Thinking about new hardware, update about the Useful Windows Blog

Hello people of the internet.  I wanted to give and update and let you know what is going on with me and how it will affect Useful Windows.

I accepted a new job recently.  I am now working full-time in the tech field once again.  This is a great thing as it helps me come up with great how to articles that I hope to have done soon.  It also keeps me on the pulse of technology in general.

That being said I am making a little more than I was before so I believe it is time to consider upgrading my desktop that I built five years ago.

To understand why I built this computer the way I did you have to understand where I was at.  Five years ago I was working part-time doing remote tech support from home on my laptop which I had connected to my TV in my bedroom.  I was engaged and getting ready to be married later that year. I was not making a lot of money and was putting as much as I could toward my wedding but I knew I needed a better machine to work efficiently.

I gave myself a budget of $400 to $500 to build the best machine I could.  I knew I could build a machine better than I could just buy one preconfigured.  I reused some parts from a desktop I had built about six years earlier including the hard drive, power supply, case fans and case.  I also knew that the newer Intel Core i series processors had integrated graphic controllers and some of them operated at faster speeds than others.  With this in mind I decided against buying a separate graphic card to cut down costs as this computer was for work and not games.

What resulted was a desktop computer with an Intel DH55HC motherboard, an Intel Core i5 661 3.33 GHz processor and 4GB of Patriot ram.  I also bought an aftermarket CPU cooler and an internal DVD writer and memory card reader.  I later bought an 16″ Asus monitor to add to the little Dell monitor I had connected to the machine.  I was running Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows 7 Ultimate in a dual-boot configuration and continued to do so for some time.

After I got married I moved back out of my parents house (I had moved back in to help with bills after my mom lost her job) and left my dad the small Dell monitor as his had died on him.  I once again used my TV in my bedroom as my second screen as I kept the desktop in our bedroom.  Over time it became clear that my wife did a lot of photo editing on the computer and upgrades would be necessary.  Before that though my power supply died resulting in the first upgrade to an Antec 650 Watt power supply.  A few months later I would buy a graphic card running and AMD ATI Radeon HD 6750.

A year or so later my grandmother would get a new computer and I got the one I built for her back. From this I added a 500GB hard drive, and additional DVD burner and a second monitor (Dell 20″).  While clearing out some old computer junk from a local college I found some very old Altec Lansing Multimedia speakers and sub woofer.

The truth is, this is still a very good computer and would meet most people’s needs but it no longer meets my needs.  I am out of space as the original hard drive is only 160GB and is currently my data drive.  The 500 GB hard drive is used as the operating system drive with Windows XP Pro X64, Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro in a quad boot configuration.  It also contains a lot of data and some virtual machines I use for testing to write articles for this site.  My wife uses this computer for work most days of the week and has gotten used to the multiple monitors but does not like how they are different resolutions.  She also downloads pictures from an SD and XD card to the computer and comments on how slow that process takes.  Unfortunately my motherboard does not have USB 3.0 and while I could add a card that does, why not just look at upgrading the whole computer.

So once again I start by looking at processors and am highly considering an Intel Core i7 4790K 4 GHz processor.  This should be more than enough speed to handle anything I can throw at this machine.  I will once again use an Intel motherboard as they are the best boards I have ever used.  I will go no less than 8 GB of ram but really want to start at 16 GB of ram.  Either a USB 3.0 or Sata memory card reader which will make downloading those pictures a snap.  I figure I will use a traditional hard drive for my testing operating system which will have Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Pro.  Then I will also have an SSD with Windows 10 on it, multibooting between five versions of Windows.  I am also considering getting two identical hard dives to have in a mirrored RAID to keep my data safe.  I will put this all in a new case with a new power supply.  I am lost on what kind of graphic card to get but there will be something in there.  I will probably have at least two monitors, maybe three. This time they will all be the same resolution if not size as well.

So I am curious if anyone has any suggestions on hardware, what has been good for them, what has been bad, etc..  I know this may sound like over kill for a lot of people but I really use this computer and when you are trying to run more than one virtual machine this computer reaches its limit.  When my wife is working and has a million things open it also slows down.  Granted this is due to the low ram size but to fix some of the other limitations and annoyances I might as well just upgrade the whole thing.  I do not have the money to buy everything at once but I figure I will buy a part or two a month till I have enough to start the build.

Thanks for reading and please leave any input in the comments.

Microsoft Announces Free Upgrade to Windows 10 for Windows 7 and 8.1 Users

Microsoft Announces Free Upgrade to Windows 10 for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Users.  This also includes free upgrades for those running Windows Phone 8.1 as well. This was announced today at the Windows 10 The Next Chapter event.  What is not known is if you can upgrade from Windows 8 straight to Windows 10 or if you will have to upgrade to Windows 8.1 first. Also I did not hear about Windows RT in any version. Looks like Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows Phone 8 and older are out of luck.  This free upgrade is available for the first year after Windows 10 is released.

 

This has never happened before to his extent.  Microsoft did make Windows 8.1 free to Windows 8 users but Windows 8.1 was not a full featured release like Windows 10.  This should come as welcome news to anyone running Windows 8.1 and for most running Windows 7.  I wonder what else will be announced today.

Microsoft Updates the Windows 10 Technicial Preview and Here is How

On October 21st Microsoft updates the Windows 10 Technical Preview and here is how you can too. This update adds a few new features such as a Notification Center, Battery Saver, and DataSense (All features from Windows Phone originally but welcomed in Windows).  I had read that you could update to the newest build, Build 9860, through Windows Update but after trying to make that happen with Windows Update through the Control Panel I went to Update and Recovery and then Preview Builds in PC Settings from there you can invoke a check for new builds of the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Windows 10 Technical Preview Builds

Windows 10 Technical Preview Builds

Once it finds the new build click on Download Now.  It will take some time and there is no progress bar so just sit tight till it prompts you to restart your computer.  The setup will begin and will restart your computer a few times.  Once the setup is completed you will be running Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9860.  I suggest backing up your data first before doing this upgrade just in case.  Build 9860 also adds a few feature here that allows you to get preview builds more rapidly.  Please keep in mind that means there may be more bugs as they have not been tested as much but you can change this setting at any time.

Windows 10 Technical Preview Builds Fast Setting

Windows 10 Technical Preview Builds Fast Setting

There is one other note, after installing Build 9860 you may notice some text missing from PC Settings or from web pages, There is a Windows Update that will fix this you will want to install afterwards.  Enjoy seeing the new things in the updated Windows 10 Technical Preview.  Keep in mind there may be bugs in this build but I am excited to see how Windows changes.

Install Windows 10 Technical Preview In VMware Player

If you are curious about testing out the new Windows 10 you can install Windows 10 Technical Preview in VMware Player 6.0.3.  This was a very easy install you just need to configure VMware.  First I used the X86 version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview.  Second when configuring VMware I selected Windows 8 and the guest operating system and gave it 1 GB of ram so it would perform better.  Other than that I limited the hard drive size to 30 GB as I am running out of space on my desktop.  After that I installed the VMware Tools which helps a lot.

Install Windows 10 Technical Preview in VMware Player

Install Windows 10 Technical Preview in VMware Player

I did notice one Unknown Device in the Device Manager and I could not find out what that is or find a driver for it.  If anyone does please post it on the comments.  It was easy to install Windows 10 Technical Preview in VMware Player and I imagine just as easy in VMware Workstation.  This is also a great way for Windows XP, Vista, or 7 users to check out Windows 10 as Virtual PC does not support Windows 10 that I can find so far.

Install Windows 10 Technical Preview in Client Side Hyper-V 3.0 Generation 2

Microsoft just released the Windows 10 Technical Preview and I wanted to test it right away and I wondered if you could install the Windows 10 Technical Preview in Client Side Hyper-V 3.0 as Generation 2?  The answer is an easy yes.  There is nothing special you have to do and all the Integration Components were installed automatically.  The only things I did was give the virtual machine 1 GB of ram and limited the hard drive to 30 GB.  Please note that to do Generation 2 you have to install the x64 version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Windows 10 Technical Preview in Hyper-V 3.0

Windows 10 Technical Preview in Hyper-V 3.0

So there is an easy way to check out the new Windows by installing it in Client Side Hyper-V 3.0 as a Generation 2 machine.  Stay tuned as I see how else to virtualize the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Microsoft Shows Off Windows 10

Windows 10 Product Family

Windows 10 Product Family

The wait is over as Microsoft shows off Windows 10.  That’s right Windows 10 not Windows 9 like we all thought it would be called.  Microsoft has it reasons for the name jump, like how 7 ate (8) 9, ha-ha, actually they think that Windows 10 better represents how big of a change this will be and so far a big change indeed.  Windows 10 is just in the Technical Preview now and is not even feature complete yet.  We can expect to see even more with a possible Consumer Preview in the beginning of next year (2015).  Microsoft has made the Windows 10 Technical Preview available to the public you just have to join the Windows Insider Program. If you are business you may want to check out the TechNet website and download the Windows 10 Technical Preview for Enterprise.   Once you have joined not only can you download the Windows 10 Technical Preview but you can also give feedback to Microsoft.  I for one can’t wait to through my two cents in about Windows and the direction it is heading.

I will be cranking out articles about Windows 10 so you can get an idea about what is coming and how to evaluate it for yourself.  I really think Windows 10 will put a boost in the PC business and next holiday season will be interesting.  For now stay tuned as Microsoft continues to show off Windows 10.

Microsoft Reveals the New Xbox One Console, All In One Entertainment

Today Microsoft revealed the new replacement for the Xbox 360 and its third video game console the Xbox One.  The Xbox One really seems to be the console that Microsoft has wanted to have in the living room for years and then some.  They are marketing this as the All In One console for your entertainment needs.  The Xbox One has an eight core 64-bit processor with 8 GB of RAM, a 500 Gb hard drive, Blu-Ray optical drive, built-in Wireless N support, and Ethernet port, three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI in and out ports, optical audio out, and what looks like an IR out for controlling set-top boxes.  The Kinect sensor has been redesigned with a 1080P camera, and there is a new controller.

New Xbox One Console

New Xbox One Console

New hardware is not the only thing that is new there is new software that drives new experiences on the console.  Microsoft said during the reveal on Tuesday that the Xbox One has three operating systems.  I really think it is more a combination of three operating systems.  These three systems are the Xbox OS which game makers can use to take advantage of the Xbox One’s power, There is another system that is based on the Windows kernel which should make porting Windows 8/RT and Windows Phone apps very easy, and finally a third that allows switching between these systems seamless.  You can also snap another app along side what ever you are doing like watching TV or playing a game.  There are also a love of voice commands and hand gestures to control the Xbox One without the use of a controller and since the console is powered down in a more connected standby state you can just say “Xbox On” to turn the Xbox One on.  Also Microsoft has integrated Skype into the Xbox software so you can video chat right from your living room and do so will still watching your favorite TV show or playing you favorite game with the Skype app snapped to the side of the screen.  This really changes things like we have not seen since the Nintendo Wii was revealed.

New Xbox One Dashboard

New Xbox One Dashboard

If you look at the above screen shot you will see that they were watching Live TV, and if you noted earlier I said that there was a HDMI input.  the Xbox One can pass through the HDMI signal from your Set Top Box and overlay additional content.  Also the IR out allows the Xbox One to control the Set Top Box to change the channel.  This allows the Xbox One to make TV much more interactive and allows apps to be snapped next to what you are watching on TV.  The Xbox One also has Xbox Guide which is like in interactive TV guide allowing you to find the shows you want to watch and go right to them.  In addition Microsoft announced that there will be a live action Halo TV show directed by Steven Spielberg.

Xbox Live is also getting additional features allowing for your content to be synced to the cloud and they are ramping up the amount of servers from 15,000 to 300,000.  I think Microsoft is expecting increased traffic on their servers.

So what about gaming, well I can say what I have seen looks great and games are going to look fantastic on this system.  EA announced they had new titles coming to the Xbox One and their will be a new Call Of Duty game coming out soon.  All downloadable content for Call of Duty will come out exclusively on the Xbox One first.  Microsoft’s own Game Studios will be releasing 15 new games only on Xbox within the first year.  Eight of those games will be new franchises.  The only thing Microsoft did not talk about was backward compatibility of Xbox and Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One.  We will have to wait till E3 to hear more about the system.

I am excited about the new system and can’t wait for it to come out which should be later this year.  It looks great and the new features and not only compelling they are just down right cool.

 

Watch the New Xbox One Reveal Live Right Now, Even If You Missed It

If you wanted to watch the new Xbox One reveal you can check it out right now.  Just head over to the Xbox website and check out the live feed. Also you can watch it on your Xbox 360.

You Need to Give Windows 8 a Chance!

As some of you know, I have used Windows 8 since the Developer Preview.  I had my doubts about Windows 8 but I used every build and I have to admit, I am more excited now than ever. I am ready to get rid of my laptop and buy a Windows 8 tablet!

I have heard every excuse, concern, and suggestion out there and I will say this, give Windows 8 a chance.  Let the Start Menu be dead.

I recently installed the Release Preview on an old Ctl tablet.  This device is not capable of running the Metro apps because of the screen resolution.  I still love it, in fact, I’m writing this blog post in Windows 8 in the Desktop version of IE, with the touch keyboard and this is great.

Here is the thing, I read people saying that they think Windows 8 is a tablet OS, and you know what, their right.  What they don’t know is that everyone is going to want a Windows tablet.  Seriously, get rid of your iPad’s and Android tablets, sell your laptops, those are baby toys.  This is the future of computing.  It is everything in one and a tablet is so much better than a laptop.  I have never been very happy with a laptop, it sits hot in my lap and makes me sweat. Also if I want to get real work done I use my desktop.  But being able to use a computer with my thumbs and it travels so much easier than the laptop (which is only a 14″) I am in heaven.

Is Windows 8 going to be for everyone… no, but if you want Windows without metro they have that it’s called Windows 7 or use Windows 8 with a Start Menu replacement.  You can make a simple one like this too.  You could also do what I do and pin your most commonly used programs to the beginning of the Start Screen, then you hit the Windows Key and bam it’s there.  Not that big of a deal.

The bottom line is, wait till it comes out and give Windows 8 a chance, will you?