Working around UAC

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

There’s been a lot written about Windows Vista’s user account control (UAC) and personally I can’t see what the criticsm is about (Mac OS X and Linux both have similar mechanisms, although the implementation is slightly different); however it was interesting to hear Steve Lamb mention at a recent event that commands launched from a command shell (cmd.exe) running as administrator will not invoke UAC.

Of course it goes without saying that, just as when running a root shell in Linux, the use of such sessions should be limited and I’ve written previously about how the shortcut to run cmd.exe as an administrator can be modified to make it very obvious that elevated permissions are in use.

Steve also pointed out that, if developers wrote less code that requires privileged execution, then UAC would not appear so frequently. Although UAC behaviour can be modified in group policy, it is not recommended.

Configuring wireless Ethernet with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Even Linux advocates admit that Linux is not as user-friendly as it should be when it comes to mobile networking:

“Networking on Linux right now is painful for the mobile desktop user, especially in comparison to other operating systems. A laptop user should never need to use the command line or configuration files to manage their network; it should ‘Just Work’ as automatically as possible and intrude as little as possible into the user’s workflow.”

GNOME NetworkManager project website

Oh how true!

A couple of nights back, I was staying at a hotel which only offered Wi-Fi connectivity for guest Internet access. That’s all very well if you have Wi-Fi configured on your laptop but, since rebuilding on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 last week, I haven’t got around to setting up the Intel PRO Wireless 2200BG adapter in my notebook. It turns out that it is pretty straightforward, once you have worked out what to do.

I recently wrote about configuring wireless Ethernet with Fedora Core 5 (using the same computer). After a long-winded effort, installing updated drivers, kernel modules and firmware, I finally got it working but only on one network and not with the NetworkManager applet. Then, I found out that the drivers are included in the kernel by default – all that is required is the correct firmware.

As it happens, the same is true for RHEL (lsmod | grep ipw2200 told me that ipw2200 and ieee80211 were both present in the kernel) and Jeff at nethub.org suggests (for CentOS, which is basically a rebadged version of RHEL):

“…download the firmware from the Intel Pro/Wireless 2200GB SourceForge project

[…]

After downloading the file, type in the following commands as root:

tar -zxf ipw2200-fw-2.0.tgz
mv *.fw /lib/firmware/
rmmod ipw2200

Then, wait a few seconds, and type:

modprobe ipw2200

It’s actually even easier than that – the RHEL supplementary CD includes an RPM for the appropriate firmware (so why it’s not installed by default I don’t know) and, after installing the package and running modprobe ipw2200, eth1 became visible in my computer. Running service NetworkManager start and service NetworkManagerDispatcher start launched the NetworkManager applet too; although to make the change permenant, I used chkconfig NetworkManager on and chkconfig NetworkManagerDispatcher on. I also found that a reboot was required before all the wireless network components got themselves in order.

Following this, it was a case of selecting the appropriate SSID from the NetworkManager icon, and supplying the appropriate security details when prompted.

Network Manager - security

Following that, a connection was established (and NetworkManager even activates/deactivates the wired network connection as appropriate).

Network Manager - connected

It seems that getting wireless in Linux is becoming easier but it’s still not as simple as it should be. NetworkManager helps (a lot) but if the leading Linux distribution had automatically detected my industry-standard hardware (as Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise did… and as Windows did), it would have been a whole lot easier.

Windows Vista and ATI display drivers

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

My IBM T40 is not an old PC. Well, it may be three years old but it’s still a perfectly capable machine. One of its great features is the S-Video display output – perfect for watching films from the computer on a TV – at least it would be if I could get it to work under Windows Vista.

The trouble is that the T40 has an ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics chipset. The Windows Vista setup routine had installed the standard VGA graphics adapter driver (v6.0.6000.16386) but there is no supported Windows Vista driver for this chipset. I could rant on about how this lack of device support is a terrible way for ATI to treat customers and how it’s not as if I have any option to upgrade the graphics in a notebook PC but that won’t get me anywhere (and my blood pressure is already high enough). Nor will it sell me another PC, which is what hardware manufacturers really want, rather than developing modern drivers for old products. Instead, I spent far too much time today trying to get it working:

  • I found a forum post that suggested the Windows XP drivers would work (at least on pre-release versions of Vista) so I downloaded the latest available drivers from the IBM website, extracted them to a folder on my hard disk and let Windows Vista look there for updated drivers. After a successful installation (v6.14.10.6547) Windows reported the correct adapter type and provided support for multiple displays. So I was half way to my goal but without ATI-specific device options to enable advanced features (like the S-Video) connection.
  • Next, I tried running the full installer for the XP drivers and all the associated bloat but all I got was a blue screen of death (ati3duag.dll PAGE_FAULT_IN_NON_PAGED_AREA)… not a good result.
  • So I downloaded and installed the latest version (v7.5) of the ATI Catalyst Control Center (CCC) – except that it ignored my graphics adapter completely and just gave me some Catalyst Install Manager (CIM) links for updating/uninstalling CCC. At one stage, I was even dumped back to 4-bit 640×480 graphics and had to roll back my driver to the standard VGA before reinstalling the XP driver that had previously been working in Vista.
  • I tried running individual installers from within the extracted CCC package (e.g. ccc-graphics-full-existing.msi) and something happened to make a desktop right-click option for ATI CATALYST(R) Control Center appear (I hate excessive capitalisation in menu items!) but CCC still doesn’t load, so I guess it doesn’t like the XP display driver.
  • After reading Koroush Ghazi’s ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide, I tried Ray Adams’ ATI Tray Tools but these just produced memory errors on Vista, even when run as Administrator.
  • Finally, I went back to my extracted driver package and ran the ATI Control Panel (v8.133.2.1.1-061116a0949984C) setup (from the CPANEL folder, rather than the top level CIM installer). Even though Vista informed me that “this program has known compatibility issues” and that “ATI Control Panel is incompatible with this version of Windows”, it gave me access to all the advanced display settings but I couldn’t get it to recognise that the TV was connected.

ATI Control Panel

Now it’s the end of the day and I’m giving up. I guess I’ll have to go back to XP to use my TV-out (or watch videos on the laptop display). Grrr.

File name limitations when accessing Windows file shares from a Mac

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Earlier this afternoon, one of my friends got in touch with “a quick tech question” (it had to be quick as his method of communication was SMS text message):

“…We have a brand new, state of the art pre-press system which, for some reason, is running Windows 2000. It seems that this OS cannot handle file names longer than 27 chars…”

I was sure that this would be an integration issue rather than an operating system restriction as I’ve never come across any such limitation with a Windows NT-based Windows system (leaving aside the question as to why would a state of the art device use an old and unsupported operating system?) – besides which, I was in no mood to give an office full of professional Mac users an excuse to bash Microsoft!

After a very short time spent googling, I found a newsgroup post which explains the issue. It seems that Apple filing protocol (AFP) 2.2, used by Windows Services for Macintosh, has a 31-character limit (presumably 4 of those characters are used by the driveletter:\ portion of the filename and another one somewhere else leaving 27 visible characters). AFP 3.x has no such limitation but, as all modern Macs can use SMB to communicate natively with Windows servers, there seems little point in using Services for Macintosh these days. Looking at the Wikipedia article on AFP, there may also be restrictions on file sizes with AFP and certain client-server combinations.

New (mighty) mouse

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A few months back, I wrote about the problems I have been experiencing with my Apple Mighty Mouse.

I got used to cleaning the scroll ball, but after a while, the right-click became unreliable – to the point where I had to connect an ordinary PC mouse to the Mac, which then worked perfectly (indicating that my configuration was fine).

Contrary to the anecdotal reports that I linked in my original post, last week I took the not-so-mighty Mouse to the Apple Store in London (Regent Street), where a “genius” exchanged it for a new one.  I hadn’t been hopeful (as when it was my turn for service he was displaying a really unhelpful attitude, still complaining to a colleague about his previous customer) but, even after trying it out on another machine and not finding any problem, he commented that I “seem to know what I’m talking about” (I hope so!) and exchanged it anyway.

I’d forgotten how good it was when it was new – I just hope this one lasts a bit longer.

Working with OpenXML document formats in Office 2003

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Just before I left the office yesterday evening, I downloaded some presentations from Microsoft. Not surprisingly, these were in the new Office 2007 (OpenXML) document format and Windows XP recognised them as zipped archives (which they are – if you open one up, there are a load of XML files and graphics – incidentally a great way to extract graphics from a presentation – although curiously they all have the date and time stamp of 01/01/1980).

As I still use Office 2003 at work, it seemed logical to me that these files would be inaccessible, but I opened one up out of curiosity and PowerPoint gave me the option to install a compatibility pack (presumably I’d already installed an update to provide the “hook” for Office 2003 to download the compatibility pack). Once the 27MB Compatibility Pack for the 2007 Office System had been installed, I could work natively with the files, including the ability to save OpenXML from within Office 2003 applications, disproving my earlier predictions of file format nightmares.

Amit Agarwal has more information about working with the OpenXML file formats on his Digital Inspiration blog.