Weird Display Artifacts With Vista Aero

Notice the ghosted text in the upper center.  It was caused by Movie Maker crashing the night before.  The artifact persisted until the system was rebooted. 


Spreading a Meme: Scripting/Sysadmin


Mind Of Root is spreading a meme!  What was one’s first job as a sysadmin and when did they learn scripting?

How old were you when you started using computers?

I was, um, 16, and a freshman at Salem High.  We had a PDP-11/60 and a computer lab.  I loved it.

What was my first machine?

My brother bought a TRS-80 Color Computer in my junior year of HS, and I used it through college, eventually buying enough parts for it that I had half ownership.  The first computer I owned personally was a 286 PC clone in 1991.

What was the first real script you wrote?

In high-school, I and my brother and several of our friends took turns being sysadmin for the PDP-11.  It ran RSTS, which was a BASIC-based timeshare system for educational use.  Its scripting language was BASIC!  I wrote a script to backup files from our system disk (a large removable disk pack) to our secondary disk (another pack).  The backup system on RSTS, like most all minicomputers at the time, was made to use tape as the backup media, like the (now old-style) NTBackup, and we didn’t have any tape drives.

What scripting languages have you used?

BASIC (!!), VBScript, CMD, Perl and now PowerShell.

What was your first professional sysadmin gig?

That would be the job I hold now at Salem Access Television, the first job I’ve had in a while where I get to be sysadmin, though of course I have much deeper responsibilities there.

If you knew then what you know now, would have started in IT?

When I got out of college, I felt a little disillusioned and considered technical writing.  I never seriously considered a non-technical career (like management), but I wasn’t going to be a coder as I had originally trained for.  After going through the “Parachute” job book too many times.  I now believe IT was the right thing for me after all.  It’s a craft of sorts.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new sysadmins, what would it be?

Get involved with community;  it’s much easier to stay connected than it was when I was an intimidated freshman in college.  I was alone for too much of my college life.  Don’t be afraid to look at the big picture;  as you get more experience, you won’t see your world only through a shell prompt.  Also don’t forget the larger community—at SATV I am making a difference for us in how we serve our community.  Keeping things smooth can be its own reward. 

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had scripting?

I have fun just learning scripting, though I admit I haven’t had the time or energy to get into the real esoteric stuff that’s in PowerShell CTP 2, though I do run it and do tinker from time to time.

Who am I calling out?

SBS 2008 has PowerShell built in.  It will be the first exposure to PowerShell for many SBS admins, so I want to call out people in the SBS community:

When Life is Copy Protected…

Microsoft has filed a very scary patent.  The original purpose seems benign, according to Unwired View:

In addition to many benefits brought to us by mobile phones, there have been a few drawbacks as well. Especially, related to ethics/culture/social issues of the mobile phone use.

Don’t you just hate it, when during an engaging presentation, show or movie, a mobile phone of some as#$%^&&, sorry, forgetful person, begins to ring? What about someone taking out his high end cameraphone and doing something with it in the locker room? Can you be sure he’s not taking your nude pictures in the shower? What about someone secretly recording confidential conversation on his mobile phone?

Microsoft seems to have an idea how to solve all these problems at once. By creating device manners policy DMP [sic]), to which all mobile devices will have to comply to. And they even want to patent it

[From the Microsoft patent:]

Such policy may be used to communicate to various mobile and other devices the “manners” with which compliance is expected or required. Similar to some of the social manners honored among people, such as with “no smoking” or “employees only” zones, “no swimming” or “no flash photography” areas, and scenarios for “please wash your hands” or “no talking out loud”, devices may recognize and comply with analogous “device manners” policy.

This won’t stop there.  I can anticipate lots of potential "no photography" zones:

  • Schools:  "Behind Every Camera is a Pedo!"
  • Government buildings:  I guess I can’t film public hearings anymore like I used to.
  • Public places:  Remember, papparazzi!
  • Workplaces:  Maybe you’ll be allowed to take pictures of the office party…if you’re good with the boss!  You’re a whistleblower?  Siberia might be safer.
  • Anywhere where someone in power is scared of their own people.

That last is the scariest place of them all, for it is everywhere in America.  Everywhere in our country, people take pictures of things the powers-that-be would rather not have seen.

Youtube has video on atrocities in Myanmar.  Perhaps in a few years there’ll be smuggled videos and photos from America.

I live in the “tourist town” of Salem.  What if the Peabody Essex Museum wanted exclusive photo rights for the whole city? 

Original:  Microsoft wants to teach manners to you mobile device » Unwired View

Update:  Boing Boing Gadgets posted about this.  DCulbertson writes in the comments:

Suppose it was implemented. I wonder how many public places would eventually have the "no pictures" flag set? Meaning even if it’s legal to take photos, you couldn’t… Then how many police cars and federal agents would have DMP boxes with "no photos / no video / no audio recording" flags set. No more individuals documenting arrests or police action.

Someone, somewhere in the Department of Homeland Security, is smiling.

Update:  Bruce Schneier as usual has an excellent take.  Also see his column in Wired, “I’ve Seen the Future and it has a Kill Switch”.

Why Johnny is not a Tech

Nick Corcodilos, "Ask the Headhunter" is one of my favorite IT pundits;  he’s an executive recruiter who loves to puncture the job-hunting myths I suffered through early in my career.  You know the ones, "send resumes everywhere" (now, "live on"), have the "right" resume, and the "right" answers.

He had a great blog post a few months ago that I’m just now getting to, Why Johnny doesn’t work.  He asks:

The dominant explanation for why students aren’t graduating with technical degrees is H-1B and outsourcing. It goes like this: Because American companies send technical jobs overseas, and because they hire foreign nationals under the H-1B visa program, (both supposedly at lower cost than hiring Americans), students regard technical careers (in electronics engineering, software development, information technology) as undesirable. They believe they won’t get healthy salaries or enjoy any reasonable job security. They may be right.

But I see another trend that’s far more disturbing than the behavior of companies and students. K-12 schools seem to be de-emphasizing the fundamentals of technology. They seem to be teaching kids how to be technology consumers rather than designers. A case in point is my local school district, which recently spent over $30M to build a state-of-the-art middle school. Every classroom is wired for sound, video, and computers. Every teacher has a laptop, and big LCD displays dot the facility. The auditorium is state-of-the-art; the soundboard alone blows away what you’d find in most commercial theaters. The school is equipped with a video production facility that kids use to produce what’s described as professional-quality videos. The computer lab lets kids use sound samples to produce their own music CD’s. It’s all really great.

The trouble is, no one is teaching the kids how all this technology works, and how they can build their own.

I grew up reading.  When I got my first jack-in-the-box, I took it apart.  (Mom wasn’t happy…then!)  I played with electronic stuff from an early age.  I read the old Lafayette and Radio Shack catalogs and I was fascinated!  I could tell you how a TV worked when I was in fourth grade.  During college, I had a very tiny side business taking TV’s and electronics from dumpsters and fixing them for family and friends.

A lot of people like me, in my generation, went into IT through their fascination with electronics and computers.  Like Nick, I’ve seen people become mere consumers of technology and I’m worried.

A story from SATV:  We have three rack-mount Windows 2000 machines that handle our entire on-air operation;  one machine is the master machine with the database and Channel 16 display (Government channel), and the other two handle the displays for Channel 3 (Public Access) and Channel 15 (Education).

One day, during a routine Windows update, Channel 3 went down, and very hard.  The CPU fan would not spin up, even after it was swapped for a known good one.  We pouted on that one for a day, waiting to hear from the vendor’s tech support (they were turnkey systems.)

Next day, I have a bright idea.  A few years ago when those systems were new, we had one we thought was unstable due to hardware (it turned out to be a Windows bug, another story).  We got a replacement machine but never returned the old machine for some reason.

Why not use the old machine?  I took the hard drive from the dead machine and swapped it into the old, supposedly unstable machine.

It worked.  It ran for many hours.  Success!  If I had had that idea the day before…

The fun came when we explained this to the vendor!  The poor tech support guy was floored when Sal, our executive director, explained everything that transpired.  He just could not conceive of someone doing what I did to get a machine going.  We asked him to check with his boss–the vendor has a long, involved, but mostly pleasant history with us.  His boss called us back, "Oh, it’s SATV, I know all about you!"  (We’re trading in those systems towards a forklift upgrade from them including a video server so this’ll be all out in the wash soon.)

Even in the computer industry, most people don’t seem to realize computers are made up of components.  Even Macs.  The modern education that Nick talks about seems to make kids incurious.  Why do you need to know how your iPod works?  The Chinese will make more!  They can handle the science and engineering, don’t worry about science, just buy stuff!

One commenter on Nick’s post made me think of an even sadder example:

Third, technology has radically changed the methods of “making stuff.” If you want a state-of-the art shop, it better have a CNC mill, laser cutter, and CAD workstations. I experienced this kind of obsolecense first-hand in high school. I was on the school newspaper, and spent two years learning all the skills of offset printing: photo screening, making full-size (11×17 inch) negatives of page folios, burning printing plates, and running the offset press. Then the district office bought an 11×17 photocopy machine. In that instant, all that equipment and skills were worthless. But our time from layout to finished product went from 3 days to 2 hours, and at lower cost.

A few years ago, I volunteered to be the technical person for the Salem Commission on Disabilities (before I joined them).  There was a contest among elementary school students to design a logo for the Commission and a winning logo was picked.  Now we needed to get that on our letterhead.

I had volunteered to scan the logo in on my computer, but the commissioners were adamant that it be done "professionally" and several of us went to someone we knew at North Shore Vocational Technical School;  this guy was teaching the graphics arts class.

We met the guy and asked if they had a high-end scanner.  He did not.  It was all film and plates.  This was only a few years ago, and by then, digital press was very well established;  I’d attended enough Seybold trade shows to see that.   Digital press should have been available even at that school’s budget, and I was very sad for him and his students.

In the end I scanned it myself and the results were good enough.  If that teacher, or more likely, his department head had just been more curious, his students would not have been sent out dead on arrival in obsolete technologies.

Don’t fear.  If you’re a student all you need to do is get your MBA or law degree, Make Money and Make Deals!  Engineering, science and curiosity is for the Indians and the Chinese.

Working with SBS 2008, Part 3: Migration Migraines

If you saw the original drafts of my last two posts that I stupidly put online, Working with SBS 2008, Part 1- Single-Server Migration and Working With SBS 2008, Part 2- Answer files and the installation, you know I tried doing a Swing migration on my "old" SBS 2008 beta box.  Didn’t work.  But I still got my server migrated, though the swing was a complete bust.

There were three things I needed migrated:  My user profile on my workstation, my email and my Sharepoint site (which only had a few items in it as a test).  There were some other files on the server I wanted saved but those were trivial to deal with.

The profile was the easiest.  I used the Windows User State Migration Tool (USMT) Version 3.0.1.  It’s the command-line scriptable counterpart to the Windows migration wizard included in Vista and XP.  It was easier yet to save the profile when I stopped trying to websurf on the machine while USMT was running!

Sharepoint 3.0 is backed up via the Sharepoint Site Administration page.  Wish I could say how the restore went but I accidentally deleted the backup files.

An obstacle I ran into was the backup volume on the old server.  SBS 2008 uses disk-based backup and configures a volume with a VHD file, the same format as Virtual Server and Virtual PC(though the VHD has no boot sector and cannot be used for virtual-to-physical migrations.) 

You can open the disk, extract the VHD and use vhdmount from Virtual Server to access the files I wanted to restore, but I really wanted my new copy of SBS to recognize the restore volume and use it to restore applications under Windows, much as the System Restore feature of the Server 2008/Vista install disk lets you mount your backup disk and restore from it. 

Apparently, Windows Server Backup doesn’t do that, so it’s vhdmount for me.  I used that on the new SBS machine to extract the Exchange databases from the old backup, which are in the directory c:\program files\microsoft exchange\mailbox\first storage group\mailbox database.edb.

This is where I ran into a wall:  I copied the mailbox directory to a temp directory and ran the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant to create a Recovery Storage Group to hold the restored database and merge the mailboxes (only mine!) into the new database.

This is what happened instead:

Log Name:      Application
Source:        MSExchangeIS
Date:          6/3/2008 8:47:28 AM
Event ID:      1088
Task Category: General
Level:         Error
Keywords:      Classic
User:          N/A
Computer:      SLAPPY.dmproductions.local
The information store could not be loaded because the distinguished name (DN) /O=[a different site name for the SBS beta]/OU=EXCHANGE ADMINISTRATIVE GROUP (FYDIBOHF23SPDLT)/CN=RECIPIENTS/CN= of message database "Recovery Storage Group\Mailbox Database" does not match the DN of directory /O=FIRST ORGANIZATION/OU=EXCHANGE ADMINISTRATIVE GROUP (FYDIBOHF23SPDLT)/CN=RECIPIENTS/CN=.

The database may have been restored to a computer that is in an organization or site different than the original database.

By design, I cannot mount the old database.  I made the conclusion only after many contortions where I ran eseutil with many different options, thinking the database was corrupted.  It likely was not;  I just couldn’t do anything with it.

Nice thinking by the SBS team, and that is not sarcasm.  MS product managers are adamant that one cannot use beta code for production nor can one expect to migrate between betas or between betas and release candidates.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen it enforced in a database!

I did have a PST file for backup, but because I forgot a checkbox when saving my mail, I only had an older copy from two months ago.   Annoying–I did do my business with the Salem Commission on Disabilities via email, but not a big disaster for me. 

This migration was a migraine, and I’m bitterly disappointed I could not do a Swing.  But, SBS 2008 runs fine and when RC1 comes, I will have forgotten this.

I’m moving on.

Getting local crash dumps of applications in Vista and Server 2008


Mark Russinovich has another excellent post, Mark’s Blog : The Case of the Random IE and WMP Crashes.  He had a problem with Windows Media Player frequently falling down and going boom.

Now, WER (Windows Error Reporting) does take dumps and sends them to Microsoft, but it hasn’t been possible to get a copy of the dump to analyze with Debugging Tools for Windows.  Mark sort of cheated to get his dump;  he grabbed the dump from the temp directory while the WER dialog was waiting for him to close it.  It’s the kind of thing I’ve done.

Vista SP1–and by extension Server 2008–has a registry key setting that will save local dumps:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Error Reporting\LocalDumps

This will make WER save all dumps in %LOCALAPPDATA% (Powershell:  $Env:localappdata), which is usually c:\users\<user>\AppData\Local.

I don’t often analyze bluescreens–they just don’t happen for me that often either at home or at SATV–but I do get a lot of apps in testing that just go boom for whatever reason.  This should help.