Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Sorry State of Updates

Automatic updates suck. While it is important to keep your OS and installed software up to date, everyone wants to do it ‘their way’, which usually ends up being annoying, pointless, and time consuming. I’ll start off with a couple pet peeves of mine, and then list some examples of how they could be better handled.

First on the list – Adobe. Reader updates are annoying enough, but at least they install rather quickly. Creative Suite updates however, are a different beast. Oh look, there’s an Illustrator update. Close out of Outlook and Firefox before installing it.  Wait, what? Close Outlook and Firefox for Illustrator?

Fine, so I close out of the 2 most used programs on my system to allow the update to complete. Thankfully, Adobe provides a progress meter. But not just any progress meter, it’s a useless one. It will keep going up to about 60% and then restarting, for about 30 minutes, before it just disappears and says it is done.

Recommendation for Adobe: Make the progress meter actually display progress, and possibly an ETA for completion.

Next up – Java. Sun has made some improvement here. Java updates will now remove the previous version, so you won’t have (as many) Java folders in Program Files.

However, Java loves to stick around in other ways. Take a moment to check Task Manager for jusched.exe. That’s your Java updater running.

When there is a Java update, you get a popup that a ‘New version is available’, with buttons for ‘Download Now’ or ‘Download Later’. If you click Now, it disappears, downloads the update in the background, and then pops up again – ‘New version is ready to be installed’. During the update install process, you have to opt out of the Bing (or whatever other company) toolbar they’re pushing this time around.

That updater does something else too – It rebuilds caches of frequently used Java objects every 30 seconds or so. Watch your disk IO with it running vs. having it closed. Good luck keeping it closed. If you disable the Java Update service, it will be reenabled the next time you install an update.

Recommendation for Sun/Java: Don’t have an updater running in the background as a service (or at all), and don’t turn it back on if I disable it. When I go to a website that uses Java, do an update check, and offer the update on the first load for that day.

How could some of these issues be avoided? Microsoft already provides a way for 3rd parties to provide updates through their Windows Server Update Services product. 3rd party vendors could tie their updates into the WSUS API to push out updates, transparently and controlled via group policy.

Aliasing a Windows File Server

You’ve consolidated 2 servers down to 1 after hours. Great. Then you recreate all the file shares on the new server, and test mapping them using the new name. They work great.

Then in a sudden flash of brilliance, you update DNS and WINS to point the old server name at the new server, so that any scripts that still reference the old name won’t break. And that’s when you start getting this error on your clients:

System error 52 has occurred.
A duplicate name exists on the network.

Duplicate name? On the clients? Whats going on? You might check the server, and be surprised to not see any ‘Duplicate name exists’ errors anywhere. The error actually makes some sense when you think about it:

Client sends SMB request to OldServer > OldServer is an alias for NewServer > NewServer sends reply to request > Client receives reply from NewServer and not OldServer, and assumes that a 2nd machine is responding to the request, and throws the duplicate name error.

To fix this, Microsoft KB281308 tells us to add a new registry key on the server side,  HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters, called DisableStrictNameChecking.  Set it to be DWORD:1, then restart the server.

‘Class Not Registered’ in VS2008 on x64

Took a while to figure this one out, but in hindsight, it’s painfully obvious. I switched from XP 32-bit to Win7 64-bit last week, and just got Visual Studio loaded back up. I opened up one of my projects, hit run, and started getting COM exceptions about a class not being registered.

After a while, I finally found that the default compile options will compile for ‘Any CPU’, which will compile your project for the CPU you are on currently. You can change this by going into your project properties, Compile tab, and clicking Advanced Compile Options. Setting the Target CPU to x86 solved the problem for me.

Not all COM components will require this. It just so happened that one I was using was designed for 32-bit development environments only.

Wyoming Police Citizen’s Academy – Week 7

Week 7 covered gangs and crisis negotiation, and was the last class in the academy (the 8th week was a graduation ceremony). It was also 2 weeks ago, so this is a bit overdue. Unfortunately, no slides were handed out for either one of these topics, so I am running off memory.

Gangs are an issue in the Wyoming area. There are over 30 gangs currently active in the Wyoming area, ranging from east coast & west coast gangs, to local, independent gangs. Gangs are not tied to any one race or ethnicity, and in fact, some gangs will include members from another race in the local ‘branch’ of the gang, and then run into problems when members from larger cities arrive and aren’t used to a racially homogeneous group.

Wyoming has a crisis negotiation team, which was formed in 1992 (I think) after an incident involving a hostage situation, in which the police had to rely on a news reporter who could act as a translator (Bulgarian of all languages) to defuse the situation. The majority of the CNT’s calls however, are not hostage situations, but domestic issues or suicide threats. Contrary to what you see in movies, you will not get a chopper in 20 minutes if you demand it, and they will not trade another person for the release of a hostage. CNT works closely with TACT during an incident, and both provide input to the site commander, who eventually decides to keep negotiating, or to send in TACT.

LAN Notice – Possible Virus

Just got a report of some computer herpes showing up after the LAN. Make sure to scan your machines and run anti-virus if you aren’t already. Microsoft Security Essentials does a good job, and is free as long as you’re running a legit version of Windows (which you all are, aren’t you?)

Just FYI, neither of my machines (Win7 and Server 2K8) showed any viruses, and the only report so far has been from an XP machine.

Wyoming Police Citizen’s Academy – Week 6

Week 6 covered the K-9 unit and TACT (SWAT) unit.

The K-9 unit currently has 4 dogs – Chico, Zeke, Arras, and Baron. All 4 are German Shepards, except for Arras, who is 1/2 Malinois. The dogs range in age from 3 to 5 1/2, and in price from $4500 to $9000. Dogs primarily come from European countries, since the bloodline of German Shepards in the US isn’t pure enough in most cases. The K-9 unit has been in service with Wyoming since 1989. In 2008, the unit was activated 193 times, primarily to track people or search for drugs.

TACT (Tactical Arrest & Confrontation Team) is Wyoming’s version of SWAT. It was established in 1974 to assist in serving high-risk arrest warrants, and dealing with hostage situations. Weapons vary by officer, currently offered are the M-4, the MP-5, and the Remington 700 rifle. They also have a wide variety of non-lethal options, such as rubber & bean bag rounds, tear gas, and the Taser.

TACT’s first armored vehicle was a re purposed Brinks security truck, purchased used for $10. The team currently uses a non-armored, customized deployment vehicle (customized by a Grand Rapids area RV garage). For more dangerous situations, a Bearcat is shared by all Kent County offices, and housed in the GRPD garage.

Installing Windows 7 – My Experience

Like a lot of people in the past week, I just installed Windows 7 at home.  I’m up and running now, but not without a few minor hiccups.

Windows 7 Home Premium would not do a seamless upgrade of my Vista Ultimate install.  I had to do backup my files and do a Custom upgrade.  The install process copied my Windows, Program Files, Program Files (x86) and Users folder to a Windows.old folder (hooray for another set of backups).

After the first reboot (and subsequent reboots during the install), if I left the DVD in the drive, I was presented with a boot menu that just said

Select CD-ROM Boot Type:

Yes, the 1 & 2 options were blank. I don’t recall the Vista install giving me the same issue.  I had to make sure to remove the DVD from the drive every time it rebooted during the install to get around this.

Once Win7 was installed (it took about an hour), I had no problems. The system did not install drivers for my video card, scanner, printer, or tablet. In the case of the scanner & printer, it did provide a direct download link to the drivers. The ATI drivers I had to download manually, which I would have anyways. The Wacom website said there were no drivers available for my tablet under Win7, so I used the Vista drivers and they seemed to work correctly.

Overall, the system feels a bit faster than Vista did, though that may just be because its a mostly clean install now. The swarm of UAC prompts that plagued Vista after install were nowhere to be found this time around, and I’ve only seen them come up during a couple of driver installations.