Windows 8 – Consumer Preview – First Impressions

After the Developer Release left a bad taste in my mouth, I was prompted to try the Windows 8 Consumer Preview from a fellow tech, who claimed he really liked Windows 8.  The one thing that really bothers still is the inability to disable the Metro start page and the removal of the start menu in the desktop application.  One way around the start menu snafu is to put it back using Classic Shell.  This actually does a good job, except that the Metro start page sometimes tries to take over when you hover your mouse too far to the bottom left.  Leave Metro for the tablets I say and leave the classic Windows desktop for laptops/desktops.

The task manager in Windows 8 is really bland and the default configuration gives less information then even the Windows 7 task manager (also noted by Mark Russinovich during his malware speech: malware can more easily hide now).  Windows’ 7 task manager actually does a good job of separating user and system processes so you can easily see what is running on your system.

The one thing I do like about Windows 8 is the file copying process.  If you copy files and folders from multiple locations, you can now pause specific copies.  Overall, the operating system seems snappy.  If they can just fix that darn Metro starting interface, it would be perfect.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Windows 7 and the Forever “Spinning Wheel” Issue

I rarely troubleshoot home PCs, unless it’s a special case.  Someone recently brought me a Dell Dimension 9100 PC (about 6 years old) to fix.  The complaint was that the PC was freezing up every few minutes.  I suspected the hard drive, as the expected life was 5 years and the drive was 6 years old.  Process Explorer and Autoruns returned clean results.  I ghosted the old drive to the new one and yet continued to experience freeze ups.  I loaded trusty old Procmon and found two processes hammering the system in the background: HPNetworkCommunicator.exe and AcroRdInfo32.exe.  After some Googling on the HP process, I found this tech article called The Mouse Cursor Turns Into an Hourglass (System is Busy) After an HP Printer Network Installation.  It seems that the HP software consistently burns up CPU cycles checking for ink levels and any new scans from the wireless printer.  Stupid!  Turning the ink level check and scan check off brought the mouse cursor behavior back to normal.

The AcroRdInfo32.exe problem went away when I upgraded Adobe Reader 9 to X.  According to this page, this is a helper program for the windows shell that brings back extended information about the PDF.  It’s unclear why I was seeing it in Procmon burning CPU cycles, as I didn’t have ANY PDF files selected.

The same guy also brought me a laptop infected with Sirefef.B.  I cleaned it off using Windows Defender Offline or so I thought.  I reloaded Microsoft Security Essentials and then it started going crazy again, finding Sirefef.B files over and over again.  Windows would then tell me it encountered an error and would shut down within 1 minute.  I ended up having to run TDSSKiller and it found Sirefef.B in the boot sector.  It took several passes to clean it off as I had to try to clean it off under a minute!

– Soli Deo Gloria