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Windows annoyances

Revert to XP-Style Alt-Tab ('Coolswitch') behavior in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

If you are a longtime Windows user (as I am, I've been using Windows since version 1.03 in 1987), you've probably developed some deeply-ingrained habits.

On of my most oft-used techniques from the old days: Switching between desktop windows using the Alt+Tab key combination, A.K.A. 'Coolswitch'. Windows 7 and Windows Vista have altered this feature, and not for the better, in my opinion.

7 things make Windows 7 (and other versions) easier

These are some of my favorite Windows system tweaks and usage tips. I usually customize every new computer or Microsoft Windows installation using some or all of the items found here.

In most cases, I won't tell you how to make each tweak–that's been done ad nauseum–so I'll share my suggestions and provide links to instructions on how to make the changes.

This article is presented in multi-part 'book' form; please see the links below.

Nero Essentials: DRM gone bad.

I was debugging a Windows application that makes use of DirectShow to render media - and for some strange reason, the application would terminate without warning when run under Visual Studio's debugger.

No error message, no exceptions, nothing. The application ran fine outside the debugger. I was able to debug the same code base several weeks ago without incident.


Why Reboot?

Exodus WhyReboot™ is a small (~100KB) "Portable" Windows application that helps you decide whether to reboot your computer after running an installer. It does this by displaying a list of "pending file operations" (rename, delete, etc) that will occur after rebooting your computer. Quite often, no reboot is really needed.

You can download the utility by clicking the file attachment link at the end of this article.

December 18, 2006 news flash: Version now available. See our news release for more information.

Ministry of Silly Prompts

"Would you like to restart your computer now?" Arguably the most aggravating prompt displayed by your Windows-based computer.

When I woke up this morning, I said to myself, "I think I'd like to reboot my computer several dozen times today!"

Why should you have to reboot your Windows-based computer so many times when installing software? Why do Microsoft Windows product installers insist on a reboot?

Another preinstalled software mop-up operation

I had the 'honor' of rescuing yet another victim of a pre-installed software nightmare. A new co-worker was working with his notebook (a Hewlett-Packard, recent vintage, less than a year old with Vista Home Basic installed).

The complaint? Minimum five (yes, FIVE) minute boot time from power-on to desktop interaction.

After a cursory examination, I found that it wasn't a hardware problem, nor was it due to memory limitations: the system had 512MB RAM, Vista was using just over 300MB with no other applications running (yes, that's a lot, but this is Vista, after all).

DLL Error: Illegal System DLL Relocation

Find and fix DLL errors

Having DLL problems in Windows XP or Vista? Check our DLL error repair guide.

If you are running Windows XP SP2 (including Media Center and Tablet Edition), and you have applied the Microsoft updates 925902 (MS07-017) and security update 928843 (MS07-008), and you are using Realtek audio components on your system, you may receive this error message when trying to use ElsterFormular, Realtek HD Audio Control Panel, TUGZip, and CD-Tag.

{application name} - Illegal System DLL Relocation

The system DLL user32.dll was relocated in memory. The application will not run properly. The relocation occurred because the DLL C:\Windows\System32\Hhctrl.ocx occupied an address range reserved for Windows system DLLs. The vendor supplying the DLL should be contacted for a new DLL.

DLL Error: esent.dll and wuauclt.exe - Access violations and other errors after user logs in

A friend had me check out his ailing Windows XP Home notebook computer last night. Every time he booted the computer, it would display an endless stream of error messages about wuauclt.exe having caused an access violation. This message would reappear every 30 seconds or so.

Microsoft has a hotfix (see 'related links', below) that is supposed to address this problem, but I was unable to install the hotfix - the system would display an error message saying that it could not verify the system configuration, and therefore could not install the hotfix.

Do you want to stop debugging?

I catch myself chuckling under my breath when Microsoft Developer Studio 2003 asks me this question:

Do you want to stop debugging?  Oh, my, yes indeed!

My mental response every single time: "Oh, yes, very much so. Can I please stop now?"

SysTrayScanCmd released

Version (Beta) of the Windows shell tray scan utility is now available. This command-line utility provides a list of programs that have placed icons in the Windows shell tray, including the path to the executable file.


Updated: 2005.08.18
Added links to WFP info and tools

When you click the "Send a Link..." menu item in Internet Explorer 6, Outlook Express 6 attaches a .URL file, but doesn't insert a plain-text version of the link in your email message.

I don't know who thought that this was a good thing, but it is annoying.

Here's some info on how you might be able to fix it. (I had used these techniques on a pre-SP1 XP Pro installation, but there have been some changes since then, so please check the updates below.)

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