Windows Secrets readers share their findings

Kathleen Atkins

Many Windows Secrets readers are seasoned systems builders, sophisticated tool users, metaphor makers, and generous souls.

We often receive thoughtful letters from these readers. Here’s some of the more interesting mail that’s recently arrived in our inbox.

Reader compares Linux and Windows servers

  • In her Aug. 2 article, “The end for Home Server and Small Business Server,” Susan Bradley states, “The rise of simpler solutions, such as Linux-based, network-attached storage, also made Home Server less appealing.” Little does she know.

    I recently purchased a Home Server license but have not yet installed it because nothing could be worse than the sloppy software workmanship in my Linux-based NASes that have cost me literally man-months of inexcusable aggravation.

    For a starter, my Buffalo LinkStation and D-Link NASes do not accurately or adequately represent NTFS file attributes or file dates. This flaw is insidious because you normally don’t trip on it (and because I was unwilling to believe, when I did trip on it, that Linux implementers could be as sloppy and out of it as they have proven to be.) One would think they would understand the relevance of a server maintaining the file date and attribute integrity that the client system uses and expects.

    The situation is insidious partly because of the way Windows and Linux, working in combination, handle file dates. When Windows copies a file to the NAS, [the Linux version of the file is given the same] creation date, last-access date, and last-write date of the Windows file. Under this condition, the files match up adequately.

    [There are, however,] date-representation discrepancies that result in two problems. First, Linux represents file dates in a different form than Windows does. Second, when an application edits or saves a file directly to the NAS, the NAS uses its own internal clock to set the file’s dates. If the NAS’s clock is accurate, this is a non-issue. Unfortunately, one of my NAS clocks was found to be over nine years slow!

    [I can] hear the Linux-lovers howl over this one. They’ll say to just program the NASes to interrogate a time server each day. My NASes are so programmed, but they don’t update their time even though they have access to an open Internet connection. Moreover, they correctly handle the GMT and DST offsets only sometimes. Windows interrogates time servers without difficulty and handles the GMT/DST offsets correctly.

    The consequence of all this is that, on many occasions, newer files have been overwritten, causing considerable lost time and professional embarrassment to my significant other.

    Details, details, a Linux loyalist will quickly rejoin. But then, “For want of a nail … .”

    I find it easy to understand these Linux server problems, but only in retrospect. In my experience, Linux people like to abstract the real world into mathematical simplicity, whereas Windows people usually take the abstract and complexify it with the zillions of exceptions that apply in the real world. In short, the difference in approach is between wanting a Turing machine or wanting an accounting machine. The difficulty, skill, and practical value needed to give the world a good accounting machine vs. a good Turing machine is shown by good accountants being collectively worth so much more in the marketplace than good mathematicians are. Elegant brainpower can be applied to either world.     —Charles E. Dial

Search Registry with Regedit? Oh, no!

Fred Langa’s Aug. 2 Langalist Plus piece, “Keeping secure connections in an XP/Win7 net,” elicited this comment from a reader.

  • In the section titled “Leftover software setting causes trouble,” Fred Langa suggests that the reader use Regedit’s Find function to root out references to some old software.

    Talk about tedious! Look for one string … locate one reference … fix it … look for the next reference … — over and over and over.

    Please, the next time this comes up, do your readers a favor and suggest RegScanner (site), one of NirSoft’s incredibly useful tools. Tell it what to look for and it will scan your whole Registry (or whatever parts you want) and show you all the matches at once, so you can take whatever action you need. There are options to export the selected items as a backup [file]. [You can also] create a delete .reg file, which you can merge [with the main Registry file] to get rid of what you select.

    In fact, I did exactly that on my system. I had installed PerfectDisk Free on my PC a year ago and later uninstalled it. Regscanner found more than a dozen references that were still on my system.

    Anything that makes a tedious cleanup job both easier and safer — at no cost — is worth passing along!     —Bill Aycock

How to get portable PhotoFiltre and why

In an Aug. 1 LangaList Plus item, reader Ray Marshall recommended PhotoFiltre as an alternative to the complex image editor, GIMP. Peter Townsend sent in a note suggesting that the portable version of PhotoFiltre was a better way to go and included a download link to PortableApps.

  • When they’re available, I always use portable versions of software because it’s one less program to install when anything goes wrong. Also, it can be used from a USB stick, so I can turn anyone else’s computer into “mine.” Further, there are no issues with older DLLs overwriting newer ones or resetting common registry keys or any other side effects.     —Peter Townsend

Widening your laptop’s printing options

A reader suggests a useful tool for mobile users:

  • I recently noticed a Win7 item that I should be familiar with but somehow overlooked.

    In Control Panel, go to Devices and Printers and then to the toolbar item Manage default printers.

    I wonder how many WIN7 users know that they have the ability to do laptop location-aware printer settings?     —Bob D

This option might not appear initially at the top of Devices and Printers. As a Windows Help & How-to site explains, it requires Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise and a portable PC that uses a battery.

To make the option appear, you might have to temporarily set another printer as the default or reinstall a printer. Other printer options such as Print server properties and See what’s printing should also appear.



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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2012-08-09:

Kathleen Atkins

About Kathleen Atkins

Kathleen Atkins is the Windows Secrets associate editor. She's also a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. Prior to joining Windows Secrets, she worked at Microsoft Press.