What’s the big deal about Windows 7


Windows 7 ProfessionalIf you have been watching any TV lately, you have probably seen the new Mac ads or the new Windows 7 ads and you are wondering what’s the big deal.  Hopefully this post will answer some of your questions.

After the debacle that was Vista, Microsoft had a lot to prove and I think they did it.  I’m not the only one who thinks so, according to a lifehacker.com poll posted this morning a large percentage of their users are fans see actual numbers (from 2:00 pm on October 28th, below)

  • Love it – 59% (8,681 votes)
  • Like it – 27% (3,956 votes)
  • Indifferent – 5% (804 votes)
  • Not Thrilled – 4 % (590 votes)
  • Hate it – 2% (290 votes)
  • Ambivilent – 2% (251 votes)
  • Other – 2% (242 votes)

So roughly 86% of the people who responded like it so they must have done something right.  Here are a few of the reasons:

As stated above, I have loved my experience with Windows 7 to this point.  I installed the Release Candidate when it came out and was really impressed.  I have since upgraded my Release Candidate copy to a fully licensed copy of Windows 7 Professional (upgrade).  Here are my three favorite features.

Windows 7 Taskbar
With every previous version of Windows, I would do one of two things, either overload the quick launch bar with icons or download a Mac OS X style dock for holding application icons.  I don’t need to do that with Windows 7, take a look at my taskbar (cropped to fit)
taskbar
Everything is right where I need it, I don’t have to go to the start menu at all.  To get an icon onto the taskbar, from the start menu or file explorer right click on the program icon and click Pin to Taskbar that’s it (see below).
pin to taskbar

Rotating Desktop images
As you can see from the backgrounds of the two images already posted in this blog my desktop background has switched and here’s the cool thing, I didn’t  have to switch it by hand.  I just told Windows 7 to monitor a folder and then tell it how often to rotate.  To get there, right click on your desktop and choose Personalize.  Then, in the bottom left, click on Desktop Background.  Click the image for a full size view.
desktop
I know this is a minor deal, but for me it is a productivity issue, I can’t stand having the same desktop background all the time.

Window Snapping
One of my favorite features of Ubuntu while I was using it was the ability to grab a window and drag it to another screen or part of the screen and have it snap to the side.  Windows 7 has implemented this and done even more.  First, for you mouse users, you can grab a window by its title bar and drag it to either the top of the screen (this will maximize the window), the left side, or the right side (snapping a window to the left or right side will make the window 50% of the screen width and the full screen height.
In the screenshot below you see two windows snapped to the sides of the screen, this is great for side by side viewing.  (click on the image for a larger view)
snapped windows

For those of you who are keyboard users, the windows key is your friend.  (look to the left of your spacebar)
windows_key
By using the keyboard shortcut windows+left arrow you can cycle a window to the left through its different snap modes, windows+up arrow you can maximize the current window, or with windows+right arrow you can cycle a window to the right through its different snap modes.

My other favorite feature is that is just runs well, runs fast, and is pleasing to the eyes.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  If you found this blog helpful, use the Share/Save button below to share this blog entry with your friends.

Get your own copy by clicking a link below:

Also, if you need help installing Windows 7 contact Chris at Robson Computer Technologies, tell him Jeff sent you.

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AliMcWilliams.com is live!


Ali McWilliams iconI have had the pleasure of working with Faith Dey and Alison McWilliams on the Siren Fitness site as they have grown.  I was responsible for keeping site content up to date and making little tweaks here and there as they needed them.  As they have grown, they have realized that it was time to move on and create separate business entities but still work closely together as well as work closely with other businesses in the health and fitness industry.  As a part of starting her new business Alison approached me to do her website and I am pleased to announce that AliMcWilliams.com is live.  The site is built using WordPress and features integration with Facebook and Twitter as well as a PayPal shopping cart for customers to purchase fitness packages from her.  Ali was a lot of fun to work with and I really admire the work she does with empowering women in the Madison community.  The logo and business image were created by Bluestem Creative based out of Stoughton, WI.  This is a really exciting time for Alison and Faith, check them out.

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Madison Business Connection: Doc Jams Printer Service & Repair


Doc Jams Printer Service & RepairThis post has been on hold for almost 2 weeks now.  On October 1st (the day my wife went into labor) I was able to sit down with James Kademan, the owner of Doc Jams, and learn about what they do.  Doc Jams has been in business for 3 years and serves to repair and service desktop and other small format printers (James has been doing printer repair for 9 years).  The goal of Doc Jams is to get onsite within 2 hours of receiving the call for printer service or repair.  I especially like their slogan “Getting You Back To Printing”.

Doc Jams is certified to work on Xerox, Tektronix, & Hewlett Packard printers.  So before you toss your printer out the window, call (608) 837-2739 and get Doc Jams out there to solve your problem.  If you are out of ink or toner, Doc Jams also sells toner and ink cartridges.  Being the computer guy that I am I was very fascinated at the lengths the big box companies like Xerox and HP do to keep companies like Doc Jams out of business by coming out with so many new models of printers each year to try and protect their lucrative corner on the market of toner and ink.

So, as the marketing pens they provide state…”Don’t screw it up yourself, Call…Doc Jams Printer Repair” (One end of the pen is a screwdriver)…I like their style.

Doc Jams definitely knows their stuff and I would recommend them for your printer woes.

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Madison Business Connection: Robson Computer Technologies


Chris Robson from Robson Computer Technologies

From time to time on my blog I will be featuring other businesses within the Madison, WI community that I have had the chance to interact with.  I hope you find these posts useful.

I was able to sit down with Chris Robson, President and CEO of Robson Computer Technologies today to get to know him and what he does in his line of work.

What do I love most about Robson Computer Technologies?  When someone asks me if I can fix their computer, I can now say a resounding “No”, but know that I have a great resource that I can refer them to and it is not Best Buy.

Chris and his brother Brian have been doing computer repair for over 10 years on the side as they worked in various other jobs, but in 2009 decided to make the leap to doing computer repair full time.  Several people I know have used their services and have absolutely loved the work that Robson Computer Technologies has done for them and how fast it was completed (my main issue with big box stores).  To put in a nutshell what they do, if it is inside the casing of your computer they deal with it.  A few examples include:

  • Sound Card not working
  • Wireless internet issues
  • Virus/Spyware/Malware removal
  • On-site computer training
  • Replacing hardware in your computer
  • Data Backup
  • Custom Computer Builds

When should you call Robson Computer Technologies?

  • You can’t hear any sound coming out of your computer speakers
  • The wireless switch on your computer is broken or the wireless light won’t come on.
  • The wireless light on your computer comes on, but you can’t connect to the internet
  • You get random popups on your screen for programs you didn’t think you were running.
  • You can’t start up your computer.
  • You need a custom computer built.

Robson Computer Technologies services mainly the Madison & Janesville, WI and surrounding areas.  If you are about ready to chuck your computer out the window, gently set it down and pick up the phone and call 608.335.5558 or contact them using their online contact form.

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Great Google Labs GMail Feature


I have recently switched checking all my email using GMail (a process which I will describe in a later post).  But recently I started using the Send & Archive feature from Google Labs and have loved it.  I will walk you through my process and why I love it.

1. Go to the Google Labs section of GMail (select the green beaker or click settings then go to the labs tab)

select the green beaker (or click settings then go to the labs tab)

2. Scroll down to the Send & Archive portion of the settings screen and select Enable then save your changes and head back to your inbox.

send_and_archive

3. An email comes in that I need to respond to, but also want to keep.

4. Open the email.

5. Label it the way you want it to be labeled.
labels

6. Start typing your reply to the email in the editor provided.

7. Click the Send & Archive button and you are done.

sendandarchive

Hopefully you find this as helpful as I do.  I love the feature.  I have a couple other Google Lab features enabled and have loved them so far.  My one big beef with GMail so far has been that you can’t have a different signature for each email account.  One of these days.

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Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss


The 4-Hour WorkweekThe 4-Hour Workweek blew the top off the charts because everyone wanted to know how to get the most out of their day.  In this book Timothy Ferriss explains how he went from hopping from unsatisfying job to unsatisfying job to unsatisfying business ownership then into his first mini-retirement.  He then goes on to explain how you can outsource your life to live the life you have always dreamed of living.

If I would have started this book at chapter 1 I probably would have liked it.  The problem is that through the introductory material you get to know the author and I didn’t like him very much.  Actually that is probably not fair, I don’t agree with his outlook on life.  I came to this book because I saw all the 4-Hour workweek email signatures on other business owner’s emails and thought they might be on to something in terms of increasing productivity.  The author has a very selfish goal when it comes to his life, it is all about me, me, me (I will give him credit he does mention that you should help other people in one of the last chapters of the book, but the methods he uses to get to the point where you can help people kind of defeat the purpose in my mind.)  Aside from our different outlooks on life he does give some good suggestions on how to manage your time more effectively and I have taken to heart some of them such as periodically asking myself throughout the day if I am being productive or just active.  Asking myself that question 3 times a  day has definitely helped increase productivity.  My outlook is that if you propose a solution to a problem it should at least benefit as many people as it possibly can, but Timothy’s methods are not scalable, someone has to do the work and in my opinion the author’s viewpoint is to use as many people as possible to make your life easier.  If everyone tried to use the methods in this book, no one would be able to use the methods in this book because someone has to do the work.
Grade: D (I did find some redeeming things to implement otherwise it would have gotten an F)

If I would have started this book at chapter 1 I probably would have liked it.  The problem is that through the introductory material you get to know the author and I didn’t like him very much.  Actually that is probably not fair, I don’t agree with his outlook on life.  I came to this book because I saw all the 4-Hour workweek (p.93) email signatures on other business owner’s emails and thought they might be on to something in terms of increasing productivity.  The author has a very selfish goal when it comes to his life, it is all about me, me, me (I will give him credit he does mention that you should help other people in one of the last chapters of the book, but the methods he uses to get to the point where you can help people kind of defeat the purpose in my mind.)  Aside from our different outlooks on life he does give some good suggestions on how to manage your time more effectively and I have taken to heart some of them such as periodically asking myself throughout the day if I am being productive or just active.  Asking myself that question 3 times a  day has definitely helped increase productivity.  My outlook is that if you propose a solution to a problem it should at least benefit as many people as it possibly can, but Timothy’s methods are not scalable, someone has to do the work and in my opinion the author’s viewpoint is to use as many people as possible to make your life easier.  If everyone tried to use the methods in this book, no one would be able to use the methods in this book because someone has to do the work.

Grade: D (I did find some redeeming things to implement otherwise it would have gotten an F).

Related Reading:

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Thoughts on the Recession from a Business Owner…


Let me make a confession, I haven’t watched CNN, Fox, MSNBC, or any other national news station since January. Before the election last year I did watch the news because I wanted to stay informed about the candidates and have as much knowledge about who was running so that I could do my civic (and biblical I might add) duty and in the most informed way that I could possible. In my mind there really wasn’t a good candidate, both of the major party candidates had some things right, but also had some pretty major things wrong, but I voted the best way I could. Anyway, back on track. After the election, I shut off the news because I was sick of hearing about the economy. I turned the TV on for about half an hour while I was working one day in January and shut it off after about 30 minutes because I still didn’t want to be hearing about the economy, the national news networks were feeding the fear.

I heard today that the government is saying that the recession is over…that’s good to know…it will be a long recovery but America will do it.

I don’t know when the official start of the recession was, but I started my business right before the recession hit, so I have weathered the recession. If you want to see my thoughts on the recession and how I wonder if it needed to be as bad as it was, head on over to my personal blog.  In this post, I am going to discuss lessons I learned while weathering the recession.

  1. Never make decisions out of fear. This one seems like common sense, but a lot of Americans made decisions based on fear that they felt and now we are hurting a lot more as a country than if we would have kept level heads and just ridden out the storm.
  2. Trim the fat. I know I just said not to make decisions based on fear, but to keep a level head and this is a continuation on that.  Take a serious look at what you are doing and make sure you aren’t doing anything you don’t need to be doing.  I was in serious money making mode because every dollar counted and that is part of the reason my blogging dwindled for so long.  Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, I found things like a library card where I could have free access to a wealth of great information and inspiration invaluable.
  3. Automate/Batch as much as possible. This is similar to the item above, but just slightly different.  I have a forthcoming book review on The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich one of the ideas that I like in his book is the idea of automation.  While I don’t feel like people should take things to the extremes that he takes them.  Automation is a good thing.  Don’t do things you don’t need to be doing and make things as efficient as possible.
  4. You don’t have to take every job that comes your way. I made this mistake early and took a job with a client that I never should have taken.  There is still an outstanding invoice for $169.00 that I am chalking up to learning experience (I should frame the invoice).  Because I was just starting out my business, I took a job without thoroughly investigating the situation and walked into a complete mess.  Do your research and screen your clients.
  5. Treat your customer like you would treat your grandmother and everything will be great. I don’t know anyone who would treat their grandmother poorly.  Most people would actually go above and beyond for their grandma, you just do that for your grandma.  Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers) wrote a great blog post on this title The Total Customer Experience that really gets at what I am trying to say here.  Check it out.
  6. Stick to your guns, only the strong survive. You went out on your own for a reason.  Stick with it.  Don’t cave in.  If you can weather this recession, you can weather anything.  Keep going.  Sometimes it just sucks and that’s OK, you aren’ t working for today are you?  I know I’m not.  I’m putting in my time now so I can take it easy later.

I learned a lot more than this during the recession, like how I have an amazing wife and family that has stuck with me through some really tough times and for that I am forever grateful.  I also learned that I have some great friends and colleagues who have helped me along the way.  I also have some great customers and I hope we can continue to help each other make our businesses the best they can be.

Now it is time for your thoughts.  What have you learned during this recession?

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Baby update…or lack of baby update…


If you have been following my Facebook or Twitter updates then you know we went to the hospital today because we thought today was the day for little Carrie to arrive.

To get the full story we need to actually back up to last week, here is what has happened up until this point…

Some time around January 15th, 2009…just kidding…we won’t go that far back.

Last Wednesday (9/2/2009) Mandy began having contractions to the point where they were about 5 minutes apart.  We are advised by the on-call physician to head into the hospital for monitoring.  After running around and getting everything ready to go we head towards the hospital.  We take Caleb to a friend’s house and another friend stops by to pick up Buster.  When we arrive at the hospital we are sent to the OB triage unit for monitoring.  After a couple hours they decide that the contractions are not productive and that the cervix is completely closed.  So we go pick up Buster and head home (Caleb was already asleep so we leave him at the friend’s house).  The next morning we pick up Caleb and go about our merry way.  All during this time Mandy is having sporadic contractions.

On Tuesday 9/8/2009 Mandy has an OB appointment and she is dilated to 1 cm and we are told that the Dr. doesn’t think that this baby will go the full 40 weeks (Yay!).

Fast forward to today (I guess it is technically yesterday at this point, but I haven’t gone to sleep yet so for me it is still today).  Around 9 am, Mandy starts having more contractions.  At 10 am, she is to the point where the contractions are 5 minutes apart and lasting around 60 seconds apiece…so according to our handy dandy discharge papers from last week, it is time to call the doctor and the doctor said no more monkeys jumping…(oops, that’s what Caleb would say) anyway, the doctor says that it is time for Mandy to head to the hospital.  I do the stupid thing and alert the whole world via Facebook and Twitter that today is the day….then we finish packing and head to the hospital all the while making arrangements for our two boys (similar setup to last week with a couple different characters thrown in).  Once we get to the hospital we head to triage again (we know exactly where to go this time) and are checked in for monitoring.  At this point the contractions are still pretty regular but after about two hours (about the time it takes to watch 13 Going on 30) the resident checks Mandy’s cervix and reports that she is still at about 1.75 cm so we are sent “home”.  We decided that instead of going home we will try to get something to eat, then run a few errands so that we can stay close to the hospital in case we need to head back (at this point we are still thinking Carrie is still coming today).  So we go to Panera, Home Depot, Madison Lighting (there is no way we are spending $180 on a light fixture for Carrie’s room to replace the one I broke), Menards (2 for $25 works for us, we’ll replace the one in Caleb’s room also), Josh Wanta’s (from Legacy Custom Remodeling) so that I can drop off a key so he can get started on our basement repair from our basement flooding since I “might” not be there in the morning, then on to Borders so that Mandy can get a new book and I can pick up my door prize for my presenation in the morning.  After we get done at Borders I call the hotline because by this point the contractions are taking Mandy’s breath away and are about 2-4 minutes apart.  They advise us to come back in.  We go straight to triage (we’ve been there before, have I told you that?) and get checked in and set up (in the same room as before).  They hook the monitors up to Mandy, the heart rate is great and she gets rocked by a big contraction right after they put the monitors on, here we go…(or so we think).  Mandy gets one more smaller contraction, then they mysteriously vanish for about an hour (but her uterus is doing something, because it is not happy).  The resident comes in and chats with us about what is going on and it is decided that we will head home for the night since the contractions are gone.  Mandy was also advised to take the rest of the week off from work, but we will see, she wants to see how she does tomorrow.  We’re not happy at this point because we just want to meet our daughter and had gotten our hopes up and then nothing, but we head home anyway (making arrangements for us to get Caleb and Buster back).  We get not even 5 minutes from the hospital and the contractions start back up.  So the short and skinny is that no one really knows what is going on, but we don’t have a baby girl in our arms yet.

Hopefully you are still around after my long winded telling of the story.  I will try to keep people up to date via Facebook and Twitter as much as possible.

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Two Miles Solutions, LLC – site update


I was able/forced to take some time tonight to update the website.  After the previous update to the site I was not happy with the way things were laid out and how the blog was the main focus of the site.  I have updated the site and am a lot happier with the way that it has turned out.

As for posting, the saying

The cobbler’s sons don’t get shoes

is especially true here.  I have been so busy, I haven’t posted any new projects that have released in quite some time.  I am hoping to remedy that tonight and get a lot of the new projects up in the Portfolio section of the site.

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The Best Business Investment I Ever Made


Updated 9/8/2009 to include links to amazon.com

OK, with that title, I know the room just got silent as you eagerly await this knowledge that will revolutionize your business and your life.

The best business investment I ever made was to get a library card.

WHAT? I hear you screaming…but it is true…especially if you are a creative person or any person for that matter who has to have their mind engaged.

I have recently joined a BNI group and as a part of being a member of the group you try to get to know the other members of your chapter by having what they call one on ones.  The sole purpose of these one on ones is for one member of the chapter to spend an entire hour learning about the other person so they can better understand who that person is and what they do. They ask questions about both your personal and your business life because they want to get to know you as a person, this is not just some business card passing group, they are truly and genuinely interested in getting to know you. Anyway, being the new guy on the block I have people coming out of the woodwork all over the place wanting to get to know me and one of the things that I ended up talking about a lot is that I love to read. My wife laughs at me but I usually have more than one book going at a time. Usually, a business book, a fun book, and a personal enrichment/enlightenment book. At the rate I go, I read about a book a week. I think I developed the habit from my dad who also loves to read. My dad always has a book with him. It just makes sense, especially when you are a parent and you always have to wait to pick them up. Why not use that time to read?

Now that I have digressed, I will bring this post back to why a library card is such a great investment. Many people will say that with the advent of the internet books are irrelevant, but I would disagree (obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post). My main reason that books are not irrelevant given that the internet is so prevalent now is that the internet doesn’t lend itself to the discipline of deep concentration. Many people don’t actually read webpages…they skim them and are off to the next page or site. When people read a book, they don’t skim, they usually devote all of their attention to the information on the pages, you just can’t replace that. One of the main things that productivity books focus on is our ability to focus and how to best create an environment that allows us to do so. A lot of us in the business world have a strain of ADD that I believe could be cured if we would only spend time reading because of the nature of reading. I am not talking about reading magazines, they fuel our ADD because the articles are so short.

A second reason that reading books is so important is that it causes you to create images or scenarios in your mind which gets the creative juices flowing. This is especially true of fiction books, but is really true for any book. With fiction books you are required to create the image of the characters in your head. Every book requires you to interact with it, a business book causes you to think about how the content of the book applies to your business, a book about programming causes you to think about how what you are learning in the book applies to the problems you have to solve on a daily basis.  Non-fiction books are seen in the light of your present or upcoming circumstances and cause you to visualize putting the principles contained within the book into practice, TV or movies just don’t do this (don’t get me wrong, I love movies, but some of the fun in watching a movie that is based on a book is comparing how my view of the characters is similar or different than the view of the creator of the movie).

Finally, the last benefit I will talk about in this post is that the right books help us to relax. Relaxation is somewhat of a lost art in our culture. We are always on the go and we are always reachable via cell phone but sometimes we just need to come to a complete stop and relax, shut off our cell phones, email, pagers (Does anyone actually use pagers anymore other than doctors?), and whatever other noise maker you have (this could include your children so find some time after they go to bed) and just read, you will be amazed at how refreshed you can feel after reading for awhile in a really good book.

If you are not an avid reader at this point or you have forgotten the art I will give a couple of tips.

  1. Start with a fiction book. This may sound counter-intuitive to the business person who has a stack of business books they want to read but never has the time for, but the reason I suggest fiction books to start with is that you are less likely to give up on a good fiction book. Ask your friends what they are reading (if they aren’t reading anything, I suggest adding a few more people to your friendship circle) or go to the library and ask your librarian what their favorite fiction book is.
  2. Don’t be afraid to give up on a book. Some books just aren’t your cup of tea, and that is ok, that is why there are so many of them. If you don’t like a book get a different one. This is really easy if you are using your library card because you haven’t wasted any money on the book because it was free for you to borrow from the library. What you may find with some books is that it is just not the right time in your life to read that particular book and you will be able to come back to it in the future.
  3. If you are really having trouble getting in the habit of reading, ask a friend to join you in your endeavor. Meet with them once a week to catch up and talk about what you are reading and to encourage each other to continue to read and interact with what you are reading.

Before, I close the post, many of you will probably ask what I have read recently.  Here is the list of what I have read in the last few months or am currently reading (all links point to amazon.com in a new window/tab).

Good luck on your journey, stop by soon…

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