Disable Enforced Driver Signing on Windows Vista x64

Since Windows Vista RC2, Microsoft has removed the option from the F8 menu to disable driver signing on Windows Vista x64.  However, several people recently noted that running “bcdedit.exe -set loadoptions DDISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS” from a elevated command console disables the driver signing.

Power to the people!

(Sorry Michael Niehaus)

– Soli Deo Gloria

Gmail Opens Its Doors to Everyone

Google has finally released Gmail to the masses. I tried Gmail a few years ago from an invitation from a friend, but I quickly gave it up due to privacy concerns and spam. The fact is you can get free e-mail access anywhere, but getting one that is reliable and spam free is quite a tall order. Many companies and forums flat out refuse to accept hotmail.com, yahoo.com and gmail.com e-mail accounts for account registration as these providers have a bad reputation. Who will take you seriously if you have monkeyboy66@hotmail.com as an e-mail address on your resume?

These services also fail to provide IMAP or HTTPS connections for software based e-mail programs unless you pony up money for an upgraded account. Gmail, as fas as I know, provides neither. Since these services are free, uptime is not guaranteed, nor is continuation of service. If you want to find a reliable e-mail provider, check out Emailaddresses.com and its forums.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Vonage Stinks!

Well, at least the router they gave me does. The Linksys RT31P2 is the biggest piece of rubbish I’ve had to deal with in a long time. Tonight, my Internet connection wasn’t working and it took me 2 hours to figure it out. The RT31P2 periodically stops DNS resolution which results in my phone service and the Internet to stop working. If I use an external DNS address on my PC, I can continue working on the Internet just fine. It isn’t until I bounce the router does it start doing DNS resolution again.

Now the router refuses to change from its default range of 192.168.15.x to 192.168.1.x which it had been for 11 months. Nothing on my network changed: NOTHING! I had to go around to all my devices and change them to 192.168.15.x addresses, what a joke! When I did change it to 192.168.1.1, I would get one ping out of the beast and then nothing. If I power cycled the beast, I would get one ping packet back from 192.168.1.1 and that was it. Leaving it at 192.168.15.1, however, seems to calm the beast.

Hopefully, it’s just this router and not the Linksys brand. I’ve had a Linksys BEFW11S4 for over 2 years with very little problems. I rarely have to bounce it, but with Vonage router it’s a weekly thing. Give me back AT&T POTS!

Update (early March): After threatening to cancel their service unless they sent me a new router, they sent me a new Linksys RTP300 router and I have not any further problems after installing it. So Vonage has redeemed themselves!

– Soli Deo Gloria

Bill Gates on The Daily Show/Spyware Crazyness

Bill Gates touting the virtues of Windows Vista with John Stewart – Part 1

Bill Gates touting the virtues of Windows Vista with John Stewart – Part 2

Don’t try this at home.

Update (3/26/07): The Bill Gates video was removed from YouTube for copyright infringement, but Comedy Central has put the video on their web site, so the link has been updated

– Soli Deo Gloria

Clean installation of Windows Vista with Upgrade Key

It appears that doing a clean install with a Windows Vista Upgrade DVD is not so easy. In past Windows versions dating back to at least Windows 3.1, all you needed to do is provide a qualifying product media to continue. For Windows 95, you could easily trick it. All it did was look for a file named win.cn_, which is one of the files on the first disk of Windows 3.1. Some clever people figured out that if you just made an empty filed named “win.cn_” and pointed Windows 95 to that, it would continue the install.

Well, it appears that Vista really wants an operating system installed, Windows 2000 or Windows XP to be exact. People figured out however that you can wipe the disk, install Vista and then do an in-place upgrade of that Vista install with your Vista upgrade key. Instructions detailed below:

www.dailytech.com/Workaround+Discovered+For+Clean+Install+With+Vista+Upgrade+DVDs/article5932.htm

Which, technically means you could buy an upgrade version and be able to install it as a full OS which some people are making a really big deal of. Who the heck DOESN’T run Windows 2000 or Windows XP? The Ultimate upgrade goes for $259 and the OEM version goes for $199. Hint: Microsoft doesn’t care about this loophole.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Review of the book “The Old New Thing”

Having been called to jury service recently, I decided to read a new book that I just got from Amazon called “The Old New Thing: Practical Development Throughout the Evolution of Windows” by Raymond Chen. Raymond Chen is one of the original software developers on the Microsoft Windows operating system. The book is an interesting collection of Raymond’s blog entries with a few augmentations thrown in. Several chapters are dedicated just to programming propeller heads, but there’s enough interesting stories of how Windows operates to keep the general audience interested.

One of things the book acknowledges is how Microsoft “works around” program incompatibilities by coding “fixes” directly into the operating system. If you remember about 2 years ago, 20% of the source code for Windows 2000 was accidentally leaked. This article details some of the things found in the source code. This fact alone validates that the Windows 2000 source code posted is valid. It also explains why Windows has so much “bloat” in it.

So why not block applications with bad programming techniques? According to Chen, when a user upgrades their operating system and their program stops working, they blame Microsoft and not the software vendor. Why wouldn’t they? The user has no idea that their vendor is using sloppy programming. In order to secure sales, Microsoft will bend over backwards to provide application compatibility to the point of incorporating the fix into their operating system directly.

The responsible thing to do of course is to notify the company that made the software and inform them of the fix. Microsoft (I’m equating Chen with Microsoft since he clearly has been entrenched in the Microsoft culture), however, makes the excuse that the company may have gone out of business or may not be willing to issue a fix. Why not issue just a hotfix for that company through the PSS? Microsoft holds back certain hotfixes from the general public and holds them hostage in the PSS. Only if you are willing to pay a fee and or deemed worthy of the documented hotfix is it released to you. Why should it be any different with sloppy programming fixes? Why do I need a fix for an application *I* don’t use bundled into operating system *I* use?

Microsoft has some what rectified the situation using Application Compatibility shims in Windows XP.  However, this begs the question: what else is being injected into the Windows code base?  From www.kickassgear.com/Articles/Microsoft.htm:

Microsoft’s David Cole emailed Phil Barrett on September 30 1991: “It’s pretty clear we need to make sure Windows 3.1 only runs on top of MS DOS or an OEM version of it,” and “The approach we will take is to detect DR DOS 6 and refuse to load. The error message should be something like ‘Invalid device driver interface.”

Microsoft had several methods of detecting and sabotaging DR-DOS with Windows. One was to have Smartdrive detect DR-DOS and refused to load it for Windows 3.1.  There was also a version check in XMS in the Windows 3.1 setup program which produced the message: “The XMS driver you have installed is not compatible with Windows. You must remove it before setup can successfully install Windows.” This was not true, but rather, was an attempt to undermine the competition.

Brad Silverberg, the Microsoft exec who had been responsible for Windows 95, emailed Jim Allchin (now Senior Vice President of MS) on September 27th 1991: “after IBM announces support for dr-dos at comdex, it’s a small step for them to also announce they will be selling netware lite, maybe sometime soon thereafter. but count on it. We don’t know precisely what ibm is going to announce. my best hunch is that they will offer dr-dos as the preferred solution for 286, os 2 2.0 for 386. they will also probably continue to offer msdos at $165 (drdos for $99). drdos has problems running windows today, and I assume will have more problems in the future.” 

Jim Allchin replied: “You should make sure it has problems in the future. :-)”.

Andy Hill emailed David Cole, Windows group manager: “Janine has brought up some good questions on how we handle the error messages that the users will get if they aren’t using MS-DOS. The beta testers will ask questions. How should the techs respond: Ignorance, the truth, other? This will no doubt raise a stir on Compuserve. We should either be proactive and post something up there now, or have a response already constructed so we can flash it up there as soon as the issue arises so we can nip it in the bud before we have a typical CIS snow-ball mutiny.”

Cole replied to Hill: “Let’s plead ignorance for a while. We need to figure out our overall strategy for this. I’m surprised people aren’t flaming yet, maybe they won’t.” Cole also sent an email to Silverberg suggesting a less severe message be used when DR DOS was detected: “A kind-gentle message in setup would probably not offend anyone and probably won’t get the press up in arms, but I don’t think it serves much of a warning. BillP made an excellent point, what is the guy supposed to do? With a TSR, the solution is to just remove it. With DR-DOS, or any others, I doubt the user is in a position of changing. He will no doubt continue to install. When he finds problems, he will call PSS. We will get a lot of calls from DR-DOS users.”

“Perhaps a message in the phone system for Windows. It would say something like ‘if you are not using MS-DOS or an OEM version of MS-DOS, then press ##’. Then give them the message.” Silverberg replied: “What the guy is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is dr-dos and then go out to buy ms-dos. or decide to not take the risk for the other machines he has to buy for in the office.”

For more trips down “OS memory lane”, check out Toastytech.com in addition to Raymond’s book. Raymond Chen’s blog can be found here.

– Soli Deo Gloria