Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

h1

FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD/USB 4.6

March 31, 2013

Hola amigos. I don’t speak Spanish, but, you know, trying to stay hip. Like actually releasing a new version, that sounds like an awesome idea, doesn’t it? Hell, v4.5 had so many holes that’ve been fixed in v4.6, it made 4.5 look like Swiss cheese. And I’m sure the Swiss have even used this thing. It’s been all the way around the internet and back – in fact, v4.6 was created on a laptop I bought from a guy on eBay (just shopping around) that uses my disc as well! I was amazed. This thing has seen some mileage.

FalconFour's Ultimate Boot CD v4.6

In this boot CD are the most popular and useful tools anyone would ever need. The best of the free software, the best of the commercial software, and it all fits on one CD-R that’s readable by any computer worth booting on. Not everything can read a DVD, and USB booting is hit and miss at best.

Meanwhile, since the last release in 2011, more has changed. I wrote off the dry, stale corporate IT world of wastefulness and over-powered, under-utilized systems and unnecessary, poorly planned “cloud” services. Currently unemployed (at least, as of this release!), I found some time to put some major polish on MiniXP and get everything working well. Still would love to work in computer repair. Anyone? I’ll even move. Anything? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

This disc, an even more minor single-point revision, is actually a huge MiniXP update. Other tools have been updated, like Memtest86+, which has been replaced with the more frequently updated Memtest86, with a smarter loading mechanism. Tons of updates in MiniXP. AHCI support, for one thing. Better driver support for network and wireless drivers, faster (and more reliable) startup, better error reporting/catching, better graphics, better compatibility with more tools and software, and… Flash support in the latest Portable Firefox! Yes, you can watch YouTube from MiniXP now. And access TeamViewer/LogMeIn which uses Flash. LOTS of work has been put into polishing the startup routine and compatibility.f4ubcd-46-menu

Plenty of features from v4.5: Virtual Floppy enables you to mount images from a USB stick to be used in a boot selection like MiniXP (for F6 SATA/RAID drivers) or FreeDOS (Dell option). VFD with file copy allows you to make a <1mb RAR file accessible to DR-DOS or Hiren’s DOS in a virtual floppy. Wireless drivers in MiniXP along with improved Ethernet and storage support. Mini Linux provided by RIP Linux. Bootable partition and imaging utilities provided by Acronis True Image and EASEUS Partition Manager. Improved Memtest86+ with failsafe mode to resolve startup hangs. Kon-Boot 1.1 is really v1.1 now, with support for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows. Tons of new utilities in MiniXP with new launchers to provide easier access. ERD 5.0 is integrated with MiniXP for offline system restore and service/driver management, and Microsoft DaRT 6.5 (x86 and x64) are added to support Windows Vista and 7. Antivirus scanning with real-time updates is provided by DaRT 6.5’s Standalone System Sweeper, and allows you to load definitions to a USB stick for live updating.

This ain’t yo mama’s BartPE compilation.

f4ubcd-46-minixp

Once you dive into this disc, you’ll never need another boot CD.

Based on F4UBCD v4.5 with MiniXP from Hiren’s 15.2, heavily modified.

  • MiniXP gutted and rebuilt with new, flexible on-disc scripting, for easy mods.
  • Active File Recovery 7.5.1
  • CCleaner
  • CPU-Z
  • HWMonitor
  • MS DaRT 5 / ERD Commander 2005 utilities
  • HD Tune Pro 5
  • ImgBurn
  • Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder 2.0.8
  • MyDefrag 4.3.1 with FullOptimize script
  • NirSoft collection 2/1/2013, now with 90% fewer antivirus false alarms
  • SoftPerfect Network Scanner 5.1.2
  • TreeSize Personal 5.4.4
  • Firefox Portable
  • Shiny graphics that make the room smell nicer

And of course, a slew of utilities from Hiren’s disc, some updated, including:
EzPcFix, Acronis Disk Director, ATF Cleaner, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware updated 11/6/2012, Bulk Rename Utility, Combofix updated 2/16/2013, Defraggler, Speccy, Content Advisor Password Remover, Recuva, Diskview, Filemon, Regmon, Procmon,
DriveImageXML, GetDataBack, Recover My Files, Ghost32 11.5.1, ISOBuster, GImageX (ImageX GUI), SUPERAntiSpyware, IrfanView, NTPWEdit, Partition Magic, TeraCopy, TightVNC Server/Viewer, Unstoppable Copier, Victoria, MHDD, WinRAR,
and 7-Zip
… among others.

In this update

4.6, Apr-1-13: Many modifications to MiniXP. AHCI/RAID support (not quite universal yet due to architecture). Firefox update with Flash support. Memtest86 instead of Memtest86+. Streamlined boot menu configuration. Made USB setup easier with BootICE. ImageX front and center on the desktop now, as well as some additional new icons. Vastly improved MiniXP startup process. PDF, Word, Excel file viewing support. Replaced a billion references to outdated portable Opera browser in MiniXP with Firefox. Much improved network driver support. Battery support. Power management support (no longer roasts laptop CPUs while in MiniXP). Added keyboard switcher in tray. More sane date/time display.

ISO:

CRC32: 9B4B46FF
MD5: 41E62394E1C8D406FB41B65B6CDEECEB
SHA-1: CF92E23BBF2084812E454E7C8272596F2AD860BA

Download the torrent (save bandwidth, help others download it too!)

Then grab the v4.61 Patch to get up to date.

Or download v4.61 directly via HTTP (be a freeloader! Or if you have trouble with the torrent!)
(Here’s another HTTP mirror for v4.61!)

And, on Facebook: http://fb.com/F4UBCD

h1

Do not use Windows Installer Cleanup Utility to “clean” your PC. DON’T.

June 28, 2011

OK, I was just idly browsing along (trying to fix a Windows Installer problem), and I found this article…

http://msmvps.com/blogs/installsite/archive/2009/07/25/don-t-clean-up-your-pc-with-windows-installer-clean-up-utility.aspx

… describing why the utility is NOT to be used for “cleaning up” your PC. It’s 110% correct – I’ve seen too many idiotic, uninformed bloggers posting “cleanup guides” with absolutely destructive advice (like disabling themes, services, etc). This is one of the more rare ones but I want to throw this out there in case there are some think-they’re-geeks out there that use the Installer Cleanup Utility as a “cleanup” tool.

The only thing this utility does to “clean” is to clean in the “what was dirty” sense, to gut a program’s configuration from Windows Installer, not from your computer! It just makes Windows Installer “forget” that a program was ever installed, so that installation issues can be resolved to re-install and cleanly uninstall the related program. It does NOT “clean” your computer of the installed program – hell, it doesn’t even uninstall it in the formal sense. All its files will still remain.

Personally, I use its “msizip G” as part of a cleanup routine, which removes orphaned Installer files – product packages that are located in the Windows\Installer folder, but not associated with any product that’s installed. Usually from failed Office updates or the like.

Just a public service blog post. =P

h1

FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD/USB 4.5

March 12, 2011

At last, for your enjoyment… the latest version of FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD has arrived. V4.5 may be just a 0.5 version bump, but there is so much good stuff in here, lots of changes and lots of cool new toys to play with.

In this boot CD are the most popular and useful tools anyone would ever need. The best of the free software, the best of the commercial software, and it all fits on one CD-R that’s readable by any computer worth booting on. Not everything can read a DVD, and USB booting is hit and miss at best.

It’s been a long time. How have you been? Things have changed since we last met… I got myself a corporate IT job, still doing computer repair on the side. But being a side thing, kinda has its pros and cons. On one hand I don’t have constant first-hand experience using the disc anymore. On the other hand, I can also take a step back and look at it from a designer’s point of view… how well does it work? What does it do good, what’s bad, what could be done better? How can I make this the ULTIMATE BOOT CD it claims to be?

This disc, a minor half-version revision, is the answer to those questions. Scoured through every option, considered the usefulness of some tools, added others, collaborated with users over Facebook, gutted some functions and built others. A launcher here, a script there, and about 1,500 WIM captures. I imagine I went through some 20 ISO re-burns, 150 virtual machine boots, 200 VHD mount/unmounts… I can’t even count how much time has been put into polishing this thing. All for the love of making computer repair accessible to anyone that wants it.

Of note… let’s see here. Virtual Floppy enables you to mount images from your USB stick to be used in a boot selection like MiniXP (for F6 SATA/RAID drivers) or DR-DOS (BIOS flashing). VFD with file copy allows you to make a <1mb RAR file accessible to DR-DOS or Hiren’s DOS in a virtual floppy. Wireless drivers in MiniXP along with improved Ethernet and storage support. Mini Linux provided by RIP Linux. Bootable partition and imaging utilities provided by Acronis True Image and EASEUS Partition Manager. Improved Memtest86+ with failsafe mode to resolve startup hangs. Kon-Boot 1.1 is really v1.1 now, with support for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows. Tons of new utilities in MiniXP with new launchers to provide easier access. ERD 5.0 is integrated with MiniXP for offline system restore and service/driver management, and Microsoft DaRT 6.5 (x86 and x64) are added to support Windows Vista and 7. Antivirus scanning with real-time updates is provided by DaRT 6.5’s Standalone System Sweeper, and allows you to load definitions to a USB stick for live updating.

This ain’t yo mama’s BartPE compilation.

Based on Hiren’s BootCD 13.0 Rebuild by DLC, minus some unnecessary clutter.

  • MiniXP gutted and rebuilt with new, flexible on-disc scripting, for easy mods.
  • Active File Recovery 7.5.1
  • CCleaner 3.04CPU-Z 1.57
  • HWMonitor 1.17
  • MS DaRT 5 / ERD Commander 2005 utilities
  • HD Tune Pro 4.60
  • ImgBurn 2.5.5.0
  • Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder 2.0.8
  • MyDefrag 4.3.1 with FullOptimize script
  • NirSoft collection 3/1/2011, now with 90% fewer antivirus false alarms
  • SoftPerfect Network Scanner 5.1.2
  • TreeSize Personal 5.4.4
  • Firefox Portable 3.6.14
  • SpinRite 6.0 (under DOS -> Hard Disk Tools)
  • Shiny graphics that make the room smell nicer

And of course, a slew of utilities from Hiren’s disc, some updated, including:EzPcFix, Acronis Disk Director, ATF Cleaner, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware updated 3/7/2011, Bulk Rename Utility, Combofix updated 3/2/2011, Defraggler, Speccy, Content Advisor Password Remover, Recuva, Diskview, Filemon, Regmon, Procmon, DriveImageXML, GetDataBack, Recover My Files, Ghost32 11.5.1, ISOBuster, GImageX (ImageX GUI), SUPERAntiSpyware, IrfanView, NTPWEdit, Partition Magic, TeraCopy, TightVNC Server/Viewer, Unstoppable Copier, Victoria, MHDD, WinRAR, and 7-Zip

ISO:
CRC32: F3E0B3FD
MD5: 225435D19B1D134892BD2057C5F4490F
SHA-1: 6980D5906295AF28475260FEE9395D4D35E3DFB8

Download the torrent (preferred, saves both of our time)…
Or download via the web (currently down – sorry! May be back soon) (have fun clicking all 28 links!).

And, on Facebook: http://facebook.com/F4UBCD

h1

Dear OEMs: Please stop pre-installing “Compatibility Pack for the 2007 Office System”.

February 9, 2011

Seriously. OK? Stop it. It’s freaking stupid. It just shows how worthless your company’s software-development folks are.

You pre-load Office 2010 or Office 2007, and yet also install Office 2003’s compatibility pack for Office 2007 files? What’s your damn problem? How do you not understand that Office 2007 and 2010 can ALREADY OPEN their own file types? Why do you keep installing “Compatibility Pack for the 2007 Office System” on these PCs?

The ONLY thing it can do is cause compatibility PROBLEMS. It’s ONLY supposed to be installed on computers using Office 2003, trying to open a 2007 document (xlsx, docx, pptx, etc.)

p.s.: stop loading computers with BS software nobody wants and will never use, e.g. amazon links, toolbars, Windows Live Essentials, Microsoft Works, Toshiba ConfigFree, Face Recognition, online backup, “PC Health” checkers, blah blah blah.

h1

FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD/USB 4.0

July 30, 2010

Update: F4UBCD now has a Facebook page and a bundled discussion board – go Like it!

Behold, it has arrived. F4UBCD 4.0, the latest version of the latest and greatest utilities. Out of the magical mysteries of corporate politics comes, at long last, the most up-to-date version of the BootCD in existence. I’ll let the readme and NFO files take it from here…

I’ve put a good amount of work and thought into creating and refining this new version, and it’s always rewarding to see people actually using it. I’ve completely rebuilt the whole thing from scratch, starting with Hiren’s BootCD 10.6 (which this collection is built on), and building everything out around it in such a way as to allow less experienced (but still knowledgable!) users to easily add and modify the tools in the set, so that things aren’t “baked into” the disc the way the HBCD tools are – good luck modifying a UHA archive! So I set out to make the F4UBCD flexible, starting with just a tweak here, a line there, and a whole boatload of batch code.

And, it bears repeating:

Warning: This disc is not an autofix tool. It is intended to be used by (potentially underpaid) computer repair professionals. It can be used to cause data loss as well as other “not good” things. However, it is designed to recover data & restore working order to PCs. It can also serve as an excellent learning resource. Please exercise sanity & caution using this disc.


On the Disc…

  • Hiren’s BootCD 10.6 minus Linux and a few others.
    Plus F4UBCD tweaks & addons:

    • ImgBurn 2.5.1.0
    • Active File Recovery
    • CCleaner 2.34 with PE extension
    • HD Tune Pro 4.50 Trial
    • Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder 2.0.8
    • MyDefrag 4.3.1 w/ FalconFour’s FullOptimize script
    • NirSoft utilities collection current as of 7/28/10
    • NTPWEDIT
    • RegEditPE 1.0c (Beta with some adjustments for cleaner operation)
    • ServicesPE
    • Super Pi 1.5 Mod
    • TreeSize Personal v5.3.4
    • SpinRite 6.0 (under Hard Disk Tools)
  • ERD Commander / Microsoft DaRT 5.0 (WinXP)
  • MS DaRT 6.0 (Vista)
  • Dell MBR Recovery Disk
  • Memtest86+ 4.10
  • Kon-Boot 1.1
  • Shiny graphics that make you feel good

Now playing at a friendly torrent site near you. As usual, jfgi.

MD5 hashes:
F4UBCD-4.0.7z : 2D5681A0EDC6D14686016ABC79EFDACD
F4UBCD-4.0.ISO: 3E70F4B9F26B689A4F41F8812AFC07F5
f4ubcd.4.0.micro.iso: D102CFF01EA479D988C1B4578E1563C1

h1

Hey Microsoft, I’m really sick of the parents-and-two-kids family…

December 27, 2009

Are you even listening, Microsoft? Seriously, it’s making me sick. _Everything_ in the Windows Home Server product is geared towards the mom, pa, 2 kids, and a dog “American Dream” family. Windows Live is even worse, blowing it all up in your face how “FAMILY!” the product is.

Pardon my spanish, but FUCK the family image. God, I am so sick of the family bullshit commercials, images, and “Features” that make it easy for the nuclear family to share photos of their vacation to the Bahamas with family in the other room. Not everyone’s part of the perfect family. Some people HAVE no family and it’s just a dark reminder of what’s not there. And more often than not, the “Family” bullshit features get in the way, like “Photo Sharing” in Messenger. Let me send them the fucking file, I don’t want to have it sit there and clog up the chat screen with a barely-functional “viewer”. At least OPEN IT IN A NEW FUCKING WINDOW! And who’s going to sit there and “share photos” anyway? Oh, look at this one! Daww! Well, you can’t even see what the other person is saying, because the PHOTO FRAME IS BLOCKING THE CHAT AREA. I just want to send them a picture (or, more often than not, paste a screenshot), and this is nothing more than another reason Messenger fails hard. All in the name of Family!

h1

The many user interface flaws of Live Messenger in Windows 7

June 27, 2009

Microsoft has used Windows Live Messenger as almost a sort of “benchmark” of how to design a Windows 7 user interface. The reality is, Live Messenger breaks almost every accepted standard of user interface design known to anyone that’s used a computer for more than a year. So many things are done incorrectly, that it’s hard to even find a place to start.

I think a good place to start is the change that most visibly annoys me: always taking up a taskbar button, even when the window isn’t open. It seems like Microsoft has taken a leap backwards in usability. It’s a darn good idea to make programs default to shoving their tray icons into an expand-o menu (I like the new expand-o menu, a LOT). Hell, I even like that the mouse hover behavior was changed to reflect that taskbar buttons should function as buttons (there is a hover animation that makes the icons appear to be single-click buttons instead of vague icons when the mouse hovers over them). There’s a lot of good changes under the hood for the Windows 7 taskbar and tray. But… Microsoft decided to throw them all out with Live Messenger. For no good reason, it always eats up a taskbar button like an active window. Even though there is none.

Live Messenger showing "close window" option

This by itself creates a slew of issues. If you close the “phantom window”, Messenger closes with no warning – apparently it’s not necessary to confirm when you’re closing a mystery window… but it _is_ necessary to confirm if you identify the Messenger icon in the tray, right click it, and tell it to “Exit” (instead of “Close Window”, the option presented in Win7’s Live Messenger). Next, if you minimize a window that is in direct sequence to Live Messenger’s window closure – that is, close the Messenger window, bring up another window, then minimize that one – Messenger often just pops up on its own, because Windows “activates” this phantom, nonexistent window, whose only purpose is to waste a taskbar button.

Live Messenger's incredible disappearing visual cues

Moving on. How about this for fun? The Incredible Disappearing Visual Cue! Microsoft did a real bang-up job on this one… everywhere you go in Mess-enger, there’s visual cues popping out as you mouse over various elements. Stuff you didn’t even know existed until you accidentally mouse over it and see some weird animation displaying a feature. Before you mouse over it? Nothing. So if you’re LOOKING for a way to do something, there’s no intuitive way to find it. You have to discover it by accident, then remember it for later. Um, what? What happened to usability? Is this changing for the sake of changing, or just because Microsoft forgot to fire their UI designer before they let him cook up some crap like this?

The Messenger conversation window

Okay, now let’s look at this trainwreck, the main conversation window. You know, I’ve stopped using Messenger as much as I had before, for this very reason. Look at this thing. For typing simple messages, it’s pretty straightforward. But each progressive Messenger version has made doing anything else more and more frustrating and tedious. Sending pictures turned from drag-and-drop into drag-drop-pray-and-squint. Sending files has acquired more “protections” than the Gestapo; good luck sending anything geeklike. Microsoft seems to be so dedicated to CYA that they’ve all but stripped useful features from all their applications. Finally, there’s the curious precedent they’ve set with this version of Messenger. They first “hid” the menu bar in recent versions of MSN and replaced it with a toolbar. Then, the toolbar started flying out menus. What’ve we got here? A fake looking menu bar with no icons or identification (visual cues), supplemented with a “menu” icon where you can access… more menus. You know, if anything could use a Ribbon overhaul, I think it’s Messenger. Then there’s the issue of display pictures; how hard is it to tell us what pixel size would be optimal? And don’t even get me started on who is in charge of approving these ridiculous, misleading, poorly worded, and often malicious adverts… yeah, on one hand keep the users from sending often-harmless EXEs, but give users spam links to registry cleaners and phishing scheme sites on the other (who blocked you?…).

The Messenger contacts listHere is the Contact List window in Messenger. Holy crap, pry my eyes out with a fork. This thing is completely unusable. What do these buttons do? Why is there a search box? What is this skinning crap it keeps flashing at me? What are those buttons at the bottom? What does “what’s new” mean and why can’t I find a way to post in it? These are all questions that I’ve asked while looking at the interface, that the interface fails to answer. I still, to this day, have not found a way to post a “note” that appears in the lower pane, nor do I know what causes them to be posted. “Posting a note” only links you to some website where you can, somehow, “reply” to someone’s posted “status”. There’s a search box, but seriously… who the hell has that many contacts that they need to search them? The colored borders of the display pictures are nice, but do little to describe their function; I still don’t know what orange or red mean. The entire window, and the entire Live Messenger UI as a whole, make up their own interface design and ignore existing Windows common controls like menus or list-boxes. Little is done to tell you what is doing what, or how to do what, or, anything at all. It pretty much relies on the thought that you’ll figure it out eventually. Well… I don’t care to poke around a goofy, unintuitive interface long enough to find out. And the unfortunate thing for Microsoft is… most users don’t care, either.

Messenger jump listIf you read the page linked in the beginning of this post, you’d’ve read a lot about jumplists, tasks, and things of that nature. What they didn’t seem to mention is how much Messenger breaks even those very rules. Just look at this screenshot and try to measure all the dead space in this “page”. It has divider lines that take up 2 items’ worth of space each, useless links to MSN, and even an entire section for “Send an instant message…” – wait, what’s the purpose of Messenger again? Oh, that’s right, send an instant message. Why, exactly, would I open this list to open the contacts window? It’s about as useful as… well… I take that back. Totally worthless. About the only thing I can see a genuine use for is the status changes, which were present in the old tray context menu. The rest of it is just dead space that eats up a lot of screen real estate. Hooray! Let’s check our empty Hotmail account which we only opened to get a Live Messenger account (I know many people that have, but I converted my existing email address into a Live account). There is a well known hack to put Messenger back in its tray icon, and make it stop plugging up the taskbar, but really, I want MS to see my Win7 usage statistics, and the tray hack requires running Messenger in “look like it’s Vista” compatibility mode, which would probably appear to Microsoft as someone that’s actually running Vista. I’d rather cut my arms off than tell Microsoft I’m voluntarily using Vista. The only OS I wholeheartedly loathe.

Messenger notifications appearing in the wrong placeLast but not least, how about them there notification popups… you know, when someone signs in. Most of everything else on Windows works pretty smoothly when you put the taskbar on the side of the screen (which I’ve been doing for about a month now, and have grown to love on my widescreen monitor). Arrows point the right direction, the menus pop out smoothly and in the right direction… it’s quite nice, until you install Messenger. Pop. Did that notification just slide out from the bottom of the screen? Yes, it did, because Messenger doesn’t pay attention to taskbar position or orientation. So, despite the fact that your taskbar is on the side of the screen, it takes the liberty of assuming it’s still at the bottom. Just swell.

I hope Microsoft, or at least the Live team, learn a few things from this “article”. Maybe I can get them to slam on the brakes before their poor development crashes them into a brick wall of “users don’t like this crap”. But, knowing the big corporate machine… yeah, that’ll never happen. But at least we can hope to put the Messenger icon back into the tray in Windows 7.