Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Setting Up Windows 7

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 06, 2011

Day One

So I've upgraded my desktop to Windows 7 in my office today, and this is what I'm doing to personalize it after I've got the basic system installed. This is the second time I've set up a Windows 7 environment; I have been using it on my desktop at home for a few months now. Note that I am not a Windows power user; I'm sure other people have better tips and tricks. This is simply what I do, and should be taken as such (and suggestions to help me improve my Windows 7 experience would be appreciated).

- Opened Internet Explorer, went through the startup, and turned off all of the 'recommend' and 'faster download' options. Accepted the option to select a custom search engine. Had to search around to find it, as IE launches another window over the options window. Not sure selecting Google actually changed anything. No matter, because...

- Went to and downloaded the latest version of Firefox (not the Firefox 5 beta, but the currently stable Firefox 4.01 -- normally, I would use the beta version, but too many of the extensions do not work for me on Firefox). I then added the following extensions to Firefox (click options, then add-ons):
- imTranslator, because I read many international sites
- AdBlock Plus - absolutely indispensible advertisement blocker
- Video DownloadHelper - lets me save YouTibe videos as MP4s and other formats
- Firebug - adds a bunch of development tools, eg., CSS viewer
That's all for now. I'm not a big extensions person.

- Went to the Audacity site and downloaded Audacity. Audacity is my major workhorse sound editing program; I use it to record from the microphone, the screen, to convert and edit audio files, and more. Audacity has various plug-ins I also installed (all are available from the main Audacity download page):
- LADSPA Plug-ins - various Audacity plug-ins. One day I'll learn what they all do.
- LAME MP3 Encoder - absolutely essential to save audio as MP3s
- FFmpeg import-export library - ffmpeg converts numerous audio and video formats

- Opened Microsoft Outlook, which came with the installation. Set up my office email account, then set up my email account. Minimized the ribbon, and changed the view to show folders on the left, list of new messages above right, and text of the message below. I have no imagination when it comes to email. Normally I would use Thunderbird, which is what I use at home, but Outlook is more suited to the office environment, being used for a variety of functions (such as room and vehicle bookings) in addition to email.

- Set up my Firefox bookmark toolbar to my most commonly used cloud sites. Again, there's probably a lot I could do in the cloud that I don't actually do. As I run through the list I have Firefox remembering various userids and passwords. Here's what's typically on my bookmarks toolbar:
- Blogger Dashboard - from here I create new posts on my Half an Hour and Make Some Art blogs.
- Google Calendar - which I will have to sync with Outlook (later)
- Twitter - of course I get a 'Twitter is over capacity' screen, so I'll have to come back; I set the Twitter bookmark to a predefined search so I can see what people are saying at the same time I post
- Flickr - which is where I store my photos online
- Google Reader - which is where I (form now) read my RSS feeds; eventually gRSShopper will be better for this, but it isn't yet
- my login page, to my home site administration system, and online course administration systems
- MyAutoDJ client area, for my radio station

- Set up my FTP client, Filezilla. I have two major places I FTP into, my website and my radio station. Filezilla is a fast, super-easy way to upload files. I use secure SSH access to FTP into my site.

- Downloaded PuTTY, a SSH client, to give me terminal access from Windows into my website. This is useful for doing things like editing server configuration and restarting it. PuTTY doesn't need to be installed; just drag it from the download window to the desktop.

That's basically it for the basic startup. I still need to set up things like Winamp for my radio station, calendar sync, authoring and drawing environments, and file backup.

Day Two

So Day One was actually just a couple of hours in the afternoon. Day Two is more of an occasional thing, where I'm setting stuff up as I notice I need it. Link, for example:

- VideoLan (aka VLC) Player, a multi-format video player that will handle DVDs, various video formats, etc., without any fuss. I'm loading this before my audio player so that the audio player becomes the default for the audio formats. Anyhow, if you play video, this is the player you want.

- Winamp - once the ugly duckling of music playing software, WinAmp is now a lot better than Real, Windows Media, and even iTunes. As well, WinAmp will offer support for my radio station. You have to be careful not to install the 'extra features' which will put a toolbar on your browser and search your search defualt to AOL.

- Skype - this is my major video conferencing tool. And using the system I describe here, I can capture Skype calls as audio recordings or live web radio broadcasts. I turned off the 'get Google Chrome' option - I'll get Chrome on my own terms later.

- 7-Zip - file archive utility to open things like zip files. I'm not sure whether I need it on Windows 7 but it opens everything and I'm used to using it, so I'm installing it. I'll need it for the next item.

- EdCast - this is a digital signal processor (DSP) that will convert and stream music and audio from my WinAmp player (or whatever else I sent to it) to my online radio station. It also requires that I download and separately install LAME and AAC .dll files. Follow the instructions I provide here and you'll be fine (and today I'm really glad I wrote those instructions - when you document what you're doing, the person you're helping is yourself).

And now for the web browsers. I like to have the selection of web browsers installed so I can test things on different browsers and access browser-specific things.
- Internet Explorer - Windows 7 came with IE8, but the current version is IE9, so I upgraded. This was a loooong process involving a reboot (and a shutdown that didn't run properly). On the bright side, reinstalling IE got rid of all the add-ons that updating the Adobe suite (which came with the Windows 7 installation here at the office, along with the Microsoft Office applications) polluted into the IE8 browser.
- Google Chrome - which I actually experimented with as a default browser for a while a few months back, but I returned to Firefox because Chrome was missing a few things (documented here) I really needed. Also, I don't like searching from the address bar.
- Opera - this is a smart, fast browser that does a lot of things well and some things no other browser does, like offer its own built-in web server, Opera Unite.
- Safari - there's an old saying, "nothing works on Safari", which is no longer true, but it's still the least reliable and most quirky of the bunch. As usual, I turn off most of the options, especially automatic updates, because Apple loads all kinds of extras in those (I'd find myself with iTines, Moble Me, and a bunch of other stuff).

- Netbeans and the Java Development Kit (JDK) as a bundle. This is a bit of an experiment. Normally, to write software, I would just use a text editor like Notetab. Notetab is fantastic software and I'm sure I'll add it to the list below. But I really need right now to extend my development capacities, to organize myself better, and to work in a proper environment. That means Netbeans (the oft-touted alternative is Eclipse, which I've tried on both Vista and OSX, and it has been a disaster both times). Netbeans requires Java (so do many other things, so there's no real escape here) and I may as well get the full SDK, as some applications require it.

Day Three

Late afternoon, installed: PaintShop Pro 5. This is software from 1998. I have a very old install CD. I use it for basic image tasks, including line drawings, cutting and trimming, and such. I wanted a more recent version, but when I went to Corel I ended up buying PaintShop Photo Pro X3. Ack. But this looks like it will be useful for photo editing in any case - I've been using Adobe Photoshop Elements from 2005 or so. And it still has all the draw tools, so I might end up using it instead in any case.

The Next Few Days

Installed NoteTab light, because it's still an unequalled text editor. I spent quite a bit of time trying to make the Perl plug-in work on NetBeans, and ended up having to reinstall NetBeans. So I'm still without a Perl IDE. But NoteTab will do for now.

Getting Google Calebdar synced with Outlook. Started here and downloaded the Google Calendar Sync (version It reported an error (2016) but this appears to have simply been caused by it taking some time to download all my Google Calendar stuff.

After searching about and trying some Perl plugins for NetBeans, the most successful of which was this one on Google code, I decided that NetBeans and Perl aren't ready to work together yet. During the course of the installation I installed Strawberry Perl. I chose Strawberry because the other Windows Perl distribution, Active State Perl, has a very unfriendly license.

About 30 minutes later I uninstalled Strawberry, not because I didn't like it, but because in order to get Padre, the Perl IDE, to work properly, you need a fresh Perl install (I imagine I could work my way around it but really would rather not). Padre comes as part of a larger Strawberry with Cream installation that gives you Perl and a number of widely used modules not incuded in the basic Perl distribution (such as Moose, DBI, and more). The secret to making Strawberry with Cream work is, after thre installation, to go to the installation directory (typically C:\Strawberry) and run some batch files: , and Annoying.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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