What I expect in Windows 8

Here is what I expect from the next version of Windows from Microsoft — Windows 8 (Windows Eight).

  • Very fast barebone installation. All drivers and a basic desktop should be up and working within 15 minutes after the installation media is booted. Users of the old Windows should be blown away by the speed of Windows 8.
  • This barebone installation should be completely free of charge for the end users and everyone can download a free copy from the Microsoft website. The activiation machanism should be completely eliminated.

A real cashcow

How can Microsoft make profit? You may ask. Here is what I suggest: with the barebone Windows up and running, users will be immediately presented options to quickly access the best applications and services they need.

  1. An assortment of free applications, either made by MS or other developers, should be presented to users. There should be a forum or user group for every application available the list. MS can charge users a little fee if they need technical support and even share the revenue with application developers. This strategy kills two birds with one stone: tightly integrate the Internet with the desktop OS and bond the developers and Microsoft in a win-win situation.
  2. Likewise, MS should gather the best web services on the Internet and users should be able to use them with a few clicks. It should be so convenient for users to set up a universal account and use it with twitter, gmail, youtube or facebook, to name a few. Ms does not need to outcompete these services or provide its own secondary services like hotmail or bing search. Instead, MS can cleverly fuse these services with the operation system, making it a much better experience than users on other platforms such as Mac OS or Linux. Do you know how painful it used be to install a flashplugin under Linux?
  3. Deliver information in a timely, authoritive and accessible manner. MS can cooperate with live media and news providers such as lastfm, wikipedia and BBC to deliver information and entertainment to the doorstep of the users. How wonderful it would be.
  4. All these three services can be fused smartly into one instant-messenger program — a Google wave style — initiating program. Call it ‘smart portal’, ‘star trek’ or even ‘MS assistant’ as long as it does the job mentioned above, MS would be unbeatable.

To my Linux buddies

No I am not a traitor even though I devised this best strategy for Microsoft to dominate the world for a few score of years. Linux fans should be rested assured that the last thing Microsoft wants to listen is a piece of advice from a dual booting Linux-Windows user. Maybe Linux community should use this strategy?

To Bill and Steve

Yes, I am ready to be hired and put your dream of friendly world dominiation into reality. It is interesting when I poped into a speech excerpt by the Microsoft CEO: “The fifth [computing] revolution is about more than personal empowerment and social interaction; we literally will get the tools to help us better understand and address global issues that affect billions of people, including education, healthcare, science, and environmental change.”

How can this revolution be possible when you only have a few Windows and fail to keep the door wide open and bring the best of the software world and the Internet to the doorstep of the users? Search me.

What the perfect MS Windows is like?

Windows 7 has just been released in the market, and it has got a lot of media attention. Still it is just an upgrade of the previous Windows and another step forward on the familiar design track of Microsoft. As time goes by, this will not work very well on this Internet age. Here I offer some advice to MS on how to make a better OS in this Internet age.

The very first thing — the starting point and the foundation of a revolutionary Windows release — should be integration of the OS itself with the flow of information. Let’s face it: the sole function of an OS is to facilitate the flow of information. So far, Windows just give you a tool to process information rather than deliver information right to the door. Bill Gates has to think one step ahead — what a typical user actually need right after installing a new OS? How much work does the user have to do in order to actually getting his daily life on a computer started?

So far, all the Windows versions are just like an unfurnished house, and the users have to labor hard and attend to many chores just to start living in it. This is too much work for users and a better Windows should be like a hotel room that well anticipate users needs and provide for them.

Let me elaborate on this with specific suggestions:

  • Present to users a list of wonderful free applications in the software world. There are hundreds of free, powerful easy-to-use applications available in the wild world. MS can make the user’s day by present to them this list classfied with its functions and a short description, or even a popularity rate and help the user install them with a few clicks. Those good applications will make the Windows a humble servent presenting a tray of gems to the user, and people will buy Windows simply to use the applications they love.
  • Make Windows highly componentized. Windows should scale its installation choices from a barebone installation with minimal services, a server, a media station and an Internet Information Station. And people should easily combine or remove components without hassel. Most people will still have the default installation that suits every body, but there should be a choice that the user can installation a minimal Windows version and expand it the way he likes — have his own browser, media player, email client and instant messenger. Instead of obstructing this from happening, MS should do all it can to make it happen. MS just need to keep this in mind: a winner OS is a one that facilite rather than control or obstruct what its users want to do. What’s more — this will make Windows resource-efficient and safer.
  • Forget its MSN search, the windows media player, the live space and hotmail. There are secondary services and products compared to the leading providers such as google. These secondary services waste MS’s engery and money, and make it forgetting what an OS is truely supposed to do — to provide the best services and the faciliate the information flow. It should make itself the best platform for discovering and delivering the services its users need.

The perfect Windows I envision should be called ‘the Information OS’ that takes users on a joyous ride in the torrent of information flow — nothing less, nothing more. I’ll leave the details to Mr. Bill Gates to figure out.

Two handy screen capture tools

Both Snag-It and Hypersnap are ovekill for getting fast screenshots for a blog post. My search led me to two light-weight screen caputure tools.

GPL licensed Greenshot is a quick and no hassel screenshooter. Just press a few global shortcuts and you can easily get shots for a region, a window or the whole desktop in a blink of an eye. For example, I can just press ALT+Printscreen to get a shot of this window and automatically save it to a folder for later use.

If you want more advanced features like adding a watermark or resizing an image in a row after you capture a screen, WinSnap is the tool to use. Unfornately it is not free and it covers your screenshots with its logo if you use the unregistered version — rending the so-called trial time totally useless. Still, It is sweet to witness its power to process a caputured file based on the “effects” you designated and make it immediately available for use. The following screenshot has a water mark and is resized from the original one.

WinSnap.png

Getting things done with To-Do Desklist

So often does the computer become a lonely person’s companion rather than a tool to process information. I found myself aimlessly clicking my time away hither and thither on the computer without focusing on what I am supposed to do in this electronic box. Making a to-do list is one way of prompting action and avoiding procrastination. Unfortunately tools such as Tudomo, Task Coach and the popular web-based NXT are overkill for this purpose if they are not distractions themselves. Today, I found a nice tool called To-do Desklist and it does the exact thing as I expected: you create a list of things on your desktop and mark them as done when you finish them.

to-do desktlist.gif

Finally there is something better than the pen and paper to make a to-do list and get your things done.

Quickly delete an unwanted song in Foobar2000

When I play music with foobar2000, there are certain music files I don’t like and I want to immediately delete them for good when they start playing. The plugin foo_deletecurrent does exactly this job and it works great with the latest foobar2000 (as of version 0.9.6.8).

The foo_fileops plugin that comes as a default for foobar2000 0.9x installation can not delete the music file that is playing, and I personally think it is useless.

Just put the foo_fileops.dll into the “components” directory of your foobar2000 installation directory and configure a shortcut to delete a music file. I personally use Ctrl+Q to do the job.

If you can’t find the original file, you can download from this blog: foo_DeleteCurrent

How to replace virus-infected svchost.exe file

MS Windows is a patchy OS, and you have to constantly maintain it, both manually and automatically using its slow live update, to keep the system relatively secure. Here are the instructions on how to replace the infected svchost.exe under Windows XP and patch your system to close the loophole.

Find a copy from your Windows Installation CD, browse to the directory i386. In this directory you’ll find compressed version of svchost by the name SVCHOST.EX_. Copy this file to c:

Now run ‘expand’ in the command line interface and expand this compressed file, like this.

expand c:svchost.ex_ c:svchost.exe

Now you have a clean copy of svchost.exe, next step is use it to replace the infected one. Either boot into Linux or use some system rescue CDs, for example, Hiren’s BootCD and copy the clean file to C:WINDOWSsystem32 to replace the infected one.

To get rid of this issue once and for all, you need to immediately patch Windows using the fix KB958644 from Microsoft.

Before downloading the patch, check out this post to see if you have the same symptoms as I did.

svchost.exe is infected with a virus?

As of October 30, Nod32 (version 3.0.669) updated its virus definition which identifies a new virus called Win32/Patched.NAC. Today it detected a crucial Windows file called svchost.exe, which is located at C:WindowsSystem32, is infected with this Patched.NAC virus.

It didn’t offer an option to clean it, so I chose to delete this Windows system file. The system is crippled after a reboot. I could boot into desktop, but there was no Internet connection and no sound. Left with no choice, I restored the deleted svchost.exe from quarantine to where it belongs. Nod32 still prompts this Patched.NAC virus but I have to tolerate this virus until I can find a replacement file.

I also doubt this might be a false alarm. Unfortunately, there isn’t a detailed description of what Win32/Patched.NAC virus does to the system.

Update: I used a clean svchost file and replaced the infected file under Linux. Problem is solved, but I still have no idea how it was infected and how the virus attacks.

Update:I think this virus attack is related to the recent Windows RPC bug as MS puts it “A security issue has been identified that could allow an unauthenticated remote attacker to compromise your Microsoft Windows-based system and gain control over it.” A fix (KB958644) of this bug is available as MS site.

AVG Free 8.0 and NOD32 3.0, which one uses less resources?

I don’t want to argue which one is better. For me, AVG Free is trustworthy, and it does detect viruses better than another free AV — AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic. For Nod32, well, it is not free, and keeping it in ‘free’ mode for a long period requires a lot of extra work. Kaspersky’s invincible key file is annoying, and so is Nod32’s usename/password mechanism. Yes, you can find the ‘free’ Kaspersky keys, or subscribe to a daily feed of Nod32’s login information or use a trial time stopper. But why do that when you have AVG free which does a very respectable job in virus-detection?

Right now I am using a AMD Tbird 1300 MHz CPU and 512MB memory, a configuration which makes the responsiveness of the system my main concern. I noticed an older version of AVG Free used more system resources than it should, so I decided to give ESS (ESET Smart Security) a try yesterday. But it blocked my Internet connection even after I completely disabled its firewall. It was kicked out of my system within an hour.

Reminiscing of the good old Nod32 version 2.7, I am thinking giving Nod32 antivirus 3.0 a try again. But the question is: is the already famous Nod32 uses less resource than AVG Free? If the answer is yes, it is certainly a big plus for me to make the switch. If not, I will stay with the latest version of AVG Free, which I have the obnoxious link scanner disabled. Both are good antivirus software, and both are well-know for its very small system footprint (AVG uses less than 30MB of memory). The question is, which one is even more efficient?

Can’t tell you the result now, but if you know the answer, please give your informed opinion. When I get the time to test and compare both programs, I will post the result here. So far, it seems AVG Free will stay. I am lazy and I don’t want to employ the tricks to make Nod32 free.

Update: Nod32 3.0 does use less resources compared to AVG Free 8.0 in my recent user experience. But AVG is free and powerful, so it is up to you to decide which one to use.

HP DV2000T versus Lenovo Thinkpad T61: an unlikely comparison

My experience with then IBM owned Thinkpad T43P was horrible. It was perhaps the noisiest laptop in the world: its fan sounded like a tractor, and to make things worse, the hard drive also span with grating noises. I ended up returning the $1500 T43P, and hated Thinkpad for a long time.

Why compare DV2000T with a Thinkpad T61?

Abhorred by the noisy Thinkpad, I opted for a HP DV2000T and liked it. But I have to admit that I still secretly want a Thinkpad despite my suffering with T43P. Honestly, I miss its sturdy feel though I hate its raucousness. My sister needs on laptop for her accounting business, so I persuaded her to get a Thinkpad T61 and did a fresh reinstallation of Windows XP on it.

Now I have the chance to compare these two lappies side by side, even though T61 is a generation younger than DV2000T.

Delights of T61

  • The noise is gone on this new model of Thinkpad with integrated graphic card. It is very quiet and the fan is just inaudible. In comparison, my DV2000T is loud.
  • T61 is barely warm. My DV2000T has a dedicated Nvidia Go 7200 graphic card, and it gets hot even for normal use (the CPU temperature hovers around 51 degrees centigrade).
  • T61 certainly wins by its handy features, such as keyboard light and ThinkVantage. DV2000T (perhaps all HP DV series) is disappointing in this aspect.

What are the features I like about T61?

  • Keyboard Light. Users can easily find the keys in dark environment.
  • Liquid Drainage. If by accident, users poured some liquid on the keyboard, the small drainage holes on the keyboard will channel the liquid to the bottom of the laptop.
  • Hard Drive Encryption. Even the drive is taken out and placed on another computer, the data on the encrypted hard drive is still encrypted.
  • More Control over CMOS Settings. The BIOS interface of T61 offers far more options than DV2000T, providing users with more control over their laptop.
  • The international standard two-pin power plug. HP’s power adapter uses America compatible three-pin plug and I have to use a converter to use it in China. Also, T61’s power adapter is lighter than the HP’s.
  • UltraNav (trackpoint) increases productivity. It takes extra time and movement to reach for the touchpad or a connected USB mouse on DV2000T.
  • Useful software. ThinkVantage Active Protection System suspends the hard drive on detection of sudden movement. Power Manager is designed to prolong the battery life, and Battery Miser can rejuvenate the failing battery. HP just offers a pathetic Battery Check to tell you the unavoidable demise of your battery and allure you into order a new one.

HP Battery Check is a pathetic joke when compared to Lenovo Power Manager for Thinkpad

Dislikes about T61

  • The screen lid can’t be tightly latched to the base. There is a thin space between the cover and the base even the cover is latched. A design flaw or a design feature?
  • The top cover to be exact, bulges a little in the center. The top cover should be completely flush and flat, but when being felt by hand, the top cover rises in the central area. What is hidden underneath it?

The moral?

  • A laptop with an integrated graphic card is preferred than the one with dedicated graphic card. An integrated card means less battery drainage, less noise and less heat.
  • Choose quietness and portability over horse power.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect laptop, though T61 is very impressive.
  • No, I have no interests in Macbook. Linux and Thinkpad make a perfect match.

Freeware that happily reside on my hard drive

1. Q10

Full screen editor

2. TaskCoach

To-do-list and planner

3. Filebox eXtender

enhances windows and folders

4. Chaos Manager

A reminder and calendar

5. Tucan

Backup and synchronize files.

6. CCleaner

Cleans the system garbage and fix registry

7. Daemon Tools

CD/DVD image emulator

8. Pidgin

All-in-one instant messenger with MSN/Hotmail, Gtalk and QQ users at the same time.

9. Kmplayer

Best media player. Loads of features and very intuitive to use

10. Foobar 2000

Music player. Simple, elegant and never steals the show

11. KeePassX (not KeePss!)

Keep and remember all the passwords for me

12. Microsoft Chinese Date & Time

Shows the Chinese calendar and four time zones of your choice

13. WikidPad

Wiki as a desktop application. Perfect for linking linking words and notes

14. Nmap

A network scanner

15. AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic

Anti-virus program with small footprint and just works.

Update: Now I prefer AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition to Antivir. AVG has stronger anti-sypware capabilities and and cleaned a few spypware files on my computer, which Antivir failed to detected. Also, AVG’s icon is cooler than that of Antivir.

16. Comodo Firewall

Best personal firewall when it works in Simple Mode, otherwise requires too much of your attentions.

17. Emule Xtreme 6.1

Download, download and download

18. vim

I use it less and less because of my editing is done using Q10 and MS word. It will be in the limelight when I started using Linux.