Bringing Back the Start Menu in Windows 8

April 18, 2014 1 comment

Many friends and relatives have been asking me about bringing back the start menu in Windows 8 / 8.1. As you know, Microsoft added a start “button” in 8.1 but it still goes to the Modern UI. Even with 8.1 Update (or Update 1 as most people call it), the classic old start menu still doesn’t exist.

I could write a series of detailed steps, but since this information has been around for a while and I thought most people knew about it, I haven’t posted anything about it. Nor will I go into much detail here since it has been heavily blogged about since Windows 8 was released. (Just to a bit of Googling, you’ll see).

Long story short, the application I use is called Classic Shell. It’s slick, easy to use, and I recommend it to anyone looking to regain their start menu. To take it a step further and make it look just like Windows 7, AskVG has provided a great skin as well as step by steps instructions for setting it up.

Classic Shell:

http://www.classicshell.net/  (when installing, choose just the Classic Start Menu feature unless you want all the available features)

A Great Custom Windows 7 Skin:
AskVG Classic Shell + Custom Windows 7 Skin

 

Outlook 2010 Autocomplete not working

Here’s a desktop-support level question that comes up from time to time: My emails no longer show up in new emails! What does this mean? Typically it means the user is drafting a new email, and they are typing in the TO or CC fields and the auto-suggest (autocomplete) feature is not working. This can be a bit scary for the user as many times they do not save frequent contacts into their Outlook contacts, and rely on the autocomplete feature to remember email addresses for them.

This problem may manifest itself in many ways. Another manifestation of this problem is when autocomplete is working, but then after Outlook restarts, all the remembered names are gone. Then Outlook will keep remembering email addresses, until it is rebooted again.

One sure-fire way to fix this is to completely remove the autocomplete file from the user’s computer and force it to get rebuild. My workaround/resolution utilizes that method in combination with merging their autocomplete data with their old/existing file so they do not lose any addresses.

These steps are for Outlook 2010 installed on Windows 7, and may also work with Outlook 2007. I have not tested or reviewed them for Outlook 2013 or Windows 8. I hope this post helps you out if you’re having autocomplete problems.

1. Navigate to C:\Users\USERNAME_HERE\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\RoamCache
2. Rename file Stream_Autocomplete_some_random_characters.dat with .old
3. In Outlook select File > Options > Mail, scroll down click Empty Auto-Complete List.
4. In the same area in Outlook, uncheck the Use Autocomplete option.
5. Close and restart Outlook.
6. In Outlook select File > Options > Mail, scroll down place a checkmark to use the autocomplete feature.
7. Restart Outlook
8. Send an email to someone
9. Restart Outlook
10. Start drafting an email and ensure the autocomplete function is now working for the email you used in the prior step.
11. Close Outlook
12. Navigate back to the RoamCahe folder above.
13. Download and run Nk2Edit from NirSoft.net
14. In Nk2Edit
a. Open the .old autocomplete file. You will have to search for *.* all files.
b. Use the program to remove single and double quotes from all display names (there is a quick remove feature from the menu items so you don’t have to manually look).
c. Save the .old file
15. Restart Nk2Edit (it should open into the new/existing autocomplete data file that was generated by turning autocomplete back on in a previous step).
a. Use the menu feature to merge this autocomplete file with an existing autocomplete file
b. Choose the .old file and do the merge.
c. Choose to save for the existing autocomplete file (which is the new/current autocomplete file for outlook).
16. Open Outlook and draft an email – see if the autocomplete is working. It should work now and contain all the old autocomplete data.
17. Reboot the computer, open Outlook and test again to make sure everything is still working.

Internet or Web Browsing Slow while connected to VPN

February 25, 2013 4 comments

This is a rare issue, but nonetheless, an important one to address for users that may be connecting to your network over VPN. I’ve noticed that sometimes a user’s internet connection may seem slow or slower than normal when connected via VPN. Users will report to me that when the VPN connection is active, internet and general web browsing seems very slow.

My initial thought – split tunneling is disabled. For those not familiar, enabling split tunneling on your VPN connection allows the user to access their local network as well as your corporate network at the same time. In essence, requests to local network resources including web will go through their local home network, and not the VPN. This is the first place an administrator should check. In my case, we are using a Cisco VPN client; I also like to make sure that the client is setup to “Allow Local LAN Access”. This setting can be found on the Transport tab of the configuration profile properties page.

But if split tunneling isn’t the problem, what else could it be?

The Solution

Windows 7 and Windows 8 both prioritize network connections based on a priority hierarchy. However, managing this is not intuitive. Microsoft buried the management for this feature because for the most part, Windows handles it automatically. But for when you have an issue like I describe here, try the steps below to see if it resolves the problem for you:

  1. Open the Network and Sharing Center. In Windows 7 you go to Control Panel > Network And Internet > Network And Sharing Center
  2. On the left-hand pane, select “Change Adapter Settings”
  3. In the Network Connections windows, press the ALT key on your keyboard. You will see now that a hidden menu will appear! If you click off of this window, the menu will disappear and you will have to press ALT again to bring it up.
  4. Click the Advanced menu, then choose “Advanced Settings”
  5. Change your local internet connection to be the first item in this list. Your VPN connection is likely called something like “local area connection 2”, but this varies by computer. You will want to be sure that your local ethernet connection is first in this list – or, if you are using wireless, that your “local wireless connection” is first in the list.

I hope this helps your diagnosis of the problem. I’ve utilized this resolution on Win7 and Win8 clients for 4-5 people in my company.

Samsung Smart TV Security Hack Reminds Us To Keep Updates As Current As Possible

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Happy Holidays everyone.  I just wanted to make a quick note of caution this holiday season.  As technology becomes forever more integrated with our lives, remember to take care and be responsbile for actively updating your technology products.  (This goes for you Apple fans out there too!).

The reason I bring this up is due to a new security alert for Samsung Smart-TVs.   A smart tv is a great idea, but with more internet connectivity comes more risk.  Just like a computer, any smart device can be hacked if a hacker is determined.  A flaw was recently found in Samsung Smart TVs that allowed a hacker to comprimise your TV and access the integrated camera, microphone, and any personal information on the device.  For the technical people – if your TV is installed on your network and is behind a router with NAT, you should be safe for now, but that could change.  Big brother anyone?  This whole issue gets into the problem of the Internet of Things – a future blog post I will write.

Long story short, be careful out there and make sure that any technology related purchases you make this season are installed properly and setup to receive updates automatically because if it can access the Internet, it can and will have security flaws that get revealed eventually.

Running Windows PowerShell Scripts from Excel

December 13, 2012 2 comments

I came across a situation today where I wanted to kick off a Windows PowerShell script from within Excel… specifically, using an Excel macro.  I have a PowerShell script that takes a series of server names and returns into an Excel document information on each installed hard drive on each server, along with its free space, used space, and total storage space information.  “How great it would be…” I thought as I pondered the ability to kick this script off from a macro from within my working Excel spreadsheet.

So, I turned to the “Shell” command within the Excel VBA code.  I wrote a small subroutine and returned:

Shell(“powershell.exe \GetServerStorage.ps1”, 1)

PowerShell fired up perfectly from the VBA Shell command, and immediately returned me this information:

Powershell Scripts Disabled

<Pathname>.ps1 cannot be loaded because running scripts is disabled on this system.  For more information see about_Execution_Policies.

I knew I had already set the Execution_Policy in PowerShell using Set-ExecutionPolicy to Unrestricted. (By default mine was set to RemoteSigned).  I verified that the policy was still set to Unrestricted by running Get-ExecutionPolicy within PowerShell.  So what gives?

The Solution

Since I already had the execution policy set to unrestricted, I just needed to tell the PowerShell command being executed from the VBA code to bypass the execution policy.  Since I am working within a trusted environment, I am ok with this.  My resulting statement was this:

Shell(“powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass <pathname>\GetServerStorage.ps1”, 1)

Voila! A simple, quick solution to launching a Windows PowerShell Script from an Excel spreadsheet.

Saving Cash: Use CamelCamelCamel to Review Product Price History

November 26, 2012 1 comment

Happy Cyber-Monday!  The rush of purchases made by myself and millions over this last weekend has prompted me to make a note here for my love of CamelCamelCamel.com.  What is this service?  To put it simply, you can use a link from Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, or NewEgg.com and CamelCamelCamel will give you a price history for the given item!  At this point in time, you do not need to sign up for this service to get the price history information.

In addition, you can setup alerts to warn you when a given item hits or drops below a certain price.  I’ve used this for several electronics purchases over the last year, and highly recommended it.   I never knew the prices on Amazon.com fluctuated so frequently until I started using the price history information available from this website.

I highly recommend this site to anyone, and since for the basic price history information you do not need to register on the site or provide any information other than the product URL at Amazon, Best Buy, or NewEgg, I’d consider this risk-free and worth trying even if you are curious.  You’ll be surprised how often prices jump and drop.

Sample Price History from CamelCamelCamel

Categories: Consumer Tags: ,

Microsoft SQL 2008 R2 and Windows 8

October 31, 2012 2 comments

Here’s an interesting situation I ran across this week.  Windows 8 recently came out, and as such, some of the developers at my company want to be upgraded as soon as possible so they can take advantage of the new OS and focus on Windows 8 development.  As part of the upgrade, some of the developers need SQL 2008 R2 installed.  However, upon running the installer, you may receive the following Program Compatibility Assistant notice:

SQL 2008 R2 compatability warning on Windows 8

This program has compatibility issues – according to Windows 8.   And this is true; it needs to have .Net Framework 3.5 installed. Most people will think: “Ok, no problem I’ll install the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 redistributable.” Or… they will run the program without getting help, and get the next error or notice:

NET Framework Feature download on Windows 8

An app on your PC needs the following Windows feature:  .NET Framework 3.5.  Hey, no problem right? Windows 8 is so cool, it will allow me to download and install this feature right from this prompt.  Choosing to do so, the framework will download and attempt to install, but then you may hit a final error:

Windows Feature not installed NET Framework 3.5

The following feature couldn’t be installed:  .Net Framework 3.5.  Windows couldn’t connect to the internet to download necessary files.  Make sure that you’re connected to the Internet, and click “Retry” to try again.   Error code:  0x800F0906.

Furthermore, if you download the .NET 3.5 Framework redistributable from the internet to the computer, you can end up getting similar errors/compatibility warnings.

Why and How to Fix this Issue

This issue is most likely occurring because in your work or “enterprise” environment, you have Windows 8 configured to talk to a WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) server on the corporate network.  This can be worked around by changing a group policy setting, but if you don’t feel like making the change, or if you do not have appropriate server administration rights to do so, there is another way.  One quick and easy way to fix this without having to change any GPO settings is to install the framework off the Windows 8 CD.  To do this:

1. Put your Windows 8 CD into the computer
2. Run an elevated command prompt
3. Run the command:  Dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:NetFx3 /All /Source:<your cdrom drive letter here>:\sources\sxs /LimitAccess
The installer will run the Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool and should look like this when finished:

Install NET Framework 3.5 from Windows 8 disk

I recommend rebooting, and then all that is left is to run your SQL 2008 R2 installer again, click past the compatibility warning, and continue with the install.  Don’t forget to add SP2!

More information and alternative methods of getting around this error can be found in Microsoft’s knowledge base article KB2734782