get your StuffBak with Windows Vista

posted in Guides on February 22nd, 2007

Approximately two years ago, I wrote an in-depth review about a service called StuffBak. This service helps you retrieve lost items by means of a tag attached to your device, keycord or whatever you deem worthy of protection.

The StuffBak tags are the first thing I attach to devices that are irreplaceable and sometimes, I even create sets, so for example if you’d find my laptop bag, you’d be eligible for $100 worth in tags as well as another $600 in finder’s fee. It it works, ultimately, I can’t tell you, but at least I’ve taken steps to give people a chance to do the right thing.

When I first installed Windows XP, I created a boot screen that would contain my personal information, so if you’d find my laptop, you could use the information provided on screen to get in touch with me.

With Windows Vista, I wanted to do the same thing and as luck would have it, I came across a tutorial that explains how to create a boot screen.

Many people will go for something like a female with little clothing or an image depicting the superiority of one operating system above another, I went for something that made a lot more sense to me:

StuffBak: Bootlogo

I tried to recreate the tag that is attached to the back of my laptop as closely as possible (and no, I don’t have eight zeros as my number) and I think it will do the job.

In my gallery, you’ll find both a preview image as well as the actual PSD file (works in Photoshop CS, CS2) that I used to create the image.

Follow the tutorial and you should be good to go. It’s very straightforward and you shouldn’t encounter any problems, if you do, head on over to my gallery and download a backup of winload.exe.mui (Windows Vista RTM, Home Premium, not sure if that matters though)

As always, all stuff provided here is free of charge and comes with no support at all. If you screw up, too bad for you.

customizing Windows Vista DVDs with vLite

posted in Tech Talk on February 15th, 2007

At the beginning of this week, I finally received my Windows Vista DVD, thanks to GLS’ delay though, I wasn’t able to install it, yet.

Long story short, I’ll be installing Vista today and like a true prosumer, I’m not going to use the out-of-the-box version, but rather cook my own one, using vLite.

vLite is the successor to the much loved nLite. Both of the tools allow you to create custom install CDs (or DVDs, in Windows Vista’s case) that only include the stuff you really want (or need) as well as custom drivers. Basically, with these tools you can create your very own, very perfect install medium.

Step 1 is to get a copy of the vLite tools, so just head on over to their site and grab any of the packages. At the time of writing, 0.9 was the latest version. Extract it, start up vLite and you’ll be presented with something like:

Note that you can click on the inline images if you want to see a bigger version of the image.

vLite: Start

Pop in your Windows Vista DVD, select the location where you want to store your modified files and hit “Next”.

Step 2 is where the real magic starts. The components tab allows you to (de-)select any items you do not need. It is important that you note that anything you select will be removed.

vLite: Components

As you can see, I strip out everything that I have no need for but leave in those tools that require other things such as “Windows Mail” which is needed for Outlook. Your selection might vary and since I don’t have the time to provide support on this tutorial, it’s important to read the hints that vLite offers when you hover over an item. Only then should you decide if you want to keep or remove an item. Once again, if you remove it, it’s gone, for good. If you have any doubts, leave it in there or research your options.

For Step 3, we’re going to add some tweaks to our install medium.

Segoe UI is a lot more readable than other fonts, if your display supports Cleartype. Since mine does, Segoe UI is my font of choice:

vLite: Tweaks

Next step is to disable UAC. While the concept of it is very nice, I personally don’t care for the added layer of security. I know which sites not to surf to and which things I shouldn’t do, so I have little to no use for UAC:

vLite: Tweaks

The last tweaks tab allows you to change the hibernation behaviour. Since I’m a mobile user, I have a need for hibernation and as such, I leave the setting unchanged:

vLite: Tweaks

Step 4 is about adding drivers to your install disk. Since Vista miraculously includes all the drivers I need, there’s no need to add anything for me:

vLite: Drivers

Step 5 is where the real fun begins. The last tab is where you create the actual ISO image of your install medium. First, you’ll want to change the options so that vLite creates an image for you:

vLite: ISO

The next thing you’ll have to do is to name the image. For maintenance reasons, I give it the same name as the Windows Vista DVD has:

vLite: ISO

Make note of the name and copy it into the vLite application:

vLite: ISO

Finally, it’s time to start building your image. The whole process takes a couple of minute to complete:

vLite: ISO

Once vLite is finished, you’ll see a message in the lower part of the screen:

vLite: ISO

Technically speaking, you’re done now. Grab an empty DVD and write your image on it, or head on over to Douglas Stockwell’s blog and read his thoughts about installing Windows Vista from a HDD.

If you’re looking for the easy, highly uneducative way out, grab my vLite preset file from here, put it into a folder called “Preset” in your vLite directory and load the preset from within vLite.

Happy customizing!

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Shipping with GLS Netherlands - continued

posted in Rants on February 15th, 2007

After having some trouble with GLS Netherlands last week, my package was finally delivered on Monday, undamaged even and I now finally have an OEM copy of Windows Vista Home Premium.

Now, one would think that this chapter is closed but there’s something else that annoys me to no end with GLS. When you receive packages from a courier, you normally have to sign for them. That is, the person who receives the package has to sign for it. Sometimes you have to identify yourself with a driver’s license or an ID card, sometimes you don’t. In any case, those people have your signature and you’re legally bound to the package at that time.

Obviously, this isn’t an issue if you or someone you know signed for it, it is a problem though, if the driver has the audacity to sign in your name, like the GLS driver did. Granted, he delivered the package and saved me the time of calling GLS (yet again) and getting them to redeliver the package, but if the package shows up damaged, he’s not liable for it anymore. I’m the last person to look for filing charges, but if I receive software that is damaged and I supposedly signed for it, what would GLS compel to solve this problem for me and make repairations?

Well, lesson learned - don’t ship with GLS if you want your package to be delivered in a professional way. Sadly, Perfect Systems has no intentions of switching carriers and as such, I don’t believe I’ll keep ordering stuff from them anymore …

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Shipping with GLS Netherlands

posted in Rants on February 8th, 2007

Ten days ago, I ordered a piece of software from a Dutch computer store. I’ve been a customer for a few years now and they have my exclusive business for anything computer related that I buy in the Netherlands. I normally don’t care about being loyal to a company, unless they provide me with something I’m looking for.

Perfect Systems does just that. They have great customer service, they will try to help you out on special occasions and they are quick to dispatch your order. Most of all, their prices are highly acceptable for a Dutch company. There’s only one downside - they use GLS as their freight carrier. A fatal decision because I’m starting to seriously consider switching to another store.

Ten days ago I ordered a copy of Windows Vista, Perfect Systems shipped it on February 6th and that normally means that the package would be here the next day. TNT Post, another freight carrier is capable of delivering packages next-day (at no additional cost) across the Netherlands, but GLS seems to be unable to do the job they are assigned to.

Yesterday the package was tagged as “returned from delivery” and my first thought was that the courier stopped by at a time when no one was at home (it happened before) but no, they just “managed” to sort the package the wrong way. This makes me wonder, how is it that a company like UPS is able to sort massive loads of packages and divert them to the right locations, across the globe and GLS is unable to sort a package so that it ends up on the right truck? I’ve probably received 50 packages via UPS now and I’ve never had a problem with one of them.

Today, on my day off, I thought I’d be able to install Vista. I got up early and checked the status of the package - no updates, then, at ten to 1:00pm, the status changed to “returned from delivery”. Once again, no courier stopped by. The initial message was that “the courier has reason to believe he might be unable to deliver the package during business hours”. Now, I don’t see how that would make sense. For one, the package is sent to a residential address and not to a business and even if it was sent to a business, my understanding is that they would have to at least try to deliver the package, that’s what a carrier is paid for, after all.

Half an hour later, the package’s status was updated: “missed connection”. Granted, it’s snowing out there, but the delivery vehicles should be capable of withstanding a little bit of snow and rain. Curiously, I also got a little package from UPS today, same weather conditions for them. It was delivered by a friendly courier (as opposed to the unfriendly people from GLS) who even had a minute to chat about the weather (he wasn’t the regular courier that delivers my packages) before he left.

Now, I’m not the first to complain about something like this, but this is the second time in two months that GLS is annoying me. Back in December, I ordered an external HDD, also from Perfect Systems and it was supposed to be delivered a few days later. The first time the courier supposedly stopped by and didn’t find anyone at home, which just happened to be my day off and I spent my time in proximity to the doorbell, just to make sure I could get the package. Nothing ever happened though, second day the package wasn’t even out for delivery and my mom had to go pick up the package from their depot. If you ask me, that kind of defeats the purpose of having a freight carrier. If I wanted to pick up parcels myself, I would just go into a store and grab them there.

That said, this is another lesson I learned - never use anyone except UPS for shipping. They are friendly, fast and their boxes don’t arrive wet and torn. It’s good to see that others are having more luck with their carriers.

UPDATE: GLS didn’t bother shipping my parcel out today either, the status remains unchanged, even though we had beautiful weather and someone was present all day long. At first I thought they were just having a bad day, but this is ridiculous and shows that GLS has no respect for their customers.

Very sad, especially for Perfect Systems, because I feel that I have to start looking for another eTailer, one that offers carriers that actually do what they are supposed to do.

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