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On troubleshooting

My Windows 7 upgrade was supposed to be a one-hour project on a Saturday afternoon. It dragged on until Wednesday. I’m at the point now where I probably have an hour’s work left on the machine–it’s Thursday now–but it’s late and I’m not sure I feel like it.

The answers–loading the BIOS defaults and changing the parallel port settings–seem obvious. Now. But when I look for my keys, where I finally find them seems obvious too, even though it sometimes takes a long time to find them.

Read More »On troubleshooting

I sure hope Windows 7 SP1 gets here fast

So I’ve been running Windows 7 for about a day on an Intel motherboard. And I don’t know for certain if it’s the shoddy Intel hardware, or Windows 7, but I don’t think I’ve been this un-impressed since the first time I laid eyes on Windows ME.

Yeah, it’s that bad. I’m sure the Microsoft fanboys will jump in and chew me up, but let’s see if they can explain this away.

Read More »I sure hope Windows 7 SP1 gets here fast

Defrag scareware

This isn’t exactly news, as word has been going around for a couple of weeks, but if you haven’t heard about it elsewhere, there are some fake defragmenters going around.

I heard mention of it today, and it reminded me that I saw one last week when I was working on my mother in law’s computer. This was especially obnoxious, considering that at the time, I was running Firefox and I was visiting a mainstream site.

So there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind.
Read More »Defrag scareware

Fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free

Sometimes your antivirus will tell you that you have host hijacks or host file hijacks, but not elaborate on how to fix them. Some people charge way too much to fix them. Here’s how to fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free.

A former classmate’s computer suddenly stopped letting him get to search engines. Aside from that, his computer appeared to be normal.

Fortunately he had some antivirus and antispyware software installed, so he was able to run it and get a relatively clean bill of health, but he still couldn’t use Google or Bing or Yahoo.

One of the pieces of software he ran mentioned a host hijack or hosts file hijack, but didn’t offer to clean it up without ponying up some serious bucks.

That was enough to tell me how to clean it up though. You don’t have to buy anything.Read More »Fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free

Blocking malware at the operating system level

In recent months I’ve been recommending that everyone run Adblock Plus with the malware domains subscription, to get extra protection beyond what your antivirus/antispyware suite can give. Given a choice between detecting and blocking bad stuff, or not downloading it at all, it’s much better to not download it at all.

There are some downsides to this. Adblock Plus uses a fair bit of memory. It’s tolerable on my desktop PC with 2 GB of RAM, but less so on my netbook with 1 GB of RAM. And if you have to use a browser that doesn’t have a compatible version of Adblock Plus available, you’re unprotected.

The solution is to block at the operating system level, using the hosts file.

Here’s a script that does it, with instructions.
http://www.ericphelps.com/scripting/samples/Hosts/index.htm

But I know of one malware site list that his script doesn’t use: http://www.malwaredomainlist.com/hostslist/hosts.txt.

Read More »Blocking malware at the operating system level

I hate to admit it, but Intel’s NIC drivers are awfully nice

So we had some servers that were acting squirrelly on the network, refusing to talk to some servers but not others, dropping off entirely, etc. One of my coworkers noticed the servers acting badly were running different versions of the NIC driver than the ones that were behaving.

I found some other servers that had 10/100 cards in them that were using drivers that dated back to the Clinton administration.Here’s the nice thing. Intel keeps drivers available, and updates them on a pretty regular basis. Even those old 10/100 NICs had drivers available that were dated 2007. And they were Windows 2000 compatible, even!

Here’s the even nicer thing. We updated them hot, and they didn’t require a reboot. In a couple of cases, we even updated them remotely, via Terminal Services, and somehow didn’t lose our connection. (Don’t count on that always working.)

I always thought Intel NICs were overrated. Sure, given a choice between Intel and, say, D-Link, it’s no contest. But Intel vs. Broadcom or 3Com? The one guy qualified to comment on that (Linux NIC driver author Donald Becker) has no opinion. But I’ve never heard of being able to change a NIC driver in Windows and just keep on trucking along.

Chalk one up for Intel.

Registry optimization

I gave my Windows 2000 system a little tuneup today. Nothing major, but it feels peppier now, and didn’t take all that long to do. Nor did it require any expensive utilities.

This works with Windows 2000, XP, NT4, and Vista. For Windows 9x advice, you’ll have to turn to an old critically acclaimed book written by someone you’ve never heard of.First, I ran Ccleaner, which does a general cleanup of temporary files and obsolete/incorrect registry entries. It found more than 300 MB of garbage to get rid of. Be sure to run both the file and registry cleanup, as they’re separate buttons. It found a lot less in the registry that needed to go.

Stage 2 is to run NTregopt. I recommend downloading the all-inclusive collection from Donn Edwards, which includes NTregopt, plus the Sysinternals system file defragmenter and the excellent JK-Defrag. NTregopt packs the registry, removing the empty space formerly occupied by now-deleted entries. In my case, it reduced the size of the registry by about 200K. Not a lot, but I don’t do a lot of installing/uninstalling on this system.

Stage 3 is to run the Sysinternals Pagedefrag, which is included in the Donn Edwards bundle. In my case, most of my registry files were in nice shape, but one of them was in a startling 28 fragments. Pagedefrag took care of that.

Of course, while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to do a general defragmentation. JK-Defrag is fantastic–much better than most commercial programs, and it’s free. In my younger days I might do a quick defrag both before and after registry optimization, but one defrag afterward takes less time and should usually suffice.

The registry optimization took about 10 minutes total, including the reboot. The disk defragmentation took another 45 minutes, but there was no need for me to sit and watch that.

The system boots faster now. It also feels peppier, but since the registry wasn’t in horrible shape, I’m guessing the defragmentation did more to help system speed than the registry work. Getting rid of 300 megs of garbage and moving a few gigabytes of rarely used data files to the end of the disk to make room up front for the stuff you do use makes a difference.

The nice thing is that optimization like this used to require a $99 software package, like Norton Utilities or Nuts & Bolts, and both of those packages also installed some junk that really did a lot more harm than good (like Norton Crashguard, which I used to call Norton Crashmaker). I devoted an entire chapter of the aforementioned book to installing and using utilities suites while keeping the problem-causing stuff off your system.

Today, you can download and install two files that do it for free and stay out of your way except when you need them.