Monday, June 29, 2009

Power to the People (and their Computers)

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 9, #77 - Jun 30, 2009 - Issue #385

 Power to the People (and their Computers)

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Power to the People (and their Computers)
    • Follow-up: The value of free software
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Is Windows installing updates without your permission?
    • Speaking of netbooks
    • 10 Tips for using System Restore on XP
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to use Microsoft Narrator
    • How to resize the Recycle Bin
  5. XP Security News
    • Watch out when following links on Twitter posts
  6. XP Question Corner
    • Can I install my XP on my new computer?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • XP SP3 computer using ICS loses network connectivity
    • Authentication tab missing on NIC properties dialog box after installing SP3
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Aimersoft Video Converter: Supports Tons of File Formats and Produces High Quality Output.

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 Editor's Corner

Power to the People (and their Computers)

A few weeks back, we touched on the topic of power usage in the context of the social and political aspects of the "green" computing trend. But politics aside, the high cost of electricity makes reducing the power usage of your computers and peripherals a smart thing to do. This week we'll look at it from the technological point of view and discuss how power management features in hardware and software can help you keep power usage down, and what the trade-offs are.

Environmentalism and cost aren't the only reasons that power usage is becoming of more concern to computer users. It was reported in June that laptop sales have outpaced those of desktop computers recently and the gap is expected to widen, with the Consumer Electronics Association predicting that 63 percent of computers sold this year will be laptops. A large proportion of those are so-called netbooks, ultra compact low cost systems with fewer system resources than the average laptop.

When you're using a portable computer on battery, power management ceases to be an option and becomes a necessity. Netbooks, due to their smaller size and to keep prices down, often have small batteries. Taking steps to conserve power may mean the difference between having a dead and useless computer at the end of the day and being able to work for as long as you need. Modern laptops have power saving features built in, for this very reason. For example, it's usually easy to turn off the wireless network adapter when you don't need it, or to reduce the brightness of the screen to save energy. Laptop OEMs also often pre-install proprietary power management software for tweaking settings to improve battery performance.

In early versions of Windows, most power management had to be done through BIOS settings. PCs with Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) work with Microsoft's power management features that are built into the operating system. Beginning with Windows 98, PCs have been able to go into "sleep" or "hibernate" modes to power down certain components when the computer is not in use, while retaining the ability to quickly resume computing without having to go through the whole boot-up process. The first iterations of these features came with a number of problems, sometimes failing to wake up completely - causing you to have to reboot after all and rendering moot the reason for using the feature in the first place.

Power management improved considerably in Windows XP. Microsoft called XP's support for quick resumption "OnNow" and offers two power-down states, Standby and Hibernation. In Standby, the information for your computing session remains in RAM and the computer cuts power to the monitor, hard drives and processor. A keystroke or mouse click causes the computer to "awaken" to its former state and you can continue working after only a moment. When the computer hibernates, the content of the memory is written to the hard disk and has to be reloaded when you wake it up, so it takes longer (but not as long as booting up from scratch, and you can resume your session where you left off with the same applications and documents open).

The Power Options settings are in the Control Panel. Here you can select a power scheme, enable or disable hibernation (if you don't use it, you may want to disable it and get rid of the hiberfil.sys file that takes up room on your hard disk). You can also configure what should happen when you press the computer's power button: stand by, hibernate, shut down, do nothing, or prompt you for the desire action. You can create custom power schemes (i.e., specifying at what point the monitor should be powered down, when the hard drives should be powered down, etc.) or you can use the pre-configured power schemes in the settings dialog box. Note that you need to be logged on as an administrator to change the power management options.

Windows Vista further improved the reliability of power management. A new mode was introduced, called "hybrid sleep." It combines characteristics of the sleep (standby) and hibernation modes. The system's state is stored both in RAM and on the hard disk - this decreases the risk of anything being lost if, for example, the power goes out or in the case of a portable, the battery dies completely. Hybrid sleep is used less often on laptops, however, because of the time it takes to create the hibernation file. Vista also reduces the instances of laptops not going into sleep state when they're supposed to because of badly behaved applications. This post to the Windows Vista Team Blog does a good job of explaining changes to power management in Vista:

Now Windows 7's release is imminent, and you may be wondering what's new with power management in the new OS. With a much greater emphasis on energy conservation throughout the tech industry today than when Vista was in the making, Microsoft designed Windows 7 to take advantage of the power-saving capabilities of newer hardware, and continued to focus on making power-saving modes more reliable. A big effort was made to cater to laptop users with features that help extend battery life. For example, less processing power is used for DVD playback, and low battery notifications are more prominent. If you disconnect the network cable, the NIC goes into a low-power state, audio devices reduce power if no audio is being used, and the display (which is one of the biggest consumers of power) dims after a period of inactivity. There are also improvements to Bluetooth power utilization. For more details about Windows 7 power management, download this PDF at

So what's the down side of these energy saving features? As you can discern from the settings themselves, the need for maximum energy efficiency must be balanced against the need for top performance, because you can't have both. Enabling all the power-saving features may result in an annoying computing experience, with a dim display that you have to squint to see, a monitor that turns itself off if you pause too long to think about what you're going to write next, a longer wait to get back to work after a break, and so forth.

Tell us how you feel about Windows power management. Does it go far enough? Does it go too far? Do you set your computer to conserve energy as much as possible - or do you set it for maximum performance? Have you, like many others, had problems with sleep and hibernation states that caused you to stop using them entirely? What new power management features would you like to see in Windows that aren't there now? Do you use the third party power management software that some hardware vendors install on their computers? Have you saved a noticeable amount of money on electricity bills by changing your power management settings? Let us know your opinions. We encourage you to discuss it with other readers in our forums at

Or you can still send email to

Follow-up: The value of free software

In last week's editorial, I discussed the phenomenon of different ways you can (legally) get software at no cost, and whether free software is worth exactly what you pay for it. Quite a few readers weighed in on the subject, with a wide range of opinions.

Kenneth F. was one of the first to respond, and he said, "Since I started using computers, 'way back in 1988, I've used shareware, trialware, copyrighted freeware, public-domain freeware, low-end commercial software, and premium software. The quality of the software has varied hugely, but the closest thing to true perfection has been in shareware ... Still, for my writing work, itself, nothing less than Microsoft Word has been good enough, and in both DOS and Windows versions, too, despite there never having been a bug-free version of either. I've tried the Open Office word processor, and it's inadequate for my needs."

Lara A. spoke from the viewpoint of a network administrator in a large non-profit organization: "I have spent many years evaluating free software trying to find a solution to the paid versions. Aside from one piece of open software called Partimage, which is like Ghost, we ended up going with Microsoft and Adobe Site licenses instead. The reality is the free versions just don't do the job properly."

Bob L. said, "I think the real answer is in the wallet of the user. Some are cheap or frugal thinking that free is a good deal. Those that have been bitten by the lesser than freeware programming know that if you want the better then you have to pay for it. If you need technical support that is 24/7 and not an open forum where you get seventy-one ideas on what to do instead of one call to tech support go for it. I will take the tech support like Sunbelt offers over forum support 10 to 1."

On the other hand, Bob Y. recounts the opposite experience: "For years I have been using freeware with out any problems. I find it meets my needs fully. Now and then I will do a trial software. Most of them I try one or two times and uninstall them. I can search around and get about anything I want in freeware .. For me it's free or not at all."

And it's not just consumers who find value in freeware. Edwin S. wrote, "I am an IT guy at Warner Brothers MIS and have been for the past 9 years. I am in charge of the Software and Hardware support of nearly 400 users and of them 65% are PCs and 35% are MACs. Over the years I have used scores of free apps and there are some that are standouts and a permanent part of my toolbox for many things."

But Bill L. said, "The difference is that people are paid to fix problems and create required features in commercial software. It's their job. Like it or not. In free software you may get a feature you'd like to have, but someone needs to be interested in adding it or you need to provide it yourself. It's difficult for businesses to run on maybe. As an example, ever try installing something on Linux? Something simple like Acrobat reader or Firefox? It's a mouse click on windows. On Linux, it's not. Say what you want about MSFT, but they at least figured out that an 8 year old needs to be able to install software before they can use it."

Kavi M. offers this opinion: "It is by no means true that Freeware programs are of inferior quality. There are dozens of free programs (especially windows utilities) that prove that there are programmers better than engineers at Microsoft. Take, for instance, program launchers. Launching software in windows is too clumsy in all versions of windows. (I would include even Windows 7 in this!). I have been using some extremely useful freeware from the days of windows 3.1 and they have made my life easy."

And Scott B. said, "I haven't paid for software in years. I feel the need to justify every purchase to myself, and most software can't be justified. I used to work in a computer retailer, and noticed that often the software packages we offered to install on a new computer came out to more than the hardware. I wasn't a very good salesman, because I knew people weren't rich so I would point out good open-source or free-ware alternatives. Customers loved me, the boss, not so much."

Art S. compares one free program to another: "Some freeware is only adequate. but Foxit is so far ahead of Adobe Reader that it ain't funny. It's many times faster and does not show up on the US-CERT Cyber Security Bulletin with security holes a tenth as often as Adobe Reader. Of course, Adobe Reader is free, but as a come-on for the full blown program. But there is no excuse for it being so bloated that it takes all day to load."

John G. brought up an interesting aspect: "Freeware is 'good enough' most of the time for me; part of my answer is that all of the computer use I do for myself is not done for gain, which affects the answer - if I did do it for gain, I might buy more than I have. Another aspect is, in some cases, the feeling I have of connection with the author: IrfanView (originally an image viewer, but now does much more, including not just images) being the best example - Irfan (that's his name) will exchange emails with users. In fact I like it so much I paid for it anyway, even though it's free for home use. I feel the same connection with the author of _one_ piece of software I paid for."

Thank you to all who wrote on this topic!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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

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

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Quotes of the Week

At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid. - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature. - Dave Barry (1947 - )

Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy. - J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

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

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

Fully automatic back ups to the "Cloud", and only $5/month for unlimited storage. Nice!

PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:

Registry First Aid 7.0 - New Release Is Faster, Safer and Even More Effective

Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.

Rip DVDs for your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV. Bundle includes video converter too! Try it free!

Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:

Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time. Set it and forget it.

Spotmau PowerSuite Professional 2008: Fantastic! All the tools necessary to fix most common computer problems. Clone and backup too!

 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Is Windows installing updates without your permission?

According to reports referenced in ComputerWorld, PC Magazine and other major publications, some people are finding that Windows XP and Vista are automatically installing updates on some computers even though they have been set to ask permission. One theory is that it's happening because of the June Patch Tuesday, which included a larger than average number of security updates. You can read more about it here:

Speaking of netbooks

They're getting cheaper, and at the same time the specs are getting better. Last year the average price was almost $500 and most had 512 GB of RAM and tiny hard drives. Now you can get a compact machine for under $300 with a GB of memory and a hard drive ranging from 80 to 160 GB - and running XP instead of some version of Linux. Check out this comparison of some of today's offerings from the top hardware vendors:

10 Tips for using System Restore on XP

System Restore is a great recovery tool that was introduced with Windows XP and has been carried over to Vista and Windows 7. It can be a lifesaver if you install a program or make a configuration change that causes your computer to crash or have other problems. Like magic, you can undo the change and take the operating system back to a previous state. Here are a few tips and tricks for using System Restore on XP most effectively:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to use Microsoft Narrator

An older lady who's a friend of mine recently had eye surgery, and she said one of the worst things was not being able to read her web email on her computer (she uses Gmail). She could see, but everything was fuzzy and trying to read the screen gave her a headache. Many people don't realize that ever since XP, Windows has included a built-in Narrator program that can convert text to speech, thus reading aloud to you what's displayed on the screen. The XP Narrator doesn't work with every program - but it does work with Internet Explorer, so my friend should be able to have her web mail read to her. Here's how to turn it on:
  1. Click Start | All Programs
  2. Click Accessories
  3. Click Accessibility
  4. Click Narrator

How to resize the Recycle Bin

If you're getting short of disk space, you might want to decrease the amount of space on the hard drive that's used to store deleted items in the Recycle Bin. It's best to empty it first (after verifying that there's nothing in there that you want to retrieve). Then do the following:
  1. Right click the Recycle Bin icon and select Properties from the context menu.

 XP Security News

Watch out when following links on Twitter posts

Twitter is a popular way to keep in touch with what others are doing, but like any Internet technology, it poses security risks. Followers of venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki found that out the hard way recently, when an automated feed he had set up posted a link that led to the download of a Trojan that can infect both Macs and Windows PCs. Read more here:

 XP Question Corner

Can I install my XP on my new computer?

I have a computer I've had for about four years with Windows XP. It recently stopped working, the hard drive is dead. I have the XP disc. I want to build a new computer myself. Can I install my XP on the new computer? Somebody told me it's illegal and I need a new copy of XP. Can I even still buy a new copy now? Somebody else told me Microsoft doesn't make XP anymore. Please help. I don't want Vista on my new computer. - Elliot M.

The answer as to whether you can legally transfer the operating system to your new computer is "it depends." If you bought a retail version of XP (boxed version), the EULA does allow you to transfer the software to another computer as long as it is no longer running on the old one (as in the case where the disk is dead). But if you have an OEM version of the XP installation disc that you got from the hardware vendor when you bought the computer, that license is tied to that particular machine and you're not allowed to install it on a new one.

You may still be able to find the OS software for sale from legitimate outlets. Amazon has the full version of XP Pro SP2 for sale for $241.99 and Home edition for $187.99. If you are a system builder, it is possible to buy a new copy of XP for system builders. Amazon has XP Pro SP3 for System Builders listed at $129.99 and Home SP3 for System Builders for 86.99.

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

XP SP3 computer using ICS loses network connectivity

If you make configuration changes to a computer that's running Windows XP with Service Pack 3 and uses Internet Connection Sharing on a private network, you may find that other XP SP3 computers using ICS lose their connectivity to the network, and computers that are added to the network can't get an IP address. What's up with that? The problem is that ICS has lost its firewall port exception configurations. There are a couple of methods you can use to fix the problem. Find out about them in KB article 951446 at

Authentication tab missing on NIC properties dialog box after installing SP3

If you installed Service Pack 3 on your XP computer and now you find that the Authentication tab on the property dialog box for your wired network interface card is missing, it's because you need to manually start the DOT3SVC service. To find out how to do that, see KB article 950725 at

 Fav Links

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

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

 Product of the Week

Aimersoft Video Converter: Supports Tons of File Formats and Produces High Quality Output.

Aimersoft Video Converter is the best video conversion software of them all. With software you can easily convert AVI, MP4, AVI, WMV, MOV, MPG, MPEG, 3GP, 3GPP, MPG, ASF, FLV, VOB, WMA, M4A, MP3, etc. Since Aimersoft Video Converter supports tons of video formats you can easily convert video files for iPod, Zune, iPhone, Apple TV, PSP, Xbox 360, PS3, Archos, iRiver, Creative Zen, PMP, Smart Phone, Pocket PC, PDA, Mobile Phone, and others etc. If you need a good multi-media file convesion tool then download this app for a test drive!

 About WXPnews

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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.