Tuesday, November 03, 2009

adventures in technology

Sunday we all trooped up to Scottsdale Fashion Center to go to the first ever anywhere Microsoft Store. We wanted to talk to them about Windows 7 and see what they were offering.

We ended up buying DD's birthday-Christmas computer, an Asus Eee. It's pink! And it came with Windows 7 Starter as its OS. Win7 Starter doesn't let you customize the desktop or change colors, but that wasn't important for DD. We chose this Asus because for $30 more it has a substantially better battery (6- vs 3-cell, giving 8.5 hours vs 3.5), and it has a bigger hard drive.

Our main concern with getting a Windows 7 netbook was that Win7 doesn't have web browser parental controls included. That functionality is included in Windows Live, which is free and seemed well-integrated, so we decided to go for it.

Oy. I was up until 1AM last night trying to install the parental controls from Windows Live Family Safety. Whenever I tried to add the account in Family Safety, it kept telling me "an error has occurred," and then some nonsense about logging into the account again and trying again, which of course never worked.

I did some websearching and found various forum postings indicating that this may have been caused by a corrupt installation of Windows Live, so I removed it, downloaded it again, and re-installed it. Still no dice.

Then I found another post somewhere that hinted that the accounts created with the bad version of Windows Live around were also corrupted somehow, so I had to delete those accounts (including the administrator account, which involved creating another admin account to delete the first one --) and then recreate them.

Once I did that, it all worked fine. I did have to jump through some unfortunate hoops because I had (foolishly) named the new admin account "Admin," and Family Safety does not like that. After at least 3 hours of creating and removing accounts and trying to set the restrictions, I finally got it to work.

Here, I think, are the actual steps to success:
1. Remove Windows Live immediately.
2. Download Windows Live and re-install it. Reboot.
3. Now create your Administrator account.
4. Important: use the Family Safety Filter (from the Start menu, choose All Programs, then Choose Windows Live, then choose Family Safety) to create the new (kid's) user account. If you use Control Panel Account functionality, it won't work.
5. Now add Windows Live Family Safety Parental Controls to the new account.
And now you can go in and customize the new user account via the Control Panel, also. I'm pretty sure this is correct. I was going around in circles for a while, but I still tried to keep track of what was working and what wasn't. This should work.

About the Microsoft Store: there were a ton of staff people there who were all uniformly friendly, but I had the feeling I knew more than many of them about OSs and all the issues with parental controls. It focuses on computers and software, although they do have an XBox section towards the back. It's not like the Apple Store which devotes as much real estate to the iPod family as any of the computers (at least that's my impression, I haven't spent too much time in one); they have dozens of computers all around the store perimeter with gorgeous screens, some showing live TV (on Sunday: NFL), and others showing videos or just available for surfing on. It has a very minimal, clean design that gets out of the way of the technology they're showing off. I was amused by the staff "uniform": long-sleeved t-shirts in one of the four "Windows" colors: red, green, blue, or yellow. Those colors were bright.

If I had thought about this beforehand, I would have brought my camera.

The netbook? Fantastic. DD loves it, she's doing her homework on it already. Windows 7 is quite zippy. It's funny how the tiniest computer in the house has the best performance (for now).

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