more borrowed content.  This one is again from Tech Republic.  it’s a PDF on “10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Flashing Your BIOS.”  OK, maybe it’s not something we do every day, but it is something that system builders and enthusiasts have to do when they build a new machine, and it’s something that occasionally comes up when troubleshooting, especially on older machines.  In the recent past, I had to update the BIOS for an older Dell machine so that it would boot from a USB stick.  So there are uses for it, and here’s the PDF on how to do it most properly.


Windows XP/Vista trick for a Friday afternoon

February 28, 2008

This is a neat little trick that takes just a minute but reaps amazing benefits (ok, not really).  It’s how to change the text “AM” or “PM” by your clock to read whatever you want (as long as it’s less than 12 characters).  Like the screenshot below.

Oh, and the article is written for XP, but it works in Vista too, as you might have guessed from the screenshot.

More tips and tricks for Windows XP

February 4, 2008

Greg Shultz wrote this great article on some of the advanced things you can do with Windows XP.  Based on the coming end of retail sales for XP, if you’re stocking up on licenses, you might also have a look at this article – some great timesavers (or just fun stuff).

vLite gives an edge for Windows Vista enterprise deployment

January 29, 2008

My PC is no slouch.  I’m running a Core 2 Quad Q6600, 4 GB RAM, and a slew of other nice hardware.  So why is it that, when I run Windows Vista (especially the first few times after install), it takes longer to boot than my XP box did (it ran a Core 2 Duo E2160 with 1 GB RAM)?

If you have wondered this kind of wonder, vLite is something you might be interested in.  This is a freeware tool for customizing Vista installations.  The vLite website is – have a look.

If you don’t do technospeak, here’s what they are saying.  This program lets you manipulate Vista BEFORE you install it – this way, you’re not trying to rip out components that are already installed.  In other words, hopefully we can keep from breaking it while getting it to be a little more resource-friendly.

Now, after looking at this, I see some good points.  Here’s some of the highlights for me as an enterprise IT tech:

          remove components/tweak installation
If you’re an IT tech, you probably have found things in the OS that your users could waste time with.  Minesweeper, FreeCell, Paint, Windows Movie Maker, and the list goes on.  This gives you the option of adding, removing, or customizing components prior to install.  Enterprise techs use this kind of technology all the time (called a transform when used on individual programs).  Most recently, I used it on Adobe Reader, though it also comes in handy on MS Office installs.  Using this technology helps you set up default options, remove garbage, and keep your users out of the Games folder.

          unattended setup

We’ve seen this on other OSs, and though I haven’t used it much (we clone our HDs, so I don’t have to do many OS installs).  You get to start it and walk away.


          driver integration

If you have lots of PCs with the same hardware configuration, here’s your ticket to get it all set up ahead of time, so when you boot the system after the install, you’re all set.  Enterprise techs LOVE this kind of thing.

          create ISO and burn bootable CD/DVD
Here’s another one we IT people love.  You can save your work and burn a DVD – presto!  Your own customized Vista install.  As I mentioned before, transformed installs are popular in the IT world.  But this is the first I have heard of one for Windows Vista.

So here’s the downside.  Two that I can think of.  First, you have to know what you are doing with operating system installations.  You have to know what the program is talking about before deciding you don’t want it.  Otherwise, you may not be able to get your hard drive to boot, or who knows what else?

Second, you actually have to do the customization BEFORE you install.  So, that means that you would have to reinstall your OS to make any changes using this program. 

Bottom line for me – if you aren’t comfortable working with a few technical terms and some things that could seriously mess up your PC, I don’t think I’d worry too much about vLite.  Either that or you could get your Vista-savvy cousin to help you.  But if you’re a PC tech who has to widely deploy Vista, this tool (properly learned and tested) could be a real time and resource saver.



BTW, here’s the post that tipped me off to this tool.

Tour of the Windows Vista Snipping Tool

January 28, 2008

I have spent too much time installing SnagIt onto users’ PCs because they want to be able to do a partial window capture in XP.  Here’s a move in the right direction by MS – a built-in snipping tool bundled with Vista.

Now, it should be known that I see Vista as an opportunity to learn rather than as a panacea for our tech ailments.  I am committed to finding the benefits of new technology.  Plus, many of us are in the “I bought this and I’d better learn how to use it” boat.  So this one’s for you (and me). 

Vista includes a “snipping tool” in all versions except Home Basic.  To open it, click the Start button, then (in the search box) type “snip.”  Then, click on the “snipping tool” and snip away!  There are some options you can set.  For instance, you have shape options:

          free form (create your own shape)

          rectangle (drag a box shape)

          window select (just like previous versions of Alt+PrtScn)

          screen select (just like previous versions of Ctrl+PrtScn)


Click the drop-down arrow on the “new” button to choose a new snip shape.

There are other options as well (click the Options button to access these):

snip tool

          Hide Instruction Text:

o   This shows or hides the popup hints on how to use the program

          Always copy snips to the Clipboard

o   This option saves the item to your clipboard for easy pasting into emails, documents, etc.  Just like the older PrtScn functions.

          Include URL below snips (HTML only)

o   This is for pasting info from Web pages.  This helps you avoid plagiarism and helps your readers access your sources.

          Prompt to save snips before exiting

o   Gives you the option to save as a file for future use or for editing.

          Display icon in the Quick Launch toolbar

o   If you do business communication, I could see that you would love this option.  It gives you a quick launch icon for the Snipping Tool (you know, those little icons next to your Start button)

          Show screen overlay when Snipping Tool is active (on by default, though my screenshot shows it as off)

o   This gives you a grayish overlay over the screen to let you know that you are in “snipping mode” (that’s not a technical term).  It’s just a friendly reminder that you are about to take a screen shot.

          Ink color for selection

o   This is the border-like box around the area you just snipped.  You can choose the color.

          Show selection ink after snips are captured

o   I don’t like this, and if I make more use of this tool, I will likely turn it off.  It leaves the red (or whatever other color you chose) border on the picture and inserts it along with the picture into whatever document you use the snip for.  If you like this, great.  If not, well, now you know how to turn it off.

I do have a few things I dislike about this tool.

1. I haven’t figured out a way to do menu screenshots with cursor (I did figure out how to do a screenshot of a menu; it could be a little confusing, so if you need to know, comment and I’ll add it), and it doesn’t do video screenshots. 

2. It doesn’t have a delay (timer) so you can get ready after clicking OK.

It’s not nearly as robust as SnagIt (I use SnagIt at the office).  But SnagIt is not free.  And this tool doesn’t hog any additional system resources, which to me is a major plus (SnagIt runs a background process).  It doesn’t minimize to your system tray like so many annoying programs do. 

So the bottom line opinion is this – it’s a major improvement over the minimal screenshot capabilities in XP.  And if you’re dealing with the usual compatibility issues, resource consumption, etc. with Vista, you deserve a break from the hassle to enjoy something that actually got better since the last version. =)