Entries Tagged as 'Windows XP'

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.

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.

“<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.

Windows – Desktop Search

Most people realize how valuable Internet search engines are; but not everyone has figured out how valuable desktop (and server) search engines can be.

Even in corporate environments where data storage is highly organized it’s easy to forget where something is, or not know that someone else has already worked on a particular document — but if you could quickly and efficiently search all the public data on all the machines in your organization (or home) you could find those pieces of information you either misplaced or never knew about.

With Windows Search it just happens.  If you have access to a document, and you search — you can find it.  Open up a file explorer Window and point it at location you think it might be, type in the search box — and matching documents quickly appear (and those that don’t match disappear).  Do the same thing against a remote share – and it happens magically (the remote box does all the work).  It’s even possible to  be able to search multiple servers simultaneously – and it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to setup.

Windows Search is already on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 as well as Windows Vista (you’ll want to apply updates) — and easily installable on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.  In fact, the defaults will probably do fine — just install and go (of course it will take a little while to index all your information).

A developer can fairly easily enhance search to include more document types using (plenty of examples, and it uses a model that Microsoft has employed in many parts of Windows)…   The search interface can be used via API, embedded in a web page, or just used directly from the search applet (which appears in auto-magically in Windows 7 and Windows Vista).

Very few Microsoft products are worth praise — but Windows Search is; and from my personal experience no competitor on any platform compares.

To those looking to write a “new” desktop search; look at Windows Search and understand what it does and how it works before you start your design.

Windows Search

Originally posted 2010-07-17 02:00:24.

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; Windows XP Service Pack 3

The release of Windows XP Server Pack 3 is now available to download from Microsoft.  This service pack is mostly a collection of updates that have been released since service pack 2.

Depending on your settings for automatic update, Windows may already be trying to download and install this update.

I recomment you download the IT installer if you have more than one computer or if you have virtual machines using Windows XP.

You can also slip-stream an install image to contains service pack 3 (it actually takes less time to slip stream it into an install image and install from that than install from service pack 2 and update).  If you need assistance slip-streaming, checkout nLiteOS — it’s a very easy to use tool (one important note, you can only slip-stream a 64-bit OS from a 64-bit OS).

Windows XP SP3

Originally posted 2008-05-06 12:00:35.

Virtual Server 2005 R2 with Internet Explorer 8

You’ve probably read my rant on IE8 and how broken it is.

If you have IE8, and you need to use Virtual Server 2005 R2 (and perhaps previous versions as well), and you’re tired of having to select compatibility mode manually all the time…

You can add a customer header to your web site to force IE8 into IE7 (compatibility) mode.

However, on a workstation (XP, Vista, etc) that means all of your web sites will force IE8 into IE7 mode; on a server (Server 2003, Server 2008, etc) you can set the header on only the virtual server web site.

Why Microsoft doesn’t issue a hot fix for this is totally beyond me… seem like it would be trivial for them to make the web service app send the META tag; or they could actually address the compatibility issues.

On Vista you’ll find the menu you need via:

  • Computer->Manage->Services and Applications->Internet Information Server->HTTP Response Headers->Add

And the Custom HTTP Response Header you’ll set and value is:

  • Name:  X-UA-Compatible
  • Value: IE=EmulateIE7

On other versions of Windows you just need to get to the IIS management console figure out how to set the custom HTTP header on a site (remember, workstation versions of Windows only have one web site so depending on the version of  Windows you’ll see either ‘default’ or nothing listed).

Originally posted 2009-08-27 01:00:02.