Monthly Archive: August 2007

Back Into Vista – Video Conversion Anyone?

I fired up the Vista machine again, after a couple days off from it. My plan was to see how well it did playing a DVD out of the box. The answer: Excellent. I played a couple segments from Serenity. It would be perfectly viable, if I wanted to watch something nobody else did, for me to watch it at the computer, with a headset or in a closed room to avoid sound overlap. Since the sound quality of the machine is amazing for having $5 cheapo speakers, all the better.

It finally prompted me to activate, then disappeared the prompt. In XP you could easily locate a shortcut to bring up the activation screen. In Vista, as far as I could tell there was none. I typed “activate” and searched in the help center, and the third item listed in the results was that activation link. Had I not gone looking, apparently I would have had to wait another week for it to prompt me again, and would have had to try not to let it get away. Beyond that, it was completely uneventful.

I had realized I could now create DVD collections of pictures and, aha!, all the movie clips I’ve taken, from the 30 second ones with no sound on the original camera, to the ones that can be hundreds of megabytes on the new camera. Even better if I could edit them as needed. But wait!

The new camera make Quicktime movie files. I would have to get those out of that format.

Any opinions on video converters? Or editors for that matter? I can try this or that, but thought I’d see if anyone who has used any might have opinions.

I also had to install Quicktime even to play the videos on the Vista machine. When I double-clicked and there was no association, I used the “look on the internet” option for the first time ever and was impressed that it came right up to a screen for downoading either Quicktime or the Quicktime and iTunes combo. Since I’d planned to install iTunes, I went with the latter. Which went fine, but what a pain, all the screens you have to answer to install and then run it the first time.

Anywho, I came back to the old computer to post this, emphasis on the video conversion question, and to check the settings for newsgroups from Verizon, so I can add that in Windows Mail.

Junction Points

And in the process of showing Wayne Vista and geeking out some more, I noticed that in DOS the hidden folders that can’t be accessed and are in some cases obviously for backward compatibility are labeled [JUNCTION] instead of [DIR]. They are NTFS junction points, which act like folders (or files) but are pointers to other folders (or files). Also, I had set Explorer to show hidden files and folders, but for some reason that didn’t cascade to the user profile folder, so explicitly turning that on made the hidden stuff visible even from Vista in Explorer.

There is a switch for DIR that shows just junctions, so using /AL and /S redirected to a text file with > will give you a list of all of them on the machine.

There’s also a DOS command, MKLINK, for creating junctions. Who knew.

It’s NTFS security that makes the junctions inaccessible. They don’t need to be; they’re shortcuts to something you can get at elsewhere.

Very cool.

DOS Games on Vista

I finally tried some of the old DOS games on Vista.

Most of them demand to be in full screen mode.

Vista doesn’t support full screen mode for DOS, which I already had found but forgotten. I am used to clicking Start, Run, typing CMD and then if it’s a window, pressing Alt-Enter to make the DOS window full screen. I’d tried that and gotten the message.

I was able to use my first DOS game ever, Tetris. I first had to delete the PIF associated with it that had copied along from the other machine, as that specified full screen. Made sure I deleted those for all the others as I tried them, but for those apparently full screen is native.

The Tetris game is so old that it assumes you won’t have arrow keys on your keyboard, and makes it possible to play on the old 84 key keyboards by using J and L as left and right, K as rotate, and M as drop. I originally played this on my 286, with an EGA monitor and MS-DOS 3.3, in 1990.

It will run in a window on Vista, but it’s very slow. Slower and jerkier than it ever dreamed of being on the 286. Freaky.

A couple pinball games, Wolfenstein, Commander Keen 4, Doom… none of them are capable of running on Vista, period, because they all want to go full screen when they launch. Keen at least brings up the intro screen, but “press a key” makes it launch for real and go full screen.

The good thing is I wasn’t expecting much, and I could easily have a dozen other machines for DOS games if I wanted. There are some on the computer in Sadie and Valerie’s bedroom, though we were using it mainly for a keybanger for them. It’s been off a long while because it got noisy; maybe a dying CPU fan, or even just a wire hitting. I’ll have to remember to look at it. Meanwhile they’ve been using the AMD 400 and banging on a word processor instead, having a blast, and getting annoyed when I hook the Vista machine to their monitor. Cute.

On another note, I installed Gimp. It tells you right up front that using it may lock up your computer so you should disable hyperthreading. How nice of it. It feels too complicated, and in at least some case is, compared to PSP 5, but it can do what I need to do readily enough, and I might even get used to it. I suppose if I were to have a look at what Corel has done to Paint Shop Pro, I’d find that overcomplicated too. Meanwhile, Paint appears to have been improved. At the very least it supports more file types. I’ll have to make a point of using it enough to see if the features have expanded otherwise.

Vista the Fourth

Not much more to report. A lot of my dabbling the past day or so involved the old machine. I did install on the new machine, and I let it install updates and the lame Ultimate Extras that were available. I’ve backed up craploads of stuff from the 2000 machine.

One of the things I wanted to back up was my “cleanup” folder on the desktop. Long story…

I use my Windows desktop heavily for staging stuff. It’s where things download to by default. I’ll often put files I am working with there. And when installing things, they often create shortcuts on the desktop, wanted or not in the end.

Periodically, with the desktop completely covered in icons, I copy it all to a folder on the desktop named “Cleanup m-d-yy,” where m, d and yy are the numbers for the month, day, and two digit year. At one point I named the folders “stuff” rather than “cleanup.” When I do this, I will move the previous cleanup folder into the new one. Thus I end up with a directory structure that looks something like:

C:\documents and settings\jay\desktop\cleanup 7-5-07\cleanup 2-28-07\cleanup 10-6-06\cleanup 4-3-06\cleanup 12-26-05\stuff 9-29-05\stuff 6-28-05\cleanup 2-21-05\cleanup 8-14-04\…

To add insult to injury, then put long names of some of the files, especially rampant from saved web pages, but not limited to those. Can you guess what’s coming?

For some reason it lets you create that mess… then when you want to copy, delete, move or open certain files you can’t; path and file name have exceeded the system limit.

To back it all up, I couldn’t simply copy and paste the one on the desktop, because that would fail. On the new machine, I had a backup folder off the root and in it created a folder named cleanups. I had to create each folder, flattened to the same level, and carefully copy the contents of each folder, less anything in or under it that would be too long, all or most of which was expendable enough (as is much of the rest, but some isn’t and it’s a delightful archeology). That left me wanting to kill the monstrosity and being unable to delete it. I figured I might have to find a utility, else it would wait until the drive ever gets wiped. However, sometimes what won’t work on the machine will work connected from another across the network.

Sure enough, Vista allowed me to delete it. Then I copied back the flattened version… and Vista warned me when it detected one file to be copied that would be too long in combined path and file name on the target, allowing me to skip that file without aborting the whole operation. I’ve always thought Windows was kind of mindless in little things like that.

I didn’t run the rest of OpenOffice. I’ve used it before, and thought it was okay, but never warmed to it or used it enough to feel comfortable. The word processor is so much like Word, intentionally, and yet it always feels clunkier to me. I think some of the ways it defaults or tries to be not just like Word contribute to that feeling. It probably doesn’t help that I am so outrageously used to Word, having used every version and supported the product so extensively. At some point I will want to get Office 2007 for the same reason I got Vista, with that being its logical home. I downloaded Gimp but didn’t install it yet. I believe I only ever tried it, rather minimally, on Linux, and that was a few years back. I’m used to Paint Shop Pro 5, but I’ve used a lot of other graphics software and am not quite as stuck on one as I am with Word versus other products. And even with Word, there were other things I liked as much or better along the line. Before I went into Word support for Microsoft, I had used Word 2.0 and decided it was ugly and clunky compared to Ami Pro 3.0, in which I wrote the resume that got me the job supporting primarily Word 6.0, which in turn compared favorably to Ami Pro. WordStar 2000 was also a perfectly acceptable word processor. At any rate, I want to get used to it enough that I can help people with it if needed, as it’s a good alternative to bankrupting yourself buying the Microsoft equivalent.

One of the few games I ever got really good at was Monster Truck Madness. My CD long ago was lost (I still have the box, amazingly), but I had copied or installed it onto my old P200 such that I could play it without needing the CD in the drive. I copied that over to the Vista machine and to my amazement it ran beautifully and without question; far more smoothly than it ever did on older machines. I still need to try some of the old DOS games.

Let’s see…

The only other thing I can think of is that I noticed there’s a hidden ‘documents and settings” folder off the root, much as there is a hidden “My Documents” off the user profile. I assume both are legacy support, mapping anything that uses those paths by name to the current versions, named “users” and “documents” respectively.

I also noticed there’s an autoexec.bat and a config.sys, but no msdos.sys. Autoexec contains only a REM line saying something about it being there for legacy support. Weirdly, config.sys contains a single line:

That’s an odd thing to be there, and come to think of it, that may have been after the OpenOffice install and put there by it, rather than being a default.

Okay, back to work. I’m trying to do a combined cleanup prior to company and packup of things in the office to make it easier to move furniture and rearrange things.

Vista, Take Three

Obviously this is going to turn into a whole series of posts. I feel like I should do some really absurd things, like trying to install ancient programs, running old DOS games, that sort of thing, but we’ll see.

I think the hidden folders not showing is a matter of permissions. Shouldn’t be a biggie, though not just anyone would ever have any clue what to do, or that anything was even being hidden from them.

Heck, sharing is easy. I’m now accessing the C drive of the Vista machine from the 2000 machine. But they haven’t changed anything, as far as setting NT-style permissions. It defaults to read-only, accessible to anyone, up to ten simultaneous connections. No wizard. No putting it in simple terms. I set permissions requiring connecting as me, full control, and removed the “everyone” permission from the list. What I might expect is for them to offer sharing to current user only, with an explanation saying when you connect from another machine on your network, you would have to put in your name and password. Then the checkboxes for full control, etc. and a warning about that. At the same time, a part of me likes that everything hasn’t yet been oversimplified and wizarded to the point where, for me, it’s harder or more confusing.

I did note that the default share of the drive isn’t accessible, even with a password, as might be the case in some Windows versions. Basically the hard drives are shared hidden (with a $ after the share name) for network admin purposes, and most people would never know the difference.

What inspired this post is my examining the profile folder from the 2000 machine. Sure enough, from here I can see all the hidden files and folders. There are eleven visible and eighteen hidden, including folders named (listing for my own future reference):
Application Data
Local Settings
My Documents
Start Menu

The files are all ntuser.dat, ntuser log, and ntuser.ini files. What, you doubted that Vista, XP and 2000 were all heirs of and ultimately based off of NT? Doubt no more.

The “My Documents” folder is now simply named “Documents,” and is one of the visible ones under the profile. Thus the hidden “My Documents” intrigues me, no doubt being there for backward compatibility and redirecting to the Documents folder.

SendTo is one of my favorites. Any program shortcut you put in SendTo (which is kind of hard if it’s completely inaccessible, but then I didn’t check yet whether there is still a send to option on the context menus in Vista) appears in right-click menus in Windows where appropriate. You can right-click a text file, say, and choose send to and select Notepad… if you have copied the shortcut for Notepad into the SendTo folder for that user. I modify any copy of Windows I work on to any significant degree to make Notepad available. Using SendTo also fails to leave a telltale entry under…

Recent is a folder the system uses to put shortcuts to files you have opened, and that is what displays, at least in part, under “documents” on the Start menu, making it easy to go back to something you opened recently. It’s great for apps that don’t have an MRU (most recently used) menu the way, say, Word does. It can also save you if you want but can’t remember a document you opened recently but not recently enough to appear in the default four Word tracks.

Anyway, I think that covers it, and I need to go now. Undoubtedly there will be more later! I think it’s Deb’s turn to post…

Tricksy Vista

I played with Vista further, after writing about it yesterday. Got the machine on our router. Making it see the network and the internet was sooooo hard. It meant – ohmygod – plugging in a cable.

Well, then to see the share on my old computer, I had to adjust the built in protection, which is pretty slick. It gives you a choice of turning on network visibility and file sharing (or however it called the pair of things) “private” to the local network, or openly to any public network. I chose the former, and love that they made the distinction. Still, not a big deal, and the internet simply worked.

I tested Windows Mail, which is the new name of Outlook Express. I setup my main account I use as the default, modified the account to leave on server, and downloaded the 1800-odd e-mails that were accumulated there. It pops up things to tell you about suspected phishing e-mails, and it highlights those, even when it leaves them in the inbox. Suspected spams, defaulting to “low” for screening, go into a junk folder. There were a lot of false positives, if not that many when some 600-odd were junked overall. The disturbing thing is that apparently anything from me at that very account or domain is considered spam. Ditto for Deb’s address at that domain. You can tell it “not junk.” I’d hope you can do so on the right-click, but the mouse is broken so I had to use the menu. You can’t multi-select and unjunk things, only one by one, which is mildly annoying.

In the inbox, unless it’s on the broken right-click, there is no easy way to tell it a false negative is junk. It’s basically the same old blocked senders scheme tying into that, so I just deleted them. It doesn’t identify the newfangled spams that use PDF attachments, but then most filters don’t.

Overall, it did a good job.

Last night I tried copying way too many files from this to the new computer, pulling them via the new one. It seemed failry slow, and got steadily slower, so I wasn’t surprised this morning to see that one of the fixes out for Vista involves slowness of file transfer that has apparently driven anyone who would notice crazy. I ended up canceling that so I could shut down the machines as thunderstorms were predicted.

This morning I tried copying my Outlook Express data stores, all 3.41 GB of them, to the new machine to import into Windows Mail.

In the process, I found or was reminded of an interesting new feature. I’d set Explorer’s folder options to show everything. If you go to the profile folder, named jay in this case, under it are a set of folders, some of which are hidden. One is called “application data” and has a lot of settings and data files associated with your programs. Another is called “local settings,” and contains folders named temp, temporary internet files, history, and another “application data” folder. In Windows 9x, application data was either directly under the windows folder, or if you had profiles, was under the relevant profile in the profiles folder under windows. Same thing, basically, except for being only one app data per user.

Windows Explorer in Vista using a bar with cookie crumbs at the top, which I love. You can click back to a prior level easily. I was weirded out that there was no address bar, showing the equivalent the old way, like:
c:\documents and settings\jay

Ah, but if you click past the end, it renders it editable and in that format, and you can manually add to it, press enter and there you are. So in the profile folder, where you can’t see the application data folder, you tack on application data manually and it takes you there.

There’s just no apparent way to unhide those hidden folders. And since this was looking across the network at my old machine, I know it’s going strictly by the standard “hidden” attribute, not something new to Vista. Telling the folder options to let you view hidden and system folders makes no difference.

Anyway, I was able to navigate to “local settings” that way, and under that the “application data” folder was again hidden, so same thing again. Buried under there is where the Outlook Express data files are. I copied that folder.

Once it was done, I used what appears to be a slick import feature in Windows Mail. I told it the mail I was importing was Outlook Express 6 format. It was unable to import it. At first I thought maybe I had version 5, but it turns out that my e-mail is indeed version 6, so the import refused to work for no reason at all. Not good. It might be there’s an interim way around it, if I want to insist, but we’ll see. That’s not encouraging in part because it makes me feel less secure about anything importing the old e-mail, so what would be the point of backing it up?

On another note, I haven’t tried downloading Firefox or anything yet, but I love Internet Explorer 7 so far. It’s as if they copied and improved in Firefox, at least as of the versions I’ve used. It’s probably the hardware, but web pages load dramatically faster than I am used to seeing. It was super easy to tell IE7 to load in a new tab in the same window any link targeted to open in a new window, which is one of my long ago customizations to Firefox.

I’m still itching about that hidden folder issue. I figure buried under administrative tools or something there has to be a way to change the protective behavior…


I swapped the SATA drive into the new computer, changed the jumper on the DVD-RW drive back to master and plugged both it and the plain DVD drive in on the IDE cable, fired it up, and with minimal fuss was installing Windows Vista from the DVD drive.

That went smoothly enough. The hardest part was reading the CD key without a magnifying glass, or the eye exam and new glasses I won’t be able to afford for the proverbial foreseeable future. I say proverbial because foreseeable future is one of those common expressions we use that I saw someone rip apart one time, so I have never looked at it the same or used it as comfortably since. Deb helped with that. I must remember to buy a magnifying glass. I need it on almost a daily basis, or so it seems.

For the past hour or so I’ve been exploring. Which was made more interesting by the fact that the one mouse I have here that is USB has a dead right button, thanks Valerie, so I can’t right-click. seeing what’s on the context menus, and getting to settings and such via them, is my preferred way. Which was why I fairly quickly swapped to another mouse on this computer after that one became crippled. How soon we forget. I should have remembered and ordered a USB mouse or two along with the two USB keyboards, but for some reason I was convinced I had viable ones. Multiple.

It’s pretty.

They’ve “fixed” elements of the interface as compared to XP enough that I may decide I don’t have to switch to the classic Start menu, use classic folders, and whatever. Except I already had to switch Control Panel to classic view, though even that was almost viable.

I killed the sidebar, though I could see using it with selected widgets, ultimately.

I have the computer off the grid, so to speak, and it’s amazing it hasn’t pestered me to activate Windows. At all. I have no doubt it will remind me later, but it’s remarkable in its lack of nagging. I’ll try networking it at some point, which will mean it being online and all.

They’ve changed where user profiles go.

It took me a long time to figure out how to do the flip through windows sideways thing that wow people with as the reason to switch. Cool trick, but not useful. At all. Just a trick. The previews in the normal alt-tab bar are just as useful.

I haven’t run into the virtual men in black, demanding my approval for me to do something dangerous, all that many times, and it’s been about where I’d expect. Far from annoying enough to turn off, yet. For instance, when I ran regedit I was prompted. I gave the registry a pretty good once over. It’s basically the same registry, with no differences you wouldn’t expect.

Instead of the old + and – indicators for expanding and retracting, there are triangles and angled triangles. Cuz I am sure all the people I’ve had to explain the totally obvious plus and minus interface to over the years will understand the triangles sooooo much better without having it, you know, explained. A time or few.

There’s a lot of cool, smooth graphical tricks and transitions that might not be useful but they sure are purty.

I poked around at a command prompt for a while and probably the most interesting thing I found is that some folders that used to show up for dir/ah because they are hidden will no longer show, as if they have an attribute above and beyond mere hidden. Which is certainly possible.

I was surprised at how much stuff was under the temp folder, which lives in the same spot as ever. Because I am weird, I confirmed that using the SET command in DOS, which shows all such environment variables.

There are some odd new folders under system32, if I am not mistaken, but just for giggles I checked and found HOSTS was in the same place.

I need to do tons more investigating, try messing with it, stuff like creating other users, get it on the network and see if that goes smoothly, get it online, copy files to it, install some stuff, that sort of thing. I explored control panel, particularly administrative tools, a fair amount, brought up task manager, and so forth.

The biggest problem I have is with where to put the machine so I can actually use it. I’d like to take part of my actual work and stuff to it just to give it a good shaledown. We have a rough plan for rearranging the office, but that requires moving some furniture from the office to here and around the apartment. Ugh.

Right now I need to make supper. I’ve probably forgotten something of interest about my preliminary Vista experience. Besides that 3D Pipes, my favorite screensaver, is gone, but one called Bubbles is kind of cool. I was thinking about making something along the lines of chicken and gravy, with green beans on the side if the ones we have left are still good. Then I imagined concocting something like a sesame ginger green bean dish, sort of coated with a light sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Then I thought, well, one could do that with chicken and beans mixed together.

But I’m not sure. Depends on the condition of the beans and how adventurous I feel. Tomorrow is going to be, of necessity, shopping day, because we’re outta too much. Last night was fried chicken. Night before was spaghetti with red sauce and hamburger. Night before was fried chicken, which came out so good that’s why I tried it again, but it was rough on the olive oil supply. Before that was chicken broccoli alfredo. Chicken chicken chicken. The only reason there was relief for the spaghetti was I picked up a pack of hamburger during a limited-cash diaper run.

Okay, to the kitchen!

Aborting Forced Shutdown

It’s interesting to see this post about a stubborn, automated reboot in Vista. I haven’t setup my Vista testbed machine yet, but I’ve seen a shutdown countdown on older Windows. You can even provoke it by accidentally ending the wrong process.

That’s how I learned about “shutdown /a” for aborting such a thing (by being quick with the Run line). I wonder if it works in Vista as well. This KB article describes the switches as applicable to Windows 2000,

Guess I’ll find out, if Vista does the shutdown thing to me, or if I can provoke it.

Amiga History

Over at Ars Technica they are working on a superb history of the Amiga. Sadly, I never had the pleasure of using one, but I have heard nothing but raves about them over the years, and I know there are many still in use and software still being written or adapted for them.

Check out part 1. Naturally it’s fairly long, and it’s only the first part.

I gather that typical non-technical tech company management was a big factor.