Back in the “old days” when I was on a team supporting hundreds of servers we would occasionally encounter an issue that we just couldn’t figure out. We were lucky then to have a third level team we could call who had a direct link to Microsoft for support, no questions asked, no credit card required.
We would call them up, or fill in the form on the support website, and a triage tech would call to take some information and then a tech would call. The tech would send us a link and have us download a tool that we would run on the server. The Microsoft Product Support Report Tool would run and gather up, into one tidy package, all of the many logs and settings found on the server and wrap it up ready for delivery to the tech for analysis. We would then be provided with a temporary ftp address where we would send the package. The tech would take a look, stir with whatever magic diagnostic wands they had at their disposal, and provide us with a summary of what they had found. If the results didn’t tell us exactly what the problem was it would often give us a pointer to the direction we should be looking for a possible solution.
That’s gone now.
What you have now is something equally useful and interesting. The Microsoft Support Diagnostics portal gives you pages and pages of typical items that might require diagnosis ranging from Baseline analysis, Exchange Server, IIS diagnosis, Windows Server diagnosis and almost everything else under the Microsoft sun.
So it works like this. You browse to the portal and login with your Microsoft Live ID. Now that you’re logged in browse through the pages of options to find the diagnostics selection you need. You run through the diagnostic process and upload the results. The upload is analyzed and you get feedback that gives you an idea of what is wrong and how to go about fixing it. A handy resource.
So we get to Hertz. We unload the car, gather up all our gear, unscrew the Action Cam from the mount attached to the rear view mirror….and leave the mount hanging on the rear view mirror. D’oh! I called Hertz right away but despite our pending departure they weren’t able to grab the forgotten clamp and run it over to the hotel before we left for Canada. So anyway, I filled out the lost and found form with Hertz and sent a tweet to @Hertz who jumped right in and said they were on the case. A couple of weeks pass and I get an email from someone at Hertz asking to confirm the details and then an email arrived from Inga at Hertz in Iceland asking me how much I wanted to spend to ship it. The next day I get another email with this attached. And then a week or so later the clamp has arrived in the mailbox.
We’ve been back for a few weeks now and had time to think on the trip a bit and on the toys I took with me to “enhance” the experience. Let me sum it up by saying that taking all of the toys with me wasn’t a burden because we had a car for most of the time we were there so carrying the extra weight didn’t matter. Having said that I didn’t actually use all of the items I took.
The Seat Pak was super useful. All of the goodies we needed close at hand, Elke has one too, we loaded up into our Seat Paks and it made finding what we needed when we needed them super easy. I continue to have poor experiences when it comes to pens I take when traveling, not the Seat Pak’s fault. I took a Sharpie fine point which leaked into one of the pockets. Dammit! On the positive side, the lining inside the Seat Pak kept the permanent black ink from going anywhere but into the bottom of the pocket it was in. The Seat Pak itself seems to magically expand to hold all of the normal stuff one might take on a journey and then some. I can comfortably recommend this for anyone who travels occasionally or frequently.
Next up is the Sony Action Monopod. It is not a selfie stick. Really, it’s not. This was handy at some stops but mostly stayed in the pack. We unpacked it and had some fun towards the end of the trip. It’s light, takes up almost no space, and is easy to use so taking it along was ok. I would take it on the next trip. This is really one of those “use some common sense” items. Think about where you are and those around you before you pull this out.
Second of the three Sony Action Cam accessories I took along was the Sony Action Cam Extended Clamp Mount. This we used almost every day while we were in the car. We originally clamped this bad boy to one of the door handles. After checking the view of the camera we discovered we weren’t getting the best shot from that location. I moved it to clamp to the post where the rear view mirror connects to the windshield. That did the trick. We connected the camera and from this spot we could each easily reach up and start the camera if we came upon something interesting and wanted to record. Very handy. I’m not sure why but when we returned the car I unscrewed the camera but completely forgot about the clamp and left it clinging helplessly to the rear view mirror. I contacted Hertz and we’ll see if it makes its way home to Ottawa in the post.
Lastly we have the suction cup. It never got used. There were a couple of places where it would have come in handy but the things/sites we would have filmed were on us and gone before we could prepare to actually use the suction cup mount. I’m going to play with it a bit now that we’re home in the hope that on the next trip we’ll use it more. Perhaps I’ll buy another cam and stick one outside the car and one inside for easy access.
On a side note, but still related to travel gear, I took my travel tripod with me as well. I have a most excellent Manfrotto BeFree tripod. This thing is one of the nicest pieces of photo kit I own. My company bought it for me as a reward for passing some exams a while back. I packed this so we could use it to capture some night photos of Aurora Borealis. Iceland is one of those places you go to for light free photos of the Norther Lights. Most of our trip the conditions weren’t really good for night photos. Not the best hotel location, rain, clouds, etc. When we arrived at Fosshotel Nupar on the day before we arrived back in Reykjavik on check-in the young man at the front desk asked if we wanted to be woken in the night if the night staff spied Norther Lights. Of course!! I pulled out the tripod and got everything setup and ready to go so when the knock on the door came I would be able to step out the door and the camera could be deployed without delay. No such luck. The clouds rolled in about Midnight and the rain started shortly after that. Just one more reason to go back to Iceland I guess.
I bought a Sony Action Cam a couple of years ago to use on my bicycle. It’s a pretty good camera but a bit underused these days. With our upcoming Ring Road adventure in Iceland and having seen some really good video compilations done by others I decided to spend a few bucks and buy some Action Cam accessories so I can feel like a proper Spielberg during the trip.
To add to the assorted accessories I already own I bought three new items. The first item is the must-have Sony Action Cam Monopod. Not to be confused with a selfie-stick this is clearly a monopod for action. It’s got a couple of segments that will let me extend it about three and a half feet and it has a spongy hand grip as well as a strap to wrap around my wrist so I don’t drop it into a volcano or geyser.
Item number two is the versatile extended clamp for clamping to such things as internal car fixtures and assorted clamp-able items in nature. It’s pretty sturdy gear and should be up to the task of providing stable clamp-age.
Item number three should be super fun. To round off the accessories I bought myself an Action Cam suction cup mount. This thing is designed to grab securely to flat surfaces like car hoods and fenders. It’ll either generate some fun footage or we’ll make a stop along the way and wonder where we lost it. : ) Stand by for the action!!
In my never ending quest for interesting gadgets and cool doodads and stuff I recently came across one of those cool “you’ve never heard of these guys before” companies that sells travel items that are just super cool and useful. The company is called Flight 001 and has locations in all the groovy cities around the world as well as the usual online location.
The item itself is called the F1 Seat Pak and comes in two types, Pro and standard, with eight colour options. It’s essentially a super handy organizer with assorted pockets to carry all of the critical items the traveler needs close at hand when taking a journey by plane. Mind you, I can see this being handy for use on the train as well.
What you get is a well made, expandable fabric pouch divided into compartments for typical travel items. On the back is a larger zippered pocket labelled Jet Comfort where you might store your inflatable neck rest, an eye mask, ear plugs, etc.
On the front are three zippered pockets. The first is labelled Digital for your music player, cell phone, a small camera, etc. The second is labelled Travel ID for your passport, wallet, customs documents, etc. The third is labelled Aerostuff and could be used for gum, more earplugs, hand cream/hand sanitizer, etc.
On the end of the bag is a small loop perfect for hooking the bag onto the tray table latch on the seat in front of you while in flight (or on the train) thus providing easy access to all your necessaries without having to dig through a bag in the overhead compartment or strain to reach something from the bag under the seat.
I haven’t had the opportunity to use this yet, I purchased a pair for our upcoming trip to Iceland, but its clear that this is going to be very useful. I’ll add an update once we get back.
I have a laser printer at home. It’s an HP LaserJet Professional CP1025NW. It’s a dandy colour printer. When I want to use it with my Windows 10 computers I go to the HP support webpage and download the appropriate driver and go from there. For some reason Windows wants to install the HP LaserJet Professional CP1020 series driver which must have something related to the CP1025NW driver. It never properly installed on my Windows 8.1 computers and it’s now doing the same thing with the Windows 10 computers I have. Every time new updates are released Windows 10 tries with all its might to install that CP1020 driver and every time it results in this:
What I would like to do is uncheck the requirement/option that insists on updating this particular driver. Sadly, this isn’t available to me. I can understand why that is. Microsoft is doing its best to protect people who run with scissors. Budding trapeze artists who use no safety net. I had a chat the other day with one of the smart people I work with about my printer driver dilemma and he pointed me to this support article KB3073930. There are a couple of excellent suggestions in the article but there’s also an actual work around to “make it stop” trying to install the driver.
When you download and run the wushowhide.diagcab file available on the support article page it does a quick scan of your machine and presents you with the option to Show or hide updates.
I selected Hide updates and was presented with a list of drivers including the “offending” driver.
I selected the driver and click next and the wizard begins “Resolving problems”. The wizard completes and resolves the problem. If the situation changes with that driver I can always rerun the wizard and Show hidden updates to allow Windows to update it successfully.
Four days ago I noticed a serious drop in performance on my five year old Dell Studio laptop. An uncomfortable change in behavior was happening that appeared to be coming out of the blue. The system would degrade to the point where it was almost unusable. CPU stats would climb to 42% in Task Manager and stick there. The fan would jump to full power and stay there.
I went over what I might have changed or installed: a new password database application, and update to WinZip, some Microsoft updates, beta Firefox. Nothing really that should have caused the drag in performance that I was seeing. Symantec? I downloaded and installed MalwareBytes to scan for malware or anything malicious that might be present. Its been a really long time, years, since I’ve had any sort of virus issue so I wasn’t really surprised when the scans came back negative.
Next I looked at the hardware. Had something failed? I ran the diagnostics on the hardware and everything responded as ok. Wow, weird. So next I decided to remove the newer software, starting with the Firefox, and see if perhaps one of the new programs was causing the discomfort. No such luck. Uninstalled it and a couple of older programs I no longer use, did a clean up of the disk, installed CPUID’s HW Monitor to get an idea of how the hardware was behaving. The exhaust port was hot to the touch. The cpu seemed to be throwing off a lot of heat. HW Monitor told me the cpu was super hot, the cores were all pinned at 100%. Without running anything the cpu was being taxed like crazy.
Digging around online I found a few articles pointing to the weird 42% cpu thing but nothing that seemed related to my situation. Last night I found something different. There are a couple, more than a couple, of references to changes in how virtual memory is managed by Windows 10. This is something I haven’t changed in ages, Windows has been doing a good job of managing this. I don’t know what changed it but it definitely changed. So, I right click Start, select System, select Advanced system settings, select Settings under Performance on the Advanced tab. Select the Advanced tab on Performance Options and click Change on the Virtual Memory option. I uncheck the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives option and set the Custom size to the Recommended option at the bottom. Close everything up, reboot the laptop, and everything is back to normal.
I can only imagine that when the last set of updates were applied it maybe reset something? I’m going to watch it for a few days then try and switch it back and see what it does. Weird.
I’m dropping this here for future reference. It’s a lovely catchall of the many Microsoft tools for Windows deployment.
Oh ya, did I mention I passed 70-347? Well I did! Another MCSA to add to my transcript. Now, back to work on 70-417.
I have successfully updated three of the Windows 10 machines here at home but the fourth, the one I use regularly and often, just won’t go. From what I see online the problem is related to the installation of the Windows DVD player KB3081704 which appears to be successfully installed on this computer. Interestingly I see the updates download and run and appear to go to 100% before they crap out. I haven’t seen the November update yet on this machine. I’m not a big fan of the way Microsoft is presenting the details of the updates. The “learn more” and “details” links provide fairly useless information. I’m hoping this changes. If Microsoft is going to provide more frequent updates in the background to keep Windows 10 current it would be super useful if they also provide lots of details of what’s being updated and why.