Windows 7 (and the 8 versions that came before it)

By | October 15, 2009
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In Computers One Step at a Time this time:


  • Windows 7 (and the 8 versions that came before it)
  • The Royal Mail strike and how it’ll affect book & video deliveries
  • When it looks like your monitor’s had half a bottle of scotch…
  • Why a “scanner” might mislead you



This month I’ll tell you about what Microsoft hope you’ll be thinking about next Thursday, why your computer screen might be fuzzy and blurry (it’s not always due to the whisky!) and why the word scanner can be confusing.

But please don’t mention the James Bond reference to my wife – I’ll never live it down…

Windows 7 finally out, after all the fuss – shortly…
Windows 7 is the next version of Windows and it’s out on October 22nd – that’s Thursday next week. I’ve said before that I think it’s a daft name – for a start it’s not the 7th version. We’ve had 1, 2, 3, 95, 98, ME (Millenium Edition), XP & Vista. That’s without counting the specialist versions intended only for big businesses. Even if you rule out ME because it wasn’t very popular, that would make this one version 8.

But having had a go on the new version, I think Microsoft have done a better job of creating it than they did of naming it.

“Hang on a minute” you might be thinking. “You said it’s not out until next week. How have you already tried it?” Well, it involved abseiling James Bond style down the walls of Microsoft’s lair, foxing the security guards with my Bill Gates impression and then…

Well, actually Microsoft made a trial version available for people like me to try in advance, so we could write about it. Less exciting, but there you are. The only snag is they repeatedly warned that the finished version might change from the trial version. But given the time it takes to create something like this, I doubt they’ll have changed it very much at all.

What’s my verdict? Well, I think it’s an improvement on Windows Vista. It’s quite similar in a lot of ways but it runs faster. And it has fewer annoying pop-up boxes that get in the way and confuse you. There are some nifty extra features but you can ignore most of them if you want – so it doesn’t force you to change how you use it in the way Vista did.

It’s changed what the taskbar looks like – and instead of the quick launch area (that bit of the taskbar on the left where you can have icons of programs you use a lot – making it easy to start one by clicking on it there) you can “pin” a program to the taskbar itself – looking a lot like a program that’s currently running. I think that could be a bit confusing until you get used to it. But you could just not use it so you aren’t forced to deal with it.

And they’ve put a proper “Shut down” button on the start menu. In Vista the button just puts it into stand by. To turn it off you need to click the little arrow next to it and choose turn off. A right fiddle. But now there’s a proper Shut Down button – Microsoft have realised that most people want to turn their PC off, not just put it into stand by.

If you’re about to get a new PC, I’d suggest waiting until next week and getting one with Windows 7. If you have a computer you bought recently and it comes with the ability to upgrade it for free (well, for the postage cost), then it’s worth thinking about. You’ll need to adjust to the new system but it’s not too different and it is better.

If you have Windows XP or Vista, don’t feel you need to upgrade to it, though. If the version you have does what you need, that’s all that matters.

By the way, you can read a short booklet on Windows 7 (with more detail in) here:

Feel free to print it out if you’d like.

Royal Mail strikes and how it affects deliveries from us…
You’ve probably heard the kerfuffle about Royal Mail strikes. At the moment the news is that they should be announcing dates this Thursday but there won’t be a national postal strike until Thursday 22nd October at the earliest. In the meantime the post is a bit slowed down but is still going!

If you have ordered anything from us, we’re going extra quick to try to get everything delivered before the strike starts.

If you’d like get your books as soon as possible, the quickest way to order is by ringing 01229 777606 or online at the website (

But if you do want to post an order to us, then as long as you post it in plenty of time before the 22nd, it should still get to us in time to send out your books or videos before the strike – we usually send all orders the same day we receive them.

When your screen goes fuzzy and blurry
Every so often, I use a laptop or a computer with a flat screen monitor and the picture looks really fuzzy. It’s not something that should happen on a flat screen – it’s not like an old fashioned TV where it can go out of focus.

Nearly always, the problem is that it’s set up to the wrong resolution. Resolution just means how many little dots the screen uses to build up the picture. For example, my monitor (a pretty good one) has 1280 dots across by 1024 dots up. Each dot can be any colour and that’s what it uses to make up the picture. If you look really closely (mind your nose…) you can just see the individual dots.

So I have my PC set to use 1280 by 1024 dots – the same as the monitor. But if I set the computer to (say) 1024 by 768, the monitor would do its best, and would manage to display the screen. But the picture the computer was sending it wouldn’t really fit the screen properly and would end up a bit fuzzy or blurry.

The way to fix it is pretty easy – just set the computer to the same resolution as the monitor. Some monitors say on the back what their resolution is – if not you can try different ones until it looks right.

You can change it by right clicking on an empty bit of desktop and selecting “Properties” in Windows XP or “personalize” in Vista. Then click on the settings tab in Windows XP and move the slider on the left – click ok once you’ve moved it to the setting you want to try. In Windows Vista click on “Display Settings” and then move the slider on the left.

Word to the wise – scanner vs scanner
There’s a good chance you already know what a scanner is – a device you use for making a copy of a document or photo and getting it onto the computer. Sometimes they’re combined with a printer and I suppose in a way they’re the opposite of a printer – they take a physical document and put it onto the computer.

But the reason it’s a bit confusing is that there’s another type of scanner as well. A program that scans your computer for viruses or spyware. So for example an anti-virus program will include a scanner, where you can tell it to check the whole computer.

It’s a shame there aren’t two separate words but as long as you know there are two meanings, you can work out which is meant by the context.

That’s all for now. Next time (amongst other things) I’ll let you know of any changes they sneaked into Windows 7 at the last minute!


Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2009

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