5 Windows Vista Tips

Access More Media with Spotlight.
Almost all versions of Windows Vista come with enhanced Windows Media Center functionality, which allows you to create, store, organize, edit, and view personal and public media. The Start menu choices in Windows Media Center in Windows Vista are Pictures + Video, Movies, TV, Music, Spotlight, Tools, and Tasks. If your computer is outfitted with the proper hardware, you can turn your PC into a complete home theater system, including a DVD player and recorder, a movie theater, a movie studio, a television, a personal video recorder, a jukebox, a music server, and a photo library.
One feature of Windows Media Center really stands out for me though: the Spotlight. As you can see below, there are currently two choices under Spotlight, More Programs and Online Spotlight. From More Programs, you can play games such a s Chess Titans, Spider Solitaire, and FreeCell, or select Online Spotlight to gain access to online media. You can also add applications or services to your More Programs area for easy discoverability.
In the following image, you can see Online Spotlight in Windows Media Center. As you move the mouse—or click with your remote control—over each choice, the icon comes to the forefront and an explanation is offered regarding what the service or choice actually does. In this example, you can use MSN Remote Record Service to schedule your TV recordings from anywhere in the world, as long as you have access to the Internet! This particular group of icons is available from Showcase. Here are a few more things you can do with Online Spotlight, including but not limited to:
  • Access free television shows, Internet radio, news, movie trailers, podcasts, and videos from AOL, Yahoo!, Reuters, MSN TV Today, and ABC.
  • Download and purchase movies and TV content through subscription services such as Movielink, TVTonic, CinemaNow, and Comedy Central. The following figure shows Movielink.
  • Purchase, Save, and/or Play Music from Napster, Satellite Radio, and MTV Overdrive and from VH1, MusicMatch, and Live365.com.
  • Share photos with Kodak Share and view image collections from Gallery Player.
  • Play games alone or with others from Gaming on Demand and DISCover Games.
  • Burn DVDs of your favorite TV shows from PrimeTime and ARcSoft QuickDVD.
Spotlight makes it clear though: If you've been putting off getting an "always on" connection to the Internet, now's the time. Windows Media Center in Windows Vista will work to its full potential if an always-on connection is available.

View and Manage Pictures and Videos with Photo Gallery
Check out the new Photo Gallery in Windows Vista. You can sort pictures and videos by keywords, tags, the date the pictures or video were taken, ratings, and other metadata. You can even create Search Folders that contain up-to-date and "live" data, which changes each time you open the folder. You can create your own metadata to totally organize your photos and videos using any type of organizational set you'd like.
Windows Photo Gallery is shown here with March 2006 selected for viewing, and the image of the dog is highlighted. In using the hover preview, notice how the image comes to the forefront and information about the image is shown. I prefer to sort my photos by their folder names. As you can see in the next image, there are multiple named folders and subfolders. Selecting any folder on the left produces its contents on the right. Using the mouse to hover over any picture offers information about that picture as well. In this image, the folder My Pictures is selected, and two of the subfolders are showing, Nikko and Photo Album. On the right side, you can see there are 719 photos in the My Pictures folder.
If you choose to sort folders by name, organize your images by subject such as Home, Weddings, Vacations, Friends, Family, Special Events, and Pets, and create subfolders for each. You can then browse images by their subject category. Because images from digital cameras automatically register the date taken in the metatag, it's just as easy to then organize the images by date taken. You can do this with a simple click of the mouse.

Improve Your Media Experience with Windows Media Player 11
Windows Media Player 11 is another new feature included in Windows Vista. Windows Media Player 11 has a deeply integrated music library for both online and offline content, with an interface that looks more like a Web site than computer application. And with a new integrated feel, Windows Media Player 11 makes online, network, and offline content indistinguishable. Windows Media Player 11 also connects to additional hardware easily and offers easy-to-use tools for following the process of any task (downloading music, burning CDs, synching music, or streaming video, just to name a few). You can learn more about Windows Media Player 11 at this Windows Vista Community Web page.

One of my favorite additions to Windows Media Player 11 is the Global and Sync Status tools. In older versions of Windows Media Player, you never really knew what was going on during a task. Isn't buffering finished yet? How's that sync going? Will all of this fit on a CD? And which songs can I put on there, based on the song's license? And, of course, why won't this song sync to my MP3 player? Windows Media Player 11 has ended these aggravations with Global Status and Sync Status.

In addition to the new status features, there are new search features too. With WordWheel, for instance, you can type part of the artist's name, song title, or genre—whatever you can remember—into the Search bar. The Library "prunes" through your entire collection with a query across relevant fields and offers up what options most closely relate to your entry. Here's an example. I've typed PA in the Search bar and selected Artist. There are four artists in my library whose name begins with Pa. The more letters I type, the shorter the list gets. It's a "smart" search and will change the way to locate data, including all media, on your computer forever.

Organize and Find Data with New Search Tools

Speaking of new search features—using Search Tools and Search Folders you can locate all of the data on your PC, including the data you have in Windows Mail, Windows Media Player 11, Windows Photo Gallery, and your personal files and folders quickly and easily. No more having to remember where you've stored a file. Those days are over. Now, you only need to remember something about what you're looking for, such as a word contained in a document, part of the title of a song or album, or the month or day a picture was taken. This search feature provides the same functionality detailed in the previous section.

You can also help the new Search Tools provide more accurate results by adding your own tags to data. For example, you can add a keyword to all documents related to a specific project after you save them to your computer. Later, just search for the project keyword in the Quick Search box on the Start menu, and all the project-related pictures will be displayed. This search works with any type of data, including music, pictures, and videos.

Another new search tool in Windows Vista is Search Folders. An easy way to get started with Search Folders is to click Start, and then click Search. The Search window opens, and you will type your search keyword(s). You can then save that search to your hard drive. That Search Folder becomes an excellent tool for finding up-to-date information about the files on your computer that you create, save, and search for often. Opening a saved Search Folder instantly runs that saved search again (behind the scenes), displaying brand new results immediately. Here's an example:

In this image, I've searched for "Jennifer." The search results include a contact, an Office Word document, a folder, several images, a Journal page, and a shortcut. Now all I have to do is click the item and gain access. As shown on the left side of this image, a Saved Searches folder also exists. When you click that folder you can see all of your saved searches as well as default saved search folders. The default folders are already set up and include automatic searches for Last 7 Days E-Mail, Favorite Music, Last 30 Days Documents, and more. As noted earlier, these new search features will change the way you use your computer forever.

Manage Your PC with New Choices in Control Panel
The Control Panel in Windows Vista offers many new features too, as you can see in the screenshot below. Although each of the new items in Control Panel merit their own stand-alone articles, I'll introduce a few of the new items briefly.
New Control Panel items include:
  • Network Center. You can use this feature to view your Network Map and uncover connectivity problems, configure basic security settings, and view network details.
  • Parental Controls. You can use Parental Controls to enable, configure, and manage the new parental controls in Windows Vista.
  • Pen and Input Devices. You can use this feature to configure and manage alternate input devices including pens and input panels.
  • Sidebar Properties. With this feature, you can configure and manage how the Windows Vista sidebar appears on the interface.
  • Sync Center. You can use Sync Center to manage synched hardware such as PDAs, portable media players, and other devices.
  • Text to Speech. With Text to Speech, you can set up, train, and run speech recognition, and to configure and run text to speech translation.
  • Windows Defender. With this functionality, you can check for unwanted or harmful software, scan your computer, view quarantined items, and visit the Windows Defender Web site.
  • Windows SideShow. You can use the Windows SideShow to connect a secondary display that accesses information like e-mail or media from a mobile phone or other mobile device. And you can use Windows SideShow to check your mail while you are away from your computer.
Windows Vista truly is a giant leap into the technological future. Beyond the sleek, new, Web-like interface, new Windows Media Center 11 features, the increased security, hands-off approach to keeping your computer safe, and Windows Vista ease-of-use, there are a thousand things to keep you electrified, excited, and enthused. Just be careful, you may end up like me, doing more playing than working!


How MP3 Files Work

Introduction to How MP3 Files Work :
The MP3 movement is one of the most amazing phenomena that the music industry has ever seen. Unlike other movements - for example, the introduction of the cassette tape or the CD - the MP3 movement started not with the industry itself but with a huge audience of music lovers on the Internet. The MP3 format for digital music has had, and will continue to have, a huge impact on how people collect, listen to and distribute music.

If you have ever wondered how MP3 files work, or if you have heard about MP3 files and wondered how to use them yourself, then this article is for you! In this article, you will learn about the MP3 file format and how you can start downloading, listening to and saving MP3 files onto CDs!

The MP3 Format :

If you have read How CDs Work, then you know something about how CDs store music. A CD stores a song as digital information. The data on a CD uses an uncompressed, high-resolution format. Here's what happens when a CD is created:

  • Music is sampled 44,100 times per second. The samples are 2 bytes (16 bits) long.
  • Separate samples are taken for the left and right speakers in a stereo system.
So a CD stores a huge number of bits for each second of music:
44,100 samples/second * 16 bits/sample * 2 channels = 1,411,200 bits per second
Let's break that down: 1.4 million bits per second equals 176,000 bytes per second. If an average song is three minutes long, then the average song on a CD consumes about 32 million bytes of space. That's a lot of space for one song, and it's especially large when you consider that over a 56K modem, it would take close to two hours to download that one song.
The MP3 format is a compression system for music. The MP3 format helps reduce the number of bytes in a song without hurting the quality of the song's sound. The goal of the MP3 format is to compress a CD-quality song by a factor of 10 to 14 without noticably affecting the CD-quality sound. With MP3, a 32-megabyte (MB) song on a CD compresses down to about 3 MB. This lets you download a song in minutes rather than hours, and store hundreds of songs on your computer's hard disk without taking up that much space.

Is it possible to compress a song without hurting its quality? We use compression algorithms for images all the time. For example, a GIF file is a compressed image. So is a JPG file. We create Zip files to compress text. So we are familiar with compression algorithms for images and words and we know they work. To make a good compression algorithm for sound, a technique called perceptual noise shaping is used. It is "perceptual" partly because the MP3 format uses characteristics of the human ear to design the compression algorithm. For example:
  • There are certain sounds that the human ear cannot hear.
  • There are certain sounds that the human ear hears much better than others.
  • f there are two sounds playing simultaneously, we hear the louder one but cannot hear the softer one.

Using facts like these, certain parts of a song can be eliminated without significantly hurting the quality of the song for the listener. Compressing the rest of the song with well-known compression techniques shrinks the song considerably -- by a factor of 10 at least. (If you would like to learn more about the specific compression algorithms, see the links at the end this article.) When you are done creating an MP3 file, what you have is a "near CD quality" song. The MP3 version of the song does not sound exactly the same as the original CD song because some of it has been removed, but it's very close.

From this description, you can see that MP3 is nothing magical. It is simply a file format that compresses a song into a smaller size so it is easier to move around on the Internet and store.

Using the MP3 Format

Knowing about the MP3 format isn't half as interesting as using it. The MP3 movement -- consisting of the MP3 format and the Web's ability to advertise and distribute MP3 files -- has done several things for music:

  • It has made it easy for anyone to distribute music at nearly no cost (or for free).
  • It has made it easy for anyone to find music and access it instantly.
  • It has taught people a great deal about manipulating sound on a computer.

    That third one was accidental but important. A big part of the MP3 movement is the fact that it has brought an incredible array of powerful tools to desktop computers and given people a reason to learn how they work. Because of these tools, it is now extremely easy for you to:

  • Download an MP3 file from a Web site and play it

  • Rip a song from a music CD and play it directly or encode it as an MP3 file

  • Record a song yourself, convert it to an MP3 file and make it available to the world

  • Convert MP3 files into CD files and create your own audio CDs from MP3 files on the Web

  • Rip songs off of various music CDs and recombine them into your own custom CDs

  • Store hundreds of MP3 files on data CDs

  • Load MP3 files into tiny portable players and listen to them wherever you go

To do all of these amazing things, all you need is a computer with a sound card and speakers, an Internet connection, a CD-R drive to create CDs and an MP3 player. If you simply want to download MP3 files from the Web and listen to them, then all you need is a computer with a sound card and speakers and an Internet connection - things you probably already have!
Let's look at many of the different things you can do with MP3 files and the software that makes it possible.

Downloading and Listening

If you would like to download and then listen to MP3 files on your computer, then you need:

  • A computer
  • A sound card and speakers for the computer (If your computer has speakers, it has a sound card.)
  • An Internet connection (If you are browsing the Web to read this article, then you have an Internet connection and it is working fine.)
  • An MP3 player (a software application you can download from the Web in 10 minutes)

If you have recently purchased a new computer, chances are it already has software that can play MP3 files installed on its hard disk. The easiest way to find out if you already have an MP3 player installed is to download an MP3 file and try to double-click on it. If it plays, you are set. If not, you need to download a player, which is very easy to do.
There are literally thousands of sites on the Web where you can download MP3 files. (Click here to do a search for MP3 download sites.) Go to one of these sites, find a song and download it to your hard disk (most MP3 sites let you either listen to the song as a streaming file or download it -- you want to download). Most songs range between 2 and 4 MB, so it will take 10 to 15 minutes unless you have a high-speed Internet connection. Once the song has finished downloading, try to double-click on the file and see what happens. If your computer plays it, then you are set.

If you find that you cannot play it, then you need to download an MP3 player. There are dozens of players available, and most of them are free or shareware (shareware is extremely inexpensive). One of the most popular is WinAmp, which you can download from www.winamp.com.

computer. Many people have hundreds of songs they have collected, and they create jukebox-like playlists so that their computer can play them all day long!

Taking the Files With You

Many people who start collecting MP3 files find that they want to listen to them in all kinds of places. Small, portable MP3 players answer this need. These players are like portable cassette players except that they are smaller.
These players plug into your computer's parallel, FireWire or USB port to transfer the data, and a software application lets you transfer your MP3s into the player by simply dragging the files. See How MP3 Players Work for details.

Creating Your Own

f you have a CD collection and would like to convert songs from your CDs into MP3 files, you can use ripper and encoder software to do just that. A ripper copies the song's file from the CD onto your hard disk. The encoder compresses the song into the MP3 format. By encoding songs, you can play them on your computer or take them with you on your MP3 player.

This page contains a list of some rippers and encoders.

Writing MP3s to CDs

If you have a writable CD drive in your computer, there are two ways to save your MP3 files on a CD:

  • You can write the MP3 files themselves onto a data CD in order to save them and clear some space on your hard disk. You can then listen to the files on any computer. Some car stereos and DVD players now let you play data-encoded MP3s, too.
  • You can convert (decode) your MP3 files into full-size CD tracks and then save them to an audio CD. This allows you to listen to your MP3 files on any CD player.

WinAmp has a plug-in that creates full-size WAV files from MP3 files, and some of the encoders will also decode. Once you have the full-size CD tracks, then the software that comes with your CD-R drive will let you create an audio CD easily.
The CD-Recordable FAQ is an excellent source of information on getting data and music onto a CD.

Distributing Original Music

If you are an artist who is recording music at home or in a small studio, you can use MP3 files and the Web to distribute your music to an extremely large audience. The first step is to create a song, either on a cassette tape, minidisc or CD. If it is on a CD, you can use the ripper and encoder tools described in the previous section to create an MP3 file. If it is on a cassette (or minidisc), you can connect the output of your cassette (or minidisc) deck to the line-in or microphone jack of your sound card and record the music digitally on your computer. Then you can encode that file to create the MP3.
Once you have an MP3 file in hand, you have two distribution options:

  • You can go to an MP3-distribution site and let them distribute your music. The advantage of this approach is that large MP3-distribution sites gets millions of visitors every month, so the potential audience you can reach is very large.
    Music.Download.com is expected to launch in 2004. You'll be able to upload MP3s here and share them with a lot of people. In the meantime, you can receive updates by submitting your e-mail address.
  • You can create your own Web site for your music or band and promote the site yourself. This gives you more control and individuality, but requires you to get the word out on your own. See How Web Pages Work for details on creating and hosting your own Web site.

One good option is to make your MP3 files available on a large Web site and then link to the download area from your band's Web site. This lets you get the best of both worlds, and you can take advantage of the larger site's servers for those big MP3 files.


Tighten Microsoft Windows to Improve Security

Windows has security holes. Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (released in August 2004) is much more secure than Windows XP-SP1, XP, 2000, ME, 98 or 95. For an introduction to Internet security for home and SOHO end users, see our Overview page. For this week's top Internet security and privacy topics, see our Newsletter page.
  • Upgrade to Windows XP Service Pack 2. Turn on automatic updates and turn on the Windows firewall (until you replace it with a better one). Turn off file and printer sharing if you do not use these features. If you want or need to do a clean install, see our Installation page.
  • Replace Internet Explorer with Firefox and Outlook Express with a more secure email client like Thunderbird. Also consider signing up with an ISP and/or email service that provides online spam, virus and content filters for two levels of protection, see our Broadband and Secure Website & Email Hosting pages.
  • Turn off the Windows XP firewall and replace it with software and hardware firewalls for two levels of protection, see our firewall software, wired and wireless router pages. Be sure to test them after installation, see our testing page.
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Also consider using anti-trojan, anti-spam, anti-phishing and privacy software. Turn on automatic updating and/or check for updates of malware definition files yourself at least once a week.
  • Tighten Windows Checklist for Securing Windows XP Pro, Lawrence Berkeley Nat'l Lab
    TomCat's Secure Your Home Computer
    Securing Windows XP, Wall & Vaughan, TweakHound
    Windows XP Security Checklist, LabMice.net
    Consider using a product like the Computer Security Tool to help you tighten Windows (trial version available).
  • Backup your files at least weekly including documents, music, photos...
  • If you are using a dial-up Internet connection, consider moving to DSL or cable to make it easier and faster to use the automatic update features of Windows, anti-virus, and other security and privacy software.

Thank for Home PC Firewall Guide.


Boot sector virus repair

What is a boot sector?
All disks and hard drives are divided into small sectors. The first sector is called the boot sector and contains the Master Boot Record (MBR).The MBR contains the information concerning the location of partitions on the drive and reading of the bootable operating system partition. During the bootup sequence on a DOS-based PC, the BIOS searches for certain system files, IO.SYS and MS-DOS.SYS. When those files have been located, the BIOS then searches for the first sector on that disk or drive and loads the needed Master Boot Record information into memory. The BIOS passes control to a program in the MBR which in turn loads IO.SYS. This latter file is responsible for loading the remainder of the operating system.

What is a boot sector virus?
A boot sector virus is one that infects the first sector, i.e. the boot sector, of a floppy disk or hard drive. Boot sector viruses can also infect the MBR. The first PC virus in the wild was Brain, a boot sector virus that exhibited stealth techniques to avoid detection. Brain also changed the volume label of the disk drive.

How to avoid boot sector viruses.
Commonly, infected floppies and subsequent boot sector infections result from "shared" diskettes and pirated software applications. It is relatively easy to avoid boot sector viruses. Most are spread when users inadvertently leave floppy disks in the drive - which happen to be infected with a boot sector virus. The next time they boot up their PC, the virus infects the local drive. Most systems allow users to change the boot sequence so that the system always attempts to boot first from the local hard drive (C:\) or CD-ROM drive.

Disinfecting boot sector viruses.
Boot sector repair is best accomplished by the use of antivirus software. Because some boot sector viruses encrypt the MBR, improper removal can result in a drive that is inaccessible. However, if you are certain the virus has only affected the boot sector and is not an encrypting virus, the DOS SYS command can be used to restore the first sector. Additionally, the DOS LABEL command can be used to restore a damaged volume label and FDISK /MBR will replace the MBR. None of these methods is recommended, however. Antivirus software remains the best tool for cleanly and accuarately removing boot sector viruses with minimal threat to data and files.

Creating a system disk.
When disinfecting a boot sector virus, the system should always be booted from a known clean system disk. On a DOS-based PC, a bootable system disk can be created on a clean system running the exact same version of DOS as the infected PC. From a DOS prompt, type:
SYS C:\ A:\
and press enter. This will copy the system files from the local hard drive (C:\) to the floppy drive (A:\).
If the disk has not been formatted, the use of FORMAT /S will format the disk and transfer the necessary system files. On Windows 3.1x systems, the disk should be created as described above for DOS-based PC's. On Windows 95/98/NT systems, click Start Settings Control Panel Add/Remove Programs and choose the Startup Disk tab. Then click on "Create Disk". Windows 2000 users should insert the Windows 2000 CD-ROM into the CD-ROM drive, click Start Run and type the name of the drive followed by bootdisk\makeboot a: and then click OK. For example:
d:\bootdisk\makeboot a:
Follow the screen prompts to finish creating the bootable system disk. In all cases, after the creation of the bootable system disk, the disk should be write protected to avoid infection.

What is a virus?

In 1983, Fred Cohen coined the term “computer virus”, postulating a virus was "a program that can 'infect' other programs by modifying them to include a possibly evolved copy of itself.” Mr. Cohen expanded his definition a year later in his 1984 paper, “A Computer Virus”, noting that “a virus can spread throughout a computer system or network using the authorizations of every user using it to infect their programs. Every program that gets infected may also act as a virus and thus the infection grows.”
Using that explanation, we can see that viruses infect program files. However, viruses can also infect certain types of data files, specifically those types of data files that support executable content, for example, files created in Microsoft Office programs that rely on macros. Compounding the definition difficulty, viruses also exist that demonstrate a similar ability to infect data files that don't typically support executable content - for example, Adobe PDF files, widely used for document sharing, and .JPG image files. However, in both cases, the respective virus has a dependency on an outside executable and thus neither virus can be considered more than a simple ‘proof of concept’. In other cases, the data files themselves may not be infectable, but can allow for the introduction of viral code. Specifically, vulnerabilities in certain products can allow data files to be manipulated in such a way that it will cause the host program to become unstable, after which malicious code can be introduced to the system. These examples are given simply to note that viruses no longer relegate themselves to simply infecting program files, as was the case when Mr. Cohen first defined the term. Thus, to simplify and modernize, it can be safely stated that a virus infects other files, whether program or data.
In contrast to viruses, computer worms are malicious programs that copy themselves from system to system, rather than infiltrating legitimate files. For example, a mass-mailing email worm is a worm that sends copies of itself via email. A network worm makes copies of itself throughout a network, an Internet worm sends copies of itself via vulnerable computers on the Internet, and so on.
Trojans, another form of malware, are generally agreed upon as doing something other than the user expected, with that “something” defined as malicious. Most often, Trojans are associated with remote access programs that perform illicit operations such as password-stealing or which allow compromised machines to be used for targeted denial of service attacks. One of the more basic forms of a denial of service (DoS) attack involves flooding a target system with so much data, traffic, or commands that it can no longer perform its core functions. When multiple machines are gathered together to launch such an attack, it is known as a distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS.
While purists draw a firm distinction between viruses, worms, and Trojans, others argue that it is merely a matter of semantics and give the virus moniker to all viruses, worms, and Trojans. The term malware, a.k.a. malicious software, can most easily be used to describe viruses, worms and Trojans while satisfying both arguments.
Malware is an even more appropriate term when one considers spyware, adware, and and browser hijacking techniques that may not fit in any of the aforementioned virus, worm, or Trojan classifications. Thus, malware can be defined as any program, file, or code that performs malicious actions on the target system without the user’s express consent. This is in contrast to Sneakyware, which can best be described as any program, file, or code that the user agrees to run or install without realizing the full implications of that choice. One of the best examples of Sneakyware was Friendly Greetings, a greeting-card trick that exploited users’ willingness to say Yes without reading the licensing agreement. By doing so, they were blindly agreeing to allow the same email to be sent to all contacts listed in their address book.

To recap:
  • Viruses infect other files;
  • Worms make copies of themselves;
  • Trojans perform malicious actions but do not spread;
  • Malware is an all-encompassing term that describes any malicious software program or file operating without the users explicit consent.


Top 10 tweaks tips and tricks for windows vista

  • If you’re annoyed by Internet Explorer’s incessant barking that you’ve lowered your security settings (like, if you’re a non-paranoid expert), launch “gpedit.msc” from either the Run command or Start Search field, navigate through Local Computer Policy / Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Internet Explorer. In the rightmost pane, double-click “Turn off the Security Settings Check feature” and set it to Enabled.
  • If Internet Explorer’s Information Bar also annoys you, you can turn it off (again) in the Group Policy Object Editor (gpedit.msc) through Local Computer Policy / Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Internet Explorer / Security Features. In the rightmost pane, double-click “Internet Explorer Processes” and set it to Disabled. Hallelujah!
  • I’ve just mentioned two tweaks that are buried inside the Group Policy Editor. Jim Allchin pointed out that there’s a Group Policy Settings Reference spreadsheet available. Makes for great weekend reading.
  • Read the Background on Backgrounds if you’re a performance junkie. Don’t set your wallpaper through Internet Explorer ever again! Now that Windows supports JPG wallpapers, there’s absolutely no need (or excuse) for using BMPs anymore.
  • If you insist on keeping UAC (User Account Control) turned on for yourself, you might care to make the elevation prompts a bit less visually jarring. Brandon told me about this one, even though I have UAC turned off. Launch the Local Security Policy manager (secpol.msc), and navigate through Security Settings / Local Policies / Security Options. In the rightmost pane, scroll to the bottom and double-click “User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation.” Disable it, and you can keep UAC turned on without getting turned off by the embarrassingly craptacular Aero Basic theme.
  • Vista can send you emails! The Computer Management tool can still be accessed by right-clicking “Computer” and selecting “Manage” from the menu. However, now you can attach a task to any event. Try navigating through System Tools / Event Viewer / Windows Logs / Application. Now, go ahead and select an event - then look to the rightmost pane and click “Attach Task to This Event.” Name it whatever, describe it however, click through the next step, then in the Action step, you’ll see the “Send an e-mail” option.
  • The Windows Task Manager gives you a lot more troubleshooting information in Vista. Flip to the Processes tab, and in the View menu, click “Select Columns” and add Description, Command Line, and Image Path Name. Moreover, when you right-click a process, you can select either “Go to Service(s)” or “Open File Location.” These are all long overdue options.
  • This one’s interesting. Open up the Date and Time Control Panel applet. Flip to the “Additional Clocks” tab. There, you can configure two more clocks from different time zones. They’ll appear in the tooltip when you hover over the Taskbar clock. No additional software (or silly sidebar widgets) necessary.
  • Applicable in other versions of Windows, I’m going to throw it in here for good measure. Create a shortcut to RegSvr32.exe in your SendTo folder. To get there quickly, enter “shell:sendto” in the Run command dialog or Start Search field. Now, when you wanna register a DLL or OCX file with the system, you can select it/them and “Send To” the RegSvr32 shortcut.
  • I figured I’d round out my first set of Windows Vista tips and tricks with a tiny bit of eye candy. It doesn’t beat Picasa, but the Windows Photo Gallery is better than nothing. Once it’s indexed all your photos, click the icon next to the Search field and turn on the “Table of Contents.” That’s kinda nifty.

Thanks Chris for this great finding on Windows Vista!