Windows Live Messenger: Do They Analyze Crash Reports?

May 19, 2008

For close to a year (well, at least six months) I noticed that my Live Messenger crashes easily when network connectivity gets flaky (especially on wireless networks).

I’ve been diligently submitting crash reports, but it’s bene close to a year, so I can’t help but wonder:

a) Does anyone look at those reports?

b) As I’m (probably) not the only person encountering this bug (and to me it happens weekly), why is it taking them so long to fix it?

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Buying Wireless Access Point – Again

April 26, 2008

I’ve had enough of crappy wireless access points. I won’t name any of the vendors (isolated cases, possible user configuration error, etc.), but after the latest problem I have to blog about this.

Here’s a short list of crap I’ve had to deal with the four WLAN APs I’ve owned in the past two years:

AP1: no support for authentication and no support for anything else (invisible SID, MAC address control, etc.). It was OK for a while (you could see an occasional neighbor sharing your bandwidth), but then P2P folks got on board. Had to go get rid of it.

AP2: generally flaky, after eight months started suffering from frequent random reboots. Yes, maybe those were attack-induced crashes. In any case, the vendor didn’t have any firmware updates and neither factory defaults nor different attempted “tunings” helped. The vendor’s service center helped by restoring the firmware (?!). Of course I had tried that myself already. Had to get rid of it.

AP3: bought a new piece of crap – with “draft N” support (although I don’t have any draft-N WLAN cards, I wanted to go high-end and be future-proof). Woo-hoo! Yes, but woo-hoo only until I realized that several applications on my LAN and Wireless LAN had major difficulties establishing connections through this AP (e.g. it’d take Outlook many minutes to connect to Exchange). Again, tons of wasted time with no ROI. Additionally the thing didn’t support bridging so I couldn’t add additional access points to my home. Oh, and clients struggle for minutes to obtain a DHCP lease. And finally, its antennas were hard-wired to the body (can’t replace them with a high gain antenna without breaking the damn thing apart). Fine, let’s get another one.

AP4: bought a stable (piece of crap, as it turned later). I set it up alongside the AP3 (AP4’s WAN port is connected to AP3’s LAN port and I connect to AP4 via WLAN). Good, now DHCP leases are always obtained and they’re obtained quickly. Bad: now I have two APs to troubleshoot. Take two: reverse the roles – make AP4 Primary and AP3 its LAN client. Badness – firewall and DMZ settings on AP4 are all-or-nuthin’. Great. Now I have to make AP3 the DMZ server, disable firewall on AP4 and manage firewall settings on AP3 (I already know that my WLAN clients have difficulties dealing with AP3). With great certainty I predict more wasted time and frustration in the very near future.

At this point I’m ready to shell out a pretty penny for a good AP.

By good I mean:

  1. Stable
  2. Can maintain 500 sessions/connections
  3. Reasonably rich firewall and NAT functionality (not enterprise-, but power user-level)
  4. Supports bridge mode
  5. Supports DMZ (perhaps more than one host only and perhaps in a granular (by port) way)
  6. The vendor should have good history of firmware maintenance for their WLAN products
  7. Supports external high gain antenna
  8. Everything else that’s reasonable to expect in a mid- to high-end wireless access point for home/SOHO use.

By the way, I do not want to ‘roll my own’. I looked at open source firmware for APs, but I already spend too much time on maintenance of home IT stuff. I just want something high-end that works properly. Suggestions?


Shrink Your Tiny Screen with Google Mobile Ads

April 24, 2008

Google mobile ads are here – just in time for the free mobile OS.

Let’s see:

  • real estate cost [(% of the phone screen covered by Google ads) * (cost of the phone)]
  • bandwidth charges for ad content
  • time wasted waiting for ads to download
  • decreased productivity due to increased scrolling

Outlook Keeps Running

April 14, 2008

I know I’m not breaking any news here, but I happened to have some time yesterday and I decided to take a look at the issue of Outlook now quitting when it’s supposed to quit. Basically you exit the program (either properly or by going to File > Exit), but it remains running and you can see OUTLOOK.EXE in Task Manager. End Process does the job but preferably the thing should just exit on its own.

If you scroogle the Web for this you’ll see that there are several reasons and solutions (or workarounds). What worked for me was disabling the offending plug-in/add-on (Tools > Options > Other > Advanced Options > Add-In Manager|COM Add-Ins). I don’t know which one it was but I disabled few non-essential ones and now the thing disappears from Task Manager within five seconds.


Revisiting Linux on Desktop

February 14, 2008

Two years ago and after five years of frustration I kind of gave up on Linux at home. I use it regularly at work (a rather limited set of Linux server applications), but I decided to eliminate it from my home because after so many years I got sick of its little problems.

Recently I’ve been thinking about resurrecting my old Athlon PC and after a bit of research last week I came across this article. Well, I thought, what the heck – let’s give it a try.

Yesterday I downloaded the latest Ubuntu desktop ISO and today I installed it on the PC. Findings:
o I was able to download the freely distributable MS fonts but a bug in Ubuntu’s (or Debian’s, actually) font manager prevented me from configuring X-Windows to use them
o Since I planned to keep the box on at all times, I downloaded the BOINC package but a bug in the BOINC configuration tool prevented me from using it. (Yes, there are some “try this and if that doesn’t work try that” posts on the forums, but I have smarter things to do, thank you very much).
o For some reason (I spent 20 minutes trying to find out why – no luck) the OS can’t reboot. It hangs on shutdown/restart.
o For some reason the OS can’t switch users – it hangs on X-Windows stop (probably related to above shutdown/restart problem)

One funny thing is that there were over 200 security updates to install (and this is the latest edition of Ubuntu). Remember the days when dozens of Windows updates seemed outrageous?

What’s good? Well, the OS looks prettier, selection of applications is richer (20 chess programs anyone?), but it still reminds me of a pretty Frankenstein – all parts are good but it’s very difficult to get them to form a nice and properly functioning whole.

I think I’ve had enough Linux on desktop for quite some time. Linux on desktop, see you in 2010!


Convenience over Security – Enjoy Running Unsigned PowerShell Scripts

February 11, 2008

I’ve been very pro-Windows Vista but sometimes it’s just too difficult to deal with its annoyances.

Yesterday I wanted to run some PowerShell script copied from someone’s blog. First, it wouldn’t run ’cause there was no PowerShell installed. What?? Oh, well, I guess it did not ship with Vista. I downloaded and installed PowerShell but – alas! – it wouldn’t execute unsigned code.

Great! Back to Scroogle – let’s look for workarounds and solutions. After a while – bingo! – I landed at http://www.hanselman.com/blog/SigningPowerShellScripts.aspx. That’s some complicated and time consuming stuff! Does it really have to be this complicated?

Oh, well, let’s download the few hundred MBs of stuff we need. At first I got MS Visual Studio 2008 (quite a download) but it didn’t have makecert.exe. All right, let’s try .NET Framework 2.0. As I struggled with the poor download speed, I had to call it a day.

What a waste of time. Things like this make me sick!

Today I continued to waste time on this crap. The makecert utility would fail ( Error: WriteFile failed => 0x5 (5)).

After additional scroogling I found out (http://www.appdeploy.com/messageboards/tm.asp?m=20873) that the stupid error means that I (admin on this machine) do not have the permission to write to c:\. How stupid is that? Changing makecert’s destination to c:\users\admin made it complete without error.

Next, I couldn’t execute Set-ExecutionPolicy AllSigned (mind you, I’m administrator of this computer) because the attempt to modify the Windows registry required was refused. Really smart!

At this point I had enough so here’s my workaround for you:
Run regedit.exe – go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PowerShell\1\ShellIds\Microsoft.PowerShell
and add a “String Value” registry key called ExecutionPolicy with the value of Unrestricted.
– or –
Save this file (click here – this is for Windows Vista x86 – I don’t know if Windows XP and/or Vista x64 have the same key) below as something that ends on “.reg” – e.g. ps_unrestricted.reg and make sure that the file is properly formatted (there are extra line breaks in it right now). Next, if you’re not Administrator, run regedit.exe, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ PowerShell \ 1 \ ShellIds \ Microsoft.PowerShell, right-click on Microsoft.PowerShell (in the left pane) and give your account (e.g. dick) all permissions that can be given. Then double-click on ps_unrestricted.reg and the key should be created in your registry. Now you can remove your account from the list of accounts with permissions on this key.

And I’ve got an enhancement request for the Windows Vista team: I want a “god” account type that has absolute powers, permissions and all.

P.S. The PS script I downloaded in the end didn’t work (many syntax errors in the code). Wonderful…

Update [2008/02/12]: The “god” mode works after one disables user access control.

Update [2008/05/03]: The workaround works for Windows Server 2008 as well. Also I corrected above instructions (I incorrectly stated that “DWORD” should be created which of course wouldn’t work).


Awful Application: Adobe Acrobat Reader

October 2, 2007

Just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, it does it again. Long gone are the days when it was useful for viewing PDF files. Reader v8 is simply awful.

A workaround (Scroogle the Net for details) is to go to (default install directory) C:\Program Files\Adobe\Reader 8.0\Reader\plug_ins and remove or rename (safer) unnecessary plug-ins.