Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Keeping your "Antique" OS Up and Running

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 10, #5 - Feb 2, 2010 - Issue #415

 Keeping your "Antique" OS Up and Running

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Keeping your "Antique" OS Up and Running
    • Follow-up: High Tech Animals
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Windows Experience Pack: Something new for XP users
    • Does XP really get better battery life?
    • Microsoft encouraging you to give up on XP?
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to change the default wallpaper folder in XP
  5. XP Security News
    • XP users should update Flash Player now
  6. XP Question Corner
    • How do I get the date displayed in the system tray?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Find out how long your XP computer has been up and running
    • Problem ejecting USB Mass Storage Device
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • MediaWidget

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

Keeping your "Antique" OS Up and Running

A few weeks ago, I ran across a news article about how people are driving their old cars longer than they did a years ago, no longer trading them in for a new model every couple of years. This isn't good for the auto industry, but is no doubt having a positive effect on many consumers' finances.

I've never been one of those folks who cares about having a brand new car. I bought a new Saturn in 2007 and it only has a little over 13,000 miles on it now. I don't exactly drive a lot; working at home helps to keep the miles off the odometer. My last three cars have been Saturns and since GM has killed that line and there won't be any more, I'll probably keep this car until it falls apart.

I come by that attitude honestly. My dad always told me that a car was just getting broken in good at 100,000 miles, and he sometimes drove his vehicles until he'd racked up twice that. We just never saw our transportation as a primary status symbol in my family. In fact, there was a certain amount of pride taken in how long you were able to keep your old car running well.

It's interesting to see the same sorts of attitudes emerging toward computers. Some people are emotionally invested in their systems and in having the fastest, prettiest or most expensive one on the block. Others see them just as workhorses and don't care whether they look nice or have impressive specs or run the latest and greatest software, as long as they get the owner to where he/she wants to go.

Some folks really need to buy a new car every few years because they use their vehicles so extensively. Those who commute long distances or use their cars to travel in their businesses may put tens of thousands of miles on them in a year. Sometimes you need to get a new vehicle because your needs have changed; the little sports car doesn't work for you after you get married and have twins, or a subcompact isn't the best choice if you have to haul large items frequently. Other people are just hooked on the "new car smell" and would prefer to have a brand new Ford than a Mercedes or BMW that's a few years old. People who really care about cars will sacrifice in other areas of their lives in order to drive the one they love.

Our reasons for buying a new computer - or not - can vary just as much. Some of us need to replace our equipment fairly often because we make our livings testing new software, which may not run well or at all on older systems. Sometimes our needs change and we want to run a program that requires more RAM than our old computer's motherboard will support. Sometimes the little low powered laptop that served us fine for checking mail and surfing the web can't handle the video-intensive PowerPoint slideshows and VM demos we now need to be able to present when we go on the road. And some of us are just hooked on living on the technological edge and we're willing to forego other luxuries to have the computers that make us feel like ubergeeks - whether we need them or not.

Our choices aren't always based on purely practical considerations, and maybe they shouldn't always be. Your head might tell you that the sensible thing to do is buy the ugly little hybrid, but that sleek and sexy sports convertible with the motorized hardtop that costs only a little more may be tugging at your heart strings. If you get the hybrid, you might feel more righteous for being "good" and you might save some money on gas, but you also might always wonder what it would have felt like to zoom down the highway at night with the top down and your hair blowing in the wind. In my opinion, everyone who wants one should find a way to own a convertible at least once in his/her life.

And that brings us back to computers. I struggled with a similar dilemma last week when I was trying to make up my mind about which new laptop to buy. My head told me one thing, but my heart was telling me something else. If you want to know how I resolved it, read my blog post at

But for some people (or for the same people, at different points in their lives), the new car dealership holds no attraction. What turns their heads are classic cars, or what some might refer to as "antiques": a beautifully restored '59 AMC Rambler, an immaculate '55 Thunderbird or a big old '47 Plymouth Deluxe with "suicide doors," or for those with really deep pockets, a souped-up'66 Shelby Cobra.

And I know people who have similar feelings for their elderly computers. Although a Pentium III running Windows 95 may only have been around for a little over a decade, in "computer years" it's as least as much of an antique as those mid-century cars. Now, I don't know many people who are still running that combination (although I do know a few) but there are plenty of people out there - probably many of those reading this newsletter - whose Windows XP computers are approaching the decade mark. And for a computer, that's old.

But just as with older cars - whether true classics or just well-preserved "clunkers" - that doesn't necessarily mean it's time to get rid of it. It all depends on what you want it to do and whether you're willing to give up some of the new features (or spend extra to add them) and whether you want to spend a little extra time on maintenance and TLC.

If you want to have all the modern driving amenities like anti-lock brakes and airbags and GPS, some may be difficult or impossible to retrofit to your classic car and others may not work as well as the ones that are built into new cars. Others, such as seat belts or a new stereo system, can be installed fairly easily. It's the same with computers. It's pretty simple to upgrade the amount of disk space in your old machine or buy it a new monitor to make things look nicer, but you might not be able to do anything about the RAM (unless you replace the motherboard, which is like putting a whole new engine in your car). Likewise, you might be able to add some of the Vista/Windows 7 feature set to XP with add-on programs but they may not work as well since they aren't integrated parts of the OS. And there are some new features that you just can't add to the old OS, such as the ability to join a homegroup or run DirectX 11 or some of the more sophisticated security mechanisms in Vista and/or Windows 7.

There is no reason you can't continue to drive an old car or use an old computer or operating system as long as it works for you. And there are many advantages to doing so: you don't have to pay for new hardware/software and there's no learning curve to become familiar with a new way of doing things. You're comfortable with your old car and it feels almost like part of the family. You know where the controls for the windshield wipers and lights are, how to reset the dashboard clock. You don't want to unlearn long established habits. And you know exactly how to perform your common tasks with your old operating system. Why go through a frustrating transition period if you don't have to? You might have to engage in a little more maintenance on some things that are automated in the newer models and you might have to spend a little extra money on "extras" that come built into the newer models, but it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it. Don't let anyone tell you that you're hopelessly old fashioned for sticking with what you know and love.

Tell us what you think. Why do you stick with your old computer: is it purely an economic decision? Do you love the interface and don't want to learn a new one? Are you a little lazy and just haven't gotten around to it? Do you take pride in having a high-mileage system? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forum at

Follow-up: High Tech Animals

Last week, I went way out there and picked a topic that some folks might think is too far afield: how technology is affecting even our pets. Still, it seemed to strike a chord with several readers. And the consensus seems to be that when it comes to pets, generally less technology is better. One reader brought up a "high tech" device that I hadn't thought of when I wrote the article - although I should have, as my cats love it: the laser pointer. This must be one of the best "exercise aids" for animals ever invented, even though it wasn't invented for that purpose.

I was glad to see that most of our readers feel as I do about the "invisible fence" - I could never use a device that inflicts an electrical shock, no matter how slight, even though its advocates swear that the pain is minimal.

Of course, there are some folks who always have to scold me for something. I've come to expect it and would feel lonely without it. One of those readers took me to task for researching breeds to find the right fit for our family; it seems that is "unthinkable" and I should have adopted from the local shelter instead. I beg to disagree. Far too many animals end up in the shelter in the first place because the owners didn't take the time to make sure they had a good fit. I've adopted several pets from shelters over my lifetime, but I lived a more flexible lifestyle then and didn't have two other animals already in the home to consider (one of whom, in fact, came from a shelter) or a husband who can be a little picky about things. For us, it was a far better choice to get a breed with known characteristics that we could be reasonably certain would fit in well and thus have a long and happy life with happy people and co-pets. I don't care about the "papers," but I do care about having a known lineage that makes it much easier to predict temperament and health issues. To me, it's "unthinkable" to pass judgment on anyone who takes a pet into his/her home with the intent of loving it and caring for it and giving it a full, healthy, happy life - regardless of where you get it.

For anyone who's interested in seeing the first movie of the newest addition to our family, check it out at

As always, thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a dog and a man." - Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow." - Jeff Valdez

"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." - Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

"We could have bought a small yacht with what we spent on our dog and all the things he destroyed. Then again, how many yachts wait by the door all day for your return?" - John Grogan

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 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


MediaWidget is the quickest and easiest way to transfer all of your music, videos, photos, podcasts, and more from your iPod to PC. Check out the cool Youtube demo and download the trial here:

Never reinstall your XP again. New technology: easy set-up, no loss of data or applications. The ultimate professional repair tool. Free comprehensive PC diagnostic with every scan, get it now!

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Moving to Windows 7 is Easy! PCMover moves programs, files, and settings from your old PC to your new PC

Search for a driver and you get a ton of Driver Software offers instead. But how do you know which one is good? Try Driver Genius 9.0. Free scan.

Behind on your 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.

Spellchecker is NOT ENOUGH! Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Try it:

 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Windows Experience Pack: Something new for XP users

Just when you thought Microsoft had forgotten all about XP users, here comes a new release - the Windows Experience Pack - that isn't just for Vista/Windows 7 users. It's also available for XP. It contains several goodies that include new wallpapers and screensavers and winks, emoticons and scenes for Windows Messenger. The good news is that it's free. The bad news is that you need to use Windows Live to benefit from it.

Does XP really get better battery life?

Well, that depends. Some of the new laptops designed to run Windows 7 are getting pretty incredible battery times - but if you're thinking about upgrading your existing laptop from XP (or Vista), you should know that some users are reporting much lower battery life with the new OS. But it seems that might not really be the case - instead, users are getting warnings and even seeing their laptops shut down even though the battery isn't out of power. It's apparently related to a problem with the way Windows 7 reads some system firmware. You can read more about it here:

Microsoft encouraging you to give up on XP?

Well, of course they are. And although of course the company wants you to buy their new software, that's not the only reason. In today's world, everyone seems to need to blame someone for every misfortune, and if you fall prey to a hacker's attack that exploits their software, they know they'll be the ones who take that blame. And unfortunately, even those tech experts who love XP for other reasons have to admit that it's just not as secure as its younger "siblings," Vista and Windows 7. But there are ways you can increase its security - for instance, by installing the latest version of IE (v8) instead of sticking with IE6 that came with the OS.

 How To: Using XP Features

How to change the default wallpaper folder in XP

By default, Windows XP looks in C:\Windows for the wallpaper images that it uses to populate the list of available backgrounds in the Display Properties | Desktop dialog box. Wouldn't it be handier if you could have it look in a different folder, such as your My Pictures folder where you probably save your favorite images? Well, you can - with a simple registry edit. Here's how:
  1. Open the registry editor
  2. Navigate to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion
  3. In the right details pane, double click the value WallPaperDir (if it doesn't exist, create a new string value and give it that name)
  4. In the Value data field of the Edit String dialog box, type or paste the path to the My Pictures folder (or whatever folder you want Windows to look in for wallpapers). For example: c: \ Documents and Settings \ *your user name* \ My Documents \ My Pictures
  5. Close the registry editor
You should not have to reboot to apply the change; you can now open the Display Properties | Desktop dialog box and you'll see the images from your chosen folder in the list.

 XP Security News

XP users should update Flash Player now

Earlier this month, Microsoft issued a security bulletin urging XP users to update the Flash Player that comes with Windows XP, if they haven't already done so. The old version of Adobe's Flash software suffers from multiple security vulnerabilities and this affects XP even if you've installed SP2 or SP3. Adobe itself no longer supports Flash v.6, and since Flash is one of the most commonly exploited desktop applications, it's important to make sure you're using a more secure version. The current version is So why would anyone still be stuck back with v. 6? It's something that can easily happen if you reinstall XP - which many folks do if they have problems with the OS - and don't automatically update all of the programs.

 XP Question Corner

How do I get the date displayed in the system tray?

I have been running XP on my computer for years. I got a bad virus and had to reformat the hard drive and reinstall XP, which was no problem. But now I only have the time showing in the tray instead of the time and date like I had before. It shows the date if I hover over the time but I didn't have to do that before. How do I get the date back? I don't remember where I set that way back when. Thanks! - Mitchell N.

You can customize the clock display in the notification area (system tray) in several ways, including having it display the date along with the time. Click Start | Control Panel and open the Region and Language applet. Now click the Formats tab. Here you will find the settings for date and time formats; for example, you can change from A.M./P.M. format to military (24 hour) time. At the bottom of this page, click the Additional Settings button. This opens another dialog box; click the Date tab. Now select the date format you want to use (depending on whether you want to see just the date, the day of the week as well, etc.). Click OK to apply.

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Find out how long your XP computer has been up and running

Maybe you have your system tweaked so perfectly that it never goes down. Maybe you haven't rebooted in such a long time that you can't remember when you did it last. Want to be able to brag about your system's uptime? There are several ways you can find out exactly how long it's been since the last restart, including installing third party utilities. But you don't have to go to all that trouble; you can use a simple command line tool. Find out about it in KB article 555737 at

Problem ejecting USB Mass Storage Device

If you have a USB storage device connected to your XP computer and you click "Safely Remove Hardware" in the system tray, sometimes you might get an error message telling you there is a problem and that the device "Generic volume" cannot be stopped. You're advised to try stopping the device again later. What's up with that? This happens if there are open handles for files on the USB drive are being used by another problem. So what do you do? See KB article 555665 to find out:

 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


MediaWidget is the quickest and easiest way to transfer all of your music, videos, photos, podcasts, and more from your iPod to PC. Transfers all of your critical iPod content back onto your PC and into iTunes.

Whether your computer crashed, died, or was stolen - or if you simply bought a new computer, or want to share your iPod content with a friend - MediaWidget can help. Media Widget is an easy to use iPod transfer utility designed to help you get your iPod contents off of any iPod and back into iTunes. And, unlike many other competing products, can help you put content from your computer back onto any iPod. This allows you to share your iPod music, photos, videos. Try it today! Watch You Tube Demo here.

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