Archive for January, 2007


Quite some time ago I decided that I wanted to offer support via MSN for a business. This is all very well until you want multiple staff to cover the “live” support, obviously you cannot have more than one client connected via the MSN protocol using the same account at any one time.

My solution to this was to use an existing platform that allowed multiple users, which was IRC. The next step was to create a “bot” that would connect to the MSN Messenger network and relay the information back and forth.

Originally due to my skills in coding in mIRC I decided to code a very simple MSN messenger client. This proved quite a challenge after looking at the MSN Messenger Protocol Docs. I decided to check out existing MSN messenger clients for mIRC and see how they had done it.

I tried roughly 5 from, none of them worked apart from MSNMIRC by Artweks.

I decided to strip this down and allow relaying via remotely triggered commands, I codenamed this script “xmsn”. This worked very well for quite some time, until MSN decided to change the way their older protocols work, which meant they now required SSL to authenticate.

It took some time to figure out, but eventually the script was fully functional again with the addition of a DLL (ssl.dll – 58kb), however it seemed that this DLL would only work on some machines, yet not others, this meant I required a new machine to run one mIRC bot.

I ran this for some time, probably around a year, and decided that running a whole machine just for on mIRC based bot was a bit of a waste, so I decided to investigate my options.

Eggdrop was my first port of call, using some kind of TCL script that could connect to the MSN protocol would be fantastic, yet this did not appear to exist, however I did locate an MSN messenger client called aMSN, which was based on TCL. There were some issues with this though, firstly it is not eggdrop based, fine I thought i’ll strip it down, secondly there is no console mode, its a 100% GUI application, therefore a BIG task. I simply didn’t have the time to deal with this complexity.

After some further searching I discovered the BitlBee project, which is in itself an amazing project and an amazing idea. In principle its an IRCd that can connect to many popular instant messenger protocols such as MSN messenger.

The idea was to somehow run an eggdrop that would connect to a BitlBee server, connect to MSN, and relay the details to another IRCd using a relay tcl script. Obviously the relay script would also need the ability to accept triggers from the other IRCd so the users can control it and send messages, etc.

An alternative idea would be to use psyBNC with multiuser enabled, even though this method would probably be more secure, i’d prefer to use the eggdrop method.

In the end I decided to trim down a version of linkchan.tcl, which I had used before over the years and so was already fimilar with its structure and functionatility. This offers me a fantastic platform to base this project on.

There is the project research so far, the next step is to release bitlbee.tcl once i’m happy the script is stable.

Update: I have posted a beta version of the “bitlbee.tcl” under the eggdrop tcl section.

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Focus on one domain

Why you should be focusing on one domain name for one site

Often you will find yourself buying a domain for your project (eg:, however these days to secure the brand you have to buy all the associated domains (eg:,,,, etc).

I then find that visitors will end up entering the sites at different points from different domains, depending on how they find it, or what they have been told.

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DVD decoders and other codecs

Possibly one of the most annoying and confusing issues on windows is dealing with and understanding which codecs you need to do what.

There are a number of solutions to ensure all of your music, videos and other media will play on your version of windows.

I’ve recently experienced a problem where Windows Media Center returns a decoder error.

This was stopping me from setting up the audio within the wizard, so the plan of action was to locate an all in one codec pack which then meant I didn’t have to worry about which codecs I need to do what, it just includes them all, or so I thought.

Okay, so the codec pack got the sound working, great. However when I come to play DVD’s there’s a decoder error yet again, which means I require DVD decoder software.

There are a few options with this…

  • Purchase the software Microsoft recommend
  • Purchase or download and try for 30 days the nVidia PureVideo Decoder – it would match the chipset
  • Purchase InterVideo DVD XPack for $14.95
  • Purchase or download and try for 30 days CyberLink PowerDVD SE or v7.0 – i’ve used this in the past
  • Purchase the Roxio solution which is CinePlayer for $14.95 – never used it, don’t like roxio
  • Download a free or open source DVD decoder – near impossible or does not exist

Not to worry though I can use the Microsoft Windows XP Video Decoder Checkup Utility to make sure any I do choose is compatible.

To be fair although it should be a crime to have to pay to watch DVDs on your computer considering you have purchased a piece of hardware that is essentially a DVD reader, you do still need a DVD player, and $14.95 (just over £8) is not a bad price for a legit piece of DVD playing software, and its a damn sight cheaper than purchasing a separate DVD player unit to do the same job.

However, more often than not, if you purchase your PC from a large retailer, or you purchase a retail optical drive, you will receive a copy of one of the Microsoft approved DVD decoders listed above, so it might be worth considering that before you make your next purchase.

Yet with all that in mind, I’m still looking for that free or open source DVD decoder that will work with Windows Media Center or approved by Microsoft. We can all dream can’t we?

You may ALSO require DivX, QuickTime and Real Player (or their alternatives) to name a few to play certain types of videos, and I would also suggest taking a look at Winamp if you haven’t got it already as its a brilliant piece of software for playing music and video clips.

Additional Notes: Recently I have been looking at both VideoLan’s VLC and Media Player Classic which are either free or open source alternatives. I’ve yet to test their ability to play DVDs, how compatible they are with different video types or how other software (such as browsers and other media players) utilise their codecs.

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I forgot my Windows logon password!

What should I do? Reinstall? NO!

So how do you recover it? You can’t, BUT you can reset it…

There’s a nifty utility called Offline NT Password & Registry Editor (aka ntpasswd) that will reset Windows NT/2K/XP passwords. It runs from self-booting diskette or CD. Please note that it will not recover AD passwords, and may render EFS encrypted files permanently unreadable.

To save wasting CD’s with small applications you can actually find this utility and a whole range of other useful recovery tools together on the Ultimate Boot CD (aka UBCD).

As if that isn’t enough Winternals (the same people who make Sysinternals Freeware) offer a peice of software called Administrator’s Pak which you can purchase from them. This software creates a bootable CD called ERD Commander which contains a utility called Locksmith which allows you to reset lost passwords.

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Parts inside your printer are at the end of their service life

Today I had the joy of fixing an Epson Stylus C46 UX printer.

It had the following error: “Parts inside your printer are at the end of their service life. See your printer documentation.”

After a little searching I discovered that most people were saying that “It is simply not worth repairing”, however, I took that as a challange, and decided that if I was going to throw it away anyway I might as well try to fix it first.

Before long I located a page on‘s forum, which had plenty of details about similar issues.

This is the process I used after reading details on that page:

  1. Unplug the power and USB cables from the printer.
  2. Prepare your work area by putting scrap paper down. Have some spare, just incase. You may also require tissue paper. It is also recommended you use protective gloves as the ink will stain your skin for quite some time.
  3. Unscrew the screw at the back of the printer.
  4. There are two or three tabs at the back and two at the front. Gently push them in, and then using a bit of force pry apart the cover.
  5. At the back of the unit you need to locate some white pads, or sponge type things, initially they will seem fine, but they will infact be full of ink. You need to grab a pair of pliers and pull them out one by one, there should be four, put them on your scrap paper.
  6. Take the scrap paper with the pads on to your sink, turn on the hot tap and hold each one under the tap using the pliers until the water runs clear. If you have protective gloves on it may be worth squeezing the water out also.
  7. It is recommended that once you have done this, you let them dry.
  8. Now return the pads back into the printer.
  9. Put the printer back together, (mind out for the paper alignment, and give it some force), not forgetting the screw at the back.
  10. Plug in the USB and power cable and turned it ON. (Yes the lights will still flash)
  11. Download and install the SSC Service Utility for Epson Stylus Printers.
  12. Select your printer and model number (There is no Stylus C42 UX, so select Stylus C4x), then close the window.
  13. If it asks if you replaced with the pads; say “YES”. Then close the window.
  14. You will see a SSC Service Utilitiy icon (it looks like a printer) in the system tray (next to your click), and LEFT click.
  15. A menu will appear, from here you can click on “Protection counter” (its a red cross), then “reset protection counter”.
  16. Turn the printer power OFF, wait 10 seconds and then turn it back ON.


Additional troubleshooting…

If you have problems with paper feed, take it apart again, check everything is in place correctly, push things together tightly, and put it together again.

If you have trouble with print quality, open the lid, clean any ink residue, use the SSC Service Utilitiy to clean the heads.

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Safely Remove Hardware Icon

Here’s a quick guide on what to do if your “Safely remove hardware” icon has disappeared from your system tray.

This is a troublesome issue as it means that you cannot stop your USB devices therefore meaning you could cause corruption on your USB device.

How to always bring up the dialog (without the icon)

  1. Go to Start -> Run,
  2. Enter: %windir%\system32\RUNDLL32 shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll
  3. The “Safely remove hardware” dialog windows should appear.

How to control the “Safley remove hardware” icon behavior

  1. Right-Click on the Task Bar
  2. Select Properties
  3. Under the taskbar tab, click the Customize button
  4. Select the program you wish to hide
  5. Under the drop down box, select Always Hide, Always Show, or Hide when inactive.
  6. Click OK

How to restore the icon to your system tray

  1. Open “My Computer”
  2. Right click on a drive and click Properties
  3. Click on the Hardware tab
  4. Select the removable drive from the list
  5. Click the “Properties” button
  6. Click on the Policies tab
  7. Change it from “Optimize for quick removal” to “Optimize for performance”

Note: If you don’t plan on hot-swapping your USB device very often, and you will ALWAYS make sure you use the “Safely remove hardware” dialog to remove your hardware, then use “Optimize for performance”, otherwise in most cases it is best to use “Optimize for quick removal”, this will allow you to unplug your USB device without worrying about corruption.

Further details are mentioned here:

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My computer has problems, what can I do?

You’d be surprised the amount of times I get people asking me this question, therefore this is a guide on what to do to try and work out what the problem might be or completly solve the problem all together.

Check for resource intensive applications

Go to Start -> Run -> type: taskmgr -> Press OK

Windows Task Manager will appear, from here you will have tabs at the top, you are looking specifically at the “Processes” tab, click that.

From there, you need to first sort the list by “Mem Usage”, you can do this by clicking on the writing twice, which will sort this list with the most at the top, you will then notice to the left “CPU” which is how much of the CPU it is using, and then further left “Image Name” which is the raw name of the application.

If there is a particular application that appears to be using a lot of memory and using a lot of CPU you need to select it and click “End Process” at the bottom. It is particularly noted that if you have no idea what this application relates to you inspect it further by searching for the Image Name on google, this should bring up a site that will tell you want the application is, what it does and most importantly if it is a threat or not.

If you restart your computer and the application still runs anyway you will need to look at your System Configuration.

Go to Start -> Run -> type: msconfig

From there you can select exactly which applications you wish to run (or not run) at start up.

If you suspect an application may be a threat to your computer I recommend you take steps to remove malware.

Recently installed software

Have you recently installed some new software?

Try uninstalling it by going into safe mode.

You can get into safe mode by hitting F8 BEFORE the windows logo appears at boot up, and select SAFE MODE from the menu.

Once in safe mode, simply go to the Control Panel, open Add/Remove Programs, from there uninstall the recently installed software.

Restart your system.

Contact the author of the software for a fix.

Check your hard drive(s) for errors

Go to Start -> Run -> type: cmd -> Press OK

Command prompt will appear, type: chkdsk /f

It will most likely tell you that it will run next time you boot up, at this point you will need to restart your computer.

If bad sectors appear on your hard disk you need to purchase a new hard disk as soon as possible.

Always contact your manufacturer and check warranties.

Defragment your hard drive(s)

What it does: If you imagine the hard drive in a physical sense there are usually between 2 and 4 circular discs inside, at the top of the hard disk there is a motor and reader head. What happens is as you store data onto the hard disk it gets distributed across the hard drive as it is used. The idea of defragmentation is to move your most used files (such as programs) to the edge of the discs, so as the head physically moves across them, it does not have as far to travel.

How to run: Go to Start -> Run -> type: dfrg.msc -> Press OK

Remove Spyware or other Malware

  • Make sure have a firewall and it is running.
  • Update your anti-virus software and run a full system scan.
  • Make sure your copy of windows is up-to-date.
  • Ensure you are running anti spyware software and it is up-to-date.

Faulty memory

If the RAM in the computer is faulty any data read or written from the memory is potentially going to error.

There are a number of applications that can test if your RAM is faulty or not.

  • MemTest for windows
  • MemTest86 boot disc
  • UBCD (with MemTest86)

If the RAM turns out to be faulty you need to work out what kind of RAM you have in your computer, there are three methods of discovery:

  • CPU-Z is a freeware that gathers information on some of the main devices of your system.
  • Use SiSoftware Sandra, hardware testing and reporting software.
  • Physically open your computer’s case (when its turned off) take out the memory sticks and make a note of any significant information that is labelled on the sticks.

Once you know which memory you have, you will need to purchase a replacement. With any luck you can purchase older ram from eBay or cex, alternativly newer ram can be purchased from eBuyer or your favorite retailer.

Bad Capacitors

Although it’s not very common, it is possible that your motherboard can have bad capacitors. To identify bad capacitors, exists to help you.

If in fact you do discover that you have bad capacitors you need to either manually replace the capacitors (which takes much skill), or get a replacement motherboard (under warranty or purchase from a retailer or website).

Other Hardware

Have you tried swapping the hardware out with an alternative?

Unplug all non-vital devices externally and internally. Try that, otherwise…

Locate an alternative graphics card, PSU or other suspicious hardware. You could try asking a friend to borrow theirs, ask your local computer store, an IT expert or a supplier.

Last Resort – Format
I don’t like to recommend it, as it can get very complicated, and data can be lost. However it may be worth doing a clean install of your operating system using the original disc.

Make sure you backup all your important data, then insert your operating system disc, reboot and make sure the CD-ROM driver has priority in the boot sequence in BIOS.

From there simply follow the on-screen instructions, making sure you do a new install (not repair), and do format the hard drive.

None of the above

If none of the above works, contact your local IT expert or supplier.


No more Nero

After many years of using Nero, I’m finally fed up with it.

I have been using Nero 6 for some time now, and refuse to upgrade to Nero 7 because when I did use it, I did not like it and I felt it used up far too much hard disk space for such a simple task.

Over 200mb of space is used by a standard installation of Nero 7, there must be another option.

I looked back, and remembered changing from Easy CD Creator to Nero because of this very issue, Easy CD Creator was simply excessive for what I required, Nero was very simple and straight forward.

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Legally listen to music online for free

One of the things I enjoy doing while I work is listening to music.

After a while of listening to the music stored on my computer and my good old CD collection I find myself getting bored of it and in search for something new.

The sure way of getting hold of new music is to go online and look for it.

My first port of call for free music is BBC Radio1, where you can “listen live” or even “listen again” meaning you can listen to any previous shows, this is good if you like a particular show or type of music. One of the main problems is that you are required to use RealPlayer (if you’re in the UK, you can use Windows Media Player as well) to listen to the radio streams.

Of course as you probably know, there are some limits with this, including the fact that the music is rather general, and sometimes the presenter can get annoying.

Another radio streaming option is WinAmp’s Shoutcast based radio stations. The situation is that nullsoft (the company that makes winamp) released a streaming server application that can be used for free. People all over the world use this to run their own online radio station, ultimately meaning that there is a lot of choice. Best of all you can listen using Winamp or your choice of media player.

If like me you are a fan of dance music (in particular trance), you’ll probably find that Digitally Imported is probably one of the best online radio stations out there. They offer everything from Trance right through to Euro Dance to Gabber.

If streaming audio using third party media players isn’t your thing then don’t worry, there’s still more options out there.

As part of a new generation of websites Pandora offers the ability to listen to your choice of music via an embedded flash player. The question I am sure you’ll be asking is “how does it work?” well basically Pandora has a huge collection of music, and a huge database of recommendations from users. Simply, you put in a song that you like and you are provided with a radio station that seamlessly plays music that other users who liked that song recommended. It works very well most of the time. One of the best features of this site is that if you don’t like the current track, you can skip onto the next track.
A similar concept is which is probably a bit better as it appears to have more users, and allows for integration with your media player meaning it has better recommendations and feedback to utilise.

Yahoo! have recently jumped on this band wagon and released Yahoo! Music, which appears to offers a similar service to Pandora and, you can expect this to be quite good.

Another site that I am forced to mention is of course MySpace, as you are probably aware MySpace was originally created so that bands could get better known, and bands have chosen to take advantage of this by offering their music via MySpace’s music player. This is a good option if you want to listen to a few tracks at a time by particular artists. has existed for many years now, far longer than MySpace, I remember downloading PPK – resurrection from this site years ago. is fairly new offering music search and internet radio network, I have yet to try this out to its full extent.
There are plenty more sites out there, this is just a short list of reliable sites that really work.

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Exporting emails with the dates from Microsoft Outlook

The Problem:

By default when you try and export emails from Outlook, there are NO dates.

I wanted to export emails in a certain folder from outlook so I could then import the data into a database such as MySQL for further manipulation.

When I tried to export the emails, outlook would NOT export any of the header details or even something as simple as the date/time.

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