back to article The Reg's desert XP-ocalypse aversion plan revealed

Next week, The Reg heads into Australia's red centre to perform a Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrade at the Wirliyatjarrayi Learning Centre, a facility in the tiny central Australian town of Willowra. The Learning Centre offers the first publicly accessible internet-connected PCs in the 300-strong town. Willowra is a two-hour …


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  1. frank ly Silver badge

    EditPad Lite

    It's a multi-tabbing text editor with many features and facilities and much better that Notepad. I used it under Windows for a long time before I switched to Linux last year and it's free for non-commercial use.

    I assume that you'll have at least a couple of networked colour printers taken care of? For kids especially, it's exciting to see their work on-screen become printed out onto paper they can take home and keep and show to people.

  2. The Quiet One

    I won't use a PC without 7-zip installed. Comes in handy almost daily, so i would include that on your app list.

    1. an it guy

      I agree with you for *my* use. However, it's not got the most intuitive of interfaces. Come to think of it, most non-technical users still have trouble with zip managers...

  3. Tom 64


    If there is any obscure hardware at all, you are probably going to want to take a pre-downloaded copy of the W7 drivers for it.

  4. king of foo

    public access?

    You'll be wanting adblock plus plugin/add on/extension for all these web browsers then...

    Ccleaner to run on boot...

    A silent defrag scheduled...

    And, um, as much protection as you can muster!

    I haven't tried these, but I'd be seriously contemplating sandboxie/deep freeze/similar.

    I'd also be looking at the kind of access you want to give users, and making sure there's a sound update process in place

    1. Piro

      Re: public access?

      Defrag has been scheduled by default since Vista! (Unless you're on an SSD, of course, which Windows 7 will correctly detect).

    2. Goldmember

      Re: public access?

      CCleaner, yes, but having it run on boot might be a bit resource intensive. They don't seem to be high spec PC's. I'd advise the person (or people) in charge of the place to run it once a week or so.

      Also, some anti malware, either MBAM or SuperAntiSpyware in addition to the AV.

      This one might not be applicable to the userbase, but CutePDF (simple PDF printer) is a useful one I always install. It's light, free, and useful for creating PDFs of receipts and useful web pages.

  5. Spoonsinger

    An e-mail client?

    (ignore if WSUS offline includes the Windows Essentials stuff)

    Also Paint.Net & Notepad++

    1. BoatTown

      Re: An e-mail client?

      I love Notepad++. I really do. But in this case, if the bandwidth is low, the repeated updates to this would get quite annoying.

      Better a text editor with less features, but less release flapping.

      1. BillG Silver badge

        Re: An e-mail client?

        Another +1 for Notepad++ for free text editors. But if you want the best, shell out a few dollars and get UltraEdit.

      2. Anonymous Dutch Coward

        Notepad++ updates?

        No need to enable automatic updates though...

    2. Lazlo Woodbine

      Re: An e-mail client?

      Not so sure about the email client, these are public access computers so surely all email would be web-based.

      +1 for, it's a brilliant little image editor

      +1 for notepad++

    3. oolor

      Re: An e-mail client?

      The first thing I thought was Notepad++. I haven't updated it since downloading it a while ago. The only reason I updated from using Notepad was find and replace.

      Also, NoScript and FlashGot are excellent add-ons for Firefox, that can help with protection and video 'borrowing'.

  6. Paul_Murphy


    Wouldn't Libre Office make more sense, I understand it gets better support and updates?

    Admin tools like Fing and advanced port scanner for networks, an ISO mount utility, a linux boot USB drive (and CD) for just in case a HD fails, Gpart, robocopy (does that come on 7?) or similar for backup tasks (will there be a NAS on the network?), printer & scanner drivers if necessary.

    1. John Arthur

      Re: OpenOffice?

      +1 for LibreOffice

      1. batfastad

        Re: OpenOffice?

        OpenOffice is gone. I've used both, alot, and the first year of LibreOffice saw more improvement than the previous 3-4 years of OpenOffice.

        So another +1 to LibreOffice

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OpenOffice?

          Why use any open source when MS Office is provided? That is like suggesting using a unicycle to cross the Himalayas when a airplane is being offered.

  7. chuckufarley

    As Paul says above, LibreOffice gets more FOSS love than OOo.

    Don't forget to install NoScript!

    If you want to make backups of the drives before upgrading I would recommend CloneZilla and if things go badly on an install you might want a copy of the SystemRescueCD. can point you to both.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      If you want to put up with NoScript ("Why doesn't that website work?" ... check drop-down menu ... JavaScript from half the Internet and possibly even off-earth hives of scum and villany are being pulled in ... "Well, it just doesn't"), then add Ghostery

  8. Ben 77


    I hate it, and I know it opens all sorts of security holes, but my guess is there will be a requirement to open PDF files. And Adobe Reader is a default for that. I'd also be tempted to include PDF Creator - which installs a PDF printer, although LibreOffice has a save as PDF option included.

    1. rh587

      Re: PDF

      SumatraPDF surely? Or Foxit Reader at a push - less lean than Sumatra but the download package and install footprint are both smaller than Adobe, and Foxit doesn't nag you constantly to update thanks to the bloody update processes it runs in the background "for your convenience", which on older hardware is going to compromise performance unnecessarily.

      If you are going to inflict something Adobe-based on them then be sure to clean out the update processes that sit in the background consuming CPU cycles, RAM and bandwidth, and just add checking for updates to the admin's weekly maintenance list along with running CCleaner and the like.

      And a vote for LibreOffice over OpenOffice.

      1. batfastad

        Re: PDF

        +1 for SumatraPDF. Used to deploy FoxIt but it became bloated adware.

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: PDF

        I myself prefer to use Foxit, but I have to admit I'm still looking for my jaw after I saw how Sumatra handled (and scrolled) PDFs of hundreds of megabytes (instantly), while both Foxit and Adobe Reader were within inches of a BSoD trying to open them...

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: PDF

      Unfortunately, I agree whilst I do use third-party PDF tools, I've found there are times when a PDF only renders correctly in Acrobat Reader...

      But definitely would install a PDF printer with preview, it is quite useful in preprinting webpages and then selecting only those content pages you actually want to print. unfortunately I use Expert PDF for this, which isn't free.

    3. Jon 37

      Re: PDF

      Google Chrome handles PDFs nicely. You just have to set up the file association yourself, since it doesn't do it automatically. It handles every PDF I've thrown at it.

      It's nice and secure - it omits the more advanced PDF features that have approximately zero real-world uses and account for most of Adobe's security holes. It also runs its PDF renderer in the same sandbox it uses for rendering HTML, so you'd need two vulnerabilities to exploit it.

      Chrome also does silent automatic updates, and only downloads deltas for the updates to save bandwidth. And if you're using Chrome as a browser anyway then you'd be getting the upgrade anyway.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Good luck with those for old PC kit, best installing Win7 32bit as you might be out of luck with some 64bit drivers.

    1. aregross

      Re: Drivers

      ^THIS! Don't even *think* about loading 64-bit on that old Hardware!

      ... and major kudos to you and The Reg for doing this! Big Thumbs Up!

  10. JDX Gold badge

    I can't see why The Gimp is a standard tool to install, it's a bit specialist and not very easy to use. Paint.NET is better if you actually need something, but I doubt you do.

    NotePad++ would definitely get my vote.

    I'd say use MSE rather than Avast.

    Surely Acrobat Reader is a requirement?

    Not sure on why bother with FF and Chrome, I'd say pick one as an IE alternative personally.

    AdBlock possibly makes sense but not script-blockers because it sounds like your target users will not know what's going on when pages don't work properly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      MSE !

      Have you read any recent anti-virus tests of late and just how poorly MSE performs ?

      And as for acrobat , oh please - use Sumatra. Have you not been following the story about how bandwidth constrained they are. Besides if you were up to date you'd know firefox has a PDF renderer already built in.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: MSE !

        I'd still recommend Acrobat because my motivation isn't to show how tech-savvy I am, but to provide standard tools people will have heard of.

        As for "if you were up to date you'd know firefox has a PDF renderer already built in" yeah great so does Chrome. Often, links to PDFs open directly in the browser and this is pretty great. But then sometimes they demand you download the file and I don't want to be opening local files with my browser.

        Also - I am up to date. That's why I don't use FF anymore.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MSE ! @jdx

          So why do you recommend a bloated, malware prone application that requires frequent updating to people who are not tech savvy and are bandwidth constrained ? Thankfully you are not designing an office network for ten that only need simple file-sharing and backup. You would probably have them on three quad core xeon servers when a good nas will do.

          A lump hammer is a standard tool for a brick layer but quite useless to a watchmaker.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MSE ! @rm -rf /

        All AV is basically a poor option, they often stop ~95% of stuff but there is so much that the remaining 5% will bite if folk are not prevented from running / installing stuff.

        And they really suck resources. On older PCs you have to ask if it is worth the continuous user pain versus to one or two re-installs per year.

        If your MS skills are up to it, try making the various temp locations and user's home directories (basically anywhere they can write to) non-executable using ACLs. Brutal, but one way to limit Trojans...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MSE ! @rm -rf /

          Gone AC now have we JDX ?

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: MSE ! @rm -rf /

            Because obviously two people couldn't think you're an idiot.

    2. keithpeter

      A few extras

      1) If GIMP then Inkscape

      2) If users can teach themselves GIMP, then Audacity with the LAME library and a few sets of headphones and a couple of USB microphones. Podcasts fun to make and can help with literacy development depending on local supoort (scripting)

      3) Scratch or LOGO or similar entry level programming tool with visual orientation

      4) Outlier: a community of 300 must have a few dozen teenagers - pure data music programming and some of the freeware synthesisers. Make truly satisfying types and quantity of noise. Reaper licence? Is there a free thing for Windows like Garageband?

      Coat on now because its raining and I use a different OS.

    3. Piro

      I would personally use SumatraPDF over Acrobat Reader if I had the choice here.

      Tiny, fast, free, no background updater bloating things out. If these are old XP machines, you don't want any bloat.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Slip a used Mac Mini in your bag and save them some agony:)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outback

      "Slip a used Mac Mini in your bag and save them some agony"

      Yeah, so the other trolls are all hanging out on the other thread. Why don't you toddle off there, grownups are talking about the actual subject on this one.

      On-topic, and constructively, it might be worth taking TCP Optimizer or something similar along, see if a little bit of tuning might help squeeze the most of that low-bandwidth link

  12. big_D Silver badge


    pre-install TeamViewer (or similar) on the devices, that way, if there are problems, you can provide remote support.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: TeamViewer

      pre-install TeamViewer (or similar) on the devices

      Windows 7 comes with Windows Remote Assistance out-of-the-box. It only takes a few clicks and an email to get help.

      Oh and to launch it ask them to click the start button and type 'ass' :)

      1. Steve Foster

        Re: TeamViewer

        Yes, W7 does come with Remote Assistance. And RA provides a better experience (than TeamViewer, IME) for the person providing assistance when it works. But I've also found it to be much less reliable at connecting than TeamViewer - particularly if the remote site is bandwidth-constrained (as is apparently the case here). So I tend to use TeamViewer by default, because it just works.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: TeamViewer

        Teamviewer (and previously LogMeIn et al) are much better than Windows Remote Assistance. Remember the main reason you will need to access a system isn't to support a user session but to fix something on a machine, which you will typically be doing out of hours...

        On this vein, it is useful to set up the system standby settings to ensure you have a reasonable window of opportunity (ie. a few hours) to grab a system after a user has finished, before the system goes into a network disconnect and shutdown mode.

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: TeamViewer

        > "Windows 7 comes with Windows Remote Assistance out-of-the-box"

        > Follow the link

        > "To view this content you need to install ★SilverLight★ TM (c) (r)"


  13. anonymuos

    Classic Shell of course.

    1. dogged

      on Win7?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        It's the only way to be sure.

      2. Chika

        Depends on the users. Classic shell adds a few bits and pieces on W7 that were on XP, especially on the explorer windows. I agree though - it's hardly a vital installation with W7.

  14. rob2014

    Web of Trust

    I install the software from on all browsers for computers I use. It could reduce the number of dodgy sites people try to visit.

    I'm not sure about Avast (mixed reviews - and it failed to detect spyware on a friend's computer) Assuming you stick with Avast, you probably want to disable the Avast toolbars for IE/Firefox/etc and just use MyWOT instead. The AV will still scan downloads, and I don't think Avast has the XSS blocking abilities of paid-for security software so there's little advantage to the browser addon.

  15. kimnz


    In addition to what Tom 64 said I find that having a copy of the drivers on an offline USB installer is very useful. It is also useful to run it on existing Windows 7 machines to update the drivers.

    Check out:

    In particular the Stand Alone Driverpack app:

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Divers

      Not much water in the outback, I don't think he really wants to take divers with him. ;-)


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