yon Leveron blog

John's musings on the Interknot cowpath

Simplifying Windows installations in a non-corporate world

Posted by John on 21st September 2009

Good Saturday to all. Some of the Tech bits I’ve posted in the past involved how to deploy the Windows operating system from a corporate network, RIS, etc. Now, we aren’t going to be pushing images via PXE.

Today I’d like to focus on the lower volume users, the home / home office. You know how it is, someone wants you to help them, because “their system doesn’t seem to be working right”. Ahem :) You know the realistic course rather than trying to debug all that has plagued their system is a reinstall.

Backup the data you care about before I come over, you tell them. (this is the point that you hear “what’s a backup“, so you know you’ll need to verify that you have all of their data backed up before you “floor mat” their system; yes, someone once asked me over the phone to floor mat instead of format)

Then you contemplate manually installing everything; even the Windows install now looks like significant work.

If you do this often enough, it doesn’t have to be. Invest the time up front in a couple of things, and it will go quickly, and without your intervention :

1) Nlite or Vlite : http://www.nliteos.com/ or http://www.vlite.net/ the former for Win XP class, the latter for Vista / Windows 7.

vlite screenshot

While some of the automation side was technically possible before Nuhi and team created these, it was a lot more arcane. These two are simple and menu driven, you can add or remove major or minor components of the OS, adjust tweaks, automate user creation / login / etc., adjust default time zone settings, slipstream service packs and patches up to today’s date with, and it also boasts integrated .iso creation or burn straight to disc.

One of the nicest things that these programs can do is to integrate specific text-mode drivers for certain system components. This is a godsend under XP, if not generally as much of a factor in Windows 7. That custom motherboard you run for the “gaming machine” can now have the built-in RAID recognized during the install, without the need to try to find a USB floppy drive to install drivers from.

I just enjoy having a potentially slimmed down version of what I want to install, that had security patches up to the day I created my image. Less to download, less security risk. Security is also sometimes increased by removing some unneeded components; if you’re not going to use them, perhaps they shouldn’t be there.

Regardless, one of these two (as appropriate) is really worth checking into.

2) WPIW / Windows Post Install Wizard : http://www.wpiw.net/

wpiw logo

Very handy for reinstalling any set of programs within Windows; I’ve used this for both DVD based installs, directly from the DVD (and automatically running after Windows installs) and more commonly from a fast USB memory stick drive, after the install, by double-clicking it (the latter method to take advantage of faster read speeds / large space for a huge menu of programs for friends, family, self, etc.)

Per the WPIW site :

Windows Post-Install Wizard (WPI for short) is a hypertext application designed for giving users choice. While Windows XP offers many ways of customizing the setup process out of the box, its major drawback is the lack of being able to select which applications an end user may install. In the past, end users and administrators needed to either download the files manually, or create overly complex scripts that could only be used once. WPI allows you to create one image, which can then be custom configured, and optionally, automated, so that end users can install any applications.

WPI is a simple to use automation program for the choice and installation of multiple programs, tweaks and scripts. No longer will you need a dozen CD’s or more when doing a fresh Installation. No longer will you need multiple files when you are servicing another PC. With Windows Post-Install Wizard all that you will need is 1 or 2 CD\DVD’s to fully install your PC with all of your apps, scripts, registry files or tweaks. Instead of having to re-download those apps like adobe reader, flash or updates to programs you can have them all on one disk. With WPI you can have all of them all on one disk and then have a nice interface for selecting which apps to install and after configured properly WPI will install all of them without any needed input from you. WPI also and is commonly used added to your windows installation disks. This way you can automate the complete process of Windows and program installations.

With your typical setup of WPI you have your OS and all of the apps, tweaks and such on one disk. After windows installs, WPI kicks in and you are given a selection of everything you have configured WPI with, then you can select the ones you want or simply let the timer run out and your default apps will install.

everdawn2 theme

This can be customized with multiple default menus / layout with a little bit of experimentation, to allow you to handle your Window 7 Ultimate developer needs in 64 bit, and your less technical friends need with Windows 32 bit, and quite a different (and possibly smaller) set of programs.

While WPI does take a bit of time to configure, it is easily recouped with just a few installs. You do still have to maintain an “up to date” set of install programs, such as Firefox, Java, etc. Hint to Adobe : please release a new downloadable version of at least Acrobat Reader, and don’t force folks to go online to go from 9.1.0 (the latest available for download) to update to 9.1.3, which includes security fixes. Ahem :)

You will learn about the whole new world of silent installs / switchless, if you’ve never done this. I much prefer to configure all things for an install of the operating system, or all of the application programs on one screen, start it, and walk away. You can always work on or enjoy other things while it’s running for however long it needs to install all that you require.

Between these two things, I think you’ll find your world to be better off. Once you’ve gotten that nice new system in place, you might consider using at least Windows backup to the cloud, for one off-site copy of the original / basics. If you’re looking for more features and insurance, I can highly recommend Acronis True Image Home 2010.

Have a wonderful day folks!

Technorati FavoritesShare

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Tech | 2 Comments »

D-Link and Windows 7

Posted by John on 29th August 2009

http://www.dlink.com/windows7 I think Dlink is doing some good things. No, sorry, no stock in their company :)

Compatible with Windows 7 badge

I’m sort of glad D-Link is under appreciated, as it has kept their prices pretty reasonable as well.

I’ve only a few of their components in the main home system at this point, but have had great luck over the years (business class as well as home level) with their products. Hope they can keep that up.

Technorati FavoritesShare

Tags:
Posted in Tech | No Comments »

Printer goodness – Brother HL-2170W Laser Printer

Posted by John on 27th August 2009

The UPS gent arrived with this a bit before 5 PM yesterday; yay!

Even after careful review, I must admit I just wasn’t sure what to expect from a $120 (shipped) black and white laser.

Brother HL-2170W 23ppm Laser Printer with Wireless and Wired Network Interfaces

So far at least, it has exceeded my expectations.  Since even the home network has long been gigabit copper Ethernet, I decided to go the wired network route.  Call me a curmudgeon, but even though the wireless network setup was trivial I just really don’t have a need at present to put my documents out over the wireless, so I won’t; wireless B/G mode is disabled for the printer for now.  I can see that being handy if you wanted to power the printer in another room, however;  mo cabling needed!  (I have no idea if the wireless mode, assuming full strength / max speed G mode, would limit the output speed of 23 ppm or not)

Setup was a breeze, installing a standard Ethernet cable into the printers 10/100 port on the rear side. (which is where the USB cable input is, if so inclined).  Note to buyer : neither cable included, so plan appropriately so you are not stranded / charged shipping or tax for something small.

(side note : since my D-link switch has automatic crossover capability, I did test the printer out of curiosity with an old crossover cable relic; worked fine, though I suspect the printer had nothing to do with it)

I have not tested the USB mode, so I can’t comment there.  I suspect it works pretty well, since many folks would choose that method of connection.  I do like that it’s capable of that, should I ever need it.

I did read the quick install manual thoroughly before even opening the drum / toner pack.  Leisurely installation of cables, drum / toner, and untaping the top feed holder was about 5 minutes worth; checking out the paper tray, fanning the ole stack of 250 sheets, and installing was maybe another 3.  Have to adjust all of the widgets in the tray, just to see what sizes are possible, y’know.

I printed the built-in test page, as the manual noted it would no longer be available via a single touch button once the first print job was sent from the computer.  Check; it was in the highest resolution mode, and included graphics and font text designed to show off how well it prints.  It worked; the print quality was truly outstanding, much better than much higher priced office workgroup lasers from only a couple of years ago.

Just to be contrary, I of course skipped 100% of the driver disk that came with the Brother.  I’ve been running Windows 7 RTM, Ultimate 64 for a few weeks, and of course having that popular conversation with a number of vendors : “We’ll support that new OS once the final version ships”.  Well, this is the final version, even if it’s not on retailers shelves for a bit.  Early adopters – always have to be prepared for this :)

I did make sure in my research that the HL-2170W was Vista 64 compatible, a strong indicator that it would work (more or less) under Win7 64 bit.  I let Windows look for the printer, and it found it via two interfaces : the built in web interface, and the “standard” printer interface.  Being somewhat old fashioned there I suppose, I went with the standard.

Installed fine.  Tested fine via the Windows Test Page print job many of you are familiar with.  Another page to the home recycle bin.  I set the sleep time via the web interface, for example http://172.30.100.5/ to one minute.  The large glowing led power button can be set to dim significantly or turn off when sleeping; I chose to dim it, so I’d know the print had power still. (I print so little that it and the scanner are on an external surge suppressor, on the filter-only side of the UPS; makes it easy to leave both powered down 100% instead of sleeping, considering my very low use there)

SleepIsGood

The speed is pretty much on with their 23 page per minute claim; timed output from hitting “print” on the computer, to a sleeping printer was measured at 14 seconds until the page started emerging.  I consider that plenty good for my own home office needs.

It was simple to set the resolution way down to 300 dpi from their highest default, and to set toner saver on.  I’m not trying to impress with the output, and the visual difference to me takes pretty close looking.

I’m impressed, and so far feel this is a great printer for the money.  No more dried out inkjet bits, and I really don’t need the capability or expense of color.  Since it has enterprise type page count for the printer, as well as the current drum and toner cartridges, we’ll see how many pages we get out of the starter “1000 page” toner cartridge that’s included with it.  I predict it’ll be a while before I report back here.

Technorati FavoritesShare

Tags: , ,
Posted in Tech | No Comments »

First Look: Windows 7 Shapes Up as Microsoft’s Best OS Yet | Gadget Lab | Wired.com

Posted by John on 18th August 2009

First Look: Windows 7 Shapes Up as Microsoft’s Best OS Yet | Gadget Lab | Wired.com

Teaser bits below, click link above for the full article.

I can honestly say this got better each step of the closed beta, to open beta, to RC, to Gold / RTM code. Now I can stop upgrading for a bit ;)


desktop3

Good news, everyone! If you’ve been stuck in a time loop using Windows XP, which is nearing eight years old, or Windows Vista, which is just annoying, you can finally break free: Windows 7 is almost here. Microsoft delivers a slickly designed, vastly improved OS that will warp you to the world of today. This upgrade is big, and it’s hugely recommended for Microsoft users.

When we say big, we mean really BIG — so we’re not going to bombard you with an epic overview covering every single aspect. Rather, today we’ll guide you through an early look at some major new features and enhancements we tested in the almost-final version released last week. And in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 22 launch of Windows 7, we’ll continue posting our impressions, testing more features of the OS on various types of hardware.

We’ll start with interface, move on to performance and usability, and then we’ll conclude with the “funner” stuff. Let’s begin exploring, shall we?

Technorati FavoritesShare

Tags:
Posted in Tech | No Comments »

Windows 7 RTM – best MS OS in a long time

Posted by John on 14th August 2009

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start cheering solely for one team.  But having been in the closed beta, then open, then RC, and now with RTM in hand, I can honestly say that Microsoft got this one a lot more right.

We won’t go back and talk about Vista, aka “Win7 alpha”. 64 bit computing, is good.

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/pictures-story/110-windows7-released-manufacturers.html

Have a look see, and if you (technically savvy dog that you be) are going to be buying more than one copy for self / family, etc.  you really might check out MS / Microsoft Technet Plus; the online-only option is relatively affordable, if you work out the cost there.

SkyDrive Folder

SkyDrive Folder

Nowadays, it’s easy enough to keep a copy of your OS handy.


ms788692.win7banner_technet_EN(en-us,MSDN.10)[1]

microsoft technet plus banner


Technorati FavoritesShare

Tags: , ,
Posted in Tech | No Comments »