Category: IT

Total 7 Posts

Remote Desktop Keyboard Shortcuts

I often use Microsoft’s remote desktop software to connect to various machines. My hands also use shortcuts for various actions via pure muscle memory. However, when using remote desktop, the operating system interprets many keystrokes as destined for the host operating system. This makes perfect sense but usually sends me scrambling to find the keyboard equivalent for the remote session.

The shortcuts are documented on various websites and in Microsoft’s own documentation. I will add yet another page on the web with this information purely for my own convenience.

Display Windows Security dialog CTRL+ALT+DEL CTRL+ALT+END
Windows Menu N/A ALT+DELETE
Action Host Remote
Switch between programs ALT+TAB ALT+PAGE UP
Copy snapshot of active window to clipboard PRINT SCREEN CTRL+ALT+MINUS (on keypad)
Copy snapshot of full session to clipboard ALT+PRINT SCREEN CTRL+ALT+PLUS (on keypad)


Using Nagios to Monitor Test Systems

Nagios is a well known tool with operations teams. It is used to monitor all kinds of operational parameters – from simple machine up/down monitoring to detailed data collection. However, I have rarely seen this useful tool used in test environments. Here are three ways Nagios can provide benefits to a test team.

First, just using Nagios to monitor whether test systems are up and running can provide useful information and possible time savings to a test team. Knowing that a database server has gone down might save the entire test team time and frustration from tracking down "bugs" which are just the result of a machine outage.

Second, consider basic CPU and memory utilization monitoring of all test systems. This data can be collected and graphed with a variety of tools. I have had success using RRDTool and nagiosgraph. This toolset allows the team to see the variation of CPU utilization, memory utilization and whatever else you decide to measure over time. This view may allow the team to spot potential performance or scaling issues long before formal performance testing begins.

Finally, consider writing your own plugins for measurements unique to the system under test. Once you start doing this, you will discover all kinds of things Nagios could be used for to aid in not only monitoring the test environment but actually testing the application. For example, I once wrote a plugin that would run a database query to verify the number of record processed in the last 15 minutes. I set appropriate thresholds. Weeks later, I received a monitor email alerting me that no records had been processed in the last 15 minutes. Even though I was not testing that part of the system, I immediately knew we had a major issue with the latest build.


Atlassian Stimulus Package – Offer Expires April 24, 2009

I just got this in my inbox — quite a deal if you are looking to tryout JIRA or Confluence.

For this week only, we’re offering a special 5-user “starter” license of JIRA and Confluence for only $5 each. We’re calling it the Atlassian Stimulus Package and it’s our way of supporting small teams and small businesses in this difficult economic environment. Best of all, we’re going to donate every penny to charity, so please help us spread the word!

The Atlassian Foundation is donating all proceeds to Room to Read, a charity that helps the world’s future entrepreneurs by building libraries and schools for children in developing nations.

Get all the details at Hurry, offer ends on 24 April 2009.


New Machine – CPU Fan Spins for Less than a Second, No Boot

For Christmas, we gave my kids a new machine. I bought a bare-bones machine from TigerDirect. We wrapped each component separately, so I did not assemble it until Christmas day. I assembled the machine without incident. Powered up. Then – nothing. The CPU fan would spin for less than a second. Nothing else. Machine did not power up.

I did some research and arrived at three possibilities for the cause. From least likely (and least expensive) to most likely, they were:

  1. Faulty power switch
  2. Improperly seated CPU heat sink / fan
  3. Faulty power supply

The first item was easy to eliminate. I disconnected the power switch from the mother board and used a screw driver to simulate powering up the machine. Same issue.

It was a long shot but an improperly seated CPU was said to cause some models of motherboards to automatically power down. I had used a spare heat sink / fan I had around. It was "new" in the sense I had never used it. However, I did not trust it since it had sat on a shelf and had probably been battered about. So, when I was able, I bought a much better heat sink / fan and installed it. Powered on. Same issue.

I bought a new power supply (actually a much better power supply) and installed it. Powered up. And it worked.

FYI – TigerDirect makes it very easy to get a return authorization.


Installing Windows XP on a Compaq Presario C500

A little over a year ago, my mother purchased a Compaq Presario C500 laptop. Her needs for a laptop are primarily web browsing and other light processing. This machine is more than adequate for her needs. I was in town visiting right after she bought the machine and asked me to look at the machine because it was "so slow". I booted it up — it took a very long time. It came with Windows Vista and only 512MB of RAM. The fact that this machine was sold in this configuration is appalling. The amount of RAM in this machine makes it impossible to run Vista. I brought the machine home with me, purchased a copy of Windows XP and installed it on the laptop. It was a snappy machine. I shipped it back and Mom was pleased with her laptop.

A couple weeks ago, I got a call regarding this machine. A grandchild had used the machine and it was now running slow and the malware protection software was going nuts. Mom took it to a local shop to wipe it and reinstall Windows XP. This so called "professional" sent it back to her saying only Vista works with the machine and she should call HP to get a copy of Vista. Sigh. I told her to ship the machine back to me with the XP disk and I would get it back up and running. It took less than 5 minutes on the web to find the "trick" needed to install Windows XP on the machine. Below is what I did – just so I will know what to do next time this machine is shipped back to me.

  1. Power up the machine
  2. Press F10 to enter the BIOS setup
  3. Go to the "System Configuration menu"
  4. Set "SATA Native Support" to disable – this is the trick to install Windows XP. In fact the text on the screen says set this to disable to install "legacy" operating systems.
  5. Check boot options under system configuration to make sure you can boot from CD.
  6. Put Windows XP CD into drive
  7. Press F10 to Save and Exit
  8. Machine will reboot
  9. Install Windows XP normally
  10. Install all updates

I installed the following software to help my mother:

  1. Install AVG Free
  2. Install WinDefender
  3. Install Firefox
  4. Install Ad-Aware 2008

I now wanted to update all of the drivers and re-enable native SATA support. This ended up being a little more difficult – many of the solutions I found on the web did not work. With that caveat, this is what worked for me.

  1. Visit the HP site and download all of the drivers for the correct mode. NOTE: When I did this, the SATA drivers were included in the set of files. Installing this package failed for me.
  2. Install the HP drivers / software as directed
  3. Search for "Intel Graphic Media Accelerator 950" and review the links on the Intel site. Search for a page with both the video driver download and an "INF Update" utility.
  4. Install the video driver
  5. Run the "INF Update" program
  6. The SATA drivers downloaded from the HP site should now install without a problem. Install.
  7. Reboot
  8. Press F10 to enter the BIOS setup
  9. Go to the "System Configuration menu"
  10. Set "SATA Native Support" to enable
  11. Press F10 to Save and Exit
  12. Machine will reboot
  13. Verify the setup

Hopefully, this write up will save you (or myself, next time I need to do this) some time.


Server Maintenance and Flickr

We were having an occasional hang issue with a Dell Server running Windows Storage Server. We monitored the processes on the server. We disabled as many services as possible. We kept trying to narrow down the issue. Nothing helped.

Eventually, our web searches pointed to a feature on these Dell machines with the name “TCP Offload Engine” (TOE). In the driver settings we disabled the TOE feature. Problem persisted. More research. Some people indicated that disabling the settings in the driver was not enough. A licensing key needed to be removed from the mother board. Suddenly, this has become hardware maintenance. This is where the power of a site like Flickr becomes apparent. After some additional web searching, we came across a couple of links showing exactly what needed to be done, step-by-step, with photos on Flickr. What sounded scary at first became simple as we followed the instructions on a development server.

FYI – this did not solve our problems. We ended up re-writing the section of code accessing the storage server and the problem went away. Sigh…