Fix: Flash 10.1 not working for limited users

I’ve been frustrated with this for the past several months.  Ever since a recent update to Adobe Flash in the spring, Flash has failed to display for some websites, including both of my own blogs.  This happens when running IE8 under a limited user account, but not when it is run as the local admin.  This is probably why I saw the problem on my workstation, which does run limited, and not my laptop (Vista Home Premium), which does not run as a limited user.

As many of us in the Adobe support forums suspected, it is a permissions problem.  This is the fix:

  1. Close all instances of IE.
  2. Get the Flash Uninstaller from Adobe and run it elevated as admin.  You need to get the latest version from Adobe as it is updated with each new revision of Flash.
  3. Run Regedit and find this registry key:  HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/MIME/Database/Content Type/Application/x-shockwave-flash.  Delete the key.
  4. Reinstall Flash from IE.
  5. Browse to the pages that weren’t displaying properly, and verify that they display successfully.

If this doesn’t work, Adobe has a KB article on resetting permissions in Flash player.   Hat tip to a discussion thread in the Adobe Help Forums, Another Fix to Try for Flash 10.1…

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Making system backup images in Vista Business

After nearly eight months using Windows 7 I am beginning to forget how to do things in Vista.  At SATV, we are upgrading our new Dell workstations to Win7.  As is good practice I need to make an image backup of each workstation before the update. 

I’ve chosen to update rather than clean install since the machines are relatively new and in good health so far as Windows is concerned.  But I still need to make that image backup in case it blows up.

If you go by the Backup and Restore UI in Vista it isn’t obvious how to make a image, and it may seem that it isn’t possible.  But I live on the command line and it is possible.

WBADMIN is what you want:

wbadmin start backup –allCritical –vssFull –backuptarget: <location>

On our network, it took six hours to backup one workstation to a network share.  A caveat I have to keep in mind is that the Windows recovery process will not take an image from a share so if it does blow up, I will need to copy that image to an external hard disk and take the HD to the affected computer.

One computer is running Seven without incident;  five more to go.


Accessiblity and Reality

 

This screenshot is of our database app that has consumed, devoured and assimilated the past six months of our time at SATV.  By the middle of January we will throw out our three-ring binder with printed calendar pages and it will all go on a workstation (backed up regularly, mind).

There’s just one thing:  It’s too small!  Our workstations are all Dell Optiplex 960’s with the 19” integrated LCD option;  they look great and are otherwise very readable.

But why is the default font Segoe UI at 8 points?!  There are multitudes of form boxes on computers around the world doing what this machine is doing, across all industries and verticals.

All of them use Segoe UI.  8 points.

All of them.

This particular app, which I’ve redacted to save the embarrassment, has many of these form entries.  They all use at most a third of the available screen space.  (Note the tiny record paging control at the bottom.  That is 6 pt if anything.)

This app, like many others, is built on Access 2003.  I spent a lot of time on Access 2007 writing SQL queries to import our old equipment Excel spreadsheet into this app.  At least that UI let me up the font size in Design View so I wouldn’t have to look at tiny SQL statements.

In this runtime, albeit an Access 2003 runtime, there’s no obvious provision.  The only potential solution will come when that workstation and all of our Vista machines, will be upgraded to Seven in a few months;  Windows 7 has a screen magnifier, much nicer than previous versions and more like the excellent magnifier in Mac OS X.  That’s what I’ll have to use when I’m on that app.

Raymond Chen happened to mention accessibility in one of his recent posts, where a commenter suggested that accessibility was an altruistic endeavor and could be outsourced.  Raymond says:

Sure, why not. Just like in real life, you can hire someone to do your programming taxes for you. If you would rather hire another company to come in and add accessibility support to your application, then more power to you.

Yes, accessibility is one of those altruistic things, but so too is not consuming 100% of the CPU all the time, or being usable at high DPI or color schemes different from the Windows default. Sure, you can write your program so it doesn’t work at high DPI, and requires the user to use the Windows default color scheme, and consumes 100% of the CPU all the time, but each time you do this, you alienate another percentage of your audience. (Not supporting accessibility will cost you a pretty large audience, because governmental agencies usually have accessibility as one of their requirements.)

The comment thread is worth reading;  commenters touch on all the points I’ve made before, including broken high DPI in Windows 7 and the amazing insensitivity of the Linux community towards its disabled users.


Don’t Change My Resolution!

Raymond Chen (The Old New Thing) posted recently about how people arrange their workplace, or in this case, their kitchen, but are confused by well-meaning people that want to fix their place the “right” way:

:: Wendy :: told me a story some time ago about something that happened while her parents were visiting. When she returned from work, her mother said, "Oh, Wendy, darling, I reorganized your kitchen for you. You had everything in the wrong place."

Wendy’s mother was trying to be helpful, but of course it was a net loss for poor Wendy, who couldn’t find anything in her kitchen for weeks. Yes, there was the whole Oh great where did my mother put my food processor? problem, but even after she found it, the "improved" location was far worse than its original location. In fact, in many cases, it was in the exact opposite location from where it should be.

You see, Wendy is left-handed, and her mother is right-handed.

Someone in the comments made a great point:

re: I reorganized your kitchen for you, sweetie

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 9:19 AM by DWalker59

Her mom said everything was in the "wrong place"?  How arrogant!

I have a friend who had a large monitor on his computer, set to his preferred resolution of about 1024×768.  While he was out, a young, brash programmer used the computer for a day.  

When my friend returned, the young guy said "I reset the video to a better resolution; you know, that large monitor can support <some large numbers go here>.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that, ha ha, you silly guy; here’s how you change the monitor’s resolution…"

My friend chewed out the young guy, read him up one side and down the other, and said "I had the resolution set exactly where I wanted it.  Don’t assume that I don’t know the maximum resolution of the video card or monitor!  I’m perfectly aware of that, but you may not be aware that I have vision problems and I like it set exactly where it was set.  Don’t presume to know what is "better" for me!"

I think the young guy learned a lesson.

I. WOULD. BE.  LIVID! if that were my computer.

At home, I have a 23” Dell display that can do 2048×1152.   I cannot use that resolution at all.  I can do 1920×1080 but it is very uncomfortable to read. 

It’s set to 1440×900, and my DPI is 125%.  That’s the best compromise I could come up with.

I’m aware that Windows 7 can support higher DPI.  When I first installed Windows 7 I did some experimentation.  I could have gone with 1920×1080;  it is a reasonable minimum for this size display.   I tested that resolution at 150% DPI

But I had trouble with third-party apps.  In the screen clip above, there are two Windows gadgets.  One is native to Windows, the clock.  The other is a third party weather application.  The clock scales correctly at high DPI.  The weather application does not.  

At 125% you can see the difference, but at 150% it is much more pronounced.  I calculated that for me to use the native display resolution (2048×1152), I might have needed 175%.  That would break quite a few apps and make that weather app unusable (I prefer it to the Microsoft weather gadget for its radar display and severe weather notifications.) 

(I’ve found, too, that I get odd-looking results when I use “odd” DPI values.  Internet Explorer will let you have a custom DPI, but it has regular values, 125%, 150%, that it will prefer to use.  So my IE is set to 125% or 150% depending on the machine I’m using.)

Aren’t higher resolutions technically better?

Not necessarily.

Most modern mid-range displays have a very good scan converter built in.  I’ve only used one monitor that was really bad at that, and that was a cheap monitor I picked for a server room that I don’t use every day.  It’s nasty, but not bad enough for the use I give it to warrant replacing it.

More to the point, I don’t notice it.  It might not even be possible for most users to determine the difference.  There are physical limitations on the resolution that someone with normal vision can perceive, and they mean that for the small displays most of us are using, we will never be able to notice the difference between, say, 720p or 1080p on HDTV. 

With the current state of the art, this is probably the best I can do.  Will it change?  Absolutely!  Is it annoying to run at a lower resolution?  Certainly, sometimes.

But for me and others with vision problems this is the best we can do.

Don’t change my resolution!


Save Vista!

So, Windows 7 is out and has been for a week.  I’ve been running it for exactly two months today.

I like it and I’m encouraged by the Windows development process, something that can’t be said for Ubuntu.  (It doesn’t help that its latest release has problems with recognizing multiple SATA drives.)

I’ve had no problems that I could attribute to Windows 7 specifically;  I did have Windows bluescreen on log off, but that appears to be due to the UltraVNC server I had running.  (My HDTV antenna, and the TV card that it feeds are in different rooms, so I use a Windows Mobile PDA with a VNC client to adjust it by viewing the signal strength app through the desktop.)  The bug code I got (Bug Check 0xEC: SESSION_HAS_VALID_SPECIAL_POOL_ON_EXIT), is very specific as to the cause—any driver related to win32k.sys, atmfd.dll or rdpdd.dll, in other words any remote access hooking DLL such as VNC’s.  No new version of UltraVNC has come out so I’ve gone on with my life.

It has been otherwise very uneventful over the past few months.

The one thing I should have learned over 3 years of using Vista, is how the IT press used the “Vista Failure” meme to keep itself going.  If you got a Vista machine this past spring, like one of my friends did, you’re probably doing OK. 

It’s a good thing for the IT press that people have reported boot loops when installing Windows 7.  I just wish, in my universe, pundits like Randall Kennedy and Loyd Case would sweep streets while the likes of Mark Russinovich do reporting.  If Mark were reporting on this, it’d be fixed!  Good for the pundits, “Seven S****!”, not so good for the people affected.

At least Windows 7 has given me more time for games!


A Windows Update Screen You Don’t Want To See

I saw this screen when provisioning an x64 Vista box at SATV today.  The failed update was Windows Powershell 1.0 for Vista x64, with an error code of 0x80004002.

This post on the TechNet forums suggest a problem with Windows Update DLL’s not being updated properly.

However, that update was the only failed one, and subsequently, I ran Windows Update again, and the update installed successfully.  So it was a transient error.  I’ve never seen that happen with Vista.

But everything was normal when I left the machine so I may never know what happened.  I didn’t take any action other than to let Windows Update re-detect and run again.


Migrating to Windows 7: Snags

I’ve been making plans to migrate to Windows 7 ever since final plans were announced.  I’m nearly ready.  Windows 7 was released to Action Pack subscribers late last week, a few days earlier than scheduled, and I wanted to try putting it on a memory stick so it would go fast when time comes to install.  I followed these excellent instructions from Intowindows.com.

The above message is what I got for my troubles.

I’m currently running Vista Business 32-bit.  I am late to the 64-bit party, even though my machine has a 64-bit processor, the driver situation was not a good one for nVidia chips (my chipset and video card both.)

I chose my one license of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, since virtually every peripheral I have has 64-bit drivers.  Therein lies the problem.

I had wanted to do two things:

  1. Run the BOOTSECT command from my emulated DVD to put the bootsector on the USB stick.  (I use the excellent VirtualCloneDrive to mount ISO images.)
  2. Run the Easy File Transfer tool (MigWiz) and store a copy on the USB disk to run on the “old” OS first before starting installation (which amounts to swapping disks as I will install 7 on a brand new HD.)

No go. 

You cannot run Migwiz or any of the support programs (including Bootsect) on a 32-bit system from a 64-bit disk.

There are a number of inventive ways around this, including finding a 64-bit Vista machine to run on (it just so happened I put several new Vista boxes in service at SATV and I chose 64-bit.), or running a 64-bit instance in Virtualbox.

But most people that go from 32-bit Vista (or XP) to 64-bit Seven will need to use the 32-bit media to run the Easy Transfer tools and put a bootsector on a USB stick (if they choose to go that far.)

It’s still worth doing for me as it will dramatically speed up installation and give me more time with the stack of disks I need to reinstall all the other apps I depend on.

UPDATE:  Microsoft has sidestepped this problem by offering the Easy Transfer Wizard for XP (Vista includes the transfer wizard already.)  There was also a USB/DVD installation tool, but it’s no longer on the Microsoft site.  Ed Bott points out that the license for Seven includes both 32 and 64-bit install disks, so that will work.   In the end, I had no problems installing Seven.