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I just discovered something called Ninite and it is a very useful free Windows app. My friend Ross Lakin at E and R Computers suggested it to me. I had gotten a new Windows 8 computer and wanted to install Classic Shell for Windows 8, which, among other things, gives you your start button back. Currently Windows 8 has no start button. I tried to use it as it came but it was just too frustrating. There are rumors that Windows 8 blue (the next big update) will give us our start button back, but it is hard to tell.

Ninite

Ross, however, showed me more that I expected by directing me to the ninite site. This saved me a bunch of time. Being a tech support person I have various tools that I use on a daily basis to provide service, scan for malware, access computers remotely, play audio files etc. There are a lot of free tools out there. Well Ninite provides a majority of these tools with a very easy and quick background installation. It’s download client actually allows you to check the programs you want and then goes through all the installation processes without you having to attend them. It’s so much better than doing it yourself. On top of that it also stays on your machine and keeps the software you have chosen up to date.

I was so pleased when I was able to continute working on the machine without having to hand-hold the installation processes. What a big help. I’m going to use this on my client’s Windows computers as well because it will save them money by not having my techs sitting there watching intallation progress or going to websites to download items. Thanks Ross for pointing this out and thanks Ninite for this very useful free tool!

 

I must say, I am a bit surprised to report that I’m really liking Windows 8. I’ve only just installed it and started to work with it but I am enjoying the ecosystem. It is a big change in many areas, so those who don’t like change might be upset. However, those who don’t like change must be very upset in general because everything is changing in this world.

Here are three things that I like so far:

1. I like the integration with Microsoft services, such as Skydrive, Hotmail, Live.com etc. They are moving toward a more seamless environment and I have to say that I love it. There is a move toward a single-sign on environment that makes it so you’re not always having to put in your username and password. Even Microsoft websites are more integrated.

2. It’s quick. I installed it on a 5-year-old machine that had Windows XP on it. Windows XP was running pretty slowly on the machine, and Windows 8 is running with almost no lag at all. It seems to me that Microsoft has gone in the other direction from Apple and it’s a good direction. They are going for a minimalist environment that is more two-dimensional with an emphasis on getting out of your way. Thank you!

3. I like the move to the tiled full-screen start bar. This is the thing that most people have been focusing on. I look at it like this. Before you clicked on a Start button and it gave you a little menu with all kinds of flyouts to find things. Then Windows 7 put more emphasis on the search field. Now with this environment Windows has made the Start Menu full screen and tiled applications like on its phone. I like it a lot. I’m a visual person so I like to see things all laid out there for me. Their use of color is excellent also. Microsoft has always been bad with design elements, so when they keep the designs simple like this it can be beautiful. Also I think the less shadows beveling the computer has to generate, the fast the machine will work. The other great simplicity is that now if you want to search for an application, you can just start typing from the start screen and it will search for the application without even having to put a cursor in a search field. Hit enter and the application will open.

There are things I don’t like, of course, one being that my Office365 account isn’t up to speed with this yet, but for the most part I am enjoying this quite a bit so far.

Although Microsoft has started to build computers, i.e. the Surface, with their emphasis still being on software, building leaner software that runs on more machines, even old ones like this one seems like a great way to go. Every iteration of Apple OS X seems to need more processor and RAM while Microsoft can afford to make software that works on more machines because in general they are not pushing you to buy new hardware, as much as Apple is.

 

The EPSON Artisan 837 looks to be a good printer for daily home use, especially for Apple computer owners. Epson is a brand that is recommended by many photographers out there. They do have higher end printers for the professional, but for families that want to print their photos and hand them around, this is excellent.

It does AirPrint, which is a terrific way to print from your iOS devices (iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads). It connects to a wireless network easily. It works with OS X Lion (make sure you download the driver from http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/support/supportLion.jsp as prescribed). The prints are beautiful. I bought the Epson brand glossy paper in letter size and 4X6.

It also has a big, easy to follow control panel and slots for camera cards.

All in all I’m glad to find this printer. The only drawbacks I can find so far are the cost of the ink (not surprising of course), a paper tray that is a little flimsy, and it might be a little big.

For the most part this seems to be a fine printer with a design that is appealing to the eye and functional  as well. A fine addition to any family.

 

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