Sunday, September 28, 2014

More on creating HP recovery media; bizarre Microsoft XSL bug affects some Blogger posts originally written in Word with certain video embeds, and how to get around it

Just to follow up on a couple of items:  I took my HP Envy computer into Geek Squad at Best Buy, and GS was able to create the Recovery Media on a USB disk.  But it seemed to bypass HP’s own script, which still warns me that I haven’t created the media, but that won’t ungray a critical panel when I try to do it.  I tried everything (CD’s, USB) and did turn off Internet access as directed.

In another matter, I sometimes find in Blogger that I misspell an item in the post title.  Usually, I can revert to draft, correct the spelling, and republish, and Google searches will find it.  Today, I had a more complicated situation.  I had deleted the posting entirely and reposted it, still had a problem, reverted it, and then republished.  The Blogger software inserted a “_28” at the end of the URL for the post name, because it doesn’t seem to know the other one no longer exists.   But a search finds the URL, which when you go to it, says the post is not there.

If you find this happening with any blog on Blogger, by anyone, try inserting “_28” before the “.html” and you may find the post you were looking for, if the blogger encountered this problem.  I can’t be the only one.

My original problem occurred when I posted a Word 2013 document into the “new post”.  I know, some bloggers advise against using Word.  Usually it is OK, except that Blogger always inserts an extra blank line before the last paragraph, which then has to be removed manually.  Sometimes it changes the font on the last paragraph, but you can avoid this by coding a dummy one-word paragraph after it and then deleting that word. 

But today, I inserted an Embed from NBC’s SNL show (this happened on the TV blog).  This works OK with YouTube, but NBC adds an extra script to white out the background.  Unfortunately, if you put this into a Word 2013 document, the XSL or Macro code in Word misinterprets it and corrupts the background for the rest of the document.  It's interesting that Blogger didn't throw a "dismiss" error for this problem.  

Wordpress advises completely against copying from Word and essentially stopped supporting it with Wordpress 3.9.1.   I prefer to work offline first.  I think that Microsoft should provide a “Blogger mode” that disables many of its Macros and XSL coding (those ridiculous “span” subcommands that get corrupted easily) and that works with both Blogger and Wordpress (and Tumblr).  Then these problems would go away.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

HP Envy has odd TLS "error 70" crashes; more on WLAN; more on recovery partitions for Windows 8.1

Two items:  The recurring instability of my HP ENVY all-in-one seems to be related to this curious message on the Event Log: “A fatal alert was generated and sent to the remote endpoint.  This may result in termination of the connection. The TLS protocol defined fatal error code is 70.  The Windows SChannel error state is 105”, event type 36888.
This error seems to occur in the “Transport Layer”, as explained here on msdn.  Microsoft forums have this info, and Arstechnica has a similar reference.
The way it happens is that HP suddenly says it needs to restart the system after encountering a problem.  As it “gather information” SmartDrive throws a hard disk error.  But if you turn it off on the power button, wait thirty seconds, and turn it back on, the machine quickly comes back to where it was with all browser sessions intact and responding (although Word or Office has to recover whatever was open). 
The machine still sometimes stops responding suddenly, and restarts quickly with the power button, and then does not fail again until shut down for a long time.  There is a warning in the event log that the “ WLAN extensibility module has stopped”. But Internet access continues OK.  
These problems may be connected to the Microsoft prncacln.inf driver. 

As for the Toshiba Satellite, Best Buy and Geek Squad replaced it with a Radius Satellite for the same price under extended contract, after Toshiba could not find a motherboard (maybe because of overseas problems).  This lighter machine does not have an Ethernet port (you buy a USB-one) or CD drive (external).  Curiously it also doesn’t have a separate drive letter for a recovery partition (discussion).
It is apparently common for manufacturers not to create their own recovery disks, and expect users (or retails stores) to do this. 

Update: Oct. 9, 2014

Another false hard drive warning from Smartdrive (while sleeping) was preceded by this message on the Event Viewer (no info at Microsoft): "The server {BF6C1E47-86EC-4194-9CE5-13C15DCB2001} did not register with DCOM within the required timeout". 

Monday, September 15, 2014

HP's ragged customer service: 3 phone numbers, apparently no recovery disks are pre-cut now

I looked around for over an hour today about the factory restore disc for my HP Envy All-in-One 23-o014 and got this page when putting in the product code, here.  That took me to this page about a recovery disk   There doesn’t seem to be any intervening page to purchase a factory recovery disk.  I tried three phone numbers and got put on hold (one of them just wanted to offer a Disney Orlando vacation).  The vacation offer number had been given to me by an HP agent in a chat room.  

The second page makes me wonder:  Is it a factory disk that is needed, or a disk with a backup from a later restore point with most recent windows backups, on the “D” drive anyway.  
If someone has to get the system restarted, do they use the restore disk to find a specific “dll” module?  That’s what a Geek Squad tech did in December 2008 when he visited the house (and this person, raised in Minnesota himself before coming to DC, knew his stuff).  Is that what happens now?  Would a later system restore be more appropriate?

Dell always included a system restore CD, and I think another CD with a library of modules.  I don't understand why it is such an issue for HP to burn the appropriate CD's for each specific computer in stock.  That sounds like better customer service and creates less confusion. 

I think the complexity and murky customer service is a workplace problem at HP: hiring short term contractors, not having people committed to putting out consistent documentation.  I saw enough of these kinds of workplace issues in my own career (especially with "CABCO" in Dallas in the eaarly 80s) and I can see how they arise.  
There are some restore disks for sale on Ebay for HP Windows 8 64 bit (inexpensive).  If all you need is a source of replacement dll’s, is this good enough? 

I have tried the USB create and I still get a “grayed out” link and can’t proceed.  It doesn’t make sense that the USB can’t be too big or be Windows 8 compatible. 
Customer service is not what it was ten years ago anywhere.

I will have to visit Best Buy about this issue in the near future.   

Friday, September 12, 2014

The 2014 customer service season continues to produce losses, interfering with productivity

My customer service boondoggle continues. 
My Toshiba Satellite has been at the Geek Squad repair center in Louisville, KY for about a month, and at least four parts have been ordered.  It seems that it is taking a long time to get a motherboard from Toshiba for a computer that is only 16 months old.  The unit apparently overheated during the conversion from Windows 8.0 to 8.1 in early August.  The 3-hour process completed, and the computer restarted, was slow but gradually improved.  But then I turned it off.  When I turned it back on, it never would get past the Toshiba innovations screen.  It seems that it overheated during the process. 
My Macbook from 2011 works all right still, on 10.6.8.  The problem is, that’s a 2008 operating system and vendors are stopping supporting it.  To renew the Norton Anti-Virus, I have to get a “renewal code” from Norton, which seems like a complicated process.  I had trouble with the Norton website jumping to wrong links, which may have been related to my not seeing the email to confirm my registration.  The Apple store told me that it no longer supports hardware that is old, and sends people to third-party vendors. The current operating system seems to be 10.9. 
The new HP Envy is very fast, but often after a cold boot the machine stops responding randomly.  A press of the power button (off, and then back on after waiting one minute) seems to restart it quickly and the machine picks up where it left off, with all sessions open.  Once in a while, HP says it needs to restart and then Smartdrive throws a hard disc error.  But that goes away with pressing the power button to restart.  I’ve run Microsoft’s scannow and that fixed a few problems, but it couldn’t fix the module “prncacla.inf”. 

HP also signals that it wants me to make a recovery disk.  I did order the blank DVD’s.  It never would work with a USB as advertised (the flash drive must not be Windows 8 compatible, which makes no sense).  But what good is a disk that wipes out the drive back to the factory state, including all of Microsoft’s updates and maybe service pack.  Why can’t HP provide the disc?.  Dell used to do this.

Bluehost keeps pestering me to load Wordpress 4.0.   After some outages with 3.9.1 a couple weeks ago, do I know that it is stable?
I have a lot of work to do to become “competitive”.  I don’t have time to Beta-test new software releases or not get customer service that is paid for, or deal with contradictory information in discussion forums.  Why don’t vendors write more details on the problems and fixes? 

Does someone really understand Windows 8.1?  Is it buggy for everyone, still?   

Thursday, September 04, 2014

HP seems sloppy in notifications on firmware update progress; illogical requirements for recovery disk; "Prncacla.inf" errors continue

The saga of my new HP ENVY continues. 

HP Support Center keeps prompting me to create a factory recovery disk.  Why doesn’t HP supply one with the computer? 
It says that it can be created on a USB flash drive, but the capacity must be exactly 32G, and it must NOT be Windows 8 compatible (source). 

Where would you buy such a device?

And you can order a suitable blank DVD from them to burn the recovery disk, for $17 including shipping.

A recovery disk doesn’t help too much, unless it can go back to the most recent recovery point for Windows and, of course, get your data back quickly from a Seagate or Cloud backup.

I did switch to a Broadcom Bluetooth for the wireless keyboard and mouse.  I did the firmware update, and curiously the status page never tells you it has completed the installation, but apparently it did. This Bluetooth has its own little status light.  
Once in a while, the machine stops responding.  It always restarts by pushing the power button, taking only a little more time than a normal Windows 8.1 start.  It keeps all browser sessions open, where they were.  For the first time today, it failed a second time after one restart, but only after Adobe had updated Shockwave.  Various sessions said that Shockwave had failed, and the computer gradually stopped responding, until the power button was pushed again. 

Once in a great while, HP says it wants to restart the computer because of a problem, and then gets a false hard drive error.  It always restarts quickly then by pressing the power button, and remembers where it was, to the point of resuming a video in the right place. 

The only common denominator I find in these crashes is the module prncacla.inf.  Does somebody understand this problem in Windows 8.1? 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dice says severe mainframe programmer shortage is building, as people retire of take other careers; banks, social security, insurers could have a hard time

Dice offered a major piece on the growing shortage of mainframe talent back in 2012.  Further it says that many executives are not aware how quickly the problem is growing, as mainframe programmers retire.  Some did not return after layoffs that followed Y2K and 9/11 over a decade ago.  The Dice link is here. It's pretty obvious that the complexity of Obamacare will add to demand. In fact, health care is turning into the new "Y2K' of the job market.  

There has been a proliferation of “work from home” mainframe jobs  There are numerous sites with these jobs; one of the best appears to be “Job Is Job”, here

What I’m not sure of is if these jobs are 100% at home, and who bears the cost of the Internet connection and of maintaining the software and hardware on home PC’s (surely Windows or Linux based) an keeping it stable – and particularly secure, when there is sometimes the possibility of seeing consumer personal information.  

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Is Linked In different from other social media? Why I can't brag about my own "career" on it

Erin Carson has a nice little video on Tech Republic, “4 Steps to a Better Linked In Profile”, link here.    The ideas are pretty simple:  get a custom name for your profile, make detailed posts, add projects, and most of all, get recommendations from others.
I have sometimes gotten requests to comport with the latter in the past.  And given the track my life in “retirement” has taken in recent years, I find it clumsy to remember how to use.
One of the problems is selling your expertise.  I have the impression, in retrospect, that I was “behind the 8 ball” for much of my career.   I made the switch from defense and site support to commercial applications after having worked for 4-1/2 years.  Then I had to make a switch from Univac to IBM.  I took a hit with a failed Medicare project when I moved to Dallas, and wound up working on credit applications with less standard software.  When I came back to DC in the 90s, I got back to a more standard environment (like with IDMS) but did projects that, however I could tout them, don’t sound very impressive by today’s standards.   I moved to Minneapolis in 1997, but tried to make the change out of mainframe to “client server” in 2000 and that turned out to be much more ephemeral than I had thought.  Then the big career cardiac arrest came after 9/11, in December 2001.  That was indeed not the year for a Space Odyssey. Remember, the last movement of Shostakovich's 13th Symphony is called "A Career".