Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pandigital Novel

I must say I didn't have the highest hopes for the Pandigital Novel eReader at $149, but I at least expected it to function for reading.

The out of the box experience was fine. Everything worked and the device's battery was charged to 97%. It detected my wireless and authenticated effortlessly, no issues with connecting with my Windows 7 laptop, upgrading to the latest firmware or copying epub and pdf files to the file system, which showed up like another drive.

The browser was lackluster and the device settings were limited, but all I really wanted was a device that I could use for reading. It displayed my files correctly and the night-time reading mode was pleasant, since it shows the text in negative (great for reading in bed with the lights out). And this is where I was mostly disappointed...

My problems were the accelerometer, which kept changing from portrait to landscape when at a mild angle or slight turning motion and the less than sensitive touch-screen. I was slowly adjusting to the auto-rotation "feature" by moving the device as little as possible, but the touch screen is what killed it for me. Turning pages can only be accomplished via the touch screen, which took two to five "swipes" each time; which of course takes you out of the material you're reading and involves far more movement than a light-sleeping spouse would prefer.

Two things on the settings screen would have kept this device in my home: a checkbox to turn off the auto-rotation and the ability to remap the analog rocker switch (the only switch aside from the power) to page turning instead of adjusting the volume (which was available via the touch screen).

I returned the device to Best Buy yesterday and will be likely be purchasing a NOOKcolor in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Outlook Links Don't Work

One of my customers recently had an issue with broken links in all his Outlook e-mail. Any link that was present in the body or subject would not work, only giving the cryptic message: "This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer."

Turned out to be an issue with an faulty uninstall of Chrome, which left some bits behind in the registry. Bad, bad uninstaller! Go stand in the corner!

Anyway, after numerous searches and a number of unsuccessful fix attempts, Slipstick had the answer. Windows was trying to use the browser that was no longer installed, but was still referenced in the registry.

  1. Start, click Run..., type Regedit in the Open box, and then click OK.

  2. Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\.html

  3. Right-click the value for the .html key and select Modify...

  4. Change the value from "ChromeHTML" to "htmlfile" (or from FireFoxHTML to htmlfile)

  5. Repeat these steps for .htm and .shtml keys if they exist. You may also want to check the .xhtml and .xhtm keys.


Note: As always, the Registry can be a dangerous place, so do a backup/export before making changes.

This didn't even require a reboot and yet another happy customer was made. Judging by the amount of possible issues causing this message, this is only one needle in a field of haystacks.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where the 32-bit Programs Hide in the Registry

Trying to increase the speed of a Windows system typically involves disabling Services, removing items from the Startup menu and deleting Registry entries under Run, in both the Current User and Local Machine trees. The latter bit is what was missing when working on 64-bit systems.

After noticing that the pesky Acrobat Speed Launcher and other usual suspects were missing from the Run locations I ran a registry search for reader_sl.exe and with little delay was presented with the location below, which also hosted all it's resource sapping pals as well.

HKLM\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

Note: As always, the Registry can be a dangerous place, so do a backup/export before making changes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Exchange 2003 RPC over HTTPS - Easy

If you remember way back in September of 2003, (I don't, had to look up the date), a new version of Exchange Server was released with a new and really cool feature, RPC over HTTPS. This allowed for use of Outlook outside the company's network without the need for VPN. What a huge boon for traveling employees and IT staff alike.

With that came a convoluted configuration that probably resulted in more support calls to Microsoft than anything else involving the then-new Exchange Server 2003 product. And I always found it puzzling that Microsoft didn't create a wizard to automate this configuration, as they did for Small Business Server 2003, which included Exchange Server. (This was addressed in the later Exchange Server releases, 2007 and 2010.)

In any case it always seemed like a miracle was preformed when RPC over HTTPS finally did work. Fast-forward seven years and there are web pages and tutorials aplenty. In my recent search, the MSExchange article I found was the most straight-forward for a single system, Exchange Server 2003 deployment. One key element upon completion of the feature install and changes to the registry, is to make sure you reboot any Domain Controllers that were updated after the work is complete.

The reboot is necessary to complete the Global Catalog port mapping of 6004. In fact, you should be able to telnet to ports 6001 and 6002 on the Exchange Server, and 6004 on the Global Catalog server that was updated.

And as always, there is the ├╝ber-useful Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer to aid with troubleshooting (that's how I found out the Global Catalog needed a reboot).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Microsoft offers Security Essentials to (very) Small Businesses

Since Microsoft announced its own anti-malware product, Microsoft Security Essenstials, back in late 2008, the product has been steadily getting better. When asked what I use for anti-virus, I always answer MSE or AVG Free.

Both cost my favorite price, free, and are well regarded in the security community.

The big news of course, is that MSE is now free to small businesses with 10 or less PCs. I've actually been recommending it to smaller businesses for a while and now they'll be in compliance. (Now if only it was okay for servers...)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paychex Preview Upgrade to Mapped Drive

This was actually too simple, but unless you speak with support, how is one to know?

I was recently tasked with upgrading a server installation of Paychex Preview software, which according to documentation cannot be done on the host server, it has to be upgraded from one of the workstations via mapped drive. It seemed simple enough, until the point of the install "wizard" where it prompts for installation directory. It listed C:\RAPID, and had a dropdown menu so I could choose one of the mapped drives; but instead of listing mapped drives it only offered the local C:\ drive. No problem, the instructions on the screen said reboot if it doesn't list your mapped drive. Wait a few minutes for the reboot... and no good, just C:\RAPID again; time to call support.

After starting a WebEx session, so the tech could see what I was saying was true, we copied the RAPID directory from the mapped drive to C:\, then ran the Paychex Preview software upgrade on C:\RAPID. When the upgrade was complete, it was just a copy and replace over the RAPID directory on the mapped drive and the deed was done. Oh yeah, don't forget to run WS_Setup.exe from each workstation to create appropriate shortcuts to the mapped drive.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Google Website Backup

Google offers a lot of things, and I mean a lot, but this isn't really one of them. And yet, in a fashion they do.

A good friend of mine recently lost a rather good blog post due to a server issue (it was on a Linux box, so I'm not sure how that could ever happen ;^) and there wasn't a backup.

In a moment of brilliance (or just a misfiring synapse) I suggested he do a Google search for his lost post and see if they had a cached version of it. And low and behold, they did, crisis averted. If I could come up with great ideas like this more often, having a job would be unnecessary :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eee PC 2.00 GB (767 MB usable)

Today there was a curious case where someone's Windows 7 Eee PC had 2 GB of RAM, which the operating system was aware of, but only listed as 767 MB available for use.

It turns out that if the Boot Booster is enabled in the BIOS, it limits the amount of usable RAM. To fix this, press F2 during boot-up, go to the Boot menu, use the arrow keys to highlight Boot Booster and press Enter to change it to Disabled. Next press F10 to save, then reboot and you are done.

Note: You may still only have 1.75 GB usable, but that can be blamed on the leeching onboard video.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Script Samples

There are times when I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for just the right syntax for a command or even the correct command to get the job done. Here are four I put to use in the last few months...

Change Printer Spooler Service Recovery options to Restart
sc failure spooler reset= 60 actions= restart/600/restart/600/restart/600

Backing up an MSDE Database
osql -E -Q "BACKUP DATABASE mdss TO DISK= 'C:\BB_DB_Backup\mdss.bak'"

Copy Database and then Appending with Date
copy t:\plandata.mdb C:\PlanDataBackup /Y

For /F "Tokens=1-8 Delims=.:/ " %%a In ('Echo %Date%') Do (Set All=%%d-%%b-%%c)
@For %%a in ("plandata.mdb") do rename %%a "%%~na-%All%.mdb"

Deleting Old OWA Logs
forfiles -p "C:\inetpub\logs\LogFiles\W3SVC1" -c "cmd /c echo del \"@FILE\" & del \"@FILE\"" -d -21

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What's in my backpack?

Every time I'm heading out the door, I throw a heavy backpack over my shoulder and drop it into my car with a thud.

What's in this bag I lug around to each client? Of course there's my HP tc4400 Tablet PC and battery charger, but there's a whole lot more, in no particular order:

  • Small TechNet binder (Contents will be another post).

  • An assortment of small screwdrivers for laptops and PCs alike

  • Cables: 7' Ethernet, Cisco serial, USB to PS2 converter, USB to serial, iPhone charger

  • 160 external hard drive, USB (for moving files and dumping images)

  • Leatherman

  • A small handful of unlabeled customer access badges and keys

  • Three USB thumbdrives (1GB, 2GB (BitLockered) and 32GB)

  • Small metal business card holder

  • Sharpie and blue pen

  • Tape measure

Friday, April 16, 2010

How Big are those Mailboxes

One thing I truly miss about Exchange 2003 is the list of mailbox sizes that were easily accessible in the GUI. But things must move on and the display in the Exchange Management Console for both 2007 and 2010 lack the ability to populate and view this information.

Exchange Management Shell to the rescue! If you enter just the basic Get-MailboxStatistics command it will be sorely lacking (and the sizes will be in KB). The command below will get Exchange to cough up a full list and friendlier MB display suitable for analyzing in Excel.

Open Exchange Management Shell and run the following:
Get-MailboxStatistics | Sort-Object TotalItemSize -Descending | ft DisplayName,@{label=”TotalItemSize(MB)”;expression={$_.TotalItemSize.Value.ToMB()}},ItemCount

Sunday, March 28, 2010

HP tc4400 and Windows 7 Boot Failure

I've been using an HP tc4400 Tablet PC with Windows Vista for quite some time now and thought it was about time I started using Windows 7 for work and not just home.

Don't get me wrong, I do like Vista (I think I may be only one of eight people), but as an IT professional I should be using the latest operating system.

So I got started with swapping out the hard drive to start with a fresh install (always the best way to go), and tossed in the install DVD. The install went flawlessly and I followed with Windows Update, as one always should. Upon rebooting the system, it failed to start.

What followed was a large pain in the posterior: After attempting to do a System Restore (it failed, of course), I reinstalled. This time during Windows Update, I deselected some of the likely updates that may have caused the boot failure issue, same result. This process went on five times before I found the (in)correct update:Intel Corp - Display - Mobile Intel(R) 945 Express Chipset Family 16.6MB. Not surprising that it's a video driver, since those are typically the drivers that will hose a Windows system most often (rather embarrassed it took five tries to find out the obvious). Anyway, the update was released in September, 2009 and is one version behind what is available on the Intel website.

Once I skipped the Windows Update version of the driver and installed latest display driver from Intel, I was in business, actually Windows 7 Professional (can't MS marketing decide on a consistent nomenclature?).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free PowerShell Editor

Yesterday I began to really dive into a new user script (which uses Exchange Management Shell) to bring it up to date and include more fields and features. As the script complexity grew, Notepad was no longer cutting the mustard.

I thought I'd be using Notepad++ or TextPad, both fine in their own right, but instead found PowerGUI. This PowerShell editor which finds syntax errors, includes definitions and much more; all for the low, low price of free. This seems to be a community supported by Quest Software who has a bunch of fine (not so free) tools for SysAdmins.

I'm now able to work on, and run, the script off network (read: at home). It's a helluva deal for the price, try PowerGUI for your next PowerShell outing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vista - Configuring Updates Step 3 of 3 -- 0% Complete

Last Friday I came upon a frustrating problem with a Windows Vista system that had applied updates during shutdown, but could not finish the process. This resulted in many reboots and an unusable computer; too bad it held the company's only copy of QuickBooks.

Typically the simplest fix is to boot from the Vista install media and choose Repair, then System Restore. The trouble with this system was that System Restore was turned off and there weren't any checkpoints to go back to.

Enter the endless search online. More IT troubleshooting by Bing and Google. I'm not exactly sure which search engine got me there, but one forum listed the answer (albeit two hundered or so, lines down the page).
Boot from a Vista or Windows 7 disk and choose Repair, then Recovery Console. Once you have a command line to work with, cd to C:\windows\winsxs and del pending.xml, exit to reboot again and you'll see the "Configuring Updates..." message once more, but it will continue to the Windows login screen allowing for celebrations all around.

This was the fix that worked for me, hopefully you'll have the same luck.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Network Printer Offline

Yesterday I was at a client site where everyone prints directly to the printers, rather than sharing via a print server. One of the PCs kept showing a printer as offline, even though everyone else was printing to it. From the PC you could ping the printer and even browse to the builtin web server to see that it was low on cyan.

After chewing on this for quite a while, I found the issue: a checkbox on the Ports tab "SNMP Status Enabled", which when checked (along with SNMP turned off on the print device) will result in the printer being listed as Offline. Once the box was unchecked, it was back online and the customer was back to printing once again.

Monday, January 4, 2010

God Mode in Windows Vista or 7

Following Paul Thurrott's blog such as I do, today's post listed a way to see a hidden GUI. There is quite a list, some of which are not normally exposed but via the Registry.

This is really a pretty simple hack:

Create a New Folder, rename it GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

You can actually name it whatever you want before the dot, i.e. LinusMode, Dave, Matrix, etc. The icon will change to the one used for the Control Panel, and when opened it will list a plethora of settings.

Have fun, and be careful.