Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Windows Upgrade Stopped By DEP

While applying Microsoft's patches to a MS Windows Vista installating, the installer was stopped by Data Execution Prevention.

A screenshot was able to capture most of the message.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Faster Vista Booting

Press the start button and in the "Start Search" box type: msconfig

The "System Configuration" utility will run.

Choose the "Boot" tab.
Check "No GUI Boot". This will disable the splash screen during startup.

Click the "Advanced options..." button.
Check "Number of processors", and choose the highest number. This will allow multi-core (multi-CPU) processing during startup.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

XP Memory Usage

While refreshing a Windows XP desktop, I noticed what would now be considered low memory usage. Compared to Vista desktops easily surpassing 1GB of memory usage, XP was using 81M while running IE. After patching, the XP memory usage increased to 107M.

Monday, September 21, 2009

USMint.gov Passwords

The US Mint website inexplicably disallows passwords that end with a number.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Windows Media Center Traps The Cursor

Running Windows Media Center (MCE) on Vista Premium with two monitors. When maximizing Media Center, the cursor would get trapped in the MCE window which made it impossible to work on the other monitor. Apparently this bug has been present since MSWindows XP, so it is a design feature.

MCEMultiMon (unzip it - no install program) provides a few commands to send MCE to different monitors and allows MCE to be maximized without trapping the cursor.

On this PC, the right monitor is #1 and the left monitor is #2. To make the program work properly, editing the configuration file to offset the window was necessary. The changes are in bold:
[Screen 1]
X Offset=0
Y Offset=0
[Screen 2]
X Offset=-1152
Y Offset=0
[Screen 3]
X Offset=2560
Y Offset=0
[Screen 4]
X Offset=3840
Y Offset=0
[Default Screen]
Run with Windows=0

The next feature of MCE that would be useful to change is to make the application volume control work for the application, and not change the volume for everything. For example, muting MCE mutes everything and this is not desired.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blocking Web Ads

Firefox has add-ons to block advertisements. While these are effective within the specific browser, modifying the hosts file in MS Windows will provide a more complete solution that works in all browsers for all users of the PC.

Updating the HOSTS file in MS Windows Vista is described here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Burn ISO To CD

I found isorecorder to be a handy utility to burn ISO images on MS Windows. Simply right-click on an iso file and choose "Copy image to CD".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Comcast DNS "Helper" Opt-Out

Comcast has started a domain name "helper" service that inserts a page of ads when a domain name does not resolve successfully.

Use this opt-out page to disable this new "feature". The page is accessible inside the Comcast network.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Microsoft Malware Scan

Running MSWindows XP Home on a laptop, there was a blue screen of death after attempting to start up from hibernation.

The following alert was displayed:
Malware alert: Problem caused by spooldr.sys, which might be malware

The system suggested a full malware scan. Microsoft has a malware scan tool available for free download.

Microsoft's tool removes orphaned registry entries and includes a disk defragment utility. Auslogics has a disk defrag that has been available for years.

Spyware Blaster provides some defenses to the Internet Explorer browser, along with flash ad blocking and custom system restore points.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Encrypted Password Storage On MSWindows

PasswordSafe stores passwords. The application for MSWindows is available at SourceForge.net.

The application is more than an encrypted notepad, it has entry fields specifically for password info. The info can be stored on one machine (in MSWindows registry) or as a file that can be shared.

Improving Laptop Readability On MSWindows

Text readability on LCD displays can be improved with the following applications available at no charge from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx

Look for download links:
ClearType Tuner (improve text readability)
Tweak UI (modify many UI attributes)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

iTunes Startup Sludge

iTunes on MS Windows installs startup tasks that may be removed.

Start --> Run --> regedit.exe

In regedit, search for qttask. Look for the qttask under the key ...\CurrentVersion\Run. This is where startup tasks are stored.

In regedit, right-click on iTunesHelper and choose Delete. Then right-click on "QuickTime Task" and choose Delete. Exit regedit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

HDTV Antenna

I had been using an older Radio Shack amplified antenna. With proper fiddling, many of the available over-the-air HD channels would be received. Most channel changes would require antenna fiddling.

I built the following antenna, and it works good. The antenna is not amplified (uses no electricity) and has not required fiddling to receive all of the channels. The antenna is leaning behind the TV, in a less-than-optimal position that is mostly hidden from sight.

13' #10 solid copper wire.
board > 2.5' long.
10 washers.
10 drywall screws or wood screws.
75-to-300 ohm Transformer  
RG-6 coaxial cable

Cut 8 pieces of wire, 14" long.
Cut 2 pieces of wire, 20" long.

Mark 2" from top of wood board, then mark 5 3/4" three times. Total of four marks.

Bend each wire piece into V, so ends are 2.5" to 3" apart. Remove insulation from areas where washers will connect.

Loosely screw V into board with washer.

Attach wires A and B as pictured, with insulation removed under washers. Wires A and B are electrically isolated -- they cross but don't electrically connect.

In this diagram, the Vs are not proportionally correct. When measuring, the spacing will be proportional.

 \     /   \     /          \     /   \     /
  \   / 
   \   /            \   /     \   /
   \ /
      \ /              \ /       \ /
 |  o    
    O --wire A---X-- O         o |B
 |   \       /                  \       /  |O
T|     \                              /    |T
O|       \                         /       |T
P|    /     \                    /     \   |O
 |  O         o --wire B---X-- o         O |M
   / \       / \              / \       / \
  /   \     /   \            /   \     /   \
 /     \   /     \          /     \   /     \

Attach balun to wires A and B, in middle of each wire, near the "x" points.

Connect short, unlooped RG-6 coaxial cable between antenna and HDTV converter/tv.

Coat Hanger HDTV Antenna: Better Than Store Bought! AMAZING!

Alternative design for very long range reception: http://www.digitalhome.ca/ota/superantenna/design.htm

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Disable Windows XP Services

To conserve memory, some services unneeded on a standalone XP desktop (mainly used for web access and some word processing) by setting the services to Disabled:
Computer Browser
Shell Hardware Detection
SSDP Discovery Service

Set to Manual:
Distributed Link Tracking Client
Security Accounts Manager
Smart Card

How to change service settings:
Start, Run..., services.msc, highlight a service, right-click, Properties.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

PC Anti-Virus

Clamwin has been a trusted anti-virus solution for years. Clamwin stays resident, has scheduled scans, and integrates with Windows Explorer.

I tried the avast! solution on an older XP system.
The product installs a couple processes that start automatically as services, using about 25M or RAM. The avast! full boot scan is a great way to find and remove trojans. A few problems were found (in the recycle bin and in an old system restore point).

Results of full virus scan.

Due to RAM constraints of the older PC, I uninstalled the product after a boot-time trojan scan and full virus scan.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Windows XP Media Sharing CPU Usage

Using Windows XP, particularly after logon, sluggish performance and high CPU usage by wmpnetwk.exe may be noticed. Media Sharing uses the service provided by wmpnetwk.exe.

If you don't need media sharing for Windows Media Player, then the service does not need to be started.
Press the START button, RUN, and type: services.msc

Near the end of the list, highlight Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service. The STATUS will likely by "Started", and the STARTUP TYPE will likely be "Automatic".
Right-click the entry and choose "Properties".

Set "Startup type" to "Manual".  Press the "Stop" button to immediately stop the service, or wait until your next logon.

Disabling wmpnetwk.exe will save about 23,200K of memory.