Monthly Archives: February 2009

Installing Windows Live Essentials

So far I have looked at working with core applications in the Windows Live Essentials suite: Photo Gallery, Messenger, Mail and Writer. I want to take a little time out to look at how you get the suite of these free applications installed on your PC.

Windows Live Essentials Download web page.

One thing users must note is that Windows Live Essentials is free! The only thing required is an Internet connection and going to the Windows Live Essential’s home page and download it. Microsoft recently created partnerships with PC OEMs such as Dell to have Live Essentials bundled on their systems world wide.

The 1 MB Windows Live Web installer makes it easy to install just the applications you need.

What’s included in Windows Live Essentials?

  • Windows Live Mail – For sending and receiving email and managing it off line, includes support for HTTP, POP3 and IMAP along with support for popular mail services such as Hotmail and GMAIL. Live Mail also features an integrated Calendar that supports synchronization with your Windows Live Calendar.
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery – For managing photos, videos and publishing to online services, includes basic photo editing tools.
  • Windows Live Messenger – Instant Messaging client with support for video conferencing and support for Yahoo! Contacts.
  • Windows Live Writer – Blogging tool for publishing content to online journals such as Windows Live Space, Blogger, Live Journal and more.
  • Windows Live Movie Maker – Still in beta, this simple video editor features basic capabilities for putting together short movies that can be published to MSN Soapbox.

Those five core applications make up a complete experience, but the suite goes beyond that. Windows Live Essentials includes add on’s for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, and file synchronization and collaboration.

System Requirements

Operating system: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (32-bit edition only), Windows Vista (32-bit or 64-bit editions), Windows 7 Beta (32-bit or 64-bit editions), or Windows Server 2008. Note: Windows Live Movie Maker is not supported on Windows XP

  • Processor: 1 GHz or higher for Windows Vista; 800 MHz or higher for Windows XP
  • Memory: 128 MB of RAM (256 MB or more recommended) for Windows XP; 512 MB for Windows Vista
  • Resolution: Minimum 1024 x 768
  • Internet connection: Internet functionality requires dial-up or broadband Internet access (provided separately). Local or long-distance charges may apply.
  • Browser: Windows Live Toolbar requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or later.
  • Graphics or video card: Windows Live Movie Maker requires ATI Radeon 9500 (or higher) or nVidia GeForce FX 5900 (or higher). I have Live Movie Maker working with a nVidia Geforce FX 5200 128 MB AGP, but if you like the Photo Gallery collages, you will need a video card that supports pixel shader 3.0.

Additional requirements

The following components are needed for specific Windows Live programs, and may be installed for you if they’re not already on your computer.

  • For Writer: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or higher*.
  • For Photo Gallery: SQL 2005 Compact Edition and Windows Imaging Codecs*.
  • For Photo Gallery and Movie Maker: Some components of DirectX9.
  • * Not required when installing on Windows Vista.

Note: To install or uninstall Windows Live products, you must have administrator rights on the computer.

Setup: After launching the Windows Live Essentials setup, the Welcome Screen is displayed, next is the Service agreement page, which you must agree to then the programs page which list all the programs that come with Windows Live Essentials.

Checking for open programs: Before Windows Live begins the installation, you must ensure that certain programs are closed such as Internet Explorer which installs add on programs such as the Live Toolbar, Silverlight for viewing dynamic content on web pages and for persons who use Microsoft Outlook, the Office Outlook Connector for managing your Live Hotmail email, Live Calendar and Contacts.

 

Installing the applications: During the install wizard, you are given a quick over view of some of the capabilities of Windows Live Essentials.

Completing Setup: Once installation is completed, you can have Live do some post setup task such as default your Search provider to ‘Windows Live Search’, set your default home page to MSN, submit feedback when you encounters an error using Windows Live Essentials applications and help improve Windows Live Search results – all of course optional.

Accessing your Windows Live apps: You can start using your Windows Live applications by going Start > All Programs > Windows Live or click Start and type ‘Windows Live’.

There are two ways of installing Windows Live Essentials, you can download the 1 MB web installer from http://download.live.com then pick and choose what you would like to have installed. You can run the program at a later date if you decide to install more applications. If you are on a slow connection and would prefer to avoid killing your bandwidth, you can download the full suite, but there is a bit of trick to doing so, I honestly wish Microsoft would just provide a direct link to the full installer, someone with 4 Windows based PC’s is not gonna want to run the web installer on all 4 when they could easily download the entire package and run it across three. Here’s how you get the full suite. Click the download link for the Live Suite, and then cancel it when the 1 MB download option appears. Click the Try Again button and you will be presented with the 134 MB installer, this option includes everything.

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App-V support for Windows 7 is here

The Microsoft App-V folks are really listening, after having some early hiccups with the App-V beta for Vista and getting to submit my rants about my experiences with setting up the product, I got some good and bad news today from the Windows 7 Team Blog. One issue in particular for me was, no support for the Windows 7 BETA, but that’s changed today Oh the bad news? Its for subscribers of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) :

“Our MDOP customers have told us that they want to see Windows 7 Support for Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) so that they can move ahead with their application testing for enterprise deployments of Windows 7 early on. We heard you loud and clear. Today we are announcing the availability of App-V 4.5 CU1 with support for the Windows 7 Beta.”

Learn more here

Register and Download the BETA here

Check out my rant feedback about the App-V beta here

MED-V still needs a lot of work, it needs to be more cohesive. It needs to focus on the user experience. It needs to support Windows Vista and Windows 7 64 bit. The requirements need to be more prepared. I should not be downloading additional software to get this thing up and running. Setup is still frustrating, I expected a product like this to come ready to go, I discovered I needed to downloaded .NET 2.0 and not just any .NET 2.0, I had to get the one with SP1. I gave up on it immediately, it was just not a straightforward experience. I wish it was just a process of loading the Virtual Machine/Workspace, installing the appropriate environment to run your desired software and done.

The only thing the user should have to worry about is the legacy Windows environment they plan on running this in. Have everything ready set to go. Have a straight forward installation.
1. Setup
2. Select your environment for Legacy app
3. Install
4. Done
5. Install Legacy app without any problems

Previously:

My Thoughts on Upgrade Eligibility to Windows 7

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Online Expression – Using Windows Live Writer 2009

I started blogging back in late 2004 when Microsoft launched its MSN Spaces online journal platform now Windows Live Spaces. I have stuck to the service ever since because of its simplicity, ease of use and continued improvements over the years. Back in the early days, most of my blogging was done through the MSN Spaces ‘Add Post Blog Form’, which is limited in what you could do and still is. Then around 2006 Microsoft introduced Windows Live Writer beta and it was like a breath of fresh air to my blogging exercise. Blogging for me became a much richer and enjoyable experience because of what I could now do; images with wrapped text and tags made it a definite asset for my blogging journey.


Setting up Windows Live Writer (click image to enlarge)

Setup:

One of the things I immediately find frustrating about Windows Live Writer is the process of setting it up and connecting to your site and re-downloading information, especially if you blog from more than one computer. I wish there was some way to backup and export your profile settings and just import them as a part of the setup process, in fact, it would be great if you could travel with your Windows Live Writer profile on a thumb drive. Alas, it’s still a straightforward five step process, of entering your email address and password, selecting your blogging platform and let Windows Live Writer Connect to your blog and downloads the necessary information. During the wizard, Live Writer downloads your blog style and layout so writing content can adhere to its natural look and feel in addition to seeing WYSIWYG previews before you publish to the web. After this is completed, you are prompted to confirm your blog name and you off to expressing yourself.

Windows Live Writer 2009

Supported blogging platforms:

  • Windows Live Space
  • SharePoint blog
  • Blogger
  • WordPress
  • TypePad and more…

Windows Live Writers interface if you have never used it before is word processor oriented. Still it lacks some of the traditional functionality and finesse of Microsoft Word or WordPerfect, but is perfect enough for what it does. Writer 2009 does include familiar tools like Word Count along with Auto Link glossary support. Interestingly enough, I am surprised the Windows Live Writer Team didn’t apply the Office Fluent UI which was introduced in Office 2007 to this update since Writer has been through a few versions of the traditional standard and formatting toolbar UI already and it would be a natural improvement to the application. Writer is not really major in changes and it still lacks some common functionality you get for free in Word Pad, options like keyboard commands for aligning text or images. The ‘Open’ dialog does not feature the bread crumb menu improvements and search facility of Windows Vista (interestingly its supported under Windows 7 BETA).

Photo Albums are cool for professional layouts and you can link to a full slideshow

More Multimedia Support

Writer handles multimedia much better, which makes it easier for users to publish videos and photos to their blogs. A new Photo Gallery feature displays your photos in casual thumbnail preview with links to a full size slideshow when inserted onto the blank canvas. You also have the ability to post photos from existing albums on your Windows Live Photos page. New photo options include, border effects, crop and tilting. Videos is especially improved, the new Insert Video dialog features options for publishing videos to both MSN Soapbox and YouTube while submitting a post to your blog at the same time. Options include insert an embedded URL, locally, or from your account on both services, very convenient!

Formatting

Writer 2009 could work better with Microsoft Word, I notice I lose formatting when I copy over content from Word documents with Bullet points and tables. I don’t like the limited capabilities of Tables either, you can’t centre them, the formatting options are lack lustre, there could definitely be more capabilities. I am limited by what I can do with pictures in Writer too, as you can see in this blog post, image captions are below the photo, centred. I would like the ability to have text wrapped images with captions to display a more professional look. Photo Albums are too rigid, I wish they could be more scalable with the ability to resize using anchor boxes. Also, the Photo Album dialog could feature more customization, such as the ability to rearrange pictures, my work around for that is to continuously click in the Album Style: list box on the chosen layout until the desired image in the album comes to the foreground.

There is some inconsistency between between the ‘Insert Picture’ dialogs for Writer 2009 on Vista (top) and Windows 7 (bottom) – hint, I prefer Writer on Windows 7.

Plug in Architecture

What makes Windows Live Writer especially powerful is its Plug in architecture which allows third party developers to further enhance the application. Live Writer 2009 includes SharePoint 2007 support, new APIs enabling custom extensions by weblog providers, automatic synchronization of local and online edits, integration with Windows Live Gallery, and support for "Blogger Labels" are some of the features new and existing users can look forward to. Here are links to some popular ones you can add to your web log post.

FLICKR UPLOAD (Download)
Uploads an image to your Flickr account and inserts an inline picture into your post.

DIGG THIS (Download)
Automatically adds a DiggThis badge to your blog post after you publish it from Writer.

TWITTER NOTIFY (Download)
Automatically generates a tiny URL and sends a Tweet about your blog post after you publish it from Writer.

Windows Live Writer supports the new ‘Jump List’ feature of Windows 7, although I notice, there are a lot of duplicate post in my ‘Recent’ items.

Publishing

Sending your content to the web could be more informative. The same Publishing to ‘Blog Name’ displayed on a dialog doesn’t give user much to chew on, a progress bar would be a nice addition. The reliability is improved too, past versions of Writer often generated unrecognizable errors during failed uploads. I still encounter them, one in particular is when I am publishing post with .PNG files. Speed on my GPRS connection is quite good, I use to encounter numerous failures with previous versions, although sometimes I will still get a few, I have worked around it by ‘Saving Weblog Post’ as a draft to my Live Space and publish at a later date from Live Space summary page.

Conclusion

Windows Live Writer continues to improve rapidly and the new features will make publishing to the various supported blogging services and social networks such as Twitter more fun and easier. What I would like to see one day is a web based version of Live Writer so I can have access through the web browser on any PC instead of having the software installed locally. It would be great especially for environments where you cannot just install stuff without the Admins permission. Live Writer makes sharing your words and media with your audience attractive, that’s been the core focus of the program since its debut and that theme continues with this update.

Resources:

A Look at Windows Live Mail 2009

Instant and Social Communication with Windows Live Messenger 9

Managing and Sharing Digital Memories using Windows Live Photo Gallery 2009

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Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 Application Compatibility updates

From Arstechnica

“In addition to an update to IE8, Microsoft has also released an application compatibility patch via Windows Update for the beta operating systems it released to the public on January 9.”

From Microsoft Download Center:

“Install this update to resolve issues with non-compatible applications for Windows 7 Beta. For complete details of this update, see Knowledge Base Article KB967062. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer. This update is provided to you and licensed under the Windows 7 Prerelease License Terms.”

Downloads:

Windows 7 x86 here
Windows 7 x64 here

Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 here
Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium Systems here

Previously:

IE8 Reliability Update for Windows 7 Beta Now Available
Microsoft Hardware Support for Windows 7 BETA

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What’s coming for Windows 7 Release Candidate?

Windows 7 Team Chaitanya Sareen member details some of the improvements since the Beta that are coming in the Release Candidate.

“This blog post talks about a few of the improvements that will be in our Release Candidate (RC) based upon customer feedback. There are many under the hood changes (bug fixes, compatibility fixes, performance improvements, and improvements) across the entire dev team that we just don’t have room to discuss here, but we thought you’d enjoy a taste of some changes made by three of our feature teams: Core User Experience, Find & Organize and Devices & Media.  The comments in this article come from a variety of verbatim sources, with identifying information withheld.” 

Read the entire article here

The changes are too numerous to mention here, which include under the hood, user interface, new keyboard shortcuts, better compatibility with devices and applications make this milestone in the Windows 7 BETA well anticipated. I am looking forward to giving it a spin when its released.

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Microsoft Hardware Support for Windows 7 BETA

via ActiveWin.com

“If you are running the Windows® 7 operating system beta, the following information will help you select the correct beta software to download for your Microsoft Hardware product.

Important: This table contains the Microsoft Hardware support information for Windows 7 Beta. Please read the release notes before installing the software.”

Learn more here

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ActiveWin.com: Microsoft Windows 7 FAQ / Quick Guide – Updated

My Windows 7 FAQ and Quick Started Guide is now up on ActiveWin.com with more content to get you started with the BETA:

“We have just posted our comprehensive Windows 7 FAQ / Quick Guide, with over 55 questions covering all Windows 7 topics. Check it out!”

Check it out here

Previously:

Windows Vista RTM FAQ and Quick Start Guide.

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