Entries Tagged as 'Windows'

Browser Spelling Check

If you use Firefox you’re set, build of that have included a spell check add in for quite sometime; however, if you use Internet Explorer you’re going to want to look into a spell check add-on.

Some of the spell check add-ons depend on the presence of Microsoft’s spell check (you get that with Office products, like Word); but one of the better ones does not.

ieSpell works well, and some javaScript add-ins on web pages will automatically detect it (as they do Firefox’s spell check) and work the same; but when they don’t you have the ability to use the context menu to spell check the contents of a edit box.

For personal use ieSpell is toally free, for commercial use you should check the licensing.

Originally posted 2008-12-13 12:00:34.

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.

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.

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.

One of my favorite Windows inconsistencies…

While in general I’d say Windows and Windows applications are fairly consistent (compared to anything but OS-X at least), one of my favorite inconsistencies is…

On a computer with at least two hard drives (or partitions) take an uncompressed file (file system attribute) from one folder and move it to another folder with compression enabled on the same partition and the file remains uncompressed; however, take that same file and move it to another folder with compression enabled on a different partition and the file is compressed during the move…

If you understand what’s happening under the hood, the reason is clear: on one partition the file is simply renamed (the directory entry is changed); but with two partitions the file is actually copied and deleted, and the new copy inherits the attributes set by default from the new folder.

Yet, we as computer users shouldn’t have to be concerned with the details of partitions, we have every reason to expect the same operation to yield the same results — and technically there’s no reason why it should; either inherit and override the attributes based on the folder defaults, or preserve the file attributes (across partitions – if possible)…

Originally posted 2013-09-01 12:00:28.

Virtualization Solutions

On windows there’s basically three commercial solutions for virtualization, and several free solutions… wait one of the commercial solutions is free (well when you buy the operating system), and the other is partially free…

  • Microsoft Virtual PC (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Microsoft Virtual Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Microsoft Hyper-V (runs only one Windows Server 2008)
  • Parallels Workstation (runs on workstations)
  • Parallels Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Player (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Workstation (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Citrix (aka XenSource)

For Intel based Mac you have commercial solutions

  • Parallels Desktop
  • Parallels Server
  • VMware Fusion

And for Linux you have the following commercial solutions, and many free solutions (Xen being one of the leaders)

  • Parallels Desktop
  • Parallels Server
  • VMware Player
  • VMware Workstation
  • VMware Server
  • Citrix (aka XenSource)

And for bare metal you have

  • Parallels Server
  • VMware

 

I’m not going to go into details on any of these, I just wanted to give at least a partial list with a few thoughts.

If you’re new to virtualization, use one of the free virtualization solutions.  You can try several of them, and many of them can convert a virtual machine from another vendor’s format to it’s own, but learn what the strengths and weaknesses are of each before you spend money on a solution that might not be the best for you.

Microsoft Virtual Server has some definite performance advantages over Microsoft Virtual PC… there are some things you might lose with Virtual Server that you might want (the local interface); but Virtual Server installs on both desktop and workstation platforms, so try it.

For Mac I definitely like Parallels Desktop better than VMware Fusion; but you may not share my opinion.  VMware claims to be faster, though I certainly don’t see it.  And I might add, that if you have a decent machine you’re running virtualization software on, fast isn’t going to be the number one concern — correctness is far more important.

Also, with each of the virtualization systems, hosts, and guests there are best practices for optimizing the installation and performance.  I’ll try and write up some information I’ve put together that keep my virtual machines running well.

For the record, I run Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 (64 bit) on Windows Server 2003 R2 x64 SP2, and on Windows Vista Ultimate and Business x64 SP1; works well.  And I run Parallels Desktop v3 on my Macs.

For the most part my guests are Windows XP Pro (x86) and Windows Server 2003 (x86); I don’t really need 64-bit guests (at the moment), but I do also run Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, Free Spire, etc linux…

Like I said, figure out your requirements, play with several of the virtualization systems and spend your money on more memory, perhaps a better processor, and stick with the free virtualization software!

Originally posted 2008-05-18 20:25:18.

Resetting NTFS File Permissions

From time to time after you’ve installed a piece of software and removed it (or removed users) you’ll find that you’re unable to delete a file or directory from Windows when using a NTFS file system (and that’s really the only file system you should be using for Windows).

The simplest way to handle that (assuming all you’re doing to do is delete the file or directory) is to do the following in a command prompt:

takeown /R /F %1

icacls %1 /T /Q /C /RESET

%1 is the Windows convention for a parameter (so you could put this in a batch file); you can manually substitute the name of the file or directory; also you could change into the directory containing the files and/or directories and use “*” (wildcard) rather than a file name.

NOTE:  You will need to elevate the privilege of the command prompt (launch it as user ‘administrator’).

Originally posted 2013-09-11 12:00:23.

SyncMate

Fairly often I get messages from vendors who’ve read a posting I’ve made on a “similar” product to one of theirs and they suggest that I take a look at their product… and I welcome these messages.

When I got such a request from Eltima Software on SyncMate a few months ago I read their web page and thought that their product sounded like it’d be worth taking a look at — so finally this week (mostly because I was talking through the issues of device synchronization with a friend of mine) I got around to testing out the software.

First, the software comes in a free edition as well as an “expert edition” (which isn’t free) — and I’ll go over the list of features and cost later; for now my review will cover only the free version and components.

Second, SyncMate runs only on a Mac; so if you don’t have a Mac, you probably won’t be interested (and SyncMate isn’t the killer app, it won’t justify you running out and buying a Mac to synchronize your devices).

Here’s my objective: keep my contact list and calendar synchronized on my HTC TouchPro2.

Thumbnail —

  • I have a HTC TouchPro2 [unlocked] running Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Over 500 contacts (many with detailed information and a picture)
  • I have several calendar events per week (with reminders); often multiple on a single day
  • I don’t use Outlook (and never will again)
  • I currently use Microsoft MyPhone (the basic features are free, and they are barely worth that price)

Criteria —

  • Sync needs to be “easy”
  • Sync needs to be “reliable”
  • Sync should work via Bluetooth, WiFi, Internet, and/or USB
  • Sync must include all information

And they’re off…

I first tried to get everything working with Bluetooth — that was a fricking night mare; so I dropped by and just plugged in a USB cable (which installed the sync component for SyncMate on my Windows Mobile device).

After that, I just followed the prompts on the screen to setup my device in SyncMate, decide what to sync, and what direction to sync it in (which for me was just syncing my phone to my Mac, since I didn’t really have any information on my Mac), and pressing a button — and then waiting patiently.

SyncMate was able to sync 100% of the contact information and calendar information from the phone to the Mac — and I was able to view that information in the Mac’s Address Book and iCalendar programs.

But wait… I’m not done.

Eltima also provides a sync component for Windows (desktop); so I installed that on a Windows 7 machine — and after a little fumbling around I was able to push the contact synchronization information from my Mac (which I’d gotten from my phone) to Windows 7 — the system Address Book; and then backup the .contact files to my RAID5 array!

A little background —

When I upgraded to Windows 7, Microsoft advertised the Windows 7 Sync Center — a way to manage and synchronize devices; silly me, I just assumed that Microsoft would support Windows Mobile 6.5 (their flag ship mobile phone operating system) out of the box.  They didn’t — you had the run the POS Device Center software that came out with Vista — which would have been acceptable, except it only synchronizes with Outlook and that POS ain’t happening on my computers ever again.

So began my quest began.

OK, so SyncMate works; and sSyncMate will do what I want… but now let’s really “talk” about it.

One of the first things I noticed after setting up the Windows sync component was that it crashed (often)… and it was difficult to convince the SyncMate on the Mac that the PC was alive again after re-launching the sync component.

The interface for SyncMate is a little clunky… it just doesn’t have a very well though out flow; and could definitely use some human engineering to improve it.  It’s usable, but far from ergonomic.

The free version of SyncMate is extremely limited; in fact, I wouldn’t class it as much a free version as I would a teaser version.  For me, it does 99.99% of what I want — it synchronizes my contact (and handles all the fields), it synchronizes my calendar, and it will read my SMS messages (but doesn’t allow me to do anything with them except view them in the free version).

The “Expert Edition” adds a number of features that you might want; but given that it’s $39.95 for a single license (plus $11.99 for lifetime upgrades — which I would say is an absolute requirement) I think it’s priced way too high; you can review the additional features (one of which is a SMS manager, which I think it’s a little retarded that they have two SMS plugins — one that reads, one that manages — I think of the two together).

Here are the pluses to the free edition:

  • Synchronizes contacts (their feature chart notes Entourage 2008 support, but in fact they don’t do anything but give you the instructions to make Entourage use the OS-X contacts)
  • Synchronizes calendar events (again with the Entourage support — see above)
  • Provided device information (handy but not essential)
  • SMS reader
  • Internet sharing (hmm… I thought OS-X could do that by itself)

The expert editions provide these features that I think would probably be nice:

  • Backup
  • SMS manager
  • Call history
  • To Do’s
  • Autosync

And the following are enhancements they should add:

  • Stable Windows sync component
  • Android support (without using Google)
  • Windows Live Mail support
  • Windows Live Calendar support
  • Windows Live synchronization
  • Windows version

Finally, they need to rethink the pricing model.  $39.95 for the personal license is just too much; I’d think $19.95 is more in keeping, particularly since a lifetime upgrade guarantee is $11.99 extra; and the business license is $49.95 (I don’t really why there’s a difference unless the business license included the one of the “priority support plans” they offer — and of course I didn’t see a guarantee on the “priority support” — like getting you money back if they failed to resolve an issue, or answer within a specified time period.

Here’s what I think they should consider:


Personal License $19.95
Family Pack (5) $39.95
Lifetime Upgrade Guarantee $9.95


So basically I think their prices are too high (and yeah, mine above are on the low side, and certainly $24.95 and $49.95 are not unreasonable amounts, but that’s about the limit in my mind, and I think the lower price would encourage a larger user base — and probably end up being more profitable); and I think their “family pack” being 6 units rather than 5 units like Apple is retarded; and I think the lifetime upgrade should be one price… I don’t have any comments on the pricing of the priority support plans since they don’t have any details on the plans.  As to corporate licensing, they can handle that on a case-by-case basis; but they definitely need to eliminate their distinction between a personal and business license; though I have no issue with excluding business use of the family pack.

I would have purchased a license right away (just because I like to support reasonably well done software) had it been priced right; but at the price they want to charge, they’re going to have to fix the Windows sync component, and actually make it have a reasonable feature set…

I am going to use the free version; and I’ll consider upgrading to the “Expert Edition” when they either add features (fix features) and / or address the pricing.

Eltima Software
SyncMate

Originally posted 2010-07-08 02:00:43.

XML Notepad 2007

If you’re a Windows user, IE 7 does a great job of displaying XML files, but unless you have Visual Studio or Expression Web you don’t really have a decent XML editor (and those really aren’t designed to do XML edits).

Microsoft, though has XML Notepad 2007, a free download that runs on 32 and 64 bit Windows — and it’s a great editor for XML and supports XLST — here’s an excerpt from the download page:

Overview

Handy features include:
  • Tree View synchronized with Node Text View for quick editing of node names and values.
  • Incremental search (Ctrl+I) in both tree and text views, so as you type it navigates to matching nodes.
  • Cut/copy/paste with full namespace support.
  • Drag/drop support for easy manipulation of the tree, even across different instances of XML Notepad and from the file system.
  • Infinite undo/redo for all edit operations.
  • In place popup multi-line editing of large text node values.
  • Configurable fonts and colors via the options dialog.
  • Full find/replace dialog with support for regex and XPath.
  • Good performance on large XML documents, loading a 3mb document in about one second.
  • Instant XML schema validation while you edit with errors and warnings shown in the task list window.
  • Intellisense based on expected elements and attributes and enumerated simple type values.
  • Support for custom editors for date, dateTime and time datatypes and other types like color.
  • Handy nudge tool bar buttons for quick movement of nodes up and down the tree.
  • Inplace HTML viewer for processing xml-stylesheet processing instructions.
  • Built-in XML Diff tool.
  • Support for XInclude
  • Dynamic help from XSD annotations.
  • Goto definition to navigate includes and XSD schema information.

 

You can download version 2.5 from:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=72D6AA49-787D-4118-BA5F-4F30FE913628&displaylang=en

Originally posted 2008-08-14 20:36:29.

Video Encoding

A little over a year ago one of my friends with a Mac wanted to get into re-encoding video; I knew about the tools to do it on a PC, but none of the tools really had a OS-X port at that time, so I set out on a quest to find tools that could enable a person who didn’t know much about video encoding to accomplish it.

One of the first tools I stumbled on was HandBrake; it was an Open Source project leveraging off of a number of other Open Source products intended on creating a cross platform suite of tools for video encoding that was reasonably straight forward to use and produced reasonable good results.

Well, the version I tested was a near total failure… but the project showed promise and I keep tabs on it for quite some time.

Over the past year it’s steadily improved.  In fact, I’m probably being a little hard on it, since right after I played with an early version a much improved version was available that did work, and did allow my friend to accomplish what he wanted.

Last month HandBrake released a new version — a much improved version.

With Windows, OS-X, and Linux versions you can try out HandBrake for yourself and see the results.

I did two separate tests (and for some reason I always use the same two DVD titles — Saving Private Ryan, and Lord of the Rings — the reason is that both movies have a wide range of  video type from near still images to sweeping panoramic views to everything in motion (blowing up)…

I had two separate machines (a Q9300 and a Q9400 both with 8GB of DDR2) doing the encodes, and did both normal and high profiles; one test was H.264 into a MPEG4 container with AAC created from the AC3 5.1 track; the other was H.264 into a MKV container with AAC created from the AC3 5.1 track in addition to AC3 5.1 pass-through and Dolby Surround pass-through with [soft] subtitles.

For the high profiles: Lord of the Rings took a little over three hours; Saving Private Ryan took just under two and a half hours — so don’t get in a hurry, in fact, run it over night and don’t bother the computer(s).

The high profile achieved about a 2:1 reduction in size; the normal profile achieved about a 4:1 reduction in size.  The high profile’s video was stunning, the normal profile’s video was acceptable.  The AAC audio was acceptable; the AC3 5.1 was identical to the source, and in perfect sync.

There are a number of advantages to keeping your video in a MPEG4 or MKV container verses a DVD image… it’s much easier to catalog and play, and of course it’s smaller (well, you could keep the MPEG2-TS in a MKV and it would be identically sized, but I see little reason for that).

The downside of RIPping your DVDs is that you lose the navigation stream and the extra material.  Do you care???

HandBrake will read source material in just about any format imaginable (and in almost any container as well)… you can take a look at it’s capabilities and features online.

I’ve got some VCR capture streams in DV video that I’m encoding now — trying a few of the more advanced settings in HandBrake to see how it works (well, that’s not really testing HandBrake, that’s testing the H.264 encoder).  My expectation is that once I get the settings right, it will do a fine job; but with video captures you should never expect the first try to be the best (well, I’m never that lucky).

While HandBrake is very easy to use, your ability to get really good results from it is going to partially depend on how willing you are to learn a little about video re-encoding (which will require a little reading and a little experimentation).   But that said, NO product is going to magically just do the right thing in every case…

Overall I would say that HandBrake is one of the best video encoders you’re going to find, and you cannot beat the price — FREE!

Here’s some additional notes.

For Windows 7 you will want to download the DivX trial and just install the MKV splitter (nothing else is needed) so that Windows 7 can play media in a MKV container using it’s native CODECs.

With Windows Media Play 12 and Media Center I haven’t figured out how to switch audio streams; so make sure you encode with the audio stream you want as a default as the first stream.  With Media Player Classic and Media Player Classic Home Cinema it’s easy to select the audio stream.  Also, Windows Media Player will not render AC3 pass-through streams, it will just pass them through the SPDIF/Toslink to your receiver — so you won’t get any sound if you’re trying to play it on your PC.

Don’t delete any of your source material until you are certain that you are happy with the results; and you might want to backup your source material and keep it for six months or so just to be sure (yeah — I know it’s big; but a DVD will fit on a DVD).

Handbrake

Originally posted 2009-12-17 01:00:07.