30 March, 2010

Create 2nd Set of HP/Compaq Recovery Disks

Once upon a time, some 5 years ago I got a new Compaq PC. I diligently created restore disks, in case the hard drive ever crashed. Fast forward to the present, and I started having boot problems due to a hard drive problem. Fortunately I had an automated backup running every day and I made my restore disks.

Uh oh, I couldn't find my disks.
No problem, I'll make more.
Err, it wont let me make more! Huh?
Google to the rescue!

After many searches and poking into newsgroups, I found a promising lead. I either had to delete 3 instances of hpdrcu.prc on the restore drive (D:\) or HPCD.SYS located on the restore drive and in C:\windows\SMINT. Upon looking at the restore drive, it was locked down, so I couldn't get to the file.

Fortunately I found a utility, FreeCommander, that ignored the Windows locks and tricks. After renaming the files (never delete until you know you have the right files), I was able to successfully run the CD Creator utility and create a new set of recovery disks.

29 March, 2010

Unable to Sync iPhone and Unable to Sync Photos to iPhone

Another issue I found moving my iTunes and iPhone to a new PC, was Sync'ing was hanging, though I did have my Apps, Podcasts, and Music. Upon further investigation, I discovered that if I did not sync my photos, then it no longer got stuck.

First I was thinking it was a permission issue with Windows 7 -- but I made no progress. I finally figured out how to solve the issue.
  1. Stop the sync'ing
  2. Delete the iPod Photo Cache in my photo folder(s)
  3. Resync
I can only assume the iPod Photo Cache had pointers to the location of my photos on my old computer.

27 March, 2010

Stop Unwanted Programs from Starting in Windows 7

Regardless of the OS, some programs insist on loading themselves every time you start your computer. The most friendly ones will have a configuration option, while others will use the Startup folder. Unfortunately some are even more sneaky.

All but the very worst offenders can be managed through msconfig, the same program we used with Windows XP. Go to the Run... dialog and type in msconfig to launch it. If Run... isn't in your Start menu list, try searching for it. This opens a System Configuration dialog box.

Within the dialog box, go to the Startup tab. Search through the tab and uncheck any programs you do not want starting up each time you reboot. You're prompted to restart your computer, but its not required. Just manually kill the ones that started the last time, and next time they wont come back.

iTunes Clean Up

In moving my music onto a new computer, I copied my backup music folder, which contained my iTunes library definition, onto my new drive. Then when I installed iTunes, I had duplicate entries of each file, with one being a bad link (as the path was different on my new computer). With nearly 4000 files (8000 listed), I didn't want to manually go through my list and delete the Songs that were broken (Exclamation point next to the Name in iTunes.)

Fortunately with some searching, I found Paul Mayne, who had a solution. Through the use of 2 Smart Play Lists and a Play List, I was able to quickly remove the dead, duplicate listings. See Paul's post for the specific details.

You can may also find yourself in trouble if you let iTunes scan your backup drive and your primary drive. This would actually create duplicates, one pointing to each drive. To correct this, temporarily rename the music folder on your back drive, which will make all the listings on the backup drive to now have invalid links. Then use Paul's technique to remove the invalid listings. Finally, rename the backup drive music folder back to what it was.

Free Anti-virus Software

I hope you're all using anti-virus software, and are having it self-update. I want to give a plug to Avast! Free Antivirus. I've been a user of Avast! for years, and have never gotten a virus on any of my computers. There has been the occassional trapping of a virus, but Avast! has stopped them all. If you're looking for a good, reliable, and free anti-virus software, I would recommend Avast!.

24 March, 2010

Word and Excel Hang on Startup

Perhaps it happened with prior versions of Word and Excel, but I definitely noticed for the first time switching to Office 2007. As a laptop user, I don't always work while connected to my office network, or it may just be that I'm connected via a much slower VPN connection. Regardless, every time I start Word and Excel, they ping the Default Printer, which happens to be on the office network. Due to this, whenever I'm using Word or Excel outside the office the applications hang for several minutes.

Apparently so the onscreen display will match the Default Printer specifics, such as margins, Word and Excel will perform this action when started. When over 95% of my documents are never printed by me, and the great possibility that when printed by someone else, they won't have the same printer, I fail to see why Microsoft has chosen this path.

From the research I've done, the workarounds are limited. For the Word/Excel VBA Power Users, you can write some code and have it as part of Normal.dot which will switch your Default Printer based on your domain. For everyone else, the best solution is to set your Default Printer to a local printer such as the Microsoft Document or Image Writer. If you use Adobe PDF and/or Cute PDF Writer, those are options too.

I think this issue supports my belief that just because there's a new version of software, it doesn't mean your current version isn't good enough. Unless you know the next version addresses a big issue or problem that you're struggling with, don't be the first to install it -- give the new release time and learn what others are reporting. While the new templates that come with Office 2007 can make my documents look better, the added headaches make me question the value of the upgrade. Oh and by-the-way, I'm still using Office 2000 at home.

16 March, 2010

Office Ribbon Frustrations: Switching Windows

I may be a little late to the party, but I finally upgraded to Office 2007 a few months back. While I like the new styles and themes, and I can still use the keyboard shortcuts I've learned, I'm still struggling with find other features within the Ribbons.

Top of my list has been switching windows (view another open file) within Excel. In prior versions of Excel, I could go to the Windows menu and select another file. With Office 2007, you have to first select the View ribbon and then click Switch Windows, where you can select a different open file. As with many of the changes, I had to hunt for a while to find the Switch Windows option.

In the mean time I did learn a new keyboard shortcut for switching windows. Use Ctrl-F6 or Ctrl-Shift-F6 to go in reverse order. As with the View >> Switch Windows menu, this also works in Word and PowerPoint as well as Excel.