Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Week 31 Article 01 - Blackberry Pearl 8110 not supported on BES 4.1.4 !!!

Guess what. I just installed a BES 4.1.4 and thinking that everything will go smoothly went ahead to activate the user device .. which happened to be the latest Blackberry Pearl 8110. And the bloody thing wouldnt get detected!!

After spending about half an hour sieving through the googled results, i found that just a simple windows update (while the device is connected to the server) was all I needed to do to get the drivers for the 8110! How cool is that? (and dumb as well because its not on the RIM website!!! .. frustrating!!!)

Think about that.. Blackberry Pearl 8110 is a Microsoft supported device.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Week 30 Article 01 - Moving/Editing Autocomplete Entries in Microsoft Outlook

As technology advances I have noticed that we get more and more lazy. Where once people used to walk for hours to get to their destination, they now just sit down in their car and drive. Where once lots and lots of paper was used to do calculations, now a computer churns out the figures. Dont get me wrong. I love technology but there are times when I wonder .. is it making us more dumb?

With the release of Outlook XP (I might be wrong with the version, so do point out if I am), came the famous autocomplete feature. This used to be one of the popular feature of Outlook Express because people found it too hard to add email addresses to their contact lists. Note that though autocomplete is now available in Outlook, it doesnt populate your contact list as the similar feature in Outlook Express did. So if you were to move pcs for whatever reason, unless you copy over the autocomplete file (which microsoft has neatly hidden), you will have to remember all those email addresses all over again! (serves you right for being lazy I say!!)

Well I hate playing devils advocate so I will now give you the solution to your autocomplete woes.

Migrating to a New PC
When you are moving to a new pc, configure Outlook and make sure that you can send/receive emails using it. Send a test email out and check to see that the address you sent the email to is autocompleted when you send another email to the same address.
On the new pc go to c:\Documents and Settings\{Username}\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook and rename the files with the extension nk2 (eg rename it to outlook.nk2.old). These might be hidden so make sure you enable show hidden files.

On the old pc go to C:\Documents and Settings\{Username}\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook and copy the nk2 files to the new pc. When copying them over to the new pc, make sure they have the same name as the files that you just renamed in the step above.

Open your outlook and test to see if your old email addresses are autocompleted.

Editing NK2 File
Sometimes there are errors in the autocomplete list. For instance if a person changes email address, when you type in the first few characters of his name, autocomplete put in his old address and this can result in email issues. To circumvent this, you can use this free software called NK2View from NirSoft. It allows you to view/delete/edit your autocomplete entries. Now isnt that smart?

With this I wish you a happy week.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Week 29 Article 05 - Darn Blackberry!! User cannot send/receive emails from device after a few hours!!

Blackberry Enterprise Service 4.x
Microsoft Exchange Server 2003
Microsoft Windows Server 2003

After setting up a user for blackberry access, he/she can send/receive emails from the device fine till after a few hours. After a few hours, when he tries sending emails from the device, a red X is displayed beside the message, and an error message stating that the message was not delivered.

Troubleshooting Steps:
1. Checked permissions (
2. From 1. above, found that the Blackberry account did not have the Send As permission anymore.
3. Had a look at the user account permissions and found that one of his group memberships was to an account with domain wide administrator access! This is a NO NO as per the KB article
4. Removed user from the group. Gave the Blackberry account Send As permission on the user account.
5. Restarted Microsoft Exchange Information Store, Blackberry Dispatcher and Blackberry Router service.
6. Tested sending of emails from the device.

Moral: RTFM! There is a reason why there is a KB article and set of steps to do things

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Week 29 Article 04 - Have you lost emails after creating a new outlook profile for an existing user?

Platform: Microsoft Outlook 2003 (with any service pack levels)

After installing Outlook on a laptop for a user and configuring it to use exchange server, the user complained that some of the emails were missing.
On further analysis, it was found that quite a few folders in his mailbox had the same issue. Where there was emails before, now there is nothing but empty space!

Troubleshooting Steps:
1. Had a look at his Deleted Items for fear that maybe he had deleted them by mistake. No luck.
2. Tried recovering out of the Deleted Items for fear they might have been emptied out. No luck
3. Edited registry to enable recovery of hard deleted items for fear the user might have deleted items by bypassing the Deleted Items bin. No luck
4. Tried looking for PSTs on old and existing laptop, thinking there might have been an autoarchive done by outlook. No luck.

I found out that if Use Cached Exchange Mode is enabled in Outlook, there are sometimes errors when the initial cache of the emails is created on the machine (this is normally when the user has got > 1GB of mailbox size). And if this happens, the emails in error are MOVED to the folder Sync Issues\Server Failures. You do not necessarily see the Sync Issues Folder unless you do a full folder listing in Outlook.

Moral: Never say DIE! And sometimes the customer is RIGHT. Well I did say SOMETIMES

Week 29 Article 03 - Viewing Processes in Windows

One of the few things I have noticed in the companies that survive the first 5 years of their establishment is that, as they grow, they tend to buyout other companies of interest, and rebadge their products and technologies as their own. I guess this saves up on the R&D expenses.

I have been an avid fan of and Sysinternals has a suite of tools that almost all system admins will love. One of my personal favorites is the pstools suite. This Swiss army knife tool set allows you to remotely access other pcs on the network. This enables you to start/stop their services, access their command lines etc.

Changing the focus to local machines, have you ever wondered what all those processes in your computer are doing? I mean it is all good to see the processes using the Task Manager, but have you ever wondered what files are being opened by them or what TCP/IP ports they might be opening/closing? How about what was their parent process?

I bet if there are any *ix users they will quickly point out that this is one of the native properties in the *ix kernal. ps enables you to do this beautifully. Well if you dont have a Vista pc, then you can download ... drum rolls maestro!!! .. Process Explorer from Please be aware that this site has been bought by Microsoft now but the downloads are still available for free. Actually the process detailing in the Task Manager of Vista is provided by the tools out of

Anyways hope this helps you guys solve some of those problems that might be baffling you. You can now find out what process is holding on to that file that you are trying to delete, or starting that annoying program you are trying to stop from starting.

Week 29 Article 02 - MediaMonkey. The Best PodCast Sync Software in my view

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Week 29 Article 01 - Bloody ATI drivers!!

Platform: Windows 2003 SBS Server

On restart, server was hanging on Applying Computer Settings . After 15 minutes of wait, a forced shutdown was done and on restart,after the Windows Logo was displayed, the screen went black! Successive restarts didnt result in anything different!

Troubleshooting Steps:
1. Tried booting into Last Known Good Configuration, but after the Windows Logo, the screen went black.
2. Was able to boot into Safe mode and Safe Mode with Networking. In Safe Mode with Networking, was able to access the internet. Was able to ping the server from another pc. Checked everything. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Did find some eventlog entries that suggested that Active Directory had got some corrupt entries and it was trying to heal itself.
3. Thought the black screen was due to Active Directory corruption (see 2. above). Went into Directory Restore but this resulted in a black screen as well.
4. Did suspect that it could be the display drivers but after waiting for 10min, it still didnt allow me to RDP into it.
5. Left the Server to start normally and went for a walk to relax for 20 min.
6. Came back and just by chance thought of doing a telnet to port 25 to see if SMTP was up. Viola! Something replied. Next, tried RDP to server. Was able to login to server remotely, but console was still black. Had a look in the eventlogs through the RDP session. Found that the ATI drivers had crashed!. Uninstalled the drivers. Allowed Windows to reconfigure the display drivers when it restarted and all was normal again! I was able to get display on console, the server started in normal time and all users were happy.

Moral of the Story:
You could be the best person out there, but sometimes all it takes is abit of paitence!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Week 28 Article 02 - PDFs, The world is talking about these. And now, how you can generate them for free

I still remember the first day when I got introduced to pdfs. Infact it was during my Uni days and I think it would have been one of my assignments that was given out in pdf format. Hardly anyone knew about pdfs or Adobe Acrobat Reader back then but nowadays, referring to pdfs is like referring to a car. Everyone knows what you are talking about(well I do have my doubts about those people that live deep in the amazon)

Anyways, if you have ever wondered, what is good about a pdf compared to a document say generated in word or any other text editing tool, well for starters, the pdf reader (which you can download from Adobe) is available completely free and for different platforms as well. The creator or publisher of the pdf needs to purchase the pdf creator but the viewer doesnt (although adobe has started an online pdf creating site where I think it is free to convert your favorite text formats to pdfs. You can check it out at Adobe If you would like to purchase an offline pdf generator from adobe, you will have to purchase it unfortunately). Secondly, you can restrict permissions of the viewer. A viewer might be able to just view the document but not be able to print it or copy it. A viewer might be restricted from editing the document, as you would want if you are sending out invoices to your clients for example. These are some of the most common reasons you would want to have a pdf instead of a word document for instance.

So how can you get a PDF creator for free? Well there is a non Adobe version that you can download and use. The standard version of this software is free but should you want to upgrade to Professional, you will have to fork out abit of money. The standard version works great for me and is very light footed. After installation, the PDF creator appears as a printer in your Printers and Faxes applet. You can change the output density, along with other attributes of the generated pdf by accessing the properties of this printer. Just print the document you want to put out as a pdf to this printer. You will be prompted for the location where the generated pdf should be kept. Once you have done this, within a few seconds (can take longer depending on the size of the original document), you will be able to get your document in pdf format. I have found the output quality of this software to be very impressive.

Try out this fabulous software by downloading it from CutePDF

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Week 28 Article 01 - What is the best anti spyware/malware software in your opinion?

Hi guys and girls.

SPAM, Spyware and Malware seems to be making the news pretty much everyday now. If its not your dying long distant cousin trying to offer you your share of the fortune for a small transfer fee, it is some nigerian selling Rolex for a couple of dollars! And who can forget those websites that start a popup craze and infect your browser with spammer software.

Now, this week I would like to take your views on what do you think is the best antispyware/antimalware tool that a computer tech should have in his/her so-called "toolbox" so that he/she can fight these parasites? Please do include in your comments if the tool you are describing is a freeware, trial with free updates or one needs to purchase it before using it.

So lets open the floor for discussion shall we.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Week 27 Article 03 - MobiPocket - RSS Feeds on your Blackberry, the cheap way

I bet many of you by now are aware what RSS feeds are. For those that still dont know, here is a wikipedia link on RSS

RSS feeds are quite handy when trying to see updates on a website. And even more useful when you have time to look at them, for instance during commuting, sitting in a waiting room, or just enjoying a cup of coffee out in the park. The most convienient device to have during these times is a smartphone. But as I have found, it can be quite expensive browsing the net over your carriers internet connection. Just a few megabytes can take you away from tens of dollars! During these times, every cent saved is welcomed. And with RSS feeds accessing data over the internet, this small excursion on the information highway can make your pocket very light.

But wait. Help is at hand. Have a look at MobiPocket Reader This fantastic software will download the RSS feeds onto your desktop or laptop, including the first page of every RSS article and then when docked, sync your smartphone over the cable! All you need to do is download the free Reader and install it. It supports Blackberry and most of the smartphones out there. Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think and do tell me of any other software that do similar tasks. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Week 27 Article 02 - Installing a NON localised Blackberry Device OS [v4.5]

I started off with a Blackberry 7100v. For those of you that know this device,it looks like a brick but is one of the most robust phones I have ever had. Then I transitioned to a 8100 Pearl. This is less of a geeky and more of a fashion phone. Everyone wants one due to its sexy curves and sleek look . Check it out here

My Pearl came with OS v4.2.0.79 standard and when OS was released by Blackberry, it was several months before Vodafone NZ released the firmware for its phones. This I believe is because they want to test the firmware to ensure it suits the local market and also to put in their own customisations/softwares etc. But many times the wait doesnt quite justify the end result. After upgrading to OS v4.2.1.102 I found the keys to be too soft. To explain this let me give an example. One of the buttons on the Pearl has got E,R and 1. So if you press the key once you get E, tap the key twice (if using multitap) you get R and if you use the SHIFT key, you get 1. I would press the key once but would end up with an R. This caused alot of TYPOS!! It took me months to get used to this ... the most frustrating few months of my life!!

Then came the release of v4.5 but this is only available for US carriers. Vodafone NZ is yet to release its own customised v4.5. Unable to wait, I decided to give v4.5 a try. Searching the Net, I found one from a Dutch carrier and dredging the shoals of google found me an article that revealed how to use another regions OS on your own device. So I am imparting this knowledge on to you folks.


1. Download the OS that matches your device type (Pearl 8100 in my case).
2. Ensure you have the latest Blackberry Desktop Manager installed.
3. Unplug your device, if connected to the computer.
4. Install the OS by double clicking on it, choosing the relevant options etc.

Just before the install finishes, you are prompted with a tick box asking if you would like to start the Blackberry Desktop Manager to continue the install.Make sure you UNTICK this.

5. Once installed, look for and delete the following file C:\Program Files\Common Files\Research In Motion\AppLoader\Vendor.xml
6. Connect your device
7. Start the Blackberry Desktop Manager and use it to install the new OS (the OS has already been placed in the relevant uploading directories. All that is left is for the Desktop Manager to push it up to the device).
8. Once done, your device will reboot.
The first startup after the upgrade is very slow. Be paitent .. you havent screwed your device ... YET

One of the first features that won me over was the key presses. They were not has jaggedy as v4.2.1.102. They were really natural to use and didnt jump to the next letter. The Calendar looks far better and the display is crispier. There is a new notification screen when someone calls you among a bagfull of other goodies

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Week 27 Article 01 - Batch scripting for removal of older files

With so many scripting languages out there, it is sometimes a wonder why someone would choose batch scripts. I choose them mostly for their simplicity. Some would argue about this but then again everyone has their own views.

Recently I came across a mammoth task. One of the backup programs used by a client wasn't behaving as expected. Some background would be helpful at this point so here goes. Backups were done on two removable hard disks, one used one week and then interchanged with the other. The disconnected hard disk was taken off site for storage. The backup software would create a base image of the system on the first day of the week and every consecutive day, it would do an incremental backup. If all went well, by the end of the week, one would have a backup set that could recover a file deleted within the last 5 days. Now here comes the problem! The hard disk has got a limited capacity and can hold only so many files. As instructed in the settings of the backup program, it was supposed to keep two full sets of backups (a full set being a base image plus the incrementals based on it) and to delete any additional sets if it ran out of space on that particular hard disk (deletions using FIFO method). But the deletions were not happening properly and sometimes the backups failed due to unavailability of space. To solve this problem, I resorted to using my favorite tool, scheduled batch scripts and in the process came across a beautiful tool, which was distributed as part of the Windows 2000 Resource Kit but is now integrated into Windows 2003 as a standard. [Take note of this commands ability to search for files older than a certain age, the /D parameter]

FORFILES [/P pathname] [/M searchmask] [/S][/C command]
[/D [+ | -] {dd/MM/yyyy | dd}]

Selects a file (or set of files) and executes a command on that file. This is
helpful for batch jobs.

Parameter List:
/P pathname Indicates the path to start searching. The default folder is
the current working directory (.).

/M searchmask Searches files according to a searchmask. The default
searchmask is '*' .

/S Instructs forfiles to recurse into subdirectories.
Like "DIR /S".

/C command Indicates the command to execute for each file. Command
strings should be wrapped in double quotes.

The default command is "cmd /c echo @file".

The following variables can be used in the
command string:
@file - returns the name of the file.
@fname - returns the file name without extension.
@ext - returns only the extension of the file.
@path - returns the full path of the file.
@relpath - returns the relative path of the file.
@isdir - returns "TRUE" if a file type is a directory, and
"FALSE" for files.
@fsize - returns the size of the file in bytes.
@fdate - returns the last modified date of the file.
@ftime - returns the last modified time of the file.

To include special characters in the command line, use the
hexadecimal code for the character in 0xHH format (ex. 0x09
for tab). Internal
CMD.exe commands should be preceded with "cmd /c".

/D date Selects files with a last modified date greater than or
equal to (+), or less than or equal to (-), the specified
date using the "dd/MM/yyyy" format; or selects files with a
last modified date greater than or equal to (+) the current
date plus "dd" days, or less than or equal to (-) the
current date minus "dd" days. A valid "dd" number of days
can be any number in the range of 0 - 32768.
"+" is taken as default sign if not specified.

/? Displays this help message.

FORFILES /S /M *.txt /C "cmd /c type @file | more"
FORFILES /P C:\ /S /M *.bat
FORFILES /D -30 /M *.exe
/C "cmd /c echo @path 0x09 was changed 30 days ago"
FORFILES /D 01/01/2001
/C "cmd /c echo @fname is new since Jan 1st 2001"
FORFILES /D +1/7/2008 /C "cmd /c echo @fname is new today"
FORFILES /M *.exe /D +1
FORFILES /S /M *.doc /C "cmd /c echo @fsize"
FORFILES /M *.txt /C "cmd /c if @isdir==FALSE notepad.exe @file"