Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Add/Remove Programs from Command Line

Sometimes you need to remove a troublesome application from the command line as it may be causing problems with the explorer.exe process.  This is the command:

control c:\windows\system32\appwiz.cpl

Hope this helps.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Change Windows 7 Product Key

After imaging a Windows 7 machine so as to clone to multiple others I came across a slight hassle: how to change the product key on the newly cloned PC?

Previously under XP I would have used a key changer tool such as WinKeyFinder but I had thought that the "Change Product Key" option in System Properties would do the trick in Windows 7.

Unfortunately the "Change Product Key" link wasn't showing in System Properties.  Perhaps this is because this was an OEM version of Windows 7?  I'm not sure.  But here's how to do it:

  1. Open a Command Prompt
  2. Type "slmgr.vbs -ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx" where the xxxxx characters are your product key.
  3. Give it a minute and you should get a message saying that the product key has been updated.
  4. Then type "slmgr.vbs -ato" to active Windows with this new product key.
  5. You should then get a message saying that Windows has been successfully activate.
Hope this helps.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Watch Out! Telephone Tech. Support Scams

Watch out for a scam that’s on the go at the moment.  It goes like this:

You get called up out of the blue by “Microsoft” or some such reputable-sounding company.  The person who calls you normally seems to have an Indian-sounding accent.  I purely mention the caller’s accent as it seems to be a common feature – you should watch out for this kind of scam regardless of the caller’s accent.  You are told that your computer is infected with a virus or with malware.  You are often asked if your computer has been running slowly or freezing lately.

Of course they’ve got the solution for you!  At this point you’re often transferred to their “superior” or “manager” who tells you of the sorry state your poor computer is in and how they have the means to fix it.  For a fee of course.  This usually seems to range from 120 to 260 euro.

The “fix” seems to involve them getting you to browse to their website and download some remote access software which they then use to take remote control of your PC.  At this point God knows what could happen!  They have remote control of your PC and could install malware, key-loggers, web-cam spy software, anything really.  They could look at your personal data, delete important data or system files, you name it.

What often seems to happen is they get you to look at your event log, tell you that the errors you’re (inevitably) seeing are due to an infection and then remote access your PC and perform a set of fairly pointless tasks such as defragging the hard drive and running Disk Cleanup.  Often they apparently turn of the event-logging service so now you won’t see any more errors appearing!  They then charge you for this waste of time.

Beware!  No legitimate business will contact you out of the blue in this way.  How would Microsoft know you have a virus and take it upon themselves to go and fix it for you?  It’s all a load of nonsense so just hang up and don’t engage with them.

Here’s an example of what can happen:

Symantec sample telephone support scam

Problems with PHP Header Redirect

Recently I was writing a PHP script which required a bit of code to redirect a user from the current page to another one.  This is achieved using the following code:


Unfortunately, however, I could not get this to work for me.  I tried every suggestion and tip I could find on the web to no avail.  Many sites advised making sure to remove any “white space” in the PHP file.  I removed every single bit except the 3 lines listed above, deleted the fourth blank line by going to the end of the third and hitting delete.  No joy.

I got in contact with my fantastic web hosting company and they figured it out.  By default PHP on their servers runs at PHP4.  As soon as the version running was changed to PHP5 in the website settings area the script ran perfectly!

So there you go: if you’re having trouble with PHP header redirects check the PHP version number running on your web server.  You might need to update it to version 5.  Also, if you need reliable web-hosting with fantastic support I highly recommend you check out  I’m not in any way related to their business, just a happy customer.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Foxit PDF Creator: good basic PDF creation

Currently there is a glut of free PDF creator/writer software on the internet.  At the other end of the spectrum lies Adobe Acrobat.  However, even the Standard version of Acrobat (Version X) now costs fairly hefty €422 inc. VAT and the Pro version costs a whopping €626.  Don’t get me wrong, Acrobat is a super product with great functionality (particularly in the area of change-tracking), but €422 is a lot if you’re someone who just wants to output the odd document as a PDF.

I tried a load of different free PDF creators and guess what?  They were largely dreadful.

However, Foxit PDF Creator is a simple, effective tool that doesn’t muck-up your formatting in the PDFs it outputs, embeds fonts nicely, and it only costs $29.99 (€21.66 at today’s conversion rate).  It doesn’t come with any editing functions – it just produces a PDF – but it has a decent number of output options and does a good job for a good price.

Note: Since Office/Visio 2007 SP2 (or pre-SP2 with a patch) there has been the option to save a file in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio as a PDF.  This does a decent job.  However, to output web pages, email, or other documents you’ll generally need a PDF creator unless the software you’re using comes with a PDF output option (e.g. WordPerfect, yuk!).

For more see:

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Microsoft’s (and my) thoughts on

I must say I agree with most of this – not everything but most.  I’m tired of hearing about how Open Source is the answer.  It isn’t.  From my experience it’s nothing but hassle.  Sure it’s generally free to download but the support costs and the toll it takes on your nerves more than offsets this.  I’m tired of people expecting something for nothing.  In most areas of life you don’t get quality unless you pay for it… cars, hi-fi, clothing, you name it.

Microsoft’s thoughts on OpenOffice.rg

SonicWALL Enhanced OS

Holy Moly!  I went to configure a simple port-forwarding rule on a customer’s SonicWALL TZ200 today and entered into a whole world of hurt!

All I wanted to do was allow HTTP traffic into an internal web server – exceedingly straightforward on any device I’ve ever worked on before… not so under SonicOS Enhanced!

After about an hour of bizarrely confusing options I realised that one needs to create an address object for the internal server, create a NAT policy to allow access, and then create a firewall access rule.  This doesn’t sound too bad except it wasn’t that simple in fact.  To add to the confusion, I managed to create a NAT loop which killed the network!  That was purely down to my own stupidity though!

So how did I get it to work?  I gave in and used one of the wizards after looking at the following excellent post online:

Turns out the device needs THREE NAT policies (inbound, outbound, and loopback) plus address object, plus firewall access rule!  What?!!

My advice: take your time with this OS and use the wizards unless you’ve got loads of experience with these devices.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

McAfee does my head in

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: to all intents and purposes installing McAfee Anti-virus software is pretty much as bad as getting a virus.  There, I said it.  Again.
I’ve lost count of how many problems I’ve had with customer PCs over the years where the root of the problem was McAfee in one or another of its hideous incarnations.  But here’s one that’s fresh in my head because I’ve only just sorted it out…
A customer had a PC that wouldn’t connect to the iTunes Store in iTunes.  He could do everything else with iTunes, just not connect to the store.  Actually, now I think of it he probably wouldn’t have been able to use the internet radio stations in iTunes either.  He could access the internet and send/receive emails just fine.  iTunes just refused to play ball.  When I ran the Diagnostics in iTunes I got an error –3221.
Well what could cause this?  Probably a firewall I thought.  The customer had McAfee Security Center with VirusScan and Personal Firewall.  They also seemed to have another version of Personal Firewall (called McAfee Personal Firewall Plus) running.  The McAfee Security Center reported that Personal Firewall was not running.  Looking under Windows services I found that it was however.  Stopping this service resulted in a fully functional iTunes.  However after turning it back on McAfee Security Center still didn’t recognise it so I couldn’t add an exception to allow iTunes to work.  After lots of pfaffing about I uninstalled the lot, or so I thought.  There was still one firewall running in the background (I could see the processes) but I couldn’t uninstall it from Control Panel as it told me a required file was missing.  The service had disappeared too.  Weird.
Eventually I found a link to the McAfee Consumer Product Remover (MCPR) on and gave it a whirl.  It found all of the various residual bits and pieces and removed them all.  After a rebott all was well.  So I suppose McAfee did something right here.  Also, the PC was significantly zippier and more responsive with all that junk gone.
Here’s the link to MCPR:
The next thing I intend to do is install ESET Smart Security v4.  It’s not perfect (I don’t think any one security product is really) but it works quietly and consistently, doesn’t slow down a PC much, and comes with great technical support.  If you’ve never used an ESET product I would be happy to give them a very solid thumbs-up.  I’ll admit that I am a reseller of their products but that’s just because I have been very impressed from the first time I used them.

iOS 4 coming 21st of June

Those of you with iPhones have something juicy to look forward to:  iOS 4 is to be released on the 21st of June.  iOS is the new name for iPhone OS, the iPhone’s operating system.  iOS is currently at 3.1.3.  Version 4 is a major upgrade and promises some really nice new features such as:

  • Multitasking – run more than one app at the same time and switch between them
  • Folders – group apps together
  • Mail improvements – unified inbox (all emails from all accounts in one inbox), more than 1 exchange account, open attachments in 3rd party apps, organise by thread (like Gmail)
  • iBooks – eBook reader and online store
  • Creation of playlists on the iPhone rather than in iTunes
  • 5x digital zoom
  • Tap to focus video
  • Faces and Places in Photos - view photos based on who’s in them and where they were taken
  • Home screen wallpaper - change the background wallpaper on your Home screen
  • Gift apps - send apps as gifts to your friends or family
  • Spell checking - built-in spell checker works in Mail, Notes and other apps
  • Wireless keyboard support - pair a Bluetooth wireless keyboard with your iPhone

Sounds pretty good.  If you have an iPhone 3 or 3GS, or iPod Touch (not 1st generation version) you’ll get the benefits.  Unfortunately, the iPhone 3 won’t support multitasking and perhaps a few other features too.

Once it’s out you should be able to download it in iTunes and update your iPhone with it.

See for more info.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Floppy Disk - one step closer to death

The old dinosaur of the tech world comes a little closer to finally popping its clogs.  Sony, pretty much the last company still manufacturing floppy disks will stop from March of next year.

In various forms the old floppy disk drive (often abbreviated to FDD) has been around since around 1971.  It started then with IBM’s 8” disk/drive.  Shugart (who I think became Seagate?) brought out the 5.25” disk/drive around 1976.

HP brought out the 3.5” disk/drive in 1982.  This format had the longest life and one still encounters them from time to time.  I recently had to use one to load a RAID driver onto a PC.

File:Floppy disk 2009 G1.jpg

In some respects the 3.5” disk was fantastic: light, small, fairly physically robust, cheap, decent storage capacity for the ‘80s.  However, in other respects it was diabolical: magnetically sensitive, sensitive to dust, it wore down over time, by the mid to late ‘90s it was annoyingly short on capacity.

If you want to know more have a look at the Wikipedia entry here:

For more info also have a look at the Engadget entry here:

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Security Shenanigans – May 2010

I’ve noticed a few irritating trends in the virus/spam/spyware world recently.  Here are some things to watch out for:

Web Nasties
  • Steer clear of downloading screensavers, they can often be infected with viruses
  • Steer clear of apparently free tools that contain irritating adware, e.g. freeripmp3 which contains “Adware.ADON”
  • Be very careful of Online Poker sites.  These often require the downloading of software or a browser add-on which could be infected.
  • If you are browsing the web and are informed that your computer has a virus or infection treat this message with a healthy degree of scepticism.  Has the message popped up from your security software?  This should be fairly obvious.
    • Here, for example is what a security pop-up from ESET Smart Security looks like:
    • image
    • E.g. here is what a security pop-up from Norton Internet Security looks like:
    • image
    • It’s very common for spyware to infiltrate your PC by pretending to be legitimate software which tells you that you have a security problem on your PC which can magically be fixed by downloading a product such as AntiVirus 2010.  When this software is unwittingly downloaded it can really get medieval on your computer!  Here are some examples:
    • image
    • image
    • image
    • So, look at the title of the warning pop-up message.  Is it coming from your security software?  You do have security software (AKA anti-virus) yes?  Is the message popping up as window in your web browser?  If so then shut down all web browser windows.  Can’t close them all?  Try using the Alt+F4 keyboard combination.  Failing that, save any changes to any documents you might have open elsewhere and restart your computer.
Email Nasties

As always, be really careful with email attachments.  It’s amazing how often we can forget this.  Do you know the sender?  If not I’m inclined to just delete the email if it has the attachment.  If you know the sender then ask yourself if this is expected.  If not, email them and ask them if they meant to send you an attachment.  If they say yes, even then it pays to be cautious…

  • Email from
    • Subject is: Facebook Password Reset Confirmation!
    • Contains Kyrptik.BKR trojan
  • Email from
    • Subject is: Your friend invited you to Twitter
    • Contains Merond.AA worm
    • You are asked to look at an attachment (Invitation
    • You have to ask why you would need to do this and not just click a link to go to their website?
  • Email from
    • Subject is: You have Received a Greeting Card
    • Contains Kyrptik.CEJ trojan
  • Email from various different addresses
    • Subject is: UPS Delivery Problem Number...
    • Contains Wigon.KQ trojan (rather nasty)
  • Email from various different addresses claiming to be DHL
    • Subject "Please get your parcel NR..."
    • Contains TrojanDownloader.Bredolab.AN trojan (rather nasty)
  • Email from Facebook Team
    • Subject "updated account agreement"
    • Contains an attachment such as “”
    • Contains TrojanDownloader.Bredolab.AN trojan (rather nasty)
  • Email from Microsoft Team
    • Subject is: "Conflicker.B Infection Alert"
    • Contains Kryptik.CJT trojan

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Backup your Outlook

Why not do this today?  Nothing to lose, everything to gain…

  • File | Import and Export
  • Choose Export to a file
  • Choose Personal Folder File (.pst)
  • Highlight your Mailbox and tick the Include subfolders tickbox
  • Browse to where you want it to save the backup
  • Click Finish
  • Apply a password if you're really paranoid - will you remember it in maybe 2 years time
  • Click OK

Performing a clean install of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard seems to be a little different to its predecessors when it comes to performing a clean installation/re-installation.  The following needs to be done:

  1. Boot off the OS X install DVD – place DVD in drive, restart Mac, hold down C when it “bongs” and keep it held until you see the Apple logo with a spinning wheel
  2. Click Continue when you see Welcome to OS X Snow Leopard
  3. Choose Utilities and then Disk Utility
  4. In Disk Utility click on your hard drive on the left, choose Erase and go with the defaults (OS X Extended (Journaled))
  5. Once the drive has been erased select Quit from the Disk Utility menu
  6. Back in the install screen click Continue
  7. Choose your newly erased hard drive, agree to the license and click Install
  8. The installation process should now run for about 30 minutes
  9. After that you’ll have to fill in your personal info, location details, network/wireless info, etc.

Hope this helps!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Bill Gates speech on energy and climate

At TED2010, Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world's energy future, describing the need for "miracles" to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he's backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.

Steve Job’s Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Resetting Apple Time Capsule with Blinking Amber Light

I’ve been playing with a 500GB Apple Time Capsule.  I had often thought of these devices as a bit of a joke, very expensive (as usual for Apple) and why only give it a single hard drive?  Why not two and then you could setup RAID-1?  Typical Apple compromises, form over function, etc.

However, in use these are rather nice products.  They look nice and discrete, and have a lovely user interface (although it’s a shame you can’t access the interface via a web browser).  Maybe one drive is enough for the normal user who possibly never even did any backups before this.

I’ll report back after more use…

However, when I first got my hands on this used model it was completely unresponsive, just flashing its amber light slowly.  A bit of digging on the net revealed that it was probably best to reset it and here’s how:

Turn the device on and wait a minute.  Hold in the reset button at the back with something small and pointy for about 5 seconds until the front light flashes quickly.  Then give the device time to reboot.  This should return it to factory default settings but, crucially, shouldn’t delete any data stored on the hard drive.  Apparently if this doesn’t work you do the same but turn the power off and turn it on whilst holding in the reset button for a similar amount of time – not sure if this also preserves data on the hard drive.

AFP Problems with Mac OS X Tiger Update 10.4.11

I recently installed a Synology DS209 NAS in a customer’s site and was very happy with its level of performance and ease of setup.  Using SMB/CIFS I was getting about 40MB/s copying a file from it to my MacBook running Windows 7 under Boot Camp.  That is seriously fast!  My D-Link DNS-323 manages about 12MB/s and a 512GB Apple Time Capsule I’m currently playing with struggles along at about 7MB/s.

Things were a bit slower over AFP which seems to be fairly much to be expected.  One Mac running Leopard was fine, another running Tiger 10.4.5 was also fine.  However, one of the customer’s machines was giving awful trouble.  This old iMac G5 had been updated some time back with 10.4.11.  The shared folders would mount but you could barely use the share for a second before it ground to a halt and the Finder became unresponsive and had to be Relaunched.

I tried everything I could think of… updating firmware on the NAS, changing the network switch, playing with TCP/IP and AppleTalk settings, doing an Archive and Install on the iMac and installing all the updates.  All to no avail.  The other Mac in the company running Tiger was fine, why not this one?  Eventually, after a day of fruitless work it struck me: the Mac that was working fine was on 10.4.5, the troublesome iMac was on 10.4.11.  I did an Archive and Install on the iMac but didn’t install the Mac OS updates… all was fine!  I had to put on 10.4.8 for Illustrator CS3 to work properly but this update didn’t cause any problems.  Whew!

So, in conclusion, I can say that if you have an old iMac G5 running Tiger and you want to have functional AFP performance DO NOT INSTALL 10.4.11.  It will break AFP.  Perhaps it was an update between 10.4.8 and 10.4.11, who knows?  However, when you re-install Apple Update will prompt you to update to 10.4.11.  Don’t do it!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Problems with WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage)

Recently a customer of mine was experiencing problems with WGA under Windows XP with SP3.  Upon boot-up and login WGA some of the PCs would state that the Windows installation was not legitimate.  This was odd as I had recently reinstalled Windows XP on these machines with the correct volume license key.

Comparing the actual product key (using Belarc Advisor) I found that it differed from what it was supposed to be… very odd.  So how to remedy this?  Here we go:

Step 1:

  • Start | Run | regedit
  • Go to: HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\WPAEvents
  • Right-click OOBETimer and choose Modify
  • Change at least 1 digit of this code

Step 2:

  • Start | Run | %systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a
  • This runs the activation wizard.  Choose Yes I want to telephone… and hit Next
  • Choose Change product key
  • I entered the correct product key and hit Update
  • Choose Remind me later

I think a restart was then required… can’t quite remember.

I read somewhere online that if Step 2 gives trouble then you should restart, hit F8 and choose Last Known Good Configuration.  I didn’t have to do this so I can’t vouch for this.

This did the trick for me, I hope it works for you.

Speccy – a very nice system information tool

Piriform, who brought us the wonderful CCleaner along with Defraggler and Recuva have just brought out a free tool called Speccy.  It’s a really nifty and polished system information tool.  If you want to find out what’s under the bonnet of a PC without having to lift the bonnet then I highly recommend this.


Monday, 11 January 2010

Audio in Windows 7 with Boot Camp on Apple MacBook

I’ve been running Windows 7 Ultimate (32 bit) on a white Core2Duo MacBook for quite some time now but could never get the audio working and there was a red light coming out of the Aux port.  I was had used the Snow Leopard Boot Camp drivers on the CD and this had worked for most of the other devices.  Any drivers I downloaded and installed from the web failed to work.  I got a great tip for dealing with this problem on:  The key seems to be running the installer Administrator in Vista compatibility mode…

  • Insert the Snow Leopard install CD
  • Browse to \Boot Camp\Drivers\IDT SigmaTel
  • Right-click the “SigmaTelSetup.exe” file and choose “Troubleshoot compatibility”
  • Choose “Troubleshoot program” choose the first tick box and hit “Next”
  • Choose “Windows Vista” and then “Next”
  • Choose “Start the program…” and then “Next”
  • The driver will now install, click on the progress balloon  on the bottom right of the screen and click the hyperlink to skip Windows Update driver checking
  • When the process completes you’ll just need to click the option to say it completed successfully and then hit “Close”.
  • Then choose to restart the computer

This did the trick for me anyway, I hope it does for you.

Friday, 8 January 2010

AutoRecover in Office 2000

A customer of mine recently had a problem with Excel 2000 – yes lots of people are still using Office 2000 as it’s very fast and does most of what they need.  It had crashed and they hadn’t saved their changes in a few hours.

Now, if this had been Office 2003/2007 the next time they opened Excel it would have prompted them with an “AutoRecovered” version of their file.  By default Excel 2003/2007 AutoRecover an open worksheet every 10 minutes – this can be changed.

But this didn’t seem to be the case with Excel 2000.  I had thought it was available in Excel 2000 but nothing could be found in Tools | Options.  It was there in Word 2000 in Tools | Options | Save so what was the deal?

Turns out that, by default, AutoRecover isn’t installed in Excel 2000. It’s there as an Add-In.  You must first install the Add-In by going to Tools | Add-Ins and choosing the “Autosave” Add-In.  Once this installs you’ll see the Autosave option in the Tools menu.  Clicking it will allow you to configure the time interval and whether all sheets or just the active sheet should be accounted for.

How bizarre, and how frustrating for my customer, that this feature was available but not put there by default.  Very annoying.

Monday, 4 January 2010

D-Link DNS-323 – fantastic product, great price, get one!

I just wrote a mini review of the superb little D-Link DNS-323 on Komplett and thought I’d copy it here.  About the size of a tiny toaster, this device is a NAS (Network Attached Storage) which you connect to your home or work network and it behaves rather like a miniature server, providing shared file/folder access, printer sharing, remote FTP access, and UPnP media streaming.  artifact can supply this device for around €134 ex. VAT although hard drives must be purchased and added to the device before it is fully functional.

imageimage   imageimage

Images taken from

Mini Review on Komplett

This is a super little piece of technology. I've had one of these for about 3 years now and it has never given me a second's trouble. This kind of reliability is certainly rare.

I put 2 Seagate 500GB drives in it running in RAID-1 mode and have enjoyed dependable, zippy performance. This, of course, was back when Seagate still made hard drives that weren't diabolical.

The updates have been quite frequent lately and UPnP now works nicely with a Sony PS3. The iTunes server is a lovely bonus. Remote FTP access is simple and effective and file sharing works beautifully with both Windows and Mac OS.

Sure, it doesn't have the ability to backup to another NAS, USB drive, or to an online backup service, and it doesn't have a Slim Server-like function but what do you expect for the price.

Buy one, you won't regret it.

Setting up a printer in OS X using the CUPS interface – brief!

Recently I had to setup a connection to a shared printer in OS X.  The printer was being shared on a TCP/IP network by a HP server running Windows Server 2008 Foundation.  I had some trouble setting up the printer using the printer set wizards in System Preferences and discovered that Mac OS X has a built in web server for CUPS (the Common Unix Printing System) that allows you to setup a printer with much greater granularity and, it would appear, a greater chance of success!

Open up Safari and browse to the following address:  http://localhost:632

The wizards are then relatively straightforward as shown in the samples below…

Picture 2 Picture 4 Picture 5 Picture 6


Print Screen with MacBook keyboard in Boot Camp Windows

First off, Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a great Christmas.

My day to day laptop is a white Apple MacBook which runs Snow Leopard and Windows 7 Ultimate using Boot Camp.  This is fab as it enables me to go out to both Mac and PC customers and bring just one laptop.  However, I’ve often needed to take a screen grab when in Windows mode and couldn’t figure out the keyboard shortcut, here it is:

fn + shift + F11

For the full list of these shortcut follow the link below, it’s for MacBook Pros but gives a good idea…

Note: If you have a USB PC keyboard connected the PrtScr button should work fine.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Stop the Exchange account getting set as default in Outlook

By default in a Microsoft Small Business Server environment, every time a user logs into their client PC a script is run which (among other things) changes their Outlook profile, setting their default account to the Exchange server.

This can be a major pain for users who have a POP account(s) setup as default in their Outlook profile.  It means that each time they login they must go into Tools | Accounts and set their POP account to be default.

There is thankfully a fairly straightforward fix…

  • Open REGEDIT on the client computer (Start | Run | regedit) and navigate to HKEY Local Machine\Software\Microsoft\SmallBusinessServer\ClientSetup.
  • Create a DWORD entry here named “NoTransportOrder” and give this a value of “1”.
  • The transport order will not be changed next time the user logs in.

In my opinion it’s way better to have your clients setup to use Exchange and have Exchange send and receive email for them.  Having clients collecting POP is messy.  But in the real world we don’t often get to do things by the book.

This fix draws from content found at and


I sometimes have to deal with customer computers whose Outlook PST or OST files have become corrupted.  Very often the fix is to run SCANPST.EXE on the offending PST/OST file.


However, every time I go to do this I forget where the two executable files are.  Here is where they are on a Vista machine running Office 2007:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12

I hope this helps.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I won’t be buying a Seagate product for a long time

I’ve been in the IT business for over 10 years now and for a long time regarded Seagate as brand to be relied on.  They seemed to have a high level of design integrity and quality.  The FreeAgent Pro external drives were fantastic – fast, quiet, reliable.  The 750GB ST3750640NS internal drives were solid and speedy.  But things have changed.

I have never been so singularly disappointed with any IT products as I have with the hard drives Seagate has produced this year.  Apparently they have shifted their production facility to the far east.  Whatever the reason, there is absolutely no excuse for the staggering level of shoddy build quality of their current crop of hard drives.

I would say that in the last year approximately 80% of the PC’s, Servers, and NASes I have re-sold with Seagate hard drives and upgraded with Seagate hard drives have had drive failures.  The figure may even be bigger.

To make matters worse, their RMA policy requires they receive the faulty drive before they ship a replacement.  This invariably leaves the IT consultant in a precarious situation whilst awaiting the replacement – which may well also fail.

I was recently speaking to the a senior engineer in a highly respected data recovery company who confirmed this annoying situation.  His recommendation was to stick to Samsung and Hitachi drives at the present time.  I haven’t had a particularly happy experience with Western Digital hard drives so far this year but Seagate drives just take the biscuit.

Save yourself the hassle, don’t buy a Seagate.  Not for a long time.

Using VoIP with SmoothWall

I’ve been playing with SmoothWall Express (Polar) recently and am generally pretty impressed.  However, my Linksys SPA921 IP Phone hadn’t been working.  I decided to turn my attention to it today.

The phone wouldn’t give a dial tone at all unless I used the “SIP Proxy” option in SmoothWall, however, that wouldn’t allow any outgoing calls.  I tried creating various exceptions in the firewall, even setting the phone to be an “always allowed machine”, all to no avail.

Then I hit on the solution… I had a BT ADSL router connecting to the internet performing NAT, the SmoothWall connected to this performing NAT, and the IP Phone connecting to the SmoothWall as shown in the diagram below:


SIP doesn’t appear to play nicely with this double-NAT arrangement.  So I changed the WAN configuration on my BT ADSL router to run in “Bridged” mode and then configured the “Red” (internet) interface on the SmoothWall to run in PPPoE mode.  This required configuring the BT broadband username and password settings in the “PPP” section of “Networking”, then navigating to “Home” and hitting “Connect”.  I couldn’t believe it, it actually worked!  To refine things I disconnected, went back into “PPP” and ticked the “Persistent connection” and “Connect on SmoothWall restart” tick boxes and then re-connected.  This diagram shows the new setup:


This didn’t even require any exceptions in the firewall configuration or the use of SIP proxy.

I hope this helps you.

UPDATE: I had to add an outgoing firewall rule to allow a port range from 10000 to 20000.  I had been able to call but hadn’t properly tested actual sound over the link.  So it appears that SIP was getting through but not RTP.  Getting full call functionality required opening the aforementioned port range.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Steve Ballmer is completely sane

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is a genius.  You think I’m exaggerating?  Take a look at these videos.

Actually, to be fair, I find watching these and anything to do with Steve Ballmer completely fascinating!  He really is larger than life and a force to be reckoned with.

Ladies and gentlemen, STEVE BALLMER!
Developers, developers, developers, developers…!
I’m a PC and I love this company!

Selling Windows 1.0
Selling Windows XP

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Burn ISO files in Windows 7

Just discovered a great feature in Windows 7, thanks to  Rather than having to install dedicated burning software, you can now burn an ISO file directly to disc from within Windows 7.  To do this just double-click on the ISO file and the following window will open:

After popping in a blank disc, choose the drive to which you want to burn, opt for verifying the file after burning if you require…

Windows takes care of the rest.  It’s certainly basic but it’s perfectly functional and does everything I need it to.  Nice one Microsoft!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Office 2003 – fix SKU011.CAB annoyance

I recently setup a new user on a PC someone else had been using.  The PC had Office 2003 Professional installed.

Upon running Outlook 2003 for the first time Office looks for a file off the original install CD and will not proceed without it.  The file in question is “SKU011.CAB”.  Other Office applications, e.g. Word, will continue to work even if the file is missing but Outlook refuses to play ball.

Unfortunately, the client couldn’t find their 2003 install CD.  I got my own and searched it for “SKU011.CAB” but it wasn’t to be found.  How strange!

Eventually I found the fix on which involves changing a registry key so as to prevent Office from looking for the CD.  As always, making changes to the registry can be a very risky business if you’re not sure what you’re at.  Always take a backup of the registry by creating a Restore Point using System Restore…

  • Start | Run | regedit
  • Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | Software | Microsoft | Office | 11.0 | Delivery
  • Click into the sub-folder/key here which has a unique name
  • Right-click the “CDCache” entry and change its value to “0”
  • Close Regedit and cross your fingers!

This worked for me, hopefully it will work for you.  Best of luck.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Need for Speed with DOSBox

I recently stumbled upon my beloved old copy of the absolutely fantastic original "The Need for Speed". This fabulous game came out in 1994 and blew me away. My sister, her boyfriend (now husband) and I spend a crazy number of hours playing this game. It rocked!

How to get it to play now though...? Well, I've used the wonderful DOSBox before for playing Doom 2 and Commander Keen and the like. This software runs in Windows (XP for example) and emulates a DOS environment with an old SoundBlaster 16 soundcard. Would it work with TNFS (The Need for Speed)?

After a lot of trial and error I finally got it working after getting a tip from a forum on a site called "alldeaf" ( I hadn't mounted the CDROM drive properly. Here's what you need to do:
  • Create a folder/directory on root of your C: drive called "tnfs" (i.e. c:\tnfs)
  • Run DOSBox
  • Type "mount c c:\tnfs"
  • Type "mount d d:\ -t cdrom"
  • Type d:
  • Type "install"
  • Follow the on-screen instructions
Hopefully this should do the trick for you. What a trip down amnesia lane! It really brought me back! It's still a brilliant game even if the graphics are a bit grainy.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

An Exabyte sounds like a lot

Recently I was watching Ocean’s 13 which passed the time reasonably pleasantly.  There was a supposedly awesome computer which our handsome heroes had to overcome called “The Greco”.  Apparently it stored its data “in a field of Exabytes”.

This got me thinking about all the different storage metrics and the fact many of us can get them confused.  I decided to pop the following list down for your viewing pleasure…

Name Abbreviation Amount
bit b Fundamental unit of data storage
Nibble   4 bits
Byte B 8 bits
Kilobyte kB 1024 Bytes
Megabyte MB 1024 Kilobytes
Gigabyte GB 1024 Megabytes
Terabyte TB 1024 Gigabytes
Petabyte PB 1024 TB
Exabyte EB 1024 PB

An Exabyte is seriously huge!  If you take it that DVD quality video requires a bandwidth of around 5Mbits/s plus about 0.45Mbits/s for its audio that gives a total bandwidth of 5.45Mbits/s.  This equals 0.68MB/s.  Now an Exabyte is a million million MB so divide that by 0.68, then by 60, then by 24, and finally by 365 and the answer is:

An Exabyte would be able to store 46,632 hours of playback time!!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Disabling AutoPlay in Windows

By default in Windows, AutoPlay kicks in when one inserts a CD-ROM, DVD, or USB drive containing some content - e.g. documents, images, music, or video.  Depending on your version of Windows and the content on the device, Windows may auto-run an installer (e.g. an Office install CD) or ask you what to do (e.g. open a folder to view files, play the music files with Media Player).

Some people find this feature annoying.  Another, more important issue is that the Conficker worm uses the feature to automatically jump from an infected USB drive onto the host PC.

To turn of the feature please follow one of the two methods...

Windows XP:

  • Download TweakUI.exe...
  • Install TweakUI.exe and then run the application
  • Expand (click +) "My Computer", then expand "AutoPlay"
  • Click on the "Types" option on the left and un-tick all boxes
  • Also, click on the "Drives" option on the left and un-tick all boxes
  • Click OK


Windows Vista:

  • Open the Control Panel (Start | Control Panel)
  • Click on “Play CDs or other media automatically”
  • Un-tick the tick-box called "Use Auto Play for all media and devices"



Patching against the Conficker worm

The Win32Conficker worm takes advantage of a vulnerability in the Server service of pretty much all versions of Windows and allows a remote attacker to take control of the infected computer.

According to Microsoft "Most anti-virus software could detect and block the Conficker worm, so if you have updated anti-virus software on your computer, you are at a much lower risk of being infected by the Conficker worm."

However, it is also recommended to ensure your Windows OS is patched so that you are not vulnerable to the threat.  In order to ensure you are patched against this nasty piece of work please follow the steps below...

1. Find out what version of Windows you are running

  • Hold down the Winlogo button (looks like the Windows icon) and tap once on R
  • Type "winver" and hit Enter
  • You will be able to read off what version of Windows you have, e.g. in the image below I can tell that I have Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3.


2. Download the correct patch for your Windows version

3. Apply the patch

  • Navigate to where you saved the patch and double-click it
  • Follow any on-screen prompts that appear

To find out more about Conficker have a look here:

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

What version of Office do I have?

Prior to Microsoft Office 2007, finding out what version you were running was very straightforward.  You clicked on the “Help” menu bar item and then on “About”.  Generally you would do this to find out not just what version you were running (i.e. Office 2003) but what Service Packs had been installed (e.g. Service Pack 1).


Recently I needed to quickly find out whether a customer’s Office 2007 installation had been upgraded with Service Pack 1.  I was stumped for a short while!  Where on earth was one to find the equivalent?

To save you the hassle, here’s the answer…

Click on the new “Office Button”, choose the relevant “Options” button at the very bottom of the menu, e.g. if you’re in Excel it will be “Excel Options”.  Then click “Resources”, and finally “About” – in fact you can probably see all you need to know at the bottom of the “Resources” screen without having to click “About”.

I’m sure they could have buried it a little more if they really put their minds to it!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Zoho Writer

Online document editors of some sort or another seem to be flavour of the month.  While many will automatically hop on the Google Docs bus, I heartily recommend taking a look at Zoho Writer.


Although technically in beta stage, in it's latest incarnation Zoho Writer 2.0 is a rather appealing proposition.  Zoho Writer is one of a suite of productivity and business tools.  There is also a spreadsheet application (Zoho Sheet), a PowerPoint-like application (Zoho Show), and loads more.


Zoho Writer allows you to create, edit, preview, and print new documents from scratch.  If required, your document can be exported to a variety of file formats including: .doc, .docx, .pdf, .odf, .rtf, .txt, .sxw, and .html.

If the document you need to work on is already in Word, or some other format that's just fine.  Zoho Writer can import files in a variety of formats, similar to those it can export.  There is an upload file size limit of 10MB which may pose a problem for very large documents - however, one could break the document up into several smaller files before uploading.

One thing I really like about the service is the provision of a Page View, similar to that in MS Word which allows you to work on the document in a more WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) manner with the edges of the page visible on screen.

Finally, documents can be shared amongst individual users or groups of users with read or read/write privileges being assigned as required.

Zoho Writer is free and comes with 1GB of storage space.  I haven't had to depend on this service yet so I can't say how it performs under stress but so far I'm very impressed.  I created this blog post with it and uploaded it easily.

Zoho Writer is easy to use, flexible, well-featured, and (so far, at least) reliable.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

ESET Smart Security v4.0 and NOD32 v4.0

      ESET Smart Security v4.0 and NOD32 v4.0 are being released shortly.

      artifact is a reseller of ESET security products. If you would like to know more please contact us via our website.

      The changes that have been made are:


      • Added support for SSL under Microsoft Windows 2000
      • Improved support for Microsoft Windows Live Mail v4 (beta)
      • Added import and export of root SSL certificates for Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera Software Opera web browsers
      • Added ability to edit user-defined servers for threat signature updates
      • Added "Smart Filtering" of logs to provide improved view of data

      Antivirus & Antispyware

      • Exclusions now supported for mapped network drives
      • Added "Smart Scan" option for quick and effective scans

      ESET Personal Firewall

      • Added support for UAC under Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008
      • Added 1863/TCP for Windows Live Messenger/MSN Messenger for Rules under Local Settings

      3 Mobile Broadband

      Just noticed that 3 have increased the monthly download cap of their basic mobile broadband service to 15GB.  This will set you back €19.99 inc. VAT per month.

      I must say I’ve been rather impressed by the service I get from my 3 mobile broadband dongle thingie.  The coverage in Navan and Dublin has never failed me and it even works on the delightful 109 bus between those two points!

      It wouldn’t even give a sniff of a signal anywhere I went in Wexford, however, and roaming broadband in Berlin proved unsuccessful but overall it’s a very good service.

      I don’t depend on the service on a daily basis, I use it when I’m stuck, travelling, or out at a customer’s site.  E.g. I only used about 7MB out of the 15GB allowance last month!  Perhaps if I had to depend on it I mightn’t have such a glowing report but, such as it has been for me, I give it a hearty thumbs up.

      Tuesday, 3 March 2009

      Rotating your screen

      The other day I was messing around with my laptop and inadvertently hit a combination of keys that rotated my screen right by 90 degrees.  I had seen this facility a long time ago and I had forgotten what the keystrokes were.

      Inevitably what followed was a rapid googling of the appropriate keyboard shortcut to restore normality.  The shortcuts are simple, fairly logical, and I include them here for your convenience.  You never know, you might actually need to rotate your screen around one day…

      CTRL + ALT + Up Arrow – Normal View

      CTRL + ALT + Down Arrow – Rotate by 180 degrees (upside down)

      CTRL + ALT + Left Arrow – Rotate Left by 90 degrees

      CTRL + ALT + Right Arrow – Rotate right by 90 degrees

      Note: apparently the shortcuts can vary and depend on your graphics card manufacturer, some seem to respond to CTRL + SHIFT + R.

      Friday, 9 January 2009

      Happy New Year!

      Forgot to say, I hope you have a truly fantastic 2009!

      Vista File Permission Tantrums

      I came across a rather interesting/annoying problem in Windows Vista today – just like any other day with Vista really...

      When one tried to save a file to a mapped drive the following error message would appear:

      "There has been a network or file permission error. The network connection may be lost"

      Very odd. I disconnected and reconnected the mapped drive, same thing. I checked and double-checked permissions – both share-level and NTFS permissions were all adequate. I applied as many updates/patches as I could find for Windows and Norton.

      Strangely, one could copy a file from, say, the desktop into the mapped drive without any issue. But if one tried to right-click and create a new file/folder on the mapped drive the same error came up.

      After trawling some forums I noticed that Offline Files reared its head quite a few times. I thought I'd try disabling it as it wasn't being used...

      To do this: Hit Start, type "offline files" into the search box and then click the resultant Offline Files button that appears at the top of the Start menu. Click "Disable" and then agree to a reboot.

      Happily this fixed the problem and all was well but it leaves me with a slightly bad taste in my mouth – why should one have to turn off Offline Files to be able to do some pretty bog standard file work? What if I needed Offline Files, e.g. for Folder Redirection?

      Roll on Windows 7.

      Monday, 18 August 2008

      artifact Navan Marketing Test

      Today artifact hits the small businesses of Navan with a small but concerted marketing effort.  I will be hand delivering a small number of flyers to some businesses around town.  The flyers were designed and printed in-house.  All going well I will do another, larger run.  Wish me luck!

      Thursday, 10 January 2008

      XP Startup Issues - The Recovery Console

      The Windows Recovery Console is a fantastically useful tool if you find yourself with a PC that will not boot Windows.

      There are many useful Windows startup tools such as Last Known Good Configuration and the many different flavours of Safe Mode but all of these rely on a bootable Windows system. System Restore is completely useless in this scenario since it relies on one being in Windows to use it.

      The kinds of things that could couse an unbootable Windows system could be:
      • Corrupted boot files - e.g. NTLDR, NTDETECT.COM
      • Corrputed Windows system files - NTOSKRNL.EXE, HAL.DLL
      The Recovery Console allows you to boot into an environment "underneath" that of your Windows installation (by using the Windows CD or by choosing it at boot time if you pre-installed it) and so you can perform major low level repairs to your Windows installation.

      Follow the link below to find out how to use the Recovery Console:

      XP Startup Issues - Removing all Third-Party Drivers

      In rare cases, you may be unable to determine which third-party driver is causing a startup error. To troubleshoot this issue, move all third-party driver files from the Windows\System32\Drivers folder to a different location. To do this, follow these steps:
      1. Use the Recovery Console to start the computer, or start the computer from a different installation of Windows if you have performed a parallel Windows installation.
      2. Move all files from the Windows\System32\Drivers folder that do not have a creation date for Windows XP of 8/13/2001. If the computer relies on a third-party IDE or SCSI controller driver for correct operation, you must identify those driver files, and then leave them in the Windows\System32\Drivers folder.
      3. Restart the computer.
      4. Continue the Windows Setup program.
      For more information about how to disable a service that prevents Windows from starting, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

      XP Startup Issues - Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking Support

      To troubleshoot potential environmental issues (i.e. Driver/Hardware related), first restart your computer in Safe mode or in Safe mode with networking support. If the issue is with a program that does not depend on network connectivity, Safe mode is appropriate. If the issue is with a network program, and you are using a network adapter to connect to a network, Safe mode with networking support may permit you to test the networking program, including browser issues.

      Note: You cannot use Safe mode with networking support when you use a modem or a PC Card connection to a network because modem drivers and PC Card drivers do not load in Safe mode or in Safe mode with networking support.

      If you start the computer in Safe mode or in Safe mode with networking support, and you can perform an operation that you previously experienced problems with, the issue is most likely environmental.

      Note: In Windows XP, you can perform a clean-boot by using the System Configuration Utility (Msconfig.exe). To use this tool go to: Start | Run | Type "msconfig"

      For more information about the System Configuration utility, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

      Note: You may not be able to test some operations in Safe mode because not all services and devices load in Safe mode or in Safe mode with networking support. For example, you cannot test multimedia issues that involve sound, nor can you test suspend or hibernation issues in Safe mode.

      If you start the computer in Safe mode or in Safe mode with networking support, and the issue still occurs, an environmental issue may still be the cause. Many function or filter drivers that third-party software installs may continue to load in Safe mode. Therefore, you may have to take an additional step to test and remove third-party drivers in Safe mode.

      To start the computer in Safe mode, follow these steps:
      1. Print these instructions before you go to step 2. They will not be available after you shut down the computer in step 2.
      2. Restart your computer.
      3. Use the F8 key. On a computer that is configured to start to multiple operating systems, you can press F8 when you see the Startup menu.
      4. Use the arrow keys to select a Safe mode option, and then press ENTER. Note: NUM LOCK functionality must be turned off for the arrow keys on the numeric keypad to work.
      5. If you have a dual-boot or multiple-boot system, use the arrow keys to select the installation that you want to access, and then press ENTER.
      In Safe mode, you have access to only basic files and drivers (such as mouse, monitor, keyboard, mass storage, base video, default system services, and no network connections). You can select from the following options:
      • The Safe Mode with Networking option loads all these files and drivers and the services and drivers necessary to start networking.
      • The Safe Mode with Command Prompt option is the same as Safe mode except that a command prompt starts instead of the graphical user interface (GUI).
      • The Last Known Good Configuration option starts your computer by using the registry information that was saved the last time that your computer shut down.
      • Safe mode helps you diagnose problems. If a symptom does not reappear when you start in Safe mode, you can rule out the default settings and minimum device drivers as possible causes. If a newly added device or a changed driver is causing problems, you can use Safe mode to remove the device or reverse the change.
      There are circumstances where Safe mode cannot help you. For example, Safe mode cannot help you when Windows system files that are required to start the computer are corrupted or damaged. In this case, the Recovery Console may help you.

      XP Startup Issues - Removing Unsigned Drivers

      All the drivers that are included with Windows XP use digital signatures to verify that they have been tested by the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL). Many third-party programs are written for Windows XP must install additional drivers that have not been tested by WHQL. Therefore, they do not receive a digital signature.

      Note: Some third-party vendors have tools that they can use to generate a valid digital signature even if these products were not tested by WHQL. The following procedure cannot be used to determine whether these drivers are installed.

      Windows XP includes the File Signature Verification tool (Sigverif.exe). You can use this tool to find all files on your computer that are not digitally signed. For the purposes of Windows XP clean-boot troubleshooting, you have to test only the files in the %Windir%\System32\Drivers folder. Note: %Windir% and %systemroot% are variables which point to the Windows XP folder - this is normally c:\windows but may not always be, hence the variable names being used.

      To use the Sigverif.exe tool, follow these steps:
      1. Click Start, click Run, type sigverif in the Open box, and then click OK.
      2. Click Advanced, click Look for other files that are not digitally signed, click Browse, locate the Windows\System32\Drivers folder, and then click OK two times.
      3. Click Start.
      After Sigverif.exe is completed, a list of all unsigned drivers that are installed on your computer appears.

      Note Many video drivers are not digitally signed. The following steps may cause problems with your video resolution. These problems may prevent you from starting the computer.

      The list of all signed and unsigned drivers that the Sigverif.exe tool finds is in the Sigverif.txt file in the %Windir% folder (typically, the Winnt or Windows folder). All unsigned drivers are noted as "Unsigned."

      When you determine which drivers are unsigned, create a folder to move the unsigned drivers to. Typically, SysDriversBak is an easy folder name to remember. Create the folder in the Windows directory so that if the computer is put into a no-boot situation, the drivers can be restored in the Recovery Console.

      Move the unsigned drivers, restart the computer (without the unsigned drivers in the Windows\System32\Drivers folder), and then test the program or other functionality to see whether the same error messages or issues still occur.

      Note: Because most driver files are associated with registry entries that have not yet been changed, you may receive the following error message: At least one driver or service failed to start...

      If the issue no longer occurs, the issue was caused by a third-party unsigned filter or function driver. A function driver is a driver that is used to load a specific device that uses one of the computer buses. A filter driver loads at a level above or below a function driver to add or modify the behavior of the function driver.

      To determine which unsigned driver is causing the problem, use one of the following methods:
      • Put drivers that are related to the same program or device back into the Windows\System32\Drivers folder together in the same test.
      • Put the top half of the drivers back into the Windows\System32\Drivers folder in the same test.
      The first technique is generally better at determining the cause of an issue, but you may not be able to determine which drivers are related. After you determine which driver is causing the issue, you can either remove the driver or program, disable the driver, or turn off service.

      To turn off a service, follow these steps:
      1. Click Start, and then click Run.
      2. Type %systemroot%\system32\services.msc /s, and then click OK.
      3. Double-click the service, click Disabled in the Startup Type list, and then click OK.
      4. Restart your computer.
      Search for drivers or other program updates, or replace the software or driver with a program or driver that is written specifically for Windows XP.

      To disable a driver, follow these steps:
      1. Click Start, and then click Run.
      2. Type %systemroot%\system32\compmgmt.msc /s, and then click OK.
      3. Click Device Manager.
      4. Double-click the device, click Do not use this device (disable) in the Device Usage list, and then click OK.
      5. Search for an updated driver for the device from the vendor.

      Monday, 12 November 2007

      Custom Display Resolutions in XP

      Having purchased a snazzy new 22" wide screen flat panel monitor and finding everything hunky dory in Windows Vista I tried the same monitor with a Windows XP machine only to find disappointment kicking down my door. When I went to Display Settings in Control Panel and dragged the Resolution slider up, the native resolution of the monitor was not there.

      Now every flat panel monitor should be run at its native resolution in order to look its best - every "virtual" pixel maps to a real one (or actually a real triad of red, green, and blue) on the screen. The monitor wanted to run at 1680x1050 but my only options were along the lines of 1280x1024, 1600x1200, 1920x1080 and so on. This was disappointing because the text and images looked either squashed or stretched.

      So what to do then? Well, the fix involved a little bit of registry hacking. The registry is essentially Windows' own internal database in which it keeps all its various settings. It's not usually supposed to be tweaked by humans but rather by Windows itself and if you get things wrong the results could be an un-bootable PC. Also, if you inadvertently set a resolution too high for your monitor you could damage it and/or your graphics card. So I obviously don't recommend doing any of this! You have been warned.

      Always back up your registry before tweaking it! The best way is probably to capture a System Restore point - Start Programs Accessories System Tools System Restore Create a restore point. If things go wrong you can always boot into Safe Mode (hit F8 at boot time) and choose "Restore my computer to an earlier time" in the System Restore utility.

      So here we go
      1. Open RegEdit - Start Run and type "regedit"
      2. Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\VIDEO{the address of your primary video often begins with "23A77BF7"}\0000
      3. The Default Settings.XResolution data value is the horizontal resolution, and the Default Settings.YResolution data value is the vertical.
      4. Double-click the Default Settings.XResolution data entry, select the Decimal radio button, and in the Value Data field, enter your desired horizontal resolution.
      5. Then do the same with Default Settings.YResolution to change the vertical resolution.
      6. Exit RegEdit and reboot your PC.
      7. You should now be able to choose the required resolution.

      If you're scared of tweaking your registry (and you probably should be!), there's a handy application on the web called PowerStrip which allows you similar resolution-changing functionality. However, although many on the web recommend it, I didn't find it to be of any help at all.

      Wednesday, 17 October 2007

      Problems with Vista and NAS boxes

      In the old days Microsoft used to used to encrypt user name and password challenges and responses between clients and servers using LM (LAN Manager). This was then updated to NTLM (NT LAN Manager) which offered greater resistance to hacking. SAMBA, the SMB client/server system used by Linux and, consequently, most NAS boxes generally supports both of these protocols when you try and login from a Windows client machine.

      However, the more recent and secure NTLMv2 is not generally supported by most NAS boxes. Consequently, a client attempting to login using NTLMv2 will not be able to access the NAS since it's responses will not be understood by the NAS.

      Window 2000 (SP4) and XP support NTLMv2 but do not make it mandatory. Unfortunately, good old Windows Vista now defaults to send "NTLMv2 Response Only" which means that many NAS boxes will not be able to authenticate the Windows Vista client.

      The way to fix this is to configure Vista so that it can still use NTLMv2 but only if negotiated, therefore using either LM or NTLM otherwise. Now the NAS box will be able to authenticate the client since it speaks the lingo.

      The following steps detail the process:

      1. Click Start menu Run then type "secpol.msc"
      a. Note: Run is not in the Vista start menu by default and can be put there by right clicking
      the menu choosing Properties then Start Menu tab then Customize and ticking "Run
      b. Alternatively just hold the Windows Logo or Start button on your keyboard and the hit
      the Pause/Break key

      2. In the Local Security Policy editor navigate to: Security Settings Local Policy Security Options and double click the "Network Security: LAN Manager authentication level Properties" policy

      3. Click the drop-down menu and choose "Send LM & NTLM - use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated", click "Ok", and then close the Local Security Policy editor

      You should now be able to logon to your NAS box with the correct username and password.

      For more information see the Microsoft knowledgebase item below: