Fix It

About a year before Microsoft Windows 7 hit the street, Microsoft had started to introduce the “Fix It” logo associated with “solutions” to problems in Windows.

In Windows 7 Microsoft incorporated the solution center to partially automate finding and fixing issues that could cause problems with Windows.

Now Microsoft has expanded “Fix It” to include Windows Vista and Windows XP…

Thank you for your interest in Microsoft Fix it. We’re working hard to automate solutions to common software problems in an easy, intuitive way that is available when and where you need it. So whether you are looking for a solution in help or support content, or an error report, Fix it provides a way to apply automated fixes, workarounds, or configuration changes so you don’t have to perform a long list of manual steps yourself.

Microsoft Fix It

Fix It

Originally posted 2010-04-27 02:00:21.

Big toys for big boys…

I did some major tree trimming this past weekend, and rented a “Nifty Lifty” lift to do the job.

First I “topped” a tree in the back corner of the yard that the top had died.  The tree itself was in pretty good shape, but for some reason (I’m guessing that the roots were being choked out by a lot of the vegetation that I’d cleared) the top 30 feet had died.  This was easy, plenty of open space around it, and fairly easy to get the lift into position.  And I did what appeared to be the easiest tree first to get used to operating the lift.

Second, I took out one tree near the front of the house that the top had died.  It would have been a very easy tree to take out, except that it was leaning precariously close to the house and almost over the power lines.  It had to be taken out a few small sections at a time until the tree was well below the roof line of the house.

Third, I trimmed a number of branches from another tree in the front of the house that were over-hanging the power lines.  These proved to be a little bit of a challenge because of the height and weight of the branches.  One of the branches was almost 6 inches in diameter, the other was about 4 inches in diameter and the larger branch needed about 25 feet trimmed, the smaller branch needed about 30 feet trimmed.  With the life extended to it’s full height, it was a little shaky, and definitely a slow process taking out the sections of the limbs.

Fourth, I trimmed a few limbs that were over the house from a tree in the side yard.  Except for one of the branches this proved to be straight forward (after the experience from the tree in the front yard hanging over the power lines this was a piece of cake).  However, the last limb was about 40 feet above the ground and extended well past the ridge of the house — there seemed to be no way to trim this without potentially damaging the roof since there was just no way to get to end of the branch to lighten it.  My brother-in-law came up with the idea of using a very long pole saw from the life to cut off small sections of the limb.  It was slow go, and a little uncomfortable working that far off the ground with a 18 foot pole saw; but it worked, and the limb came down section by section without damaging anything.

Of course, the work just started after getting the trees and branches down.  There was an unbelievable amount of small limbs and leaves to haul away, and there’s still lots of fire wood to cut and haul away.

Originally posted 2009-08-14 01:00:16.

Connect for the Cause

I’m a huge fan of credit unions; be they state or federal chartered; and I hate banks (all banks).  There’s a huge difference between what motivates a credit union and what motivates a bank, and dealing with even a bad credit union is generally much more satisfying than dealing with the best bank!

Personally I use credit unions when I can; and soak banks for their “give mes” on credit cards… I never pay a bank a penny further if they don’t pay me — I don’t make money for them, and my credit unions never charge me a penny (seems like a good arrangement to me) .

The quote below is from a web site that’s designed to keep you informed about legislation that might effect the services credit unions can provide to you; below it are two links to (California) organizations that support credit unions — while all of whats on those sites might not be important to you, certainly any of the federal changes proposed will likely effect you.

Support your credit unions in every way you can — and fight back against the greedy banks that feel you as a tax-payer (and a customer) should pay for their mistakes while they continue to pay the executive staff (who made the mistakes) huge bonuses.

Take back America… take it back from the greed that destroys the very foundation of our society!

 


As a credit union supporter, you are aware of the need for grassroots action and mobilization efforts to inform our elected officials about credit union issues. Thank you for your active support, and please visit this network frequently to stay informed about legislative issues that are important to your credit union.

Connect for the Cause

California Credit Union League

Originally posted 2009-11-28 01:00:29.

Hyper-V Server

With the release of Windows Server 2008 Microsoft made a huge step forward in releasing thin, high-performance hyper-visor for machine virtualization – Hyper-V.

Microsoft has also baited the market by offering a free version of Windows Server 2008 specifically designed to be a virtualization host; Hyper-V Server.

I decide to play with Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V and Hyper-V Server to get a feel for what it could do.

Installation is a snap; much the same as Vista.

With Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V everything goes very smoothly and just works.  You can use the Hyper-V manager to setup virtual machines, run them, stop them, etc.  But one thing you want to while you have Windows Server 2008 up and running is figure out everything you need to do to remotely connect to manage Hyper-V and Server 2008 from your workstation because Hyper-V server isn’t going to allow you to do much from the console.

To say it’s a little complicated to get remote Hyper-V management working is an understatement; after I figured it out I found a tool that can help automate the setup — makes like much easier.

The one thing I never got working from Vista x64 was remote management of Windows Server 2008 – and you really need that as well (remember you don’t get much capability from the console).  I’ll probably play with that a little more; and certainly I’ll get it working before I deploy any Hyper-V servers (it’s not a huge problem if you have a Windows Server 2008 machine already, remote management of other Windows Server 2008 boxes just works).

Now after the headache of getting everything configured properly it was time to put Hyper-V through it’s paces.

First task, migrate a machine over from Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP2… piece of cake — copy over the VHD files, create a machine, hookup the disks (back track since Hyper-V seems to have a fairly set directory format for machines and disks — so if you create a new machine on Hyper-V first you’ll see the layout).  Boot the machine, connect, remove the virtual machine additions, reboot, install the new virtual machine files — asks to update the HAL (say yes), reboot, and finally install the new virtual machine files, reboot, re-generate the SID and rename the machine (I still have the old one, and I don’t want confusion)… and everything works great.  Shutdown the machine, add a second processor, start it up… and a dual processor virtual machine is born.

I migrated over 32-bit XP Professional; did a test install of 64-bit Server 2003… and every thing worked just fine.

Don’t get carried away just yet.

There’s a couple gotchas with this.

  • To effectively use the free Hyper-V Server you either need a Windows Server 2008 (full install) or you need to get the remote tools working from your workstation; that’s non-trivial.
  • To run Hyper-V Server or Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V you need a machine with hardware virtualization and execute disable (which really isn’t that uncommon these days, just make sure your BIOS has those features enabled).
  • Once you migrate a machine to Hyper-V there’s no automated way to go back to Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP2 (sure you can probably do it — but it’s going to be a pain).
  • To get performance out of Hyper-V you really need to use SCSI virtual disks; right now Microsoft doesn’t support booting from SCSI disks in Hyper-V since they only support the para-virtualized SCSI interface.  So to get performance you have to have an IDE boot disk and run off SCSI disks (not exactly a common installation, so you probably won’t be converting any physical machines like that — and seems like it’s a nightmare just waiting to unfold).

Fortunately I’m not in a huge hurry to move to Hyper-V; I’m fairly certain since it’s a corner stone of Microsoft’s push to own the virtual infrastructure market I suspect we’ll see the issues that prevent it from being all that it can be resolved quickly.

And I’ll close with an up-note… WOW — the performance was very impressive… I really wish I had a test machine with lots of spindles to see what kind of load I could realistically put on it.

Originally posted 2008-11-15 08:00:52.

Microsoft Security Essentials

A few years ago Microsoft® provided a free Beta of it’s Anti-Virus solution; and Beta users were provided with one free license to continue to use the “One Care” branded Anti-Virus.

Now (as of 29 September 2009 – yesterday) Microsoft is once again providing a free Anti-Virus for “genuine” Windows.

Personally I use Avast’s free version; I’d consider using the Microsoft AV on servers, but the free version only support desktop versions of Windows (like Avast).

http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

Originally posted 2009-09-30 01:00:29.

Browser Spelling Check

If you use Firefox you’re set, build of that have included a spell check add in for quite sometime; however, if you use Internet Explorer you’re going to want to look into a spell check add-on.

Some of the spell check add-ons depend on the presence of Microsoft’s spell check (you get that with Office products, like Word); but one of the better ones does not.

ieSpell works well, and some javaScript add-ins on web pages will automatically detect it (as they do Firefox’s spell check) and work the same; but when they don’t you have the ability to use the context menu to spell check the contents of a edit box.

For personal use ieSpell is toally free, for commercial use you should check the licensing.

Originally posted 2008-12-13 12:00:34.

Google Music – Beta

Google has launched their cloud based streaming music service as a beta; you can request an invitation (using a Gmail account) via the link below.

What does it get you?

Well, up to 20,000 songs in your cloud storage; play back support on most Android devices; play back support from a browser; and an upload program that will sync your library to the cloud.

Not bad for free.

Apple provides a similar service for $25 per year; there’s no limit to the amount of music you can store.  The main differences being that there’s no Android support (basically devices iTunes supports is supported), and Apple actually finger prints the files and serves their iTune version of the music rather than your copy (likely at a higher bit rate — they, of course, don’t incur the storage overhead).

Amazon provides a similar service for $20 per year (you also get some storage for other files); and there’s no limit to the amount of music you can store, but you might find their uploader is a little less friendly to use (OK — to be fair it’s been updated since I tested it — so maybe not).

You can play with the free 5GB version of the Amazon service and decide if you like it, and it’s worth the $20 (I was hoping they’d just bundle it into Prime — but if they’re serious about Hulu they really need to start Al-a-cart charges for services, or Prime is going to have to go up).

Anyway, if you have an Android device, I highly recommend you go ahead and request an invite to the Google Music Beta — you can try the Amazon out as well… if you have an iOS device, you’re probably stuck with the Apple solution (but you’re an Apple customer, so you’re used to having to shell out money for everything).

Also, the Amazon tablets will reportedly ship with a free Prime subscription, possibly a free year of cloud storage might be thrown in as well (that’s speculation on my part).

http://music.google.com/about/

Originally posted 2011-09-10 02:00:28.

Virtualization Outside the Box

I’ve posted many an article on virtualization, but I felt it was a good time to post just an overview of the choices for virtualization along with a short blurb on each.

Obviously, the operating system you choose and the hardware you have will greatly limit the choices you have in making a virtualization decisions.  Also, you should consider how you intend to use virtualization (and for what).

Microsoft VirtualPC (Windows and a very outdated PowerPC Mac version) – it’s free, but that doesn’t really offset the fact that VirtualPC is aging technology, it’s slow, and it had been expected to die (but was used ad the basis for Windows 7 virtualization).

Microsoft Hyper-V (Windows Server 2008, “bare metal”) – you can get a free Hyper-V server distribution, but you’ll find it hard to use without a full Server 2008.  Hyper-V is greatly improved over VirtualPC, but it implements a rather dated set of virtual hardware, and it really doesn’t perform as well as many other choices and it will only run on hardware that supports hardware virtualization (I-VT or AMD-V).

VMware (Windows, Mac, Linux) – I’ll lump all of their product into one and just say it’s over-priced and held together by chewing gum and band-aids.  I’d recommend you avoid it — even the free versions.

VirtualBox (Windows, Mac, Linux, bare metal) – Sun (now Oracle) produces a commercial and open source (community) edition of an extremely good virtualization solution.  Primarily targeted at desktops it implements a reasonably modern virtual machine, and will run on most any hardware.

Parallels (Windows, Mac, Linux, bare metal) – a very good virtualization solution, but it’s expensive — and it will continue to cost you money over and over again (upgrades are essential and not free between versions).  You can do much better for much less (like free).

QEMU (Windows, Linux, etc) – this is one of the oldest of the open source projects, and the root of many.  It’s simple, it works, but it’s not a good solution for most users.

Kernel-based Virtual Machines (KVM — don’t confuse it with Keyboard/Video/Mouse switches, the TLA is way overloaded) – this is the solution that Ubuntu (and other Linux distributions) choose for virtualization (though Ubuntu recommends VirtualBox for desktop virtualization).  KVM makes is moderately complicated to setup guest machines, but there are GUI add-ons as well as other tools that greatly simplify the tasks.

Xen (Linux) – an extremely good hypervisor implementation (the architecture of Hyper-V and Xen share many of the same fundamental designs), it will run Xen enabled (modified) kernels efficiently on any hardware, but requires hardware assisted virtualization for non-modified kernels (like Windows).

XenSource (bare-metal [Linux]) – this is a commercial product (though now available at no cost) acquired by Citrix which also includes a number of enterprise tools.  All the comments of Xen (above) apply with the addition that this package is ready (and supported) for enterprise applications and is cost effective is large and small deployments.


My personal choice remains VirtualBox for desktop virtualization on Windows, Mac, and Linux, but if I were setting up a virtual server I’d make sure I evaluated (and would likely choose) XenSource (it’s definitely now a much better choice than building a Hyper-V based solution).

Originally posted 2010-05-03 02:00:58.

Debunking Canadian health care myths

The following is an except from a Denver Post opinion article by Rhonda Hackett (a clinical psychologist born in Canada, living in the US)

Myth: Taxes in Canada are extremely high, mostly because of national health care.

In actuality, taxes are nearly equal on both sides of the border. Overall, Canada’s taxes are slightly higher than those in the U.S. However, Canadians are afforded many benefits for their tax dollars, even beyond health care (e.g., tax credits, family allowance, cheaper higher education), so the end result is a wash. At the end of the day, the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82 percent of their gross pay. In the U.S., that average is 81.9 percent.

Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy.

The U.S. has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. goes to paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, profits, etc. The provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with just a 1 percent overhead. Think about it. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount of money to decide who gets care and who doesn’t when everybody is covered.

Myth: The Canadian system is significantly more expensive than that of the U.S.Ten percent of Canada’s GDP is spent on health care for 100 percent of the population. The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP but 15 percent of its population has no coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. In essence, the U.S. system is considerably more expensive than Canada’s. Part of the reason for this is uninsured and underinsured people in the U.S. still get sick and eventually seek care. People who cannot afford care wait until advanced stages of an illness to see a doctor and then do so through emergency rooms, which cost considerably more than primary care services.

What the American taxpayer may not realize is that such care costs about $45 billion per year, and someone has to pay it. This is why insurance premiums increase every year for insured patients while co-pays and deductibles also rise rapidly.

Myth: Canada’s government decides who gets health care and when they get it.While HMOs and other private medical insurers in the U.S. do indeed make such decisions, the only people in Canada to do so are physicians. In Canada, the government has absolutely no say in who gets care or how they get it. Medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, as they should be.

There are no requirements for pre-authorization whatsoever. If your family doctor says you need an MRI, you get one. In the U.S., if an insurance administrator says you are not getting an MRI, you don’t get one no matter what your doctor thinks — unless, of course, you have the money to cover the cost.

Myth: There are long waits for care, which compromise access to care.There are no waits for urgent or primary care in Canada. There are reasonable waits for most specialists’ care, and much longer waits for elective surgery. Yes, there are those instances where a patient can wait up to a month for radiation therapy for breast cancer or prostate cancer, for example. However, the wait has nothing to do with money per se, but everything to do with the lack of radiation therapists. Despite such waits, however, it is noteworthy that Canada boasts lower incident and mortality rates than the U.S. for all cancers combined, according to the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group and the Canadian Cancer Society. Moreover, fewer Canadians (11.3 percent) than Americans (14.4 percent) admit unmet health care needs.

Myth: Canadians are paying out of pocket to come to the U.S. for medical care.Most patients who come from Canada to the U.S. for health care are those whose costs are covered by the Canadian governments. If a Canadian goes outside of the country to get services that are deemed medically necessary, not experimental, and are not available at home for whatever reason (e.g., shortage or absence of high tech medical equipment; a longer wait for service than is medically prudent; or lack of physician expertise), the provincial government where you live fully funds your care. Those patients who do come to the U.S. for care and pay out of pocket are those who perceive their care to be more urgent than it likely is.

Myth: Canada is a socialized health care system in which the government runs hospitals and where doctors work for the government.Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt says single-payer systems are not “socialized medicine” but “social insurance” systems because doctors work in the private sector while their pay comes from a public source. Most physicians in Canada are self-employed. They are not employees of the government nor are they accountable to the government. Doctors are accountable to their patients only. More than 90 percent of physicians in Canada are paid on a fee-for-service basis. Claims are submitted to a single provincial health care plan for reimbursement, whereas in the U.S., claims are submitted to a multitude of insurance providers. Moreover, Canadian hospitals are controlled by private boards and/or regional health authorities rather than being part of or run by the government.

Myth: There aren’t enough doctors in Canada.

From a purely statistical standpoint, there are enough physicians in Canada to meet the health care needs of its people. But most doctors practice in large urban areas, leaving rural areas with bona fide shortages. This situation is no different than that being experienced in the U.S. Simply training and employing more doctors is not likely to have any significant impact on this specific problem. Whatever issues there are with having an adequate number of doctors in any one geographical area, they have nothing to do with the single-payer system.

Originally posted 2010-03-10 02:00:43.

Circuit City “One Price Promise”

Do retailers really think consumers are stupid?

Take a look at Circuit City’s “One Price Promise” on their web site… pay particular attention to the exclusions.

One Price Promise?  Yeah… you can be confident you’re likely to be screwed over if you’re not an informed consumer.

I’ll spend my money elsewhere — though I’ll be happy to force them to better a lost leader price by 10% with there “Unbeatle Price Guarantee”!!!

Originally posted 2008-11-26 12:00:28.