Q: One time I saw in the TV that there is a device that in a way maximizes the use of one hard drive for one classroom or one classroom full of monitors and keyboards and the students are doing their work independently but use only one hard drive.

How about telling me the brand name of this device. I would appreciate very much you telling me the brand name of this device and where to buy?

A: It sounds like you’re describing “thin client” technology. It has been around, in one form or another, since about 1993, when the term was coined by Tim Negris, VP of Server Marketing (at that time) for Oracle.

The basic concept is that you move some of the processing from the desktop to a central server. Sorta like the last century, when there was a mainframe in the computer room, and terminals everywhere else.

The advantages to this scheme include (a) less powerful equipment required at the student desktop (read: less expensive), and (b) more control over what students are allowed to do.

A thin client doesn’t need a hard disk, because the operating system is loaded from the central server. It is malware-resistant, because even if the OS becomes infected, it reverts back to the original, uninfected version as soon as the machine reboots.

The Microsoft variant of this system has Windows running on a powerful central server, with only the display of information being handled at the desktop. This eliminates the transfer of the OS at startup, and also means the “thin client” can run with less memory and a less powerful processor. On the downside, it needs a Terminal Server license for each thin client which connects.

Wikipedia has an informative entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin_client.

But It Is So Stable on My System!

Q: Have you actually used Windows 7 RC? Telling people to wait until the first Service Pack before upgrading indicates to me that you either haven't tried it or that you are a closet Microsoft basher.

Windows 7 RC on one of my home machines has been very stable, even more stable than Vista after Service Pack 2.

A: As far back as the 1970s — before Compaq swallowed up Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Hewlett-Packard swallowed up Compaq — the conventional wisdom among computer professionals was: “Never install an even-numbered version.” By definition, the “dot-zero” release of any operating system is even-numbered.

So it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Windows 7 (officially version 6.1.0) or Snow Leopard (officially version 10.6.0) it’s not a good idea to install an even numbered version.

Admittedly, my point of view is based more on small business than residential, even though I’ve done quite a bit of residential break/fix work over the last five years. I’m grateful that there are people, like yourself, who are comfortable on the “bleeding edge” and willing to do the initial testing of a new operating system for free. For everybody else, my advice continues to be, “Let somebody else be the Guinea pig.”

If I have to walk through a minefield, I’d rather follow somebody than lead the way.

I do believe that the IT Department where you work should probably have Windows 7 installed on their Test Network. They should be putting it through its paces and making sure that all of your company’s mission-critical applications will run without problems. This will ensure they are ready to roll out the new OS when the time comes.

Should it be on the Production Floor? No. Not even close. Not until Service Pack 1, in my humble opinion. Nor should it be installed by the generic, one each, OD, garden-variety user.

Eddie and the Cruzer

Q: I'm using XP on a Dell Dimension and found that it doesn't recognize my 2GB Cruzer I just bought though it recognizes another one that I have had for awhile

I insert the Cruzer and the light briefly flashes then goes out and never appears on my desktop or in My Computer. I tried downloading another driver from Sandisk but it says I don't need to install since I have XP. I tried using it on my laptop and had no problems with accessing it

Can you help?

A: You’ve already done some of the proper troubleshooting. You know it’s not the Cruzer, because it works in another computer. It’s probably not a bad USB port, because it recognizes that other memory stick in the same port.

One thing you might want to try: Plug the Cruzer into one of the USB ports in the back of the Dell. The USB ports in back are usually powered, but sometimes the ones in front are not. The Cruzer may require more juice than that other memory stick.

You may want to check Device Manager. With the Cruzer plugged in, right-click on “My Computer” and choose “Manage.” You will be looking for a yellow exclamation point on the storage device that corresponds to the Cruzer.

The other issue you may want to check is a drive-letter conflict. You may need to give the Cruzer a different letter.

Both of the last two suggestions are covered in a procedure available on the SanDisk website. It shows screen shots and step-by-step instructions.

See: http://kb.sandisk.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/10/kw/XP%20not%20recognized/r_id/101834

Ticked Off About Pop-ups

Q: I have, along with hundreds of others, a serious aversion to Netflix's pervasive, offensive pop-ups. They are everywhere on the web. Google “Netflix pop-ups” and it appears thousands are really ticked off about Netflix pop-ups.

Imagine my displeasure when I discovered that Netflix is now merged with Windows Media Center on my 3 PCs! Without my permission, no less! I find this even more offensive that Microsoft has done this without notifying me. I can find no update that specifies that Netflix would be put on my computer.

How can I remove this abomination from my PCs?

A: You’re preaching to the choir: Nobody I know likes advertising pop-ups. They are, however, an unfortunate fact of life.

As far as removal is concerned, I was able to find some information here. Scroll down to the section marked “Complete UnInstall” and follow the steps there. Let us know how it works, OK?


Whew! Seems like I struck a nerve with my “Where’s the Beef” answer, last installment. Here are some samples:

Jim writes: “FYI, it's common practice for programmers using languages such as C and C++ to pre-populate memory allocations with an easily recognizable memory address (I'm partial to 0xbaadf00d) to indicate when an uninitialized memory pointer is being dereferenced. If the memory is not pre-initialized, you'll get whatever was there before, and end up trying to chase down what set the pointer to the odd value, which is, in fact, a value left over from the last time the memory was allocated from the system.

While I don't disagree that it could be malware, I'd argue that it'd be pretty unlikely that a person developing malware would go to this level of effort in debugging their code. This is more likely a bug in the program cropping up.

Scott writes: “The (hexadecimal) value of 0xdeadbeef is often used to initialize variables in code so that if it is erroneously accessed, it can help you find the bug. It does not indicate malware.”

Nelson writes: "many programmers use hexadecimal values such as "0xdeadbeef," "0xbeefdead" or "0xbaadfood" to denote a memory variable which has been defined, but no value set. The hexadecimal numbering system uses the digits 0-9 and A-F, for a total of 16 values per digit place. Thus, when you reach a hex value of 9, the next number in the count is A. 10 in hex is equal to 16 in decimal, the normal human counting system. Hex values such as those above are often used as a sort of "geek joke", using hex numbers to spell out amusing phrases in addition to denoting valid information.”

“M” writes: “An example is the magic number in FAT Mach-O files and java class file structure, which is "CAFEBABE". Single-architecture Mach-O files have the magic number "FEEDFACE" at their beginning. "DEADBEEF" is sometimes put into uninitialized memory. Microsoft Windows XP clears its locked index.dat files with the hex codes: "0BADF00D". The Visual C++ remote debugger uses "BADCAB1E" to denote a broken link to the target system.”

I do not disagree with any of the above, with the exception of, perhaps, Jim on the matter of programmer effort. Yes, these “geek jokes” are inserted in programs to aid in debugging them. I think that my point — perhaps not too well expressed — is that many (if not all) of these debugging aids should have been removed from the code before being released to production, to be replaced by better (read: more elegant) error-handling code.

Feel free to disagree with me on this point!

The existence of these debugging aids in a program which has made it to the user’s desktop indicates to me that it is the result the sort of amateurishness you would find among the wily hacker — and not so much among professional coders.

John writes: “Any news on how to disable this craptard invader?”

Yes. Try a different malware scanner, or go to one of the several online virus scanners. Sometimes one of these programs can escape detection in one scanner but show up in another. Trend Micro, Kapersky, and BitDefender all offer free online scans. Personally, I was rather partial to the one at Panda Security. It removed viruses and offered a written reports of the malware it found (they want you to pony up the bucks for the paid version to get rid of non-virus malware) — but I used the report to remove the offender manually.

James writes: “in regards to the new Mac OSX Snow Leopard and it shows he didn't do enough research." He made the statement picked up obviously from other web reports that there were a number of incompatible apps.

If you do install the default install of snow leopard, what he states is correct about older 32-bit PowerPC apps. I have several on the apps on the wiki site. In the install process, you can "customize" the install including removing language support other than English and the most important, Rosetta.

For whatever reason, Apple did not include this 1.9 MB application, probably to help expedite folks to move away from the PowerPC.

By enabling Rosetta with the install, I have not yet across any application that doesn't run.

Rosetta is Apple’s answer to 32-bit applications written for the PowerPC. I believe that the so-called “Universal Apps” – which will run on either 32-bit PowerPC or 32-bit Intel systems- will also run with Rosetta on Snow Leopard.

But for those applications which are 32-bit Intel only, you have to wait until the manufacturer to upgrade them to 64-bit.

This is why the Snow Leopard upgrade moves them to an “Incompatible Apps” folder as opposed to installing Rosetta by default.

Finally, Billy writes: “In response to the answer you gave to the Fox News site freezing issue I also have that problem. I get a script error constantly on your site since this weekend. I have to task manager out of IE repeatedly. There is nothing in my add-ons that is causing the issue. Just thought I would let you know. Having to set my homepage to CNN so IE doesn't lock up on loading just seems so wrong

Couldn’t agree with you more! Wrong on so many levels!

So the first thing to find out is whether or not it’s the site or the computer accessing the site. If you have access to a machine running the same OS and the same version of the browser, see if you get the same error. This would be an indication that it’s a site problem.

Otherwise, take a look at this Knowledge Base article from Microsoft. http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=308260

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