Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Updates for Vista

Here are new Updates for Windows Vista. (KB942089), (KB942089), (KB940069), (KB940069), (KB943544), (KB943544)..

Install this update to resolve an issue where Omniquad Firewall and TT Firewall Version 2.0.3 fail to install on systems running Windows Vista.
Update for Windows Vista (KB942089)
Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB942089)
Install this update to resolve an issue where an indexing service query, using a LIKE predicate, returns an incorrect result on a system running Windows Vista.
Update for Windows Vista (KB940069)
Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB940069)
Install this update to resolve an issue where a duplicate or incorrect date is displayed on the Windows Vista Sidebar Calendar gadget.
Update for Windows Vista (KB943544)
Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB943544)
Install this update to resolve an issue where connecting to a non-UNC (Uniform Naming Convention) printer fails on a system running Windows Vista.
Update for Windows Vista (KB941542)
Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB941542)
Install this update to resolve an issue where the computer continually restarts with Microsoft Windows Pre-installation Environment (Windows PE) 2.0 on an AMD Barcelona processor, and the Operating System Capabilities ( _OSC ) method enabled in the BIOS.
Update for Windows Vista (KB942813)
Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB942813)
Install this update to resolve suspend and resume issues on Windows Vista systems configured with a digital cable tuner.
Update for Windows Media Center for Windows Vista (KB938929)
Update for Windows Media Center for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB938929)
Install this update to resolve suspend and resume issues on Windows Vista systems configured with a digital cable tuner.
Update for Windows Media Center for Windows Vista (KB927084)
Update for Windows Media Center for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB927084)

Source: Microsoft Support

The Hidden Windows Vista Tools

The default installation of Windows Vista weighs in at approximately 8 GB. In fact, Microsoft's latest operating system won't even install with less than 15 GB of space available on the hard drive. This is valid for both the low-end and the high-end editions of the platform.

A full Vista installation will take up no less than 40 times more hard disk space compared to Windows 95's 200 MB and five times more than Windows XP's 1.5 GB. Part of the reason why Vista hugs so much hard disk real estate space is the fact that the operating system brings to the table a plethora of built-in administrative tools that ship by default with the platform.

In this context, the term hidden, is not entirely accurate. Advanced users and system administrators have no problems tracking down and using the administrative tools in Vista. But at the same time, an average user could pass right by them, just because of their low footprint in the operating system's fabric, as they simply have a way to go by virtually undocumented and unnoticed.

But this does not mean that the tools are not there, it just requires a bit of digging under the surface. And you will be surprised of how many long-time Windows users have failed to take a deeper look under the hood of the operating system, even if it would make their life so much easier.

You'll be surprised of what is lying beneath. But at the same time you have to understand that a large part of these utilities are not new to Vista, although they all suffered enhancements. Some of them are obviously survivors from older editions of Windows. But this is besides the point. You should at least be aware of the luxuriant resources within your grasp, provided of course that you are running Windows Vista.

Also, while the tools exemplified in this article are to a certain degree common to all SKUs of Vista, you would do better to focus on the high-end editions of the operating system, such as Business, Enterprise and Ultimate, and less on Home Basic and Home Premium, as some items might be missing or limited in functionality on the latter two examples of the platform.

1. Task Manager

Right, I thought I would debut with something as common as the Start Menu. The Windows Task Manager can be launched via Ctrl + Shift + Esc, or by Alt + Ctrl + Delete, as well as by right clicking the Taskbar and choosing Task Manager from the options in the contextual menu that pops up. The Windows Task Manager in Vista is designed to run with standard user privileges, and as such, will not deliver a User Account Prompt. The tool will permit you to manage Applications, Processes, Services, and to monitor Performance, Networking and the active Users through the corresponding tabs. If you are looking to kill a program that is not responding, identify the process associated with a certain program or simply check the CPU cycles or the amount of system memory cached, then Task Manager is the simplest and most accessible tool.

2. Network and Sharing Center
"The Network and Sharing Center puts you in control of your network connectivity. It's a place where you can check your connection status, view your network visually, and troubleshoot connection problems. The Network and Sharing Center informs you about your network and verifies whether your PC can successfully access the Internet—then summarizes this info in the form of a Network Map," reads a fragment of Microsoft's description of the resource.
But the Network and Sharing Center is only the surface of the Windows Network Diagnostics tool in Windows Vista, an automated utility designed to identify, diagnose and resolve connectivity problems. And in its turn, the Windows Network Diagnostics tool is just a part of the Network Diagnostics Framework (NDF) in Vista. Every time you will run into connectivity issues, NDF can provide a way out. The Network and Sharing Center is located under Control Panel, Network and Internet.

3. Backup, Shadow Copies, System Restore

There is an intimate connection between backup, shadow copies, system restore and restore points in Windows Vista. And there are two locations that will permit you to both have a general perspective of the status of the capabilities mentioned and to configure them, the Backup Status and Configuration and the Backup and Restore Center. Both can be launched by entering "Backup" in the search box under the Start Menu.

Via the Backup Status and Configuration you will be able to manage automatic file backup and handle the settings, as well as perform advanced restore or a complete PC backup. The Backup and Restore Center offers basically the same functionality but is additionally focused on creating system restore point and activating the shadow copies’ features.

4. Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption

Available exclusively in Windows Vista Enterprise and Ultimate, Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption is designed to help ensure the privacy of sensitive data by encryption. Although the default configuration of BitLocker requires a Trust Platform Module, the fact of the matter is that TPMs are rare in use outside of corporate environments, but users will be able to use the tool nonetheless, although without some functionality. With Windows Vista SP1, the Redmond company will also allow users to encrypt additional volumes on top of the operating system drive, protected by default.

"During computer startup, if BitLocker detects a system condition that could represent a security risk (for example, disk errors, a change to the BIOS , or changes to any startup files), it will lock the drive and require a special BitLocker recovery password to unlock it. Make sure that you create this recovery password when you turn on BitLocker for the first time; otherwise, you could permanently lose access to your files", is the warning Microsoft provides with the use of BitLocker.

5. Program Compatibility Wizard

The Program Compatibility Wizard under Control Panel and Programs will permit you to use an older program with Windows Vista. The tool is designed to help users that are experiencing functionality issues with an application in Vista, although the problems were not there with a prior version of Windows. The wizard will detect all the programs installed, and also permit the selection and testing of compatibility settings. Everything from display settings, to desktop composition and to administrative privileges can be set through the wizard.

6. Microsoft Management Console 3.0

"Microsoft Management Console (MMC) hosts administrative tools that you can use to administer networks, computers, services, and other system components," reads an excerpt of the Redmond company's description of the resource. The Microsoft Management Console 3.0, also known as Console Root or Console 1, has been around since Windows 2000. You can open it by typing "mmc" in the Search box under the Start menu, in a Run dialog box or in a command prompt window. MMC is essentially not an administrative tool, as it does not perform any such tasks, but it does provide hosting for various components including: Local security Policy, Computer Management, Event Viewer, and the Reliability and Performance Monitor as snap-ins which can be added for local or remote computers on the network.

7. Computer Management

Computer Management is a collection of administrative components. Accessible by entering "Computer Management" in the Search box under Start Menu, you can find items placed in three categories: System Tools, Storage and Services and Applications. Computer Management comes with the Task Scheduler, Event Viewer, Shared Folders, Local Users and Groups, the Reliability and Performance Monitor, Device Manager, Disk Management, as well as Services and WMI Control.

8. WMI - Windows Management Instrumentation
"Effective management of PC and server systems in an enterprise network benefits from well-instrumented computer software and hardware, which allow system components to be monitored and controlled, both locally and remotely. Microsoft is committed to simplifying instrumentation of hardware and software under Microsoft Windows operating systems. Microsoft is also committed to providing consistent access to this instrumentation for both Windows-based management systems and legacy management systems that are hosted in other environments. The foundations for manageability in Windows operating systems are Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI; formerly known as WBEM) and WMI extensions for Windows Driver Model," reveals the company's introduction on WMI.
9. Services

Typing "Services" in the Search box under the Start Menu will open the tool with exactly this name. Essentially, the utility will provide an exhaustive list of all the processes in Windows Vista complete with name, description, status and startup type. The console will allow you to stop, restart or start various services across the operating system, as well as getting an insight into all the properties of the services enumerated by the tool.

10. Disk Management

Disk Management in Windows Vista is under Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Administrative Tools, Computer Management, Storage. A breeze to navigate if you were to ask me. The system utility will help you manage partitions and hard disks. Disk initialization, creating volumes, and formatting with the FAT, FAT32, or NTFS file systems are all tasks offered by Disk Management.

11. Device Manager
"Device Manager provides you with a graphical view of the hardware that is installed on your computer. All devices communicate with Windows through a piece of software called a device driver. You can use Device Manager to install and update the drivers for your hardware devices, modify hardware settings for those devices, and troubleshoot problems", is the overview Microsoft provides of the tool.
Device Manager permits users to modify hardware configuration settings, get a complete overview of all devices, perform device drivers installation and uninstallation actions, as well as enable and disable certain items.

12. Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor

Under Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Administrative Tools, the Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor is the big brother of the monitoring features provided by the Task Manager. The tool will offer a closer view at the CPU, the hard disk, Network activity and System Memory. Users can both monitor the system's performance in real time or choose to create logs of data collected and stored for further analysis.

13. Local Users and Groups

This is the perfect location to manage accounts in Windows Vista. You will be able to create and handle user accounts and the details related to them such as Groups and privileges. The Local Users and Groups console offers a location to activate the two built-in accounts that ship with Vista: Guest and Administrator. While Guest can be all but ignored, I am sure that the account for the Absolute Administrator of Vista is the kind of freedom some users will want.

14. Event Viewer
"The Event Viewer is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that enables you to browse and manage event logs. It is an indispensable tool for monitoring the health of systems and troubleshooting issues when they arise. Event Viewer enables you to perform the following tasks: view events from multiple event logs; save useful event filters as custom views that can be reused; schedule a task to run in response to an event and create and manage event subscriptions", reads the tool's overview.
15. Task Scheduler

The Task Scheduler is also hosted under Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Administrative Tools and the name is pretty much explanatory. You can use the tool to schedule automated tasks in concordance with a specific time or a certain event. The utility will also offer a complete library of scheduled tasks allowing you to delete unnecessary items, in addition to options such as run, disable and modify.

16. Memory Diagnostics Tool

Normally, you will access the Memory Diagnostics Tool via the Windows Vista installation disk. But there is also another way. The utility can be found under Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Administrative Tools and, when launched, it will offer to restart immediately and check for RAM problems, or analyze the system memory the next time the computer is started. This is a very useful tool that will identify and diagnose memory problems.

17. System Configuration

System Configuration can be launched by entering "msconfig" in the Search box under the Start menu. It will offer users five tabs and with them the possibility to manage the startup process, boot options, the services across Vista, a reduced list of start-up items as well as providing shortcuts to a range of tools in the operating system. Under the Tools tab, you will be able to find some more hidden Vista goodies such as Internet Protocol Configuration, UAC and easy access to the registry.

18. System Information

"System Information (also known as msinfo32.exe) shows details about your computer's hardware configuration, computer components, and software, including drivers," reads the general description of the tool. System Information offers users a view over System Summary, the Hardware Resources and the Software Environment. The tool will display information about the operating system and its general settings, hardware and programs. Just type "msinfo32.exe" in the Search box under the Start Menu in order to launch it.

19. Windows Firewall with Advanced Security

Windows Firewall with Advanced Security is a bit of a hidden gem in Windows Vista. Located under Control Panel, Administrative Tools the tool is a bundle between a host firewall and Ipsec. If you want control over packets for IPv4 and IPv6 traffic, then this utility is the right answer for you, no doubt about it. You will be able to configure rules that will then apply to all incoming and outgoing traffic.

20. Local Security Policy

Also placed under Control Panel, Administrative Tools, the Local Security Policy will allow you to configure policies for the Vista Accounts, Local Policies, Public Key Policies, Software Restrictions Policies, IP Security Policies on Local Computer and the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security.

Source: Marius Oiaga,

Compatibility, Reliability, and Stability of Vista Update

About 2 months ago Microsoft released a couple of hotfixes that improved the stability and reliability of Windows Vista, these were not made available on Automatic Updates.

That aside, Microsoft has released an update to the compatibility, reliability, and stability of Windows Vista fix that further improves the reliability of your system.

The original fix improved annoyances such as file copy calculation & speed from within windows to other (local or network) drives.

This update improves the compatibility, reliability, and stability of Windows Vista. This update includes the following improvements:
  • It extends the battery life for mobile devices.
  • It improves the stability of portable computers and of desktop computers that use an uninterruptable power supply (UPS).
  • It improves the reliability of Windows Vista when you open the menu of a startup application.
  • It improves the stability of wireless network services.
  • It shortens the startup time of Windows Vista by using a better timing structure.
  • It shortens the recovery time after Windows Vista experiences a period of inactivity.
  • It shortens the recovery time when you try to exit the Photos screen saver.
  • It improves the stability of Windows PowerShell.
This update also resolves the following issues in Windows Vista:
  • A compatibility issue that affects some third-party antivirus software applications.
  • A reliability issue that occurs when a Windows Vista-based computer uses certain network.
Download: Update for Windows Vista x86-based versions (KB941649) package validation required
Download: Update for Windows Vista x64-based versions (KB941649) package validation required

source: Microsoft Support

Friday, October 26, 2007

Best Free Instant Messaging Client

If you're like me, then you probably have friends and family using a variety of IM networks. One way to talk with people on each one of these networks is to open an account for each and then download and install each IM client on your computer. However, running four different IM applications on your computer uses a lot of system resources, is difficult to manage, and broadens your attack surface.

Therefore, I would recommend using a multi-protocol IM client. These applications not only allow you to connect to multiple IM networks, but they are also advertisement free, more secure, and have features that allow you to easily manage your various IM accounts.

For many Gaim would be the first choice. It supports AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, and Zephyr IM networks and is available for multiple platform as as well. It's a solid choice but it's not by cup of tea. I've found it resource heavy and the interface confusing though I must admit the customizability though Guifications is an attractive feature. Trillian Basic is easier to use than Gaim, is less resource greedy and easier on the eye as well . It supports the AIM, ICQ, IRC, MSN, and Yahoo networks. Now, if you're a power user and want support for more networks and the ability to add features via plug-ins, then definitely check out Miranda Instant Messenger.

In addition to the networks supported by Trillian, it has native support for Gadu-Gadu and Jabber (it also will connect to the Google Talk network with a little plug-in tweaking). Its interface is minimalist, but the application is very extensible through the use of plug-ins. Miranda IM is now my IM client of choice

Best Free CD Ripper

My friend, Fitra, recently started the long task of ripping her 1200 CDs to her hard disk. She knew it was a huge job and one she certainly wanted to do only once. So, before I started to help her, I was determined made sure I did it right.

There are lots of rippers available. All media players including Windows Media Player can rip. There are also some great freebies plus a host of commercial rippers. Most will rip to WAV, MP3 and usually several other formats.

After a lot of experimentation I ended up with three rippers to evaluate in detail: CDEX, Exact Audio Copy and AudioGrabber. All are free. If your CDs are like mine then some will be scratched or have lots of finger-marks. These can cause pops and crackles in the ripped file. Rippers vary greatly in their ability to handle these problems. Some will simply get stuck; others will skip forward over the problem or even create a silent gap.

The best programs will try repeatedly to fix the problem with no audible effects. Of the three products I tested, one product was outstanding in its ability to handle CD imperfections. That product was Exact Audio Copy.

I'm now two thirds of the way through my ripping exercise. Of the 800 or so CDs ripped I've only had 7 tracks that EAC couldn't rip perfectly. Given the condition of some of my CDs, that's a mighty impressive performance.

EAC can rip to WAV, MP3 (using the excellent LAME encoder), OGG, FLAC, APE and more. CD rippers interact strongly with your CD hardware so it's possible EAC may not work with your particular CD drive. If that's the case, try CDEX and AudioGrabber. While their performance with scratched CDs is not as good as EAC they are both outstanding freeware products.

Best Free Virtual Desktop Manager

I looked at a whole batch of free VDMs including VirtuaWin, Microdesk, Dexpot and Virtual Desktop Toolbox. VirtuaWin is a competent but basic product that depends on third-party modules for extra features but unfortunately there aren't many around.

Microdesk comes with more standard features such as 99 desktops, configurability of each desktop (name, password, wallpaper and icons), an attractive interface and a configurable transparent menu above the tray bar to navigate between desktops. However, there is no detailed FAQ and no forum.

Dexpot allows even more configurability for each of its 20 possible desktops with its well-organized interface and enables easy switching between desktops and quick movement of windows. However, the online documentation is very incomplete and the most active section of the online forum is in German.

Virtual Desktop Toolbox is loaded with features which the other three lack. The negative is that it takes a little longer to learn. However, the pain is eased by the very thorough user's guide and tips and tricks folder included in the installation and also available online at here and here.

Note that to unlock some time and feature restrictions to Virtual Desktop Toolbox's evaluation version you need to take out a free registration. The four VDMs I reviewed are all very capable products but I recommend Virtual Desktop Toolbox because of its outstanding features list and excellent support. Once you have learned how to use it you will improve your organization and productivity, perhaps drastically so.

Best Free Duplicate File Detector

I must confess that I'm not a great fan of the practice of routinely deleting duplicate files from PCs. Sure it can free up some disk space but it can also get inexperienced users into a great deal of trouble.

There are quite a few duplicate file detection utilities around but CloneSpy is the one that impresses me the most. It's certainly not the fastest program in its class but it's definitely the smartest. First, you can specifically select what is to be scanned and this can include multiple drives, multiple folders or just individual folders.

Second, it has the ability to detect duplicates by CRC, by file name, by CRC and file name and by file name and size.

Third, it will also detect zero length files.

Fourth, the program does not need to be installed but can be run from the executable so it's a good candidate for your USB Flash drive toolkit.

Finally, it throws up duplicates to the user in a way that at least makes you think about what you are deleting. Click-happy users may find this latter feature an annoyance; to me it's a safety feature. Safety feature or not, please read the help file and use with care. In particular do NOT include your Windows folder in your scan unless you are a knowledgeable technical user.

Best Free Project Manager

Open Workbench is a free Open Source project manager that is so feature rich and so powerful that it should at least be considered before any decision is made to purchase a commercial project management package. It's a product that takes time to get your head around.
If you have been using Microsoft Project or other task based manager you'll have to re-orient your thinking because Open Workbench is resource-driven not task-driven.
"An Open Workbench plan is built up from estimates for the tasks of work. Estimates are tied to the resource assigned to the tasks. Duration is then driven by the number of hours each resource will work per week to cover the total number of hours required for the tasks. Open Workbench is best suited for groups that estimate total work effort based on the estimates for all the tasks associated with a project, and then create a staffing plan and schedule for those estimates."
Once you come to terms with this, you will still have to grapple with learning how to use this powerful product. Here is a partial feature list:
  • Define projects and create associated work breakdown structures with activities, phases, tasks and milestones
  • Create dependencies as finish-start, start-start, finish- finish or start-finish
  • Create subprojects and link them to master projects
  • Create and manage inter-project dependencies
  • Manage advanced task properties such as fixed duration, dependency lag, imposed start/end dates and charge codes
  • Schedule tasks manually or automatically using Auto Schedule
  • Automatically schedule tasks forwards or backwards
  • Schedule across linked master and subprojects
  • Schedule to general or individualized calendars
  • Define resources as people, equipment, materials or expense
  • Assign resources to tasks
  • Configure resources on tasks with uniform, fixed, contour, front or back loading
  • Track status, percent complete and estimates to complete
  • View Gantt charts (both detail and roll-up), PERT charts and the critical path
  • Conduct earned value analysis
  • Define, compare and reset project baseline setting
  • Can read Microsoft Project files
Open Workbench is the real thing, not some amateurish, half baked effort. Like Microsoft Project, it is best suited to large scale projects that can justify the considerable time it takes to learn the product. Those with smaller projects may want to consider some of the simpler (and less powerful) alternatives such as GanttPV or ToDoList.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Best Free RSS Reader/Aggregator

Defining a best in this category is tough as different users have very different priorities. For some users, display readability and easy subscription is everything while to others, the level of blog integration is the most important attribute.

I fall firmly in the first category. To me RSS is just another information source not a way of life.

Indeed the most important feature in a reader to me is the ability to easily click on a number of interesting items from an integrated display and have a stacked series of Windows relating to the items open in a browser for later reading. That way I can scan quickly for items of interest but read the items at my leisure.

The readers that most conveniently offer this feature are those integrated into browsers rather than stand-alone readers or those that are work with your email client.

My favorite program for doing this is the Firefox extension for Onfolio. It was a commercial product until it was recently acquired by Microsoft who now make it available for free. Naturally Microsoft no longer support the Firefox extension but Onfolio is available for Internet Explorer users as an add-in for the free Windows Live Toolbar. With the IE Onfolio add-in you'll not only get a great RSS reader you'll also get a whole bunch of other features including the ability to save and manage web snippets. On the downside you'll have to have Live Toolbar which many will see as too much of a Faustian bargain.

If you use IE7 you may not need Onfolio as the RSS reader built into IE7 follows the Onfolio model and is excellent though it lacks Onfolio's excellent snippet management features.

Firefox users are not quite so well placed.

Firefox's V2 has inbuilt RSS capabilities though it doesn't work nearly as slickly as IE7. Page feeds are automatically detected and the user is the offered the choice of the online services at Bloglines, My Yahoo! or the Google Reader. All work well enough and for those with a Google account, the Google is option is probably the pick.

Apart from these three inbuilt options Firefox allow you use other third party readers as well. You can find instructions here [6] but be aware that not all readers can be integrated.

There are several RSS reader extensions available for Firefox. My top choice used to be the excellent Pluck extension but it is soon to be discontinued. The free Sage RSS reader extension is another possibility. I've never liked it much but it might just light your fire.

My old Onfolio Firefox extension still works in Firefox 2 (with the help of the compatibility feature of the Nightly Tester Tools extension) but you need the commercial version of Onfolio to support it so it can hardly be recommended.

If you can't live with these choices you could try a stand-alone reader.

BlogBridge has a highly readable display and any items clicked will load in the background in separate Firefox tabs for later reading. Even better is the ability to setup Firefox to use BlogBridge as your default reader. That way you can subscribe to new feeds from Firefox and have the feeds handled through BlogBridge, which is quite a neat solution. You'll need version 4.2 of BlogBridge or later - it won't work with early versions.

BlogBridge has a whole raft of features including support for almost all feed formats, syncing feeds between PCs, good searching and good integration with and Flickr. Being Java based it available for most platforms however like all Java applications, there is a performance penalty to pay.

Another excellent stand-alone reader is GreatNews. Its newspaper style layout is one of the best I've seen and it's inbuilt IE based browser allows for quick and efficient viewing of items of interest. It will particularly appeal to Blogline users as it utilizes the Bloglines API to read feeds directly from Bloglines. Like BlogBridge it can be integrated into Firefox

Those wanting to integrate RSS with Microsoft Outlook email might like to try RSS Popper. Personally I think your email client is the worst location for a RSS reader but there are many who disagree.

Best Free CD Burning Software

Locating quality freeware burning applications for this review proved challenging, even though there are plenty of contenders. My short list included: AVS Disc Creator, burnatonce, Burn to the Brim, CDBurnerXP Pro, CDR Tools Front End, CommandBurner, DeepBurner Free, Easy Burning, Express Burn, and HT Fireman CD/DVD Burner.

I was also attracted to two other programs, Burn4Free and Artisan (a.k.a. Sun), but they were packaged with adware and/or spyware and were discarded. Of all the products, the most impressive was CDBurnerXP Pro. It possesses all of the core features you need including an intuitive interface, the ability to author data discs, create audio CDs playable in a regular CD player, create bootable discs, copy discs, and create and burn image files (e.g. ISO).

It passed every test I was able to throw at it including adding to a multi-session disc created on another drive with another burning application and creating a functional slip-streamed Windows XP installation CD! In addition to the core features, CDBurnerXP Pro also has a several additional features including: customizable boot disc options (lacking in DeepBurner), integrated cover printing utility, integrated audio player and audio, and the ability to rip audio CDs to various formats including MP3 (with CDDB lookup).

Lastly, those familiar with Nero will be right at home as CDBurnerXP's interface is very much like Nero's. All up, CDBurnerXP is a good choice for both basic and advanced users.

DeepBurner Free is a close second to CDBurnerXP Pro. If you don't author bootable CDs or care about the additional multimedia features, then DeepBurner Free might be the one for you. It has all of the core functionality, but is a much smaller download package and has a smaller installation footprint. It also offers a portable version that can be run stand-alone from a USB drive.

In addition to these products, there are several free burners that are extremely small and specialize in just one or two features. For example, Burrrn is for authoring audio CDs, CreateCD and CommandBurner offer command line burning capabilities, DVDShrink is meant for creating DVD backups, and ImgBrn and ISO Recorder are for burning images to disc with a couple clicks of the mouse, and 64bit version is available.

For general users, though, CDBurnerXP Pro or DeepBurner Free are the clear winners.

Best Free Video Conversion Program

Wouldn't it be neat to be able to convert any kind of video files to a format you can use on your PSP, iPod or mobile phone? "Super" is a free utility that allows you to do pretty well all of these things and more.

It has two great strengths: first it's relatively easy to use and secondly it handles a large number of different file formats. It handles 3gp/3g2 (Nokia, Siemens, Sony, Ericsson), asf, avi (DivX, H263, H263+, H264, Xvid, MPEG4, MSmpeg4 etc), dat, fli, flc, flv (used in Flash), mkv, mpg (Mpeg I, Mpeg II), mov (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4 etc), mp4 (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4), ogg, qt, rm, ram, rmvb, str (Play Station), swf (Flash), ts (HDTV), viv, vob, and wmv. It also handles audio file format conversion including ac3, amr, mp2, mp3, mp4, ogg, ra, wav, and wma.

Am I impressed? You bet; I've seen commercial software with fewer features selling for over$100. Be aware though, that video conversion by its very nature requires a lot of processing power and can be very slow on older PCs. NOTE: The download link on the author's site seems to have been removed. Super can however be downloaded from here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Best Free Web Browser

Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is a competent browser with enough features to meet the needs of most users but is difficult to recommend due to on-going security concerns. In the past IE has been a focus for security attacks and there is little to suggest this will change with the release of IE7. Additionally, Microsoft have a poor track record for speedily fixing IE defects and this has left users open to drive-by attacks and other forms of zero-day exploits.

There are several excellent alternatives with the new Mozilla Firefox V2 a solid first choice. It's safer than IE, so safe in fact that many users have reported no spyware infections since they started using the product. It's also browses a tad faster than IE, is very stable and is more standards compliant. The program loads slower than IE but once running, it positively zips along. With tabbed browsing and over 2000 free extensions (add-ons) that allow you to customize your experience, it provides most users with a major surfing upgrade. Firefox is now my everyday browser though I still leave IE on my PC for the occasional web site that's designed around IE's non-standard features.

An equal first choice is Opera. It's a speed demon; probably the fastest of all the common browsers. But it's much more than that; it's full featured, standards compliant and safe. Just as Firefox is extensible through add-ins, Opera can be enhanced using Widgets, though there are not nearly as many of these available as Firefox extensions. Then again, it doesn't need as many extensions as a lot of the features added by Firefox add-ins are already available built into the standard Opera browser. There's just so much to like about Opera V9 that you could easily create a case that it's better than Firefox. Indeed, if I could get an Opera replacement for some of my key Firefox add-ins, I'd probably switch.

Users who don't want to drift too far from the Microsoft stable can get some of the feature advantages of Firefox and Opera by using one of the many customized shells for Internet Explorer such as Maxthon and Avant. Their main selling feature for these products used to be tabbed browsing but now that this is available in IE7 it's hard to create a case for their general recommendation. Still if you need a specialized feature they are worth considering. On the downside these shells share most of the same security problems as IE as they utilize the IE engine.

Last but not least is the K-Meleon browser, a slimmed down cousin of Firefox that's optimized for Windows. Of the four browsers I use regularly on my different PCs, K-Meleon is the quickest loading and along with Opera, the fastest for surfing. On the downside there are only a limited number of add-ons and plug-ins available so you are pretty well limited to the features available in the standard product. If you are the type of person who prefers performance to bells and whistles you should definitely try K-Meleon.

Download Them:

Mozilla Firefox (5.6MB)
Opera (4.6MB)
Maxthon (1.9MB)
AvantBrowser (1.86MB)
K-Meleon (6MB)

3 Reasons Why Mac OS X and Linux Won't Succeed against Windows

Let me state from the get go that this is not a Mac OS X vs. Linux vs. Windows Vista article. It will not provide a conclusion over the superiority of one operating system alone and will only be limited to a total of three reasons why Mac OS X and Linux won't succeed against Windows Vista.

Success in this context is equivalent to a scenario where either Mac OS X or Linux, or both, would negatively influence the adoption of Vista to such an extent that Microsoft's share on the operating system with Windows would suffer and become eroded. But in the end it is not about Vista, or a specific version of the three operating systems.

The bottom line is that between the end of 2001 and early 2007, or from XP to Vista, neither Mac OS X nor Linux managed to dislodge Windows.

1. Windows Saturation

Since both Linux and Mac OS X are valid alternative platforms to Windows, each with its own footprint on the operating system market, the concept of a Microsoft monopoly is not valid by any means. Near-monopoly would more accurately describe the Redmond company's dominant position with its operating system, or even a Windows saturation of the market. According to the latest estimates for the install base of each platform as of mid 2007, Windows is on top of the world. The initial vision of Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates was to put a computer on every desktop in every home. Gates is currently transitioning out if his day-to-day role with the Redmond company and will complete the quasi-divorce from Microsoft as of mid 2008, in favor of Ray Ozzie - Chief Software Architect and Craig Mundie - Chief Research and Strategy Officer. And by 2008, Microsoft will have achieved a key milestone, a landmark fragment of Gates' vision.

Earlier this year, at the Financial Analyst Meeting 2007 on July 26, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer, delivered a perspective over the evolution of Windows in the company's 2008 fiscal year, or from July 1, 2007 until June 30, 2008.
"The install base of Windows computers this coming 12 months will reach 1 billion. If you stop and just think about that, parse that for a second, by the end of our fiscal year '08, there will be more PCs running Windows in the world than there are automobiles, which is at least to me kind of a mind-numbing concept. I think it talks about the way the value has been driven from the Windows PC, and all of the applications from Microsoft to third parties that go with it," Ballmer stated.

And this is only on the client side. But Microsoft has also a strong presence on the server side with its Windows operating system. Clearly client- and server-side are two completely different dimensions. And the fact of the matter is that Linux is regarded as a prominent server platform, while the client version has failed to surpass the single-digit desktop market share since the introduction. Analyst firms Gartner and IDC, in their latest quarterly server numbers, gave Microsoft 67.1% of the market with Windows, and Linux 22.8%. Apple also produces a server operating system, along with the client version, but Mac OS X Server is an insignificant presence, although the Cupertino-based company is pushing ahead and will deal its next move concomitantly with Leopard in October.

And what is even more relevant for Microsoft's dominance on the server-side is the fact fat the Redmond company is accepting the reality of Linux. The interoperability and intellectual property assurance agreement inked with open source distributer Novell in November 2006, is nothing more than Microsoft's way of evolving inside heterogeneous environments, running mixed solutions, as Linux is an established presence and not going anywhere for now.
"I would look at the server market. Windows Server has done well, but has not grown as quickly in recent years as Linux has," stated Brad Smith, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft, explaining the company's position in relation to the lost antitrust battle in Europe.

Statistics look a tad different on the client-side. OneStat gives Windows a global usage share of 96.72% in mid 2007, while Mac OS X is credited with 2.70% and Linux with just 0.36%. W3Counter has Windows at approximately 93% of the market with 3.75% for Mac OS X and 1.37% for Linux, barely more than the percentage of Windows 98. Market Share by Net Applications also gives Windows the lion's share with over 93%, followed by Mac OS X with 6% and Linux still under 1%. The numbers are important because they reflect the fact that there is no empty space to grow for either Linux or Mac OS X. Windows is hugging the market, leaving little elbow room for its rivals. Both Linux and Mac OS X need a consistent amount of momentum to go against Microsoft, but in the Windows saturated market there is no way for that momentum to be gained. Things are simpler for Windows Vista. Microsoft's latest operating system has a natural growth trajectory by replacing older version Windows, and especially Windows XP. By definition, Windows users will look to Microsoft to provide their next operating system.

2. Security

There is a generalized perception of Linux and Mac OS X superiority over Windows when it comes down to the level of security each operating system provides as a de facto standard. The status quo is a direct result of a cocktail mixed with various ingredients, starting from the "inherent" and arrogant superiority attributed to Mac OS X and Linux supporters, continuing with obscure market shares and inexistent threat environments for the UNIX based and the open source operating systems. For Windows users on the other hand, the success of the operating system has as a logical consequence, the downside of running on the most attacked platform on the market. The simple fact that Windows is a large and facile target, in terms of the volume of potential victims, focusing on the threat environment is synonymous with insecurity. Just look at the "Top ten web threats" from Sophos in September or from "Virus Top Twenty for August 2007" from Kaspersky. Not a single piece of Linux or Mac OS X malware.

This is why Microsoft has invested heavily in security and in delivering the perception of security to the public since the release of Windows XP SP2 in 2004. Vista is constantly applauded as the most secure operating system to date, as a direct result of the implementation of the Secure Development Lifecycle methodologies in the building process of the operating system. The SDL is meant to deliver a result as close to the perfection of secure as default perfection is possible, and to reduce the maximum severity rating of the flaws that do get into the final product. Users have to understand that there is no panacea solution to security and that the number of vulnerabilities in Windows, Linux and Mac OS X will never be zero.

Still, the first characteristic of both Linux and Mac OS X is the fact that both operating systems deliver the perception of security by default. And not only the perception. There are long time Linux and Mac OS X users that have never run an antivirus and never got infected with a piece of malware. This is security that Windows Vista is unable to deliver. But at the same time, Microsoft has poured a consistent amount of work into catching up to the rival platforms, because security was the one aspect where Windows was suffering a stigmata of inferiority compared to Mac OS X and Linux. Now the Redmond company is able to market not only a product designed to be secure via SDL, but also a mature security environment and industry built around the operating system, the latter giving it the edge on Linux and Mac OS X. This is how, with Vista, Microsoft is reducing the relevance of security as a decisive factor in choosing an operating system.

You can access both "Windows Vista 6-Month Vulnerability Report" put together by Jeff Jones, Security Strategy Director in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group, or the independent "Symantec Internet Security Threat Report - Trends for January–June 07", for a perspective on the vulnerabilities impacting Windows, the major distributions of Linux including Red Hat, Novell SUSE, and Ubuntu, and Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

3. Evangelism

Evangelism is the zealous marketing of the operating system not to end users, but to software developers. Windows, as well as Linux and Mac OS X are platforms first of all. But the success of an operating system is relatively independent of its quality. However, it is directly dependent on the ecosystem of third-party solutions that are orbiting around it. An operating system will provide a center of gravity for additional software products from developers, partners, information technology professionals and end users. Microsoft, Apple and Linux distributors such as Red Hat, Novell or Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu, all offer support, tools, services and resources to developers building on top of their platforms. Evangelism is what keeps current partners happy and converts developers to one platform as opposite to another.

And make no mistake about it. Microsoft is dead-on focused on software developers. Back in 2001, the Redmond company gave birth to the Developer and Platform Evangelism Division. And Microsoft has been militating Windows with zeal. At this point in time the Redmond company can throw behind Windows not only household names such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Ray Ozzie or Craig Mundie, but also the immense mass of Microsoft employees. The company's workforce, approximately 80,000 strong are all Windows missionaries to a higher or a lesser degree.

Do you want an example of Microsoft evangelism at work? Just look at Windows Vista. The number of applications supported by the operating system has grown from 650 at launch to over 2,000 by mid 2007. Additionally, the number of compatible devices grew from 1.5 million to over 2.2 million with in excess of 11,000 items labeled with the Works or with Certified for Windows Vista logos. And this in just the first six months of availability of the operating system. Microsoft Evangelism, on top of the ubiquity of the company's operating system, is the reason why the best and latest games come first to Windows and the reason why top worldwide applications and programs along with software entertainment products, are centered on the platform and not ignoring it.

The same scenario is valid for Linux and Apple but to a smaller degree. And with the Cupertino-based company the evangelism strategy is quite different, and it involves mainly the persona of Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs. Apple however is doing not so much evangelism as pure marketing, because this is the trademark of Jobs. Gates is a monopolist turned philanthropist, the world's wealthiest man, and the one that will take Windows to an install base of 1 billion in 2008. Gates has "killed" competitors on the market and has gone head to head with the authorities in the Unites States and Europe, and Microsoft came out all right, more than ever regarded as an untouchable software monolith. Jobs instead can sell. He has the Mac Guy aura all over him, and he is able to sell every piece of hardware that Apple packages in a bubblegum white design, and every item of software produced in Cupertino. And first and foremost, Jobs is the living and breathing example that there can be a successful operating system outside of Microsoft's Windows.

In contrast, Linux has close to nothing. The Linux world, in fact the entire open source universe is an example of fragmentation. There is no center of gravity, no common criteria or ground and no balance. There is only a puzzle of disparate entities and interests, continually unsynchronized and in a perpetual motion. Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux kernel is nothing more than a background figure. He is the all time good guy of operating system development and the embodiment of utopic open source principles and policy. But Torvalds and Linux evangelism are concepts that do not mix. Instead of being the driving force behind Linux adoption, Torvalds is just its passive father and nothing more. Fortunately for the Linux world, new figures emerge such as Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth. Now with Ubuntu, an operating system regarded as inferior to the products of Red Hat or Novell, Linux has got some comprehensive examples of evangelism, but it is too early to tell what the results will be. Still, for the first time since the availability of Linux, Ubuntu makes end users feel less alienated by the open source operating system.

A subject that can be easily correlated with evangelism is the support original equipment manufacturers and system builders are pouring in each of the three operating systems. Now obviously, this is not the case for Apple. The Cupertino company is a closed environment producing both the hardware and the operating system. This strategy has obviously hurt adoption, but with emulators, hypervisors and virtualization technology the Mac actually has a winning chance. For this Windows XP and Windows Vista had to be welcomed with open arms on Mac computers. With the introduction of Boot Camp, Apple is simply keeping up with the virtualization industry, offering an alternative. But either way Microsoft operating systems can run on a proprietary Apple platform, which gives users, and especially Windows users, the choice of either a PC or a Mac for their next new computer.

At the same time Microsoft has the support of all major original equipment manufacturers and system builders. Companies such as HP, Dell, Lenovo and Acer are all traditional Microsoft partners. According to estimates from Gartner, by the end of 2007, no less than 257.1 million personal computers will be sold worldwide, up from 231.5 units in 2006. The vast majority of these computers will come preinstalled with the Windows operating system. In order to get an idea of what this means you have to understand that in 2007, Apple will sell approximately 8 million Mac computers, but no more than 10 million. Now the fact of the matter is that PCs can easily run either Windows or Linux, and companies such as Dell with Ubuntu and HP with Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop 5 are also offering the open source operating system but on the note of a pet project aimed at a niche of the market, an accessory to the Windows offerings rather than an actual business.

As of February 2008, Windows XP will no longer be available to the retail and original equipment manufacturer channels. From 2008 until Windows 7 (Seven) is scheduled in 2010, Microsoft and its OEM partners will be selling only Windows Vista. And the estimated 257.1 million PCs to be sold by the end of this year will only grow in 2008.

Source: Silver Blade

Monday, October 22, 2007

Make Up Over Your Windows Look Like Ubuntu

If you are using a dual boot system with Ubuntu and Windows, you can clearly notice the limitations Linux has. And for many (myself included), Linux is extremely difficult. After awhile I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need ubuntu at all, but I still loved to look and feeling, after searching for ways to make my windows computer have that gnome feeling this is what I found:

Start with the visual style, if you haven’t already install Uxtheme Multipatcher, this will remove the limitations on your system, in order to install new themes. Then download the Human Visual Style Ubuntu Linux.

Go to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes and safe your download theme in there.

Now right click on your Desktop and click on Properties. Go to Appearance and select Human as the theme.

Now change the icons, first install Icontweaker,after that install Ubuntu Icontweaker theme.

Next, change the wallpaper on your desktop, get the Ubuntu wallpaper Here or Here.

To replace the icons for Windows Explorer, first install Styler toolbar(free), get the Ubuntu Human Theme for Styler.

Now get the famous Ubuntu Cursor

Now, what everybody wants. The alternative to Beryl on Linux. Get it Here, and get that “3D CUBE” effect.

To change the boot screen download BootSkin (it’s free): Get it Here.
And download the Ubuntu Bootskin:

To get Ubuntu Logon screen go here.

For Mozilla Firefox Web Browser, you can install the Ubuntu Theme, for Thunderbird or Dapper Retouched for Opera.

Source: The Indie Tribune

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Integrated Flickr on Windows Live Photo Gallery

Microsoft has updated Windows Live Photo Gallery, the upgrade to the default Windows Photo gallery that ships by default integrated into Windows Vista. While Windows Live Photo Gallery is still in Beta at this stage the product has evolved with the addition of some new features and functionality. Following the consistent feedback from users, Microsoft has added Flickr photo uploading capabilities to Photo Gallery, no longer restricting the software to its own Live Spaces. Microsoft partnered with Yahoo for this move, and consequently, users of Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2 will be able to find a Publish on Flickr option right in Windows Live Photo Gallery, extending the photo publishing flexibility.

"To upload to Flickr, all I needed to do was choose the photos I wanted to upload and hit "Publish" in the toolbar. A drop-down list will appear that allows me to either choose Windows Live Spaces or Flickr as destinations I want to publish my photos to. I chose Flickr. A new window appeared letting me enter options for which set I want the photo to belong to, what size I want the photo to be uploaded at, and permissions of that photo. Windows Live Photo Gallery will notify you once your photo (or photos) have been uploaded and ask if you would like to view those uploaded photos. In choosing to view the uploaded photos, I was able to add a description and change the name of the photo," Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc described the process.

The Redmond company is referring to the new release of Windows Live Photo Gallery as Beta 2.2 refresh. As of yet, the Beta 2.2 is not available directly for downloading. Microsoft is instead serving the refresh via Windows Update. In this context, with Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta 2 installed on your machine search for additional updates and you should find Beta 2.2 refresh. If this should not be the case exercise a little patience as it will take Microsoft quite a while to make the update available to all users. Simply check back in a couple of days.

"Windows Live Photo Gallery no longer requires WDS (Windows Desktop Search) to be installed on XP! Again, we heard the grumblings loud and clear, and took action! Once you have installed the update via Microsoft Update and have build 1299.1010 install you can uninstall WDS if you’re not using it with any other programs. Being a beta, we’ve also fixed a ton of bugs reported by users so the product should be a lot more stable since the last beta release," Microsoft Program Manager Michael Palermiti stated.

World Smallest Luxury USB Stick: 4GB Bissol

Blinged-out USB flash drives are nothing new, really, since, for some strange reason, the number of people ready and willing to cough up huge amounts of cash in order to purchase something that acts more like a piece of jewelry than a technological device has seriously increased.

And this is also the reason why the Canadians at Bissol came up with their Luxury Memory Sticks, which provide 4 GB of storage space in a shiny and attractive package.

Obviously, the main selling point of the device is its external casing. Thus, the drive sports a machined solid brass body, available in 2 models: brass (gold color) and electroless nickel coated brass (silver color). Furthermore, the drive offers users 4 GB of storage capacity, which makes it a rather average (or mid-range, if you will) device, but, after all, it's quite clear that this particular drive will be used mostly for showing off, rather than actually carrying around the users' data.

As all the other USB flash drives on the market, the device from Bissol connects to a host computer via an USB 2.0 interface, which means that it can attain data transfer rates of up to 480 Mbps, without requiring any external power sources. Furthermore, the drive supports the ReadyBoost feature from Windows Vista, which means that its 4 GB can be used as additional RAM memory, thus increasing a system's overall performance without the addition of expensive RAM modules.

As mentioned earlier, the manufacturer claims that its luxury memory stick is among the world's tiniest and it seems that this thing actually has the specs to prove it, as the device measures around 28.9mm × 12.4mm × 2.2mm, at an overall weight of just around 3.6 grams.

Quite obviously, a device that contains "world's tiniest" and "luxury" in its description can't come cheap and that's exactly the case with the drive from Bissol. Thus, the Bissol Luxury USB Memory Stick retails for around 260 US dollars, which is a huge price to pay for such an item since, for example, a normal 16 GB drive can be found at around 200 US dollars.

Forget XP SP3, and Vista SP1, Have a Taste of Windows 7

The third service pack for Windows XP and the first major refresh for Windows Vista, are not even out in final form, as Vista SP1 moved from pre-beta to fully fledged beta, followed by a preview of XP SP3, but the releases are already old news.

In parallel with the development of Windows Server 2008, formerly codenamed Longhorn, Vista SP1 and XP SP3, Microsoft is also focusing on building Windows 7, formerly codenamed Vienna. Windows 7 is designed to be the successor of Windows Vista, and is currently planned for 2010. Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Eric Traut gave a presentation of the kernel of Windows 7, the operating system's core, which is designed to have a minimal footprint.
MiniWin "is the core of Windows 7. It is a collection of components that we've taken out. A lot of people think of Windows as this really large, bloated operating system, that's maybe a fair characterization, I could admit. It is large, it contains a lot of stuff in it, but at its core, the kernel and the components that make up the very core of the operating system, actually its pretty streamlined. It's still bigger than I'd like it to be but we've taken a shot recently at really stripping out all of the layers above and making sure that we have a very clean architectural layer", Traut revealed.
MiniWin is an internal only product. Microsoft plans in no way to productize MiniWin; however, the bare-bone kernel will act as the core for a lot of the company's solutions. Traut gave a presentation of the Windows 7 source code base that occupies only 25 MG of disk space. The amount is virtually insignificant compared with the 4 GB that Windows Vista manages to take out.

Of course that the MiniWin stripped down kernel is an integer part of Microsoft's strategy to deliver a modular installation of its operating system, something already done with Windows Server 2008's core installation. MiniWin is composed of approximately 100 files and it will run with just 40 MB of RAM. But at the same time it does not come with a graphics subsystem and only brings to the table a rudimentary HTTP server. You can access a video of Traut's presentation of Windows 7, and MiniWin via this link.

Mac OS X Leopard is supported on New FireFox

Mozilla has released released Firefox web browser. Notable in this release is the addition of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) support.

Other issues with the latest Firefox on Leopard surround the interface. For example, the Advanced tabs in Preferences will not render properly.
Those who are heavy tab users should be careful when using the Close Other Tabs action on the shortcut menu of a tab, as it can fail with an error when more than 20 tabs are open.

Firefox is even more multilingual now with official support for Georgian (ka) and Romanian (ro), and a beta release for Kurdish (ku).

Several critical, moderate and low security issues were fixed, such as crashes with evidence of memory corruption. Other issues patched include the possible file stealing through sftp protocol, file input focus stealing vulnerability and XPCNativeWrapper pollution using Script object.

Internet users can download from Mozilla's homepage and current users of older versions may use the auto update function within the browser.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Again, Bug on VISTA!

The new Windows Vista still has a significant bug or two

Early adopters of Windows Vista have experienced a rather bumpy ride. Facing public outcry, Microsoft agreed recently to let OEMs bundle XP with computers as opposed to Vista, a reversal of their previous policy, as reported at DailyTech.

Now a major error in Vista has been found that may affect a number of power users or anyone who, in the words of Microsoft, has "lots of files." Microsofts support pages for Windows Vista feature this jewel, featured on ZDNet.

When you use Windows Vista's Windows Explorer to try to copy files to another Windows computer, the following message may greet you:

"Out of memory
There is not enough memory to complete this operation."

According to Microsoft this can occur if "the files include extended attributes." Or, more humorously, if "you copy lots of files in a single operation."

Ironically users must specially request a hotfix in order to fix this problem which seems like it could frequently occur, as many users do copy "lots of files" between computers on a network. The problems are due to a memory leak in the Windows OLE component.

The fix was originally planned for inclusion with Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1). Unfortunately the beta version of SP1 does not contain the fix, so it appears to have been ditched from Vista SP1.

The magic number, it turns out is around 16,400 files. These do not have to all be copied at once. If a user copies this many or more files at any time between reboots, the user will frequently get errors.

"Black screens of death" (BSODs) have also been reported with the error. Ironically, early reports indicate that the file size does not necessarily matter in whether or not 16,400 files will cause the memory error.

The problem is apparently excaberated by Kapersky Antivirus, which somehow makes the crashes more likely to happen, according to reports.

Windows Vista also has issues with selecting more that 1,500 files. Doing so will cause dramatic memory spiking and slowdown. This was another issue that was supposed to be fixed in SP1, but is not currently included in the Beta, so also appears to have been scrapped.

Windows Vista users have many gripes, one of which is the high memory requirements of the system, and overall problems in memory useage and inefficiencies. Microsoft requires 1 GB of memory to run its OS, but users with less than 2 GB will experience less satisfactory performance.

As Microsoft struggles with its Vista woes, it can take solace that users will likely simply go back to its other product -- Windows XP.

This only occurs when you copy files from one computer to another. This is a typical scenario in a business or home network setting, so it is still significant to many users.

Again, this is not fixed in the Service Pack 1 beta, though a hot fix is available upon request. Note the crash does not occur during every copy, but does occur more frequently when running Kapersky, as noted. This article only intends to point out a current flaw in the Vista OS and not to discount Windows Vista or Microsoft's overall efforts to produce quality software products. Microsoft has indicated its intention to fix this error, and will likely include the hotfix in a future service pack, possible SP2, though this may be some time in the future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OS X v10.5 Leopard Available October 26, Pre-order Today

At the time, Apple announced that it would delay the introduction of the long-awaited operating system due to needs of the iPhone program. The delay forced OS X v10.5 to an October ship date instead of June.
"We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October," said Apple in April. "We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we're sure we've made the right ones."
"We can't wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is," the company continued.

The wait is almost over and eager Apple fans will be happy to know that OS X v10.5 will ship on October 26. Apple says that the revised operating system contains over 300 new features and “installs easily, and works with the software and accessories you already have.”

Some of the highlighted features include a revamped desktop, a new Finder which includes Cover Flow technology, Quick Look which gives full-scale previews of documents before opening them and Time Machine which creates incremental backups of files.

Pricing for Apple's OS X v10.5 may make some Windows Vista users green with envy. A single-user license of OS X v10.5 costs just $129.00 direct from Apple. A five-user license will set you back just $199.00.

Customers who pre-order OS X v10.5 today from Apple are guaranteed to have their copy on their doorstep on October 26.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Eee PC will be priced at $199 for bulk customers

While the UMPC platform has sparked some interest from consumers, the high price of entry -- around $1,000 for entry-level models -- has stalled significant growth of the sector. Asustek hopes to change that with its new Eee PC.

According to Reuters, the Eee PC will be priced from $199 for its bulk customers. Asustek's Eee PC will be available at brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy and online retailers like Newegg within the next few weeks. The UMPC will later make an appearance in Europe.

"If we can sell a couple million [Eee PCs], we'll be confident," remarked Jonathan Tsang, Asustek's president of sales and marketing.

The Eee PC features a 7" display (800x480), 10/100 NIC, 56k modem, WiFi, 256MB to 1GB of DDR2 memory and solid-state memory for storage (2GB to 8GB). To keep prices low, the device runs a Linux-based operating system although it is compatible with Windows XP.

The range-topping Eee PC 8G features 1GB of memory and 8GB of storage space. It also features a 5200 mAh battery good for 3.5 hours of battery life (lesser models are stuck with a 4400 mAh battery good for 2.8 hours). Device weight is a trim 2 pounds.

A Russian review of the Eee PC revealed that the device is powered by an ULV 900MHz Intel Celeron processor which is backed up by an Intel 910GMLE Express chipset.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Remove the limit on TCP connection attempts: P2P Hack

Windows XP SP2 introduces a few new twists to TCP/IP in order to babysit users and "reduce the threat" of worms spreading fast without control. In one such attempt, the devs seem to have limited the number of possible TCP connection attempts per second to 10 (from unlimited in SP1). This argumentative feature can possibly affect server and P2P programs that need to open many outbound connections at the same time.

Rant: The forward thinking of Microsoft developers here is that you can only infect 10 new systems per second via TCP/IP ?!?... If you also consider that each of those infected computers will infect 10 others at the same rate:
second 1: 1+10 computers
second 2: 10+10*10 computers (110 new ones)
second 3: 10+100*10 computers ( 1110 new ones)
second 4: 10+1000*10 computers (11110 new ones)

all the way to 10*60 + 10^60 computers in a single minute (that's a number with 60 digits, or it would far exceed Earth's population). Even if we consider that 90% of those computers are unreachable/protected, one would still reach ALL of them within a minute.

In other words, even though it is not going to stop worm spreading, it's going to delay it a few seconds, limit possible network congestion a bit, and limit the use of your PC to 10 connection attempts per second in the process ! I have no problem with the new default setting limiting outbound connection attempts.

Still, users should have the option to easily disable or change this setting. I might be going out on a limb here, but ever since the introduction of Windows XP I can't help thinking that I dislike all the bult-in Windows "wisardry" in a sense that the system also limits user access. That irritating trend to ease the mental load on end users is somewhat insulting, considering that Windows is to make the more "intelligent" choice instead of the end user, as well as limit their access to tuning such settings...
End of rant.

With the new implementation, if a P2P or some other network program attempts to connect to 100 sites at once, it would only be able to connect to 10 per second, so it would take it 10 seconds to reach all 100. In addition, even though the setting was registry editable in XP SP1, it is now only possible to edit by changing it directly in the system file tcpip.sys. To make matters worse, that file is in use, so you also need to be in Safe mode in order to edit it.

You only need to worry about the number of connection attempts per second if you have noticed a slowdown in network programs requiring a number of connections opened at once. You can check if you're hitting this limit from the Event Viewer, under System - look for TCP/IP Warnings saying: "TCP/IP has reached the security limit imposed on the number of concurrent TCP connect attempts". Keep in mind this is a cap only on incomplete outbound connect attempts per second, not total connections. Still, running servers and P2P programs can definitely be affected by this new limitation. Use the fix as you see fit.

To change or remove the limit, you can use the following program.

- A patching program for removing or changing the limit imposed on connection attempts in SP2. The patcher has the ability to restore tcpip.sys back to the original... Still, you might want to back up tcpip.sys, use it at your own risk.
The author of this patch can be reached at the site.

Tips for make XP as easier as never before

Opening Ports or Adding Allowed Programs with SP2's Firewall
1.Click on Start / Run
2.Enter in firewall.cpl
3.Click on the Exceptions tab

Adding a Port for Internet Access
1.Click on the Add Port button
2.Name it whatever you want
3.Enter in the ports you want to open

Adding a Program for Internet Access
1.Click on Add Program... button
2.A list of all installed programs will be displayed
3.Highlight the one you want to include for Internet access
4.Click on the OK button

Autoexec.nt or Config.nt Errors
If you are getting errors similar to:
The system file is not suitable for running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows applications. Choose 'Close' to terminate the application.

Try copying the file from \windows\repair directory to the one that is in the \windows\system32 directory.

Common Control Panel Applets
The follow are some common Control Panel Applets that are located in the \windows\system32 directory.
If you find yourself using any of these frequently, then you can simply make shortcuts to them on your desktop.

appwiz.cpl >>Add/Remove Programs
desk.cpl >> Display Properties
firewall.cpl >> Firewall Settings
inetcpl.cpl >> Internet Options
mmsys.cpl >> Sound and Audio
ncpa.cpl >> Network Connections
nusrmgr.cpl >> User Accounts
powercfg.cpl >> Power Options
sysdm.cpl >>System Properties
wscui.cpl >> Security Center
wuaucpl.cpl >> Automatic Updates Configuration Go to Top

Windows Explorer Opens Search Companion Rather than the Folder
If the Windows Explorer opens up the Search Companion rather than opening up the actual folder, the default setting for opening a folder is changed.
To correct this:

Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT \ Directory \ shell
Edit the default value to be explorer or none

Guest Only Network Access
If you try and connect to an XP computer and are shown a logins screen with only the computername/Guest,
You may need to change one of the Local Security Policies:
Got to Control Panel - Administrative Tools
Go to Local Policies - Security Options
Check teh Network access: Sharing and security model for local accounts
Set it to Classic - local users authenticate as themselves

Hiding a XP Computer from Network Neighborhood
If you want to share files from a XP computer,
yet want to remove it from showing up in the Network Neighborhood,
Run net config server /hidden:yes

Easy Way to Share Multiple Folders
If you need to share multiple folders, running the program SHRPUBW.EXE will bring up a simple dialog box to let you:
Browse to the folder you want to share
Enter in a Share name
Ender in a Share description
Set permissions. Several choices are available
Restart the process from within the same program Go to top

Not Viewing Zip Files as Folders
If you want to turn of WindowsXP showing Zip files as folders,
just run: regsvr32 /u zipfldr.dll

Setting Capslock, Numlock, Scroll Lock
If you want to set the startup state for any or all of these keys,
you just need to edit the registry.
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Control Panel \ Keyboard
Open InitialKeyboardIndicators
Change the value to one of the following numbers
0 - All Keys off
1 - Caps Lock on
2 - Num Lock on
4 - Scroll Lock on
For multiple keys, add their values:
3 - Caps Lock and Num Lock on
5 - Caps Lock and Scroll Lock on
6 - Num Lock and Scroll Lock on
7 - Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock on
Log off and back on again

Restoring Desktop Icon to the Quicklaunch Bar
If you mistakenly deleted the icon for the Desktop on the Quicklaunch toolbar
Go to C:\Documents and Settings\user_name\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch
(where user_name is replaced by your login name)
Create a Text file called ShowDesktop.SCF with the following contents:
Command=ToggleDesktop Go to top

Network Access After Norton Anti-Virus Install
Sometimes you can't access a WinXP computer after installing Norton Anti-Virus.
There might be a variety of errors at the other computer depending on the operating system.
On the XP computer, in the Event Viewer / System log, there will be the following error:
The server's configuration parameter "irpstacksize" is too small for the server to use a local device.
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\lanmanserver\parameters
Edit the IRPStackSize
Give it a value of 15
Reboot the computer

Configure for Auto-Logon
If you are the only person using the computer and what to have it automatically log you on,
Start / Run / "control userpasswords2" - no quotes
Uncheck User must enter a user name and password to use this computer
Services You Can Disable
There are quite a few services you can disable from starting automatically.
This would be to speed up your boot time and free resources.
They are only suggestions so I suggestion you read the description of each one when you run Services
and that you turn them off one at a time.

Some possibilities are:
Alerter - Sends alert messages to specified users that are connected to the server computer.
Application Management - Allows software to tap directly into the Add/Remove Programs feature via the Windows Installer technology.
Background Intelligent Transfer Service - The Background Intelligent Transfer

Service is used by programs (such as Windows AutoUpdate) to download files by using spare bandwidth.
Clipbook - ClipBook permits you to cut and paste text and graphics over the network.
Error Reporting Service - Allows applications to send error reports to Microsoft in the event of an application fault.
Fast User Switching - Windows XP allows users to switch quickly between accounts, without requiring them to log off.
Help and Support - Allows the XP Built-in Help and Support Center to run.
IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service - You don't need this if you have other software to create CDs.
Indexing Service - Indexes contents and properties of files on local and remote computers; provides rapid access to files through flexible querying language.
IP SEC - Manages IP security policy and starts the ISAKMP/Oakley (IKE) and the IP security driver. If you are not on a domain, you likely don't need this running.
Messenger - Transmits net send and Alerter service messages between clients and servers. This is how a lot of pop-up windows start appearing on your desktop.
Net Logon - Supports pass-through authentication of account logon events for computers in a domain. If you are not on a domain, you don't need this running
Network DDE - Provides network transport and security for Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) for programs running on the same computer or on different computers.
NT LM Security Support Provider - Provides security to remote procedure call (RPC) programs that use transports other than named pipes.
Performance Logs and Alerts - Collects performance data from local or remote computers based on preconfigured schedule parameters, then writes the data to a log or triggers an alert. If you don't need to monitor your performance logs, then you don't need this service.
Portable Media Serial Number - Retrieves the serial number of any portable music player connected to your computer
QOS RSVP - Provides network signaling and local traffic control setup functionality for QoS-aware programs and control applets.
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager - Manages and controls Remote Assistance. If you are not using Remote Desktop you don't need this service.
Remote Registry - Enables remote users to modify registry settings on this computer.
Routing & Remote Access - Offers routing services to businesses in local area and wide area network environments. Allows dial-in access.
Secondary Login - Enables starting processes under alternate credentials. This is what allows you to run an application as another user.
Smart Card - Manages access to smart cards read by this computer.
Smart Card Helper - Enables support for legacy non-plug and play smart-card readers used by this computer.
SSDP Discovery Service - Enables discovery of UPnP devices on your home network.
TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper - Enables support for NetBIOS over TCP/IP (NetBT) service and NetBIOS name resolution. This should not be needed in today's network environment.
Telnet - Enables a remote user to log on to this computer and run programs, and supports various TCP/IP Telnet clients.
Uninterruptible Power Supply Service - Manages an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) connected to the computer.
Universal Plug and Play Device Host - Provides support to host Universal Plug and Play devices
Upload Manager - Manages synchronous and asynchronous file transfers between clients and servers on the network.
Volume Shadow Copy Service - Manages and implements Volume Shadow Copies used for backup and other purposes.
Web Client - Enables Windows-based programs to create, access, and modify non-local files across the Internet.
Wireless Zero Configuration - Provides automatic configuration for the 802.11 adapters
WMI Performance Adapter - Provides performance library information from WMI HiPerf providers.

Cleaning the Prefetch Directory
WindowsXP has a new feature called Prefetch. This keeps a shortcut to recently used programs.
However it can fill up with old and obsolete programs.
To clean this periodically go to:
Star / Run / Prefetch
Press Ctrl-A to highlight all the shorcuts
Delete them Go to top

Not Displaying Logon, Logoff, Startup and Shutdown Status Messages
To turn these off:
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\policies\system
If it is not already there, create a DWORD value named DisableStatusMessages
Give it a value of 1

Repair Install
If XP is corrupted to the point where none of the previous solutions get it to boot, you can do a Repair Install that might work as well as keep the current settings.
Make sure you have your valid WindowsXP key.
The whole process takes about half an hour depending on your computer
If you are being prompted for the administrator's password, you need to choose the 2nd repair option, not the first.
Insert and boot from your WindowsXP CD
At the second R=Repair option, press the R key
This will start the repair
Press F8 for I Agree at the Licensing Agreement
Press R when the directory where WindowsXP is installed is shown. Typically this is C:\WINDOWS
It will then check the C: drive and start copying files
It will automatically reboot when needed. Keep the CD in the drive.
You will then see the graphic part of the repair that is like during a normal install of XP (Collecting Information, Dynamic Update, Preparing Installation, Installing Windows, Finalizing Installation)
When prompted, click on the Next button
When prompted, enter your XP key
Normally you will want to keep the same Workgroup or Domain name
The computer will reboot
Then you will have the same screens as a normal XP Install
Activate if you want (usually a good idea)
Register if you want (but not necessary)
At this point you should be able to log in with any existing accounts. Go to top

NTOSKRNL Missing or Corrupt
If you get an error that NTOSKRNL not found:
Insert and boot from your WindowsXP CD.
At the first R=Repair option, press the R key
Press the number that corresponds to the correct location for the installation of Windows you want to repair.
Typically this will be #1
Change to the drive that has the CD ROM.
CD i386
expand ntkrnlmp.ex_ C:\Windows\System32\ntoskrnl.exe
If WindowsXP is installed in a different location, just make the necessary change to C:\Windows
Take out the CD ROM and type exit

HAL.DLL Missing or Corrupt
If you get an error regarding a missing or corrupt hal.dll file, it might simply be the BOOT.INI file on the root of the C: drive that is misconfigured
Insert and boot from your WindowsXP CD.
At the first R=Repair option, press the R key
Press the number that corresponds to the correct location for the installation of Windows you want to repair.
Typically this will be #1
Type bootcfg /list to show the current entries in the BOOT.INI file
Type bootcfg /rebuild to repair it
Take out the CD ROM and type exit

Corrupted or Missing \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG
If you get the error:
Windows could not start because the following files is missing or corrupt
Insert and boot from your WindowsXP CD.
At the first R=Repair option, press the R key
Press the number that corresponds to the correct location for the installation of Windows you want to repair.
Typically this will be #1
Enter in the administrator password when requested
cd \windows\system32\config
Depending on which section was corrupted:
ren software software.bad or ren system system.bad
Depending on which section was corrupted
copy \windows\repair\system
copy \windows\repair\software
Take out the CD ROM and type exit Go to top

If you get an error that NTLDR is not found during bootup,
If you have FAT32 partitions, it is much simpler than with NTFS.
Just boot with a Win98 floppy and copy the NTLDR or NTDETECT.COM files
from the i386 directory to the root of the C:\ drive.
Insert and boot from your WindowsXP CD.
At the first R=Repair option, press the R key
Press the number that corresponds to the correct location for the installation of Windows you want to repair.
Typically this will be #1
Enter in the administrator password when requested
Enter in the following commands (X: is replaced by the actual drive letter that is assigned to the CD ROM drive.
COPY X:\i386\NTLDR C\:
Take out the CD ROM and type exit

Bringing Up the Shutdown Dialog Box
Create a new txt file somewhere on your system, open it and put in this one line:
(new ActiveXObject("Shell.Application")).ShutdownWindows();
Save and Close the file. Change the extension to js and your got it.
You can make a shortcut to that file to make it easy to shut down your system.

Hiding the Last User Logged On
If you use the standard NT style of login and want to hide the last user:
Start the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc)
Go to Computer Configuration / Windows Settings / Security Settings / Local Policies / Security Options
Scroll down to Interactive logon: Do not display last user name
Set it to Enable Go to top

Poweroff at Shutdown
If your computer does not turn off the power when doing a shutdown,
you may need to edit the registry. I have all the correct BIOS and Power settings and still needed to do this.
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
Edit the key PowerOffActive and give it a value of 1
You can do the same in HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop

Remembering Folder Settings
If XP does not remember your folder settings, delete or rename the following registry keys

Preventing Applications from Stealing the Focus
To prevent applications from stealing the focus from the window you are working
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Control Panel \ Desktop
Edit the key ForegroundLockTimeout
Give it a value of 00030d40

Disable Explorer Thumbnail View
If you want disable the Explorer's ability to show the Thumbnail View ,
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ Advanced \
Change ClassicViewState to 1 Go to top

Disable Shared Documents
To disable the Shared Documents folder that shows up on the network
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies \ Explorer \
Create a new DWORD Value
Give it the name NoSharedDocuments
Give it a value of 1
Log off or reboot

Removing Thumbs.db Files
When viewing a folder with the Thumbnail view, WindowsXP creates a thumbs.db file.
This is a cache of the current pictures in that directory.
If you want to turn this feature off and save a little disk space
Start the Windows Explorer
Go to Tools / Folder Options / View
In the first section under Files and Folders, check Do not cache thumbnails
Now you can search for the thumbs.db file on your computer and remove them. No more should be created.

Enable / Disable the Task Manager
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System
Create the Dword value DisableTaskMgr
Give it a value of 0 to enable it
Give it a vaule of 1 to disable it Go to top

Clearing the Page File on Shutdown
Another way to set the computer to clear the pagefile without directly editing the registry is:
Click on the Start button
Go to the Control Panel
Administrative Tools
Local Security Policy
Local Policies
Click on Security Options
Right hand menu - right click on "Shutdown: Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile"
Select "Enable"

If you want to clear the page file on each shutdown:
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\ClearPageFileAtShutdown
Set the value to 1

No GUI Boot
If you don't need to see the XP boot logo,
Click on the BOOT.INI tab
Check the box for /NOGUIBOOT

Using the Classic Search in Explorer
If you prefer to use the classic search style in Explorer,
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\CabinetState
Add a String Key called Use Search Asst
Give it a value of no Go to top

Changing Drive Letters
If you want to change the letters assigned to your fixed or removable drives:
Right Click on My Computer
Select Manage
Select Disk Management
For a Fixed Disk:
Select it
Right click
Select Change Drive Letter and Path
Click on the Edit button
Enter in the letter you want to use
For a Removable Disk:
In the lower, right hand panel, right click on the Disk or CD ROM #
Select Change Drive Letter and Path
Click on the Edit button
Enter in the letter you want to use

Changing the Registered Owner
Start Regedit
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion
From there you can edit the name in the Registered Owner key

Decreasing Boot Time
Microsoft has made available a program to analyze and decrease the time it takes to boot to WindowsXP
The program is called BootVis
Uncompress the file.
For a starting point, run Trace / Next Boot + Driver Delays
This will reboot your computer and provide a benchmark
After the reboot, BootVis will take a minute or two to show graphs of your system startup.
Note how much time it takes for your system to load (click on the red vertical line)
Then run Trace / Optimize System
Re-Run the Next Boot + Drive Delays
Note how much the time has decreased
Mine went from approximately 39 to 30 seconds. Go to top

Hide/Unhide Logon Names
If you want to hide or unhide the names of users that are displayed on the initial logon screen:
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows NT \ CurrentVersion \ Winlogon \ SpecialAccounts \ UserList
Add a DWORD with the name of the user account you want to hide
Make sure it has a value of 0
If there is an existing account, you can unhide it by giving it a value of 1

WindowsXP Command Line Utilities
While there are a lot of command line utilities in WindowsXP, here are some that I have been using lately.
bootcfg - Configures, queries, or changes Boot.ini file settings.
driverquery - Displays a list of all installed device drivers and their properties.
getmac - Returns the media access control (MAC) address and list of network protocols associated with each address for all network cards in each computer
gpresult - Displays Group Policy settings and Resultant Set of Policy (RSOP) for a user or a computer
netsh - You can use commands in the Netsh Interface IP context to configure the TCP/IP protocol
schtasks - Schedules commands and programs to run periodically or at a specific time
systeminfo - Displays detailed configuration information about a computer and its operating system

Creating an Automated Install of WindowsXP
On the WindowsXP CP, in the SUPPORT\TOOLS directory,
there is a file called DEPLOY.CAB.
Extract the programs DEPLOY.CHM (help file) and SETUPMGR.EXE (main program)
Run SETUPMGR and answer the prompts.
This will create both a unattend.bat and unattend.txt file you can use for automated installs.
Note: The batch file might need some minor modification for file locations but it is fairly basic.

Disabling Hibernation
If you don't want to use up the disk space taken by Hibernation, or don't need to use it at all,
you can easily disable it.
Open up the Control Panel / Power Options icon
Click on the Hibernation icon
Uncheck Enable Hibernation Go to top

Increasing System Performance
If you have 512 megs or more of memory, you can increase system performance
by having the core system kept in memory.
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\DisablePagingExecutive
Set the value to be 1
Reboot the computer

Common Command Console Utilities
WindowsXP comes with quite a few console utilities you can easily run from the command line:
Computer Management - compmgmt.msc
Disk Managment - diskmgmt.msc
Device Manager - devmgmt.msc
Disk Defrag - dfrg.msc
Event Viewer - eventvwr.msc
Shared Folders - fsmgmt.msc
Group Policies - gpedit.msc
Local Users and Groups - lusrmgr.msc
Performance Monitor - perfmon.msc
Resultant Set of Policies - rsop.msc
Local Security Settings - secpol.msc
Services - services.msc
Component Services - comexp.msc

Automatically Ending Non-Responsive Tasks
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\AutoEndTasks
Set the value to be 1
In the same section, change the WaitToKillAppTimeout to the number of milliseconds you want.

Changing the Internet Explorer Title
Start Regedit
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\Window Title
Enter what you want appear in the title bar

Changing Programs That Start Automatically
WindowsXP has a similar program, MSCONFIG, that was available in Windows98.
This allows you to view and change what programs are automatically started each time you log in.
The new version also allows you to view and edit the boot.ini file (as well as check for errors and use several advanced switches)