November 8, 1999

By Karen Kenworthy


Timer Tips

A number of you wrote last week telling me of your experiences with the new Countdown Timer. It's always exciting to learn how my programs are being used. Some folks use it to remind them to take medicine, others use it to make sure reports get prepared on time. Others even rely on the Timer to wake them after a nap. Hope they're not using it at work! :)

A few readers wrote to say they were unable to use all of the Countdown Timer's features. Most often, the program's "Agents" couldn't be persuaded to sing or dance. Those animated characters are perhaps the most popular of the Timer's features. But they are also the hardest to install.

That's because talking Agents require several pieces of software. Each is available free, from my Countdown Timer page at And each is easy to install. Just download each component's installation program, then run it.

But they all must be installed, in the right order, or the Agents won't come to life. If your Agents are misbehaving, or can't be found, download the following installation programs, and run them in this order (the installer program's description appears in parentheses, after the program's name):

vbrun60-setup.exe (Visual Basic Runtime 6.0 Runtime)
ptcount2-setup.exe ( Countdown Timer II)
MSAgent.exe (Microsoft Agent software)
Peedy.exe (Peedy, the talking Parrot)
Robby.exe (Robby the Robot)
Genie.exe (the Genie)
Merlin.exe (Merlin, the magician)
tv_enua.exe (the Lemout & Hauspie TruVoice Text-to-Speech Engine)

Timer Around The World

Some sharp-eyed readers noticed that the version of the Countdown Timer II on my web site is version 2.6, not the promised version 2.5. We have reader Jean-Marc Sauvé to thank for the extra version. He tested an advance version of the new Timer, trying out its ability to display dates and times according to local customs. And fortunately, he found some bugs just before the program was released. These bugs were fixed in version 2.6.

Making the Timer behave appropriately, anywhere in the world, turned out to be a bit more difficult than I first imagined. By default, in many regions of the world (including the United States), Windows only displays two digits of a date's year. But the Countdown Timer tracks events far into the future, so it displays all four of a year's digits. As a result, the Timer can't rely on Windows' built-in date and time formatting features. But thanks to Jean-Marc's help, my custom formatting features now work.

Am I a Registry Hypocrite?

Reader Gordon Van Scheik also wrote recently, gently chiding me about my Registry Pruner ( That Power Tool removes unneeded entries from the Windows Registry, But, to my surprise, he said the Pruner creates several Registry entries of its own. And leaves them in the Registry, even after the Pruner has been uninstalled!

I knew the Registry Pruner didn't add information to the Registry. But Gordon had logs from a commercial Registry monitoring program to prove his case. What was happening?

It turns out the "culprit" was the Microsoft setup program my Power Tools use. In addition to installing my programs, the setup program also installs any optional Windows files my programs need. These programs are not removed when uninstalling an application, because Microsoft considers these components part of Windows itself, not part of the application. Many of these files require entries in the Registry in order to do their job. These were the Registry entries Gordon found.

Is Microsoft right? Should these files and Registry entries be left behind after uninstalling an application that uses them? After all, these files could be tracked, by creating entries for them in the SharedDLLs section of the Registry, and removed when no longer needed.

But new versions of Windows will use many of these files, and require them to be present at all times. In effect, Microsoft is using its application installation program to distribute optional Windows components, before they become standard Windows features. Today, uninstalling these components, and their corresponding Registry entries, causes no harm. But in the future, their removal could cause very serious problems, even crippling Windows itself.

So, no, I don't think I'm a Registry "hypocrite". I believe in keeping the Windows Registry as lean and tidy as possible. But not all Registry entries are bad. When it comes to the Registry, separating the wheat from the chaff can be a tricky business!

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