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Topics - dr_andus [ switch to compact view ]

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I was hoping to upgrade an old (2011 make) Acer Aspire One netbook from Windows 7 Starter edition to Windows 10 Home, to take advantage of the free offer.

I did a clean install from a USB stick, in the process wiping everything from the netbook.

Win10 Home managed to install, but it would not allow me to activate my product key, giving me the error code: 0xc004f210

I looked for a solution and one thing that seems to have worked for some people was to upgrade to Win 10 Pro version and then try the activation again. Unfortunately it didn't work in my case, I keep getting the same 0xc004f210 error code.

Would any of you know a way out of this situation? What are my options?

It seems that I can no longer downgrade back to Windows 7 Starter, as I wiped that from the system. I'd prefer not to reinstall it (unless that's my only option), as Win7 Starter was never that great.

I don't want to invest more money into this machine either, so buying a Win10 product key is not an option (the whole point was to try to take advantage of the free offer).

I suppose I could try to install Chromium or Linux on it, as last resort?

This was my first ever try to install Windows 10, and this experience is not encouraging me to upgrade my other devices at this point.

Any idea why MS doesn't want to recognise my legit product key with a legit upgrade path?

Any thoughts, suggestions would be appreciated, especially as there are only a few days left before this free offer disappears.

I would like to encrypt a few of my external hard drives (from 400GB to 1TB) that I connect to my machines via USB. I have never done this before, so I'd like to ask for advice on how to go about this.

These hard drives have family photos on them (no state secrets or anything illegal), and my main motivation is to protect my privacy, should I ever be burgled. So the encryption doesn't necessarily have to be industrial strength, just something for reasonable personal security.

I have searched around to see what kind of free solutions are out there. My PCs are running Win7 (Home and Pro). The online advice I came across so far I found somewhat confusing. E.g. some people said to use BitLocker, but for some reason my Windows 7 installations don't have BitLocker. The only thing I can find in my Win 7 Pro machine is called "Encrypting File System (EFS)." But it looks like it doesn't work on Win7 Home, so it would be a hassle to try to use an encrypted drive on both Pro and Home.

Any suggestions for a relatively hassle-free encryption solution for external hard drives for personal use that would work with both Win7 Home and Pro? Or does it mean that an external hard drive would only work with the machine that encrypted it? Sorry, I'm really clueless about how this is supposed to work. Ideally I'd like to be able to use such an encrypted hard drive across several machines using Win7 Home and Pro.

P.S. I'm also a bit worried about encrypting my drives and then losing the encryption keys or messing things up some other ways. It would be just as much of a disaster if I permanently lost access to our family photos by making the drives inaccessible. So what I'm saying is I need an idiot-proof solution.  ;)

P.P.S. It seems that since the Snowden revelations there are not many solutions out there that are generally trusted.

PBOL / PBOL gauge text too big on hi res monitors
« on: December 09, 2015, 08:32 AM »
On my 14" monitor with 1920 x 1080 resolution, the guage text (such as "remaining" and "end date") stays too big (while the progress bar item name is displayed in much smaller font, which is fine).

The problem is that I'd like to have one single row with 5 bars (docked at the bottom of the screen, stretching across the whole screen), and while the bars with their item names fit in there fine, the start and end of each guage text gets cut off because the font is too big (not the same size as bar item name).

It's kind of nice to have the gauge text a bit bigger than the bar item name (as there is normally more room within a bar), but at the moment the font is a bit too big.

Mouser - any chance for an option to adjust the font size on the gauge text? (And a bit more love for this awsome tool!)  :-*

Would it be possible to add a third option for "dock mode," where it is always visible but it does not reserve screen space? This would also require that it does not remain on the top, when other windows are open (but could be brought forward e.g. by ALT+TAB or by clicking on the icon in the system tray). It would be nice if it could remember where it was left on the screen the last time.

The problem I have with the "slide dock out of the way" option is that if I have it docked to the bottom, it hides behind my Windows toolbar and I can't get it to unslide (or maybe it does unslide, but it's obscured by the toolbar).

Even if I dock it to other edges, it will only show if I do a mouse-over; however, this defeats to purpose of it being a reminder, as I have to remember first that it's there and that I need to check it.

The other option of course docks it permanently visibly, which is OK, but on some screens I'd prefer to use the real estate instead. This 3rd option would be a compromise between the other two.

Thanks for considering.

My shiny new laptop has arrived (a Win7 Pro machine), and I will need to spend the weekend installing lots of my favourite software and scripts and data on it.

Would you have any tips on how to go about it? Is there some best practice on installing lots of software fast? Are there any things advisable to do on a new machine before the installation?

E.g. should I restart my system after a certain amount of installs?

It has a 1TB HDD, and 8GB RAM for now (both expandable, but no money left to do that right now). I'll need to install about 50 different software initially to set up my workspace (together it should come to between 200-300 GB of data).

The laptop came with an HP branded recovery DVD, it says

Application and Driver Recovery DVD
Contains software and drivers already installed. For software reinstallation and repair only. This disc contains software for MS Windows 7. For use with a licensed HP or Compaq PC.

Should I still make a recovery image of my own? Is that better to do before or after I install all my stuff?

My current strategy so far is:
  • let all the Windows updates download and install over the next couple of days;
  • install drivers for my various peripherals first (monitors, printer, scanner, camera, mouse etc.);
  • install Firefox, so I can download software to install;
  • install Dopus, so I can work more easily with files;
  • install MS Office 365;
  • and then install everything else (some other bigger software, like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, SmartDraw, but then mostly just dozens of little utilities and scripts I can't live without).

I haven't installed anything on it yet, other than the automatic Windows updates.

Any advice or tips would be very welcome.

I need to copy over a few hundred Gigs of data back onto my PC's hard drive and was wondering which is faster:

  • copying from mounted AOMEI image or
  • from external HD via USB 2.0?

I'm currently copying via the mounted image, and some 200+ Gigs are predicted to be copied over in about 2 hours.

Am I correct to assume that via the AOMEI image should be faster, as it's done internally and there is less hardware, wires etc. involved, which should make it faster than external HD, USB 2.0 cable etc.?

I'd like to ask the community for advice on how best to fix my Win7 installation. I'd like to do a Non-destructive reinstall of Windows 7 (as detailed at this link--i.e. an in-place upgrade of Win7 from the original media), so I can keep my existing settings and data. I have never done this before. Is this my best option? Any risks?

Here is what happened. I have a roughly 5-yr old ACER Aspire M7811 PC, with Intel core i7 CPU 860 @ 2.80GHz, 8GB RAM, with AMD Radeon HD 5770 (1024MB) and Win7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1.

The other day I was stupid enough to fall for an AMD Catalyst Software Suite update (even though it failed on me a few months ago, but I was able to recover using system restore then. And even before that, ATI Catalyst Control Center was suspected of messing with my system). The installation this time failed halfway through, leaving me with a failed driver, so I just had one monitor working at some terrible, unusable resolution.

I tried to do system restore, but halfway through the restore failed, telling me that probably my antivirus software (AVG Free 2015) is stopping it, and it left me with a crippled installation of Windows 7.

One thing that was strange that in the process my system restore points seems to have disappeared, as the next available restore point was in 2012. I'm pretty sure I had some more recent ones even from the past couple of months.

There are too many things to list that went wrong after this incident, but basically a whole bunch of drivers stopped working (the sound card is not working, I can't run Dragon Naturallyspeaking, the printer is not working, I can't connect the scanner or cameras), I can't access system tools such as the Control Panel, Programs, Reliability Monitor, Windows Update etc. MS Office apps load very slowly. Some software would refuse to update (e.g. PDF Xchange Editor), saying the installer was damaged. Directly downloaded .docx files wouldn't open (though they do if I copy them over via a USB drive), and all kinds of other unpredictable, strange behaviour. I'm still only just discovering the various things that don't work.

Here is a pictorial version of the story, of what I managed to grab. (The first one is not of the actual version, but it looked like this one.)

Software Update 15-09-06 001.png

AMD - Catalyst™ Install Manager - Version_ 08.00.0916 15-07-11 001.png

AMD Catalyst™ Install Manager 15-07-11 001.png

AMD - Catalyst™ Install Manager - Version_ 08.00.0916 15-07-11 003.png

AMD Catalyst™ AutoDetect 15-07-11 001.png

System Restore 15-07-11 001.png

System Restore 15-07-11 002.png


So, my assessment is that my Windows 7 installation must be damaged and many of my drivers got wiped out. Has anyone tried this in-place installation of Win 7 from the original media? This appeals to me because I would hate to have to reinstall all my software and other data.

Any advice or suggestion would be most welcome.

General Software Discussion / Editable daily plain text reminder
« on: December 29, 2014, 06:32 AM »
I'm looking for a simple app that can display a plain text window with some text that I can edit (for things I want to remind myself about at the start of every working day). I'd like it to pop up once a day at a set time (or whenever the PC boots/wakes up for the first time that day, if it's later than set time).

So the key requirements are:
- editable text file
- contents of the text file are displayed in full as a pop-up window (or scrollable, if text gets too long)
- ability to choose daily time when the app runs

Not essential but nice to have:
- the app could be set to stay on top of other windows until dismissed (closed)
- to be able to call it up (e.g. to edit contents) from the taskbar tray
- if it could be set to pop up multiple times during a day.

Is there a DC app that can already do this?

I just came across this fascinating new software, Vis-à-Wiki (alongside Marko Editor), which looks like a combination of a wiki and a concept mapper, and it uses markdown. I was interested in trying it out, but at the download link I found this message:

It was planned to release Marko Editor for free and to earn some money with Vis-à-Wiki and codeduce.

But, I underestimated the various liabilities I would face releasing even such a small software commercially. Some people release software despite these risks, some get sued, some get away. This is not for me, so currently no download :-(

If you have any insight, how I could release these applications without facing various risks or if you just want to hire me instead, please get in contact.

Would anyone have any words of advice for him?

It's worth watching the YouTube video to fully appreciate Vis-à-Wiki:

General Software Discussion / Latest Avast deleting Firefox add-ons
« on: November 17, 2014, 04:09 AM »
After having read this,

Latest Avast reportedly deleting Firefox add-ons - gHacks Tech News

I was determined to make a note of what FF extensions I use, so I booted my PC (Win7, 64) and sure enough, Avast had deleted pretty much all of them. Bummer... I can't even remember the names of most of them.

Is there a tool out there to back up FF add-ons, to make restoring less painful? Unfortunately I haven't created a FF account, so everything was local to this PC... Would that have helped?


P.S. Oh, I see, one answer was in the article: MozBackup Updated, Backup Firefox - gHacks Tech News. Unfortunately Avast was quicker than me...

I'd need a little app that lives in the system tray area (where its options can be accessed) and which can be operated using a hotkey to copy to clipboard, convert the following rich text formatting into markup specified by the user (set up beforehand in the options), and keep it in the clipboard. Ideally there would be an option for the user to save a variety of markups for different applications (such as wiki markup or Markdown).

I wouldn't need the full set of rich text formatting converted, but, in order of importance (for me, but it doesn't mean they need to be in this order in the app), the following:

1. Convert italics to //italics//

2. Convert bold to **bold**

3. Convert superscript2 to superscript^^2^^

4. Convert subscript2 to subscript;;2;;

5. Convert underline to __underline__  (that's 2x underscore on both sides)

6. Convert strikethrough to --strikethrough--

(Sorry, didn't know how to do the superscript2 and subscript2 with DC's forum software.)

It would be mainly used to copy and convert text from PDFs, webpages, and MS Word. Lines copied from a PDF would be broken, but that's not a big deal as I can join the lines in a text editor before pasting it into its final destination.

The above markup is for a desktop wiki (ConnectedText), but one could manually change (or set up other instances for) the markup to other wikis or for Markdown.

Option to deselect some of the above (e.g. when one doesn't want strikethrough to be converted but everything else) would be also nice.

Does this sound feasible? (AutoHotkey would be fine.)

N.A.N.Y. 2015 / Idea: grid-based project planner
« on: October 15, 2014, 01:28 PM »
Simple version:
What is it? It's a grid-based project management tool. It's a spreadsheet- or database-like grid of rows and columns in a dual-pane window with an adjustable horizontal divider. The panes can be toggled on and off. Each row corresponds to a day.

The key feature of the project management system is that it displays the rows in chronological order, with "today" always on the top (as the top row), and the day (row) that has just ended gets moved down below the fold to the other pane, where it is organised in another chronologically ordered grid.

There are 8 columns with the following labels:
1. PD: project date number (1, 2 etc.). It is the automatically allocated number for each row (and date) when the grid is created/populated. The numbers go from 1 (start date of the project) to n (final date of the project). This number becomes the ID of the row and does not change.
2. CD: calendar days remaining in the project. This counts both weekdays (workdays) and weekends. At the start date of the project these numbers correspond to PD (above). However, as the days change, the rows get renumbered. The next day's row moves to the top spot (and becomes today's row), and it gets renumbered from 2 etc. to 1. This way one can see in column PD which day of the project we are on, while looking down in column CD we can see how many days are remaining until due date (bottom row).
3. WD: workdays remaining in the project. Works the same as CD, except it does not count Saturdays and Sundays. First row will always be 1, bottom row will show total number of workdays remaining.
4. Day: Monday, Tuesday etc.
5. Date: calendar date (15/10/2014 etc.)
6. Tasks: this is where a day's todos are listed. Outline organisation with checkboxes would be nice.
7. PT: Productive Time. Displays total hours worked per day (manual input). It would be nice to be able total it per week, or set goals per day and per week and track it).
8. Comment - for any type of text comment.

Colouring scheme:
- the top row (today) should be highlighted in  yellowish hue, to signify it is currently the centre of attention.
- weekends in light grey. Weekends are fully functional, work the same as other rows, but are in different colour, should one not want to work on the weekend.
- final row (deadline date) should be in red or other striking colour, to emphasise it's judgement day. As the project progresses (and time elapses), the bottom red line will be inching its way upwards, getting the message across that the squeeze is on.
- completed days/rows moved into the bottom pane change colour to a somewhat darker grey than the weekends. The contrast between workdays and weekends should still be maintained.
- there could also be a manually applied colour to signify a "disrupted" or "impaired" day where some other event will prevent one to work on the project for the whole day (maybe the shading could be a function of the % of time available for the project that day).
- the background of the whole project could change when it enters into "late" mode, i.e. when project continues beyond final deadline. It should be possible to state a new deadline, and the various column numberings get adjusted.

Here is a (rather poor) mockup:
project plan_Google Sheets.png
- start of project: there could be a need to "launch" the project (to move from "draft" to "live"), after which the PD column numbers can't be edited, so they accidentally don't get altered. However, it should be possible to return a project to draft, to add new days/rows or remove days/rows, when circumstances change.
- complete tasks: check off boxes, and tasks get greyed out and texts get struck through.
- end of day: Two ways to do this. Manually: it could be that at the defined end of the day editing is frozen and user is forced to review today's tasks, tick the "done's" and move the "not done" tasks to other days. Once that happened, today's row is automatically moved at the bottom of the list in pane 2. Another way to do it: automatically: Today's day is automatically moved to pane 2, and all "not done" tasks get automatically added to the new "today's" row.

Other points:
- it should be possible to reallocate any "not done" task to another day any time, or add new ones, alter existing ones, delete them.
- For making the overall list easily consumable, especially with longer projects (although this tool is probably better suited for relatively shorter projects consisting of a few months, rather than years), there could be an argument to have a max. defined height for a row, and to be able to click into the "Tasks" cell, which would then pop out (a bit like Classic Calendar works). If it would be possible to use an outline-type list, perhaps only 3 or 4 of the Level 1 items should show in the cell when it is not opened. Or the outline hierarchy could be displayed as a single line list (flattened) when in overall grid mode (when you stop editing a day's cell).

More complicated version:
- add another vertical pane to the right that acts as an outliner for developing the tasks in a tree-hierarchy (Work Breakdown Structure - WBS). Each task (or branch of tasks) can be dragged and dropped into a project task in the project pane. Not quite sure how independent this pane's tasks should be from the one's in the project pane. There are pros and cons for making them separate or behave like clones (e.g. when task gets checked off in grid, it also gets checked off in outline). Or outline just can remain an editor, a sandbox, for experimenting with different orders of the tasks (probably better that way).
- so there are 3 panes: one vertical pane on the left (outliner), two horizontally split panes on the right (to do on top, done on the bottom). Any pane can be made full-screen, or toggled on/off.
- add ability to add additional customisable columns.

Possible names for this software? Gridject Planner (grid+project), Outject Planner (outline+project), Gridlendar (grid+calendar)... Open to suggestions...

Anyway, I have built this system in a Google Sheet recently (in combination with WorkFlowy for developing the tasks first in an outline format), and it works quite well, except that I have to manually cut and paste today's row to the bottom at the end of the day, and the "days/workdays remaining" don't get automatically renumbered, plus the cells won't allow outline-type organisation of the text or checkboxes.

P.S. This tool would be intended to create a manageable overview of a project, rather than do a massively detailed breakdown of every imaginable task (at least in the simple version). Even in the complicated version the small details can stay in the outline pane, and only the headlines are transferred to the project pane.

Further suggestions, alternative implementations:
- It might make more sense to display the workdays and calendar days in reverse order, so it can be seen in today's row how many days are remaining, rather than having to scroll down to the deadline row (especially if the project is very long). Or maybe this could be an optional setting.
- An additional area (pane, tab) where unnecessary (superfluous or abandoned) tasks get dropped ("graveyard" for unneeded to-dos). Better than deleting them because they may become needed later, or one might want to learn from what did not need to get done afterwards.

PBOL / Mouseover tooltips for individual progress bars
« on: October 02, 2014, 12:44 PM »
It would be useful if by moving the mouse over a progress bar there would be a tooltip displaying some basic info of the given task.

E.g. I have a task that says "23 weeks remaining (Mar 13, 2015)". It would be useful if a mouseover tooltip would also tell me:
- starting date/time
- ending date/time
- time (weeks, days, workdays) elapsed since start time
- time (weeks, days, workdays) remaining

PBOL / Requests: count workdays only and show workdays remaining
« on: September 22, 2014, 04:44 AM »
Two requests:

1) Option at item level to count workdays only (instead of calendar days, so that item bar could display e.g. "6 workdays remaining" instead of "8 days remaining"). This way PBOL would become a more realistic project plan reminder tool for those that do take 2 days off on the weekend.

2) Option to display all measures of time (beyond the hour) in workdays only. E.g. instead of showing "26 wks remaining" it would show "130 workdays remaining." Again, it would be more useful for planning and tracking.

For practical purposes let's just ignore national, religious etc. holidays.

Thanks for considering!

P.S. Just to give you the context, I was looking at the bar saying "8 days remaining" for one of my tasks, and it gave me a false sense of security, as after checking the calendar it turned out I have only "6 days remaining", as weekend was counted in, which I won't be able to use for this particular task.

I used to sync my Google Calendar to MS Outlook on my desktop, for the purpose of backing it up and archiving it, and to have a copy that I could search offline. Unfortunately, Google have discontinued the Google Calendar Sync utility for Outlook, so I lost that option.

My criteria are the following:
- desktop software for Win 7, 64 bit
- can sync automatically, in the background, at regular intervals (at least daily).
- has search function.
- ideally there would be the option to specify which way the sync goes (I'd mainly just want from Google to desktop, not the other way back)
- it's mostly for archive, backup, and search purposes, so I wouldn't be using it as a main interface (doesn't need to be pretty).
-  I could use it occasionally for planning for some one-off projects that I wouldn't want to sync back to Google Calendar.
- Don't need full PIM.

Would be grateful for any suggestions.

PBOL / PBOL not displaying correctly in XP when undocked
« on: July 27, 2014, 11:27 AM »
PBOL not displaying correctly in XP when undocked (right end cut off). See below


Also, (and this is the same in Win7), end dates don't display in undocked view, even though "show end date on gauge" selected.

P.S. I have just installed and ran it on my XP netbook for the first time.

P.P.S. Oops, sorry. Posted in wrong forum... This was meant for PBOL...

I vaguely remember coming across an autohotkey script on this (?) forum for replacing spaces with underscores in file names. If this rings a bell for anyone, could you point me in the right direction? I wasn't able to find it via search. Maybe it all happened in a dream?   :-\

Living Room / Dropbox and privacy (or lack of)
« on: February 26, 2014, 11:46 AM »
This caught my eye...

Dropbox erects sueball shield with new T&C and privacy legalese • The Register

There are a couple of interesting-looking additions to the policy. Here's one:

    “If you are not a Dropbox for Business user but interact with a Dropbox for Business user (by, for example, joining a shared folder or accessing stuff shared by that user), members of that organization may be able to view the name, email address and IP address that were associated with your account at the time of that interaction.”

That may give you pause before you download something from a Dropbox for Business account.

How would this actually work? I presume that one would need to have the Dropbox app running on the PC or be logged on in a browser for Dropbox to see who exactly had downloaded the given file (?)

Also, is there a way to identify that you're downloading from a Dropbox for Business user, in order to avoid such an interaction? This sounds all too murky to me, and disconcerting...

Living Room / Best note-taking setup with tablet and keyboard?
« on: January 02, 2014, 07:28 PM »
I'm looking for a tablet + external keyboard + note-taking/writing app combination that would provide the best note-taking experience.

My requirements:

- I should be able to switch on the tablet + keyboard instantly (even in the middle of the night) to be able to take notes as quickly as possible. Hence netbooks, laptops etc. that require boot-up are not suitable.

- The keyboard should attach to the tablet and prop up the tablet firmly, so I can type in most situations, such as on a sofa, bed, my lap, moving vehicles etc. (i.e. not just on a perfectly flat and motionless surface). The keyboard should also serve as a folio case and provide protection to the screen and possibly the entire tablet.

- The keyboard should be as close as possible in size and function to a decent keyboard (like the Apple Wireless). Backlit keys or keyboard would be preferable, so it could be used in poor or low light conditions.

- The app should be minimalist, distraction-free, plain text, recognise Markdown, and sync with Dropbox but also have local copies for off-line use.

I have an iPad 1 and my favourite note-taking app (Nebulous Notes) stopped working satisfactorily on it, and many of the interesting apps now require iOS 6 or above, which is not available on iPad 1 (stuck with iOS 5). There are also performance issues with the iPad 1 now.

As I own some iOS apps already, my instinct is to go for an iPad Air with ZAGGkeys Folio with Backlit Keyboard, also because there seem to be many interesting note-taking and writing apps on there (Editorial, Byword etc.).

However, I'm completely ignorant about Android and Windows 8 tablets, keyboards, and apps, and this could be an opportunity to consider if better alternatives might exist before I lock myself in further with Apple. Would anyone have any Android/Windows suggestions for the above?

My budget is roughly what a 32GB wifi-only iPad Air costs now, plus the ZAGG keyboard. So unfortunately the Surface Pro is out of reach, as it's double of that.

Also, please don't suggest to me to use a pen and a paper notebook.  :) I have tried that already, and it's a nightmare to try to find a note within the ten notebooks I have with 200 pages each. Cheerio!

In recent days my Win 7, 64-bit PC has restarted itself automatically a number of times and I don't know why it is doing that and how I can prevent it from happening. Usually it happens when I wake up the computer and it is asking me to log on, having restarted itself. It does not restart the applications that were open at the time of shutting down.

The only major new installation I had done in recent days is that I have updated to IE11 (that is my latest restoration point).

Some other software I had updated or installed this week include TreeSheets and Ynote Classic, and AdBlock Plus. I use AVG 2014, Malwarebytes and WinPatrol Plus, but none of them have reported anything suspicious.

Oh, also, the first IE11 installation had failed, and it even put a shortcut on my desktop to its troubleshooting page, but the second installation seems to have worked (other than the above behaviour, if it's related).

Any suggestions how I can find out what's causing this behaviour and how I can stop it would be much appreciated.

DesktopCoral / Displaying editable line of text in DesktopCoral
« on: November 03, 2013, 06:20 PM »
I would like to have a line of text (in black font) displayed at the top of my screen in a narrow band at all times, with a grey background and nothing else showing (no borders, no chrome). I was able to achieve this by taking a screenshot of the text in WriteMonkey, and then using it as a background image in DesktopCoral.

However, ideally I would also like to be able to update this text quickly, by typing directly in the DesktopCoral area. Is there a way of achieving this with some kind of a widget that would allow me to have a basic text editor window within the DesktopCoral space?

What I have seen of Windows 8 so far makes me want to stay with Windows 7 as long as possible. How to future-proof my Win7 system? I think Win7 came pre-installed on my PC, so I may not even have it on a disk. What to do when my currently 2-yr old PC dies? How can I make sure that I can keep running my old software - that may not work in Win8 any more - for years to come? I also have a couple of XP machines still.

I suddenly feel an urge to collect and save all my installation files for old software in a safe place, and also to get a Win7 installation CD. I'm thinking that perhaps I should buy a Win7 laptop while they still exist, to have a back-up system available. I could see their prices drop after (or even before) Christmas, but then who knows, if Win8 turns out to be a disaster, could scarcity start driving up prices of Win7 machines fairly soon?

Any advice on how to keep an OS for a long time, well after it stops being supported?

P.S. According to The Register PC shipments are down in the UK, suggesting retailers expected a slump in demand for Win7 systems, which means there are fewer machines around than last year.

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