Microsoft screwed up, and they know it. The last version of Windows was a turkey stuffed with some pretty dumb features. I’ve spent some time with the latest version of Windows, though, and it looks like it could be a winner.
You thought I was talking about Vista and Windows 7? Nope, this is a look at ten years of system optimization at PC Pitstop, and I started at the beginning. The decade opened with a Microsoft disaster called Windows Me, followed by a decade-long success called Windows XP that still rules today. But it just goes to show a big company like Microsoft doesn’t always learn from its mistakes.
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Back in February, Steve Hogan made the case for getting a multi-core system. Rob Cheng’s experience shows that dual-core systems aren’t always faster though. It’s possible for a multi-core system to outperform a single-core system, but you’re not likely to see a desktop operating system or many applications that can take advantage of it. There are good reasons for that problem, and they aren’t going away any time soon.
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Friends, it’s great to be here at the retirement party for Windows XP. As you all know, he’ll be leaving his full-time job at Microsoft as of the end of June. Just like Bill Gates, it won’t be an abrupt break with the company. You’ll see XP wandering the halls for a few years to come. Keep your guard up; when you least expect it you’ll be hit by an XP practical joke. Just last week I noticed he tried to hide file extensions for known file types.
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It seems like every time Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, they feel compelled to drastically change the user interface. For an experienced user, this is like rearranging the furniture in a room and turning off the lights to see how many times you can stumble and stub your toes.
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The word “performance” usually means CPU, memory, disk, or video performance to most people. That’s usually what I mean by it too. But after several months of experience with one particular notebook, I’ve found a component that has destroyed performance more than any other: the keyboard.
When PC Pitstop did a bloatware survey last year, we had several notebook PCs that we couldn’t return. I took one of them, the Toshiba Satellite A135, to use as a Windows Vista test system. Initially, I tried leaving all the preinstalled crapware on the system to see how it would perform. After a few weeks of that, I couldn’t stand it anymore. At least the crapware situation can be fixed, though, unlike the keyboard.
I hate this keyboard.
Take a look
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In this month’s Pit Blog, Rob weighed in with his concerns about Vista’s restore points. I have a bone to pick with Microsoft about this as well, from a slightly different perspective.
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We interrupt this blog…
Hi, I’m Dave Methvin, Chief Technology Officer at PC Pitstop. Our CEO, Rob Cheng, is recovering from an accident; we all wish him well on a quick recovery. I’ll be filling in on the Pit Blog until he’s back up to speed.
Back in his June entry, Rob mentioned the outrageously high resource requirements for Microsoft’s successor to Windows XP, named Vista. At the time, Microsoft was recommending 1GB of system memory and 256MB of dedicated video memory. Not long after that, though, the information at Microsoft’s Vista site changed again.
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The recent lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General against Direct Revenue provides an incredible amount of information about the sleazy activities of spyware and adware companies. In the past, we’ve pointed out that these companies were making lots of money from their invasive installations. We saw a glimpse of how much money was at stake when Claria filed to go public in 2004. In that filing, they revealed that they made about $100 million in 2003. However, that high-profile bid to go public was at the height of Claria’s power and profit; they quietly aborted the attempt in the fall of 2004 and just recently announced that they are getting out.
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On February 8 and 9, I had the opportunity to participate in the Anti-Spyware Coalition Public Workshop. The event brought together representatives from the software industry and government, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Center for Democracy and Technology. In the past year the FTC has filed suit against several of the worst spyware offenders including Enternet Media, and the CDT recently filed an FTC complaint against 180Solutions for its practices. The Anti-Spyware Coalition has been working to craft clear definitions of acceptable software installation behavior.
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In March 2005, Sony’s BMG music division began shipping music CDs that included a particularly strong form of digital rights management (DRM) software called XCP. These CDs play normally in a standard CD player, but when inserted into a PC they will attempt to install the DRM software onto the PC. The software limits the number of copies you can make and prevents transfer of the music to some music players such as the Apple iPod.
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Google’s corporate reputation is incredibly good for a company of its size. Yet increasingly, Google is at the scene of Internet frauds and crimes. Our CEO Rob Cheng has described our fight with unscrupulous Google advertisers, and these problems have continued. In April, a site named FasterXP.com begun to advertise with Google AdWords, hawking a product that installed several adware and spyware applications. Since we use Google AdSense, those ads appeared on the PC Pitstop site; several users were taken in before we could block the ad.
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More BitTorrent fireworks went off over the July 4th holiday. After the last episode it was inevitable that the pests would come crawling back, but so soon? I plucked two files and installed them to get the details, but I saw at least a dozen more files that are likely to have the same installer. Here’s what I found out so far.
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Take a look at our in-depth investigation of infected files distributed via BitTorrent P2P networks and you’ll start to understand how hopeless it is to expect the adware industry to police itself. In some cases I think the problem is that adware companies are truly naive about how they are being played by their affiliate networks. In others, it’s easy to see that the companies are working hard on their see-no-evil position to futher their own company goals. Whether they’re being played for suckers or silently participating in this nasty business, the outcome for consumers is the same.
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PC Pitstop has previously examined the dangers in P2P software bundles but there are also dangers in the files you can get from these networks. Last week, Chris Boyd (a.k.a. PaperGhost) of VitalSecurity.org published the first public information of spyware installs created by a company named Marketing Metrix Group (MMG). In many ways, though, that is the last chapter of the story.
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PC Pitstop has mentioned the problem with spyware and kids before, but last week’s CNet spyware conference showed it isn’t going to be easy getting quick and meaningful action on this issue. It’s too bad. While some adware makers like WhenU seemed to be genuinely interested in changing their ways, others like Claria seemed intentionally evasive and unwilling to change any of their practices.
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Five years have gone by since we opened up shop in March 2000 with a little web site called PC Pitstop. We certainly had our challenges during the first few years. The stock market bubble burst the same month we opened our doors, and September 11th dealt us another blow. We managed to get through those tough times, though, and things are looking up today.
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If you’re looking to protect your privacy and prevent casual snoopers from seeing what you have been doing on your PC, we suggest our product PC Pitstop Erase. Want to do it yourself? Here are some things you can do. Before starting your cleanup, remember that saved data on your computer may include usernames, passwords, […]
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