Entries Tagged as 'Windows XP'

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.

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.

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.