Blog Archives

Microsoft support and the BSOD

I was on a call to Microsoft support today for an issue with Communication server 2007.  During the initial steps of the support call when the technician was trying to setup the Easy Assist session, his computer started a memory dump with a BSOD.  He had to jump to another machine while rebooting the now inoperable computer.  He apologized politely, but it was no big thing for me, I actually got a kick out of it.  It also helped that the Guy (Hi Patrick), was a BSG fan and we chatted a little about the upcoming Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica

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My favorite registry hack

Do you know how annoying it is to try to quickly open a file in Windows that should be all text and naturally you want to open it with a text editor right?  Instead of being an easy process sometimes you have to go through a few steps to pick the program you want to open the file in.  Well here is a quick registry hack that will let you import all the settings necessary to add a context menu (right click menu) item called “open with notepad” when you right click on a file.  I personally like notepad better than wordpad (out of the build-in options in Windows), however, you could substitute your own text editor of choice here and save yourself a lot of trouble.  Just copy the code below into a new notepad document and save the file (to your desktop for example) with a .reg extension.  Then double-click on the resulting .reg file and click “ok” to add the registry information to your computer (NOTE: this only works on Windows operating systems). 

Now when you right click on a file, notice you have a new option in the context menu to open with notepad.  You can customize this as I mentioned to use your own text editor, just replace the name of the menu item and the executable name of your text editor in the code below.  Naturally you need to make sure the .exe is in a set user path so Windows knows where to get it. 

———————— (Copy below this line)————————————

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT*shellOpen with Notepad]
@=""

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT*shellOpen with Notepadcommand]
@="notepad.exe %1"

————————-(copy above this line)—————————-——-

Enjoy!

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Re-Connecting

Lately I’ve been trying to re-connect with some old friends, acquaintences and collegues.  I have successfully re-connected with Kerry who was the first IT person I worked with when I got into the tech world.  We worked on lots of stuff together, computers, running cable, climbing in attics and busting through concrete…  I also got back in touch with Carol who was another of the first IT people I met when I first got into tech.  We worked at the same little IT shop for over a year and did a lot of work for state and local government offices in the area. 

Other contacts I’ve reached are Jim who is an IT director for my home county, and Eddie who was an intern when I worked for county government.  I am still trying to hunt down the IT Director I worked for in my last county job.  I haven’t been able to track down contact info for my old boss, the guy I first started working for at my first IT job, but I’ll find him eventually.  I also recently talked to Jenni who was also in our IT department in my last county job.  I’m still waiting on the low down on whats been going on since I’ve been gone.  Also heard to Chris and a few others. 

Its nice to catch up with people and see what everyone’s been doing.  If you are reading this and know me or used to work with me, please leave me some comments here and re-connect!

Windows Vista

I am now also evaluating Windows Vista on my multimedia computer.  I performed the ugprade yesterday and it actually worked unlike my first upgrade attempt a few weeks earlier on a different home PC.  So far its not bad, but I think I need to reload a fresh install, as some weird issues are happening, such as the games not loading when you open the shortcuts for them.  One weird thing too is that hibernate works on my multimedia PC, but not on the home PC.  I guess there is some kind of hardware difference, perhaps something on the other motherboard that prevents hibernate from working.  So far I like having Vista, it runs ok on my hardware and I haven’t had any incompatibility issues.  It does take a little getting used to and most people don’t like change, but I don’t have much trouble picking up changes in software. 

New power supply

For Christmas this year I got a new 600W Power supply for my main computer at home.  It’s so much better than the other one and makes much less noise.  There is also no more ripple sound effect that the previous one had.  I did however take the old power supply and rig it into my multimedia computer as the power supply I had for it was malfunctioning.  So now both computers have the juice they need and are working good. 

Exchange diagnosis

Symptoms

Server: Event ID 9646 (user exceeded maximum of 32 objects of the type session).  Event ID 1021 (unable to connect…error 0x4de)

Client/Outlook: Unable to open your default e-mail folders.  The Microsoft Exchange server computer is not available.  Either there are network problems or the Microsoft Exchange server computer is down for maintenance.  OWA would work ok when logged on as either the user or an Exchange admin account. 

Diagnosis:

   Google searches of the events and error messages yield very little help.  A second round of google searching and pressing further through the search results yielded a page from MS indicating to ensure that the user had “view information store status” rights granted at the server or mailbox store level. This lead me to a diagnosis of permission problems on the mailbox.

   Proceeded with treatment by administering re-application of full mailbox permissions for the user and ensuring “view information store status” was selected in the allow column.  Attempting to open outlook again immediately after still yielded errors as described in the symptoms.  It wasn’t until a few minutes later when about to attempt a different method of treatment that the solution was revealed.  Before trying to create a whole new information store and move the user for testing, I decided to open outlook again.  This time, it opened no problem and did not give any errors or show any signs of a problem.  Apparently the original solution was the correct solution and the treatment was correct, I just didn’t wait long enough for the change to take effect.  Further attempts to work on the problem would have been useless as the issues was already fixed, I just didn’t know it yet. 

Windows Vista Upgrade failed

Last night I was trying to upgrade to Windows Vista on my main XP computer.  I was 3/4 of the way through the installer when the install screen vanished and dropped me back to the XP desktop.  XP still seemed to work, and no matter what I tried, I could not get the installer to resume.  I had no choice but to reboot, but what I didn’t know was that Vista had already copied over its boot files and screwed with the MBR on my hard drive.  So upon reboot, I get a Vista boot loader, which goes to the setup screen, but promptly throws up an error saying (not exactly sure of wording) “Windows could not initialize the installer”.  So XP was dead at this point, sure there are some ways I could have gotten it back, but I really wanted Vista to install. 

I ended up using a Knoppix 4 bootable CD and using the file managers in linux to backup my data on my XP parition to a file share on a server in my network.  After the backup was done, I wiped the partition and loaded the full install of Vista and installed fresh on the clean XP partition.  I am not sure if I am going to go with Vista or not, so I’m installing from the media with no CD key, just to use it in eval mode.  If Liz likes it and can get used to it, we might go ahead and buy the Ultimate edition upgrade.  But for now we’ll give it a try and see how it goes.  So far its running great on my hardware, but I’m a little disappointed with the performance rating of 3.7.  I have a dual core P4 3GHz chip, 2 GB of performance DDR2 RAM, and 256MB ATI X600 PCIe video card running on a nice Abit motherboard.  I was expecting to get a score near or at a 5. 

Using local GPO templates in Windows Vista

One of the things I found tricky about switching to Windows Vista was setting up local GPO Settings.  I opened gpedit.msc and was intentionally trying to add a .adm file for Office Communicator 2007.  I tried everything I knew how to get the .adm file to show up in gpedit, but I couldn’t figure it out.  I tried copying the communicator.adm file to C:windowsinf and C:WindowsPolicy Files and nothing worked.  I even ran across an article on converting .adm files to .admx format for Windows Vista using the ADMX Migrator.  When I tried to convert the file, I got 126 errors and decided that this may not be the way to go.  Finally I found an article on how to add the legacy file format and get the job done.  Its actually already capable of loading the legacy .adm file locally, and here is how to do it…

1. Open gpedit.msc
2. Expand either computer configuration or user configuration
3. Right-click on the Administrative Templates folder and select “Add/remove templates”.
4. Browse for the .adm file you wish to load and select it for opening.

You now have the .adm file loaded and you can then make changes and configure the policy settings.  Also I’d suggest turning off the User Access control option (under control panel > User Accounts) so that you don’t have 500 prompts from Vista asking if you are sure you want to do stuff.  How annoying!  🙂

Microsoft Windows Steady State

Microsoft has recently released Windows Steady State. Its a free application that lets you lock down a windows computer and make it usable in a public environment. It reminds me of my fortress or zenworks days, but its much easier to work with. You can download Steady State from Microsoft and give it a try. This would be great for mall kiosk computers or other types of publically accessible computers. It can even reset all your settings and configuration after a reboot in the event someone does hack the system.

Crazy night

Last night was absolutely crazy from the time I got home, until I went to bed. It all started when I walked in the door and found the house to be almost 85 degrees inside. Liz had just left, and so I started checking out the system, resetting breakers, etc. Nothing I did would work, and so I resorted to checking the phone book to find the numbers of a good after hours A/C contractor. I found one of the ads for one of the companies we had out before A-Able. I called and they said someone could be out in a few hours. I gave us messing with it myself, and decided to make myself some dinner. I baked up one of those frozen pizzas from the California Pizza Kitchen. I must say I’m not a fan of frozen pizza, but the ones from the California Pizza Kitchen are really good. They are actually pretty close to the originals you can get at the restaurant. I love the Marguerita pizza, and its really good, even for a frozen pizza.

During all this commotion with the A/C I notice a car parked next door that looked suspicious. I saw some people going through the gate and they were playing with the pool supplies, and opening shed doors and stuff. As far as I knew this house was still vacant, and the kids in the neighborhood have been screwing around with the for sale sign for months, so I did notice it was missing, but it could have also been taken by the kids. So I called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to report something suspicious. I explained what I saw and that I thought the house was supposed to be vacant. About an hour or so later, a deputy finally arrived, and I met him at the garage door of my house, told him what I thought and he went to check it out. A little later he came back by my house and explained that they were the new renters and everything was on the up and up. I was concerned because we’ve had kids breaking into that yard through the fence to swim, and they mess around with the for sale sign, and we are afraid something will happen while they are back there, and no one would know they were there and someone could get hurt. So I assumed it was the same situation here, and was just trying to make sure this wasn’t someone breaking into the house. Especially since I didn’t see anyone use the front door, only the door in the fence (which the lock is broken). I chatted with the officer for a few minutes and then he left. I felt aweful calling the cops on my new neighbors. What a terrible first impression. And they knew it was me I’m sure since I was talking to the officer in my driveway.

Then the A/C guy gets to the house and walks in and I tell him about whats going on, and he says that its nothing but a clogged drain. He pulls out the end of a sensor and empties some built up water, and then we turn the air switch back on and the pump kicks on and the unit starts cooling. I felt like an idiot! At least I know there are two drains now, there is one outside and one inside, I had checked the outside drain, but didn’t know to check the inside one. The system still won’t cool properly, so he came again today and checked it out and agrees with the other two opinions we’ve had. Everyone is telling us we need to replace the pump outside. The bad news is that this is going to cost!!! I got a quote from a guy on craigslist offering to install a 4 ton pump for $1500 everything included. So I am going to follow up with that, make sure he can accept credit card payment, and then see about getting some prices from one other place.

Then Liz’s mom called me and I helped her with some issues with their new computer.

During all of this, I was also running around the house with the hand vac chasing down little winged insects that somehow decided to swarm in my house. I’m not sure what they are, but there were a lot of them and I had to go around the house several times sucking them up with the hand vac. I’d get done going around once, empty the hand vac outside, put it down for a little while, then I’d walk out in the play room and find more, so I’d have to repeat the whole process again. I finally got most of them I guess, and then shortly thereafter Liz and the kids got home. They were late and didn’t get home till after 9pm. We got the kids to bed, and talked about our crazy days for a few minutes, then it was off to get ready for bed. What a day!