Microsoft Trackball Explorer, discussion continues

I’ve today posted an update to the original 03 July 2007 article about the demise of the venerable Microsoft Trackball Explorer pointing device. Check out the original article, the update (following the original article), and the countless comments the post has received over the past year. What’s the matter with Microsoft?!

Total Uninstall + ExpPrint = *TOTAL* uninstall

I’ve been using Marteau’s Total Uninstall for quite some time now, and generally it works very well.  It keeps the system clean of the junk programs generally leave behind when they’re uninstalled.  However, couple of days ago Total Uninstall totally uninstalled my system.  I needed to print a listing of the contents of a folder, and I remembered a program I had tried at some point, ExpPrint.  I downloaded and installed the latest version of ExpPrint,, and printed the directory. Few hours later it occurred to me that the excellent file manager that has long been part of my core utilities, Directory Opus, might have the directory printing functionality built in — something which I confirmed quickly. It also turned out that that the directory printing features of Directory Opus worked better and were more configurable than those of ExpPrint… so I decided to uninstall ExpPrint.  I fired up Total Uninstall, selected ExpPrint, and started application uninstall which quickly completed. I then clicked on the “Uninstall” button of Total Uninstall to remove the scraps left behind by the software.

Only this time I would be treated to a total uninstall of my Windows XP as I was about to find out. Total Uninstall first displayed few items that “were added after the program [to be uninstalled] was installed”. They were generic context-menu items, so I made sure they were unselected, and proceeded. Program worked for some 20 seconds and then produced a lengthy list of all the registry values it had deemed part of the ExpPrint, and thus removed.  Only the list contained good part of my XP’s registry values including all context-menu items, all file associations, etc. Needless to say, after that nothing worked, including the system restore.

Nor did it help to attempt to restore system state (there would have been a very recent system state available) from the recovery console as outlined in a TechTarget article. Windows would just not start. Realizing that even if I were able to get it back up and running, the configuration would likely never work very well, I resigned to a full reinstall with a sigh.  Since the filesystem was intact and since I keep good backups, I lost no data, just time.

Lesson learned: it’s worth keeping a restorable image backup of the system/program files partition in addition to data backups.

Update 17 September 2008: I’m still using Total Unintall, or at least “have been using it”.  Yesterday I was installing some Photoshop plugins, and while doing so accidentally installed a plugin into inDesign’s plugin folder.  So I fired up Total Uninstall to remove the software. The result: the entire plugins folder of inDesign was wiped out. Fortunately only files were touched, and fortunately Total Uninstall removed them to Recycle Bin, so restoring them was fairly easy without a lengthy repair/reinstall of inDesign. But as it seems Total Uninstall doesn’t have a feature to preview what is about to be uninstalled, I’m now questioning how good of an idea its continued use is. I’ve found the program quite effective, but errors like this make it hazardous to use. I’m going to suggest a preview as a new feature, but meanwhile—until/if such feature is added; see my feature request on—I may opt to use some other uninstaller that does provide the preview as well as the option to choose whether or not to remove the “left over” items the uninstaller has found, or if no software provides such feature I may lay off 3rd party uninstallers for now—it’s better to have clutter in the system than to have to have to reinstall everything. I took a quick peek at Total Install’s competition (including Your Uninstaller!, Advanced Uninstaller PRO, free Revo Uninstaller, and the popular, also free CCleaner), and I wasn’t impressed. Let’s hope Martau adds the uninstall preview; it’s otherwise the best tool for the job!

Update 21 September 2008: My over-zealous spam-filter had caught Martau’s response to the initial problem in August. It has been addressed in the current release and “total uninstall” should no longer happen! Also, it turns out that the detected changes display (the “Changes” tab) in Total Uninstall displays all the changes that the program has detected for each installed program, and that will be reverted or removed during the uninstall. Thus, by reviewing the detected changes in prior to starting the uninstallation process any unpleasant surprises can be avoided. This is pretty much what I was looking for with the “uninstall preview” feature (as outlined in 17 September 2008 update above).  Good job, Martau!  Now I can continue to recommend Total Uninstall as the best uninstall tool available for Windows!

Slots Are Dead… Long Live the Slots!

Some years ago slot-load CD and DVD drives were abound.  Plextor, Pioneer, Sony, Toshiba all made some models that lacked the tray.  Now if you try to find one you’re out of luck (except, perhaps, on eBay where you might still find a second hand slot-load drive).

So what happened? The slot-loaders clearly cannot be as fragile as the tray units – the trays are flimsy!  Especially laptop DVD-drive trays almost self-destruct on slightest breeze!  Perhaps there were issues with the alignment… but then a slot-load DVD-ROM drive that I have had in use from the early part of this decade is still working fine and I’ve never had any trouble with it.  Perhaps it’s difficult to make writers that are slot-load?  But there is still a place for read-only units.  Two of the three computers our kids use (each has their own) has currently a destroyed DVD-ROM drive. You guessed it, the tray’s been bent or ripped out.  If they were slot-load drives, perhaps some items would’ve been stuffed into them, but likely they would not have been destroyed.  Slot-load drives would also be perfect for laptops: no super-flimsy trays, just a slot where a disk would sleekly slide in.

Clearly it is possible to continue manufacturing reliable slot-load drives as, for example, the popular game-console Wii that was released less than two years ago, comes with a slot-load DVD-drive.  Wii drive reads both 4.7Gb and 9Gb DVD disks so clearly alignment can not be a major issue.

Manufacturers, please bring back the slot-load drives!

CI Host: 40°C and Rising

I spent most of today dealing with server emergencies. Last night we had severe thunderstorms pummeling through the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area with high winds, even few tornado alerts. No tornadoes were officially spotted in the city area, but winds and the lightning were strong enough to do some damage to the power grid. Servers were still working normally at night (I was up, watching the weather radar at 4am), but by the morning the dedicated servers I manage were unreachable. A quick call to CI Host’s tech support produced no help: a busy tone. Dialing repeatedly for the next half an hour didn’t make any difference, so there didn’t seem to be support available today. According to the recorded “current network status” at the company’s main phone number there were “no current network outages or other issues”. Yeah, right. Being only 20 minutes or so away from the facility I decided to go to investigate.

At the hosting company’s Bedford facility (“CDC-01”) chaos reigned supreme. All the doors were open, diesel generators were spewing fumes into the air (while being cooled by rigged water-hoses), and a mixture of technicians and concerned looking nerds were running around. Being one of the nerds, I joined in. There was no usual security, I strolled in to the lobby and chatted with one of the CI Host’s admins. Mains power was down as I had gathered from the diesel generators running outside of the building. Since I was there, I decided to take a look at the co-located servers on two different floors. Elevators were not working, of course, so it was up the stairs. Approaching the 2nd floor server room the temperature was increasing on every step — the generators were able to provide electricity for the servers, but not for the A/C!. Inside the room, the thermometer on the wall was displaying 90°F (32°C), but someone who had been there for several hours working on their server swore the thermometer was pegged to not go over the 90°F mark. My server’s internal temperature sensors were indicating 43°C for the case temperature.

After a few moments I decided to shut down the servers to prevent hardware damage.. the CPU temperatures were reasonable but the hard drives were running rather hot — normally the server room is some 30-40 degrees (C) cooler.

After shutting down the servers I was ready to leave, and picked up the phone to have someone to come to let me out. Line busy! Was I trapped in the sauna? No… I forgot there was no security today; all the doors were unlocked. So I decided to pay a visit to the third floor co-lo room where the A/C was supposed to be running and where another of the servers I manage is located. Once I made it there (through a staircase), I found just another hot room full of concerned nerds and their baking computers. I switched off the server there, too, and left.

According to the case temperature sensors the A/C started working again around 10:30 in the evening. I switched the servers back online through remote access.

With the dust settled, I’m starting to look for alternative co-lo facilities. While the power outage was not the fault of CI Host, their level (or lack of) disaster preparedness is disheartening. Firstly, it is very irresponsible to let the clients’ servers run in that kind of “torture test” environment — I think they should not provide electricity for the servers if there is no electricity for the A/C. This exact same thing happened few years back after a major storm, but early summer rather than in the spring, so the temperatures were even higher. Clearly there has been no improvement in the emergency power since that time.

The strongest contender at the moment is Colo4Dallas. I’m going to tour their facility in the next few days, and likely start planning a move there.