23 March, 2011

Dredging Dying Disks

Crash Central deals with dying disks daily. Now there's a line that belonged in The King's Speech. It's also a truth universally acknowledged. Several times a day, someone will come in with a disk that's either so crusted with malware or so pockmarked with bad sectors that it can't boot. Naturally, the data's not backed up. So the race is on to get the data off the drive before it screeches its last.

I usually slip the hard disk out of the old machine and into a USB drive reader hooked up to my production machine. Then I get all the personal data off the machine. It's usually stored in three locations:

The three folders are stored (in Vista or Windows 7) under Users or (in XP and before) Documents and Settings, in the profile of whoever uses the machine. They are Favorites (for Web sites bookmarked in Internet Explorer), Desktop, and My Documents.

Copy these three folders and most of the time, you've got everything people want.

Unless, of course, they don't use Internet Explorer. This morning, I got a dying disk from a fellow who uses Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox and has a unique set of bookmarks for each. Gee...thanks Will! Anyone who knows these browsers well knows you can back up and export bookmarks and other settings...but that's not much help when you can't boot into Windows and launch the programs.

Here's where these browsers store their bookmarks and other settings:





In Windows 7, %APPDATA% is the folder \Users\\AppData\Local
In XP, %APPDATA% is the folder \Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Application Data

Mozilla bookmarks are stored in a file called places.sqlite. If you can't find it in the Profiles folder, do a diskwide search for it.

23 February, 2011

Skype fix is in!

Except that it isn't.

To revisit this issue again: The otherwise excellent Skype service really lets itself down in its public support forums. Starting around January 20th, their boards were abuzz with problems surrounding Skype 5.0's Facebook integration feature. A server setting they instituted around then caused some very irritating behavior for Skype users in some corporate networks.

After helping dozens of people at Crash Central to turn off the rain of cascading error messages, I mentioned it to an editor at PC World who asked me to write it up for the PC World BizFeed site.

I did, and within hours, Skype claimed to have fixed the problem.

Here's what Raul said on the Skype support site:

This error has been fixed by us.

You do not need to upgrade your Skype for it, we did the fix on our infrastructure side.

Thank you for raising it here.

...and here's what I say in response: How come nothing's changed, then?

Before getting ready to tell the 100-plus people I support that they can now turn Skype's Facebook integration back on if they like, I tried it out myself. The windows continue to cascade when content filters block Facebook. The CPU usage jumped to maximum. Everything slowed down. In short, things are no different from how they were a month ago.

I'd love to say what Skype wants me to say--that it's all cool, guys, just go ahead as usual--but I can't. That's because I'm the guy they come to when things don't work. And guess what? They still don't work.

Ball's back in your court, Skype. Show them you're as brilliant as I know you can be.

24 January, 2011

Skype Facebook Failure!

At Crash Central, we've been overwhelmed with complaints of never-ending Internet Explorer windows loading when people launch Skype 5 (which happens automatically on startup in a lot of cases). It's not a virus, we've discovered. It's a case of poor programming.

In a laudable attempt at making your social networks merge into a monolith, the latest iteration of Skype integrates nicely with Facebook. Except when it doesn't. Corporate filters that block social networking sites prevent Skype from getting to Facebook. Skype 5 hasn't been programmed to handle that, so it tries again. And again. And again.

Here's how to stop it:

1. Brace yourself for multiple browser windows.
2. Launch Skype
3. Use Alt-Tab to get through the spawning windows to Skype.
4. Click on the Facebook tab in the right pane of the Skype window.
5. Click on the link labeled Don't Show Facebook In Skype.

This will halt the flow. You'll probably want to restart your system to flush the detritus. But you'll be golden.