Why can’t Winamp stay on top?!

Seriously, this pisses me off to no end.  Winamp has had this problem for years.  I have the option set:

 

After a couple songs:

 

I love Winamp as an audio player, I really do.  But it drives me crazy when I go to pause the music or skip to the next track, and Winamp is not where it is supposed to be, and end up having to minimize my 3,847 windows to find it.

 

Fix 7’s Taskbar Right Clicking

Something that has bugged me for a long time in Windows 7 is how the taskbar right-click functionality was changed.  Since Windows 95, when you right clicked on an item in the taskbar, you were presented with a menu to Restore, Minimize, Maximize, Close, and with some programs, some nifty custom options (like PuTTY’s custom menu, which since I use it  a lot, is the main source of my gripes here).

But, for some reason in Windows 7, Microsoft decided to do away with all of that and change what the right click does.  Right clicking now brings up Windows 7’s jump lists.  A feature that is absolutely worthless to a good 95% of the programs that run on Windows.  It was so incredibly frustrating to me to right click on running program and not be presenting with a useful menu, and right clicking on the program name in the jump list presenting you with an equally worthless menu.  Even more frustrating was there is an alternate way to access jumplists, by clicking and dragging up, they didn’t have to change the right click functionality!  The final straw was when they (as usual) gave you no setting to change this option back to the classic right click menu.  Now, I realize you can hold the Shift key and right click on a taskbar item to get the classic menu, but I want that to be the default function, not something that his hidden behind the shift key.

Well, as you may have guessed, I have a fix for this.  A little free program called 7 Taskbar Tweaker.  This program will let you change the right click function back to the classic menu (and a slew of other tweaks)!  And even more so, if you do use jump lists for something, you can still access them by the other method of clicking and dragging up like I mentioned above.  The only slight downside is that the program must run in the system tray for the changes to remain in effect as it actually has to inject a dll and hook in to the explorer process since there are no registry options for the tweaks it applies.  Fortunately, the memory footprint is fairly small, clocking in at only around 2mb of ram used, so it’s not going to have an adverse effect on systems, even those with only a couple gigs of ram.

So, you can change this:

 

Back in to something useful:

A new rootkit?

For the third time in the last few weeks I have had to clean up yet another malware infection.

However, these have all displayed similar symptoms, and I am thinking there might be another outbreak of malware coming.  I have noticed that malware seems to come in waves.  I will spend a whole bunch of time cleaning it up for a while, then I will go months with out having to clean any up… then it’ll come back in force again.

I’m not sure of the injection vector of the latest version (the previous wave seemed to enjoy Java exploits quite a lot), but I can give you a fairly obvious and quick to diagnose symptom and a quick way to clean it up.

The first and easiest check on an infected machine is try and visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com.  On the machines I have seen, regular websites will work like cnn.com or google.com, but you can not get to the Windows Update site.  It will just snap to a page not found error.

The second easy check basically confirms that Windows Updates are being blocked.  Hop in to the Event Viewer, and look in the Application log.  You should see a whole onslaught of errors from crypt32 complaining that it “Failed auto update retrieval of third-part root list sequence number from…The connection with the server was terminated abnormally”.  This is almost a guaranteed sign you’ve picked yourself up some new malware, and more specifically a rootkit.  This rootkit is sort of nasty in that it makes you think you have got the machine all cleaned up.  If you run a Malwarebytes Antimalware scan the scan will come back clean, and the system will seem normal (aside from the errors in Event Viewer and not being able to get to Windows Updates).

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HP’s New Touch-pads Suck

I was setting up some brand new HP Probook’s today (typically VERY nice machines in my experience) when I was suddenly rendered crippled by a IMPOSSIBLE to use touch-pad.  What a DREADFUL piece of shit this new design is.

Basically, the touch-pad and buttons are all one surface.

Observe:

The problem comes from the fact that the “button area” is still part of the touch-pad.  So you place one finger on the button, and now you can’t use the fucking touch-pad.  Your cursor will either sit there and stare at you like a vegetable or it’ll jump all around the screen like crazy.  Either way, the touch-pad is completely unusable if you’re touching either button.  This is incredibly frustrating because my style of laptop mousing is resting one hand’s fingers on the buttons while using the other hand to navigate the mouse, or resting one finger on the button, while the other navigates the mouse for faster mouse action.  The only effective way to use this touch pad is with one hand and one finger.  Christ.  It’s awful.  Seriously.

I ended up grabbing one of those USB ball mice and plugging the damn thing in and using that, because trying to use that bloody touch-pad was making me want to kick puppies.  And I love puppies.

Thanks for the SHIT design HP.  I’m sure as hell glad this isn’t my machine.  I would be returning it if I had to put up with that damn thing.

It’s 2010, do you know where your balls are?

Apparently HP does.  In their mice.

Come on people.  It’s 2010.  Optical mice can be had from Newegg for $4.  I can’t believe ball-mice are still being packaged with new machines.  And this wasn’t even a cheap piece of crap Acer, this came with a brand new HP Proliant server!  Sheesh.  Spare no expense with that fancy fuckin technology why don’t yah?

I guess since it’s a server it’ll be remoted in to 99% of the time anyway, but still.  Like it would’ve broken HP’s bank to throw an optical mouse in there?

I had forgotten how absolutely frustrating ball mice are with out a perfectly flat surface until now.  Thanks HP.

Java: A Malware Writer’s Dream Come True

Not too long ago I wrote about how to Make Firefox More Secure by Disabling Java in it.  Since I wrote that article in November, nearly every malware cleanup I have done since then has used Java as it’s injection vector, and that has been quite a lot.  This has become a HUGE wide spread security issue for Windows users, and it’s all thanks to Oracle’s Java plugin for web browsers.

Java isn’t supposed to allow apps with out a certificate to execute unless the user gives it permission to.  The problem is that there are bugs in the Java plugin that allow malicious apps to still run, regardless of the user clicking allow or block!  I don’t know if the latest Java update version has patched these holes or not.  Every system I have seen though has been running Java 6, just one of the lower update numbers (they’re on update 18 at the time of this writing).  Compounding the issue is that most people never update Java.  Heck, I hardly ever used it, so I never updated it either.

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Firefox 3.6 Breaks Themes and Personas Coexistence

I was excited to see that Firefox 3.6 was released today, so I promptly downloaded and installed it on my Asus Netbook (which I have been loving by the way).  Upon restarting Firefox after the upgrade I noticed my Persona was missing.  Now would be a good time to explain that I run a theme on my Netbook other then default.  The default Firefox theme is generally ok, but on a Netbook it is simply too bloated and chunky.  It takes up way too much real estate on a Netbook’s low res screen.  To resolve that annoyance I run a theme called Classic Compact.  It gives you a good chunk of your screen space back, leaving you more room to view your porn websites.

After loading up 3.6 and seeing my Theme was lacking my Persona (the clean  Firefox B), I hopped back over to the Persona website and reapplied it.  But at this point something disturbing happened.  Firefox switched back over to it’s morbidly obese default theme.  I turned Classic Compact back on and applied the Persona again, and again Firefox’s ugly fat theme butted in.  After a quick goog, I discovered that this was a common complaint on the Mozilla forums.  Evidently in the new version of Firefox, with the Persona integration, they merged Persona’s in to themes.  You can no longer have both, as you always could before.

After screaming a few choice words I decided to just downgrade back to 3.5.7 until Firefox fixes this issue or someone else releases an add-on that will fix this bullshit.

It’s pathetic that Mozilla would take a feature that has been working fine for such a long time, integrate it, and completely fuck it up!

I also find it rather pathetic that Mozilla couldn’t scrape together a single fucking Windows 7 feature for Firefox… I would’ve been happy with even some god damn jump lists, but noooo… heaven forbid the Mozilla team actually be on the ball about what it’s users want.

So the lesson here is, if you run a theme and a persona, don’t upgrade to 3.6 quite yet.  Wait for a fix to come out, either from Mozilla, or from someone in the community in the form of an add on.  And since pictures are always more fun to look at…

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TrueCrypt Full System Encryption on a Netbook

For the uninitiated, TrueCrypt is a Free, Open Source, on-the-fly disk encryption software.  You can do many things with it, from Encrypting flash drive, to creating Encrypted file containers, to Full System Encryption.  I had done all except the latter and I have been wanting to try it out.  For various reasons though I had never really bothered with it, until now.

Over the holidays I picked up an Asus EeePC 1005HA Netbook

asus-1005ha

I have a 14 inch laptop with all the bells and whistles of a normal laptop, but after a while, lugging the beastly heavy thing around got to be quite old, and it got to a point where I just didn’t even bother bringing it with me any more because it was just a hassle.  I picked up the Netbook to hopefully remedy this issue.  Their small and incredibly light build will hopefully not become such a burden down the road.  While you can definitely feel the slowness of the Atom processor, you only really notice it if you’re doing a bunch of stuff at once.  If you’re just surfing the net, IM’ing, doing office stuff, you don’t really notice at all.

So now that I have my new little buddy I started thinking about security for it.  Since it’s so small and will be going with me every where, it’s also prone to growing a set of legs and walking off.  Should this occur, I want all of my personal and work related files stored on it to be completely secure.  I have used TrueCrypt for many years so I have come to trust it, and I figured this would be en excellent solution.

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