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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Windows XP Service Pack 3 - Initial Impressions

According to Microsoft, XP SP3 isn't even supposed to see a public release until April 29, but, well...let's just say there are ways to get it early *cough* TORRENTS *cough*.
Here's a little proof of purchase:

To be honest, there's nothing really new. I mean, yes, there are some obscure features that the average user won't give a damn about, but SP3 is nowhere near as sweeping as SP2 was. It's more of an update to give XP a new lease on life, which is good news for those with crap boxes, as well as XP diehards. Some people are also saying that their machines are a bit faster, but I haven't noticed any difference.

As with any major update or service pack, any modded system files will be lost - e.g. the uxtheme.dll hack and the tcpip.sys half-open patch. After a bit of Googling I found a Build 5512 uxtheme.dll at Neowin.

Unfortunately, no tcpip.sys patchers seem to exist for SP3, so heavy P2Pers, you may want to hold off until that's also updated.

And for the are some download links - go fetch!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Microsoft XP SP3 RTM Tomorrow!

Microsoft XP SP3 on track to RTM on April 21 | All about Microsoft |

Well, Microsoft is more or less going to release Windows XP Service Pack 3 tomorrow. At least to OEMs and MSDN subscribers. For us common folk, April 29 is the date the public manual download will be available, and June 10 for deployment via Windows Update.

Nothing much is new, except for a (possible) performance boost and some Vista backported features such as black hole router detection and Windows Server Network Access Protection (NAP) support. IE7 is NOT included, perhaps to give users a choice.

SP3 is poised to give Vista-haters and XP lovers alike a new lease on life. XP is more than 7 years old, and SP3 pretty much ensures that it'll be around for quite a while still.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Adventures with SLAX on a USB Stick

My work-and-play OS is Windows XP, but I find myself just as comfortable around Linux. Linux is oh-so-good for programming, servers, and yes - hacking - but it simply isn't noob-friendly. But it makes for some good tinkering, especially when you think of the possibilities of running Linux off a portable USB device. I recently stumbled across SLAX, a live-optimized Slackware-based distro:

dmesg output on Konsole in SLAX 6.0.5

This distro is really polished and runs real fast even though it's on a measly USB flash drive. As I only have a 1GB drive, the fact that it takes up <200MB installed is the epiphany of economy. SLAX uses it own kind of package, LZM, but converting regular Slackware TGZ packages is a snap, as well as creating your own modules. The modularity is extremely handy as I can customize it just as I want. Most importantly, it auto-magically detects if the host disk is writable and will save your changes.

SLAX is bleeding edge, with the latest version running a kernel and KDE 3.5 (KDE4 is still a WIP).
The amount of preinstalled apps is sort of on the light side - I had to install Firefox on my own, though that was a snap thanks to the Slackware package repository. On the bright side, Adobe Flash 9.0.115 is preinstalled, as were the iwl3945 drivers for my Intel wireless card.

I'm experimenting with various packages at the moment...the possibilities are endless!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Whitehat's List of Top Windows Apps, April 2008

There are a lot of programs available for the Windows platform, and not all are created equal. In this first roundup of top apps, I'll show you which ones are the true winners...

Web Browser: Mozilla Firefox 2

Get Firefox

The free, open-source Firefox browser is lean and mean. With a mind-boggling array of extensions and themes, it is infinitely customizable. The fact that it sports better performance and render times (usually) than Internet Explorer or Opera doesn't hurt, either. And the upcoming release of Firefox 3 is a welcome event as well.

Email Client: Mozilla Thunderbird 2
Get Thunderbird
Another Mozilla product, you ask? No, I don't have any secret agenda - Thunderbird just happens to be one of the most robust mail clients out there. Also free and open-source, this fast client supports the standard POP3, IMAP, and SMTP email protocols, while also doubling as a newsreader. Again, there exist a myriad of extensions and themes. The only competitor that comes even remotely close is Microsoft Outlook, and that's gonna set you back a pretty penny.

Office Suite: Microsoft Office 2007

Yeah, this sure ain't free, but the power and quality of this office suite is a force to be reckoned with. The latest 2007 spin includes a spiffy new Ribbon interface, which I personally find to be much more sensibly organized and easier-to-use than conventional menus. The new 3D effects and the fresh new fonts are worth looking into. Just be careful with the file format - the 2007 apps save in OOXML format, which earlier Offices can't read without a compatibility pack.

Text Editor: Notepad2

The built in Windows Notepad is definitely a little anemic. Notepad2 infuses some much needed features into a text editor, such as advanced find-and-replace, regex matching, and the ability to use different encoding formats such as UTF-16. Its most useful feature, though, is the syntax highlighting. Throw a C, Perl, or PHP file at it, and it comes out nicely colored. For extra fun you can completely replace the Windows Notepad - it's only one EXE.

PDF Reader: Foxit Reader

If you use Adobe Reader for your PDFs, boy do I feel sorry for you. Adobe's PDF app is notorious for crashing, hanging, and long load times, especially within a web browser. You would think that the company that basically originated the PDF format could put out a decent reader for it. Apparently not. But that's where Foxit comes in. This ultra-fast PDF app handles huge PDF files and quick page flipping with aplomb. Believe me, you won't use anything else once you see how wickedly fast it is.

Heavy-Duty Graphics Editing: Adobe Photoshop CS3

This heavyweight champion costs a heck of a lot of dough, but with it you get the most respected name in graphics manipulation software. The latest CS3 release is reasonably fast and, as always, handles a multitude of file formats. Its advanced capabilities are definitely not for the faint of heart, but it can handle any task, easy, small, big or little, with ease.

Light Graphics Editing: Paint.NET

Got a quick-and-dirty editing job you need to do? Need to whip something up, but Microsoft Paint just can't handle the heat? Then you need Paint.NET. This editing app boasts an intuitive interface as well as a respectable array of tools, filters, and effects. If you don't need heavy-duty horsepower, Paint.NET is the tool to use.

IM Client: Pidgin

With all the different IM networks out there, along with their respective proprietary clients, it can be a pain to have multiple clients running. Even more annoying is the fact that some companies think it's OK to shove adware and spyware down your throat when you install their client *cough* AOL *cough*. Here comes Pidgin, swooping down to save the day! (Yes, a pidgin is actually a bird. Neat, huh?) Pidgin allows you to manage all your IM clients, all across the different networks. Advanced features such as video-conferencing and file-transfer are a little on the flaky side, but it more than makes up for it by being free, open-source, and completely liberated from spyware/adaware.

That's all for today...stay tuned for a discussion of the best torrent app, media player, and more!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Austalian Police Caught Illegally Pirating Videos

Austalian Police Caught Illegally Pirating Videos | Tom's Hardware

Oh, the least now they have something to do during long, boring patrols. (after all, laptops in cop cars don't do much anyway).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Blu-Ray for Xbox 360 Coming in Late 2008

PC World - Sources: Xbox 360 Blu-Ray SKU Ships in Late 2008

Well, it was about time. Still unofficial, but rumors from trusted sources indicate
that a Blu-Ray drive is finally coming to the Xbox 360. Microsoft has
pulled its head out of the sand, though a little belatedly considering that
HD-DVD is pretty much screwed. It'll be interesting to see how this plays
out since PS3 was BD from the start. Let the console wars begin.