Printers from hell…

Last week we ran into a bit of a snag… or several… while moving our printers from one server to another.

Problem #1: Finding the driver for the Xerox Phaser 8860MFP

Oh, we found the latest PostScript driver, of course; we also found that the latest driver did not have the right tray selection options or secure print options… *sigh*

I was confused by the lack of options: the driver on the old server said it was PostScript, but we installed the PCL driver, just for kicks.  It had the tray options and the secure print options, so we thought we were set.  The intern and I ran around setting everyone up with the new PCL printer, and I was relieved… until everyone started complaining that things were printing at a snail’s pace (about two pages per minute :P).  One of the users noticed that the quality was super high, which was apparently the cause.  Well, I knew how to fix that: there’s a quality setting on the printer properties – oops, not on the PCL driver!

So, back to PS… but we still couldn’t use the scaled-down version of the PostScript driver that we started with, which was the only one we could find on Xerox’s site. I discovered the Print Migrator Utility 3.1 to try to move the correct PS driver from the old print server – didn’t seem to work. 😦

After searching long and hard, I found that I was able to download the drivers and software version I needed (5.58.10) from the Web management page of the printer itself… go figure!  Would have saved myself a lot of trouble to find that out in the first place. 🙂

There was much rejoicing… and I tried to install the driver.  When I installed the printer manually, it would go offline after about 15 seconds; it had been doing this all through the ordeal, so I had been using the Xerox printer software installer, and I fell back on it again.  It failed me… something about ‘invalid parameters’… the same no matter how many times I tried it. 😛  The only thing left was to completely remove the old driver before installing… but I didn’t know how.

Oh, by the way, the client computers had the same problem: they kept the old driver, rather than downloading the new one from the server… and the driver they kept didn’t even work!  From Devices and Printers, it looked fine, but when you tried to select the printer from any Office application, it displayed ‘Unable to Connect’ and it was true to its word.  When you tried to view the Printer Preferences from Devices and Printers, it popped up another error: ‘This action cannot be completed. (Error code 0x00000057)’

Problem #2: Figuring out how to uninstall the current driver so the correct one would be downloaded

This was actually really cool, once we figured it out.  Everything about manually removing drivers referred to Print Management (like this: Update and Manage Printer Drivers); apparently, that’s only on Print Servers (I didn’t even have the role installed on the new server… although I did try it then, just to see if it helped)… and then I found this thread: “How do I remove printer drivers in Windows 7 without Print Management” – genius!

This got us started on the right track: printui /s /t2 is now on my list of favorite commands. 🙂  That opened up the printer driver list for the computer, and on most of the computers, we were able to delete the old driver and package, either immediately or after restarting the Print Spooler service.

There were a couple troublesome machines that kept saying the driver and/or package was still in use.  I found suggestions online that it was caused by the printer being installed on other user profiles (deleted all other profiles – didn’t help), that I needed to delete INFCACHE.1 (C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore) – couldn’t do this due to permissions… even logged in as administrator – and that I had to restart the Print Spooler and delete the driver before the system locked it again (which is a matter of split-second timing).  One guy (jjwink) scripted it, which was cool, but it didn’t work for me: Deleting printer drivers from Vista system

The solution on the stubborn machines was finally just to edit the registry and delete the driver.  The first few computers I didn’t really  know what I was looking for, so I just searched Xerox, skipped the other Xerox printer references and deleted anything related to the Phaser 8860MFP.  There were a lot of references (registries are like that ;)), and after about the sixth computer, I found the only key I needed to delete: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Print\Environments\Windows NT x86\Drivers\Version-3\<driver name>

All printers are now reinstalled, and everybody is happy (especially me :))

Sweet success.

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Error when sending e-mail from Adobe

I and the intern were at a customer yesterday and ran across an issue with one of the users’ computers, when she would click the e-mail button in Adobe, giving an error:

“The connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to complete this action.”

We tried various troubleshooting steps, with no success, so I decided to try creating a new local profile for her.  We logged in as admin, renamed her profile folder, then logged back in under her account.  The customer uses Microsoft Online Services, and when we got to the configuration of the Microsoft Online Services Sign-in application, we ran into another error (when it tried to configure Outlook):

“The operation failed due to an installation problem. Restart Outlook and try again.”

This reminded me that there had been an issue configuring her Outlook with the Microsoft Online sign-in app a few weeks back (over a CrossLoop session, I had repaired then reinstalled Outlook 2003, and finally had to find the settings to configure Outlook manually… not an easy task with Microsoft Online).  I was sure that was the cause of the original Adobe/e-mail error… now I just had to find a solution. 🙂

Happily, I did.  http://www.calazan.com/outlook-2003-the-operation-failed-due-to-an-installation-problem/

This article started us in the right direction.  We noticed the same Warning in the Application log from MsiInstaller; we just had to recreate her profile about five more times to get it right. 😛  We tried making the registry change and then launching Outlook again from the sign-in app, but it resulted in yet another error:

“The profile name is not valid.  Enter a valid profile name.”

Of course, launching a new Outlook profile only led us back to the manual creation process.  Grrr.

We tried a couple more times, tried deleting the default profile in Outlook (via the Control Panel > Mail applet) and then configuring… no dice.

The solution, although it still took a few tries (intern hadn’t had enough coffee ;)), was to create a new local profile, reboot (to ensure the new profile was brand new, i.e. Microsoft sign-in settings hadn’t carried over), make the registry change from that article (we had to create the Outlook key first, then add the UserData value), then launch Microsoft sign-in.  With the UserData DWORD value in place beforehand, the Microsoft Online automatic configuration went flawlessly… and with a proper Outlook configuration, the Adobe error was conquered!

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How to Rock Your Body Language!

Ever heard of Albert Mehrabian’s 55-38-7 rule?  It says that 55% of what you communicate to others is in your face and body language, 38% is from your tone of voice, and only 7% is from the words you say… and it’s only true in emotional situations, when there’s a contradictory message between your body language and words.

Another highlight presentation of the KalamaXoo conference was given by Laura Bergells: How to Rock Your Body Language.  She gave seven tips on presenting with confidence, in both individual and group situations.

1) Words are really important (that’s what the Mehrabian myth (55-38-7) is all about).  It won’t ruin everything if your delivery is a little off!  She gave what I thought was a great illustration on this point; first, she stood there and stared at us, to see how much we could pick up from her face and body language.  Next, she said something with  her mouth closed (adding tone of voice) and asked what we understood of what she was telling us from that 93%.  Finally, she said, “My keys are in my purse.” 🙂

2) Every body language ‘rule’ has exceptions – most of it is not universal (always give eye contact – well, not necessarily true in foreign countries, crossing your arms means you’re closed off – no, it may mean you’re cold, and it’s even been found that people learn better when they have their arms crossed, steepling (with fingers) is considered a power gesture, but it’s not always appropriate to be the ‘alpha dog’… the list goes on)

3) Work toward authentic body language.  Lay off the phony tricks, unless… you’re terrified in front of people – fake it ’til you make it!

4) If you’re scared, it’s more than okay to fake confidence – fear is contagious (if you’re scared, everyone feels it, and the whole room will get uncomfortable)

5) Just because you’re not speaking doesn’t mean you’re not presenting.  Something new that I learned was about the roles in a group presentation or meeting.  I guess I’d never really thought about it, and it was interesting.  She talked about the leader, closer, ally and observer: leaders and closers are the strongest part of the ‘sales pitch’ and do pretty much what they sound like.  The leader starts things off and gets the ideas out there; the closer follows up and closes the deal.  The two supporting roles are the ally and the observer: all the ally does is ‘send positive energy’ by looking attentively at the speaker with a friendly face, nodding and encouraging him or her as they speak.  The benefit is two-fold: the speaker has a friendly face in the crowd (which helps a lot) and the client sees a strong, unified front presented by the team.  The fourth role is that of an observer: the observer watches everyone’s reactions and body language and provides follow-up comments, ‘I noticed [this or that] – is there something we need to clear up?’

6) Know what position you’re playing.  Don’t send signals of internal dissent.  Rehearse your role.

7) Practice self-awareness.  Aim for confidence, not perfection.  Check in with yourself throughout the day.  What’s my body doing or saying?  Why am I doing this – how do I feel?

She closed with the most confident pose of all time (complete with her own bright pink spotlight :)): just standing in a neutral position, arms at your sides, not closing yourself off, crossing your arms, covering or hiding anything… just stand there.  It’s harder than it sounds, but if you can do that, you’re on your way. 🙂

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“It’s only aweso without me”

Here’s my quick overview of another topic I really enjoyed from KalamaXoo: Jeff Blankenburg on job insurance.  What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow?  You get insurance for your house, car or life… so why not job insurance?

You can’t buy job insurance, obviously, but you can acquire it through networking and hard work (what he referred to as ‘sweat equity’).

Some things to keep in mind:

  • You can’t erase the Internet: He pointed out that most of us have some things on the Web that we don’t necessarily want professional contacts to see.  It might not be embarrassing, but it’s just not the first impression you want to make.  So what do you do?  Make something else more relevant!
  • Find your passion, and make it known.  Share it with others, and find others who share it. How do people know your skills, talents and love[s], if you don’t tell them?
  • Don’t be a parrot – have your own opinions!  As he put it, if you’re not stirring it up, if you’re not saying something that could cause controversy, then you’re doing it wrong.
  • Provide sincere value.  Don’t just stick with the status quo.  Share the solutions to problems you’ve had that day in a blog, or find other productive ways to get your name out.
  • How do people find you?  Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn?  Build a passionate representation of yourself, and make that the first thing potential employers find.

Job insurance: like any other insurance, you can’t get it after you need it.  Get out there and meet people – know who the people are that you want to know, the people you would want to work with, even the places you would want to work if you were looking for a job.

Build the relationships now; I liked the observation that ‘it doesn’t have to be work – just go make friends.’  Even so… this one is going to take some work… 😛

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I know how to learn

One of my favorite talks at Kalamazoo X was by Joe O’Brien.  Education is broken.  Code is broken, too… and nobody knows how to fix it.  Most students go through school without learning how to learn.  Information is just pushed at them in lectures; they may absorb some of it, enough to spit it back out on a test, or they may ignore it, but they are rarely taught how to figure things out for themselves, fix things and find their own answers.  He said he saw some honors students at one school: “they knew data structures inside out, but if something went wrong with their machine, they couldn’t think beyond that.”  People get stuck in the rut of what they’ve been told.

He said that he hires developers who know how to learn.  That’s the most important thing.  They don’t have to be a developer: they can be liberal arts, English lit (as he put it, if somebody could send out an e-mail without a spelling or grammar mistake, that would be awesome! :)), whatever… as long as they can learn.

Tech moves fast – whether you’re talking about hardware or software, it’s constantly moving, changing, improving.  You have to be able to keep up with the changes – you have to keep learning, or you’ll become outdated and surpassed.  Plan ahead; plan on change, and plan on taking things with you as you advance.  Stop pretending it won’t change.

On  the company side, he said he sees too many heads who are unwilling to provide training to their developers.  “What if we train all these people, and they leave?”  Well, he responded, “what if we don’t, and they stay?”

This topic realigned my perspective and gave me some encouragement.  I’ve had some uncertainty about my career choice, but the one thing I’ve always been sure about is that I know how to learn!  Everyone says you should choose a career in something you love; they often tell you to take an inventory of your skills and see what you’re good at.  At one point, I sat back and asked myself, “Self, what am I good at?”  Well… learning!  I love learning new things.  I’ve loved school ever since I realized I could think for myself, rather than listening to and agreeing with my siblings whining about how they hated it. 😉  I actually considered being a lifetime student once and not getting a ‘real job’.

A huge factor in my choosing an IT degree was because tech is always changing.  I knew I would have to be learning new things throughout my career, and that got me excited!  When I started my program, I knew next to nothing about computers (a “user” of the lowest degree), and that got me excited, too!  It was a completely new experience, and I wanted to prove myself, quite frankly, as a learner.

Ok, so maybe not the best reason to choose a career, and at times, I considered changing to another program… but I still haven’t decided what I want to do. 😛  When I was given the opportunity to learn software development, I got excited again, because it’s a new field and something else to learn!  I know I can excel; I just need to kick-start my learning.  I’ve been a little lazy recently, but this conference gave me some of the passion I’ve been lacking, and I can’t wait to get started.  I just need to be myself and do what I do best – learn!

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KalamaXoo 2011

I went to the Kalamazoo X conference today.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  To be quite honest, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting up at 5ish on a Saturday morning to drive 2-3 hours and sit in a conference all day… but it was a great learning experience and definitely worth the time.

There was a stellar line-up.  I especially liked the following five talks; they got me thinking about some things that I’ll definitely elaborate on in upcoming posts:

8:45am 9:15am Taking Back Education (O’Brien)
9:20am 9:50am Data Visualization (Giard)
9:55am 10:25am Working With Great Teams (Holmes)
10:30am 11:00am Design for Developers (McWherter)
11:05am 11:35am Habits, Tools and Developer Rights – from a DBA (Ford)
11:40am 12:10pm It’s Only Aweso Without Me (Blankenburg)
12:10pm 1:15pm Lunch (Provided)
1:20pm 1:50pm Executable Requirements (Neumann)
1:55pm 2:25pm You (Gersing)
2:30pm 3:00pm Rock Your Body Language (Bergells)
3:05pm 3:35pm Performance Evals Again? This Sucks! (Holmes)

The enthusiasm and knowledge flowing around me got me all fired up about learning, growing my career and improving myself.

During lunch, they had a fishbowl discussion, which I’d never heard of before, but it was cool: there were 6 chairs in a circle, 5 of them filled.  A conversation was started, and it went around the circle until somebody standing (listening from outside the fishbowl) had something to contribute.  They’d take the empty chair, and someone sitting had to get up.  One of the topics that came up in the discussion was failure, and how to fail successfully.  By failing successfully, they meant that failure is not bad (everybody fails); it just depends on what (or if) you learn from that failure.  I believe it was Joe O’Brien who put it this way (not exactly a quote): ‘failure shows you what doesn’t work, and you don’t have to do that again.’

They talked about how children these days are ‘protected’ from failure.  In sports, everybody gets a trophy.  For high school kids, failure seems like the end of the world.  They don’t see the learning opportunity, the chance to find and fix their own error and grow from that experience: they just see the failure.  Parents think it will damage their children psychologically to fail, but by shielding them from experiencing it, they’re doing the damage… keeping their kids from learning to cope with failure, work through it and grow, i.e. keeping their kids from failing successfully.

It was a really interesting discussion to me; it kind of hit close to home, because I’ve always been a perfectionist.  I don’t know if I want to admit that I’m afraid to fail… but I probably am – ok, so I will admit that I may have freaked out (mildly, at least… as much as I freak out about anything) when I got two B’s in college.  (They were both mistakes, by the way – whew! ;))  The point is, I don’t like to fail – I like to be perfect (even though I know I’m not… so I guess I like to pretend to be perfect).  That said, I can see the point they were making, and I think it’s a good one.  While on the one hand, it seems rather obvious (well, logical, at least), like something I probably already knew… on the other hand, it’s something I definitely need to work on: being ok with failure.

They also said something like, ‘you really should be failing 49% of the time: if you’re failing more than that, you kind of have to ask what’s wrong (and it’s going to negatively affect your productivity), but if you’re failing less than that, you’re not taking enough risks.’  I’m not sure I agree with that number – I think you can learn and grow without necessarily failing – but it’s food for thought…

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Lovely Weather We’re Having!

Snow in mid-April…?  Hey, that’s cool.  I  guess I was starting to miss winter, just a little. 😉  I was hanging around my house this morning, putting off leaving for work… and when I walked out, almost late, I realized I still had to brush the snow off my car.  Oops!  That’s how it is in Michigan: I guess you learn and adapt… and you capitalize on opportunities of warm weather. 😛  You have warm(ish) weather for a week or two, and you put winter so far out of your mind that you forget how to drive in snow, as well as the other time-eaters that snow entails.  I was actually a little shocked to discover that this morning.

We all like to complain about it, but Michigan weather is fun – it’s just so… spontaneous!  You never know what to expect; it’s like a blind date with nature! 🙂

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