Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Bubbles anyone? - How to add more features to the bubbles screensaver in Windows Vista/Windows 7

This week, Microsoft released Windows 7 to the masses. The official release date was 22 Oct,09. We saw the launch first here in Auckland since as you would all know, the sun rises first here (and also because we are on daylight savings). There was a big launch held both in Auckland and Wellington, with HP laptops as prize giveaways. For those that would like to see the photos from the event, click here

Now, as with any operating system, there comes cosmetics that help you "dress up" your computer. One of these are screensaves. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, comes some pre-installed screensavers (as with the previous versions). One of the nice ones that you can find in this list is Bubbles. While on its own, this screensaver is quite pleasing on the eyes, one wonders if there is more that they could squeeze out of it. And guess what. Yours truely did just that and managed to find some tweeks and tricks that could extend this screensaver. [Please note that this tweak requires you to modify your registry, and if you are not very comfortable with this, it is recommended that you backup your registry prior to carrying out the following steps].

In its out-of-package form, Bubbles, gives you transparent bubbles that move across your desktop. You are unable to do any further settings to this. But if you would like to add some more features, do the following.

Open the registy editor (type regedt32 on the run/search area)
Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ScreenSavers\Bubbles

To Add Shadows create a DWORD (32 bit) Value key and name it ShowShadows. Set this to decimal 0 if you do not want the shadows to be shown, and 1 if you want the shadows

To Make the Bubbles Solid instead of Transparent. Create a DWORD (32-bit) Value key and name it MaterialGlass. Set this to decimal 0 if you want a solid bubble and decimal 1 if you want transparent bubbles

To black out the background so that your current desktop doesnt show, but only the bubbles show, create a DWORD (32-bit) Value key and name it ShowBubbles. Set this to decimal 1 if you want the background to be blacked-out, thereby hiding your desktop, or set it to decimal 0 to keep showing the current desktop (showing your currently open files etc)

While this post may not be the niftiest but it surely makes you appreciate the easter eggs that Microsoft hides in its Operating System releases.

Until the next post, keep safe and enjoy

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Sneak Peek at Windows 7

I am not normally an early adopter of Microsoft Operating systems but I guess this time, curiosity had the better of me. Also, I won a full version of Windows 7 Ultimate at Microsoft NZ TechEd 2009, so that kind of nudged me more into using it.

This report is more on what I have read and so far experienced in Windows 7 Ultimate.

Windows 7, as many call it, is what Windows Vista was meant to be. Microsoft really went back to the drawing board and looked at all the aspects of Vista that people disliked and improved on it. I guess one of their motivations of doing this was the fact that Vista was the one Microsoft operating system that hardly penetrated the user market and was the biggest flop, to put it lightly. But kudos to Microsoft, they have done quite a lot of work around improving their OS and Windows 7 shines with the brightness of the heavens.

1. To Upgrade or to install fresh?
The upgrade path is only from Windows Vista to Windows 7. If you are running anything earlier than Windows Vista, I am sorry but you are out of luck if you are thinking of upgrading. I think this is because of the whole kernel revamp that was noticed in Windows Vista, and which has carried on to Windows 7 (Windows 7 uses a newer security and kernel architecture and this means that it has shunned the older legacy archictecture that was used in Windows XP. This makes it more secure, but also means that it breaks all those legacy programs that you were meant to upgrade, but just never got the time to get around to). There are some advantages of installing fresh as opposed to upgrading. One of them being that you dont carry the rubbish you have accumulated over to the new operating system. But then upgrading does take off the hassle of having to reinstall everything all over again. I have tried both and I must say, upgrade is so much better. Just keep a note that most of the computers sold after June 23rd this year come with a free upgrade to Windows 7 sticker. I tried using this path but I found it hard to digest the fact that just to get the dvds, it would cost me $US19.95!!

2. Which platform architecture should I get.
Windows 7 comes in two flavors. 32 and 64bit (just saw some literature on the internet that said that Windows 8 and Windows 9 might support 128 bit OS!!). One of the main reasons for choosing one or the other is your hardware and your software base. 32 bit OS means that there is an upper limit to what physical memory can be addressed by the OS, which sort of shys away just before 4GB (3.6GB is what it can see I think). 64bit allows you to see 4GB and more. The next thing to look at is all your current software and if they will be able to run on 64bit if you are going to take that path. 64bit does run 32bit software in a 32bit bubble so that might allow you to run your legacy programs while a 64bit version of it gets released.

3. AeroSnap
AeroSnap is a new feature of Windows 7 that allows you to compare two screens side by side. And it makes it very easy to do this. All you do is take one screen and move it to left and as you are moving it, like a magnet, it is pulled to the left hand side of the screen and "snaps" in, thereby taking the left half of the screen. Move the other screen to the right the same way and it will snap into place.

4. AeroPeek
This is the Windows 7 version of Show Desktop. In Windows 7, on the Task Bar, at the far right, you will see a small rectangle. If you hover the mouse pointer over this, it will replace all the open screens with a transparent white border, thereby showing you the desktop. Windows 7 has done away with the Side Bar that was present in Windows Vista. You can dock gadgets on the desktop and using this "Show desktop" feature, see them.

5. AeroShake
If you shake the current application, it will minimise all the other windows except that for the application that you currently have the focus on. Neat aye. Guess we are entering the age of natural movements in operating systems, a path started by the iphone revolution (might be wrong so dont quote me on this) which allowed one to communicate with their phone using the natural action of touching.

6. Windows XP Mode.
This is only available in Windows 7 Ultimate and allows you to have a preinstalled Windows XP virtual PC in Windows 7 which you can use to run those stubborn programs that just wont run on the new architecture of Windows 7.

There are numerous other features that have been added to Windows 7. If you would like to get a detailed look at all those, please visit the official Windows 7 website.

Have fun and all the best. As for me, I am actually loving my Windows 7 install.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reason for not updating this blog

Hi all.

Let me start with an apology for not updating my blog for almost a month. This has majorly been due a lot of undertakings on my side, some personal and some professional. But in the next few weeks, I would be putting up some really cool stuff , things that I have been busy with during this month that I was away.

Below are the things I had been involved in.
1. TechEd 2009
I managed to get tickets to Microsoft New Zealand TechEd 2009, which was held at Skycity Convention Center here in Auckland from September 14 - 16, 2009 [One of the project managers for Codeplex , Microsoft's open source hosting site, Sara Ford , decided to jump off the Sky Tower which at 192m is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. You can see her in action here ]. This was my first TechEd and I was overwhelmed with all the information that was offered. There were some things that I already knew and the sessions broadened my understanding in those areas, while there were others that I was not aware about. All in all it was a really nice experience. The theme of this year seemed to be centered around Windows 7 since that was the topic of most of the talks. One of the few lines that stuck to me was "Windows 7 is the first Microsoft offered Operating System that runs on a lower hardware spec than its predecessor".
2. RSA Training and Certifications
I attended a week of training around RSA SecurID Authentication Manager. I always had a very basic understanding of RSA tokens and how they plugged in to a corporate environment. This course really opened my eyes around them. RSA has build a whole infrastructure around authentication, whereby you can have realms of authentication servers, with clustering, replicas, server nodes, inter-realm trusts and authentications. It was really nice to see all this and more. For more information please visit the RSA website. After the training I took two weeks to re-read and digest all the information, going through the course manuals and other administation documentations to prepare for my RSA exams. I am happy to say I passed them both. I now hold the following RSA certifications
RSA Certified Administrator
RSA Certified Systems Engineer

To get more details, visit the RSA Certifications website.
3. Books
I have been reading quite abit about VMware and how it can be used for VDI deployment. There are similar offerings from Microsoft using their HyperV technology and also from Citrix with their Xen flavor of platforms. Also, I am trying to get my internet security skills up to speed as well, and this involves a lot of reading. Sadly I wasnt able to get myself a ticket to BlackHat or to Defcon. I guess the biggest hurdle was the price tag. Well someday I will be able to afford to pay my way to them, or might find a sponsor :D

As I stated in the opening lines of this article, I will be posting some really cool stuff on this blog in the next few weeks, so do check back, unless you have got RSS or twitter feeds enabled, in which case you will be notified as soon as the articles get posted. The topics I will be covering are

A brief overview of the RSA SecurID Infrastructure
Windows 7 - the good the bad and the Ugly
Virtual Infrastructure - An overview of where the technology currently is and the various offerings from the different vendors (VMware,Microsoft,Citrix)
VDI - Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. What is VDI and how you could use it in your environment.

Hope to see you all back in a few weeks. Have a great weekend.