Sunday, December 09, 2007

Super-Sunday Linkfest - Be Amazed!

Yep.  Yotsuba is back in her holiday best.

Been a while since I did a linkfest post.

Kinda feels like the good old days of Christmas tree decorating of my youth.  Dad's job was getting the tree up.  Mom supervised us kids putting on special ornaments.

Then I would fight everyone to toss the streamers of silver tinsel all over the tree.  I preferred the saturated look, but usually had to settle with a light "dusting" appearance of tinsel.  Don't know why I always liked this decoration element the best.  It was a pain getting it all pulled off at the end of the season...

Christmas Tree Light Troubleshooting

During Thanksgiving, I spend a few hours hunting down bad bulbs on my father-in-law's pre-lit tree.  The tree itself is over ten-years old and still beautiful, but whole strands were down for the count.  I ended up doing some major bulb-by-bulb testing, re-fitting, scavenging, and other dark-magic work.  At times I would replace a bad bulb only to have five others suddenly go out.

It was maddening.

Wish I had read these excellent technical posts on Christmas tree lighting and troubleshooting by Terry Ritter.

If you have Christmas tree lights and try to keep them going, season-after-season, these are all MUST reads, otherwise, join the other lemmings and toss them out and get new ones each year.

Highly recommended reading and bookmarking.  Updated often.

Want some Power Toys this year?

Console 2.00 Beta, build 135 - (freeware) - Yes, I know, just type "CMD" in the run box and you will get a nice functional "command-line interface window" from Microsoft.  Oldie and goodie.  But suppose you want to add transparency effects, tabbed command-line windows, change the font (size, color) and background.  Say you want to do a bunch more configurations so it just looks a lot more l33t?  Console 2.0 beta, build 135 is the cat's meow!  I had to stop using it on my home XP system as Kerio/Sunbelt Personal Firewall kept blocking a process it used. Luckily, Comodo firewall treats it as a trusted application so I am back with it again.

PowerShell Plus - (free for non-commercial use) - This is a fantastic GUI interface for working with Microsoft's free PowerShell application which is an advanced command line shell and scripting language that offers over 130 standard command line tools, syntax and utilities.  (download page). This is one of those tools that I just need to get a book and learn.  It looks to be a really great tool for sysadmins to be familiar with and comfortable using.  For ongoing PowerShell tips, check out the Windows PowerShell blog.

Microsoft Port Reporter - (freeware) - From the Microsoft Overview description: "Port Reporter logs TCP and UDP port activity on a local Windows system. Port Reporter is a small application that runs as a service on Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003.  On Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 this service is able to log which ports are used, which process is using the port, if the process is a service, which modules the process has loaded and which user account is running the process. On Windows 2000 systems, this service is limited to logging which ports are used and when. In both cases the information that the service provides can be helpful for security purposes, troubleshooting scenarios, and profiling systems’ port usage."  Julie over at "the back room tech" blog has a nice post about using this tool and some additional Microsoft utilities that enhance use and report analysis with this tool: Howto: Log Connections to Specific Ports and Processes on Windows Machines « the back room tech

DriverView - (freeware) - Yet another NirSoft utility which is amazing.  Quickly displays and logs all the device drivers loaded on a system. Portable off USB.  It provides a great quick-view of everything driver related you might want to know.  The only thing it doesn't do is provide updates to those drivers found.

Firefox bits

Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition 3 Beta 1 Revision 2 -  (freeware) - all-in-one package for testing the latest public Beta of Firefox 3.  Download, run the unpacker, then play away.  Nice for experimenting with this new version without damaging your current installation!

Build your Own: Firefox 3 (alpha/beta) Portable - Grand Stream Dreams tutorial post on how to build your own "standalone" version of Firefox 3.  Takes a bit more work but the benefit is that you can run the beta version side by side and concurrently with your current version...that's something that isn't normally possible.

While we are at it, don't forget to optimize some Firefox about:config settings to help "assist" with the Firefox memory leak issue.  These don't fix the problem, but may make it a bit more manageable on your system: Firefox Memory Leak Solutions - Grand Stream Dreams


MGISO – A Frontend for mkisofs - (freeware) - If you happen to use the command-line mkisofs utility to build ISO files, you might find this a useful GUI wrapper.  Still not for "dummies" it does help assist with usage of the mkisofs tool in a GUI interface.  You still need to know and understand the command line switches and constraints to use it properly.  I thought it was neat.

9031: FLIQLO Flip-Clock Screensaver - (freeware) - "Flip-style pata pata clock" - Growing up, dad's bedside-table clock was one of those flip-style ones, you know, numbers on little pieces of plastic that had a rolodex effect? I couldn't imagine the work that went into assembly and manufacture of this.  Looked pretty intensive. Anyway, this is a free screen-saver that mimics that effect.  Pretty cool. Check out the Lego building screen saver on that page also

Registry Recovery Tips

SafeBoot - (freeware) - Didier Stevens updated his tool that restores Safe Mode booting after the registry key that controls this has been deleted:  Restoring Safe Mode with a .REG file. I've had pains getting a system up and going again, but haven't run into this issue. Nevertheless, it's a good link and tool to keep handy.  Didier's post also provides great information on one particular area of the registry that explains how to disable particular drives or devices in a safe-mode boot.

Editing the Registry Hive For Your Image on the Target Device - (MSDN library help) - The above post led me to this one that gives tips on how to edit a registry "off-line" using a WinPE boot disk.  This is also good information to keep in mind when dealing with a registry-damaged system.

How to edit the registry offline using BartPE boot CD - (tip page) - One more good resource to read on the subject.

Must Read Local Blog:

The Houstonist

I first discovered this amazing local blog when I was checking out referring links to my blog in Google Analytics.

Turns out the Houstonist seems to like my humble little local tech-blog and often includes a post of mine every week or two on it's weekly IT news posts.  It's pretty cool getting noticed.  Even cooler when my posts are listed in the same context as Tech Blog guru Dwight Silverman!

However, that's not what makes this blog great.

The Houstonist is updated multiple times daily with a wide range of topics near and dear to Houstonian's hearts: local photos, fine-arts, local music, food, dining, technology, events, history, news, and how-to's.  It is well written has a comfortable tone...kinda like sitting on the neighbor's porch sharing mint ice-teas and waving at the passing folks.  Down-home.

Some recent sample posts:

Houstonist: Neighborhood research 101

Houstonist: Veggie Bites: Rudyard's British Pub

Houstonist: Houstonist Flickr Photo of the Day - Clouds and Planes

Houstonist Bartender: Cinco de Beer-o

Tech Buzz - 120207

Get lost in all the wonderment that makes Houston so great!

VistaPE Builder - Version 011 Released

VistaPE - WinBuilder v 011

I've really loved the VistaPE builder project: VistaPE Builder Tutorial - Highly Advanced (and Fun!)

In a bit of irony, I was looking for some tutorial help on it in their forums and found that a member had actually linked to my post as a noted reference.

I've been having problems with version 010 working, but the version 007.2 has still been going strong.

The changelog for the latest version made me hopeful that the issues I was running into got fixed.  So I downloaded it and tried it out with the basic build  It worked quite smoothly and I really liked the subtle changes in the WinBuilder interface.  My first build worked great, but it was stripped down.

Next I went with the MultiBoot project and I got a pesky error regarding a missing bcedit.exe system file.  It wasn't a fatal error, but the ISO would not boot.  So I have been troubleshooting the issue. I've come up with a workaround for that issue, but I am still getting a ISO boot error.  If I do a build with my saved VistaPE 007.2 build it works great with no errors, so there is something still wonky in either the script itself of the particular set of options I am picking when building.

It hasn't discouraged me, however, and I really like this project.  Worth taking the time to play with.

Thank goodness for Virtual PC and Virtual Box to test the ISO builds though.  That would be a lot of CD coasters, otherwise.

I'll do a follow-up post once I have resolved the issues I'm running into with it

Merry Christmas!


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