Welcome to Testing Grounds. This website will help you discover new ways of looking at the ordinary things around you. Whether it is a dusty old computer you have in the corner, or a coke machine down the street, Testing Grounds will show you how to do things you didn't think were possible. Enjoy!

What to look forward to:

Coming up on Testing Grounds, I'll show you how to do the following:

How to Install/Reinstall Windows Vista to Improve Performance

How to Backup DVD's: Defeat Any DVD Protection Including Sony and Disney

Monday, June 25, 2007

Safari for Windows, Should You Get It?

For those of you who haven't found out yet, Apple has thrown their own web browser, Safari, into the fray of Windows browsers. Some people scoffed at the announcement, after all, who uses Safari on the Mac? Doesn't everyone use Opera or Mozilla by now? While this is true, Safari for Windows does have a few benefits. For an interesting graph that shows how fast Safari executes HTML code, JavaScript, and application launch, visit the homepage here:


Interesting, apparently Internet Explorer is worst in 2 out of 3 examples - who would have guessed that?

Back to Safari, while it's execution speeds are impressive, it's ability to pass the Acid 2 test is even more impressive. The Acid 2 test is a HTML page that shows a smiley face. Opera 9 passes the test, while Firefox 2 does not. Here is a comparison to the Safari browser and Firefox:


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As you can see, Firefox comes nowhere near passing what Safari can do easily and with considerable speed.

Those are the pro's to Safari, so you're probably wondering "My goodness, Safari sounds like it kicks ass, why don't I get it?" The answer is simple: security. Safari 3.0 is a Beta release. Which means that it is currently in development and that there are many, many bugs. One of those bugs is that it had a zero day exploit found only hours after its public release. This means it will execute malicious code without the user ever knowing - a big no - no in the web browsing and security world. This one flaw is enough for most people to shy away, after all, who wants their precious computer turned into a zombie PC?

Because of the security issues, I recommend holding off on Safari until the final release, and even then, ONLY if Apple fixes the security issues.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Speed up XP by Removing Unwanted Processes!

Want to keep your computer running at tip-top performance? Have you defragged, reformatted, scanned for viruses, spyware, and adware, and yet you still want better performance out of that less-than-stellar computer of yours? I’ll show you a few tricks to squeeze a few extra horse power out of that XP machine of yours.

Before I begin telling you the nitty-gritty details of what you need to do, why you’re doing it, and what it will mean performance wise, I need to warn you about a few things that could possibly go wrong. You have to know what you are doing when you mess around with some of these settings, otherwise you may need to re-install Windows XP. That is the absolute worst case scenario; less destructive possibilities include various programs not working, XP crashing, or instead of improving performance, you may degrade performance. So when I warn you to be careful and make educated decisions, I mean it.

Ok, let’s start off with some relatively easy methods. Go to the Start button and click Run. Type in Services.msc. A window like the one below should show up:

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In this list are all of the programs that either start up automatically at startup, or have the potential to initialize at start up. There are different columns with the name, description, status, and startup type. These are the important columns. Now is the part where you need to use some intelligent personal discretion. Look through this list and decide what you can do without. If you find some suspicious processes that do not look in any way familiar, check the path on the last column on the right in the picture and see where its coming from. If it still looks suspicious, look it up on Google and see if it is a viral process. If it is, run a virus scan and/or remove it from this list. Anyway, back to deciding what you can do without. Once you find something you don’t like (Example: you find a QuickTime or Real Player process, who needs those at startup?) right click it and delete. If you have never done this before, there might be quite a few things in there that you can get rid of safely. But like I warned you earlier, there are some things in there that you shouldn’t remove, things like Win32. Anyway, if you sort out the gold from the garbage you should have a faster startup and better XP performance!

Alternate way of removing processes:

Go to My Computer, your hard drive that Windows XP is installed on, click the folder called WINDOWS, and look for this icon:

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Double click it. This is Windows XP’s built in Registry editor. It shows all of the processes your computer is capable of. Now here is where it gets tricky, follow these navigation instructions:


Now something like this should be shown:

Use the same discretion you did with the msconfig tip, these are some processes that start at startup/run while your computer is in use. They slow your precious CPU down, so the bad processes need to be dealt with. I have found a few viruses by looking into these processes, so keep that in mind when looking through the list and finding names you don’t recognize.
Another place to check for useless processes is:


And one more place is:


If you have further issues with XP (Honestly, who doesn’t have issues with any form of Windows.) I suggest visiting tweakxp.com

And if you are an unfortunate soul running Windows Vista, visit tweakvista.com.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Free 411 Service Through Google!

Ever find yourself shopping around somewhere, getting hungry, and you don't know if your favorite restaurant is open? Don't have their number and your mall doesn't have phone books near the pay phones? Well Google has the perfect solution for you.


Sure, there are other free 411 services out there, but you have to listen to boring and irrelevant ads just to get an answer. With Google, all you do is tell the city, state, business name or category, and Google will give you the top 8 or so results. NO AD'S! Tell Google the number of the result you like, it will read out the address and phone number and offer to connect you. Just say connect and you will be on the phone with the corner Bistro or Pizza Hut. (It also works if you want to call and see if the local computer store has the right RAM ; )

The lookup service is free, but if you choose to connect to the number Google lists, phone charges will apply as if you are calling the number.

As a side note, Goog 411 is in beta right now. Hopefully Google decides it likes the program and finds ways to improve its algorithms. I use this service at least once a week, and it has only failed me once, only because I wasn't sure about the exact city something was in, and the number may have been unlisted anyway.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How and Why You Should Defrag Your Hard Drive

Is your computer acting a bit sluggish lately? When you try to open a file or get onto the internet, does it take a lot longer than it used to? It might be a virus, spyware, or adware, but if you've never defragmented your hard drive, that's a great place to start. It's simple enough to do, you don't need to download a program or anything for it, as it is built into the Windows operating system. There is nothing destructive about it, nothing bad can really happen - about the only thing that I can think of to go wrong is if your power went out when it was defraging. When you start the defraging process, don't be surprised if it takes a few hours. I usually let it run before I go to bed, that way I know I won't interrupt it.

So what does the defragmenting process do exactly? Well whenever Windows saves a file, sometimes it can't allocate a continuous space on your hard drive. So it saves a piece on one part of the platter, and another on another part, and so on. The bad side of this is that when Windows reads the fragmented file, it takes longer than it would if it was continuous on the hard drive. When you defragment the hard drive, it does exactly what it's name says, it puts all of the fragmented pieces and puts them together so that when Windows reads the file, it doesn't have to search for the next piece of the puzzle, and is therefore much faster.

Here is a screenshot showing how to get to the defragment utility:

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I hope those of you experiencing slow computers are helped by this tip.