Table of Contents




Title: Technology Today
by Robert Sanborn

November 2002

I had the opportunity to try out one of Windows XP shortcomings the other day and that was to see what would happen if I took my hard drive out of one computer and put it in another. This situation is pretty common actually when a computer mainboard dies or someone decides to upgrade things and still wants to retain what they had on the old hard drive and not actually reinstall every piece of software you own. If you have been using computers for quite a while, that pile of software can build up rather significantly and naturally, with each having its own way of doing things and settings to take care of, it sometimes is preferable to just stick that drive into a new box. So this is what I did. Took my old test system hard drive and decided to put it into a new box. I have heard a lot of stories about how Windows XP is very particular these days to what computer it is running on. You know that you have to “activate” your copy of Windows XP and that it helps to keep you from running the same copy on more than one computer. What Microsoft does with XP is to take a snapshot of critical components in your computer and to make sure that nothing changes. Well, you can’t much more different than going to another new box can you. My old system was a Pentium III 1000 using a Tyan mainboard with 256MB RAM. The new system is a Spacewalker mainboard, an AMD Athlon 800, and 128MB of ram. Now I did leave the hard drive the same, the CD ROM, video card, LAN and sound cards were the same that were in the old box.

So what happened? Well, I found a new blue screen of death. I just love the comment that goes with it. “A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer.” It then proceeded to give me a Stop 0x0000007B error message and halt the computer.  In checking with Microsoft’s web site naturally the first thing they do is suggest you run Check Disk (remember it from old DOS days) and tell it to clean up the errors. Of course my first thought was how the heck do you do that when you can’t even get the computer running. Naturally I added a few expletives deleted along with that thought. Of course, Windows XP doesn’t come with a startup diskette nor the ability to make one so you could run such critical diagnostics from a command prompt. In fact, when the menu comes up of my options when I start the computer, Safe Mode Command Prompt is one of the options but of course, when I pick that one, up comes that blue screen again. What a viscous circle. And it won’t allow me to get out of this miserable loop.  Of course, when I try to boot with a win98 start up disk, it will do so just fine but won’t let me see the drive because Windows XP uses the NTFS file system, which is not agreeable to Windows98.

So, their solution, besides going back to my old hardware setup, is to boot from the Windows XP CD ROM and allow it to “repair” itself. This to me looks a lot like reinstalling Windows from scratch but since I had not other alternative, so be it, I booted from the CD. As an aside for do it yourselfers, did you know that you cannot boot from the CD ROM drive if that drive is not either on the primary IDE interface channel or the master on the secondary? 

With all of this, I finally got my Windows XP system up and running and guess what, it found my old user ID. When I tried to log into it, it told me that in order for me to log in, I have to active this copy of Windows XP. Activate it, I did that the first time around but now again it wants it and I suspect as soon as I did, I will see the Microsoft police on my doorstep wondering why I activated two copies of the same product.  Oh well, it won’t be the last time…  The good news is that it really did repair this version of Windows and all my programs and Icons are back on my screen and it seems to just want to take off where it left off.  That is good news.  All this did was to make a short project much longer than it should have.

It also points out the dangers of not keeping backups of your critical files. These are the types of problems that we have to look forward to with Windows XP. Not to say that I am not glad I upgraded, I am, but you have to take even more care in keeping track of what is where on your computer.

Comdex Wish List

Comdex is coming and about the time you read this, I will be heading my way to Las Vegas for that big computer show out west.  Last year was actually a pretty dull show and considering what happened just before, it was to be expected. This year, I am going out there hoping that we can find some new and exciting technologies and here is my own wish list.

How about a home wireless network that I can attach my computer, laptop, radio, television, and stereo? Sure I know that with a good broadband connection like a cable modem, you can get internet radio and given a TV tuner in a video card like ATI’s All In Wonder product line, you can see the TV on your monitor, but I am talking about real radio, maybe satellite broadcasts, and the like on any device I want to hear it on.  It shouldn’t be too much trouble as I hear that Intel is developing what they call a Digital Media Adapter, an IEEE 802.11x enabled add on that will connect all of the electronic devices in the home.

Or how about a storage network for the home? Something that I can attach to my network as a stand alone storage and backup device so that if something happens to my computer or data files, I can easily call it back up even if my hard drive fails. Go figure that one out someone please.

How about plug and play that really finds the devices and installs the correct drivers. Intel and Microsoft are supposed to be working on what they call UpnP, Universal Plug and Play, which is supposed to allow the computers and devices to recognize each other, describe the capabilities, and to allow for interchange of data between the devices.

I am also looking for a good search engine that I can use on my local computer. I had heard of a version of Google and Alta Vista at one time that could be run on a local machine and that is what I hope to find with some new software vendors.  Years ago, Lotus had a product called Magellan, that really did the job but was dumped because of a lack of interest I suppose. But with the ever increasing amount of files and documents that we accumulate on our own computers, we really need something like this. I realize that you can search for items within documents with Windows XP search but I want more. Does that mean that we will be moving more towards web based documents and files and does that mean the end of proprietary file formats?  

How about a support network with easy to find answers to questions. Is it just I or what is it whenever I go to a web site to look up a question or problem, I can almost never find what I am looking for? My inclination is to believe that people use dumb programs to do the parsing and determining of key words for their search programs. Let me pick on Microsoft again. With the problem I had installing my hard drive on a new computer, I look at the web sites for the stop error that I am getting and see lots of things that are close but not what I want. This actually happens a lot and I find it hard to believe that I am the only one that runs into these problems.

While I am whistling in the dark, how about printer drivers that print your document and then go away?  Or a really smart mail filtering program that actually does more than see a single word to determine whether a mail message is junk or not. Now one of the newsgroups I listen in on has been spending a lot of time talking about the various products and still no one has really fired the silver bullet.

Short Takes

Internet shopping still is fraught with some risks and you would be wise to see if your credit card has the ability to generate one time only use numbers for you to use shopping. American Express does that and I have been using them for quite a while and it works very well. I also think some of the MBNA cards also have that capability but you should check for sure.

Symantec’s Norton Anti Virus 2002 has a couple of features that really make it stand out in the crowd of anti virus software. First is the automated update feature. Each time you go online, it will go out to its web site to see if there are updates to the anti virus files and if so will download them to your computer. It also does a great job with checking incoming mail for viruses and dealing with them. Highly recommended. I am also looking forward to seeing what the new version 2003 has to offer.

Undelete from Executive Software

Undelete version 3 from Executive Software is a product that most people shouldn’t really be without. In fact, it really serves two purposes that I like, first is that it gives you much more control over how to recover deleted files on the computer, and it gives you also a better level to make sure a file is truly deleted when you want to get rid of it.

Undelete installation works very straightforward and you can start using it immediately when you use the defaults. It changes your recycle bin into a recovery bin and gives you much more options when looking at recovering files. I mentioned using the defaults and probably you want to explore there to change some of them. For instance, it automatically made my new recovery bin 20 percent of my drives size which I think is a bit excessive. On a 40GB drive, it could grow to 7.6gb in size. There is also an exclusion list that you can use to tell it not to save certain file types. This certainly makes sense as who cares about things in the temp folders and the like but I was surprised to see .jpg files in this list. As someone who deals with a lot of photographs and scanned images, I think I would want to save most of these and to be able to recover them. Of course, who cares about all of the pictures that get downloaded whenever you visit web sites so there needs to be a solution and that would be to tell it to exclude .jpg files that come from the Temporary Internet Files folders and when I check, I see they already are excluded. So I can remove the .jpg files exclusion.  If you work with a lot of odd file types from some of the older programs, you might want to take a close look at the exclusion list to make sure your application is not inadvertently skipped.

One of the powerful features of undelete is the ability to do searches by a number of different parameters including the date of deletion or name of the owner of the file which is great in a networking environment. It also will track files deleted by applications and via command prompts (DOS) as well and allow you to recover them.

If you have deleted something before installing the product, there is the emergency undelete module that you can run from the CD to recover a file that you deleted. There is also a program to search your computer and tell you what files that have been deleted are still recoverable.

Undelete comes in versions for Windows NT, 2000, and XP and is either a server, workstation, or home edition. I have been very impressed with the other products from Executive Software and find them to be really useful utilities. The home edition is only $29.95 and can be downloaded from www.executivesoftware.com. This like a lot of their other utilities are they types that you install and hopefully forget about them. They do work very seamlessly and are unobtrusive to the workings of your computer. For business users and home users that deal with a lot of documents and data files, I think this is a must have tool

Robert Sanborn is an Independent Personal Computer Consultant, and a contributing editor for the Indianapolis Computer Society. Reach him through the net at indypcnews@indy.rr.com

Last Update:02/07/2011


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