Tag Archive | windows7

Automatically increasing the system font size in Windows 7

My first real technical support job was with a very large IT company that everybody has heard of, a far cry from the small 1-man IT operation I am now. Part of that job was issuing new laptops to quite senior technical sales bods, and ensuring that all their files were correctly transferred to the new machine.

That year, the top-of-the-range machines we were giving out to these undeserving gits weren’t coming with 1024×768 screens any more; they had nice, crisp, state-of-the-art 1400×1050 screens. While I thought they were gorgeous, not everyone agreed, insisting that the higher resolution made the fonts too small to read. This complaint was most prominent among the middle-aged salesmen who I quickly worked out were too vain to admit they were now of an age at which they needed reading glasses. Even in those days I did not suffer fools gladly, especially having had to wear glasses since age 9, and I almost certainly upset at least one of them by subtly suggesting they might need to visit an optician.

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I’ve got the power! Part 1: Windows 7 vs XP

One of the advertised benefits to schools of upgrading to Windows 7 has been the improved power management, which when used correctly, will decrease the power usage of computers throughout the school estate. But how is that actually achieved?  A lot of people, myself included, assumed that the bulk of the savings would come from better Group Policy support to implement power saving schedules, such as transitioning to Sleep mode after a set time.

Not so.

While that does help, there are significant benefits even without power management schedules. Simply put, Windows 7 uses less power. I measured the power usage of two computers; identical hardware, but with different software. One ran an RM CC3 build using Windows XP, the other ran Windows 7. Both machines were production workstations with all the normal software I install on them, and they were tested while idling at the logon screen. The machines themselves were 2009 Dell OptiPlex 360 workstations, and the power usage was measured using an in-line mains meter. I did not measure the monitor power usage.

Here’s what I found:

OS Idle Sleep (S3)
Windows XP (CC3) 55.0 W 41.1 W
Windows 7 45.0 W 1.7 W

There are two lessons here: firstly, Windows XP is shockingly bad in sleep mode. Given that XP came out in 2001, this shouldn’t be entirely surprising, but I was still astonished by how high the power usage remained even when the machine was supposedly in its low-power mode. To an observer, the two machines were indistinguishable from each other at this time – power LED blinking, fans off, silent operation – but the difference in power usage was outrageous.

The second lesson appears to be that Windows 7 draws less power when you’re not using it. Later on I tested both machines using a CPU stress test, and they pulled the same amount of power, but when left idle, the Windows 7 machine averaged 10W less.

I should note that it’s entirely possible the RM background tasks were responsible for the latter discrepancy; I didn’t have a non-RM XP machine to test. No such difference could explain the sleep mode difference. Similar results emerged on different hardware, so this didn’t appear to be an anomaly with the Dell machines.

So, how much is that in cold hard cash? We’ll look at some more surprising results in part 2 later this week.

How to fix a broken/empty Jump List on Windows 7

I recently fell foul of an irritating problem on my Windows 7 workstation in my office; the Jump List for Windows Explorer had suddenly emptied itself. I had quite a few pinned locations, and for the next week or so I was frustrated several times a day when I instinctively right-clicked on the Explorer icon to open a frequently-used folder. It’s interesting how quickly you get used to a feature like that.

Where did all my Recent and Pinned items go?

I tried to recreate my pinned items list by dragging folders to the Taskbar icon, but to no avail. I tried logging off and back on. I tried restarting. I tried sacrificing an iPod under a full moon. Nothing I tried would coax the Jump List back to life. Windows 7 was no longer my friend. Harsh words were uttered.

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Help users over the phone with Unsolicited Remote Assistance

For years I’ve used UltraVNC as my remote control system of choice when helping out users over the phone. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen out of love with it since adopting Windows Vista and Windows 7, as performance is sometimes pretty poor and several features just don’t work properly. You get what you pay for, I suppose (UltraVNC is free). It’s also a bit of a pain to deploy via GPO Software Installation, which makes it a headache when you have hundreds of workstations. In particular the mirror driver, which aids performance, is pretty much impossible to deploy in this way.

When deploying my first Windows 7 clients I resolved to find another way, and it turned out to be something I could have used all along: Unsolicited Remote Assistance, which is built-in functionality on Domain-joined workstations.

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Enabling Windows 7 Device Stage via Group Policy

Device Stage is a nifty new feature built into the in ‘Devices and Printers’ control panel in Windows 7 that exposes common functions of devices attached to your machine, such as digital cameras and printers. Gizmodo have a nice detailed article about how useful it can be. Personally I like it just because it shows actual pictures of my hardware instead of just a generic icon (see left for an example).

I decided that the extra functionality and pretty icons was worth the minimal bandwidth cost on my network, so decided I’d like to turn it on for every workstation on the network. I needed to set it explicitly because it’s an opt-in feature out of the box, and it requires administrative privileges to enable it, which my users don’t have.

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“Office Vista”

In the last few years it has become increasingly common when dealing with users for them to refer to the most fundamental software products on their machine by the wrong names. In particular, an awful lot of users seem complete incapable of telling the difference between Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office – and it is doing my head in.

Despite what a distressingly large number of plebeians may believe, the following products DO NOT EXIST:

  • “Office Vista”
  • “Windows 2007”

If I had a tenner for every time I heard the first of those in particular, I wouldn’t feel the need to play the lottery; I’d just volunteer to deliver Office 2007 training in every school in the country, and I could retire after a year. This is partly Microsoft’s fault for having both a Windows 2000 and Office 2000, followed by a Windows XP and Office XP. However, the fact that 8 years later people still seem to believe this pattern is being followed is solely down to their own inattentiveness.

It’s only a matter of time now until someone asks me about “that Office 7”. Little do they know that I have a copy of Office 7.0 ready to install on their machine the moment they ask about it.

The Angry Technician’s Guide to Managing Windows 7, you Idiots

I am tired of hearing people say they don’t want to deploy Windows 7  because they can’t manage it properly on their Windows 2003 domain.

This is utter rubbish.

I heard this all before with Vista, and it wasn’t true then either. Here’s a summary some of the idiocy I’ve seen:

  • “You have to have Windows Server 2008 R2 to join Windows 7 to the domain” – UTTERLY WRONG.
  • “We can’t use any of the new Group Policy settings because we don’t have Windows Server 2008/2008 R2” – PLAIN WRONG.
  • “We’d have to upgrade our domain schema to support the new Group Policy settings” – UNTRUE.

and along with them, the slightly different but equally ill-informed:

  • “We can’t use Group Policy Preferences because we don’t have Windows Server 2008/2008 R2” – ALSO WRONG.

OK, listen in, morons. I will now explain how you (yes YOU), can manage Windows 7 using Group Policy and Group Policy Preferences with only Windows Server 2003 servers on your domain. This is a technical article, so try to keep up.
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