Because computers don't fix themselves

Adobe Flash Player in Firefox 6

I just upgraded to Firefox 6 recently, and ever since doing so, I kept getting the stupid error message about adobe flash player not being able to load content. This message:

Adobe Flash Player has Stopped a Potentially Unsafe Operation

The following local application on your computer or network : [object] is trying to communicate with this Internet-enabled location, blah blah blah

Anyway, clearly it was Adobe flash player not reading ads on pages properly. I wouldn’t mind that so much, except that it also crashed the webpage and forced me to restart my browser every time.

After several unsuccessful tries at updating my Adobe Flash player, I realized that the usual Adobe Flash updater for Firefox was freezing and not completing the install. I’m not sure why this was happening. Probably one more issue of having a 64 bit version of Windows which programmers are STILL trying to figure out.

The solution for me was to download the .msi installer for the flash updater rather than using their usual downloadable .exe version. I had to root around to find it, but here it is:

http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/fp_distribution3.html

Windows / Plug-in based browsers / Download MSI installer. AFter running that, voila. Adobe flash finally updated, and so far, no more crashing. Good luck!

P.S. – The error message came up one more time after installation succeeded. But, because it wasn’t crashed this time, all I had to do was click on “settings” and make sure that I allowed all websites to store information on my computer was checked. Which, by the way, is fine. Websites always store information on your computer in order to make them load faster or remember your user name. It’s not a security problem to allow that.

CD Drive Missing or Not Working

Has your CD drive suddenly stopped working in your computer? It is possible the laser or head assembly has gone bad, in which case you need to buy a new CD drive. And, except for blu ray drives, drives are cheap these days.

However, many times, there’s nothing wrong with your drive at all. It’s just a windows software glitch that disables the drive. There’s one easy way to find out. Follow these instructions:

1) Close all open programs
2) Click on Start, Run, and type REGEDIT and press Enter
3) Click on the plus signs (+) next to the following folders

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
* SYSTEM
* CurrentControlSet
* Control
* Class
* {4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}

4) This folder is the DVD/CD-ROM Drive Class Description in the registry. Look for any of the following names in the right hand column.

* UpperFilters
* LowerFilters
* UpperFilters.bak
* LowerFilters.bak

5) If any of the above keys shown in step 4 are listed, right-click on them and choose Delete
6) After deleting the keys, close the Registry Editor
7) Reboot your computer
8) Open My Computer and check to see if your CD or DVD drives have returned. You may also want to open Device Manager and verify that the yellow exclamation and error code on the CD or DVD drive is gone

If your CD drive suddenly works again, you win! If not, buy a new drive. =)

All Printers Missing – Clean the Print Spooler

Have you ever gone to print, and all your printers are missing? This almost always means your print spooler service is not running, and that usually means that some print job crashed the spooler. Especially if you’re trying to print adobe PDF documents to an HP Laserjet 1010 or 1020 series printer.

Explaining how to stop the print spool service, delete all the active print jobs to that printer, and then re-starting the spool service can be a longer process than it should be. But, if you download and run the attached cool little batch file, it does it all for you in seconds.

I think I have to zip it, or you may not be able to download it. So, download, unzip, and then run it. =)

CleanPrintSpooler

HP Laserjet 1020 Crashes Spooler

This post is almost more for my own reference than anyone else’s.

I’ve known for years that the updated drivers that you can download from HP for their Laserjet 1020 frequently crashes the Windows Spooler Subsystem. And, chronically crashes it, so you have to clean out the spooler files and then restart the spooler to get your printers back.

This attached file has a revised driver that seems to help with that problem. You need to put them directly into the c:\windows\system32\spool\printers\w32x86\3 folder, and then re-add the 1020.

Anyway, here’s those files:

HP_1020_zenographics_files

Reduce size of winsxs folder

I am contemplating re-imaging my personal computer, and even loading Windows 7 onto a solid state drive for maximum performance. However, when contemplating how large a drive I would need, I realized that Windows 7 was taking up 30 gigs of space on my current drive. That’s waaay too much real estate on a measly 128 gigabyte SSD.

So, in searching for some solutions to this issue, I found this excellent blog post which can help you severely reduce the winsxs folder in your computer. This folder keeps backups of important files in case you need to go back to older versions. Specifically, say, if you were to roll back a Microsoft Service Pack. But, sometimes it keeps way too many files and takes up lots of room. Like, the 11 gigs on my machine. After following this simple tip, I cut that almost in half.

Enjoy!

http://everythingsysadmin.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/cleanup-winsxs-after-windows-7-sp1-install/

Setting up a New Computer

It seems about half the time of setting up a new computer is uninstalling all the crap that comes on it. There’s tons of software that is pre-installed on most computers, and a lot of it is completely unnecessary and/or even detrimental. Before I do anything, I go to Add/Remove Programs (or Programs and Features) in the Control Panel and start removing stuff.

Here’s a quick guide to what I uninstall before I even start using a new computer.

1). Toolbars

Toolbars are almost always completely unnecessary, and usually slow down your internet experience. You can use add-ons or links to do everything a toolbar does, without having to load extra software. Some of the ones that commonly come on new computers:

- AOL toolbar
- Bing bar
- Google Toolbar
- Skype Toolbars (Skype is a good program. You can leave it. Skype toolbars are rarely used.)
- Yahoo Toolbar

2). Registration

I’ve never been a fan of online registration. Computer companies can tell exactly when you bought the computer by looking up your serial # or system tag. Registering your computer primarily adds you to their mailing list so that you get more spam, and doesn’t give a whole lot more benefit. Plus, it’s annoying when it keeps popping up asking for you to register. So, just remove anything that says registration in it.

3). Anti-Virus and/or Internet Security

Most computers come with Norton or McAfee. As you might know from other posts, I consider these two pieces of software the devil. Trend/Micro is a common 3rd offender. It’s not nearly as bad as the first two. Plus, quite often the pre-installed one is a limited trial anyway. But, If you want a boost in performance, and a less expensive and higher quality protection, remove the one that came with the computer and use a combination of Avira and Malwarebytes instead.

Whatever you do, though, don’t load two different virus checking programs. That will make your computer slow to a halt. Choose one virus checker and one malware checker, and stick with them.

4). Online backup software

Many new computers are coming with some sort of branded online backup. Norton and Dell are two common ones. I highly recommend using an online backup service. However, I prefer Carbonite to the pre-installed ones. Just like virus checkers, definitely do not load two different online backup programs. If you’re going to use Carbonite, make sure to remove the pre-installed ones.

5). Branded power management and wireless management software

Dells and Lenovo laptops are notorious for this. Windows can handle power settings and wireless network management just fine. So, there’s no reason to load an additional software to handle this instead. Except to put their name in your face. So, remove them. It’ll speed up your computer. Just be sure not to accidentally remove an actual driver.

For example: Intel wireless management utility is completely redundant. But, if you remove it, it also removes the wireless driver. Instead, just go into the settings of the Intel wireless utility and disable it (choose the option to let windows manage wireless networks).

If you remove all these, your computer will be clean and quick from day one.

Removing IE9 on New Computers

So, brand new Windows 7 SP1 computers are now arriving with Internet Explorer 9 pre-loaded. Progress, right? Well, there’s nothing wrong with IE9 inherently. However, many websites aren’t ready for it yet, and many big companies suggest you don’t use it yet if you want maximum compatibility. Two of the bigger companies I work with both have corporate websites that aren’t compatible with IE 9 yet.

Usually, you can just uninstall Internet Explorer 9, and then IE 8 will automatically show up. Problem solved.

However, if you go to Add/Remove programs (or, rather, Programs and Features), you’ll find Internet Explorer 9 isn’t listed there. And, if you uncheck it from Windows features, it completely removes IE, and doesn’t roll it back to 8.

Here’s the trick:

Go to Programs and Features. Click the link in the upper left hand corner that says “installed updates.” Internet Explorer 9 is at the bottom of the list. If you remove it from here, it will roll back to IE8.

Remember to prevent IE9 from downloading itself again, or else you’ll be right back where you started in a few days. You can download a tool from Microsoft to prevent it from updating until you’re ready.

Block Internet Explorer 9 Automatic Update

Microsoft Word crashing

Today, I troubleshot a problem where Microsoft Word would open and work, however, certain features of it were disabled, and it would cause crash screen whenever it closed. The crash screen would reference mso.dll. A notable problem was that if I went to File / Word options, the window would open, but I couldn’t click on anything except ‘cancel.’

There were no add-ins to disable, and deleting normal.dot didn’t help, nor did replacing mso.dll with a copy from a computer that worked.

The solution was to delete the registry key for Microsoft Word’s Data, and let it rebuild itself.

(If you’re about to do this, remember to always backup the registry key you’re deleting before you delete it in case of problems later)

Start / Run / “regedit”
Go to HKCU \ Software \ Microsoft \ Office \ (Version number… mine was 12.0) \ Word
Delete the Data key.

Close the registry. Reboot. Enjoy!

Speaking of which, I really like the new Microsoft “Let me do it for you” registry modifier. Very handy if you aren’t familiar with modifying your registry. And, relatively safe, too, as long as the solution looks like it indeed appropriate for your problem.

This solution can be found on Microsoft at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/921541

A day in the life..

This is totally not computer related. However, I have so many financial advisor clients, I thought perhaps they would appreciate this little video called “A day in the life of a Financial Advisor.”

Enjoy!

Act! Calendar problem

I had a client using Act! 2009 on multiple computers, networked to a server. Very common setup. However, 2 of the computers on this network had a problem where the calendar shifted over about half an inch every time they launched the program. Within a few days, they would have a calendar that looked crazy and had dozens of mini-calendars stretching across the top of the screen. We had discovered the temporary solution of deleting preference files, but the actual solution was something completely unexpected.

Act! is apparently designed for 96 DPI: the standard windows font size. If you go into your display settings and increase your windows font size, it wreaks havoc with the Act! layouts, and corrupts the preference files.

To fix it was easy.
On Windows 7:

Right click on the Desktop
Choose personalize
Click on Display
Make sure the display is set to “Smaller (100%)” If it is set to anything else, Act! will freak out.

On Windows XP:

Go to the Control Panel
Double click on Display
Click on the Settings tab
Click on the Advanced button
Make sure it’s set to 100% (96 DPI)

Now, sure enough, this makes everything smaller on the screen. However, it’s always better to change your resolution than it is to mess with font or icon sizes, if you want consistency in windows. One computer, I just lowered the resolution so the icons were bigger again for the client. The other client was fine with the font being smaller.
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