Entries Tagged as 'Windows XP'

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.

File System Fragmentation

All file systems suffer from fragmentation.

Let me rephrase that more clearly in case you didn’t quite get it the first time.

ALL FILE SYSTEMS SUFFER FROM FRAGMENTATION <PERIOD>.

It doesn’t matter what file system you use one your computer, if you delete and write files it will become fragmented over time.  Some older file systems (like say FAT and FAT32) had major performance issues as the file system began to fragment, more modern file systems do not suffer as much performance lose from fragmentation, but still suffer.

If you want to argue that your writable file system doesn’t fragment, you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, so read up on how your file system really works and how block devices work to understand why you just can’t have a file system that doesn’t fragment files or free space or both.

What can you do about fragmentation?

Well, you might not really need to do anything, modern disk drives are fast; and on a computer that’s doing many things at once the fragmentation may not have much of any impact on your performance, but after awhile you’re probably going to want to defragment your files.

The act of copying a file will generally defragment it; most modern file systems will attempt to allocate contiguous space for a file if it can (files that grow over time cannot be allocated contiguous, but they can be defragmented at their current size).

On many operating systems you can actually get programs that are designed to defragment your file system.

How often should you defragment your file system?

Well, I generally recommend you do it right after installing and updating your computer; and then any time you make major changes (large software installation, large update, etc).  But that you not do it automatically or an a routine schedule — there’s not enough benefit to that.

You can also analyze your disk (again using software) to determine how fragmented it is… and then defragment when it reaches some point that you believe represents a performance decrease.

Also, try and keep your disk clean, delete your browser cache, temporary files, duplicate files, and clutter — the less “junk” you have on your disk, the less need there will be for defragmenting.

Originally posted 2009-01-05 12:00:03.

Microsoft Updates

I’ve got a new pet-peeve (like a had a shortage of them before)…

nVidia has been coming out with display updates for their video cards for Vista about once per month (OK — a little less often than that); and Microsoft has been dutifully pushing down certified drivers to users.

First, the big problem I have with the nVidia driver for my 9800s is that I periodically have the machine freeze and get a message that the display driver stopped responding (but has recovered)… maybe nVidia should be concentrating on fixing that issue and hold off on updates until there’s really some substantial progress [but that might negatively impact them re-naming old tehcnology and trying to sell it as something new].

OK — I digressed… but like I said, it’s a new pet-peeve, and I want to revel in it.

The really annoying thing is that every time Microsoft download and installs a new video driver the system resizes all my open windows and rearranges the icons (shortcuts) on my desktop…

Now perhaps this is only because I have a multiple display system… but reguardless you’d think the children in Redmond might have considered storing the previous state of windows BEFORE activating the new video driver and restoring it afterwards — after all, they are concerned with user experience, RIGHT?

RIGHT… I think the phase would be “experience THIS!”

Microsoft has come a long way in the last few years in making computers easier to use, and easier to maintain… but they (Microsoft) still fails to actually have people who use computers design feature for them… and that’s why using Windows has always felt like it was held together by chewing gum and string — BECAUSE IT IS.

I could do with one less version of Internet Explorer and a bit more work on polishing the overall user experience… and why all these “major” upgrades???  Why not just a continuous stream of improvements to each and every part of the system???

Originally posted 2009-08-22 01:00:10.

Computer Tid Bits

I haven’t sent one of these tid bit emails out in a long long time — this is just a collection of little points that you might find comes in handy.

Server 2008 is indeed out and available. I think I’m going to wait a few months (and I’m just about out of funds for MSFT store purchase, so doubtful I can get a copy for anyone else — I’ll probably do the MSDN OS subscription again). Hyper-V has not shipped as of yet.

Service Pack 1 for Vista can be downloaded or you’ll get it from Windows Update. If you’re updating more than a single machine, download the whole thing (Windows Update will swamp your connection). There are separate packs for 32-bit and 64-bit (you may need both if you have both machines). Also, copy the update file to the local disk (it will need elevated privileges to install).

Virtual Server 2005 R2 can be installed on XP, XP-64, Vista-32, or Vista-64. The management interface requires IIS, so that’s a little different with PWS version on non-server platforms. If you have VS installed on a server, you should be able to manage _all_ of your installations from one management interface (though Vista doesn’t make that easy).

Google GMail allows you to host your domains for email there for free… you basically get GMail accounts in your own domain. I’ve moved my mail services over there for the time being (I still archive all my email on my own server at home, but the active send/receive is done via GMail).

Parallels is coming out with a new server (64 & 32 bit) to compete with Hyper-V; I looked at the beta (definitely a beta, but useable), they may be able to get some of the market share — but my guess is they’ll get the share from VMware (I didn’t care for the Mac-ish look of the product on Windows).

2.5″ SATA disk drives continue to fall in price; Seagate 250GB drives were $104 @ Fry’s, and they still had some on the shelf on Monday!!!

Intel hasn’t release the most of the 45nm processor family yet; the older Core2 dual and quad processor continue to be a great buy. Remember that really none of the current Intel chip sets take advantage of the higher transfers the newer processors are capable of (well the X38, but that’s supposed to have major issues) — so you might want to wait for the next generation of Intel chips and motherboards to hit the market. FYI: Intel delayed the release because AMD missed their ship dates… their new cores had some rather serious flaws

Notebook and desktop memory are nearly on par with each other. You can purchase 2 x 2GB for under $100 (easily — even the really fast memory). $60 is actually the low price and $80 get’s you high quality with heat spreaders (notebook memory doesn’t have heat spreaders — no room). 2 x 1GB can be purchased for $40!!!

Originally posted 2008-04-01 12:58:23.

Fix It

About a year before Microsoft Windows 7 hit the street, Microsoft had started to introduce the “Fix It” logo associated with “solutions” to problems in Windows.

In Windows 7 Microsoft incorporated the solution center to partially automate finding and fixing issues that could cause problems with Windows.

Now Microsoft has expanded “Fix It” to include Windows Vista and Windows XP…

Thank you for your interest in Microsoft Fix it. We’re working hard to automate solutions to common software problems in an easy, intuitive way that is available when and where you need it. So whether you are looking for a solution in help or support content, or an error report, Fix it provides a way to apply automated fixes, workarounds, or configuration changes so you don’t have to perform a long list of manual steps yourself.

Microsoft Fix It

Fix It

Originally posted 2010-04-27 02:00:21.

Microsoft Security Essentials

A few years ago Microsoft® provided a free Beta of it’s Anti-Virus solution; and Beta users were provided with one free license to continue to use the “One Care” branded Anti-Virus.

Now (as of 29 September 2009 – yesterday) Microsoft is once again providing a free Anti-Virus for “genuine” Windows.

Personally I use Avast’s free version; I’d consider using the Microsoft AV on servers, but the free version only support desktop versions of Windows (like Avast).

http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

Originally posted 2009-09-30 01:00:29.

Windows XP, You Just Can’t Kill It!

Yesterday Microsoft made some significant changes to the order policies for Windows XP; while they did not extend the January 31, 2009 cut-off date for ordering licenses for Windows XP, they are allowing distributors to schedule delivery for their final orders over time — until 30 May, 2009.  More importantly, distributors will not have to pay for the licenses until they take possession of them.

There’s no way of telling if Microsoft will further extend Windows XP availability, they’ve already extended availability to larger computer manufacturers and OEMs by six months (until 31 July, 2009); and Microsoft has allowed the sale of Windows XP on low-end notebooks until 30 June, 2010.

Currently Windows XP “outsells” Windows Vista about 3-to-1 so it’s obvious that Microsoft isn’t convinced they can maintain the current sales volume by forcing Windows Vista onto consumers and businesses.

Vista may well become a collector’s items — and maybe earn the nick-name of the Windows that never was…

Originally posted 2008-12-23 12:00:36.

Windows Live Mail Failings and Features

Since I’ve given Windows Live Mail a “recommendation” I do want to be clear about about some of the specifics.

First, when you move a message from one folder (account) to another, the tree pane displaying the folders (accounts) resets you to the top of the list reguardless of where you are.  This is clearly a bug — maintaining the visual state of a program is important (and I’ve reported it — on each of the last several versions).

Second, once in a while when you send a message, the message is sent fine; however, the message windows stays open, and if it was a “reply” the icon on the original message doesn’t change.  If the message window doesn’t close after you’ve clicked “send”, you might want to check your outbox and/or your sent items to see if it’s already been sent (or you might end up sending multiple copies — and that’s just embarrasing).

By default (and this is true of most all of the “newer” programs) the menu bar is turned off (the classic, file, edit, view, tools… help).  You can of course turn it back on, and you actually have to if you want to access some of the “advanced” features.  Personally I haven’t decided which way is best; I certainly like the fact the clutter is reduced, however I think I would like it more if I could easily add some of the feature to a “custom” tool bar rather than having to turn on the menu bar…

The program color codes your accounts; it uses some seemingly random selection process, but you can change them.  Most of the colors are muted, but there’s a pretty good selection.

The program allows you to determine the order of accounts in the tree pane (which is a great improvement over Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows Mail where you had to prefix accounts with number or special chacters to get them to sort in anything other than “alphabetical”… and technically it was still alphabetical, it’s just you had a character or two at the beginning that wasn’t part of the “name”).  They could improve the interface of moving folders a little — like add a “move to top” and “move to bottom” instead of just “move up” and “move down”

They’ve done a nice job with the visual elements of the program; it takes some of the ideas from the way Outlook presents information and trys to keep everything “simple”.

And I’ve saved what could be the best new feature for last.. the “Quick Views” — basically, you have a great deal of control over this, but by default it shows you things like “Unread e-mail”, “Unread from contacts”, “Flagged items”… and if you’re like me and have a ton of email accounts, it’s really nice to be able to zero in on those new message quickly, and find those flagged message.

It also has SPAM and Phishing filters; but I tend to depend on my ISP to do that, and find that a second level of SPAM filters create more problems…

Originally posted 2008-05-12 00:27:10.

Virtulization, Virtulization, Virtulization

For a decade now I’ve been a fan of virtulization (of course, that’s partially predicated on understanding what virtualization is, and how it works — and it’s limitation).

For software developers it offers a large number of practical uses… but more and more the average computer user is discovering the benefits of using virtual machines.

In Windows 7 Microsoft has built the “Windows XP” compatibility feature on top of virtualization (which means to use it you’ll need a processor that supports hardware virtualization — so many low end computers and notebooks aren’t going to have the ability to use the XP compatability feature).

While Windows 7 might make running older programs a seamless, you can (of course) install another virtualization package and still run older software.

Which virtualization package to choose???

Well, for me it’s an easy choice…

  • Windows Server 2008 on machines that have hardware virtualization – HyperV
  • Windows 7 on machines that have hardware virtualization – Virtual PC
  • All others (Windows, OS-X, Linux) – Virtual Box

Now, the disclaimers… if I were running a commercial enterprise; and I didn’t want to spend the money to buy Windows Server 2008, Microsoft does offer Windows Server 2008 – Virtual Server Edition for no cost (you really need one Windows Server 2008 in order to effectively manage it — but you can install the tools on Vista if you really don’t have it in your budget to buy a single license).

And no, I wouldn’t choose Linux OR OS-X as the platform to run a commercial virtualization infrastructure on… simply because device support for modern hardware (and modern hardware is what you’re going to base a commercial virtualization infrastructure on if you’re serious) is unparalleled PERIOD.

If you’re running Vista or Vista 64 you may decide to user Virtual PC ( a better choice would be Virtual Server 2005 R2); but Virtual Box is being actively developed, and it’s hardware reference for virtualization is much more modern (and I feel a better choice).

To make it simple… the choice comes down to Microsoft HyperV derived technology or Virtual Box.  Perhaps if I were a *nix biggot I’d put Xen in the loop, but like with so many Linux centric projects there are TOO MANY distributions, and too many splinter efforts.

One last note; keep in mind that you need a license for any operating system that you run in a virtual environment.

Originally posted 2009-08-12 01:00:34.

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.