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Smart computer use? Maybe, maybe not.

I Declined the Windows XP SP3 (Service Pack 3) Update

My primary computer at work is running Windows XP. It is a workhorse machine. If it goes down, my billable hrs drop instantly and my workflow is horribly interrupted.

I need to make certain decisions to make sure that this machine keeps running at optimal levels at all times.

Today, I was prompted to install Windows XP SP3 (Service Pack 3). I declined.

Why did I decline this particular Windows update?

The first and foremost reason that I declined this update is because about 2 weeks ago a client called me. He asked me if I was able to help him get his computer working (I’m not a computer tech, I’m web developer, so people think that I am a computer tech sometimes… common mistake I guess).

I really didn’t have any insight, and considering that he lives about 1 hr away, there really is nothing I could do. When a computer doesn’t start, there could be any myriad of problems, none of which can be solved over the phone by a busy web developer in a short amount of time.

But, I figured I’d at least give it a quick run, seeing if maybe I could help him out, planning to quickly tell him to find a local computer tech if it sounded like I was going to get nowhere.

I first asked “Did you do anything recently install anything new on your computer?”.

“Yes, I installed that new Service Pack 3 update this morning… and when I re-started my computer it wouldn’t start!”, is what he said.

Nuts.

I knew right away I wasn’t going to be able to help him. But, I still asked “When you boot your computer, does anything show on the screen at all? Does it prompt to go into safe mode or anything?”

“Nope, I just get a black screen, nothing…” he said.

And that was about the point where I proceeded to explain that I wouldn’t be able to provide him with an effective solution to his problem over the phone. I explained that he should get in contact with a computer tech to see what they can figure out.

Now, back to my decline of Service Pack 3…

So yeah, that is the first thing that popped into my head when I got prompted for Service Pack 3 for Windows XP.

Then, when I clicked the Windows Update icon I got a prompt that says “Back up all files… blah blah blah”…

The first thing I told myself was “I don’t need to go through with this… my machine works fine and is up to date other than SP3″.

And I hit cancel.

I don’t need any troubles from a Windows Update, especially when it has a bit of a bad reputation on the internet:

“My external disks are having trouble starting up, which results in Windows not starting up,” complained user Michael Faklis, in a post Wednesday. “After three attempts [to install XP SP3] with different configurations each time, System Restore was the only way to get me out of deep s**t,” said ‘Doug W’.

Another user said the service pack prevented him from starting his computer. “I downloaded and installed Windows XP Service Pack 3 Network Installation Package for IT Professionals,” wrote ‘Paul’. “Now I can’t get the computer to boot.”

It’s actually pretty easy to find more comments like these.

Maybe another day

I still might consider eventually running the Windows XP Service Pack 3 update, but it’ll need to be a day when I have time to do a complete Windows backup (not just my files) and then also have extra time to kill just in case the update fails or crashes my computer.


Learn To Use CTRL + F, Find Stuff Quicker


Sometimes, I wonder how much time I spend on my computer just looking through folders, documents, or text to find what I really am looking for.

The Problems

Example…

I want to see a particular picture, so I start browsing my file system, only to realize that I forgot where I actually put.

Or…

I’ve just done a search using Google. There is a particular search result that looks like it has the info I was searching for. I click through to the site, only to find that the particular page I’ve arrived on contains about 1500 words and is jumbled as hell. Now I gotta scan the text to find what I’m looking for.

Or…

I just opened an HTML document and want to make some quick edits. I’m looking for a particular bit of the code to edit, but need to scan a jumbled mess of Javascript, HTML tables and inline CSS to find the spot to edit. Now I gotta have sharp eyes to pick out what I’m looking for.

Stop there.

All these situations can be made easier by simply clicking CTRL+F on the keyboard (The Control Key plus the letter F key), and using the resulting search feature that magically appears.

The Solutions

In Windows, if you are browsing a folder or have Windows Explorer open, just hit CTRL+F to bring up the search pane and simply search for the file. Don’t waste your time browsing files unless you simply just feel like browsing through your files. Simple and smart.

In Firefox, if you are looking at a web page with tons of text, simply hit CTRL+F to bring up the search box, type in the bit of text your looking for, and Firefox just jumps to that part of the page and highlights the text. Simple and smart.

In pretty much any code editor, hit CTRL+F to bring up a search window. In some code editors you might even get an extra bonus with a search AND replace option, which is too sweet once you embrace that power. Simple to use and smart.

Save time and get used to searching and using the good old CTRL+F combo on your keyboard.


AutoRuns for Windows, Get a Better Grasp on Auto-Starting Applications


If you use Windows, you either already know or now should know that your computer likes to start up all sorts of applications and run them in the background.

AutoRuns for Windows will help you to get a better grasp on all these automatically starting applications. From an article published by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell:

This utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them. These programs include ones in your startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and other Registry keys. You can configure Autoruns to show other locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and much more. Autoruns goes way beyond the MSConfig utility bundled with Windows Me and XP.

The download link is on the bottom of that page as well. Try it out it you want to better manage all the auto-running stuff on your Windows computer.


Do Not Use Your Windows Machine as an Administrator to Guard Against Viruses & Trojans

Coding Horror once again has a great article with some great insight. This time it has to do with trojans, viruses, and running your Windows machine in an account that IS NOT THE ADMINISTRATOR.

If you aren’t already aware, people that run Linux and Mac operating systems rarely have to install any sort of anti-virus software on their machine. Windows is quite the opposite.

But, there are people that claim they can use Windows without anti-virus software and not feel worried.

Virus protection seems almost mandatory on a Windows system, unless you are really a Windows security guru.

Separating yourself from needing to use virus protection on your computer system is ultimately a smart move. Moving to an operating system that is not targeted by virus writers is a good idea, but not always feasible.

When using Windows, the idea of not using virus protection is almost laughable.

Anyways, back to the point about not running your Windows machine as an administrator.

This is a grand idea. If you don’t run your Windows machine as an administrator user, you are cutting off a lot of the abilities of viruses to wreak havoc on your machine.

The bottom line is this: don’t use your Windows machine as an admin user. Set up a separate user account and use that. That will make it much harder for a program to take control of your machine with administrator rights to your machine.