REVISED: How to fix the Vista KSOD (Black Screen Of Death)

Warning: This is a highly technical article.  If you are not an IT Expert, don’t try this at home :).

Thanks to Dennis J Krohn (DDK Communications) for working with Microsoft on this and emailling me and Susan Bradley who pointed me to http://sbsc.techcareteam.com/archives/325 and has been working with Microsoft to track this issue and find the culprit (application or service that makes this happen); we now have a quick fix for the KSOD we have been seeing in Windows Vista.

KSOD Defined: Where after a reboot the Windows Vista PC boots up to a black screen with a white mouse cursor and nothing else ever loads (no logon screen, etc).  Safe mode does the same thing.  Last Known Good configuration and System Restore do not fix it except in rare cases where performing a System Restore to 1 month ago or earlier does (thanks Mike Katz for figuring that out).

So about an hour after Dennis and Susan emailed me the resolution last night, my main workstation KSOD’d.  It has already done this once before and Microsoft did not have a resolution — so my resolution last time was to reinstall Windows to a new directory and manually reinstall and reconfigure all my applications and settings.  THIS time, very fortunately, I got to try these steps out and they worked like a charm.  My workstation was back up and running in less than 5 minutes.

Here is how to recover from the KSOD (blacK Screen Of Death):

There apparently this a problem related to the Remote Procedure Call service (RPC) running under LocalSystem account instead of NT Authority\NetworkService account.

1. On the affected machine, boot using the Vista Media and Select “Next” and then in the bottom left you will see “Repair your Computer”; select Next and then Select Command Prompt.

2. At the command prompt, launch regedit.exe and load the SYSTEM hive, follow the below steps.

a. Select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE

b. On the File menu, select Load Hive.

c. Browse to %WINDIR%\System32\Config Folder and select “SYSTEM”

d. Select Open.

e. In the Load Hive dialog box, type in “MySYSTEM” box for the registry hive that you want to edit.

3. After the hive is loaded, modify the following key value per the instructions below: You will need to know what ControlSet the machine is currently running on, this can be determined by going to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\MySYSTEM\Select and find the “Current” value in the Right hand side. (Example: Current value is 1 then the ControlSet will be ControlSet001)

Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\MySYSTEM\ControlSet00X\Services\RpcSs (X is the Number from the Current Key from above)

Value Name: ObjectName

Old Value: LocalSystem

New Value: NT AUTHORITY\NetworkService

4. Unload the SYSTEM hive by selecting the key “MySYSTEM” and then select File -> Unload Hive… menu item.

5. Exit regedit.exe

6. Reboot the system normally

-Ira

Employee Monitoring’s Murky Waters

Logic Co-CEO John Matzek quoted in this recent Processor Magazine article:

The Legality & Ethics Of Surveillance Are Far From Cut & Dried
The commonly held assumption that employers have unfettered access to electronic communications in the workplace has been called into question. In a federal court in California, a judge issued a verdict in June that said it was illegal for an employer to read employees’ personal pager messages.

Case Law

The case revolved around a member of the police department in Ontario, Calif., using a work-issued pager. After the police officer’s supervisor told his staff that their text messages would not be monitored, the messages were audited. The officer claimed that it was illegal for members of the police bureau’s internal affairs department to read the police officers’ text messages from a pager that a third-party vendor supplied. While some of the messages were not work-related and were even sexually explicit, the appeals court ruled that the police officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy and that the audit of the messages was unlawful.

“Employers, I think, were very complacent in assuming that they could do whatever they wanted as far as workplace monitoring goes,” says Jeremy Gruber, legal director for The National Workrights Institute (www.workrights.org). “This case demonstrates that the law is still developing on workplace monitoring. Employers who have programs that are overly broad and invasive could at some point find themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

Gruber continues, “Specifically, this case makes it clear that employers using third-party vendors to administer their monitoring program do not have the same protections that employers who use their own equipment for monitoring do. Also, employers who use third-party vendors can find themselves liable for invasion of privacy if they don’t have proper disclosure and proper notice depending on how they use the systems.”

Indeed, the ruling has challenged the status quo, says Adam Schran, chief executive and founder of Ascentive (www.ascentive.com), which designs and markets employee monitoring software. “It did come as a total surprise,” Schran says. “The legal situation is in flux, so you have to be in contact with your lawyers or the general counsel of the company to make sure you are doing it in the right way.”

Employee monitoring has entered the realm of legally murky territory. This means qualified legal counsel to guide SMEs about what they can and cannot do has become more important than it was in the past.

The perceived need to monitor employees’ communications has skyrocketed. Since employers first began to fret over how staffers could waste time, the explosion of ways to goof off at work has compounded demand for surveillance tools to keep an eye on workers’ activities. According to Ascentive, employee monitoring, blocking, and filtering product sales have become a $300 million-a-year market since they were first introduced for mainstream applications more than a decade ago.

Ethical Dilemma

Surveillance of employees’ electronic communications also involves ethical issues admins need to address, even if the monitoring is perfectly legal. Many admins may be uncomfortable with employee monitoring, especially when a company implements a heavy-handed policy and asks admins to use technology to closely monitor what employees write in their email messages or which Web sites they visit.

“I would tell my boss that it’s unethical, in my opinion, to monitor employees if they have not signed an agreement that fully sets their expectations about the monitoring. If the boss wanted to do the monitoring, we could send out a form to all employees that they would all sign and return before any monitoring begins,” says John Matzek, co-chief executive officer of Logic IT Consulting (www.logicitc.com). “I would also expect the boss and the CEO to sign the form. Employee morale is critical to the success of a business, and covert monitoring could have a huge impact on morale.”

The general public is also becoming more aware of how admins are often privy to the contents of employees’ email and other electronic communications. Cyber-Ark (www.cyber-ark.com), a provider of digital vault and privileged identity management technology, recently caused a stir when it revealed that 47% of 300 senior IT professionals surveyed said they had “accessed information that was not relevant to their role.”

“As an administrator, I will often need to fix or maintain the email system,” Matzek says. “I agree to keep client information confidential, but I will often need to log in as a user to troubleshoot their email issues or make sure things are working after maintenance.”

Policy Matters

General industry-standard guidelines for employee monitoring have not been established; it is up to individual enterprises to set their own policies, while the IT department must determine how it does monitoring.

“Employee monitoring is fairly common in policy but varied in practice,” says Michael Rasmussen, president of Corporate Integrity (www.corp-integrity.com). “Most organizations have policies in place to establish that employees should not have an expectation of privacy and that the corporation retains rights to monitor communications. However, the practice is quite varied.”

Still, there are certain policies all enterprises should follow, Rasmussen says. “Organizations that are going to pursue monitoring need to have a policy in place that states that there is no expectation of employee privacy and that the organization reserves the right to monitor communication,” he notes. “Monitoring also has to be done for a legitimate purpose and cannot be done in a way that discriminates against an individual.”

by Bruce Gain Processor.com

Microsoft Study Finds That Multitasking Wastes Time

There is a big misconception that multi-tasking is a more efficient way to work and accomplish tasks, yet many “multi-taskers” are wondering why they don’t have more time and balance in life. The truth is multi-tasking gives you the illusion of being more productive, but really slows down everything you do.

Recently the New York Times wrote an article on the matter and included the results of Microsoft’s study on Multi-tasking.

Excerpts from the New York Times Article:

In short, the answer appears to lie in managing the technology, instead of merely yielding to its incessant tug.

“Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” said David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”

Another great article and executive summary was posted on the organizing site 43folders:

From: http://www.43folders.com/2007/03/26/nyt-multitasking/

Slow Down, Multitaskers, and Don’t Read in Traffic – New York Times

'The Myth of Multitasking' by timothymorgan on Flickr

Yesterday’s New York Times front page ran an article pulling together the results of several recent studies looking at how interruptions and attempts to multitask can affect the quality of work as well as the length of recovery time.

Here’s one bit that really grabbed me:

“In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages. They strayed off to reply to other messages or browse news, sports or entertainment Web sites.”

“I was surprised by how easily people were distracted and how long it took them to get back to the task,” said Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft research scientist and co-author, with Shamsi Iqbal of the University of Illinois, of a paper on the study that will be presented next month.

And, from a PDF of another of the studies cited (“Isolation of a Central Bottleneck of Information Processing with Time-Resolved fMRI”), here’s a telling snippet from the article’s abstract (yes, most of the rest of it is well over my head):

“When humans attempt to perform two tasks at once, execution of the first task usually leads to postponement of the second one. This task delay is thought to result from a bottleneck occurring at a central, amodal stage of information processing that precludes two response selection or decision-making operations from being concurrently executed…These results suggest that a neural network of frontal lobe areas acts as a central bottleneck of information processing that severely limits our ability to multitask.”

My own feelings on the myth of multi-tasking are well-documented, but it’s fascinating to see research interest focused in this area — although it’s certainly not surprising, given its potential impact on knowledge workers and the industries that employ them. Again, from yesterday’s NYT article:


“The productivity lost by overtaxed multitaskers cannot be measured precisely, but it is probably a lot. Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex, a business-research firm, estimates the cost of interruptions to the American economy at nearly $650 billion a year…”

“The information age is really only a decade or two old in the sense of most people working and communicating on digital devices all day, Mr. Spira said. In the industrial era, it took roughly a century until Frederick Winslow Taylor in 1911 published his principles of “scientific management” for increasing worker productivity.”

“We don’t have any equivalent yet for the knowledge economy,” Mr. Spira said.

So go ahead and turn off the email notification on your blackberry.
Use technology on your own terms.
Establish hours/days of availability and communicate them to your colleagues. Being on-call 24/7 will burn you out.
And establish priority levels based on type of communication. For example:
  • Email is for low priority communications
  • SMS is for medium priority communications
  • Phone-call to cell phone is for high-priority communications
Enjoy work/life balance.
-Ira

Q and A

Looking for a local Tucson company you can trust to help you set up, manage, and answer questions for all of your company’s technology? Then call the Microsoft Certified experts at Logic IT Consulting at 1-520-545-0568

Frequently Asked Questions:
————————–

Q: Can you get my Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Notes to follow me and sync up on my Laptop, PC, and Cell Phone?

A: Yes, we can make it happen. You will always be in sync. You will even be able to access your Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Notes securely from nearly any computer in the world as long as it is connected to the Internet.

Q: Can I get my Laptop on the Internet anywhere I go? Even in the car? – as a passenger, of course :-)

A: Yes, Logic IT Consulting makes this a reality. No more looking for Coffee shops or WiFi hotspots.

Q: Can you protect my Quickbooks data, Emails, Word Documents, Spreadsheets, and critical business files? I want them to be safe and secure — even if my office burns down or floods. How about the ability to recover a file if an employee accidentally deletes or modifies it?

A: Absolutely! Logic IT Consulting keeps your data secure and protected, giving you peace of mind. Our exclusive “Logic DataSafe” technology backs up your data every 15 minutes so we can resurrect your files from today, yesterday, a month ago, even a year ago. If you modify or delete a file and decide that you to go back to a previous version, just tell us the point-in-time when it was good and we will roll it back to exactly how it was.
We even make secure backups of the backup to Eastern and Western US data centers. This allows us to get your business back up and running asap if there is a fire, flood or other disaster at your office.

Q: What happens if my Server breaks? Will my business be down?

A: Not if we have anything to do with it! As an innovative and proactive service provider, we include our cutting-edge “Server Guardian” technology with our DataSafe service. With Server Guardian, your server could break, blow up, or even be thrown out the window and your business can operate and access the server as if nothing happened. To find out how, call us at 1-520-545-0568.

Logic IT Consulting “Writing the book” on Server 2008

Literally.

UPDATE:
The book is now available at Amazon.com:
Click here to go directly to it: Server 2008 MCTS-MCITP 70-642 Book

Co-CEO Ira Herman is a co-author on the upcoming book from Syngress Publishing (a division of Elsevier) on Microsoft Windows Server 2008.  This study guide covers objectives for Microsoft’s new Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP) exam 70-642 – “Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring.”

The book (titled “The Real MCTS/MCITP Exam 70-642 Prep Kit” – ISBN: 978-1-59749-246-1) is due out in April 2008.

MCITP LogoFor more information check out:
Microsoft’s exam information

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Logic IT Consulting Rides In El Tour 2007

John Matzek, Co-CEO of Logic IT Consulting, rode with the SynCardia team in this year’s El Tour de Tucson…

Thanks again to SynCardia for putting the Logic IT Consulting logo on this year’s Jerseys.

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