Rants

Windows password changed?

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Here's a weird situation for you. Yesterday one of my co-worker's had her PC go into locked mode (control-alt-delete then select Lock Computer) without her causing it, and when she tried to unlock it the password was different to what it had been earlier. I managed to reset her password from the server and get her in again, but its baffling me as to how this could have happened. I immediately installed Spybot Search & Destroy, did a quick update then scanned the system, during which a number of spywares were found. One in particular that I had not heard of before was called Zonemap.Ranges which turned out to be a trojan. She also had several IE plugins that were doing unknown damage, one added a web search box to her IE toolbar while others simply added more buttons on the toolbar. Given her position within the company its my constant concern that she would somehow get a key logger that would allow some git to run away with the company's bank accounts. Anyway, problem solved for the moment, and I asked her to contact me any time she sees anything strange start happening with IE again.

Laptop installation - Windows Wouldn't Work

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In the continued saga, this week I got Windows 2000 Professional on and then after some hair pulling reformatted the drive. Why, you may ask? Drivers.

The laptop in question was build around the time that Windows 98 was coming out, before Windows 2000 Professional was released, and it was never officially supported under the latter. Despite that, after installing Windows 2000 Pro every minute piece of hardware was correctly identified, I didn't have to install any extra drivers to get it that far. There were, however, three problems remaining: the built-in video card wasn't working correctly (it defaulted to generic VGA) and the two PCMCIA/PC-Card slots refused to work - with my intentions of using a PCMCIA ethernet card, this was going to pose problems.

Long story short, it completely stumped me. Each device was giving a similar error in Device Manager that there were insufficient resources, but none of them gave detailed enough of an answer to pinpoint what was insufficient - IRQs, memory, etc. I suspect it may have been a memory issue, but it was kind of silly of them to write drivers that were hardcoded to memory above the 64mb limit for laptops that were released back when 32mb was a large amount. After several hours of searching for alternative drivers, disabling other devices to see if it was a problem of something else conflicting, it was just going utterly nowhere.

So last night I took my HD platters in my hand and wiped the drive. Then the real fun began, but that's for another time.

Software for our old laptop

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After some testing a few nights ago with a few different Linux distribution so-called live CDs (CDs you can boot straight up into Linux, no install needed) I figured I'd try out Windows 2000 Professional on the laptop, and if we have problems with it I'll put on Fedora Core. This testing period also gives the Fedora folks more time to finish the new Fedora Core 5, which is due for launch in March.

I've made another decision regarding the software to be installed. With the major rewritten version 2 due very shortly, I've decided to go with Gaim for instant messaging. I tried out the current release (beta 2) at home and it works very well while still being a pretty small program. If it does end up being too much for the wee beastie I'll revert to GTalk but for the moment I'm aiming for Gaim.

As I write this I'm actually installing Windows 2000 Pro on the laptop and its going smoothly so far. Several years ago I attempted to install it for its then owner, only to have it constantly throw up on me. As it turned out the machine's hard drive was failing so it never completed the task. With a replaced drive it has been flying along so far, but it isn't finished yet so I'd best not jinx things.

More later.

Making an old laptop more usable

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We've received an old Pentium 233/MMX laptop that has 64mb of RAM, a 10gb hard drive and is currently running Windows 98. I'm intending turning it into a basic Internet kiosk for our living room, which is definitely doable. The trick, however, will be to get it running a more powerful / stable operating system that can run the two basic services I want: web browsing and instant messaging.

The key problem is not going to be the software itself, as its pretty much decided for me already - for a web browser I'll probably be using Opera (Firefox is simply too big for this wee beastie) and either Google Talk, IM2 or maybe Gaim for the instant messaging. Along with that I'll probably install a minimalistic MP3/CD player and a firewall, and have a virus checker in the background incase needed.

The real problem, however, is finding a more up-to-date operating system than is currently installed, something that will fit within the 64mb memory limit that we're stuck with, and still leave room for running the software. While it may be possible to upgrade to more memory, I'm not currently sure its an investment worth our money, but I will research it anyway. So the main two options are Windows 2000 and some form of Linux (probably Fedora Core running Xfce). I'll probably start off trying Windows XP and then jump to Linux if that doesn't work up to snuff.

Before doing anything the first task will be to backup what's already on the drive incase its needed later, and I'll be using Acronis True Image to do that.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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