A passionate programmer’s findings in the world of internet.

Archive for June, 2008

Dell System Restore for Windows Vista

Monday, June 30th, 2008

My friend just purchased a new Dell Inspiron 1420 running on Windows Vista Home Premium, with a pink cover. Once we got the machine, we loaded it with some basic software and some photos. Thereafter, all she did was only normal surfing.

After a few hours, the machine began to slow down untill it hanged. After trying out every possible buttons and the system is still not responding, we have no choice but to press and hold the power button to shut it down.

The next time it started up, some of the Windows Vista system files got corrupted. So, the fastest recovery way would be to use Dell System Restore. I was surprised that the first few search results were not Dell Support pages (just like when we search for Windows problem, we normally don't get Microsoft support pages). Most of the pages asked me to press Ctrl + F11 when the system boots up to initiate Dell System Restore.

I failed to initiate the System Restore until I read it at yorkspace.com that I should press F8 if I'm using Windows Vista. The steps after that were very straight forward. A full guide taken from Dell Support page (which I found later) is as follows:

  1. Restart the computer.
  2. Tap <F8> during startup until the Windows Advanced Options menu appears. If the Windows Advanced Options menu does not appear, restart the computer, and try again.
  3. Press the <Down Arrow> until Repair Your Computer is highlighted, and press <Enter>.
  4. In the System Recovery Options window, log in as a user with administrative rights, and click OK.
  5. In the Windows Vista Recovery Environment, click to select your language, and click Next.
  6. Click System Restore.
  7. In the System Restore window, click Next to display the most recent restore points in chronological order.
  8. Click the Show restore points older than 5 days check box for a complete listing of restore points.
  9. Click to select a restore point.
    A good starting point is to attempt to restore from the most recent restore point. If this fails to correct the problem, then try the next oldest restore point until the issue is resolved. Any software installed after the selected restore point needs to be reinstalled.
  10. Click Next and then Finish.

Though I successfully recovered the system, it did not go well the second time. The machine lasted for a few hours for me to reinstall everything, it slowed down and not responding again. I'll get Dell engineers to check up the system.

Own Domain Blog Vs Blogger (Free Blogging Services)

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

I have been attending Toastmaster meetings since June last year, partly forced by my boss to improve my communication skills. Recently, our club just instated a new group of enthusiastic committee members. They planned to start a blog.

You can guess what the debate topic is. Should we use free services like Blogger or WordPress.com? Or should we get our own domain and host the blog somewhere? Before I go further, let me make my preference first. I prefer to use own domain for blog much more than using free blogging services like Blogger. However, I have blogs at both sides. (This blog vs my personal blog)

Advantages of Own Domain

  1. Full control
    You can change everything you wish, especially in theme and functionality.
  2. Strong identity and image
    It's definitely more cool to have own domain. You could also use the domain for email.
  3. Better SEO
    Besides you can choose the better domain name for better SEO, you also can configure settings in the blog for better SEO.

Disadvantages of Own Domain

  1. Security
    You need to monitor your own blog script. You could easily got hacked if you are not up to date.
  2. Backup
    Most of the time, you need to do backup on your own.
  3. Harder to maintain
    You need to know the technical details for web hosting (though it's not hard).
  4. Pay more
    You need to pay some money for web hosting and domain name (though it's damn cheap nowadays). You might need to get a webmaster as well.

Advantages of Blogger (or free blogging services)

  1. Well maintained
    Most of these services are maintained by big companies. Do you know that Blogger is maintained by Google? So, they are properly maintained to keep their good name.
  2. Better security
    When there are lots of people using it, they can detect security flaws faster and fix it as soon as possible, without you worrying about it.
  3. Stay longer
    I suppose a big company like Google will last longer than a person. So, when someday you are gone, your stories will still remain alive.

Disadvantages of Blogger

  1. Hard to customize
    There will be a limited number of themes (usually ugly). If you want a new feature, all you can do is to request and wait for years. They have no obligation to enhance it just for you.
  2. Out of control
    If one day, you find your blog is missing. You can't do anything to get your blog back.
  3. Cannot backup
    Not every free blogging services provide backup facilities. Or probably they can't provide the backup format that you want.

Finally, if you want to have something in between, you can opt for Blogger for own domain. So, all in all, it depends on your technical skill level and what you want ultimately.

A Simple Guideline

If you are going for a commercial site to make money or a corporate site where image is important, get your own domain. Paying a little does not cost much to a company. But if you just plan to get a simple personal blog to scold your boss, get a free blogging account.

Ringo is Ending Its Service Soon

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

It's nice to receive a notification telling us that a service is ending, though it's not nice to know that a service is ending. Somehow, it is better than you find that the page is missing after a few months.

I remember when some of my friends started a Malaysian map service. They sent me an notification, asking me to join. However, after a few months, when I tried to look at the service, the domain name is no longer available. At this point, you really don't know what actually happened to the service and how they are going to use your information.

Just imagine, one day when you open your Gmail account, the website is missing. The service is gone, just like that. Your emails are gone, just like that.

Recently, I received more than one notifications from Ringo, a friend-networking website last time (I don't know when it switched to be a photo and video sharing site), which I suppose to be taken down due to the rise of MySpace or probably Facebook. Or for its new business, Flickr or Youtube. Or probably it's taken down simply because it is not 2.0 enough.

Anyway, it's certainly a good thing to do, to inform your users that you will stop your service and more importantly, ask your users to backup whatever information they have with you. What Ringo did was good, they provide alternative way to get their pictures and videos, which is allowing their users to get their data through CD.

If you have an account there, download your data before June 30!

Firefox 3 Released

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Firefox 3 is finally released. I have been reading about its features again and again in the blogosphere. I keep stopping myself from downloading Release Candidates or Beta version but to wait for the actual release. I have just downloaded and installed.

The first impression is great. They replaced all the icons with something simpler. I also heard from my colleague that the memory leak problem has been fixed. I'm not going to cover each and every new feature, they have been fully documented at the website.

Anyway, I found some problems in this release. I suppose it's a bug. When I create a text field with a certain maximum length and a value longer than the maximum length, it seems be showing the value. In the older version, the value is truncated with the length specified in maxlength.

If you don't get what I'm trying to say, put the following code in any HTML file, then open it with Firefox 3. Edit the text in the text field and you will understand.

<input type="text" value="12345" maxlength="3" />

The second problem that I found, would be Google Browser Sync no longer supports Firefox 3. I had to switch to Foxmarks. It does not really affect me because I was only syncing bookmarks with Google Browser Sync.

Every thing else is great so far. So, go grab Firefox 3 now.

Check If Your Blog Has Been XSS Hacked

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Matt Cutts mentioned about an easy check to know if your blog or website has been hacked using cross site-scripting (XSS). Since this blog got hacked not long ago, I did the check.

All you have to do is to google for: "<your domain> <spam keyword>"

Alternatively, you could try: "site:<your domain> <spam keyword>"

I guess everybody knows what keywords that most spammers would use. A very obvious example would be "porn". So, I search in Google for "enrii.com porn". In the search result, I found one of my page links to a porn site. As I opened the page, I can't see the word.

Using Ctrl-F on Firefox, it seems to be able to find the word, though it is not visible. Then, I looked in the source file (right-click > View Page Source), and I found a long list of links after blog content. The spammer hide the links with the following CSS:


Obviously, it is done for the search engines, not for my visitors. I have removed it. You should do the same for your blog. You should also try on different keywords.

Though it's interesting that this trick actually helps you to removed unwanted spam on your blog, I wonder why it would work as the page could have been removed from Google's search results if it contains spams.