Entries Tagged as 'Windows'

Computer Tid Bits; Malware

Computer viruses, worms, trojans, etc are on the rise… if your computer is connected directly to the internet (or on a public wireless network) you’ll definitely want to have a firewall enabled.  The firewall in Windows XP SP2 (or better) and Vista is reasonably good (so there’s no reason to spend money on one).

Also, you should definitely consider running Windows Defender (free from Microsoft) and a Virus scanner.

Two good free Virus scanners are Avast and AVG.

Avast is extremely thorough, but can put a bit of a load on lower end systems.  AVG isn’t as thorough, but a great deal lighter on CPU.  Also, Avast will require you to register for a key — you can use a throw-away email address (from my experience they don’t seem to SPAM).

Avast

AVG

Originally posted 2008-05-09 18:20:12.

Windows 7 – N

If you’re in the United States it’s unlikely you’ll find a Microsoft® Windows 7 N version on a retail shelf; but if you’re in Europe you might.

The N version of Windows was originally released late in the XP era in order to satisfy an EU order that Microsoft offer it’s customers a version of their operating system without their instant messenger and media technologies.  I believe the sales numbers indicated that no one in the EU really wanted such a version; but it was a good way for the EU to rape Microsoft for a sizable cash settlement and create a pain in the butt for consumers.

If you are forced to buy an N version (it’s the same price as the non N version — but it might be the only thing sitting on the shelf) and you actually want to use Microsoft Media Player (or at least install the Microsoft CODECs) you can do so by downloading a nearly 300MB file (there’s one for 32-bit and one for 64-bit).

And thank the EU for making your life difficult.

Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 N and Windows 7 KN (KB968211)

Originally posted 2009-11-07 01:00:20.

Windows 7 – Install With Multiple Disks

I set out this evening to install Windows 7 Ultimate on one of my “high end” desktops, and like all my desktops it has multiple SATA drives running in AHCI mode (after all, it’s “high end”).

No matter how I setup my drives in the BIOS or with the SATA cables I kept getting the larger (newer) drive as DISK0 in the Windows 7 install and the smaller (older) drive as DISK1.

Finally I started doing some reading on the Internet, and I’m not the only person who’s noticed this behavior.  In fact, some say it’s random.

Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read I suspect that Microsoft’s EFI BIOS implementation re-polls [discovery] the drives and ignores what the PC legacy BIOS tells it… and the first drive to respond is DISK0.  In my case the drive I want to be DISK0 is probably predictably slower than the drive I want to be DISK1, so I see consistent results.  However, if the drives are very similar (or identical) you could see either become ready first (a micro-second counts).

This is obviously a bug in Windows 7 (didn’t happen in Vista; but apprently is did happen in Vista SP1 and SP2), and can cause all kinds of problems down the road.

What’s the best way to deal with it?

Open up your case and unplug all but the first drive, do your installation, then power up the drives one-by one (if you have hot-swap capability with SATA you don’t need to power down, if you don’t you will have to power down to plug in each drive in turn).

You can easily change the drive letters in disk manager; and once Windows tattoos the drives they should be fixed in order in disk manager.

If you have a motherboard that uses the Intel chip set you may want to download and install the Intel® Matrix Storage Manager for Windows 7.

If PCs used EFI BIOS (like Macs) this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but since Microsoft uses a soft EFI BIOS to boot, they should have tested this better, and they should have fixed it (there are several people who indicated they reported this behavior during the beta testing).

While Windows 7 might be a nice overhaul of Vista; it’s not without it’s problems, and maybe the whole PC heritage is beginning to be too antiquated to keep updating; perhaps it’s time for a new design.

Originally posted 2009-11-12 01:00:38.

Windows 7 User Account Flaw

I’d say this is just an issue with Windows 7, but it’s actually been present in Windows and Windows Server since Vista…

Plainly put, the organization of information in Windows can become corrupt to the point that Windows is unable to create new users.

Really?

Windows (based on NT) is over a decade old… and to have such a basic flaw seems un-thinkable!

Let’s see, to create a user…

  1. Check to make sure the log-on identifier is unique;
  2. Create a security descriptor;
  3. Create a user home directory;
  4. Copy user default template files to the home directory;
  5. Apply the security descriptor to the user home directory and files; and
  6. Update the user database.

Seems pretty straight forward to me.

And not only is it an essential function of an operating system, but it’s one that we should have every expectation shouldn’t ever fail — and if it does, there should be a procedure to fix it.

Oh, there are procedures to fix it — in fact that are so many procedures you could probably re-install the operating system a hundred times before trying all of them… and there are more than one “Microsoft Fix-It” automated fixes as well, and trust me — your odds of winning the lottery are probably better than one of them actually resolving your issues.

All I can say is that regardless of the potential Windows might have, Microsoft’s actions indicate that it’s not intended to be anything more than a toy operating system — and never was.

Originally posted 2013-09-03 12:00:00.

Dynamic IP Filtering (Black Lists)

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use a dynamic black list of IP addresses to prevent your computer from connecting to or being connect to by users on the Internet who might not have your best interests at heart…

Below are three different dynamic IP filtering solutions for various operating systems; each of them are open source, have easy to use GUIs, and use the same filter list formats (and will download those lists from a URL or load them from a file).

You can read a great deal more about each program and the concepts of IP blocking on the web pages associated with each.

Originally posted 2010-08-17 02:00:55.

Revise Windows XP “Home” Directory Structure

I gave this “tool” to a few of my friends a couple weeks ago and many of them thought it was kewl (a few even though it was useful).

It’s a fairly simple batch file that uses LINKD (which is also in the 7z file) from the Microsoft Windows Resource Kit (technically you need to download the resource kit to get it) that creates a junction point (that is a type of reparse point in the Windows NTFS file system that causes a redirection much like a “hard link” in many *nix file systems).  I could have used the MKLINK executable that ships with Windows, but I prefer LINKD.

OK — enough techo-babble…

What it does is make the “home” directory structure on Windows XP look more like it does on Windows Vista and Windows 7… so that you don’t have to keep thinking about which system you’re on.  No reason to write one for Windows Vista and Windows 7 to make it look like Windows XP since Microsoft generates the Windows XP style links on install (and that’s where I got the idea).

So…

C:\Documents and Setting can be referenced by C:\Users

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\My Documents can be referenced by C:\Users\Administrator\Documents

Etc… I do the same for Downloads, Pictures, Music, Videos (if the My… exists).

I’ve tested it on both Windows XP and on Server 2003, seems to work just fine; but there’s no guarantee (read that as no warranty expressed or implied); code check the batch file for yourself.

The “tool” can be downloaded in a 7zip archive via: MkLinks

Originally posted 2009-11-25 01:00:28.

Acronis TrueImage 11

I honestly can’t remember how many years ago I gave up on Symantec Ghost… but I do remember Acronis TrueImage 5 (at least that’s the version I remember) was a much better, much easier to use, and much less expensive product.

I recently played with TrueImage 11, and it’s certainly got more features, but it appears a lot of the focus for Acronis now is in there higher end products.

A few noteworthy things about TrueImage 11.

  • Windows Vista Support
  • Modern Hardware Support
  • “Try & Decide” Support

Vista support is only important if you have or plan to move to Vista.  Supporting more current (modern) hardware is particularly important if your machine doesn’t work with older versions of TrueImage.  But maybe the most significant addition is “Try & Decide”.

“Try & Decide” is what Acronis calls shawdow copy / snapshot and commit or rollback.  Basically, you checkpoint your system at a particular time, and then you can decide later to either commit all the changes or roll them back to that point in time.  So you could install a piece of software, play with it, and then if you decide to keep it, commit the changes or you could roll your system back to the way it was before you installed the software (you would lose any other changes as well — so you have to be careful).

The rollback requires a reboot; and to use “Try & Decide” you have to have an Acronis “Secure Zone” partition (but it will automagically create that for you).

Acronis also throws in some additional utilities that they used to charge for. 

Overall, I’d say it’s a great product, a great price — and better than any of the competing products I’ve ever tried.

Acronis TrueImage 11 Home

Originally posted 2008-05-11 16:32:06.

Defragmenting

There are many people out there that say that *nix and Mac file systems don’t fragment — only Windows does.

They’re dead wrong.

[I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again]

All three file systems (and in Windows we’re talking about NTFS, not FAT) derive from the same basic file system organization, and all three have pretty much the same characteristics (there are differences, but those really have nothing to do with the likelihood of fragmentation).

Fragmentation is just a by-product of the way a file system works.  The file system must make decisions about how to lay files down on the disk, and since it doesn’t have a crystal ball it cannot see the future.  Thus is a file is pinned between two other files and it must grow, the file would either need to be moved (creating an empty spot of a maximum size) or extended in another area (thus being fragmented).

There are various schemes for handling file allocations, but most of them rely on an application that is creating the file giving the operating system (and thus file system) sufficient information on the files maximum size and hints as to whether it is temporary, may grow, etc.

Given that file systems will fragment, the need for defragmentation is real.  Windows recognizes this (mainly because Windows used to use a FAT file system where fragmentation caused severe performance issues).

If you have a *nix or Mac based system, I’m sure you can locate a reasonably good defragmenter (not every one is in denial about the need for periodically defragmenting the system).  If you have  Windows based system you already have a reasonably good defragmenter that came with the systems (a “lite” version of Executive Systems Diskeeper, which now just goes by the name of Diskeeper Corporation).  You can, of course, purchase a number of commercial products, like the full blown Diskeeper, O&O Defrag (my personal favorite), or download a host of free or inexpensive products.

The key to defragmenting your system is knowing when you should invest the time (and wear on your disks).  The most accurate answer would be when system fragmentation reaches a point where it adversely effects performance.  That seems a little vague, but most of the defragmentation tools actually will do an analysis and advise you if they should be run.  Some of them have active defragmentation (but like the file system, they don’t have a crystal ball, and will often cost performance, not enhance it — so I would just say no to active defragmentation).

A good rule of thumb is that right after you install you system, or any time you install major updates or service packs you should defragment your system.  It’s a good idea to clean off temporary files (like your browser cache, etc) before you defragment.  And you might even want to clean off old restore points (if you have them enabled).

There’s certainly no reason to defragment your system daily or weekly; but an occasional night of running your defragmenter of choice will likely decrease boot time and increase overall system performance.

One other little tid-bit — remove your paging file before defragmenting; then after you’re finished, create a new paging file of a fixed size (ie set the minimum and maximum to the same thing).  That way you have a nicely defragmented paging file that will not cause fragmentation or fragment itself (leading to better system performance).  Of course, if your system has enough memory to run without a paging file, you don’t need one at all.

Originally posted 2010-02-21 01:00:20.

“<app name> not installed for the current user.  Please run setup”

ARGH!!!

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen — something goes wrong when shutting down Windows or logging in and all of a sudden you can’t launch the application.

Generally I’ve seen this with Microsoft Office applications or other Microsoft applications…

Here’s a list of things to try (this is probably the least invasive order, but look through the list and decide which you want to try first):

Look at the owner of the application; if it’s SYSTEM not administrator change the application and shortcut permissions to be read / writable by administrator (you may have to delete and recreate the short cuts).

  1. Uninstall the application, reboot, run a registry clean, reboot.
  2. Uninstall the application, reboot, run the Windows Install Cleanup Tool, reboot, run a registry clean, reboot.
  3. Delete the current user, and re-create the account (this will work if other users have no problem running the application, if all user accounts have the problem it’s not likely to work).
  4. If this is in Vista, turn of user access control (UAC), run as an account in the administrators group, and see if that resolves the problem (if it does, it’s got something to do with permissions and ownership — but it might be in the registry).
  5. Consider what type of plant you’d like to put in your planter.

If none of these work you can do an internet search and probably find lots more approaches; basically this related relates to either a corrupt user profile (generally you will be notified of Windows when you log on that it wasn’t able to restore the profile or settings) or if you could never run the app (and neither can any other user) it has something to do with permissions (most common in Vista).

For registry cleaners you can use a free piece of software, but I recommend you consider purchasing CleanMyPC:

You can find information on the Microsoft Windows Install CleanUp Utility here:

If you don’t know how to change permissions (ACLs) you might want to use a tool like SetACL:

Originally posted 2008-11-22 12:00:39.

PDF Viewing

PDF (Portable Document Format) was developed by Adobe Systems in 1994 but as of July 1, 2008 it’s an open standard (ISO 32000-1:2008) and there are a host of tools, many free, that allow you to create, view, and work with PDFs.

Personally I’m not a fan of the Adobe reader; it’s fat (way fat) and slow (way slow — and I don’t need their “accelerator” running all the time) so I choose to run Foxit Reader; they have versions for Windows, Windows Mobile, and Linux available for free (they have other products as well).

Originally posted 2008-11-24 12:00:36.