How to nuke the Automatic Updates nag window

Windows XP has an annoying habit of prompting you to restart every few minutes after you’ve installed updates. If you’re fed up of clicking Restart Later every few minutes but it’s not convenient to restart, try this: click the Start button, then Run, type sc stop wuauserv and click OK. This will stop the Automatic Updates service until your next restart, and stop it from bugging you.

Not now, Windows!

Not now, Windows!

Thunderbird tip: start replies above quoted text

Thunderbird has the somewhat strange default behaviour of starting replies below the quoted message. Fortunately there is an option to change this, and I’m mentioning it here as it’s a little hidden away and I had trouble finding it myself.

Click Tools (from the menu bar), then Account Settings. Now choose Composition and Addressing which appears under your account name on the left. Underneath Automatically quote the original message when replying (which should be checked) you can then change start my reply below the quote to start my reply above the quote. Easy as that!

How to remove Vista OEM branding

If you don’t feel the need to be reminded of your computer manufacturer every time you use the System or Performance Information & Tools applets, copy the following (italicised) lines into a blank Notepad document and save to your desktop as RemoveBranding.reg. Then double-click the file and accept the prompts to permanently* remove your manufacturer’s name and logo.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winsat\WindowsExperienceIndexOemInfo]

If you’d also like to hide the logo from the Welcome Center, rename the oobe.xml file (which you will find in C:\Windows\System32\OOBE\Info) to something else, e.g. oldoobe.xml.

* In case you ever want to restore the System/Performance Info branding, you should first back up the relevant registry keys. To reinstate the Welcome Center branding, simply rename oldoobe.xml back to oobe.xml.

Banish quotation marks from text files exported from Excel

When exporting Excel worksheets to CSV (comma-separated values) or tab-delimited text, it will add quotation marks (“..”) around any fields containing commas or quotes.

While such files can be re-imported into Excel without problems, it can cause other applications to choke. It is possible to open the files in a text editor to remove the problematic characters, or create a Word macro to do the same job automatically, but the simplest solution is to bypass Excel’s own file export filters and use a macro such as the following to perform the export:

Public Sub TextNoModification()
Const DELIMITER As String = "," 'or "|", vbTab, etc.
Dim myRecord As Range
Dim myField As Range
Dim nFileNum As Long
Dim sOut As String

nFileNum = FreeFile
Open "Test.txt" For Output As #nFileNum
For Each myRecord In Range("A1:A" & _
Range("A" & Rows.Count).End(xlUp).Row)
With myRecord
For Each myField In Range(.Cells(1), _
Cells(.Row, Columns.Count).End(xlToLeft))
sOut = sOut & DELIMITER & myField.Text
Next myField
Print #nFileNum, Mid(sOut, 2)
sOut = Empty
End With
Next myRecord
Close #nFileNum
End Sub

The delimiter and output filename can be changed by editing the code. The macro above is taken from this very useful page from McGimpsey & Associates which contains a whole host of Excel tips.

Disabling NOD32 update balloons

I’m currently using NOD32 Antivirus (best of breed, according to Virus Bulletin) and the one complaint I have about it is the balloon tip that pops up every time the virus definitions update. It’s much better than having a window pop up and interrupt whatever I’m doing, but it’s still a little distracting.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to turn it off – simply double-click the NOD32 icon in your system tray, choose NOD32 System Setup (under NOD32 System Tools), click the Setup button and tick Enable silent mode. You’ll still get warning messages when a virus is detected unless you’ve explicitly turned them off, but if you want to be extra sure, you can set up notifications via email and/or Messenger Service* popups through the Notification tab. If you’d like to safely simulate a virus infection, you can download the EICAR standard antivirus test file.

While I’m very happy with NOD32, it’s not the most memory-conservative antivirus solution out there. It uses around 20MB of RAM on my machine (with unnecessary features such as Office document protection, Outlook email protection and “Internet protection”, as well as the custom user interface, disabled), which is still better than a lot of the AV packages aimed at the home user, but still bloated compared to F-Prot which uses around a fifth of that. Having said that, as long as you’re running with more than 512MB of RAM, 20MB is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

* Note that the Messenger Service is nothing to do with MSN Messenger or Windows Messenger.

Fixing Ubuntu shutdown problem

Some users, myself included, have had problems getting Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger) to restart correctly. When attempting to reboot my machine, it instead powered off – not ideal if I want to restart the machine from a remote location!

This thread details a number of possible solutions. One of which is to type the following line into a console:

sudo vi /boot/grub/menu.lst

and edit the following section (or similar), adding the italicised changes:

title Ubuntu, kernel 2.6.12-9-386
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.12-9-386 root=/dev/hda1 ro noacpi nolacpi quiet splash
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.12-9-386

After a restart (or power off/on), the restart functionality should work as expected. You can also try adding reboot=h as well as, or in place of, noacpi nolacpi.

Unfortunately none of this worked for me, but turning the ACPI feature off on my motherboard (an MSI 6330) did – I assume I’m losing some power saving functionality by doing this but I’m not too concerned as it’s a desktop machine, not a laptop.