10 very annoying system defaults

I was reading 10 seriously annoying default configurations at TechRepublic today and was inspired to come up with my own.

1. Windows Update

I love the idea of Windows Update, but its implementation drives me crazy. First, every update seems to require a restart of the computer. Coming from a linux background that is extremely frustrating, especially on a Windows server. No I can’t restart the Exchange server 3 times a week, thank you very much. Second, some updates are only visible after prior updates are installed, which compounds the restart problem. Third, there’s no way for 3rd party software developers to latch into this update process. This makes keeping a machine secure much harder, forcing admins to rely on tools from vendors like Secunia to keep their systems up to date.

2. User Account Control (UAC)

Much has been written about UAC, a feature of Windows Vista and later that prompts the user performing risky actions – like installing software. Unfortunately it prompted so much that many simply disabled the messages. I personally feel that UAC was one of the “features” that prevented mass adoption of Windows Vista. Thankfully Windows 7 gives you more granular control of the messages UAC displays.

3. Internet Explorer on Windows Servers

I completely agree with the author of the TechRepublic article. Internet Explorer on a Windows 2003 or 2008 server is virtually useless. Yes, you shouldn’t use Windows server for general purpose browsing, but with nearly all reference guides and support online there are times when you must use a web browser on the server.

Say you are in the server room, working on an Exchange server that’s not working. You need to research an error message from the system log so you hop over to Google. Instead of showing you the website you are prompted to add Google to the Trusted sites list. Click on one of the relevant links, add the site to your Trusted sites. Repeat this a few times and tell me that you don’t want to throw the server through a wall.

4. “Are you sure you want to empty the Recycle Bin?”

The whole point of the recycle bin is to prevent accidental file deletion. You have to interact with the Recycle Bin in order to empty it. Why confirm again that these are files need to be deleted?

5. ActiveX component install process

I know that ActiveX is a major security risk, but do I really need to confirm 3 different dialogs before it will install an ActiveX component in Internet Explorer 7 or 8?

6. Menus that change based on frequency of use

This came into vogue after Office 2000 implemented “Personalized Menus.”  The basic idea was that the Office apps had too many options and the average user could not get to the options that they needed quickly. So if an option was not used often, the software auto-hides the option for you. Yeah – great idea. Try walking a friend through a configuration change, only to discover that the menu option is hidden. Here is an idea – if there are too many options in a program, perhaps it is too complex and should be streamlined.

7. Hiding File Extensions

Why design a file system that requires the use of an extension to determine its file type, then design a file browser that hides those extensions. This is the first setting I change on any Windows machine I manage.

8. Hiding System and Hidden Files

If #7 is the first change I make, this one is number two by a few seconds. This one is even cross platform as the Gnome file browser also tries to “help” you by hiding these files from view.

9. Errors cause Copy / Move operations to stop completely.

Ever try to move a bunch of folders from one drive to another – maybe you are backing up your photo collection, maybe you are moving documents from one computer to another. If one file cannot be copied the whole process just stops. Now you have to figure out why the file copy did not work and start all over again. To solve this one, install a 3rd party file copier like TeraCopy.

10. Desktop Cleanup

Everybody uses the desktop a little differently, I tend to use mine as a scratch pad. I keep files that I am currently working on the desktop, and move them to other locations when they are no longer needed. The Desktop Cleanup wizard is like a maid that comes in behind you and starts putting files into random cabinets.

I know it seems like I was picking on Windows with this list, I know there are just as many annoying system defaults on other platforms, but these are the first ten I could think of. Chime in with your list in the comments section.

Cellphone Tethering: Is it a big deal?

Is a smartphone really that smart if providers put limits on how its data connection is used? Cellphone tethering, or using your cell phone to access internet services on your computer, is in the news because of recent actions by Apple, Palm, and Google.

Apple is releasing their new OS for their phones, dubbed iPhone 3.0, that includes tethering – unless you live in the US because AT&T tethering support isn’t available yet. Earlier this spring, Google pulled all tethering apps from the Android app store at T-Mobile’s request. Palm has sent a polite cease and desist to the “Pre Dev Wiki” website asking for tethering instructions to be removed because they might upset Sprint, Palm’s exclusive service partner in the US. Given that tethering has been available on phones for several years now, why are cell providers suddenly so concerned? Are they worried that customers would cancel their land based internet connections in favor of cellular based ones? Or that tethering would cut into the USB data card market? Read more

EPC, Inc. Hosts Before Hours Yellow Tie Event

Be sure to take a moment to add a great “Before Hours” networking event June 23rd, 2009 that we’ll be hosting from 7:30am to 9am. Read on below for more details and don’t forget to use the link below to RSVP with Frank Polstion, our Vice President of Retail Services. We look forward to seeing you there!

Come shake some hands where smart business people come for their computer supplies and data security needs.

Enjoy Yellow-Tie networking with breakfast and coffee, and a back-store tour.

What could be better?

Hosted By….  EPC, Inc.

— http://www.epcusa.com

Host Contact. Frank Polston — 636-443-1999 x1013, frank@epcusa.com

Date……… Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Time……… 7:30 to 9 a.m.
Location….. EPC, Inc.
Address…… 3941 Harry S. Truman Blvd., St. Charles, MO 63301

Cost……… Free

Register now at: http://www.yellow-tie.org/events/stcharlesco/june2009handshakes

Build an under-the-cabinet kitchen PC

Lifehacker is on a laptop recycling kick recently. Last week they showed us how to make a digital photo frame out of your old laptop. This week it is building your own under-the cabinet kitchen PC. Fashioned out of an old dell laptop, some coat hangers, and Puppy Linux, this DIY project looks like it would work great for checking the weather, listening to some internet radio, or looking up some recipies online. Man, what I wouldn’t give for a touch screen interface and software keyboard though.

If you are looking for more ideas on what do to with your old computer, check out these posts:

Computer Recycling: Old Notebook Gets New Life as Digital Frame

Why settle for a digital photo frame that only shows pictures? That’s the question that Justin Griswold asked himself when looking at an old Sony Vaio laptop he had laying around. Justin decided to be creative instead and turn the Vaio into a wall mounted LCD screen. In addition to being able to view image slideshows, the computer could also view powerpoint presentations, tv shows (using software like boxee), game emulators, and more. This is an awesome form of computer recycling.

It looks like the only challenge would be controlling this frankenstein creation after mounting on the wall, having bluetooth in the laptop would be a definite plus. With tons of used laptops at my fingertips, I think I will try to create my own.

Found via: Lifehacker – DIY: Turn an Old Laptop Into a Wall Mounted Computer

Ten Things To Do With an Old Computer

Just because you purchased a new computer and your old one will not run Vista or the latest games doesn’t mean you should throw it away. There are a lot of projects you can do with an older computer.

Note: Many of the examples include video how-to’s from the great tech DIY podcast Systm hosted by Revision3. If tech is your thing, Revision3 probably has a podcast for it.

1. Turn it into a file server

Have a large collection of digital photos or music files? Have multiple computers and want to have the same files available to all of them? With just a few minutes time, you can turn that old computer into network attached storage (NAS) using FreeNAS. The only gotcha: hard drive space can be limited in older computers, so to really make use of this tip, you will want to invest in a larger hard drive.
Read more

Quick Hits

Here are a few quick computer and security news articles from this week:

  • Mother sues Apple over exploding iPod Touch Supposedly the iPod was in her child’s pocket in the off position. The kid felt a hotness from his pocket, looked down and was on fire. The mother is suing Apple and 10 Apple store employees for damages.
  • Army database compromised The US Army discovered a possible security breach on a web application containing personal information of about 1600 soldiers
  • Cyber crime goes SaaS Want to buy a toolkit for attacking computers? No problem? Don’t have the expertise to run it yourself? No Problem, they’ll host it for you! Seems like this would make it easier to shut the attackers down since they have a common source.
  • Rigged podcasts can leak your iTunes username/password Hackers can create malicious podcasts to hijack usernames and passwords from Apple’s iTunes software. iTunes 8.1 fixes “feature”