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Windows 8.1 Will Have a Boot to Desktop Option

Microsoft has been under the pressure of criticism regarding the Start Screen in Windows 8. The Start Screen has proved to be quite an annoyance to desktop users who have been pestering Microsoft to bring the Start menu back, in fact, third party options to do that have been quite popular.

In Windows 8.1 (codename Windows Blue) there will be an option to boot to the desktop by avoiding the Start Screen, albeit there will still be no Start menu.

That’s a good option considering the “Metro” style is really only useful with touchscreen devices.

Filed in: Windows
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Clean Your Windows Registry

You may have noticed that your computer has gotten slower over time. Some people think that computers are supposed to slow down and become harder to use the older they are. These people will tell you that the only way to recover the performance of a new PC is to reformat and reinstall your operating system. This is a myth. Making your computer run like new doesn’t require reformatting or even reinstalling Windows. The number one reason that computers slow down is because of the registry.

The Windows registry is a huge database containing the computer’s configuration information, that is, the name of each program, where it is located, and any other relevant data. As more and more programs are installed, uninstalled, and modified, more and more entries get added to the registry. Eventually the database becomes so huge that it’s almost unmanageable, resulting in long access times that slow your system to a crawl. The solution is to clean out the registry.

The free Registry Risk report explains the most efficient ways to clean the Windows registry, what a corrupt or unorganized registry can mean for your computer, and other valuable information. If you’re computer seems to run extremely slow or crashes often, the solution is a registry cleaner.

Registry cleaners are programs which scan the Windows registry to find outdated, invalid, or empty data sets and delete or fix them. There are many good ones available and most of the ones I’ve tested are reliable and safe to use. Most of them are unlikely to mess anything up and can scan you system in as little as five to ten minutes.? For more information, you’ll want to get the free Registry Risk report.

After you get your copy of the report, you’ll be given to opportunity to get a free scan of your system registry compliments of Registry Easy.

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Click Here To Download Your Free Registry Risk Report

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IE8 Running Slow? Try This

Though I haven’t had any problems of my own, I know a couple of people who installed IE8 and then complained about it running very slowly, sometimes completely bogging down their systems. This type of behavior usually signals a problem with system resources, but thanks to Ed Bott over at ZDNet, there may be a simple fix. His article, “Is IE8 really fat and slow?” gives a simple command that may help (restart your computer after running the command):

regsvr32 actxprxy.dll

That re-registers the ActiveX Interface Marshaling Library, an obscure DLL that most people (even Microsoft experts) had never heard about. (Update: 27-Mar: Note that if you try this using Windows Vista, you must do this from an elevated Command Prompt window; type cmd in the Start menu Search box, right-click the Cmd.exe shortcut, and then choose Run As Administrator.)

According to Ed, when one of his colleagues did this, the results were stunning and IE8 was stable as well as performing faster.

Let me know if you’ve had any trouble and if this tweak helps.

Cheers!
The Geek

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Microsoft Equips Individuals With New Training Resources Needed for Jobs

Elevate America initiative provides technology skills tools at no cost and low cost.

This is great news for anyone who wants to pursue a technical career. This is the kind of stimulus that will really make a difference!

REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 22, 2009, Microsoft Corp. today announced a new initiative, Elevate America, which will provide up to 2 million people over the next three years with the technology training needed to succeed in the 21st-century economy.

Microsoft has worked for years with other businesses and community-based partners to broaden access to job opportunities through information technology education and training. Elevate America expands these efforts and provides immediate support in response to the current economic crisis in partnership with others in the public and private sector.

Elevate America has two main offerings, one available immediately and one that will be provided in partnership with state governments including those of Florida, New York and Washington.

A new online resource, located at http://www.microsoft.com/ElevateAmerica, is available today. This new Web site helps individuals understand what types of technical skills they need for the jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities of today and tomorrow, and resources to help acquire these skills. The Web site provides access to several Microsoft online training programs, including how to use the Internet, send e-mail and create a “sum”, as well as more advanced programs on using specific Microsoft applications….

If you would like to receive information when the Elevate America resources become available in your state, please follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/elevateamerica.

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EASEUS Partition Manager Server 2.1.1

I recently had the opportunity to test drive Chengdu Yiwo Tech Developments’ EASEUS Partition Manager Server 2.1.1 (EPMS). Using EPMS, you can easily create, format, and delete partitions on your hard disk. The most attractive feature is that it can resize/move your partitions by using your hard disk’s free space without destroying data. The program’s main functions allow you to easily:

  • Resize/ Move partitions
  • Create partitions
  • Delete partitions
  • Delete all partitions
  • Label partitions
  • Format partitions
  • Check partitions
  • Hide partitions
  • Create a Bootable CD

EPMS has an impressive list of key features:

  • It works perfectly with hardware RAID
  • It can handle up to 32 hard disks, which makes it a good choice for server systems
  • Resize/Move system partition by simply clicking the system partition and sliding it through the unallocated space
  • The data on the system partition is completely untouched
  • Hide drives so they will not be visible (or accessible) from Windows even booted in Safe Mode
  • Create a bootable CD/DVD to manage partitions easier and faster.

Being a systems engineer, I have a lot of contact with servers. One of the biggest problems I run into is servers that were misconfigured with undersized system partitions that susequently got filled up with too many programs; this is where a partition manager is an essential tool.

I installed EPMS on my work laptop–the program works fine on XP–and put it through its paces. Within a couple of minutes, I had resized my C:\ partition to one-half of what it was. The program required me to reboot and when I arrived back at the desktop, my C:\ drive was fine and I had 57GB of unallocated space. Next, I hooked up a spare 120GB hard drive to my USB interface, plugged it in and ran EPMS. I deleted the existing partition and recreated a new one then formatted it. When you delete a partition, you’re given the option to simply delete it or to delete it and destroy data. Choosing to delete and destroy data wipes all of the sectors on the drive. Every operation I tried went smoothly. The only glitch I experienced was when I tried to make a bootable CD on my laptop; I got an error message “Recorder scan fail!” The message said I had no recorder or one that is unsupported. The feature worked fine on another system with a generic CD writer, though, so this isn’t a big issue.

The acid test was to try the program on a server running in production. I chose a Windows 2000 Server that is running as an application server. Installing EPMS was straightforward and no reboot was required. I launched the application and resized the D:\ partition, creating an unallocated section of about 14 GB. EPMS requested a reboot. When the server came back up, the EPMS batch file ran, carrying out the operation I requested; the server then rebooted again and came back up normally.

The program is easy to use and out-performs every other partition tool I’ve tried, both open source and commercial, earning EASEUS Partition Manager Server a “Superior Product” rating. It’s well worth your money at $149.00. This is a tool that should be in every engineer’s toolkit and one that I’m glad I have at my disposal.

Have a question? It can be about anything from cooking to science, whatever you’re interested in: Click here to Ask the Geek! Kenny “The Geek” Harthun has been playing with geeky stuff since 1965. He’s a former research scientist, currently works as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer at Connective Computing, Inc. and loves to learn about anything and everything.

Filed in: Reviews, Software, Windows
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Will an improper shutdown harm my computer?

Error Message I get this question often enough that it’s time for a detailed post. Today, I’m answering Valania’s question:

When you improperly shut down your computer does it harm your computer hardware, or anything else in your computer?

Valania, by “improperly shut down,” I assume you mean pressing the power button instead of clicking Start->Shut Down from Windows. This won’t harm any of your hardware. After all, Windows powers off the PC, too, when you do a “normal” shutdown. Think of it this way: Your computer is made from components similar to those in any other electronic device–like a stereo or TV–and you turn them on and off all the time without any bad effects. However, the data on your hard drive can be damaged by an improper shutdown.

This was a big problem back in the days of Windows 95 and 98. When you restarted after an improper shutdown, the operating system would come up asking you to run scandisk to correct hard disk errors. It’s not as big a problem with Windows XP, but it does happen. If you remove power from the system while data is being written to your hard disk, the data will be incomplete and appear corrupt. Usually, though, a system hang severe enough to warrant pushing the power button is the result of a problem reading or loading a file and your PC won’t suffer any ill effects if you power it down.

Cheers!
The Geek

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The First Microsoft Glitch of 2007?

Well, it’s the first one of the New Year that I saw. A friend of mine sent an email early on New Year’s Day:

Help! After defragging and rebooting I got the error message: ‘Application failed to initialize: 0x800106BA. A problem caused Windows Defender Service to stop. To start the service, restart your computer or search Help and Support on how to start the service manually.’

Neither one of those options worked, so my friend tried an over-the-top install using WindowsDefender.msi and got another error message. She then panicked, believing she would be attacked immediately by all of the digital diseases known to man and Microsoft.

I had her uninstall Defender before trying a reinstall. This worked. Turns out the Windows Defender beta she was running expired on December 31.

So, Microsoft, if you’re listening, it would be nice if you had built in an error trap informing the user to upgrade rather than just crashing the app.

I hope this glitch didn’t carry over into the Windows Defender version that is included with Vista…

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Cheers!

The Geek

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Kenny “The Geek” Harthun has been playing with geeky stuff since 1965. He’s a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with Connective Computing, Inc. providing network, desktop and info security support services to a wide range of clients.

Filed in: Computers, Windows
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Outlook saves images only as bitmaps (.bmp)

Q. When I save pictures received in email while using Outlook, they are always automatically saved as Bitmap files. I wish to save them as received, either JPG or Gif. This problem does not exist when I employ Outlook Express. I’m running Windows XP Home with SP2 and all updates are current. I have Microsoft Office 2003 Student & Teachers Edition installed. I have been unable to locate the setting(s) to enable pictures received in email using Outlook to be saved in JPG or GIF or the option to control what file type of they will be saved in.

A. The funny thing about Outlook is that it’s not Outlook causing your problem, it’s Internet Explorer. All of the picture and web display work for Outlook is done by IE, so it’s there we have go.

According to Microsoft Knowledge Base article 810978 there are several things that could cause your problem, but let’s address the most likely cause first: “a damaged program file…is downloaded to the Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk.” Here’s how to fix it:

1. Start Internet Explorer (if it is not already started).
2. Empty the contents of the Temporary Internet Files folder. To do so:
a. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
b. Click the General tab.

c. Under Temporary Internet files, click Delete Files.
d. When you are prompted to delete all temporary Internet files, click OK.
3. In the Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk, remove the files that are listed as either Unknown or Damaged. To do so:
a. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
b. Click the General tab.
c. Under Temporary Internet files, click Settings.
d. Click View Objects.
The list of program files that are downloaded to the SystemRoot\Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk appears in the Downloaded Program Files window.
e. In the Status column, note the files that are listed as either Unknown or Damaged. Remove these files. To do so, right-click the file, and then click Remove.
f. When you are prompted to confirm the removal, click Yes.
g. Close the Downloaded Program Files window, and then click OK two times.

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Strange header & footer prints on every page

Q. I just started using a web based application to submit my payroll to our home office. Now, every time I print my emails from Outlook, “Payroll Statement” appears as a header and the date is printed as the footer on every page. I don’t see anything in Word or Outlook that is causing this. What’s going on?

A. Well, it took some digging on my part, but I solved it. Oddly enough, Outlook uses the Internet Explorer page setup when printing HTML mail. If you printed plain text email from Outlook, you probably would see a normal page. I bet your web based payroll application has inserted the header and footer into IE’s Page Setup properties. To fix the problem, in IE, go to File–>Page Setup. In the dialog box, you’ll see the Headers and Footers options in the middle. You can set these to just about anything you want, or leave them blank if you don’t want any headers or footers to print. IE’s Help is actually helpful on this subject. Go to Help–>Contents and Index then click the Search tab and enter the word “header” (without the quotes). Select “Change how a Web page looks when it prints” from the topics list.

Filed in: Computers, Windows
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Web pages load very slowly

Q. Some web pages I try to load are slow and give me a time out error. They used to load fine. I have moved the security settings to the lowest and to default. I’m running Windows 98 First Edition.

A. I suggest you upgrade your computer, since you’re not even running Windows 98 Second Edition. That is probably the main problem. It’s not your security settings; more likely it’s a problem with cached files. In Win98, when your Temporary Internet Files folder gets full, your pages won’t load properly. IE uses this folder as a cache to make pages load faster. In theory, most web pages don’t change very often, so once it’s downloaded and placed in cache, IE can simply compare the web page to the cached page and load whichever one is the newest. If the one in the cache is still current, IE loads that page. It’s much faster than transferring everything over the Internet. This works fine except that Windows makes the default size of the folder 10% of your hard drive. This is way too much; you don’t need more than 10MB.

To clean the excess files in IE, got to Tools–>Internet Options–>Delete Files. Then, go into the Settings and set “Check for newer versions of stored pages” to “Every visit to the page.” Finally, set the “Temporary Internet files folder” setting to 10MB. Then, defrag your hard drive and you should be good to go…K

Filed in: Computers, Windows
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