I’m a PC and I dislike Apple :)

By Jake Edwards | Friday, March 27th, 2009 | Permalink | No Comments

Late last year Microsoft started their ‘I’m a PC’ campaign to try and alter the stereotype given to PC users partially by Apple from their ‘Mac vs. PC’ ads.

Microsoft initially produced a website to allow the billion PC users that were dubbed and categorized by a certain pc advertisement, to speak out and show their real faces. http://imapc.lifewithoutwalls.com lets you browse the ‘Real PCs’ of the world, their stories, and ultimately why they don’t fit the ‘PC stereotype’. This project rapidly grew and prompted Microsoft to produce various compilations of these real PCs into TV ads and videos.

Microsoft continued their campaign by then showing the world how easy using a PC can be. Several TV ads represnt kids as young as 4 and 1/2 managing their photos using Windows Live Gallery and using simple functions such as and emailing photos, and stitching together panoramic photos.

Overall, these ads, which can be viewed here, provide a great backing for Microsoft’s campaign to prove that PC users can’t and won’t be stereotyped.

Windows Media Player 11 Skin for WM5 Media Player

By Jake Edwards | Thursday, March 5th, 2009 | Permalink | 1 Comment

I was tired of combing through forum posts for this skin on the Internet so I decided to post it where I (and hopefully others) will be able to easily find it. I’m not sure who to credit for the creation of the theme, however source files say ‘XcSkins’ so it will have to do :).

This is a skin for Windows Media Player on a Windows Mobile 5 (not sure about wm6) device which themes the player’s main UI to look more like WMP 11 on Windows.

wmp11skinsample2

Below I have included some rough instructions on how to download and install the theme on your device. If you have any issues, just leave a comment on this post.

To Install

  1. Locate and browse to the Program Files\Windows Media Player folder on the root of your device.
  2. Extract this file containing the skin files and place them in the above path (a WMP11 sub directory is optional).
  3. Open Windows Media on your device and move to the ‘main UI area’ (by pressing OK from the Library screen).
  4. Select Menu > Options… and change to the Skins tab at the bottom.
  5. After a moment of searching, the default theme will appear. Push the Next button to cycle to the new WMP11 skin.
  6. Press OK.

wmp11skinsample

Microsoft rolls out ‘Emergency’ patch for all currently supported versions of Windows

By Jake Edwards | Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

I received an email alerting me to the release of a ‘Critical’ patch to address a vulnerability in all currently supported versions of Windows. This includes Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Server 2003 and 2008. The update patch, due to it critical nature for 2000, XP and 2003, has been released outside the usual monthly cycle to patch the issues ASAP.

Click the image below to view the bulletin table included in the notification email sent to subscribed TechNet users.

To view the full security bulletin visit the following website: 
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms08-oct.mspx

A blog entry was also released earlier to the notification to provide advance notification for the patch release. You can view it using the following link:
http://blogs.technet.com/msrc/archive/2008/10/22/advance-notification-for-out-of-band-release.aspx

Play locally stored DVD’s on Media Center (DVD Library)

By Jake Edwards | Thursday, July 31st, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

Sometimes you may have all your DVD’s stored locally on your computer harddrive, this means you can easily play any of your DVD’s without having to insert the disk.

If you have a Vista Media Center, and follow the routine described above, this Media Center addition may fit that niche – creating a synergy between TV, Music and Pictures and now all DVDs.

To enable the DVD Library function in Vista Media Center, you need to perform a simple registry modifcation as outlined in the Microsoft Support Knowlegebase Article 930526. I have copied the instructions inline for your convenience.

To enable the DVD Gallery, follow these steps:

1. Exit Windows Media Center if it is running.

2. Click Start, type regedit in the Start Search box, and then click regedit in the Programs list.
If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type your password, or click Continue. 

3. Locate and then click the following registry subkey:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Settings\DvdSettings

4. In the right pane, right-click the value ShowGallery, and then click Modify.

5. Delete the contents that appear in the Value data box, type Gallery in the Value data box, and then click OK.

6. Exit Registry Editor then restart Windows Media Center.

Vista Media Center: DVD Library Registry Modification

Once you re-enter Windows Media Center you should see a new option in the TV & Movies category. See the picture at the top of this post.

Make sure you have the Media Center library with an entry pointing to your DVD collection. You may notice that no images appear with the title of your DVD. If you get a copy of the movie cover (Google Images) and rename it to folder.jpg it will appear in place of the default icon. See the picture below for an example (thanks Channel 8)

Show ‘Hibernate’ in XP ‘Turn Off Computer’ Dialog – SP3

By Jake Edwards | Monday, April 21st, 2008 | Permalink | 2 Comments

I have been looking for this for a while – the ability to add ‘Hibernate’ to the Turn off Computer dialog box. Yes I know, you’re probably yelling at the monitor telling me that I should just press ‘H’ or hold shift and click but frankly, who can be bothered?

Hibernate button added into the Turn Off Computer menu

The fix noted below will allow you to add the option to your Turn off Computer menu making hibernation easy. There are two different sets of instructions, each corresponding to the different logon style.

You must have XP SP3 installed for this to work.

It is a prerequisite that you require a version of c:\windows\system32\msgina.dll that is later than or equal to version 5.1.2600.2603. You can check this by navigating to the file, right click, properties, version tab.
If you dont fufill this prereq, just download this hotfix
here and try install that (if you don’t trust it, take a look at the digital Microsoft signatures) 

The registry entry for default XP logon can be downloaded here, for classical or domain logon style download this one instead. You can alternatively follow the instructions below. The first half of the instructions are relevant to both different logon styles, the differing instructions for classical logon are detailed further down.

To enable the Hibernate option in the Turn off Computer menu

1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
2. Locate and then click the following registry subkey:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows
3. Right-click Windows, point to New, and then click Key.
4. In the New Key #1 box, type System, and then press ENTER.
5. Right-click System, point to New, and then click Key.
6. In the New Key #1 box, type Shutdown, and then press ENTER.
7. On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.

The following instructions apply to the default XP logon style:

8. In the New Value # 1 box, type ShowHibernateButton, and then press ENTER.
9. Right-click ShowHibernateButton, and then click Modify.
10. In the Value data box, type 1, leave the default Hexadecimal option selected,
and then click OK.
11. Quit Registry Editor.

The alternate instructions apply to classical or domain logon style:

8. In the New Value # 1 box, type HibernateAsDefault, and then press ENTER.
9. Right-click HibernateAsDefault, and then click Modify.
10. In the Value data box, type 1, leave the default Hexadecimal option selected, and then click OK.Note After you set the HibernateAsDefault DWORD value to a non-zero value on a computer that is joined to a domain, Hibernate appears in the Shut Down Windows dialog box if the following conditions are true:

Hibernation is enabled on the computer.
No automatic updates are pending that require the computer to be restarted.
11. Quit Registry Editor.

Reference http://support.microsoft.com/kb/893056

XP SP3 and Vista SP1 Release Candidate Service Packs – Report

By Jake Edwards | Saturday, January 12th, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

Now that I have been using both SP3 for XP and SP1 for Vista for over a week now and I have to disagree with the reports of the up to a “10% increase in performance for XP”, but also disagree with Vista SP1 providing no performance boosts – it is running faster than XP!

After reading the release notes for SP1 for Vista some of the performance increases are related to the file system providing significant boosts when copying files across hard drives. Below I have quoted (source) the reported percentages of copying files in different situations and I can definatley vouch for faster times.

  25% faster when copying files locally on the same disk on the same machine
45% faster when copying files from a remote non-Windows Vista system to a SP1 system
50% faster when copying files from a remote SP1 system to a local SP1 system

Many other improvments are also listed in these categories below:

  • Hardware Ecosystem Support and Enhancements

  • Application Compatibility Improvements

  • Reliability Improvements

  • Performance and Power Consumption Improvements

  • Security Improvements

  • Support for New Technologies and Standards

  • Desktop Administration and Management

  • Setup and Deployment Improvements

  • Interoperability Improvements

  • Feature or API Changes

  • General Improvements and Enhancements

  • Windows Vista Alignment with Windows Server 2008

These improvments are avaliable for viewing using this link.

As for XP SP3 RC, if anything, performance is either equal or less than before.

Windows XP SP3 Release Candidate – Publicly Available

By Jake Edwards | Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

Release Candidate 1 for Windows XP SP3 has been released to the public, available hereI have just installed this on my XP SP2 machine and install was flawless – then again, there isn’t any significant changes in this service pack apart from updates I have already installed through Windows Update. Once this service pack is finalised and released, slipstreaming into my Windows XP SP2 will be my priority implementation of it.

As I have only had this service pack installed for a single day I am not too sure if I’m just experiencing the Placebo effect else my install does feel faster… (Reports said, when the first Sp3 beta was released, that there was up to a 10% increase in performance). None of the new features in this service pack will benefit me personally, e.g. the product key-less install as I already have a cd key. As per a report on Paul Therrott’s, SuperSite for Windows (see here), I would have to agree with his statement regarding how the security improvements in SP3 will never stack up to that on Windows Vista as the underlying XP structure since Oct 2001 is becoming outdated – everyone using Windows who would like to continue in a secure environment will need to move to Vista (Vienna if they are stubborn) sooner or later.

Overall, if I didn’t know Sp3 was installed, apart from this performance boost (assuming it’s not Placebo :P), I wouldn’t have noticed any difference between SP2. On the hotfix side of things that means no more excessive updating after the Windows install of a slipstreamed sp3, for now anyway.

Windows Vista SP1 Release Candidate – Publicly Available

By Jake Edwards | Thursday, December 13th, 2007 | Permalink | No Comments

It is here, well the Release Candidate is. Go to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsvista/bb738089.aspx for information on how to download it.

Multiple download options are avaliable on that site quoted above, you can download a small patch which basically adds Service Pack 1 to Windows Update in Vista (a few prior updates were required which are like sp1 precursors), you can also download stand-alone packages or through TechNet assuming you have a subscription.

The whitepaper which contains an overview of changes in service pack 1 is avaliable here.
For a more in-depth look at the changes made between Vista and Vista SP1 check here.

To see the Vista SP1 release notes go here.
To view a list of hot fixes included in SP1 check here
I will note some other handy links and details about Vista SP1 when they become avaliable. Check back soon!

Adventures with Windows EFS

By Jake Edwards | Thursday, December 14th, 2006 | Permalink | No Comments

I sit here with, thank god, nearly all my documents and projects from my previous Windows installation.

I would like to thank Windows EFS for being so secure however the encryption didn’t play to my advantage and I was locked out of my own files because I didn’t have permission. Well, I was in strife – I had just copied all the encrypted files over to the backup PC and ignored all mentions of the files not loosing there encryption, then proceeded to format my laptop (where the files originated from) and install a fresh, new copy of XP on it. Big Mistake! I asked some friends and browsed the net for a few hours looking for people in a similar situation and realised that those files were long gone.

HOWEVER I came across this post: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=616938

“If I needed to attack your EFS files, this is what I’d need to do/access:

1. A copy of your SAM and possibly SYSTEM files. These are registry files under your user name. The SAM file holds an MD4 of your login password, and this is your Passkey. Your SAM file may be encrypted, and then I’d need your Syskey which is in the SYSTEM file (or on removable media as syskey.key)
2. Your Protect Info that is in \app data\MS\Protect\<sec_ident>
3. Your Private Key. This is in that folder mention above (RSA)
4. Your EFS encrypted files, obviously.
5. Your user login (which is hashed with SHA-1 to create the Master Key on SP1 onwards.)”

I used GetDataBack for NTFS ($79 US) and recovered the SAM (C:\Windows\System32\Config\SAM), SYSTEM (C:\Windows\System32\Config\System), RSA (C:\Documents and Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Protect\<theid>) and a few other files in the Microsoft folder that look ‘EFS’ related.
Well that’s all good and everything – I managed to collect all the files which contain my private key. I found out that my SYSTEM key was corrupt (grr!) so i copied the SYSTEM hive out of my laptops new installation and coupled it with the SAM on the backup PC containing the encrypted files. Next was finding out how to utilise these files to make a private key or something similar to unlock the EFS encryption.

The answer was ‘Advanced EFS Data Recovery’ or ‘AEFSDR’ priced at $133 AUD. I opened that program and hit the ‘Scan for Keys’ button and it searched the HDD of the backup pc for Master keys and Private keys. It found some keys inside the SAM files that I had rescued and then turned green which meant they were usable. Once all the keys I had were listed and I had entered my previous installations, account password and users (all variations with Administrator and my user name) into the program, it then searched for all encrypted files on my HDD. 7,000+ were decryptable and 2,000-2,500 were not.

I begun decrypting and recovered majority of my files. I would call this a successful (and lucky) case of EFS Data Recovery. It was only because I hadn’t installed too much new software on the Laptops new installation that I was able to retrieve the SAM and RSA keys.

So overall i would like to tell people NOT to use EFS (Encrypted File System) on their entire computer UNLESS you have fully read about how the EFS encryption system works and how to make backup certificates because I learnt my lesson.

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