Don’t restart my server!

On a home or desktop PC, uptime isn’t really too much of an issue. Of course it’s irritating when your PC crashes while you’re doing something, but worst case scenario is that you have to pop downstairs for a coffee.

On a server, however, this isn’t the case. I’m talking Windows here, because that’s the system I received this message on last week:

Updated and restarted server

Now, I don’t want to be seeing this unexpectedly. I understand the need that certain updates may require a reboot (well, mostly understand…), but surely the default should be that I get to chose when the reboot happens!?! I’m no server expert, so there may be ways around this, but this particular server was running for UAT purposes, so when my UAT Team tell me things aren’t working and I logon to find this, I’m not happy.

Is there a way to stop this happening? I’m not talking about the Windows Update settings, because that requires you to logon, and if you have a lot of servers (especially in a multi-VM environment) you don’t really want to have to logon to each one to get the windows updates sorted. Especially if you plan for this to happen overnight.

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CTRL+S = SAVE!

There are a few definitions of “Save” on www.dictionary.com:

  • To keep from being lost: to save the game.
  • Computers. To copy (a file) from RAM onto a disk or other storage medium.
  • To keep safe, intact, or unhurt; safeguard; preserve.

I think that in the computing sense, when working on that all-important report or code file, all of the above apply. You should get into the habit of constantly saving your work. If you don’t know many keyboard shortcuts and find menus/toolbars keep you from saving regularly, then learn at least this one:

CTRL+S

I do this all the time. Constantly. I’ll type a few words, hit CTRL+S, finish a sentence, hit CTRL+S, realise I made a mistake, correct it, hit CTRL+S.

I repeat: You should always be saving your work.

Too many times have I had phonecalls and questions like this:

“If my computer/Word/the internet/universe crashes while I was working, can I get back what I didn’t save?”

Or worse still:

“I closed my document and accidentally clicked ‘no’ when it asked me if I wanted to save…”

And I hate having to say that most of the time, the answer is “Not really”. Sure, Word has the autorecovery feature, but it won’t help if you’re the one that closed Word without saving, and it’s not 100%. Plus, if you rely on it, it’ll bite you in the ass when you’re working in another application.

So please, (CTRL+S) for your own sake, (CTRL+S) make sure you save your work regularly. (CTRL+S)

Why won’t they subsidise the iPhone?

My 18-month contract was up in December, and I’m in the market for a new mobile device. I say “device” rather than “phone” because I have a few requirements outside of a standard phone:

  • Reliability (no crashes, need to restart etc).
  • Largish screen (at least larger than that on my Sony Ericsson w810).
  • 3G internet browsing.
  • Wi-fi.
  • Fast UI.
  • Ability to display web pages properly, rather than cut-down WAP-style pages.
  • Ability to run Java (for the Google Mail application etc).
  • Subsidised by the network operator.

I’d dearly love an iPhone, but since Apple have clearly told o2 (the only operator in the UK to offer iPhone) not to subsidise the cost of the handset, I won’t be getting one. Not to mention the fact that even iPhone v2.0 is rumoured not to have 3G. It’s lovely just no good for me; £300+ is a lot of money to spend on something that doesn’t have all the things on my list

So I’m looking at Nokia n-series now. I like the N96 and the N810, but I haven’t investigated the price in the stores yet.

Of course the “right” thing to do is to keep my phone (which is working fine, though I really wish the screen was bigger and it had 3G) until the perfect phone comes along to blow me away with it’s coolness. iPhone 3.0, anyone?…

Update: I’m going for N96 if anything; I just found out the N800 and N810 don’t even have internet connections – they rely on wi-fi or a bluetooth connection to a mobile phone!  Rubbish!

No Google Calculator on Google Mobile?

You may or may not have found the amazing Google Calculator yet. Sure, it’s a great tool when you’re at your desk, but what about when you’re away from your desk? Maybe you’re even out and about?

I recently found myself at the petrol garage, trying to fill my tyres with air. Trouble is, the pressure gauge on the machine registered PSI, and the booklet for the car recommended pressure in Bar. So given that I’m stood on the forecourt with people waiting behind me and I don’t know how to convert them, what do I do?

As a self-confessed geek, my first idea was to look for a conversion utility on my mobile phone, a Sony Ericsson w810i. Turns out I don’t have one, so my next port of call was the internet.

Except the internet isn’t always formatted well for the tiny tiny screen on my phone. And javascript etc doesn’t work (let’s face it, most of these type of sites do the work locally in javascript). So then I remembered Google Calculator. I logged onto Google Mobile (http://www.google.co.uk/xhtml) on my phone, guessed what the syntax might be and entered the following:

2.6 bar in psi

Unfortunately, I got a load of search results – not what I was expecting, especially as the websites they linked to were hard to read on the mobile. Try it yourself using http://www.google.co.uk/xhtml.

In the end, I had to call my Dad who said it’s approx 15 psi = 1 bar, so I needed about 38 psi.

I had another play once I got home, and found that if you select the “View Google in Classic” link at the bottom of the mobile home page, then enter your calculator query, it works!

So, Google Mobile Team, please please please can you enable Google Calculator for mobile? A “Google Pocket Calculator”, if you will…

Grant Access to Custom Event Log

I’ve had this problem today so thought I’d post it here as it was quite hard to sort out and the thing that finally fixed it was a reply in a forum somewhere.

You may find that you get a message similar to the following when your application attempts to write to an event log:

Cannot open log for source XYZ. You may not have write access.

The solution is straightforward, but sadly there is no GUI to implement it, instead you must edit a registry string value using SDDL.

Here’s the steps to take to try and resolve this issue:

1. Open regedit.exe.
2. Navigate to HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\EventLog\[EventLogName].
3. Edit/Create a new string value called CustomSD.
4. Append the following to the CustomSD string value (without the quotes): “(A;;0x7;;;S-1-1-0)“.
5. Save.

Hopefully your application should now be working, but this isn’t the perfect solution, as it’s akin to granting “Everyone” all access to read/write/clear your event log. Let me explain.

The appended text is Security Descriptor Definition Language (SDDL), and is more specifically an Access Control Entry (ACE) string.  The specific example I’ve provided above is made up as follows:

AceType: “A” = 0x00 (ACCESS_ALLOWED_ACE_TYPE)
AceFlags: “” = 0x00
Access Mask: “0x7” = Read, Write, Clear
Ace Sid: “S-1-0-0” = Security Identifier (SID) (found using whoami.exe) of the Everyone user

Obviously you should probably change the access mask and ACE SID to be more locked-down, but admittedly this is what I did to get things working.

Hope this has helped. These are the websites I used to get me this far:

One Job to Do

My PC will confound me several times a day, every day. It’s not just me, either.

Today I had trouble installing .NET 3.0. Recently I’ve also had problems with Explorer freezing, the Outlook notify icon stays visible even when I have no unread email, and occasionally double-clicking a file only opens the application and not the file. Grrr.

These are all things that should just work (though I hear not even Apple are doing so well in this area recently…). These are tools, appliances, they have one job to do and I expect them to do it. SVN was recently a problem for me. The settings for Tortoise SVN to integrate with Araxis Merge didn’t seem to be giving the correct results, and only after many hours of poring over various files and reading various TSVN webpages did I find that it was just confusing filenames causing my problems, and that everything was working perfectly.

I’ve installed and almost as quickly uninstalled Resharper, too. I’m really disappointed about this, but the 20-minute performance hit opening one of my solutions (before I got bored and killed the process) was too much to bear for the additional refactoring tools. I was looking forward to catching up to where I was 4 years ago on Eclipse, too. Turns out I’m not the only one.

These often aren’t actually problems with the tools as much as the environment they’re in. Other people say it works on their machine.

So this has turned into a rant, and I’m not the only one who’s been through it I’m sure. I’m at a point where I’d like to re-install Windows, but seriously – that’s a lot of work. I get upset too easily.  The really worrying thing is that there are probably lots of people out there thinking the same thing about software I’ve written…

.NET 3.0 Framework Installation Failure

I’m partly blogging this because it’ll serve as an aide-memoire when I next have this problem and can’t remember how I fixed it.

I don’t know the root cause, but there’s a bug in the 3.0 and 3.5 installers for the .NET framework.  For me, I was getting the Windows XP error reporting showing up. This happened when installing from the standalone installer as well as running the Visual Studio 2008 installation.

When poring through the log files that XP’s error reporting was planning to send to Micro$oft, I spotted the following:

“Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 has encountered a problem during setup.  Setup did not complete correctly.”

and

“Windows Communication Foundation: [2] Error: Installation failed for component Windows Communication Foundation. MSI returned error code 1603”

and finally:

“Error 1402.Could not open key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesEventlogSecurityServiceModel 3.0.0.0.  System error 5.  Verify that you have sufficient access to that key, or contact your support personnel.”

I’m running as administrator (I know, I know, I shouldn’t be), so this was strange.  Still, it took adding Everyone with Full access to that registry key for the setup to work.  Now 3.0 and 3.5 and Visual Studio install okay.

Here’s a couple of links that helped me out:

Phew!  You didn’t get this trouble with notebook and pen…