Archives for January 2009

Fixed: IE8 slow on Windows 7

I’ve been truly enjoying Windows 7 for past several weeks, and think it kicks Vista’s butt. However, for some reason IE8 was slow on Windows 7,┬áso much so I was pulling out my hair. By slow I mean 30 – 90 seconds for a new tab to appear.

I disabled virtually all of my plug-ins but it was still slow. Since it was really hindering my web surfing I figured I’d disable the last plug-in that was still enabled: Java Runtime 6 update 11. To my surprise IE 8 is now as responsive as the rest of Windows 7….faster than Vista!

Interestingly I intalled JRE6 Update 11 on my new laptop that I loaded with Windows 7 x64 and so far it hasn’t slowed down. So, I don’t know why IE8 on my desktop was slower than Vista on a bad day (every day?) but de-installing Java fixed it.

So if IE8 is performing horribly slowly for you, disable ALL plug-ins and slowly enable then until you find which one is dragging your system down.

Putting the cookie monster and ads on a diet

As much as the next person I don’t like seeing ads displayed while I’m web browsing and try to minimize the amount of ad tracking cookies. Ads can also be a source of malware, so it makes sense to block them from a security standpoint.

With the exception of a few hiccups, I’ve found a method that stops most ads, blocks most unwanted cookies, and generally doesn’t interfere with daily web surfing. There are some instances web sites don’t behave with all of my tactics, so I keep a generic Windows XP VM with IE7 handy for problematic web sites.

These procedures work on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, both 32-bit and 64-bit.

1. Download and install the MVP hosts file which is a lengthy list of sites which will get redirected to (loopback address). Be sure to keep your hosts file updated as they release new versions every few weeks.

2. I looked through my existing cookies and found the following sites I don’t want tracking me so I added them to the MVP Hosts file. If you spot other cookies from sites you don’t want, add them as well.

3. Install IE 7 Pro add-in and enable ad-blocking. IE Pro isn’t bug free and so you may find you want to de-install it if you experience IE stability problems. It also has a ton of other neat features which you may find useful.

4. In IE change the cookie handling settings to those shown below. I haven’t tried always allowing session cookies, but my surfing habits don’t seem to need them.

5. Install the Nirsoft IE cookie manager and delete any cookies that look like ad trackers or from sites you don’t recognize.

6. If you use any of the native public IM clients such as AIM, Live Messenger, etc. then you can remove their ads by using A-Patch.

After all of this, the amount of unwanted tracker cookies is almost eliminated and a very high percentage of ads are blocked. All of these steps work on Windows 7 with IE8, and I really like the results. Sometimes clicking on re-directs doesn’t work, as they may rely on ad sites. So in that case I fire up my XP VM and go to whatever site won’t display on my main PC.

Windows 7 DirectAccess – Control PCs anywhere

One very promising feature of Windows 7 when paired with Windows Server 2008 R2 servers is DirectAccess. DirectAccess uses IPsec and IPv6 to allow remote computers to securely, and without using a VPN, to access corporate resources. It also allows you to deploy and maintain group policies, and remotely manage PCs. Yes, now you can deploy GPOs to remote employees even if they never launch a VPN session!

I haven’t found many technical details on it, but below are a couple of very high-level descriptions of it. Combining this technology with Outlook Anywhere and the need for users to launch VPNs is drastically reduced if not totally eliminated. It also supports two-factor authentication such as smart-cards, and performs machine-level authentication probably using certificates.

Direct Access Summary
Microsoft DirectAccess overview

Cool command line tool for controlling your PC

The other day I discovered a free and very cool command line utility that lets you control a wide variety of PC functions. I was looking for a tool which would let me instantly put both of my monitors it low-power mode without having to wait for the screensaver or physically power them off. I could then assign this command to a hotkey on my Microsoft 4000 keyboard for one touch monitor sleeping.

As it turns out NirSoft makes a great utility that does much more, and seems to work with Windows 7 x64. It’s called NirCmd, and is very tiny at just 29K and requires no installer. It can do things like mute, change volume levels, start a screen saver, open or close CD-ROM drives, minimize windows, and a lot more.

To accomplish the task of instant power saving mode for my monitor I assigned the following command line to the “1” hotkey on my keyboard:

“D:Admin ShareSoftware-ClientNirSoftnircmd.exe” monitor off

Now all I have to do is push the “1” assignable hot key and viola, both monitors instantly power down. You can find the utility here.

Great Windows 7 Resources

Bumper List of Windows 7 Secrets – Must read for Windows 7 Users
TechNET Forums – Ask and answer questions
Dell D8xx nVidia Drivers – Enable Aero Glass support
NeoWin Windows 7 feature articles
ATI Catalyst Beta Drivers

Windows 7 Intel SATA/AHCI Lockups

Update 8/9/2009: The latest Matrix drivers can be downloaded here. Although with Windows 7 RTM and these matrix drivers the LPMDSTATE is 1, I haven’t had a single freeze with my Raptor. Apparently Microsoft or Intel made changes to the drivers which don’t trigger the freeze, at least on my system.

I built my own PC a couple of years ago and used the Asus P5B-Deluxe motherboard, which I’ve been pretty happy with. I also wanted the fastest SATA hard drive possible, so I got a 10K RPM Western Digital 75GB Raptor. Unfortunately, in Windows Vista the SATA/AHCI drivers enable a special AHCI mode called Linked Power Mode (LPM) which is mostly used for laptops. The WD Raptors freak out if they get this command, and freeze up for 30 seconds or more. Meanwhile your system is unresponsive and I generally get quite frustrated. Other hard drives suffer from the same problem.

To my shock Windows 7 Beta 1 includes the same AHCI drivers as Vista RTM, which means my W7 was freezing on me (even in San Diego’s 80 degree weather) and performing quite badly. The solution with Vista is to install the latest Intel Matrix drivers and reboot.

My first attempt to install the Vista Intel Matrix drivers failed, with an error trying to copy the difxapi.dll. Running as administrator and Vista compatibility mode did not help either. After some additional research, I found a solution.

1. Download the latest Intel Matrix Storage Manager from my update notice above.

2. Run the installer as administrator. You should not get any errors.

3. Open Regedit and navigate to: HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesiaSTORParameters.

4. Change the LPMDSTATE value to zero for each port.

5. Reboot and enjoy a freeze-free system!

Let’s hope Microsoft and Intel ship drivers with Windows 7 RTM that don’t automatically enable LPM on desktop computers.

Restore Quick Lauch in Windows 7

I’ve been using Windows 7 x64 beta 1 on my primary PC for several days. So far, it’s a big improvement over Vista and I really can’t wait for the RTM later this year. My major complaint so far is the removal of quick launch in the task bar. You now pin programs to the task bar, but they float around and opening new instances of programs like IE requires additional mouse clicks. Quite a step back in productivity and usability Microsoft!

But there is a way to get the functionality back, carefully following these steps. This general process was described by Naddy69 on the TechNet forums. Thanks!

1. Right click on the taskbar and unlock the task bar.

2. Right click on the taskbar and choose Toolbars -> New Toolbar…

3. Navigate to C:Users_username_AppDataRoamingMicrosoftInternet Explorer. Click ONCE on the Quick Launch folder and click on Select Folder.

4. The text Quick Launch will now be displayed on the task bar. Right click Quick Launch and DE-select Show Text and Show Title. Now you have your icons back and one click access to your favorite programs.

If you have a double high task bar, like I do, be sure to drag the new Quick Launch folder all the way to the left and make it double high. Otherwise I noticed that Windows would not put icons on the bottom row of the task bar. I then re-lock the task bar, so now it looks just like my Vista desktop.

New Outlook 2007 SP1 Roll-Up

Every so often Microsoft releases a roll-up patch for Outlook which fixes a number of issues inbetween service packs. Last month Microsoft released another roll-up, which you may find useful. To download the December 2008 roll-up patch, click on View arequest hotfix downloads and Microsoft will send you an e-mail with the download link and password to unlock the zip file.

Enabling ICS on Windows Mobile 6

I upgraded from the Samsung Blackjack to the Blackjack II, but noticed a favorite feature of mine was missing. The BJII comes with Windows Mobile 6 pre-installed, however it’s missing Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). ICS with USB is very cool because if you are in a 3G area you can simultaneously 1) Charge your phone via USB 2) Tether your laptop and surf the internet 3) Send/receive text messages 4) Send/receive telephone calls. If you are not in a 3G area you are unable to send/receive voice calls while ICS is active.

My instructions assume you use Vista or Windows 7, but similar steps should work on Windows XP using Active Sync. 32-bit and 64-bit are fully supported.

1.If you haven’t already, download and install the Mobile Device Center 6.1 update for Vista here. This includes important device driver updates for WM6 and other fixes. They offer both 32-bit and 64-bit versions in a variety of languages. This package also works on Windows 7 Beta 1, but doesn’t support the new Device Stage feature of W7. A W7 specific Mobile Device update package should provide that support.

2. Connect your WM6 Blackjack or Blackjack II via USB to your PC, wait for any device drivers to install.

3. In the mobile device center, open Explorer for your device and browse to the My Documents folder.

4. Next, we need the application to unlock the phone. Download the unlocker here.

5. Copy the CAB file to your My Documents Folder on your mobile device.

6. On your mobile device, go to Start -> Applications -> File Explorer. You should be in the My Documents folder by default.

7. Scroll down and select the secpolicies file and acknowledge the warning.

8. Reboot of your phone.

9. Download the ICS enabling files here. When I downloaded the file Vista saved it with a weird file extension. If that happens to you, rename the file so it ends in CAB.

10. Copy the CAB to your phone, following the same procedure as step five.

11. Back in the File Explorer on your phone, select the BJ.WM6.ICS.enable file and run it. Acknowledge the warning, and notice that you now have a file called Certs in the directory.

12. Execute the Certs CAB and acknowledge any warning.

13. Reboot your phone again.

14. At the bottom of your Start Menu you should now have an Internet Sharing icon.

15. Click on the icon and make sure it is configured for USB operation and Media Net network connection.

16. Press the Connect button and after a few seconds you should get a successful connection. Sometimes ICS can misbehave, so it might take a few tries to establish a connection.

17. If you want to save storage space, you can delete all of the CAB files you copied to your phone in the previous steps.

Now you can tether your laptop while on the road and surf the internet, check e-mail, or IM with your buddies.