Thursday, April 26, 2007

Turn off that annoying clicking sound in Internet Explorer/Windows Explorer

Annoyed with that clicking sound in Internet Explorer whenever you click on a link or hit the back or forward navigation buttons? Although I don't use Internet Explorer as my primary browser, I still have to use it from time to time, and I find the sound maddening. It's the same sound that you hear when you navigate through your hard drive in Windows Explorer (or My Computer, it's the same thing).

Want to shut it off? Here's how:
  1. Open the Control Panel (Start > Settings > Control Panel or Start > Control Panel)
  2. Open the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties applet
  3. Go to the Sounds tab
  4. Scroll down to the "Windows Explorer" heading in the Program events list
  5. Select "Start Navigation," then change the Sounds field to "(None)" (highlighted in red below)

Labels: , ,

Tip: Make Windows Desktop Search less CPU intensive

After installing Vista, I noticed that the CPU would peg itself at 100% for minutes at a time periodically. Using Process Explorer, I determined that the culprit was SearchFilterHost.exe, which is the part of Windows Desktop Search that indexes your documents for that zippy search you get from the Start Menu. SearchProtocolHost.exe and SearchIndexer.exe were also using more resources than normal. Stopping the "Windows Search Service" would fix the problem, but it also (obviously) stopped my documents and emails from being indexed. After getting used to using indexed searches on my emails, I was definitely not about to disable the service for good.

The problem was most prevalent when it was rebuilding a fresh index or after I modified a lot of files. It also seemed to bring my system to a crawl when running iTunes. After doing a little research on the web, I stumbled upon the answer: Disable the indexing of XML documents. It looks like the indexing XML documents is a CPU intensive process. Either that, or there's contention with other processes when they use temporary XML files. The reason I saw the issue with iTunes has to do with how iTunes manages its music library. It uses a number temporary XML files which Windows Desktop Search attempts to index.

To disable this file type, go to the Control Panel and launch the Indexing Options app. Click the Advanced button, then go to the File Types tab. Find the xml extension and uncheck the box next to it. Clicking OK will prompt you to rebuild the index. Do so.

Now, you may have your reasons for wanting to index XML files. If that's the case, you may not want to turn this file type off. In that case, consider excluding the iTunes library folder from the list of folders that will be indexed. Personally, the annoyance of having my CPU pegged more often that it should be was enough for me to turn off the XML file type for good. I may turn it back on at a later date, perhaps when Microsoft updates Windows Desktop Search.

I posted this because I thought that it might help someone else with the same issue. If you've found this via a Google search, hopefully this information will ease your pain. Keep in mind that this tip is not limited to Windows Vista users. To my knowledge, these tips work with all versions of Windows Desktop Search.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, April 19, 2007

2007 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Phtography

Renée C. Byer has won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for her heartbreaking photo essay that ran in the Sacramento Bee. It follows the story of Cyndie and Derek Madsen as they cope with Derek's struggle with cancer, and ultimately his death. The series is incredibly moving, and does a fantastic job of telling their story.

Link (via Thomas Hawk)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Charlie the Unicorn [Video]

Behold, Candy Mountain! Watch Charlie the Unicorn's very magical and slightly cracked quest for Candy Mountain, replete with an ending that M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of.

Link (thanks, Nathan!)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My Vista horror story

Ever since the release of Vista in January, stories of failed or expensive upgrades have been floating around the 'net. Many of these stories, however, seem to be overly dramatized versions of ho-hum "why didn't you tell me I had to upgrade my 10-year old video card?" I can understand that you're frustrated, but implying that missing device drivers for INSERT DEVICE HERE is a sign of a broken OS is, in my opinion, severely misguided. For the most part it seemed to be a relatively easy thing to do for anyone with a little tech savvy. Personally, I'm an IT consultant that has maintained more than one corporate network and have been building my own PC's for years. I'm a shoe-in for this stuff, right? Almost.

The Plan

First off, experience with every upgrade since Windows 95 has told me that a clean install is the way to go. I also heard that driver support wasn't up to snuff just yet and even that some of my hardware (like my Creative WebCam NX Ultra) would just plain not work. That, along with some application compatibility problems, prompted me to pursue a dual-boot scenario. This would allow my existing XP installation to remain untouched while I get my Vista installation set up to my liking. That would allow me take baby steps towards this brave new world.

Setting up a system for dual boot is actually much easier than it sounds like. In fact, I had already done this once before, following my own advice from an earlier post. My previous attempt with Vista RC-1 had gone off without a hitch.

Getting Started

It didn't take long for the problems to start. The first order of business involved using Symantec's Partition Magic 8.0 to resize the boot partition so that I could create another partition on that drive for the Vista install. When you do this, Partition Magic needs to reboot your machine to make the necessary changes to the partition. Like I said before, I had already done this quite a few times before so I didn't think that I had anything to worry about.

I was wrong. During this process, Partition Magic halted with error #1552. At this point my system rebooted, and I was greeted with a blue screen of death. My stomach dropped.

"No problem," I tried to tell myself. "These things happen from time to time. Let's just reboot and hope that this is a one-off deal."

This, and all subsequent reboots halted with the same stop error 0x0000007b: INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE. Initially, I tried running a number of the tools on the Ultimate Boot CD (if you don't already have this, stop reading. Download it. Burn it. File it away for a rainy day. Go ahead, I'll wait). Sadly, none of the tools fit the bill. In fact, most of them wouldn't even recognize the volume. After doing some research, it appeared that simply running chkdsk would take care of it. Since I had no XP boot disk, I booted into the XP install disc and ran the Recovery Console. Unfortunately, chkdsk consistently failed, complaining that it couldn't read the volume.

Moving On

At this point, I'm ready to give up. I had backed up most of my data, but I still had some documents and photos that would be lost. With my dual-boot dreams dashed, I figured that it was time to move on. Having resigned losing them, I decided to install Vista over my damaged volume. Thankfully, my boot volume was in a RAID 1 configuration, so it was mirrored onto another drive. If there was any chance that I could save data on the drive, it was by breaking the mirror. I'd install Vista on one, then try to salvage the other later.

After breaking the mirror, I installed Vista. The install progressed quickly, and it went smoothly. On its final reboot Vista recognized the other half of my broken mirror and decided that it had a problem and ran chkdsk on it. After rebuilding a few indexes, my newly repaired disk appeared fully intact in Explorer!

Post Mortem

Why did this happen? Apparently, the problem resulted from the fact that the disk that I wanted to repartition was RAID 1. What I didn't know at the time was that Partition Magic 8.x doesn't support RAID 1. What I should have done was break the mirror, repartition, then set up the RAID once again. Had Partition Magic detected my RAID configuration and warned me of this, I would have been saved a lot of time.

The irony of this is that with all of the Vista horror stories floating around, my problems weren't caused by Vista itself. In fact, Vista ended up bringing my data back from the void. Thankfully, short of losing my shot at a dual-boot configuration (and a few years of my was a long night), I'm not too much worse for wear. I've been happily running the latest version of Vista for the past couple of months with all of my data in tact.

Hopefully, when your time comes your Vista install will go to plan. If not, maybe you'll find something in my story that will help. Failing that, know that there are others out there that feel your pain. It probably won't give you much solace but...there you have it.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, April 06, 2007

Know your rights: Rule 240

Consider this a public service announcement, without guitar.

My Travel Rights has a little known tidbit of information that every air traveler should know: Rule 240. According to the site:
Before airline deregulation in 1978, Rule 240 was literally a federal requirement. Nowadays, it's a term describing what individual airlines will do for late or stranded passengers. In fact, the major airlines have filed "conditions of carriage" with the U.S. Department of Transporatation [sic] (DOT) guaranteeing their respective Rule 240s.
What this means is that you, as an informed customer, can and should use Rule 240 as leverage to get a little back the next time you're left marooned in your layover city by your airline. Rather than surrender yourself (and your wallet) to the powers that be, take matters into your own hands and press the issue with your airline representative.

According to My Travel Rights, this dirty little secret is generally not shared with air travellers, and may even be unknown to the airline ticket agents. As such, they recommend that you carry a printed copy of the rule with you whenever you travel. Head to My Travel Rights for links to each of the major airlines' respective Rule 240s. Keep in mind that this does not cover "force majeure" events, or events outside of the airline's control.

Had Joe known about Rule 240, he probably would have included it in his song.

Link (via Consumerist, thanks Jaime!)

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Engadget's real interview with fake Steve Jobs

Engadget's got a great interview with "El Jobso." They get all the scoop, from how Apple deals with leakers to the science behind their pricing scheme:

When I returned to Apple we figured out how to overprice correctly. About 50% more than the reasonable price is about what people are wiling to pay to get a product that makes them cooler than everyone else. So now instedad of over-overpricing, we're just overpricing. And as our results indicate, it's working.

Happy April Fool's Day!

Labels: , ,