A sure sign that a company is on its way out is when it starts needlessly defeaturing its products to create artificial market segments rather than innovating new features to add value. Windows 7 Starter is a good example of this sad phenomena.
Microsoft originally planned to impose a three application limit to Windows 7 Starter so that no more than three applications could be run at once. Of course, this outrageous, artificial and completely unjustified limitation would have actually cost Microsoft time and money to implement. With the exception of a handful of confused apologists, the three app limitation earned the Redmond software giant widespread derision. Eventually, public scorn caused Microsoft to drop this bone-headed idea before releasing Windows 7 Starter edition last fall.
However, there are other stupid and disingenuous ways Microsoft castrated Windows 7 Starter. Not only is there an artificially imposed 2GB memory limit and the fantabulous new snipping tool is gone, but Microsoft stripped Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) from Win7 Starter. Of course, there are absolutely no technical reasons for killing ICS, a feature that for many years has enabled users to easily set up Windows systems to serve the Internet to home networks.
The Redmond software beast wants you to fork over your hard earned dough through “Windows 7 Anytime Upgrade” to buy back ICS, a particularly vital feature for netbooks that come with integrated broadband cellular modems. Worse still, netbooks are particularly well-suited for home servers since they use very little power and have a built-in UPS. So killing ICS from Win7 Starter was a particularly ungreen move for the spawn of Bill Gates.
Well, it’s very easy to overcome all of the limitations your Microsoft overlord imposes. You’ll need to download Jolicould Linux here. A good application to burn the Jolicloud installation image to disk is ISO Recorder which you can download here. If you don’t have a USB CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, you can create a bootable USB key drive by following the instructions here. You can even install Jolicloud from within Windows if you download Jolicloud Express from here. Once you’ve created your boot disk/USB key, boot from it. You can install Jolicloud so that you can chose between Win7 Starter and Jolicloud at boot time, or you can completely expunge Win7 and replace it with Jolicloud.
Boot into Jolicloud and connect your netbook to the Internet. An added benefit Jolicould brings are preinstalled broadband cellular modem drivers along with proper settings for many carriers. When Jolicloud detects a new broadband cellular modem, the Network Manager menu, activated by clicking on the appropriate Gnome Panel icon in the top of the screen, will list a new broadband device. Clicking on that menu entry will bring up a simple wizard so that you can select your carrier and ensure that the correct number is dialed. It literally takes about ten seconds to to set up a new cellular modem connection in Jolicloud Linux.
To share your Internet connection, whether cellular or otherwise, right-click on the same Network Manager icon and select “Edit Connections…”. Click the “Add” button no either the Wired or Wireless tab, depending on which way you plan to share your Internet connection. Give the new connection a descriptive name like “Shared Internet Connection”. On the IPv4 tab, select “Shared to other computers” as the Method. Click “Apply”.
Reboot your netbook. After you sign in, activate the Internet connection in the Network Manager menu if it is not automatically activated. It might also be necessary to manually activate your “Shared Internet Connection” by clicking on the corresponding Network Manager menu entry.
You should now be actively sharing your Internet connection with your home network.
It’s humorous to note that Microsoft did a predictably sloppy job disabling ICS in Windows 7 Starter. In fact, it is still available, but only if you want to share your active Internet connection over an ad-hoc wireless network. In other words, other computers will have to connect to your netbook wirelessly to see the Internet. To set up this type of Internet connection sharing configuration, simply type “adhoc” in the Windows 7 Start menu search box. This will filter down to wizard that enables you to set up an ad hoc ICS network.