Friday, July 31, 2009

Multiple instances of Excel

I do a lot of work with multiple spreadsheets, many of them open at the same time. It has always annoyed me that when you double-click a spreadsheet it opens in the same Excel window.

In the past I found that the work around was to open one spreadsheet. Then open Excel from the Start Menu and open the second spreadsheet from within the second instance of Excel. Another workaround on the web talked about disabling OLE in some way, but that one killed functionality I needed.

However today I found a better solution for me. I created a shortcut in the Send To menu that directs files to Excel. When I use this is opens in a second Excel instance.

Details on the Send To:

Still not quite as good as just double-clicking, but much better than a manual open of Excel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Office 2007 Trial as a Marketing Tool

We have a relatively new client, in which we are replacing another support provider. A number of the computers have Office 2007 Trial version installed that is just now expiring. I am sure the point was to demo the software and make the sale, but there was no communication with the staff.

End results of installing trial software without a formal evaluation process:
  • Staff are annoyed when trial software expires and ceases to work
  • Productivity is lost while staff figure out they can still open documents manually in Office 2003, but not by just double-clicking the doc
  • Client pays $$ for me to uninstall Office 2007
  • No sale is made because no actual evaluation is done
  • Waste of everyones time and $

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stop SBS from Shutting Down

We are currently migrating a client from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008. We've joined the new computer to the the domain, and run DCpromo on the SBS 2003 computer to remove the DC status. However, after seven days, SBS 2003 will start giving an error stating that it needs to be a DC and will shut down every 60 minutes (! We need another few days to work on the migration.

The Microsoft recommended solution for this is to insert disc 1, run setup, and remove the SBS 2003 component. This will leave a plain Win 2003 server without the shutdown issue. However, when I attempted to do this, setup errored out indicating that I was trying to upgrade to an older version which was not possible. Removing service packs may have worked, but here is a faster work around taken from a guy named Alan (

I've found a slightly more elegant solution to this problem rather than just
aggressively killing the process until Windows gives up trying to start it
again, and I'd like to share it in the hope that Google will re-index and pick
it up for others to use. You may have noticed this service cannot be disabled
via the MMC snap-in.

My search term on google was: how to stop the SBCore
service. Anyway, down to business…

- Tools you'll need – Process Explorer from

As you probably know, you have a service called SBCore or "SBS Core Services",
which executes the following process: C:\WINDOWS\system32\sbscrexe.exe. If you
kill it, it just restarts – and if you try and stop it you are told Access Denied.

If you fire up Process Explorer, you can select the process and Suspend it, now we can start to disable the thing. Run regedit and expand the nodes until you reach the following hive /key:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\SBCore Right click this, hit permissions and give the "Administrators" group on the local machine full access ( don't forget to replace permissions on child nodes ). F5 in regedit and you'll see all of the values and data under this key.

Select the "Start" DWORD and change it from 2 to 4 – this basically sets the service to the "Disabled" state as far as the MMC services snap-in (and windows for that matter) is concerned.

Next, adjust the permissions on the file C:\WINDOWS\system32\sbscrexe.exe so that EVERYONE account is denied any sort of access to this file. Then go back to process explorer, and kill the sbscrexe.exe process, if it doesn't restart – congratulations!

Load up the services MMC snap-in and you should find that "SBS Core Services" is stopped and marked as Disabled.

Alan :)

Note: When you run Process Explorer through Terminal Services, you are unable to suspend the process. I had to go on site to perform this process.

Fault in Wininet.dll

Yesterday I had a Windows XP client computer that generated a fault in Wininet.dll each time Internet Explorer 7 was started. And since IE seems to have hooks into a whole bunch of applications, those applications would error out as well. These included, Help and Support and Simply Accounting (seems that the .NET Framework was affected).

  1. My first thought was to go back to an earlier restore point, but I couldn't because it would crash each time I opened Help and Support.
  2. Next I created a new user and logged on as that user. this new user didn't experience the same issue, so I knew is was related to user settings rather than system settings.
  3. Restored a restore point, but the original user issue was not resolved. However, now at least I could do some research by using IE and the new user account.
  4. During research, I found a few articles talking about clearing cache with this issue. They were for older versions of Windows and IE, but I figured I'd give it a shot.
  5. I was unable to clear the cache by using the Internet Options in Control Panel because it errored out. I was able to delete the files manually.
  6. After the cache was cleared, all was good.

Desktop Support for the Server Guy

For the last number of years, I've been mostly a server guy. Lately due to changes in workload at the office I've been doing more desktop support as well. Most server guys I know do not like working on desktops. It is not because we think the work is beneath us, or even dislike interacting with users (for most of us anyway). The main reason server guys don't like working on desktops is the variability.

A server is a controlled environment. Most servers run a limited number of applications and the applications installed are known. In addition, there is a limited range of settings that are commonly configured. On a desktop computer, all options are open, because there is no telling what a user has done with their computer. This can be challenging for sure, and sometimes even intimidating when a problem occurs. Not to mention that the solutions sometimes are just crazy.

Yesterday, I was working on a desktop computer with multiple applications erroring out. The solution ended up being to clear the cache in IE. That's just plain weird.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

When in Doubt, Reinstall

I think all of us with a technical orientation have a tendency to get too fancy on occassion instead of keeping it simple. This applies at a lot of levels, including design. Usually on each project I have at least one moment where I have to smack myself and get back to basics.

Yesterday I was troubleshooting a Java application that launches from a Web page, but is a stand-alone app when it runs. It was complaining that the server could not be contacted. Here was my process:
  1. Verify only one computer is affected
  2. Clear the java cache - no fix
  3. Install latest Java update - no fix
  4. Reboot computer just to be sure - no fix
  5. Start monkeying with java settings - no fix
  6. Try from a different user profile on the same computer - still broken
  7. Install a packet sniffer to monitor traffic - no obvious errors

What was the fix? Easy. Uninstall all Java components and then download and install the latest Java. Wish I had tried that a bit earlier.

Friday, July 3, 2009

BES Calendaring Weirdness

This has only happened with one client. So, I'm not sure how widespread it is. However, based on Googling the issue, it seems to be pretty frequent.

Some users were getting a red X when attempting to reply to meeting requests. Also, some meetings were not being synchronized properly.

To resolve this issue we had to update the cdo.dll file on the BES server. The version on the Exchange server was relatively recent. The version on the BES server was several years old. Apparently it is a best practice for BES to use the most recent cdo.dll file from any of your Exchange servers.

The steps to resolve were:
  1. Copy C:\program files\exchsrvr\bin\CDO.dll from Exchange server to BES server (same path.
  2. Reregister the dll (regsvr32 cdo.dll)
  3. Restart BES server (probably could just restart services, but why mess around)

Problem resolved.

Props to Shaw Cable for good service

My Internet service has been flakey for about the last week. So, yesterday I finally decided to try and get to the bottom of what was happening.
  1. 2pm...Try an Internet speed test - results showed same upload and download speed of about 1Mbps. Hmmm. I should have about 10 Mbps download.
  2. 2:05pm...Reboot router - No change.
  3. 2:10pm...E-mail Shaw - They request results from internal speedtest at Hmmm. Only 500Kbps now.
  4. 3:30pm...Restart cable modem - Ooops. Internet gone and not coming back.
  5. 3:35....Call Shaw tech support- they check signal strength and it's low. Appointment schedule for next day (not bad for consumer level stuff).
  6. 3:45....Start to panic about what to do with no Internet, but remember that e-mail still comes in on the Blackberry. Take a deep breath.
  7. 4:00pm...Take laptop to the second floor to search for unsecured wireless. Find about 8 networks, but all secured. Phooey.
  8. 4:30pm...Remember that I have splitter on the cable. Remove it and Internet comes back. Whoo Hooo.

When the Shaw guy got here today I explained about the splitter. He indicated that it was likely the cause, but wanted to test signals anyway.

After about an hour of him troubleshooting. It turns out that the line into the house from the street is bad. He's recommended replacing it, but they likely won't get to it for a few months. In the meantime, he put a booster on the Internet line and all it's good.

Total turn around 24hrs.