Monthly Archives: October 2009

Updated: Playing with Windows Media Player 12

I have had a while now to experience some of the improved features in Windows 7 more intimately. One of my favorite past times on the PC of course is listening to music. I would describe my collection as mostly Popular music with numerous Rhythm and Blues selections. I do listen Rock and Alternative but not too aggressively. Windows Media Player 12 is not a drastic departure from version 11, it adds nice enhancements that make’s engaging with your music more fun.

Windows Media Player 12 features cool interface

The most noticeable difference when you first launch Media Player 12 is the changes to how the UI is now laid out. But before we go into that, lets talk about some of the initial steps to start getting ready:

Windows Media Player still comes bundled in Windows, 7. So unlike some applications that were once bundled with the OS but are now a part of the Windows Live Essentials suite, you don’t have to download it. Just like version 11 when you launch the executable for the first time you have a choice between doing a ‘Express’ or ‘Custom’ setup. Of course, I would like to see if there are any new changes, so lets go with the Custom Settings.

Most of the common options you are accustom to seeing during this portion of setup are there, the first change I see is the option to add the Media Player 12 executable to your desktop, which I see a lot of persons do, so looks like a make sense option. Next you can choose to make Media Player your default music or video Player or choose specific file types you would like it to play. Media Player 12 supports numerous formats now, I notice songs that I had to resort to playing in iTunes now play just fine in Media Player eg. MP3 Format Sound and the proprietary AAC.

There are many new supported codec’s making WMP 12 a definite choice for Media.

After you have completed the setup process, you are greeted by the media player, which takes you immediately to the music library. Based on my observations, Media Player adapts a combination of Windows Explorer bread crumb menus which help you to easily back track path ways throughout a folder hierarchy but in this case your music library locations. There is also separation between task and locations as evident by the location arrangements and features like ‘Play’, ‘Burn’ and ‘Sync’ which are now situated on the far right of the interface. The familiar back and forward buttons are still there and makes it easy to move between different areas of the interface.

Below these options you will find a second toolbar which display menus for Organizing, Streaming, creating a playlist, Library Mode and searching in addition to Help. The Navigation Pane situated on the right of the interface is revamped with a new addition. In Media Player 12 Library links such as Year, Rating, Songs are now a part of the library table. You can still find Navigation Pane options under Organize > Customize Navigation Pane. The Recently Added link has been removed. Two new library links Video and Pictures are available providing a central location to truly view all your media. Today’s Portable Players are complex media devices that not only store music and videos, but also photos and those are just two more of the great things users can look forward to in this release.

Lets look a little closer at the different components and within their locations:
Play tab – a combination of ‘Now Playing’ (which exist now only as a mini playing mode – discussed later) with Playlist wrapped into one. Its quite convenient and provides the option of easily navigating back and forth between your custom playlist while also viewing your main library of music. I wish there was a separator to make it easier to identify different albums from the artiste, also, I would have liked to see an option for one song within that active playlist to have the option of Repeat when selected though, instead playing over the entire playlist or having the user manually choose to play over that particular song by double clicking.

Burn tab – provides the same functionality as previous versions without the need to leave your music library. Some nice options are available such as Eject Disc After Burning, Apply Volume Leveling Across Tracks on Audio CDs and Name Disk (not checked by default).

Sync tab – provides synchronization capabilities for your portable player. I was not able to accurately test this since I do not own a MP3 player at this time, but similar options available in prior versions are just the same in this release.

The new mini playing mode, also works for video clips and movies.

If you find activated Tabs distracting, you can easily hide them by clicking the Tab once which will show the entire library. Organization of music in Media Player 12 has been greatly enhanced and the new layout of songs in the library provides a more simplified, yet detailed approach to interacting with your collections. I do find it frustrating that certain areas still cannot be customized, for instance, the Album art column cannot be unchecked, I would like to use that space for another column such as Date Added or Play Count.

One of the nice things I like about playing songs from my personal ripped collection of albums, when I hover the mouse pointer over the Album art in the ‘Play’ tab, it does display buy. I find that annoying in Media Player 11, I already have the album on my hard disk, why is it suggesting that I purchase the album, a more neutral ‘shop’ link is displayed which could suggest buying more music from that artiste. You can also preview tracks in your library. You might ask, how different is this from simply double clicking a track and listening to it for a few seconds. When you hover a track and click the preview song link on the floating balloon, you will hear the song for approximately 15 seconds, the sweet part is, when you have heard enough, you simply move the pointer away from the floating balloon which will stop playing the song. The Windows Media Player Team could have made it even more innovative by simply hovering over the preview button without any manual clicking.

Windows Media Player becomes a true media player, you can also play slideshows.

Working with Management
Options once available under hidden drop down menus for each button of the player interface in Media Player 11 (Now Playing, Library etc) are now clearly exposed through Organize, Share and New Playlist.

Organize – Features menus for managing your library content, whether its Pictures, videos or Recorded TV. You can customize and arrange your library views by checking or un-checking columns in addition to customizing the Navigation Pane displaying drop down menus and access entire options for Media Player 12.


A new Stream Menu provides quick access to sharing your media and configuring options for how you can access it from other PC’s, some of the new options include:

  • Set up your home PC so you can access your media libraries while away from home
  • Allow other Windows 7 PCs and devices to push media to your Player and control it
  • Quickly authorize all home PCs and devices to access your media collection

‘Play To’ allows playing media to be streamed from other shared media libraries within Windows Media Player, Windows 7 can now send media to be played on other Windows 7 PCs and DLNA-certified digital media renderers. With “Play To,” you can browse or search from within Windows Media Player or Windows Explorer to find your desired media, and then choose where you want it to be played.


A versatile remote control window is presented for each “Play To” session, providing you with the ability to control the entire experience. “Play To” is available for both local media libraries and for shared media libraries. If you would like to send media from one Windows 7 PC to another, choose “Allow remote control of my Player” from the Windows Media Player “Stream” menu on the receiving PC. This will cause Windows Media Player to be discovered in the “Play To” menu of other Windows 7 PCs on the same network.

Create Playlist – has its own dedicated menu which allows you to quickly create new custom playlist of your favorite content. There is also a sub menu for a New Auto Playlist which is a playlist that changes automatically according to criteria you have specified.

Performance and Quality
Media Player 12 is faster based on my testing, songs instantly play when double clicked in the library. To reduce the waiting time to launch full media player when you might only want to play an album or a few songs, there is a Mini Player mode called Now Playing Mode. This convenient setup instantly opens when you launch a song from an Explorer for instance (by default), immediately your music begins playing, no waiting, no hitching and no glitches. Media Players familiar Now Playing tools are situated here with visualization effects (that I think needs to be updated) and album art in the visualization similar to ‘mediaviz’ that was released for Media Player 10. Its quite nice and makes it more fun playing songs from a folder when you are not particularly interested with working the full media player library. The Mini-Player itself is resizable and intelligent in doing so, it knows when to show certain player controls and reveals more when it resized to a larger size. If you want to go back to the full Media Player, simply click the ‘Library Mode’ button on the player controls. I would have liked to see an option to hide the window border though, to give it a floating appearance. I still would like the option of turning it off and go directly to full library whenever a song is double clicked from Explorer although you can easily switch Library mode from the player controls, it’s just the extra step I would like to get out of the way.

Quality is very good, audio comes back pumping and clear to the listeners ears. This is something I have noticed since version 11, but I think it has more to do with the improvements to Audio in Windows 7/Vista. Since audio sounds puny when played in Windows XP I get a much richer experience on both Vista and 7. I imported 5.4 GBs of music (which is significantly small compared to some libraries), but there were no problems doing so and all my tracks were recognized along with album art. What I notice about miscellaneous tracks in a folder that the meta data such as song information and album art in particular needs to be downloaded again regardless its there hidden. There is also a mis-match of album art for different songs and artiste – kinda funny seeing Bill Haley’s Jingle Bell Rock represented by Shanice Wilson’s Greatest Hits.

You can enjoy your videos and movies in a number of cool ways from full screen to mini.

Watching Video
Watching movies is a favorite activity in Windows Media Player. Version 12 adds some improvements such as automatically going into full screen mode when you insert a DVD. There is also support for the new Mini-mode which looks lovely. From a technical point of view, Media Player 12 supports new video codec’s which were once available through Third party vendors, some include: MPEG-4, 3GPP standards, H.264 video, DivX and xVid. This of course delivers a richer playback experience for the consumer, which results in less disappointment, something which was true of Media Player 11. Often you would download some particular video just find out the correct codec is not installed to view it.

Changes and some missing options:

  • Cannot play movies in the Library interface of Media Player 12.
  • I cannot find a way to get Media Player 12 to open up in full screen mode when I play a media file, it always starts up in preview mode first – I still love preview mode though.
  • Advanced Tag Editor isn’t included in Media Player. Microsoft says editing media information in the details pane of the Player Library allows you perform some of the tasks once available in Advanced Tag Editor.

Overall, Windows Media Player 12 looks like a solid release that will surely keep loyal users happy. Its fast, great design and user interface make it great application that I will continue to turn to for my media. The ability to now work with photos in addition to video is just a great way of defining WMP 12 as a true media player.

Originally posted November 11, 2008 on Teching It Easy


Filed under 7 Journal

The Week of Windows 7

You might be wondering where have you been Andre? Well, a combination of no Internet and being busy with other projects kind of held me back from celebrating the General Availability of Windows 7 on October 22, 2009 world wide. Windows 7 has been well received, from the numerous positive reviews and demos I have seen on television, everybody is looking forward to Windows 7, whether they are upgrading from a previous version of Windows or purchasing it preloaded on a new PC. Just to provide a recap of some of the events this week, I want to link you to some tutorial and guides along with a 70 page review of the new Windows 7 from yours truly and fellow colleagues I have collaborated with: Since I started contributing to the Microsoft Clubhouse, I had the privilege of seeing some of my early Windows 7 articles republished on Since then other sites have become interested in my writing giving me further opportunities to have my articles reach an even wider readership. is such a site, since early October, 14 of my favorite guides and tutorials have been published on the site, here are 6 of them:

A Look at the Windows 7 Editions: If you’re trying to figure out which version of Windows 7 is right for you this is a great place to start. This guide covers everything from editions and versions to pricing and upgrade paths.

How to Install Windows 7: This guide walks you through the installation process highlighting important steps and providing pictures to guide you through installing Windows 7.

How to Upgrade to Windows 7: If you aren’t installing from scratch then this guide is for you. It contains a walkthrough of an “in-place” upgrade and information about how to fix compatibility issues.

How to Upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7: Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 brings many improvements but it’s not as easy as an upgrade from Vista. This guide will provide you with tips to make it easier.

Using Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 7: Windows Easy Transfer makes moving your files and settings from an old computer to a new one easy. This guide walks you through how to use Windows Easy Transfer to get your files to your windows 7 computer.

How to backup your installation of Windows 7: Introduces you to some of the enhanced features of Backup and Restore in Windows 7 along tools for securing your installation of Windows 7.

You can check out the additional 8 articles HERE Is another one of my favorite sites that I have been contributing to for a good while, and with the release of Windows 7, I and fellow contributors Byron Hinson and Fernando Javier Hualpa put together a 70 page review of Windows 7 detailing our experiences with the new Microsoft blockbuster, covering topics such as user experience, performance, entertainment, gaming, security, networking, developer and a whole lot more. You can check out that review HERE

In addition to the review, we updated our Windows 7 Frequently Asked Questions page with numerous questions and answers related to Windows 7 such as Homegroups, Upgrading, Activation, Migration and other topics of interest. You can check that out HERE

Microsoft’s PressPass website provides links from popular websites and news organizations that have also reviewed Windows 7, you can check them out HERE

Now that Windows 7 has been released, I will continue to share my experiences with you about this exceptional upgrade. Its almost 1 year since the first public pre-release version of Windows 7 was released and to see it blossom into a product based on feedback from us the consumers and seeing the promised benefits come to fruition further strengthens my love for the Windows PC. Major Congratulations to the folks on the Windows Team and at Microsoft!


Windows 7 has finally RTMed! – A Look back over the past 10 months



Filed under 7 Journal

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor version 2

Microsoft released the final version of Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor today. This is a essential utility that can help you prepare for a smooth upgrade to Windows 7.

Brief Description

Download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to see if your PC is ready for Windows 7. It scans your hardware, devices, and installed programs for known compatibility issues, gives you guidance on how to resolve potential issues found, and recommends what to do before you upgrade.


Before you begin: Be sure to plug in and turn on any USB devices or other devices, such as printers, external hard disks, and scanners, that you regularly use with the PC you’re checking.
The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor scans your PC for potential compatibility issues and lets you know about your Windows 7 upgrade options. Within minutes, you’ll get a report that tells you if your PC meets the system requirements, if any known compatibility issues with your hardware, devices, and installed programs are found, and gives guidance on what to do to before installing Windows 7 on your PC.

You can download it here


Upgrading to…ur Migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP
Troubleshooting Hero’s in Windows 7
Improved Recovery Options in Windows 7
Windows Easy Transfer: Starting the Move to Windows 7 Release Candidate
Windows Easy Transfer: Lessons Learned



Filed under Downloads

Stability Updates for Windows 7

On the cusp of releasing Security Updates for Windows 7 just a couple days ago, Microsoft today, provided a set of stability updates for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.


The update resolves some reliability issues in Windows 7. By applying this update, you can achieve better reliability in various scenarios. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer.


Windows 7 32-bit (15.9MB), Windows 7 64-bit (20.8MB), and Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit (20.8MB)

Some addition information about the update provided by ArsTechnica:

  • When you view a PDF file that was created by using an Office 2007 document, the PDF file is displayed on the screen correctly. However, when the document is printed, some characters are missing. This problem occurs in fonts such as Calibri, Cambria, Courier New, or Gabriola, in which characters such as "fi", "ti", "fl", and other combinations are frequently presented as ligatures.
  • In certain scenarios, an Emergency Alert System (EAS) message does not automatically tune to the appropriate channel in Windows Media Center.
  • You connect a secondary monitor to a computer that is running Windows 7. When the computer resumes from hibernation, a black screen is displayed.
  • In certain scenarios, the Windows 7 Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) diagnostic information settings are configured incorrectly for Windows Explorer. Only those users who are enrolled in the Windows 7 CEIP will be affected by this part of the update. This update limits the diagnostic information that can be collected by the CEIP.
  • You put an x86-based computer that does not have Physical Address Extension (PAE) enabled into hibernation. However, it does not enter hibernation correctly. When you try to resume the computer from hibernation, a black screen is displayed. This issue does not affect x64-based or Itanium-based computers, or computers that have the Data Execution Prevention (DEP) feature enabled.
  • A problem in Windows 7 affects the playback of certain media files in Windows Media Player, when Windows Media Player is started from Internet Explorer. Only those users whose media associations were changed incorrectly will be affected by this part of the update.
  • On a computer that is running Windows 7, you use Internet Explorer to open the certificate enrollment webpage and to install an end entity certificate. However, the installation fails. This issue occurs if the certificate chain for the new certificate cannot be built, or if the root certification authority (CA) has not first been installed in the Trusted Roots on the computer.


First set of Security Updates available for Windows 7


  1. Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB975467)
  2. Cumulative Security Update for ActiveX Killbits for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB973525)
  3. Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB974571)
  4. Update for Windows 7 (KB974431)
  5. Security Update for Windows 7 (KB975467)


Filed under Downloads

First set of Security Updates available for Windows 7

Windows 7 users, make sure your automatic updates feature in Windows Update is turned on, Microsoft released its routine set of updates for Windows today which is done every second Tuesday of the month.


A security issue has been identified that could allow an unauthenticated remote attacker to cause the affected system to stop responding. You can help protect your system by installing this update from Microsoft. After you install this update, you may have to restart your system.


Windows 7 32 Bit here
Windows 7 64 bit here
Windows Server 2008 R2 here
Windows Server 2008 R2 here

For other versions of Windows affected: Windows XP 32-bit (733KB), Windows XP 64-bit (1.1MB), Windows Server 2003 32-bit (684KB), Windows Server 2003 64-bit (1.1MB), Windows Server 2003 for Itanium (1.6MB), Windows Vista 32-bit (1.4MB), Windows Vista 64-bit (2.1MB), Windows Server 2008 32-bit (1.4MB), Windows Server 2008 64-bit (2.1MB), Windows Server 2008 for Itanium (2.4MB)

Another set of updates for Windows 7 are Cumulative Security Update of ActiveX Kill Bits (973525):

General Information

Executive Summary

This security update addresses a privately reported vulnerability that is common to multiple ActiveX controls and is currently being exploited. The vulnerability that affects ActiveX controls that were compiled using the vulnerable version of the Microsoft Active Template Library (ATL) could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page with Internet Explorer, instantiating the ActiveX control. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

This security update is rated Critical for all supported editions of Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP, Important for all supported editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, Moderate for all supported editions of Windows Server 2003, and Low for all supported editions of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. For more information, see the subsection, Affected and Non-Affected Software, in this section.

Learn more here

Windows 7 for 32-bit Systems
Windows 7 for x64-based Systems
Windows Server 2008 R2 for x64-based Systems*
Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-based Systems


Filed under Security

Windows 7 on the Go

When I first got access to the Windows 7 preview back in October 2008, the first form factor I installed it on was a laptop. Since then I have tried it on a few desktops and workstations, but I am particularly impressed by the benefits that users of portable computers such as Netbooks, Notebooks, desktop replacements can get by running Windows 7. Out of the box, the first thing I noticed was the improved performance of Windows 7 running on my laptop. Prior to this I was running Windows Vista Ultimate x64, Windows 7 x64 in comparison is a snap, boot time, log in, sleep, resume from sleep, hibernate, resume from hibernate all see enhancements when running Windows 7, its ‘fast"! I can’t emphasize that enough. The Windows Team went back to the fundamentals and worked on some key areas of the operating system to achieve these welcome improvements.

Battery Life and Power Management

It’s a fact that more people are using laptops, not mainly for mobility reasons, but for personality and style. They want to carry it with them wherever they go and be able to use it without having to be an expert in power conservation or play find the power socket. Windows 7 features exceptional Power Management enhancements that include increasing the idle time for the processor, automatically dimming the display, and more efficient playback of DVDs. There are also better information tools to keep you up to date about the state of your battery life when on the go. The Windows Team worked to increase the efficiency of battery life in laptops by reducing the amount of background activities by supporting the trigger-starting of services, when you are doing a task that requires a particular service, Windows 7 will provide that service on demand.

Adaptive Display Brightness automatically reduces display brightness after a certain period of inactivity similar to cell phones. Less power is required to watch a DVD because Windows 7 requires less processing power which leads to a more efficient way to spinning the disk, this leads to benefits such as watching a full length movie on a single battery charge. In Vista, Wake on LAN could only be done over a wired network connection, in 7, you can now Wake on Wireless LAN which provides the same capabilities over a wireless network connection. For IT environments, this minimizes power costs for such systems for scenarios like maintenance and applying patches.

Today, mobile PCs send energy to parts of the computer when they are not being used, such as sending power to the network adapter when you don’t have an Ethernet cable plugged-in. Windows 7 automatically turns off power to the network adapter when the cable is disconnected and restores power when the cable is connected. Making users aware of the battery life status is key improvement in Windows 7 for a better; the Battery Life Notification Area applet provides prominent, timely information to ensure that you can use your notebook in tight situations where there is no power. A new utility called Power Config detects problems across devices, policies, firmware, system settings, applications, and other common areas where settings can reduce power efficiency delivering that information to you in an easy to understand report.

Getting the mouse out of Windows – 7 Tips and Features.

1. Conserve Energy Automatically.

Conserving energy is very important these days and its something we need to be conscious about. One of the ways I have found to efficiently preserve battery life in Windows 7 is to control the actual Windows 7 experience. Sometimes I might have a power outage, but I want to use my laptop until electricity is restored, task like listening to music and tweeting are some of the things I will do to occupy the time.


What I did was have Windows 7’s Power Options set to Power Saver when there is a power outage. This allows me to get more juice and be able to use my laptop for longer periods. This is not only great for Power Outages of course, but when you are somewhere that you cannot get access to a power socket, it comes in very handy. So when a power outage occurs, Windows 7 automatically does things like change the Windows 7 theme from Aero Glass to Aero Standard. Its a lovely feature and shows the intelligence built into the system.

Here is a geeky tip my friend Kristan M. Kenney told me about, PowerCfg.exe. This lets you get a report of how energy is being used so you can fine tune and configure your laptop to use less power.

Click Start, type: CMD

From the search results, right click CMD and click Run as Administrator

At the command prompt type the following:
 powercfg.exe /energy /output "%USERPROFILE%\Desktop\Energy Report.html"

A 1 minute scan will be ran across your system and a report will then be generated, check your Desktop, it will be stored in an HTML file. As you can see, I had a few errors.

Windows 7 will display an analysis of the report with recommendations for what corrective measures you can take.


2. Quicker Access to Networks

Windows 7 makes viewing and connecting to all of your networks simple and consistent with the new View Available Networks floating dialog in the Notification Area. You’ll always have one-click access to available networks, regardless of whether those networks are based on Wi-Fi, Mobile Broadband, Dial-up, or your corporate VPN.




3. Improved Support for External Displays.

If you have a mobile PC, you may want to connect it to an external display—for example, to watch a movie at home or give a presentation at work. Windows 7 makes it easier to connect to external displays because all of the common display-related features are consolidated in one place, under Display in Control Panel. And with Windows 7, you can press the Windows key + P to toggle between your laptop screen and an external display.

4. Mobility Center

What Mobility Center does is provide a one stop location to configure all settings related to laptops. Instead of hunting down through various menus and applets, Windows provides this one applet that makes it convenient and centralized for you to adjust all appropriate settings when on the go.

  • Brightness: Move the slide to temporarily adjust the brightness of your display.
  • Volume: Use the slider to adjust the speaker volume of your laptop, or select the mute check box.
  • Battery Status: View how much charge remains on your batter or select a power plan from the list.
  • Wireless Network: View the status of your wireless network connection or turn your wireless adapter on or off.
  • Screen Rotation: If you are using Windows 7 on a Tablet computer, you can use this to change the orientation of the on the fly from either landscape or portrait or vice versa.
  • External Display: Connect an additional monitor to your laptop, or customize the display settings.
  • Sync Center: View the status of an in-progress file sync, start a new sync, set up a sync partnerships, or change your settings in the Sync Center.

5. Flexible Start Menu Power Options

The Windows 7 Start menu power options are more flexible. Back in Windows Vista, the default was Shutdown, in XP, it was the Turn off Windows dialog that you had to invoke. Users can change the default Power Options button to something you regularly use, such as Sleep or Hibernation. To do this, right click the Taskbar, click Properties > click the Start Menu (tab) > in the Power button action: list box and select the desired option you would like to see every time you click Power Button on the Start menu.

6. Integrated Fingerprint Readers and Logon

Fingerprint scanners are becoming more and more common in standard laptop configurations, and
Windows 7 helps ensure that they work well. It’s easy to set up and begin using a fingerprint reader, and
logging on to Windows using a fingerprint is more reliable across different hardware providers. Fingerprint reader configurations are easy to modify, so you can control how you log on to Windows 7 and manage the fingerprint data stored on your PC. Clubhouse member Tarun Chachra recently did an article about setting up Biometric Devices in Windows 7, a worthy read!

7. Utilize BitLocker to protect your laptop

With Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced us to BitLocker, an encryption technology to protect your personal data and operating system files on the hard disk on which Windows is installed. This is a great feature if your computer is stolen or unauthorized individuals try to access your computer.

To learn more about how to setup BitLocker, check out the following Microsoft TechNet Guide:

BitLocker Drive Encryption Step-by-Step Guide for Windows 7

Windows 7 provides a holistic experience when working with your portable computer. Especially when on the go or in tight situations where you need to conserve battery life. The Windows Teams focus on efficiency is a major highlight for users too. From ease of use, management to security, running Windows 7 on your laptop, Tablet, Notebook, Netbook is a must.


Filed under 7 Journal