Windows 9 Tech Preview Coming in Late September

http://www.zdnet.com/microsoft-to-deliver-windows-threshold-tech-preview-around-late-september-7000032668/

- Soli Deo Gloria

Paragon Rescue Kit 14 Free

Got an e-mail from Paragon this morning about the Windows PE based Paragon Rescue Kit 14 Free: http://www.paragon-software.com/home/rk-free/.  Decided to take it for a test drive and unfortunately, I am disappointed.  First, you cannot install the program without registering.  It’s free to register to get the codes, but that’s a pain!  It wanted to use the Windows 8.1 ADK which I downloaded.  There’s two versions you can build: x86 and x64.  I built the x86 version.  I booted it and it comes up with a screen with several buttons: backup to virtual disk, postmortem backup, undelete partition, boot corrector, transfer files, load drivers, setup network.  You can also do a restore of course.  That’s it.  No file manager, no desktop and…no thanks.

There are better WinPE discs out there such as this one or the ones over at http://reboot.pro:

http://windowsmatters.com/2013/04/30/windows-8-based-pe-boot-disk-with-explorer-shell-and-all-my-favorite-apps/

- Soli Deo Gloria

Fastmail.fm: Fall in love with e-mail again

My e-mail has been pretty stable.  I was using my own domain leinss.com with Tuffmail for the past 9 years.  Tuffmail has been rock solid, but has been lacking in infrastructure upgrades.  Recently, I tried changing my password on Tuffmail and had to contact tech support to do so.  The writing was on the wall: it was time to look for alternatives.  I copied all my e-mail over to my web host Eleven2.  They offer unlimited mailboxes and bandwidth.  It was already included in the price I pay for web hosting, so why not?  Well, I can tell you why not.  First, Eleven2 is a web host and not an e-mail provider.  The controls you have over your e-mail are very basic and I got a lot more spam than I did at Tuffmail.  I tried to e-mail an ATT e-mail address and it was bounced back: the server my website is on was on some type of blacklist.  Then, I couldn’t get to Eleven2 at all: they had blacklisted my IP for too many failed IMAP logins (what?).  Enough was enough: I had to move, AGAIN.

I decided to try Fastmail.fm since it is highly recommended over at www.emailaddresses.com and I have to say: I found my new home!  I love the web interface: simple, elegant, clean and functional.  Tons of options you can configure…setting up my aliases and rules was a breeze. Discounts for multiple year subscriptions.  Clear descriptions on each account level.  Oh look: you can import e-mail from another provider!  I tried it and it worked flawlessly.  Wow, I’m hooked!

Then it was to over to configure Outlook 2013 to work with Fastmail and that’s where the trouble started.  For some reason, Outlook would show me new mail in Inbox but not any of the subfolders I had created unless I clicked on each folder.  Basically, my setup is if you e-mail something@leinss.com, I create a rule for that alias and then move that message into the something folder.  It helps route messages into bins for sorting.  If someone adds something@leinss.com to a spam list, I can delete and re-create a new alias.  I deleted and re-created the account in Outlook several times, toying with settings…no dice.

I went looking on the Internet for a new mail client.  Ah, there was Eudora!  I had used that for many years back in the 90s.  I loaded it and yeah…crash, crash, crash.  Tried Operamail and then I tried Mailbird and this program actually worked correctly with IMAP at Fastmail. Mailbird allows you to add up to 3 accounts in the lite version…works naively with Google’s calendar…very nice!  It can check all 3 of my accounts and then it places the number of new messages in a little envelope in the taskbar.  Goodbye Outlook 2013!

- Soli Deo Gloria

Largest collection of FREE Microsoft eBooks ever

You know what to do!

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/mssmallbiz/archive/2014/07/07/largest-collection-of-free-microsoft-ebooks-ever-including-windows-8-1-windows-8-windows-7-office-2013-office-365-office-2010-sharepoint-2013-dynamics-crm-powershell-exchange-server-lync-2013-system-center-azure-cloud-sql.aspx

- Soli Deo Gloria

 

A Tale of Two Autologins

I’ve used autolog.exe from Novell for many years to setup kiosk type computers.  This program works great on 32-bit machines, but not so great on Windows 64-bit.  You can basically input your username, password and domain and click “Enable Autologin” and the magic is done.  So why doesn’t this work on Windows x64?  I ran WhatChanged picking the registry bits only and it came up with these registry settings:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\DefaultDomainName=mypc HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\DefaultUserName=administrator HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\DontDisplayLastUserName=0 HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\AutoAdminLogon=1 HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\DefaultPassword=SecretPassword HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\ForceAutoLogon=1 HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\AutoLogonCount=99999999999999999999999999999999999999999 HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\GinaDLL=MSGINA.DLL HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Never Login=1

If you re-run the test on Windows 32-bit, you get the same results except the Wow6432Node part.   If I move these settings to the “64-bit” registry, the autologin works fine until I reboot and then it is broken.  There’s some interesting things to note here: if you do a Google search,  Never Login=1 doesn’t show up anywhere so I’m not sure what that does.  What the heck is Wow6432Node and why is Windows putting settings in there?  Well, there a “two” branches of the registry and to prevent different architectures of the same program from over writing the settings of each other, Microsoft separated the two.   This is a partial listing of the keys that are re-directed and those that are shared: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa384253(v=vs.85).aspx.

Incidentally, Autologon from Sysinternals suffers the same problem as well.  Although not as handy, we can use a REG file that will do the autologin and it will not breaking using the left-shift method:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon]
"DisableCAD"=dword:00000001
"AutoAdminLogon"="1"
"DefaultUserName"="someuser"
"DefaultDomainName"="somedomain"
"DefaultPassword"="somepassword"
"ForceAutoLogon"="1"

And to disable it we can do:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon]
"DisableCAD"=-
"AutoAdminLogon"=-
"DefaultUserName"=-
"DefaultDomainName"=-
"DefaultPassword"=-
"ForceAutoLogon"=-

- Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Cannot Delete Folder/Filenames With Names Past 255+ Characters

Ugh…did a file backup copy of a PC and it created folders with names past the legal Windows limit of 255+ characters.  Windows will happily create these “illegal” folders, but will refuse to remove them.  I went on Google and some people are hawking a paid solution for this, but I found Deep Remove which works perfectly and is free.  Thanks Deep Remove :)

http://deepremove.codeplex.com/releases

- Soli Deo Gloria

 

Registry Hack Gives Windows XP Five More Years of Updates

An interesting registry hack to make XP looked like a POSReady system so it continues to get updates:

http://www.geek.com/microsoft/registry-hack-gives-windows-xp-five-more-years-of-updates-1594876/

Code:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\WPA\PosReady]
"Installed"=dword:00000001

- Soli Deo Gloria

Get The Professional Version of MiniTool Partition Wizard for Free

Offer good until May 25th:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/get-professional-version-minitool-partition-wizard-free.htm-0?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gizmosbest+(Gizmo%27s+Best-ever+Freeware)

- Soli Deo Gloria

Case of the Unexplained – TechEd 2014

Mark Russinovich’s annual “Case of the Unexplained”: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2014/WIN-B354#fbid=

Very good video series on Windows troubleshooting.

- Soli Deo Gloria

The Mystery of the Auto Hide Taskbar Setting

This shouldn’t have been a mystery, but it turned into one!  Recently, we pushed out a bunch of Windows 7 x64 kiosk type computers and discovered that we needed to hide the bottom task bar (it was covering part of the kiosk application).  Unfortunately, we had already locked down the AD account so tight that the user account didn’t have access to any control panels.  I figured this wasn’t a big idea and that this setting was probably controlled by a registry key.  Well, it is, but get ready for a bumpy ride!  Search around the Internet long enough and you’ll get a few answers where this value is stored, but the real answer is that Windows 7 keeps the auto hide taskbar setting in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StuckRects2.  So what the heck is StuckRects2?  Well, I found this…a deep dive into this array value: http://www.dabcc.com/article.aspx?id=9724.  Yup, it’s no ordinary value and it controls various other taskbar settings.

I couldn’t find any historical reason for the name (someone e-mail Raymond Chen from Microsoft!), but my guess is it stands for Stuck Rectangle or that rectangle on the bottom of your screen that won’t go away.  This should be easy enough: check the box for auto hide taskbar, export StruckRects2 into a REG file and go on our merry way.  Well, that didn’t work!  After several more hours of searching, I found this web site: http://www.engincapat.com/windows-taskbar-autio-hide-scripts/ and a nice little VBScript file that did work logged in as the user:

Option Explicit
Const HKCU = &H80000001
Dim objReg
Set objReg = GetObject("winmgmts:{impersonationLevel=impersonate}root\default:StdRegProv")
Dim objWMI
Set objWMI = GetObject("winmgmts:{impersonationLevel=impersonate}root\cimv2")
' Adjust the first bit of the taskbar settings
Dim arrVal()
objReg.GetBinaryValue HKCU, "Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StuckRects2", "Settings", arrVal
arrVal(8) = (arrVal(8) AND &h07) OR &h01
objReg.SetBinaryValue HKCU, "Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StuckRects2", "Settings", arrVal
' Restart Explorer for the settings to take effect.
Dim objProcess, colProcesses
Set colProcesses = objWMI.ExecQuery("Select * from Win32_Process Where Name='explorer.exe'")
For Each objProcess In colProcesses
objProcess.Terminate()
Next

The guy actually went through and documented each hex value and what it does.   So why does this work and not the REG file export/import?  There are two issues that I observed:

1) Explorer does not flush out this setting right away to this registry value.  If you make the change and then export it right away, you’ll export the same value as if it were unchecked.  I actually thought this was a bug in ProcMon since I could see the value being changed in SpyStudio, but not Procmon, but that’s because I wasn’t waiting long enough for explorer to flush out the value.

2) Even if you import the correct values, the value that was there before is written out by explorer.exe.

The only explanation I can come up with is that there are values in memory that explorer.exe uses and these are read in once at login and wrote out during logoff.  The only way to inject the correct value via a non-GUI method is to replace the value, then kill and restart explorer.  Explorer.exe will then read in our new value and life is good.

And just for reference: these are the settings for hide and no hide (note the red values)…

Hide

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StuckRects2]
"Settings"=hex:28,00,00,00,ff,ff,ff,ff,03,00,00,00,03,00,00,00,3e,00,00,00,1e,\
 00,00,00,00,00,00,00,66,03,00,00,40,06,00,00,84,03,00,00

No Hide

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StuckRects2]
"Settings"=hex:28,00,00,00,ff,ff,ff,ff,02,00,00,00,03,00,00,00,3e,00,00,00,1e,\
 00,00,00,00,00,00,00,66,03,00,00,40,06,00,00,84,03,00,00

- Soli Deo Gloria