Sunday, January 20, 2008

Random Signals: A Linkfest

It is a chilly Sunday morning.

The Valca family has been polishing off the remaining cinnamon rolls from last-morning's breakfast.  Ymmmmm.

Claus has got a last-minute technical training session to pull somewhere deep out of a hat for this coming week.  Tomorrow's a holiday but it looks like I will be drafting training material instead.

So here is a mixed up collection of links, news and software worth looking into.

Sprinkle well.

Microsoft User Migration Tools

James.Random() : USMT gets a GUI wrapper - James finds a GUI wrapper (Workstation Migration Assistant) by Dan Cunningham for Microsoft's User State Migration Tool (USMT).  USMT requires that the client pc be connected to a MS Windows server-based domain controller.  So it isn't for most individual (home) users.  USMT is a command-prompt based tool, so it can be a bit clunky.  Having the GUI wrapper should make the process much easier for many administrators.  Dan hasn't released it yet hopes to be able to do so soon.  Early screenshots from Dan's utility look really cool: #1 , #2 , #3 , #4 , #5 , #6.  I'm already trying to think of ways we could integrate the USMT tool into our system re-deployment activities.

I'm definitely keeping this one on my watch-list!

Additional References:

Related: Microsoft's Files and Settings Transfer Wizard

Use this tool to migrate information from pre-Vista systems to XP or Windows 2000 systems.

Related: Microsoft's Windows Easy Transfer

Use this tool to migrate information from XP systems to Vista.

System Cleaning

Back in September '06 I went through a typical Fall Home PC Cleaning.... routine. That routine pretty much remains the same, though I might be able to present a better list in a few months when Spring comes around.

In the meantime, updates have been released to programs I use in that process.

CCleaner - (freeware) - There is probably no better freeware product out there that I know of to clean a system's temp-files, Internet programs, system, and registry.  It is clearly the best.  And remains free.  Even better, is that it comes in both an installable version, as well as portable and "slim" versions.  Version 2.04.543 adds the following improvements

- Added system tray icon when background cleaning.
- Added minimize to system tray option.
- Optimized file deletion routines.
- Improved Firefox file analysis speed.
- Added text status info for slow cleaning processes.
- Added program icons to the uninstall tool.
- Fixed bug with saving window location when maximized.
- Fixed bug with 64bit OS registry keys.
- Fixed cookie issue with foreign language usernames.
- Fixed bug with running CCleaner as a scheduled task.
- Added Netscape 9.0 support.
- Updated Antivir and Foxit Reader cleaning.
- Minor GUI tweaks and fixes.
- Other minor bug fixes.

You may not know it, but CCleaner will allow you to optionally preserve selected browser cookies that you just can't live without.  So you can dump the junk, but keep the ones you need.  Donation Coder has a great tutorial on this oft-forgotten feature: Mini-HowTo: Handling Cookie Privacy the Right Way

Of course, you can do it the painful way and inspect your system cookies (for IE and Firefox) one-by one with NirSoft's free utilities IECookiesView and MozillaCookiesView as well.

Wise Registry Cleaner and Disk Cleaner - (freeware) - Two other system cleaning products I have come to rely on and enjoy.  Both are very easy to use and are very effective at what they do. For more details see the Wise Disk Cleaner manual and the Wise Registry Cleaner Manual.

The PC Decrapifier - (freeware) - Version 1.8.8 just released this week. Works for XP and Vista.  Removes a large number of items from OEM system installs.  These are the nuisance items that OEM's place on your system to help bring the price of a new system down (due to back-room deals) but load up a system with software and services that many feel are crap and bog it down.  Uninstalling them yourself manually can be time consuming and tedious. This tool helps speed that process by ripping out a large number of them automatically for you.

KillBox - (freeware) - Just a little utility to help you try to delete locked files (usually malware based) from your system.  I have been using it for some time, but just noticed a KillBox Beta download link the other day when I was looking for updates.  It is a bit smaller and much more self-contained in a single exe file.  I like the improvements.  Related post: I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways...freely

NewsFox Beta Release

Beta release: NewsFox 0.8.4b1 - (Firefox Add-on) - To be released (soon?) as 0.8.4, this version contains some really handy upgrades.

  • It contains a new column to do a Bayesian filter for article interest probability ranking.  Interesting concept.
  • It adds three new columns (hidden by default) to the article pane; source, author, feed.
  • Options to delete files/preferences for NewsFox when removing the extension. But why would anyone bother?
  • Partial bookmark syncing.
  • Most optional preference settings are now accessible through the GUI.  Now you don't have to dive into about:config to make as many NewsFox tweaks.
  • Alternate category sorting from the GUI

XP What?

Here are two fantastic and clever utilities that I often get confused with due to their similar-sounding names.  Not worth calling the trademark lawyer's over, but it is amusing.

xp-AntiSpy - (freeware) - Great little tool just updated to version 3.96-7 this week.  Use it to selectively disable some of XP's built-in features and capabilities.  Some feel that these services are "dangerous" at worst and "undesirable" at best.  Not a "anti-malware" tool despite the name. It's more to keep Microsoft's own XP OS from "spying" on you. It's a gem and can save some time when you are doing advanced tweaking by allowing you to skip making tweaks in the registry or deep-diving into the GUI.  Screenshot.

xpy - (freeware) - This tool also help you tweak default Microsoft XP settings.  Like xp-AntiSpy, it helps to disable some of Windows XP's services, Microsoft server communications, and tweaks privacy settings for your system security. Screenshot.

See also: Vispa - (freeware) - Also from xpy's Jan T. Sott.  This one allows you to change default Microsoft system settings in Vista to improve your Vista system's privacy, security, and maybe its performance. Screenshot.


Utilities worth quickly looking into.

Process Lasso - (freeware) - Really fascinating program.  Highly customizable utility that allows you to automatically adjust the allocation of CPU cycles for your system.  If it sees that a monitored application is running it can drop the priority level assigned to that process if it crosses a threshold limit, if it is launched, or other more advanced criteria.  Runs on Windows 2000, XP and Vista (x32/x64).  Lots here to see and do.  I just don't have enough time to do it justice today.  Not intended to be a "task-manger" but does have some of the same abilities.  This one looks really cool.

eToolz - (freeware) - Yes, the page is in German. Sorry. (Translate to English).  The download link is in the mint-green bar and says "eToolz herunterladen".  It is a package of network tools that includes NS-Lookup, Ping, TraceRoute and Whois.  You can check email addresses, and search/convert domain-name showing DNS entries.  Launches in German language but you can quickly change it to English. by clicking on "Sparche/Language" option on the menu-bar.

Free Kaspersky Antivirus - (CyberNet News tip) - This post intrigued me.  It was a tip that Kaspersky is offering a free version of their anti-virus software, Kaspersky Antivirus 6.0 Second Opinion Solution (S.O.S.).  The post stated that this software will only run "on-demand" but can provide a 2nd pass scan if infection is found on your system (or to check the results of a 2nd party 1st pass scan).  That led me to this page at Kaspersky Labs: Free Virus Scan.  I downloaded the application and installed it on a virtual XP machine.  It installed wonderfully, but reports that it is time-limited trialware.  Test runs with it find that it indeed could be a wonderful compliment to an existing primary anti-virus program on a user's pc.  Commentors at the CyberNet post also expressed confusion as they too observed the product seemed to be trial-ware.  I'm going to wait to see what happens at the end of the trial-period.  It might just fail to work, or it might drop into a "reduced-functionality" mode like some other products to. This might leave it crippled, but still useful enough to keep around.  I will let you know what happens.

Simply Scary

The Valca home tries hard to catch episodes of Wired Science on PBS. Their air-time schedule has seemed to be very difficult to pin-down. So I have been often forced to catch episodes on-line.

One of our family's favorite mini-elements is What's Inside.  Normally these brief features go through a long-list of frightening ingredients to arrive at a common household item we all love and enjoy: Sample video.

So Lavie and I read with horror this post from Wired-proper: What's Inside: Nair Hair Remover, Feel the Burn!

Alvis just shrugged.

Related: What's Inside: Red Bull


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After searching the net quite thoroughly for a decent GUI for Microsoft User
State Migration Tools 3.01 I decided it was worth a try to make one myself.
The first release contains only the basic one-to-one GUI, allthough with
quite a lot of options regarding Users etc. It automaticly installs USMT
3.01 if needed and installs in only appr 30 secs. (No DotNet needed)

During next week (At the latest by end April) the GUI can also build scripts
to insert diretly into an automatic migration. It also includes a commanline
routine that monitors the migration and delivers a status report to a
designated location.
(Is being tested at a medium size migration next week)
Also from next week USMT GUI can generate an optional config.xml (and use it

Download at:

Hope you like it :-)