08 April 2008

And now, a word from...

I've been a bit quiet of late. One of the reasons for this is that I have a bit on at work.

Another is that I'm spending quite a bit of my time getting my new computer fully set up the way that I like it, which is proving to be a bit of a learning exercise.

I've chosen to run Windows Vista. Windows XP users are probably scratching their heads and asking why am I doing this? Isn't it a piece of crap?

Oh ye of short memories. Windows XP when it originally came out had some bugs, but Microsoft eventually put these right. Albeit with the assistance of a couple of hefty service packs. And now people appear to praise it for it's stability. And what about the resource usage? I think that with my new hardware, I don't have to worry about too much just yet.

I've also chosen to go for Open Office over Microsoft Office. So far, this appears to be a decent call. Although Calc has some issues with charts, so I've kept Excel on. Hopefully this will be dealt with eventually.

I finally had my suspicions confirmed about my McAfee's Security Suite: It really does vandalise the registry of the PC to the point where I had to do a clean install of Vista again just to sort the problem out. I'll come back to this shortly.

I found that there is definitely an order to follow when installing stuff - if you do it in the wrong order, you get grief. And my problems haven't been with Vista per se, just some of the idiotic stuff that my security suite was doing to the registry of this PC. Installing Spybot S&D early on has some definite advantages here - it's quite good at picking up attempted registry edits by over-zealous software.

And back to McAfee for a moment, I've decided for the time being not to install it. I'm comfortable with Windows Firewall just at the moment, and ClamWin seems to do a decent job as an anti-viral. Do I really need the other programs in a security suite? I use Yahoo Mail for my email which is quite good - sometimes too good - at filtering spam, and McAfee's anti-spyware thingy was leagues behind AdAware and Spybot S&D in fighting spyware and malware anyway.

But the big new thing this time around, is that I am dual booting this PC with a Linux variant, this one being Ubuntu. Yes, folks. I am a recently cherry-popped Linux ex-virgin, despite the fact that I shared a house with an almost fanatical KDE developer for a long time.

This should be, could be and is a bit of fun. I am having a good fun time coming to grips with the funny little intricacies of "root" (phwoar! If you're Australian, you'll find this endlessly amusing) and having to enter commands in a terminal to run some applications, as well as other funny things that Linux does that Windows does differently.

And when I run out of stuff to do here, I thought that I'd do up my old PC, because it needs a bit of work. Currently, it can take up to half an hour to boot up with the problem being at the POST stage. It does this thing where it beeps, flashes the lights on the CD/DVD drives and the floppy drive, makes a bit of noise with them and then beeps again before doing the same thing over and over. Once the BIOS kicks in and Windows loads, everything's AOK.

I think that this means that the motherboard is cactus, and I need a new one. That or a power supply. So I guess that I'm going to have to replace them. Which means that I'm not running out of things to do. Someone correct me if you think that I'm barking up the wrong tree.

Incidentally, I don't consider myself nerdly about anything other than finance.


Ordinary Girl said...

I'm not so concerned about stability in Vista (though I am concerned about it being a resource hog, but that will change as hardware gets faster), but I am concerned about the DRM that's built in. I'm still holding out on Vista for a while as a result.

I use both Spybot and Ad Aware. My only issue with Spybot is sometimes the teatimer process interferes with online games and I have to shut it down to get file updates. Otherwise it's great.

I wouldn't use McAfee. Too me it slows down my system enough to where I feel I might as well have the viruses. If you're looking for an alternative though, AVG Free is a great anti-virus app. I hardly notice it's there and it self-updates every time you boot up.

Dikkii said...

DRM, eh? That doesn't really bother me much. I don't download, much. I normally buy and rip. Hey, I like having the packaging, OK? But then again, there is the principle of the thing.

I've been using Spybot and AdAware for some time. I'm not much of a gamer, but I'm guessing that the Teatimer feature would drive me up the wall.

I'll have to look into AVG Free. I'm using ClamWIN as an antivirus program, and also ClamAV in Ubuntu. They both appear to work OK, although I'm not sure if the linux version actually does anything.

Akusai said...

AVG is actually kind of crap. I recommend Avast! free antivirus. It's got a much nicer UI and is generally at least at up-to-date as AVG and the big pay virusscanners.

There's more to Vista's DRM than just download protection; there's this neato little feature that allows Microsoft to connect to your computer at any time and take a look at what's going on. This is tied into Vista's evil anti-upgrade protection: when you change your hardware configuration, you essentially have to okay it with MS before they allow you to use your computer. They can (and will) remotely disable your system.

It's shit like that that keeps me firmly in XP. That and the system reqs. I have far more than enough power to run Vista, but I have a major philosophical gripe with an operating system with such steep hardware requirements. It's a goddamned operating system. It shouldn't take up that many fucking resources.

Dikkii said...

You're right about the resources thing, Akusai. There’s no way on His Noodliness’ green earth that an OS should chew up that much of your resources at any one time. I’m surprised that MS don’t own a company making RAM, because their stocks are going to go through the roof with this little puppy.

The DRM thingy is potentially annoying to me, at least the bit where Microsoft monitors your PC – although I would imagine that this is something that the Windows Vista version of Peer Guardian 2 (when it eventually does surface) will hopefully stamp out.

And if Microsoft do cut my access – I’ll hopefully know my way around Ubuntu well enough to switch to that full time!

The joke really is on MS, here. They have sown the seeds of their own destruction with this, and it only takes the right Linux shell to break the market wide open.

As an aside, you wrote this:

This is tied into Vista's evil anti-upgrade protection: when you change your hardware configuration, you essentially have to okay it with MS before they allow you to use your computer. They can (and will) remotely disable your system.

I'm not sure that this is a new thing. I know this guy (oh here we go again) who rebuilt his PC which was running XP. Microsoft made him jump through hoops just to get it re-activated. Mind you, he did replace the motherboard, the memory and the hard disk in the rebuild. But everything else was the same.

Don said...

I think that's an issue of reinstall, since he bought a new hard drive. I once had to do that too after a reformat because for some reason, MS didn't like my XP registration code that time. It was certainly annoying, and I'm certainly not defending them, but I think questioning a new install of XP is slightly different from deactivating your computer if you get a new video card. That's one thing Vista allows that XP doesn't.

And besides, Billy Gates himself said last week that Windows 7, the Vista successor, should launch next year. Pretty quick turnaround time.

Dikkii said...

Hi Don, and welcome to Dikkii's Diatribe.

I'm not sure if I agree with this being a new install, just because the hard disk has been changed. I actually see the hard disk as just another part, just like a video card.

On the other hand, after replacing the head and then the handle, at what point does Grandfather's axe cease to be the same axe?

You know, this is the sort of thing that I bet hasn't even been defined in court yet. You have your version of Windows licensed to a PC - when does that PC become a new one? Given that MS require you to fix a sticker on to the casing, I might just contend that it is MS' intention that anything that goes into the case is covered by the Windows licence. In other words, the criterion for a changed PC is when you get a new case.

Windows 7, the Vista successor, should launch next year.

There we have it. I was going to say that this possibly means that Vista is officially a failure, but then I remembered that ME came out 2 years after 98 which was reasonably well received, even if 95, 98 and ME were pretty much the same OS.

Ordinary Girl said...

Windows 7, the Vista successor, should launch next year.

Actually, that's not completely true. I wish it were.

Dikkii said...

Darn. I was hoping that MS had conceded defeat. Oh well.

Plonka said...

For all their faults and failings, and they are many, MS do make good operating systems, there's no denying it.


Can you point us to discussion, white paper or even a badly written news article about this "anti-upgrade protection" of which you speak? This would be a very serious concern indeed, if it were true.

I help maintain a number of test systems who's configurations, both hardware and software, change almost daily. Some of these systems have no internet connection, so they can't even talk to MS but we don't have any issues like those you've outlined.

On the other hand, the "automatic update" software will prevent you from making unauthorised changes to Windows vista itself, if you have it switched on or regularly go to MS and check for updates. But that's as it should be. Proprietary means just exactly that after all.

So if you're worried, ban "microsoft.com" in your firewall. No, not your Windows firewall, that will ignore any reference to MS. If you have ADSL or cable then there's one built into your modem that won't care a hoot about MS, if you're not using one (dialup), then DO NOT use Windows Firewall, use Zone Alarm or some other software firewall.

Now, DRM will only prevent Vista from playing certain HD video types at full resolution, or sometimes not at all. Don't worry though, your DVD player does the same thing. Proprietary formats require the correct licensing and Vista (and some DVD players) doesn't have them all. MS have to protect themselves somehow so if you want to play HD content, go buy (or download and crack) the software to do it and it won't be a problem.

Resources are an issue though. As Ordinary Girl says, hardware will get faster to accommodate it, but does Windows really need to hog so much to still be a good OS? I don't think so, but remember that the man who started all this is on record as saying "640k is enough memory for any man!" and then he wrote Windows and had to write HIMEM.SYS and EMM386.EXE so DOS could address more because windows needed 1meg to run nice, 2meg if you were a gamer like me.

Dikkii said...

Plonka, that's actually quite a good point about firewall protection against this kind of thing. Which means that the next thing that I should be asking is this: Is there a nice firewall that I can use in place of MS' one (not McAfee or Norton) that won't wreak havoc on my registry?

Agree with your points about Windows hogging resources. It's hopefully something that learning how to use Ubuntu will solve.

Dunc said...

You know, this is the sort of thing that I bet hasn't even been defined in court yet. You have your version of Windows licensed to a PC - when does that PC become a new one?

I'm really not at all sure that the idea that you're only allowed to use the software on the machine it was originally licensed for would stand up in court, making the whole issue rather moot. Right of first sale and all that...

Akusai said...



The whole thing is quite a good read, but the meat and potatoes of what I mentioned is in the section titled "Denial-of-Service via Driver/Device Revocation."

It also covers the hyper-restrictive DRM that must be approved by hotshots in Hollywood, MS's insistence that hardware manufacturers cease open development in order to stem the tide of third-party drivers (because those are EVIL FREEWARE), increased hardware costs all the way around (even for people that don't use Windows) thanks to their expensive and restrictive Vista compatibility requirements, "tilt bits" that decrease system reliability, and ever so much more.

Plonka said...


You're right, it was an interesting article if a little old (Jun 2007... SP1 was released in Feb 2008 and addressed a number of issues).

But thank the small mercies. There's not a single mention of any sort of remote shenanigans as you mentioned. You had me worried for a second there, but the simple fact of the matter is that MS do not, never have and never will remotely connect to your machine for anything. Not even if you ask them to, which can be a pain in the backside sometimes.

So what's the real problem here? Vista simply wont give you the premium content if your driver doesn't conform to its very strict ideas about what constitutes a "content leak".

That section of the article starts:

Once a weakness is found in a particular driver or device, that driver will have its signature revoked by Microsoft, which means that it will no longer be fed anything considered to be premium content.

Just to clarify this for him, by "Microsoft" he means "Microsoft Vista", not "Microsoft the corporate entity". Notice that it doesn't "disable the hardware" but simply blocks the content. Oh yes indeed, I'm quite happy to admit that MS doesn't get it right all the time and these measures may be considered a tad draconian, because they are, but there's a reason.

When you purchase your Sony Blu-Ray player, a component of that price is the license for the proprietary codec you need to be able to view the content. When you buy a computer, whether it comes with Vista or Linux, there's no such price component. So why should the lads at Sony let you watch their stuff? Buy a Blu-Ray player for your machine and it'll stream it straight to the video card and you'll have no problem at all, or buy the codec from Sony and you'll have no problem, so long as it doesn't leak. If it does, then it may be considered that you are trying to capture that content. In that case you'll either get reduced quality or nothing at all so if it happens, complain to Sony, NOT MS, and Sony will release a patch.

An example of this might be nVidia TNT2 video cards, which are still very widely deployed in business environments

TNT2? Are they serious? gForce1 is the low-end on-board device these days and has been since nVidia (once again, not MS) decided not to make the TNT drivers available for Windows2000 or XP. It's been that way for quite a while now so why would this be a problem with Vista? Old hardware is always going to be a problem, just as it always has been, both at home and in the enterprise. Do we expect that Vista, or even Windows2000 should run on a 286, a 486DX4-100 or even a Pentium1? No.

But once again, where that section doesn't concern ancient hardware, it concerns proprietary formats and licensing. There are always going to be issues between drivers and OS's, simply because both are written by people and people make mistakes. If your driver registration for certain content is revoked, you have a legitimate cause for complaint to the VENDOR OF THE DRIVER.

(because those are EVIL FREEWARE)

Sorry, but the drivers are always free and there's nothing remotely evil about them. You'll just have to download the specific one for your specific card. Personally I think that's an improvement. My current nForce download is about 45meg and I only use about 10meg of drivers.

increased hardware costs all the way around (even for people that don't use Windows)

"Moore's Law" takes care of that all by itself, but I would question the "even for people who don't run windows" bit. Dikkii just spent nothing installing Linux. Ubuntu is free and his hardware is old so evidence presented here would tend to suggest otherwise.

It seems to me that reliability will only decrease if you try to do something you're not licensed to do, so don't do it.

I liked this bit though:

The threat of driver revocation is the ultimate nuclear option, the crack of the commissars' pistols reminding the faithful of their duty. The exact details of the hammer that vendors will be hit with is buried in confidential licensing agreements, but I've heard mention of multi-million dollar fines and embargoes on further shipment of devices alongside the driver revocation mentioned above.

That's excellently written isn't it? "The nuclear option" and "the crack of the commissars' pistols". Brilliant. Yes, we all like to beat on MS from time to time and this article is nothing more and nothing less than sensationalism disguised as science. Bad science too, given the obsolescence of some of the hardware involved.

MS really aren't the ogre's that some like to make them out to be. They don't just make an OS and build this stuff in to give you guys the shits, they do it so they don't get their asses sued.

An OS is simply a means to an end. It is the interface to hardware and firmware and provides the platforms required on which you run software that utilises that hardware and firmware to provide your software with a result, that's all. Choose the one you like, and Ubuntu is a good choice Dikkii, especially as you're not using MS products at present.

Plonka said...


Ubuntu is quite a light OS and has become quite popular. That means there's plenty of support (drivers, etc.) for it out there.

Zone Alarm has the reputation for being the best if you want to buy another one but McAfee will do, especially if you've already paid for it. It does the job well but it's a little more difficult to configure.

Oh, and an OS bought separate to any machine is licensed to the person or entity (corporate or otherwise) not the machine.

Dikkii said...

Akusai and Plonka, that is all interesting stuff, and I'm actually rather thrilled that you two have been able to pick the meat off the bones for me on this stuff.

The bit that I found interesting is the reference to the "tilt bits" that are supposed to kinda go offline if they detect anything out of the ordinary.

Plonka, by the way, thanks for the endorsement of Ubuntu. It's a learning experience for me so far, but not without some weird stuff. I'll look into Zone Alarm, but I'm not keen on reinstalling McAfee again, even though I've already paid for it. The weird registry edits are grating a little.

It's interesting the point you make about the OS being licensed to the person and not the machine. Does this go for an OEM install, as well?

Dikkii said...

Dunc: You're comments regarding "Right of First Sale" are interesting. I don't know much about this, but it would appear that the law isn't fully cut and dried on this just yet. At least where it relates to software licensing.

I can't even find a reference to this particular right outside of the USA, which doesn't help me much. It's certainly worth finding out more.

Plonka said...


Ubuntu has been fairly well put together. Besides, "Ubuntu" itself is an excellent word.

OEM's are different. If you buy a machine that includes Windows, the license agreement is quite clear that it's licensed to that machine and that machine only.

Enforcing it is impossible however. Because hardware can fail, they are not allowed to tie the license to any particular piece of hardware, so it's simply tied to the brand and type info in the bios ("Dell - Mobile", for instance). So in practice you can install it on any Dell laptop and there's no way to tell whether it was bought for that machine or not.

Dikkii said...

Interesting, thanks Plonka. And yes, Ubuntu is a cool word. Mind you, I nearly went for Fedora...

Gryphonn said...

Hey, can another 'puter geek join in here?
But first, a little disclaimer. As Plonka would know, I did drop off the geek map for a while due to various reasons, but I'm back into it again now.
I've been playing with Comodo firewall recently and it seems to be doing a good job at present. Scroogle or Google will find it for you.
As for anti-virus software, I'm running AVG, but only because I can't afford to buy NOD 32 in my present financial situation. Rod Fewster is the Aussie contact for NOD32. He lives at Kallangur on the Northern side of Brisbane (I'll throw some URLs at the bottom of this comment. I used to be a reseller for NOD32. Not for the money, but because I believed, and still do believe that it is the best anti-virus software you can buy. It's the fastest in terms of scanning as well. One thing though. It is an anti-virus app, plain and simple. At least it was last time I used it.
I use Spybot S&D as a spyware detector and have done since its inception. Back when I was immersed in the industry, I was security focused. Speaking of security focused, I just remembered that I still have some intro articles I wrote for securityfocus before Symantec bought them out. They're old, but might be interesting for you guys just for nostalgia purposes. Oh, I was also around when Ad-Aware was being developed and played a small part in that, and also Gorilla's hosts file protection ideas (links to follow).

When/if you look at these things, you'll realise that it has been a while since I was immersed in the IT thing. I'm learning again though. It's funny though. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

NOD 32


Gorillas Hosts file info

My articles at Securtyfocus

You folks know where to find Spybot and the other stuff.
BTW, I run XP and have been a Windows user from the beginning. I'd play with a unix variant, but don't have the resources to do so at present. If I do, I'll want to run it on a separate box, rather than partition this one again. There's just no room on the 240gig worth of drives I've got on this box at present.
Anyways, now that I've finished tooting my horn, I'll go back to reading all the interesting stuff here on your blog Dikkii. Thanks for having me around.

Dikkii said...

Gryphonn, you're more than welcome to join in.

I'll have to check Comodo out. At the moment, I'm told that there's nothing wrong with Windows Firewall, but I'm not so sure. Certainly, I don't want whatever I install to go stuffing around with my registry, but it seems good so far.

And Nod 32 seems to have some good reviews as well. I'm persisting with ClamWin at the moment, mainly because I like the idea of supporting open source stuff, but that's probably my exposure to Ubuntu coming out already.

But that's some kick-arse links that you pout together for me, Gryphonn. Thanks for that - I'll be certainly checking them out.