Archive for the Systems Engineering Category

Service Pack 1 Breaks DSL Internet?

miqrogroove
2011-06-09T22:43:19+00:00
Windows 7 Logo and Frowny Face

When Good Windows Goes Bad

I had a bizarre experience installing Windows 7 Service Pack 1 for the first time.  I was helping a relative with their routine computer maintenance, which evolved into a three-part service call.  During my first visit, I made sure all of the Windows Updates were installed, including Service Pack 1.  That part went according to plan.

On my second visit, I learned that the computer was no longer able to connect to the Internet for about 10 to 30 minutes after it was turned on.  The primary symptom was that the computer was receiving a new DHCP lease from its DSL modem but was unable to ping any address or resolve any name.  In roughly the time it took me to figure that out, make a futile attempt to reset the modem, try to release and renew the DHCP lease, find the ISP’s phone number, and work my way through the ISP’s annoying automated telephone menu, the Internet connection suddenly started working.  I later rebooted the computer and encountered the same problem, worked through the same steps, and saw the computer’s connection suddenly start working again after a delay of many minutes.

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1 Jun 2011

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Systems Engineering

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TortoiseSVN Interferes With Windows Logoff

miqrogroove
2011-04-03T17:04:58+00:00
Context menu selections showing where to find the TortoiseSVN settings.

TortoiseSVN Context Menu

Three years ago, around the time that I became actively involved in open source development, my primary Windows XP workstation started behaving strangely whenever I told it to shut down or log off my user account.  The most annoying symptom was that the “Saving your settings” step would take over 60 seconds to complete.  The CPU was pegged during that time, causing slow movement of the log off screen and mouse pointer.  During each consecutive log off, the problem seemed to get slightly worse and take slightly more time.  The Windows Event Log was filling up with warning messages labeled Event ID 1517, “Windows saved user (DOMAIN\Username) registry while an application or service was still using the registry during log off. The memory used by the user’s registry has not been freed. The registry will be unloaded when it is no longer in use.”

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3 Apr 2011

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Offline Files and Access Errors

miqrogroove
2011-02-20T04:31:36+00:00
Offline Files Folder

The Offline Files detail view shows limited information about permissions.

Another great Windows XP feature with another great set of problems: Offline Files.  If you have a laptop or unreliable inter-site connectivity, then you know of the necessity of keeping a local copy of your shared files to make them available at all times.  The Offline Files feature automatically keeps track of which files need to be synchronized for you, making that offline experience very slick.

Try to do this in a multi-user environment, however, and it will blow up spectacularly.  The most common symptoms appear when double clicking a document icon in offline mode.  Windows loads the program associated with that type of document, and that program instantly crashes or throws a file error.  This happens any time more than one user tries to use the same file offline on the same computer.

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29 Nov 2010

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Split Tunnel Virtual Private Network

miqrogroove
2012-08-31T00:12:36+00:00
Detailed overview of a split tunnel VPN system.

Split Tunnel VPN is Faster for Multitasking

Anyone who has attempted a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection in Windows XP has run into this problem:  You want to have access to computers at your home or office, but Windows accomplishes this by routing all of your activity to the home network.  If your work involves transferring files to a server and surfing the Internet, then your Internet activity has to piggyback on the VPN and travel twice within your limited home bandwidth.  This means your slow VPN is even slower when you load a website, and any interruption of the VPN will break all of your connections to FTP sites, IM services, etc.

You may have tried to coerce Windows into routing your traffic to two different gateways, but quickly realized it wasn’t designed to do that.  Adding entries to the local routing table can solve the problem temporarily, but doing so requires administrative privileges and ugly dynamic logic to handle a gateway address that changes every time you connect the VPN.

My solution for this scenario comes in two parts:  1. A static address for the VPN client computer, and 2. A persistent route for the VPN client’s static address.  This is a bit easier said than done, so the following tutorial includes screenshots and details.

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23 Sep 2010

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Systems Engineering

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Active Directory Log Disk Lost

miqrogroove
2010-08-24T00:53:23+00:00
Event Viewer excerpt showing atapi and disk errors.

A Disk Kissing Itself Goodbye

At 2:45 this morning, my home office / techie practice server suffered a catastrophic failure of its primary slave disk.  Among other things, that disk was responsible for storing the Active Directory log file for the server’s Windows 2003 domain controller.  The device itself was a Maxtor 20 gig model going on 12 years of age.  It was still in service after the server’s motherboard overhaul because of the Windows 2000 Active Directory Services recommendation: “For best performance, place the database and the log file on separate hard disks.”

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24 Aug 2010

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