Entries Tagged as 'Windows Vista'

Email Readers

I’m going to focus on Microsoft Email Readers… if you want to use Thunderbird it’s fine; but since Microsoft current has FOUR different email programs for the PC (they also have Entourage for the Mac — but that doesn’t run on any flavor of Windows).

  • Outlook
  • Outlook Express
  • Windows Mail
  • Windows Live Mail

Outlook – comes in Office, and it’s a _very_ heavy weight email program.  If all you want to do is read email, this probably isn’t the program for you.  If you want to manager your calendar and your contact as well as email in one program, this would be a good choice.

Personally I tend to only use Outlook to maintain my address book and calendar; mainly because it’s what sync’s my cell phones.  I’ve always found it an horrendously complex email program — and then it trys and hides many of the things in email I want to use!

Outlook Express – I used this with Windows XP, and felt it was an adequate email program.  I actually handled IMAP better than any other client around at the time.  Both Thunderbird and iMail (on the Mac) had issues with very large IMAP stores.

If all you want to do is manage your email, it’s a good choice if you’re running on XP (or an older Windows).

Windows Mail – With Vista Microsoft quietly introduced a new email program.  Well, actually it’s pretty much the same email program as Outlook Express, with only a few improvements.

Again, if all you want to do is manage your email, it’s a good choice if you’re runnin gon Vista.

Windows Live Mail – Microsoft has also been working on developing a new email reader, and they’ve bundled it with their Live services.  You can download it for free (even if you don’t use Live).

This is a very feature full email program.  It will do IMAP and POP3 (so you can use it with your ISP or with GMail)… fully supports SSL & TLS, supports accessing Live Mail directly (that would be MSN, HotMail, and Live).  It will function as a NNTP (that’s News) reader, and as an RSS (that’s Really Simple Syndication) reader.

It stores contacts each in individual XML files (.contacts)… can import accounts from other Microsoft email programs.

It really has a number of nice features, and it’s a reasonably stable program; however, it’s more like a first generation release, so it does have some minor annoyances.

At the moment I’m trying to use Windows Live Mail on all my computers… just because that’s where we’re headed, and it works fairly well (and I do have some old MSN / HotMail / Live accounts it gives me direct access to).

One word of caution… if you decide to try out Windows Live Mail; only install the Live components you need (you can go back and add more later), and watch for the options where it wants to change your system defaults.

Originally posted 2008-05-11 22:12:43.

Anti-Malware Programs

First, malware is a reality and no operating system is immune to it.

Malware is most common on operating systems that are prevalent (no reason to target 1% of the installed base now is there); so an obscure operating system is far less likely to be the target of malware.

Malware is most common on popular operating systems that generally do not require elevation of privileges to install (OS-X, *nix, Vista, and Server 2008 all require that a user elevate their privileges before installing software, even if they have rights to administer the machine).

The reality is that even a seasoned computer professional can be “tricked” into installing malware; and the only safe computer is a computer that’s disconnected from the rest the world and doesn’t have any way to get new software onto it (that would probably be a fairly useless computer).

Beyond exercising common sense, just not installing software you don’t need or are unsure of (remember, you can install and test software in a virtual machine using UNDO disks before you commit it to a real machine), and using a hardware “firewall” (residential gateway devices should be fine as long as you change the default password, disable WAN administration, and use WPA or WPA2 on your wireless network) between you and your high-speed internet connection; using anti-malware software is your best line of defense.

There are a lot of choices out there, but one of the best you’ll find is Avast! — there’s a free edition for non-commercial use, and of course several commercial version for workstations and servers.

My experience is that on all but the slowest computers Avast! performs well, and catches more malware than most any of the big-name commercial solutions.

For slower computers that you need mal-ware protection for, consider AVG (they also have a free version for non-commercial use); I don’t find it quite as good as Avast! at stopping as wide a range of threats, but it’s much lower on resource demands (and that helps to keep your legacy machine usable).

Originally posted 2009-01-02 12:00:01.

Acronis TrueImage Home 2009 (v12)

I’ve used Acronis TrueImage since version 3, I switched to it because I grew tired of all the hoops you needed to jump through to use Ghost, and TrueImage offered a more “modern” approach to backup — they actually built a bootable disk AUTOMATICALLY.

Ghost has come a long way since that time, but so has TrueImage.

Why would you want TrueImage?

Well, it works, and it works well — and it’s affordable ($49.99 or $29.99 for an upgrade).

TrueImage has lots of features, but nine times out of ten the ones I care most about is creating an image of a disk and restoring it; or creating a clone of a disk.  TrueImage has excellent support for network adapters and disk channels when you boot it from the rescue media and since you can run it under Windows it will support anything Windows can access.

Previous versions of TrueImage all worked great… so why did I upgrade to v12 aka 2009?  Simple, AHCI support — that’s Advanced Host Controller Interface, it’s the mode you want to run your SATA controller and discs in if your operating system supports it (which Vista does).

Aside from including AHCI support in the new version, Acronis changed the user interface — according to them to be more Vista like; I say they just changed it.

The Acronis user interface is useable, but I would say that it’s never been as clear as it should be.  In my mind they should have sat down in a focus group with some users and hammered out the details of making it present better and clearer information.  As long as you pay attention and read what’s on the screen and don’t continue if you’re not sure you’ll be fine… it works fine and the information is there (it’s just not as clear as you might want).

I definitely recommend Acronis TrueImage (and all the Acronis products I’ve tried are fine).  I do, however, have to gripes that I’ll share.

First, TrueImage basically has most of the functions of Disk Director included in it, so why not just expose them so that they are easy to use.

And that leads to…

Second, Acronis has too many products!  In fact, when I wanted to upgrade my copy of TrueImage I almost just threw my hands up and left when it wasn’t easy to find the product I wanted (and I even knew the name of it).  Why?  Why so many different products that do almost the same thing?  Wouldn’t it be far simpler to have fewer base products and sell option packs (keys) to enable advanced features?

Acronis does a great job of keeping their products up-to-date with patches, and they have a fairly nice web interface to their customer registration system (keeps your previous purchases since version 6 I think in one place along with the serial numbers).

One thing to keep in mind, Vista has some of the capabilities of TrueImage (backup and partition re-size), but not all of them… you may be quite happy with what you already have, or you may want a more complete solution.

If you’re not sure what Acronis can do for you, checkout their web site, and you can even try their trial version (it is crippled unfortunately, but if it weren’t people would just use the trial and never buy).

Originally posted 2008-12-11 12:00:55.

Online Capacity Expansion

Well…

  • Call me old fashion…
  • Call me conservative…
  • Call me a doubting “Thomas”…
  • Call me tickled pink…
  • Call me surprised…

I just finished adding four additional spindles to one of my virtual hosts; when I originally built it out I only had four spindles available, and didn’t want to buy more since I knew I would be freeing up smaller spindles for it soon.

The first task was to have the RAID software add the new spindles to the array, then to “expand” the array container… the first step took only a few moments, the second step took about 20 hours for the array controller to rebuild / expand the array.

The second task was to get Windows to actually use the added space by expanding the volume; to do that was a simple matter of using diskpart.exe (you can search Microsoft’s Knowledge Base) only took a few moments.

The incredible thing about this was that my virtual host and virtual machines was online for the entire 20 hours — with absolutely no service interruption.

This particular machine used a Dell / LSI controller; but the Promise controllers also support dynamic capacity expansion as do 3Ware controllers.  I believe the Intel Matrix pseudo RAID controller also support dynamic capacity expansion; but as with other RAID and pseudo-RAID controllers you should check the documentation specific to it and consult the manufacturer’s web site for errata and updates before proceeding.

The bottom line is Windows and RAID arrays have come a long way, and it’s quite possible that you will be able to expand the capacity of your array without taking your server down; however, if the data on the server is irreplaceable, I recommend you consider backing it up (at least the irreplaceable data).

Originally posted 2008-12-01 12:00:56.

Microsoft Vista System Update Readiness Tool

If you’ve had problems updating your Microsoft® Windows Vista system to SP2 you may want to download the System Update Readiness Tool and run it even if you intend to skip SP2 and move directly to Windows 7… apparently upgrades to Windows 7 may fail if your Vista system is in a state where SP2 didn’t install correctly.

My advice, save yourself a headache by downloading and installing the System Update Readiness Tool — at least if you end up having to call Microsoft support it’s one less thing they will have you do before someone actually pays attention to your problem.

 

 
32-bit
System Update Readiness Tool (x86)

64-bit
System Update Readiness Tool (x64)

Originally posted 2009-10-11 01:00:53.

Vista Sidebar Gadgets

There’s a ton of sidebar gadgets for Vista (just open up the gallery with “add gadgets” and select the “Get more gadgets online” link at the bottom right hand corner to have a look at the ones on Microsoft’s gadget site…

Needless to say, most of the gadgets are CRAP, in fact, most of the gadgets that ship with Vista are lame — and to illustrate that, I don’t use ANY of the gadgets that shipped with Vista.

The clock in Vista takes too much room and only shows the time.  A better solution is the 12HourTime gadget, it shows the time, day of the week and date in about 2/3 the space.

The CPU meter tha ships with Vista is also lame, the mCPU meter seems to do a good job (especially for multi-core CPUs).

And because we’re all too lazy to get up and look out the window… the Weather Channel gadget does a great job at telling you the current conditions (at a reporting station near you).

There are several other gadgets that you might enable from time to time when you’re doing something… the uTorrent monitor, MSNGasPrice, AstronomyCenter, etc all could be useful — and of course that also depends on your interests.

One of the nice things about gadgets is that you can remove them fairly easily, and unlike lots of software they don’t pollute your system.

Originally posted 2008-05-15 11:34:01.

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 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.

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.