Windows XP Secrets
by Zaklina Supica - Monday, 15 September 2003.
Author: Curt Simmons
Pages: 696
Publisher: Wiley
ISBN: 0764548522


The Windows operating system has been with us for many years now. Each version has brought different stuff, some of which are good, some of which are bad, still improved though. They are being followed by a great number of books which uncover all the possibilities and things a beginner or intermediate user has never dreamed about. "Windows XP Secrets" is a book that will help you learn a lot of features and possibilities, aimed to investigate a background of many operations. Its mission is to make you understand your operating system and get the best of it.

About the author

Curt Simmons is a technology author and trainer focusing on Windows operating systems and Internet technologies. He is the author of over 20 books, including many high level networking titles. Curt is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and a Chauncey Group Certified Technical Trainer.

Inside the book

The book is organized into seven parts. Each part is divided into a number of chapters so you can get just what you need. As usually, the book begins with some steps to do before you decide which XP version do you need, and make plans for your installation. The author also brings some basic knowledge of file systems, installation and activation for XP, the difference between upgrading your system or clean installations, and the most interesting, for opening the secrets, are some troubleshooting steps which can be met during the installation.

The ext step gives you some thoughts about a dual-boot system. Simmons presents all combinations of dual-boot, from DOS until Win2k OS with Win XP. System administrators will love this chapter. They find some information and secrets about an unattended installation which can save a lot of their time. Also, four types of automatic installation are covered.

Drive configuration is an important thing to be done, no matter which OS you use. So, in the third chapter of the book, Simmons brings down the NTFS file system, basic and a dynamic drives drive management, and explains the drive tools such as error checking, defragmentation, disk quotas, disk indexing, backup, and formatting.

-The second part of the book covers interface secrets. In this part you go over the same ground as in other books of this type. I recommend this chapter only for those users who are jumping to Windows XP after Windows 9x. There are some differences. Here you will find instructions how to change display options and how to configure the taskbar and the toolbars.

After you are done with the display and taskbar configuration, you can now move on to configuring the start menu, shortcuts, and search functions. Speaking of the start menu, it's really more flexible to configure it. All configuration and customization you can do with these three things in XP is here. Simply follow the instructions. A search function is part that is described best, because the author, beside the XP search tool, brings some search options which will make this tool easier to use.

Working with folders in XP can be very interesting. You will find tips and secrets about changing the way they look, the way of their order, and something about their options. After the story on folders, Simmons talks about the recycle bin and its features. You discover some secrets of deleting files, folders, shortcuts, and some other components.

After you have arranged your Windows XP GUI, you can start to perform administrative functions. To do that, you use the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). The tools contained in the MMC are called snap-ins, and with these tools you can manage security features, user and groups' features, you can gather information about your computer. Some of that information is performance logs and alerts as well as an event viewer with types of event items explained. Also, the services part is brought down with a list of all services in Windows XP. It is easy to understand those things because the author has described steps for each action you can take.

Part three of this book is dedicated to system components and software management. Managing Windows components, software installation, removal, and managing program compatibility are included. Among the mentioned things, the author describes some other utilities, like QFixApp that can manually solve compatibility problems with applications.

Managing media is one chapter in this book that is dedicated to digital media in Windows XP. Digital media is nothing new in Windows.. Two standard tools are presented here: Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker. In the Windows Media Player part you will find out how you can use this tool, how to use general playback controls, and how to customize the player. On the other side, Windows Movie Maker is a video-editing tool. Simmons introduces this tool starting with the interface, moving over some steps which are demonstrate how to make a movie, and ends with saving the movie.

When you've met software secrets, you can do the same thing with hardware. When we talk about hardware, it is not just "plug and play", although that's the easiest thing to do. In this book, the author writes about much more. He explains 32-bit drivers, hardware registry, IRQs, DMA channels, and of course, how to use the device manager, how to resolve resource conflict, and, how to create multiple hardware profiles. The whole chapter is covered with steps you can follow to try i.e. freeing up IRQs or checking out your processor. With Windows XP, Microsoft has made hardware installation and configuration easier than ever and this chapter is very docile. You will draw out the best from your operating system and your hardware devices.

The Registry - secrets holder, is important to understand but, more importantly for you is to don't touch anything you don't understand or you don't know what's it for. This chapter covers everything you should know on the subject. First of all you should know how to run the regedit command. After that, you meet the registry structure and its five subtrees. Each of them are examined as author the shows where within Windows XP you can change settings. Before you change anything, you must pay attention to backing up and restoring the registry. Beside that, you learn how to export and/or import registry files. By reading this chapter you learn important things about the registry, and how to deal with them in right place end in right time.

Chapter 13 is dedicated to the features of Windows XP printing, faxing, scanner and digital camera support. Installing and maintaining these devices in Windows XP is easer than ever. You learn how to install your new printer, which driver to use, what you can and how to configure to make printing easy and fast, deferred or in one moment, how to troubleshoot printing if there is any problem. Faxing is also explained very simply so you learn how to use the fax console, and, in the end of the chapter some scanner and digital camera secrets and steps are explained.

As much as installing and configuring modems seems to be a simple thing to do, this chapter shows what can go wrong and how to prevent and correct possible mistakes. You find out which of all settings is the default one and which you can add to make your modem friendlier. Actions that you can take are all covered with detailed steps and figures, and, the most interesting part is tweaking modem performance.

The Internet has a very big influence on today's life, private or business. Therefore, a whole part of this book is dedicated to Internet communications secrets. This part includes configuring Internet connection, configuring Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, and how web publishing can be done with Windows XP. You will be able to set up dial-up connections or variety of broadband connections and you will find out how to solve common connection problems. When you are connected, the next step is to configure your Internet applications. IE is a well known browser and, besides browsing (which is not covered here), you can learn some intermediate and advanced issues: how to get connected, how to configure toolbars and some others appearance related things, how to manage history, temporary files, and cookies, how to manage content advisor, how to get privacy report, how to work with offline files, you will understand security zones and get a list of keyboard shortcuts.

Outlook Express is a very simplified version of Outlook but quite enough for e-mail and newsgroups managing. What you need to know about it is OE interface with folders and different views options, setting up mail accounts, some options such as leaving mail on server or converting the mail to another mail program, what flagged message means, and so on. You find some good advice for managing attachments and resolving problems in Outlook Express. For advanced users I recommend identities and signatures, message rules, and mail filters. Simmons has also discovered some options you can change only through the registry editor.

If you aren't familiar with web storage aspects, chapter nineteen is a good start for you. After understanding the aspects, you get into the web publishing wizard as a two-sided feature. The first one is the ability to store files on the Internet, and the second is publishing your web pages. Furthermore, Internet Information Service, a robust tool, is described in a simple way from getting to know IIS, and through installation process till IIS console with each tab separately described. The author didn't forget to mention built-in FrontPage server extension and some of their properties.

The author dedicates a whole part this book to networking secrets, starting with networking concepts. Simmons defines network and network related terms, presents the advantages and disadvantages of a network, and describes three basics network types: client/server, peer-to-peer, and dial-up. He covers topologies and technologies, cables and connections and even presents network software and protocols. This part is a complete guide for understanding networking - you learn the basics and at the end are able to determine usability. After an introduction to networking concepts, Simmons continues to explain technologies appliance. Whether you will setup s home or small office network concept this chapter is a very good start. You can follow steps for setting up host computer and configuring a network client. You will be able to share resources or enjoy network games. For beginners will be interesting to read about sharing folders and information, and for advanced users, there is a part dedicated to Internet Connection Sharing or they will be more interested in connectivity tools (ping, ipconfig or tracert).

For curious people who wants to know more or wants to know all Simmons brings other types of networks than described in previous chapters. Those are Windows domain secrets, the way to set up direct network connection, how to configure direct dial-up access. If you are a fan of Virtual Private Networking, you will be pleased because it is here. You will have to read and chose the right type of network for yourself and get a perfect place to work and enjoy your computer and network performances.

In a world of connectivity and Internet, security is a problem and an issue that you must take care, in not on professional level, than certainly in ways that are around you. Windows XP is bringing a new option for securing your computer - Internet Connection Firewall. These Windows XP feature is explained very simple and very detailed so you will find precious information about what firewall is, how it works, how you can configure it, and us it.

On the other hand, remote desktop is a practical feature which will save a lot of your time, money and nerves. Process of remote access starts with valid user account and continues with created connection, but you can even get assistance from another user's computer. It is worth to try.

Easy user management is a need. Every administrator's dream is to improve today's possibilities of user management. In this chapter author is describing user management of local users on a local computer using Control Panel or Computer Management. Main task is to create user account and then work with all others features and possibilities. The same goes for the group accounts. Specialty is group policy as a powerful way to standardize settings. Group policy settings are shown in tables and easy to find and understand.

Optimization, as process, gives you the best performance from you operating system. So, if you have read in previous chapters how to setup your operating system, it is time to see how you can optimize it. Simmons gives you secrets how and what you can optimize and what options you can use for managing system services, or to identify areas of performance problems.

For the last chapter the best way to present it is to count all tools which are covered. Those are system restore, recovery console, safe mode, automated system recovery, device driver rollback, task manager, MSCONFIG and MSINFO32. Each of these tools will save a lot of your time and strength, if any problem appears. Simmons has done a great job because he explains each tool in a way to tell you what it is for and how you can use it.

Final words

Working with Windows XP after reading "Windows XP Secrets" is a piece of cake. Although the Windows operating system (from version 95 until XP) went through a lot of changes, still, some things are recognizable and don't need further representation. In this book you will find both some stuff you know from before as well as new tips and tricks. It all depends on your level of knowledge.

This book will be interesting to all types of users, beginners and professionals alike. Every chapter covers a specific area of the operating systems and you just need to jump to part or chapter in which you are interested.

Don't think about this book as a "one more book about Windows XP", think of it as THE book that will help you find the answers.


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