Stop Windows Server 2003 Hanging When Installing Updates

Some of the servers that I manage in locations have a nasty habit of hanging on the final stage of rebooting when trying to apply Windows Updates automatically.

In most locations, I use WSUS to deploy updates around the site which is OK, but when it comes to servers problems arise.

After roaming around on the internet, I found a useful thread at EggHeadCafe which describes the problem I’m having. Apparently, turning off the default user screensaver using the following registry key will solve the problem:

HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\control panel\screensaveractive
Set the value to 0

This would make sense, as there is a similar problem in Windows XP where if you try to shutdown the system with the power button (or an update) while the screen saver is active, the system will shutdown until the screensaver is turned off by touching the keyboard or mouse.

I’ll find out if this works in a month’s time!

EDIT: Just logged onto one of my servers with this change and it works a treat.

Hiding the tricky PDF data

Sometimes, you don’t want people reading the fine detail on a PDF document. Especially if you’re lying about when the document was created.

Can you image the conversation?

“Hey, Jeff – I got your report on the bug monsters.”

“No worries, Dave. Just annoying when the email goes missing like that.”

“Er, yeah. By the way – I checked the document summary and it said you only created it an hour ago.”

“Ummmmmmmmmmmm…”

Well, fear not! Help is here! After spending about an hour searching for a useful open source tool, jPDFtweak came to the rescue!

To us this very effective tool, simply download onto your computer and unzip the files. Once done, you can run the application with the following command:

<code>java -jar jpdftweak.jar</code>

Once loaded, you can open a PDF on the import tab

Now,

  • Click the Document Info tab
  • Tick the Change Document Info box
  • Click Load from Document

All the document data that is in the file is now loaded into jPDFtweak. Just double-click on the bits of data that you want to change, and type in the new data.

Once done, click on the Output tab, give your new PDF a name and then click Run.

Yeah, baby!

Vista, Why You Eat my Computer?

So, Vista’s been out for a while now – some people think it’s great (usually they are selling it), some think that it’s pants.

Now, I’m not far from the front of the queue when it comes to raving about Linux. Ubuntu was the second Linux distro that I have tried, and I’ve stuck with it quite happily. In fact, things have remained pretty good from my initial post about my first experiences with Ubuntu.

On the other hand, Windows has it’s own place in the world. If you’re a person who can afford Microsoft’s astronomical licensing costs – then Microsoft can offer you some great things too.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel that Windows Vista is one of those great things.

Slug on Mogadon

The thing that strikes me whenever I use Vista is that it is so slow. Not just slow, but slooooooow. I have to use a variety of systems, and when I need to fix somebody’s laptop that is running Vista I should be putting an afternoon aside.

This isn’t entirely Microsoft’s fault. Consumer greed, business greed and the general desire to get more for less has also led to this rocky road to Hell. Computers and notebooks are generally sold cheap. Cheap means under-spec. Even up to the end of Windows XP’s golden lifespan (I’m not saying it’s past it, by the way), computer manufacturers were selling new systems with 256MB RAM. I’m sorry, but I’ve used Windows XP enough to know that as soon as you put on Service Pack 2, some anti-virus software, maybe some anti-malware package and then decide to run a few applications – time begins to speed up around you. Either that or the computer is running slowly. You decide.

Now Vista has mammoth requirements for what is essentially a core program. The minimum amount of RAM to run Vista is 512MB. That’s what I say is minimum for XP nowadays. I recommend having more than 1GB RAM installed for a pleasant Vista experience.

The problem is, noteboook manufacturers might even stump up the extra £5 to put 1GB of RAM in – but when 256MB of RAM is then being stolen by the onboard graphics so that you can see the Aero effects, things are clearly still not right.

Vista will run well on a decent, modern computer system. The problem is that Joe Public will be sold some tat from PC World by a part-time A-level student who will bestow Vista’s Flip-3D as a major selling point. Oh, it can burn DVDs as well.

Real Life

When real-life steps in, this is unsuitable for a lot of computers. Microsoft wants business to be using its latest baby, but on any existing hardware – Vista just doesn’t make the crunch.

My computer is almost 4 years old and runs Ubuntu beautifully. I have 1GB which more than meets any application requirements. In fact, this only becomes a problem when I run Windows XP in a virtual machine. Ironically, XP demands more memory running a few apps than the operating system that it is running on! And Ubuntu has a barrel more services, a 3D desktop, and (when I’m using it), about 10-15 application windows open!

Dual-boot

So I’m dual-booting into Vista at the moment. I do this when I fancy a game of Command and Conquer Generals with my brother over the internet. I often say, “I’ll just boot into Windows – give me 15 minutes.” Usually by the end of that time Windows may have finished messing around with updates, defragging, loading unneccesary services and generally being slow (on a 2.4GHz P4 with 1GB RAM), before I feel that I can get the thing to behave and run reasonably well.

I’ve been stung enough times when Vista decides that the ideal time to start defragging my hard disk drive and running an anti-spyware scan is during the middle of a game.

False Hope

When I was using the Beta versions of Vista, it was slow – but I figured that it was due to being a Beta. There was a clear effort from Redmond to meet Vista’s release date and there was a buzz. Vista naysayers were told to wait for the RTM (release to manufacturing) version. But overall, the performance wasn’t a great deal better in the RTM version.

More False Hope

Service Pack 1 was a glimmer of hope. Some performance increases and a rollup of some updates that fix what I can only describe as stupid problems that should never have been in the RTM version (such as having to Activate Windows after it has already been activated).

I thought I’d give this a try on my system. Guess what? It didn’t install. I wasn’t surprised. The update need prerequisites installed, and othr bits and bobs. I’d already had difficulty getting these installed on other computers, so I have a grave thought that it would mess up my system.

It didn’t install – but at least it didn’t wreck my system. Microsoft’s answer is to just keep trying until it works. Umm, I don’t have hours to piss away waiting for my work computer to continuously fail to install an update that takes around an hour to work out if it wants to install or now.

So, I gave up after attempt 3 or 4. I tried installing manually from the downloads. It’s not right. Vista feels inherently broken.

Time to Upgrade

So it’s time to upgrade to XP. It’s a joke I’ve seen floating around the internet for a while now, but it’s exactly how I’m feeling. I’m going to dual-boot into XP for playing games. It can run fast, and doesn’t have some of the hardware quirks that I’m still experiencing with Vista.

Over time, my disappointment with Vista has settled. It’s OK – but it’s extremely lacking in key areas. And these key areas tip the boat for me.

I’m just thankful that I run a Linux O/S as my main home operating system. I know it’s stable. I know it will behave itself most of the time. It’s still frustrating to use occasionally, but these times of frustration occur much less than when I use Vista.

Terminal Server Install Mode Command

As I’m always forgetting these, I thought I’d make a note.

When installing software on a Microsoft Terminal Server, you need to set the server to be in installation mode to support folder virtualisation for users.

One way to make sure that this works is to install any new software through Add/Remove Programs, and then ‘Add New Programs’

A quicker way is to simply use the command line:

change user /install

This puts the server into install mode. After this, install any software that you need to install.

Once done, put the server back into execute mode:

change user /execute

This will switch the user session back to it’s normal mode which is used for running applications.

Easy.