Tuesday, 24 December 2013

content.outlook folder

At work we run an RDS environment and the main C drive was running low on space.

I used Space Sniffer to see what I could free up and I noticed that each user profile had a folder called content.outlook within Temporary Internet Files.

What is content.outlook? It's basically a folder where Outlook temporarily stores attachments that are opened within it.

Every time an attachment is opened, a randomly generated folder name is created and the attachments dumped in there. It's just temporary working space, nothing more. The attachments still exist inside Outlook in your Exchange mailbox.

No index is kept so it is safe to just delete everything inside content.outlook and free up some valuable space!

1/8 g2 autoldr drive wr

We have an HP LTO tape drive at work we use for backups, I think it uses LTO-3 tapes.

Anyway, I noticed today that there was a message on the LCD display saying:

"1/8 g2 autoldr drive wr"

I looked up the message and it basically means that the tape is still writing. I wasn't sure if it was perhaps rewinding but I guess the "wr" is a giveaway.

RDS Logon Prompt Twice

At work we run Windows XP in an RDS environment (Server 2008 R2).

One of the big problems is with some XP machines going to the Server 2008 R2 logon screen and after logging in they make you log in a second time.

In fact, my own machine had an even more severe variation of this where my first logon attempt would get "rejected" as bad user/password combination.

It turns out that this is because by default XP will logon to the connection broker and then again to the chosen RDS host (chosen via load balancing of course).

The solution is to enable SSO (single sign on)/NLA (network level authentication) which is present in Windows XP but not on by default.

This is a good link on it:

But basically, you need to make sure you have RDP version 6.1 minimum, and then add two entries to the registry:

  • Go to: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa
  • Double click "Security Packages" and add "tspkg" to the bottom of the list
  • Go to: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders
  • Double click "Security Providers" and add "credssp.dll" to the end of the list. Remember to use a comma!
  • Restart the computer (this part is ESSENTIAL!)
After this, you can access RDS with NLA which means that the server never has to load up the logon screen. Instead, your own computer gives you a popup and prompts for login details before sending them at the same time as the logon request. Most importantly, you'll only have to log on once!

Alternatively if you don't want to edit the registry, you can instead just click on this Microsoft "Fixit" and have it all done automatically for you!

Ping Test Batch File Windows

We got a report at work of a connection between two international sites being slow.

I needed to run some tests. I know how to run ping and tracert but running these alone in their default state doesn't yield all that much useful information.

I wanted to run more extensive tests and to save the results. I figured that someone out there had probably already created a batch file (.bat) to do this and I was right!

You can get a great one here:

This batch file runs PING and TRACERT

====== snip ======
@echo off

echo Run PING to  %1  with small and large packets
echo Run TRACERT to  %1
echo Write output to c:\pingrpt.txt
echo Open c:\pingrpt.txt for editing
echo Optionally delete c:\pingrpt.txt

if "%1"=="" echo No remote host was specified... terminating.
if "%1"=="" goto end

echo Working . .
ping -f -n 10 -l 1464 %1 > c:\pingrpt.txt
echo Working . . .

echo ======================================================== >> c:\pingrpt.txt

ping -f -n 10 -l 12 %1 >> c:\pingrpt.txt
echo Working . . . .

echo ======================================================== >> c:\pingrpt.txt

tracert %1 >> c:\pingrpt.txt
echo Working . . . . .

edit c:\pingrpt.txt

del c:\pingrpt.txt /p

====== snip ======

By the way, it turned out that the connection was not slow but the user was running a great deal of extraneous applications. As soon as he started his computer, updates started to download, DropBox started to synchronize etc.

Windows Update Problems: error number 0x8024d001, checking for the latest updates etc

error number 0x8024d001

I had an absolutely torrid team recently when trying to get a freshly built Windows XP machine to run Windows Update.

It kept coming up with this error: "error number 0x8024d001".

Even when I overcame this, I still had a ton of problems.

It seems that many people are getting similar problems running Windows Update on a brand new build.

In the end, I reinstalled the Windows Update agent. You can use this link for that.

If you overcome this error and end up with "checking for the latest updates for your computer" stuck and not apparently moving then BE PATIENT.

It seems that fresh XP machines (even with SP3) still need a ton of updates. It can take up to 3 hours or more to get past this stage, just to list the updates.

And when it does, clicking to download and install the updates can also take a long time, and at times will appear to be doing pretty much nothing! BE PATIENT! It may say "the updates are being downloaded and installed" but nothing happens, but in reality, something is happening!

Here is a really helpful link if you still have problems:


edit: 13th Jan, I found a really easy way to get past these dumb errors on the Windows Update page.

That's it! After that you'll be able to easily update!

pci ven_14e4&dev_167a&subsys_3029103c

I was working on rebuilding a desktop PC HP DC 5850 small form factor at work.

I forgot to check the drivers installed before I wiped it and reinstalled the OS.

Anyway, Device Manager showed this:


I traced it to the network card type Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit.

You can get the drivers here:


Friday, 20 December 2013

Clear Windows Update Cache XP

I recently had a lot of problems trying to get Windows Update to work on a totally fresh build of XP using an XP plus SP3 iso downloaded from the Microsoft web site!

I tried a ton of things, I'm not sure what fixed it, but one thing I did was to clear the Windows Update cache.

Basically this is the place where all the updates are downloaded to before then being installed. It is the folder: C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution.

You can safely delete the contents of this folder with no ill harm to your PC.

Before you do that, you must stop the Windows Update service using this command at a command prompt:

net stop wuauserv.

Use this command then delete the contents of that folder (you can delete the entire folder itself if you want). Then restart the service with:

net start wuauserv.

Now go back to the Windows Update site and try again.

Exchange 2003 Turn On Out Of Office For Another User

In Exchange 2003 it is very easy to turn on out of office for another user (or even a department mailbox, for example), so long as you have the rights to.

If you simple add the mailbox to your existing profile then it won't work. That's because the Out of Office settings is always for the primary account, in this case your own.

Instead, you need to change the primary account to the one you want to change. The easiest way to do this is to create a new profile via the Mail icon in Control Panel. When creating this profile, enter the Exchange server name and email address/username for the account.

After that, Outlook will open as if you were the person the mailbox relates to. Simply go to the Out of Office menu and enter whatever message is appropriate.

Monday, 9 December 2013

How To Find Windows Server 2003 Server Uptime

I discovered the other day we still actually have some old server 2003 servers in our environment!

Now on later versions I am used to simply right clicking the taskbar, pulling up Task Manager and there is the server uptime.

Saves trawling through Event Viewer logs.

On Server 2003 this doesn't work, but you can still easily find the server uptime.

Just open a command prompt and type:

systeminfo | find "Up Time"

That's it!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Outlook Meeting Default Behavior/Settings

Someone asked me the other day why some meetings she sends out show as tentative and others do not.

After some research, I discovered the following:

  • If the recipient is online then the meeting automatically shows as tentative, to stop someone else booking the same time.
  • If they are not online then they can return to their desk, open Outlook and see one or more meeting requests all at once and decide there and then which to accept and which to reject.
  • The default behavior as mentioned above is Tentative. But a person can set it on their Outlook application to auto accept all meetings. This is a bad idea though as people may assume a booking and then when you decide to reject it it will annoy them. In effect, you gave your commitment immediately and then let them down. At least "Tentative" means you had not confirmed it yet.

Internet Explorer Error Message: The Current Webpage/Website Is Trying To Open a Site on Your Trusted Sites List. Do You Want To Allow This?

Internet Explorer Error Message: The Current Webpage/Website Is Trying To Open a Site on Your Trusted Sites List. Do You Want To Allow This?

I had this the other day and had never seen it before in my life.

The guy did not even have a trusted sites list and the settings were pretty much default. This was in an RDS environment but I don't think that matters.

It basically happened whenever a site tried to load content from another site e.g. Facebook, Google Plus buttons, widgets etc.

Anyway, in the end I used the Reset button under Tools, Advanced and it worked a treat. No idea why it happened in the first place though...

Monday, 25 November 2013

Windows Server 2008 R2 Last Reboot Time

So you have a Windows Server 2008 R2 server and you want to know when was the last time it rebooted.

You need to user Event Viewer. Easiest way to go there is to click the Start Button and type "eventvwr".

Now click on System for System events.

Only problem is there are so many.

You need to click the filter button (or go via the menus).

Here, you can type in the event types that you want to filter by.

For example, event 1074 says when a shutdown was initiated and why.

This worked for me today but there are far better ways to get this information now that I'm back home and looking into greater detail. Check out this petri.co.il (one of the best PC support sites on the internet for many years) here:

  • Task Manager
  • System Information Utility
  • Uptime Utility
  • Net Statistics Utility
  • Event Viewer
  • WMI
  • PowerShell

See here:
Check Uptime In Server 2008

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Customer Service Skills For Technical Support Professionals

I have pretty good customer service skills. I know this from the feedback I get from customers and my managers.

Was I born with these skills? I don't think so. I mean, some of them are due to my personality type e.g. I empathize well with others. But others have been honed over the years.

Some people will never improve but most people can improve their customer service skills when doing technical support.

My Strategy

Generally speaking, I keep things as simple as possible. You must assume you are talking to a complete moron. You must also never assume anything.

Imagine what is on their screen and what is easiest for them to reach.

Point and click is best. Do not try to get the user to perform keyboard shortcuts.

These days remote control software such as TeamViewer, VNC, Dameware, LogMeIn etc. helps a great deal. If you can get the user to activate their software and let you in then you can take over from there.

For example, if I want a user to activate TeamViewer then I tell them to click the Start Button, go to All Programs, then click on the "Blue 'E' for Internet Explorer". This is a bulletproof method of getting them to open IE. I see too many people struggling to get users even this far but my method, as you can see, is bulletproof.

There's obviously a lot more involved but, in general:

  • Keep it simple
  • Try to connect via remote control
  • Avoid technical jargon and longwinded explanations
  • Don't make promises you can't keep in an effort to please e.g. saying 5 minutes when it could well take much longer
  • Listen carefully to what the user is telling you
  • Don't be afraid to interrupt the user, be direct and ask the user questions such as "what do you see on the screen right now" or "let's restart your computer and we'll go step by step" etc. Users want to be directed by you, the "expert" and they will respect you more for it

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Smart Board Sound Not Working - No Sound From Smart Board

If you have a Smart Board and you find that there is no sound coming out of the speakers then check one thing first, that the speakers are switched on! There is a switch on the speakers on the underside that turns them on and off.

This switch is so tiny that most people don't know that it even exists!

I checked all the cabling and determined that the fault in our case was either the speakers themselves or one of the cables. Then I discovered the switch!!

If you still have a problem then take another set of speakers and plug them directly in the back of the PC. If all is fine then there is no problem with the PC and its sound output. Next try plugging the speakers into the leads that come out the back of the projector. In our case we run an HDMI (which carries both video and audio) into the projector and another lead out of the projector that goes to the speakers.

If you follow these steps, you should identify the source of your problem. It's unlikely that any cables are broken. Be sure to check the power adapter for the speakers, is it plugged in and working?

Logitech BCC950 Video Not Working

Logitech BCC950 Video Not Working

If you have one of these popular conference web cams (most people use them with Skype) but the video is working (while the audio is fine) then first check Device Manager.

If everything looks OK, hold fire on reinstalling the drivers, it probably won't be necessary. I have found on more than one occasion that the connection between the camera "sphere" and the base unit is simply loose.

Just push down on the sphere and the problem will be fixed!

Talk about a shoddy piece of merchandise, Logitech! I hope you improve it next time around!

IT Support Contracting vs Full Time/Permanent

IT Support Contracting vs Full Time/Permanent

I am coming to the end of my current contract. We explored the possibility of going permanent but nothing emerged. They wanted it to happen but red tape prevented it. Not just that, but I suspected that they would never be able to meet my salary expectations.

Since the economic downturn that started in 2008, salaries in the private sector have remained stagnant and have barely, if at all, kept pace with inflation. Plus, I live in a big city so this means that the cost of living is so high that a normal salary from a permanent job is not enough for me to live a decent life and build a future too.

So I am going to stay in the contracting game. Next time out, I want more money. Even though most people see contracting as the opposite of a career, you can actually carve out a career with much greater precision if you know what you are doing. I am going to hold out for the right role for the right money.

I am confident on the money. I am hopeful about the type of work. I don't want to pick up phones anymore. My preferred choice is migrations but I will also consider VIP Support and 3rd line support. What I want to get away from is dealing with a multitude of average "users". That really is the "arse-end" of this industry. You'd have to hold a gun to my head to make me do regular first line "Helpdesk" work ever again.

Back to the money again, if I play my cards right then contracting may be able to give me money equivalent to a salary that I could never have gained with a permanent job. We'll see. All things being equal, I'd prefer to be "permanent" because I like to establish a base and long term trust. But if employers aren't going to give me what I want, then it won't happen anytime soon.

Right now, I'm quite happy being a contractor. There's a great sense of freedom with it and as long as you get enough money from it then it's well worth being one. I'm not so sure that being a lifelong contractor is a good idea but doing it for a few years can only enhance your CV/resume, especially in IT.

The Connection To The Microsoft Exchange Server Is Unavailable Outlook 2003 Calendar - Exchange 2010

We are migrating from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010. On the back-end we have first updated the server and are migrating mailboxes across from old to new.

Few problems but the main one is some users reporting that they get the error "the connection to the microsoft exchange server is unavailable".

I did some googling for this and found out that it could be an encryption setting so I turned this on, I think it was on the client. That did not help.

In the end I found this doc:


Basically, the problem is that opening multiple calendars in Outlook uses a large number of connections between the client and the Exchange server. You can raise this by changing a setting on the Exchange Management Console, you are basically changing the default connection throttling policy.

Alternatively, you can just get users onto the new client (2007 or above) as soon as possible. That's what we did.

Ironically, this only arises because in the old days people liked to have multiple calendars open to see when everyone was free. But since Exchange 2007, you can now see this when making an appointment and there is no need to use Outlook like this anymore. Maybe that's why the default connection limit is so low, to encourage users to use the new features.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

How to do a Hostname Audit

If you have a bunch of users on the floor and you want to get a list of hostnames or IP addresses (useful if you want to remotely administer) then one way of grabbing them without having to look at every PC individually is to:

Check your main fileserver, Computer Management, Shared Folders, Sessions. This will show you people connected and give the IP address. Then right click, Export list and save as txt. Then open this in Excel and you have a nice list.

Of course, it will only show those in that day.

To convert a list of IPs to hostnames, use this .vbs script. Not perfect but pretty good overall:

ip to hostname - hostname to ip - vbs - Excel Ping

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Umbrella Company Or Ltd Company? Which one to go for?

If you're new to contracting, you may be wondering whether to go for a Ltd company or an umbrella company?

A Limited company is a company with at least one director, one company secretary. Basically, it offers you limited liability to the owners. However, the tax people tried to crack down against contractors who were basically "personal service companies" i.e. one-man companies. Read up on "IR35" if you want to know more.

However, the handful of test cases that have occurred so far have seen HMRC fail to win. So does this mean its safe or legal to do? I'm not a financial or tax adviser so can't advise you on that. To a great extent, it's a matter of opinion.

On the one side you have tax people saying that a one-man company is just a ruse to save tax (you only pay corporation tax on dividends that you draw, instead of income tax on all your income). On the other hand, you have Ltd company contractors saying that it's perfectly legitimate that contractors can limit their liabilities as a company as a legitimate business need and that they are not like normal employees who have greater job security.

As you can see, running a company can be some headache, even before you consider the costs of having an accountant administer it. If you just want simplicity, the alternative is an umbrella company.

An umbrella company acts as your employer. They invoice your agency and get paid via them. They then pass the money on to the contractor as an employee.

It works out still to be worse than being a full-time employee of the agency. Why? Because first the umbrella company deducts a fee, around £30 per month. Second, employers are obliged to pay National Insurance to the government. So in this arrangement, the umbrella company makes you pay that instead (they're not a charity after all!).

Why not just go direct with the agency? Well, these days, few agencies have an employee payroll for contractors who get work via them. They just don't want the hassle and the overheads and it's easier for them to be invoiced and make payments instead.

So which should you do? Umbrella company or Ltd company? It's up to you. There is no "wrong" or "right" way. I know people who are risk averse and will only use an umbrella company. I know people who use a Ltd company and cannot understand why anyone would use an umbrella company and take home much less money.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

How to Install Printers On Windows Server 2008

In essence a print server is just a machine with local printers installed and shared on the network. Even a desktop can be used as a print server. However, Windows Server 2008/12 etc. has its own Print Server role which can be installed from Server Manager.

After this, the "Print Management" application is installed.

|Each printer needs installing as a TCP/IP port. Always download drivers (avoid full software packages) from the manufacturer web site. Do NOT use the built-in server drivers.

You need to install both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) drivers for those types of workstations respectively. The best way is to first add the printer and specify the 64-bit driver first (not sure if the order matters but some claim it does).

Then later, add another driver in the drivers section of Print Management (you can use Print Management on the server or via a Windows 7 desktop and connecting to the server by name, the latter I find more convenient actually).

The driver names for both 32-bit and 64-bit must match exactly. Because in the printer, the driver drop down doesn't refer to type. It just goes on name. So you need both to be the same name, ideally the same version too.

Be careful if you are removing drivers and printers from your desktop PC (when checking everything is working) not to accidentally delete from the server! It is easily done!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

How to Hide Windows XP Machine From Network

In Windows 7, when you connect to a network for the first time it allows you to designate it as home, work or public. Home means you can share your resources and public means to hide your computer from the network while work is somewhere in the middle. In XP it is not so easy. I wanted to hide my PC from the network for several reasons (I run a VM and don't want it appearing in the corporate list of networked PCs!). It is also good to know how to do this because it reduces your risk of getting hacked. The easiest thing to do is to run the command: net config server /hidden:yes This will hide it from the network list but you can still ping it. If you want to go further than that you should change a couple more things: First, go to the properties of your network connection and disable file and printer sharing by unchecking the entry for it. Second, double click on "TCP/IP", click the "Advanced" button, then go to the "WINS" tab. Here, change the Netbios setting to disabled. This should do the trick!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

error 429 activex component can't create object, excel add-in, Window 7

error 429 activex component can't create object, excel add-in, Window 7 I had this strange error today. I repaired Office 2010 and reinstalled the program containing the add-ins. I even used a brand new build and still got this error. Look up this error and there are any number of possible causes. Turned out that the add-in was 32-bit and only worked with the 32-bit version of Excel. So I had to uninstall 64-bit Office and then install 32-bit Office. Finally, it worked!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Free Alternatives to WISE Installer and Installshield

I have seen in the job ads that experiencing packaging applications is highly sought after. MSIs are the default Windows installer file type and the most popular programs used to package with are WISE and Installshield. However, they cost around $1,000!

So I've looked at free alternatives. So far the best I've been recommended are the following:

Setup Factory

 Time to evaluate...no doubt companies will still be biased towards commercial software but learning how to use these free/open source programs sure can't hurt.

BES Blackberry Activation Error: Some databases failed to synchronize: Address Book

BES Blackberry Activation Error: Some databases failed to synchronize: Address Book. Here's why: www.blackberry.com/btsc/kb1000

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

How To Change RDP Listening Port - Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

My ISP routinely blocks RDP traffic. Sometimes works and sometimes not. I think they are blocking the port rather than deep packet inspection as it is encrypted via SSL automatically. So I've changed the port to 443 which is never blocked (SSL traffic). You can change the port easily by editing the registry and rebooting: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/306759

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Windows 7 Black Border/Frame Around Screen

I installed a new PC for someone at work. It was originally using DVI but his monitor connection was HDMI.

It put a strange black border around the screen. In times gone by (CRT days), one would simply expand the screen to fit!

Anyway, to fix it I went to Catalyst Control Center (this seems to happen a lot with ATI cards), flat panel properties and changed the scanning to 0% as by default there is what is "underscan" by up to 15%.

Just modify the slider and you are good to go and no more black border/frame around the screen.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Windows Boot Manager Shows Windows Twice - Lists Windows 7 Twice

I re-installed Windows 7 to a partition (formated it first) and when it booted up after install, it had a choice of 2 Windows 7 operating systems in the boot loader!

Windows Boot Manager Shows Windows Twice - Lists Windows 7 Twice

The solution is to go into msconfig and then the Boot tab and then delete the entry you don't need. But actually, as soon as I went there, I saw only one install of Windows 7 and nothing for me to do.

So I rebooted and all was well, no more choices. It fixed itself.

But if you ever have this problem you now know where to go!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Active Directory Group Members Export List

Active Directory Group Members Export List

I used this command:

net group GroupName /domain > textfile.txt

Unfortunately the format is awful so I had to do some manual manipulation in Excel.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Citrix Error 2320

You might get this error 2320 when installing/uninstalling/reinstalling different versions of the Citrix web/xenapp client.

It's because Citrix leaves behind registry entries under HKLM_CURRENT_USER. Just delete the Citrix hive in the registry you see there. You will have to do this for each user who wants to use Citrix.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Dell Brightness Control Not Working - Dell Brightness Not Changing

Dell Brightness Control Not Working - Dell Brightness Not Changing

If you have this problem and the other function keys are working e.g. volume, mute and the panel passes the diagnostic test (F12 and boot to diagnostics) then it is your graphics card driver that is the problem i.e. you haven't installed it yet or you need to reinstall it.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

New User on my "Shit List"!

Now here's an example of another shitty user I came across today.

She had a problem and I looked into it.

She's sitting there, huffing and puffing away as I do a little research (i.e. googling!) and reading Microsoft tech documents. This is the kind of user who expects you to instantly know the solution to the millions of different possible IT problems that exist.

I start explaining the reason why the error message. She starts to moan and moan. Jeez, I'm helping her here and she nags me like this.

I have to actually cut her down a little, and asset myself.

Finally, I explain what she can do. The problem is not a bug, but is actually caused by an interaction between her and her co-worker. It is to do with the settings that they are each using. There is no other solution other than this modified way of working.

The whole time she has been nagging me about needing to get this done by today and as I leave she says something like "well, it will have to wait till tomorrow" because her co-worker won't return till tomorrow. In a blaming type tone.

As if it is my fault. Jeez, some users are so unappreciative. I went down there to help her, she expects a miracle solution and blames me when she doesn't get one. This user is on my shit list for sure!

Let me add further why such attitudes annoy me. When someone huffs and puffs almost in your face, doesn't thank you, sees you as having failed them when you did your best - they are treating you like dirt, like a slave. They would never treat anyone else like this. They would not treat non-IT co-workers like this. I talked about this earlier here: Being Treated Like A Slave In IT Support.

It's a nasty attitude to have and such people are forever on my shit list.

Cannot RDP To Server 2003 Blue Screen No Desktop

Cannot RDP To Server 2003 Blue Screen No Desktop

Had this today when trying to rdp into one of our domain controllers.

I couldn't reset or log off the connection via Remote Desktop Services Manager (like tsadmin).

I saw a suggestion to do Ctrl-Alt-End, Task Manager, kill explorer.exe and then run a new task.

But in the end I RDP'd with a second session and it worked. The server only showed the latter session.


Monday, 25 February 2013

access 2010 "compile error" "the code in this project must be updated for use on 64-bit systems" declare ptrsafe

access 2010 "compile error" "the code in this project must be updated for use on 64-bit systems" declare ptrsafe

Had this problem when someone went to Office 2010 64-bit version after a PC rebuild.

Luckily all I had to do was edit a single line of code in the VBA function in the database:


So where it says: Declare Function

you just edit it to: Declare PtrSafe Function

It can get more complicated but luckily that was all I had to do!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

server 2008 r2 disk cleanup

server 2008 r2 disk cleanup

Our server ran out of space and we couldn't find this. You have to add a Feature via Server Manager called "Desktop Experience". It requires a reboot.

We managed to clear out a folder called "winsxs" in the Windows folder. It contained a ton of updates. You shouldn't go deleting files manually out of here but instead use a tool, here's the command I ran:

DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /SpSuperseded

Apparently you can do much the same within Disk Cleanup.

Excel Compare Two Columns Strings

Excel Compare Two Columns Strings

This isn't really an IT problem per se but I do a lot of work in Excel and knowing a few tricks can save you a hell of a lot of time.

I am making a report and there are multiple fields that look the same in Active Directory. But in actual fact, we have two that usually are identical except for when someone changes name (e.g. getting married) we only change the one of them.

Now I went and created a report and put in the wrong column. I needed another column. So I wanted to find out where they did not match i.e. the exceptions when someone has had a name change.

To compare two columns that contains strings (text), you can use the exact function:



This will return "TRUE" if a1 and b1 are the same.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

PC Keeps Looping Startup

PC Keeps Looping Startup

I had a PC recently that kept looping at startup. I would see the Dell screen and then just a blinking cursor, white on black for a second, and then back to the Dell startup scree...again and again and again.

I ran the diagnostic and nothing was wrong with the PC, including the hard disk.

I suspected it may not be a drive failure at all but something to do with the partition.

I put a Windows 7 install disc in to see how Windows would display the hard disk - would it show the partitions?

But Windows 7 asked to "Install" and I didn't want to risk it. I was tempted to click "Repair" but didn't know which (32 or 64 bit) Windows was installed on the machine.

At this point, I was instead going to use Hiren's or Ultimate Boot CD to run TestDisk and view (and possibly repair) the partition table. But upon rebooting, the machine went straight into Windows 7, it was fixed!

Seems that the Windows disc automatically repaired the MBR or partition table on the hard disk without even asking me!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Accidentally Deleted Partition FDISK - How To Recover Deleted Partition In Windows 7

Accidentally Deleted Partition FDISK - How To Recover Deleted Partition In Windows 7

So here we build machines using Norton Ghost images saved on a removable hard disk.

Now I only went to use fdisk to erase the partitions on the system disk in the PC and went and wiped out the entire removable disk too!

I broke a sweat! Up to 2TB of images down the pan!

If you've come here and done the same then this is the tool for you. I looked around, some are paid, some are horribly outdated, but this baby does the trick and it's free: TestDisk.

Just download and run it, it's pretty self-explanatory. It basically detects any connected disks and then you can run a quick search for partitions. It found the one I had deleted and then I wrote the new partition back to the drive. edit: here is a great tutorial with screenshots.

All appears to be fine. I won't know until the disk owner returns though! But so far, this tool, TestDisk  looks to have been a life saver.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Being Treated Like A Slave In IT Support

It's true that I'm very sensitive to how people treat me (what they say, their attitude etc.). I sense the meaning in everything that people do, I'm a very justice orientated person and believe in being treated fairly. This is definitely not the job for me.

Today was typical of how some users can be.

I built a laptop for someone, put on Windows 7 and tons of drivers and apps, took me half a day.

I took the laptop to them this morning and said "here's your laptop, let's run through it" and she said "oh, can you wait 10 minutes".

You see, people treat IT like we are waiting staff. Like we should wait on them till they're ready. It's a master-slave attitude and I hate it. And at the same time, we must normally dress like white collar workers, while still getting paid barely a touch above blue collar wages.

And that is why IT Support is a crap job.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Citrix termservice cannot load illegal module rdpdd.dll

One of our Citrix servers had no connections on it. Found a Terminal Services error in eventvwr:

Citrix termservice cannot load illegal module rdpdd.dll

Went to tsadmin, reset the ICA session and all now working.

More info here:


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Sophos Greyed Out Update Configuration

Sophos Greyed Out Update Configuration

When installing Sophos, I entered the account details (to get updates) in the wrong format. You need to explicity state the full username i.e. including the domain.

Try to change it and you will see that it is greyed out.

You can uninstall it and reinstall it but there's a quicker way, just replace the file:

C:\ProgramData\Sophos\AutoUpdate\Config\iconn.cfg with a known good version.

Note: to do this, you will need to stop the Sophos Update Service.

I had trouble doing this so I had to log off and log on and quickly stop the service.

Friday, 1 February 2013

How To Kill Remote Desktop Sessions Remotely

How To Kill Remote Desktop Sessions Remotely

Windows lets you connect with only 2 admin licenses to a server and 1 to a desktop.

If you connect with the same username, it will disconnect the other person. But if you connect with a different username and the other person has disconnected without logging off then the system won't let you on.

UNLESS you disconnect the session remotely. There are two ways to do it.

First way is to use the command line, programs query.exe to view the sessions and reset.exe to kill them (sometimes also known as qwinsta.exe and rwinsta.exe).

A good article on this here: http://support.ihsystem.com/index.php?_m=knowledgebase&_a=viewarticle&kbarticleid=60

Alternatively, you can install Remote Desktop Services Manager (formerly Terminal Services Manager) a.k.a. tsadmin.msc.

To do this you need to install Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) from the Microsoft site. Then you need to go into Control Panel to enable these newly installed "Windows features".

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

New User Error "Your roaming profile is not available"

New User Error "Your roaming profile is not available"

Created a new user in AD and yet when she logs on she gets this message.

Basically, she (or someone with the same username) existed at our company before and so a roaming profile directory with her username as the folder name was not created. The old one still exists.

Basically, rename or delete the old folder where your roaming profiles are stored and a new one will be created.

Seems a bit silly that there can be a username conflict with Windows in this way. You'd think that the whole use of SIDs would have picked this up. I guess not!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Your Microsoft Exchange Server Is Unavailable - Microsoft Outlook 2003 Error

Your Microsoft Exchange Server Is Unavailable - Microsoft Outlook 2003 Error

I have read that this can be due to an encryption setting but in this case it was simply a corrupted profile. I went into Mail applet in Control Panel, added a new profile and configured it and made sure to set it as the new default. Problem solved.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Psychopathic, Machiavellian, Narcissistic Users

This article is not just about bosses, it's about individuals. I have met so many of these in ther workplace, trying to dominate me when I'm simply trying to help them. Absolutely despicable people:

Why your boss could easily be a psychopath

Troublesome colleagues are likely to harbour a "dark triad" of psychopathic tendencies, Machiavellian cunning and narcissistic selfishness, according to a new study.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Making Use Of Free Time At Work

It's hard to make use of free time at work.

For one, I can't normally do a lot of writing. Because my speed writing will get attention and people will wonder what I am doing.

Also, I can't study books or anything meaty for the same reason but also because free time comes in drips and drabs and it's impossible to focus.

What I've recently found is that interactive tutorials are a good way to use the time for myself, towards my own development. I've started to follow the tutorials on sites like codecademy.com. They are pretty cool.

Right now I'm doing a tutorial on Python. It's been years since I did any coding and I'm really enjoying it.

If you have free time during your job then I can highly recommend doing such tutorials to make the best use of what free time you can get.

Especially when you hate the job as much as I do! I've got a dilemma coming up which is to either stay in this job if I'm offered an extension or to try something else. I already mentioned earlier that chasing for more money elsewhere is probably a fruitless quest.

However, you must also remember that moving on ensures a fresh, clean slate, wherever you go and that should not be underestimated. When you're tied in for a while, people (your manager, co-workers, other employees) start to take advantage of you. Moving around regularly avoids this.

I've got something to think about then...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

When IT/Technical Support Makes You Lose Your Self-Respect

Yet another reason why I hate this job.

Today I installed a printer for a senior manager.

There I am, picking up a heavy machine and lugging it downstairs, getting on my knees then under the desk to install it.

People talk to you like you have a hole in your head and are lacking in intelligence. It's partly my fault that I ended up doing this but this type of relationship is much the same in all support roles as opposed to "producer" roles.

It would be one thing if I were paid a fortune. Heck, I'll carry boxes all day long if you pay me £100,000, I could not care less!

But when you're generally low paid and treated by others like a blue collar worker then it's pretty demeaning and you end up losing your own self respect too.

Little wonder then that so many people working in IT Support get fat, dress badly and don't exactly have an abundance of women. Others treat them as "low class" and the treatment makes one lose one's respect for one's self. This only reinforces the treatment.

It's a vicious circle and a reminder of why I must get out of this industry, long term. I am formulating a plan to get into development, for which I will need my Masters in Computer Science. Basically, I am saving up money.

Suddenly Can't RDP To Citrix Server - Remote Desktop Windows Server 2003

Suddenly Can't RDP To Citrix Server - Remote Desktop Windows Server 2003

One of our Citrix servers (they are load balanced) suddenly can't be remoted into. I have no idea why.

  • It can be pinged on name and IP
  • Terminal Server
  • Citrix sessions still exist

Then people started calling up with stuck sessions. Couldn't kill them.

Then the sessions suddenly all disappeared!

So we restarted the server. All is well now.

No idea why this happened. Who knows.

Citrix Error: Authentication Failed

Citrix Error: Authentication Failed

Don't be afriad if a user gets this error, check the url they typed in exactly. Chance are they just typed it wrong!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Tossers/Idiots At Work

Oh let me tell you about idiots. I alluded to this earlier and today I had a showdown, the likes of which I have not had in a while and remind me why this job in IT can suck really badly.

In IT, you troubleshoot by asking questions. This elicits a response from the user and from these responses you can then narrow it down and find the root cause or at least a point from which you can start to investigate.

Some idiots in life hear your answers and think you are misunderstanding them when you are not. You are simply trying to get to the bottom of things. They assume you misunderstand them and get exasperated. They huff and puff and make it look like you are the one who is wrong and not them.

I had someone like this today. I ended up having to be quite defiant. A director in a nearby office (a leech who also thinks they are the most important person in the company, that's another story in itself) came out to complain.

In an ideal world, I would not have been defiant as I was, trying to reinforce my message with emphasis and volume. It's almost like the idiot with no social skills has dragged you into their crazy game. But these things happen instantaneously and you react naturally. Also, you have to do something to show that you are not misunderstanding them and are simply asking to get to the bottom of things. Mind you, even if you say that, they will still think you are misunderstanding them anyway.

So the only real thing you can do is to keep your volume low and be as calm as possible and try to explain that you are not misunderstanding anything and why you are asking these questions.

Sadly, you meet complete tossers like this in IT. This one came up later with a groveling apology when he was proved wrong by the outcome of our investigations. The way I see it, it's not about the investigations, it's about their poor people skills in the first place.

What a tosser! He really made my blood boil today.

SSL Error 70 Expired Security Certificate Citrix

SSL Error 70 Expired Security Certificate Citrix

Someone in the office got this error. Most of the time it is due to an incorrect system date, which itself may be a one-off or may be caused by the on-board CR2032 battery running out of juice.

Correct the date and all is well.

If the date repeatedly goes wrong then the battery needs replacing. CR2032 is a simple watch/calculator type battery that is cheap and lasts for years, you can get them and replace them with little effort.

Citrix Error: You Need More Memory Or System Resources - Outlook Error - Cause: Roaming Profiles Issue

Where I work, people use Citrix Metaframe/Gateway apps that are on our Citrix servers. Think of it as 4 huge desktops being shared simultaneously by hundreds.

Today someone got the error when opening Outlook of "You Need More Memory Or System Resources".

I did some googling and found out that it's a corruption issue of some sort. Not with the mail profile (if you try and get into Mail Config you will get an "out of memory" error). I was prepared to take out the registry hives for Outlook under the SID for this person in HKUsers but I read it could also be a corrupt profile issue.

In the end, I renamed his profile from our Citrix servers (running 2003 so located in "documents and settings") then renamed his roaming profile on the main server (location given in his AD entry).

It worked. He was like a brand new employee at the firm and could access his mail once again. He lost any customizations he had made though. A small price to pay.

Citrix Error:  - Outlook Error - Cause: Roaming Profiles Issue

Friday, 18 January 2013

How To Remove On Behalf Of In Outlook 2010/2007/2003

In Outlook you can give someone the ability to send from a mailbox or as another email address. You do this in Active Directory under Properties, Exchange General, Delivery Options, Send on Behalf.

But when you do that, be default it says "on behalf of" in the email header to those receiving such emails.

This is default behavior and is really a security measure, so it is always clear who sent the email.

To get rid of this and just appear to be the name of the user/mailbox only, you need to amend the security rights.

Go to Active Directory thenView, Advanced Features.

Then go back to Properties, click the Security tab (newly appeared), click Add, select the person you want to give the rights to, OK etc. Then in the box below with the permissions breakdown, click on "Send As" in the Allow column.

That's it.


IT Support is not just stressful but it can also be annoying. The work itself is rarely annoying, it is the people that you deal with. As I have said before, you really lose faith in the human race after doing this job!

There are some I like to call leeches. They grab on to you and never let go.

In most cases, it is because you have done some work for them. They start calling you direct instead of using the centralized point of contact they are supposed to.

All kinds of new problems start to come out of the woodwork and they expect you to solve them. Many of these are time consuming.

These people basically have a major defect in their interpersonal skills. Maybe they have no friends? Maybe they see you as a friend? Maybe they are too lazy to fix their own problems, or to even think about them, and look to you for help.

It is really difficult to shake off a leech. There is no guaranteed method in IT that is akin to holding a lighter to a real leech. Because you are the service provider, you cannot tell them to get lost.

The best thing is to avoid getting attacked in the first place. Do not give the best quality service that you can or the leech will attack. Give the bare minimum. Sometimes, it's even a good idea to give poor service. That way, they won't deal with you in future and will go latch onto someone else.

If you find that a leech has taken hold, they can be gotten rid of. It requires careful management. You need to start ignoring their requests. Tell them how busy you are when you finally get back to them and they will realize that you cannot deal with their problems quickly anymore. If you're lucky, they may also come to their senses and realize that their requests are spurious. It's unlikely, but it does happen.

Just remember to avoid the leeches getting a hold in the first place.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Disparity Between Effort And Your Daily/Hourly Contracting Rate

When you're a contractor, there's no hiding that you're in it for the money. I mean, we all work for the money anyway, but when you're a contractor there's no shame in admitting it. Actually, you might be wanting the experience too, but it's just a given that most contractors are trying to earn as much money as possible.

So it all come down to your rate.

Rates are usually quoted as an hourly or daily rate. £13/hour is roughly equivalent to £100/day.

Now the thing is, rates vary wildly.

For example, a Helpdesk (first line) role may pay around £8/hr. Any lower than that and you can't survive in London. But sometimes they pay as high as £12/hr. A second line or general IT Support role (e.g. mixed role in a small company) can pay as little as £9 or £10 per hour but it can go much higher.

Before the financial crisis, you used to be able to earn more than £200/day working IT Support in a bank. Those days are almost over because rates crashed and £150 is probably above average now.

Now here's the crazy thing. You can work your butt off at one company for £12/hr but get paid to twiddle your thumbs at another for £13/hr!

Right now, I'm working in a nice place for around £13/hr. From a workload point of view, I'm only doing slightly less than I would somewhere else but the pressures on me and the expectations are very low. I don't have to work crazy shifts, the people are nice and I can even wear casual clothes.

Sure, I could go get a job paying maybe £15 per hour but I would have to dress smart, put up with demanding people and get stressed out every day. It's just not worth it.

So the rate isn't everything for a contractor, much as people like to think. It's the bigger picture that counts.

My Views On Working In The Industry

IT Support is not a great job. Not by any means.

Most people work in first or second line.

The Three Lines

First line is Helpdesk. You pick up the phone and give remote support by telling the user what to do. Sometimes you connect remotely to their PC to fix the problem yourself. Anything you can't do, you escalate to second line. This might sound great but you will be judged on your stats and this job is much like working in a call centre. You are nothing but a resource, a body.

Second line is sometimes called "desk side". You get the more complex problems that are not easy fixes. You see people, face to face, although most companies still encourage remote support where possible or your rate of ticket closure will be slow. It's still all about the stats but less so.

Third line is sometimes called "infrastructure/network". You'll do the more advanced stuff and rarely interact with end users. In big companies, you'll monitor and make changes to the network and the rest of the infrastructure.

The first and second line are basically treated like crap by users. I called this blog "Guy from IT" because that is frequently the name you are referred to as, even if you have offered your name. You are looked down at like a second class citizen. Even garbage collectors and cleaners get left alone to do their job but 1st/2nd liners are paid badly, treated badly and yet expected to offer a professional service where "the customer is always right".

Big companies tend to pay better but career prospects are often worse because each level of support is so segregated (often in another country) that there is no way to move up.

In a small company, first and second line are often combined and you may even be involved in or find it easier to move to third line.


Getting certifications helps a lot. Microsoft certifications have long been popular. If you want to get into third line, it helps to have advanced certs such as Cisco and others. They are much tougher but the salary rewards are worth it.


If you contract, you can gain a lot of experience in a short space of time. Every company does things slightly differently, and by working at several in a row, you can gain a great grounding. If you work at a mix of small and large firms then you'll be able to show that you can handle third line work (albeit on a smaller scale) combined with big firm professionalism. This can help you get those high paying big firm third line roles.

Dream Of The Third Line, Management Or Get Out

Most people don't want to stay on the first/second line, permanent or contracting, for the rest of their lives. The pay is bad (though there are worse paying jobs), you are looked down on and its a tough job.

Don't sit still: the older you get, the more prejudiced people will be against you and they won't believe you have any ambition left. Keep studying and keep trying to progress. Sometimes you have to be patient and sometimes you have to leave to get more experience or the ability to move up. If you are permanent, make clear your ambitions and get them recorded on paper at appraisals. By doing this, they can't deny your career ambitions so long as they lie with the company or it will make your manager look possessive and not allowing the company to take advantage of you reaching your full potential.

Good And Bad

This job is really a mixture of blue and white collar in many ways with some of the best and worst parts combined.

But IT Support is not the worst career going. Some people enjoy doing second line for most of their lives including some "career contractors", for example. However, both first and second liners are dime a dozen and this keeps pay rates low. You can improve your rate by specialising in, for example, front office support in financial houses or Mac support or supporting law firms (they use a lot of document management systems). It is also easy to get into and is popular with those leaving the armed forces who need a career - getting a few certs and offering your services for free or for a low rate is enough to get you your first role and from there you can easily enjoy a long career.

Personally, my ambitions lie elsewhere. I am not going to do this forever. I need more respect from others as it feeds my own self-respect. I also want more money. At my age, this affects not just myself but also my relationships too. I hope this article gives you a better picture of working in the industry.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

What Is IT Contracting?

Seeing as I'm an IT contractor I thought I'd tell you a bit more about it.

Most people know that you can either be a permanent employee or a "temp". In IT, we call temps "contractors". Who knows why? They are effectively the same thing. Only difference maybe is that in IT you get mostly fixed term contracts of usually 3 months but sometimes longer, 6 months, a year etc.

IT contracting was famous in the late 90s during the dot com boom and since then. Contractors were creaming it. Here in the UK, they were setting up PSCs (personal service companies) which were basically one man companies, and then getting their own company to invoice the client.

Why? Because they only had to pay Corporation Tax which is lower than income tax. They've closed that loophole these days but nearly every court case that has been brought has failed. Still, most contractors have been scared away from doing it and most now use an "Umbrella Company".

No, this is not a factory that makes parasols and such! It is a company that still takes away the hassle of invoicing and dealing with payments and communications with the client. Effectively, the contractor is a permanent employee of the umbrella company. You cannot save as much tax as before but you can still claim expenses as a deduction. It's not worth all that much but all the pennies add up.

Anyway, why do companies use contractors? Simple, because even if you pay them the same salary, it works out cheaper for companies as they don't have all the administration costs and headaches and additional taxes to pay for. Plus, they can hire and fire quickly.

Why do people still like to be contractors? Well, for one, being a "permanent" employee is not really all that stable. Anyone can get laid off and you won't necessarily get a huge pay day. Secondly, there are always plenty of contract jobs going and the demand for them will never wane. Third, you can really boost your CV by doing several contracts and in one year amass similar experience that might otherwise take you the best part of a decade. Fourth, it can often pay higher than the equivalent permanent role, although unfortunately contractor rates have been hit bad since the financial crisis started. Finally, these jobs are easier to get and I have worked many contracts without even a single interview! Now compare that with permanent jobs where you will typically be seen by at least two or three people and have to sit several rounds.

Can't Do Smiley Face Or Insert Clipart Or Live Spell Check In Outlook 2003

A woman rang the other day and she was the only person out of all her team who could not have smiley faces automatically resolve, did not have a clipart library to use and did not have the live-running spell check ability. Even some of her menus looked totally different.

I couldn't work out why her's looked so different to everyone else's, even though they were all on the same version of Outlook (2003).

Then I figured it out. Everyone else was using the MS Word editor for emails and hers was configured to use the HTML editor.

A quick change and Outlook was totally transformed. Amazing what one little switch can do.

Help My PC Is Slow

When someone calls and says "my PC is slow", it really is music to my ears...NOT!

PCs get slower over time. The operating system gets bloated and buggy and software, plugins, patches etc. all get more demanding while your computer stands still in the quagmire of technology.

If your PC is slow, there ain't much you can do about it except to turn off the fancy bells and whistles. I strongly recommend going to System Properties (right click My Computer, Properties) and adjusting for "Best Performance".

Otherwise, make sure you have enough disk space and delete your internet cache, including the history.

There ain't much more you can do except get your PC totally rebuilt (fresh install of Windows).

Oh yeah, be more patient too. The biggest problem is likely to be you rather than the computer. Slow the hell down!

How to Remove Printer Drivers

Sometimes computers will give print problems and you must remove the drivers and reinstall them.

If you simply delete the printer, the drivers will still sit on your hard disk. You need to rip them out of the registry and also delete the folder containing the drivers.

Case in point, I came across this weird error for someone when printing in Internet Explorer:

An error has occurred in the script on this page. 
Line : 2053 
Char: 1 
Error : Invalid procedure call or argument. 
Code: 0 
URL: res/ieframe.dll/preview.js.

A very unhelpful error which googling showed means the printer drivers are corrupt.

In Windows 7 you can click the printer and "Server Properties" appears in the menu. You can then remove the printer driver. You may have to stop the print spooler (go to services.msc and stop it there). This doesn't always work though.

If in doubt, rip it out! (manually remove printer drivers):

Stop print spooler then,

Remove contents of folder:

Go to regedit and delete these keys:
“HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\Environments\Windows NT x86\Drivers\Version-3”
“HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\Environments\Windows x64\Drivers\Version-3”

This will wipe out all installed printers on your computer and you can start again.

Welcome To The Blog

Welcome to my blog.

I am an IT contractor. I prostitute my services to whichever company wants them.

IT Support as a career totally sucks. But I have learned a lot about the human race from my interactions with them. In this blog I will share my personal anecdotes as well as solutions to support problems as and when I come across them.

The Guy From IT

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