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August 1, 2009

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My Windows 7 “Space”…

June 10, 2009


Well, working where I work has some perks.  My co-workers bring back all sorts of cool pictures from their assignments.  The most recent assignment took them almost 360 miles straight up.  They met up with Hubble and performed upgrades and repairs.  From this, I am able to have an “out of this world” desktop.  This tends to make up for the fact that the laptop that I’m running Windows 7 on is a 32-bit platform with a 1.7 GHz processor and 1 GB of memory.  The video drivers are not able to run the Aero desktop, so I am limited to the the regular un-Aero look.

The two slideshows that are playing in the top right corner are actually two different sets of pictures:
one from Expedition 18 and one from STS-125 (the recent mission to Hubble).

As you can also see, I have Virtual PC installed.  This version is Virtual PC 2007 SP1.  I like the interface and have really become comfortable with the settings.  It’s a great tool to have to help write


You can see that my User Picture not a standard picture.  It’s a picture of an upright bass .  I found the full image on the Internet and edited it with my Digital Image Suite 2006 (I’m still learning the functionality of the Windows Live Photo Gallery).  I got to play one at one of the recent bluegrass festivals that I attend, and this icon is a constant reminder of what I’m saving up my pennies for. =-)

One of the functions that I like is the ability to show the text with the taskbar tasks.  I haven’t yet decided if I like the icons by themselves or if I like the taskbar icons with the text.  I’ll keep switching until I decide.

In order to be able to see the taskbar icon text, do the following steps:

  • Right-click ‘Start’.
  • Select ‘Properties’.
  • Select ‘Taskbar’ tab.
  • Select to check ‘Use Small Icons’.  Note: this step is optional.  This is the way that
    Vista shows the Taskbar, but it works equally well to have the larger icons and the text.
  • Select ‘Never combine’ for "Taskbar buttons:" dropdown.
  • Select ‘Ok’.

The icons stay small until the programs are started up.  The taskbar icons lengthen to show the text.  I like the effect.

My Theme:

I recently read the Windows 7 Engineering blog entry about creating, saving, and sharing theme packs.  For those that are interested in getting these images, I have saved my theme pack for your use.  These images are all freely available from NASA’s Spaceflight web site.

Windows 7 Bootable CD?

May 30, 2009

What is it?

It’s the Windows 7 Automated Installation Kit, or WAIK.  WAIK is useful for IT Professionals to have a boot disk that will boot up from a CD instead of the computer’s hard drive.  With the boot CD, you can boot with a CD and open up, you have the same basic functionality as you would have if you had booted up with a DOS floppy disk.  This boot disk also gives you a little extra functionality that I talk about a little later.

Why do I need it?

  • Have you ever had a computer blue screen on you and you needed to get a file off the hard drive now?
  • Have you noticed that the use of floppy disks as a boot media is all but completely dead?
  • Have you ever had a boot sector virus that you needed to clean but couldn’t get to?
  • Have you ever wanted to install an OS from the ground up but needed a way to boot the computer first?
  • Have you ever just wanted to poke around on the drive without booting up through Windows?

This allows you to do this.

What do I need to install it?

To install the Windows 7 AIK, you need to have one of the following OSes (Operating Systems) installed on a computer:

  • Windows Server 2003 R2 SP3
  • Windows Vista SP1
  • Windows Server 2008 family
  • Windows 7 family
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 family

Where do I get the download?

The Windows 7 AIK ISO image can be downloaded here.  The Windows 7 AIK Documentation can be downloaded here.

Just for completeness, if you want to experiment with the Windows Vista WAIK, it can be downloaded here.  The Vista SP1/Windows Server 2008 WAIK can be downloaded here.

After you’ve burned the DVD from the ISO image, insert it into a DVD drive.  The installation menu will appear:

Select the Windows AIK Setup option highlighted in Red in this image (below):

How do I build a bootable CD?

This batch file assumes the following:

  1. that you have installed the WAIK on the computer’s C: drive in the default directory.  If you install in the WAIK in another directory, you’ll need to update the paths in the batch file (noted in blue).
  2. that you are installing the 32bit version (denoted as the “x86” parameter in purple);
  3. That you don’t currently have a directory (folder) on the C: drive called “winpe_x86”.  If you need to change the target folder, change the folders in orange.

Open Notepad and copy the following batch file commands into Notepad:

CD "C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\PETools"
CALL copype.cmd x86 c:\winpe_x86
copy c:\winpe_x86\winpe.wim c:\winpe_x86\ISO\sources\boot.wim
copy "C:\program files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86\imagex.exe" C:\winpe_x86\iso\
oscdimg -n -bC:\winpe_x86\etfsboot.com C:\winpe_x86\ISO C:\winpe_x86\winpe_x86.iso
rem To remove the "Press any key to boot from CD" prompt during boot,
rem remove the bootfix.bin file from the \boot folder within your mounted image.

This will build a bootable CD ISO image that can be burned using any CD burner program that can burn a CD using an ISO image.  If you want to test the ISO image before you actually burn a CD, you can use Virtual PC 2007 SP1, which can be downloaded here.

What does it look like when it boots?

One of the things that I like about the Virtual PC application is that I can take screen shots of the boot process that booting to an actual computer doesn’t facilitate without a camera.  When I booted up in the Virtual PC program to the W7AIK CD, this is what the first screenshot actually looked like.  Notice that I’m running this in Virtual PC 2007 SP1.

I just cut out the screenshot so that it would be less distracting.

As the computer begins to boot up from the CD, this is what you’ll see…

This is what the Windows 7 AIK leaves you at: a DOS prompt.  This disk is meant to be a bootable media to replace the floppy disk.  The great thing about this disk is that you can add programs that will be available when the disk boots up.  The boot disk drive letter for the bootable CD is the X: drive.  This allows you to use the C: drive, D: drive, etc letters for installing the OS and other programs.

You must remember that the bootable CD is a pure 32bit (or 64bit, if you’ve built a 64bit bootable CD) environment and it will NOT be able to run 16bit programs.  If you try to run a 16bit program, you will get an error that the program cannot be found.  You’ll be able to do a directory listing of the program and see it, which is why it won’t make sense.  That’s the only way that W7AIK has to tell you that it can’t run a 16bit program.

What else can I do with this disk?

Okay, I’ve booted to a command prompt.  What now?  Well, now you have access to NTFS file system drives, older FAT/FAT32 drives via command prompt.  You also have access to USB devices thanks to plug-and-play being enabled.  You have access to the CD/DVD drives.  You have complete access over the local computer hard drives.  If you plug in a USB thumbdrive, it will automatically be assigned a drive letter and you will have access to it.  Nice, huh?

Can you customize the batch file above? Sure!  This batch file is just meant to get you started.  There are a lot of ways that you can customize it.  There are add-ons that can be installed to extend the boot disk’s functionality.  This is just meant as a beginning point for those that want to experiment.

Creating the Windows Live Writer Clubhouse Tags For Your Blogs

May 29, 2009

This tip is for those of you just joining the Clubhouse, and especially to those who have not had to configure tags for use in the Clubhouse.  If you use the Windows Live Writer and have never configured the Tags, you may find it a bit of a challenge.  I know I did.  That’s where this post comes in.  This is a very short, simple explanation.

Configure Live Writer For Blog Access:

The best information that I found is on the page to configure Live Writer.  This “How To” on the Clubhouse is a very good starting point.

Why use tags?

Tags are a way for you to categorize how to find your post.  Ask yourself, “if I were looking for this information, what words would I use to search for this?”  That’s what to start with.  Then add other tags that may be helpful for someone that might not even know what to search for.  For example, if someone doesn’t yet know what a Tag is, maybe they think it’s called a “label” or a “search term”.

Configure a Tag Provider:

For the Clubhouse tags, you have to have certain tags (required tags).  The Clubhouse FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) answers this here.  But before you know which tags you need, you have to have a Tag Provider (a service that indexes your blog post and allows it to be searched).  This allows the Clubhouse to be able to index your blog post and allow people to find your article based on the search terms – Tags – you give it.  To configure the Clubhouse Tag Provider in Live Writer, follow the instructions here

The Clubhouse Tag Provider is relatively easy to set up.  Where the instructions tell you to “Enter “Windows Live” in the Provider name textbox”, I entered “Clubhouse”.  The next statement tells you to enter the long string that begins with <a href=” and end with “</a> in the HTML template for each tag textbox.  To eliminate possible typing errors, I just highlighted all of the string between the double quotes, right-clicked, and selected “Copy”, and then pasted this string into the “Create New Tag Provider” window in the “HTML Template for each tag:” box.  I also made sure that the only character in the “Separate the HTML for each tag using:” textbox contained only a comma and no other characters.

Placement of the tags:

The tags will be placed where the cursor is when you click on the Insert Tags icons; either one will do (see the red circles for the locations of the Insert Tags location).  It is better to have the tags placed at the beginning or the end of the post.  Putting tags in the middle is probably technically acceptable, but it makes for difficult reading.  Also, if you want to use the Task Pane at the right side of the screen and its not there, press [F9] (or select View – Task Pane).

The Insert Tags window shows up…

Ensure that your Tag Provider is set correctly, and then begin adding Tags.

Once you’ve entered a Tag one time, it will start suggesting tags as you type.  To accept the tag that’s being suggested, just press the comma [,] key and begin typing your next tag. 

How Do I stop entering Tags?

It may seem like a silly question, but I looked for a “Done” button.  There isn’t one.  I found out that when you are finished entering the tags that you want, you just click in the Live Writer window somewhere away from the Tags area that’s being edited.  The tags are automatically saved.

If you want to start entering tags again, you have one of two choices:

  • If the Task Pane is visible, you click on the Provider Tag name (at the bottom of this article, my Tag Provider name is “Clubhouse Tags:”).  The tags open up in the Task Pane and you can begin editing the tags there.
  • If the Task Pane is not visible, when you click on the Provider Tag name, a small right-arrow appears at the end of the tags. Click that arrow and the Task Pane will open to allow you to begin editing Tags.

What tags to use:

For the Clubhouse, there are three Tags that are required: the word “clubhouse”, either the word “story” or the phrase “how-to” (depending on what you’re writing), and the product or service you’re writing about.  After that, the tags are optional, but remember that the more tags you put in the article, the easier it will be for others to find your post.  Remember, “if I were looking for this information, what words would I use to search with”.

Inserting multiple sets of tags:

How? Move the cursor to the next line and repeat the process.  Too easy, I know.

Hope this helps.

Tag! You’re It…

May 27, 2009

One thing that I have found to be very handy while working with digital images is “tagging”.  Tagging an image adds text labels (basic information) inside the image file.  Though the tags are not seen on the image, they help search programs “see” the content of the photo by being able to search on a string of characters.  The program that I have used almost exclusively since 2006 is the Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 (hereafter, referred to as “DIS”).  I recently moved to Vista Ultimate on a new computer and wanted to try the Live Tools that I’d been hearing about, so I downloaded and installed them on my new Vista computer.  Although the tag format ends up being a bit different, the tagging is still extremely useful.

When you tag photos, it really eliminates the need to play the “who is that”, “when was that taken”, and “where is that” game over and over again.  I inherited what seems like thousands of old images from family members.  I’ve spent a lot of time scanning and cataloging photos via filename.  Some of the filenames ended up being so long that when I tried to burn them to CD to back them up, the CD burning software told me the filename was too long.  Tagging solves that problem by embedding the information inside the image.

In the Windows Live Photo Gallery (WLPG), tags are easy to create for one image.  They are also easy to create for a bunch of images with the same content.  If you can fill in a blank or highlight several items and drag-and-drop, you can do this.

To create a single tag for use with a single or multiple images:

Before we get started, notice that there are two tags on the image of the fern already: Textures; wallpaper.  They appear under the filename and the rating.

Step 1: under Descriptive Tags, click on “Add a new tag”.

Step 2: enter the word or words you want to create a tag with.  The best tags are nouns (person, place, thing).  Remember that this word is the one that you can search on.  Also, remember that you can add more than one tag per image, so be very generic in your tags (clouds, sun, fern, tree, etc).  Once you’ve entered the tag, press [Enter].

Step 3: Apply the tag with “Drag-and-Drop”.  Click and hold the left mouse button down on the image (or images) that you want to drag to the tag,  Drag the images to the left so that the tag that you want to use is highlighted.  Let go of the mouse button.  That tag will be applied to all of the images that were dragged to it.

Step 4: Review your image.  Notice that when I put my mouse over the image, the image now shows three (3)
tags: Textures; fern; wallpaper.



Now that you’ve applied the tag, click on the Start button and type the new tag into the “Start Search” box.  The image will show up in the list of results in the Start menu.

Other thoughts:

One of the things that I like about the tagging is that I can sort all of my images by tags and create a timeline of photos about people. 

I think one thing that I’d like to see is a Photo/Image screensaver that reads tags instead of looking at just folders of images.


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