Friday, August 21, 2009

Dell cashing in on Windows 7

The reviews on MSND on Windows 7 are not yet cold. Dell is moving in and capitilizing on the hype already. It's not by accident that Michael Dell has taken over the reigns of this once predominant global player. His mission is to make his brand a top best selling player once again. Advertisements on Canadian television are featuring Dell's latest PC's and laptop's with Windows 7 running as the operating system. Based on my own personal experience, the improvements on the desktop alone has won me over. Dell and Windows 7 sounds very exciting. Maybe Sony can do the same?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Windows 7: Four Reasons to Upgrade, Four Reasons to Stay Away

By Matt Lake

August 04, 2009 — Computerworld —

The release of Windows 7 to manufacturing begins a tale of two operating systems: the one you want and the one you don't. It is packed with improvements and cool stuff, but it still carries a whiff of Vista that may put XP diehards off. That said, people who have gotten used to Vista will enjoy the fact that Windows 7 looks the same but acts a whole lot better.

Like many people who compute both at home and at work, I use XP and Vista as well as Mac OS X Leopard, and I like elements of all three. So I've been watching the beta and RC versions of Windows 7 very closely. Does the final "release to manufacturing" (RTM) code -- the same code that will ship with new PCs and retail versions of Windows 7 in October -- merit a jump from any of my current platforms?

Well, yes and no.

Little features like the ability to burn CDs from single ISO image files are great -- I don't need to install third-party tools to create CD-Rs anymore. And Windows 7 definitely boots up faster than XP or Vista on identically configured machines. You can't knock the advantage of 60 seconds less boot time.

But grrr! Just when things were going well, I tried to do a little light video editing, only to discover that Windows Movie Maker isn't included with Windows 7. It's now part of Microsoft Live, and it's still in beta. In its present form, it's much less capable than the app that ships with XP. So after ten minutes with Windows 7, I found myself booting up an old XP machine for an everyday task.

(I later discovered that there is a downloadable version of MovieMaker that works with Windows 7, although Microsoft's download page doesn't list Windows 7 among the supported OSes. Nevertheless, it's not nearly as elegant as having it included with the OS.)

What other joys and disappointments does the new Windows bring?

Finding stuff is easier...

Keeping track of your work is always going to be a chore. Fortunately, Windows 7 concentrates much of its efforts on making files accessible. Windows 7 clusters different file types into shortcuts called Libraries -- they look like Vista's Documents, Pictures and Videos folders, but they lead to files of the pertinent type whatever folder they are actually located in. You can add your own folders to Libraries at will to keep your project files accessible.

Then there are Jump Lists, a zippier way of previewing your open applications and folders. Moving a mouse over the taskbar pops up easy-to-scan lists of open windows, and right-clicking on them shows not only what's running, but a brief history of what you've done with those programs -- files opened, sites visited, and other handy pointers. That feature alone has the makings of a much more efficient workday.

And Windows 7's Search is streets ahead of earlier iterations: Like Mac OS X's Spotlight, it begins delivering results as you type -- before you've even finished a word -- and narrows the list as you enter more characters. You can also preview the contents of search results before deciding to open them.

Chalk up several productivity pluses for Windows 7.

...but it's just as tough to find the right version of the OS

When Windows Vista was released, one of the loudest complaints was about the overwhelming array of versions it came in. And while XP didn't initially ship with quite as many flavors, later additions such as the Media Center, Tablet PC and Professional x64 editions upped its version count as well. Despite pleas from pundits to reduce the number of versions available for Windows 7, however, things haven't gotten any simpler.

There's a Starter Edition for netbooks, two Home versions (Home Basic and Home Premium), plus a Professional, an Enterprise and an Ultimate edition. (There has been some confusion about whether there will be different versions for the European Union to comply with EU regulations; the latest from Microsoft appears to be that the EU will receive the same versions as elsewhere.) And, of course, most of these are available in both full versions and lower-priced upgrade versions for people with licensed retail copies of Windows 2000, XP or Vista.

Windows 7 is still easier and more efficient at networking in general -- from handling multiple Wi-Fi hotspots to setting up on my domain-based Exchange network -- than XP was and a worthy successor to Vista. In short, Windows 7 is one slick glad-hander of a networking animal.

...but Microsoft is keeping XP as a stand-in

Even though Microsoft officially cut off XP more than a year ago, saying it could no longer be sold preinstalled on new computers, the company has issued a series of reprieves for sales of the aging OS. Dell and other computer makers have also taken advantage of a loophole that allowed Vista Business and Ultimate versions to be downgraded to XP Professional, an option that has proven very popular with new PC buyers.

With Windows 7 close to shipping, Microsoft is still hedging its bets a little. Microsoft's enterprise licensing will allow businesses that buy PCs through early 2011 to downgrade Windows 7 (which will come preinstalled) to Windows XP. When enterprises have figured out how to migrate to Windows 7, they can catch up later.

For people who can't get an enterprise license, Microsoft will also provide XP Mode -- a full updated version of Windows XP Service Pack 3 that runs in a virtual machine in Windows 7 -- which is available as a separate download to Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate users.

All of which makes me wonder, "If Microsoft isn't letting go of XP, why should I?"

Bottom line

Even after extensive testing of the various pre-release versions of Windows 7, I still don't know whether its virtues outweigh its pain points overall. For Vista users, upgrading to Windows 7 is a no-brainer; the new OS handily fixes the worst of Vista's mistakes. My advice to them: upgrade early and often.

For XP users, however, it's not so clear. You'll be getting some nifty and useful new features, but you'll also be giving up the way you've been used to working for the past several years.

Windows 7 may be a far, far better upgrade than Vista ever was before, but in the end, you have to answer this honestly: Is this the best of times or the worst of times to take on an unfamiliar interface? Only you can answer that question.

© 2007 Computerworld Inc.

Monday, August 3, 2009

8 Ways Job Seekers Can Assess a Prospective Employer's Corporate Culture

With job opportunities so scarce these days, job seekers are under tremendous pressure to impress hiring managers during job interviews. In fact, they're so caught up in making a good impression that it's easy for job seekers to forget that the job interview remains their opportunity to assess a prospective employer's corporate culture and to determine whether that work environment will suit them, says Vanessa Hall, author of The Truth About Trust in Business (Emerald Book Company, 2009.)

Worse, job seekers may be tempted to accept any job offer regardless of signs that indicate an employer is not right for them.

Failing to consider an employer's corporate culture is a job search mistake, career and hiring experts say. Job seekers risk taking a job with an organization that doesn't suit them, being miserable, and soon find themselves on the job market again—either because they couldn't stand the company and quit, or because the employer recognized the mismatch and terminated their employment.

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[ For more advice on selecting a good employer, see Job Interview: Ask the Right Questions to Avoid a Dud Job. ]

Either way, the situation is disadvantageous to the job seeker, says Edward Lawler, a professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and author of Talent: Making People Your Competitive Advantage (Jossey Bass, 2008.)

"It doesn't help for the employee to have a record of being fired or turned over after a short period of time," he says.

On the other hand, if a job seeker researches a prospective employer's culture and finds an organization that matches her personality, work style and values, not only is she more likely to be offered the job, she's also more likely to be successful inside the company, says Hall. And with success comes job security (at least in theory).

What's more, job seekers who express interest in learning about a company's culture during a job interview make a better impression on hiring managers than candidates who don't ask questions or who only ask about career development opportunities, says Hall.

"As a manager interviewing people, when someone sits down and asks you questions, they stand out as someone who's prepared and who's really checking whether this opportunity is right for them," she says.

Since the clues that reveal an organization's culture can be subtle, assembled the following advice for sizing up a prospective employer.

1. Before the job interview, check out the company's website, says Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners, a Boston-based career management and executive coaching firm. Pictures of employees on the website, along with employee testimonials about what it's like to work for the company, can indicate that the employer cares about its employees and wants to be a desirable place to work, she says. (Of course, images of smiling employees and shiny testimonials can also be lame PR efforts to cover up a dysfunctional work environment.)

2. Consider the employer's hiring process. Pay attention to who calls you to schedule a job interview and to how that person treats you on the phone, says Varelas. The hiring manager calling you directly may indicate an openness and lack of hierarchy or bureaucracy inside the company. Or it could indicate a lack of process inside the company, adds Varelas, or that the hiring manager has too much time on his hands.

"Some organizations are famous for long and drawn out selection processes," says Lawler. "Job candidates need to be able to discern whether the selection process is meaningful and reflects an organization that really cares [about who they hire] or an organization that doesn't have its act together and doesn't know how to run the hiring process."

3. Varelas advises job seekers to note their surroundings during the job interview: How is the office space organized? Is it a cube farm? What's the style of the furniture in the office? What does the reception area look like, and how does it compare with the rest of the office? Are employees sitting in old, mismatched chairs? Are they using up-to-date computers? What's the mood in the office? Is it buzzing, quiet or chaotic?

4. Similarly, Varelas recommends that candidates observe the employees: How are they dressed? What do their work spaces look like? Are they allowed to express themselves? How do employees respond to one another in the reception area or the hallways? Do they smile and say hello, or do they ignore each other? Do they acknowledge the receptionist? Look for a genuine interaction between employees, she says.

5. Varelas also suggests asking everyone you meet during your job interview how they would describe the organizational culture. Do their responses seem scripted? Are their responses consistent without seeming scripted? Additionally, she recommends asking everyone how long they've worked for the company to get a sense of the employee turnover. "If some employees have worked with the company for more than a few years, ask them if the culture has changed during that time," she says.

6. Hall advises job seekers to ask about an employer's values—specifically, how the employer demonstrates those values on a day to day basis and how people commit to them. She also urges job seekers to ask the hiring manager about his management style and processes for providing feedback.

7. Lawler recommends seeing if HR or the hiring manager will share data from employee surveys that indicates what it's like to work there. "It might be a little sticky [to ask]," he notes, "But it's often the most subjective picture you can get."

8. Inquire about professional development, advises Varelas. If the company provides continuing education benefits, that suggests the company values investing in its employees, she says. You can also ask if the company tends to promote from within.

Varelas adds one word of caution when sizing up an organization's culture: "Be careful to distinguish between a company culture and a culture that a manager created," she says. "You could have a great manager in a bad company culture, which limits the manager. Or you can have a good company culture and a bad manager."

By Meridith Levinson
Other stories by Meridith Levinson © 2008 CXO Media Inc