Archive for the ‘Tech support’ Category

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When Google changed their home page to display a playable Pacman game for the day a while ago, a lot of people had a great time playing and remembering stuffing quarter after quarter into this game. Some people did not quite get what was going on though….

Check out this Tech support call to Google about the change to the Google home page:

This is more of a techinical post but I need to sing the praises of this wonderful free command line program from Microsoft: Robocopy.

I have used robocopy in many of the VBScripts that I have written over the years because of it’s flexiblity and well…. its robustness (Hence the name ROBOcopy)

This little program adds a a fine level of control in the way to copy files from one location to another. Some of the things you can do are:

– Mirror a folders contents to another location, deleting anything that does not belong.
– Copy files of a certian size.
– Copy files of a certain age.
– Copy files without attibutes like hidden, system or read-only.
– Copy files without the NTFS security.
– Create a log of the copy process.

The major thing that I love about this program is that it resume the copy of a large file if it is interrupted with the /z switch. This is really useful for admins that need copy files over an unstable VPN connection.

You can find more about this command at another great resource: ss64

Ok, how many of you have been in a similar situation as this? We have this wireless Ethernet bridge, the Linksys WET54G, that connects a MFC photocopier to the network since there’s no ethernet jack in the room its in. For over a year, its worked flawlessly using WEP to connect to a nearby AP. Recently we got a few more APs so we decided to change all of them to WPA encryption (easier to connect to, more secure, yadda yadda). With me so far?

So, I setup all of the APs, change the AP the bridge connects to over to WPA and change the bridge settings. Everything works great – for about an hour.  Then the bridge drops off the network. Hmm. After about an hour of double-checking, fiddling and power cycling its still not working. I check the Linksys website to ensure compatibility. Their data sheet says (and I quote) “To protect your data and privacy, all wireless transmissions can be encrypted with industrial-strength Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security. Supports WPA Security, 64/128-bit WEP Encryption”.

Great so at least I know they advertise WPA support – besides I know it supports it since it worked (for an hour). I check the firmware and I have the latest version which btw says “Fixed: A lost of connection will occur after a few hours in WPA mode”. A little further investigation on the web however and I’m beginning to suspect that only version 3 of the hardware supports WPA. I contact Linksys to see if this is true.

Here’s a transcript of the convo:

Hi, my name is Sherrie (22186). How may I help you?

Neil: Hi Sherrie, ok you are the third rep I have been referred to so I hope you can help me. I’m having the darnedest time trying to get my WET54G v2 to connect to a an AP via WPA. I suspect its impossible on v2 even though your website states otherwise. Is this true?

Sherrie (22186): Is this for initial setup?

Neil: No, the previous rep asked me the same thing. Its been working with WEP for over a year but no go for WPA. To save you the trouble of typing the next question, yes the firmware is version 2.10 but that didn’t fix the problem

Sherrie (22186): Is your AP a linksys device also?

Editor’s note: Ok, here we go. The last guy asked the same thing and when I told him “no” he told me they can’t confirm functionality with other manufacturer’s products. I knew that’s a load of BS so I kept being persistant and asked to talk with another rep. See what happens when I tell her its not a Linksys AP I’m trying to connect to

Neil: no, its a D-link
  ***** Conferenced With Kareen B. (18742)

 Neil: To reiterate, the WET54G likes working with it on WEP but not WPA. I  do have a WRT54G v8 router I could test – are you saying it would it work with that?

 Neil: BTW – every other device connects to my D-Link AP with no problem – its just the  WET54G

 Sherrie (22186): Let me transfer this session to the appropriate technician for your device okay?

 Kareen B. (18742): You may disconnect now Sherrie.

 Sherrie (22186): Thank you. Neil it will be Kareen who will assist you from here on.
 Sherrie (22186): disconnected

 Neil: Thanks Sherrie. Hi Kareen. Congrats – you are rep # 4!

 Kareen B. (18742): Hi Neil!

 Neil: Kareen, I’ve had the run around from 3 other reps so can you tell it to me straight – Is v3 of the WET54G the only model that can connect via WPA? Am I SOL becuase I have v2?

 Kareen B. (18742): Let me tell you that the WET54G is only compatible with WEP.

 Neil: Well – thanks for the straight answer – not the one I’d like but at least your honest 🙂

 Neil: Do you have an Ethernet bridge that is confiremd to be compaitble with WPA personal?

 Kareen B. (18742): Yes, only the version 3. You are right.

 Neil: Thanks. I guess I’ll either buy version 3 or a competitors product. Oh well. Thanks for your assistance.

 Neil: One word for the marketers though – please update your website to specify
 that only v3 works with WPA. Would have saved me hours of frustration.

 Kareen B. (18742): Thank you very much for taking the time to give us such valuable feedback! 

Neil: Anytime Kareen

 Kareen B. (18742): Don’t worry. I shall forward your concern to higher management.

 Neil: Oh I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

 Kareen B. (18742): Would that be all?

 Neil: Unless you want to send me a free v3 of the WRT54G I guess it is 🙂

 Kareen B. (18742): If I can. (smiles)

 Kareen B. (18742): If you have general networking questions, you may visit our knowledge base. Thank you for choosing Linksys and have a great day.

Neil: Thanks again for the honesty. 

Kareen B. (18742): My pleasure.

Kareen B. (18742): Bye.

There you have it. The only honest rep at Linksys. The morale of the story is of course don’t believe everything is as advertised but if you do get suckered into buying a faulty product, ask for Kareen when you phone tech support.

On a recent trip on Hong Kong, my wife wanted to check her e-mail. So we went to the common room in our hostel to use the shared computers there and found that the computers had no anti-virus! So out of curiosity, I did a scan with Clamwin Portable and found the following:

Scan Started Tue May 14 17:15:07 2002
*** Scanning Programs in Computer Memory ***
*** Scanned 26 processes – 344 modules ***
*** Computer Memory Scan Completed ***
C:\WINDOWS\System32\fjnbv.dll: Trojan.Spy-33339 FOUND
C:\WINDOWS\System32\sperls.dll: Trojan.Spy-33339 FOUND
C:\WINDOWS\System32\winplay.exe: Trojan.Spy.Banker-5858 FOUND
C:\WINDOWS\System32\c4.exe: Trojan.Agent-4538 FOUND
C:\WINDOWS\System32\c5.exe: Trojan.Agent-4538 FOUND
C:\WINDOWS\System32\4.exe: Trojan.Ceckno FOUND
———– SCAN SUMMARY ———–
Known viruses: 280948
Engine version: 0.93
Scanned directories: 0
Scanned files: 370
Infected files: 6
Data scanned: 225.24 MB
Time: 62.297 sec (1 m 2 s)

… oh boy

So I thought it would be good to tell remind people how to be safe while you are away from home. These same tips also apply for public networks / computers in North America.

1. Make sure that the computer you are using has up to date anti-virus software installed. If you do not see it, don’t use it for anything more then checking your e-mail. And even then, consider changing your e-mail password when you get back home. Trojans and keyloggers can steal all sorts of data and passwords from you. Only use your own laptop computer for anything personal like banking or using a credit card.

2. Shields up! Make sure your firewall is up to prevent unwanted access to your laptop on the public network.

Windows XP Fire

Mac OS

3. Use a SSH tunnel on a public network to encrypt your data. This step may be a bit much for some but it is definitely worth it for that extra security.

SSH tunneling how to from Engadget

Safe journey!

Ahh Microsoft. Just mentioning the name can get many people grumbling – myself included at times. But don’t get me wrong – I think Microsoft as a whole is a great company who have amazingly talented people working for them. In fact I have first hand experience working with reps from Microsoft Canada and know how great that organization can be. But sometimes you gotta think that they are a little out of touch with the real world at times. Here’s a prime example:

Recently we purchased the “Microsoft Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000” (now there’s a mouthful) at my workplace. Overall its a great product. Sturdy little mouse with the nifty feature of having presentation buttons on the underside so you can use it to cycle through Powerpoint slides. Even comes with a laser pointer. Sounds great right so what’s the problem you ask? Inside the box is a driver CD with this attached to it:

Microsoft Warning

Let’s break this down shall we?

1) So right away we’ve got a big exclamation mark on a field of green. Hmmm….don’t know about you but this seems a little contradictory to me. Maybe its a minor point but shouldn’t the colour be yellow as in “caution”? I guess the marketing people decided that this would imply the message as a bad thing and even though it is, they don’t want to imply it. To me this paper says “Everything is cool but still WATCH OUT!!!!” kind of like when my Grandmother used to tell me as a child that I’m so lucky to live in such a wonderful carefree age but don’t be too carefree as every dark corner has a homicidal manic just waiting to kidnap & kill me.

2) “You must install newer software from the web (rather than the enclosed CD)”. Reading between the lines we can interpret this as “here’s the driver CD but don’t use it as it won’t work anyway”. I read it as “Here’s a free coaster”.

3) “On step 3 of the Quick Start Guide, install the web software instead of the enclosed CD…yadda yadda”. Again, did anyone at Microsoft ever take a second and actually read this? They must have as they took the time to translate it into 4 different languages!! At least I can feel assured that there are other users around the world that are just as frustrated.

Okay, so I get that they included the CD because it gives you basic mouse functionality but isn’t that included with Windows anyway? The only reason you use the CD is for the special features. Now normally I wouldn’t be as aggravated except that we bought this mouse to use with a laptop (as its intended) that was for an offsite meeting that had no internet access! I guess that was my fault for trusting the advertising on the back the box and assuming that it works as advertised. Silly me.

Rather than finishing this commentary as a rant I’d like to be constructive and add some resolution steps Microsoft could take:

1) Colouring a negative message green does not make it a good thing

2) Try testing your product with the intended software before shipping it to see if it works. I know its a lot to ask a company with your limited resources and lack of experience with software but just try, ok?

3) Stop justifying higher prices because you claim of lost profits due to pirating. We now know your high prices are needed to recover the cost of producing useless driver CDs. Here’s a thought: Stop making crap and having the customer pay for it. You can cut costs and make the customer happy. Its a win-win situation, seriously.

Add you comments below.