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Computer, how old are you?

Yesterday I wrote about finding old computers. Here’s how I determine how old a computer is.

There’s a registry key called HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\InstallDate that stores the system build time in Unix format (the number of seconds since 1 January 1970) and hexadecimal. With a few mad skilz you can make that data human-readable.

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Windows Technical Support calls me again

“Oh, so you think you’re Mr. Genius Man,” the crackly voice said, drowned out by static caused by his cheap VOIP connection. “Enjoy your broken computer, Mr. Genius Man. Goodbye, Mr. Genius Man.”

So ended 23 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back, but I figure it’s 23 minutes he wasn’t spending scamming someone else. I don’t do it often, but my kids were playing nicely and we were all in the same room, so I guess I don’t regret it too much.Read More »Windows Technical Support calls me again

Troubleshooting machines that won’t update from WSUS or SCCM

In my younger days, I administered WSUS on a small (300 servers or so) network. Every once in a while, I ran into an issue where a server just didn’t want to talk to WSUS. These days, some companies prefer to push patches with SCCM but it uses the same mechanism to push patches.

Apparently my old problem still happens from time to time. So I did some research to come up with a solution. This mechanism is still largely a black box, but it’s a lot better documented now than it was in my day. Here’s what I came up with for troubleshooting WSUS or SCCM.Read More »Troubleshooting machines that won’t update from WSUS or SCCM

How to slipstream updates into Windows 8.1

I need a Windows box, so I figured I’d experiment with Windows 8.1. I know it’s terrible, but I want to see just how much less terrible I can make it.

The first thing I wanted to do was figure out how to slipstream updates into it. I recommend slipstreaming because you get a faster performing system, you get the system up and running a lot sooner, and you save a lot of unnecessary writes to your SSD. It’s very similar to slipstreaming Windows 7, but not quite identical.

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How I upgraded a TP-Link TL-WR841N to DD-WRT

If you want a nice router or access point, you can do a lot worse than upgrading a TP-Link TL-WR841N to DD-WRT. The TL-WR841N is inexpensive and reliable, and DD-WRT runs well on it once you get the right build.

You can configure it to be a router, an access point, or a repeater, based on what you need. It usually costs $25 and sometimes you can find one on sale for $20 or even $15, so it’s a huge bargain. Even if you want 802.11ac speeds, a TL-WR841N makes a fantastic secondary access point to improve your connectivity.

Let’s get on with the upgrade. In the case of the TP-Link TL-WR841N (or TL-WR841ND, which uses the same build), it’s really easy–10 steps.Read More »How I upgraded a TP-Link TL-WR841N to DD-WRT

Clean up after Windows Update

Thanks to a new tool that Microsoft pushed out in 2013, it’s very easy to clean up after Windows Update and free up a bunch of disk space.

In 2013, Microsoft released a new Disk Cleanup tool. Click your start button and type “Disk Cleanup” to launch it. If you see a new option called “Clean Up System files,” you got the update. If you don’t see it, visit this page (Internet Explorer-only, unfortunately) to grab it.Read More »Clean up after Windows Update

Clear print queue command line sequence

Here’s an old, old, but still useful tip that works on all NT-based versions of Windows (including Windows 7 and Windows 10). This is the clear print queue command line sequence for Windows, and it’s the fastest, most reliable way to recover from a hung print job. It works from the standard Windows CMD prompt.

The sequence is to stop the spooler service, delete the contents of the spooler directory (usually c:\windows\system32\spool\printers\) and then restart the spooler service.

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How I accidentally found a way to mess with “Peggy”

“Peggy” from “Computer Support Department” just won’t give up. He called me again at about 8 PM this evening. This time, I played along. I had a thrift-store junker PC for him to infect with his malware. The only problem was, the hard drive wasn’t connected and neither was the power cord. So I quickly hooked all that up, booted up, and then played along.

“I want you to click on Internet Explorer.”

“OK.”

“What do you see?”

“Page cannot be found.”

Thus I learned that Peggy isn’t very good at troubleshooting network issues.Read More »How I accidentally found a way to mess with “Peggy”