7+ Taskbar Tweaker and Windows 8.1 Update 1

As some of you know, Microsoft is working on an update for Windows 8.1, called “Update 1″. Also, some of you might know that 7+ Taskbar Tweaker doesn’t work with this update installed. There’s a topic on UserEcho about it, and users are wondering how come I don’t fix the issue. In this post, I’d like to shed some light on the situation.

Why doesn’t the tweaker work with the update installed?

It’s just an update, right? Not a new Windows version. The taskbar looks the same. How come that the tweaker is not working anymore?
Well, the thing is that the tweaker depends on the exact structure of many internal elements of explorer. Any small change can make the tweaker break, and the fact that it doesn’t can be attributed to the great care of Microsoft for backwards compatibility. At least, that’s the way it was until “Update 1″.

Since Windows 7, the earliest OS supported by the tweaker, Microsoft didn’t introduce major changes to the OS while the NT version number stayed the same. Even with Windows 7 SP1, the tweaker worked without adjustments. With Windows 8.1 Update 1, the situation is different: the OS has changed, but its version stayed the same.

What does it mean in the short term?

In order to add support for Windows 8.1 Update 1, lots of adjustments have to be made, similar to the adjustments I had to make when adding support for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
While I’d be glad to add support right away, there are a couple of things to consider:

  • Availability of the final RTM version of Windows 8.1 Update 1. To be able to add support for the OS, I need to be able to work with it. They say that there’s a leaked build of the RTM version, but recent news mention a newer version, which means that the leaked one is probably not RTM. Google for Windows 8.1 9600.17042.
  • Availability of debug symbols. While they’re not a must, they significantly simplify the porting process. As far as I know, there are no debug symbols available for the binaries of Windows 8.1 Update 1 yet.
  • Time. Porting requires time, and there’s not always plenty of it.

What does it mean in the long term?

The fact that Windows 8.1 Update 1 is the first time when the OS changes, but the OS version doesn’t, means that Microsoft is changing its tactics. It seems like Microsoft tries to move to a more rapid development cycle. The question is – how rapid is it going to be? If the updates are going to be too frequent, I might not be able to keep the tweaker updated.

How can I help?

Unless you work at Microsoft, you probably can’t help me with the first two points mentioned above. But you can help me with the third one.
You can donate the project to help me dedicate time for the porting.
Include the w8u1p (Windows 8.1 Update 1 Porting) word in the donation comments to specify that your donation is targeted for the porting.

Below is a progress bar of the donations, with the goal set as the estimated time the porting is going to take, with an average wage.

$1204 out of $1000

All donors will get access to early alpha versions during the porting process.
Also, the top three donors will get mentioned in the changelog.
If the goal is hit before the RTM is released or before the debug symbols become available, I’ll start working with what we have.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Update (April 14): The goal was reached! I want to thank everybody who took part and donated for the porting. The first alpha version is available for testing (more details).

Posted in Software, Updates at March 15th, 2014. 57 Comments.

7+ Taskbar Tweaker: beta versions

Starting from today, I’m going to publish beta versions of 7+ Taskbar Tweaker along with the regular, stable releases.

There are several rationals for this decision:

  • Avoiding bugs in stable releases. This is usually the main purpose of beta versions.
    Two of the tweaker’s most recent releases were followed by a hotfix the day after, just because I missed a minor thing or two. This is also quite relevant to the next point.

  • Minimizing the frequency of update notifications. The tweaker automatically notifies when a new version is available. While this is a great feature, it can be annoying if the notification appears frequently, especially if it appears two days in a row.
    Silent updates were suggested as an alternative solution, but first, they have to be implemented. Second, I’m not sure that 7+ Taskbar Tweaker is the right tool for this feature. It’s a low-level system tool, and it can screw things up, so if something goes wrong you can see it was caused by an update.

  • Providing fixes which affect a very limited amount of users. There are issues which affect only users with a particular setup, a unique combination of options, etc. In such cases, it’s important to provide them with a fix, but it’s not a good idea to push this update to most of the other users, especially if the latest version was just recently released (see previous point).

Read More…

Posted in Software, Updates at January 9th, 2014. 12 Comments.

Unchecky v0.2

Version 0.2 of Unchecky was just released!

The main and most visible change is the new interface of the main Unchecky program.


Read More…

Posted in Software, Updates at January 2nd, 2014. 24 Comments.

Bringing Unchecky to the web: help wanted

About two weeks ago I introduced the Unchecky program. In this period of time, Unchecky was translated to 8 languages, the Unchecky website was translated to 3 languages, Unchecky was reviewed by numerous well-known websites, and I’ve received lots of positive feedback.

But Unchecky has one important limitation, which was raised right after Unchecky was released – It can’t handle the web. While most programs present their offers in the installation process, some are showing a checkbox in the browser, before downloading. And obviously, this checkbox is checked by default.
Read More…

Posted in Software, Updates at December 12th, 2013. 9 Comments.

Introducing Unchecky

Nowadays it’s a reality that many software installations are bundled with potentially unwanted programs, such as toolbars or scareware system cleaners. If you’re a power user, you probably know that you have to be very careful while installing software, because if you miss a checkbox you might spend hours afterwards cleaning up the mess. If you’re an average PC user, you possibly leave everything by default, thus installing lots of additional unwanted programs without even knowing it.

I always thought that it’s wrong to provide these potentially unwanted programs by default, but the reason for this is clear: the more users install these, the more money the setup owner makes, usually at the expense of your privacy. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore, thanks to Unchecky!


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Posted in Releases, Software at November 25th, 2013. 41 Comments.

7+ Taskbar Tweaker v4.4

7+ Taskbar Tweaker v4.4 is out.

  • New option: Hide the Start button.
    The option works for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.
    To open the Start menu in Windows 7, you can click on the corner where the Start button was located.
    To open the Start screen in Windows 8.1, you can click the lower-left corner of the screen.

    Before
    w81_startbtn_before

    After
    w81_startbtn_after

  • New option: Show Start menu/Start screen by double/middle clicking on the empty space.
    7+ Taskbar Tweaker allows you to assign an action to double middle clicking on the empty space of the taskbar.
    Now there’s one more option to choose from.

  • Advanced Options Editor.
    Read More…

Posted in Software, Updates at November 12th, 2013. 61 Comments.

7+ Taskbar Tweaker v4.3, now with Windows 8.1 support

7+ Taskbar Tweaker v4.3 is out, which finally introduces support for Windows 8.1.
In addition, the new version contains some bug fixes and small improvements, so it’s a recommended update even for non-Windows 8.1 users.

Posted in Software, Updates at October 4th, 2013. 21 Comments.

MinHook – The Minimalistic x86/x64 API Hooking Library (fork)

MinHook is a Windows API hooking library originally written by Tsuda Kageyu.
It’s probably the best free WinAPI library out there which supports both x86 and x64.
But it’s not perfect, and didn’t completely fit my needs, so I created a fork on GitHub which addresses some of its limitations.

Below you’ll see how the fork improves upon the original MinHook library.
Read More…

Posted in Programming at September 30th, 2013. 6 Comments.

Multiline Ultimate Assembler Library

This article was written by Mr. eXoDia about the usefulness of the Multiline Ultimate Assembler Library, which is a (dis)assembler library with similar functionality to the Multiline Ultimate Assembler OllyDbg plugin.
Kudos to him!

The Multiline Ultimate Assembler Library
rar Multiline Ultimate Assembler library.rar (181.34 kB)

Article files (with the library included)
rar multi_asm_lib_test.rar (198.37 kB)

Alright, so what’s the use of the Multiline Ultimate Assembler Library? In my case it was useful as backend for a ‘generic’ API hooking tool. The tool was used to hook various APIs to prevent CRC checks and then the idea was to hook an API (VirtualProtect for example) that was accessed just before the OEP of the protected file was reached.
In our case we will not deal with a real protector, but just with a simple file that mimics a protector. Our protected file must have VirtualProtect in the import table.
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Posted in Reverse Engineering at September 26th, 2013. 2 Comments.

7+ Taskbar Tweaker: experimental version with partial Windows 8.1 Preview support

Here is an experimental version of 7+ Taskbar Tweaker which mostly works on Windows 8.1 Preview:

Removed. 7+ Taskbar Tweaker now officially supports Windows 8.1.

Options that currently do not work:

  • Thumbnails: Left click on the active thumbnail minimizes the window.
  • Combining: Combine grouped buttons.
  • Other: Don’t show jump list when dragging a taskbar item towards the desktop.

Technical information

So, why did the options above stop working? Not much was changed about the taskbar in Windows 8.1, after all.

Short answer
Because Microsoft uses better code optimization, it became more difficult to control the code functionality.

Long answer
Read More…

Posted in Software, Updates at July 10th, 2013. 24 Comments.