Archive for the 'windows' Category

Solved: BSOD 0x7e after installing SP3 in XP

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Do you service computers running Windows XP? Do you occasionally rebuild them with new components? Then keep the following in mind.

We had two PCs at work that we rebuilt with new CPU/board/RAM, noticed they were only running Service Pack 2, then as a normal part of servicing we ran the installer for SP3. Both of them seemed to install fine, but when we came back they were stuck at a blue screen – 0x0000007e.

This rung a bell for me, as we’d had this sort of thing happen before, and I managed to remember: If you have an Intel PC running XP SP2, then rebuild it with an AMD CPU, then install SP3, it will BSOD. It’s still trying to load an Intel-specific driver that causes major problems if you switch to AMD, so as per this Microsoft KB article, you need to boot it into safe mode, fire up regedit, and change the value of the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\Intelppm

…from whatever it was to the number 4. Reboot into normal mode, and away you go.

Solved: “Bluebirds” installer on LG GH22NS50 DVD-RW

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

LG GH22NS50 DVD-RW. LG GH22NS50 sticker.

This is the LG GH22NS50. We’ve started stocking these at work – just the next low-cost SATA burner option for us. Except it comes with a nasty surprise, and that surprise is Bluebirds.

Bluebirds 'disc' shown in My Computer.

It’s some kind of drag-to-disc software included with the drive. Not on a CD, of course; it’s hacked into the drive’s firmware, and shows up when there’s no disc in the drive at all. Which means that every time you close the tray with nothing in it, you get prompted to install it, thanks to Windows helpfully autorunning it.

It’s not really a malicious program. It just sits in your system tray until you close it or uninstall it (Control Panel -> Add/remove programs, in XP). It’s probably even helpful, for the few people who let it sit around long enough to find out. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet.

Way to go, LG; not only does your drive automatically try to install an unwanted program on your customers’ computers, but you’ve changed a fundamental thing about how CD drives work: If there’s no disc in the drive, it should be empty and that’s the end of it. You’ve changed how it behaves, and that fills us with false and misleading knowledge.

It’s as bad as when ISPs used to rebrand Internet Explorer as being “provided by [some telco]“; none of my customers could ever understand that IE was just a program on their computer and nothing to do with their ISP.

Anyway, the fellow who started this forum thread has the solution – there’s a firmware update for the drive that removes the Bluebirds installer, along with the fake disc-in-drive thing. Not to steal his thunder or anything, but I wanted to complain too. :)

Firmware update for LG burner.

The firmware updater orders you to remove the disc from the drive before running the firmware update, which is the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve ever seen a PC program do. You have to eject the drive and let it sit there poking its tongue out for 30 seconds while you erase the Bluebirds part of its brain.

I’ve uploaded the program to my /static/ folder, so there’s another place on the internet for it to be found:

You might want to read that forum thread anyway. The utter lack of official information from LG about this is disturbing.

Obviously this just removes the installer and auto-runner from the drive; if you’ve clicked yes to install it, you’ll have to uninstall it from your computer as well. I don’t recall seeing it in Control Panel; there’s a link in the Bluebirds folder in your Start Menu to get rid of it.

Update 30/9/09: There’s a separate version for the Lightscribe-enabled GH22LS50; that can be found here:

LN01 firmware update for LG GH22LS50 (Lightscribe) DVD-RW: http://tim.id.au/static/GH22LS50_TL01.exe (2MB)

Update 7/1/10: A few commenters here run Linux or BSD or something else that isn’t Windows; I don’t currently have a practical way to experiment with it myself, but one commenter successfully reflashed his drive using Crossover Linux. They offer a fully-functional 30 day trial here, and I recommend trying that if you possibly can.

If you seriously have no way of flashing it yourself though, any little PC shop ought to be able to do it for you for a small fee – if you visit the place you originally bought it from they may do it for free if you complain logically enough. At my work we pre-emptively reflash the drives before they go out because we couldn’t stand the thought of selling them with the Bluebirds crap still in them.

Update 23/5/10: A commenter has informed me of the new 02 version of the firmware for both of these drives. It took me a good 30 minutes to track down both of them, thanks to every region-localised website LG operates containing the full product page of each and every product they’ve ever made, but the respective support pages only showing the products most relevant to that region. I still have no idea where the Lightscribe version of this drive is meant to have been sold, but it’s sure not any country I’ve heard of.

Anyway – well-deserved plug here for Firmware HQ. If only companies would properly support their own products, we wouldn’t be so utterly reliant on the goodwill of sites like that. The Lx02 firmware apparently adds support for Windows 7, although I don’t recall having problems with it at work…

LN02 firmware for GH22NS50: http://tim.id.au/static/GH22NS50_TN02.exe (2MB)

LS02 firmware for GH22LS50 (Lightscribe): http://tim.id.au/static/GH22LS50_TL02.exe (2MB)

Solved: Error 0x800704dd running Windows Update

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Frequently referenced as error 80240020. The fix depends on what version of Windows you use. Microsoft happily document each solution on its knowledgebase page here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/910341/en-us

I wouldn’t bother blogging this, but the fix for Windows 2000, XP and 2003 involves adding a registry key that’s gone missing. Something happens to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Notify\SensLogn, namely that it disappears. Not sure what’s causing it, but I’ve seen it on two PCs at work in the last week, and I quickly tired of re-typing the key information (there’s 14 different fields to fill in…).

Here for your (and my!) quick reference is SensLogn.reg. Right-click, save to anywhere, and merge with your registry on 2000, XP or 2003 to fix error 800704dd.

informing your decisions

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

notavailable

I’m pretty sure it’s Flash. Then again, I’ve never heard of this publisher, so what am I to do?

clearance

Don’t ask Officeworks for a better deal. You’ll throw them into an infinite loop.

nosignal

In retrospect, I probably should have called that phone number. It was funnier not to, though.

bodge job: chassis intrusion switch

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

A local business recently retired its elderly Xeon server, replacing it with something a little more powerful; the Xeon was repurposed as a normal desktop PC, with a new copy of XP Pro and all. The guy who was to get it asked us to install a sound card, so we did that.

And then it stopped working, saying we’d triggered the chassis intrusion alarm. On most computers, you’d go “oh, okay, that’s cool”, hit F1, and go about your business.

Not so with a server based on an ASUS NCLV-DA. This board yanks on the air-raid siren, barks at its own barking, and thumbs its nose at you if you take the side off the case. It refuses to boot until you reset the CMOS, which of course wipes out the clock and other settings.

At least one other unlucky tech had come across this problem before me; someone’d stickytaped the switch down, so it wouldn’t trigger if the case side came off. This had served well until today, when the tape let go and the motherboard went into panic mode in front of me.

I had a more permanent solution up my sleeve: I stuck a jumper across the intrusion sensor pins on the board, effectively closing the circuit and cutting the little switch and its ever-so-thin wires out of the loop entirely.

Two times two is five

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

In fixing a computer, you must narrow the problem down to being one of two types: hardware and software.

A software problem is a genuine bug in a program, where clicking something ordinary produces an unexpected and often inexplicable result, like incorrect output or a funny error message and a crash. These problems are often fixed by updating the software to a newer version, or replacing it with something equivalent.

A hardware problem is a faulty video card, or a failing hard drive, which often mainfest themselves in software-problem-like ways (programs glitch or crash) as far as the user is concerned, but are part of an overall pattern that can point to hardware. A dying hard drive can cause a computer to run slowly, programs to crash on startup, Windows not to start up at all.

It’s important to differentiate between the two, and recognise that one may look like the other. One can also cause the other; bad memory can corrupt data to the point where Windows doesn’t start, and you’ll still have to reinstall after replacing the faulty RAM.

There are also, I’ve come to realise, two types of computer users.

The first type will say they know just enough about computers to get themselves into trouble. They are often wrong about this, and their computers will be clean as a whistle, with very few desktop icons, they’ll know how to email spreadsheets to people, they’ll ask intelligent questions (and be honest about the dumb ones) and they’ll eagerly listen to every word you say with deep fascination and concentration. These are my favourite customers.

The second type are more than happy to admit they tinker with their PCs, often without knowing what’s happening or how it can affect things. Then, when they show you the computer you built them and it’s got scratches and cat hair all over it, they’ll arrogantly accuse you of selling them a useless antivirus program and that they clearly have a massive infestation of some sort. Then you’ll discover they’ve moved the folders for those apps out of C:\Program Files\ and into C:\Documents and Settings\Greg\Desktop\Spies and Nasties\, and argue til they’re blue in the face it’s not their fault Spybot doesn’t load anymore.

This second category of user brings me to my point: There’s a terrifying, third kind of computer problem you can encounter. Console modders will be familiar with the concept of a semi-bricked device – not quite a dead write-off, not quite alive enough to be usable, hovering between this world and that in a curious limbo state.

They don’t sleep, they don’t communicate, they walk aimlessly forever unless you cut their heads off, and they can’t be brought back. I’m talking about zombies. There’s nothing you can do except to step back, nuke from orbit, and start all over again.

One lady dropped her computer about a foot onto a concrete floor. No cracks in the case, no cracks in the motherboard, no bad sectors on the hard drive, nothing verifiably wrong with it, but it… ran… slowly. Installing XP would take three hours. It’d take minutes to get to the desktop. Everything would work, but at a snail’s pace. We sold her a new computer.

One old guy did something to Device Manager or the drivers, and his computer wouldn’t recognise PS/2 mice. USB mice were fine, PS/2 keyboards were fine, but that PS/2 mouse was an unknown device and nothing could ever be made of it. There was no fix – this was not a problem that sensible, normal people have with their computers, so nobody had ever written a fix for it. We reinstalled Windows and told him not to do it again.

Another guy ordered a computer with four gigs of RAM last week – specifically, two twinpacks of 1GB DDR2 made by G-skill. Because the days of random memory incompatibilities are long over, we agreed, and he brought it back a week later because it bluescreened five times a day and it was essentially unusable. We narrowed it down to the RAM, and G-skill told us we should’ve bought a 2x2GB kit instead of using four 1GB sticks to ensure compatibility. We put the Gskill RAM into other computers separately (they work fine when there’s not four of them together) and sold the guy RAM of a less-picky brand.

When a printer’s quick setup guide tells you not to plug the printer into the computer until you’ve installed the software and it instructs you to do so, do what it bloody well says, because if you plug the printer in first and Windows starts in with the “oh crap, where’s the software for this thing?” dance, you’ll need someone with a steady hand, deep knowledge of Windows, and a twinkle of danger in their eye to make things right afterward. I don’t know how anybody can be proud to sell a consumer-targeted inkjet made by HP, because troubleshooting those things is like trying to debate philosophy while being repeatedly hit in the face with an angry wombat.

Stuff I fixed this week

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

I’ve seen three different computers in the last month with this bizarre problem. Laptop or desktop, if you tried typing, it’d just click at you from the PC speaker and type nothing on the screen. Mouse is fine, everything else is fine, just tick tick tick as you typed.

Oddly, this is actually a feature of Windows called Filter Keys, which ignores brief or repeated keypresses in case you find it hard to type normally. It’s an option in Accessibility (irony!) the Ease of Acces Center, and can be turned on or off by pressing and holding the right shift key for eight seconds.

I’m not joking. The PC troubleshooting part of my brain couldn’t come up with a sensible reason for this behaviour outside some kind of hardware fault, and I didn’t think of accessibility settings until the USB keyboard plugged into a laptop did exactly the same thing.

Given the frequency (3 times in a month and never before…), we think it might actually be a sign of a virus or hoax AV messing with your head (Look! Something’s wrong for real! Buy me!). Stay safe.

Filter Keys in Accessibility, Windows XP.

-

Aside from that, Microsoft Office has been up to its usual tricks. Credit for solution and this screenshot to this CNet thread.

office2007theme

Note the messed up titlebar spacing, and that the ribbons are missing their more typical Fluent blue theming. If Office 2007 appears like this for you, you need to do at least one and possibly both of the following:

  1. Remove anything that calls itself a “mirror” driver from the Display Adapters section of Device Manager. It’s some kind of video acceleration for a particular remote control application;
  2. Turn High Contrast off in Accessibility. The guy in that thread was using Vista, and removing the driver was apparently all he had to do; my customer was using XP, and we had to take this extra step to get it back to normal.

High Contrast setting in Accessibility, Windows XP.

look closer

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

There’s a virtual machine running somewhere in this picture:

vm

Can you spot it?

Howto: Automatically log in and lock your session so things load faster

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

If you don’t set a password on your Windows user account, you get logged in straight away, and things like MSN and your email notifier start loading immediately. If you have a password, things stop dead until you’ve sat down and typed it in to log in, in which case you could still have a minute or two to wait before things are usable again.

What I dreamed up the other day was this: Is there a way to log yourself in automatically, but immediately lock your session, so you still need a password to use your PC but your desktop/icons/random programs are already loaded by the time you type it in? Intel have a feature in their wireless drivers called single sign-on that connects to your wireless network before you’ve logged in, to speed things up in that exact way; why can’t we do it with everything else?

Turns out that a) we can, and b) it’s easy to do, because I’m not the first person to think of doing it.

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Mapping your network with Windows 7

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Link Layer Topology Discovery first appeared when Windows Vista came out in 2006, but wasn’t very exciting back then, as most people playing with Vista had existing home networks full of XP, which doesn’t support LLTD by default. Now, though, with Vista machines more common and regular people up to testing Windows 7, it’s becoming more than just a curiosity: it actually works now.

networkmap

This is Windows 7′s network mapper in action at a recent LAN gathering. C7 and Pitchblack aren’t shown in the map; those PCs were running Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux respectively, both of which need a little tweaking to show up properly in Vista/7′s network mapper.

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