Windows 2012 Can’t Ping NVR Host

I just resolved a long-term problem where one specific Windows 2012 server was unable to ping one specific device on the same LAN.

There were no relevant resources or similar-looking cases on the web.  Everything else on this LAN worked normally.  The server could ping all other clients, and the clients could ping the server and the NVR.  I just could not get the server to ping the NVR for the life of me.

I suspected at one point that this was a routing issue due to my desire for strong security policies around IOT devices.  This turned out not to be the case as I could find nothing wrong with the router or any routing tables.

At last, I decided this problem was so specific that it could be a bug in the NVR itself.  In this case, the only thing special about the Windows server from the NVR’s perspective was that the server was providing both DHCP and DNS to the NVR.  I tried disabling each service, and found exactly what I was looking for.

The NVR will not respond to pings from its DNS server.

I don’t know why this is broken and don’t really care to investigate any further.  The workarounds are either:

  • Create a DHCP reservation with its own option to specify a 3rd-party DNS server, OR
  • Disable the NVR’s DHCP client and set a static address with an alternative DNS server address value.

In my case, the NVR does not need to use the local DNS server, so this is an easy fix.  So long as my server’s IP address is not used in the NVR DNS configuration, everything works normally and the server can ping the NVR.

High Resource Use by Start Screen

While diagnosing what I thought was a Windows Update failure, I discovered unrelated massive resource consumption and file scanning activity apparently tied to the Start screen in Windows 2012.

Symptoms:

10 to 20% constant CPU usage by Windows Explorer.

Rapid file scanning or Shared Folder usage in the case of folder redirection.

Triggers:

Resource consumption begins immediately after opening the Start screen and performing a keyboard search.

Closing the Start screen does not help.

Workarounds:

Sign out the current user.  This action will shut down Windows Explorer, preventing the unwanted symptoms until triggered again by a user.

ownCloud Using Wrong PHP Configuration

The ownCloud community dropped support for Windows Server, so I must resort to documenting such problems here instead of contributing open source.

One major symptom that confirmed ownCloud was using more than one PHP environment on my server was the presence of session handler files in more than one directory.  Specifically, I was finding orphaned files in C:\WINDOWS\Temp even though my one and only php.ini production file specified a different path as well as garbage collection.

I traced the session file generation as far as the ownCloud calendar “app”, which lives in owncloud\apps\calendar\appinfo\remote.php and related places.

Debugging results were fascinating in that not only was the wrong configuration file loaded, after dumping all phpinfo() to disk I also found that the calendar app was running under an entirely different version of PHP.

The culprit:  After the most recent PHP upgrade, my site-specific Handler Mappings ended up with mismatched verb restrictions.  Somehow the new version ended up restricted to GET,HEAD,POST by default, while the old version remained unrestricted.  Although my handlers were in the correct order to give all *.php files to the correct module, any time a CalDAV client sent a PROPFIND or similar request, IIS essentially downgraded to the unrestricted version of PHP.

The solution:  Remove verb restrictions for the ownCloud site’s Handler Mappings, and then remove all but one of the PHP Handler Mappings to prevent any other versions from running without throwing errors.

If you get a bogus error about spaces in “the path to the script processor” when updating verb restrictions, just add double quotes around the path, and then click “No” on the ensuing bogus error about needing to create a new FastCGI application.  (facepalm)

Offline Files Access Denied over VPN

I just tried taking a Windows 10 laptop on the road for the first time.  Everything was great until I tried the VPN for the first time.  Suddenly, I was getting Access Denied errors, and “You do not have permissions” errors for all files made available offline.  I confirmed the VPN tunnel and even browsed to other shared folders on the same server.  The offline files errors persisted after dropping the VPN.

When I returned to the domain Wi Fi, file synchronization completed normally and there were no errors at all.

Am I to believe that Windows 10 is completely incompatible with VPN synchronization?  I never had a problem with this on Windows XP, and I am dreading the months of research and experimentation normally involved in fixing this kind of Microsoft failure.

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Offline Files Stay Disconnected Over Wi-Fi

Configure Slow Link ModeEver since my move to a new apartment, I was frustrated by some of my network files going offline randomly and staying offline for 5 minutes or up to an hour or two.  The weirdest part was that it would only happen to the network files that were in a path with Offline Files enabled.  As a result, I would periodically lose access to files that were not marked “Always available offline”, and I would get frequent synchronization conflicts for any files that were still available offline.

Another symptom of this problem was that I could map a separate drive letter to the same or deeper path, not enable Offline Files for the networked drive, and then have no trouble with the files when I try to use the drive letter.  I could even browse shared folders using the server’s UNC path at the same time as my Offline Files cache seemed to be stuck offline.

I had several suspicions about why this was happening.  First of all, I had started using Wi-Fi networking on my desktop computer as a convenience until I could knock some holes in the apartment walls to run proper Ethernet cables.  The signal quality seemed good enough that I shouldn’t have persistent connection problems, yet the Offline Files system seemed central to the problem.  I eventually discovered that the Client Side Cache “slow link” mode was at fault for this whole mess.

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Shortcode Problems: WordPress 4.4

I will briefly summarize Shortcode API changes since WordPress 4.0 and then kick off some ideas for a roadmap.

The first major accomplishment was the expansion of the API documentation, including a new large section I wrote about the formal syntax for shortcode input.

I also put forward a robust parser concept for the function wptexturize() that promised to re-introduce the ability to use unrestricted HTML code inside of shortcodes and shortcode attributes.  That concept went through many, many changes before being introduced in v4.2.3.  After consulting with the WordPress security team, and after extensive testing of the shortcode parsing functions, we determined that the shortcodes-first parsing strategy was fundamentally flawed and could not be included with any version beyond v4.2.2.  This is why I added an HTML parser to the Shortcode API and ultimately curtailed the use of shortcodes inside HTML rather than expand the use of HTML inside shortcodes.

Continue reading Shortcode Problems: WordPress 4.4

Cookies Not Working in IE10

I’ve finally fixed a crippling bug in Internet Explorer 10 that was preventing me from using any website that required cookie support.

This problem seemed to plague my Windows 2012 server from day one.  I’m not yet sure what was special about this configuration.  No matter how many settings I changed, every website I visited told me that I had cookies completely disabled.

I used these steps right before the browser started working correctly:

Step 1 – Find the “Delete Browsing History” dialog box.

ie-safety-menu

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Shortcode Problems to be Resolved in WordPress 4.1

Illustration of wptexturize_parse() concept.
Achieving correct and exact results in several steps.

When WordPress first introduced its Shortcode API, it included an all-too-simple line of code that was supposed to help curly quotes not appear inside of the shortcode attributes while still adding curly quotes outside of the shortcodes.  But there were several known problems with this one line of code, such as what would happen if a URL contained square braces, and what would happen if a plugin author wanted to use HTML inside a shortcode.

In version 4.0, I made a substantial effort to fix these problems, but it resulted in some new limitations being placed on the ways shortcodes could be used.  Although I couldn’t find any documented examples or official support for the HTML features, I did hear from several members of the WordPress community who enjoy the full power of customizing their website HTML by using shortcode attributes and HTML values.

My proposed solution is to write a new parser function that will exactly identify the shortcodes and HTML elements being used, so that the function wptexturize() will finally be able to create its curly quotes without interfering with shortcode features.  Click on the diagram to see how this new code works.

Continue reading Shortcode Problems to be Resolved in WordPress 4.1

WordPress Formatting Roadmap

I was asked for ideas about how to fix some old problems in the WordPress code base.  Specifically, bugs in the Formatting component, which includes the very heart of blog post processing for millions of websites.  This roadmap lays out recent changes and a plan for where to go next.

3.9

  • Implemented NBSP compatibility for curly quotes to fix common cosmetic flaws.
  • Revised all regex in wptexturize to avoid slow searches.
  • Added a large number of unit tests to cover all known behaviors of wptexturize.

4.0

  • Implemented NBSP compatibility for shortcodes and smilies.
  • Deprecated and replaced function like_escape().
  • Fixed wptexturize parsing for square braces inside of HTML.
  • Sorted the texturize patterns into groups for better performance.
  • Refactored the wptexturize stack function for better performance.
  • Wptexturize now runs up to 5x faster compared to v3.8.

4.1 or Future Releases

Wpautop Phase 1 – Research Problem

Continue reading WordPress Formatting Roadmap

like_escape() is Deprecated in WordPress 4.0

Plugin authors and website developers who work with WordPress database queries should notice an important change coming in WordPress 4.0.

The function like_escape() is no longer used in WordPress core code.  It is still available as a deprecated function, so it still works in any existing plugins that rely on it.  However, a new and different function is available that should be used in all new code.

Deprecated means that anyone using code that calls like_escape() with WP_DEBUG enabled will see an error message.  If WP_DEBUG_LOG is also enabled, the error message will appear in the /wp-content/debug.log file.

Let’s look at an example of core code where I removed like_escape() and implemented the new function $wpdb->esc_like().

3.9 Old Style

$search_orderby_s = like_escape( esc_sql( $q['s'] ) );

$search_orderby .= "WHEN $wpdb->posts.post_title LIKE '%{$search_orderby_s}%' THEN 1 ";

What did this do?  It was an old snippet from /wp-includes/query.php that set up a search for post titles.  The input $q['s'] was escaped using two functions before it was added to the post_title LIKE expression.  Now let’s see how I replaced that snippet in the next version.

4.0 New Style

$like = '%' . $wpdb->esc_like( $q['s'] ) . '%';

$search_orderby .= $wpdb->prepare( "WHEN $wpdb->posts.post_title LIKE %s THEN 1 ", $like );

Continue reading like_escape() is Deprecated in WordPress 4.0