Mark Minasi's Windows 2000/NT/XP Newsletter
Issue #24 June 2002

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What's Inside

News

Hello all --

This month, I introduce a new two-day seminar on XP Support which is coming to Boston and Atlanta this September, Denver and New Orleans in November.   We've also got two articles on a slightly different topic -- getting pictures, both still and moving, to work well and look their best in your computer.

Work on the revised Linux book, preparation for the .NET Server book, and developing XP support class kept me pretty busy.  But I managed to attend a Microsoft briefing on .NET Server which revealed some pretty neat stuff for Server's next version which I'll be talking about in future newsletters and articles.  I also finally got to attend Dave Solomon and Mark Russinovich's Windows Internals class in Boston.  As is always the case when I listen to Dave or Mark speak, my head was stuffed by the time that I left, chock-full of useful things.  Very few seminars can maintain your attention for three solid days, but Dave and Mark's show does.  Very rarely does a minute go by that you don't either get a better understanding of some part of NT/2000/XP, or pick up a tip about how to make some part of the system run better (or understand why there's no WAY to make some part of the system run better).  If you're interested in attending one of their seminars, catch them in London in September or Austin in December; details are at www.solsem.com

New Seminar:  "XP Professional For Support Professionals" Coming to Boston and Atlanta in September, New Orleans and Denver in November At A Special Price

Is your firm making the move from Windows 9x or 2000 to XP?  Then please permit me to introduce my new XP desktop support class.

I wasn't a real XP fan when I first got it, but it kinda grows on you.  I don't much like the new look-we-can-be-cute-like-the-Mac interface -- known to some by its internal Microsoft name, "Luna"-- but you can shut most of it off so that's easily ignored.  Furthermore, a closer look revealed some very useful support tools, including software restrictions (a set of group policies that let you fine-tune exactly what will and won't run on a system with a great amount of precision), the compatibility suite (a sophisticated set of tools that let you solve a host of backwards compatibility problems when trying to run Win 9x/ME/NT/2000 apps on XP), XP's remote control twins Remote Desktop and Remote Desktop Assistance, an integrated Resource Kit, literally dozens of new command-line tools, nearly-undocumented support for ATA/66 (believe it or not, you need a Registry zap get full ATA/66 support), ClearType, encrypted file system changes, offline file changes, and a whole lot more.

For some reason Microsoft packed XP full of neat new support "gold" ... and then didn't tell anyone about it.  In "XP Professional For Support Professionals," I explain all of XP's new tools as well as its attendant traps.  But that's not all.  Like every other version of NT, XP can benefit from tweaks, tuning and troubleshooting.  That's covered too.  

I thought that this seminar was important enough that I wanted to get some public sessions available as soon as possible, but my schedule for the rest of the year is essentially full.  Signups for the Atlanta and Boston Windows 2000/.NET Server classes were lackluster, so I've re-assigned the September 9/10 Boston, September 12/13 Atlanta, and November 6/7 New Orleans from Server classes to the new XP Support class.  I've also added a new session on 14/15 November in Denver.  If you're rolling out XP, have rolled it out, or are just thinking about rolling it out and want to know how to get the most out of it, then please consider joining me at one of our four sessions, the only four XP sessions that we'll do in 2002.

This XP seminar is arranged a bit differently than the Server class, as I think that understanding desktop support skills demands a different mix of demonstrations and explanations.  So you'll see a ton of demos in this class that will help cement your knowledge and let you leave the class with immediately-useful skills.  And our four 2002 sessions come at a special price -- $895 per person.  Visit www.minasi.com/pubsems.htm to find out about schedule information, and www.minasi.com/xpsupport.htm to see the course outline.  I hope to see you at one of our sessions!

(And before you ask, I don't have plans to make this an audio seminar at the moment.  The last one took an awful lot of time to do.)

We Have REDUCED The Number Of Server Seminars for the Rest of 2002 To Make Room for XP

As I said above, I want to be able to run a bunch of the XP seminars so I've re-assigned some cities' seminars from Server to XP.  As a result, there are only four Server sessions that we're running for the rest of the year:

Those are all the public Server seminars we'll be running this year, so if you'd like to get to one of my seminars then please plan to join us for a session.

Our two-day Windows 2000 seminars have been a lot of fun and the attendees have been great.  Built atop the Fourth Edition, we add coverage of things even more up-to-date than that edition.  Visit www.minasi.com/pubsems.htm to see specific session dates and locations, seminar outline, and how to sign up.  

NOTE that every attendee to the seminar receives a copy of the new Fourth Edition of Mastering Windows 2000 Server!

Windows 2000/.NET Server Seminar On Audio CD Are Half Gone!

Last issue, I announced that we finally had the two-day Server class on audio CDs.  Sales have been great and the response from buyers has been quite good -- one buyer said that he had a 10-hour drive to make so would we please overnight the CDs to him?  We did, and he mailed us later to tell us that the course made the trip shorter.  (Just think, he COULD have gotten the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, but instead he listened to our seminar.  Very flattering!)  We have sold about one half of them and when they're gone, they're GONE, so if you've been thinking about picking up a copy then now's the time!  $225 gets you over 10 hours of lecture accompanied by illustrative PowerPoints, all nicely cross-indexed for future reference.  Pick up a copy today at www.minasi.com/audiosales.

My Book On Software Quality is Now a $5 E-book

My 1999 book The Software Conspiracy:  Why Software Vendors Produce Faulty Products, How They Can Harm You, And What You Can Do About It is now an e-book.  The original book was $24.95 and we got the rights for the book back from McGraw-Hill, so we've PDF-ed it and are now selling it.

Isn't it amazing that we'd never accept defective cars, houses, or hamburgers, but live daily with software containing tens of thousands of defects (bugs)?  The fact is that there is NO reason why bugs are still such an issue in a technology -- software -- that's existed for 60 years.  A recent study revealed that bugs cost us $60,000,000,000 a year!  Consumers rebelled against poor quality in other industries but have given the computer business a free ride; why?  Find out in this very readable analysis of the software industry, geared to be readable by techies and non-techies.

Kirkus Reviews, the much-respected journal of literary criticism, had this to say:

"A lucidly written, eminently practical guide to fighting back against the modern scourge of software 'bugs' ... An absorbing, easily understandable, and inspiring book..."

Nick Petreley, InfoWorld's industry gadfly, called the book

"an excellent and fascinating analysis of why most software stinks and what we can do about it."

Fred Langa of Windows Magazine, Byte, and Popular Computing said of TSC:

"Mark Minasi sets out to do nothing less than to answer the question 'Why is so much of today’s software so bad?' His clear answers, presented in his trademark easy style, will surprise and anger you---as well they should. For end users everywhere, Mark is a latter-day software Reformationist, and this book is his '95 Theses' tacked to the cathedral doors of the software industry."

 Visit http://www.softwareconspiracy.com to pick up your copy of The Software Conspiracy.

Tech Section

Go Get Software Update Service

Last Friday, Microsoft released a new service called the Software Update Service or SUS.  I highly recommend that you download it from http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/windowsupdate/sus/default.asp and incorporate it into your network.  In just a few words, here's what it does.  You know all of those critical software updates that Microsoft releases periodically?  The ones that you really HAVE to install, so as to avoid the next evil worm?  They're a pain in the neck.  Not only do you have to check Microsoft's site periodically to see if they've appeared, you then have to download them and apply them to all of your computers -- no fun.  And if you've installed a bunch of XP systems then you know that once installed, every single XP system goes singly out on the Internet once installed and pulls down tens of megabytes of patches.  This is goofy -- having a ton of systems re-download the same stuff over and over wastes bandwidth.

Enter SUS.  The idea is that you set up a server on your network and that server automatically downloads the updates to itself.  You then set up all of your servers and workstations to pull updates from your server, not Microsoft's.  It's a pretty good answer to the reality of having to manage Microsoft bug fixes.  If you subscribe to the e-mail newsletter that I do for Windows and .NET Magazine, then you can read about it in greater detail in the piece that mails out today, 28 June 2002.  Shortly afterward, it'll be available on their site at http://www.win2000mag.net/Email/Index.cfm?Action=Archive&EmailNewsLetterID=1.  

I've been using it for a week now and the bottom line is that it lets me keep up to date on security fixes and get them rolled out to dozens of computers with no muss, fuss, or greasy aftertaste.  I can pick and choose which fixes to roll out and yes, many people are a bit leery of Microsoft's hotfixes, but in my opinion the reality of worms and viruses presents a greater threat than does the threat of introducing new bugs via hotfixes.

Use XP's New Netstat and Tasklist To Find Out Who's Talking To Your Computer

Here's a neat feature that I really like about XP:  Netstat's new -o option.

If you don't know Netstat, then you should.  It reports to you all of the network connections that your system has open at the moment.  I used to use it with the -a option.  -a says to show all network connections.  The new -o option says to identify the process ID ("PID") of the program that started that connection.  For example, under Windows 2000 I might have typed netstat -a and gotten a line like this in the output:

TCP GX240:1844 64.4.13.224:1863 ESTABLISHED

Unraveled, this line says that my workstation (GX240) is connected via port 1844 to some system at 64.4.13.224.  Hmmm, I'd say, what's going on here?  I don't remember agreeing to open up a link to someone out on the Internet.  Is this some evil worm?  Sure wish I could figure out WHICH program told my workstation to open this link.  Well, of course, as my workstation is running XP, I can with the -ao switch.  The output (excerpted) now looks like

  Proto  Local Address          Foreign Address        State           PID ...
  TCP    GX240:1844             64.4.13.224:1863       ESTABLISHED     2132

Ah, there's the culprit -- whatever's running on process ID 2132.  But how do I find out what that is?  With another XP command-line command, tasklist.  I could just run tasklist and pick out the program with PID 2132, but here's a way to get a somewhat cleaner output, using tasklist's "/fi" (filter) command.  I'd type

tasklist /fi "pid eq 2132"

That would yield this output:

Image Name                   PID Session Name     Session#    Mem Usage
========================= ====== ================ ======== ============
msmsgs.exe                  2132 Console                 0      3,848 K

Aha!  "msmsgs" is Windows Messenger.  It keeps a line open to a Microsoft server so that if someone wants to establish a Messenger session with me then my system will know to respond.  Whew.

Logging Onto the Local Administrator Account on XP

As with other versions of NT, XP has a local Administrator account on each system.  But unless you know the trick, you may not be able to log onto it.

XP's odd in that its interface has a kind of "split personality."  If your XP system is a member of a domain, then it looks very much like Windows 2000 -- for example, the logon screen looks like 2000's logon screen, and right-clicking a folder on a drive and choosing Properties and then the Security tab offers an interface that lets you set the NTFS ACLs on the folder, almost identically to the way that 2000 lets you set NTFS ACLs.  (Of course, that's only true if the drive is formatted as NTFS.)  If, in contrast, the system isn't a member of a domain, as would probably be the case for a computer in a home, then Microsoft kind of "dumbs down" the user interface, greatly simplifying permissions and replacing the standard ctrl-alt-del logon with a "fast user switching" logon that lets everyone basically stay logged on all the time.  Instead of pressing ctrl-alt-del to log onto an XP box that's not a member of a domain, you see icons that represent each of the user accounts on that machine.

The trouble is that the local Administrator account isn't among those icons.  How, then, to log on as the local Admin?

Simple.  First, ensure that all users are logged off.  Then, at the logon screen, press ctrl-alt-del.  That brings up the familiar name/password logon dialog box.  Then you can type in the admin's name and password.

Digital Imaging Articles

As I've mentioned in the past, I write columns for a new magazine, Connected Home Magazine.  Instead of doing the same kind of networking articles for them that I do for Windows and .NET Magazine, I thought I'd write pieces on a favorite hobby, digital imaging.  The Connected Home folks were kind enough to let me share these articles with you; I hope you find them of some interest.

Do You Need Five Megapixels? Do You Even Need Three?

Late last year, Minolta had me losing sleep. Why? Because -- well, if you’re a digital camera fanatic, then you already know why: the DiMAGE 7. (Is there some reason why people who make technology can’t figure out where to use capital and lowercase letters?) Cool new camera. Big huge light-gathering apochromatic lens. 7X zoom. Space inside for a tiny 1GB hard disk. But best of all, five megapixels! 

Okay, there was bad news -- the cost.  It was $1500, more than I could afford.  Fortunately its discounted price dropped waaay down into my affordability range (whew -- thank goodness for the Internet!) but it caused me to re-visit an old question:  how many megapixels do I really need?  I'm often asked how megapixels relate to printed picture size.  Just what DOES five (or 3.3 or 2.1) megapixels buy me -- what does that translate into in terms of quality prints? Just a bit of calculator work -- just two steps -- will answer the question. 

Step One: Get Picture Dimensions 

What does five megapixels work out to in terms of image size? That megapixel number is the product of the dimensions of the image -- the number of pixels in the width times the number of pixels in the width. Well, just about every digital camera I’ve ever worked with produces images whose ratio of width:height is about 4:3 -- 1024x768, 1600x1200, 2048x1536. So compute the approximate height by first multiplying the total pixels by 0.75, then take the square root of the result. (Don’t look at me like that -- square roots are right there on your Windows Calculator. Click View/Standard and it’s the button labeled “sqrt.”) I get a height of 1936. Compute the width by multiplying the height by 1.333, resulting in 2581. So the picture will be roughly 2581x1936, and I say “roughly” because camera vendors can be a little sloppy in reporting the actual number of pixels, and because imaging always ends up losing a few pixels -- for example, the Minolta has 5.24 million pixels but can only actually use 4.95 million of them. 

Step Two: Choose Resolution 

Now we know how many pixels we’ve got along the width and length. But we tend not to think of printed pictures in terms of pixels -- we think of them in terms of physical size, like 8”x10”, 4”x5”, and so on. So we need to translate pixels into inches. That’s simple -- just choose your dots per inch (DPI), and divide the length or width in pixels by the dots per inch. The result will be the largest picture that you can print at the desired quality. For example, suppose I have a picture taken with my old but reliable Sony Mavica FD91. It produces 1024x768 images. If I decided that I could be happy with a 150 DPI picture (medium resolution, as you'll see in a minute, then I’d end up with a width of 1024/150 or 6.8” and a height of 768/150 or 5.1” -- in other words, roughly a 5x7 picture. Similarly, a 100 DPI picture would be about 10.2x7.7 (call it 8x10), and a 300 DPI works out to about 3.4”x2.6”. 

What DPI should you choose?  Many sources say that low resolution is 75 or 100 DPI, medium 150 and high is 300. But I’ve found that the question of resolution is, as with so many things in photography, a matter of taste. I take a lot of wildlife pictures using the Mavica FD91 (because of its excellent 14x zoom) and have printed them on glossy photo-quality paper at 100, 150 and 300 DPI. Personally, I think that while smaller, high-resolution images are sharper, the smaller details make for tougher viewing. Larger, lower-resolution images may not be as sharp, but you needn’t squint to make out what you’re viewing. 

Finally, how do you print a picture at a given DPI?  It depends on the imaging package that you're using.  Most modern imaging programs simply let you choose a DPI at print time, nice and simple.  On older imaging programs, like my 1997-vintage copy of Paint Shop Pro, don't do that.  In that case, the package will almost certainly let you specify the size of the printed image in inches.  In that case, do the calculation above to combine the picture's pixel dimensions and the DPI into picture dimensions in inches.

Video CDs: The Poor Man’s DVD

If you have an e-mail address and you’ve ever told it to anyone, the chances are good that you’ve received about a million e-mail solicitations to buy software and instructions to copy DVDs. You probably haven’t yielded to these blandishments, however, thinking that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is – and you’re right. Or mostly right, anyway. But this become-a-DVD-pirate-fast stuff has a silver lining: it’s reminded me about a sometimes-effective way to put home movies on a disc -- a CD -- so that you can distribute those movies to your friends and family: a technology called video CD.

DVDs are a great way to put movies on a disc, but they’re too expensive for people in many societies outside of the US, and so years ago a video format appeared that would allow placing about 70 minutes of video on a regular old CD. Called Video CD or VCD, this format is basically a way of packaging MPEG-1 files and is familiar to people in Europe and Asia but not well-known in the US. It is worthwhile learning about for Americans, though, because most modern DVD players will play VCDs. (There is also a higher-quality version called Super Video CD or SVCD, but I’ll skip that here.) The bottom line is this: using your existing CD-R/RW burner, you may be able to create discs that your kith and kin can play on their DVD players. (And yes, sadly the most important word in that sentence was “may,” as you’ll see.)

To build VCDs, first build your video in AVI or MPEG format; AVI is best for this for final quality. Next, you’ll need to get a program that can arrange videos onto a CD in VCD format, and that converts (“transcodes”) the AVI or MPEG files into the particular flavor of MPEG-1 that VCD uses. I have had my best luck with two programs: Ahead Nero 5 and MGI (now Roxio) VideoWave 5. Nero isn’t a video editing package, just a CD/DVD burning package and I’ve personally found it to be the most flexible CD burning software around. VideoWave is video editing software and, in my opinion, the best video editing software in its price class: over the years I have found video editing packages to be prone to crashes and beset with truly horrible user interfaces, but VideoWave (which has a street price just over $100) has neither of those problems. It’s got a very easy-to-use interface and, with version 5, it can now directly burn VCDs.  (It has one down-side:  an incredibly irritating copy protection system.  But that seems all too common these days, sadly, so that doesn't disqualify VideoWave.)

That’s the outline of how you create VCDs; here’s why I said before that the word “may” was so important. First, not all DVD players can play VCDs. It’s a different technology from DVD and there’s no guarantee that your model was built with VCDs in mind. A quick look at the product specs of current DVDs shows that the majority of new DVD players can play VCDs, but not all… and older (1999 or earlier) systems often cannot. So before you send Grandma that video of baby’s first steps, check that her system can handle VCDs. (And, I suppose, that Grandma has a DVD player.) You can also play Video CDs from Windows with Media Player: look on the CD and you’ll see a directory called MPEGAV that contains files with the extension DAT. Just right-click the .DAT files and tell Windows to play them with Media Player.

The second obstacle – I told you this wouldn’t all be good news – could be your CD-RW burner. I tried making VCDs on five different types of burners and found that only two could pretty reliably create readable VCDs. But I have found one class of burners that can reliably produce VCDs – DVD burners. Sony’s DRU110 and Pioneer’s A03 drives both produce great VCDs. They’re not always so good at making DVDs… but that’s a story for another column. To summarize, then, you can take your existing videos and burn them onto CD-R blanks as VCDs, and those VCDs will play in many DVD players and virtually PCs – but you may have to do a bit of fiddling to find a burner that makes VCDs that your DVD will accept. If you’ve already got a burner and some content then it’s worth trying out!

A BETTER Free Sniffer

Last newsletter, I told you folks about a neat free network analyzer.  A few of you wrote to tell me that there's an even better free one out there, and sure enough, there IS a better free one out there.  Called Ethereal, it's at www.ethereal.com.  Thanks to those who passed this tip along!

Conferences

I hope you'll join me for a seminar but if you can't attend a class then please consider attending one of these conferences:

TechMentor San Diego September 3-7

A terrific show that I'd attend even if they didn't pay me to be there.  It's got great sessions and is in San Diego this September.  Info at www.techmentorevents.com.   For the past two conferences that have offered you the opportunity to take any Microsoft cert test for half price, so on the off-chance that you didn't see any sessions that you wanted to sit in on (an unlikely event!), then you could take a test.  They even ran tests until about 9 at night.

I'm doing "Securing Your Network -- A Dozen Tips," "Troubleshooting Group Policies," and "Tuning Windows 2000/XP/.NET Computers" as well as a general session.  If you can make it then I surely hope to see you there!

Frontlines Orlando Returns October 28-29

They said it was dead but they were wrong.  George Spalding's Frontlines, the premier conference for technical support folks, is back (yay!) in Orlando (boo!) this October.  In case you've never been to a Frontlines, it's a conference for help desk and support people -- on the "front lines" -- and offers two very full days of sessions aiming to build and refresh both the "soft" and "hard" skills that you need in order to get your job done.  In the process, you of course meet others in our industry so at worst you have someone with whom to bitch about tech support life and at best you may find someone who's already solved a problem that you're struggling with right now.  George and I will do our ever-popular Networking 101, where we explain every single networking concept known to Man in just three hours; I will do my talk about the best and worst of XP and .NET Server, and George and I will run Tech Support Jeopardy, where geeks vie for fabulous prizes and merchandise.  Info at www.front-lines.com.  

Windows and .NET Magazine Live! October 30-November 2 Orlando

What was once the "WinConnections" conference is now "Windows and .NET Magazine Live!" and this fall it goes to Orlando.  In addition to the great content (which keeps getting better, thanks to conference chairs Don Jones and Jeremy Moskowitz), the magazine has now brought together all of the Connections conferences -- not only is there stuff for administrators, but developers as well.  If you sign up for the entire week then you end up getting access to conferences focusing on 2000/.NET/XP administration, Exchange, SQL Server, XML, Web Services. ASP.NET, and Visual Studio.NET.  It's a kind of "superconference" that ends up being quite a good value for your conference dollar.  The speakers are an all-star line-up, including my co-author Christa Anderson as well as a long list of top-of-the-line experts.  I'm keynoting as well as doing several sessions, including a new one on tuning systems.  www.winconnections.com for more info.

Fall Comdex November 18-21 Las Vegas

George Spalding and I team up yet again for Fall Comdex's "Extreme Knowledge" (doesn't that sound painful, "extreme" knowledge?) seminar sessions on Microsoft Windows technologies.  If you're going to Vegas this November then consider dropping by to hear me, Christa Anderson, Todd Lammle, Doug Toombs, Jeremy Moskowitz and others deliver the goods on running Windows without pane!  The general Comdex site is www.comdex.com but they seem not to have anything specific on the site yet.

Bring Mark to your site to teach

I'm keeping busy doing Windows 2000/.NET Server seminars and writing, but I've still got time to visit your firm.  In just two days, I'll make your current NT techies into 2000/.NET techies.  To join the large educational, pharmaceutical, agricultural, aerospace, banking, government, transportation, and other organizations that I've assisted, either take a peek at the course outline at www.minasi.com/w2koutln.htm, mail our assistant at Assistant@Minasi.com, or call her at (757) 426-1431 (only between 9-5 Eastern time, weekdays, please).

Until Next Month...

Have a quiet and safe month.  I'll be finishing the update of the Linux book, I'll report on that next time.  I don't often get a chance to say it, but many thanks to the many of you who've bought a book, audio seminar, attended a conference or a live seminar.

Please share this newsletter; I'd like very much to expand this newsletter into a useful source of NT/2000/.NET Server/XP information.  Please forward it to any associates who might find it helpful, and accept my thanks.  We are now at over 21,000 subscribers and I hope to use this to get information to every single Mastering XP, NT and 2000 Server reader. Thanks for letting me visit with you, and take care -- I'm still predicting that the economy will roar back by September, so polish up those resumes!  Many, many thanks to the readers who have mailed me to offer suggestions, errata, and those kind reviews.  As always, I'm at http://www.minasi.com/gethelp

To subscribe, visit http://www.minasi.com/nwsreg.asp. To change e-mail, format, etc., link to http://www.minasi.com/edit-newsletter-record.htm.  To unsubscribe, link to http://www.minasi.com/unsubs.asp. Visit the Archives at http://www.minasi.com/archive.htm. Please do NOT reply to this mail; for comments, please link to http://www.minasi.com/gethelp.

All contents copyright 2002 Mark Minasi. You are encouraged to quote this material, SO LONG as you include this entire document; thanks.