Saturday, September 30, 2006

New ActiveX exploit out...

When SANS-ISC goes YELLOW, I try to pay attention.

They are reporting that the "WebViewFolderIcon" ActiveX setslice control exploit has been found in the "wild" and is spreading.

What does this mean? Well, if you hit certain websites (currently in the .biz) and haven't mitigated your machine, you could "at best" get infected with just a root-kit. At worst, that rootkit could do all kinds of bad mojo on your system--and any resources stored there.

Bad Mojo, kiddos.

No patch from Microsoft yet, but they have some initial info on it.

So what to do?

1) Some AV vendors are already picking up the exploit, but not all yet, at this time. Be sure to check your that your AV files are up to date.

2) SANS-ISC recommends running one of their killbit tools to unregister the control. Good advice from the security professionals at this early stage.

They have kindly prepared two versions, and exe and a command-line version.

I recommend the exe file. Run it and it unregister's the elements. Run it again and it puts them back into service. Do this before installing any future patches Microsoft may release.

3) Stop using Internet Explorer (which utilizes ActiveX) at least until a patch is released. Get Firefox.

4) Be careful not to browse to any .biz sites (but this may spread past that not really helpful advice, I know).

Link to O'Reilly chapter on ActiveX controls and killbits. Interesting background info reading.


Fall Home PC Cleaning....

I have some important things to do this beautiful Gulf-Coast Saturday morning.

But first, I need to perform my (at least) quarterly PC survey and cleanup. Let me use my home pc as an example:

Burning Cookies and Malware

First I run Safer Networking's Spybot Search & Destroy (free), making sure I have all my current updates applied.

Findings: Nothing to see--no malware, spyware or baddies (of course!); just eight persistently nuisance-causing "cookie" vendors listed. Hitbox is the worst with 19 different cookies alone! These guys are present after most scans. I'm tired of dealing with them.

Response: I go into Firefox, select "Tools", "Options", "Privacy" tab. Under the Cookies section I select the "Exceptions" button. One by one, using the detail information from Spybot, I enter their root web addresses in, clicking "block" after each one. This should prevent them from installing cookies in the future. Interested in burning a batch of cookies in your Internet Explorer 6.0 oven? This page is fantastic and clear: Blocking Unwanted Cookies with IE 6.

Optional "SuperNuke" responses: 1) Download, run and apply SpywareBlaster's (free) protection on your system (supports both Firefox and IE). 2) In Spybot, click the "Immunize" shield on the left. Click the "+" at the top to "immunize" your system and block bad products (currently at 12658 items). Also enable the "...permanent blocking of bad addresses in Internet Explorer". You can always unselect these options if you find "lockdown" too restrictive.

Next, I run Lavasoft's Ad-Aware SE (free), making sure I have all my current updates applied. This time I run the full system scan, longer but more thorough than my weekly smart-system scan.

Findings: Skipping over the benign MRU (most recently used) findings, I head directly to the two additional objects found. More tracking cookies, two to be exact. I add these to my Firefox cookie block list and delete them.

Done with baking cookies.

Finally, I run a full WindowsDefender (beta/free) scan on my system. All clear.

A full pass with each of these different malicious software scanning tools is sufficient for me.

Running with Auto-Runs

Now I move to my auto-run entries. These items are files and registry settings that are designed to launch applications, settings, and services when you bring up your operating system. Under normal circumstances, most of these are helpful and critical items to the healthy operation of your computer. Sometimes, baddies and "optional" helpers migrate into here bringing unwanted services and processes onto your system.

Being a sysadmin who specializes in removing baddies from computers, I first run a scan of my registry and settings with Merijn's Hijack This (free) tool. Not for the feint-of-heart or noobies without guidance--you can tank a system if you delete something incorrectly. The on-line HijackThis log file analysis tool can be a helpful place to understand the findings. My scan log looks good. I move on without making any changes here.

Round two on the auto-run's turns to Sysinternal's AutoRuns tool (free). Reviewing the "everything" tab provides me with the full list of what's set on my system. What is nice about AutoRuns is that you can uncheck an entry to disable it, but not delete it (yet). This let's you test your system and if you make a mistake you have a better chance of restoring it back. I disable some videocam "diagnostic" tools, a Quicktime task launcher (qttask.exe), Microsoft's Fast Find tool, a few "updater" apps that silently run in the background calling home to the mothership. I disable some shell (right-click) menu items for compression programs I rarely use, but don't want to uninstall completely. And leave my services alone.

Again, I have a pretty good handle on what should and should not be here. What about the average Joe? AutoRuns is nice in that if you right-click an item, you can select the "Google..." item and it will launch a browser window to Google using the executable as the search term automatically. Do your research and make your decision.

Remember kiddos...if you don't know what you are doing. Disable (uncheck) an item. Don't "delete", I must repeat!

I do a system reboot at this time before proceeding further, just to make sure I don't complicate things in additional cleaning steps.

Sysinternal's AutoRuns is the best app there is in this field, hands down (in my opinion). But if you want others, try a-squared HiJackFree 2.0 (free) or CodeStuff's Starter (free) application.

Virus Check

I now run a full manual scan of all my drives/partitions using AVG-Free. Yes, I have daily scans set, but I'm burning time and want to be sure. All clear.

Bonus Tip: Don't forget to scan any flash-drives or portable data-storage devices while you are at it! Collect them up from your family members and run scans on their contents as well. Good habit to be into.

Application Audit

Using either SAFARP (free) or Utool (free) I perform a review of the applications I currently have fully installed on my system. I remove any apps I haven't used in quite a while and likely will not be using. I make note of those that are questionable that Lavie or Alvis may still need, and discuss with them. If I get the green-light, I pull them off too.


Having installed programs that aren't used means they aren't often updated. That could offer a vector for infection. And I like reclaiming the drive space I free up.

Along those lines, I know which applications we use most. I launch each one, check the version number, then check the vendor's website to verify if I have the latest version, downloading and updating software as needed.

If you are using Microsoft Office, using Internet Explorer, browse to Microsoft Office Online Download page and check for any critical security patches and updates as well. Running Windows Updates doesn't catch the ones needed for Microsoft Office. You may need to have
your setup disk handy to validate some patches and updates.

Run Belarc Advisor (or) System Information for Windows (SIW) and print out the results for archival/logging purposes.


I verify and download/update if needed the latest JAVA version. It's a good thing to keep this up to date.

Miscellaneous House Cleaning

I personally empty out all the TEMP folders under the various user profiles on our system. If you don't already know what I am talking about or where I mean, you shouldn't be playing in there manually. Here are some GUI based tools that can help:

CCleaner (free) - Take a minute to look over the options before using. Uncheck some things...(you probably want to keep your remaining cookies for example...) Figure it out and read the help-file.

ToniArt's EasyCleaner (free) - Similar program. Get to know it and use as desired.

RegSeeker 1.45 (free) - Similar program. Learn it. Use it.

Make a backup of my registry: ERUNT (freeware)

Advanced: Using these, I was also able to clean up some various abandoned registry items, etc.

Possibly OverKill: Run DupKiller (free) and CAREFULLY review and delete any duplicate files on your system. Advanced stuff as you might break something important. Run OrphansRemover (free) and CAREFULLY review and delete/fix any broken shortcut links on your system.


Several options: PowerUsers can pick up a copy of Symantec's GHOST product ($) to image their drive(s). Also available are Replicator (free) to back up files/directories/drives and DriveImage XML (free) solutions.

If nothing else, figure out what critical data files/folders you need to keep and burn it to a CD or keep it on a special flash drive just for that stuff.

Drive Maintenance

Run an "Error Checking" process on all of my drive/volumes.

Defragment my drives (if they need it or not).

Run DriveManager (free) and HDTune (free) to check the performance and S.M.A.R.T. health status of my drives.

Windows Updates (Custom)

When all is said and done, I pop up Internet Explorer and browse to the Windows Updates website. This time I select a "Custom" scan for updates, and select any optional hardware drivers that may be offered and need updating. If I were to find any High Priority updates needed, I'd install those also.

Final Dusting

I shut down the system. Carefully remove the cables/cords where plugged in (grab some masking tape and label the cords if you can't plug them back in your sleep). Go outside and remove the case cover.

Using canned air (or if you got the $$ -- get a Metro Datavac. This mini-model is an awesome home TigerDirect or some local electronics or office supply stores carry them as well -- just don't try using a leaf-blower!) give the pc innards a long and complete blow-out of all the dust. Pay special attention to blasting the dust from inside your power-supply unit, your fans, and your CPU heatsink. Also be sure to send a steam of air under your systemboard.

While you are at it, carefully but firmly push on the cable plugs, etc. to make sure they are seated firmly.

Put the case back on and hook the cables back up.

When you are done, your system will (hopefully) perform a bit better and be more secure.

That should cover the majors...if you have any additional suggestions...drop 'em into the comments!

See you in the skies,

Why I take home PC security seriously...

Saw this post from the ISC-SANS handler's diary today.

A Report from the Field

Summary, ISC-SANS reader Kevin Shea has off-hand discussion with kid's first-grade teacher regarding a VML security exploit for Windows machines and that a patch was available.

Teacher calls husband to check their systems. Husband checks and finds PCs had been infected by a trojan and hackers used that to obtain information to drain the family's back accounts.

The bank replaced the funds and I can only hope the machines got a thorough software cleaning. If it were me, I'd run a full DoD wipe of the drive(s) and reload the system from the ground-up, clean-from-scratch just to be certain.

Related topics:

Example: (e-mail) Greeting Card Scam - Know why I almost always delete "e-card" messages without clicking further? Read on.

Email Spyware: (or) How HP used email spyware in their corporate shenanigans). Helpful background info and how to protect against it.

Analysis of the IM Worm: "Hartworm" - Focused on the MSN Instant Messaging Network via a "virtual card" hoax, Security advocate and ninja wordsmith PaperGhost points out some highlights on this bad boy. More analysis if you are curious over on the Spywareguide blog.

Internet Security Threat Report Volume X, September 2006 - Yes, it is Symantec's job to make all kinds of scary predictions and analysis of threats on the Web. Unfortunately, they are pretty accurate in their assessments. Pretty technical report, but worth reading if you are into computer security trends. And it does have some pretty charts and stuff for the kiddos. Don't have the time to read the full Symantec report? Read's writeup: Symantec: Cyber Attacks Increasingly Target Home Users for Financial Gain

...I encourage you to take your home PC/laptop security seriously, too.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Love, Hate and Firefox

My frustrations continue.

More times that I can remember this week I have been in the middle of trying to post some comments and then Firefox got "wiggy" again with the apostrophe key not working, but deciding to launch the Find feature. I would have to stop and backtrack, but find the arrow keys failed to work. Then I would end up having to stop typing contraction words (can't) and just type "cannot" instead. Ughh!

Or I would be trying to copy and past a URL link into a comment form and then the paste wouldn't work after working fine for the first two copy/paste events.

So I would go to my Start, Run and type clipbrd.exe and run the XP clipboard window and it would work fine again.


Work laptop, home laptop, home pc. Didn't matter. All have been hit.

So I just got so fed up.

I saved my bookmark.html file with my tons of bookmarks and uninstalled Firefox.

Then I dumped every Firefox/Mozilla related folder I could find. Even the ones hidden in the system folders under my user profile. Deleted. Gone. Nada.

Ridded my desktop and launchers of all the shortcuts.

I didn't have the patience to try to clean out the registry.

Then I went back and did a fresh and full install of Firefox 2.0 RC1.

The only extensions and themes I loaded were Sage (manually updated to install in the 2.0 Firefox build) and the Outlook 2003 Blue theme. That's it. Nada mas. I restored my bookmark file and I went to work.

And for a while it seemed fine. No problems. Everything working fine.

Until about the fourth link I added while composing some comments over at the TechBlog. Bammo. I tried to type a contraction and hit the apostrophe and got the Find feature again. Bummer. It's kinda hard to restart Firefox when you are in the middle of composing a comment. No saves buddy. Work around it or give it up.

So I uninstalled Sage. And the problem was gone, but eventually came back.

So I uninstalled the Outlook 2003 Blue theme since that was the only other thing "extra" and the problem seemed gone. So I added Sage back and didn't seem to have a problem.

But I just cannot yet accept that a Firefox theme would cause intermittent issues with the copy/paste feature and wigging out the apostrophe key periodically. Something, somewhere is a crazy bug. There just has to be.

So back at home I have uninstalled my favorite Outlook 2003 Blue theme and am using only the quirky but fun CloudGnome theme. I have only a very small handful of extensions running, all 2.0 compatible (except Sage) by default, and I am waiting for the bug to strike again.

I'm not going to give up on Firefox yet. Not by a longshot. But it is frustrating.

More Useful Firefox related finds this week:

Firefox customizations (Notes) - A deeply documented collection of Firefox notes by David McRitchie. Amazing. He has compiled his personal notes on customizing our favorite browser, problem solving, and dealing with extensions.'s Tips and Tricks page - Right from the source, these contain specialized "hacks" primarily of the user.js and userChrome.css files. Not sure all is v2.0 compatible.

mozillaZine's Problematic extensions page - Documenting known extensions that cause unwanted side effects in Firefox or leak in an unwanted way into other extensions. Good stuff to know. Are any of your extensions on this list?

mozillaZine's Standard diagnostic - Firefox - Want to troubleshoot Firefox issues like a pro? This is the page to know.

See you in the skies,

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Happy 15th Anniversary, Dearest Lavie.

I love you Lavie, Forever Bride.

Thank you for daring

to say

"I will"

before our friends and family.

What a whirlwind of memories

and events

these fifteen years have carelessly blown our way.


we have turned tears into joy,

sadness into laughter,

grief into joy.

I am a better man...

daily and forever,

because of your magic.

Come with me, hand in hand,

and stitch

the changing leaves of life

into a quilt called Our Own

to cover

and warm us more.

In whispers and shouts,

in deeds and with honor, I say

"I will"

too and again.

Just for you.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Update Overload!

Got home ASAP to load up these new gems! Christmas has come early!

Pick number one: Microsoft's Windows Live Writer (Update) is now available.

My version says it is now actually 1.0 (141). Great. I haven't had time to play with the updated features, but it is launching dramatically faster on my machine than the previous version. I like that.

If you haven't tried it yet, and are a blogger, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. Most blog platforms are supported.

I don't know if I blog any better using it, but I enjoy the interface quite a lot and it seems to have lots of additional features once you get digging into it. via CyberNet News.

Pick number two: iTunes (updated). My version is now sitting at v7.0.1.8 It is supposed to be helping out with various issues. I like this update a lot, despite it's past problems with stuttering on my machine that the previous version never exhibited.

My iTunes Radio station playlist:

1) The Green Lounge

2) The 1920's Radio Network

3) SmoothLounge

4) SecretAgent Radio

5) radioioWorld

6) radioioAmbient

7) Radio Junior

8) GrooveSalad on SomaFM

9) DroneZone on SomaFM

10) DeepHouse

11) Datempo Lounge Radio

12) BassDrive

13) Japan-A-Radio

14) #Musik.Raw

15) #Musik.Lounge

Eclectic, isn't it?


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Movie Picking....

I saw a post that the Leonard Maltin 2007 Movie Guide was released while cruising on Downloadsquad.


Since when did DownloadSquad post book release notices?

Oh. I get it. It's made for download to your Smartphone, PocketPC and Palm OS platforms. A mobile movie-guide while you are in the video store. OK. Maybe cool.

That got me nostalgic.

Back in the heady days of a brand new service called "analog cable-TV", my family was an early adopter. The thirty or so channels this initial service offered opened up for us was overwhelming to us! How could you choose which movie was worth watching with all those choices? We weren't a "TV Guide" buying family and the local paper's TV grid wasn't too useful either.

How indeed...?

We eventually found a big paperback movie-guide book (about two VHS tapes thick) at the bookstore. It had very brief summaries of almost every (non-foreign) movie released to date, along with a handy "star" rating system. We would look at the daily paper tv grid, then we would check out the summaries and stars to figure which was the best bet for the night's viewing.

Man, we were sophisticated back then.

Today, with the hundreds of movies available on cable/dish networks (not to mention pay-per-view or the Internet) it is almost no big deal in informatively picking out a movie to watch. Summary listings of the movies are almost a standard feature on the dish services and even analog cable has a TV-Guide grid channel that provides details on movies.

Add to that the Google, Yahoo TV grids, MeeVee or even the local's tv grid and selecting a quality movie is nothing but easy. The hard part is agreeing on the pick with your spouse or child. Do some added research on the IMDB if you remain curious. And MeeVee allows you to pick keywords and genre types to be notified for, so you don't even have to scan the grids if you don't want to! Or, bookmark your favorite cable channel home pages and just follow their own guides.

How times have changed....and that's not even discussing selecting from the number of DVD's and VHS tapes we own.

And what happened to the aerial broadcast antenna we had on the side of our two-story house once we got cable? Well it remained in place as "backup" if the cable ever went out. Otherwise, my bother and I would climb onto the roof and slide down it "fireman style" on slow summer days (when Mom was too busy to keep up with what we were doing).

I miss those days. Alvis just couldn't relate to that memory.

"Explain to me again, how you slid down the cable on the side of your house again, Dad?"

"It was a pole."

"The cable was on a pole?"

"No, the cable was on a wire into the side of the house like ours now. We had a pole that had an antenna as well."

(Alvis looks puzzled.)

"You know, Alvis, an antenna. With all these metal rods sticking out and everything. Up in the air higher than our 2-story house."

"An antenna for the TV? With metal rods? Mom, did you have one of those antenna things growing up?"

"Yes we did, dear."

"Oh Alvis, we also had to turn it every so often to get a better signal. Gran would watch the TV from inside the house and then we would spin the pole it was on while he yelled at us though the open living-room window or use our walkie-talkies."

"You had a strange childhood, Dad."

" have no idea, Alvis."


Cooking in the Kitchen with Blue Lotus and Nicki

I enjoy cooking.

Lavie lets me do the grocery shopping and prepare most of our meals.

I used to do a lot of baking, but with time scare, I haven't had the time to really "bake". Cutting pre-made cookie-dough and popping it in the oven doesn't quite count in my book, even though it satisfies the girls in a pinch.

We have a local "mega" grocery store just blocks away from our home, but the produce quality, well, sucks. It's kinda dingy as well, but the prices are low so because of that and it's proximity, I usually just do all my shopping there. Our Wal-Mart also has a grocery store inside, but I'd rather face a hoard of zombie dead than hit the Wal-Mart crowds.

So, this afternoon I'm going to try a "new" Signature Kroger's store a town away (15 min drive) and see if the prices and quality beats the one in our town. If so, I guess the extra-drive time will be worth it to make it a weekly adventure.

What's in store for the menu besides the usual weekly Valca dinner meal rotation?

I'm going to try to bake up (from scratch) a batch of Pecan cookies from a recipe by Blue Lotus. This girl can cook, Tokyo style. I'm amazed at the photo's on her site.

Nicki from The Japan Years crew blogs a site of her own, Nicki's Kitchen that has some delectable recipes. Which one to add to our list for the week....

Black Beans and Rice -- always a favorite after learning to love it at a local Cuban restaurant (now sadly closed).

Bourbon Pepper Stake -- Yummers!

Bean and Bacon Soup with Cheese Toast -- bring on Fall!

or do I go with a BLT Pasta dish? Hmmm.

I noticed Nicki also posted a new recipe for Purple Cabbage, Apples and Bratwurst. YUMMM! BRATWURST! A meal for a Prussian immigrant's descendant!

I make a kinda-not-so-much-similar dish we lovingly call in the Valca home "Claus's Pot-of-Plenty". Next time I make it I'll have to write down the recipe and share. It's a fall/winter favorite.

Now Lavie's telling me she wants strawberries and angel-food cake as well.

Box or scratch? What do you think?


IT Cheat Sheets

When I attended public elementary school , they had these quiz books that had the answers covered in a light-red overprint. When the exercise had been completed, the teacher would pass out these "wands" that had a transparent-red film on them. We could then hover the wand over the red-out answer to magically reveal the answers! How cool was that!

So we quickly learned a neat hack: At lunchtime we would scour the playground for bits of red-film candy wrappers (like wrapped up those hot cinnamon candies) and we could use those to reveal the answers pre-wand handout. Oh, we thought we were so clever. Of course, if you got busted, it was a trip down to the principal's office.

I've previously posted about a Google cheat-sheet, but got digging and found quite a few more nice ones. There is quite a lot of cross-linking in there, so pick your favorites and bookmark those.

Just don't get caught by the teacher!

IT Cheat Sheets

CSS Cheat Sheet - via ILoveJackDaniels (more of his awesome cheat sheets)

Tech Cheat Sheets: 66 Cheat Sheets and counting.... Nice navigation design.

Our Favorite Cheat Sheets - covering subjects such as software applications, networking, web design, keyboard shortcuts, browser shortcuts, MS Office cheatsheets, micellaneous subjects, Net speak, operating systems, programming and scripting, Google helps.

Cheat Sheets site lists and more Cheat Sheets
Mozilla Thunderbird Cheat Sheet - very nice and professional looking from Lesile Franke.

Firefox Cheat Sheet - also from Lesile Franke.

Gmail Quick Reference Sheet - pick your format.

Google Cheat Sheet - This is the best one I've seen yet. (Updated link 10/30/06)

Cheat Sheet Roundup - Over 30 Cheatsheets for developers

HTML, CSS, PHP, and More Cheat Sheets

Blogging Cheatsheets for Blogger, TypePad, WordPress and Movable Type


Pictures of the Day

One of the sites I HAVE to stop in at on a daily basis is Sushicam's Picture of the Day.

SushiCam photographer Jeff Laitila provides a stunning picture, big or small of daily or showcase life in Japan every day. It gets the honor of being my very first (top-most) RSS feed in my feed reader.

Another photographer I admire who publishes pictures frequently is John Watson and he maintains his site lightproofbox with a stream of wonderful pictures. He has a lot of other fun sites as well such as Photodoto (photography blog), FlagrantDisregard (life with kids) and fd's Flickrtoys (tons of fun things to do with flickr).

So with these in hand, I went looking for some other quality POD'ish (picture of the day) sites:

Wikipedia:Picture of the day

Japan-Guide's Picture of the Day

Mainichi Daily News (Japan) Photo Journal

Mainichi Daily News (Japan) Photo Specials

NASA Image of the Day Gallery

National Geographic Photo of the Day

Not quite POD but cute and fun: Little People - a tiny street art project

I know there are a lot more such sites out there. What are your favorites for providing high-quality frequently rotating images?


Tweak Vista UI?

My biggest peeve with Vista so far (besides my tendency to keep deleting the Recycle Bin instead of emptying it) is with the shortcut arrows for shortcut icons.

Granted, I'm running my different Vista builds in Virtual PC 2004, but still. Even after I have tweaked my screen size and display resolution, after I have adjusted the icon size...the arrows seem to cover up about 1/4 of the original icon. Yuck!

On my XP systems, I run TweakUI and have set the shortcut icons to display as itty-bitty tinnie-weenie arrows. Much more Icon, but still a small indicator as to the source of the icon link.

Unfortunately, there isn't a VistaTweakUI tool from Microsoft out...yet (if ever).

I did find these Vista tweaking tools that look promising...even if they are still in developmental stages.

TweakVista Utility - (free/beta) allows the user to adjust the UAP settings, IE 7 Search engine, DWM (Display Window Manager), some path environment tweaks. Kinda light-weight right now, but nicely interfaced and a great taste of what may be to come. Worked fine on Vista in Virtual PC 2004.

Tweak VI - (free/beta/$$-subscription) - Interesting and polished product that allows some basic tweaks in the free version, and more advanced tweaks in the paid version. Supports paid subscription "plug-ins" as well. Doesn't work on Vista under Virtual PC mode. Darn.

VistaBootPro 2.1 Beta (free?) - Allows power-users to make changes to the boot interface and loader configuration. Not for the faint of heart, folks...

--Via APC Magazine: Vista tweak tools already piling up

More old-school -- tweak-it-yourself -- links:

TweakVista - Windows Vista Tweak articles.

Optimize Virtual PC 2004 Images (good a place as any...)

If you are running Vista, you can also hold down the control-key and use your scroll-wheel to resize the icons to a higher degree than choosing the sizes via the right-click menu from the desktop. This works in Virtual PC as well, BUT doesn't appear to work if you don't use a scroll-wheel mouse. I have a track-ball and it DOESN'T work for this icon resizing tweak. Bummer. Attempts to change the icon size via the properties, advanced desktop option menus don't seem to do a thing. They stay the same...Hmm... More exploration needed here.

Meanwhile, if any gentle readers can give me a registry-hack or lead on how to reduce the size of those shortcut arrows on my shortcut link icons, I'd be grateful.


Touch and Go at Slashdot...

Submitted a tip to the release of Vista RC1 Build 5728 to Slashdot Saturday morning.

Eventually the Slashdot gods smiled and posted my submission early today to the front page. Nice!

They changed a link reference (for clarity?). I had originally submitted a link to NeoSmart's outline of this build for details, but they chose to include an Ars Technica link instead. That's cool. I like Ars.

Funny though, I thought I would be more "excited" about hitting Slashdot, but I'm most proud of getting the tipoff over to Dwight Silverman's local TechBlog instead. Not only did he respond to the tipoff faster and provide updates on the post-developments, but I have a deeper sense of helping our tech "family" over there.

Although, getting a submitted story on Slashdot isn't quite as cool as being the Slashdot story like Jim Thompson recently had the honor of being....

I did notice one tiny thread if this should be considered RC1 since it is part of the RTM tree. I'm not a Microsoft employee, but my desktop of this build has "Windows Vista (TM) RC1 Evaluation copy. Build 5728) in the bottom right corner. That was the result of a clean to some degree Microsoft must still be associating this build with RC1.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kid Stuff...

Like most kids, I spent a great deal of time in my youth assembling plastic models.

One of my first was watching/helping dad put together a model of the battleship Bismark (I think). All the small parts were so cool. Later I graduated to doing them on my own. Great globs of haze-inducing plastic cement, paints scattered across the desk. Dried brushes I forgot to clean. Great stuff.

I never really liked doing model cars and trucks. The engine work and suspension systems just were boring. My love was for World War Two fighter planes. My favorite ones to make were P-51 Mustangs. I could make them in my sleep and had the painting/weathering effects down to an art. I also did a massive B-17 bomber. It was so fun and cool to do. Alas, none of them survived with me to adult hood. All lost in the moves I've made growing up.

Nowadays, I don't think I'd have the patience to do a model again. Alvis and I occasionally pick up a metal car kit for her to put together, but they are so pre-painted that it's kinda like just assembling a toy car. Not quite the same thing. And the liquid brush-on plastic glues and paints and stuff. Model building today is as much an art as assembly science. While I wait for Alvis to pick out her model kit, I just stare amazed at the paints and tools collection in the local hobby shop. Wow.

I was delighted to find this site the other day...Fantastic Plastic.

The webmaster, Allen Ury, has a collection of some of the rarest, and strangest plastic models (air and space) that I have ever seen some going back into the 1920's and earlier. I spent an easy hour pouring though the models he has posted to his site (and the associated history of them).

His garage is a sight to behold.

Makes me itch for my tube of plastic glue again...

Another fond memory I have is digging under our living room couch growing up and hauling out Dad's collection of coins. He had many, many books of coins he collected as well as some odd coins like from the New York subway system. It was very extensive and always fun to look at on a slow Saturday morning. He still has them, and a while back gave Alvis a few giant bags of loose change to sort through and fill up some coin-books of her own.

The ones that most fascinated me were the steel pennies that he had collected. I had never seen or could even imagine a steel penny in circulation, but there they were, neatly saved in the books.

Lavie still sets aside any wheat-penny's she finds--but they are getting harder and harder to come across. We somehow get a few Canadian pennies as well from time to time.

Alvis has a small collection of foreign coins. As Lavie works for an international company, many of the folks she supports are making trips back to Europe and Asia and return with loose change. Somehow Lavie ends up getting a fair amount of it and brings it back home to Alvis. Alvis's uncle, my brother, also has been very generous in helping her young collector's eye stay busy.

My brother has taken up the coin-collecting challenge and decided to specialized in a few very focused coin subjects to collect. One of the most fascinating are mint-errors. He has an extensive collection he has amassed. Growing up, the only place I could ever see such things were in the coin-books Dad had. Now we can see them right up close and they are miracles to behold.

My late maternal grandfather began collecting Hot-Wheel cars late in his life. Growing up his stories seemed to reflect a lack of any childhood at all. So it is no wonder that in his twilight years he would try to capture a childhood he never had. He fell in love with all things Hot-Wheels. Mom and the rest of the family would buy him Hot-Wheels by the tons. He would root over a bin for some time checking them out and collecting the ones he was missing. The early one he opened up and kept loose, but later he would keep them unopened in the original boxes. Alvis collects them as well and has quite a box full (only a few are unopened....). When he passed away, he left her his collection. I'm sure it will remain a cherished part of her life for a long-time to come. Every time I pass a toy isle and see them, I am reminded of him, fondly, playing with his toy cars and beaming with pride at his collection.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this site Dave Elliott's Guide to Hot Wheels Errors.

Good thing my brother and grandfather didn't know about this. Collecting error mint coins is hard enough, and Hot Wheels...well, put the two together and I don't know what could happen.....

Somehow I find this whole collecting of mistakes thing comforting...makes me hope that we can continue to find value in things that would otherwise be undesirable and worthless because they aren't "perfect". And in their ugly and permanent "imperfection" find something rare and valuable instead.

Something Zen-like or "mono no aware" about it all...but then, that's another post.


Friday, September 22, 2006

The Stormtrooper Effect

I've been seeing the Stormtrooper Effect in action all this time and never really realized what was going on.

Thanks Wikipedia!

Claus's Corollary to the Stormtrooper Effect:

A Stormtrooper's effectiveness is magnified 1000x if he is the only one in Japan.

1) Playing Pachinko,

2) Running around with maids,

3) Assisting with loitering cat removal.

4) Giving presentations at Microsoft,

5) Pushing a stroller (with child),

6) Practicing escape-pod ingress techniques,

7) Hitting the local stop-and-shop,

8) Commuting into the Death-Star via mass-transit rail,

9) Scoring prime seating at the Ramen house,

10) Getting great service at the hair-salon.

However, Princess Leia in her harem girl outfit can still manage to take down a Stormtrooper, fully armored and holding a blaster.

Amazing.....when will they ever learn?

(All Stormtrooper caught-in-action links via the fabulous!)


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Virtual Vista RC1 - "Re" Vista-ed

Get it? Re-Vista-ed, re-visited...? ....nevermind....(sigh)

So here I have been playing with Vista RC1 in a number of different Virtual PC 2004 sessions on a newly released business-class model Dell laptop (XP Pro), a (I think) higher-end consumer Compaq laptop (XP Home), and a mid-range older Shuttle desktop system (XP Home).

I've done some tweaking and surfing and here are some new updates you might be interested in.

Dealing with the Vista RC1 ISO

I have been using Daemon Tools to mount ISO's "virtually" for a long time on all my systems (2000 Pro / XP Home/Pro) and have never had an issue. I use the 32-bit flavor of it. Haven't tried the 64-bit offering. Dwight Silverman posted a comment that when he tried it on his system, some unpleasant things occurred....Hard to say.

Another alternative you may want to try is Alcohol 120%. I used this software in the past and found it very polished and great. Only drawback was that it is trialware and not freeware. It is another alternative.

While poking around in the Alcohol Soft forums, I found this post that announces that they are offering Alcohol 52% in a free version that has " limitations on this version, other than the ability to create only 6 virtual drives. [The] retail version still supports 31 virtual drives. Remember you can not run Alcohol 52% if you have Alcohol 120% installed on the same drive. This version of Alcohol 52% is for private, non-commercial, single home computer use only.The license is provided personally to you and for that reason it does not allow you to make any duplicate (copy) to be sold, borrowed, assigned, leased or transferred." I haven't tired Alcohol 52% but this might be a great freeware alternative to either Daemon Tools (freeware) or Alcohol 120% ($$). (Nice outline of the differences between the 52% and 120% proof versions!)

Ed Bott wrote a post as well Working with ISO files that lays out IsoBuster and CDmage (as suggested on a MSDN page) that seems to suggest those tools can be used to mount ISO's as images also. I couldn't find how to do it after a good part of a day trying/reading the Help guides. If anyone knows, I'd love a tip. I frequently use IsoBuster and love it. I can't make my pleasure and satisfaction in their product known well enough. It's fantastic. CDmage was a nice find as well.

Why do we need to jump through these hoops to mount the ISO in Virtual PC 2004? (Assuming you don't want to just burn a DVD of the Vista RC1 ISO...)

Remember, Virtual PC 2004 can mount a "real" physical disk and it can also mount an ISO image of a disk as a "virtual" disk cannot read ISO images over 2.2GB. Why not? I don't know....ask Microsoft...

So, choose your method of dealing with the Vista RC1 ISO accordingly.

Can I try to install Daemon Tools or Alcohol 120% on Vista RC1?

Daemon Tools--Not really and probably shouldn't try according to this Daemon Tools Forum thread.

Same seems to be the case with Alcohol 120% as well for now.

Some think it is a Konspiracy! Moving on....

Powering up Vista RC1 in Virtual PC 2004

So once I got it running on all the systems, it was still "kinda" slow for real usage. What now?

Well, I went back to the unpacked setup files of Virtual PC 2004. In there is a sub-folder titled "Laptop Hotfix". According to the corresponding Microsoft KB article 889677 it helps with getting Virtual PC to respond after bringing the laptop/desktop out of hibernation mode. It installs on the host system (not the virtual session). So I put that on all the machines for good measure. Performance--no change.

Next I bumped up the RAM setting in the virtual pc settings on my Vista RC1 file as high as I could get it to take. That maxed out around 650ish RAM before it balked. Small help.

Finally, I decided to risk everything and try installing some of the beta "Virtual Server" add-ons that were released for earlier versions of Vista. This was the ticket! Yes, that's right. I decided to live dangerously and install some add-ons, 1) not specifically released for Virtual PC 2004 and 2) not even specifically released for RC1 version of Vista. Know what? I'm glad I did!

Read the Virtually Vista post FINALLY: Virtual Machine Additions for Beta 2 are available on where to go and how to get the Microsoft Virtual Machine Additions for Windows Vista Beta 2. If you have stuck with me so far, you've probably already gotten your Windows Live ID account when you picked up Vista RC1. Use that to log into the site, and join in to participate in the Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 Beta 1 program. Now you can download all the goodies. Once on the page, go to Downloads link on the left. First one I tried was the VM Additions for Visa Beta 2.

I downloaded the file, unpacked it, and found the Addition file in my Program Folders list. I renamed the old one in my Virtual PC / add-ons folder, then copied this new one into it, then followed my previously posted steps on installing this Virtual Addition.

It installed, it complained about 3 services that were running that it didn't like and wanted closed. I was able to end two of them in the Services Console window, but the third running service (Windows Explorer--the GUI shell???) I couldn't end. So I eventually clicked Ignore and it installed. Vista rebooted, and installed it again on the reboot. I think I had to "Ignore" again, anyway it installed and after one more reboot, was back up. Virtual Vista RC1 performance was noticeably snappier on all my systems that I did this on.

I was even able to match the screen resolution of Lavie's laptop, then pop the Virtual PC window into "full size mode" and when I showed Lavie, she really thought I had loaded Vista "real-time" onto her laptop. Performance was that good (though still not rocking-fast/great). Your mileage on this may vary, of course.

What broke in Vista RC1 by using this unsupported add-on? Well, only thing I could tell was that now the shared drive folder I set up to transfer files between my "real" and "virtual" pc's was now displaying an ass-ugly unattractive icon instead of the original pretty one. Also it reports that the shared folder is "disconnected" even though if you click into the folder anyway, it clearly is still connected and you can still copy files back and forth in it. Hmmm. Nothing else harmed so far (on the surface anyway) that I can tell.

Since that turned out well, I downloaded the full Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 Beta2 (32-bit) package onto my XP Pro machine (since it won't go through an install on XP Home). I ran the setup so I could extract the latest Vista supported Additions package that is supposedly included in this one). I then found the Additons file, copied it into the appropriate Virtual PC 2004 program folder, then uninstalled Virtual Server 2005 (don't need that much firepower). Finally I went through the same installation steps (with balks at the three running services again and subsequent reboots). It took, same issue with the network folder. Couldn't tell any performance gains or I personally can't recommend you experiment with using this VM Addition pack.

John Howard says to uninstall previous VM Additions first before putting on a new one. (Oops! better go back and do that over...see if that helps!)

Should you try this? Can't say. You decide. It did make enough of a performance boost on my Virtual Vista systems I'm keeping it on. Fooled Lavie good.

I'd at least try using the VM Additions for Vista Beta 2. If you are kind nervous, just make a copy of your current Vista RC1 Virtual PC files. That way if you don't like it, just delete the one you played with, and restore the old ones. Instant imaging! One of the benefits of using virtual systems!

Vista Tips, Impressions, and Useful Links

Tip #1 Rebooting Vista RC1 in Virtual PC can take a while. So.....instead of "shutting down" Virtual Vista, just shut it down in Virtual PC instead, and choose the option to save the current state. It will write the status of your virtual session when it closes. Next time you want to play...just restart and Vista will be right back up where you left it...kinda like a virtual hibernation. Saves a ton of time.

Tip #2 Are you getting tired quickly of the constant security permission requests Vista is presenting you? Turn off Secure Desktop: "In the Administrative Tools menu, select Local Security Policy (you'll get the security prompt). In the left pane of the console, expand Local Policies and click Security Options. Scroll down in the right pane to the item labeled "User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation" and double click. This policy is enabled by default; click Disable to turn the behavior off." (Courtesy of SunbeltBlog)

Tip#3 Still confused about Aero Glass, Vista Standard, Vista Basic and Windows Classic GUI effects? Ed Bott posts a link to Long Zheng's awesome comparison post that visually and clearly illustrates the differences.

Computer Zen dude Scott Hanselman vents his frustrations with Vista Beta 4. Nice background review. Vista Reliability and my Tolerance for Pain

Scott also details how ReadyBoost (hook a FAST USB drive up to your system and leverage it for extra system RAM) and how it works with Vista. Interesting....

shell:revealed The Microsoft development team responsible for the XP/Vista GUI interfaces (shell) are up and blogging. It's a wonderfully refreshing peak into the working of the eye-candy team.

Additional Virtual PC 2004 blogs and useful linkage...for the curious

Someone Else blog - (Robert Moir) has a new post on Vista RC1 on a Mac, as well as this useful post archive category on Computers - Virtual Machines with lots of well written suggestions.

While we are still talking about Robert Moir. he has this wonderful FAQ on Virtual PC 2004 that must be bookmarked by anyone toying with Microsoft Virtual PC. Lots of great links, tips and tricks.

Jonathan Maltz has way too much time on his hands. He's documented an impressively large listing of various operating systems that do and do not work on Virtual PC 2004.

Megan Davis is a technical writer at Microsoft. She has a blog with the catchy title: The Soul of a Virtual Machine. Virtual Server is a kissing-cousin of Virtual PC. While much more technically based, there are a number of good articles here.

Virtual Machine Downloads - on Useful list of links and related files/topics.

Michael Swanson has some useful posts regarding Virtual PC 2004. Check out his blog as well.

Finally, there are some useful tips here on Tuning Virtual PC Performance. Not too heavy to read. If you are really getting into this Virtual PC thing, check the page out.... (via Windows Networking)

Vista RC1 and VMware

No, I haven't forgotten about that other darling of virtualization...VMware.

It can be done. Seemed to take some work according to this VMware forum thread.

Tim posted a comment in this Virtually Vista post that he found it to be (generally) smoother than in Virtual PC. posted a tip for setting up the VMware configuration .vmx file video settings to a better screen resolution so Vista RC1 won't hang up in the setup process under VMware.

Finally, for you German speakers out there (or those clever enough to use a web-translator), Tipps, Tricks, Tweaks..rund um Windows website has a post "Windows Vista RC1 unter VMware installieren" which translates (roughly) to "How I got Vista rockin under VMware--with screen-shots." Well...not really, but that's a good summary....I couldn't write it any least not in German...

Claus Valca's thoughts on Vista RC1.

Love it. Looking forward to it. Hope they get all the needed hardware drivers supported for it before it gets released...mighty impressed so far...both as a home-user and as a sysadmin.

Gute Fahrt / Reise!


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Trojan or Not?

Last night I was playing on Lavie's laptop, showing her the finer points of Vista RC1 (Virtual PC session).

I had installed AVG-Free on it (which went just fine, thank them very much), and after installing a new theme in Firefox 2.0b2, I restarted Firefox and AVG alerted me that it had found Trojan horse PSW.Generic2.ILX.

Yikes! (All this was going on in the virtual session of Vista RC1.

The file in question was xpicleanup.exe located in the Firefox application folder.

Filename: xpicleanup.exe
Discovery: Trojan horse PSW.Generic2.ILX
File size: 66.11 KB (67700 bytes)
Healable: No
Status: Infected.

Did I just fall victim to a bad bait-and-switch theme install?

I dumped the file and the application. Rescanned. Clean.

I reinstalled the Beta version of Firefox directly from the developer's site. Bam. AVG alerted again.

What's up?

I was kinda leaning to it being a false-positive, but not sure.

I did some quick Google searches that let me to believe that the file was valid, but no other reports of it being reported as a Trojan.

Today I went to work on my desktop system.

Yep. AVG scans on the file on my desktop system also alerted on the file. I hadn't done any Firefox updates on this one, so I was pretty curious if this was indeed a false-positive alarm.

Program version 7.1.405
Virus base: 268.12.5/450
Release Date: 09/18/2006 3:20:00 PM

I dropped in at Grisoft's AVG-Free page, but didn't find any info there about how to submit a request to check for a false-positive.

Next, I logged into their AVG-Free Forum. A search seemed to find one other individual experiencing the same thing. Based on that post, I:

1) Uploaded the suspect file to to test "on-line". The results of feeding it through their 27 different scan engines came back clean. (bookmark this site! Great for testing a suspect file!)

2) Zipped the file up, passworded it, and emailed it to virus "at" with the technical details and zip password. (9:47 am)

3) Posted my information (so far) to the AVG-Free Forum under a new topic post. (Dat's the Rulz Dere Man!)

4) While waiting for some response, uploaded the suspect file to like the forum Moderator recommended in the previous post I had reviewed in the forums. Results came back clean from 15 scan engines...except for AVG's which confirmed what my local version of AVG was reporting.

5) The Moderator responded to do what I had already done. And reminded me not to post a new topic into another's thread (which is why my first post had been deleted). Rodger-dodger, chief. Won't try that again. Scout's promise.

6) Sent an email to ISC-SANS handlers just in case they were interested. (They have posted about AVG false positives before...)

7) Ran some errands. When I got back, I had an email from AVG Technical Support in my in-box that they sent back to me at 10:07 am. Reported that they confirmed that it was a false-positive and would be issuing a revised DAT update soon. What was that response time? Twenty minutes? I'm sure they already had been working on this, but still...that was a darn-fast response to a customer report!

8) Updated my Forum post with the new information. Posted a comment over in the TechBlog.

9) An ISC-SANS handler responded to me via email that they (AV vendors) have had problems in the past with components of the Nullsoft installer engine before--might be related...interesting tidbit...

10) AVG Responded. Got a new DAT update pack from AVG. AVG-Free Program version 7.1.405, Virus base: 268.12.5/451, Release Date: 09/19/2006 2:45:00 PM. Scans on the xpiupdater.exe file don't alert anymore.

Cleaned up all the alerts from my virus-vault (had to disable my XP System Restore to remove them--then re-enable it again).

Mischief managed. Grisoft/AVG again prove to me just how responsive and serious they take their customer's needs--even the free-loading ones like me!

Whew. So much for a day off from the office.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Installing Vista RC1 - Virtual Style

OK kiddos. Hold onto your hats. I've got an afternoon to burn, and I'm going to share my time with you by showing how to put Microsoft's Vista RC1 on your XP system, virtually.

If I survive this, then I'll do a follow-up post soon on my initial impressions of Vista RC1.

For now--let's just say I am very impressed...and leave it at that. (Oh yeah, and Lavie wants the final release version on her laptop already....)

Mandatory preface: This has worked fine for me on three different systems (2-laptops, 1-desktop). I haven't hurt or broke anything...but you might. Proceed at your own peril. Also, this isn't really a how-to on using Virtual PC. I might cover that down the road...just be patient and it will be OK. (Oh yeah, and to get in/out of a virtual PC screen hover over the window and click your mouse to transfer control/focus into the virtual session. To get out, hit the RIGHT-ALT key. The one on the right-side of your spacebar. That releases the mouse/focus to your "real" session. You can change that setting in the options....

Why install Vista RC1 in a virtual session? Well, like me you may not have a spare pc sitting around you want to sacrifice to the Microsoft gods. But you do want to see what all the who-da's about. This is a great solution. will run slower and you won't have the Areo glass visual effects under Virtual PC...but darn...I'm impressed with how the eye-candy looks even without Areo. (Well, that's not fully correct...see this explanation.)

One last note. I started to post the screen-captures in the blog, but it got to be too much work. I have a "contact-sheet at the bottom of the post for an overview-click to get to my flickr set for the whole set. Also most of the steps have links to the corresponding screen captures as well in this guide.

Ready? Let the flight begin....

Minimum Requirements

Host OS System: XP (Home/Professional)--yeah you could use others as well, but this is primarily what I have.

RAM: Lots of it....At least 1GB. More is better.

Honking Big hard-drive: Well, really, at least 20GB or so free space. No you won't use it all, but it's good to have available.

Processor: I'd recommend about a 2Ghz processor on your host system.

Time: About an Hour, maybe more.

Step One - Preliminaries:

Download and install Microsoft's Virtual PC 2004 (free)

During installation, if you are using XP Home, it will warn you that it isn't certified to run on that OS. Keep trucking. It's working fine on both my XP Home systems. It is really supposed to be for XP Pro (which I also have it running on) but I haven't had any issues at all under XP Home.

Download and install DaemonTools (free)

This is a virtual drive emulator. Basically it allows you to "mount" ISO images virtually to your system. So you can load the Vista RC1 DVD ISO file you are going to download as if you had the actual disk, but without having to have it physically. It is really cool software. I use it all the time. Just be careful during your uninstall. You may not want to install the sponsored toolbar (which they nicely allow you to de-select that option). Take your time.

Why do you need this? Doesn't Virtual PC (VPC) already support capturing of ISO images? Well...yes...but...See it doesn't support the ISO size of Vista RC1. So you won't be able to mount it "normally". You will need to use Daemon Tools to mount the ISO as a virtual DVD drive letter, then mount that drive in VPC. Or, if you just don't want to mess with this, download the Vista RC1 ISO, then burn it to a DVD, then mount that physical drive. Your choice....but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sign up for a Windows Live account. (More details here if you are confused.) During the process you should be provided with a Vista RC1 licence key. Copy/Print/Save the file! This allows you to install and register your copy on up to 10 different pc's.

Download Vista RC1. (You may get a download link directly as part of the sign-up process. My direct links came via email.) I used the 32-bit edition. On my home cable broadband, it took about an hour or so. (3GB'ish). I seriously recommend using Internet Explorer to do this stuff, and also recommend installing and using the ActiveX Download Manager.

Note: If you choose to burn your ISO file to DVD, Microsoft recommends using a 1x or 2x burn speed. That might take a long time, but I lost two DVD's trying to burn it at work under 6x and 8x speed. They bombed out. The lower speed worked great.

Step Two - Create your Virtual Vista hard-drive:

You should be able to run with the defaults, except for RAM.

From your Start, Programs list, find and launch the Microsoft Virtual PC icon. You should be presented with the Virtual PC Console.

Select "File", then "New Virtual Machine Wizard."

When the wizard appears, click "Next",

Use the "Create a virtual machine" radio button selected, click "Next",

Give your creation a name. I used "Vista RC1", (this is to create the .vmc configuration file)

Browse and select the location where you want to save it. (Where you have the free drive space.), click "Next" when done,

Leave "other" as the operating system, click "Next"

For Memory, click the "Adjusting the RAM" button, then run it up to at least 512MB. More is better if you have the RAM. Don't go too high, though, or it will complain. Click "Next",

Click to use "A new virtual hard disk" option, click "Next,"

Give your .vhd file a name and location to use, click "Next",

Click "Finish".

Now it should be listed in your "Virtual PC Console"!

Step Three - Mount your ISO image:

Method A. If you are using Daemon Tools:

Right-click on the Daemon Tools icon in your system-tray.

Hover your cursor over "Virtual CD\DVD ROM", then over "Device 0" (make a note of the drive letter), then over "Mount image".

Browse to find the Vista RC1 ISO file you downloaded and select it. Click "Open".

If auto-play is enabled, you should see a Vista Installation splash-screen. CLOSE THAT OUT! We don't want to install it on our "real" system!

Return to the "Virtual PC Console" window, and click the "Start" button for your virtual pc you made.

A black screen should appear, you should see some virtual BIOS stuff, then it should fail.

On the File menu, click "CD", then "Use physical drive [x]" where x=drive letter of your virtual drive in Daemon Tools.

Click in the black window, then hit the spacebar. If you did it correctly you will be presented with a "Windows is loading files..." screen. And your off to Vista RC1 installation heaven!

Method B. If you burned the Vista RC1 ISO to DVD and are not using Daemon Tools.

Place the burned Vista DVD in your DVD ROM drive (if it isn't already there).

If auto-play is enabled, you should see a Vista Installation splash-screen. CLOSE THAT OUT! We don't want to install it on our "real" system!

Return to the "Virtual PC Console" window, and click the "Start" button for your virtual pc you made.

A black screen should appear, you should see some virtual BIOS stuff.

If you did it correctly you will be presented with a "Windows is loading files..." screen. And your off to Vista RC1 installation heaven!

Step Four - Vista Installation.

Not too long after (depending on your hardware specs.) you should see some crazy-beautiful colors. Finally you will get to the real fun!

1) Pick a language.

2) Enter your Vista RC1 key.

3) Accept the terms. (Note in the EULA it says this version will expire on 05/31/2007).

4) Select the Custom (clean install) choice. (like you have a choice here...double-click it to select.)

5) Select your drive (it's the virtual one...don't freak out) The default size is 16GB, but that works out to about an 8GB physical virtual hdd file. Maybe larger if you install stuff into your virtual Vista.)

6) It will install to your virtual hard-drive file. This can take a patient.

7) When done, it will come to a black/gray screen. This can take a while to get patient.

8) Finally you will see the pretty green/blue colors again!

9) It will finish up the installation...and reboot again.

10) Now you will see a black screen with the new flashy progress bar.

11) You should see a beautifully colored Vista circle logo. Pretty!

12) Pick a user name, password if you want to. Pick your user account picture. Pick an initial desktop image if you want...

13) Name your new baby!

14) Go with the "Use recommended settings" option. Double-click to advance.

15) Pick your time-zone. It should have the date/time picked up automatically!

16) It says "Thank You!" and gives you lots of "feature" promo screens to look at.

17) You then get your login page!

18) First time on, it will prepare your desktop.

19) During this process, it will change to a Windows Classic like look. It scared me at first, but it eventually runs back up to the Vista Areo effects. I think this is happening as it scales the graphic effects quality to the best available.

20) You will finally get to a pretty desktop!

21) You must select the Network location. I picked "work" on my work pc's virtual session and "home" on my home sessions. I'm sure there are some technical differences here. I haven't dug in to figure them out. You also have a "Public" location option as well. Note: I didn't have any issues on my Dell laptop or my home Shuttle pc system. It took 5 reboots to get it to finally sense the network connection on Lavie's HP notebook. Not sure why. Use the default Virtual PC setting (physical adapter) for the network card for best results (in my experience at least).

22) You will get a details view when done. Nice.

23) Doing actions now in Vista require granting system permission to execute. This is an "enhanced" security feature. I like it, personally. But if it gets too frustrating, you can turn most of the settings off so it will just do what you request without confirming.

24) Network and Sharing Center (check out the address bar). Like the new default format? I do. Seems more intuitive than all the paths in previous versions.

25) Final Desktop! (well before we personalize it). Like those honking big icons? Neither do I. We will change those in a bit.

26) Security Center must be dealt with. Vista firewall--on. Auto-updates--on. Malware protection--on. Virus-protection--nope. I decided to not run AV on this one. You can change the setting so it doesn't pester you about this. I did neatly and successfully install AVG-Free on one of these and it didn't have any issues at all. Worked great! Nice move AVG. Others like MicroTrend and Avast! also have Vista-ready versions.

27) Welcome to your personalization center for Vista. I kinda like it. It is, again, intuitive. How did I get this? Right-click the desktop and select "Personalize". Easy.

Installing Virtual Machine Additions

Now that the system is for all practical purposes "installed" we can run the Virtual PC "additions". You might get some performance gains here. I recommend doing this. I also understand that Virtual Server (free) 2005 has some Vista-specific "additions" you can use as well, but you have to install Virtual Server first to get them. That's overkill for this post.

Click on your Virtual PC toolbar, and select "Action",

Then click "Install or Update Virtual Machine Additions"

It will autoplay in your Vista.

Run the setup from within Vista.

When done, Reboot Vista.

Personalize Vista.

From here on out it's your game. But here are some basics you will probably want to do:

1) Note the lack of Internet Explorer. Microsoft's compliance with not forcing their web-browser on you? Wonder what Dell will place on their OEM install of Vista. Bound to be pretty cluttered....

2) To make the Vista desktop icons smaller, right-click the desktop, choose "View" and pick your happy meal: Large, Medium, or Classic (small). For more fine-tuning, if you have a scroll-wheel mouse, hold down the CTRL key and scroll the size up and down. Clever!

3) Right click the desktop, choose "Personalize" and you will get the Personalization window again. Select the "Change Desktop Icons" link in the top left corner.

4) Select the "system" icons you want. I like (my) "Computer", my "User's Files", "Recycle Bin", "Internet Explorer", "Control Panel". Pick all or none. Your choice. Yes. You can now choose NOT to have the recycle bin on your desktop. Finally!

5) I didn't do a screen capture, but Virtual PC/Vista runs initially in a default 800x600 screen size resolution. I changed that to 1024x796 size in the "Personalization" page. That fits nicely in my even-larger size LCD screen size resolution setting.

Other Vista Highlights:

1) Check out the "Start" menu. Nice.

2) The Programs listing.

3) Windows Update window.

4) It took me a while to find how to launch the "Sidebar" I've heard about. First try--use Help. Second try--under Program list--Accessories, Windows Sidebar. Duh.

5) Windows "Computer Management" console (for the geeks). (note Sidebar running on the right-hand side.)

6) System Information.

7) Activating Windows. Fine.

8 ) Checking out how Vista RC1 rates on my pc/Virtual PC. Just a 1.0. Oh well. This is a nice feature, however.

9) Customizing the Start Menu. Options, options, options....

10) Internet Explorer 7. I'm changing the default search bar engine to Google. Very intuitive and easy to accomplish.

11) Exploring my (virtual) computer.

12) Installing Windows Live Writer within Vista. No problems!

13) Final tweak (for now) set the desktop to a nice wallpaper of me and Lavie! (Isn't she pretty?!!)

14) Good-bye!


You can set the options in Virtual PC settings to share folder(s) between your "real" system and the "virtual" pc. I've done that to speed the transfer of programs/files I already have on my hard-drive in Vista. It works great. You can also set your printer port here to share as well. (At work I have my virtual Vista system printing via IP to one of our network like a charm!)

You can "pause" your Virtual PC from running if it is slowing down your "real" system too much, but you don't want to close it out entirely.

You can make copies of your virtual pc files and use them on other systems you have Virtual PC running on. This saves you "install time". Just takes a while to copy up/down the files due to their size.

I've ran quite a number of applications and if XP can handle them Vista doesn't seem to have any issues. If you do attempt to run/install something and Vista RC1 doesn't like it...use the "Program Compatibility Wizard." It's great to use and managed to get a work-application that wouldn't natively install in Vista to install and work just fine.

Final (Initial) Thoughts on Running Vista RC1 in Virtual PC 2004.

I like it. Yes, I'm not getting a full sense of what it's capable of (neither hardware nor performance wise), but damn. It's pretty close. Me likey. Looks to be a real hottie-hot-hottie, visual effect wise and redesign of the user interface. Much more intuitive.

I don't like the XP Luna theme/style. Yuck. All our system at home, and my XP systems at work are using a modified "Classic" style. I like the way Vista looks. Clean and modern. But not too much of a rip-of of Apple OSX. Polished.

Looks like I'm going to have to save up for at least two licenses for Vista when it comes just to decide which ones....?

Resource Links:

These fine and brilliant folks provided information and background on how to do this. Check them out for the credit they deserve.

Installing Vista RC1 (Build 5600) on Virtual PC - ComputerPerformance. Can't get more simple that this!

Using Vista RC1 under Virtual PC or Virtual Server - Virtually Vista

More details on the Vista system:

Windows Vista RC1 - Introduction - ComputerPerformance. Nice walkthrough of the high-points of Vista features. Check out the expanded feature menu on the left-side. I can't link to everything there. Spend some time on his site. It's great.

Geek to Live: Windows Vista RC 1, in screenshots - Lifehacker. Gina has some very nice and detailed feature screenshots.

Windows Vista Activity Center -WindowsITPro - Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows

Five Great Features in Windows Vista RC1 - WindowsITPro - Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows

The Dark Side of Windows Vista RC1 - WindowsITPro - Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows

Hope you have found this little exercise useful...


Screenshot Contact Sheet:

Please click the image to go to my flickr set.