Saturday, September 5, 2015

Useless router WiFi speeds and maximum Surface Pro 3 Wifi speed

I got puzzled last week by my Surface Pro 3, which usually connects at 60-90Mbps to my router, regardless of which band (2.4 or 5Ghz I choose). I knew Surface 3 had some problems with low WiFi connection speeds when it was released, but since then Microsoft has released drivers and firmware updates that were supposed to fix the problem. I upgraded to an AC router, Surface Pro also has AC adapter, so why am I not seeing better speeds?
My WiFi router is a Netgear Nighthawk R8000, which boasts a 3.2Gbps WiFi speed. That's just for PR, in reality, it has one 2.4GHz band with max 600Mbps and two 5GHz channels, each supporting max 1300Mbps. So, the max speed of connection is limited to the max speed of the band I'm using. But, that's not the end of the story - both my Surface Pro 3 and my wife's laptop connect at maximum 866.5Mbps, and that's when staying 2-3 fests apart from the router. The speed is actually negotiated between the router and the client device. If I move 10 feet away, the speed starts dropping to 700Mbps. If I stay in living room, the speed drops to 80-90Mbps.
Surface 3 Pro has a 'Marvell AVASTAR Wireless-AC Network Controller' Wi-Fi adapter, and based on it's maximum WiFi speed is 867Mbps.
I'm reaching this speed (so Microsoft kept its promise and fixed the low speed problem), but I have to be feet apart from the router to reach it. And even in these ideal conditions I'd need at least 4 Surfaces to saturate the two 5GHz channels plus more WiFi devices connecting on 2.4GHz to reach the advertised router's speed... The router speeds are just a PR gimmick.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Digital Photo Professional cannot edit CR2 RAW files

Today I spent almost one hour trying to figure out why Canon DPP was not able to edit some pictures I took a while ago. All the pictures in one folder were shown like this:


Notice the glyph on top of each image indicating editing was not allowed.

I searched 3 times the menus for some option to unblock editing, but there was none. I thought of files being read-only on disk, having wrong ACLs. Nothing. Some website suggested for images being edit-protected from the camera to access an unblock option from the Info window, but that was completely empty instead of displaying EXIF info.


It was only happening with images in one folder, so I moved an image out of that folder, but nothing changed.

Hours later I viewed the images in Explorer from a different computer, and then I noticed something odd – why was the CR2 size so small as compared with other pictures? Were they corrupted?


And then it hit me – when I took those pictures the camera battery run out on my 5D III and I had to use my old camera, a Canon 20D. And DPP was not able to open the files from this older camera…

After a little digging on the net, I had the confirmation: Canon has released Digital Photo Professional 4.0, but only for 64-bit computers and only for certain cameras like Canon 5D Mark III. Older camera like Canon 20D are not supported by DPP 4, and instead I had to download the previous version, DPP 3.14 to edit the raw files. It turns out that even new cameras from Canon like 7D mark II are not supported by DPP 4.0, on either 32 or 64-bit Windows. Hopefully Canon will reconsider and add compatibility support for all the cameras when they release a new version of DPP 4…

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to install Active Directory (AD) tools on Windows 8

Start by installing Remote Server Administrator Tools For Windows 8.1 to get the 'Remote Server Administration Tools' components, then Turn Windows features on/off, and make sure to select 'AD DS Tools'.

This article describes in great details the steps

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Wi-Fi connection not using full speed of 300Mbps


I have two Netgear Wi-Fi routers that have Wi-Fi connections enabled with speeds up to 300Mbps. However, the laptop, tablet, etc connects to them with speeds usual in the 78-144Mbps range, never over 150Mbps. This didn’t bother me much as these speeds are still over my broadband connection speed (60Mpbs), and I don’t transfer many files between laptop and other computers in the network. But still, why does this happens?

The documentation says “The WNR3500 router will use the channel you selected as the primary channel and expand to the secondary channel (primary channel +4 or -4) to achieve a 40 MHz frame-by-frame bandwidth. The WNR3500 router will detect channel usage and will disable frame-by-frame expansion if the expansion would result in interference with the data transmission of other access points or clients.”

I thought the low speed was caused by router settings. My router had channel 4 set as primary, which left only 4+4=8 as secondary. I thought some interference on channel 8 was preventing it to be used, so I changed the primary to 5, with 1 and 9 now as options for secondary. But that didn’t increase the connection speed.

Today, after digging more, I looked on laptop at adapter’s settings. There, the Channel Width on 2.4GHz range was set to “20 MHz Only”. I set it to Auto, let the laptop reconnect, and voila! Now the speed increased, reaching values in the 270-300Mhz range, as it should have.



It didn’t make sense, why won’t be this set to Auto by default? Then I remembered. It was.

3 years ago I was experiencing frequent connection drops, and a lot of reconnecting – I was not able to maintain a RemoteDesktop connection to work without the laptop pausing for reconnect every couple of minutes. It was really annoying. And it was me who limited the channel width to 20MHz, which seemed to reduce the number of connection drops.

Well, now I have a second Wi-Fi router to extend the range, and the laptop’s connection at 300Mbps seems more reliable now. So I guess I’ll keep the laptop’s channel width back to its default settings.

Unfortunately the Surface RT’s network adaptor doesn’t have a similar setting, so the tablet will have to connect to 150Mbps max. No loss there until Comcast will allow such speeds at reasonable prices.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Using Visual SourceSafe 2005 with Visual Studio 2010, Visual Studio 2012 and Visual Studio 2013

Visual SourceSafe is out of mainstream support since 2012 and will be in Extended support until 2017. However, may people use the product past its lifetime dates, if for no other reason at least because they have programs developed originally and stored in VSS databases that will still need maintaining.
Microsoft Visual SourceSafe 2005 will still install on modern computers, and will still integrate with recent version of Visual Studio

Opening projects from source control

Visual SourceSafe 2005 was changed from VSS 6.0 and integrated with the File/Open Project/Solution dialog in Visual Studio. On Windows XP, Vista (and 7, I think), the Open dialog showed a dedicated ‘Visual SourceSafe’ icon in the tray, so it was intuitive to discover the Open from source control functionality. Since then, Windows changed the layout of the Open dialog, and SourceSafe option can only be found if you scroll the folders tree to the top…
Open Project from SourceSafe in VS 2005image
Even worse, the namespace extension providing integration with Explorer and the Open dialogs broke during the years. Here are the options on how to fix the Open From Source Control functionality:

A) Use SourceSafe 6.0 way of opening from source control.

When it integrated with the File/Open dialog, SourceSafe 2005 has set some registry keys that make VSS Integration package in VS hide the OpenFromSourceControl commands under File/SourceControl menu. You can modify the registry and bring back those commands:
1) Using regedit, open the registry and locate under
[HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SourceSafe\Namespace Extension]
DisableOpenFromSourceControl == (DWord)1.

2) Change the value to (Dword)0 or delete the value completely. There will be a similar value for SourceSafe Internet provider under Microsoft\SourceSafe\RemoteAccess\Namespace Extension, change that as well
(Note: The values are under Wow6432Node hive on 64-bit machines)
3) Restart Visual Studio and now you should have under File/SourceControl a menu item that allows opening solution from source control.
4) Make sure to select a different location when opening from source control in a new enlistment (the equivalent of “Change Destination Folder” in the open functionality from the OpenProject dialog)

B) Fix the namespace extension.

1) If you installed VSS 2005 RTM and try to navigate the namespace extension you will see there are no items available under SourceSafe node. Clicking on the SourceSafe icons in the tree results in an error message “No such interface supported”

This error has been fixed in the SourceSafe 2005 Update build, so please install VS80-KB943847-X86-INTL (which you should do anyway)
2) Now you should be able to navigate the SourceSafe databases in the File/Open dialog, you should be able to select a solution or project and change the scc location, however, when you’ll try to open the solution Visual Studio will display another error message “The selected file is not a valid solution file”.
Why does this break? Surely you’ve selected a solution file! In order to return the path to the solution to VisualStudio, TDNamespaceExtension.dll which is the NSE deployed by SourceSafe needs to create a URI like msss://SoursafeDatabasePath/~files/PathToTheSolution (there’s more to that, but you get the idea). Unfortunately the MSSS scheme parser is a component implemented by a dll that ships with VisualStudio, so in order to create the parser TDNamespaceExtension looks up in registry under Visual Studio registry hive; as SourceSafe 2005 shipped in the box with Visual Studio 2005 (VS 8.0),  it looks under this registry key
Of course this key does not exist if you install a more recent version of Visual Studio…
For  Sourcesafe to find the correct parser, the TDNamespaceExtension.dll had to be updated to look under the right key. To make VSS work with VS2008 and VS2010 Microsoft released patches to TDNamespaceExtension (e.g. KB976375 is what you can install for VS2010). But for VS2012 and VS2013 Microsoft hasn’t released anymore such updates, probably due to SourceSafe reaching the end of mainstream support. Sad smile
If you have multiple versions of VisualStudio installed (e.g. I have VS2010, VS2012 and VS2013 installed) and have fixed VSS to work with one version of VS you won’t (I have fixed it for VS2010 installing the KB article mentions above) you see this problem in the other versions, because VSS is able to find the parser from that version of VS (from VS2010 in my case).
Anyway, it’s easy to fix the problem manually even without KB articles, by setting a registry value which tells SourceSafe where to locate the MSSS scheme parser. Besides looking under the VS 8.0 hive, TDNamespaceExtension also looks in a common place, under HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID\{53544C4D-CFBF-404e-9E37-19C8BB80F6E3}
So we can register the parser there, pointing to the current version of Visual Studio you have installed. E.g.:
- Save the content below to a file with .reg extension
- Edit the 12.0 if necessary and replace with the version of VS you have installed
- Double click the file and import it into registry.
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
"InprocServer32"="C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\\Common7\\IDE\\VS SCC\\VssProvider.dll"
@="VAPI Scheme Parser Msss"

Now you should be able to open file from source control using the File/Open/Project without running into the “The selected file is not a valid solution file” error.

Note: The above file worked for me on a 32-bit machine. On my 64-bit machine, I have the VAPI parser registered under multiple locations (I think the last one is written by VS setup and gets copied into 12.0_Config hive on first run); it won't hurt to register it similarly though.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
@="VAPI Scheme Parser Msss"

@="C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\\Common7\\IDE\\VS SCC\\VssProvider.dll"

@="VAPI Scheme Parser Msss"

@="c:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\\Common7\\IDE\\VS SCC\\VssProvider.dll"

"InprocServer32"="C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\\Common7\\IDE\\VS SCC\\VssProvider.dll"
@="VAPI Scheme Parser Msss"

"InprocServer32"="C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\\Common7\\IDE\\VS SCC\\VssProvider.dll"
@="VAPI Scheme Parser Msss"


Today I had my system infected with a trojan. I don’t even remember when it was the last time to have one… The worst part of it – I didn’t get it by visiting dubious sites (pr0n, warez), but from a news site ( Most likely the malware was masquerading as an ad and exploited some unpatched hole in Adobe Flash (caveat!) as the site is full of Flash advertisements and had problems in the past, too.
I was browsing the news and suddenly the browser disappeared (crashed). I restarted it thanking Adobe and thinking nothing more of it. Soon after that, problems appeared.
The first red flag was an elevated prompt from Windows 7, asking for permission to run ‘SoftwareUpdate.exe’. Since I was not installing anything, I canceled it. Yet the prompt came again, and again, and again. From the dialog’s details, the program was "c:\Users\alinc\AppData\Local\temp\SoftwareUpdates.exe", so I renamed the executable to *.exe_ extension, and canceled the prompt again. This time I got error messages that updates can’t be installed, so I set up to investigate who was displaying it. To my surprise, I could not launch TaskManger (taskmgr.exe) nor SysInternal’s ProcessExplorer (procexp.exe). As soon as the programs were started, they were closed automatically... It was clear now I was infected.
I logged off, and switched users, logging in with a different local Administrator account. Problems occurred here as well, I still could not launch ProcExp. Soon I started to get tons of error messages “A Write command during the test failed to complete”, culminating with a “System error, hard disk failure detected”. All the icons on desktop disappeared leaving only one “Smart_Hdd” shortcut.
I opened a command prompt and stated to see problem here as well - folders and files disappeared from ‘dir’ commands. I renamed procexp.exe to something else (alin.exe) and this way I was able to launch it without being closed anymore. You can see in one look Process Explorer highlighted in gray 2 suspect programs (C:\ProgramData\rmIhrYfwFjUdy.exe and C:\ProgramData\QFUDzzwTiL1aQy.exe): they had weird names, were launched from ProgramData, had no Description or CompanyName.
Even more worrying, rmIhrYfwFjUdy.exe had launched a recursive “attrib.exe /s +h \*.*” (not shown, I killed it immediately)– this was hiding all the files and folders on my computer! I believe all these was a scamming scheme to convince me into buying some “cleanup program” that would fix the “hard drive failures” “detected” and reported in the previous messages.
I tried to stop/kill the malicious programs by pressing Delete, but those were protecting each other – as soon as one was killed, the other one was immediately starting it up again. The solution is to right click them, and use “Suspend” command. Suspend both, then you’ll be able to kill them without coming back. Now I could move the binaries out of the way for my collection and investigate further.
I run another Sysinternal/Microsoft tool, Autoruns. This indicated rmIhrYfwFjUdy.exe was launched at logon time via a registry value written under HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. I deleted that as well.
I updated Microsoft Security Essentials to the latest definitions, and I started a scan. With latest definitions, it flagged as malware two of the binaries. QFUDzzwTiL1aQy was recognized as Win32/Bumat!rts, and SoftwareUpdate was recognized as Win32/Tibs!IT. The 3rd program was not recognized, so I used the Microsoft’s Virus Submission Sample Page to submit rmIhrYfwFjUdy.exe for further analysis. 
The trojan left more traces on my computer:
- The "Smart HDD" shortcut on desktop pointing to QFUDzzwTiL1aQy.
- A “Smart HDD” program group with 2 entries, one masquerading as an “Uninstall” program, but pointing to the same malware.
- Most folders and files were hidden. I had to run recursive ‘attrib –h’ of my own to reset attributes.
- The StartMenu and Taskbar settings were all changed. All the icons in start menus were hidden, the taskbar was set with Vista-like settings (program buttons with texts, no grouping, system tray showing all icons, etc). I had to go to Properties and explicitly set or reset all to defaults.
- All icons under “Administrative Tools” were deleted. In fact, the whole “C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu” folder was cleaned of all files.
- The “C:\Users\All Users” folder is also gone. There may be other effects I haven’t found yet…
Basically I’ve lost all the shortcuts/icons of all installed programs, but I’m still pleased I caught it in time before it caused more damage - the situation could have been much worse…
In any case, this was one more win for Sysinternals tools.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Using color themes with Visual Studio 2013 Express Editions

Microsoft has recently released Visual Studio 2013 and Matthew Johnson has released a new version of the Visual Studio 2013 Color Theme Editor. Unfortunately it doesn’t support (yet?) the Express editions of VS2013.
My previous article about using color themes with Visual Studio 2012 seemed to have been quite popular, it’s the most accessed article on my blog...  Therefore, to continue the tradition, here is how to install the new theme colors available with Matt’s extension to work with the Visual Studio 2013 Express.
1) First, download the zip file – it contains the 8 pkgdef files defining the colors of the 8 new themes from Matt’s extension, plus the 9th pkgdef with the theme names.
Note: If you get errors when you try downloading the file, rest assured the file is still there on my home server. It’s likely a temporary problem with my Internet connection or the DNS servers, so try again later. (I’d also appreciate a warning mail if I don’t notice the problem myself and it doesn’t get resolved in 1 day)
2) Create a folder (say named “Themes”) and unpack the zip file in that folder. The location of the folder depends on the Express edition you’re using. E.g. create the folder under this path:
Express for Windows Desktop %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\Common7\IDE\WDExpressExtensions
Express for Windows %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\Common7\IDE\VSWinExpressExtensions
Express for Web %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\Common7\IDE\VWDExpressExtensions

Note: If running on a 64-bit machine, instead of %ProgramFiles% use %ProgramFiles(x86)% because Visual Studio is a 32-bit process.
Note 2: Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone was not released for 2013. If you need to colorize Express for Windows Phone 2012, see the Using color themes with Visual Studio 2012 Express Editions article.
3) Open a “Developer Command Prompt for VS2013”. When using Windows 8, search for “Visual Studio tools” and open the folder found. Visual Studio 2013 no longer installs the tools shortcuts directly in the Start Menu to avoid polluting the menu with 9+ rarely used shortcuts.
Anyway, once there type the command forcing VS Express to re-read the extensions settings.
Again, that depends on the version of Express used:
Express for Windows Desktop wdexpress.exe /updateconfiguration
Express for Windows vswinexpress.exe /updateconfiguration
Express for Web vwdexpress.exe /updateconfiguration

4) Start VS Express  and the themes should now be available in Tools/Options/Environment/General page.
Should someone with a VS Professional/Ultimate install use Matt’s extension to create/edit a custom theme that you want to use on Express, that’s also possible. You will need a pkgdef file with the new theme, which you can get in two ways:
  • On the machine with the VS install look under ‘%LocalAppData%\Microsoft\VisualStudio\12.0\Extensions’ folder. There should be some subfolders with random names, and one of them will contain a Colors.pkgdef file containing the theme of interest (open it with notepad and you should see in the beginning the theme’s name to confirm). Copy that file in the Themes folder created in step 2) above, rename it to give it a more appropriate name
  • Or, you can open the theme of interest in editor, and use the Export Theme button in the window's toolbar:
    In the FileSave dialog, make sure to set the file type to .PkgDef (by default the extension saves the file as .VsTheme), like this: After exporting the file, copy it in the Themes folder created in step 2) above in your VS Express installation.
Now you can repeat steps 3-4) above to force VS Express read the new extension pkgdef file, and you should be able to use the new custom theme in Tools/Options dialog.