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RABiD BUNNY FEVER
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Babyface Pro Volume Modification via Mousewheel

Part of my workstation’s audio setup uses the RME Babyface Pro. Until the most recent update of their software, the built-in Window’s sound’s master volume for the device was ignored. So while this script isn’t as important as before, I still find it very useful. So the following is an AutoHotkey script which modifies the master volume in the TotalMix FX window via the mousewheel (when alt+ctrl is held down). This expects the TotalMix FX window to be sized as small as it can, and to have a channel selected for the control room’s Main Out. It should look like this:

TotalMix FX Sized For Volume Modification

The script is as follows:
;Function to create lparam/wparam for SendMessage
CalculatePARAM(w1, w2)
{
	IfLess, w1, 0
		w1 := 65535 + w1 + 1
	IfLess, w2, 0
		w2 := 65535 + w2 + 1

	return (w2<<16 | w1)
}

;Send a mouse wheel action to a window
SendMouseWheel(WindowHWND, Steps, XPos, YPos)
{
	;Constants
	WM_MOUSEWHEEL := 0x20A
	WheelStepAmount := 120

	;Calculate and execute the message
	WinGetPos, ScreenX, ScreenY,,, ahk_id %WindowHWND%
	wparam := CalculatePARAM(0, Steps*WheelStepAmount)
	lparam := CalculatePARAM(XPos+ScreenX, YPos+ScreenY)
	SendMessage, %WM_MOUSEWHEEL%, %wparam%, %lparam%,, ahk_id %WindowHWND%
}

^!WheelUp::
ControlGet, ControlHWND, Hwnd,,AfxFrameOrView100s1,RME TotalMix
if ControlHWND
	SendMouseWheel(ControlHWND, 1, 36, 428)
return

^!WheelDown::
ControlGet, ControlHWND, Hwnd,,AfxFrameOrView100s1,RME TotalMix
if ControlHWND
	SendMouseWheel(ControlHWND, -1, 36, 428)
return
Auto Locking Windows on Login

On my primary computer (whose harddrive is encrypted) I always have Windows auto logging in to help with the bootup time. However, my bootup time can be rather slow; and if I needed to have my computer booted but locked, I had to wait for the login to complete so I could lock the computer. This has been becoming a nuisance lately when I need to get out of my house quickly in the morning.

For the solution I created a windows boot entry that auto locks the computer after logging the user in. This also requires a batch file, to run for the user on startup, to detect when this boot entry was selected. Here are the steps to create this setup:


  1. Create the new boot entry: In the windows command line, run: bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Lock on Startup"
    This creates a new boot option, duplicated from your currently selected boot option, in the boot menu labeled “Lock on Startup”.
  2. (Optional) Change the bootup timeout: In the windows command line, run: bcdedit /timeout 5
    Where 5 is a 5 second timeout.
  3. Create a batch file to run on login: In your start menu’s startup folder, add a batch file. You can name it anything as long as the extension is “.bat”.
    Add the following to the file: bcdedit /enum {current} | findstr /r /c:"description *Lock on Startup" && rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation
    Note that there are 2 spaces in the description search string to replicate the regular expression's 1 or more quantifier “+”, since findstr only supports the 0 or more quantifier “*”.
Opening IntelliJ via the Symfony ide setting
Nasty Escaping Problems

I wanted a simple setup in Symfony where the programmer could define their ide in the parameters file. Sounds simple, right? Just add something like ide_url: 'phpstorm' to parameters.yml->parameters and ide: '%ide_url%' to config.yml->framework. And it worked great, however, my problem was much more convoluted.

I am actually running the Symfony server on another machine and am accessing the files via NFS on Windows. So, it would try to open PHPStorm with the incorrect path. Symfony suggests the solution to this is writing your own custom URL handler with %f and %l to fill in the filename and line, and use some weird formatting to do string replaces. So I wrote in 'idea://%%f:%%l&/PROJECT_PATH_ON_SERVER/>DRIVE_LETTER:/PATH_ON_WINDOWS/' (note the double parenthesis for escaping) directly in the config.yml and that worked, kind of. The URL was perfect, but IntelliJ does not seem to register the idea:// protocol handler like PHPStorm theoretically does (according to some online threads) with phpstorm://. So I had to write my own solution.

This answer on stackoverflow has the answer on how to register a protocol handler in Windows. But the problem now was that the first parameter passed to IntelliJ started with the idea:// which broke the command-line file-open. So I ended up writing a script to fix this, which is at the bottom.

OK, so we’re almost there; I just had to paste the string I came up with back into the parameters.yml, right? I wish. While this was now working properly in a Symfony error page, a new problem arose. The Symfony bin/console debug:config framework command was failing with You have requested a non-existent parameter "f:". The darn thing was reading the unescaped string as 'idea://%f:%l&...' and it thought %f:% was supposed to be a variable. Sigh.

So the final part was to double escape the strings with 4 percent signs. 'idea://%%%%f:%%%%l&...'. Except now the URL on the error pages gave me idea://%THE_PATH:%THE_LINE_NUMBER. It was adding an extra parenthesis before both values. This was simple to resolve in the script I wrote, so I was finally able to open scripts directly from the error page. Yay.



So here is the final set of data that has to be added to make this work:
Registry: HKCR/idea/(default) = URL:idea Protocol HKCR/idea/URL Protocol = "" HKCR/idea/shell/open/command = "PATH_TO_PHP" -f "PATH_TO_SCRIPT" "%1" "%2" "%3" "%4" "%5" "%6" "%7" "%8" "%9" parameters.yml: parameters: ide_url: 'idea://%%%%f:%%%%l&/PROJECT_PATH_ON_SERVER/>DRIVE_LETTER:/PATH_ON_WINDOWS/' config.yml: framework: ide: '%ide_url%' PHP_SCRIPT_FILE:
<?php
function DoOutput($S)
{
	//You might want to do something like output the error to a file or do an alert here
	print $S;
}

if(!isset($argv[1]))
	return DoOutput('File not given');
if(!preg_match('~^idea://(?:%25|%)?([a-z]:[/\\\\][^:]+):%?(\d+)/?$~i', $argv[1], $MatchData))
	return DoOutput('Invalid format: '.$argv[1]);

$FilePath=$MatchData[1];
if(!file_exists($FilePath))
	return DoOutput('Cannot find file: '.$FilePath);

$String='"C:\Program Files\JetBrains\IntelliJ IDEA 2018.1.6\bin\idea64.exe" --line '.$MatchData[2].' '.escapeshellarg($FilePath);
DoOutput($String);
shell_exec($String);
?>
Booting Windows from a GPT drive with EFI

It took me days to get a Windows 7 install back up when I lost a drive with the MBR record that booted to my GPT drive. The windows booting and install processes are just REALLY finicky and temperamental. One of my largest problems was that I couldn’t find certain required files online, so the only way to acquire them was to unhook all but 1 GPT partitioned drive from the computer and install Windows to it.

Here are the files needed to boot Windows 7 x64 from a GPT drive, assuming your mother board supports EFI. The first step is creating a system partition anywhere on the drive (you may have to shrink another partition) and extract these files to that partition. This blog post has good instructions on the entire process, however, instead of using bcdboot, I recommend using “bootrec /ScanOS” followed by “bootrec /RebuildBCD”. You MAY also need a “bootrec /FixMBR”.

These files were obtained from a Windows 7 x64 Ultimate install, so it should work if your install type matches. I expect it will work for any Windows version of an x64 install.


Here is a list of the files:
EFI
├── Boot
│   └── bootx64.efi
└── Microsoft
    └── Boot
        ├── bootmgfw.efi
        ├── bootmgr.efi
        ├── BOOTSTAT.DAT
        ├── cs-CZ
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── da-DK
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── de-DE
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── el-GR
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── en-US
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   ├── bootmgr.efi.mui
        │   └── memtest.efi.mui
        ├── es-ES
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── fi-FI
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── Fonts
        │   ├── chs_boot.ttf
        │   ├── cht_boot.ttf
        │   ├── jpn_boot.ttf
        │   ├── kor_boot.ttf
        │   └── wgl4_boot.ttf
        ├── fr-FR
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── hu-HU
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── it-IT
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── ja-JP
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── ko-KR
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── memtest.efi
        ├── nb-NO
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── nl-NL
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── pl-PL
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── pt-BR
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── pt-PT
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── ru-RU
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── sv-SE
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── tr-TR
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── zh-CN
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        ├── zh-HK
        │   ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
        │   └── bootmgr.efi.mui
        └── zh-TW
            ├── bootmgfw.efi.mui
            └── bootmgr.efi.mui

27 directories, 57 files

“EFI\Microsoft\Boot\BCD” is not included because it is computer dependent and is created with the bootrec command.
“EFI\Microsoft\Boot\BCD.LOG*” are not included for obvious reasons.
Compiling XDebug for PHP from source in Windows

I decided to try out the PHP IDE PHPStorm by jet brains (you know, the people that made android studio) again recently but ran into a few problems. I tried it a while back and I abandoned it because I was using the browser connect method instead of xdebug and it was a major PITA. This time around, I tried xdebug and everything works much smoother and easier. However, there is a major bug with it in which single line statements inside control statements could not be stopped on in the debugger (breakpoint or stepping). This has been a problem since 2012 and was marked until very recently as unfixable. I am honestly shocked this is not a thing more cited. Do people just not use that form of formatting anymore? I find it much cleaner. Example:

if(true)
  $a=1; //This line could never be reached
So all code like this had to be changed to the following for debugging.
if(true) {
  $a=1;
}

However, in a comment by one of the developers on 2016-12-11 (just 2 months ago) he said “This turned out to be a duplicate of 1165, for which I now have cooked up a fix, which will make it into 2.5.1.”. Unfortunately, there has not yet been a release of this version, so I was forced to a compile a copy myself on Windows. This turned out to also be a major PITA. I have documented the process here. Here is the version I compiled (7.1.2 threadsafe x86)

  • To compile a php extension, you also have to compile php itself. So first download both the source and zip files for your chosen version. I used the latest version, 7.1.2 VC14 x86 Thread Safe (2017-Feb-14 23:28:41) [7.1.2 source]. The source is needed for obvious reasons. The binary is needed so we can extract some dlls not included with the source. Extract the php source root directory files to “c:\php\src.
  • You also need to grab the xdebug source [github] via “git clone git://github.com/xdebug/xdebug.git”. I used commit #62ac284bf36f7521e78d2b21492ce2899f7cc4ff #379ab7ab68d28d0af8f637aa28c7e9fab921f27a, but it actually had a bug in it which I fixed in my fork. I sent a pull request so it should hopefully be integrated soon. Clone the git repo in “c:\php\src-extensions” (it will create the “xdebug” directory inside of it)
  • You will also need visual studio 14.0 (VS 2015) [direct download] installed.
  • Once visual studio is installed, you need to open “Developer Command Prompt for VS2015”. It can be found in your start menu under “Programs\Visual Studio 2015\Visual Studio Tools”.
  • Run the following commands to get php compiled:
    cd\php\src
    buildconf --add-modules-dir=..\src-extensions
    :: You may want some different flags for the below command
    configure "--enable-snapshot-build" "--enable-debug-pack" "--without-pdo-mssql" "--enable-com-dotnet=shared" "--with-mcrypt=static" "--without-analyzer"
    :: At this point we are going to actually build php to get the phpize.bat
    :: You may receive some warnings at the end that say something to the extent of
    :: “'-9' is not recognized as an internal or external command”. You can ignore these
    nmake snap
    :: This next command will “install” php to “c:\php”.
    nmake install
  • Next we get to compile xdebug. But it requirements bison, which can be downloaded here [Direct download]. Extract bin/bison.exe and bin/m4.exe to the VC/bin directory, most likely at “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\VC\bin”.

    For some reason, the first time I did this process I needed the following files also in VC/bin directory, all found at http://gnuwin32.sourceforge.net. However, during my second run to create this tutorial, I did not need them. iconv.exe, libcharset1.dll, libiconv2.dll, libintl3.dll, mspdb110.dll, regex2.dll. And the “share” folder from the bison zip file needed to be extracted to “C:\Program Files (x86)”.
  • Some file edits in the xdebug directory:
    • Add the following line to the top of configure.js: “PHP_SECURITY_FLAGS=true;
    • If you are using the commit I mentioned, Add the following to line 471 of xdebug_code_coverage.c “zend_op *base_address = &(opa->opcodes[0]);
    • Also edit line 9 of template.rc by changing it from “#include "main/php_version.h"” to “#include "../../src/main/php_version.h"
  • And now to actually compile xdebug
    cd ..\src-extensions\xdebug
    ..\..\SDK\phpize
    configure --with-xdebug
    nmake php_xdebug.dll
    copy Release_TS\php_xdebug.dll ..\..\ext
  • Your complete php install is now located in “c:\php”. But exclude the “src” and “src-extensions” folder. It still needs a few dlls that are found in the php zip file you downloaded earlier. Extract all the dlls from that root of that file to your root php folder, but do not overwrite anything that is already there. If you wanted to compile your own version of the apache dll, you can add one of “--enable-apache2handler, --enable-apache2-2handler, --enable-apache2-4handler” to the src/configure command.
  • For some really odd reason, my version of php would always give me the following error “Packets out of order. Expected 3 received 2. Packet size=22” when trying to connect to mysql (both pdo and mysqli go through mysqlnd). So I just ended up using the php files provided through the zip file, with my newly compiled xdebug dll.
  • Definitely have to mention that the following blog post was a big help to me in figuring this all out: http://blog.benoitblanchon.fr/build-php-extension-on-windows/
Windows Driver Service Loader

Following is some C++ source code for a Windows kernel-driver service loader. It could be used to load other service types too by changing the dwServiceType flag on the CreateService call. I threw this together for another project I am currently working on. It is also used in the following post (posting soon).

It works in the following way:
  • It is a command line utility which takes 3 arguments:
    1. The service name. Hereby referred to as SERVICE_NAME
    2. The service display name. Hereby referred to as DISPLAY_NAME
    3. The driver path (to the .sys file). Hereby referred to as DRIVER_PATH
  • This program (most likely) requires administrative access. There are also some caveats regarding driver code signing requirements that are thoroughly explored elsewhere.
  • It first checks to see if a service already exists with the given SERVICE_NAME. If it does:
    1. If the DISPLAY_NAME matches, the service is kept as is.
    2. If the DISPLAY_NAME does not match, the user is prompted on if they want to delete the current service. If they do not, the program exits.
  • If the service needs to be created (it did not already exist or was deleted), it creates the service with the given SERVICE_NAME, DISPLAY_NAME, and DRIVER_PATH. If the service is not created during this run, the DRIVER_PATH is ignored.
    Note: The DRIVER_PATH must be to a direct local file system file. I have found that network links and symbolic links do not work.
  • The service is started up:
    • If it is already running, the user is prompted on if they want to stop the currently running service. If they say no, the program exits.
  • The program then waits for a final user input on if they want to close the service before exiting the program.
  • If there was an error, the program reports the error, otherwise, it reports “Success”.
  • The program pauses at the end until the user presses any key to exit.
  • The program returns 0 on success, and 1 if an error occurred.

//Compiler flags
#define WIN32_LEAN_AND_MEAN  //Include minimum amount of windows stuff
#ifndef _UNICODE //Everything in this script is unicode
	#define _UNICODE
#endif

#include <windows.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <conio.h>
#include <memory>

//Smart pointers
typedef std::unique_ptr<WCHAR, void(*)(WCHAR*)> SmartWinAlloc;
typedef std::unique_ptr<SC_HANDLE, void(*)(SC_HANDLE*)> SmartCloseService;
void Delete_SmartWinAlloc(WCHAR *p) { if(p) LocalFree(p); }
void Delete_SmartCloseService(SC_HANDLE *h) { if(h && *h) CloseServiceHandle(*h); }

//Function declarations
WCHAR* InitDriver(int argc, WCHAR *argv[]);
WCHAR* FormatError(WCHAR* Format, ...);
SmartWinAlloc GetLastErrorStr();
BOOLEAN AskQuestion(WCHAR* Question); //Returns if user answered yes

int wmain(int argc, WCHAR *argv[])
{
	//Run the init routine
	WCHAR* Ret=InitDriver(argc, argv);

	//If there is an error, report it, or otherwise, report success
	wprintf(L"%s\n", Ret ? Ret : L"Success");
	wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Press any key to exit");
	_getch();

	//Return if successful
	return (Ret ? 1 : 0);
}

WCHAR* InitDriver(int argc, WCHAR *argv[])
{
	//Confirm arguments
	if(argc<4)
		return FormatError(L"%s", L"3 arguments are required: Service Name, Display Name, Driver Path");
	const WCHAR* Param_ServiceName=argv[1];
	const WCHAR* Param_DisplayName=argv[2];
	const WCHAR* Param_DriverPath =argv[3];

	//Open the service manager
	wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Opening the service manager");
	SC_HANDLE HSCManager=OpenSCManager(nullptr, nullptr, SC_MANAGER_CREATE_SERVICE);
	if(!HSCManager)
		return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Error opening service manager", GetLastErrorStr());
	SmartCloseService FreeHSCManager(&HSCManager, Delete_SmartCloseService);

	//Check if the service already exists
	wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Checking previously existing service state");
	BOOL ServiceExists=false;
	{
		//Get the service name
		const DWORD NameBufferSize=255;
		WCHAR NameBuffer[NameBufferSize];
		WCHAR *NamePointer=NameBuffer;
		DWORD NamePointerSize=NameBufferSize;
		std::unique_ptr<WCHAR> Buf(nullptr); //May be swapped with a real pointer later
		for(INT_PTR i=0;i<2;i++)
		{
			//If we found the service, exit the lookup here
			if(GetServiceDisplayName(HSCManager, Param_ServiceName, NamePointer, &NamePointerSize))
			{
				ServiceExists=true;
				break;
			}

			//If the service does not exist, we can exit the lookup here
			if(GetLastError()==ERROR_SERVICE_DOES_NOT_EXIST)
				break;

			//If error is not insufficient buffer size, return the error
			if(GetLastError()!=ERROR_INSUFFICIENT_BUFFER)
				return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not query service information", GetLastErrorStr());

			//If second pass, error out
			if(i==1)
				return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not query service information", L"Second buffer pass failed");

			//Create a buffer of appropriate size (and make sure it will later be released)
			NamePointer=new WCHAR[++NamePointerSize];
			std::unique_ptr<WCHAR> Buf2(NamePointer);
			Buf.swap(Buf2);
		}

		//If the service already exists, confirm the service name matches, and if not, ask if user wants to delete the current service
		if(ServiceExists)
		{
			wprintf(L"%s\n", L"The service already exists");
			if(wcsncmp(NamePointer, Param_DisplayName, NamePointerSize+1))
			{
				//If the server names do not match, ask the user what to do
				wprintf(L"%s:\nCurrent: %s\nRequested: %s\n", L"The service names do not match", NamePointer, Param_DisplayName);

				//Make the request
				if(!AskQuestion(L"Would you like to replace the service? (y/n)")) //If user does not wish to replace the service
					return FormatError(L"%s", L"Cannot continue if service names do not match");

				//Delete the service
				wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Deleting the old service");
				ServiceExists=false;
				SC_HANDLE TheService=OpenService(HSCManager, Param_ServiceName, DELETE);
				if(!TheService)
					return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not open the service to delete it", GetLastErrorStr());
				SmartCloseService CloseTheService(&TheService, Delete_SmartCloseService); //Close the service handle
				if(!DeleteService(TheService))
					return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not delete the service", GetLastErrorStr());
				wprintf(L"%s\n", L"The service has been deleted");
			}
		}
	}

	//Create the service
	SC_HANDLE TheService;
	if(!ServiceExists)
	{
		//Confirm the driver path exists
		wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Checking the driver file");
		DWORD FileAttrs=GetFileAttributes(Param_DriverPath);
		if(FileAttrs==INVALID_FILE_ATTRIBUTES)
			return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Given path is invalid", GetLastErrorStr());
		if(FileAttrs&FILE_ATTRIBUTE_DIRECTORY)
			return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Given path is invalid", L"Path is a folder");

		//Create the service
		wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Creating the service");
		TheService=CreateService(
			HSCManager, Param_ServiceName, Param_DisplayName, 
			SERVICE_START|SERVICE_STOP, 
			SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER, SERVICE_DEMAND_START, SERVICE_ERROR_IGNORE,
			Param_DriverPath, nullptr, nullptr, nullptr, nullptr, nullptr);
		if(!TheService)
			return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not create the service", GetLastErrorStr());

	//Open the service if not creating
	} else {
		TheService=OpenService(HSCManager, Param_ServiceName, SERVICE_START|SERVICE_STOP);
		if(!TheService)
			return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not open the service", GetLastErrorStr());
	}
	SmartCloseService CloseTheService(&TheService, Delete_SmartCloseService); //Close the service on exit

	//Start the service
	wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Starting the service");
	for(INT_PTR i=0;i<2;i++)
	{
		if(StartService(TheService, 0, nullptr))
			break;

		//If not "service already running" error, or user does not want to stop the current service
		if(i==1 || GetLastError()!=ERROR_SERVICE_ALREADY_RUNNING || !AskQuestion(L"The service is already running. Would you like to stop it? (y/n)"))
			return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not start the service", GetLastErrorStr());

		//Stop the service
		SERVICE_STATUS ss;
		wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Stopping the current service");
		if(!ControlService(TheService, SERVICE_CONTROL_STOP, &ss))
			return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not stop the current service", GetLastErrorStr());
	}
	wprintf(L"%s\n", L"Started the service");

	//Ask if the user wants to close the service
	if(!AskQuestion(L"Would you like to stop the service before exit? (y/n)"))
		return nullptr;

	//Stop the service
	SERVICE_STATUS ss;
	if(!ControlService(TheService, SERVICE_CONTROL_STOP, &ss))
		return FormatError(L"%s: %s", L"Could not stop the service", GetLastErrorStr());
	if(ss.dwCurrentState!=SERVICE_STOP_PENDING && ss.dwCurrentState!=SERVICE_STOPPED)
		return FormatError(L"%s", L"The service does not appear to be closing");
	wprintf(L"%s\n", L"The service has been stopped");

	//Return success
	return nullptr;
}

WCHAR* FormatError(WCHAR* Format, ...)
{
	static WCHAR Err[255];
	va_list VAList;
	va_start(VAList, Format);
	vswprintf(Err, sizeof(Err)/sizeof(Err[0]), Format, VAList);
	return Err;
}

SmartWinAlloc GetLastErrorStr()
{
	LPWSTR MessageBuffer=nullptr;
	FormatMessage(
		FORMAT_MESSAGE_ALLOCATE_BUFFER|FORMAT_MESSAGE_FROM_SYSTEM|FORMAT_MESSAGE_IGNORE_INSERTS|FORMAT_MESSAGE_MAX_WIDTH_MASK,
		nullptr, GetLastError(), MAKELANGID(LANG_NEUTRAL, SUBLANG_DEFAULT), (LPWSTR)&MessageBuffer, 0, nullptr);
	return SmartWinAlloc(MessageBuffer, Delete_SmartWinAlloc);
}

BOOLEAN AskQuestion(WCHAR* Question)
{
	//Make the request and wait for an input character
	while(1)
	{
		//Ask the question and get the answer
		wprintf(L"%s:", Question);
		fflush(stdout);
		char InputChar=_getch();
		printf("\n");

		//Check for a valid answer
		if(InputChar=='n' || InputChar=='N')
			return FALSE;
		if(InputChar=='y' || InputChar=='Y')
			return TRUE;
	}
}
Weird filename encoding issues on windows

So somehow all of the file names in my Rammstein music directory, and some in my Daft Punk, had characters with diacritics replaced with an invalid character. I pasted one of such filenames into a hex editor to evaluate what the problem was. First, I should note that Windows encodes its filenames (and pretty much everything) in UTF16. Everything else in the world (mostly) has settled on UTF8, which is a much better encoding for many reasons. So during some file copy/conversion at some point in the directories’ lifetime, the file names had done a freakish (utf16*)(utf16->utf8) rename, or something to that extent. I had noticed that all I needed to do was to replace the first 2 bytes of the diacritic character with a different byte. Namely “EF 8x” to “Cx”, and the rest of the bytes for the character were fine. So if anyone ever needs it, here is the bash script.

LANG=;
IFS=$'\n'
for i in `find -type f | grep -P '\xEF[\x80-\x8F]'`; do
	FROM="$i";
	TO=$(echo "$i" | perl -pi -e 's/\xEF([\x80-\x8F])/pack("C", ord($1)+(0xC0-0x80))/e');
	echo Renaming "'$FROM'" to "'$TO'"
	mv "$FROM" "$TO"
done

I may need to expand the range beyond the x80-x8F range, but am unsure at this point. I only confirmed the range x82-x83.

Progress on Windows Logon Background Hacking
AND THEN I HOOKED THE MIGHTY OPCODE, AND SMOTE IT TO RUIN WITH INTERRUPTS AND NOTS!
Since my last post, I’ve made some progress in my spare time on working out how the windows logon screen displays the background. I’ve gotten to try out a lot of new tools, since I haven’t done anything like this in over 10 years, and quite frankly, I’m mostly disappointed. All the tools I already had seem to do the job better than anything new I could find (though, granted, I need to learn WinDBG more). So at this point I can debug the dll, while it’s running live in Windows, via the following process:
  1. Run the Windows Terminal Services hack (WinXP version explanation) so you can have multiple desktops running at once on the virtual machine, which makes things a little easier, but is not necessary.
  2. Make a backup of C:\Windows\System32\LogonUI.exe and made it editable (see previous post for risks and further info).
  3. Add an INT3 interrupt breakpoint near the beginning of LogonUI.exe. I just changed the first conditional jump in the dll startup code that is supposed to fail to an INT3, padded with NOPs.
  4. Set OllyDbg as the JIT debugger, so whenever LoginUI.exe is run and hits the interrupt, it automatically spawns OllyDbg and is attached.
  5. Tell windows to lock itself (Start>Shut Down>Lock [if available] or Win+L).
  6. As soon as OllyDbg is spawned with LoginUI.exe attached, also attach winlogon.exe in another debugger and keep it paused so it doesn’t keep trying to respawn LoginUI.exe when your attached copy doesn’t respond.

It would be nice if I could find an [easy] way to make a spawned process automatically go into my debugger without the need to add an interrupt, especially to a remote debugger, but oh well.

So my plan of action after this is to:
  1. Get the handle or memory location of where the image is stored by monitoring the GDI calls made after the text reference to C:\Windows\System32\oobe\info\backgrounds\backgroundDefault.jpg .
  2. Put a hardware breakpoint on that memory location/handle and find where it is used to draw to the screen background.
  3. At that point, the GDI call could be manipulated to not shrink the image to the primary monitor (easy), or multiple GDI calls could be made to each monitor for all the images (much harder).
The image might actually be shrunk before it is stored in memory too, though from what I’ve gleamed from the disassembly so far, I do not believe this to be the case.

More to come if and when I make progress.
Overcoming the 250KB Windows Login Background Cap

I had the need this year to upgrade to a 6+1 monitor setup for some of the work I’ve been doing.

Home Office 1

Home Office 2

It took me a bit to get everything how I wanted, using Display Fusion for multi monitor control, and a customized version of Window Manager for organizing window positioning. I am very happy with the final result.

However, there was one minor annoyance I decided to tackle as a fun get-back-into-reverse-engineering project (it’s been years since I’ve done any real fun programming, which saddens me greatly). When in the lock/logon screen for Windows 7, only one monitor can show a background, and that background must be limited to a filesize of 250KB, which can greatly reduce the quality of the image.

The C:\Windows\System32\authui.dll controls the lock screen behavior, so it is to this file I looked to for the solutions. Before I go on, there are 2 very important notes I should make:

  1. It can be very dangerous to modify system DLLs. This could crash your operating system, or even make it not able to load! Always backup the files you are modifying first, and make sure you are comfortable with restoring them somehow (most likely using a separate operating system like a Linux Boot CD).
  2. You need to make sure you are actually editing the right file when you open it up. While the file you want will always be in c:\Windows\System32, on 64-bit windows machines there is also a directory at c:\Windows\SysWOW64 that contains a 32-bit version of the file. (Brilliant naming scheme Microsoft! 32 bit files in the “64” directory and vice versa). Depending on the software you are using, sometimes when you try to access the authui.dll in the System32 directory (~1.84MB), it actually modifies the file in SysWOW64 (~1.71MB) using obfuscated Windows magic.

After a little bit of playing, so far I’ve solved the 250KB size limitation, and I plan on continuing to tinker with it a bit more until the other is solved too. To start, you will need to give yourself file system access to modify the c:\Windows\System32\authui.dll file. To do so, go into the file’s property page, change the owner to yourself, and then give appropriate user permissions so you can modify it as you see fit.

Open the authui.dll in your favorite hex editor and replace:
41 B9 00 E8 03 00
with
41 B9 FF FF FF 00
this essentially changes the size cap to ~16MB. However, I haven’t tested anything larger than 280KB yet. There is possibly a size limitation somewhere that may be dangerous to breech, but from what I gleam from the code; I do not think this is the case.

What this change actually does is update the 256,000 value to (2^24)-1 in the following code:
jmp __imp_GetFileSize
41 B9 00 E8 03 00mov r9d, 3E800h
41 3B C1cmp eax, r9d
jnb short loc_xxx

It’s been a bit tedious working on the assembly code of the authui.dll, as my favorite disassembler/debugger (ollydbg) does not work with 64-bit files, and I am not very comfortable with other dissasemblers I have tried. :-\ Alas. Hopefully more coming soon on this topic.

Windows “ln” (symbolic linking) support for Cygwin
Cygwin requires lots of tweaks to really be usable
The “ln -s” command in Cygwin creates a fake symbolic link only supported in Cygwin. I whipped up the following script to create a true windows symbolic link that is supported in both Windows and Cygwin (it shows up as a symlink in Cygwin).
TARGET=`echo $1 | perl -pe 's/\\//\\\\/g'`; #Determine the target from the first parameter (where we are linking to). Change forward slashes to back slashes
LINK=`echo $2 | perl -pe 's/\\//\\\\/g'` #Determine the link name from the second parameter (where the symlink is made). Change forward slashes to back slashes
cmd /c mklink $3 $4 $5 $6 "$LINK" "$TARGET" #Perform the windows mklink command with optional extra parameters
Note that for the link name, you have to include the full filename, not just specify a directory.
See here for information on mklink and its switches. Specifically:
  • /d : directory symlink (more hard)
  • /j : directory junction (more soft)
This handles the problem a little more directly than my other post on the topic ("Symlinks in a Windows programming environment").

[Edit on 2016-01-12 @ 12:34am]
And once again, I have a new version of the code. This version has the following advantages:
  • No longer limited to just 4 extra parameters (dynamic instead of static)
  • Can now just specify your directory as the link location, and the filename will be automatically filled in
  • Handles spaces better
Do note, if you want to link directly to a hard drive letter, you must use "c:/" instead of "/cygdrive/c/"

#Get the target and link
TARGET="$1"
shift
LINK="$1"
shift

#If the link is already a directory, append the filename to the end of it
if [ -d "$LINK" ]; then
    #Get the file/directory name without the rest of the path
    ELEMENT_NAME=`echo "$TARGET" | perl -pe 's/^.*?\/([^\/]+)\/?$/$1/'`

    #Append the file name to the target, making sure there is only 1 separating "/"
    LINK=`echo "$LINK" | perl -pe 's/^(.*?)\/?$/$1/'`
    LINK="$LINK"/"$ELEMENT_NAME"
fi

#Replace forward slashes with back slashes
TARGET=`echo $TARGET | perl -pe 's/\\//\\\\/g'`
LINK=`echo $LINK | perl -pe 's/\\//\\\\/g'`

#Perform the windows mklink command with optional extra parameters
cmd /c mklink "$@" "$LINK" "$TARGET"
Symlinks in a Windows programming environment
Windows will get it right one day

I have been having some problems regarding symlinks (symbolic links) for a project that I’ve been working on recently which is requiring work in at least 5 very different operating systems (and about a dozen programming languages). Not many programs support symlinks properly that I have the need to because support for it wasn’t added for NTFS until Windows Vista, and it still has some problems.

It is really great that Windows Vista and Windows 7 now support native symlinks so they can be utilized by programs out of the box. For example, one such instance where I need this a lot is directory relinking in Apache. While Apache’s mod_alias can duplicate the functionality of symlinks for many needs, creating special cases for this one piece of software when distributing a code repository is just not practical, and having proper symlinks natively followed without the program knowing they aren’t the actual file/directory is really the best solution so everything works without special cases.

The way to create NTFS symlinks in Windows Vista+ is through the “mklink” command, which is unfortunately implemented directly in the Window’s command shell, and not a separate executable, so it is not accessible to Cygwin. Further, Cygwin has made a stance to only support reading NTFS symlinks, and not creating them, because they can only be created by administrators, and require specification as to whether the link’s target is a directory or file. Cygwin itself in Windows has had support for symlinks for a long time, but these are not compatible with any program run outside of the Cygwin environment.

Now, my real problem started occurring when trying to use these NTFS symlinks with GIT. While GIT natively supports symlinks, TortoiseGIT doesn’t really support them at all, and throws errors when they are encountered. This is still a big problem that I am going to have to think about :-\. Fortunately, when working with GIT in Cygwin they still work, with caveats. As previously mentioned, only reading the NTFS symlinks in Cygwin work, so when you fetch/pull from a repository and it creates Cygwin style symlinks, Windows still does not read them properly. The following is a script I wrote to change the Cygwin style symlinks into NTFS style symlinks. It can be run from the root folder of the GIT project.

#!/bin/bash
IFS=$'\n' #Spaces do not count as new delimiters

function makewinlink
{
	LINK=$1
	OPTIONS=$2
	TARGET=`find $LINK -maxdepth 0 -printf %l`
	LASTMODTIME=`find $LINK -maxdepth 0 -printf "%t"`
	LINKDIR=`find $LINK -maxdepth 0 -printf %h`
	TARGET=`echo $LINKDIR/$TARGET`
	rm -f $LINK
	cmd /c mklink $OPTIONS "$(cygpath -wa $LINK)" "$(cygpath -wa $TARGET)"
	touch -h -d $LASTMODTIME $LINK
}

#Relink all directories
FILES=`find -type l -print0 | xargs -0 -i find -L {} -type d -maxdepth 0`
for f in $FILES
do
	makewinlink $f /D
done

#Relink all files
FILES=`find -type l -print0 | xargs -0 -i find -L {} -type f -maxdepth 0`
for f in $FILES
do
	makewinlink $f
done

Make sure when committing symlinks in a GIT repository in Windows to use Cygwin with Cygwin style symlinks instead of TortoiseGIT. Also, as previously mentioned, after running this script, TortoiseGIT will show these symlinks as modified :-\. If this is a problem, you can always reverse the process in Cygwin by changing the “cmd /c mklink $OPTIONS” line to a “ln -s” in the above script (note that “target” and “symlink’s name” need to be switched) along with a few other changes.


[EDIT ON 2011-01-03 @ 6:30am] See here for a better example of symlinking in Windows that uses relative paths. [/EDIT]
UTF8 BOM
When a good idea is still considered too much by some

While UTF-8 has almost universally been accepted as the de-facto standard for Unicode character encoding in most non-Windows systems (mmmmmm Plan 9 ^_^), the BOM (Byte Order Marker) still has large adoption problems. While I have been allowing my text editors to add the UTF8 BOM to the beginning of all my text files for years, I have finally decided to rescind this practice for compatibility reasons.

While the UTF8 BOM is useful so that editors know for sure what the character encoding of a file is, and don’t have to guess, they are not really supported, for their reasons, in Unixland. Having to code solutions around this was becoming cumbersome. Programs like vi and pico/nano seem to ignore a file’s character encoding anyways and adopt the character encoding of the current terminal session.

The main culprit in which I was running into this problem a lot with is PHP. The funny thing about it too was that I had a solution for it working properly in Linux, but not Windows :-).

Web browsers do not expect to receive the BOM marker at the beginning of files, and if they encounter it, may have serious problems. For example, in a certain browser (*cough*IE*cough*) having a BOM on a file will cause the browser to not properly read the DOCTYPE, which can cause all sorts of nasty compatibility issues.

Something in my LAMP setup on my cPanel systems was removing the initial BOM at the beginning of outputted PHP contents, but through some preliminary research I could not find out why this was not occurring in Windows. However, both systems were receiving multiple BOMs at the beginning of the output due to PHP’s include/require functions not stripping the BOM from those included files. My solution to this was a simple overload of these include functions as follows (only required when called from any directly opened [non-included] PHP file):

<?
/*Safe include/require functions that make sure UTF8 BOM is not output
Use like: eval(safe_INCLUDETYPE($INCLUDE_FILE_NAME));
where INCLUDETYPE is one of the following: include, require, include_once, require_once
An eval statement is used to maintain current scope
*/

//The different include type functions
function safe_include($FileName)	{ return real_safe_include($FileName, 'include'); }
function safe_require($FileName)	{ return real_safe_include($FileName, 'require'); }
function safe_include_once($FileName)	{ return real_safe_include($FileName, 'include_once'); }
function safe_require_once($FileName)	{ return real_safe_include($FileName, 'require_once'); }

//Start the processing and return the eval statement
function real_safe_include($FileName, $IncludeType)
{
	ob_start();
	return "$IncludeType('".strtr($FileName, Array("\\"=>"\\\\", "'", "\\'"))."'); safe_output_handler();";
}

//Do the actual processing and return the include data
function safe_output_handler()
{
	$Output=ob_get_clean();
	while(substr($Output, 0, 3)=='?') //Remove all instances of UTF8 BOM at the beginning of the output
		$Output=substr($Output, 3);
	print $Output;
}
?>

I would have like to have used PHP’s output_handler ini setting to catch even the root file’s BOM and not require include function overloads, but, as php.net puts it “Only built-in functions can be used with this directive. For user defined functions, use ob_start().”.

As a bonus, the following bash command can be used to find all PHP files in the current directory tree with a UTF8 BOM:

grep -rlP "^\xef\xbb\xbf" . | grep -iP "\.php\$"

[Edit on 2015-11-27]
Better UTF8 BOM file find code (Cygwin compatible):
 find . -name '*.php' -print0 | xargs -0 -n1000 grep -l $'^\xef\xbb\xbf'
And to remove the BOMs (Cygwin compatible):
find . -name '*.php' -print0 | xargs -0 -n1000 grep -l $'^\xef\xbb\xbf' | xargs -i perl -i.bak -pe 'BEGIN{ @d=@ARGV } s/^\xef\xbb\xbf//; END{ unlink map "$_$^I", @d }' "{}"
Simpler remove BOMs (not Cygwin/Windows compatible):
find . -name '*.php' -print0 | xargs -0 -n1000 grep -l $'^\xef\xbb\xbf' | xargs -i perl -i -pe 's/^\xef\xbb\xbf//' "{}"
Microsoft deserves to die to its competition
How can incompetence of this magnitude be thriving so well? Stop supporting Microsoft!

So Microsoft sold us [company I am currently working for] a copy of Visual Studio 2010 Professional with lies about what it supported (Windows Mobile Legacy Versions [including CE]). When we complained, they spouted how VS2010 supports the newest version of Windows Mobile (Windows Phone 7), which doesn’t even exist yet (they promise a release in “Holiday of 2010”, I’ll believe it when I see it, as this is not the first missed expected deadline). Now they refuse to give us a refund on VS2010, or even let us buy VS2008 from them instead, as it’s “a legacy product”, even though we need it because it DOES support windows mobile legacy versions.


Microsoft has done this kind of thing to me, people I know, and pretty much everyone in the world too many times to count. They will never be receiving my business or money again. It feels great to see Google beating them hands down in every market Google decides to compete with them on.


Time to see if we can’t switch over to Linux or Android on these handheld systems as an alternative... (though unfortunately they seem to be locked in to running Windows CE *sigh*).



[Addition on 6/17/2010]

And Microsoft lied to me once again, though at least this time I was expecting it. I later found out I also had an MSDN subscription that came with VS2010, and called in to activate it, as online activation wasn’t working (don’t even want to mention all the mistakes they made during THAT process). I was told on the phone during this proceeding that the MSDN subscription license I had was compatible with the “VS Pro MSDN (Retail)” license, and was pointed to a list of products I could download from the MSDN Subscriptions page as soon as my subscription was activated (which took 3 days...). Low and behold, this was not true and I can not download many of the things I am needing and was planning on getting when the subscription came through (including VS 2005 or 2008), as the license is not compatible at all with what they told me.


Microsoft thrives on lying to their consumers and knowing they can get away with it. Microsoft specifically targets CEOs and tells them how important it is that they make their shop 100% Microsoft, giving completely falsified numbers and arguments to support this mockery. Microsoft jams their advertising so much into the heads of these non-tech-savvy individuals that when their IT staff tells them anything against the loud spoutings of Microsoft, the truth is lost in the wind, and even sometimes loses jobs. I have seen this happen at multiple companies, and have seen Microsoft’s lies and falsified reports more times than I can remember.


This somehow needs to be stopped.

Focus Follows Mouse
Active Window Tracking in Windows

A friend of mine who mainly works in Linux is always frustrated when he has to deal with working in Windows and doesn’t have FFM (Focus Follows Mouse). FFM means focusing a window when the mouse cursor moves over it (rollover), preferably without raising the window’s z-order position. I told him I’d throw together a program that did this, but my original approach was problematic.

My original approach was to use LowLevelMouseProc (WinAPI:SetWindowsHookEx), which is the same basic approach as my HalfKey project. Whenever a non-focused window (WinAPI:GetActiveWindow) is moused over (WinAPI:WindowFromPoint), it would activate it (gain the focus) (WinAPI:SetWindowLong/WinAPI:SetForegroundWindow). Unfortunately, as I found out, Windows is specifically designed to make an activated window go to the top of the z-order, and there is no way around this. The only solution I could find was recording the original position of the activated window (WinAPI:GetParent) and restoring it after the operation. This was however less than optimal :-(.

After some additional research on the topic, I found out the FFM functionality is actually built into Windows through a little known “System Parameter” (WinAPI:SystemParametersInfo). Microsoft calls it “Active Window Tracking”. Below is the code to the FocusFollowsMouse.exe (command line executable) to activate this system feature (the executable can be run without the command line and it will use the default options).


FocusFollowsMouse program information:
Turns on active window tracking in Windows
Parameters:
  • -h The help screen (cancels further actions)
  • -i installs new settings permanently
  • -d disables active window tracking
  • -r raise the window when focusing

//Toggles active window tracking, with options
#include <windows.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
{
	BOOL SendUpdate=SPIF_SENDCHANGE; //How to send the update to the system. Default is to only send to the system, but not make the change permanent
	BOOL TurnOn=TRUE; //By default we are turning on the option
	BOOL RaiseWindow=FALSE; //Whether to raise the window that is gaining the focus
	int i;

	//Read in options
	for(i=1;i<argc;i++)
	{
		if(argv[i][0]!='-') //Parameters must start with a -
			continue;
		switch(argv[i][1]) //Execute a valid action on the first character. Characters after it are ignored
		{
			case 'h': //Help  screen
				printf("%s", "Turns on active window tracking in Windows\n"
					"-h this help screen (cancels further actions)\n"
					"-i installs new settings permanently\n"
					"-d disables active window tracking\n"
					"-r raise the window when focusing\n");
					return 0; //Cancel further actions
			case 'i': //Install permanently
				SendUpdate|=SPIF_UPDATEINIFILE; //Writes the new system-wide parameter setting to the user profile.
				break;
			case 'd': //Turn off76
				TurnOn=FALSE;
				break;
			case 'r': //Raise the window
				RaiseWindow=TRUE;
				break;
		}
	}

	//Execute the system parameters change
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETACTIVEWINDOWTRACKING, 0, (PVOID)TurnOn, SendUpdate);
	SystemParametersInfo(SPI_SETACTIVEWNDTRKZORDER, 0, (PVOID)RaiseWindow, SendUpdate);

	return 0;
}
Executable Stubs
Win32 Executable Hacking

Executable stubs can be used by a compiler to create the header section (the beginning section) of an outputted executable by adding the “/stub” switch to the linker.

#pragma comment(linker, "/stub:Stub.exe")

The MSDN Library for MSVC6 has the following to say about it:

The MS-DOS Stub File Name (/STUB:filename) option attaches an MS-DOS stub program to a Win32 program.

A stub program is invoked if the file is executed in MS-DOS. It usually displays an appropriate message; however, any valid MS-DOS application can be a stub program.

Specify a filename for the stub program after a colon (:) on the command line. The linker checks filename to be sure that it is a valid MS-DOS executable file, and issues an error message if the file is not valid. The program must be an .EXE file; a .COM file is invalid for a stub program.

If this option is not used, the linker attaches a default stub program that issues the following message:
This program cannot be run in MS-DOS mode.

For the stub to work in XP, the following guidelines must be met:
  • The stub should be at least 64 bytes long
  • The first 2 bytes of the stub (Bytes 0-1) need to be “MZ”
  • Bytes 60-63 (4 bytes) are replaced by the compiler (I have a note that you might want to set this to 0x60000000 [big endian] for some reason)

As long as these guidelines are met, the rest of the stub can be whatever you want :-). For Small Projects, you can even put information here like strings for the executable, which are accessible through the executable virtual address space starting at 0x400000.
Windows Hosts File
When DNS decides to be finicky

Another of my favorite XP hacks is modifying domain addresses through XP’s Hosts file. You can remap where a domain points on your local computer by adding an IP address followed by a domain in the “c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts” file.

Domain names are locally controlled, looked up, and cached on your computer at the OS level, so there are simple hacks like this for other OSs too.

I often utilize this solution as a server admin who controls a lot of domains (Over 100, and I control most of them at the registrar level too ^_^). The domain system itself across the web is incredibly fastidious and prone to problems if not perfectly configured, so this hack is a wonderful time saver and diagnostic tool until things resolve and work properly.

Multiple Windows XP Sessions
Making XP act like Windows Server

All of the Windows lines of OSs from XP through Windows Server 2003 (or 2005 or 2007?) are, to my knowledge and IMO, basically the exact same thing, with just some minor tweaks and extra software for the more expensive versions. My version of XP Professional even comes with IIS (Internet Information Services - Microsoft’s web/ftp/mail server suite). One of my favorite XP hacks adds on a desperately needed functionality found only in Windows Server editions, which is allowing multiple user sessions on a machine at once. This basically means allowing multiple people to log onto a machine at the same time through Remote Desktop (Microsoft’s internal Windows VNC client). I find the most useful function by far of this is the “Remote Control” feature, which allows a second logged in user to see exactly what is on the screen of another session, and if permissions are given, to take control of it. This is perfect for those people whom you often have to trouble shoot computer problems for, eliminating the need for a trip to their location or 3rd party software to view their computer.

This hack requires a few registry modifications, a group policy modification, and a DLL replacement. The DLL replacement was provided by Microsoft in early versions of XP SP2 when they were tinkering with allowing this feature in XP. I found the information for all this here a number of years ago and it has provided itself invaluable since. Unfortunately, this does not work on XP Home edition, just XP Professional. I tried adapting it once and wasted a lot of time :-\. The following is the text from where I got this hack.

Concurrent Remote Desktop Sessions in Windows XP SP2

I mentioned before that Windows XP does not allow concurrent sessions for its Remote Desktop feature. What this means is that if a user is logged on at the local console, a remote user has to kick him off (and ironically, this can be done even without his permission) before starting work on the box. This is irritating and removes much of the productivity that Remote Desktop brings to Windows. Read on to learn how to remove that limitation in Windows XP SP2

A much touted feature in SP2 (Service Pack 2) since then removed was the ability to do just this, have a user logged on locally while another connects to the terminal remotely. Microsoft however removed the feature in the final build. The reason probably is that the EULA (End User License Agreement) allows only a single user to use a computer at a time. This is (IMHO) a silly reason to curtail Remote Desktop’s functionality, so we’ll have a workaround.

Microsoft did try out the feature in earlier builds of Service Pack 2 and it is this that we’re going to exploit here. We’re going to replace termsrv.dll (The Terminal Server) with one from an earlier build (2055).

To get Concurrent Sessions in Remote Desktop working, follow the steps below exactly:

  1. Download the termsrv.zip file and extract it somewhere.
  2. Reboot into Safe Mode. This is necessary to remove Windows File Protection. [Dakusan: I use unlocker for this, which I install on all my machines as it always proves itself useful, and then usually have to do a “shutdown -a” from command line when XP notices the DLL changed.]
  3. Copy the termsrv.dll in the zip to %windir%\System32 and %windir%\ServicePackFiles\i386. If the second folder doesn’t exist, don’t copy it there. Delete termsrv.dll from the dllcache folder: %windir%\system32\dllcache
  4. Merge the contents of Concurrent Sessions SP2.reg file into the registry. [Dakusan: Just run the .reg file and tell XP to allow the action.]
  5. Make sure Fast User Switching is turned on. Go Control Panel -> User Accounts -> Change the way users log on or off and turn on Fast User Switching.
  6. Open up the Group Policy Editor: Start Menu > Run > ‘gpedit.msc’. Navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Terminal Services. Enable ‘Limit Number of Connections’ and set the number of connections to 3 (or more). This enables you to have more than one person remotely logged on.
  7. Now reboot back into normal Windows and try out whether Concurrent Sessions in Remote Desktop works. It should!

If anything goes wrong, the termsrv_sp2.dll is the original file you replaced. Just rename it to termsrv.dll, reboot into safe mode and copy it back.

The termsrv.dl_ file is provided in the zip is for you slipstreamers out there. Just replace that file with the corresponding file in the Windows installation disks.



I have included an old copy of the above web page, from when I first started distributing this, with the information in the hack’s zip file I provide.

If you want to Remote Control another session, I think the user needs to be part of the “Administrators” group, and don’t forget to add any users that you want to be able to remotely log on to the “Remote Desktop Users” group.

This is all actually part of an “Enhanced Windows XP Install” document I made years ago that I never ended up releasing because I hadn’t finished cleaning it up. :-\ One of these days I’ll get it up here. Some of the information pertaining to this hack from that document is as follows:

  • Any computer techy out there that has tried to troubleshoot over the phone knows how much of a problem/pain in the anatomy it is, and for this reason, I install this hack which makes it painless to automatically connect to a users computer through remote desktop, which can then be remotely viewed or controlled via their displayed console session.
  • I often use this hack myself when I am running computers without keyboards/mice, like my entertainment computer. For a permanent solution for something like this though, I recommend a KM (Keyboard/Mouse) solution like synergy, which allows manipulating one computer via a keyboard and mouse on another.
  • Your user account password must also not be blank. Blank passwords often cause problems with remote services.
  • The security risk for this is a port is opened for someone to connect to like telnet or SSH on Unix, which is a minimal risk unless someone has your username+password.
  • You have to have a second username to log into, which can be done under Control Panel > User Accounts, or Control panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > System Tools > Local users and Groups.
  • If you want the second user to be able to log in remotely, make sure to add them under Control Panel > System > Remote > Select Remote users, and also check “allow users to connect remotely to this computer”.
  • You also need to know the IP address of the user’s computer you want to connect to, and unfortunately, they are not always static. If you run into this, you may want to use a DDNS service like mine.
  • You may also run into the unfortunate circumstance of NAT/Firewalled networks, which is beyond the scope of this document. Long story short, you need to open up port 3389 in the firewall and forward it through the router/NAT (this is the port for both remote desktop and remote assistance).
  • You may also want to change the port number to something else so a port scanner will not pick it up. To connect to a different port, on the client computer, in remote desktop, you connect to COMPUTERIP:PORT like www.mycomputer.com:5050.
    • Registry Key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\TerminalServer\WinStations\RDP-Tcp\PortNumber - Set as your new port number
    • This requires a reboot to work.
    • Make sure you don’t provide a port that’s already used on the computer, and you probably shouldn’t make it a standard port either [21 [ftp], 25 [smtp], 80 [http], etc])
  • You can also log into their current console session by going to the task manager (ctrl+shift+esc in full screen, or right click taskbar and go to “task manager”) > Users > Right click username > Remote control
    • This will ask the user at the computer if they want to accept this. To have it NOT ask them, do the following:
      • Start > Run > gpedit.msc [enter] > computer configuration > administrative templates > windows components > terminal services
      • Double click the option “Sets rules for remote control of terminal services user sessions”
      • Enable it, and for the “Options” setting, set “Full control without users permission”
  • If the ability for you to access a client’s computer without their immediate permission or knowledge is too “dangerous” for their taste, you may suggest/use Remote Assistance, which is more troublesome, but much more “secure” sounding.
Windows 98 for VMWare

I recently had to install Windows 98 through VMWare for some quick tests, and there were a few minor problems after the install that needed to be resolved. I thought I’d share them here if anyone ever needed them.

  • First, VMWare Tools needs to be installed to get video and some other drivers working.
  • Second, Windows 98 was really before the time when network cards were used to connect to the internet, as broadband technology was rare and modems were the commonplace solution, so it doesn’t make this process easy. To connect through your VMWARE bridge or NAT to the Internet (to use IE - FireFox [newer versions of?] doesn’t work on Windows 98), the following must be done through the MSN Connection Wizard (this is mostly from memory).
    • Open "Connect to the internet" from the desktop
    • Click Next
    • Select Modem Manually [next]
    • Select any of the normal modems in the list on the right, like a generic 56,000 modem [OK]
    • Click Next
    • Click lan/manual
    • Connect using my local area network (LAN) [next]
    • Click Next
    • "No" to email [next]
    • Click Finish
  • Lastly, the default sound driver does not work, so you need to do the following [Information found here by googling]
    • Install the Create Lab’s drivers for the PCI sound card
    • Add the following lines to your VMWare config (vmx) file
      • pciSound.DAC1InterruptsPerSec = 0
      • pciSound.DAC2InterruptsPerSec = 0
    • Optionally, for a better midi waveset, download Creative Lab’s 8mb GM/GS Waveset [version 5] and select it for use in the device’s properties by:
      • Right click my computer
      • Select properties
      • Select the Device Manager tab
      • Find the area for sound and go to “SB PCI(WDM)”
      • Go to the second tab
      • Change the Midi Synthesizer Waveset to the downloaded eapci8m.ecw
Inlining Executable Resources
Do you suffer from OPC (Obsessive Perfection Complex)? If not, you aren’t an engineer :-)

I am somewhat obsessive about file cleanliness, and like to have everything I do well organized with any superfluous files removed. This especially translates into my source code, and even more so for released source code.

Before I zip up the source code for any project, I always remove the extraneous workspace compilation files. These usually include:

  • C/C++: Debug & Release directories, *.ncb, *.plg, *.opt, and *.aps
  • VB: *.vbw
  • .NET: *.suo, *.vbproj.user

Unfortunately, a new offender surfaced in the form of the Hyrulean Productions icon and Signature File for about pages. I did not want to have to have every source release include those 2 extra files, so I did research into inlining them in the resource script (.rc) file. Resources are just data directly compiled into an executable, and the resource script tells the executable all of these resources and how to compile them in. All my C projects include a resource script for at least the file version, author information, and Hyrulean Productions icon. Anyways, this turned out to be way more of a pain in the butt than intended.


There are 2 ways to load “raw data” (not a standard format like an icon, bitmap, string table, version information, etc) into a resource script. The first way is through loading an external file:
RESOURCEID RESOURCETYPE DISCARDABLE "ResourceFileName"
for example:
DAKSIG	SIG	DISCARDABLE	"Dakusan.sig"
RESOURCEID and RESOURCETYPE are arbitrary and user defined, and it should also be noted to usually have them in caps, as the compilers seem to often be picky about case.

The second way is through inlining the data:
RESOURCEID	RESOURCETYPE
BEGIN
	DATA
END
for example:
DakSig	Sig
BEGIN
	0x32DA,0x2ACF,0x0306,...
END
Getting the data in the right format for the resource script is a relatively simple task.
  • First, acquire the data in 16-bit encoded format (HEX). I suggest WinHex for this job.
    On a side note, I have been using WinHex for ages and highly recommend it. It’s one of the most well built and fully featured application suites I know if.
  • Lastly, convert the straight HEX DATA (“DA32CF2A0603...”) into an array of proper endian hex values (“0x32DA,0x2ACF,0x0306...”). This can be done with a global replace regular expression of “(..)(..)” to “0x$2$1,”. I recommend Editpad Pro for this kind of work, another of my favorite pieces of software. As a matter of fact, I am writing this post right now in it :-).

Here is where the real caveats and problems start falling into place. First, I noticed the resource data was corrupt for a few bytes at a certain location. It turned out to be Visual Studio wanting line lengths in the resource file to be less than ~4175 characters, so I just added a line break at that point.

This idea worked great for the about page signature, which needed to be raw data anyways, but encoding the icon this way turned out to be impossible :-(. Visual Studio apparently requires external files be loaded if you want to use a pre-defined binary resource type (ICON, BITMAP, etc). The simple solution would be to inline the icon as a user defined raw data type, but unfortunately, the Win32 icon loading API functions (LoadIcon, CreateIconFromResource, LoadImage, etc) only seemed to work with properly defined ICONs. I believe the problem here is that when the compiler loads in the icon to include in the executable, it reformats it somewhat, so I would need to know this format. Again, unfortunately, Win32 APIs failed me. FindResource/FindResourceEx wouldn’t let me load the data for ICON types for direct coping (or reverse engineering) :-(. At this point, it wouldn’t be worth my time to try and get the proper format just to inline my Hyrulean Productions icon into resource scripts. I may come back to it later if I’m ever really bored.


This unfortunately brings back a lot of bad old memories regarding Win32 APIs. A lot of the Windows system is really outdated, not nearly robust enough, or just way too obfuscated, and has, and still does, cause me innumerable migraines trying to get things working with their system.

As an example, I just added the first about page to a C project, and getting fonts working on the form was not only a multi-hour long knockdown drag out due to multiple issues, I ended up having to jury rig the final solution in exasperation due to time constraints. I wanted the C about pages to match the VB ones exactly, but font size numbers just wouldn’t conform between the VB GUI designer and Windows GDI (the Windows graphics API), so I just put in arbitrary font size numbers that matched visually instead of trying to find the right conversion process, as the documented font size conversion process was not yielding proper results. This is the main reason VB (and maybe .NET) are far superior in my book when dealing with GUIs (for ease of use at least, not necessarily ability and power). I know there are libraries out that supposedly solve this problem, but I have not yet found one that I am completely happy with, which is why I had started my own fully fledged cross operating system GUI library a ways back, but it won’t be completed for a long time.

Windows 98
Nostalgia mode
So I just plopped in an old Win98 CD (in this case SP2) to grab the QBasic files off of it for the Languages and Libraries page.  I started browsing through the CD, and thought to myself “OMG... win98!”, heh. So I installed it, and wow, am I ever in super nostalgia mode.

Things I now take for granted that were major Pains in the pre-XP days (well, pre NT kernel....):
  • Getting non-modem LAN connections on the internet: Win98 expected people to connect to the internet via phone modems, as broadband was still unheard of then. The “Windows Connection Wizard” was a pain in the butt and you had to know just the right place to go to get it to recognize a NIC as a valid connection to the internet.
  • Shutting down windows improperly: If you failed to turn off the computer through the proper “Shut Down” method, the FAT file systems did not have certain type of safe-guards that NTFS does, and the computer was be forced to do a ScanDisk on startup. A ScanDisk is also run the first time windows starts after install, and seeing this old piece of software really gave me a warm fuzzy feeling... or was it a feeling of utter nausea?
  • RAM allocation: The DOS-line-kernel of windows never properly kept track of memory from applications, and memory leaks in applications STAYED memory leaks after the program shut down, so RAM could very quickly get eaten up. Programs called “RAM Scrubbers” were around to fix these detected memory leaks and free them.
  • Themes: Most people don’t know that windows themes actually originated with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95 (I could have sworn it was originally called Windows Plus!... need to find my original CD) software package, which also first introduced the ever-popular and addicting Space Cadet Pinball (check the games folder that comes installed in XP). Most Plus! options were usually integrated straight into later Windows versions or updates. I have included below all the Themes that came with Windows 98 SE for nostalgic value :-). Enjoy!

    Speaking of games, it seems 98SE also included FreeCell... I wasn’t aware it was that old. I think the “Best of Windows Entertainment Pack” (with “Chips Challenge”, “Golf”, “Rodent’s Revenge”, “Tetris”, “SkiFree”, and some other fun games) also originally came on the Plus! CDs, but am not sure of this. I believe the Best Pack also came with the CD packs that came with new computer from Packard Bell and maybe some other manufacturer for like 2 or 3 years in the mid 90s that also included the first game of one of my most favorite game series ever, Journey Man, as well as Microsoft Encarta, Britannica, a Cook Book CD and a Do-It-Yourself Book CD. Good times!!!
  • Calendar: The calendar only displayed 2 digits for the year instead of 4... does this mean Microsoft was expecting everyone to switch from 98 immediately when their next OS (Windows ME [heh] or 2K) came out? See “The Old New Thing” for another interesting problem of the windows calendar of old.
Things that made me laugh:
  • The first question asked during install was “You have a drive over 512mb in size, would you like to enable large disk support?”
  • All the 3d screensavers were OpenGL. Though DirectX was out at that point, it was still in a state of sheer-crappiness so Microsoft still used OpenGL, which it wouldn’t be caught dead using nowadays ^_^.
  • During install, there were lots of messages touting the operating systems features, including “By converging real-time 2d and 3d graphics ... *MMX is a trademark of Intel Corporation”. It just made me smile knowing that MMX was once so new Microsoft had to put a trademark warning like that.
  • Internet Explorer (5.0) started up at MSN.com already... which immediately crashed the browser! hehe
  • The windows update website informed me as follows: “Important: End of Support for Windows 98 and Windows ME
    Effective July 11, 2006, support for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows ME (and their related components) will end. Updates for Windows 98 and Windows ME will be limited to those updates that currently appear on the Windows Update website.”
Things that I miss:
  • The emotion behind the OS. For some reason, Windows 98 and 95 always had... a warmness to them that 2K/XP never had. I’m not sure why... but the newer operating systems always had such a stiff and corporate feeling to them.
  • Winipcfg! Now I am forced to go to the darn command prompt to do it via ipconfig (which was available then also), which is a pain when you have too many NICs and it scrolls the console window or when trying to help someone get their IP Address or MAC address.
  • Restart in MS-DOS mode! Man do I ever miss that. Especially for playing original DOOM. Good ’ol 640k ^_^. The 3.x/95/98 kernels were really based upon DOS so it was valid to have a DOS only mode, but there’s nothing stopping them from including it on newer computers... well, except that DOS didn’t support NTFS, I guess... so it would be confusing. Ah well.
  • FAST load time. If I recall, Win98 always loaded bounds faster than XP... probably has to do with drivers.


Themes: (Owned by Microsoft?)
Baseball Dangerous Creatures Inside Your Computer Jungle Leonardo da Vinci More Windows Mystery Nature Science Space Sports The 60’s USA The Golden Era Travel Underwater Windows 98 Windows Default

Baseball:
Baseball Theme


Dangerous Creatures:
Dangerous Creatures Theme


Inside Your Computer:
Inside Your Computer Theme


Jungle:
Jungle Theme


Leonardo da Vinci:
Leonardo da Vinci Theme


More Windows:
More Windows Theme


Mystery:
Mystery Theme


Nature:
Nature Theme


Science:
Science Theme


Space:
Space Theme


Sports:
Sports Theme


The 60’s USA:
The 60’s USA Theme


The Golden Era:
The Golden Era Theme


Travel:
Travel Theme


Underwater:
Underwater Theme


Windows 98:
Windows 98 Theme


Windows Default:
Windows 98 Default Theme