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Archive for the ‘software’ Category

Increase computer performance for free!

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I get many people asking me, about upgrading their personal computer with a memory or processor upgrade, because it seems slow.

But none of them are aware they can increase the performance of their computer for free!

Many years ago, at the Microsoft Campus, Reading - I attended a briefing by Microsoft that stated that the ‘new’ NTFS filing system based on the older HPFS filing system did not become defragmented. HPFS or High Performance File System is a file system created specifically for the OS/2 operating system to improve upon the limitations of the FAT file system. The FAT filing system was used in DOS.

The NTFS (New Technology File System) is the standard file system of Windows NT, including its later versions Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

NTFS supersedes the FAT file system as the preferred file system for Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. NTFS has several improvements over FAT and HPFS (High Performance File System) such as improved support for metadata and the use of advanced data structures to improve performance, reliability, and disk space utilization, plus additional extensions such as security access control lists (ACL) and file system journaling.

Both HPFS and NTFS were supposed to reduce fragmentation of data, but with the increase of disk drive capactity, and the increase of very large partition sizes, based operating system size have increased, Office installations have increased in size considerably over the years, data and file fragmentation has increased considerably, and can adversley affect disk performance of your personal computer.

Disk fragmentation is a where storage space is used inefficiently, reducing storage capacity and in most cases performance, because the files are not stored in contiguous blocks on the disk.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 have their in-built Defragmentation tools scheduled to run automatically, at a scheduled time.

However, Windows XP you have to run the tools manually, to defragment the disk drive. It can take many hours to completely defragment a disk, if you’ve never defragmented it.

C: drive on my computer (before defragmenting)

C: drive on my computer (before defragmenting)

This laptop has never had it’s disk drive (C:) defragmented, the blue shows contigious files, and the red shows heavily fragmented files, reducing disk performance.

Several hours later ...

Several hours later ...

About four hours later…

Many hours later ...

Many hours later ...

many hours later …

and finally …

C: Defragmented

C: Defragmented

Depending upon the level of degragmentation and the amount of free disk space, defragmentation can take many hours, this laptop took about 9 hours to degragment the hard drive.

You can use Microsoft own in-built degramentation utility which will defrgament you hard drive manually or at a scheduled time for FREE. But I prefer to use Diskeeper , and I’ve been using it for years, it has many options - InteliWrite Fragmentation Prevention - increases system performance by preventing fragmentation before it happens, I-FAAST, and Automatic Defragmentation.

34% Performance by defragmenting

34% Performance by defragmenting

If you are going to purchase one PC application purchase Diskeeper - download the trial and try it out!

Back in the DOS days, a friend of mine, used to defragment his disk, with Nortons Degfrag (NDD.exe), before he started to compile software code, it also gave him the opptunity to grab a quick cigarette on the fire escape! (Hi Si - if you reading this!) - and it did make a difference to compile times!

PLEASE NOTE DO NOT DEGRAG YOU SSD (SOLID STATE DISKS) DISKS, UNLESS YOU ARE USING HYPERFAST aware Defrag utility - I don’t believe that any Microsoft defrag utilties are SSD aware. (or you will wear out your SSD!)

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DVD Decrypter beaten!

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

I’ve been using DVD Decrypter to rip and backup my DVDs to iPods for years, despite no further developement since 2005.

DVD Decrypter Version (final)

DVD Decrypter Version (final)

An exceptional tiny application that easily removes the Copy Protection System from DVDs, which enables you to transcode the DVD for mobile device playback. I also use Badaboom, Badaboom is a blazingly fast media converter that formats video files for a variety of devices, including iPod, PSP, iPad, and YouTube, by using your system’s graphics processing unit (GPU).  If you have an Nvidia chipset!

DVD Decrypter output 1

DVD Decrypter output 1

So I was a little surprised when I couldn’t backup Disney’s new Alice In Wonderland…

It starts to report Read Errors (Retry 1 etc), but this DVD disc is brand new out of the cellphone wrapping, so it cannot be physical errors on the media, but something is odd, because if you look at the number of files and total it’s repoting 58GB on the disc, this should read alarm bells.

DVD Decrypter output 2

DVD Decrypter output 2

if you continue, the Retry errors increase and eventually, you’ll get an error message below

DVD Decrypter error message when trying to backup Disney's Alice in Wonderland

DVD Decrypter error message when trying to backup Disney's Alice in Wonderland

if you ignore this error message, it will continue to extract the data, but you’ll end up with a 58GB DVD! It would appear that Disney have done something with the layout to confuse DVD Decrypter Version (final). Maybe it’s the Fast-Play, I don’t know, but as I’ve always said software can always be broken with software, so time to try another software product…

Enter DVDFab HD Decrypter, another backup tool which is also FREE.

DVDFab HD Decrypter

DVDFab HD Decrypter

Ah, this software does the job nicely, shame I still prefer the simplicity of DVD Decrypter, and it’s has a tiny footprint.

So if DVD Decrypter doesn’t work for you try DVDFab HD Decrypter

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Monday, May 10th, 2010

adventureland_cover(before leaving for work this am, I thought I’d have five minutes on this classic!)

I think I’m in real trouble now. There’s a fellow here with a pitchfork and pointed tail. …Oh Hell!

Obvious exits: none

You lost *ALL* treasures.

The game is now over!

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BSOD on my Production Workstation!

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I returned home this evening to find my main production workstation had hung, I left it to restart, went off to attend to other business, and when I came back it was looping with the dreaded BSOD (”Blue Screen of Death”)

… and nobody to telephone and helpme, other than me! Odd because last night I noticed that the Vista would stall with an hour glass, randomly, indicating a disk retry - disk fault, but on checking he Event Log, no errors were logged.

I should practice what I preach and backup more, after 30 minutes of chkdsk, I managed to get Vista working again, but now the Eventlog is showing a dying hard-disk and lots of disk errors are clocking-up, time for an emergency backup to one of me NASes!

I use Drive Snapshot a very simple small application, that doesn’t cost the earth. I hoping I can get all the data off before it fails completely.


you can see in the screenshot, it’s already found 35 duff sectors, and it had found 88+ by the time I written this!

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Browser Wars! Which one are you going to select!

Monday, March 1st, 2010

exciting stuff this just popped up on my computer


I use Firefox and Safari, and IE to test my web pages!

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Microsoft Security Essentials

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Fed up with how bloated AVG has become over the years since v7, it now seems to really slow down all my computers when installed. In search of a better anti-virus product I came across Microsoft Security Essentials at


The slogan says “Proven antivirus protection for free? That’s what I need”. I’ll try it and see!

There’s also a true 64bit version available as well.

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Nasty Little B****** - Vista Internet Security 2010

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I came across another little Nasty Little B****** this evening which managed to self-install itself onto my production fully patched workstation, after visiting some official Panasonic websites! Windows Defender tells me “No unwated or unharmful software detected”. That was incorrect, something popped up called Vista Internet Security 2010, never heard of it, and it didn’t look like any Microsoft product, although it looked very good, and very Microsoft like, until it started scanning and detecting false positives, and then noticed a running 32-bit process called AV.EXE, I run a 64-bit clean system, so any weird 32 bit process, look very suspect. How a non-geek computer nerd would know, I’ve no idea. I don’t use Internet Explorer only Firefox 3.5, so I’ll be damned if I know how it jumped on-board!

Vista Internet Security 2010 (can be also called as Vista Internet Security) is a rogue anti-spyware program that simulates a system scan and reports false scan results just to scare you and make you think that your computer is infected with Trojans, worms and other malware. Once installed, it will display fake security alerts or notifications and then inform you that you need to pay money to register the program if you want to remove the infections and computer threats, which of course do not even exist. Do not pay for this software and get rid of Vista Internet Security 2010 form your computer upon detection using the removal stated guide below.

Vista Internet Security 2010 displays warnings and notifications about serious security threats and privacy issues. It will also state that it has detected many critical spyware objects and that these objects can expose private information. Of course, that’s not true. This is just a part of whole scam. Besides, no matter what you decide to do, it will ask to pay for a full version of the program to protect your computer from malware and possible attacks from the Internet. Just ignore all of this and read the the following instructions carefully.

You may need this file!

It very quickly removes registry keys so stops you executing files, so you’ll not be able to run your browsers, regedit etc, so you may need access to another computer to follow these steps

Vista Internet Security removal instructions:

1. Click Start->Run Type “cmd”. Press Enter or click OK.
2. Type “notepad” press Enter. Notepad will open.
3. Copy and past the following text into Notepad:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


“Content Type”=”application/x-msdownload”


4. Save file as “exefix.reg” (without quotation-marks) to your Desktop.
NOTE: choose Save as type: All files
5. Double-click to open exefix.reg. Click “Yes” for Registry Editor prompt window.

The above will then allow you to run your applications and anti-malware and anti-spyware checkers! See earlier blog for recommended software tools.

You’ve been warned!!!

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Wireless (WiFi) Remote Control of X10 Modules using USB Remote Access

Sunday, December 20th, 2009
  1. The Active Home Pro software is installed on/in a virtual Windows XP Professional computer, I don’t like cluttering up my main production Workstation which happens to be Vista 64-bit Ultimate.
  2. The CM15PRO Programmable Computer Interface is connected by USB to this computer. The Active Home Pro software is the software that drives the computer interface, I’ve saved the “house file” house.ahx on my NAS (network attached storage) device, so it can be easily shared on my network.
  3. This is the clever Tech bit, USB over Network by Fabula Tech, I’ve been using this software in the virtual work I do for a few years, and it allows you to share a USB device over your network, e.g. you can plug in you USB device on one computer, and connect to it on another via your network. Very handy… USB remote access!
  4. The USB over Network by Fabula Tech is installed on the computer connected to the CM15PRO Programmable Computer Interface. We will call this the server.

USB over network

USB over network

The above snapshot, shows the USB over Network server software running, and the current USB devices attached to the server, which can then be shared, just like any resource, disk, printer etc.

USB over network device shared waiting for connection

USB over network device shared waiting for connection

The device is shared, and is waiting for a client computer to connect to it.

USB device properties

USB device properties

You can give the devices meaningful friendly names, that you’ll remember. On the client computer (remote computer), install another copy of Active Home Pro, making sure the drivers are installed for the CM15Pro. Run the USB over Network client software.

USB over Network client setup

USB over Network client setup

Select USB Device, Add, browser for the computer or enter IP address. You should see, a list of devices that can be connected to.

Client connecting...

Client connecting...

Right click the device, and click connect, if this is the first time you’ve connected to the device, you’ll get the usual, bing-bong tones, and plug N play will start and register the drives.

Now you can use your ActiveHome Pro software on another wireless (WiFi) computer, just open the *.AHX home file, from a shared location.

Client Connected to device

Client Connected to device

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Nasty Fakeware - Anti Virus Live

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I’ve come across a some nasty fakeware that infected my business laptop, so here’s some free advice to you. Fake ware is a software trojan that finds it’s way onto your computer from a website, and this particular software program pretends to be an anti-virus program called Anti Virus Live, and if you visit their website, you can purchase options to enable it! Umm!

I’m very careful with all my computers, especially my business laptops. I only went onto two websites the day in question when the computer was “infected”.

A program called “SYSGUARD.EXE”, or in my case “WDXHSYSGUARD.EXE” is hooked into the Run line in the computers registry. It then disables various options, like the Command Prompt, Task Manager, Internet Explorer, when you try to run these applications, it states they are infected, and do you want to Purchase Protection. Also false firewall attacks pop up on screen, and multiple browser windows appear.

The first thing to do, is shutdown, and start the computer in Safe Mode (f8) at boot prompt, and Select Safe Mode. Check the computers registry for anything odd, now this might be difficult, if you don’t know what you looking at, so why not have a look now, and check what’s normally there.

easy way:-

run Msconfig at the command prompt

System Configuration

System Configuration

If anything looks weird, google it!

(for geeks and nerds! see below)

  1. At the command prompt type regedit.exe
  3. Expand SOFTWARE
  4. Expand Micrsoft
  5. Expand Windows
  6. Expand CurrentVersion
  7. Expand Run

and check what is there…



I’m going to giveaway some of the Dark Arts’ I’ve learnt over the years….

Free tools I use:-

  1. Free Online and Virus Scan - - Upload suspect files here to check them, it will scan them with many different types of virus/malware checkers.
  2. Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware - - Download and install, full scan, you’ll be surprised what you find!
  3. SuperAntiSpyware - - Download and install, full scan, you’ll be surprised what you find!
  4. Trend Micro HiJack This - - Trend Micro HijackThis is a free utility that generates an in depth report of registry and file settings from your computer. HijackThis makes no separation between safe and unsafe settings in its scan results giving you the ability to selectively remove items from your machine. In addition to this scan and remove capability HijackThis comes with several tools useful in manually removing malware from a computer.
    IMPORTANT: HijackThis does not determine what is good or bad. Do not make any changes to your computer settings unless you are an expert computer user.
    Advanced users can use HijackThis to remove unwanted settings or files.

and don’t use the following tools much anymore, but always worth adding to the toolbox, if you are paranoid, I just find that Ad-aware has become very bloated!

  1. Ad-aware Free -
  2. Spybot Search andf Destroy - Useful utilities, nopw detects, three quaters of a million, trojans, malware, fakeware items!
  3. Sypblaster - Useful for browser protection.

The last three software products have been around for many years, but the “new kids on the block” seem to have the edge!

anyway, if you have any problems, you could always contact me!

Good Luck!!!

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Tagging mp3s

Monday, July 6th, 2009

squeezeplayI’ve been a little pre-occupied with things, and needed to return to tagging my music cd and mp3 collection, which is a mamouth task, converting all the tags to ID3v2.3 ISO-8859-1 and downloading all the album art, amongst other things going on in andysworld!

But these are the tools I use for free, Mp3tag v2.43 ( to tag the music collection correctly and it also downloads album art, and also Album Art Aggreagator v.1.4.6, batch album art downloader. The URL is broken for this, so use Google. I also use iTunes integration for playlist creation, but I’ve recently stopped using this, because my collection has grown, and it takes a while for iTunes to startup and shutdown.

Here are the current Library Statistics

Total Tracks: 10,991

Total Albums: 1,173

Total Artists: 1,316

Total Genres: 107

Total Playing Time: 789:36:50

and I’m only about a third through!

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