Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Exploring the Earth (and other planets) From Your Computer

Personally I am a big fan of NASA World Wind and Google Earth, recently I came across a new application called WW2D that offers similar functionality. WW2D is a cross-platform, free and open-source application that allows you to explore Earth using satellite imagery, topographic maps and images from other data sources (such as: Blue Marble Next Generation, Landsat7, USGS Topo Maps, etc.).

The program can dynamically download data from the Internet, or you can download the information to your local computer for faster offline access. You can also explore other worlds such as the Moon and Mars.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Scheduling a Task

Do you have a need to run an application (such as disk defragmenter, virus or malware scan, etc. ) at a predefined time (such as midnight). Windows has a built-in task scheduler that allows you to run an application or script at a specific time.

To schedule a task follow the instructions below:
  • Under the Start menu, open the 'Control Panel' folder (or select 'All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Scheduled Tasks')
  • Double-click the 'Scheduled Tasks' folder.
  • Double-click the 'Add Scheduled Task' icon.
  • Follow the instructions in the wizard to schedule your task.
    • Press the Next button.
    • From the list select the application that you want to schedule to run at a predefined intervals, and then press the Next button.
    • Select Daily (to run the task daily), Weekly (to run the task one day during the week), etc. Then press the Next button to continue.
    • Select the time you want to run the job, and then press the Next button.
    • Enter a username and password to run the account under, and then press the Next button.
    • Optional: You can check the 'Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish' checkbox to configure the advanced options.
  • Press the Finish button when done.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Finding the MAC Address of Remote Computer (Advanced)

Every device on a TCP/IP network has a unique number assigned to it called the MAC (Media Access Control) address. The MAC address is used by the network hardware such as routers, switches, etc. to send traffic from one device to another device on your network.

Your computer uses a service called ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) to resolve and track the TCP/IP and MAC address of the remote devices that you're communicating with. This information is handy for doing semi-low level network troubleshooting. It can also be used for granting or denying permissions to a network segment or device on that network.

To determine the MAC address of a remote device:
  • Open the MS-DOS prompt (From the Run... command, type "CMD" and press Enter).
  • Ping a remote device that you want to find the MAC address (for example: PING
  • Type "ARP -A", and press Enter.

Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
(C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

C:\WINDOWS>arp -a

Interface: --- 0x10004
Internet Address Physical Address Type aa-fb-c8-34-da-7a dynamic

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hide Desktop Icons

Here is a neat trick, want to hide the icons on your desktop? Follow the instructions below:
  • Right-click an empty area on the desktop, and select 'Arrange Icons By.'
  • Uncheck the 'Show Desktop Icons' option.
This will hide the icons on your desktop. To unhide the icons just re-check the option.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Starting Windows XP in Safe Mode (Part 1)

If for some reason your copy of Windows XP is not starting properly, or you're having problems with a device driver, you can start Windows in 'Safe Mode'. This mode is also useful for removing malicious software that automatically loads into memory when your computer starts, such as viruses and spyware. In Safe Mode, only a minimal version of the OS will be loaded into memory, all non-essential drivers, services, and startup applications will not be loaded.

The easiest way to enter into Safe Mode is by pressing the F8 key during your computer's startup process. You need to start pressing this key quickly after your comptuer's BIOS screen disappears. If Windows starts loading, you missed your opportunity to enter into Safe Mode.

After you press the F8 key you will enter into the Start up screen, from here you can select Safe Mode or one of the other startup menu options (such as: command prompt, command prompt with networking, or normal with logging). These other start-up modes are useful for debugging problems with your computer's booting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Wiping Data From Old PCs

If you're selling or giving away an older computer or laptop, you want to make sure that you securely wipe all the data off its hard drive. Simply formatting the hard drive is not enough these days. To really protect yourself you need to use a special program that can securely erase all the data off the drive.

When you format any type of media, the OS will only erase the media's Master File Table (MFT). The MFT tells the OS where all the parts of a file are stored across the disk. Since the data is not erased, it's possible to recover it from the hard drive.

To really protect your personal and financial information you need to use a disk wiping program that can securely erase every bit of data off a drive by writing random information over it several times. There are a few free programs that can perform this type of operation for you.

Secure Disk Eraser: Darik's Boot and Nuke (Erases the whole hard drive)
Secure File Eraser: WipeFree (Erases individual files)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Build It: A Homemade Media Center PC (Article)

Want to build your Media Center PC? PC Magazine has a great article on how to accomplish this. They will explain everything you will need to know, from how to choose the parts for completing this project to how to put it whole thing together.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Controlling the Windows Firewall from the Command Line

Are you a command line guru? Did you know you can configure the Windows firewall from the MS-DOS console without using the GUI interface. This tip requires that Windows XP SP2 be installed on your computer.

To control the firewall, you need to use the NETSH command. For example, from the MS-DOS console (from the Run... command type "cmd" and press the Enter key) type "netsh firewall /?" and press the Enter key. This will displays online help.

Some of things that you can do from the command line are: view, change and delete firewall configurations. For example, to show the state of your firewall, at the MS-DOS console type: "netsh firewall show state" and press the Enter key. You can use the online help for figuring out the rest of the commands.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Security Updates on CD from Microsoft

Microsoft is making it easier for you to download and install security and critical updates. They're being made available as CD image files that can be downloaded and burned to a disc.

These CD images are intended for corporate system administrators who need to update a lot of different computers. There also useful for people who have to repair/setup other people's computers.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Windows XP File Association Fixes

When you double-click on a file, Windows uses a file's extension to know which application to launch. This process is known as file association.

Sometimes certain programs will try to steal other application's file associations and assign them to themselves. For example, older versions of RealPlayer and QuickTime would steal the file associations from the Windows Media Player.

Sometimes it can be challenging to restore the original file associations back to the original application without having to reinstall it. Doug Knox has created some .REG files that you can use to restore some of these file associations back to their original state.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Stream Your Media Anywhere for Free

Orb is free software that allows you to stream your digital media (photos, audio, movies, etc.) over your network or the Internet to another network device (such as a computer or PDA). The great thing about this software is that it doesn't require a web-enabled device (such as the Slingbox) to deliver the media. You can also enhance the software, by using the add-ons.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hard Drive Healers

I don't do this too often in this blog, but PC Magazine did a great article about a company called Ontrack that specializes in recovering data from damaged hard drives. When I say damaged hard drives, I mean ones that have been burned, shot, dropped in lakes, etc.

This is not a cheap service, but if you need to recover your data this is one solution. Although if you regularly backed up your data you would not have to use this service.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Repairing the WMI (Advanced)

The Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), is an API for performing certain system actions or getting information on how well your system is performing. Sometimes the WMI can get corrupted, and you will get an error like 'Windows Management Instrumentation might be corrupted.'

To find out if the the WMI is broken, from the Run... command type "wmimgmt.msc" press the OK button. This will launch the WMI console, if you get an error message when doing this, there is a good chance that your WMI is broken.

There are two ways to repair this problem, perform in an place upgrade by reinstalling Windows from the Installation disk. You can also try to force the WINMGMT service to re-register itself:
  • Open the command console, type "net stop winmgmt". When you get the warning that other services need to be stopped type 'Y' and continue.
  • Open 'My Computer' and then go to the folder '%SystemRoot%\System32\WBEM\Repository' and delete that folder.
  • Reboot your system.
  • After you login, open the command console, and type the following commands in order:
    • winmgmt /clearadap
    • winmgmt /kill
    • winmgmt /unregserver
    • winmgmt /regserver
    • winmgmt /resyncperf
Note: If this doesn't fix the problem, you need to reinstall Windows

Monday, February 06, 2006

Outlook Express: Creating a Whitelist

One of the more primitive, but most effective form of SPAM filtering is called 'whitelisting.' The way whitelisting works is it only allows you to receive messages in your inbox from a specific set of people.

Below is a set of instructions for setting up a whitelist in Outlook Express using the message rules function.
  • Launch Outlook Express
  • From the Tools menu select 'Message Rules', and then Mail.
  • Press the New button.
  • In the 'Select the conditions for your rules: ', check 'Where the From line contains people' checkbox.
  • Under 'Rule Description', click the link 'contains people'.
  • Press the 'Address Book' button. Select people from your address book that you want to permit to send you mail, then press OK when done.
  • Press the Options button. Under 'Apply rule if,' select 'Message does not contain the people below," press the OK button.
  • In the 'Select the actions for this rule:' check either 'Delete it' or 'Move it to the specified folder' (note: if you're going to use this rule, before specifying it you need to create a folder to quarantine these messages).
  • Press the OK buttons when done.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Using the Web Publishing Wizard

Are you looking for an easy way to publish your digital photos to the Web? Microsoft has created the 'Web Publishing Wizard' to make it easy to publish files to the Internet.

To access this wizard:
  • Open My Computer from under the Start menu.
  • Select a file or folder that you want to publish to the Web.
  • In the Windows Explorer sidebar, there is a 'File and Folder Tasks' pane. In this pane click the link that says 'Publish the selected items to the Web'.
This will launch the Web Publishing Wizard. This wizard will walk you through rest of the publishing process. After you validate the files you want to publish, you will be asked to select a service provider to transfer the files too (by default 'MSN Groups' is there). From here you will be asked to log in to the service provider.

Note: You might have to search the web for more service providers if you don't want to use MSN Groups.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Restore the 'Show Desktop' icon

Has the 'Show Desktop' icon been removed from your Quick Launch bar? If you have never used this feature before, it was designed to allow you to quickly minimize all applications to the taskbar just by clicking a button.

Not to worry, you can quickly recreate this feature by performing the following steps below:
  • Open Notepad (from the Start Menu, select Run..., type "notepad.exe", then press Enter).
  • Copy and paste the following contents into Notepad:



  • Save the file as "showdesktop.scf" to your desktop.
  • Drag the file to the Quick Launch area of the taskbar.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Windows Installer CleanUp Utility

Are you unable to remove a particular application from your Windows XP system using the 'Add/Remove Programs' control panel? Microsoft has created a utility called the 'Windows Installer CleanUp Utility' that is designed to remove these troublesome programs. Althought there is a catch, they had to have been installed using the Windows Installer. This utility will remove the installer information, files, folders, another related objects that are use by this program.

To install and use this utility:
  • Download the utility from the Microsoft Download Center.
  • Run the installer (msicuu2.exe), and answer the questions in the install wizard.
  • From the Start menu, under All Programs launch the 'Windows Installer CleanUp Utility'.
  • Select the application from the list that you want to uninstall and press the Remove button.
For more information, see the following Microsoft Knowledge Base Article (290301)