UK – eBuyer have Windows 7 on their Deal Of The Day – sensible prices

Following on from my posts earlier this week, I’m pleased to report that eBuyer now have decent stock levels of Windows 7 for pre-order. And better still, they have them at decent prices too.

Windows 7 Home Premium is priced at £50, Windows 7 Professional is £89.99.

eBuyer also have some good information that might help you decide which version of Windows 7 is best for you. Click here if you are interested in reading it!

Windows 7 is also on eBuyer “deal of the day” and it’s coupled with a chance to win an iPhone 3G S: you do need to have a Twitter account to enter and you will have to augment your tweet in accordance with their rules in order to be eligible. More information can be found here and here.

Prices and stock levels were correct at the time of writing this post.

UK: Windows 7 – pre-order at sensible prices (< £50 or < £90)

It seems that some vendors have hiked up the pre-order price of Windows 7. I’ve seen Windows 7 Home Premium selling for nearly £75 and Windows 7 Professional for nearly £150.

At the time of writing Dixons had Windows 7 at sensible prices. Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional.

Sadly eBuyer have sold out of their stock of Windows 7, however they do have some good information about migrating to Windows 7, well worth a look-see. [eBuyer update 18.07.2009 – Windows 7 Home Premium is priced at £50, Windows 7 Professional is £89.99.]

If you have pre-ordered Windows 7 at the higher prices, I would suggest ordering via other stores then cancelling your original order. Wait until you are confident that your new vendor can deliver before cancelling your original order.

Other vendors are available, your mileage may vary, etc.

UK – Windows 7 – Pre-order starts at midnight 15/07/2009

Unless you’ve been living in a remote cave or under a poorly connected rock, you may well have heard a lot of pre-release marketing for Windows 7.

From midnight on the 15th of July 2009 until the 9th of August 2009, UK users can pre-order copies of Windows 7 at discounted prices. Granted the UK prices aren’t has attractive as the $-rate discounted prices were, however they do represent significant savings over what will become the Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

There are two editions available for pre-order at the discounted prices:

At the time of writing, Windows 7 Home Premium was £44.97 via this Amazon link – it may be pulled, it may not work, try it and see! Oh, and Windows 7 Professional was !

Now, it’s possible that you are wondering what the ‘E’ is for. Well, Windows 7 in Europe is going to ship without Internet Explorer. Why? Some goon at the European Commission thought that Microsoft was being anti-competitive by shipping its own browser with its own Operating System. We’ll see if the same goon picks up on the fact that Google’s Chrome OS will no doubt ship with their own Chrome browser: will Google ship Chrome OS without a browser? Anyway, that’s a rant for another blog post sometime soon! But if you are interested, here’s a lot more reading in that space.

The ‘E’ also means something else. It means that your copy of Windows 7 is actually a full version, it’s not an upgrade version. This may sound great, however what it does mean is that you will have to install Windows 7 “clean” and you will have to re-install and re-activate all your applications. The Windows 7 install process will place your “old” Windows installation into a folder called WINDOWS.OLD, so your profile information, My Documents, etc. will at least be safe and accessible. Of course, if you choose to format your hard drive during the clean install, your “old” Windows installation is as good as lost.

So, if you are buying Windows 7 for use on your sole desktop or laptop (i.e. you don’t have any other machines available), my advice to you is this: prior to installing Windows 7 visit this page and see if there’s a Windows 7 version of Internet Explorer available to download (make sure you download the whole product, not just the “setup” stub). Alternatively, many of the reputable offline computer magazines (those that still remain) often carry browsers on their cover disks – it may well be worth paying the High Street price if you’re stuck.

Which version do I need?
If you’re prepared to believe Wikipedia, there is a comparison chart available there. Into Windows also have a Microsoft-sourced chart available.

If you have Windows Vista Home Premium at the moment, the chances are Windows 7 Home Premium will be your edition of choice. Windows 7 Home Premium is seen as the “Standard consumer SKU, providing full functionality on the latest hardware, easy ways to connect, and a visually rich environment.”

Windows 7 Professional, on the other hand, is seen as the “Business-focused SKU for small and lower mid-market companies and users who have networking, backup, and security needs and multiple PCs or servers.” If you think you’ll need any of the following features, Professional might be for you: Location Aware Printing, Domain Join & Group Policy Controls, Remote Desktop Host, Advanced Back-up (Network & Group Policy), Encrypting File System or Windows XP Mode.

If you need in-depth information about what’s in Windows 7, you might find this comparison chart interesting. Similarly, this chart also provides some insight into what’s in each edition.

Whilst it is not discounted, if money is no object, there is Windows 7 Ultimate available for pre-order too:

Further information about the UK pre-order scheme can be found here.

Lastly, if you’re in any doubt over the need to move to Windows 7, I can tell you that it’s leaner and fitter than previous versions of Windows: it runs on entry-level netbooks like a charm. If you’re looking for more speed, more reliability, the “solid feel” of Windows XP combined with the freshness of Windows Vista: Windows 7 should be a good investment.

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Security – Events and webcasts (July)

If you are interested in attended any of these webcasts, remember that we are +8 hours ahead of Pacific time, i.e. 1100 Pacific is 1900 here in the UK.

Security Webcast Calendar
Find security webcasts listed in an easy-to-use calendar format:

Upcoming Security Webcasts
Register for the following Webcasts:

TechNet Webcast: Information About Microsoft July Security Bulletins (Level 200)
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 11:00 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Pacific Time

TechNet Webcast: Windows 7 Enhanced Security and Control (Level 300)
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 10:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. Pacific Time

TechNet Webcast: Protecting Your Data with Windows 7 BitLocker and BitLocker To Go (Level 300)
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 10:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. Pacific Time

On-Demand Security Webcasts

Security Awareness Materials:
Guidance, samples, and templates for creating a security-awareness program in your organisation

Learn Security On the Job:
Learning Paths for Security – Microsoft Training References and Resources

Visit TechNet Spotlight:
Video on Demand, Video Downloads, PowerPoint Presentations, Audio and more.

Security – Reading: Windows 7 focus

With Windows 7 reaching its RTM build very soon, it’s worth keeping up to speed with the security features that are available to us. Microsoft has been kind enough to provide us with a wealth of documentation, some which I’ve chosen to list here:

What’s New in Client Security
Get a quick overview of new security features in Windows 7, and changes to security features and technologies from Windows Vista.

BitLocker Drive Encryption Deployment Guide for Windows 7
Delve deep into the various aspects of deploying BitLocker Drive Encryption on computers running Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Ultimate from using certifications and smart cards to enabling BitLocker by using the command line.

BitLocker Drive Encryption Step-by-Step Guide for Windows 7
Designed to help you become familiar with BitLocker Drive Encryption in a Windows 7 test environment, this guide details basic information and procedures you need to start configuring and deploying BitLocker in your organization.

Implementing and Administering the ActiveX Installer Service in Windows 7
Learn how to use the ActiveX Installer Service to manage the deployment of ActiveX controls by using Group Policy on computers in an organization.

AppLocker Step-by-Step Guide
This step-by-step guide is designed to help administrators become familiar with AppLocker by providing the instructions needed to set up AppLocker in a test lab environment. Each scenario provides basic information and procedures that administrators can use to start configuring and deploying AppLocker in their network environments.

How to Turn Off Security Messages and Other System Notifications in Windows 7
Windows 7 gives you more control over the Security Messages and other Notifications you may or may not want to receive. Learn how, for starters, you can configure how notifications are handled on the Taskbar—choosing to hide certain types of notifications, such as Action Center messages, Network messages, Windows Update Automatic Updates messages, and so on.

Internet Explorer 8 Enhanced Security Configuration
Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration places your server and Internet Explorer in a configuration that decreases the exposure of your server to potential attacks that can occur through Web content and application scripts. Learn more about this configuration and browser security best practices.

Webcast – Group Policy Changes: Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2

TechNet Webcast: Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 Group Policy Changes (Level 300)
This session will explore Group Policy enhancements in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7. We will show you how Administrative template improvements make it easier to configure and Group Policy preference improvements to configure defaults for non-Group Policy-aware Windows components. Then we will discuss Starter GPO improvements and scripting Group Policy Objects using Windows Powershell Group Policy cmdlets.

Presenter: John Baker, Senior IT Pro Evangelist, Microsoft Corporation
John Baker started in Microsoft Consulting Services as an infrastructure consultant. He has logged more than 100 TechNet Events and given presentations for the launch of the Microsoft Office System. John has also delivered a variety of webcasts and live events that tackle Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and Group Policy, Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003, and Microsoft SQL Server 2005. As an IT professional, John loves how new products and technologies are always lurking around the corner. That is also a major challenge, which is why he recently completed the Windows Server 2003 MCSE upgrade certification and two security exams.

14th July 2009 11:00 AM Pacific Time (US & Canada) | Duration:60 Minutes (1900 in the UK)

Primary Language: English
Primary Target Audience: IT Professional

Further information and Registration

058 – Stuart Manning on DDD Belfast, Twitter, Flex, Silverlight, MVC

Podcast feed – subscribe here!

In this show I’m talking with Stuart Manning. Stuart attended DDD Belfast (4th April 2009) – we chat about Twitter clients, community events, vendors on Twitter, Flex, Silverlight and more. We were in a restaurant, Guinness was being consumed…we did have a really good view of the Belfast night life, we did see “some sights” (sorry, no photos are available!)

This podcast:

Stuart’s blog

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Sky downgrade their “Mid” package from 40GB to 10GB per month – FAIL

How to lose customers in 15 months

We’ve been Sky subscribers since February 2008. We moved to Sky because the reception from Freeview was (and still is) frankly appalling – it was great for many months during 2007…then had a bad period after summer 2007…then was great over Christmas 2007…then it was plain useless in January 2008. Naturally I tried a few options: a new aerial, checked the transmitter information and tried a different receiver unit. Nothing worked well enough to rely on. Sky seemed to be the solution to our problems. However it wasn’t without sacrifice, or so I thought…

The sacrifice: I was paying Zen Internet £29.99 per month for their 0.5MB broadband package – yes, that was perhaps a tad expensive, however it just worked, perfectly. After doing my sums, it looked like I could get Sky TV for £16 per month, plus £5 for their “Mid” broadband package (offering a 40GB per month cap). Add in a couple of “mixes” for a £1 a pop and I was up at £23 per month. The apparent win: TV and Internet for a £6.99 per month saving. What could go wrong?

Indeed, what could go wrong? Broadband speeds had increased to from 0.5MB up to 2MB+, a win! And all those Sky TV channels too, a huge win! And more episodes of Star Trek than I’ll ever have time to watch, huge win, for me at least! However, the winning was short-lived. The broadband connection has suffered from a lot of downtime – that green Skype icon went grey all too often. I had no such problems with Zen Internet. The TV subscription wasn’t without its problems too, as we’ll see later in this rant.

Well, in November 2009 Sky wrote to me advising that the price of their Broadband Mid package was to double. The cost was £5, it was going up to £10. I hadn’t even been with them a full nine months and they hit me with a price rise of 100%. Utterly scandalous. However, in the grand scheme of things, and this is something that Sky presumably knew, £10 is still reasonably good value for a 40GB monthly package. I did complain to Mark Anderson ( – granted I did get an e-mail back from some sort of ‘escalated help desk’, but it rather lamely asked me for my postal address.

Sent: Tue 02/12/2008 21:49

Dear Mr Anderson

Thank you for your letter of November 2008 advising me of a £5 or 100% rise in the cost of Sky Broadband.

I realise that £5 is very competitive and that was one of the two reasons we switched to your TV and Broadband services.

However, in the 10 months that we’ve been customers, the cost of the TV service has risen and now the cost of the broadband provision is rising.

Further, I record a lot of Star Trek on the Sky+ unit, however it won’t let me use the COPY option to move the episodes to DVD – because 80GB of personal space is not nearly enough. With no means of recording the episodes for watching later, it really means I personally don’t have much use for the Sky+ box…I don’t have time to watch what I’ve recorded and I can’t move the recorded content to DVD overnight…there is no point in recording anything.

If memory serves me, it’s a 12 month contract that I’m signed up for. Sending out a 100% price hike notification at this stage in the contract is just plain crazy.

Please be advised that I will be re-considering my options at the end of January 2009…you would be surprised how many friends and colleagues are telling me how good FreeSat is…Humax do wonderful HDD recorders too…

…and I’ve been chatting to other Sky “Mid” users, they haven’t received their 100% price hike notification yet…I do hope that you’ve not been selective about who is being subjected to the price hike?


To make matters worse, during November 2008 there was the great copy protection fiasco, which severely limited my use of the Sky+ service. I was not at all happy about that, so much so, The Guardian picked up on it and quoted a large chunk of that blog entry.

Last week, at the end of June 2009, Sky’s Mark Anderson wrote to me again. This time he was advising of ANOTHER price hike. In a nutshell, my Sky TV subscription was about to rise, making a total of £30 per month. Again, a scandalous mid-contract price rise. Of secondary concern, the font size used in Sky letters is very small – I can still read it with ease, however I’m sure that some subscribers might struggle. The letter itself makes no mention what changes to expect, but refers to an “enclosed leaflet”. Clever. Very clever. And utterly scandalous.

The leaflet that accompanied the letter was titled: “Sky Broadband now even better”, “All for the same low price”. Here’s a snapshot of what it looked like:

Looks like it’s just a re-branding, nothing to worry about…

…until you look closer. The 40GB monthly cap Sky Mid package is being re-branded to Everyday…with a monthly cap of 10GB.

It has something to do with “bring the usage allowance in line with what the majority of customers actually use”…HELLO? Granted Sky rather wisely included a paragraph stating that we could cancel the broadband portion of the contract without charge (well, thanks for that, from the company who raise their prices mid-contract). I am an individual, I do not like be grouped into a pot and treated like the “majority of customers”. I chose the 40GB package for a reason: it was ideal for my needs. Sky, you have moved the goal posts, changed the size of the nets and made the pitch four times wider at your end. Have I told you that this is scandalous? Utterly scandalous.

[UPDATE 07/07/2007 – after checking out the speed test here:, it turns out I’m not even getting the average speeds for my package. Yet “more for less”.]

Given my distance from the BT exchange, it’s unlikely I’ll ever see more than 2700Kbps (via download and 160Kbps upload speeds. Therefore, the other so-called upgrades do not appeal or apply to me.

So now I am paying 30% more than I was 15 months ago FOR LESS. A lot less as it happens: where did Sky channel 795 go? I’m trying to learn Spanish and may well have chosen to pay the extra £1 per month just for a single channel…however it has vanished from the channel line up. Scandalous, utterly scandalous. “Paying more for less”, that should be Sky’s tag line: I’m not the first person to say this, but Mark, I’m sorry to say this: you’re charlatans. [Update 06/07/2009 – Channel 795 has reappeared. However, let’s not forget this thing called Sky Anytime – it takes up 80GB of my 160GB of space, it records channels that I cannot get with my subscription: more “getting less”]

“Sky Believe in better” – I will be switching broadband provider as soon as possible and will be reconsidering our TV options too – that is something you can put money on, you had better believe it. FreeSat and Freeview may cost me upfront, but at least they don’t demand money downstream. I’ll be ‘phoning 08705 515 515 to request my MAC key next week.

Sky: Paying more for less.