Saturday, March 18, 2006

Brad DeLong quotes a mildly interesting but clearly unballanced commenter here.

In the comments on the comment (comment bloat) it is clear that Windows has no defenders and that I must have installed it in my brain or I would have thought of calling it Windoze as derelict does and would have as solid as calculation of the ratio of software worsening to hardware improvement as Marcus (hardware*new sofware is six times better than 6 year old hardware times 6 year old software).

Barry is very helpful (thanks) but also reminds me of how much I hate hate hate microsoft. He wrote "

Robert, if you're reading this, there are programs to check what things start up when your computer turns on. It seems that most programs, when you install them, try to insert themselves in your start-up. This means that whenever you turn on your computer, a bunch of crap comes on, eating your power.

Ask around about those; I can't remember the names.

Windows98 included such a program as a system tool. It was carefully hidden so impertinent users couldn't over rule the judgement of the one true Catholic and apostolic operating system, but I could get on it by the simple procedure of click start, click programs, click accessories, click system utilities, click microsoft systemt information, click tools, click ... *damn* it isn't there anymore.

It used to be that, once one learned that strange path of clicks, one got to something called something like "configuration tool" or "system start up utility" or something, which I used roughly weekly to tell Windows that I still didn't want MSNMSG to open on startup. After a while Windows would put it back in the hidden automatic execution start menu folder. I have never been more angry at Microsoft then when I used the secret series of clicks (which I still remember) just to discover that they didn't think knowing them was evidence enough of competence to let me choose which programs are currently running on my computer).

There was (and for all I know still is) regedit.exe which can't be found by any series os clicks starting with start but was right there on the hard disk. IIRC it refused to run if double clicked but would run by click on run then type c:\pathname\regedit just like a DOS program.

Warning: don't try this at home kids. Microsoft believes users are not competent to edit the file register. Now Microsoft doesn't think users are competent to know how to number a list 1,2,3 ... or ... well anything, but this time they are right. If you find regedit.exe and get it to run, you will regret it. Don't tell me I didn't warn you. More in general, it is clearly true that Microsoft is right to make it very hard to modify anything because for every expert user who benefits there are 10 beginngers who make a bit of a mess of things and 20 idiots who are sure that they are more expert than they are who FUBAR the system (I was one of those idiots and hope I have learned my lesson).

I strongly suspect that once upon a time, the programs which were executed automatically were all in the automatic execution start menu folder and automatic execution could be prevented by clicking and dragging a file to the recycle bin. For all I know, it may once have been possible to actually use control panel to remove icons from the start menu. Hell for all I know, someone has a Windows machine where the programs which appear in the start menu also appear when one attempts to add/remove start menu programs using whatever the hell they are calling control panel on the appalling new start menu.

There is no actual evidence that the automatic execution folder was ever anything but a decoy, but the name leads me to suspect that it may once have had something to do with programs which are executed automatically on start up.

I understand that this idiotic confusion of "automatic execution" and automatic execution displays a degree of ignorance about sophisticated systems design that will lead Windows to conclude that I am not competent to type vowels or something, but I hope that Firefox won't tattle on me to Windows (remember Firefox, if I delete you, Windows will laugh evilly and dance on the recycle bin so watch out).


Computer Bruce said...

Start > Run: msconfig
will get you to the System Configuration Utility.

Alternatively, Start > Help and Support, then click on the link, "Use Tools to view your computer information and diagnose problems. The System Configuration Utility is listed among the Tools.
points to a downloadable, which will add a tab to the System Configuration Utility, which gives you convenient access to a number of the more obscure tools, which benefit expert professionals and befuddle those in need of professional help.

On a new computer, useless crap installed by the manufacturer in the hope of inducing the user to buy more crap is a major handicap. Worst among these is the ubiquitous Norton Internet Security trial. Go to Control Panel and remove Norton and all its ilk. Remove AOL and Earthlink and every other "advertisement" you are not using, including unused music jukeboxes and picture albums, etc.

A decent antivirus program, like Grisoft AVG, should not unduly burden your computer; AVG is free for personal use, at, and half the cost of Norton at An anti-spyware program is also necessary; Microsoft's Windows Defender (Beta 2) is pretty good and free; Ewido is excellent, but costs money.

Sometimes, the Windows swapfile is set to too low a value. Right-click on the My Computer icon, choose properties, and go to the Advanced tab, then click the Settings button under Performance, to access the Performance Options dialog. Go the Advanced tab, and click the Change button under Virtual Memory. Set the swapfile to be, say, a fixed 1537 MB (an arbitrary large number).

The Internet Explorer cache is typically set to be way too large. Start > Control Panel > Networking and Internet > Internet Options: General tab and click the Settings button under Temporary Internet Files, and reduce the size of the cache to 250 MB or less.

Add additional RAM to your new laptop. 1 GB of RAM is the new standard.

Remember: It is better to curse Microsoft AND make your computer run decently, than to only curse Microsoft.

Oh, yeah. And, Norton is truly awful. It was once the gold standard, now . . . not so much. Super slow startup and unresponsiveness is very often a consequence of a malfunctioning antivirus/firewall program, or having multiple antivirus/firewalls programs.

cafl said...

Robert -- I posted in Brad DeLong's comment thread re Knoppix. If you decide to try Knoppix, you might also like to read this free pdf book someone wrote for beginners:

It answers a lot of questions, and explains what hardware may not work and why.

cafl said...

link to doc

Robert said...

Thanks computer Bruce. You are a hero. Can I remove internet explorer and it's cache completely ? I use firefox.