Fixing multiple instances of Taskeng that respawn

In my last post, I explained how I found a problem with Task Scheduler that was causing it to respawn multiple instances of the process taskeng.

NickDownUnder in the TechNet forum thread “Help 90+ Taskeng!” had the answer:  This is being caused by IE’s feed reader.  IE has a mechanism and an API for storing and updating RSS feeds, and a task that does the updating, User_Feed_Synchronization.  If this task encounters an error, it will respawn itself every 5 to 10 minutes.  The task runs whether IE is open or not.

The fix which I’ve adapted from Nick’s instructions, is to delete all the user feed synchronization tasks, disable IE feed updates, and re-enable them.  Make sure you have a backup or have run System Restore first.

Instructions:

  1. From the Start Menu, type task scheduler.
  2. Right-click on task scheduler and select Run as Administrator.  Accept the UAC prompt.
  3. The Task Scheduler console will come up.  In its menu, select View/Show Hidden Tasks.
  4. In the center pane, you should see a list of tasks.  Amongst these, there will be a task (or tasks) named User_Feed_Synchronization-{xxxxxxxx…}, where x is a series of letters and numbers (it’s a GUID).
  5. Right-click on this task (and not on any others!) and select Delete.
  6. Repeat this for all other instances of User_Feed_Synchronization that you find.
  7. Next, go to IE.  Select Tools/Internet Options.  Select the Content tab and under Feeds click Settings.  Under Default Schedule, clear the checkbox marked Automatically Check Feeds for Updates.  Click OK twice.
  8. Reboot.
  9. After reboot and login, go to IE, Tools/Internet Options/Content and reenable feed updates.  You may need to do this for each user on the computer.

In Task Scheduler, you can go to the History tab of each instance of User Feed Synchronization to see if there are any errors;  error messages that recur every 5 minutes are an indication of this problem.  It’s easier to just delete all of those instances and let IE recreate them.

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Vista Hotfix Available for Memory Leak

If you have a memory leak in your Vista SP1 system, hotfix KB949700 might help you.  It seems to work so far for a very frustrating memory problem that I have been fighting with for four months.  Sadly, I still seem to have the problem, but the hotfix just pushed it off a bit.  This is worth a blog post if I can ever find out what’s wrong.

Hat tip to the Virtualbox forums for this one.


Resolved: nVidia NIC problems with Realtek HD audio in Vista

I’ve written before about my nVidia NIC problems and I’ve tentatively fixed things:  the nVidia NIC driver and the Realtek HD chipset driver apparently have a conflict, resolved by an update of both the NIC driver and the Realtek driver.

Here’s the background:  I have an MSI K9N Neo-F Athlon 64 motherboard.  This board has an nVidia chipset, the 550 series.  Like almost all nVidia boards, it has an onboard NIC, in this case a gigabit NIC.  It also has a Realtek HD audio chipset, which is important to the story.  nVidia doesn’t bundle any particular audio chipset with its chips, so the problem is very dependent on what audio chip goes on the motherboard.  MSI uses Realtek for this and many of its AMD-based boards.

In Vista Business, I was able to use the NIC with the Vista drivers "out of the box", the ones included in Vista itself.  I wanted to get new Vista drivers.   But ever since I’ve had Vista, I could never get the nVidia-provided NIC drivers to work.   The network connection would be disabled, and the only way I could restore my network was to roll back to the original driver included in Vista.  

The (then-new) driver would only work in safe mode with networking.  This tipped me off that perhaps there was a conflict with another driver, probably audio since sound is not on in safe mode.

When the system was run normally, Device Manager reported that the NIC was working, meaning just that the driver loaded and started without error.  But when I tried to change settings such as duplex, or when I tried to roll back to the previous driver, the system would hang.  This also implied a conflict of some kind.

I ran many tests with various combinations of drivers.  I had suspected the audio driver from the start, but I was never able to conclusively prove that.  The NIC driver would sometimes work properly with the audio driver and sometimes not.

nVidia drivers have had frustrating, well-known, teething problems under Vista.  Their RAID drivers did not work out of the box, and their other drivers were not well-performing.  The nVidia disk drivers that came with Vista weren’t optimized at all, and between crashes, were not especially fast.

(My video card is an nVidia product as well, but it’s not been a factor at all in my driver troubles.  nVidia did resolve their disk driver problems and eventually, they published a very good driver on Windows Update that fixed my disk problems, after I had to swap a cable.)

My NIC problems persisted, even after I swapped the network cable for a new one and replaced my 10/100 switch that makes up my network with a Zyxel gigabit switch.

I had had to update my audio drivers;  I was running the driver that came with Vista and couldn’t get it to recognize my line input.  I regularly feed the audio from my various ham radios to do things like decode packet and RTTY through my sound card.  I got the latest driver from Realtek, all went well.

Later on, I did my usual routine check through Windows Update to get updates that weren’t on my WSUS server (my SBS box), and noted a new NIC driver. 

I was expecting the worst.  Windows Update drivers have had a bad reputation for installing themselves on servers, through inattentive sysadmins who leave automatic-update settings at their defaults, and then dying horribly.  I was so not looking forward to a system down situation, but I knew my computer well and knew I could get it running again if I had to.

I installed the NIC driver and it worked.  Power down, power up, still worked!  Powered down and turned off the power supply, turned it on and powered up:  still worked. 

It’s been three days and no problems noted.  I conclude that my problem must have resolved itself.  I’ll never know for sure, but I believe there may have been a race condition between the NIC driver and the Realtek when the system was booted and both devices were initialized.

With all the anti-Vista memes running around out of control, I’m very happy to close the book on this problem on a positive note!


Vista USB Reliability Patches

Microsoft has published two Vista USB reliability patches.  The first patch is public, KB941600, a general USB reliability patch like the ones we’ve seen before.  The second patch is KB941858:  You receive a Stop error message when you put a Windows Vista-based computer to sleep or into hibernation, or when you resume the computer from sleep or from hibernation: "0x0000009F DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE".

I’ve had the latter problem show up on my Vista machine;  my HP iPaq 2495 frequently locks up when it’s in its cradle for a long time.  As far as I can tell, this happens from the remote end when the ActiveSync client on the device locks up.  This usually just locks up the iPaq, but sometimes it has bluescreened or even locked up the USB port on the Vista machine.

I can’t do a lot about the iPaq, since it is a previous-generation PDA, but I’d like it at least not to crash my Vista box.  The patches are in already, and so far they’re quiet, a good sign.

To get KB941858, you’ll have to call Microsoft or request it on the web.


Request Microsoft Hotfixes via the web

Since Microsoft Vista’s release, it has seen many hotfixes released, many of them fixing reliability problems.  Most of these hotfixes were not publicly available;  to get them, you had to call Microsoft PSS for a fix.  That is a familiar ritual for me at SATV with all our Windows boxes.  It was fun doing that the first time when the customer service person mislaid my email address for a critical hotfix so that I had to reopen the ticket when I didn’t get my file.  This was on a critical broadcast machine that needed the fix so it wouldn’t bluescreen every few hours.

Microsoft has now made its hotfix request page available online.  No doubt because Vista support would implode their call center.  Works for me!


Vista Reliability Monitor no longer adding new data

A new feature in Vista is the Reliability Monitor.  It compiles data from the event log, Windows errors, blue screens, and various Windows performance logs to compute a reliability index from 1 to 10 (where 10 is most reliable).  More importantly, it graphs the index over time and can give you a quick snapshot of any problems with the machine.

I had a problem with the Reliability Monitor not updating its data since early August.  I found this solution on the microsoft.public.windows.vista.performance_maintenance newsgroup and am promoting it here.  Hat tip to clayga.

  1. Back up the files in the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\RAC\PublishedData and
    StateData directories.  The best way to do this is to open the RAC folder, copy the two folders inside and paste them.  You’ll probably have to go through a UAC prompt to do this.
  2. Empty both directories (i.e. delete all the files in them).  Note after
    doing this Reliability Monitor puts up a text message in place of the
    Stability Chart that says something to the effect that the data is missing or
    corrupt.
  3. Open a Command Prompt with elevated (Administrator) privileges.
  4. Execute RACAgent at the prompt.  Note that the task will run for a while
    (several minutes on my system).
  5. Open Reliability Monitor.  Note that some or all of the Stability Chart
    is back.
  6. Check the "Last Updated:" date.  If it’s earlier than yesterday’s date,
    repeat steps 4 and 5 after first closing Reliability Monitor.  

 Original Google Groups posting.


Reliability updates for Vista

The long-rumored reliability patches for Vista are out.  KB938979 and KB938194 promise to make Vista a bit faster and a bit more stable.  The chatter about these patches is generally good, although one person on the Yahoo SBS2K list had trouble with Outlook;  I hope he’s able to have more information on it.

I’m running the patches now.  So far, so good.  At the same time, nVidia released a SATA driver update through Windows Update, which works fine, but also a NIC update–which does not

(For some reason, on my MSI K9N Neo-F, I can only use the nVidia NIC driver that comes with Vista.  None of the later drivers work.  Symptoms are a network icon with an X (meaning no connection/disabled) and if I attempt to change the NIC parameters in Device Manager, say, speed and duplex settings, Windows hangs.  But the driver works in safe mode with networking.   Good luck finding this one but you’ll hear about it on this blog first if I do!)

Take care,

Dave