TAG: Windows

How to Fix ‘Converter Failed to Save File’ with Excel 2016

I recently upgraded to Office 2016 on my Windows 10 desktop and was getting the error “Converter failed to save file” when double clicking on the file along with an “There was a problem sending the command to the program error” every time. I finally had enough with the annoyance to troubleshoot it and figured out a solve.

If you have the same issue, here’s how to fix it:

  1. Open your Default Programs configuration from the Control Panel. On Windows 10, you can hit start, type Default Programs, and it’ll open the app.
  2. Scroll down the list until you get to the Excel formats (XLS):
    Default Programs
  3. If you see anything other than Excel as the default, you’ll need to change the default to Excel. For me, the issue was the Open XML Converter not being installed anymore after upgrading to 2016. To change the default, select the format, click the “Change Program” button and select Excel 2016 from the list of apps that pops up and click OK to set the association:
    App Select
  4. You’ll need to do this for each format in the list to correct it. The most common formats you’ll use are XLS, XLSX, & XLT.

Cheap Macbook Pro Docking Solution for about $30

I typically prefer developing on my desktop and large dual screen monitor setup as opposed to my Macbook. Recently, I’ve gotten into more PHP development and developing on the Mac is proving to be a more enjoyable experience only because Windows is still a second class citizen for most PHP libraries/tools. I still wanted a larger screen setup, so I considered buying a docking station to hook up to a larger monitor but I soon learned they feature the ‘Mac Penalty’ in that they cost more than they should just because it’s for Apple products.

I already have two large monitors and figured my Macbook could serve as third screen. Then I did some thinking and realized I could use one of the monitors for both computers. Assuming you have two HDMI screens already hooked up to your desktop, this would save you $150+ and still allow you to be more productive.

  1. Get a copy of Synergy (http://symless.com/) for $10. It’s open source and can be built if you have the time, but a one time fee of $10 saves me the hassle of doing so. With this, you can share your desktop keyboard across all your computers with the one license and it’s cross platform so Linux support is included too.
  2. Purchase an auto HDMI switcher. I purchased the PORTTA PET0301S 3×1 Port HDMI Switch/Switcher for about $9.
  3. Be sure to get 2 HDMI cables if you don’t already have them on hand. I don’t like the Amazon Basic brand for these as I’ve had problems with the Mac and those cables hooking up to larger screens.
  4. Install Synergy on the desktop as a server. Install on the Macbook as a client and it should autoconnect.
  5. Plug the HDMI cable from the computer into the HDMI switcher, and plug the spare into the Macbook pro. Plug the “Out” end into the monitor.

When you plug your HDMI cable into the Macbook, the HDMI switcher will automatically switch to it and project the Macbook. Synergy will auto-connect as long as it’s running on both and you can share the mouse and keyboard between both and work seamlessly.

If you have an iPad and want to turn that into an additional screen, grab a copy of Duet Display on your desktop/Macbook and install on your iPad for $15.99, and viola, instant portable second screen!

TrustedInstaller.EXE CPU Usage

Solution 1: Clear Problem History

The following fix is intended for situations where trustedinstaller.exe causes problems due to the Problem Reports and Solutions history maintained in Windows Vista.

  1. Go to Start and then select Control Panel.
  2. Turn on Classic View.
  3. Select Problem Reports and Solutions.
  4. Click Clear Solution and Problem History in the left panel.
  5. Confirm your decision.
  6. Exit the Problems Reports and Solutions Window and Control Panel.

You can also click Change in the Problems Reports and Solutions Window. And then change the configuration from Check for solutions automatically setting to Ask me to check if a problem occurs.

Solution 2: Change Microsoft Update Startup Settings to Manual

  1. Go to Start and then select Control Panel.
  2. Select Administrative Tools and then select Services.
  3. Scroll down to Microsoft Update, right-click on it and then select Stop.
  4. Right-click on Microsoft Update again and select Properties.
  5. On the General tab, set Startup type as Manual.
  6. Next, display the Recovery tab.
  7. Choose Take No Action and click OK for First Failure.
  8. Exit the properties dialog box.
  9. Bring up your Task Manager by pressing on Ctrl + Alt  + Del or Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
  10. On the Processes tab, look for and select trustedinstaller.exe.
  11. Click End process to kill trustedinstaller.exe.

Solution 3: Disable Automatic Update

  1. Go to Start and then select Control Panel.
  2. Go to System and Maintenance.
  3. Click Turn automatic update on or off option.
  4. Next, depending on your preference choose one of the following options:
    • Never check for updates (not recommended)
    • Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them
    • Download updates but let me choose whether to install them
  5. Click OK to save your changes and exit the dialog box.

Solution 4: Stop the Windows Module Installer That Runs Trustedinstaller.exe

  1. Click on Start, in the Start Search box, type msconfig and then press Enter.
  2. Click Continue when User Account Control prompt is displayed.
  3. In the System Configuration window that is displayed, open the Services tab.
  4. Locate and clear the Windows Module Installer check box.
  5. Click OK save your changes and exit the dialog box.
  6. Next, open Services window again and change the Startup type of Windows Module Installer to Manual.

Kill Multiple Processes at Once Via Command Line with Taskkill

Ever have a program or process that doesn’t end properly and runs in the background continuously?

I recently encountered this issue with VLC on one Windows 7 machine where it keeps the process never terminates. Since I never reboot the machine for other than Windows Updates, this amounted to 633 copies of VLC running in memory. Each process only used about 633k so it wasn’t an astronomical memory hog but multiply that by 633, you begin to feel the machine slowing down. Task Manager doesn’t let you kill multiple processes in bulk and I didn’t want to go through killing them one by one or rebooting.

The solution? Good old command line. Open up command prompt (start -> run -> cmd.exe). This snippet will kill all processes that start with the taskname:

To kill all VLC processes, you’d use:

All running VLC processes will be terminated automatically.

SQL 2008 DTSX

The Problem

Earlier today, I was working on setting up DTSX so some end users could run some packages. After loading and testing the packages successfully, the users tried running the package and encountered an interesting error:

SSIS Execution Properties
Failed to open package file “C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\DTS\Packages\dts_filename.dtsx” due to error 0x80070005 “Access is denied.”. This happens when loading a package and the file cannot be opened or loaded correctly into the XML document. This can be the result of either providing an incorrect file name was specified when calling LoadPackage or the XML file was specified and has an incorrect format. ({FFEE8F2F-A0A6-40BE-8CDA-86BEC124F874})

The packages were provided by another vendor so I wasn’t keen on trying to modify things within the packages themselves. I was able to run the packages under my admin account but the end users kept running into the error which lead me to believe that the user needed some special permissions. The users were connecting to this virtual server via remote desktop. While it was a dedicated virtual machine specifically for this project, I really didn’t want to give users admin rights because…well I don’t think that needs to be explained so I hunted around and of course there are no settings for controlling access via permissions in management studio. It was time to take to the interwebs and use my Google-Fu and see what others have found on this error. I found others who had similar errors but none had the exact issue. Some similar errors:

The Solution

I remembered that SQL Management Studio had issues with accessing files in different locations (i.e. My Documents). With the new security settings in Windows, you may have noticed you need admin rights to add, run, or or modify folders/files in locations like c:\Program Files in Windows 7/2008. I wondered if DTSX used a special permission that allowed it to access files and checked the groups under the Server Manager. I found a group called SQLServerDTSUser$[MachineName]. I added the users who were executing the packages to this group and then checked the permissions on the folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\DTS which didn’t have the group listed. I added the group to the folder permissions, tested the package and voila – it worked.

Did you know…?

Windows 7 sports tons of new features and surprises that have gotten little to no fanfare.

Did Windows 7 Calculatoryou know that Microsoft has updated the Windows Calculator with Windows 7 with some really new and useful features? Previously, most of these features often required you to open Excel or use some website to solve the problems they address. The calculator sports new features including Unit Conversion, Date Calculation, Mortgage, Vehicle Lease, Fuel Economy (in both MPG and KM no less!) You can find the different options under the View menu after opening the calculator up. See screenshots below for examples of what the calculator can do.


Standard Mode Calculator HistoryUnit CalculatorWindows 7 Date CalculatorLease CalculatorFuel CalculatorMortgage Calculator

Firefox Plumber Eliminates Memory Leaks

If you’re a power user like me, you’ll find Firefox will often balloon to about 1 gig of RAM usage after some time. Often times it’ll hit that point and then just crash.

I’m probably in the minority but my surfing habits tend to be open a mess of tabs and then come back and read later. I never go back to bookmarks (even though I do have a delicious account and actually tag stuff). At any time, I may 25-100 tabs open in my browser.

I’ve had to install add-ons like session manager just to ensure I don’t lose my tabs when working because Firefox’s built-in tools wouldn’t restore my tab session when it crashed.

I recently stumbled upon Firefox Plumber (http://www.rizone3.com/2011/firefox-plumber/). I’ve been testing it for a few days now and I have to say I’m completely blown away by how well the utility works.

firefox plumberCurrently I have 32 tabs open in Firefox. Under normal loads, the browser would utilize between 800MB-1GB of memory. With Firefox Plumber running, which is only utilizing about 708k in memory usage, Firefox is currently fluctuating between 4 and 7 MB of memory usage.

The only caveat is that Firefox Plumber does utilize about ~5% of the CPU to keep Firefox tamed.

After some sleuthing, I found it accomplishes this by offloading the memory to the swap file which could present it’s own issues. I’m going to stick with it for now since Firefox appears to be more stable and see how things work.

Stupid Admin Tales Part 1

Life as an system/network admin can be extremely fun and satisfying when you’re not bogged down with management and people breathing down your neck. Of course it has moments to cause you to sweat a giant puddle in the middle of the server room. We’ve all made mistakes and (hopefully) learn never to repeat them. Sometimes we’re doomed to repeat them no matter what precautions we take.

In one of my first jobs as a system admin, I used to be responsible for a small business server in a 5-10 user office. One of the downsides of working in a small business is often the budgets don’t coincide with the real needs and you’re often forced to make things work using bubble gum and sticks. Duct tape was a luxury for spoiled admins that was completely out of the budget I was given. The first machine purchased was a bare-bones Windows 2000 machine which served as a file and print server for the office. Not too bad, right? Unfortunately due to budget constraints, this machine ran Windows 2000 Professional, not the server edition that was recommended. It had to function on a workgroup as a server since Active Directory was not an option. Security was managed at a workgroup level meaning all changes had to be made on every PC individually as well as the server. Luckily with 5-10 users, it wasn’t unmanageable and changes could be made to most machines after hours.

As the business grew due to better use of the technology and skills of the IT team (read: Me), the budgets increased slightly and I was allowed to upgrade hardware to a better machine but the Server license was still out of the budget I was provided. The network still purred and all users were happy with the performance and uptime and how smooth things ran. As more data was used and saved, backup became a major priority. With the limited budget a tape backup drive was too expensive, and as this was pre-cloud era, a Maxtor One Touch backup and DVD backups were the only solutions available as options to consider. Dual backup systems were a must for redundancy and off-site backup capability. Everything was implemented and tested successfully with restores working with no issues from both the drive and DVDs.

Flash forward roughly two years and the server’s primary hard drive fails and the secondary seemed to have become corrupted. Luckily the server was under warranty and the hard drive was replaced at no cost. There were backups of everything so data loss wasn’t a concern. After replacing both drives, I loaded the Windows disk and began the install process. Setup detected the new drive and my standard operating procedure is to format the drive to get it NTFS ready. The C: drive was selected and setup began the format and I walked away to complete other tasks. I came back a short while later and found Windows was installing and smiled. It was about then I noticed the lights on the Maxtor drive blinking as if data were being read/written.

A frown replaced the smile as my brain tried to process why the light would be blinking if Windows is installing on the drive and hadn’t gotten to the driver installation portion yet. I processed different scenarios as quickly as possible trying to find valid reasons why the lights would be blinking. It was a horrifying realization that there’s no way to cancel the install without shutting down the machine forcibly which could damage a drive. I weighed my options carefully and decided that in the event that my fear was for naught, I’d simply be able to start the install process over again.

Off the machine went and the Maxtor drive stuttered. Sweat began to build on my forehead as I knew there was no denying it. Windows setup was inexplicably installing to the external drive even though I selected the C: drive. I began damage assessment to see how bad things were. I unplugged the drive and reinstalled Windows and loaded the drive back on. All the data was gone and a partial Windows install was all that remained.

“Wait! Maybe data can be recovered using one of the many tools in my arsenal!” I so foolishly thought to myself. Windows had somehow managed to install itself over only the sectors where all the data was and only a few files were recoverable. I then realized I had DVD backups and quickly rushed to retrieve them from my office. I plopped the most recent disk in and then tried to copy the data back. A message box that simply said “Cyclic Redundancy Check” suddenly greeted me. I grabbed the next disk and tried to restore from that to find the files wouldn’t copy or open. I grabbed the first disk that I tested and knew worked only to find even the files there wouldn’t copy or open. I was dumbfounded as I had tested the discs to ensure that the backups were valid.

So at this point, you might be asking yourself what could possibly have happened? It turns out for some completely inexplicable and idiotic reason, Windows setup chooses the external drive as the primary and sets it to C. The DVD backup issues I only figured out recently. The issue was caused by the NTFS ID being different for the new Windows install. The NTFS IDs were now different on the new server. As the data was on non-writeable media, there was no way to set permissions of the files which made them completely useless.

Lesson learned? Unplug all drives when doing any OS work and DVD backups aren’t worth the disks they’re saved on.

Years later, a friend called me up with issues with his PC and asked if I could help. I went over, diagnosed that the hard drive was failing and that it needed to be replaced was done with no issues. After reconnecting all the cables back to the PC, I checked and saw no backup drives anywhere. I double checked and asked if said friend had backups of the data to be restored and was assured he did and that the drive was safe. I began the install and Windows began to format the new drive. It was then I heard the familiar grind of an external drive when data was being written to it. Reflexively, I shutdown the PC and cut off the installation. I called to my friend and asked why I heard an external drive when none were around that I could see even after tracing all cables. One of his many skills was carpentry and it turned out that he felt the drive was an eyesore and mounted it away behind the desk completely out of sight. I didn’t find any cables to it when I traced them all because the drive was plugged into a printer with a USB hub built into it. Even worse of a coincidence, the new drive wasn’t recognized by Windows due to incorrect jumper settings. The single drive I saw in the list which assured me there was only one drive available turned out to be the external drive.

I spent about two weeks recovering the data on that drive. Luckily I only lost some unimportant videos.

Lesson learned? Unplug all USB cables until after Windows setup is complete.

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