Wednesday, July 1, 2009

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

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Vol. 3, # 78 - Jul 2, 2009 - Issue # 87 
 If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

  1. Editor's Corner
    • If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!
    • Follow-up: Virtualization Fever
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Should Vista Ultimate buyers get a special deal on Windows 7?
    • Microsoft considering names for web-based Office applications
    • Social Network Overload?
    • New Windows 7 Blog
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to make a program always start with administrative rights
  5. Vista Security
    • Is 64 bit Vista more secure?
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Flash won't work with 64 bit?
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Automated solution for resolving sound problems after installing service packs
    • Can't install a device driver in Vista using the installation program
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • Windows 7 pricing announced
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • Aimersoft Video Converter: Supports Tons of File Conversion Formats For iPhone and More!

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Editor's Corner

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

Let me say right up front that yes, I know the title isn't grammatically correct so please don't write to tell me that. It's a common colloquialism, at least here in the southern part of the U.S. And I couldn't help thinking about it when I read a ZDNet post today about how the final release of Safari 4 is causing Mac users lots of headaches, even though the beta was robust and reliable:

Of course, we Windows users are not strangers to that phenomenon. I don't know how many times I've had the experience of finding that a "new and improved" version of a piece of software didn't work as well as its predecessor. I'm not talking here about subjective things like deliberate changes to features (for example, many people complained about the new "breadcrumb" Explorer feature in Vista because they were used to the old way the Explorer path worked in XP). I'm talking here about new versions of programs that crash or that actually remove important capabilities that were there in the old version.

In fact, I had a minor case of this when I moved from the Windows 7 beta to the release candidate. In particular, two of my devices that had worked right from the get-go with the beta were missing in action when I installed the RC (both were clean installs to new partitions, both on the same computer with no hardware changes). My sound card and TV tuner weren't recognized by the RC and I had to go out and hunt down the drivers and install them. I got everything working, but it wasn't as smooth and quick as it had been with the beta, when everything "just worked." There was also an old program (Corel PhotoPaint v10) that I had been able to install and use on the beta, but which wouldn't run on the RC. Of course, we now have Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 to fix that problem.

Sometimes you get a mixed bag when you install a new version of software. I remember how thrilled I was with the tabbed browsing that was introduced in Internet Explorer 7 - but how frustrated I got with the fact that the darn thing crashed so often, something that had rarely happened with IE 6. This was fixed in the IE 8 beta and I had the best of both worlds. But once again, they broke what they'd fixed - the final release of IE 8, although not nearly as unstable as IE 7, still crashes much more often than the beta did.

I remember once, a long time ago, when I took my car to a certain mechanic and although he fixed the problem I came in with, almost immediately a different part failed, one I'd never had any trouble with before. My dad, who was a pretty good mechanic in his own right, happened to come to town and gave it a look, and told me that it looked as if someone had deliberately tampered with the part that was now failing. Of course, that could be a lucrative scam for an automotive mechanic, a way to create more business for himself. But software vendors don't really have the same incentive to intentionally break things, since they don't usually charge for subsequent fixes. On the other hand, I guess if you're the suspicious type you might wonder whether they do it so they can charge you for tech support calls.

Software - especially something as complicated as an operating system - is very complex, consisting of literally millions of lines of code. Vista is estimated to have over 50 million. It's not hard to see how making changes with the purpose of making something better can end up making something else worse.

In fact, many individuals and companies hold back on installing services packs for that very reason. A service pack is just a collection of updates and fixes, designed to make it easier for users to install than a bunch of separate patches. But unfortunately, it's not unusual for a service pack to cause more problems than it solves, and it can be more difficult to determine exactly what component of the service pack is at fault.

When Microsoft released Service Pack 2 for XP, they followed it with a long list of "known problems" - most of them related to third party programs. It's frustrating when you install a service pack that's supposed to make your computer more secure or more reliable and then you find that some of the applications you use on a daily basis don't work anymore. It's even more frustrating if those were applications for which you paid good money. Usually, the application vendor releases a new version that works with the service pack, but sometimes it takes weeks or months for that to happen. In the meantime, you're stuck in the position of either not being able to use that app or rolling back (uninstalling the service pack) and foregoing whatever benefits it offers.

You never really know whether an update is going to break things until you install it. Since hardware and software configurations are different, the same update that went smoothly on a friend's computer might wreak havoc on yours - or vice versa. Service packs, like other software, are tested extensively before being released to the public, so certain issues, such as incompatibility with a popular third party program, are likely to be documented. However, there's a good chance the service pack hasn't been tested on a computer with the exact hardware and programs that you have. It's still a good idea to check out the "known issues" before installing a major service pack.

That means you might not want to install the service pack as soon as it comes out. On the other hand, if the service pack patches a major security hole or fixes a problem that you've struggled with, it may be worth it to be an early adopter. The good news is that there are several ways to undo what you've done if you find that the service pack causes problems for you. Service packs can be uninstalled through the Add/Remove Programs functionality or you can use System Restore to take your computer back to a restore point made prior to installing the service pack.

Sometimes you might not get the choice of whether to install an update or not. If you have Windows Update set to install updates automatically, a troublemaking update may get installed before you're aware of it. Even if you've set your computer to download updates but ask your permission before installing them (as I do), you might not be safe. There have been reports of Windows XP and Vista installing some updates without warning, even though the users had set Windows Update to notify them first:

When you think about it, it's really pretty amazing that software vendors are as responsive as they are to problems with their products. I believe they really do want to make the software as good as possible - if only so more people will buy it. But sometimes they go a little overboard and fix things that really weren't broken. And that's not good for the software companies or for the users. Tell us what you think. What's your favorite example of an update or new version of software that "fixed" something that wasn't broken? And on a related note: to avoid "bloat," should software makers replace old features with the new ones, or should they keep the old features as options (a good example of this is the ribbon interface in Office 2007 that replaced the old menus)? Let us know your opinions - join our forums at

Or you can continue to send email to

Follow-up: Virtualization Fever

In last week's editorial, I wrote about various types of virtualization technology, with an emphasis on the type of application virtualization that you can do with Microsoft's Windows 7 XP Mode and VMware's Unity.

Bob Y. said, "Yes, I use virtualization to give an OS and/or applications a "trial run" before I install them on my real computer. So far, I have been very happy using VMware as my virtualization tool. Its cost has been well worth it. Some of the scenarios described earlier seem rather complicated for unsophisticated users. While it may cost more, the "keep it simple" rule is so very important."

And MG wrote, "I've been using VM Workstation product for years (since 4.x, $500/ea) - the only way my computers touch the internet is via virtual machines. It's easy to isolate critical machines (physical or virtual) in this manner and just set casual use machines to 'revert to snapshot' as a default on startup. Email included - just let the email 'store' be on shared folders from the host. You can also easily build entire test networks w/o physical switches, etc. (and their speed limitations)."

As always, some readers offered alternatives to the "Big Two." John B. wrote: "In the discussion of virtualization especially on personal PC's or workstations, there is a plethora of Virtual software. One up and coming application is Virtual Box by Sun Microsystems. It's free (for now) and for performance, compatibility, features, I think it's better than Microsoft's Virtual PC but maybe not as cutting edge as VMware."

In response to my mention of the cost of VMware Workstation, Rob B. pointed out that "Workstation IS expensive, but VMWARE Server is free and works very happily on XP, Vista and Win7. I use it all the time. VMWare has another really nice freebee - Converter Standalone Client which will create a VM from a running computer. It runs on Win7, and can remotely create vm's of other machines on the network, such as SBS. The current version doesn't convert Win7 (well my Win7 machine), but I'm sure that will change soon."

Tim G. brings up the security implications: "Computer crime is now virtual as well. Just imagine virtual Zombie PC's, bot-nets, etc. Hackers can now carry out their devilish deeds on a virtual PC and when they are done simply destroy the virtual file that they are operating in and move on with no trace left behind. I've heard stories of hackers carrying out their tasks in virtual environments on compromised systems that they have gained control of. When they are done the simply securely delete the virtual files and no one will ever know they were there. Typically they are running the virtual machine on a compromised system that they are accessing via another virtual machine. Virtual proxies, virtual IP spoofing... the list goes on."

Thank you to all who responded about this topic!

'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

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Quotes of the Week

Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster. - Quentin Crisp

Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I might not always like being taught. - Sir Winston Churchill

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth - anonymously and posthumously. - Thomas Sowell

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


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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

Should Vista Ultimate buyers get a special deal on Windows 7?

Many computer users who shelled out extra for the Ultimate edition of Vista are less than happy with the Windows 7 pricing announcement. A large portion of the dissatisfaction comes from the fact that when Vista was released, Microsoft promised Ultimate users would be getting lots of "Ultimate extras" - an idea that fizzled; only a few were released and they didn't live up to expectations. Now, to add insult to injury, the company is offering deals on Home Premium and Pro upgrades - but not Ultimate. Should Vista Ultimate users get a steep discount on Windows 7? Read more here:

Microsoft considering names for web-based Office applications

Hoping to take some of the market share now occupied by GoogleApps and other web-based office productivity services, Microsoft will soon be launching their own Office web apps that will include web-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. A community technology preview of the service is expected to become available in July. Meanwhile, they're still looking for a spiffy name and several are already under consideration. Which do you like? Read more about the name game and find out what the possible names are here:

Social Network Overload?

Are you becoming overwhelmed by all your social networks, spending your day flitting from your Facebook page to your Twitter page to your YouTube site? Centralized management is all the rage in the business environment and now you can apply that concept to social networking, too. GizaPage lets you view and manage all your profiles from a single web page. It's brand new and still pretty basic, and there seem to be a few kinks to be worked out (not all of my SN sites worked the first time) but the idea is a good one for busy social networkers. Check it out here:

New Windows 7 Blog

I've been asked by Microsoft and Amazon to blog on Amazon's End User site, so starting this week, I will be posting a weekly feature about Windows 7 to

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to make a program always start with administrative rights

Some programs, especially utilities, need administrative rights to run correctly (or at all). This isn't the best programming model, but if you have programs like that and you need to run them on Vista, you can set the properties to allow the program to always run as administrator. Here's how:
  1. Right click the shortcut icon for the program.
  2. Select Properties.
  3. On the Shortcut tab, click the Advanced button.
  4. Check the box that says "Run as administrator."
  5. Click OK.
Now when you use the shortcut to launch the program, it will run as administrator. You'll need to click Continue at the UAC prompt (unless you've disabled UAC).

Vista Security

Is 64 bit Vista more secure?

Short answer: yes. The 64 bit version of Vista has a number of security mechanisms that are lacking in the 32 bit version. For example, 64 bit Vista implements Data Execution Prevention at the hardware level (32 bit implements DEP through software) and enforces a requirement for digital signatures to install drivers and software that access the kernel. 64 bit Vista also uses Address Space Layout Randomization, which causes system files to load into different locations in memory, making exploits more difficult. Just remember that "more secure" doesn't mean "absolutely secure." You still need to run anti-virus, anti-spyware and other security software to protect your 64 bit OS.

Also note that although it's not a good security practice, it is possible to disable the driver signing requirement in Vista x64. You can find out more about Windows driver signing requirements here:

Vista Question Corner

Flash won't work with 64 bit?

I recently got a new 64 bit computer and when I tried to play a video on YouTube, I got a message saying I don't have Flash installed. So I clicked to install it, and I got a message saying "Adobe Flash Player is not supported for playback in a 64 bit browser!" I can't believe this. Why doesn't Adobe make their player work with 64 bit IE? - Andy C.

According to Adobe, they are planning support for 64 bit platforms in an upcoming release of Flash Player 10. In the meantime, you can install the 32 bit version of IE (or another browser) on your 64 bit system, and Flash should install and play properly in it.

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

Automated solution for resolving sound problems after installing service packs

If you have problems with your computer sound after installing Service Pack 2 on Vista, you're not alone. But Microsoft has released a KB article that contains a "Fix It" button, which automates the process of troubleshooting and resolving the audio problems. You'll find it in KB article 948481 at

Can't install a device driver in Vista using the installation program

If you try to install a device driver using its installation program and are unable to do so, it may be because the installer program was not designed for Vista (for example, the driver uses an executable file based installation program or requires administrative rights). You may be able to install the driver by running it in compatibility mode and/or with administrative credentials. Or you can try manually installing the driver's .inf file through Device Manager. For instructions on all these methods, see KB article 927524 at

Windows 7 Preview Corner

Windows 7 pricing announced

We reported a couple of weeks ago on the Best Buy memo indicating Windows 7 upgrades would be sold for $49 (Home Premium) and $99 (Professional). This past week, Microsoft announced their full retail pricing strategy, which includes those prices for pre-orders from a number of retailers, including and Microsoft's own web store. As for full versions and different editions of the OS, the good news is that Home Premium will go on sale at a lower price than Vista Home Premium did; Pro and Ultimate are about the same as Vista. If you're in Europe, you can only get the "E" version that doesn't include Internet Explorer. Read more about the pricing here:

And if you're still not sure which edition is for you, see this at-a-glance comparison:

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

Aimersoft Video Converter: Supports Tons of File Conversion Formats For iPhone and More!

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. Get the right tool to help you fill your iPhone or other multi-media player chock full of video. Reasonably priced for such a super feature rich program. VistaNews readers can grab the free trial here now.

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