Best Practice Ezine #38 – Achilles’ heel
This week my mantra is that even top techies have a blind spot or an Achilles’ heel. I realize that you will probably know most of these 10 tips and 1 urban Myth, but my mission is to give at least one new tip.
Disk Cleanup has been around a long time but do you actually use it? When Gung-ho Guy is short of disk space he avoids Disk Clean and goes for the kill by just deleting the biggest file that he can find. Yes he holds down the shift keys so that the file does not go into the recycle bin. Really Gung-ho Guy should be more organized and use Disk Cleanup because it looks carefully at all the disk and then suggests only files that are not needed – clever. To find Disk Cleanup, right-click any drive letter in explorer.
Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT)
Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets. IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:
For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges.
For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker
Restore Points – System Restore
Did you realize that XP creates Restore Points automatically?
Every time you make a change to the operating system, such as installing a new program, XP automatically creates a restore. So my point is that you have a big choice of how far back you want to restore. To access Restore Points navigate thus: All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore.
A rarity, System Restore is a feature found in XP but not in Windows 2003. Now you probably know all about restore points, the trick is remembering what to do when a machine misbehaves. Incidentally, Restore Points has a cousin – driver rollback. However you can only ever roll back a driver one stage, whereas you will see loads of restore points.
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Time for me to go out onto a limb. I am holding on to such a thin twig, surely I must fall? This is the belief that I am hanging on to, Guy has never had a program that would not work on XP. I have had a number of programs that do execute time, but when call for the compatibility wizard, (or right-click a short cut) I have always found an emulation mode that works. That said, I no longer run shoot-em-up games, neither do I run accounts packages that go back to the last centaury. Prediction Guy will disappear under the weight of emails pointing out programs which do not run under XP. To call for the Wizard, Help and Support, Compatibility.
Microsoft supply Deployment Kits for nearly all their software. Moreover, these kits as in as in IEDK (Internet Explorer) or ISADK are free. Tell the truth, good Group Policies can replace the need for Deployment Kits. This is because with Group Policies you can stop users changing settings, whereas with a Deployment Kit the user from hell will change the configuration after you carefully set the optimum value. However, why not look through the Deployment Kit for ideas, then go to Group Policy and lock down those settings!
Deployment kits have distant cousins called Resource Kits. If ever there was a case of ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’, then it is resource kits. If you ever want to stir up a group of techies, mention a resource kit program such as TaskKill or RSH. What you will find is half the group think any given tool is wonderful while the other half will slag it off as being flaky. Meanwhile, clever you select ten or so of the Resource Kits 200 utilities and enjoys yourself exploring their capabilities while making your network run even more efficiently.
While I am sure that you know about MSCONFIG, I have a challenge for you. Execute MSConfig then click Services (Tab), now check which services start on boot up. Is this what you find what you expected? Keep your eye on how few services are in the Essential column.
When did you last check the Power Management Icon? Are the settings to your liking? If you have a laptop then careful adjustments of the timeouts could give you an extra half hour of battery life. Even with a desktop, there must be one Power Management that is worth adjusting. Some like a Power Management Icon in the Navigation Area (Systray), however I prefer to go to the control panel.
Adjusting the Visual Effects is probably a waste of time, but if you love exploring, try the System Icon (Pause and Windows Key), Advanced, Performance, and Visual effects. I bet that you did not know all of those settings! I say waste of time, because even though my eyes are not perfect adjusting for best performance does not seem to have any effect on my screens clarity.
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Talking of full disks, one rumour doing the rounds is that a slow shutdown means your disk is full. Not necessarily true, I would vote installing Exchange as the biggest culprit for a slow shutdown on a server. As for XP, there could be zillions of reasons why shutdown takes for ever. For example, it could be a Virus, or the tendency of Outlook to start multiple instances.
Netstat -b displays the statistics for current TCP/IP connections. The -b switch is handy if you need to run down the particular service which is using a given port. O.K. I cannot whip up much practical enthusiasm for -b switch. Tell the truth, netstat -b is just a curiosity which comes with XP SP2. Another surprise, the -b switch is not found on Server 2003 -until SP1!
Edlin – A blast from the past.
If you thought this weeks tips had reached rock bottom then think again and check out Edlin! Only my old friend ‘ Barking Eddie ‘ could have the cheek to suggest that this ancient command line program Edlin is worthy of a tip.
Eddie’s point is that he can tell people that Edlin still exists even on XP and Server 2003. Eddie likes to impress his friends by demonstrating Edlin with accompanying violin strings and a big dose of nostalgia. As I said earlier, Edlin is a barking mad idea for a tip that only Eddie could dream up.
If you must use Edlin, go to the cmd prompt, then type Edlin barkingmad.txt. In the unlikely event of you needing help, type a question mark ?.
Lots of useful disk and file articles