Another unobvious Windows problem

I have quite a lax administration policy concerning our network which is possible as long as we don’t have that many machines and employees: I for myself do not place many restrictions in choice of hardware and OS on our employees. They should work with whatever they want. Only restriction: The OS must be multi-user capable (means: no Windows 9x) and if the employee wants access to our file-server it must somehow support the SMB protocol.

Lukas, on the other hand, adds another requirement to the list above: The system must somehow provide support for our exchange based groupware. This can be native access or via the web interface.

So yesterday, someone wanted to add his computer to our network. It’s a IBM Thinkpad running Windows 2000 in a highly tweaked installation which should be preserved at all costs. Every other administrator would insist that at least the corporate configuration would be enforced, but I don’t care and put the users satisfaction above all easement for my task, so I let him keep his setup, but suggested him to join our Windows domain to make his life easier (no logging in to our fileserver, better exchange-support (remember: Lukas’ condition).

After some initial problems with the installed personal firewall (have I told you that I hate them? Yes I have), I went on and tried to join our Windows 2003 domain. After quite a long waiting time, the only thing I got was “Access Denied”. A quick look to the server’s event log showed nothing but success-messages.

Googling did not help (much), but told me about a certain netsetup.log windows is supposed to create on the client (it’s in %windir%Debug. Here’s the log I got:

03/30 16:19:28 -----------------------------------------------------------------
03/30 16:19:28 NetpDoDomainJoin
03/30 16:19:28 NetpMachineValidToJoin: 'THINKPAD'
03/30 16:19:28 NetpGetLsaPrimaryDomain: status: 0x0
03/30 16:19:28 NetpMachineValidToJoin: status: 0x0
03/30 16:19:28 NetpJoinDomain
03/30 16:19:28 	Machine: THINKPAD
03/30 16:19:28 	Domain:
03/30 16:19:28 	MachineAccountOU: (NULL)
03/30 16:19:28 	Account: office.sensational.chpilif
03/30 16:19:28 	Options: 0x3
03/30 16:19:28 	OS Version: 5.0
03/30 16:19:28 	Build number: 2195
03/30 16:19:28 	ServicePack: Service Pack 4
03/30 16:19:28 NetpValidateName: checking to see if '' is valid as type 3 name
03/30 16:19:28 NetpValidateName: '' is not a valid NetBIOS domain name: 0x7b
03/30 16:19:28 NetpCheckDomainNameIsValid [ Exists ] for '' returned 0x0
03/30 16:19:28 NetpValidateName: name '' is valid for type 3
03/30 16:19:28 NetpDsGetDcName: trying to find DC in domain '', flags: 0x1020
03/30 16:19:43 NetpDsGetDcName: failed to find a DC having account 'THINKPAD$': 0x525
03/30 16:19:43 NetpDsGetDcName: found DC '\' in the specified domain
03/30 16:19:43 NetUseAdd to \$ returned 5
03/30 16:19:43 NetpJoinDomain: status of connecting to dc '\': 0x5
03/30 16:19:43 NetpDoDomainJoin: status: 0x5

Not so useful besides: NetUseAdd to \$ returned 5

As the last entry was something about a status 0x5 and the error was “Access Denied”, I figured that this “returned 5” must mean “Access Denied” too.

A quick try to access the server showed me that I was right: I could not access any share – my password was not accepted (besides the server’s security log telling me otherwise).

Finally the guy owning the noteook had an idea: He has disabled Windows 2000’s packet signing and encryption via Administrative Tools/Local Security Policy. Enabling it and rebooting finally did the trick. When asked why he did so he said that it would greatly speed up access from a PC running Windows 98…

What did I learn: Maybe my policy is a bit too lax and if keep it, I should at least not try to fix problems I’m getting with it (it would have worked perfectly well without joining the domain)
What do you learn: If you have the same problem, here’s the solution. And this is what this blog is for.

Forchbahn: They don’t want me to ride it.

Note: I’ve written this yesterday, but I forgot to post it until it was too late…

You may have noticed that I’m quite interested in the new trains, Forchbahn recently purchased. Now hear my sad story of failed attempts to finally ride one of them:

  1. Monday, the 23rd of February was the first date when the new cars would have been used in public transport. This is what happened to that train.
  2. A week ago, March 22nd was the new date when the train was to be used. This time it went smoothly, but unfortunatly, no one told me.
  3. Last Thursday, March 25th, I would have had time to finally take the ride (they use it just for one run per day (7:32am from Forch) – about 40 minutes. Afterwards the train is used to teach the drivers how to use it). The wednesday before, I was at my parents and had a look at the new train: Three people where above it and tweaking something. When I went home about four hours later, they still where there and it was already 11pm, so I deceided against going at thursday morning – I didn’t think, it would have been fixed until then.
  4. On Friday I didn’t have time
  5. I wasn’t sure whether the train is used during the weekend (considering its current stability I think not), so I did not even try to get up at 6 in the morning
  6. Today I finally went to Forch. What I’ve seen was the train leaving the depot halfways, then stopping, turning off all lights and lowering the pantographs. Then I’ve seen the replacement-train coming out and driving to the track where the new one should have departed from. I asked around whether it would work tomorrow and they told me that “yes, it will – provided they fix the train until then” – let’s see what tomorrow brings to me.

On the positive side: This afternoon, I’ve seen the train in one of the instruction runs down here in the city, so I suppose they fixed it.

I love new stuff!

Now it’s real

Today I was in Forch. First I saw this:

… then this:

The new train is awesome! I finally could make my test-ride. Now this blog is going to be a bit more computer-centered from now…

Even more bluetooth

On I read that Windows XP SP2 will have integrated bluetooth support. This could prove useful as I don’t really like the Widcomm Stack – even more so because it does not allow me to log into windows using my BT keyboard – the driver simply isn’t loaded yet.

So it was nice to learn, that MS has released the RC1 of the SP2 sometime last week.

I’ve installed it, removed the widcomm-stack, rebooted and Windows recognized my Bluetooth-Hardware. Then I’ve added my Logitech Keyboard and – it works. I can now log in using the bluetooth keyboard – without the external Logitech Bluetooth hub. Nice!

Some suburban railways (I).

This post is the first of a series introducing some suburban railways here in switzerland. All of those I will present here I’ve already tried out (some more thoroughly, some less).

If you know interesting railways for me to try out, please do not hesitate to tell me!


I used to take the Forchbahn every day to go to school and later to work, but now that I live in the city, it’s just interest and visiting my parents that keeps me using it. Recently they had this bad accident, so I am still waiting for the new trains to finally be available to the public. Quite lame website by the way, but
is some light-content which a non-german speaking visitor may understand.

Probably the most interesting thing about the Forchbahn is the terrain it is running through: It starts in the middle of Zürich (city environement) and goes all the way to quite agricultural environement – all within just 40 minutes. The most interesting spot in the whole track is the station Rhealp: It is non-planar and if there is only the slightest bit of moisutre on the track, the train will have quite a hard time in getting away there. Additionally in Rhealp, the voltage is changed from 600 Volts DC in Zürich (shared with the tramway) to 1200 Volts DC for the rest of the stretch.

The oldest cars they have where built back in the fifties. They are quite loud and shaky. If you happen to get into one of those (numbered 10 [although car number 10 isn’t used any more] to 15 and 101 to 110), take the control car as those are not quite as loud as the motor coaches. You will recognize them by having only two doors on the side and no pantographs.

The medium series is numbered 21 to 32 and 201 to 206 (i think – the 200-numbers habe no motors) where 31 and 32 have some smaller modifications but the whole series has the same motors. They are a lot quieter than the old ones (actually even quieter than the newest ones) and quite a bit faster but they have problems with moisture on the tracks – they are sliding quite often.

The first two cars in this series have no armrests on the side of the window.

The newest series is numbered 51 to 58 (all with motors). They are fast, don’t slide around that much, but they are quite noisy when accelerating. This is the first series containing a real computer for cruise control and other stuff and thus it’s the first series which can have softweare-problems preventing it from working ;-)

The Forchbahn really is quite cool, but there’s more to ride and I will tell you about!

The best bittorrent client

I have been looking for a decent Bittorrent-Client.

While the official one is quite nice for not-that-large files, its disadvantage of not being able to limit the upstream-bandwidth becomes deadly with large files: All connections I currently have access to for running bittorrent have a much smaller upstream than downstream and a saturated upstream will eventually kill off the downstream (as you most likely already know)

So I went looking and here’s what I found so far:

  • BitTorrent EXPERIMENTAL download client: quite similar to the official client, but with the desired upload-limiting-feature. Unfortunatly quite out of date. I haven’t tried it out because of that.
  • ABC [ Yet Another Bittorrent Client ]: written in Python – supports more than one torrent in one application window. While it has quite a decent feature set, it has a terribly geeky user interface (not necessarily a bad thing) ande it crashed on me about four times in just 12 hours, so I can’t really recommend it
  • Azureus: Written in Java, but nice-looking (thanks to SWT), fast and with an extremely comprehensive feature-set. I can’t just say a lot about its stability – the featureset (especially the cool graphs) have amazed me so much that I deceided to post this entry here…

Azureus is now about the third Java-Application I know of that not only works, but works so well that I recommend it over native counterparts (the other ones being jEdit and Eclipse).

I really think it’s time to rethink the “java-is-crap-for-the-desktop” saying that was so incredibly popular the old days. Actually I do think that Java slowly begins to become a real alternative.

I mean: If you just stop thinking about the difficult (for end users) installation of the JRE and the (till now) slow speed, Java indeed has some advantages which make it the tool for desktop developement: It’s platform independent (ok… nearly – at least the major ones are supported), it’s (quite) easy to work with (I don’t like it very much myself, but it’s definitely much easier to work with than C, for example) and it has a very convinient memory management which makes it a bit more secure than your standard C-application (speaking of Buffer Overflows for example).

In short: It’s the optimal toolset to build applications for the desktop where a lot of features, fast developement and high security (unconcerned users, not admins are working with the software) are the key to success.

I really think that the big time for Java is just coming, not fading away.

Save query

By the way: The Gnome guys are the ones trying to simplify everything by removing “interface bloat”, if I remeber correctly.

Then please explain me what this “If you don’t save changes from the last 23 seconds will be definitively lost” in this dialog box has to say? I mean tracking this value costs a little bit of performance, putting it on this message uses valuable screen real estate and thus makes the dialog less readable and finally the thing has no real value.

What if I’ve opened the editor an hour ago to enter some temporary text snippet and then forgot it and now that I’ve finished working I’m closing my apps down.

The counter would be insanely high, suggesting a lot of unsaved changes which is neither correct nor are the changes valuable.

What if I’ve fixed a important bug in my program code by just changing one line which takes me about two seconds to do. Now the counter would be low but the changes would be very significant.

What I want to say: This counter has no real-world value. It’s just a geeky thing. Not that I don’t like geeky things, but adding geeky bloated things to a GNOME application seems quite hypocritical.

Doing something like: “You have quite a lot of unsaved changes in this document. Are you really sure?” (appearing depending of the real size of the changes, not the time you used editing) would be friendlier and more useful but – of course – would mean an even bigger overhead for tracking it.

But then again: I think, this message is read about once. Every later time, the user knows what it says and presses the buttons without reading. So it would seen to be better just letting the message be static so the user is not forced to re-read a semantically unchanged message – assuming her sub-conscience detects the slightly different look of the familiar looking dialog and thus causing it to be actively re-read.

PS: Please don’t get me wrong about this nit-picking: GNOME and KDE both are great projects. Both have their problems and both have their unique solutions. This just sprung to my eye and whenever I find something in any other app I surely will write about it.