Category Archives: Windows

Mac boot menu recommendations?

Hey there Mac geeks: a question.

I’ve got BootCamp running on my Mac Pro, and can get the menu for OSX vs Windows… but only if I remember to hold down the Alt key while booting.

Mac boot menu

What’s the best way to get this to appear (with a timeout, preferably) automatically?

It doesn’t look like BootCamp will do it.

Two alternative boot menus appear to be

rEFIt

and rEFInd

Any recommendations, or other suggestions?

(To clarify: I want to keep OSX as the default, but I want the computer to prompt — without having to hold down the Alt key at a specific time — to visibly allow the user to override it. Like Windows does with its boot menu when you have multiple operating systems installed.)

Update: Via Twitter, one vote for rEDInd, and a bunch of unhelpful comments asking me why I’d want to boot a Mac into Windows :-/

Chasing a BSOD

I’m trying to nail down a repeated Blue Screen Of Death on one of my PCs. It’s only happened in the past week or so, on my 3ish year old HP a6760a desktop, in both Win7 32-bit (which I’m phasing-out) and 64-bit (which I’m moving to).

The crashes seem to happen in a couple of places, but this one is typical (output of the dump file via NirSoft Blue Screen View, with a little re-arranging of its HTML output):

Dump File 122912-22417-01.dmp
Crash Time 29/12/2012 9:15:14 AM
Bug Check String NTFS_FILE_SYSTEM
Bug Check Code 0x00000024
Parameter 1 00000000`001904fb
Parameter 2 fffff880`0a707068
Parameter 3 fffff880`0a7068c0
Parameter 4 fffff880`012ea820
Caused By Driver Ntfs.sys
Caused By Address Ntfs.sys+b7820
File Description  
Product Name  
Company  
File Version  
Processor x64
Crash Address ntoskrnl.exe+7efc0
Stack Address 1  
Stack Address 2  
Stack Address 3  
Computer Name  
Full Path C:\Windows\Minidump\122912-22417-01.dmp
Processors Count 2
Major Version 15
Minor Version 7601
Dump File Size 291,720

I’ve tried ensuring all patches were in place; that didn’t help.

Then I tried rolling back using System Restore to before it was happening. That didn’t help either.

Now I’ve tried installing the latest BIOS patch, which HP does say can help with some Win7 BSODs (though not specifically what I’m getting).

So far so good, will see what happens from here.

Update 1/1/2013: Still getting crashes. Interestingly, most (possibly all) seem to occur when Chrome is running, and particularly on pages with Flash. I have removed Flash, but it seems Chrome has built-in Flash support. So… I’ve temporarily removed Chrome to see if it stops happening. (It was up to date: Version 23.0.1271.97 m).

Update 1/1/2013 10pm: Not sure that helped. I did do a full malware check using MSE, which found: OpenCandy adware — it reckoned it was in D:\Users\Daniel\Downloads\avc-free.exe — which I think is a free “Any Video Converter” product I was mucking about with recently (I don’t think it’s the one I settled on). It’s not clear to me that OpenCandy would be causing these crashes, especially as I don’t think it was even active. Have removed it anyway.

Update 2/1/2013 8pm: Well, this is entertaining. Still getting crashes, and now it’s not booting at all. In fact it’s not even getting to the BIOS startup screen. Obviously some serious hardware problem.

Update 2/1/2013 9:15pm: After trying many suggestions from the HP support web site, such as unplugging all devices and even disconnecting hard drives and removing RAM, no luck. The power goes on, the CPU and video fans spin, but no display at all, not even the customary single beep.

I’ve posted to the HP forum hoping someone there has some ideas.

Windows 8/Server 2012 new interface – is this progress?

Jakob Nielsen nails my concerns with Windows 8, specifically that the paradigm doesn't work on PCs:

On a regular PC, Windows 8 is Mr. Hyde: a monster that terrorizes poor office workers and strangles their productivity.

… (PCs) used to be Microsoft's core audience, and it has now thrown the old customer base under the bus by designing an operating system that removes a powerful PC's benefits in order to work better on smaller devices.

An example I'm finding trying to use Windows 2012 Server, which uses the same interface: the start menu isn't visible on the taskbar. You have to press the Windows key to get it. But this causes huge problems over Remote Desktop, which is how many servers are accessed. You have to specifically reconfigure Remote Desktop to do it, which then causes issues on your own desktop.

Windows Server 2012 - no Start button Windows Server 2012 - if you're lucky it will appear

The Start Menu does seem to appear if you mouse over the bottom left of RDP window, but I haven't yet worked out precisely what you need to do. Hover? Click? Swipe? It just seems to pop up semi-randomly. If there's a better way of doing it, it's certainly not obvious.

In my book, this is not a useability improvement.

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Converting .ts (DVB) to other formats (in Windows)

I’m always on the lookout for a better method of converting DVB (.ts) video streams to more useable formats.

This seems to do a decent job: Free Video Converter

— just beware of the installation questions; if you accept the defaults, it’ll install an unwanted toolbar, a doubtful driver optimiser, and an unneeded (in my case) plug-in for Firefox and Chrome.

Anybody got other suggestions, including for OSX?

To use Windows "shutdown" or "psshutdown" remotely, turn off UAC

I was wrestling with trying to get shutdown or psshutdown to remotely shut down a Windows machine.

These instructions (for shutdown) seemed so straightforward: ensure the relevant service is running, that it has access through the Windows firewall, and that the calling username is aligned with one on the remote box that has permissions to shutdown.

psshutdown avoids the latter point by letting you specify the username/password.

But everything I tried returned Access Denied.

The answer, it turns out, is to switch off UAC for that user on the remote box. Then it works:

psshutdown \\tintin -u daniel

PsShutdown v2.52 - Shutdown, logoff and power manage local and remote systems
Copyright (C) 1999-2006 Mark Russinovich
Sysinternals - www.sysinternals.com

Password:
TINTIN is scheduled to power off in 00:00:20.

Of course, UAC is there for a good reason. In this case I’m not too troubled because the box involved is one I’m going to decommission in the near future, but one would hope there’s a way of making this work with UAC still enabled.

Trouble moving iTunes from PC to Mac

I tried the other day to move my iTunes library from the PC to the Mac. I figured we might as well move everyone in the house’s iTunes libraries onto OSX and then avoid having to maintain multiple copies of the iTunes software on Windows.

From reading about it, it shouldn’t be too hard.

In theory you just ensure all the files are in the iTunes folder (by ensuring iTunes is set to organise it, and running a Consolidate files operation) then copy the folder across to the new computer’s iTunes folder and open iTunes there… plus authorise/de-authorise computers as appropriate.

Problem was once I’d moved the files across, iTunes on the Mac couldn’t find some of them:

iTunes library error

465-odd songs. It seemed to be primarily songs within compilations. They were all there on the hard disk, just not where OSX iTunes thought they should be. (Checking back on the PC, Windows iTunes was still happy.)

It would give me the option to find individual tracks, and then claim it could try and use that info to find others, but never seemed to be able to automatically find more of them by itself.

Where it was whole albums gone missing, I ended up removing them then adding them again.

Still about 90 lost which I may have to do individually… though I’m wondering if I should just remove everything from iTunes, then drag all the iTunes folders back into it to reload them from scratch… assuming it’s okay with folders and subfolders being added.

According to email clients and anti-virus, an EXE disguised as a PDF is not suspicious?!

So seriously, why can't email clients like Outlook, as well as virus scanners, flag EXE files disguised as other things?

For instance, at work we got one the other day that was a fake Microsoft notification.

Subject: Important Changes to Microsoft Services Agreement

It basically asks you to open the attached file to see the details. The attached file is Microsoft-Services-Agreement.zip – inside that is “Microsoft Services Agreement.pdf.exe”

I scanned it with the virus scanner (with up-to-date definitions). It doesn't flag it as suspicious.

Not suspicious?! It's a frigging EXE disguised as a PDF. Windows users who have the default “Hide known extensions” on* will see it as a PDF. How is that not suspicious?

*That's a stupid default, too.

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My PCs

I have two desktop PCs at home; a no-name and an HP.

One of the big benefits of the HP is that the specs are all online, which has made checking hardware and preparing for upgrades easier. This and the slightly better build/design is probably enough to have me looking at name-brand PCs next time.

The specs for the no-name one were online (as part of the product sales information), but have recently disappeared, so — more for my own purposes than anything else — I’m copy/pasting them both here, with corrections for previous upgrades.

Yes, I realise they’re both long in the tooth. I’m on a budget here. No doubt this will all look pretty funny in 5-10 years when looking back.

Tintin

We use this as the workhouse computer, office stuff, that kind of thing.

Bought off Zazz in 2007.

Case: X-Sonic 7022 ATX

Processor: Athlon 64 3500 (2.2Ghz) 64 X2 Dual Core 4400+, 2.3 Ghz

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-M61SME-S2 with onboard graphics (GeForce 6100), PCI-E, 6xUSB2.0 (two at front, four at rear), LAN, Audio etc.

Hard Drive: Samsung HD250HJ 250GB SATA with 8Mb Buffer

Optical Drive: Samsung WriteMaster 18x Dual Layer DVD+-RW Burner

RAM: Transcend 1GB DDR2 533Mhz 3Gb

(Previous posts on this PC: When I bought it; shopping for a CPU upgrade; installing the CPU)

Haddock

This one is a tad faster, and is used for video capture and editing, as well as everyday stuff.

HP Pavilion a6760a

Case: Mid-size ATX (one of those standard circa 2009 HP jobs)

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 (2.8 Ghz) — I really like that the HP web site includes upgrade information for this.

Motherboard: MCP73M01H1 (Napa)

RAM: DDR2 2Gb (2x 1Gb) PC2-6400 4Gb (2x 2Gb) PC2-6400 — I notice that Windows 7 32-bit can only currently see about 3.3 Gb of this, so I’m thinking a switch to 64-bit Windows may be in order, if I can determine that all of the hardware supports it.

Video: NVIDIA GeForce 9300 GS

Audio: Integrated Realtek ALC888S Audio

TV-tuner: AVerMedia DVB-T/PAL — of all the TV tuner cards I’ve had over the years, this has been the smoothest running.

Hard drive: 500 Gb, SATA, 7200 RPM. I’ve just plugged an additional Western Digital Blue Caviar 1Tb drive (also SATA, 7200 RPM) in to add to the capacity.

Optical drive: DVD+/-R/RW 16X 12X +/-DL LS 12X RAM SuperMulti SATA drive

Power: 300W power supply

(Previous post from when I bought it.)

PS. A bloke at work upgraded his PC to 32 Gb of RAM. Makes me feel quite inadequate. Damn DINKs.

Chinese character weirdness in Windows 7

It used to be I could view Chinese characters in Notepad, Notepad++, Wordpad, that kind of thing. It stopped working at some stage: all I got was little squares. Wierdness.

No amount of fiddling with encoding settings (particularly in Notepad++, which is replete with them) seemed to fix it.

Looking around the Control Panel's language settings didn't help either. You can install extra Language Packs, but the Chinese one is for Windows Enterprise and Ultimate only. I knew this couldn't be the answer because previously it had been working, but I was only on Windows Professional.

Following a tipoff I found via Google, from someone having similar problems, I tried this: create a new local logon; log on as it; log off again; go and try again.

Sure enough, that worked. Why? Well that's anybody's guess.

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Errors using AttachDBfilename and SQLEXPRESS when migrating dev code to production servers

One of the developers at work had used the Visual Studio web authentication tool thingy, which created an SQL Server Express database which was configured in his web.config to attach the file for use.

When migrating this to a server that has SQL Server (not SQL Server Express) this obviously doesn’t work; you get connection errors.

As this useful post says:

AttachDBFilename is unique to SQL Express, it spins up a user instance of SQL Express attached to a specific DB Filename for single user mode. Database is simply the name of the database to use, it has no additional connotation. For any production server, you would most likely not be using AttachDBFilename. It is strictly useful for development and experimentation in single-user mode.

The answer is to attach the MDF (database file) to SQL Server. You may want to change the database name; it seems to just plonk in the original filename (with path) there, which is pretty unwieldly.

Create an SQL Server login, and a database user (linked to the login) for it (I gave it the dbowner role, though it’s probably possible to restrict it a bit more), and then change the web.config:

  • “data source=.\SQLEXPRESS;” becomes “Server=(local);”
  • “AttachDBFilename=|DataDirectory|\aspnetdb.mdf” becomes “Database=[databasename]; User=[username]; Password=[password]”
  • “User Instance=true” needs to be removed

Cross your fingers and hopefully that’ll work.

Google Desktop discontinued

The Google blog has detailed a number of Google products being discontinued. Most of them I’ve never heard of (Aardvark?) or considered of doubtful use (Google Pack).

But the really disappointing cheap cialis online one for me is the end of Google Desktop.

In the last few years, there’s been a huge shift from local to cloud-based storage and computing, as well as the integration of search and gadget functionality into most modern operating systems. People now have instant access to their data, whether online or offline. As this was the goal of Google Desktop, the product will be discontinued on September 14, including all the associated APIs, services, plugins, gadgets and support.

I really like the way Google Desktop can simultaneously search my local documents, emails in Thunderbird, and in GMail as well. I suppose I’d better learn more about Windows 7 Search — does it even offer the same capabilities?