Tuesday, March 29. 2011
For additional security, I use SSH tunneling to one of my servers and dynamic port forwarding for some of my applications. This post explains how to use Putty to have a tunnel/SOCKS proxy that is created automatically on startup, and reconnects when disconnected, without any annoying windows open. Continue reading "Always up SSH SOCKS Proxy on Windows"
Sunday, March 13. 2011
I was just asked for my favorite free portable anti-virus solutions. In general, nowaways, you will most likely have to reinstall because most malware digs too deep into your system to be removed again. The first thing you need to do is THINK about the source of your infection. In 99% of all cases is YOUR fault if you get infected, and you will get infected AGAIN if you don't learn.
With that warning in mind, if you know what you did wrong, and if you still want to run anti-virus software, I recommend MWAV (mirror) and Spyware S&D. Boot a clean OS from CD, eg. Hiren.
Thursday, September 3. 2009
Other than disabling autorun completely, there is no official way to stop the "You need to format the disk in drive X before you can use it" dialog from popping up every time you connect a drive with unknown (ie. non-FAT/NTFS) partitions, or when you accidentally click on it. Because my external drives are fully encrypted, this message appears every time I connect them, and if you mistakenly press the wrong button you have to be fast to stop it...
I've been using a self written AutoHotkey script to immediately close the dialog as soon as it appears for a few weeks now, and it works great. It sits in my tray, waits for the dialog and then closes it without me even noticing it. It takes virtually no resources, and doesn't do busy waiting thanks to the
Wednesday, July 29. 2009
I've posted the Microsoft Lifecam standalone drivers a while ago and got a lot of questions regarding how I extracted them from the original setup. I'll explain it based on the latest 64bit installer for that webcam
Tuesday, March 3. 2009
I own a Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 webcam, which is nothing special, but absolutely okay for its price. The only thing that bothered me is that the driver is not available as a standalone download: You need to download a 50MB installer, which then downloads another 150MB: DirectX, the .NET framework and other components required for the (useless) software. Without network connection, you cannot install the driver. Also, (of course) you're forced to install the software, too.
So, I extracted the driver files from the setup. The ZIP file includes drivers for the NX-6000, the VX-1000, VX-3000 and VX-6000. They're working fine without the software.
On some Win7 installations, an installer will open and try to download the software, but you can safely cancel the dialog.
Update 20.04.2010: Win7 drivers from v3.20.
Wednesday, November 26. 2008
Crowdsourcing seems to be the new future. The Microsoft internationalization team is currently testing "collaborative translation", where visitors aid to improve machine translated content. They're also working on CLIP, a small utility that shows a local translation within the tooltip of a caption. Continue reading "Croudsourcing for Localization"
Sunday, November 23. 2008
SocketSniff is a nice little utility that lets you monitor network traffic of selected Windows processes. Continue reading "SocketSniff - Monitor Network Traffic of Specific Applications"
Friday, November 21. 2008
If you've ever used Linux, you probably stumbled over the great concept of package management. When Microsoft revised MSI (now called Windows Installer), they failed to include the simple mechanism for applications to register at a central update management. The crucial point is that while Linux repositories mostly contain GPL software that can be easily packaged by third parties, a Windows package manager needs support from each individual developer - which is not going to happen any time soon without Microsoft stepping in.
I am certain that the Windows world is ready for a "Web 2.0 solution". In times where all our knowledge is being collected for free, people might actually use install scripts supplied by a community, without direct support from the vendor. Continue reading "Package Manager for Windows"
Sunday, November 9. 2008
Mark Russinovich, co-founder of Sysinternals and author of many excellent tools (and an excellent book on Windows internals), blogs about troubleshooting a Vista system using Process Explorer and Process Monitor.
Mark's Blog: The Case of the Slooooow System
Sunday, August 3. 2008
Over the years, I've grown so accustomed to using many Windows related keyboard shortcuts that I intuitively use them without thinking. Looking at the list of keyboard shortcuts published by Microsoft for Windows XP, I know and use all of them. Lately, I've (re)discovered a few shortcuts that turn out to be really useful (for me), but I didn't know or even think about.
For example, I often use
In the section "rediscovered" (and somewhat awkward to type):
Completely new to me, and another timesaver keeping me from moving my hand too often:
What's your favorite "geek" keyboard shortcut that nobody knows about?
On a (somewhat) related sidenode: How did they manage to get Firefox shipped without having a shortcut to close all but the current tab? Opera has CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-W, which sounds worse than it is to type. To get that in Firefox also, I modified an extension - you can download it here.
On a (somewhat) related second sidenode: Switcher is a really nice replacement for the useless "Windows Flip 3D" introduced in Vista (
Tuesday, July 29. 2008
In January, I wrote how you can move both your program files and user data folders using Junctions. I have been doing this for years on my XP installations and didn't expect it to cause so much trouble.
In March, the first Windows Updates failed with error code 80070011. I have posted about how you can fix this on a per-failed-update basis manually.
With the release of SP1, this method didn't work any longer. There was no pending.xml, no matter how many updates failed on me. Reader Jiminaus suggested to update the
Today, my system drive crashed on me and I had to do a fresh install, so I went a different way: Leaving the program files folder alone, I only moved the Users folder - this time, not using junctions, but by updating the relevant registry entries, as suggested by various sources and computer magazines. Continue reading "Windows Vista: Moving Program Files and User Data, Revisited"
Saturday, March 1. 2008
In January, I showed you how to move your program files and your profile folder to a different partition using robocopy and mklink. With NTFS junctions, you (and your programs) can transparently use the folders on your C drive, while the actual data lies someplace else.
Unfortunately, today, some Windows Updates where shipped that try to install on every reboot, but fail with error code 80070011. Using
Cause: If files cannot be replaced because they're open, updates write XML commands to \SystemRoot\WinSxS\pending.xml (usually C:\Windows\WinSxS\pending.xml, unless you've installed Windows to a different partition). This file will be processed on reboot. To replace files, updates create hard links at the destination, like this:
<HardlinkFile source="\SystemRoot\WinSxS\amd64_microsoft-windows-ie-internetexplorer_31bf3856ad364e35_6.0.6000.16609_none_89a35f80d52d451d\iexplore.exe" destination="\??\C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe"/>
This will fail if "Program Files" is on a different partition, as files can only be hard linked within the same partition. I highly doubt that Microsoft will ever fix this, because moving program data to a different partition is not officially supported.
Workaround: If you don't want to move your program files back to C: (like me), there seems to be only one way to fix this: By copying the updated files the the same partition as the real program folders, and by changing all HardlinkFile references to this new location, it will work. alantangcs posted a nice step-by-step guide on how to edit pending.xml (you have to change ownership of the file first).
Because I don't expect this to be the last time an update tries to change Program Files, I wrote a little script that does most of the work: It will provide a copy of pending.xml with all necessary replacements and copy the files to a directory called "WUTemp" on the same partition as your real program files. If you don't supply the real location of your program files by command line, the script will ask for it.
A slightly easier workaround might be to replace the affected HardlinkFile commands by CopyFile (not sure if it exists) or MoveFile (exists, but I don't know how it reacts if the target already exists). That way, the files can stay in WinSxS. I haven't tried this, and be warned: If you mess with pending.xml and Vista doesn't boot, it won't even boot in Safe Mode. Try in a VM or keep some recovery disk handy. Continue reading "Vista: Windows Update Error 80070011 Semi-Automated Fix"
Saturday, January 26. 2008
The first article in my series about tools I just have to install right after Windows installation and use daily in my life is about a mostly unknown open source software called CopyHandler. Ever since I moved to Windows from DOS and got used to "multi tasking", the standard Windows copy routine annoyed me. I guess we've all grown accustomed to its defects, because I don't ever hear people complaining about it.
Think again. Can you tell me why I have to live without a simple mechanism to pause/resume whenever I want (surviving shutdown and network loss), why it took Microsoft over 10 years to check if the destination has enough space before it starts the transfer, and show me a reliable progress bar including transfer speeds? (Yes, Vista actually has it) Is it so hard to have an option for notification on completion, or when it stopped for some reason? Why does the Vista copy routine take ages after I cancel it?
CopyHandler neatly integrates into Windows up to the point that it (optionally) intercepts your drag and drop transfers transparently and handles them, while you can still select the default copy/move from context menu. Let me give you a quick list of features and options:
By far the most important feature and the most annoying Windows defect (I actually started to write my own utility for that before I found this gem): You can configure a number of concurrent copy tasks and all subsequent copy actions will be queued. No more ugly disk seeking when you move a number of files with separate selections!
I have prepared a short (one minute!) screencast as an introduction to CopyHandler, don't miss it. Continue reading "Tools I Can't Live Without: CopyHandler"
Sunday, January 13. 2008
I finally managed to purchase a new computer! Well, parts for a new computer. With neither ATI or Nvidia able to ship their latest mid-range video cards, I skipped that one, for now. Fortunately a friend had a spare 7900GT lying around waiting for me to borrow it.
The plan was to migrate to Vista 64bit as my main system, but keep a familiar XP as backup system in case something doesn't work. I went through a series of problems which ate my whole weekend.
1. AHCI. Determined to install both XP and Vista with AHCI, I enabled the responsible BIOS settings for both controllers of my board. What I didn't know yet was that - for reasons unknown - I managed to buy the wrong board. What I wanted to buy was a P35 DS3, but I got a 965P DS3 instead. Of course I had CPU and cooler already mounted when I found out, and hey, at least it supports my Quad Core! I guess I have to live with it now. Back to AHCI: The onboard intel chipset doesn't support it (although there is a BIOS setting for it?), the Gigabyte controller (JMicron 363) supposedly does. I don't want to mention the problem of getting the drivers loaded, but at least Vista now supports USB drives and CDs for additional drivers (hooray!). Nobody told me that it only detects USB drives if they're connected at startup, so I had to go through the installation process again. But hey, it only takes five minutes to (re)boot the Vista DVD on my new quad core with 4GB of RAM! Finally it detected the hard drive and started to install, but after imaging the drive repeated to reboot again and again. Of course I tried various drivers and wanted to find a real solution, but most installation guides and user comments just told to install without AHCI. After hours without any progress, I gave up. No AHCI for me, then.
2. I wanted to reuse my existing SATA drive, so I moved the previous single partition and created one partition each for Vista and XP (physically before the data partition). The partitioning tool I used defaulted to logical volumes and I didn't look close enough, so I had the following (wrong) layout: 30GB Vista (logical), 10GB XP (logical), data partition (primary). Not that XP or Vista wouldn't let me install, no, but I experienced strange NTFS errors later after everything was configured the way I wanted it to be. Some hours of diagnostics later, I accidentally tried another partitioning tool and saw the mistake. Whoohoo, here we go again. Formatted both OS partitions, set the Vista partition to active and all three to primary.
3. At 5am, I was through with my (third!) XP installation that day (and night). After the first reboot, error, "HAL.DLL not found". **sigh** I knew that message - at least that's the kind of experience you get in 2 years of IT support - and especially that it rarely has anything to do with real files missing. The boot.ini entry was incorrect (on a fresh installation? WTF), I used bootcfg /rebuild to fix it and - voilà - XP continued the installation. It wanted activation again, but didn't allow it over the Internet, so I called the Microsoft hotline (free call). I made it through the tedious process of telling the answering machine that it was the only computer I had that XP version installed on (what a surpise answer...) and got the lengthy confirmation code.
4. Vista installation again. At that point, I wished I had prepared a custom unattended installation DVD... out of no reason, it again kept rebooting after the first part. Superb.
(insert some hours of sleep here)
5. Reformatted the Vista partition. Now, of course, all traces towards a bootable XP on the second partition were gone, but at least Vista installed. I tried FIXBOOT/FIXMBR in the Vista and XP recovery console, but that didn't help. XP repair installation, then Vista automated boot problem repair.
Done! I had a working dual boot with Vista and XP. No, I'm not done yet. XP is only supposed to be a backup system, but for Vista, I wanted the Users directory (all profiles) and the program folders to be on a separate partition. I regard this to be a standard use case, nothing special here - I don't understand why people at Microsoft make it so hard to achieve. Okay, you can invidually move the Documents and Movie folder in your profile, but that's not what I wanted. Turned out that this is possible with a customized unattended installation, but you might understand why I didn't choose that route. After a few trials (and, unfortunately, errors), I managed to move the whole directory structure transparently.
After this, so-called NTFS junctions will point from the original locations to my new folders (in this example, in the root directory of E). This (hopefully) keeps everything intact without having to mess around in the Windows Registry. Afterwards, you can tell your programs to install to C, while they really write to the new location.
Moving "C:\Users" to A Different Partition
Boot into recovery console and execute the following commands.
robocopy C:\Users E:\Users /MIR /XJD move C:\Users "C:\Users (OLD)" rmdir "C:\Documents and Settings" mklink /J "C:\Users" "E:\Users" mklink /J "C:\Documents and Settings" "E:\Users" (german Vista) rmdir "C:\Dokumente und Einstellungen" (german Vista) mklink /J "C:\Dokumente und Einstellungen" E:\Users
You might need to repeat the rmdir/mklink for your localized user folders. If you forget the /XJD switch on robocopy (exclude junctions pointing to directories), it will run into an endless loop, so be careful! If everything worked, you can later remove "C:\Users (OLD)".
Moving Program Files to A Different Partition
Again, boot into the recovery console (or any other boot CD). Basically, I have repeated the steps for moving the Users directory for both "Program Files" and "Program Files (x64)". I'm not sure whether /XJD is really required here, but it does no harm either. Edit: You can move the folders using Microsoft's own utilities PendMoves and MoveFile without having to boot into a recovery console. Matthew Wade explains how.
robocopy "C:\Program Files" "E:\Program Files" /MIR /XJD robocopy "C:\Program Files (x86)" "E:\Program Files (x86)" /MIR /XJD move "C:\Program Files" "C:\Program Files (OLD)" move "C:\Program Files (x86)" "C:\Program Files (x86) (OLD)" mklink /J "C:\Program Files" "E:\Program Files" mklink /J "C:\Program Files (x86)" "E:\Program Files (x86)" (german Vista) rmdir "C:\Programme" (german Vista) mklink /J "C:\Programme" "E:\Program Files" (german Vista) mklink /J "C:\Programme (x86)" "E:\Programme (x86)"
Again, make sure that you remove existing junctions and create new ones if you have a localized version of Vista, or they will still point to the old (moved) directory; you might also want to move c:\ProgramData. By the way, you can list the complete content of a folder including hidden and system files using "dir /a".
You can use the same method to move profile and program data in Windows XP. It doesn't ship with robocopy or a tool to create junctions, but I was able to successfully copy both folders using xcopy32 and create junctions using the Junction utility by Sysinternals.
Edit: Warning! Booting into Windows XP will delete all system restore points of Vista, including file shadow copies (file history). Microsoft is aware of the problem, but does not provide a fix. The only workaround at the moment is to hide the Vista partition from Windows XP (explained in KB926185). What a stupid issue...
Edit 2: Warning! If you move your program files, some Vista updates will not install (error 80070011). There is a semi-automated fix, but you need to use it every time an update fails.
Edit 3: Especially Vista SP1 doesn't install and I haven't found a way to work around this...
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