Microsoft Office 2010 Beta Now Available

office-2010-betaMicrosoft Office 2010 has recently been released as as a public download.  The download weighs in at a fairly light 685 MB and includes Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, OneNote, Access, Publisher, InfoPath, SharePoint Workspace, and Communicator (which is an instant messenger for Outlook).

If you’re working in the IT field and want to prepare for the future, I would suggest downloading this software and testing out the new products (especially if you or your clients use them every day).

The system requirements for Office 2010 are relatively low so you won’t need to perform a serious computer overhaul to install it:

  • Processor: 500 MHz or higher
  • Memory: 256 MB of RAM or higher
  • Hard Disk: 3 GB
  • Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7
    • Supports both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows

My initial impression of Office 2010 is that the software is very promising.  Although it looks similar to Office 2007, I can see that the program is much more customizable to an individual’s needs and wants.

office-2010-screenOne new feature that I think most people will enjoy is a line preview for cutting and pasting.  This lets you view what the paste would look like before actually performing the paste, which can save you a lot of undoing.

Word 2010 now comes with built-in photo editing tools which is great for users that have to edit pictures in their documents.  PowerPoint has much better support for videos in presentations (which I wish was available when I was going to school).

That’s my two cents on the new version of Microsoft Office, I’ll have more to come after I’ve used it some for longer than the time it took to write this article.  Cheers!

[Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 Beta Download]

Windows 7 Officially Releases Today

win7-release-thumbWindows 7, Microsoft’s newest operating system and successor to the ill-famed Windows Vista, was released today after becoming the biggest pre-order product of all time on Amazon UK.  You may have already been following as we showed you how to install Windows 7 on a virtual machine, how to dual boot Windows 7 with your current operating system, and how to install Windows 7 from a USB flash drive for netbooks.

If you’re wondering if your computer is capable of running Windows 7, you can check out the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor which will tell you exactly what you can expect with the new operating system.  As a general rule: if your computer can run Windows Vista, it will run Windows 7 just fine.  Many computers capable of running Windows XP can also use Windows 7 (just make sure you have 1 GB of RAM).

Still haven’t taken the leap?  You can purchase Windows 7 from Amazon, and make sure to check out the rest of our Windows 7 coverage.  We’ll have many more Windows 7 articles coming in the future!

Windows 7 System Requirements:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Netflix Instant Watch Now Available in Windows 7 Media Center

win7-mediacenter-openNetflix Instant Watch, a popular movie and TV streaming service, has just become available for Windows 7 users in Windows Media Center.  This feature was added for Windows Vista users earlier this year, and the Windows 7 update comes just before the official launch of Microsoft’s newest operating system this Thursday.

If you haven’t received the update yet, you can manually update Windows Media Center by going to  Tasks –> Settings–> General–> Automatic Download Options and click the manual update button.

Netflix Instant Watch in Windows Media Center offers you an incredibly streamlined experience if you are using your computer as a home theater PC.  In the Instant Watch application you can view your instant queue, DVD queue, and browse dozens of recommended offerings from Netflix’s library of 12,000+ titles.

Want to see more?  Check out the image gallery below.

[nggallery id=5]

Looking for Free Virus, Spyware, and Malware Protection? Try Microsoft Security Essentials

ms-security-essentials-scanningsmallrightWindows only:  Microsoft has just released the public version of their free virus, spyware, and malware protection suite dubbed Microsoft Security Essentials (the successor to their lesser-known Live OneCare product which offered similar features).  Security Essentials is a quick download and simple installation, giving users clear and easy-to-use indications whether your PC is secure or not.

Installing Security Essentials took approximately 60 seconds (not including updating the virus definition files) and my first Quick scan was completed in about 5 minutes.  The Full Scan took significantly more time, but this will be dependent on your processor speed and the size of your hard drive.  The software itself used around 60 MB of RAM while performing a virus scan, which is fairly light compared to other commercial anti-virus products.

ms-security-essentials-scanning

Security Essentials offers a simple interface, allowing users to select Quick scan, Full scan, or use custom settings from the Home screen.  Updating the software can be easily done in the Update tab, and the software also utilizes your system’s Windows Update service to stay up-to-date.

ms-security-essentials-home

Since Security Essentials only offers virus, spyware, and malware protection, this software isn’t intended to compete with full-fledged commercial security suites.  Security Essentials provides good basic protection for normal use and is a great contender in the free protection market.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (but you will have to validate your copy of Windows before installation).  [Download]

Installing Windows 7 On A Virtual Machine

Previously, I suggested that if you wanted to test out the newly released Windows 7 RC, that it may be a good idea to test it on a Virtual Machine.  In this article I will go into the details of virtual machine installation process for Windows 7 on two common pieces of virtualization software, VMware Server and VirtualBox.

Important: Before installing virtual machine software or a virtual machine, make sure that you system has the appropriate resources to handle such tasks.  A virtual machine is a computer sharing the same resources that your current operating system and programs are using.  If you allow a virtual machine too much access to system resources, a very unstable system will result.

Before You Begin

You will begin by downloading the Windows 7 RC ISO.  After downloading the ISO, select the virtualization software that you would like to use, either VirtualBox or VMware Server.  For this guide, I will be using both VirtualBox 2.2.4 and VMware Server 1.0.9.

Install the virtualization software of your choice.  Once you have the virtualization software installed, you can proceed to the steps below that pertain to your choice:

Installing Windows 7 on Virtual Box

  1. Start VirtualBox.
  2. Click the New button click Next.
  3. Enter information as shown below:
  4. vb2

  5. Set the amount of physical RAM to dedicate to your virtual machine.  To prevent system instability, it is a good idea to not enter more than 50% of your total physical memory.  (Use caution with this setting.)
  6. Select Create New Hard Disk and click Next.
  7. vb4

  8. Click Next.
  9. Select Dynamically expanding storage and click Next.  (Dynamically expanding storage initially occupies a very small space on your physical hard drive.  It will then grow up to the size specified as your virtual machine claims disk space.)
  10. Enter the size of the virtual hard disk.  I chose 20 GB for my drive.
  11. Click Next and finish.
  12. Click the Settings button and the screen below will appear:
  13. vb8

  14. Click CD/DVD-ROM on the left side.
  15. Click the ISO Image File button and select the location of your recently downloaded Windows 7 ISO image.
  16. vb9

  17. Once the ISO image has been selected, click Ok.
  18. Click the Start button to boot the virtual machine.
  19. vb10

  20. Once the virtual machine has been started, it will boot from the ISO image that you mounted in the CD/DVD drive.
  21. Follow the remainder of the steps to install Windows 7 onto the virtual machine.  Installation time will vary based on the speed of your computer.
  22. When the installation has completed, you will be presented with the Windows 7 desktop as shown below.
  23. vb21

  24. Now that Windows 7 has been installed on to the virtual machine, it is important to install Guest Addons.  Guest Addons install the appropriate drivers and other software to make interaction with the virtual machine easier.
  25. From the VirtualBox menu, select Devices -> Install Guest Addons.
  26. Click Run and Yes at the next screens, respectively.
  27. Install the software into the virtual machine with the preselected default settings.
  28. When asked, install the software devices as shown below:
  29. vb28

  30. When finished, reboot the virtual machine and you can now begin using Windows 7.

Installing Windows 7 on VMware Server 1.0.9

  1. Start VMware Server 1.0.9.
  2. Select File -> New -> Virtual Machine.
  3. vm1

  4. Click Next.
  5. Select the Custom button and click Next.
  6. Select the Microsoft Windows button and Windows Vista (Experimental) from the drop down menu as shown:
  7. vm4

  8. On the next window, give your virtual machine a name, select the location to save the virtual machine, and click Next.
  9. Click Next on the next two windows as these settings are not necessary for most people.
  10. In the next screen, choose how many cores you want to dedicate to your virtual machine (one or two).  Only one is necessary although two may improve virtual machine performance.
  11. Set the amount of memory for the virtual machine.  To prevent system instability, it is a good idea to not enter more than 50% of your total physical memory.  (Use caution with this setting.)
  12. Click Next to select Bridged Networking.  (NAT will also work.)
  13. vm10

  14. Click Next to use the preselected LSI Logic SCSI adapter.
  15. Select the Create a New Virtual Disk button and click Next.
  16. Click Next to use the SCSI Adapter.
  17. Enter the size of the virtual hard disk and uncheck the Allocate All Disk Space Now check box.  If this is not done, VMware server will proceed to create a file of the size you specified.
  18. vm14

  19. In the next window, specify a name for your newly created virtual hard drive and click Next.
  20. You will now be brought back to the initial VMware Server window.
  21. Click Edit Virtual Machine Settings on the left side.  The window below will be shown:
  22. vm16

  23. Click the CD-ROM on the left side and select the Use ISO Image button on the right.
  24. Click Browse and navigate to the location of the Windows 7 ISO DVD image that you previously downloaded and click OK.
  25. Click ‘Start This Virtual Machine’ and proceed through the Windows installation.  Installation time will vary based on the speed of your computer.
  26. Select VM -> Install VMware Tools.
  27. vm17

  28. Click Install and proceed through the installation.
  29. Select the Typical Install button when prompted to choose installation method.
  30. Once the VMware Tools installation has completed, reboot the virtual machine to begin using Windows 7.

You should now be running Windows 7 in a virtual machine.  In this environment, you will be able to test Microsoft’s forthcoming operating system without permanently installing it on your current system.

Microsoft Adds Netflix Integration to Windows Media Center

netflixthumbMicrosoft recently announced that Windows Media Center – the company’s all-in-one home theater media center – will now support the Netflix Instant Streaming library of over 12,000 movies and TV shows.  Windows Media Center software is included in both Vista Home and Ultimate editions by default and is also included in Windows XP Media Center edition.

To begin streaming movies and TV shows in Windows Media Center, select the new Netflix tile which is available under the “TV + Movies” section and login to your Netflix account.  You will now be able to search Netflix’s entire library and also manage your DVD and Instant Watch queues from within Windows Media Center.

mediacenternetflix1

mediacenternetflix2

Netflix Instant Watch is already available on your PC and Xbox 360, which has been had great reception and has single-handedly repurposed the Xbox 360 from a game console into a complete media center.  Where the Media Center version of Netflix really shines is its ability to manage your queues from right within the application, which is something the Xbox 360 version has yet to offer.

Microsoft has provided a few fancy videos if you’d like to see the new service in action (Silverlight required, of course):

Want To Try Windows 7? Install it on a Virtual Machine

windows7thumbWith the public release of Windows 7 RC, many software developers and tech enthusiasts are flocking to the download site to get their hands on the highly anticipated successor to Windows Vista.

Many individuals downloading the Windows 7 RC have extra systems that are dedicated for software development and application testing.  But what if you don’t have spare computers around and you want to test drive Windows 7?  There is a solution: Install a virtual machine.

Important note: Virtual machines will use large amounts of system resources, especially RAM and hard drive space.  It is important that you have enough memory to run your current operating system, along with the guest operating systems of your virtual machine.  If resources are low, your system will become unstable.

What is a virtual machine?

From Dictionary.com

In computer science, a virtual machine (VM) is a software implementation of a machine (computer) that executes programs like a real machine.

Simply put, a virtual machine allows you to have multiple operating systems installed as guests of the main operating system, which are separated and easily added or removed without making any changes to the host operating system.

Two popular pieces of virtualization software are VMWare Server and Virtual Box, both of which are free.  Each piece of software is pictured below.

VMware Server 1.0.9
VMware Server 1.0.9
VirtualBox 2.2.0
VirtualBox 2.2.0

Setting Up Your Virtual Machine

Once you have installed your virtualization software of choice, point the virtual CD/DVD drive of VMware or VirtualBox to the Windows 7 RC ISO you downloaded.  When you start the virtual machine, it will boot from the ISO file as if it was in a physical CD/DVD drive connected to a computer.

When you have completed the Windows install, you are then free to explore Windows 7 while continuing to run your current operating system.  Any changes that you make to the Windows 7 virtual machine are contained, and will not affect your host computer or current operating system in any way.

Which virtualization software do you prefer, VMWare Server or Virtual Box?  Besides Windows 7, what other guest operating systems do you have installed or have tested in a virtual environment?  What are your initial thoughs on the Windows 7 RC?  Let us know by commenting below.

Windows 7 Release Candidate to Launch Late April/Early May

windows7featured2Microsoft has announced that a release candidate version of Windows 7 (a version with potential to be the final product) will be released to developers via MSDN and TechNet networks on April 30th, and more publicly on May 5th.

Windows 7, which was released as a semi-public beta in January, has initially been well received and appears to have significant performance improvements over Windows Vista.  Along with a shorter boot time, Windows 7 will offer better driver support, improved graphical and productivity features, and a more intelligent version of UAC.

Despite Vista’s shortcomings, the immaturity of 3rd-party hardware drivers at launch was one of the biggest contributing factors to its unpopularity.  If Microsoft can ensure better driver support when Windows 7 is released, they should be able to avoid the negative stereotypes that are still plaguing the company.

Microsoft has not officially announced a release date for Windows 7 yet, but Microsoft’s chief financial officer Chris Liddell says it may be as early as July 2009.

Update 04/30/09:  Microsoft has released Windows 7 RC1 to TechNet and MSDN subscribers. [via Microsoft PressPass]

System Requirements:

  • 1GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB of RAM (32-bit)/2 GB of RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB of available disk space (32-bit)/20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with Windows Display Driver Model 1.0 or higher driver

Have any thoughts about Windows 7?  Share them in the comments!