Friday, September 14, 2007

Explorer crash FIX - Explorer keeps crashing on open?

I've had this problem for a while now and as I searched the internet I realized there are very few descriptions of this and tutorials on how to fix it. So, what's the problem?

Problem Description:
A message box saying "Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close" keeps appearing when you start Windows and when start a new program. You are presented with two options: Debug and Close. When you hit "Close" it closes all your Explorer windows, and your task bar disappears leaving you with your other windows over your background. The desktop icons are all gone as well. After this happens, it might all come back automatically or it might not. Anyway a lot of your tray icons won't be there and neither will previous Explorer windows.
If they don't come back by themselves, one thing you can do is type Ctrl+Alt+Delete and summon the all mighty Task Manager. Then go to File -> New Task (Run) and type "Explorer". I'll explain this later.
Sometimes this may happen without any Message Box appearing. Everything just goes away. And you hear an Error beep in the background. Either way it can be VERY ANNOYING! When you open something new, Explorer crashes. It's unbearable.
"Hold on, Explorer isn't that thing with my files and folders on my right and my drives and folders on my left? How can that affect the things I open from the Start Menu or programs that auto-run?" Well, Explorer isn't just what you see when you double click the My Computer icon. Explorer is actually the whole Windows Shell. The shell is the user interface which bridges the gap between the operating system and the user. It's responsible for your desktop and all file-related handling. So if there's a problem with it, your life will become a nightmare. The process identifying the shell is explorer.exe (who would have guessed?). So because it's a process you can end it and start it back whenever you want. You can check in Task Manager under "Processes" that this particular one closes on every error of that sort.

Ok, this happens to me too, so how do I fix it ?

First lets analyze the root of the problem. Have you installed (and then maybe uninstalled) any anti-rootkit, anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-whatever program which used a kernel driver ? If you don't know we'll just go with Yes (we'll get to explaining what kernel drivers are another time). Then it's possible they set up a ShellExecute Hook in the Windows Shell.
The ShellExecute Hook is a way of placing a callback to the specific program setting the hook on every execute action the shell makes. What does this mean? A program might want to know every single time another program is run (in order to check it) so it places this "hook" in the shell and gets called. If something went wrong with the hooked program, or anywhere in between, the shell might crash before every execution.
What you need to do is deactivate the hook. There is a program called ShellExView ( - has a lot of other useful little applications). You can run it and see all shell extensions including hooks. So you just scroll down to where it says "ShellExecute Hook" in type and disable the foreign entries (not belonging to Microsoft - you can just disable the one you think is faulty if you don't want to disable all - experiment a bit) and there you go ! Problem solved ! No more crashes.

Hope this was useful to a lot of (angry) users. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask them in a comment to this post.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The downside of popular programs

We all use them. Yahoo Messenger, Winamp, not to mention the whole suite of Windows applications. They are very popular, so they MUST be very good and very safe, right? Wrong!
Popular programs are hugely targeted by hackers and malware writers just for that reason. Because they're being used by so many people, it makes them such a sweet target. Of course they're updated regularly and there are many on the other side, trying to find bugs and patch them, but still, a lot of the times they are the first ones exploited.
You might say "Yeah, but since they're so widely used it has to mean they're the best". Actually, there are a lot of very good if not better alternatives to every popular program. Programmers try to write better functional versions of used programs every time. And a lot of them are free. Of course you won't have as much support to help you (there won't be so many pages discussing them) but that can also users had less problems using them.
Give it a try. If you use Yahoo Messanger or Winamp, or Nero: search for alternatives in the same category of software. You can use (my favorite ;) or whatever download site you like. You might find programs you like even more.

Hibernate VS Shut Down

Surprisingly not a great deal of people know about the Hibernate function in Windows. Most people shut down and have to go through the hassle of start-up every time they want to use the computer. Well I almost always use Hibernate.
What Hibernate does is "freeze" your computer the way it is and shuts down the machines. Next time you start up your computer, everything goes back to the way it was. Every program and file you had opened is just the way you left it. The only condition for Hibernate to work is that you have at least as much free space on your drive as you have RAM. If you have 1GB of RAM you need at least 1GB of free space. The Hibernate function just dumps all of your memory into one big file, and when you start Windows again, it dumps it back. It's that simple.
You can configure Hibernate in Control Panel under Power Options. You can make it so when you push your Power button on your computer it automatically hibernates. Or, alternativly you can click "Turn Off Computer..." in the Start menu and then hold down the Shift key. "Stand by" will turn into "Hibernate". Try it :)

The truth about link exchange

Link exchange might sound like a good idea for most. Especially if you have a new web site, and no one knows about it. You want to drive some traffic to it, so what do you do? You see some link exchange ad somewhere and think it's a good idea. That might not be true.
What link exchange basically means is that you put a link on your web site and the site you are advertising puts a link of your web site. Mutual advertisement. It doesn't cost a thing. And if your site is new it will get you noticed. Well... that's not really true. In fact, it may cause more problems.
You see, with no actual interest, few users will wonder to your site. And the ones who do, and see you're just linking back to the site they came from, will just think it's sister site and might not want to check it out any further. Plus, it will make users think less of your site. Having a random link of another site with them linking back to you will decrease your credibility in the face of your users. They'll just think you're out for traffic.
But you might think "Yeah, well at least search engines will see my link on the other site and will boost it's page rank". Sorry to tell you, that's not true either. It is true search engines like Google give higher page ranks to pages with more links to it. That's how they work. But they also detect mutual linking from one site to another and value those link very poorly. The result being, your page rank will not be influenced that much by the double link, while the site advertising the link exchange probably has many others linking to it, and finally getting some boost.
In the end, there is little to be gained by link exchange if you're just starting up. My advice is to stay away from it and try other promoting methods.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I've got say, if there was a top of the best internet projects I'm sure Wikipedia ( would be in the first 3. For those of you unfamiliar with the project (is that even possible?), Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia on all possible topics.
It's just great! They have so much information stored there on so many different subjects, it amazes you even after a million visits. Any time I need to know something about ANY topic, I search for it first on Wikipedia. I used to search for it on Google, but it kept linking me to Wikipedia, where, on every occasion I would find data to my satisfaction.
So if you can help this project in any way, if you can write articles on things not there yet, of if you can donate money to the project, do it! It is an unbelievably useful site !

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The success of browser mmorpgs or How to get free spammers

Have you been spammed by people with links pointing you to some online game you must register for and telling you how by clicking the link you just gave the spammer an advantage ? Well if you haven't then you're really lucky.
These types of sites have become increasingly popular. Most of them promise some sort of prize at the end of the game. But the most important aspect is that in order to advance you have to get your "friends" to go to the link pointing to your account. This maybe gains you some points and in turn guarantees the site gets free advertising. The result being of course massive spam.
The strategy isn't at all new. Web sites have been using this form of advertising for some time now. If the link ends with =[user_nick] then it's pretty clear. They just take advantage of the thousands of ignorant suckers out there willing to spam. And why not? When it's so easy!
The way to put a stop to this is simple. Just don't join! If it is clear that the site uses this type of advertising just don't sign up. I won't say that all of them are a scam but most of them are. They might say they give out things to the best player of every month but there's no way to verify this. Meanwhile they are getting a lot of money from advertisement.
And the way people like that work, is they set up a new site, spread it around, and when the users stop spamming the link so much they just close it down and start a new one in the same format. A copy, just with different themes. No matter what they promise you, it isn't worth it. Just stop spreading the link, and tell your friends the same. If the link isn't spammed so much, they are forced to close down the site because the advertisers aren't paying.
That sort of spam has to stop and people should be informed they are just being used for profit. If they get they are waisting their time, working for someone else for nothing at all, they will stop.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

deviantART or the explosion of image web sites

I've lately seen a _LOT_ of statuses in my yahoo list linking to deviantART. Everyone started to make their own account and post "artistic" pictures they made of their cat, or random clouds or God know what else.
For those of you unaware of the deviantART phenomenon you should go to and see for yourself. It's a nice looking web site where anyone can create an account and submit photos. How is this different from hi5 or any other social networks? Well, in there the primary goal is not for you to make friends but rather to submit your work and get the opinions of other... erm... "artists". You are encouraged to post photos and drawings. Even CG-art.
This is not at all a bad idea. However, while many of the works displayed there are really good, of course a lot of them really aren't. It became really popular and now everyone who knows how to take a photograph thinks they're an artist and starts spamming the link, trying to get comments. Some really have talent. Most don't. Not everyone's an artist.

The start of a new chapter in my so-called online "life": The Mighty BLOG

Well... here we go. Like sheep following the flock. We start out very own blog. If anyone will actually ever read this, thrown here by some random chance, passing over the millions of other blogs on the internet, I welcome you.
I must mention this from the beginning: even though it was suggested, I was strongly against starting my own blog until now. Web logs being so widely mentioned in the media and everyone rushing to make one of their own and spam their link on every possible messaging system... it just made me reject the whole idea. But, after reading a few articles tonight, I got convinced that having my own little place where I could just "speak" my mind on anything I wanted was pretty appealing. As an old forum poster, I must say this is much less restrictive and personal. Which is why I guess it took to so many.
I don't know how long I will keep this up, or how often I'll post something new. I guess in the end it will depend if anyone will be reading it or not.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I'm a high school student and a computer programmer. My high school is specialized in IT and programming. I have a lot of experience with computers, raging from software design, to 3D art, to web design, photo editing, database management, security, network... etcetera. So you should probably expect many of my articles to be IT-related.
This is all for my first article. I'll post the next one very soon.