All the tips/hints/fixes/other information posted here are at your own risk. Some of the steps here could result in damage to your computer. For example, using a Windows registry editor like RegEdit could result in unintended serious changes that may be difficult or impossible to reverse. Backups are always encouraged.

30 April 2008

[SOLVED] Adobe Reader 8.1.2 Freezes Entire Computer

Under Vista, opening some PDF's can crash Adobe Reader 8.1 so badly that the entire computer can freeze up and only a hard reboot is possible. The conflict is threefold: Reader's GPU acceleration, Vista's UAC, and temp folder security.

I fixed it by adjusting the following in Reader's preferences (not all steps may be necessary):
  • Automatic Default Page Layout
  • Automatic Default Zoom
  • Hardware rendering for legacy video cards
  • PDF browser plugin, fast web view (irrelevant to this, though)
  • Acrobat JavaScript
  • Preferred Media Player (.i.e., set to Windows Media Player)
  • Multimedia operations
  • Verify signatures when opened
  • Check spelling when typing
  • External content (off by default, I think)
Most importantly, adjust the properties for AcroRd32.exe to run in compatibility mode for Windows XP SP2.

Cross-posted from

27 April 2008

Traditional Antivirus is Wasteful

A response to this LifeHacker post:

Traditional real-time antivirus scanning is wasteful, IMO. Viruses can come through in what you download, or if your networking settings are weirdly insecure-- but it's not like you can just "catch" a virus. To warn people that their computers might be unknowingly infected is unnecessarily alarmist; a virus or trojan would have to come from a downloaded or copied file. I scan every file I download by having Free Download Manager call ClamWin (and A-Squared Command Line), which I update hourly (I even made an AutoHotkey script so that the scan happens in the background). This precaution makes more sense than scanning every file whenever it is read or written, and it is hugely better for your I/O performance.

All in all, though, blacklist-paradigm antivirus does not make a lot of sense nowadays for on-access scanning, because viruses (and more relevantly, other kinds of malware) spread before virus definitions are created. Furthermore, on-access scanning of files involves a huge performance cost. If you scan all incoming files, extra file scanning doesn't make any sense unless the virus definitions have been updated in the interim. I'm perplexed, for instance, by Avast!, which can scan all files + emails + IMs... if all files are being scanned, why the extra scanning repetition due to its route of entry?

However, blacklist-oriented antivirus seems wise for periodic on-demand scanning. For this, Norton Security Scan available free through Google Pack is a nice choice.

A better choice for so-called real-time antivirus, though, is behavior-based scanning such as Threatfire, but I prefer Mamutu ($30 for 1 year). Threatfire would interfere with several programs (especially the kind that export files to other formats: PDF Creator, AutoHotkey EXE compiler) even when "suspended," so I can't recommend it unless you're allergic to spending money on security software (as I tend to be). Comodo Firewall is another free alternative in this vein, but it is quite confusing.

Additionally, you can take some preventive measures by using SpywareBlaster. I paid for the privilege of auto-updating and to support its development, but you don't have to.

The one thing that irritates me most about many anti-malware products: the false positives. Since trying out Comodo BOClean and having it shut down a program I wrote myself as a trojan, I've been very suspicious of claims that BOClean has caught malware other antivirus missed. When I see claims like that, I wonder about the likelihood that it is a false positive. (To be clear, I do NOT recommend Comodo BOClean.)

A final note is that I think infrequently-updated real-time antivirus like AVG, which allows only daily updates in its free version, is the worst (if used by itself), because you're exposed to the newest threats while suffering an I/O performance hit.

26 April 2008

Easily Select a Web Page without the Menus, Etc at the Top & Bottom

I was trying to make an AHK script for making it easier to select the text I wanted on a web page without the material at the top and bottom (menus, links, and so forth).

Apparently, it's already easy, even though it wasn't obvious to me:

  1. Click once where you want the selection to begin
  2. Press Ctrl-End to move to the end of the window
  3. Shift-Click at the end of your desired selection

That's it!

05 April 2008

Extending the Usefulness of TrueCrypt on Vista with Folder2Junction

As you may know, TrueCrypt is a great, free utility for encryption. It's especially welcome to me, because on Windows Vista Home Premium, there is no EFS. TrueCrypt mounts a virtual disk that is encrypted for the storage of sensitive files and folders, and the encryption/decryption happens on-the-fly (like EFS). Unlike EFS, however, the files have to be in the encrypted area to be encrypted. You can't have, for example, the Mozilla folder in AppData encrypted and keep it in its default location on C:\. Unless, that is...

NTFS offers a neat but difficult-to-utilize feature known as directory junction points. These are like wormholes in the file system that look like folders but point to other directories, even on other disks/volumes. Junctions are a way to store sensitive data on an encrypted disk while maintaining application compatibility and ease-of-access.

To make that easier, I developed a utility (I'm really proud; my first programming triumph!) called Folder2Junction. Folder2Junction adds a command to the contextual menu of folders: Move Folder Then Create Junction Here. Selecting it will prompt you to select where you want the folder and its contents to be stored. It will then move the folder to that location (say, the encrypted disk) and then make a NTFS junction point in the original location pointing to its new location. To the OS and apps, the folder will appear to be in the same place, but it is really a wormhole to the real folder now somewhere else.

Luckily, Windows Vista has some built-in support for junctions, and they will appear in Explorer in Vista with an arrow icon overlay. Also, deleting junctions in Vista's Explorer will delete just the junction and not the original (unlike Explorer in XP). Partially for this reason (but more for the mklink command Folder2Junction uses that is new to Vista), Folder2Junction is compatible with Windows Vista or higher only and is totally freeware. Please see this thread for the download link and more information.