Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is the Web Browser an Important Part of the Operating System After All?

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Vol. 3, # 76 - Jun 18, 2009 - Issue # 85 
 Is the Web Browser an Important Part of the Operating System After All?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Is the Web Browser an Important Part of the Operating System After All?
    • Follow-up: Remote Desktop v7
    • Quotes of the Week:
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • How to get the most out of browser Favorites/Bookmarks
    • AV companies have to pay fines over auto-renewals
    • Does Bing have Google nervous?
    • Have you experienced Vista's Black Screen of Death?
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to disable the system tray
  5. Vista Security
    • Zero Day exploit in IE 8 patched
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Is there a way to change the timestamp on files?
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Can't view of change read-only folder attribute
    • You can't modify Hosts or Lmhosts files in Vista
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • Windows 7 Beta will expire soon
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • Newest Version of The Award Winning Editor's Choice Utility "Directory Opus" Released!

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product. Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:

Editor's Corner

Is the Web Browser an Important Part of the Operating System After All?

Ever since Microsoft first included Internet Explorer in the OEM version of Windows 95 almost fifteen years ago, some people - especially those who make competing web browsers - have been up in arms. They say that the inclusion of the browser with the OS gives Microsoft an unfair advantage over other web browsers. They point to the fact that IE's market share went from less than 20% in 1996 to almost 95% in 2002-2003. They cry "Monopoly!" - despite the prevalence of readily available competing products and the fact that IE's share of the market has declined to around 75% over the last five years.

The outrage was such that the U.S. Department of Justice brought anti-trust actions against Microsoft in the late 1990s. A key issue was whether Microsoft would be allowed to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows. Microsoft argued that the browser was an integral part of the OS. The trial court ruled against Microsoft, but the ruling was overturned on appeal, in part because of the violations of the judicial code of conduct by the original trial court judge, whose bias against Microsoft was pretty obvious throughout the trial. The case was settled in 2001, with a requirement that Microsoft share its application programming interfaces (APIs) with third parties.

Back in the 90s, one of the big arguments put forth by Microsoft's critics was that people were using IE not out of free choice but because it was too much trouble to download Netscape or some other web browser over a slow modem connection. There may have been some merit to the argument at a time when most Internet users were chugging along at 56Kbps, but today's fast broadband connections and improved installers make it pretty easy for even computer novices to download and install the web browsers of their choice.

The argument also ignores an important issue: if the operating system doesn't include a web browser, how are users to download a web browser to install? Sure, web browsers can be distributed on disc - but that means you either have to go to a store and buy it or order it and wait for it to arrive in the mail. Either way, it's likely you'll have to pay at least some small amount for shipping, handling, packaging, etc. You could also use an FTP client to download browser software from an FTP server, but how many casual computer users even know how to do that? Oh, and there's the same catch-22 - how do you get an FTP client in the first place?

And is that really what computer users want? I think most folks like it the way it is, with a browser built in and ready to go as soon as they fire up the OS. Then if they don't like that browser for everyday use, they can install Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari or any of a number of other alternatives - free, without having to trek to the store or sit around waiting for a week before you can do anything on the 'Net. In fact, I've heard very few complaints from regular computer users about IE coming with the OS. It's government agencies and other browser makers who are always leading the charge against this "anti-competitive" practice.

Now the issue has reared its ugly head again as Microsoft prepares to release Windows 7. The European Union isn't satisfied with the status quo. Pushed by Opera, a Norwegian company that (surprise!) makes a competing web browser, the European Commission charged Microsoft with anti-trust violations last January. In response, Microsoft agreed this month to market a version of the OS, Windows 7 E, that will ship without IE.

But that's not good enough for the commission. It seems they suddenly realized what a hardship this would impose on people who buy a computer and find that they have no way to connect to the web. Microsoft counters that OEMs can install whatever browsers they want. A representative of Opera says Microsoft will "encourage OEMs to install IE8." Of course, the OEMs could install all of the major browsers and let users use the one(s) they want. But one of the nice things about Windows 7 is that Microsoft has taken a more "minimalist" approach, reducing bloat and eliminating many of the optional applications that not everyone uses. I already get enough "crapware" installed by the OEM when I buy a computer from a major hardware vendor and I don't particularly want more programs that will just take up room on my hard drive unless/until I uninstall them.

Opera and the EU want Microsoft to include a so-called ballot screen from which users could choose a browser. This seems a little like forcing Ford to give the buyers of their new cars coupons for discount oil changes at Valvoline and Jiffy Lube and prohibiting them from encouraging car owners to have their oil changed at the dealership. This really seems to be a case of much ado about nothing. With a market share that's 20% lower than it was a few years ago, IE can hardly be called a monopoly product. Microsoft has already provided, in Windows 7, the ability to easily "turn off" IE8 through the Programs and Features applet in Control Panel. There is a plethora of alternative web browsers to choose from and they're easy to download and install. Why is so much time, energy and money being spent on this issue? Seems to me the only winners are the attorneys.

What do you think? Should Microsoft be forced to leave IE out of Windows 7? Should they be forced to install all their competitors' browsers - or should this be a decision left up to the OEMs, like the decision to install trial versions of Norton, AOL, etc.? If they're required to offer Firefox, Opera, Chrome and/or Safari as options, what about Maxthon, SeaMonkey, Amaya, and other lesser-known browsers? And should Apple be prohibited from including Safari in OS X, and/or forced to let users choose Camino, SeaMonkey, or some other browser?

We're going to be encouraging everyone to provide feedback through our new discussion forums, where you can post your comments and interact with other readers. We will eventually be phasing out the email feedback feature and the Follow-up section in each week's newsletter. You can find the forums at

Follow-up: Remote Desktop v7

In last week's editorial, I gave my impressions of the improvements made to the Remote Desktop feature in Windows 7 (both server service and RDP client v7). A number of you had comments of your own that you wanted to share.

Many of you didn't understand one of my "wish list" items - the ability to have a remote session going on without logging you off at the local console. Bruce G. wrote, "The RDP on my XP Pro system allows me to run a remote and switch back and forth with the local system. It even allows me to open another RDP session to a different system. It's just a window to run the RPD program." That's from the perspective of the client computer. I'm talking about the host computer. When you're logged onto a remote desktop session from a remote computer, no one can interact locally with the host machine's desktop. Sure, you can connect from the client computer to multiple hosts via RDP. But the host cannot have multiple client connections coming into it at the same time.

Soren M. offers an alternative. "I use mRemote as my preferred RDP client, due to the support for multiple connections, myriad of configuration options, and Folder/Connection inheritance). mRemote is freeware (open source) and I absolutely love it!" mRemote is indeed an excellent program, and it's not just an RDP client. It also supports VNC and ICA protocols and includes a screenshot manager that's great if you're writing about different technologies on remote machines. You still need to have the Microsoft RDP client installed to use it for RDP. You can find out more about it at

Jeff Boone offered this advice "Re maintaining the console session via RDP... Append '/admin' to the end of your shortcut e.g. c:\ windows \ system32 \ mstsc.exe /admin Pre RDP v6 client use /console instead. The controlled PC will show a locked screen but the remote session will still have your programs intact. When you've finished just close the session rather than log off. Back at the host, just unlock the screen and you're back." Yes, but ... still not what I'm looking for. I want the host desktop unlocked while the remote session is in progress.

Rich G. writes, in response to my question about your biggest gripes with RDP, "Printing! The difficulty of knowing what printers will work." This can be a problem at times. You can make a local printer available to a remote desktop session by configuring the Local Resources tab in the RDP client options. Often the problem is a driver issue. This is particularly problematic with USB printers and network printers on older client operating systems. There's a KB article that addresses it at

David D. asks, "I am concerned that people could use a low powered or low spec's PC with nothing on them to connect to a faster machine and run applications from the host machine - what are the licensing implications? Doesn't Microsoft say that all devices must be licensed?" Yep - and the applications are licensed on the machine on which they're running. And they can't be used simultaneously on the remote client and the RDP host. That is, in fact, the very reason that my wish for multiple simultaneous sessions will never be granted (although I don't want them in order to use the applications in two places at one time, they could be used for that, and then there would indeed be a licensing issue).

Edward B. said, "Security?? Doing this w/o some sort of encryption? I can use my VPN software and RDP to my desktop here at work when away if I want to. I can't see doing this for home w/o a service that will add security to the picture. On a local LAN no issues as there is the firewall - w/o one - I will pass." No security? Hardly. Windows XP Remote Desktop connections use 128 bit encryption by default. RDP v6 introduced support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) on both server and client, set as the default, and supports FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) grade encryption.

And Giorgio P. wrote, "One function missing for me is the ability to RDP into an iMac computer. I have Microsoft RDP application on the iMac, and can log into remote PC's. But there are times when I need to RDP into an iMac computer and have no solution to do so today." Yep, there is an RDP client for OS X that you can use to make a connection to a Windows desktop. You can download that software at

You can get similar functionality by using VNC on OS X. Apple's own VNC-based remote control software is called Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) allows connections from one Mac to another.

To connect from a Windows computer to an Apple desktop, you can use VNC server software such as OSXvnc on the Mac and a VNC client such as UltraVNC on the Windows machine. Read more here:

Finally, the opinions of many of our readers were summed up by Daryl E., who said, "I simply cannot live without RDP. I'm glad they keep making it better!" Many thanks to all of you who wrote on this topic, and may all your remote sessions be happy ones!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Look for the VistaNews fan page on Facebook!

Quotes of the Week:

Know the true value of time; snatch, seize and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness; no laziness; no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. - Lord Chesterfield (1694 - 1773)

Never spend your money before you have it. - Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

I have learned that to be with those I like is enough. - Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

Cool Tools


All New Free Optimize 3.0 Scan - World's Most Popular PC Tune-Up

WhiteSmoke 2009 is an innovative proofreading and editing tool with a single aim - to help you write better

Backblaze is the no fuss solution to getting all your data backed up online securely, easily, automatically, and for only $5/month for unlimited storage.

Ever use a download manager? You might not know what your missing, try this one!

Rip DVDs for your iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV, or iPod Video Nano. Bundle includes video converter too! Free Trial:

Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.

Eliminate your online traces with CyberScrub. Privacy equals security.

GoodSync is an easy and fast way to backup and synchronize your emails, photos, iTunes, MP3s, and other important files.

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

Kill the background tasks belonging to (legitimate) software that run all day. Why? To get your speed back!

I need a real program for autofilling my passwords, shipping info not a toolbar widget. Roboform is the real deal!

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

How to get the most out of browser Favorites/Bookmarks

Are you using the Favorites bar in IE or its equivalent in your other browser of choice to its full potential? Many folks use the Internet History or other methods to access their commonly used web sites, instead of making use of more efficient methods. There are ways to get more sites on that Favorites bar, too - you can shorten the text label or not use one at all if the site has a unique icon. Read more tips along those lines here:

AV companies have to pay fines over auto-renewals

This is a pet peeve of mine: companies that renew your subscription to something without your permission. I don't care if it is in the contract - it shouldn't be, not as a mandatory requirement for the service (it's fine to have that option). Anti-virus vendors have been particularly bad about this in the past, and now it's coming back to bite them. Symantec and McAfee have agreed to pay fines to the New York Attorney General's office for engaging in this practice. Read more here:

Does Bing have Google nervous?

When Microsoft released their new search engine, Google die-hards scoffed. No way would they ever defeat the G Man. Well, Bing ended up getting some very good reviews and Microsoft's share of the search market immediately went up a couple of percentage points - and it seems the folks over at Google are now sitting up and taking nervous. According to the New York Post, they've responded with a team to work on "urgent upgrades" to their own service. The competition can only make all the options better. Read more here:

Have you experienced Vista's Black Screen of Death?

Here's a problem that I've had once or twice; how about you? The screen on your Vista computer goes black - but it's not frozen up. You can still see the cursor, which moves freely, but nothing else. CTRL+ALT+DEL doesn't work. What's up with that? Nobody's sure, but this writer speculates that it might be an anti-piracy mechanism gone wrong, and/or has something to do with event logging. Find out how he recovered at

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to disable the system tray

I use the system tray items frequently, but some folks don't, and want a more minimalist look for their taskbars. If you're all about simplifying the look and don't want to be bothered with all those icons in the notification area, there's a registry edit that you can do to get rid of it.
  1. Open your favorite registry editor and navigate to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies \ Explorer
  2. Click an empty space in the right pane and choose New | DWORD Value
  3. Right click the new value to rename it to NoTrayItemDisplay
  4. Double click the new value and set the value to 1
  5. Log off and log back on for the change to take effect
Note that this disables the system tray for your user account only, and it doesn't keep the applications in the tray from running - it just keeps their icons from being displayed there. You can get the tray back by changing the value to 0.

Vista Security

Zero Day exploit in IE 8 patched

Last week, Microsoft released a security update for IE 8, in response to an exploit demonstrated by a hacker in a recent contest - but the problem had already been addressed in the final release of IE 8 by a mitigation. If you're still running the beta version of Windows 7 (build 7000), you should get the update, but if you're using the RC (build 7100), it's not impacted. Read more here:

Vista Question Corner

Is there a way to change the timestamp on files?

Okay, this might seem a little underhanded, but I want to make a file appear to have been created on a different date (earlier) than it actually was. I really don't have some nefarious purpose in mind. I started work on a paper and stupidly deleted the file. Now I have to do it all over in one day - and I'm going to stay up all night to do it - but I don't want it to look like I didn't do it until the last minute. Can you help? - Ollie E.

Interestingly, you can change the "date taken" on a photo file in Windows Explorer - just right click it, select Properties, and then details and hover over the date shown and you'll see a box that lets you enter a different date. But you can't do this with document files. It's easy enough to change the creation date of a file to a later date: just copy the contents of the file and paste it into a new one. It's not as easy to change the date to an earlier one. However, there are a number of third party programs that will let you change the creation date/time, as well as the last modified and last accessed dates/times.

One of the most popular is Febooti FileTweak, which costs $24.95 (but if you only need to do it this once, there is a 40 day trial version you can download). You'll find it at

There are also free utilities to do this, such as the one that's posted for download at

There may also be file management programs that do this as one of many functions. Many years ago, I used PowerDesk and it had this feature built in. I haven't used the latest version (7), which runs on Vista so I don't know if this feature is still included.

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

Can't view of change read-only folder attribute

If you have one or more folders that are set to Read-only in Windows Vista and you aren't able to view or change the attributes in the Properties dialog box, you can work around the problem by using the attrib command line tool. To find out how to do that, see KB article 326549 at

You can't modify Hosts or Lmhosts files in Vista

You might be used to changing your Hosts and/or Lmhosts files to tell the computer where to find particular computers on the network (mapping names to IP addresses). If you try to change these files on your Vista computer, you might get a message that says access is denied, even if you're logged on as an administrator. You can find a workaround for this issue described in KB article 923947 at

Windows 7 Preview Corner

Windows 7 Beta will expire soon

If you installed the public beta of Windows 7 that was released back in January, you need to be aware that the software will expire on August 1. But you'll start getting reminders of that earlier. After July 1, the operating system will start shutting down every two hours. Although Microsoft doesn't officially support upgrading from the beta to the RC, there is a way to do so. You can find those instructions here:

The release candidate is still available and will be at least through the end of this month. If you don't have it yet, you can get it here:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

Newest Version of The Award Winning Editor's Choice Utility "Directory Opus" Released!

This essential utility has so many useful features it's no wonder why PC Magazine said, " Incredibly Useful Utilities...." Computer magazines around the world have selected it as their "Editors" Choice. Directory Opus goes beyond the simply file manager metaphor, and offers you a complete replacement for Windows Explorer with access to its own suite of utility programs for handling FTP, ZIP, viewing files and images, file conversion, slideshows and more. A robust community develops free Plug-Ins for popular apps and special uses. Yup there probably an app for that ( I mean plug-in) Harness the power of your computer like never before! Review the feature chart, and download the free fully functional 60 day trial version. VistaNews readers can buy this powerful utility now with an exclusive $10.00 discount coupon.

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