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Disable Windows Server 2008 MSTSC Beeping

I recently was setting up a Windows Server 2008 box for a user. Once the box was up and running, I decided to do all of the configuration from the client’s office via MSTSC (standing in a cold server room twiddling my thumbs versus sitting in comfort at a desk). This was all great, except that for all of the dialog boxes popping up in the session came through as that annoying BEEP as a sound card isn’t installed on the server.

Nothing is more annoying (and makes you sound more incompetent) than that beep. Low and behold, a simple way to turn it off: On your local machine (it’s playing the beep, after all), run net stop beep from the command prompt. (To permanently disable it, run sc config beep start=disabled).


HP MediaSmart Server EX485 CPU Upgrade

Last week I went through the fun of upgrading the processor in my HP MediaSmart Server EX485. Now that a bit of time has passed and I’m confident that everything is stable, I figured I’d share the results.

The MediaSmart Server EX48X series came with an Intel Celeron 440, single-core 2 GHz processor. Although the Celeron was a huge improvement over the EX47X series, it could be a bit better, especially when it comes to streaming and transcoding media. I was honestly a little hesitant about doing the upgrade. After all, the MediaSmart Servers aren’t designed to have interchangeable parts and have components designed and tested for what they ship with:

  • The server doesn’t have video output, which means any BIOS updates or changes have to be made blind.
  • The CPU heatsink is passive, and the power supply is smaller. It simply can’t take a juice-hungry, water cooled processor.

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Blackberry Hidden Commands

Some hidden, yet very useful commands for your BlackBerry (I can only confirm that they work at the Curve 8330, although I’m sure they work on other models too):

  • ALT+L-G-L-G will show the event log.
  • ALT+CAP+DEL will perform a reset, the same as popping the battery.
  • ALT+CAP+H will bring up the help screen which is full of all sorts of bits of information (versions, PIN, ESN, uptime, signal, free space, etc.).
  • On the home screen, ALT+N-M-L-L will change your signal meter into a dBm number (difficult to see if you have a darker colored wallpaper image).
  • When viewing an email message, ALT+V-I-E-W will show you the RefId, FolderId, and ServiceUserId. Useful for tracking or something, I’m sure.
  • While in Enterprise Activation on the email line, ALT+C-N-F-G will show a configuration screen with additional options.

Unable to Set Up Remote Access on HP MediaSmart Server After Fresh Install

When trying to turn on Remote Access on my Windows Home Server (HP MediaSmart Ex485, MediaSmart Server 3.0, Power Pack 3), I was not able to continue through the wizard as this first check fails:

“Verifying that your remote Web site is available locally”

Everything else on the server works fine, including being able to:

I did notice though that I was unable to browse to http://servername:56000 as I should be able to do.

I had performed a server recovery to reset the installation to factory defaults, with no such luck.

After reading many posts by others having the same issue and almost going bald from all my hair pulling, the cause seems to be fairly simple (and stupid). I believe that the problem developed from a certificate issue. I had originally used the Windows Live Custom Domains service to get a * domain for my home server. Somehow, adding that to my fresh install created the issue.

So what I did was set up a temporary domain with the HP Personal Domian Name by service and now everything is working just fine. I later was able to go back and change the temporary domain back to the WLCD service.

Simple (stupid).


Detect WHS Mode for VBScript

I write numerous little scripts that are shared and used among my coworkers, many of which are quick and easy VB scripts, many of which are run from cscript (rather than wscript). The end result? Well, often someone will see one of these script files and double-click it, which doesn’t work out to well for them and they usually get some sort of nasty error message since it’s not meant to be run in the wscript GUI mode.

“Yeah, nice script Matt. It’s full of bugs and won’t even run.” Um yeah. If you run it from the command line, the results would be much different, I assure you. So, how to tell Joe Blow that he should be running the script from the command line rather than happily double-clicking it? Use WScript.Fullname to determine the host and act from there.

My solution is pretty close to this function, and I’ll call this function pretty near the beginning of the script.

Function CScriptCheck
  If "cscript.exe" <> LCase(Right(WScript.Fullname, 11)) Then
    MsgBox "Run from a command prompt, fool!"
    WScript.Quit 1
  End If
End Function

Recent Hiatus and the Big Move

Well first of all, I apologize for the lack of posts the last few months. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to write about, but more about the lack of time to do so. I’ve got a move on the horizon in the upcoming weeks (hurray for finally being a home owner!) which, as a whole, has been quite the experience. When I do find time, I’ve been finding that the stress of the move has been causing me to not even look at my computer when I get home from my day job (which I sit in front of a computer for a good part of the day).

It looks like everything is done now though, it’s just a matter of getting the keys and moving in. Feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of me. Hopefully the posts will start resuming again a little more frequently.


What I Use

I recently created a What I Use page that briefly covers what computer hardware I use at home. This serves to benefit all those who ask from time to time what I’m using. As well, I thought it would be pretty interesting to keep track of the hardware I go through throughout the years. The page will be updated frequently, as new hardware is added or changed out. Feel free to check it out.


Shorten a Path String

Here’s a very quick, easy, yet efficient way to take a long path string (for example: “C:\Users\Matt\Documents\Visual Studio 2008\Projects”) and condense it down in VB.NET. Provide a maximum width and a font to measure by, and if the string is longer, part of the string will be replaced with an ellipsis (for example: “C:\Users\Matt\…\Projects”).

LabelSourcePath.Text = ShortenPathString("C:\Users\Matt\Documents\Visual Studio 2008\Projects", LabelSourcePath.Width, LabelSourcePath.Font)

Public Function ShortenPathString(ByVal path As String, ByVal width As Integer, ByVal font As Drawing.Font) As String
    TextRenderer.MeasureText(path, font, New Drawing.Size(width, 0), TextFormatFlags.PathEllipsis Or TextFormatFlags.ModifyString)
    Return path
End Function

Cannot Open the Outlook Window?

I’m speaking to my mother who’s all frantic that her Outlook won’t launch. Okay, no biggie I assume. I ask if there’s an error message, which there is:

What the deuce? I get it, a lot is going on behind the scenes with Office/Outlook, but that’s kind of odd. When I actually get my hands on her laptop, just as she said, said error message is displayed, an empty Outlook window appears for a second, just before closing. Hmm. In the back of my head I’m thinking good thing we installed Windows 7 recently with its idiot proof backup setup, this could get ugly.

After trying the usual diagnostic measures and tests, I was pointed to Microsoft knowledge base article #252304, which basically walks you through deleting a registry key (or even have the Microsoft’s “Fix It” do it for you). After some hesitation and thinking back to when I was young and naive (if Microsoft says to do it, I should!) I backed up the registry keys and then deleted them. Result? Wow! Outlook opens, but with no profile or account information… not quite the fix I was looking for. Restored the previously backed-up registry keys and went back to the drawing board.

That’s when I remembered. Outlook has a whole slew of console switches that can be used (safe mode, etc.). Guess which one did the trick? “/resetnavpane“. I have no idea how the navigation pane would have got messed up, or how fixing it would then allow Outlook to launch, or what else gets reset with that switch, but the reset worked. Something to consider trying to before nuking your registry and being forced to set up all of your mother’s email accounts and their settings all over again.


Learn Even More About Your Users in Active Directory Users and Computers

Did you know that there’s a very easy way to view all sorts of additional user account information within Active Directory Users and Computers? I’m a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure this out. For the longest time, as I’m sure many of us other administrators will have to admit to, I have resorted to having custom scripts run that tie into Active Directory in order to view some simple things such as the last time a user logged on, or a user SID.

Well, all of it and more can be found on the Additional Account Info tab of a user account within Active Directory Users and Computers.

Viewing Addictional Account Info in Active Directory Users and Computers

“Wait, I don’t have that tab!” you say? Yeah, neither did I. There’s a step or two you have to take in order to get it, but well worth it.

First, download the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools if you don’t already have it. You don’t need to install the entire package, but you do need to extract a dll (acctinfo.dll) from it otherwise (In my case, for instance, I’m setting this up on my workstation where I do administration from, and there is no need to install the entire resource kit.). If you choose the extract method, copy acctinfo.dll to your %systemroot%\system32 folder.

Then all you have to do is register the dll:

regsvr32 %systemroot%\system32\acctinfo.dll

There will always be a place for scripts, don’t get me wrong, but in this case when dealing with user accounts, you’re often busy in Active Directory Users and Computers anyways. Only makes sense to consolidate your tools.