You no longer have to be an involuntary beta tester. Dr Dave guides you through the technology maze, separating the hype from technology that actually adds to the quality of your life.

The Best of Dr Dave's Weekly Radio Show

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Black screen fix for recent Windows patch errors...

Prevx, the security company has a very elegant fix for the MS update "black screen" victims.  Here's the procedure:

1) Restart your PC
2) Logon and wait for the black screen to appear
3) Make sure your PC should be able to connect to the internet (black screen does not appear to affect this)
4) Press the CTRL, ALT and DEL keys simultaneously
5) When prompted, Click Start Task Manager
6) In Task Manager Click on the Application Tab
7) Next Click New Task
8) Now enter the command:

"C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" ""

Note this command assumes that you are using internet explorer as your browser, if not substitute your browser path and file details for those of iexplore.exe or use the Browser option of Task manager to locate it.

9) Click OK and your browser should start up and begin the download process
10) When prompted for the download Click run, the black screen fix program will download and run to automatically fix the issue.
11) Now restart your PC and the black screen problem will hopefully be gone.

Thanks to the Prevx guys and gals for takin' care of us!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Filezilla version - Dr Dave's FTP pick

I've used Filezilla for years and recommend it highly. Simple, reliable FTP software that doesn't cost a dime. Download and enjoy...

Microsoft's Windows 7 Compatibility list

Download this compatibility list for Windows 7 for IT pros. VERY useful to know in advance what's likely to cause issues with a Windows 7 install PRIOR to the install. Download it at the link above.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Snow Leopard Data Loss Problem

Apple's new OS has been reported to have a serious issue with guest account access and data loss since September. It cropped up so rarely it has been difficult to confirm.

Apple has confirmed it and is reported to have a fix on the way. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cool OSX functionality for Windows XP, Vista and 7

Excerpts from the site...

7stacks is an easy to use, free app that lets Windows 7 (and Vista and XP) users have "stacks" of icons in their Taskbar (in 7) or QuickLaunch Toolbar (in Vista and XP). By using stacks, users can reduce icon clutter, and combine a group of related icons into a single icon. For instance, if you use application suites such as Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, or Adobe CS4, you can have all the suite's icons combined into one icon!

You can also use it to browse and access documents within a folder very quickly. Usually, when you want to edit a series of frequently used documents, you'd have to either launch the app, and go to File|Open, or open the (My) Computer icon and go into your (My) Documents folder and pick the file you want. With 7stacks, just create a stack to that document's folder, and open that document in a couple of clicks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Driving Speed 2.0.7 Free Download

Available at the link above is a great free auto racing game for Windows PCs. 

Driving Speed 2 is a free high quality racing game for your PC. Choose from four high powered V8 muscle cars and race against up to 11 computer controlled opponents on two touring car circuits.

This game has realistic graphics, realistic car physics and performance, high quality sound and AI. Play against your friends over a LAN or internet with 8 player Multiplayer.

Send your fastest lap records to the online lap records where you can see your times against players from all around the world.

System Requirements:
Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / Windows 7
1GHz CPU or higher
228MB Hard Drive Space
Graphics Card with Pixel Shader Support
DirectX 9 Drivers

What´s New in version 2.0.7:
Optimized frame rate. 
Fixed a minor glitch in the online leaderboard results.

Check it out!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Google's New OS: Linux 3.0?

Everyone's guessing what Google's new OS will be. Even in this article the author contradicts himself by saying it's based on Linux, then an extension of the Chrome browser code. Sorry buddy, can't be both. A Safari based browser and an OS are 2 completely different things.

Makes sense that it may be an extension of Android, which itself is based on Linux. But Google's implementation of Android is not nearly as compelling as Palm's elegant version of mobile Linux known as WebOS.

Apple made the decision years ago to go with a Linux based OS and it certainly makes sense. We will see new versions of Linux based OS's released by numerous sources because of cost, development, licensing and reliability benefits. No reason to reinvent the wheel. The GUI will be optimized to deal with particular user and hardware requirements, but the real challenge for mainstream consumer type OS's is dealing with the myriad of hardware and software interfaces that must be streamlined and reliable. Linux was years late getting USB drivers and installs right. The public will not put up with that sort of marathon geek wrestling match.

I welcome Google's efforts to battle with the "Evil Empire", but don't underestimate the difficulty of the real battle - making an OS work for the average Joe. It's a battle worthy of Leonidas. How comfortable is Sergey in a breastplate?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Seattle Fire Shuts Down

The Internet is pretty good at rerouting traffic in the event of a problem, but if the power to a site is interrupted there's not much that can be done, if you don't have a backup server. Obviously that was the case yesterday with, Authorize.Net and the travel section of MS's new search engine - Bing.

I am always very cranky when I have site problems because it is an integral part of the show and business. I was forced because of the extended down time and remote location to  just ignore it and go about my business yesterday. I don't do that well. I'm a fixer. I like to get into the mess and figure it out and solve the problem. I could get nowhere with that. Although I id learn a bit about Dotster's network structure.

It's back up this morning, before the show, so that's very good. I've been thinking about what I can do at my end to mitigate the effects of such a problem in the future, and I can't think of a thing. Any ideas?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More Explosive Laptop Batteries

HP Recalls Notebook Computer Batteries Due to Fire Hazard

70,000+ laptop batteries are being recalled by HP and Compaq. Many popular models are included. If you own a Compaq or HP laptop made in the last few years, you may be entitled to a free replacement. Click the link above for a list of the model and serial numbers eligible. Do not put this off. If you have one of these your computer and data could be damaged, as well as anything in the vicinity of the overheating and/or fire. No injuries have been reported.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ever wonder what those CHK files are?

DIY DataRecovery CHK-Mate (freeware), recover content from CHK files

It's not unusual to end up with one or more chk files after running chkdsk. Sometimes they are garbage, other times they are recoverable data files. This is how you get them back. Another great free tool to save our data.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Twitter Worm Author Found

17-year-old claims responsibility for Twitter worm (April 12, 2009)

Click the link above to get the details. It's only going to get worse...

Good standard compliants is always good

When good browsers go bad -- and they all do

I've been a big fan of the Opera browser for years. They have a reputation for not working on certain sites, yet they have been the only browser 100% compliant with the web standards. Now IE 8 and FireFox are moving to more complete compliance with web standards, so we are in for a painful transition period. Those web sites not in compliance must be pressured to repair their sites, instead of continuing to use browsers that have no interest in standards.

Onward to a new era of standard standards and love and peace for all!

Large Screen Kindle on the way?

Amazon Reported To Be Developing A Large Screen Kindle (AMZN)

I have yet to jump on the Kindle bandwagon. Perhaps this new version due out later this year will move me.

I am still looking for color display, smaller keyboard, and cheaper price. Not likely to get all three in this next version. Or will we?

Pent up success or Vista-like failure?

My experience with Windows 7 has been stellar. But there is more to OS release success than a good, stable operating system. First of course is reputation. I think Windows 7 has that in spades. Many beta testers have been calling for it's release for weeks. While it's unquestionably premature to do so, it is a very compelling indication of the quality of the software. The other is a streamlined, common sense product lineup. The chaos of the numerous, ill defined Vista product versions made adopters reluctant to deal with the details of making a choice, so they didn't.

In this story the author argues that Windows 7 will suffer from a weak release demand due to the economy and the markets experience with Vista. I believe it may be just the opposite. Indeed the economy will weaken any products release well into 2012, but the pent up demand for upgrades for computers and OS's will drive Windows 7 to a very successful launch. Microsoft has learned well from it's Vista catastrophe.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

50% of Easter Bunny Picture Search's result in Malware

Even the most innocent of searches can lead to nefarious infections. Here's what Jay Chaudhry, CEO of Zscaler had to say, “Parents running searches on Google [looking for places to take kids for a picture with the Easter Bunny] may be in for the wrong kind of treat.” He continued, “Out of the many relevant search results on the topic, our researchers found that most end up pointing unsuspecting consumers to a site that hosts malware.” In fact, Zscaler researchers found that out of every 20 or so results, more than half led to malware. “This is a good example of why organizations need Web security.”

Plenty of free, effective tools here. Use them!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Remove Downadup - Removal tool for Downadup (known also as Conficker or Kido)

Remove Downadup - Removal tool for Downadup (known also as Conficker or Kido)

If you've been in a cave the last few weeks and haven't already done this. It's amazing how many people still aren't protected and/or updated. Please, do it now!

Latest Overnight Details on Conficker Variant

During the night of 8th/9th April, computers infected with Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Kido (aka Conficker.c) contacted each other via P2P networks (eDonkey, BitTorrent, Gnutella, Limewire, etc.), instructing previously infected machines to download new malicious files, activating the Conficker botnet.

Conficker is now once again a worm. Initial analyses suggest it has date-limited functionality until 3rd May 2009.

In addition to downloading updates for itself, Conficker also downloads two new files to infected machines. One is a rogue antivirus application (detected as FraudTool.Win32.SpywareProtect2009.s) that is being spread from sites in Ukraine. Once run the program offers to delete "detected viruses" for a charge of $49.95.

The second file downloaded is the Email-Worm.Win32.Iksmas.atz. This worm is also known as Waledac and steals data and sends spam. Conficker and Iksmas are very similar in construction and the Conficker epidemic was mirrored by an email epidemic of a similar scale caused by Iksmas.

According to Aleks Gostev, head of Kaspersky Lab's Global Research and
Analysis Team, "Over a 12-hour period, Iksmas connected to its control centers around the globe a number of times and received commands to send out spam mailings. In just 12 hours, one bot alone sent out 42,298 spam messages. Virtually every email contained a unique domain. This was obviously done to prevent anti-spam filters from detecting the mass mailings using methods that analyze the frequency with which a specific domain is used. Overall, we detected the use of 40,542 third-level domains and 33 second-level domains. Virtually all of these sites are located in China and are registered in the names of various people, most probably invented."

If you run the numbers, one Iksmas bot sends out around 80,000 emails in 24 hours. Assuming that there are about 5 million infected machines on the Internet, the botnet could send out about 400 billion spam messages over a 24-hour period!
You think you have spam problems!

Great, but Too Late?

Palm Pre Smartphone, WebOS Are Looking Like iPhone Killers

Looks like the Palm Pre may be the best smartphone to date. Ease of use, power, beauty, it seems to have it all. But can Palm remain strong enough until it releases the phone? Sales have dropped through the floor as people wait for it's release. Thier early announcement of the Pre has excited smartphone buyers, but killed Palms Treo Pro and Centro sales.

The latest date I've been able to glean is April 30th. This is the Sprints "drop dead" date, according to sources inside that wireless company. Neither Palm nor Sprint will officially confirm a date other than the 1st half of '09. Hope they can hang on that long.

Conficker Update Online Now

Conficker, the Internet's No. 1 threat, gets an update - Network World

The Conficker worm, probably the biggest threat since the Melissa virus a decade ago has been updated.

Initially it appeared the bad guys were concerned that the spread of the worm was too successful and they had slowed it's rate of infection. Now, with changes in it's behavior, the worms spread is escalating.

The days of informal, unprofessional vandalism type hacking is gone. Replaced by very organized professional criminal organizations. Requires an equally professional attitude when dealing with the threat.

Fortunately we have a great choice of inexpensive, even free tools that we can utilize to protect us from the threats.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Electricity Grid in Peril

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies -

In a recent story it was reported that 100 million dollars had been spent by the Pentagon to prevent unauthorized access to defense department computer systems. Unfortunately military systems are not the only high profile targets.

In this WSJ story, the civilian electrical grid is a major target of both China and Russia. It's thought that Islamo-fascist terrorists are not major threats in this regard.

Water, sewer and other infrastructure systems are also threatened. Many contain hidden threats that can be turned on in the future should the US become active adversaries of the sponsors of those attacks.

We tend to take such threats lightly because we don't hear about them much because they cannot be addressed publicly without risking the effectiveness of organizations that are responsible for their defense.

We have to realize that it's a big, bad world out there with threats that cannot always be dealt with by dialog. We must be strong AND vigilant.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Crazy eCOST Deals Today Only

eCOST | Hot Sheet | Welcome

1TB ATA drive for $39 and other insane deals! Today only...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

IE8 vs Firefox

Seems people aren't so impressed with IE8 beating Firefox in most speed test. That's a historic event for a Microsoft browser. Probably a  little anti-MS sour grapes. I am impressed. 

But Opera is smokin' them all. Without the security issues of Chrome and Safari, and still in alpha release, Opera is nearly 3 times faster. Incredible!

Supercharge IE 8

If your installation Internet Explorer 8 seems a bit sluggish, try this tweak:


1. Click Start, then click Run.

2. In the Run dialog box, type cmd and press Enter.

3. In the Command Prompt window, enter "regsvr32 actxprxy.dll" without the quotes and press Enter.

4. Restart your computer.


1. Type cmd in the Start menu Search box.

2. Right-click the Cmd shortcut that appears at the top of the search results list, Under Programs.

3. Choose Run As Administrator.

4. In the Command Prompt window, enter "regsvr32 actxprxy.dll" without the quotes and press Enter.

5. Restart your computer.

Don't know why it works, but something apparently is sometimes amiss with that dll file registration.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SyncToy v2.0

Download details: SyncToy v2.0

Great sync and back up tool from Microsoft. Flexible fast and reliable. Sometimes overlooked because of it's simplicity and the fact that it's been a round for years. If you don't have it, give it a try you'll find it invaluable.

MoTwit for Palm OS (en) » MoTwit for Palm OS (en)

Download this mobile Palm Twitter app so you can continue to Twitter your life away, even while driving, or in meetings.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Worm Author Escalates Attacks

Computer Experts Unite to Hunt Worm -

The conficker worm is one of the most effective botnet worms ever written. Aggressive attack algorithm combined with the ability to disable conventional protections, is a grave concern for security experts, law enforcement and users.

Microsoft has put up a $250,000 bounty for the writer, they believe is in Eastern Europe. It won't be a single author. They are making use of organized production programmers for this stuff. As security companies write software to deal with the threats, the bad guys can stay one step ahead.

Behave yourself on the Internet and keep your self protected.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Comparative Chart of Top Smartphone Features

Convenient chart of smartphone features. iPhone 3.0 makes gains, but still appears to be behind the others for business use. Palms Pre has promise, but we still don't have enough details to accurately compare...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Be Careful When Doing a Recovery - or Else!

I happen to be doing 2 data recoveries right now that were either created or complicated by users inadvertently running the vendor recovery program either to the wrong drive, or in the wrong way. In both cases the recovery process is greatly complicated by that mistake.

I am surprised how many users make arbitrary judgments on how things work without having a clue. It's no sin to be inexperienced or ignorant. Not everyone can be an expert at everything. It is a problem to pretend you are an expert just because you think you know how things "ought" to work.

Like a lot of things in life, most bad things that could happen don't; and the bad stuff that does happen is often of our own making. Technology is no different.

One of the real secrets of success with technology is to learn what not to do. Things that ruin disks and permanently overwrite data falls in that category. Downloading software that you are not completely sure who it's from and what it does, is another one. I have a great personal example of that.

When I was new to computers there was a utility available for downloads at the BBS's of the time, called diskwipe. It cleaned hard drives. Having just paid a couple of grand for a new 10MB external harddrive, I wanted it to be clean, so I downloaded and ran it. Yep, all data was permanently erased and it took me a week to get stuff back. That was in the early '80's. I've learned a little since then:

If in doubt, don't! If you think you know, but you're not sure, don't!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Regulators to NY Doc, "Your Fees are Too Low!"

NY regulators frown on doctor's flat-fee system - Crain's New York Business

Hooray for this Doctor in NY. I learned long ago, as I studied economics, that the more direct the relationship between the customer and provider, the more efficient, cheaper and satisfied everyone involved in the transaction will be.

Of course government regulators aren't familiar with that concept. They have injected themselves in the Doctors practice to require that he raise his "direct pay" prices because they are too low. Are they concerned about his price, his patients, the insurance companies or their power? What do you think?

The uninsured patient pays $79.00/month plus $10.00 per visit and the doctor provides whatever in-office care the patient requires. Sounds more than fair to me. I bet the care is better, profit is higher, and paperwork and other costs are less. It an obvious win-win. Not for the Government regulators. Remember when you hear, "We're from the Government and we're hear to help you.", guard your money and your freedom, 'cause they don't believe you have any of either that isn't theirs.

Lets' stop looking to the Government to protect and provide. Every dollar they take looses a third of it's value before it ever goes to providing the services it's supposed to buy. We loose every time the Government does something that could or should be done by the private sector.

I like open free market competition because it's a natural service and product improver and cost reducer. If you were the health czar and you forced me to choose who the single payer/provider should be, I'd say Walmart. Name a more efficient, logistically sound company. Maybe Amazon or Fedex? Does the Gov't even show up on your list?

Oooh, what about ebay? The ultimate in efficient transactional relationships...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Forgot How Much Memory...

There's a lot of confusion about what how much memory different versions of Windows can address. Some of you have paid for and installed memory that does you absolutely no good whatsoever. Here's a list of the most current Windows versions and how much memory can be used:

Windows Vista (32 bit)

Ultimate, Enterprise, Business, Home Premium, Home Basic: 4 GB
Starter: 1 GB

Windows XP (32 bit)
Professional, Home: 4GB
Starter Edition: 512 MB

Windows Server 2003 (32 bit)
Datacenter SP2: 128 GB
Enterprise SP2: 64 GB
Standard SP1: 4 GB*
Datacenter R2: 128 GB
Enterprise R2: 64 GB
Standard R2: 4 GB*
Web Edition: 4 GB*
Small Business Edition: 4 GB

* Certain Microsoft server operating systems can support over 4GB of memory via Physical Address Extension (PAE). Please refer to Microsoft knowledgebase article located here for more information.

Windows Server 2008 (32 bit)
Datacenter, Enterprise: 64 GB
Standard, Web Server: 4 GB

Windows Vista (64 bit)
Ultimate, Enterprise, Business: 128 GB
Home Basic: 8 GB

Windows XP (64 bit)
Professional: 128 GB

Windows Server 2003 (64 bit)
Datacenter SP2, Enterprise SP2: 2 TB
Standard SP1: 32 GB
Datacenter R2, Enterprise R2: 1 TB
Standard R2: 32 GB
Small Business Edition: 128 GB

Windows Server 2008 (64 bit)
Datacenter, Enterprise: 2 TB
Standard, Web Server: 32 GB

Benefit from more Chaos

Free Chaos Training Videos

I am a big fan of Chaos Software products. They have a bit of an old school attitude about software design and development, customer support and pricing.

To help their customers use their products most effectively, they produced a set of training videos known as Chaos University. Anyone can view them, and it's a great way to get a feel for what Time and Chaos and !ntellect can do and how they do it. For those of us already Chaos users, they are convenient resource for improving our Chaosity.

It's a great way to benefit from more Chaos.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vista's Networking Tweaks

Speed Up Vista's Networking Big Time - Windows Central Forums

Thanks to Dave over an Windows Central Forum for this. Just cut and paste this line into your Windows Vista elevated command line to supercharge your Vista networking:

netsh interface tcp set global rss=enabled congestionprovider=ctcp ecncapability=enabled autotuninglevel=normal chimney=enabled

...then press enter.

What's an elevated command line, you ask? It's a command line run as an Administrator, from a dos box in Windows. The easy way to do this is:

- Click on Start button.
- In the Search box, type in Command Prompt. Command Prompt will show up in the search result.
- Right click on Command Prompt icon and select Run as administrator.

After you've entered that in, restart the computer and you should be off and runnin'! Please be aware that your results may vary, but generally the speed increase is noticeable. Go forth and surf in speed...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Java Cleanup - Automatically

RaProducts - JavaRa documentation

Java is a necessary evil these days. So much functionality, but so slow AND so insecure. Really crappy updating too. Java allows new versions to stack up every time you update, and they can at times cause issues. Sure you can go through the old versions manually, but they don't always uninstall properly. Javara is the answer.

If only they made something like this for my office!

SUPER Free Video Convertor and Player


The Super website makes finding the download link very difficult. You are confronted with many links to download other company's "pay for" software. But when you finally get to the download link and get it installed, the trouble is very well worth it.

Super converts darn near anything to anything. The format options are too numerous to list here. Check out the details on the site. Another great example of free software being as good or better than "for sale" software.

Super isn't the easiest to use but this is offset by great control and flexibility. It helps if you have a little knowledge about video and audio formats and their quality and size, otherwise you may stumble around a bit at first.

Super also includes a very comprehensive player. Contains built in codecs that will play just about any video format known. Plays what Real, WMP, VLC and other player can't.

A great piece of software at a great price! Download it today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Living the Recovery

D&H Adds $38M In Credit To 4,000 VARs - IT Channel - IT Channel News by CRN and VARBusiness

Many good individuals and companies are being stifled by the credit crunch. It's one thing to put restrictions on poor performers, but even good credit risks with flawless payment histories are being shut off from credit they've operated with for years.

D&H is putting their money where their mouth is. Extending $38 million right now has got be be a challenge for them. They are probably getting squeezed too.

Kudos to D&H management. I hope their faith in their customers and the American economy is rewarded handsomely.

Microsoft's Vista SP2 Release Candidate

Microsoft has released the Vista SP2 Release Candidate. I've had a chance to give it a quick go and here's what I've found.

Service Pack 2 is not a cumulative update, so you'll need to ensure that computer is already running Service Pack 1 Hotfix KB955430. The stand-alone SP2 executable for Administrators includes this update as part of the installation, but people planning to install SP2 via Windows Update Service will need to pre-install this.

Installation takes about 25 minutes on an average Vista machine, and takes up about 1GB of disk space. You can to recover about 300+MB of that space by running the compcln.exe command, but that removes your ability to un-install the service pack. So you don't want to do that right away in case you need to backtrack for some reason. Use the computer for a couple of weeks, and if all goes well, maybe you can clean it up then.

Vista SP2 has support for Via 64-bit processors, integrated Blu-Ray recording, support for Bluetooth 2.1, the integration of Windows Connect Now capabilities and improved integrated wireless LAN capabilities. This last improvement means faster Wi-Fi reconnections when returning the OS from a sleep state. Vista SP2 also automatically upgrades to Windows Search 4.0. This provides improved stability and speed, as well as faster sorting and grouping in Windows Explorer. For Administrators Vista SP2 delivers more group policy controls over power management functions, too.

Overall I'm impressed. It's almost as good as Windows 7.

Microsoft has yet to announce a specific date for the public release of this important service pack. So check back here often, I'll keep you posted.

Academic and Science Resource

Great for Homework - Israel Science and Technology Homepage

The Mason family uses this website as a homework resource all the time. Easy to navigate structure, lots o' good content and not too technical. Works for us...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Palm Revenues Fall Dramatically

Palm revenues fall dramatically as future hangs on new Pre phone | Technology |

I must admit I'm not impartial to Palms fate. As one of the standout innovators of the late '90's I am hoping they can keep it together enough to benefit from the excellence of the Pre.

Depending on the success of the launch, this could be it. Hope they have figured out PR and marketing as well as they have device design.

Google Docs Hit With Privacy Bug

You can't trust anyone completely - The Channel Wire - IT Channel News And Views by CRN and VARBusiness

I just got off the phone with a client discussing remote backup options. We've all heard the Carbonite ads on the radio, right?

What I told him was that remote backup is an important adjunct to backups done locally. The key point to understand is that you don't ever trust anyone completely with your data. The data breach at Google is a good example of why not. The paradigm at Google lends itself to data breach. It's all about sharing, so it's easier to have a problem. The paradigm at remote backup companies is all about security, not sharing, so I think a breach is much less likely. But not impossible. And no company is too big to fail. Just ask Lehman Brothers, GM, at al.

So choose your remote backup company wisely, do local backups AND archival DVD's that go in the safe deposit box for ultimate protection. Protect your protection by using multiple technologies, but keep it as simple as possible or you won't do it consistently.

No matter what your final plan is backup, backup, backup.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Utah State Free Online Family Finance Course

Family Finance — Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare

Now's a good time for a refresher on family finance. Utah State University has this free online course.

Course Description

Upon completion of this course you should be able to: 1. Identify personal/family values and establish appropriate financial goals. 2. Develop financial plans that reflect your values and goals. 3. Begin implementation of your plans to meet short and long term financial goals. 4. Evaluate options for providing financial security throughout your life. 5. Recall and apply specific fact concerning various financial topics, tools, and services.

Friday, March 06, 2009

High Performance Email

Almost all of us have issues with email. It doesn't matter what the email client is, if you get a large quantity of email, eventually your email client begins to slow to a crawl and sometimes even stop. Data file corruption is not unusual as a result.

There's no question some clients are better than others at handling large quantities of email, but almost without exception we aren't aggressive enough keeping our inbox and other mailbox folders cleaned up.

Your inbox should be cleaned out completely daily. If things are really out of control (like me), maybe weekly at worst. Put email in organized folders that make them easy to get to. Even if you have to create a "not-yet organized" folder just to get stuff out of the inbox, do it. You can get back to that folder to go through it as time allows. In the meantime your inbox doesn't drag you down. Not only is inbox and other folder navigation faster, but the loading of your email client and the downloading of emails will be speedier as well.

I have discovered a VERY helpful utility that archives email, without making it too difficult to view and search them quickly and easily. It gets old emails completely out of your email client. This is important if you have huge quantities of emails that you simply must keep over the long term. The program is Mailstore. The free version is functional enough for most people (including me), works with all the most popular email clients and file formats. They offer a paid version with additional management capabilities that can archive email for almost any size small business. Here's a feature highlight:
  • Archive and consolidate all email messages centrally, securely and permanently
  • Search all your email within fractions of a second (incl. the contents of attached documents)
  • Integrated CD/DVD burning utility to backup your archives with just one click
  • To conserve disk space, MailStore Home saves only a single instance of each attachment and applies a smart compression algorithm
  • Preview archived messages directly in MailStore and reopen them in your local mail client (e.g. Microsoft Outlook)
  • In addition to backing up the entire archive, your messages can be exported to a variety of destinations
  • Messages are stored MIME-compatible, and can be recovered at any time without information loss (e.g. to import them in other applications)
If you don't keep your email clients folders cleaned up they will eventually cause a problem, no matter what client you use. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, then Mailstore is a saint!

Bluetooth Without Compromise

The Plantronics 925 is my choice for bluetooth headset. There are several very good high end alternatives like the Aliph and Blueant, but the 925 has the best combination of appearance, price, battery life, noise cancellation and size. Does voice dial for most devices, too.

It really shines with a very cheap, easy mod. Add an Etymotic windscreen for $1.75 and it's just about as good as you can get.

Here's the best price I could find for the 925. Here's the windscreen source. Less than $80 for a real killer combo!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Repairing a broken System Restore in XP

It's not uncommon to have System Restore broken in Windows XP. You get a message that tells you it can't be completed, even though it seemed to go through the process properly.

The most common problem is interference by Norton Security products. Just Turn off Product protection in Norton, Run your system restore, then turn product protection back on in Norton.

If you don't have Norton Security or A/V, you may need to reinstall System Restore. Here's how you do that:

  1. Click Start, Run and type %Windir%\INF
  2. Locate the SR.INF file. If you have configured Windows Explorer to hide known file extensions, the file may show up as SR. To see the file extensions for all file types, then try this:
  • On the Tools menu in My Computer, click Folder Options.
  • Click the View tab.
  • Clear the Hide extensions for known file types check box.
  1. Right-click the SR.INF file, and then click Install
  2. Windows will reinstall System Restore, and may prompt you for the Windows installation source path. Point to %Windir%\ServicePackFiles folder, or insert your slipstreamed Windows XP (matching the Service Pack level of your system.)
  3. System Restore core files will be reinstalled. Restart Windows when prompted.
Or you can reinstall System Restore using the following command line:

rundll32.exe advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %Windir%\Inf\sr.inf

after running a command line.

Good luck!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Another Catastrophic Drive Failure

Bricking Seagate SATA disks in IBM Servers

I have to confirm whether it's just IBM servers or not. Neither Ibm or Seagate have responded to inquiries from the Bunker. Seagate just had a rash of drives with a similar problem in January. They say that this is a firmware problem too, and that no data loss is involved, just unavailability. While that is good news, unavailability is almost as untenable. Doesn't encourage a feeling of confidence in Seagate products. they are not the company they once were.

I've become increasingly unimpressed with modern 21st century hard drives and am eagerly anticipating the arrival of cheap SSD's on the market because of it.

Backup! backup! backup!

Get the Windows 7 Look Without the Fish

Make Windows XP Look Like Windows 7 With SevenVG R2 Theme

I love themes because I get so bored with the same look all the time. This one gives you the look of Windows 7 without having to deal with a beta piece of software. Download now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

ThumbsPlus 8 Beta 2 released

ThumbsPlus Image Database, Thumbnails and Editing

Cerious software has released the beta 2 version of it's very capable and popular image management software. Click the link above to check it out. One of my favorites through the years.

Compressed File Utility

Download 7-zip and

My pick for compressed file software: 7-zip. It's interface is a little quirky, but it's fast, efficient and free. Handles zip, rar, and all other major compressed file formats. Get it.

Cloud Computing for You?

Avanade Cloud Survey Executive Summary (pdf file)

Avenade commissioned Kelton Research to find out what Fortune 1000 type enterprises plan to do with technology spending and how much of that spending would be Cloud computing.

Guess what.. IT people are concerned over security and privacy. Sounds reasonable to me. If there is anything I've learned, nothing is 100%. You need to realistically assess your existing systems uptime and cost, then do your best to find out the true, real world uptime and cost of your cloud options. You can't count on marketing stats. Find out from engineering, or better yet, existing customers.

Just like any other technology - cloud has great promise, but must be approached with care and skepticism. We live in a world of hype. Don't be a volunteer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free can't possibly be any good, can it?

Many people believe that free software can't possibly be any good. If we were talking about almost any other type of product I would probably agree. But in the case of software, I find that free software is often better than equivalent market products.

How can that be? The best free software is by necessity "less" than it's for-sale brethren. In most markets, this might be considered a negative but efficient focused software is a real advantage. Very few programs that try to be comprehensive packages are superior in all aspects. So you end up tied to software with significant weakness that you've paid for.

Take a Windows anti-virus program for example. Companies like Avast, Avira and AVG offer a simple and effective protection program free. If you buy it's for sale version, you get what appears to be a very big, comprehensive program with many added features that does much more. But with a little research (by listening to my show and reading my recommendations on my website), you can build a better protection suite free, by using the best products in each category. You also get the flexibility to change individual components should you find a better program, or if an update to one component gives you trouble.

You might say that the effort and complexity isn't worth it. That a single vendors suite would be more efficient and work more reliably. Not so. Many are bloated, ill behaved and weak in a significant areas of protection or compatibility.

So take advantage of the fine free software I recommend. It's not often you get great products free, and it may not last forever, particularly in this economy.

Advanced rehabilitation of bad hard drives

We use tools and techniques that can sometimes repair drives well enough to retrieve data or even put the drive back into use, without the expense of physical repair. If you have a drive that's seemingly dead and you need the data, it may be worth a look.
Dr Daves Data Recovery

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Windows 7 Bliss

I haven't been so impressed with a piece of software in a long time. I've been so used to smashing Microsoft for bloated, unreliable products that I feel weird being positive about Windows 7 beta, but I am.

I have tried since I downloaded it the first day it was available to break it. As I mentioned in my first Windows 7 post I have purposely loaded it on a very marginal laptop. I expected to have problems, but I wanted to push the envelope. I knew if Windows 7 ran even halfway well on this machine, it would be a winner. Well, I say it's a winner.

I'm not going to jump on the "release it now" bandwagon, but I am confident that Microsoft could pick any date in the future, whether it's a week, or a year, and it would be ready.

I realize that a couple of weeks experience on a single machine isn't a very comprehensive test, but I couldn't get past 6 minutes with Vista. I have installed all manner of software, good and bad, fiddled with the registry, even installed the wrong drivers on purpose, and the OS just keeps working.

Way to go Microsoft! Keep it up...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Auctiva site infected with malware

EBay Auction Tool Web Site Infected With Malware - PC World

Be careful on the Internet. We all know that right? It's tough when trustworthy sites get whacked. We get infected, and we've done nothing wrong. Thank goodness for Google, they found it and Auctiva probably has it cleared up by now. I have yet to get an official response from Auctiva. I'll let you know when I do.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Ultimate Keyboard!

Logitech G19 Keyboard for Gaming

Click on the link to get the details. Incredible $200 keyboard that is completely customizable, including your choice of backlight color, it's own LCD screen and macro customization built in. It's not for everyone, but if you're a very serious gamer, have a lot of very repetitive key strokes, or just want the most advanced keyboard on Earth, it's for you.

Free Open Source Partition Manager

GParted -- Welcome

Gparted is my pick for the best free partition manager. As with all partition managers you need to be very careful to check that you are modifying the drive and partition you think you are. It's easy to get confused and remove or resize a partition that you didn't mean too. Works well and is very reliable.

Official Approved Vista Products List

Windows Quality Online Services: Windows Logo'd Products List

Those of you you may have braved the Vista minefield in spite of all my recommendations against it, here's a Microsoft resource to review what products Microsoft officially supports on the Vista platform.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Improve Responsiveness of Windows

ProcessTamer - Mouser - Software -

I haven't fully tested it, but Process Tamer looks promising on first blush. It senses processes that hog CPU cycles and "tames" them by forcing them to free up CPU cycles for other processes. This often makes your computer feel more responsive when processor intensive apps slow things to a crawl or even lock up the computer temporarily. Of course those processes are slowed by being forced to free CPU cycles, so it can be a mixed bag. I've found it to be stable and of apparent benefit. That's pretty good praise considering I'm using the Windows 7 beta. Says a lot good about Windows 7, too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Choose a Free Laptop? FREE? What do you think?

The REAL deal about "Choose a Free"

You may have heard the radio ads for "super get a free laptop". As with anything free there is a catch. Remember Economics 101: "There's no such thing as a free lunch".

I am not saying there's anything illegal or unethical about it, but I am saying that it makes no sense for most of us. There are significant costs involved in the requirements for the free laptop that may exceed the value of the laptop. I have yet to be able to figure a way that I could get what I wanted and no more, and still get a laptop for a price that makes sense. I would have to sign up and PAY for offers that I had no interest in. And the link to review the requirements is broken. I'm sure it's just coincidental.

Unlike many other similar offers the laptops are pretty good ones, it's just that the requirements are quite expensive. And if you think you can sign up for stuff, get the laptop and cancel the subscription. Won't happen.

You won't recive your laptop for months and by the time you get it it may be obsolete. It is a REAL rats nest of rules and regulations with convenient out-clauses for the laptop provider.

It's a no-brainer. Don't do it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stunning Deal on Solid State Drive! - OCZ 120GB USB Drive

Only $200 for a 120GB solid state drive. Haven't seen anything else close in price. First thing I want to do is take it out of the USB case and put it in my laptop. Of course the warranty goes away at that point. Smokin'!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Netbook pick

mini notebook - mobile computing SAMSUNG

What started out as a tangent in response to a single caller on the show last week, ended up taking over the show. Netbooks vs. laptops vs. desktops. What to buy and why?

I've warned against the faddishness of new product categories that geeks go ape over for no practical reason. It's an ongoing problem with technologists. It's new, it's neat, you need to buy it. NOT!

Netbooks are NOT in that category. It's one of the most practical value based new technologies introduced in years. I was really impressed with the first "netbook" the IBM z50 introduced in 1999. It was ahead of it's time, showed great promise but was overpriced and seriously flawed. Too slow, too limited, and too crippled on the Internet.

The netbooks of today are available at less than half the price, are MUCH more capable, and optimized for the Internet. Can it get any better?

Just know that netbooks are not necessarily laptop or desktop replacements. They are much less powerful in multi-media performance, and do not include optical drives.

I've discussed the Lenovo S10, the HP mini 1000 series and the MSI Wind before. They are all decent computers. Of all netbooks today, I would buy the Samsung NC-10. Best configuration, keyboard, price and appearance. Up to 2GB RAM, 3 USb ports, 160GB hard drive Windows XP (not Vista) and a beautiful 10.2" non-glare screen and peerless keyboard that's 93% of a full sized keyboard, and nearly 6 hours of battery life.

The NC-10 is my pick. Nearly Apple like in it's appeal. Buy it.

Microsoft's Resurrection?

Should you Consider Downloading the Windows 7 Beta?

Microsoft has been under the gun for a couple of years. With disappointing products like Vista, Zune, Office 2007 and others, it's been a while since Microsoft has really impressed with a product release. They have turned things around with Windows 7. This is a pre-release version, but I have not seen beta product so far superior to a prior release of the product. This beta release is faster and more stable than the final public release of Vista 2 years ago!

Admittedly Microsoft has been able to learn from the Vista experience, and Windows 7 is not nearly as big a change from Vista as Vista was from XP. So it might be expected that this was would a more polished beta, and it is.

I have it installed on an underpowered laptop (1GB shared RAM, AMD Sempron 2400+, 60GB hard drive) that I thought was going to be pretty weak, but it is as fast or faster than XP! It is a pleasure to use. Of course drivers were a bit of a challenge, but that is to be expected with a beta release on an old computer.

Please do not install the Windows 7 beta unless you are prepared to wrestle a little bit, and are experienced at troubleshooting driver issues. You'll also need to remove it or buy it after the release of the product. But if you like fiddling, and want to get a pleasing preview of the OS that you'll be using in 2010, check it out...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seagate 1TB drive catastrophe

Seagate finally addresses 1TB problems

Although very poorly. They finally admitted a 1TB drive problem, but pulled the "fix" from their site last night, when it turned out the cure might be worse that the disease.

I am not going to get into the details of model numbers, etc. because it appears even Seagate doesn't have a grip on the problem yet. Click on the link above for details, such as they are.

At least they admitted a problem. Until Seagate has an accurate idea of what the problem is and a true to solution to the problem - backup, backup, backup!