Thursday, January 29, 2009

Explore the Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7

If you’ve ever worked a help desk and become extremely frustrated while trying to coax an end user into accurately describing the problem that has been encountered, you are going to love a new tool in Microsoft Windows 7 called the Problem Steps Recorder. When started, this new tool will essentially record each and every step a user takes and document the entire operation in both screen captures and step-by-step details. When stopped, the Problem Steps Recorder will save the recorded information as a compiled HTML file and package it up in a ZIP file that the end user can then e-mail to the help desk.

In this issue of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll introduce you to the Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More user options with User Account Control in Windows 7 Beta

In Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced User Account Control (UAC), which is designed to mitigate the impact of malware by locking down the desktop (the Secure Desktop feature) and displaying a notification dialog box that warns you of a possible unauthorized operation and prompts you to confirm or deny the operation.

This system will prevent unauthorized applications from automatically installing as well as prevent users from inadvertently making detrimental changes to system settings.

In Vista, UAC is very strictly controlled — you either have it on and in full-force protection mode or you disable it completely and fend for yourself; there is no middle ground. This extreme level of security is often mentioned as a big source of users’ extreme dislike of Vista.

In order to improve UAC’s image while still providing this type of security, Microsoft has modified UAC in Windows 7 Beta to give more control to the user when deciding how UAC works. In this Windows Vista Report, I’ll take a closer look at the new UAC features shown in Windows 7 Beta.

More user options with User Account Control in Windows 7 Beta

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Explore the new Taskbar features in Windows 7 beta

I downloaded the Windows 7 beta over the weekend and have spent the last couple of days putting it through the paces. And, even though it is only at the first Beta stage, I must say that I’m pretty impressed with what I have experienced so far. At this point, Windows 7 appears to be a solid and stable operating system with all the features that you would expect in a beta 2 or release candidate version.

There are a lot of things in the Windows 7 operating system that are pretty much the same as in Vista, but there are also a lot of new and exciting features and changes. Regardless of how stable this version seems, it is still a beta, so I won’t really tackle any performance issues — I’ll wait until we get closer to the real deal. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I’ll take a look at one of the features in Windows 7 that really jumped out at me — the new Taskbar.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Windows 95 Retrospective

As you may remember, when Microsoft released the Windows 95 operating system, it was quite a big deal in the computing industry. During those days I had the good fortune to be working at the Cobb Group and writing the Inside Microsoft Windows 95 journal. As such I was pretty close to the center of it all. One of the benefits of that job at that particular time was that I had the easy access to a lot of software, books, and other stuff related to the operating system. I recently came across a box containing all this Windows 95 stuff and thought that it would make a good gallery called A Windows 95 Retrospective

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Troubleshoot driver problems in Vista with the Driver Verifier Manager

If you are encountering unpredictable errors, lockups, or BSODs in Windows Vista, chances are that your system is suffering from the effects of a faulty third-party driver. As you know, the device drivers that come with Microsoft Windows Vista have a digital signature that indicates that the driver has met a certain level of testing and that it has not been altered. You also know that any hardware that carries a Certified for Windows Vista logo will come with drivers that have a digital signature from Microsoft that indicates that the product was tested for compatibility with Windows Vista.

However, not all third-party hardware manufacturers are willing to take the time and effort to submit their products to Microsoft for certified testing and aren’t really interested in having a digital signature from Microsoft assigned to their drivers. And, unfortunately, uncertified drivers are a big source of problems in Vista.

Fortunately, Vista comes with a great utility called the Driver Verifier Manager. While not a new utility (it came with Windows 2000 and Windows XP), the version that comes with Vista has some new features that make it easier to use. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I’ll show you how to use the Driver Verifier Manager to troubleshoot driver problems in Windows Vista.