Windows News, Updates, tips and software

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Windows XP Zune Theme

I was never that of a theme fanatic and used the windows classic setting on all of my previous computers because I thought it would speed up my system. I feel a little bit old fashioned to defend this stance against my friends who love to use themes for their windows operating system. It is not anymore a question of speeding up the system, with dual core cpus and gigabytes of ram available for most computers that are sold these days.

startup control panel

Control which Programs start for Beginners

The best software to control every program that is loaded automatically when Windows starts is Autoruns by Sysinternals. While this is an excellent software it requires some knowledge to use it the way it was meant to be used. A similar free software that is way better suited for novice computer users is the program Startup Control Panel by Mike Lin. It looks like a crippled version of Autoruns and concentrates on the most used locations where programs are added to be started with Windows.

better performance

Speed up Hard Drives under Windows Vista

The following article describes two ways of speeding up hard drives in Windows Vista. The first tip describes a way to speed up SATA drives and the second to speed up USB drives. Both options can be easily configured in the Device Manager. Advanced write caching features are supported by Windows Vista but not enabled by default. I'm not sure why Microsoft decided to disable the feature by default but it surely helps system performance to enable it. Just make sure you have an SATA drive installed.

Microsoft Vista Internet Connectivity Test

You can use the Internet Connectivity Evaluation Tool to test if your router supports various technologies that have been build into Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system. The test itself seems to be working only on Windows XP or Windows Vista and requires the Internet Explorer which is using Active X for the test. The following features and technologies are tested with the Internet Connectivity Evaluation Tool: Basic Internet Connectivity, Network Address Translator Type, Traffic Congestion, TCP High Performance, UPnP Support and Multiple Simultaneous Connection State.

Create 360 Degree Panoramas from your Pictures

Holiday season is coming closer and I thought it would be nice to begin writing some articles that would fit nicely into that season. If you are using a digital camera to take pictures you might find the free software Autostitch worth a try. Autostitch creates a panoramic image from all the images that you load into the image manipulation software. This works of course only if the images are related to each other. If you took three pictures from different angles for instance that all show part of the same landscape. Everything is done automatically.

driver max

Import and Export all Windows Drivers

If you ever reinstalled Microsoft Windows you surely have encountered the following hassle. All the drivers that have been installed on your system are gone because of the new installation and you have to search the web to find the latest drivers and update your system with them. This is of course only valid if you do a clean install and do not install the operating system in the same folder as the old.

change system restore size command-line

Change the System Restore Size in Windows Vista

It was possible to define the percentage that the System Restore feature in Windows XP allocated from a hard drive. Windows Vista has System Restore build in as well but no obvious way to define the percentage of the hard drive that System Restore allocated. Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to hide the setting well and allocate 15% of the hard drives capacity to System Restore. On a 300 Gigabyte drive System Restore would allocate 45 Gigabytes of space !

In their drive for a uncomplicated system they restrict user possibilities to create a system the way they like. It is becoming a closed system with the owner of the computer being a user instead of someone who can actively alter his system the way he wants. To change the System Restore size in Microsoft Windows Vista you have to rely on the command line utility vssadmin.

Fix to copy large files in Vista faster

Maybe you have already encountered the strange behavior that it takes much longer to copy large files in Windows Vista than in Windows XP. You thought that the change from XP to Vista would at least be not a disadvantage speed wise but Vista somehow seems to have a problem copying large files. This happens especially with mapped drives but it could also be that you witness network disconnects.

The problem is caused by a new feature called Auto Tuning which is by default enabled in Microsoft Windows Vista. What Auto Tuning does is that it reacts on changes in the network by tuning the receive windows size. The solution would be of course to disable Auto Tuning in Vista. Some users reported that disabling Auto Tuning had a positive effect on their ability to connect to services such as Windows Live Messenger which did not work before.

Anti Mosquitoes

Anti Mosquitoes is a very unique software. The main purpose of Anti Mosquitoes is to prevent that mosquitoes come anywhere near your computer by using sounds that are barely audible by humans. This is at least what I think it does, the problem is that the developers homepage is in Thai only and the program itself has little information in English. I'm saying barely audible because it creates a noise that is audible and - at least for me - kinda annoying. The only way around this would be for me to wear a headset and listen to music while Anti Mosquitoes is running.

md5 checker

Check MD5 Hashes

MD5 (Message-Digest algorithm 5) can be used as a way of checking that a computer file has not been maliciously or accidentally altered. To put it simple, it works like a fingerprint. So, nowadays most of websites includes this information to their software, which looks like this:

A Sandbox for Applications

Sandboxie does what virtual machines such as VMware Player, Virtual Box and Microsoft Virtual Pc do with the difference that it works on the application level and not the operating system one. Instead of running a virtual operating system that makes it safe to try and test software it lets you run software in a sandbox on your current operating system with the same result. The normal process in an operating system is that applications can read and write date from the system.

sysexporter

Export File Lists and more with SysExporter

SysExporter is a free software from one of my favorite software developers NirSoft that is able to explorer standard list-views, tree-views, list boxes, combo boxes, text-boxes, and WebBrowser / HTML controls from almost every application to text, HTML or XML files. I think an example would be great at this point to show you what it can do. When you start SysExporter you get a list of all applications and folders that are currently running on your system.

Use any USB 2.0 Device for Readyboost in Vista

Readyboost is a disk caching system introduced in Windows Vista that relies on flash memory to boost system performance. The effect is not that noticeable but some users swear on it and I do not want to discuss the usefulness of Readyboost. The USB device has to meet some requirements before it can be used for Readyboost mainly that it needs to meet certain read speeds. Many older USB devices do not meet these requirements and refuse to be used as Readyboost devices in Windows Vista.

usb device view

Check which usb devices have been connected to your computer

I have been writing a article about three months ago which detailed how to edit the registry to display previously connected usb devices in the device manager. While this method is still working I found a free software that has exactly the same function. The software is called USB Deview and was developed by one of my favorite software programmers NirSoft. Before I start and describe the security software I would like to point out its use. I work for a company in the financing sector and they have such a strict security protocol that everything has to be routinely checked from time to time.

Use WinSCP to securely copy files between two computers

A reader of my site asked which program I was using to transfer files between my local computer and my dedicated server. The question looks easy to answer at first glance but actually it is not that easy. I'm actually using two ways to connect to my dedicated server depending on the tasks at hand. I use Putty to connect to my dedicated server when I want to administrate it: create new virtual hosts, ftp accounts and the like. I do use WinSCP for all other tasks, mainly for opening a secure connection to my dedicated server which uses SSH.

Enhance Windows Explorer

It is really painful to copy files using the Windows explorer. It only displays one folder at a time and it is often inevitable to open two explorer windows to copy files from one folder to another. This takes lots of time and is not very ergonomic. The software Folder Box is a windows explorer upgrade which adds another window to the windows explorer. This makes it very easy to transfer files from one folder to the other or perform other file operations that require two folders.

Pimp up the Vista startmenu

We all know that Microsoft decided to add the search function to the Vista startmenu and get rid of the run box by default. You can add the run dialog again but there is a much better way to add functionality to the search box using a little great application called Start++. It adds new commands to the search box which define actions that are executed. Typing "g searchterm" for instance opens the default browser and opens Google search results with the searchterm that you have entered. Eight default commands are already defined and you can add new ones with ease.

Check your programs for updates automatically

Keeping up with application updates can be a very tedious task even if you have only a handful of them installed on your system. If the software has no update reminder you have to manually visit the developers homepage and see if an update is available. Most users simply do not look for updates actively and use old versions that might have security holes or miss important features that have been implemented in later versions. But there is hope..