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Computer, how old are you?

Yesterday I wrote about finding old computers. Here’s how I determine how old a computer is.

There’s a registry key called HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\InstallDate that stores the system build time in Unix format (the number of seconds since 1 January 1970) and hexadecimal. With a few mad skilz you can make that data human-readable.

Read More »Computer, how old are you?

More details on the Target hack come to light

Yesterday I read, via Ars Technica, that the malware resided on cash registers (which I’d heard elsewhere before), and that the first step to getting there was via a compromised web server.

And that led to a question in the comments, that sounds like it came from an IT professional:

don’t they have their network segregated into zones!!!? It shouldn’t be possible for a web server to touch a POS system in a store….

The commenter right, it shouldn’t be. But it doesn’t need to be, either.Read More »More details on the Target hack come to light

Why the government (and others) still deal in floppy disks

The revelation that the Federal Government still relies on floppy disks for some of its business is making it the butt of some jokes this week. And although that will serve as confirmation for some people that the government is completely backward, there are actually multiple good explanations for it.

From a security standpoint, using floppy disks isn’t a bad idea at all.Read More »Why the government (and others) still deal in floppy disks

Ctrl-Alt-Del history: non revisionist edition

When it comes to Ctrl-Alt-Del history, there’s a lot of selective memory going on.

Bill Gates said last week that he regrets the use of Ctrl-Alt-Del as a logon sequence, while David Bradley, the IBM PC engineer who built that feature into the first IBM PC, says he doesn’t know why Microsoft chose to use that sequence for logon anyway.

Both of them, for whatever reason, are forgetting a few things.

Read More »Ctrl-Alt-Del history: non revisionist edition

Another perspective on Y2K

Rob O’Hara stumbled across a stash of Y2K survivalist magazines and wrote about it. I wasn’t going to be surprised if there were some minor glitches, but I wasn’t expecting the apocalypse. I withdrew a couple hundred bucks from the bank a few days in advance and filled my bathtub with water the night before, so I would have a supply of money and water to tide me over if some glitch interrupted either of them for a day or two.

In late 1999, a lot of people said I was being reckless. Today, people think I was being excessively paranoid. It’s funny how perspectives change.Read More »Another perspective on Y2K

Cringely takes on Ashton Kutcher’s movie about Steve Jobs

Mark Stephens, a.k.a. Robert X. Cringely, wrote last week about his disappointment in Ashton Kutcher’s movie Jobs, about the late Apple co-founder and CEO.

Here’s the most important part of his quasi-review:

[S]omething happened during Steve’s NeXT years (which occupy less than a 60 seconds of this 122 minute film) that turned Jobs from a brat into a leader, but they don’t bother to cover that. In his later years Steve still wasn’t an easy guy to know but he was an easier guy to know. His gut for product was still good but his positions were more considered and thought out. He inspired workers without trying so much to dominate or hypnotize them.

Indeed.Read More »Cringely takes on Ashton Kutcher’s movie about Steve Jobs

Windows NT turns 20

The first version of Windows NT, version 3.1 (to coincide with the then-current 16-bit version of Windows) was released 20 years ago today. It was an insanely ambitious effort for Microsoft that took a while to pay off, though it eventually did in spades. Windows NT was what killed off Novell and OS/2 and turned the proprietary operating system market into a duopoly. Although a user running it wouldn’t see much difference between Windows NT and regular Windows except that it didn’t crash nearly as much, it was the first version of Windows that qualifies as a modern operating system, with pre-emptive multitasking and protected memory.

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“Why do we have a server named ‘Vicious?'”

My first non-food service, non-retail job was working desktop support for my college, the University of Missouri-Columbia. They were doing a massive computer upgrade and needed some part-time help. When they realized they’d found a journalism student who knew PC hardware and already knew OS/2, they cut the interview short and showed me around. I started work the next day.

My job was, initially, to unbox a few hundred IBM PC 330s and 350s, install network cards and memory, then install OS/2 on them. We had room for me to set up about 10 of them at a time, on long folding tables on opposite sides of a long room. It was lonely work at times, but I got to work with computers, and they were paying me $8 an hour. I liked it better than retail.

After a few days I had enough time to watch the boot process. OS/2 had a facility called Configuruation, Installation and Distribution (CID), similar to Microsoft’s unattended installation that appeared in later versions of Windows NT, that automated much of the process. An administrator configured machines in advance, and then when build time came, I booted off a floppy, entered a computer name, and the process pulled down what it needed from the network. After 30 minutes or so, we had a functional machine. CID probably saved a couple of hours of repetitive work. On this particular day, after I got nine machines going, I watched the 10th go through its the CID process. I noticed the machine kept addressing a server named \\VICIOUS.

Read More »“Why do we have a server named ‘Vicious?’”

Don’t read too much into the PC sales drop just yet

If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you probably know that new PC sales are in the toilet–out of the five biggest vendors, the only one whose sales managed to hold steady in Q1 2013 was Lenovo, while the other four saw a sales decline. So now Slashdot linked to a ZDNet piece stating that Windows is over, and said it must be true because ZDNet always sides with Microsoft.

Let’s not read too much into that. The author of the piece is a longtime open-source advocate. The points he raises are completely valid, but if there’s one person who’s going to take Microsoft to task, it’s Steven Vaughan-Nichols.

Microsoft has a long road ahead, but there is precedent for salvaging the boondoggle known as Windows 8. And I don’t think Windows 8 is the only factor here.Read More »Don’t read too much into the PC sales drop just yet