Sunday, January 13, 2008

This Week in Vista News

I've collected a few interesting bits of news on the Vista front this week.

Comodo Firewall Updated - Fixes Vista Update Problem

In my post Vista KB942763 Update Failure and Solution I tracked own an issue with Comodo's firewall (Defense+) causing some Windows Updates for Vista to fail.  There were a number of workarounds, with the most consistent one being to uninstall Comodo, install the update, then reinstall Comodo.

Luckily, the programmers at Comodo have been hard at work and just released a new version of Comodo Firewall 3.0 Pro that fixes the Vista update issue.


  • Fixed the bug causing Windows Updates to fail in Windows Vista.
  • Fixed the bug causing Windows to show "Access Denied" message while deleting a folder.

If you are interested, go download the new and Vista-improved version.

Display the Administrator Login Account

Even if you decide to set up one of your Vista profiles with "administrator" rights, sometimes it still doesn't allow you to do what you want.  You will have to elevate your permissions to "administrator" anyway, or even do some "elevated-permissions" command-line jujitsu to accomplish what used to be pretty simple in XP or Windows 2000.

One alternative is to just log in under the "Administrator" account and not your "administrator" account.

But how do you get it to show up on your login screen?

Open a command prompt in administrator mode by right-clicking and choosing "Run as administrator."  Now type the following command:

net user administrator /active:yes

That should get it showing up next time you get to the login screens.

To disable it, repeat the elevated command-line mode and type net user administrator /active:no

--tip via Lifehacker

If you do choose to display the Administrator account, I would highly advise putting a password on it to keep other users from getting in over your head on the system.

Updated Vista SP1 RC1 Refresh Released

I'm still not brave enough to put any of the current SP1 releases on our Vista laptop yet.  I'm waiting for the final version.

The first round release of this version was only offered to about 15,000 beta testers using a direct (for them) download link.

Now it has been opened up to the public.

You still need to uninstall your current Vista SP1 RC version (if you installed an earlier version) before you put this one on.

More details here: - Updated Vista RC1 build - Public Release!

It's pretty clever what the Microsoft public download link for the RC1 Refresh does.  The service pack is actually delivered to your Vista machine (if enabled) via Windows Updates.  If you download and run the nicely named "Windows Update Experience for RC Refresh Public Availability.exe" file, it actually creates a series of registry keys that allows Windows Updates to see and deliver the Vista SP1 RC1 Refresh version to your system.

ITsVista broke open that exe file to show the actual registry key setting commands, if you are interested in peeking at them.

Tiny and Beautiful Vista Mini-Apps

Ave's Vista Apps page offers us some wonderfully simple and beautiful applications to add a touch of class to Vista (and XP) systems. All are freeware.

  • Glass Toasts - "replaces the standard plain "balloon" style notifications with an Areo-style window effect."  Very pretty.

  • 3D User Picture - "replaces the user picture in Vista's start menu with a pretty 3D animated one."

  • Thumbnail Sizer - "easily change the size of Vista's Window thumbnails that show when one hovers over the taskbar button for the window."

  • AveDesktopSites - "replacement for the Active Desktop utility that is no longer present in Windows Vista. The application will now show websites on the desktop, but, unlike Active Desktop, they can not be interacted with."

  • Desktop Effects - "an application that adds special effects to your desktop. Forget the old boring and static wallpaper! Show a dynamic photo slideshow on your desktop, or just use it to scribble notes."

  • Extra Desktops - "is an application that allows to use extra desktops, besides the normal desktop. Use a desktop for storing your downloads, use one filled with your regularly played MP3, use another one for the files of that project you are currently working on. With Extra Desktops, there is no need anymore to browse to all these folders you regularly use: simply hit a key, and the files are right there on your desktop!"

  • Vista Folder Background - "In Vista, the ability to have custom backgrounds in explorer folders is gone. This small application makes folder backgrounds possible again."

I'm sure you will be able to find at least one of these tiny-tweaks helpful on your system.

All programs require Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Runtime Files to be installed on the system.

Hard Drive Monitoring in Vista

Yes, I gave you a slew of tools to monitor your hard-drive last week.

However, 4sysops reminds us that Vista has its own tool to help you see just what is going on that hard-drive: How to find out what keeps your hard drive busy under Windows Vista.

  1. Click the Vista Start Orb,
  2. In the Start Search bar, type perfmon  You should see perfmon.exe appear at the top.
  3. Select it to launch.
  4. The Reliability and Performance Monitor window will appear.
  5. Find the "Disk" bar under the graphs and click the drop-arrow on the bar's right-hand side.
  6. The information should display.

This area lists the following information in sortable columns: Image (program name), PID (process ID), File (path to running program), Read (B/min), Write (B/min), IO Priority, and Response.

I still prefer Sysinternal's Process Monitor myself, but this is a great "on-hand" tool when you need one.

Mark Minasi's Vista Tips Extravaganzas

Ever since I dug up Mark Minasi's Windows tips newsletters back when I was figuring out ImageX and WinPE 2.0 , I've been keeping an eye on his site for the next installments.  His tips are very detailed and educational.

Two new newsletters were released this week and are defiantly worth checking out.

Newsletter #59 January 2007 (Meet Windows PE) - Nice refresher on WinPE 2.0. What it is, what it does, how to build it.  I've already covered all this before in my earlier posts, but there is still some good information to review here if you are familiar with it.

Newsletter #60 January Late 2007 Building Vista Install Scripts - This excellent and very well illustrated post covers how to use a basic Autounattend.xml file to script a Vista installation.  Then he gets deep into using the Windows System Image Manager (WSIM) to build advanced Autounattend system setup scripts.  It is a very good overview and hands-on primer on how to use this tool.  While not something that most home users would ever use, if you deploy, or will be deploying multiple Vista systems and you want to cut down the installation and configuration times.



The Guru said...

How does Comodo compare to Zone Alarm?

Claus said...

Honestly, Guru, I really can't say (from a hand's-on perspective).

I used to use ZA for years when it was just about the only freeware firewall for Windows systems.

I stuck with it until about a year or two ago when it seemed to be getting more "bloated" and causing issues with a TOR-based browser.

I think the free version from ZA still just provides basic inbound/outbound firewall protection. From what I understand, if you enable the outbound "leakage" protection, you still get the semi-cryptic warnings about "do you want to allow..." with a process name.

Comodo provides one of the best "leak-proof" firewalls that I know of. It does a very good job preventing "leak-test" programs to bypass the firewall. Some users don't care about firewalling outbound network traffic, just inbound requests. The idea here is to prevent malware, were it to get on a system, from reaching the internet. Sounds good in principle.

Comodo also ships with something called Defense+ which supplements the network traffic firewall with monitoring of processes and internal process traffic back and forth. The idea here it to block malware-like activity on a system that might not be caught by traditional anti-malware/anti-virus solutions.

From my use of Comodo, I can say that I have been very impressed. It is truely a full-featured program. Defense+ protection seems to be pretty unobtrusive and you can disable it if you don't think you need it.

Also, I have found (compared to ZA or Sunbelt Personal Firewall/Kerio) that the alert messages are very well designed and very informative to helping you make a educated decision to allow a process action or network traffic connection. The color-codes help as well as the information provided in the alert is the best I have encountered.

Despite my frustration in dealing with the Vista updates failure in the previous release version, Comodo is by far the best personal firewall product I have seen or used.

Because it comes with and uses a "whitelist" of safe/approved applications, it cuts down on the popup alerts that are a bane of most users.

The "installation" mode allows you to temporarily let setup-program traffic and internal network monitoring get paused. That is a nice feature as sometimes installing a new program can overwhelm a user with tons of popup alerts and rule-setting requests.

If you don't need or want the outbound "leak" protection, you can install it in "simple-mode" at setup so it will only block unsolicited inbound traffic (like the XP/Vista firewall) but will not prompt you for every outbound network attempt.

Overall it is a very mature and well-designed product. I am very pleased with it and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a step up over the default XP/Vista firewalls.

Some fairly recent reviews here at Firewall Guide: Personal Firewall Reviews.