Can’t understand the Vista loathing

Okay, let’s me just say this: I’m clearly a biased dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft user and I cannot fathom transitioning to Apple’s world. Nevertheless, I have used Macs and I will allow that they are definitely cuter than Microsoft’s offering. Still, I do think that their latest OS (operating system) stands head & shoulders above XP. I cannot get enough of how snappy my system is and I’m completely sold on their instant desktop search function. I no longer have to dig for programs or my files. I guess the difference between someone who would hate Vista and myself is the fact as much as spending hours troubleshooting can be frustrating, it’s incredible rewarding to me. With Vista SP1, I haven’t put in as many troubleshooting hours as I have put into my XP computer. I love Vista’s ability to self-diagnose issues and it gives me the feeling of complete control over my system. I don’t care that they ‘cribbed‘ some design elements of Macs. Heck, imitation is a form of flattery, no? πŸ™‚ Anyhoo, I just wanted to add a consumer voice to the fray and tell Microsoft that I think Vista does rock. I am not a ‘regular’ user and yet not quite a ‘power user’. I do think the User Access Control needs to be toned down a bit because I can see how irritating it gets. I have it turned on right now, but for software installations, I tend to have it turned off because I know/trust the programs I install on my laptop. I love the improved version of Outlook 2007 so much so that I didn’t even bother installing Mozilla Thunderbird on my laptop. I don’t have any third-party media players (VLC, Creative MediaSource Player, etc) installed because Windows Media Player does a fabulous job of cataloging my modest music collection. Enough of my rant. I just wanted to say that I am really looking forward to their next version of the Windows Operating System dubbed “Windows 7“. My plan is to put this laptop through its paces and give its dead or dying body to Matt (lol. Kidding). I definitely see myself upgrading this laptop, but not anytime soon. I need to recover from the, ahem, financial mayhem. πŸ™‚ There are a few issues with  my laptop that are mostly cosmetic. For instance, my mouse cursor is really small and Vista has made it supremely easier to personalize your PC. So, right now, I changed the color to something other than white and made the cursor larger. I would like to give my cursor a special color so I’ll root around my PC and find that option.

Enough of my mini-rant. My weekend has been relaxing and just sleeping in. I did worry a little bit about work and things I needed to do, but I intend on making this week a highly productive one. I’ve got a supportive work place so there’s nothing stopping me. With that, cheers!

Don’t cha :) wanna know how I stay secure on my laptop?

M’ll hurt me for this, but all my PCD fans in the building, stand up! lol. I clearly am a fan of the Pussycat Dolls and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I feel like singing their first single “Don’t Cha‘ at the top of my lungs. Life is good. I feel stronger than I’ve been in a long while. Getting the courage to do things that terrify you is incredibly empowering. Getting positive strokes (PDF) from people that matter has been instrumental to my remaining optimistic. I am excited for the reunion that’s coming up on Saturday. Granted, I’m still learning everyone’s names, but I look forward to meeting everyone again and just taking a crapload of pictures.

I’m currently at Starbucks and just jamming with my spanking new HP premium headset which produces incredible sound. Granted that I’m no discerning audiophile, but the sound’s pretty crisp and clear to me. It was less than $30 and it should last a long time barring any accidents with the vacuum. Yeah, M totaled my last headset and I’m totally exposing his transgressions to the world. Anyway, I haven’t done anything ‘new’ with my laptop except for the little fact that I had to reformat my hard drive. This decision didn’t come lightly, but it has been the best decision.

When I first got the laptop, I was so excited that I didn’t pay attention to certain things. This time, I made sure to install and uninstall things in the right order such as: install all Windows updates (restart), update all installed non-Windows programs (restart), add new Microsoft programs (restart), run Windows updates and install any applicable updates (restart), update all non-Windows programs again (restart) and a final Windows update run. This took place over a course of 24 hrs and it wasn’t all that bad primarily because of my fast processor. I am so glad I spent that extra $125 to get a slightly faster Core 2 Duo processor T8100 (2.1 gigahertz versus 2.0 gigahertz). After I installed all my essential programs and had all the updates, I made sure to create a properly labelled PC backup file. Thanks to my foresight in buying Windows Ultimate operating system, I didn’t need Acronis True Image to do that job. Microsoft Vista Ultimate comes with a built-in backup utility which is painless and works as advertised. I actually used it to restore my approximately 7GB music library, my 2GB worth of pictures and similarly sized folders. Compared to my experience with XP, Vista Ultimate is the bomb diggity. πŸ˜€ I don’t User Access Control enabled so I have eliminated about 90% of my initial frustrations. You see, I pride myself on being a somewhat savvy internet/computer user and I know NOT to download “free Acrobat 8.0” or “free <insert shareware program>” from bad sites that are obviously not kosher. It’s the same with the advance fee fraud. I know NOT to send money to some faker from US or Nigeria who is claiming to be “Abacha’s son”. If you don’t want to take ownership of your computer/browser experience, you will “hate” Vista. UAC is an extreme hand-holding measure that has sadly come to be required. Maybe I’m being too harsh because there is malware that can creep into your computer. However, simple safeguards like:

  1. Preventing automatic file downloads and opening (i.e. set Firefox/IE to always ask you, the user, if you actually wanted to download or open said file)
  2. If you use the password remembrance feature in Firefox, remember to set a master password so no peeping Tom sniffs your passwords. This can be done easily with freeware programs like SIW which if run on the unprotected computer will expose the passwords. I know because I’ve done it to my computer by simply inserting a USB with the utility into my test computer without a master password and sure enough, by running SIW from the USB key, I was able to see and save the exposed passwords & corresponding user names!
  3. Use a complicated password for Windows logon e.g. my current password is: longer than 10 and has symbols, characters and numbers. In Vista and other editions, you can set a security policy for the computer to force users to generate good passwords. Right now, if I create an account on my computer, it has to be longer than 8 letters and meet complexity requirements i.e. symbols and numbers. lol. I’m paranoid, I know.
  4. Use a good internet security tool e.g. Bitdefender Internet Security. There are free alternatives, but if you are keeping really sensitive materials on your laptop which is always for me, you will want to pony up money for your antivirus/antispyware security suite.
  5. Remember to go through your list of programs every 2 weeks. By that, I mean actually clicking on the program and checking to see if there have been any security updates, etc. Not having updated software is one of the ways you can easily get infected and I’m speaking from personal experience. In fact, M’s dad got a relatively harmless PC infection because he hadn’t updated his antivirus definition files for several months! lol. He is a safe surfer so he got off easy. If he had been into downloading torrents and illegal stuff, he would have been a world of trouble because his system was outdated. If you are like me, you probably have a crapload of programs and it could be a pain to manually check for updates. Some programs come with options to automatically check for updates without having to run the program e.g. Apple’s Quicktime, Adobe Updater, etc. However, there is a free tool that I’ve used (and still use) to monitor the patched status of programs on my computer. The Secunia PSI vulnerability scanning tool is the indispensable tool for those who are slightly paranoid about the status of programs on their PC.

I’ll quit ranting about this for now, but there are a lot of other things I do to protect myself and I’ve not had a serious infection in a long while. In fact, any detections by Bitdefender often come from programs that could be called hacking tools that I knowingly downloaded. I really have not dabbled into computer security deeply, but I would love to enroll in a class to learn more about the innards. One of my favorite sayings is “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” because the person with the “little knowledge” could be deceived into thinking they know it all. I won’t even pretend to understand how things work. I just know that my way works and I’ll work from that. πŸ™‚ Good night!

Day 3 of owning a laptop. :)

Jeah, jeah! lol. M’ll get those two words. We like to make fun of “gangsta rap” and those two words are staples if you want to learn how to “gangsta rap”. Anyway, this is the third day of owning my laptop and can you tell I’m semi-delirious? My first night with the laptop was, well, how shall I put this delicately? I got about 3 hours of sleep. My second night was better because I was so tired that I had no choice. Tonight, I plan on getting back on my regular sleep schedule. The new-ness hasn’t worn off yet, but I’m already falling prey to some issues.

  1. Issue #1: Microsoft Outlook 2007 needs some serious ass-kicking. How hard is it to send a test message, automatically retrieve mail server settings or change an outlook data file without crashing? This is the third time I’ve had to force my laptop to shut down because Outlook 2007 just stopped working. It’s ridiculous because I’m now scared of adding email accounts because I have no time to save my data when this freezing happens.
  2. For some reason, I can’t assign PrtSc to my Snag It Screen Capture software. What the fudge? I’m not too bothered right now because I’ve found a workaround, but why oh why do things have to break? πŸ™
  3. About the fingerprint reader? Well, I’ve finally figured out the correct way to swipe my finger across. Right now, I can log into the PC by just swiping my index or thumb finger. Pretty cool. I still haven’t taught it how to log me into websites directly by swiping a finger.
  4. I called HP and I will be receiving the TV tuner soon at a discounted price. The sad part about it is that I had to pay full price, but I was told I would be refunded. You can bet your bottom dollar that I will be giving them a call on that.
  5. Microsoft Sync and Microsoft Mobile Device Center are not working. This is not a deal breaker because my Bluetooth works beautifully. I just can’t sync my device. This means I will continue backing up my phone’s data on my home desktop which has good old Active Sync. I’m just a little too tired to do the research involved to solve the problem. Who knew I would be longing for Active Sync given all the heartache I’ve gotten from it? lol.

That out of the way. I’d like to say that I absolutely love the Windows Aero experience. I mean, from the Windows Flip 3D feature to the way the thumbnails of folders actually show what’s inside the folder? Check the pictures out!

Those pictures were actually inside the folders. This is one of the nicer user interface changes. I did have to turn off User Access Control (or the famous UAC being mocked in the Apple vs. Windows adverts) because I got tired of confirming that I needed to change the simplest settings. I’ll take paranoid over lax any day though. The other change I think I’ll grow to love is the Windows Explorer interface. I am really growing to love the emphasis on visual stimulation via thumbnails, more descriptive icons, etc. It’s really nice.

Man, I have to say they did a really good job on Windows vista. I don’t even need have the utility programs I installed on my XP machine because Windows Vista does a thorough job of inspecting (or appearing to) and that is key for me. I am being really picky about what goes on this pc so I’m definitely looking to milk all I can from my laptop before having to venture out into the internet wilderness. Enjoy!

By the way, stay tuned to some audio or video of me goofing off using my webcam/mike and Microsoft OneNote 2007!

A lengthy (or not) recap of events. :)

Well, where do I start from? I guess I’ll give the bad news first. I forgot to turn in Certain Someone’s timesheet. It didn’t help that I was champing at the bit to be let loose in order to start on my break so presumably that wasn’t on my top list. πŸ™ I found this out yesterday so that put a bit of a damper on things. Now on to the good. I started off the break by hanging out with J & J along with M’s dad and M, naturally. πŸ™‚ We exchanged gifts and I absolutely loved the thoughtful items that we were given. It’s safe to say that our basic needs a la camping have been met. πŸ™‚ You know, the basic things: shelter (a lovely tent and an inflatable mattress) and food (a gift card to a place that M says will rock the yet-to-be-found steak lover in me). The clothing part was supplied by M’s momma and her family which ye shall be seeing in pictures soon. πŸ™‚ Prior to this, another family member sent me a gift of food i.e. some decadent chocolate mousse desserts. Christmas Eve was spent at M’s mom’s place and we ate some supremely yummy vegetable soup with seasoned meat sprinkled liberally. We got there at about 8.30pm and tucked in for the night about 3 hrs later. We meant to watch the midnight mass at St. Peters Basilica in Rome, but we were so out of it by the time Mg (M’s momma) called out to us. πŸ˜€ Christmas Day saw me indulging in my first true alcoholic drink in several weeks i.e. a martini cooked up by Mk, Mg’s hubby. I got quite a bit of food in me before imbibing and still, I proceeded to sleep out my mini-drunkenness. I got to see M’s aunt Fy and her hubby and Jm sans Aunt L (who is currently watching from the Pearly Gates and possibly being the life of the party with the angels). πŸ™‚ We got us a bottle of Champagne as part of our Christmas present from Aunt Fy which we intend to fully consume on New Year’s eve as a way of ending 2007. We didn’t spend Christmas night at Mg’s place though as we had to get things going. However, like Mg said, there’s no dieting on Christmas day. So, we dropped by M’s dad’s place (B) and sure enough, he had some food offerings for us. With Mg’s exhortation in mind, I decided to indulge myself in some surprisingly healthy Chinese food. I am proud to say that M ate most of it so I didn’t feel too bad. lol. So, here I sit after all the socializing. I realize truly how blessed I am to be surrounded with so much love (literally). There was no pressure to gift-reciprocate even though I/we did our best to be thoughtful and get gifts. Thankfully, our gifts were appreciated and they came from the bottom of our hearts to the recipients. I got calls from Aunt B (Texas) and Aunt C (Georgia) who were just brimming with positive energy. Man, times like this truly warm the cockles of me heart! lol. I also called family members to share the love and I hope to be able to see my other family members in other states soon.

Now, as the year comes to an end, I’d like to be jaded/cynical and say, what’s the big deal? You know? It’s technically a new year, but it’s no different than me waking up to a new day. I can just as soon make a resolution to start a day anew or differently as I can make resolutions for the new year. More than anything, just terming it a resolution even jinxes things in my mind! I really have some superstitious bones in my body. Nevertheless, I think resolutions assessments or re-assessments will never go out of style. I am always up for probing myself and seeing what needs improvement. What I am not always up for is the waiting which is proving very taxing to me. However, as they say, “the patient dog eats the fattest bone.”

I shall be beginning my 23rd year of life soon (March) and despite certain very real challenges that face me, I remain largely optimistic. One thing that weighs heavily on my mind these days is finances. Right now, no creditors are breathing down our necks. Essentially, we’re living with very manageable debt that can be wiped out with (i) tax refunds (ii) mine or his paychecks. This is a situation that’s not uncommon for Americans. However, I am beginning to like the idea of actually having some money on hand that’s really mine. Here’s where I stand with my credit card usage: I’ve paid off 75% of my BoA card leaving me with just $200 that I feel the need to wipe out Right Now. lol. However, M’s cautioning me not to be so foolhardy. I happen to think he’s right because it appears that having a low balance left on this card makes me seem responsible to lenders i.e. I am not in that dire need of cash/things that I have to max this card out. On the other hand/card that I’ve got with SunTrust, I have maxed it out at some point. I can however say that these were not frivolous i.e. rent payments, moving, etc. I’m actually using almost 93% of this card! Majority of the damage happened while in graduate school and when I was jobless. Nevertheless, I’m employed and M’s employed. I am of the view point of aggressively paying it off i.e. spreading it over 4 paychecks (I get paid every 2 weeks). At the very least, I want to get it down to 25% usage before the end of the first quarter for next year. Currently, we’re a two person family living under $500 after utilities. With our combined income, it’s workable. However, that may change with our plans to move to a place that’s more conducive to a newly married couple with the female who gets territorial sometimes and the male that likes his baths. πŸ™‚ We’ve been searching casually and I have to say that I’m glad it’s a joint decision i.e. it’s not up to me. I have this lets-go-anywhere attitude and M’s oddly somewhat of a perfectionist with his I-have-to-find-the-perfect-place. (I love you, M). lol. I have to give him credit because he does know what he’s doing. He found my little apartment for me back in the A and that was without input from me really. He did the visitations and talked with the people. So, I am certain that we will find something for us. You know? I feel the need to consult (hopefully for free) with a financial consultant or planner in order to know how to start with the whole financial tracking thing. I’ve debated the merits of ponying up ~ $60 for either Microsoft Money or Quicken, but the jury is still out. Enough about the money talk. Moving along…

Here’s the tentative plan for the days running up to the new year. We plan on going to a tavern to watch the UFC 79 fight featuring Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva. Of course, we’ll support the tavern for offering this pay-per-view event by purchasing actual food and not a cheap entree. πŸ™‚ That’s what I’ve got a moneypot for. It was actually a gift and I actually appreciate it. We’ve accumulated change and used it right back up. So, this money pot will be put to some good use. Back in high school, I always ended up running out of “pocket money” when the term ended so I eventually asked a thrifty friend of mine to ‘hold’ twenty naira each week for me. By the end of the term, I had about 240 naira (for the 12 weeks in the terms). That was the most I’d ever had at a term’s end and that was my first introduction to saving. Now, even though it’ll hurt like pulling teeth, I intend to donate $10 to my money pot each with in addition to dropping change like dimes and quarters (no nickels sweetie). πŸ™‚ The best part of this money pot is that what goes in cannot come out! I kid you not. Right now, I’ve got a $100 bill that I’m itching to drop in it. lol. That was M’s contribution to paying off the credit cards. I didn’t bank on receiving it, but he gave it to me so I’m seriously contemplating dropping it into the money pot. The only way to get any monies (minus coins that can slip out with a lot of vigorous shaking) is to actually break the pot. Now, a little instruction manual that came with the money pot had a cute blurb about the tradition behind this type of pot. Obviously, you save change for a reason be it just for the heck of keeping coins in one damned place or a laptop/external hard drive fund. I’m having trouble picking between my 1TB external hard drive or a laptop. In quarters alone, this money pot can hold up to $500. I’m putting bills in and I won’t keep track of what I put in it. It will be very interesting to commit to putting change in it along with my $10/week pledge and to see what happens in 6 months from now. So, when the money pot is full, you recite some rites (feel free to make your rites up) and you smash the money pot. I was more enamored of the money-pot-breaking tradition than I was with the money pot at the time, but now, I realize that everyone needs a money pot. PC (our landlord) has these little jars that are chock-ful of quarters. It makes me wish I had this brilliant idea when I moved to Georgia. Oh well, it’s never too late to start. Just as it’s never too late to start asking questions about investing in funds. [Omg. I just realized this post has turned into a monster, but I can’t stop writing now]

Right now, I’m part of a retirement system which sees me paying 5% of my total yearly income. My employer contributes ~ 9% of my income which is pretty neat. However, I’m looking into participating in a tax deferred savings plan. Now, I’m pretty much making graduate student type of money so it’s not a whole lot. However, considering we live rather frugally, it will not be a show stopper. Still, none of my ramblings are to-be-done-right-this-minute. I’m really just using my blog as a sound board and it helps me think. πŸ™‚ Go suck a lemon.

Finally, I’ve got to talk about tech. stuff. I’ve customized my dream laptop computer with standards of the current time. It is roughly around ~ $1400 and I was pleasantly surprised. Needless to say, this dream laptop is a long way into the future. I could skimp on things like memory which will cost more on the pc manufacturer’s website, but for some reason, I’ve convinced myself that this laptop needs to come with the specs that I know will need upgrading i.e. more space, more memory. I intend on doing a transfer of the desktop to M and using the laptop as mine alone. πŸ™‚ Without further ado, I present my dream HP dv6700t laptop:

  1. At least 250GB of hard drive space, preferably a disk speed of 7 500rpm. I have an 80GB IOGear external hard drive that’s a slower drive speed (5 400 rpm). I won’t wish it on anyone. I didn’t think to look at that specification and only just found that drive speeds matter. They go up to 15000 rpm and obviously will cost an arm & leg. Obviously, a higher rpm (7 500rpm) adds to the price tab so I could skimp on that, but I’m not so inclined. In my dream HP laptop, it’s 250GB, 5400 rpm. This added $120 to the price tag versus $0 if I selected 120GB to be upgraded for free to $160. In retrospect, I could live with 160GB for $0. But anyway…
  2. At least 2 GB of memory as today’s laptops will be running Windows Vista. The basic version I will have on the laptop is Vista Home Premium. Depending on how my laptop fund goes and/or in my dream world, I’ll have Vista Ultimate Running. In the case of Vista Ultimate, 2 GB is an un-skimpable feature and 4GB will make the OS happier. Nevertheless, my specs will assume Vista Home Premium. In my dream HP laptop, I’m running Vista Ultimate with 3GB of memory (the Vista Upgrade added $160 and the extra 1GB added $100 which is not too bad considering currently memory stick prices.
  3. Intel Pro Wireless ABGN Wireless Networking with Bluetooth. Apparently, there’s going to be a new Wireless N protocol in the making (802.11n versus 802.11g/b etc) which purports to be way faster. Since, I intend on keeping this laptop for a couple of year, I need to make sure I won’t be crippled by my computer’s issues. The bluetooth I will definitely need because of my Palm Treo 750 bluetooth capability. Besides, it beats having an ugly bluetooth dongle dangle from your notebook and risk breaking it off or something. It was a whopping $20 more to add this feature. Go figure.
  4. AMD is having money issues and Intel has been the “name” in terms of processors. So, even though having an AMD processor will cheapen the cost, I’m not going to compromise on getting an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. They already have Quad Core processors, but I’m not going there. Essentially, dual core processors help the computer to be snappier and I’m all for that sort of thing. The problem though is there are hierarchies within the dual core family and it relates to caches, megahertzes, etc. I need to read a manual on that sort of stuff to really get it. However, I’ve got only 3 options and I selected the Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Duo processor T7250 (2.00 GHz, 2 MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB). which was a step up from the lowest. This HP model didn’t have an option for AMD processors anyway.
  5. HP Imprint Finish (Influx) + Fingerprint Reader + Webcam + Microphone: These came with the HP laptop already so nothing spent here.
  6. HP ExpressCard Digital/Analog TV Tuner with remote control which added $120 to the price tag. I could do without this, but it’s a good price for these things which let you record TV shows and essentially let your laptop sub for a TV. In retrospect, I can definitely do without this feature.
  7. A 1 yr accidental damage policy with HP which everyone needs. Sadly, it seems it’s usually after the second year of ownership that things start to happen. I’m contemplating renewing my own 1 yr policy for my desktop despite the fact that I haven’t yet had to send my machine in for repairs. Thankfully, my experience with the HP team leads me to believe that they will not pull any stunts with regards to handling claims etc. This adds $105.99 to the price tag.
  8. The model comes with a 15 inch screen (fine by me) and HP Wireless Laser Mini Mouse (White) and Mobile Stereo Headset (fine by me for $0).
  9. I don’t need any of their software. So, no money there. I upgraded to their 12 Cell Lithium Ion Battery for $29. I upgraded to their LightScribe SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-RW with Double Layer Support for $15 more. The other options are a HD DVD Drive or Blu Ray drive for over ~ $185. I’m not buying into that.
  10. Finally, I splurged on a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS graphics card for $69.
  11. The total cost for my dream laptop was $1404.99 with free shipping and a free customized skin which I doubt I’d care for.

With a bit of thriftiness, I can definitely see this coming to me around the 3rd quarter of 2008. πŸ™‚ On that positive note, I’ll this lengthy post. Cheers!! Oh, check out a file on the actual specs. Check out the embedded page courtesy of Scribd. It’s just a screenshot in PDF form of the customizing page on HP taken by the wonderful SnagIt. If that doesn’t work, check out this link to the pdf file courtesy of Microsoft Sky Drive.