Windows 7 — What a Joke

December 31, 2008

Today I found an article via slashdot which talks about the Windows 7 Beta. The article is pretty short as the reviewer, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, is just giving some initial thoughts on the OS. Here is one of the points Kingsley-Hughes makes:

Performance of this beta is exceptional. Iโ€™ve not had a chance to benchmark it yet but it feels snappier and more responsive than earlier betas Iโ€™ve handled.

On one hand, it’s good to hear that Microsoft got a clue and made an operating system that worked well out of the box. On the other hand… if you look at the screenshots that Kingsley-Hughes provides it is clear to see that Windows 7 seems to look just like Windows Vista. It seems like they simply fixed a lot of the problems in Vista (under the hood) and are now capitalizing on their previous failure.

The sad thing is that loads of companies, businesses, schools, etc. are going to rush out to buy the new and improved Windows 7 hoping that it will be better than Vista (which they already wasted their money on). Maybe Microsoft should give all the unhappy Windows Vista users a copy of Windows 7 because they screwed up so badly on Vista. It seems like such a scam that they should be allowed to profit from their previous failure after trying to convince everyone that Vista was all that and a bag of chips! The Mojave Experiment, where Microsoft tricks their customers into liking Vista, should not be needed to get people to like Vista. Perhaps they should make an operating system good enough that it just wows people straight away. If I were to pay hundreds of dollars for a proprietary product it needs to blow my socks off to make it worth that much money!

At any rate I’m sticking with Linux which, unlike Windows, has always improved over time instead of getting drastically worse and then struggling to make a come back after realizing its collasal failure.

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Uninstalling Programs in Windows — Annoying?

December 26, 2008

I suppose this post could be filed under ‘Windows rant’ because I don’t have much good to say about it these days. I received a new computer game for Christmas so it was once again time to boot my computer to the dark side. While I was in Windows I decided that I would clean up my installation as it had probably been close to a year since I actually booted it. This consisted of crawling through the file system looking for orphaned folders from programs that were long gone, emptying the recycling bin, cleaning my downloads folder, and finally going through “Add/Remove Programs” and getting rid of stuff I didn’t care about.

The most frustrating thing about all of this was that some of the programs I had installed would automatically restart the dang machine without even asking first! I don’t think any Windows installer/uninstaller should ever do this. First of all, I don’t think half the programs that “require a restart” actually need a restart. Secondly, if they do, they should ask you for a confirmation. After all, the user is supposed to be “in control” of the computer and not the other way around.

While I’m on the subject of difficult uninstallations lets talk about Norton Anti-virus. I was recently asked to clean up a new laptop before it was being gifted to someone. The first thing I wanted to do was uninstall all the rubbish-ware that comes on a standard HP or Dell laptop. There is a nifty program called The PC-Decrapifier(PCD) which helps automate this task quite nicely. Basically, it calls all of the different uninstallers for you instead of making you click all of them from the Add/Remove Programs dialog. Now, when the PCD made its way to Norton the Norton uninstaller must have taken at least 15 minutes!! That is WAY to long for an uninstalltion. All you have to do is remove any running processes, and delete all the files. It’s like the Norton uninstaller takes a coffee break part way through. I think the Service Pack 3 installer took less time to run than the uninstaller for Norton anti-virus — ridiculous!

Back before I ran Linux I would accept most of these things as the only way, but when I uninstall software on a Gentoo or Ubuntu machine it rarely takes more than 10 seconds. Also, none of it requires me to reboot (with the exception of kernel related things). All around it is experiences like these which help me appreciate Linux even more so I suppose Windows irritating me from time to time isn’t all bad ๐Ÿ™‚ .


Windows OneCare — An Epic Fail

November 27, 2008

Recently I have had the … “pleasure” of being able to deal with a piece of software known as Windows OneCase. Quite honestly I have never used a more ironic piece of software. Windows OneCare is supposed to be an all in one firewall/spyware/antivirus/backup system. Here is what Microsoft has to say about it:

With OneCare comes greater peace of mind, knowing your home network, computers, and vital personal data are better protected from online threatsโ€”not to mention that any children can surf in greater safety, too! (http://onecare.live.com/standard/en-us/3/saferonline.htm)

I find this to be hardly the case. First of all I think it is a conflict of interest for Microsoft to be selling antivirus software to their own flawed operating system. Are they admitting that they can’t make an operating system secure enough to project against all of the threats that are out there? It doesn’t make sense that you should have to spend extra money to keep your Windows systems working correctly.

That point aside Windows OneCare does not do at all what Microsoft promises. First of all I find that it works no better than any normal piece of antivirus software. It seems to locate your basic virus/malware and it puts it in quarantine for you. Oddly enough most of these viruses/malware came from Internet Explorer and were sitting in the IE Temporary Files I won’t even touch on the blaring issues there.

Secondly I have never seen a single piece of software slow down a computer more than Windows OneCare. Whether running on Vista or XP I have seen OneCare add MINUTES to the log in time of an average computer. This is unacceptable! A product like OneCare is supposed to make life easier… not harder. Additionally, just to open OneCare to change settings requires them to display one of those repeating “progress bars”. This is after it’s already running in the system tray! Does the configuration interface take up so much memory that they have to load it separate?

OneCare also attempts to rate the state of your system. This is one of the biggest jokes yet. I don’t think I have seen it give a system the best rating possible any time after a week or so. It seems that your system slowly slides into a dark abyss. It’s like self condemning software. Also, if it knows the state of your system is only “Fair” then why the heck doesn’t it DO something about it? Is it too lazy? I’m not sure, but I have to chuckle when it basically admits it can’t do anything to help you.

Finally we have the OneCare firewall. Doesn’t Windows already have a firewall? Is Microsoft saying that their firewall is not good enough? I’m really not sure what the point is. Now, maybe OneCare simply uses the Windows firewall as a backend, which I would hope that it does because otherwise Microsoft is yet again making implicit statements about their own product. I don’t know for sure what it uses and have tried to research it. I would certainly be interested to know.

That is just about all I have to say for Windows OneCare. I would recommend it for anyone looking to slow their system down and waste $50 in the process.


Windows …

November 25, 2008

Recently I was asked by a friend to rid his Windows XP machine of a particularly annoying virus/malware. It faked the Windows Security Center and was constantly displaying annoying pop-ups. It sat in the system tray and would not go away. It disabled your ability to change the desktop background and also disallowed you from accessing the task manager. Anytime you clicked on it the virus would open Internet Explorer and try to make you download some other virus.

I searched around the Internet for a while trying to see if people had several problems. After trying a bunch of different solutions I decided I should just investigate the problem by myself. First I checked in the usual places such as msconfig and in the Run folder in the registry to see if it had added any entries there. That didn’t turn out to be very fruitful. I loaded up TRK and ran the AVG Scanner and the BitDefender Scanner and both of them came up with some minor entries, but not the actual problem virus. Eventually, in a moment of desperation I cleared out all of the IE Temporary Folders. As it turns out the virus had installed itself in there. I imagine it was activating itself through the “Active Desktop” feature of Windows which is why they didn’t want you changing the background.

As I would find out getting rid of the virus was the “easy” part. After that was gone I spent another hour trying to make it so you could change the background again. Everything I read said it was real easy… you just click the “Web” tab under “Customize Desktop” which was under the tab for changing the desktop background. Well… this virus had removed that tab altogether. I then followed several guides to try and get the tab back. No luck >_<. Eventually I resorted to a System Restore, which I actually hate, but that ended up solving the problem. Though it rolled back my installation of Spybot S&D which was a bit of a pain, but I figured it worthwhile to reinstall it since this person said they didn’t want to use Firefox.

This sort of experience is what makes me love Linux that much more… ๐Ÿ™‚ . I have been a Gentoo user for a little over 4 years now and I will take a broken package problem over an annoying virus any day!


Python 2.5 and encryption — PyCrypto under Windows

July 20, 2008

[Edit: 8-13-08] – Upon request I have provided a link to an installer for PyCrypto-2.0.1 that is compiled for Python 2.5. You can download it here . I didn’t post it originally because I was not sure how long I could provide a link for. This one should be good for about a year … ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Note: The steps listed here will only work on Python 2.5 and above as that is when they added support for allowing MinGW to compile code

I mentioned in a previous post that I was looking for a way to get public/private key encryption in Python and I was having a bugger of a time until I found ezPyCrypto. I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but I have been an Linux user for about 4 years now. Specifically Gentoo Linux ,and I would never run another OS now that I have been a Linux user. At any rate that’s not the point of this post. Since the script I was developing had to run on Windows I needed to install PyCrypto (it’s a dependency for ezPyCrypto). Well this would be trivial except that PyCrypto has C code that needs to be compiled. There are binary builds on the PyCrypto site for both Python 2.3 and 2.4, but not 2.5 which I am running. I wasn’t going to let this stop me however. The rest of this post will explain what you need to do in order to get PyCrypto working under Windows with Python 2.5. After completing this you will also be able to build your own installer that you could package with your scripts to let people who don’t want to install a C compiler run your code ๐Ÿ™‚

The first thing you are going to want to do is install MinGW . MinGW will give you a nice C and C++ compiler for Windows. Just follow the instructions on their site and you will be good to go. After you have MinGW installed you will probably want to add entries to the Windows PATH variable so that when you are in a terminal you will be able to directly access MinGW. [As a note I still run Windows XP so these instructions will be done with that in mind] Doing this is quite simple:

  1. Right Click My Computer –> Properties –> Advanced –> Environment Variables.
  2. You will see User and System variables. If you want all users to use MinGW edit the Path entry in there. Otherwise add a Path variable under User variables.
  3. Go to the Path variable from step 2. Add an entry to the Path that points to MinGW’s bin directory. For me this was “C:\MinGW\bin” but it all depends on where you installed MinGW. Note: Entires in Windows Environment variables are separated by ‘;’
  4. Click ok a bunch of times

While you are changing environment variables you will want to add the main directory for Python to your path. For me this was: “C:\Python25”. This made my final User Path entry: “C:\MinGW\bin;C:\Python25”

Now that you are done changing environment variables you will want to reboot your computer so that Windows gets your changes. Really… you will regret it if you don’t reboot!

Now download PyCrypto and unpackage it. This turned out to be problem enough because not many people keep programs around that open .tar.gz files. Since am a Linux user I just unpacked them in Linux and transferred them to Windows (I run Windows XP under VirtualBox ). However, if that is not an option you can download and install IZarc Archiver. IZarc has been my favorite [Windows] extraction tool for a long time and it supports just about every archive format imaginable.I would recommend extracting the contents of PyCrypto to your desktop. Now is when the first starts!

First, open up a terminal. We will only be using a few commands and you don’t have to be a terminal wiz kid to do this. I normally open a terminal by going: Start –> Run –> “cmd” –> Press Enter

Now that you have a terminal up you want get to the PyCrypto directory. To move between directories in the terminal we use the “cd” command.

cd PATH-GOES-HERE

So, for example here is the command I used to get to where I had PyCrypto:

cd C:\Documents and Settings\Jinto\Desktop\pycrypto-2.0.1

Of course that command will only work for you if your user name is Jinto and you extracted it to the desktop exactly like I did ๐Ÿ˜‰ So modify it to fit your needs. Once you are in the pycrypto directory do a quick:

dir /w

To make sure you see files. Specially make sure setup.py is there. We need to run that setup script and tell it to build the libraries. To do this issue the following command:

python setup.py build -c mingw32

If all goes well it should build without any troubles and all that is left is to install it by issuing the following command:

python setup.py install

You should be all set to use PyCrypto now, or to install ezPyCrypto which uses PyCrypto. As a bonus feature if you are looking to make an executable installer for PyCrypto you can run the following command:

python setup.py bdist_wininst

This will leave you with a .exe file located in the “dist” folder.

I hope this helps everyone get PyCrypto running under Windows. For those of you Linux users who think I am leaving you out check your distro specific respository system they probably already have a package for PyCrypto!