iTunes 8 made my CD/DVD drives disappear!!!

September 10th, 2008

Following my post earlier about iTunes 8 and possible BSODs under Windows Vista, and Ed Bott's fine forensic analysis of what the iTunes 8 installer is getting up to, I opened up my ZDNet mailbag to find eight emails from readers who claim that iTunes 8 made their CD/DVD drive disappear.

While I'm still working on the BSOD issue, I've come across this CD/DVD drive disappearing business before. It relates to UpperFilters and LowerFilters registry entries and fortunately it's easily fixable as long as you are willing to go delving into the Windows registry (full instructions on how to carry out this procedure can be found on the Microsoft support website).

Beware - It is possible that that doing this will kill the CD/DVD burning capability on iTunes until it is reinstalled (or an updated version is released).

As to iTunes and the BSOD under Windows Vista, I've now received over two dozen emails relating to this problem. So far I've managed to piece together some factors that might contribute to the crash:

  • Having Roxio disc burning software installed
  • Having an HP USB printer connected
  • Having Logitech software/hardware installed

I'll keep you posted!

September’s Patch Tuesday

September 9th, 2008

Here's what Microsoft has in store for us this Patch Tuesday:

Critical:

  • Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-054
    Vulnerability in Windows Media Player Could Allow Remote Code Execution (954154)
    This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in Windows Media Player that could allow remote code execution when a specially crafted audio file is streamed from a Windows Media server. If a user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.
  • Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-052
    Vulnerabilities in GDI+ Could Allow Remote Code Execution (954593)
    This security update resolves several privately reported vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows GDI+. These vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if a user viewed a specially crafted image file using affected software or browsed a Web site that contains specially crafted content. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.
  • Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-053
    Vulnerability in Windows Media Encoder 9 Could Allow Remote Code Execution (954156)
    This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in Windows Media Encoder 9 Series. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user viewed a specially crafted Web page. If a user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.
  • Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-055
    Vulnerability in Microsoft Office Could Allow Remote Code Execution (955047)
    This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in Microsoft Office. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user clicks a specially crafted OneNote URL. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

Computerworld article promotes unnecessary Vista fiddling

September 4th, 2008

I've just finished reading an article on Computerworld called "12 unnecessary Vista features you can disable right now" which claims that you can "reclaim your PC's performance by turning off a dozen wasteful features." Sorry folks, but more than 90% of this article is bunk.

Let me just run through the "tips" contained in the article quickly and add a few thoughts:

  • Turn off the Vista Sidebar - Bunk. Performance gains here are directly related to how many gadgets you have running and the quality of the code.
  • Turn off Aero - Bunk. Some notebook users might claw back a small amount of performance (and, more importantly, battery life), but even a lot-spec desktop machine won't benefit from this.
  • Turn off various Windows beautification options - Bunk. Offers little to no performance gains.
  • Turn off Remote Assistance - Bunk. Gains resulting from this can't be measured.
  • Turn off Internet Printing Client - Bunk. As above.
  • Turn off Windows Meeting Space - Bunk. As above.
  • Turn off Windows Ultimate Extras - Bunk. As above.
  • Turn off Tablet PC stuff - Bunk. Again, as above.
  • Turn off ReadyBoost - Bunk. As above again.
  • Turn off Search indexing - Some gains here, mostly relating to disk access. Depending on the speed of your disk and how many files you have, this might help make your system a bit more responsive.
  • Turn off Offline files - Bunk.
  • Turn off Windows Error Reporting Service - Bunk. However, it does speed things up following a crash recovery because you don't have to mess about with dialog boxes.

Bottom line, 90% bunk. You might be wondering whether doing all the things I've labeled as bunk have a cumulative effect on performance. Sorry, but that's also bunk.  The difference between a system with all these features running and one with them turned off is usually too small to measure.

Here's a tip. Next time you come across an article promising performance gains, look for any data presented by the author to back it up, even if they just tell you how much RAM they gained on their system, or how much their 3DMark went up by. If you see little or no metrics, that points to a regurgitated article written by someone who either hasn't tried out the tips themselves and is taking everything on face value, or hasn't bothered testing out the claims to see just how much performance gains their achieved.

Heads-Up for September’s Patch Tuesday

September 4th, 2008

Here's what Microsoft has planned for us next Patch Tuesday:

  • Four Microsoft Security Bulletins with maximum severity of Critical, which include security bulletins for the following:
    - Windows Media Player
    - Windows
    - Windows Media Encoder
    - Office
  • These updates may require a restart.

More info on Tuesday

Attention VAIO TZ owners – Sony issues recall due to overheating

September 4th, 2008

Important news for Sony VAIO TZ owners:

Dear Valued Sony VAIO Customer,

Sony takes pride in the quality of its products. Recently, we became aware of a potential issue affecting the following notebook PC models:

 - VGN-TZ100 series 
 - VGN-TZ200 series 
 - VGN-TZ300 series 
 - VGN-TZ2000 series

The issue involves a small number of units which may overheat due to a wiring problem. Sony has initiated a voluntary program to perform a free inspection and, if necessary, a repair to ensure these units meet our high quality standards.

To find out if your VAIO notebook is one of the affected units, please visit this link: http://esupport.sony.com/fixmypc. You will be prompted to input your product code and serial number located on the bottom of the notebook. It will be checked automatically against the range of affected units. If you find that your PC is one of the affected models, follow the instructions on the website and make arrangements for an inspection. You may also call our VAIO TZ customer hotline at 1-888-526-6219 to determine whether your notebook computer is affected by this issue and whether service is required.

At no charge, Sony will provide an inspection and, if necessary, on-site repair at your home or office. Alternatively, you can ship your notebook to our service center.

The satisfaction of our customers is our number one concern, and we will work diligently to ensure that your VAIO notebook is in top working order. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your support in this matter.

Sincerely,

Mike Abary,
Senior Vice President, VAIO
Sony Electronics Inc.

If you own a VAIO TS sold between July 2007 and August 2008 (and it seems that there are some 440,000 of them) then click on the above link and get your notebook checked now.