Category: Work

Microsoft SQL Server Installation Issue Fix

I was installing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 on a development server and kept getting an annoying error message:

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Install Error Message

The following error has occurred:

An error occurred during the installation of assembly ‘Microsoft.VC80.MFC,version=”8.0.50727.4053″,publicKeyToken=”1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b”,processorArchitecture=”x86″,type=”win32″‘. Please refer to Help and Support for more information. HRESULT: 0x800736CC.

For help, click:

KB Article 2688946 describes a very similar issue. I eventually found a fix in the form of Cumulative Update 2 (KB2703275) Here is what you need to do to fix it:

  1. Completely close the SQL 2012 installer (it might just crash and close itself).
  2. Use Control Panel to uninstall Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x64 Redistributable and Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x86 Redistributable.
  3. Download Cumulative Update 2 from (449398_intl_x64_zip.exe)
  4. Create C:\Updates
  5. Extract 449398_intl_x64_zip.exe to C:\Updates to get SQLServer2012-KB2703275-x64.exe
  6. Run the Installer again from the command line with the following (all on one line):
    setup.exe /Action=Install /UpdateEnabled=True /UpdateSource="C:\Updates"
  7. Install as usual and the issue goes away.

Let me know if this worked for you by leaving a comment. I’m curious to know how widespread this issue is.

The Pomodoro Technique

On Sunday I discovered the Pomodoro Technique to get more done in less time. The concept is simple: working without interruptions is more effective than multitasking. The implementation is not always as easy as understanding the concept. The Pomodoro Technique is choosing a task and working for 25 minutes on it, taking a short break, and then choosing another task and working for 25 minutes on it, followed by another short break. Each block of uninterrupted concentration and work is called a pomodoro. If you let the pomodoro get interrupted or you interrupt the pomodoro yourself, then it doesn’t count and you have to start the pomodoro over again after the interruption is over. After four consecutive pomodoros, a longer break helps to keep from getting burned out.

I used the Pomodoro Technique on Sunday night to finish up a paper that I did not have very much desire to complete. You don’t need a computer to implement the Pomodoro Technique. Its creator started with a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato—that’s where the name of the technique comes from. I found a great Mac application called Pomodoro Desktop that is basically a timer that sits in the menu bar and makes a ticking sound each second similar to a real kitchen timer. The benefit of the ticking sound is that it reminds you that you should be focusing on the task at hand. The technique worked wonders for me. I was able to easily force myself to continue working rather than giving in to the compulsion to check email or my Twitter feed when I got bored. Since the timer is always visible, I could glance up at the timer to see how many minutes I had left. The first 5 minutes are pretty easy. The next 5 minutes are kind of difficult if the task is boring, because it starts to feel like a long time is left on the clock. After the first ten minutes, there are only 15 minutes left, which always seems to go by too fast. By the time I got to the end of a pomodoro, I wanted to keep working—that is the beauty of it. If you stop working while you feel like you want to work, then you will be compelled to start the next pomodoro as soon as the break timer finishes. This keeps you from getting burned out.

Pomodoro Desktop can be set up to execute scripts when a new pomodoro is started or stopped. I use this functionality to automatically set my Adium chat status message to away when a pomodoro starts and back to available when it ends. This alerts people that I am in the middle of a pomodoro and that I will get back to them later. The status message tells what time I will be finished with the pomodoro I am working on. There are more advanced techniques to tracking pomodoros and how many distractions threaten to interrupt the concentration and focus of the pomodoro, but this is enough information to get started.

Pomodoro can be useful in teams as well. Sometimes it is difficult to get a small group of peers to all focus on a task at the same time. If everyone is on board with the Pomodoro Technique, then all it takes is an announcement and agreement of the group and a pomodoro can begin, which will help everyone focus on the task for 25 minutes. Everyone knows when to work and when to take a break. No one has to feel like the one who wants to take away the fun of goofing off. No one needs to feel guilty for wanting to take a break. When the pomodoro is over, then everyone can take a break. Then the break time is over, another pomodoro is started and everyone focuses at the same time again.

One instruction in the free ebook is not to use the Pomodoro Technique to govern your free time. Work time is the time for pomodoros, but free time should be free. Keeping these aspects of life separate is becoming increasingly difficult, but the Pomodoro Technique makes it a little bit easier. Most of the time that I work at home in the evening, it is because I had too many interruptions at work to get some difficult or complex task finished. I bring the work home because it is quiet and free from the interruptions of the office. Using the Pomodoro Technique helps you get more work done at work and allows you to spend time at home relaxing with family and friends.

Accessing Mac OS X Leopard Grayed-out Preference Panes

UPDATE: This also works on Snow Leopard if you are having the same problem accsessing any preference panes.

I have a work-issued MacBook Pro with Leopard, specifically Mac OS X 10.5.8, installed. It is a test image that was installed to test ideas about ways to administer systems for users without Administrative rights. At the end of the test, my access was changed to grant my user administrative rights on the laptop, but it still has many problems. I am waiting for the new Snow Leopard image to be completed to have my laptop reimaged. In the mean time, I have been struggling with a few issues.

The system blocks access to certain preference panes in System Preferences. This was probably an oversight or the leftovers of some experiment, because it does not block access to some of the more sensitive preferences. I can add new users to the laptop and do all sorts of things that I should probably not do on the network. The preferences I could not access were not too important for me to change, like Growl, for instance. Then I tried to use Apple’s Magic Mouse. When I installed the system update that enables its advanced features, I could not access the new Mouse preference pane. When I hover over it, the tooltip says “Your access to this preference has been restricted.” If you try to open the pane directly the error says “You cannot open “[name of preference pane]” preferences pane because it is not available to you at this time. You might need to connect a device to your computer to see this preferences pane.” It looks like this:

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open the Applications folder and find the System file.
  2. Right click or Command-click System and choose Create Duplicate.
  3. Right click or Command-click the new System Preferences and choose Show Package Contents.
  4. Navigate to Contents > Resources and find the NSPrefPaneGroups.xml file.
  5. Move NSPrefPaneGroups.xml to the Trash.
  6. Make sure System Preferences is not running and double click System Preferences to run it. All the preference panes appear to be gone!
  7. In the System Preferences application click the View menu at the top of the screen. All the preference panes are now accessible from the View menu.
  8. When you have changed the preferences you need to change, close System Preferences.

Any time you need to access the disabled system preferences, just use System Preferences, otherwise you can still use the original System for changing system preferences normally.

LinkedIn Updates

I have been working on getting my LinkedIn profile up to date so I can feel comfortable inviting more people to link to me. I have included new functionality to have relevant blog posts included on my LinkedIn profile. I was struggling with how to enter my freelance web design and Linux consulting while I was a student, troche but I think I came up with a solution, so the gaps in my employment history are gone. Excellent!

Relation Browser and the UN

I am looking for a good way to be able to map multiple IT governance and compliance frameworks (like COBIT, SOX, TOGAF, ISO 20000, etc.) to one another and be able to interactively browse through them. A week ago I came across Moritz Stefaner and his Relation Browser indirectly through an article called A Cosmological Approach to IT Governance about how the UN put together some software called 6 Degrees to do something similar. Mr. Stefaner responded to my email within a few hours while the author of the article working at the UN hasn’t responded yet.

The only real problem is that the software is written using Flash and Actionscript. I know nothing about either so I’m working from the ground floor trying to get a grasp on what’s going on. Both Relation Browser and 6 Degrees are reportedly open source, but I can’t find 6 Degrees anywhere and the source for Relation Browser is not directly linked to anywhere that I could find (I had to ask Mr. Stefaner for the link).

Moritz Stefaner is a master of visual representation of data using newer technologies. I hold him in high regard and consult his work for inspiration much as I do Edward Tufte and his work.

Reading Group at Work Gets Political

A group of not so like-minded individuals at work have decided to read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and then go out to lunch to discuss it. I really wish I were a faster reader because one month is just not enough time for me to make it through a tome of that magnitude. Next on the list looks to be Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. I guess we wanted to get polar opposites and see how much they overlap.

FranklinCovey v. GTD

A week ago I got a FranklinCovey planner as part of a course I attended on time management. A week before that I found Toodledo (a friend of mine showed it to me). Now I’ve got this dilemma. I find that Toodledo does a great job of managing my tasks for me. At work we use Outlook for email and meeting planning. I am not terribly mobile. I spend most of the day sitting at my own desk at work. I’m struggling to find a use for the FranklinCovey planner. I tried to use it, but so far it just feels redundant. It duplicates all my electronic planning and to-do lists, but it doesn’t update automatically. I feel like it’s doubled the work it takes for me to stay up to date and on top of my projects.

GTD says I’m supposed to have one bucket, one place to collect my stuff that comes in. I have found that there are way too many buckets as it stands now, and FranklinCovey isn’t making things easier.

If there’s a good way to integrate GTD with FranklinCovey, I’d sure like to find it. For now, I’ll just have to stick with what I’ve got, I suppose.

UPDATE: I took the second half of the FranklinCovey class today, so now I know how I’m supposed to use the planner. I’ll report on my progress integrating this with Toodledo and Outlook.

UPDATE 2: The paper planner just isn’t my thing. I found a coworker to donate my planner to. Now I’m using Remember The Milk and App for the milk with great success.

Firefox in a Single Sign-on Intranet Environment

I have been using Firefox for my normal browsing at work, but found it useless for browsing the company intranet because it asked me repeatedly for my network user name and password. There were other annoyances, as well. Many sites using SSL certificates made Firefox flash multiple warning messages because our proxy issues certificates instead of passing them through unchanged. I decided today was the day to fix these annoyances. The Single Sign-on fix only works with the Windows version of Firefox, unfortunately.

To fix the Single Sign-on problem:

  • Type about:config in the Navigation Bar.
  • Type ntlm in the Filter box.
  • Right-click on network.automatic-ntlm-auth.trusted-uris and choose Modify.
  • Type in the domains you want to have access to without typing in your password over and over again. This could include a list like the following: home,portal,service,hr. The format of this list is each domain is seperated by a comma without a space.
  • Click OK.

These changes take effect immediately, so go ahead and navigate to another web site and test out your intranet. If the site asks for your user name and password enter it and try to keep navigating. If any more pages start asking for your user name and password and they are part of your intranet, note the domains and add them to the list using the directions above.

To fix the SSL certificates problem you need to export the certificate your intranet uses with SSL encrypted traffic. To export the certificate in Internet Explorer:

  • Open IE, go to Tools -> Internet Options.
  • Click the Content tab.
  • Click Certificates.
  • Click the Trusted Root Certification Authorities tab.
  • Select the certificate issued by your intranet (look for your company name).
  • Click Export.
  • Click Next, Next.
  • Save the file somewhere and give it a good name.
  • Click Yes, Next, and OK until you get back to the main IE window.

To import the certificate into Firefox:

  • Open Firefox, go to Tools -> Options.
  • Click the Advanced tab.
  • Click the Encryption tab within the Advanced section.
  • Click View Certificates.
  • Click the Authorities tab.
  • Click Import.
  • Choose the file you exported above.

If all goes well you should be able to use your intranet and browse the Internet using Firefox as long as your intranet doesn’t use ActiveX controls.

Arizona: My New Home

I touched down in Arizona this afternoon after a quick flight from San Diego. Tomorrow I start my new job as a Technical Writer for Apollo Group. I didn’t want to say anything about it until it was for sure, and I think now is as sure as it can get without me having arrived for my first day. I have been informed that tomorrow is the most glorious day of the week: Nacho Thursday. I have also been informed that if it is my team’s turn to make the nachos then I will be expected to clean the machine afterwards.

I leave many friends behind in California, which makes me a little sad and homesick. I think the homesickness is mostly because my wife is still back in California finishing out the year at her job and getting everything in order to move our stuff and take care of all the odds and ends that go along with a move.

We are in the process of trying to get ourselves into a townhouse since we plan to spend a good long while in Arizona. I haven’t had an employer in the last two and a half years because I’ve been going to school full time. Hopefully that won’t be a problem. I think there might be some special services we may qualify for as first-time home buyers, but I really am not sure. I don’t know anything about Arizona and the way their state government works.