Category Archives: Guides

Troubleshooting Offline Files

My previous post describes the normal operation of Offline Files. And most of the time, “it just works.” But there are times when it won’t, and getting it running again can be challenging.

Two Important concepts

First, it’s important to understand that the Offline Files facility is providing a virtual view of the network folder to which Documents has been redirected when Windows detects that the network folder is unavailable. This means that, when Offline Files is really borked, users can see different things in their Documents folder depending one whether their computers are online or offline.

Second, Windows treats different names for the same actual server as if they are different servers altogether. Specifically, Windows will only provide the Offline Files virtual view for the path to the target network folder. You can see the target folder path in the Properties of the Documents folder.

The Location tab shows the UNC path to the target network folder.

The Location tab shows the UNC path to the target network folder.

For example, these two UNC paths resolve to the same network folder:

\\files.uvm.edu\rallycat\MyDocs
\\winfiles1.campus.ad.uvm.edu\rallycat\MyDocs

If the second path is the one that is shown in the Location tab in the properties of the Documents folder, then you will be able to access that path while offline, but not the first path.

Show me the logs

There are event logs that can be examined. I’ll mention them, but I’ve rarely found them helpful in solving a persistent problem. If you want to get the client up and running again ASAP, skip ahead to the Fix it section.

There are some logging options available that can help in diagnosing problems with offline files. There are two logs that are normally visible in the Windows Event Viewer, under the Applications and Services logs heading:

  • Microsoft-Windows-Folder Redirection/Operational
  • Microsoft-Windows-OfflineFiles/Operational

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Folder Redirection and Offline Files

The following information is not new. We are in the process of making changes to our Folder Redirection policy, though, and I thought it might be helpful to have this baseline information in a place that is handy for referral.

Background

Offline Files is a feature of Windows that was introduced in parallel with Folder Redirection in Windows 2000. Folder Redirection allows an administrator to relocate some of the user profile data folders to a network folder, which has the advantage of protecting that data from loss due to workstation issues like drive failure, malware infection, or theft. It also means you can access your data from multiple workstations.

The Offline Files facility provides a local cache of the redirected folder(s) so that mobile users can continue to work with the data in those folders when disconnected from the organization’s network. When the computer is connected to the network again, any changes to either the network folder or the local Offline Files cache are synchronized. Users are prompted to resolve any conflicting changes, e.g., the same file was modified in both places, or was deleted from one and modified in the other.

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Outlook 2013 at UVM

Please note: Microsoft Outlook is not (yet) an officially supported email client for UVM’s central mail services. However, I use it as my primary email client for UVM email. Its support of both touch and traditional Windows environments make it especially suited to modern Windows devices. The additional features of Outlook—Calendar, Contacts, ToDo—save to the local PC and aren’t connected to any server. 

Changes in Outlook 2013

The most significant change in the new version of Outlook is the support of touch-based interfaces. In Outlook 2010, using your finger to scroll a message resulted in selecting a swath of text, as though clicking and dragging with a mouse. Outlook 2013 addresses this, and adds specific support for touch interaction with adjusted menu spacing and a thumb-based button bar that works really well on Windows tablets.

Outlook 2013 - tablet mode

Outlook 2013 – special features available on touch devices include touch scrolling, and a button bar for the right thumb.

You’ll also notice a much cleaner design, where the faux 3D buttons and look have been simplified and flattened. I find myself selecting the dark gray color scheme to restore some visual variety and separation, though.

One change that’s a little irritating is that you can no longer specify the folder into which copies of your sent messages are received; they go into a folder called Sent Items. Instead, I’ve configured Pine, Webmail, and Thunderbird to use Sent Items, too.

I continue to find Outlook a user-friendly, feature-rich email client, and I’m glad to share these instructions with you. Let’s get started. Continue reading

Webmail on a Netbook

Amid the praise for and complaints about the newer version of webmail, we received a plea from a netbook user. She pointed out that the new layout made it very difficult to navigate among her mail folders. I use a netbook myself, and I thought I’d share some things that we can do to improve our browsing from a netbook. Specifically, we’re going to take webmail from this:

Webmail on a netbook - before

to this:

Webmail on a netbook - after

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How to catch a phish

I’ve received several phishing attempts, recently, this time masquerading as mail from Twitter. I thought I’d share how I recognized this as an attack. Many list members already know this stuff, but I thought I’d share since we still see folks responding to these kinds of attacks.

1. Unexpected

Before I even looked at the content of the message, I was suspicious because I don’t have any twitter stuff associated with my UVM email. I could have deleted the message then and, if I was using twitter, logged into my twitter account directly to see if something was going on.

But I wondered how the message was crafted, so I opened it with awareness.

2. False link

A false link is shows a web address in the message, but the link that is attached to it is different. Below, my mail program shows that the link will actually send me to pachitanglangbarcelona.com.

twitter-scam-ol

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Microsoft Office Troubleshooting

Recently, I was asked to talk with our Help Line staff about strategies for troubleshooting problems with Microsoft Office. I spent some time addressing the activation issues relating specifically Office 2010, which I wrote up in a separate post.

The most important point I want to make about general Office troubleshooting is that reinstalling office will rarely fix a problem. Office will kick-off a repair operation automatically if it detects problems with core Office files. Application, heal thyself.

More importantly, a repair operation or uninstall/reinstall process will refresh Office program components, but it won’t touch templates, user and system specific registry information, and add-ins that are the most frequent cause of problems.

Safe mode

The first step in troubleshooting should be to start the application in safe mode. Most versions of Office applications support a safe mode, which doesn’t load templates, registry info, and add-ins. This step quickly determines whether the problem lies with Office itself or elsewhere.

Invoking Office safe mode is as easy as adding the command-line parameter /safe. Usually, I open the Run window (WindowsKey+R), and type the name of the office executable and add the /safe parameter. If you don’t know the executable name, you can find it with the browse button, and then add the parameter at the end:

office14-safemode-run

If the app doesn’t start, then you probably do need to perform a Repair installation. If the application starts successfully (sometimes without opening a document in safe mode), then you know that the core office files are fine, and a reinstall isn’t likely to help.

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Troubleshooting Office 2010 & 2013 Activation

Microsoft Office 2010 and 2013 volume license editions use the Volume License 2.0 mechanism to manage activation. Office 2010 and 2013 will activate against our campus Key Management Service (KMS), without user intervention, in a manner similar to Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Occasionally, the activation process doesn’t work. Problems are usually related to network communication with the KMS. Below are some steps to identify and resolve problems that might occur during activation.

Gather Information.

Gathering data is essential to fixing problems. If you ask me (or other IT staff) for help with Office 2010 activation, the first thing I will ask from you is the output of the commands in the steps below.

There are a few steps that will make it easy to collect all the output of your troubleshooting steps.

  • Open an elevated Command Prompt (Run As Administrator)
  • Change the Properties of the command prompt window to increase the Screen Buffer
    height to, say, 3000 lines. This will prevent you losing earlier steps as the lines scroll off the screen.
  • Run cscript /h:cscript, which changes the default script host to cscript, so that output will go to the command prompt instead of a pop-up dialog box.

When you are ready to copy the text from the command prompt, right-click the title bar of the window, select Edit > Select All, and then Control-C to Copy the text to the clipboard. Then you can paste the text to any place you want; a webmail message, a footprint entry, or a text file in notepad.

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Troubleshooting Windows Activation

[UPDATE: Removed Vista info: instead of troubleshooting Vista, upgrade it.]

Here are some troubleshooting steps — for my future reference as much as anyone else’s — for for gathering information for diagnosing and resolving Windows KMS client activation issues.

Quick Fix: Try this first!

Most Windows activation issues I’ve encountered are resolved by entering the appropriate product key (not a secret; see footnote):

Windows 7 Enterprise Volume: 33PXH-7Y6KF-2VJC9-XBBR8-HVTHH
Windows 8 Enterprise Volume: 32JNW-9KQ84-P47T8-D8GGY-CWCK7
Windows 8.1 Enterprise Volume: MHF9N-XY6XB-WVXMC-BTDCT-MKKG7

Enter the code above and attempt to reactivate. If it works, you should be all set. If it doesn’t, the following steps will help identify the issue.

Gathering Information.

Gathering data is essential to fixing problems. If you ask me (or other IT staff) for help with Windows activation, the first thing I will ask from you is the output of the commands below.

I recommend opening a text editor and copying all the commands and output into a file, which you can send to us if you need additional help resolving the activation issue.

NOTE: All these steps require running commands from a console window (cmd.exe), which you may need to run As Administrator. These commands work in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1.

1. Run ipconfig /all to capture current IP configuration information.

This could tell us whether the system is in a netreg-ed subnet and needs to register at http://netreg.uvm.edu, or if there are other basic network configuration problems. We really just need the Ethernet adapter, assuming that’s what is being used to connect the system to the network. We don’t need all the additional tunneling adapters, etc. If someone is using a wireless adapter, possibly with the VPN client, then info about those adapters also should be captured.

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Using Outlook 2007 at UVM

Please note: Microsoft Outlook is not among the recommended email clients supported by ETS. However, I use it regularly to access my UVM email (along with Pine and Thunderbird), and I offer the following instructions to help folks who really want to use Outlook 2007 here at UVM. —Geoff

We’re going to walk through the steps required to configure Outlook 2007 as an email client of the University’s central mail services. Microsoft has improved the IMAP support in Outlook with this latest version, and the configuration is more straight-forward.

Please note that you can click on any screenshot to get a larger (i.e., legible) version. Now let’s dig in.

When we first start Outlook 2007, the Account Configuration wizard will start. “Yes” is selected by default (we do want to configure our email account, don’t we?), so we’ll click next.

screen shot of dialog box

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SyncML on Windows Mobile 5

I’ve been using the Synthesis SyncML client to synchronize my calendar information between my Oracle Calendar Server (OCS) agenda and my Treo700w calendar. It is important to note that, per the vendor’s recommendations, I’m using the back-level 2.5.0.69 client, rather than the newer 3.0x client. Update: The UVM Calendar server has been upgraded, and the current version (3.0.222 at the time of this edit) of SyncML works fine.

I downloaded the Zip file from Synthesis AG, which contains the program install file (syncml_std_en.PPCWM.CAB) as well as documentation. Because I’m using the Treo with Windows Vista, I don’t have ActiveSync. To install the software, I copied the CAB to my Treo, then used File Explorer to locate and install the SyncML application.

Synthesis SyncML will appear in the Programs list:

Windows Mobile Programs screen

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