Friday, August 31, 2007

Make Contig Easier to Use

Contig is a fast command-line defrag utility, and provides a quick way to defragment a single file or folder. With a simple addition to the registry you can use it to defragment an entire folder, by right-clicking on the folder name and selecting "Contig Defrag Folder". This will open a command prompt and execute the contig command, as shown here.
In order for this to work, you need to download and install Contig, copying it into the c:\windows\system32 folder. Next, use notepad and paste the following text into a blank notepad file:


@="Contig Defrag Folder"

@="cmd.exe /k contig.exe \"%L\\*.*\" -v -s"

Save this as "contig.reg" and then double-click on the file to add the commands to the windows registry. Select a folder, right-click on it and test the "Contig Defrag Folder" menu entry.

The Great Defrag Shootout: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | XXIX| winner | all | why

Thursday, August 30, 2007

JkDefrag Gets a Fresh Look

JkDefrag has been a work in progress for some time now, and I only discovered it in the last few months. I have been using it ever since, and version 3.16 is both stable and usable.
But Jeroen Kessels has been hard at work, making constant improvements and fixing problems. Starting at version 3.17 and continuing though 3.24, he has added a new analysis method and finally an icon. If you like testing software, try downloading the latest version, but he has suggested that casual users hold back for a few weeks until the new version(s) stabilise. This program is getting better all the time.

The Great Defrag Shootout: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | XXIX| winner | all | why

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout XXIV: Puran Defrag 1.1

Puran Defrag 1.1 is a new application, and aims to be fast and efficient. It has a minimal interface, as shown here. A useful option in Windows allows you to right-click on any file or folder and request a defrag of the selected item. Another option allows you to reboot the PC, do a defrag, and then either reboot again or shut down. This is not the same as a boot time defrag, but it goes some way to solving the problem of trying to defrag files that are in use.
My biggest problem with this program is that it is so minimal that it doesn't tell you what files it is busy with, and it isn't thorough so it ignored some of my particularly badly fragmented files. Even when I used the right-click option on the file itself, the progress bar went to 99% and then I was told the defrag was finished, but there were still plenty of fragments in the file. During the defrag process it uses a lot of processing power, so don't try to do other things at the same time.
There are no documented command line options for this program, so you can't schedule a defrag. There is also no boot time defrag available, so it won't help to use it when trying to defrag key system files or the MFT. I can't recommend this program because it isn't thorough enough. It also managed to freeze a Windows 2000 Server machine when I ran it there. It's still early days (version 1.1 was only the second release of the package) and the program may improve over time.
Update: I downloaded version 2.0, which is no longer free, but costs $14.95. You can try it for 30 executions before buying it. Don't bother. I used SQL Server to create a single large compressed backup file with 171000 fragments. There were also 227 other fragmented items on the drive. After a "complete" defrag the large file had exactly the same number of fragments, and there are still 45 fragmented items on the drive, as shown by the yellow image above from JkDefrag in analyse mode. Not good for a commercial product; WDD did marginally better.
Update: The support guys at Puran Software sent me a beta version of PD 3.0, which performs correctly on massively fragmented files. The product is starting to look pretty mature, and is much more user friendly than the WDD that ships with Vista. I will do another test when 3.0 ships, and expect it to get a "Thumbs Up" rating.
Update 30 October: Version 3.0 is now available, and it is a great product, better than Diskeeper 2008 Home in my opinion.
Update 10 December 2007: Version 4.0 is even better than 3.0, and I can thoroughly recommend it.

The Great Defrag Shootout: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | XXIX| winner | all | why

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom

If Ruth Edwards was still alive she would have turned 75 today, if my maths is correct. I have been listening to a brilliant audio book called "New Psycho-Cybernetics" and it has given me a fresh appreciation for the things my parents got right in parenting me. Thanks, mom!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cell C - Raving fan, to totally disillusioned

5 Years ago when I launched my own business Cell C was the only South African cellular network that was prepared to help me with an easy to remember number. As my company grew I was able to add more contact cell numbers all with the same number sequence ending in 8008. (It did however become more and more difficult to do with each added number) In the beginning, I had 4 contracts all on my personal name. It was any cellular networks dream number, (a rental companies main incoming number on a cell phone). Due to this I was treated like royalty and was even given an Ipod shuffle one year as a gift.
My biggest mistake was to listen to a friend's advice, and move all my contracts off my personal name and onto my business instead. From that day on I was largely ignored by Cell C and treated worse than any pre-paid customer. The amazing thing is that my monthly cell phone bill still varied between R9000 in peak season to R6000 in the quieter months.
The final straw for me was when, as a brilliant promotion to swell their customer base, Cell C announced the "Weekend Free" fiasco, for pre-paid customers. As any business person will tell you in this life there is nothing for free. "Talk for free on the weekend" and the response was that everyone did just that, which basically caused a network meltdown on weekends. Contract customers, like myself, found to my horror that I could not phone out at all, to any other Cell C phones. (My phone would just say Call failed!) I do medical call for Siemens Medical Services and if the person needing my assistance happens to be with Cell C on the weekend then "Sorry For You"
I also own a large franchise network that does most of its business on the weekend. If my driver or I need to contact a customer who happens to be on Cell C on the weekend then again "Sorry for You"
But wait there is more!
Try to get hold of any cellular companies, (not only Cell C's) help line especially when you can't phone within your network, and while the network is busy melting it's own Eco friendly fake palm tree masts! I eventually asked someone else to phone 084140 and was politely told that "140 is an incoming call centre, and that they can't phone out to help with my problem"
Oh great @$%&
After some pretty serious emails I eventually got a response:
Good day, Andrew
Thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us.
“Our Woza 0 promotion has meant an increase in traffic on our network over the weekend free time. We completely understand how frustrating this may be to you, not being able to get through.
The congestion that is experienced is limited to certain coverage areas and our network technicians are working feverishly to iron out these problems. With each Woza 0 weekend that passes, we learn more and spend the week making good on these lessons, expanding our network capacity and resolving high traffic hot spots.
We would like to reassure you that we continue to expand our network almost daily as our customer’s ability to be connected is of paramount importance to us.”
Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this matter has caused.
Letlhogonolo Xaba
Client Liaison Representative

The other thing that really got me hopping mad was that The Cell C Call Centre, then just sent me an SMS saying that "the Case 1584992 resolved bla bla fish paste....."
Tell that to all the Cell C contract customers who can't phone anyone on the Cell C network, on the weekend!
Woza, Monday 2 Friday, Cell C - Woza!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Free SMS Software Gets Better

There's nothing quite like watching a program already in use to improve it further. Three weeks ago I released the first version of my free SMSQ program, which allows a database program to send and receive SMS messages.
The program has been in constant use for over 2 weeks already, and numerous minor improvements have been made. We are now on version 1.0030, and there is a support utility called SMSsend that allows you to generate messages from a batch file or shortcut. For example, you can send the administrator an SMS whenever the server reboots, or you can use the Windows Task Scheduler to get the SMS program to run file maintenance on the weekend.
All of these features arose out of a genuine need when running the system in a live production environment. Today I installed the software on an old Windows 98 clunker, and discovered that the MDAC files were missing or out of date. I also added some other minor cosmetic changes. There's nothing like a real world problem to make software better.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout XXIII: IObit SmartDefrag 3.1 beta

IObit SmartDefrag 3.1 is not particularly smart, in spite of the name. This program is a very bad combination of beta software and ad-ware: if it did its job of defragmenting the hard drive all this would be bearable, but my frustration with this package has grown over time, not diminished. The fact that it is free is one of its few redeeming features.
The screen display is a fixed size, and doesn't follow the usual Windows UI, but rather enforces its own, so on my system ("Windows Classic" theme) it sticks out like a sore thumb. Because you can't resize it the advert messages down the right are partially obscured, which is just irritating. I'd rather see a complete ad than 3/4 of an ad.
The disk display follows the standard WDD method, but with less detail. The "Comprehensive" defrag took all night, so it isn't particularly efficient, in spite of the web site claim to have "the world’s fastest defragmenting engine". There is no documentation on what the different methods do.
The "before" and "after" display shows what was done, but the comprehensive defrag didn't completely defragment my hard drive, even after several hours of work. The report on what was done (see below) is fairly useful, but it would be a lot more useful if you could resize it to see all the details, instead of having to use scroll bars which are a waste of time. Fortunately you can sort the columns, even if you can't see them properly.
Even more frustrating is the "Auto Defrag" feature which presumably is what gives the package it's "smart" name. In spite of my best efforts I have yet to figure out what exactly it did, other than keep my hard drive active. There is a graph type of display that seeks to reassure you that it's busy doing something but not slowing you down. Unfortunately it fails on both counts. There is a noticeable delay when you click to open a new application because the drive is busy, and if a program is trying to access the hard drive without using a lot of CPU cycles then it also has to wait its turn.
I tried to make a suggestion by clicking on the "feedback" link, but it doesn't work. I wrote to the email address that was provided on a previous version when I encountered a crash, but my suggestion got nowhere because they insisted on a screen shot of the problem. How do you do a screen shot of a missing feature? Grrr ...
In spite of leaving the machine running all night without doing anything else for 3 nights in a row, the the auto defrag made no attempt at defragmenting numerous fragmented files on my drive that were not in use. Perhaps this can be explained by the settings that allow you to defrag files that are either "frequent visited files" [sic] or "recent used files" [sic] or system directories.
A useful feature at the end of the "Analyse" process for manual defragmenting is a "suggested action", a feature also available in PerfectDisk.
This program is not PefectDisk, and its auto defrag feature is not nearly as good as the one found in O&O Defrag, which actually works. It does not have a boot-time defrag facility, and the end result of using it for a week is not particularly encouraging. There are random gaps all over the drive, and the free space is not consolidated. Of all of the programs that attempt to do an "automatic" background defrag, (Buzzsaw, Ashampoo Magical Defrag, mst Defrag 2.0, O&O Defrag 10) this has to be one of the worst. It slows the machine down but appears to achieve nothing. While it has some nice ideas, the implementation is poor and frustrating. I cannot recommend this program, even though it is free. If you must have automatic defragmentation, use O&O Defrag 10. Personally I'll stick to the JkDefrag screen saver: at least I can see what it's up to.

The Great Defrag Shootout: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | XXIX| winner | all | why

Friday, August 17, 2007

Online Software Inspector

I've always relied on Windows Update to tell me if my system is up to date, but of course it only checks a subset of all Microsoft products, and leaves out all programs from other vendors. I recently heard about Secunia's Software Inspector web site, which requires Java, and can check the version of a whole bunch of software. There is also a beta product called Secunia PSI, which I tried out. I found the interface a bit confusing, and it is beta software, but it's still worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout XXII: UltraDefrag 1.0.5

UltraDefrag is the second open source defrag program, the first being JkDefrag, which I use regularly. You can find the project details of UltraDefrag on sourceforge.
It's still early days for this project, and version 1.0.1 didn't do much on my system at all. Version 1.0.5 is a lot better, and it took 6 hours to defrag my main drive. That's not particularly fast, but OK. The end result is shown below.
The program uses a process driver to access the hard drive, but there is very little documentation available to explain how it works or what it does. Hopefully that will come later.
There is no boot time defrag option, but there is a command line version for batch file usage or scheduled operations. The screen display is clunky and a bit sparse, and some of the colours used in the display are not explained. At this stage I would guess that the capabilities are roughly the same as the built-in Windows Disk Defrag utility, and not much more. I guess we'll have to give it more time, but it is worth watching.

The Great Defrag Shootout: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | XXIX| winner | all | why

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Great Defrag Shootout XXI: WinContig 0.75

WinContig gets its name from the word "contiguous", not from Mark Russinovich's program Contig. When I first saw the name I thought it was a program similar to Power Defragmenter, but it turns out to be something completely different. It's freeware, developed by Marco D'Amato, with 11 language options, including English.
The basic idea is that you set up one or more file/directory groups, and then save this as a "profile". You can then load and defrag the profile either from the command line or interactively. I set up a profile with some of my most difficult files (see picture) and WinContig failed to detect that some of them were badly fragmented. Granted, this is only version 0.75, and when presented with smaller, less troublesome files it worked well.
There is no boot time defragmentation, so it isn't in the same league as PerfectDisk, but the ability to select specific files and defrag them either by means of a shortcut or batch file, makes this a nifty utility that may meet the needs of some. The engineering needs a bit more work, though.

The Great Defrag Shootout: Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV | XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII | XXVIII | XXIX| winner | all | why

Friday, August 03, 2007

AccessOpener 1.20 now supports Access 2007

Microsoft Access 2007 has been available for some time, but I only recently downloaded a trial version to experiment with. As a result I can now announce version 1.20 of AccessOpener, the utility that allows you to open an Access file with the same version of Access as it was originally created, assuming you have it installed on your PC.
The biggest problem with getting the new version to work was Access 2007's insistence that it is the only Access program on the PC, which wasn't true. I kept getting the screen shown below:
It took several attempts to eventually figure out why Access 2007 was doing this, and the new version of AccessOpener seems to work correctly with Access 2007. I have not been able to test it with Access 2003 or Access 2000, but it still works properly with Access 2002 and Access 97 on Windows XP. I suspect there will be trouble with Windows Vista, but haven't been able to confirm this yet.
I have also improved the "train" function, which should make setup a bit more simple. The installation program is also a bit more intuitive. Please report any bugs here or write to me directly.