I always recommend buying Hewlett-Packard (HP) computers and laptops. They seem to be the most reliable, and they come pre-installed with just the right mix of software and hardware that helps keep your computer humming along. In fact, I wrote a blog post last March recommending which HP laptops to buy.

But one annoying feature that comes pre-installed in HP computers and laptops (especially, I suspect, those that run on the Vista operating system) is the “HP Advisor” toolbar that shows up on your taskbar along the bottom of the screen. There’s a HP logo to the left of a “Yahoo! Search” box next to a magnifying glass that seem to have mysterious functions.

HP Advisor toolbar

This toolbar just takes up valuable real estate on my taskbar, and I want it gone. G-o-n-e. Gawne.

Turns out it’s easy to get rid of it. Right-click anywhere on an empty area of the taskbar (at the bottom of the screen), and at the pop-up menu, hover the mouse over “Toolbars.” You’ll see a second pop-up window with a list of toolbars (some with checkmarks next to them). “HP Advisor” should be one of them, along with a checkmark next to it. Select it to make the checkmark go away, and the HP Advisor toolbar will go away too.

HP Advisor toolbar option

And now you have a stunningly expansive area of real estate that you didn’t realize you had before — almost like finding a whole new room in your house that you didn’t know about before!

Taskbar without HP Advisor

I guess now you’ve got to open more and more programs, so you can fill up that huge expanse of real estate. :-) Enjoy.

(See all my Vista Annoyance posts – turning off User Account Control, turning on Flip and Flip / Window Switcher, viewing and sharing files between XP and Vista systems, turning off Windows Security Alerts, getting an older program to work with Vista, turning on Windows Aero, and getting rid of the HP Advisor box on your taskbar.)

All the cool Vista features you’re seeing on advertisements, like Flip-and-Flip and thumbnails from the Windows bar and all that?  They come on when Windows Aero is enabled.  Most of the time, Windows Aero isn’t enabled by default on a new or upgraded computer.

(Yes, I sorta discussed this topic when I explained how to turn on Windows Flip-and-Flip.  But I thought that actually turning on Windows Aero was important enough to have its own blog post.)

First of all, what version of Windows Vista do you have?  To find out what Windows Vista version you have, click on the Windows logo at the lower left corner, right-click on “Computer,” and select Properties. Under “Windows Edition,” it’d tell you which Vista version you have and whether it’s the 32-bit or 64-bit version, along with a link to “Upgrade Vista.”

If you have Windows Vista Basic, you’re outta luck.  Windows Aero is available only on Vista Home Premium and up.  Microsoft isn’t being too forthright about this, eh?

If you’re lucky enough (or your pocketbook’s deep enough) to have Vista Home Premium or Ultimate or better, then here’s how you can turn Windows Aero on.

1) Click on the Windows logo at the lower left corner

2) Select Control Panel, and then select Personalization

3) Click on “Window Color and Appearance”

4) If you then see a row of 8 colors, you need to click on the last link, “Open classic appearance properties for more color options”

5) In the “Appearance Settings” window, under “Color Scheme,” select “Windows Aero”

6) Click on “OK”

7) Windows will then update the display properties of, well, everything.

And you’ve activated Windows Aero!  Have fun.

(See also my other Vista Annoyance posts – turning off User Account Control, turning on Flip and Flip / Window Switcher, viewing and sharing files between XP and Vista systems, turning off Windows Security Alerts, getting an older program to work with Vista, and turning on Windows Aero.)

Just about all new PC computers are being sold with Windows Vista built into it instead of the older but venerable Windows XP. Many programs work smoothly with Windows Vista, but some older programs aren’t playing nice. Software programmers have been hard at work rushing out updates to programs to make sure these programs and Vista get along.

If you’ve updated to Windows Vista and have noticed compatibility problems (i.e., right-click menus sometime don’t work) between Vista and an older (but surely valued) program, then try the first method below. If that doesn’t work, try the second method.

Vista Compatibility Figure

Method #1:

  1. Find the icon that you usually use to launch this program — whether in your Quick Launch area, or Start Menu (under the Windows logo on the lower left corner), or on your desktop.
  2. Right-click on this icon and select “Properties”
  3. Click on the “Compatibility” tab
  4. Under “Settings,” put a checkmark next to the following two settings: “Disable Visual Themes” and “Disable Desktop Composition.”
  5. Click “OK”
  6. Run the program as usual and see if its compatibility has improved

Method #2:

  1. Repeat steps #1-3 above
  2. In the “Compatibility” tab under “Compatibility Mode,” put a checkmark next to “Run this program in compatibility mode for:” and make sure “Windows XP (Service Pack 2)” is selected.
  3. Click “OK”
  4. Run the program as usual and see if its compatibility has improved

If both methods above fails, visit the software programmer’s homepage on the Internet and see if there’s some mention about a new version or a suggested fix to make your program compatible with Vista.

Hasta Vista, baby.

(See also my other Vista Annoyance posts – turning off User Account Control, turning on Flip and Flip / Window Switcher, sharing files on a network between two Vista computers, getting an older program to work with Vista, and turning on Windows Aero.)

You may have seen this if you’ve uninstalled an anti-virus program and installed a new one — perhaps following my blog post about AVG, or if you’ve followed the instructions in my Vista Annoyance #1 blog post about User Account Control. An icon shows up in the lower right area of your task bar at the bottom of the screen, looking like a Window Security Alertred shield with a white X on it. Every once in a while, a balloon pops up warning you that a certain security feature has been disabled. If you had disabled this security feature on purpose (i.e., turning User Account Control off), this balloon quickly becomes annoying.

Turning off this balloon notification, and even making this icon disappear from the taskbar, is embarrassingly simple.

1) Right-click on the Window Security Alert icon (which looks like a red shield) in the taskbar and click on “Open Security Center.”

2) In the resulting “Window Security Center” window, click on “Change the way Security Center alerts me” in the left column.

Windows Security Alert 2

3) A new window appears with three choices: a) “Yes, notify me and display the icon (recommended),” b) “Don’t notify me, but display the icon,” and “Don’t notify me and don’t display the icon (not recommended).”

Windows Security Alert 3

4) Depending on your preference, you may want to pick the second or third choice. For someone who has the User Agent Control turned off permanently, that means I have a permanent red-X’ed icon in the lower right corner anyway. I may as well turn it off — and so I’ve selected the third option.

Whoops, now my laptop monitor is swiveling 360 degrees and projectile-hurling green bile. Hmm. Not sure if it needs an exorcism or if it has to do with pent-up security warnings …

(See also my other Vista Annoyance posts – turning off User Account Control, turning on Flip and Flip / Window Switcher, turning off Windows Security Alerts, getting an older program to work with Vista, and turning on Windows Aero.)

I always tell my daughters to share nicely. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t — it’s always quite a struggle. But computers — I expect them to share nicely without a struggle if I tell them to. With the new Vista operating system, however, it was quite a struggle.

See, my family and I have three home computers.  Under the old Windows XP system, it wasn’t too difficult to get these computers to share. But now I’ve got Vista on two computers and still have XP on another two. And hoo-boy, a lot of steps are involved to get the Vista-equipped computers to share files and folders. Nearly all of it is listed in a somewhat helpful Technet page by Microsoft, some of which I shamelessly plagarize below — including photos.

Here’s how. (This post assumes that your computers are already connected to a network — i.e., they’re all already able to browse the Internet using the same router.)

  1. Open the Network and Sharing Center window by clicking on the Windows orb in the lower left corner, and then either right-clicking on Network and selecting “Properties”, or opening the Control Panel and double-clicking “Network and Sharing Center.” See picture below (click it for a larger version).
  2. If your network type is “Public,” you need to change it to “Private”:
    1. To the right of the network name and location type, click Customize.
    2. In the Set Network Location dialog box, click Private, and then click Next.
    3. In the Successfully set network settings dialog box, click Close.
  3. Under “Sharing and Discovery” in the bottom half of the Network and Sharing Center window, you need to turn all the settings from “Off” to “On” by clicking on the down arrow next to each setting, clicking on “Turn on …”, and clicking on “Apply.” But see some pointers below:
    1. For the “Password protected sharing” setting: you may want to leave this “On” or turn “Off” at your discretion. (I turned mine off.)
    2. For the “Public folder sharing” setting:
      1. If you want to share the public folder so that other computers on the network can access the Public share to open files, but not create or change files, click Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open files. This is the default setting.
      2. But if you want to share the public folder so that other computers on the network can access the Public share to open files and also create or change files, click Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open, change, and create files.
  4. You’re done with the Network and Sharing Center window. Close it via the “X” button.
  5. Click the Windows orb at the lower left corner of your computer, and click on Computer.
  6. In the Computer window, navigate to the folder containing the file(s) or folder(s) that you want to share — e.g., “Pictures” or “Documents” or a specific file or folder within. Note: don’t open the folder itself that you want to share — just navigate to the folder that contains this folder.
  7. Right-click the folder that you want to share, and then click Share. The File Sharing window is displayed. (Click picture for a larger version.)
  8. If you have password protected sharing enabled: Use the File Sharing window to select which users can access the shared folder and their permission level. To allow all users, select Everyone in the list of users. By default, the permission level for a selected user is Reader. Users cannot change files or create new files in the share. To allow a user to change files or folders or create new files or folders, select Co-owner as the permission level.
  9. If you have password protected sharing disabled (like I do): Click the drop-down arrow inside the blank field in the File Sharing window, and select the Guest or Everyone account. Click “Add.” Then for that new account, click on the down arrow under “Permission Level” to change it to Co-owner (if you want anybody to read and modify files) or leave it at “Reader” (if you want other computers to just read but not modify your files). NOTE: this is where I got stuck before!
  10. Click “Share”, then “Done.”
  11. Ta-da! You should now be able to view the contents of this folder from any other computer in the network!

CRITICAL NOTE: If you selected “Everyone” when sharing a folder, you’re also making its contents available to any computer that joins this network. Many households, including mine, have wireless Internet via a wifi router. If you don’t have WEP encryption turned on, then I could just drive up and park on the street near your home, open my laptop, let it join your network via your wifi, and then nose around through your files. It’s particularly important that you have WEP encryption turned on for your wifi network. I plan to do a blog post about this soon.

Flip and FlipYou may’ve seen an ad showing Windows Vista’s cool Flip and Flip / Window Switcher feature where you can see your currently open programs shown side-by-side in full 3-D — see the picture below to see what I mean. I was positively salivating at this feature, even though I almost never use Alt-Tab to switch from program to program. Now this was one real cool feature!

Imagine my surprise when I got my new HP laptop with Vista Home Basic, and saw the old-fashioned Windows XP-esque Alt-Tab program switcher window instead of the cool 3-D Flip and Flip feature. And then when I installed Vista Home Premium onto another laptop, I still saw the same old-type Alt-Tab window. Same goes for the “Windows Switcher” icon in the Quick Launch area of the taskbar along the bottom of the screen.

I want my Flip and Flip 3-D feature! So what am I to do?

A check of the Microsoft webpage said that this feature was only available for Vista Home Premium and up, so that meant it wasn’t available for Vista Home Basic. What?! Also, Windows Aero had to be selected in the classic view of the “Window Color and Appearance” option of the Personalization control panel module.

So, if you’re lucky enough to have Vista Home Premium or Ultimate or better, then here’s how you can turn it on. (To find out what Vista version you have, click on the Windows logo at the lower left corner, right-click on “Computer,” and select Properties. Under “Windows Edition,” it’d tell you which Vista version you have, along with a link to “Upgrade Vista.”)

1) Click on the Windows logo at the lower left corner

2) Select Control Panel, and then select Personalization

3) Click on “Window Color and Appearance”

4) If you then see a row of 8 colors, you need to click on the last link, “Open classic appearance properties for more color options”

5) In the “Appearance Settings” window, under “Color Scheme,” select “Windows Aero”

6) Click on “OK”

7) Windows will then update the display properties of, well, everything.

8 ) If you’ve got a “Flip and Flip” icon in the Quick Launch area of the taskbar at the bottom of your screen, next to the Windows icon, click on it to see a neat sideways 3-D representation of all of your open windows. OR, hold down the “Start-Tab” keys in order (where Start is the key with the Windows logo) and then (still holding the Start key), hit the Tab key to 3-D’ly scroll through each of the open windows. Uber-cool.

Another Windows Aero feature I found: hovering the mouse over a program icon in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen pulls up a small thumbnail showing what that program window looks like. Useful if you’ve got numerous Firefox or Internet Explorer windows open. But again, this is only available when “Windows Aero” is selected in the “Appearance Settings.”

Now, please excuse me while I go flip flip flip flip …

I’ve been pretty quiet the past two days. Why? Because I was otherwise occupied updating my laptop after installing Windows Vista Home Premium on it. Folks, if you’re a novice-to-medium computer user, and if you’re reasonably happy with your current Vista-less PC computer, don’t upgrade to Vista. It’s a lot of work, and I ended up erasing everything on my laptop (including my personal files). Luckily I had everything already copied to a back-up hard drive. And the new features of Vista aren’t really worth the laborious upgrade.  Of course, if you buy or bought a new laptop that comes with Vista already built-in, you’ll be fine.

I quickly found one feature of Windows Vista to be annoying: its “User Account Control.” If you make any changes to Vista’s settings, or add a new program, the screen dims and a small window pops up asking you if you’re sure you want to make the change or addition. The first time it happened to me, I was like, “Whoa, what is this, this is scary. But thanks anyhow.” The second, third, fourth time this window appeared (once for each change I make), I was like, “Ok, I know what you are, thanks, but I’m fine.” But after the seventh, eleventh, nay, twentieth time this window appeared, I was becoming hot and bothered with this feature.

Took me a while to find out how to turn the User Account Control feature off, but here’s how:

1) Click on the Windows logo on the lower left corner (which used to be the “Start” menu);

2) Click on “Controls Panel,” and then select “User Accounts.”

3) At the bottom of the “User Accounts” box, click on “Turn User Account Control on or off”

4) Uncheck the box next to “Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer”

5) Click on “OK”

6) Do this for each user account (if you have more than one in your computer)

6) Restart your computer for the changes to take effect

And hey presto, Vista Annoyance #1 taken care of. I’m sure I’ll have more “Annoyances” blog posts coming up …

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