Shows 02.02.09

Monday mornings I'm on the air sharing more stories about how people are living better through computers. I'll tuck field notes from those shows right here. You'll also be able to dig into the archives to explore previous shows as I determine how best to share some of the highlights of the past 9 year's worth of adventures.

What you'll need

  • A blank DVD
  • A PC with a DVD burner
  • A test PC for the Windows 7 Beta that meets these minimum hardware recommendations (specific to the Beta and subject to change in the final version of Windows 7). Please do not use a PC you rely on for your work or daily use:
    • 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor
    • 1 GB of system memory
    • 16 GB of available disk space
    • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with 128 MB memory (in order to enable Aero theme)
    • DVD-R/W Drive
    • Internet access (to download the Beta and get updates)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Psst! Want Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system free of charge without giving up what you have now?

By most accounts Microsoft's Vista operating system was considered a dog's breakfast. It didn't play nicely with many standard applications, and added irritating levels of security that meant more keystrokes to get basic tasks done, and in some cases simply left things dead in the water. While the experience left many people reluctant about the long-awaited successor, Windows 7, it seems Microsoft may redeem themselves after all.

Early reviews offer a sweeping thumbs up (looks cleaner, loads faster, gives you more control, behaves in a more stable fashion), with Microsoft arriving with a peace offering in the form of a beta giveaway that lets you load the new OS onto your system free of charge.

Still not convinced it's worth riding the bleeding edge even with a $0 price tag attached? You can dual-strap your PC to run the new Windows 7 side-by-side with your current Vista or XP operating system, reducing the risk of data loss and program failure while allowing you to decide if the move is one you really want to make.

Read on to find out how you can still get on board with this time-limited offer, and how to make Microsoft's newest operating system run it in tandem with your current set-up.

Where can I download the Windows 7 Beta program free of charge?

While Microsoft initially planned on making the beta download available only for one day at the beginning of January, you can still sneak in under the wire if you're fast. Here's where you can download the free beta program:

* NOTE: Major caveatthis beta software will only function until August 1, 2009, at which time it will expire, and you will need to either purchase the retail version or roll back to your previous operating system. There are no perks offered to beta testers beyond the ability to use the OS free of charge during the first 8 months of it's release.


Where can I get a license key to run it?

1. Login into your Windows Live ID (Microsoft Passport account):

2. Open one of the following links in a new tab without closing the Passport page:

The 32-bit link may need to be refreshed many times before it finally works.
If this doesn't work for you, here's an alternative method of getting the files …

1. Log onto Http:// by clicking on "Sign in" in the upper right corner with your Microsoft Passport ID. (I.e.: Hotmail, etc.)

2. Copy (don't CLICK) one of the links below to the address bar and press Enter.

3. If you receive an error, press CTRL+ F5 (non-cache reload) to refresh your screen. You may have to do this a number of times before you finally receive the key.

If you followed the steps correctly you should see your key. If you are being redirected to another location, you haven't followed the first 2 steps correctly.


How do I turn the download file into a setup disk?

The file that you download from the Microsoft site is actually an "iso" file. You'll need to burn it to a CD or a DVD in order to turn it into a set-up disk to install the Windows 7 operating system.

To do this you'll need a special tool. You might want to consider downloading ImgBurn, a powerful, easy and free CD / DVD / HD DVD / Blu-ray burning application.

ImgBurn supports all the Windows OS's - Windows 95, 98, Me, NT4, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and 7 (including all the 64-bit versions), and supports a wide range of image file formats - including BIN, CUE, DI, DVD, GI, IMG, ISO, MDS, NRG and PDI.

You can also use it to easily burn Audio CD's from any file type supported via DirectShow / ACM - including AAC, APE, FLAC, M4A, MP3, MP4, MPC, OGG, PCM, WAV, WMA and WV, and to build DVD Video discs (from a VIDEO_TS folder), HD DVD Video discs (from a HVDVD_TS folder) and Blu-ray Video discs (from a BDAV / BDMV folder).


How can I safely back-up my system?

Windows 7 is beta software, and that implies risk. There's always the chance of data loss, and if you're installing this on a computer that holds things you cannot afford to lose, you'll want to be sure to back it up.

If you don't already have a tool like Norton Ghost or Partion Image, you might want to consider grabbing a powerful, lightweight freebie called Clonezilla, a tool for both backing up and recovering your data.

Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the hard disk, which makes it a relatively fast and efficient option for not only backing up your data before installing the Windows 7 beta, but incrementally as you are testing with it between now and August.

Clonezilla is also incredibly helpful if you plan on installing the Windows 7 beta on multiple machines in a work environment, as it is available in a server edition that can manage the cloning process on more than 40 machines.


How do I run Windows 7 without ditching my current operating system?

The current version of Windows 7 is a beta program. That means there is an inherent risk of data loss and things not working as planner. Unless you have an extra computer to test it you, you might not be ready to take the risk of giving up your current set-up to dive in. The good news is that you can partition your hard drive and set it up so that you have the choice of booting up with your existing XP or Vista operating system on one side, or with the new Windows 7 beta on the other.

If you are currently running Vista you already have what you need to partition your hard disk in order to run your system with a dual boot option. If you are still using XP you will need to download a tool to partition your system if you don't already have one. GParted is the free Gnome Partition Editor and powerful way to manage this task on XP systems.

Here's a simple guide to walk you through setting your PC up as a dual-boot machine:


What's on Deck?

Stay tuned on Mondays for more ways to plug into technologies that have the the potential to empower us and make our lives better along the way.

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