Microsoft FixIt Center – diagnostics tools for most versions of Windows

I haven’t used this yet so I can’t give my personal recommendation only pass on the information I received and the reveiws that I have read. But this does look like it should be a great help to users who are not that technically savy or who don’t have ready access to a techno geek.

While a pretty good amount of diagnostics are built into Windows 7, the free Fix it Center aims to expand on these and also bring similar capabilities to Windows XP and Windows Vista.

The service has around 300 fixes built-in, Microsoft has said it can also be useful even if it can’t solve an issue on its own by helping you identify the issue correctly so you can seek out those answers more effectively.

You can use any computer with Internet connection to get started with Fix it Center. Simply download the Fix it Center client and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup. You can install Fix it Center client on as many PCs you like.

You can, if you wish sign up for Fix it Center Online during setup so you can manage all your computers from a single location on the Internet yet can view solutions specific for each PC. [This is Microsoft’s push into the SMB market.]

Loads of common errors can be fixed — from broken Aero transparency to network adapter glitches to Windows Media Player library and DVD issues. There’s even a system maintenance option which checks for broken shortcuts, date and time problems, disk volume errors, and more!
The site is HERE.
Fix it Center can be installed on:

* Windows XP SP3
* Windows XP Pro (64-bit) SP2
* Windows Vista
* Windows 7
* Windows Server 2003 SP2
* Windows Server 2008
* Windows Server 2008 R2

Increase the performance of your Windows 7 netbook (or other Win7 PC)

I had a post about this previously but the HowToGeek just put up a simpler one.
If you are someone who has a Windows 7 Netbook or other Windows 7 system with limited RAM this is a great way to add some real performance to your system.
Again Netbooks will see the most dramatic increase in performance and even some batter life increases!
Check out the HowToGeek article HERE.

Legal spying via the cell phone system

I don’t think many people know about this or can even really technically understand it.
But this article should serve as another warning to people – you have very little REAL privacy. Just about everything you send or receive via the internet, cell phone or even publicly switched telephone system is very open to ‘evesdroping’.

The NSA has been doing this for years. But now some ‘regular’ guys are showing how it’s done very easily with publicly available tools and techniques.
So for the truly paranoid time to put on the tin foil hats.

McAfee fix for killed XP machines

I am not a fan of McAfee security and AV products and haven’t been for years. Their software has become a huge drain on system resources and worse, seems to get more false positives than actually stoping malicious software. I highly recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. But if you are one of those that have had this issue I hope this helps.

McAfee recently put out an update that literally killed many machines.

If you are one of those people here is a possible solution.

1. If your computer is forcing you to shutdown (you are getting an error with a countdown), go to Start – Run and type cmd. At the command prompt type ‘shutdown -a’ without the quotes. [This will abort the Windows shutdown.]

2. Open up the McAfee console (Start -> Programs -> McAfee)

3. Disable Access Protection and On-Access Scanner

4. Double click your Quarantine Manager in that window, and restore the files there (right click on it and select restore).

5. Go to your services console (right click on My Computer, select ‘Manage’, and click on the services in the left pane). Make sure both RPC (Remote Proceedure Call) services are running.

6. Start (or restart if already running) the McAfee Framework service.

7. Back in the McAfee console, select Tools -> Rollback DATs.

8. Reboot and you should be all set.

Here is McAfee’s own solution:

Creating Bookmarklets and Smart Bookmarks

Bookmarklets are small pieces of JavaScript code that can be bookmarked to perform the intended action later on any web page. The are a way of making your browsing and web searching much more productive.
With the advent of more applications being ‘cloud based’ the browser is becoming the ‘operating system or portal’ to most information and applications. Using bookmarklets to better perform repeated and common tasks makes lots of sense.
Bookmarklets and Smart bookmarks can be made and used in Firefox, IE and Chrome.
I primarily use Firefox so I will demonstrate how to create them there. The process is nearly identical in Chrome, and Internet Explorer.

Here is one way to create some custom ones.
Open up the Bookmarks Organizer by going to the Bookmarks Menu, and click the Organize Bookmarks option.
In the ‘Library’ windows that pops up select the ‘Bookmarks Menu’
Click the Organize Menu and choose the New Bookmark option:
Now you need to type in whatever name you would like for the Smart Bookmark. In the location field, however, is where you will insert the specialized “URL” which we’ll cover in the next section. This screenshot shows an example location that will return the top 10 bookmarks you visit the most:

The Smart Bookmark that you just created should now be visible in the Bookmark Organizer, and you can place it wherever you would like. The content will dynamically change based on the criteria that you specified in the previous step.

The beauty is that you can create all kinds of specialized queries and actions.

As an example someone asked me about searching for films that certain actors or actresses have been in. Since IMDB is pretty much the place to start looking why not do a Google search OF the IMDB.COM site?

So just follow the steps above and call your bookmark ‘IMDBfinder’ or something and copy in this java code into the ‘Location’:

javascript:var searchterms = escape(prompt(‘Actor or Actress’));var query = searchterms + ‘’;window.location=’’ + query;

to make a Google search of that site.
In action – when I click on that new bookmark I am prompted to enter a name
and the results are then presented. Google searches only that specific site and returns all results from it.
This can be really valuable for limiting searches to specific sites you may frequent.  I have some for Lifehacker, HowToGeek, Drudgereport, Mediafire and many others.

The really cool thing is that bookmarklets can run all kinds of code to do things like resize images, browser windows, do translations and much more! The limit is up to you and your creativity and willingness to learn.
Mozilla has some pretty good ones here:
Simply right-click and choose ‘Bookmark this site’ (in Firefox) or ‘Add to Favorites’ (in Internet Explorer).

How to fix the “Cannot attach the virtual hard disk …

Little backround.
I use Acronis to create images for true disaster recovery ability. With Acronis I can also mount back up images and retrieve any needed files in minutes! The newer versions of Acronis also allow you to convert your Acronis images (.tib) into Microsoft Virtual Hard Drives (VHDs).
[Acronis has solutions for home and enterprise users and is worth every penny! Personal edition is under $50.00 and for corporations it is well worth the price for true peace of mind.]
So back to my VHD issue.
Virtual hard drives can be used to create full blown Virtual Machines (VM)and are ready to use with MS Virtual PC or MS Virtual Server. I am a long time VMWare user too, but I am working on getting much more profecient with MS’s solutions since they are my primary support calls
Another cool tool is the Microsoft Sysinternals Disk2vhd tool. This can create VHDs from any MS Windows version from XP forward.
I’ve been able to mount the VHDs created with this tool and been able to retrieve files with ease.
So after creating a few VHDs with the Disk2vhd tool I decided I wanted to use one of those VHDs to create a full blown VM and run it with Virtual PC on my Windows 7 laptop.
With Windows 7 and 2008 Server you can very easily ‘mount’ VHDs right from the Disk Management console. They can also be very easily converted to other image formats that can also be ‘mounted’ so you can retrieve your files.

However after trying to create the VM and ‘attach existing VHD’ I keept running into a very frustrating problems.
I kept getting this message “Cannot attach the virtual hard disk …”
What does it mean? Not much info in the error, arrrg.

It means you have a Virtual Hard Disk file larger than 127.5GB. Which Virtual PC does not support.
After lot’s of searching I found this article:
How to fix the “Cannot attach the virtual hard disk …”

This very well presented article is great. It helped me to solve the problem fairly easily!
But I have something to add to this fix that make it so much easier!
You can simply ‘attach’ the drive in Windows 7 (Windows 2008 Server too) Computer Management Console>Disk Management, then right click and ‘shrink it’. Once that is done ‘un mount’ and then use VHD Resizer!
That’s it. Skipping the use of DiskPart. Very easy and quick.
Just thought I’d pass that on for any of you other techies who have run into that or may in the future.