Archive for January, 2010

Had an email from iolo this morning asking me, as preferred customer (sic), to PREVIEW their new, Premium Service.

It is a phone-based support scheme. Curious, as ever, I checked it out. IT AMUSED ME.

For $29.95 somebody purporting to be an iolo rep. (but most likely my 4th cousin in Sri Lanka working for an outsourcing firm) will walk you through a full run of System Mechanic. [It is not clear whether the $29.95 for the one-time call gets you anything other than a 30-day trial of System Mechanic 9.5.5.]

For the $29.95 they also CLAIM to offer an one-time service for … among other things … INSTALLING Windows. That could be a deal, though I am not really sure my 4th cousin knows too much about Windows 7 … other than that he probably has 7 windows in his house in Kotte.

This is OBVIOUSLY not for me.

I am NO LONGER a System Mechanic customer nor fan. [But, I will readily acknowledge that System Mechanic never did me any harm, over a 6-7 year period, when I used it with XP.]

Reading their ‘informecial’ blurb, and I won’t provide the link because I do not in any way appear to be encouraging let alone endorsing this ‘service,’ it sure appears that the ‘Super Tune-Up’ is NOTHING other than a full run through of all the System Mechanic tools — and it amuses me that, quite coyly, iolo does NOT mention anything about virus removal. They know that trouble shooting viruses could be beyond the pay grade of my 4th cousin. They might have to hire my 2nd cousin who comes from a house with 14 windows.

OK. Jokes apart. They are those that need this hand-holding. $29.95 might not be a bad price. I regularly check my local CraigsList to see the types of services being offered around here. Yes, there are a LOT of clowns out there. Yes, there are those that boast that they will set you up with pirated software. Worse still you might end up with an undesirable character in YOUR house, on YOUR PC. Just before Christmas I saw a post in CL by somebody from an adjoining town offering Professional PC Support. The wording and the location made me ‘suspicious.’ I called the cell phone number that was listed. Got v-mail. BINGO.

It was a local ‘doctor’ (I won’t mention his exact specialty because that would NAIL HIM) arrested last February on a very serious RAPE charge. They yanked his license. He can’t practice as a doctor — and more significantly write any more prescriptions. But, he can advertise on CL … to come to YOUR house and work on YOUR PC. Yes, he has not been convicted. He is innocent until proven guilty. But, IF he showed up on your doorstep and you suddenly recognized that you had seen him on TV last year … that would not have been funny. Worse still. He comes. He is a ‘fun’ guy. You let him work on your PC. You let him take it home to really fix it. In June you are watching WMUR (our local TV) and you suddenly see his face on TV … the court case has finally begun. I assume you would not be too amused.

So, compared to hiring somebody unknown from CL, paying $29.95 to have my 4th cousin walk you through System Mechanic might not be a bad deal … plus with the exception of me, all my relatives are mild mannered, very polite, not sarcastic and talk proper (without my heavy accent).

BOTTOM LINE: System Mechanic 9.5.5, TuneUp Utilities 2010 & Auslogics

I DO NOT think System Mechanic 9.5.5 is Windows 7 ready. That is why I uninstalled it.

Based on my ‘limited’ testing, albeit just on XP SP3, I do not think TuneUp Utilities 2010 is an incisive, industrial-strength offering. From what I have seen, and I could be wrong, TuneUp Utilities is a waste of time.

I continue to play with the Auslogics products. I used their Disk Defrag on this Windows 7 machine a couple of hours ago. I will confess that they certainly possess a jen se quoi. They somehow inspire a degree of confidence (which is kind of strange because most Aussies, in person, only seem to signal … let’s party, party, party, till we all pass out … which, in general, is fine with me). More on this later this week. Got to take the kids to Disney on Ice. So, my last thoughts. iolo. Lie Low. Skating on ice. Question is whether it is thin ice.

Good luck. All the best. Cheers.

Anura Guruge

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KB977074 continues to confound a growing number of users. I can’t ever remember seeing as much frenzy related to a periodic update — especially given that per Microsoft it was only trying to fix three relatively innocuous problems. I am not alone in believing that MSFT probably tried to do something ‘cute’ with KB977074 that backfired. I have seen some speculate that with KB977074 MSFT was trying to lay the groundwork for potentially trapping pirated copies.

The KB977074 uninstall instructions I posted seem to have helped. At least one reader has confirmed that he was able to roll back the update using the built-in uninstall update capability.

I have been checking on a regular basis to see if MSFT is responding to this increasingly anguished outcry against KB977074. They haven’t as yet — at least from what I can find.

But I found this POTENTIAL workaround for Windows update problems. It is recent. Last updated January 5, 2010. Some of the suggested workarounds fall into the ‘make sure your computer is powered on’ category BUT there could be SOMETHING in here that applies to YOUR situation.

IF YOU could PLEASE share feedback, it will help others — given that MSFT, obviously, is not that interested in helping us.

Thanks. All the bets. Good luck.

Anura Guruge

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Anura Guruge Dual Monitor Configuration

The Very Different Aspect Ratios Of My Two Monitors

I have now had a dual monitor set up on my Windows 7 Professional rig for just over three months. Getting the dual monitor working, successfully, with Windows 7 proved to be quite easy — for which I am thankful.

On the whole the dual monitor works WELL. There have been a few oddities but none were show stoppers. Yet again, I am thankful for that. << If you want to read all my posts on dual monitor with Windows 7, PLEASE do a SEARCH using the ‘Search Bar’ on the top right of this blog using the search string ‘dual monitor. >>

I see at least one hit a day on this blog emanating from a Web search involving the phrase ‘dual monitor.’ So I want to help out as much as possible.

Though I have the desktop stretched across both monitors, I use the left hand monitor essentially as a ‘surrogate.’ The right hand monitor, 24″ HD, is my main monitor — and as such has the task bar. Nearly all the time I run one instance each of FireFox on each monitor, each instance with at least 6 tabs. That way I can have two tabs visible at all times.

Until yesterday I never tried extending a single window across both monitors. I knew it would work, but I didn’t have a need.

Yesterday, I tried extending Word 2007 across both monitors. It worked. I am indexing a book. Right now the index, in 8 pt Franklin Gothic Book is 9 page table. I wanted to display as many pages as possible so that I could bang in page numbers without scrolling — the index key words already having been typed in. Yep, I could get 4 pages across two monitors. But my monitors have different resolutions. This meant the page sizes were different. But, it worked.

But, displaying 4 pages wasn’t as productive as I had hoped. So I reduced the Window size and turned off the Office 2007 Ribbon.

If I have about 3/4″ of the Word 2007 window spilt across on to the left hand monitor, I can display two pages of my index on my main monitor at 100%. That is what I have been doing for the last two days. Works. Just wanted to share that with you.

Good luck. Thanks. Cheers.

Anura Guruge

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Wow! Something seems to have gone awry with yesterdays KB977074 update. I haven’t, touch wood, had any problems as yet or at least, anything that I am aware of.

As said yesterday, it seemed somewhat of an innocuous, half-hearted — even flaccid — initiative by Microsoft. The three problems that it CLAIMED to fix did not appear to be even CLOSE to the more serious ones being experienced by Windows 7 users.

A few hours after my post I noticed I was getting lots of hits from folks doing a search on “KB977074 failure” or similar. So, I Googled it too. Wow. Lots of entries. Lots of concerns.

Lot of people were asking HOW they can uninstall the KB977074 Update. Though I have never uninstalled an update, I can help.

I had seen this option many times given that I like to spend time checking out the Windows 7 Action Center.

Basically you can get to this UNINSTALL UPDATE option from the Action Center or the Control Panel. << Use the highlighted ‘sequence’ above if you have to. >>

Or, easier still just go to the Action Center. Bottom, left-hand … you should see ‘Windows Update’. Click on that. On the next screen, bottom left AGAIN. ‘Installed Updates’. That would get you to what I show above. Select KB977074 and click uninstall. In theory, Bob will be your uncle.

I assume, and I could be wrong, that Microsoft does this uninstall by going to a RESTORE POINT prior to applying the update. I am not a great believer in going back to old restore points. But, in this instance, I would think about doing a manual restart from a prior restore point than letting MSFT do this uninstall. That is only my opinion.

For a second yesterday, based on some phrases I saw on blog postings, I thought that MAYBE KB977074 only worked on legit copies of Windows 7. Not so. MSFT, as we know, is COMMITTED to fully supporting any and all pirated copies of Windows 7. Given this largess on the part of MSFT one has to ask why anybody would now BOTHER to buy a legit copy of Windows 7. Per MSFT, legit or pirated … no difference. Only old, honest CHUMPS like me pay for Windows 7. That is OK. On a day the stock market is down 2%, $149 spent on an OEM copy of Windows 7 Professional feels like mere bagatelle.

Well, good luck. Cheers.

Anura Guruge

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My Action Center notified me this morning of this Windows 7 update; KB977074.

It was touted as an update to ‘improve the stability and reliability of Windows 7!’ How could I refuse.

But, I still did some checking. Here is a write-up on KB977074 from Microsoft Support.

From what I can see, and PLEASE feel free to correct me, this update ONLY fixes three problems. Here is an actual ‘snapshot’ (gratis Windows 7 Snipper) of what Microsoft claims:

I could, as ever be wrong, but other than the ‘Screen Saver’ problem (which does not apply to me), this DOES NOT look like an update that really does much.

Flaccid comes to mind.

The bit about fixing icon problems intrigues me. But, it does NOT seem to have fixed any of MY icon problems. I still can’t move my Core Temp icon!

<< Late last night, actually early this morning, I did some Googling on Windows 7 and corrupted icons given that I was still aggrieved that my Auslogics Registry Cleaner icon had been ‘nuked.’ Well it appears that as with all my other Windows 7 problems, I am not alone. Appears that this was a problem from Vista carried over to Windows 7 with Microsoft fully aware that they had a bug. Thanks MSFT. >>

So, KB977074. As they would say on Fox News … Walter, Tango, Fox.

What makes it worse is that this is the FIRST bona fide Windows 7 update in two weeks — not counting the Windows Defender Updates. Is this what WE deserve? Is this the BEST that MSFT can do.

One other thing that aggravated me NO END this morning … though I had already bitched about this earlier re. the inconsistencies in the Windows 7 GUI. And this is so pathetic. You can’t SELECT anything within a Windows 7 Action Center screen. All I wanted to do, was copy the number KB977074 — so I didn’t have to type it, and run the risk of getting it wrong; my middle name being ‘TYPO.’ You can’t select ANYTHING. That is so, so stupid.

Well, the joys of Windows 7. Must go down and see what Jobs has announced re. the Tablet. I am taping it. I own APPL. I like Jobs. Jobs is cool. The other Steve is only cool when he is drag.

Good luck. You will need it.


Anura Guruge

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This morning, in a slight fit of impetuousness I downloaded Auslogics’ Registry Cleaner on to this Windows 7 rig … and ran it.

Given that I am posting from the same machine, 6 hours later, means that it didn’t blow me out of the water. Actually it went quite well.

Since I had already done it once on a XP machine, I was familiar with what to expect. All went well. It created a Desktop Icon. I don’t like Desktop Icons for applications. So I right clicked and asked it to create a Task Bar icon. It did. << more later on this >>

So let me do this in bullet form to make it as easy to follow as possible:

  1. Did a ‘simple’ scan. It found 116 Registry Errors.
  2. I was able to print their listing of errors. [No, following Microsoft’s great example their GUI is lacking. But CTRL+A works. I then copied the list and printed it.]
  3. Checked the list. Lots of invalid file types. Wow. Here is but a partial list: .aswcs (Avast), .asws (Avast), .csk (Claris?) .dif (data interchange?), .dv (digital video), .prf et. al. Well, I know where the Avast extensions came from. The rest is a mystery. Told it to delete the entries. It said it did.
  4. Me being who I am, I now restarted the PC to make sure that it could still be booted. Come on. I admit it. I am the cynic’s cynic.
  5. When the system came up I noticed ONE THING that made me very unhappy. The Registry Cleaner icon on the task bar was CORRUPTED. Not good.
  6. I tried to restore it. No luck.
  7. I looked in Windows START to see what I got on the program menu. That icon was corrupted too << as you can see from this screen shot >>
  8. I would assume it was Windows 7 that corrupted the icon. Never see that happen. Yes, we have had strange things happening to the Task Bar icons. But this is the first time I have seen an icon get corrupted. Hhhhmmm. Maybe Microsoft has it in for Auslogics. (HP uses a really obnoxious ‘generic’ icon for its duplex printing task … but that isn’t a corrupted icon. Just laziness on the part of HP).
  9. Well, I ran the Registry Cleaner again. This time in Advanced Mode with all categories, including ‘Software’ and ‘Shared DLLs’ enabled. It found 152 additional errors. I printed the list and had a look. Four errors related to System Mechanic. The bona fides of the list looked OK. Plus there is a RESTORE option. Told it to clean them all. It did. Icon is corrupted.
  10. Restarted again. So far so good. Icon still corrupted.
  11. I now downloaded and installed Registry Defrag. Skipped the option to install the ASK tool bar. Pinned an icon to the Task Bar.
  12. Ran it. Showed I had very little defragmentation of the registry.
  13. It refused to perform a compact saying I didn’t need it. That always aggravates me. I could not find an option to FORCE a compaction.
  14. So, ran it again. Same story. Would not let me compact the registry. Not amused. I should have the option of compacting … if I want to.
  15. Cleaner icon, on the Task Bar and on the START menu corrupted. Defrag icon is fine in all places! I removed BOTH from the Task Bar. Didn’t want a corrupted icon on my Task Bar. Does not bode well.

So that was my first experience of Auslogics Registry Cleaner and Defrag on Windows 7.

The corrupted icon spoiled the show and my day.

But, other than that, it went fairly well. Hasn’t made any difference to my performance. But, unlike, System Mechanic it didn’t hang.

Tomorrow, if I have the time, I will try Disk Defrag. I asked my wife, who has a fairly decent 1GB Dell laptop with XP SP3 to try out the Auslogics BootSpeed — the supposed equivalent to System Mechanic. My wife is a great believer in System Mechanic. She was AMAZED that I had uninstalled it from this Windows 7 machine. Well, she was NOT impressed with BootSpeed the first time around. It found all these problems, but wouldn’t fix them because we hadn’t bought a license. It didn’t tell her that before she started. I have a two-word phrase for products like that and the second word is ‘teaser.’ Not impressed. Not amused.

Good luck. Cheers.

Anura Guruge

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Windows 7 does include this ‘System Maintenance’ tool.

Microsoft has done a very nice job burying it deep within the CONTROL PANEL so that most will never find it. Maybe that is a good thing.

If you want to try it, you have to invoke the CONTROL PANEL ‘All Items’ display option. Read this post. It shows you what to do.

The ‘troubleshooting’ option is in the 2nd row from the bottom, two-in (from the left) — above the highlighted ‘Windows Defender.’

Try it. I have; a few times. Does seem to do anything. I am not sure whether there is any real code behind it! It could, at least for now, be a ‘place holder.’

Given my experience with TuneUp Utilities 2010, I had thought that MAYBE Windows 7 might find some broken shortcuts — given that I have not run ANY PC tools on this Windows 7 rig in 5 days, now that I uninstalled System Mechanic 9.5.5 on January 22. But, nothing. Tells me that my system is FINE.

Well, tomorrow, with luck, I will install some Auslogics’ tools on this system. Please keep your toes crossed for me.

Good luck. Thanks & Cheers.

Anura Guruge

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I have a folder with 6 PDFs that I created in the last 24 hours using (my fully paid-up) Adobe Acrobat Professional 9.3.

What I show above is what I saw, a FEW MINUTES ago, when I viewed that folder using the ‘MEDIUM ICON’ setting on Windows 7. All 6 PDFs were created using the exact same Acrobat settings — since they are all chapters for the same book. [If you want to get technical, I even use a Acrobat ‘default setting’ file to ensure consistency.]

This happens OFTEN and it drives me NUTS. Call me strange. Call me odd. Call me crazy. Call me a stupid old man stuck in his ways. All of those could be true. I am a sucker for consistency. I just abhor inconsistency, particularly when it comes to computer behavior.

[Maybe his was my IBM training 30 years ago.  Way back, c. 1976, I sat mesmerized at a meeting looking at the results of a detailed user study that had been conducted by IBM — as they were wont to do in the 1970s when they had money to burn. When it came to computer response times what bothered users most was not slow response but inconsistent response times. In other words, if the response time was always 6 seconds (for example) they were cool. They were even cool if it was 10 seconds. But if response times fluctuated between 2 and 10 seconds, it drove them NUTS. Made sense. Consistency. Computer users get used to consistency.]

I don’t care if it is the COOL, preview type icon showing the first page of the document or the generic Adobe PDF icon from 15 years ago, just give me bloody consistency.

Now, look at this. This is what I got a FEW MINUTES later.

Generic icon GONE. What happened. I tried something. I opened that PDF using Adobe Acrobat Professional (not the reader) and closed it. Bingo. Preview icon. But, don’t get excited. This does not happen all the time. It is inconsistent.

If you follow this blog you must have a handle on me by now. I wasn’t going to let this just go. I was going to experiment. So I enlarged the icons, given that Windows 7 permits me to do that.

I now get this when I enlarge the icons:

Same PDFs. I did NOT change the PDFs between these 3 screen shots (taken using Snipper).

This is NOT good. I have checked the properties of all the files. They are consistent. It is just the Windows 7 icons that are NOT consistent.

What gives? I do not know. Not sure whether this is a Windows 7 bug or an Adobe bug. All I know is that it drives me NUTS. As I have repeatedly said, I hate Adobe Acrobat. But, I have no choice. I have to generate PDFs for my books. So I would not be surprised if this is an Adobe bug.

Anyway … just wanted to document this inconsistency.

Good luck. If you use Adobe Acrobat you will need it.

Thanks. Cheers.

Anura Guruge

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I downloaded Auslogics Registry Cleaner, Registry Defrag and Disk Defrag onto my ‘backup’ XP/SP3 system last night. This was the same, quite ‘clean’ and fairly fast system I used to try out TuneUp Utilities 2010.

The downloads, all from CENT, were small and hence fast (though it took me a second to find one of them within CNET given the other stuff that CNET is trying to promote). Installation was slick.

OK, I was wrong, and I am glad. All of the products are NOT free. That is good. The Registry Defrag needs to be purchased after a free trial. Some of their other products, such BootSpeed, also have to be purchased. One of the three products I installed asked me, quite nicely, whether I would like to have the ASK.com toolbar installed. I politely declined, but that means they also get some revenue from ASK.com. This is good. You can no longer produce quality software just on goodwill and a smile. This is why I get so upset with the folks who are constantly trying to pirate software. As I have said often, I can see what SEARCH STRINGS result in folks visiting this blog. Even TODAY I have folks coming here because they did a search on how to obtain a hacked product key for System Mechanic. Maybe, if MORE people paid for System Mechanic etc. we might have better, more stable products.

The Initial Test

Since I still had System Mechanic 9.5.5 and TuneUp Utilities 2010 on this XP machine, I decided to run those before I let loose Auslogics. Ran System Mechanic first. Told me I had 14 registry errors. Hhhhmmm. I had hardly done anything on this machine since SM and TU U 2010 claimed to have thoroughly scrubbed it a few days ago. I didn’t let SM fix the errors. I now ran TU U 2010. It said I had 7 registry errors. It gets curiouser and curiouser. Am I to now deduce that TU U 2010 isn’t as adroit as SM in picking up registry errors. This really has become a whore’s market.

Bracing myself for surprises, I ran Auslogics Registry Cleaner.

It has two modes. Safe Mode  and an Advanced Mode for experienced users. The latter mode does not check the registry entries for SOFTWARE, shared DLLs and ActiveX. Not checking the SOFTWARE section, in Safe Mode, surprised me. That is where I find most of the errors. But, I was trooper. I went along. Ran it in Safe Mode, since with just 40 years of hands-on, full-time computer experience I do not consider myself an experienced user. Auslogics Registry Cleaner came back and said I had 84 registry errors. That was like a Shane Warne googly, though as history has shown Shane is no match for us Sri Lankans with suspect arm actions. [Don’t worry. This is arcane cricket humor and rivalry for those of us from the Commonwealth (and Massachusetts is DEFINITELY now excluded from this select band).

I now ran Auslogics in Advanced Mode. 116 errors, but, Shane be praised, I didn’t get any shared DLL errors.

This is beyond the pale. SM says 14. TU U 2010 says 7. The mavericks from Oz claim 116. They can’t all be right. HELP. Where is Dickie Bird when I need him. (That is a cricket joke too.) I am not sure whether I should question the Aussies for ‘chucking?’

Used Registry Defrag. Said my registry was 7% fragmented. I like the pre-analysis. SM you need this. Also said that compacting my registry would only result in, at most, a 1% increase in performance. Bravo. I like honesty.

I ran Disk Defrag, without first checking any of the advanced options. Seemed to work quite well.

Today, I ran SM 9.5.5 again. It found 12 registry errors.

Ran Oz. It found 4 registry errors — all associated with SM! That makes sense. Told it to clean up. Ran it again. Said ZERO.

Bottom Line: Day 1.5

Not sure. The Oz software seems to work. But are they right? Are they correct? Can I trust them? And I won’t even go into the antecedents of the Australians … now that I am an old man.

I will continue to test, check, question, double check and ponder. Stay tuned.

Good luck. Cheers.

Anura Guruge

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I totally uninstalled System Mechanic 9.5.5 from my Windows 7 Professional system this afternoon.

Yesterday’s hang by System Mechanic 9.5.5, as I had then stated, was the last straw.

I had been a loyal, always fully paid-up customer of iolo since about 2002 … maybe even earlier. I think I started with System Mechanic 4. Definitely 5.x.

But the hangs I have had with Windows 7 is beyond the pale. So System Mechanic is history. I feel strangely relieved.

So, what am I now going to do? TuneUp Utilities 2010, based on my testing (please see the CATEGORY), is not a viable alternative.

I got thinking. System Mechanic and TuneUp Utilities are overkill for my needs. Though advanced in age, I kind of know my way around computers having worked with them since 1969. I do not need 1-click maintenance. I certainly do not need MEMORY DE-FRGMENTATION. I actually don’t believe that memory de-frag, à la System Mechanic, does anything … even if you just have 1GB of physical memory. Especially with Virtually Memory, physical memory usage is so dynamic that allocations have to change by the second. So memory de-frag is but a gimmick.

I only need three things: registry cleanup, registry defrag and disk defrag.

So yesterday I started looking. I do lead a sheltered life. Because I have had SM for so long I hadn’t looked around to see what was available. Yes, I had heard of CCleaner but I had never used it.

I learned a lot, very quickly, yesterday. It is a whore’s market when it comes to PC tools. There are tools which are outright SPYWARE. That is one of my biggest concerns about PC tools and anti-virus products. How do YOU know that they are legit?

I read some good stuff about Defraggler. What is amazing is that CCleaner and Defraggler are FREE. That kind of worries me — I am the cynic’s cynic. A professional, hard-nut cynics. Yes, I don’t just look a gift horse in the mouth, I ask a vet to do a X-ray for me.

Anyway, I stumbled upon the Australian auslogics.com. Hhhmmmm. Decent reviews from reputable outfits … not bogus blogs set up by the company itself. Three separate products that appear to meet my bill: Disk Defrag, Registry Cleaner and Registry Defrag. Hhhhmmmm. But, they are free. Hhhhhmmmmm.

I have contacted the company. I want to understand their business model. How do they make money? They claim to provide tools for the likes of Sony and HP. Is that enough? I do not know. But, I am going to try these products. No, not on my production Windows 7 machine. I will start on my backup XP system. So stay tuned. I will keep you posted.

Thanks. Good luck.

Anura Guruge

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