Posts Tagged ‘Windows’

The Virtue of Many Browsers

In STT on May 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

This overdue post (I got sidetracked by the iPad) is a result of …
1)a co-worker trying to get to a PDF document to show up in their browser (fixed with a Firefox plug-in, here) and…
B) watching the Winter Olympics on the web, or rather attempting to watch them on the web via my favorite browser, Firefox…

Both incidents brought to mind the necessity of having to use more than one browser if one is attempting to utilize all the features that the wonderful internet has to offer.  And I don’t mind this, really I don’t.  It’s second nature to me and I’m here to say it ain’t going to change anytime soon (see: Adobe Flash vs. HTML 5 video support).

Now I’m a big fan of Firefox, always have been, and probably always will be (I tried to switch to Chrome, but it only lasted an afternoon, I missed Firefox too much).  I like how I can customize Firefox, add plug-ins for better handy features, it’s speed, it works on Windows and Mac and Linux.  And Firefox was all about apps before apps were cool and everyone (maybe even you?) had an app store.

But Firefox doesn’t play Microsoft Silverlight video (and I just double-checked, still a problem in Firefox 3.6.3).  Yep, this winter I couldn’t watch curling or biathlon on the internet if I tried to use Firefox to access the NBC Olympic website.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC), NBC, and Microsoft had an exclusive agreement to use Microsoft’s Silverlight video format as the only video format for internet broadcasts (instead of the ubiquitous Adobe Flash).  Incidentally the Silverlight video looked great, even at full-screen resolution the images of curlers and skaters and snowboarders were pretty darn sharp and vivid.

So… to watch Curling Team USA, first I had to download and install Microsoft Silverlight (this was true with both my Macs and PCs). Than due to a bug in Firefox that made using Silverlight impossible no matter if you used a Mac or a PC (and all parties can be blamed for this, Firefox, Microsoft, Apple, the IOC…) …Anywho, to watch curling or biathlon, I had to switch to the browser that is made by the same company that makes the computer’s operating system, get it?   So….
-on a Windows PC I’d switch to Microsoft Internet Explorer 8
-on a Mac to Apple Safari

Both IE and Safari are the “native” browsers that are built by Microsoft and Apple to work well and take advantage of Windows and OS X, their respective operating systems.   Oh so many years ago I tried to uninstall IE from my Windows PCs, which in theory you can, but why bother?  It still comes in handy and makes you appreciate Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera …you get the idea.

Here’s my rundown of the browsers I use on an almost daily basis, with one exception, but the geek in me felt compelled to mention it, see below:

Firefox – I could go on and on and gush about what I like, which I kinda laready have, but suffice it to say it like it, I know how it works, and I need my add-ons and my search engines.  As a former refernce librarian and now a library consultant, I have something like 2 dozen+ in my search engine drop-box (everything from Google Images to NOBLE to Wikipedia).  You can find a listing and links to my favorite, got-to-have-them, Firefox add-ons here:

I use it for pretty much everything on Mac or Windows, including MassCat as Internet Explorer does not play nice with the Koha ILS.  I don’t use it when a page doesn’t load correctly or a plug-in doesn’t work.  This hardly ever happens anymore, but some recent examples:
InfoTrac – couldn’t get scroll-menu to work in Browse Publications menu
Winter Olympics –  Silverlight plug-in didn’t work

Safari – Apple’s built-in browser for Mac, now available for free download in Windows too.  I use it when something doesn’t work in Firefox on my Mac.  A handy feature in Safari on the Mac is in the Develop menu, called User Agent.   This allows you to render any webpage as though your Mac’s Safari browser was in fact any version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (which doesn’t run on a Mac, talk about proprietary!),  or any version of Firefox, or even Opera.  Pretty neat, but it’s a feature many Mac users don’t know about because it’s buried in the Advanced settings (Go find it Mac users! Nice step-by-step here.).  I gotta admit I like the look of Safari in Windows better, there are subtle layout differences and I like ’em, but it stills works the same in Windows or Mac.

Other than that it’s kind of boring with very few apps to add on, it just works…  But, I do absolutely luv the homepage option of showing a thumbnail gallery of frequently used pages.   Also Safari is the built-in browser on the iPhone and iPod Touch, so I use it daily on my iPhone without even thinking about it (even though there is now another choice in Opera mini).

Opera – I want to like. I want to use it.  I’ve downloaded it a dozen times in both Windows and Mac and try it for about 15 minutes and then go back to Firefox, Safari and Chrome.  And then I end up up deleting because I never use it again and really have no reason to.  The same has been true of Opera mini on my iPhone.  It’s free and has a mini version of that thumbnail-gallery-of-frequent-sites as your homepage, but has nothing else really to offer.  “Opera, you’re OK, it not you, it’s me…”

Google Chrome – I use mainly when testing a how a webpage looks (if it will work on other browsers), or just for fun, or because it’s FAST! It works equally well on Mac or Windows, it looks fun, has lots of neat “skins” to change it’s appearance, it has that handy thumbnail gallery of frequently used pages like Safari mentioned above, and it’s fast, like WICKED FAST! This last feature is ever-so-useful on ye olde Windows XP computers you might have hanging around.  It’s almost like having a whole new computer on these old machines. How does Google do that???

But I find the bookmarks in Chrome a bit cumbersome to organize and use, and the add-ons are not as polished or reliable as those in Firefox.  Again, as I mentioned above, luv that thumbnails of frequently used sites as a homepage feature as well as it’s speed!

In sum, my feeling towards browsers is:

  • The more the merrier!
  • There’s something for everyone in each browser!
  • Your desktop is a melting pot!  (Coincidentally, it turns out my Mac’s motherboard was a just plain melting, but that’s for my next post…)

See, browsers made by Apple, Google, and Microsoft can all live together, even if they are ruthless competitors in the marketplace.  It’s all good!

BTW – I finished editing this post in Google Chrome.  Why?  Just because… I happened to have it open and editing WordPress works pretty much much the same in any browser …although I can’t vouch for Internet Explorer, never have tried that ;-)

In my crystal ball I see a RedLaser

In STT on December 18, 2009 at 1:08 pm

So there’s this nifty iPhone app called RedLaser ($2) which is touted as the best barcode reader for iPhone available (consistently high ratings and sales rankings in iTunes). And I have it from reputable sources that it works great on the 1st gen iPhones as well as the iPhone 3G and the new iPhone 3G S. I luv it! I’m scanning anything in the office that sits still … and has a barcode … RedLaser website:

RedLaser uses the iPhone’s camera to scan barcodes so you can do on-the-spot price comparisons. It works best on books, DVDs, CDs (who buys those anymore?) and even paper towels and breakfast ceral. But you can also create a link to a custom database so that when you scan a barcode it will link to this custom data source to retrieve results. Yaaawwwnnn…. But what if that custom database was like say a library’s OPAC!?
ooowww aaaahhh ooohhhh!

I’ve heard from fellow iPhone geeks in MVLC and NOBLE who tried this successfully and I created custom database links myself for MassCat, MVLC, and NOBLEand they work! … It’s slooow, as the iPhone is connecting to your custom data source via a web link thru the iPhone’s browser (Safari) and then doing some RedLaser magic (the RedLaser app without a custom setup is pretty pretty quick).

When you set up a custom database what happens is you scan the ISBN from a book and it takes you right into the OPAC’s public record/circ info! Now when I’m in B&N or Borders I can look up books and see if I can get them at my library for free, except those books I really really need to own myself. It’s like my iPhone is saving me money, the iPhone really pays for itself 😉

To create the custom data source, which is actually the URL for ISBN searches, you follow the step-by-step instructions from RedLaser linked below. They are concise, not detailed as to all the possibilities you may encounter, so it may take some time. And it turns out all OPACs are different! The MassCat (Koha) set-up was easy as the parameter was the same as the example RedLaser gives, whereas NOBLE (III) and MVLC (SirsiDynix) were totally different, so it took a lot of trial and error to get the parameters set correctly.

The good news for you dear reader, who happens to use the MassCat, and/or MVLC, and/or NOBLE networks, is that along the way I realized I could do this on the my laptop’s browser. Email the URL to my iPhone, and save my work as I went along by bookmarking. And then I realized I could save these bookmarks to and share with this with other iPhone users! Now you can goto my site, email URL to your iPhone, and add link to your homescreen and not spend time figuring this out!

Crystal Ball Alert! I see the future, in a couple years when everyone (or lots of people … or everyone) has an affordable app-phone w/camera (Droids, GoogleFon, iPhone, whatever), the way people search and access OPACs is going to change and this could be really good for libraries and tech-saavy patrons (incidentally you have a slew of tech-saavy patrons already, they’re called kids).

It’ll will get even more exciting when librarians or vendors develop new Evergreen-Koha -III-Sirsi, etc. mobile app that will allow you to do this and place a hold/request an item in one fell swoop! Being a library user in the 21st century is going to be cool!

Hey, it already is the 21st century, let’s get with it!

Windows 7 and ye olde PCs … woe unto thee …

In STT on December 8, 2009 at 1:51 pm

So I was pretty excited that Windows 7 installed and worked on some of the old laptops we have here at the NMRLS lab (circa 2004-06, see that post here).  But I’m now become disconsolate over the fact that I can’t get it work on some of my favorite ye olde desktop PCs … Well I can get it to actually work and boot up (which I was kinda of amazed at).  And for old geezer PCs, they’re impressively zippy, but I can’t get them on to the internet!

Turns out there are no approved Windows 7 drivers for the 3Com or Linksys Ethernet controllers these “ye olde”PCs use … and the Vista versions of theses drivers won’t work either … All the PCs are Dells  that date from way back in 2002.

The “ye olde” network adapters in question:

Dell Optiplex GX400 + Dell OptiPlex GX 240
Network controller is integrated into motherboard on both these models.

  • 3Com 3C905C integrated network card
    -Windows link
    -3Com link

Dell Dimension 4400
There is no integrated Ethernet or network card on this PC.  It uses an Ethernet to USB adapter for its network connection.

  • Linksys USB200M ver.2.0 Ethernet adapter
    -Windows link
    -Linksys Cisco link

So ironically I upgraded an old computer to a brand new version of Windows, it seemed to work just fine, but I just couldn’t get to the internet tubes!  So there’d be no updates to Windows, or any software, or even reading of this blog!  On the other hand the virus risk would be minimal 😉


Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor
Download, install and run.  A full report with compatibility on hardware and software is the result, read it!

Windows 7 Compatibility Center
A listing of apparently every piece of hardware and software ever put into a PC(!) and site also lists whether Windows 7 will work with hardware or software in question. Compiling this must have been fun for the testers!

In case you’re wondering I didn’t blow away and reformat the Windows XP disks originally installed on these PCs.  I installed Windows 7 on another olde hard drive I had kickin’ around and swapped it out.  Since the Dimension 4400 uses PCI slots for peripheral cards, I may hunt around for a cheap Ethernet card and try to get Windows 7 going on this PC again.

oohhh … so close …

My Windows 7 Install Experience

In STT on November 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm

As I’m sure you know by now, the lines to buy Windows 7 started on October 22nd, and I’m sure you attended a “Launch Party” too!

I’ve completely installed 4 copies of Win7, 3 copies almost installed (see that post here), and had on my MacBook Pro too for a while, so 8 Windows “install experiences” TOTAL thus far.

Three of these have been the FREE Evaluation Copy – Build 7100 on three different machines (as per the license for this formerly FREE release candidate version, kudos Microsoft!).   One of these was on a Mac via Apple Boot Camp and two of these installs on older NMRLS computer lab PC laptops.

On Thanksgiving Day I installed the retail version of Windows 7 Ultimate for my mother-in-law on her 17″ HP laptop, upgrading from Vista.  I was hoping that the only turkey in the house was basting in the oven! This may have been the most important upgrade I’ve ever performed(!) … given the possibility for familial strife had it not gone well … whew, it went well, albeit with some major quibbles on my part due to the incredible slowness and inane-ness of Windows installs (like not having the Mail and Photo software on the install disc!  It was the Ultimate version, shouldn’t it have everything!!!).

Generally speaking, other than the multiple reboots and numerous updates to download after initial install, it went pretty smoothly for a Windows install.  But, unlike my experience with Apple OS X or even Ubuntu upgrades, Windows 7 upgrades do take a lot of time … like pretty much write-off-your-afternoon or work-day kind of time.  This is mainly due to the fact you need to keep an eye on the machine in case it asks you a question or just plain stops the process … yeah, it’s a project …

TIP: decline the offer to download updates from the internet while performing the upgrade.  I’ve never gotten this to work, ever!  My experience is that while it makes online attempts for updates it slows the process down and at worst quits out of the whole upgrade process.  First thing you should do once Win7 is up and running is run a Windows Update to get your machine and Win7 up to speed.

Please Note that a Windows 7 install will reformat the disc of a Windows XP PC and may blow away any associated files, but Windows 7 retains files and programs when upgrading from Vista.  Although, always, ALWAYS! perform a backup before any upgrade!

Also, you may need to re-install drivers for sound cards, Ethernet cards, WiFi cards etc., etc.  Which is a pain, but Windows 7 is pretty good about finding these drivers itself or if it’s a Dell, just download the latest, even if it’s for WinXP, and Windows 7 seems to adapt (although, depends on age of your PC components, see my post on Ye Olde PCs here).

Oh, and update your anti-virus too! I recommend AVG Free.  Works like a charm on all versions of Windows and is FREE!  For spyware/malware, Windows Defender is included in the install, just remember to set it up to run regularly.  Or you might want to give Microsoft Security Essentials a try.  It’s the new FREE Microsoft anti-virus / anti-malware program.

BTW, pay attention to the little gray flag in the lower right corner of the screen.  Yeah, it’s the attention grabbing color of grayGRAY! This little flag might remind you to install your anti-virus program for instance… as this Mac guy totally forgot about that and was surfing the web (gasp!) before he remembered … I  did not have that problem when installing Snow Leopard 😉

Below are the system stats on the machines I’ve installed Windows 7 on thus far as well as the Windows Experience Score (WES) which rates your machine on a handy 1.0 – 7.9 scaleyep not 1-10, but 1 to 7.9, gotta luv the Microsoft …

Dell Latitude D620 latop (circa 2006):
2.0 GhzCore Duo T2500 / 2 GB RAM / 80 GB HD / 256MB video
WES = 3.5 (graphics low / hard drive high)

Mac mini desktop (circa 2008):
2.0 Ghz Core 2 Duo T7200 / 1 GB RAM / 120 GB HD / 256MB video
Running dual OS via Apple Boot Camp
WES = 3.3 (graphics low / processor high)

HP Pavilion dv9000 laptop (circa 2007):
1.8 Ghz AMD / 2 GB RAM / 160 GB HD / 256MB video(?)
WES = 3.0 (graphics low / memory high)

Dell Latitude D610 laptop (circa 2004):
2.0Ghz Pentium M / 2 GB RAM / 60 GB HD / 64 MB video card
WES = 2.0 (graphics low / memory high)

On the Plus Side: I will say that Windows 7 works much smoother on all the machines that I’ve upgraded.

  • No more of those constantly nagging security warnings
  • Quicker start up and shut-downs
  • The shut-down button actually shuts the computer down!!!
  • Very adept at finding and logging into WiFi networks
  • Gadgets can be placed anywhere on the desktop
  • Graphically more appealing overall
  • Even on “older” machines its quicker, certainly rids former Vista PCs of their sluggishness

Windows 7 is coming to a PC near you this Fall!

In STT on July 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

I gotta say this new Window 7 is very slick and quite an improvement over Vista (and even XP), I think it might just catch on!  Windows 7 is due to hit store shelves in at least four editions on October 22. Up until mid-August you could get a FREE release candidate” of Windows 7 licensed through June 2010.  The license key was good on up to three PCs too! But, Microsoft  shut this down August 20.

Very Helpful Windows 7 Links:

Q: What if you want to try Windows 7 and see how it works?  See if it’s worth the upgrade and expense?

A: You could borrow a NMRLS Mac mini with Windows 7 installed!
All you need to provide is a monitor, we supply the unit, keyboard and mouse.  The Mac mini has both Apple OS X 10.5 and Windows 7 RC (with Office 2007) installed, it can boot to either.   It also has wifi built-in so it can join a public network in your library flawlessly (I promise!).  And I can set the mini to boot directly to Windows 7 and avoid all the Apple stuff (but, you won’t know what you’re missing!).

  • Just contact me if you’re interested:
  • NMRLS has lots of stuff to Loan! Find out more HERE.