A Choice of Simple Tools

My primary requirement for a tool is that it stay out of my way. Ok, so maybe that is requirement number two, right after the requirement of the tool fulfilling its purpose. But honestly, if a tool can perform its required function then the next most important characteristic for me is that it be as non-obtrusive as possible. This applies to simple tools like screwdrivers and hammers as well as more complex tools such as computers and their software.

Simplicity ToolsWhen I pick up a hammer I expect it to be able to drive a nail into a board. I do not need it to have a compass to guide the way or a light to illuminate the path. Such things would only add needless complexity to the device and would thus get in my way. It is the simplicity of the device that makes it both useful and appropriate. The same goes for a screwdriver. Multiple attachments, lights in the body, and fancy sheathing may sound attractive at first, but when I am trying to get a job done those added complexities could actually make the job more difficult. The beauty of simplicity is that it represents just enough. Just enough to accomplish the work – not too little so that you require more time or tools, and not too much so that extra effort is expended.

This simplicity is also how I choose software. I am an Apple fan; there is no doubt about that. But I am an Apple fan for a reason. I will not deny, not in the least, that Windows and Linux may be immensely more configurable than Mac OSX. But that configurability adds a level of complexity that I find in no way necessary. That configurability actually gets in my way. I feel the same way about the Android mobile operating system versus IOS.
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All That New Christmas Technology

OK, so I am writing an update of my post from 2009 that was titled “So You Got A New PC“. I will finish it and get it up soon – updated to deal with newer versions of Windows and Mac and iOS and yes, maybe even Android. Until then though, please go read the original post and make sure you have working anti-virus software installed on your Windows machine and for all devices – backup, backup, backup!

Wrench

Q & A: Windows 7 Upgrade

Question: Windows 7 is available to those who bought a new computer recently. How about the older computers? Do we buy them separately or are they available through our existing software?

windows7_versionsAnswer: Windows 7 can indeed be purchased as an upgrade for older computers. The exact price will depend on which version you choose, but should be approximately $100. The two most important considerations to keep in mind are 1) will your computer run Windows 7 adequately and 2) what will be involved in the upgrade?

If your computer was purchased within the last 3 or 4 years or is currently running Windows Vista, you should be good to go. If it was purchased earlier than that, you will want to visit the Windows 7 Upgrade adviser at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/upgrade-advisor.aspx to download a small test program that will determine if your machine is Windows 7 capable.

No matter what the age of your machine, if you are currently running Windows XP and want to upgrade to Windows 7, you will have to perform what is called a “clean install.” That means that your hard drive will be totally wiped out and all software will have to be reinstalled. Therefor, before you do that, you want to make sure you have all of your original software media, the registration information, and a good backup of all your personal data. Actually, no matter what upgrade route you decide on or even if you aren’t doing an upgrade, you should have a good backup!

Note: This is part of a column that originally appeared in The Daniel Island News in the weekly issue for November 18, 2009.

Windows 7 Released to Manufacturing

Just thought I would pass along this note I just got from Microsoft:

It’s almost here! We’re very happy to tell you that we’ve hit the last big milestone on the way to Windows 7: release to manufacturing. We’re packaging up copies and manufacturers are putting it on new PCs. On October 22, you’ll be able to get the final shipping product. Your feedback has helped us make Windows 7 more reliable, compatible, and manageable-and we’d like to thank you for that.

Microsoft Warns Of a Serious IE Security Hole

Internet ExplorerAs you are probably aware, Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of each month. However, this week there is a dangerous security hole in Internet Explorer that they’ve haven’t patched yet. This vulnerability is so severe that users are advised to immediately apply a workaround fix.

This particular flaw lets attackers infect the victim’s computers (running Windows XP or Windows Server 2003) after they’ve clicked on a video link in Internet Explorer. The vulnerability allows attacker to run arbitrary code under the same user rights of the local user. The worst part of it is the fact that this is not some theoretical hole; Microsoft clearly states that they’re already aware of malicious hackers exploiting this vulnerability.

If you’re running Internet Explorer under Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, you should go apply the emergency fix, which can be found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/972890#FixItForMe, right away. The real patch will likely come in seven days, with Microsoft’s regular security update bundle.

Note that this flaw does not exist on Windows Vista or Windows 7. Additionally, this does not apply to users of the Firefox browser on Windows XP. If you haven’t yet tried out Firefox as an alternative to Internet Explorer, you really should.