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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Windows 8 – performance issues possibly caused by KB2821895 or SuperFetch

Last week I visited my dad. He is not very familiar with computers and mainly uses it for mail, internet and viewing and editing photos. Despite my expectations, it really surprised me how fast he got used to Windows 8 (with a custom start menu).

This time though, he had some questions with regards to mail. While I was showing him how to do it, I noticed that his pc was relatively slow. Even though he doesn’t have a super fast laptop, it wasn’t this slow before.

When I took a closer look I saw that the issue was caused by high disk usage / load (I/O). At first it seemed like this was caused by TiWorker.exe which is part of Windows Modules Installer Worker and is used for installing updates. Since there were updates pending I decided to install these first just in case a fix might have been released. While these were downloading and installing I googled and found that more people were having similar sounding issues but with also high cpu usage/load. One of the the advises was to install KB2771431. This update was already installed, so it didn’t solve my issues either. I then turned off other programs that were disk I/O intensive like the backup tool Crashplan that was performing a scan and the virus scanner. Unfortunately the issue remained.

I gave the system some time just in case this was some sort of maintenance job. As the issue remainedI tried checking the system files with SFC /scannow and some files were fixed, but the disk usage was still very high.

Eventually the workaround was stopping and disabling the SuperFetch service. This is very strange since SuperFetch should make Windows faster, not slower. Since it was already late I decided not to look into it  any more at that time.

I see however that there are also issues being reported with KB2821895 that was released this month and replaces the previously mentioned KB2771431. In the known issues for KB2821895 there is mention of errors stating corruption and that you should use SFC /scannow and use the DISM tools to check and repair Windows. These symptoms do not completely match my issue, but if this doesn’t work there are also options to tune SuperFetch and Prefetch instead of turning it off completely, which is worth a shot.

So if you haven’t installed KB2771431 yet, you might want to consider postponing deployment or at least testing it very thoroughly.

To be continued …..

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in ICT, Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8

 

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Apple – OS X Mavericks 10.9 , iOS 7 … and more

About two weeks ago, Apple hosted the yearly World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) where it presented new products and services. More information and a video of the keynote can be found here. My main focus will be on OS X and iOS 7 though.

OS X Mavericks 10.9 Preview

I’m relatively new to OS X and have only been using Mountain Lion since last November, but I was planning to try the new 10.9 Preview. After reading the below articles though, I think I’ll just wait for the final version.

As you have probably noticed, I’m not particularly excited about any of the changes, though I must say that better performance and better battery life is always a very welcome addition. In my opinion Apple has very good hardware, but its operating system is increasingly getting behind on the competition with regards to innovation. So they’d better come up with something very good with its next release. Personally I think they can’t escape adding touch capabilities with the next release, but time will tell. I hope for a complete overhaul though that will spark the competition.

iOS 7 Beta

The new iOS 7 for iPhone, iPad and iPod doesn’t seem to be revolutionary either and opinions differ greatly. Users are getting more demanding (especially on tablets) and I believe the redesigned user interface, new features and improvements just doesn’t cut it. Apple does have a huge loyal user base though and they have a big library of apps that are generally speaking also of relatively high quality. Also because of the limited number of hardware and software models, it is easier to manage and develop for. Speaking about managing, this new version is also providing more enterprise management options.

Closing thoughts

I do believe Apple is on the right track by providing more options and flexibility, but in my opinion they’re trying to catch up instead of leading. I am very curious to see how this will unfold and how they will innovate while maintaining the performance, stability, battery life, simplicity and design that Apple users love.

On a side note, according to the article Apple CEO Adjusts Bonus in Shift to Performance Rewards the Apple board is linking more of Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s compensation to the company’s stock performance. Seeking to reassure investors who have seen the shares drop 41 percent from a record in September. As already mentioned by HPO center, one of the characteristics of a High Performance Organization is long-term orientation so I don’t think this is a good development.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Apple, ICT, iOS, OS X, OS X Server

 

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Microsoft – Important changes to the update mechanism in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012

For a very long time, the update mechanism for both Windows clients and Windows servers have been the same. With Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 this has changed.

Even though I’d already found out that something had changed with the Windows 8/Windows Server 2012 update mechanism by using it, I didn’t really know what changed and why.

  1. Windows 8 Modern (Metro) Apps security patching does not work the same as regular security patching. For more information, read “Microsoft’s new security patching routine raises concerns“.
  2. Default behavior after you install an important update in Windows 8 or in Windows Server 2012 is that you receive a notice that you have to restart the computer in three days. If the restart does not occur in three days, the computer displays a 15-minute countdown and then automatically restarts. By default, this automatic restart is delayed if the computer is locked, and the countdown will begin the next time that you sign in to the computer. Update KB2835627 has been released that introduces a new registry key called AlwaysAutoRebootAtScheduledTime which enables you to configure a forced restart after installation if desired.
  3. This great blog post provides more insight: “Managing Updates with Deadlines in an era of Automatic Maintenance“. The reactions are also very interesting.Some of the key takeaways from this post:
    • A new feature called Automatic Maintenance, runs nightly and performs various tasks such as lightly defragmenting hard drives (or TRIMming SSDs if necessary), checking, repairing, and optimizing the system component store, running anti-virus scans, installing updates, and more.
      • The setting for when to download and install updates doesn’t work in the same way as it did. While you can still set Windows Update to download updates and install them automatically or not, the day-of-the-week setting is not effective. It is included in the automatic maintenance and there isn’t a way to individually specify which maintenance tasks run on which day.
      • The Windows Update Agent doesn’t have to be active in the background all the time because of this. This consolidation reduces system resource usage and battery usage.
    • If you want to be in control of when updates will be installed you have to use WSUS and set deadlines for updates.

Even though I understand the reasoning behind the change, I would have preferred that Microsoft gave customers options to choose their preferred method. In my opinion this method makes sense for clients, but not so much for servers.

Also for some (smaller) companies the specific day and time patching method (including downloading from Microsoft Update) worked fine and now they might have to install, configure and maintain a WSUS server (including patch approvals) to achieve the same result.

What do you think about this ? Leave a comment on either my blog or on the original blog post : Managing Updates with Deadlines in an era of Automatic Maintenance

 

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Windows 8 – What’s new in Windows 8.1 and how to prepare for the preview

As some of you might know, the Windows 8.1 Preview and Server 2012 R2 Preview (code name Windows Blue) will become available on the 26th of June. Personally I’m looking forward to both of them and can’t wait for it. Also for those who missed it, The Windows 8.1 / Windows RT 8.1 update will be free. The final RTM version of Windows 8.1 is expected to be available August 1st.

When you’re planning to install a new version, you might want to prepare for it. Even though I tried to keep it as generic as possible, some of the steps described are not applicable to Windows RT but you should be able to understand what the goal is. You can probably also re-use these preparations when you want to update from the Preview version to the RTM version.

Preparations could include, but are not limited to:

  1. Determining if you can/want to install the update.
  2. Determining how you are going to run the Windows 8.1 Preview. Some functionality is best tested on hardware installations, but virtualized installations can be more convenient/flexible.
    • Virtualized (by example using Client Hyper-V)
      • Install Windows 8 already and wait for the 8.1 Preview to become available.
        • Will consume more space.
        • Will allow you to install the 8.1 RTM.
      • Wait for full Windows 8.1 Preview ISO to become available.
        • Will consume less space.
        • Might not allow you to install the 8.1 RTM version.
    • Physical
      • Create a new Windows To Go (WTG) installation.
        • On an officially supported WTG certified storage device.
        • On an unofficial non WTG supported storage device.
      • Create a dual/multi boot environment on a physical disk.
        • Create a new installation.
          • Gather required drivers and store them in an easy to access location.
          • Gather applications you want to install.
          • Install.
          • Installation directly to disk.
          • Use the boot from VHD method
      • Update your existing installation.
        • Ensure your important data is safe prior to updating. Even though the update should not destroy data, there is always a chance that it might.
          • Ensure you have recovery media and/or create a USB recovery drive.
          • Move/backup your data.
            • Verify if the new location / backup contains all your data. With backups, verify if you can restore
          • Sync to cloud services (Skydrive, Dropbox, Google Drive).
            • Realize this is not the same as a backup.
        • Document the installed applications (using PowerShell):
          • For Modern/Metro applications:
            Get-AppxPackage | Export-Csv -NoTypeInformation -path “C:\MyMetroApplications.csv”
          • For regular applications:
            Get-ItemProperty HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* | Select DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, InstallDate, HelpLink, UninstallString | Export-Csv -NoTypeInformation -path “C:\MyRegularApplications.csv”
        • Check if your current Windows 8 installation is healthy and if it is not, make it healthy again before installing the 8.1 Preview.
        • Install 8.1 Preview when it is available through the Windows Store
          • In the past I’ve seen issues with Service Pack updates caused by anti-virus solutions. So you might want to disable it until the installation has completed.
          • If you get an error “The windows 8.1 preview isn’t available right now. Please try again later.” take a look here.

With TechEd Europe 2013 in Barcelona and the Microsoft Build 2013 in San Francisco this week there’s probably a lot more news coming. So you might want to keep an eye on news on all websites. You can also check live streams on Channel 9.

I hope this was informative. If you have any other questions, suggestions or just want to share what you’re looking forward to the most, please leave a comment.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in ICT, Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8

 

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Games – Pinball FX 2 available on steam with 1 pinball table for free

Ever since I’ve been young I enjoyed playing pinball, both physical ones and virtual ones on PC and consoles.

One of the in my opinion better pinball games is Pinball FX (2) / Zen Pinball (2). At first these games were only available on consoles. Afterwards they also became available for Mac, smartphones and tablets. And with the release of Windows 8 it was also for PC/Windows tablet through the Windows 8 store. Now it is also available for PC gamers without Windows 8 through Steam with the free table called Sorcerer’s Lair:

Additional tables cost about 3 euros from the Dutch Steam store, but prices may vary depending on where you’re from and which platform you’re using.

I personally prefer Pinball FX2 on steam instead over the Windows 8 store version because:

  • Steam is less platform dependent. For games you bought on steam if they have versions for Mac, Linux, Windows you’ll often be able to play it on these platforms without having to buy it again. Also the Windows store is relatively new, so it is unsure how long it will be supported.
  • Steam often has sales which might allow buying additional tables cheaper.
  • I already have a lot of games on steam, so it is easier to have all my games in one library.
  • With steam it is easier to play your games on other systems. You only have to install steam, logon with your own account and download the game.

Even though Pinball FX is a great game, there are still some things I’d like to see improved:

  • Currently you have to buy the pinball table over and over again for each platform you want to play on.
  • Being able to play all tables on all platforms. Now some tables are simply not available on some platforms.
  • Being able to have a consolidated view of friends and their high scores independent of the platform.
  • Have achievements be applied on all platforms you use. By example Xbox Live achievements, PS3 trophies and Steam achievements.

I hope you enjoy the game. If you’re interested to see a compilation of available pinball tables on all platforms, take a look at this video:

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Entertainment, Games

 

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Microsoft – Run programs and scripts under the local system user context

In the past I’ve had numerous occasions where I wanted to run a program or system to run under the local system user context. Most of them involved customers and application administrators that wanted to have a service or scheduled task configured. They often weren’t able to tell me if it was sufficient to run the service or scheduled task as local system or that a special service account would have to be created.

The issue I always ran into when I wanted to test this, is that you had to provide a password that you didn’t know if you wanted to use “Run As” with the local system account.

Recently I ran into the “Run As System” application. It enables you to start a program or run command and script under a local system account. It is UAC compatible, but it requires administrative privileges.

Another use of the “Run As System” application is if you want to access files or folders that are normally not accessible for users. This can come in handy when troubleshooting Offline Files. The tool might not work correctly with Windows Explorer though, so you should consider using other tools like Total Commander.

Other methods to run something as system can be found here.

For more tools and applications, take a look at my website: http://bjornhouben-web.sharepoint.com/Lists/Applications/Summary.aspx

 

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Recordings of the High Performance Organization – HPO webinar

The recorded HPO webinar ’Hoe bouw je een High Performance Organisatie’ is in Dutch and takes about 30 minutes. It will explain the definition of a High Performance Organization (HPO) that is being used and which factors are relevant for being/becoming an HPO. You can find the recording of the webinar here.

If you want to know more about High Performance Organizations, take a look at my previous blog posts regarding HPO. These are written in English and also contain links to other useful resources.

While browsing the site I also came across a nice Dutch article about profiles of Dutch High Performing Employees (HPE). This article describes two profiles that have been defined for High Performing Employees (HPE). One of the profiles is defined from a manager’s point of view and is appropriate for evaluating current employees and recruiting new employees. The other profile is defined from a colleagues point of view and can be used for development and coaching programs. For more information, read the article.

There’s also an English HPO Leadership toolbox app available at the Apple Store and at the Google Play Store. This includes a quick test to determine your current HPO scores.

 

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