Technology news and commentary by the staff

How to remove Windows 7 Beta ‘Send Feedback’ link and wallpaper watermark

with 33 comments

The new Windows 7 beta release just like Vista preview releases before it incorporate some additional UI elements meant for testers to submit feedback back to Microsoft.

Now considering you may be running this Beta 1 release as your main OS for some reason (I admit it, I have given in to the temptation many times before), one of those elements in particular can become annoying and obtrusive to your otherwise neat configured desktop.

Windows 7 Beta Send Feedback link

Windows 7 Beta Send Feedback link

Here’s how to remove the Send Feedback link:

(1) Run the Registry Editor (type regedit on the start run menu)
(2) Browse to the following registry key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
(3) If it’s not already there, add a new DWORD (32-bit) value “FeedbackToolEnabled” and set its data field to 0.
(4) The change should take effect on your next restart.

An alternative way to do this is to run this registry key file I have compiled for you. Just download, run and then restart.

Windows 7 Build 7000 watermark

Windows 7 Build 7000 watermark

There’s also a way to remove the wallpaper watermark from the beta, though I don’t find this quite as bothersome.

The process for doing this is a bit more complicated, having to patch the original user32.dll.mui file found on your Windows folder. So what I recommend you do is download this utility (found via My Digital Life) that will take care of everything for you – notice however this is only meant to work with Windows 7 Build 7000 (Beta 1).

Update: We still encourage all users to submit their feedback to Microsoft. It’s obvious that’s the reason Microsoft is giving away the OS code at this stage (besides building momentum after a lackluster Vista reception from most media), so if you come across some obvious bugs please submit them so developers can get them fixed in future revisions.

Our intention with this tip is to give you a fix for aesthetics if you will be using the beta for a prolonged time and the send feedback link bothers you visually. Ultimately what we all want is a flawless-as-you-can-get Windows 7 final release later this year.

Written by Julio Franco

January 10th, 2009 at 6:36 am

Slow System Performance When Copying Large Files in XP x64 & Server 2003 x64 – And a solution!

with 6 comments

I’ve been using Windows XP x64 for about a year now. My previous OS of choice was Windows 2000 which I really loved, I swore to never upgrade to XP and in a way I succeeded because XP x64 is really just Windows Server 2003 x64 with another name. Some apps even identify it as the Server OS since it bears the same NT build number of NT v5.2.

The reason I finally upgraded was so I could access all of my new system’s 8GB of RAM, and also because I was getting tired of writing Win2K fixes for games like Bioshock and Crysis. ;-)
But from the very beginning of the transition I was disappointed; XP x64, when handling large files would slow down to a crawl.

I tried in vain to look for a solution, to give you an example: I’ve got a RAID5 array with 3 x 1TB hard drives and a lone Raptor 150GB for the OS. If I played back a 1080p trailer off Apple’s site stored to my hard drive using Quicktime Alternative the video would start to skip massively if at the same time I copied a large file from the RAID5 array to my Raptor disk, or extracted a file using WinRAR in the same manner.

Of course this is not the only problem, just an easy way to reproduce it. When I extracted large files I noticed that the Task Manager did not report memory being used under its graph, however the counter for available memory under ‘Physical Memory’ would go down a whole lot, using as much as 4GB of RAM when copying files at least that large!

This in itself is not an issue when memory is freely available as it’s a good idea to use it for cache. However something in the design of Windows causes it to be detrimental to performance. It wasn’t until I started using the Performance Monitor (perfmon) that I realized what the problem was and came upon a solution. When I monitored the system I noticed excessive Page Faults and Lazy Writes which would peak as performance dropped. So the reason for the slow performance is that when the file is cached in RAM it causes massive page faults, which also needs to be committed to the disk, which leads to disk trashing.

The issue gets more pronounced the larger the difference is between the disk that reads and writes, in the case of my system the RAID5 array has a read capacity of 160MB/sec, but the Raptor can only write at ca 70MB/sec. So therefore when reading a large file it takes only seconds to fill the cache. At which point the performance of my computer plummets, even browsing the start menu or opening the Control Panel takes ages, if I try to open the Add/Remove Programs applet which is filled with stuff it actually never opens until the copy process is completed!

After all this trouble looking for the solution I finally found the KB article that explains this issue:

You may experience a decrease in overall system performance when you are copying files that are larger than approximately 500 MB in Windows Server 2003 SP1 or in Windows Server 2003 SP2

Continue reading the rest of this post »

Written by Per Hansson

January 6th, 2009 at 4:42 pm

ZoneAlarm for Windows Vista? Don’t do it

with 58 comments

Update I have mentioned this post again on our front page after TS editor, Erik Orejuela downloaded a free copy of ZoneAlarm Pro earlier this month. The result was catastrophic for his Vista installation, even after a complete removal of the program and a system restore using the built-in Vista tool, the OS was simply bogged down enough that a clean format was the easier path to follow.

Several people have commented here since this post was made over a year ago and admittedly without any scientific or extended tests, we still recommend you to stay away from the ZoneAlarm + Vista combo.

Original post (October 9, 2007):
On a follow-up to my post yesterday about basic security programs you should be running under Windows XP, ever since I upgraded to Vista I revisited those program choices which for the most part remained the same with the exception of the free ZoneAlarm firewall…

In general, Windows Vista’s security is tighter and services such as Defender are more integrated into the OS. During the first couple of months, AVG’s anti-virus did not like Vista and it was common to find certain programs not working correctly until updates were released, even more so security suites that have to deal more directly with the core of the OS. ZoneLabs makers of the ZoneAlarm firewall took its time until the program was ready for Vista and it wasn’t until recently that it was made available on its free form as well (not part of the paid full suite).

Well, in short the experience I had with the latest build of ZoneAlarm for Vista was horrific. I noticed slowdowns and strange behavior from the OS that simply wasn’t there before. In other words, a far cry from the seamless integration and speed seen with the XP version.

If you come from XP and want to install ZoneAlarm in Vista… just don’t do it.

The good news is that Vista’s built-in firewall has proven sufficient for me so far though it does not feature outbound traffic monitoring. It’s time to look for an alternative full-featured free firewall if you are running Vista.

Written by Julio Franco

November 29th, 2008 at 11:04 am

Offers from our partner Tradepub

without comments

You may not know this but you can receive free technology magazines from our partner Tradepub. Apparently they also do trial software downloads along with technology whitepapers, some of which I have mentioned in the past here in the blog or in the forums when something really interesting pops up. Here’s a couple of new rather interesting offers that I received on my mail earlier today.

Free Trial: 60-Day Trial of Microsoft Office Project

Free eBook: The 7 Things that IT Security Professionals MUST KNOW!

Written by Julio Franco

October 31st, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Posted in blog,deals,software

Cool wallpaper from Microsoft’s PDC

without comments

One thing to love about upcoming operating systems and its public beta releases is that eventually feature details and design elements leak and get distributed all over the web. You may remember how there were several prospective default wallpapers for Vista that made it to the web months before the OS release. Something similar has happened with OS X releases which also come with great wallpapers out of the box.

Now Microsoft is expected to unleash the first public preview of Windows 7 at their Professional Developers Conference this week. Some details have leaked already, but nothing to share just yet in terms of UI elements except for this PDC wallpaper that all computers at the conference are using (courtesy of istartedsomething). I have been using it for the past few hours and I had to recommend it. Nice colors, blends well and is a bit flashy (Vista style) without being too distracting.

Written by Julio Franco

October 28th, 2008 at 6:03 am

Why I wouldn’t buy the new MacBook… and probably you shouldn’t either

with 6 comments

Although I rely on my desktop PC for long work sessions and I stand by the fact no laptop will ever beat a fully equipped desktop (dual monitors, and in general, the works…), there is an obvious need for a laptop whenever I’m on the move.

When my old Thinkpad T needed to retire, I looked into the Vaio TX series, at the time the best 11″ ultra-portable money could buy with its mere 2.9 pounds. That was months before the MacBook Air and other similar ultra-portables arrived to the market. Unfortunately the small size didn’t cut it for me and had to look elsewhere to replace the Thinkpad until I finally decided to get a MacBook Pro. In spite of the fact that I’m a Windows user, I did it with the purpose of checking out the then new Leopard OS X release.

Today the MB Pro remains as my primary laptop. Although I have my gripes about OS X, I have remained more or less content about the hardware which has proved to be of top quality construction, all while running Windows Vista. You have probably heard the stories of how the MB Pro makes for a great Windows laptop anyway, and in my case that has hold true – in fact, I haven’t touched Leopard in months.

And now with the well publicized release of the new MacBooks, I started looking into the possibility of getting a new laptop, but instead of the Pro I was checking the upgraded MacBook which is cheaper, has got many of the Pro’s biggest selling points like the aluminum body, powerful specs, but sports a smaller 13.3-inch screen that is also LED illuminated. Sounds good so far? Until I saw this…

Those images were taken by Gizmodo in their first look at both the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. As you can see, the colors on the standard MacBook get all washed out depending on the viewing angle. Then my disappointment has been further reinforced by the fact that many, many of the outgoing reviews for the MacBook barely touch on this point, just mentioning the use of the glossy display which would be less of an issue if the laptop shipped with a quality LCD panel like its more expensive sibling.

In my experience those screen issues are characteristic of older laptops or current entry level models (any brand). Then again my Thinkpad T42, which admittedly wasn’t entry-level four years ago doesn’t suffer from that issue, and at $1300-1600 for a new MacBook, you can’t call them budget either.

With a strong pro-Apple movement going on around the web and growing Apple laptop sales, the word is that the new MacBook is like a smaller Pro without the discrete graphics. I have to dissent, and now you know why.

Update: I’m glad to see Anandtech’s review of both new Mac laptops give light on my assertions above unlike a majority of reviews I have read so far from so-called experts.

As it turns out, the new MacBook screen is an improvement over the older generation which had an even more lacking viewing angle. Really bad for a laptop at that price point IMO. But if you want a superb quality screen, the MacBook Pro will have to be your choice. As I understand it, the MacBook’s Air screen is not too bad either though I have used them on a very limited basis.

Written by Julio Franco

October 24th, 2008 at 12:16 am

Use the Windows Embedded Theme on XP and Server 2003 (without patching)

with 7 comments

Windows XP has to be the most tweakable and skinnable piece of software ever created. Of course, how to compete with such a dominant and widely used operating system, but then again it might also be its light blue fisher price-like theme that gets in everybody’s nerves eventually.

For some of us, upgrading to Vista has been somewhat of a relief. The rest of Windows users still using XP have probably either gone back to the silver boxy Windows or relied on official or third party patching for getting the job done. Unfortunately last time I checked (a couple of years ago), even the most elaborate skins for popular applications like WindowBlinds lack the finish and subtlety I require.

But don’t despair. My advice, use some of the Microsoft-made themes that replace the original blue theme and make for a much better impression than the built-in silver or green themes.

Windows Embedded Theme for Windows XP/2003

Previously available themes include:
Royale Noir (by far my favorite)
Zune theme

Now also available (thanks to Sizzled Core), the Windows Embedded theme that uses a strong blue but still looks quite good IMO.

Notice neither of these require UxTheme.dll patching or other workarounds.

Written by Julio Franco

October 13th, 2008 at 6:40 am

Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP deal, at $699

without comments

I was checking out today’s hottest deals in our deals section and noticed that my current monitor, the Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP is selling direct from Dell at a hefty discount. I paid about $1,000 at the beginning of the year and IMHO it’s worth every penny with its large size but not too extreme resolution, so things are not as tiny as in other 24 or 30-inch models.

Here’s the info straight from our deals section:

Dell LCD Display Price Check: UltraSharp 27" falls to $699, more (updated)

In the market for a Dell LCD? Dell Home dropped the Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP 27" Widescreen LCD Monitor by $200. It’s down to $699 with free shipping, the lowest total price we’ve ever seen for this display by far. Sales tax is added where applicable.

As for other models, Dell decreased and increased a few prices compared to our roundup a week ago. The other latest prices on Dell’s top LCDs, all with free shipping:

Written by Julio Franco

September 26th, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Crysis Warhead No Intro Fix

with 3 comments

Quick and dirty, I have modified the original Crysis no intro fix for the recently released Warhead which has 2 more intro screens that unlike the original game are not skippable as far as I know. Almost as annoying as forcing your paying customers that DRM crap. And while at that, I should mention the DRM is pretty decent in Warhead, not requiring you to put the DVD in the drive each time you want to play.

Click here to download the patch, unrar it into the games installation directory at: \Game\Localized\Video and then run remove.intro.crysis.warhead.bat

The only thing it does is renaming all files beginning with “Trailer” so you might as well just delete them all and be done with it ;)

Written by Per Hansson

September 19th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Gates and Seinfeld – Part Two

with one comment

If you didn’t get the first one… wait, there wasn’t much to get. If you didn’t like the first one, perhaps things will take better shape now, or eventually:

Written by Julio Franco

September 13th, 2008 at 5:14 am