Where has that account been locked out?

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Microsoft | Posted on 07-02-2008


Account Lockout Header

Anyone who has ever worked in a IT helpdesk environment will know that probably 50% + of calls are related in some way or another to the user getting there password wrong, and locking out there account. No mater how much you educate the users, this will always happen, especially if you enforce a complex password policy (and i hope you do!)

I have seen on the odd occasion where thre is something more at work. The user could be happily logging on in the morning, working for a bit when suddenly there account is getting locked out, and as far as you (and they) can tell everything should be fine. You can unlock the account, they carry on working for a bit but then it happens again. There are a few things it could be:

  • Someone is trying to use that users account, doesn’t know there password and so keeps locking it. This could be malicious or another reason
  • The user has logged onto another machine, and not logged off. Then, if the user has changed their password while the other machine is logged in, it could be requesting resources using the old (and now incorrect) password. Every time it tries to get a network resource that requires authentication it will cause a bad password attempt
  • Similar to the above, but the user is logged into a terminal server session an not logged out. For none console sessions on terminal servers users have access to, its always a good idea to enforce an automatic log off after a period of inactivity
  • The user could have a connection to a network resource (such as a mapped drive) , that is using old credentials. Personally i’ve never seen this on XP, but it did see it on Win95/98

So, we know what can go wrong, but how the hell do we find out what machine the account lockout is occurring on?

Showing Reporting Services Multi-Value Parameters

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in SQL Reporting Services | Posted on 23-01-2008


Param Header

One of the big advantages SQL reporting services 2005 has over 2000 is the ability to use Muil-Value parameters (I cant really believe it was missing from 2000)

The only problem with them is showing the values of the parameters you have selected on the report, or showing and ‘ALL’ value if the user has selected all available ones. This is a walk through of how to do it, although I’m sure there is a better way out there.

First of all were are going to assume you have a big lift of parameters (say 20+), if you selected them all then you would get a huge ugly list where you show them on the report probably looking something like this:

Lots of Params

Now, this does not look very nice on the report, will probably make the report go onto 2 pages when it would fit on one etc. What we want to do in this situation is just output the word ‘ALL’. In order to do this you need to create a new dataset based on the number of possible values in the parameter, and add some logic to the text box that displays the values

Creating the data source

First of all create a new dataset and call it data_param_count or similar. Then copy the sql from what you use to get your parameter option, and instead of selecting all the fields use a SQL select count query to just return the number of rows, eg:

Select Count (*) from tbl_params

Note: If you are hard coding in your parameter values you cant do this step. You will just have to hard code the number of parameters into the next section

This should return you just one row from your table that contains the number of parameters that you can select. We can then use this in our text box to find out the number of parameters we are dealing with.

Displaying the parameter Value

Now that you know how many parameters you are dealing with, you are ready to output them. Drop an text box onto your report, at the top of the body section (you cant drop it into the header as when the header is rendered the data sources have not yet ran). Right click on the new text box and select Expression to open up the expression editor.

You now need to tell the text box to display the contents of the parameter, something if there are too many to display (such as ‘Cannot display all’) and something for if they are all selected (such as ‘ALL’). In order to do this you need to use a couple of functions built into reporting services IIF and Join, these will allow us to check the number of parameters and output what we want. Here’s a code example:

= “Param: ” & IIF(Sum(Fields!ID.Value, “data_param_count”) = Parameters!par_List.Count,”All”,Join(Parameters!par_List.Value, “,”))

Note: If you have hard codded the parameters into the list, replace the section of code using the data list with your own number.

So, what’s happening in this line of code?

  • First of all we use an IIF to see if the overall number of parameters available to select is equal to the number the user has chosen. We can get how many have been selected using the count property of the parameter object
  • Next if the part of the IIF that will run if the statement is true. So here if the count of selected params is the same as the number available we output the string ‘ALL’
  • The final part is what happens if the statement is not true. We use the Join function to output a list of all the parameters the user has selected, separated by a comma. Now instead of a long list if you select all the available values, you will get this:

Example after codding

That’s far neater than just outputting a long list. If you wanted to show something else in a case where lots of values(but not all) have been selected, you could just add another IIF statement into the above in the place of the false string that could check for something like more than 10, and display ‘To many to Display’ or something similar.

Unexplained Explorer Crashes

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Applications | Posted on 20-01-2008



Explorer.exe, the shell we spend most of our lives using. Normally (remember this qualifier) it tends to be quite stable, but yesterday a colleague of mine started to have strange problems with it on his XP SP2 machine.

If you clicked on Start -> Run and started to type in the UNC path to a server (as you do 100 times a day) after the two slashes ‘\\’ explorer would inexplicably crash and restart. As is the case with such thing, there didn’t seem to be a logical explanation as to what was going on.

The only new software that we had been recently messing about with was from http://portableapps.com and as that gets installed onto a portable drive (thats kind of its point) we are pretty sure it wasn’t that.

When I got back in the following day, it was working again. What was the solution? Well, clearing up the History and Cache on the machine. That was it. There must have been something the the most recently used list of run, that was causing the problem. As it only occurred after typing in the leading slashes, it must have been a computer name. Unfortunately as the list was cleared we have no idea what the hell caused it.

This what what was logged into the event log on the pc:

Explorer Event1

Explorer Event2

We had a Google around for the error but didn’t really come up with anything, so if all else fails, delete your history and clear your cache!

Windows XP SP3

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Applications | Posted on 09-01-2008


Windows LogoAs Microsoft are trying to still push the world onto Vista, most of use continue to use Windows XP. I hadn’t really heard much about it, but XP service pack 3 is now at the release candidate stage. You can download it and read more about it here

As you’d expect, it’s not got very much new functionality (you need vista for that). It seams mainly to be a roll up of all the fixes since SP2, there are however a couple of new bits that might be useful in the enterprise:

  • Black Hole Router detection (routers that are silently dropping packets)
  • Network Access protection (NAP) support (quite a cool idea, never heard of it before)
  • Ability to run a Windows install without entering the product key. It will prompt later as part of the genuine advantage stuff (you would have to be installing of an image with SP3 on it to do this)

I’ve not downloaded it yet, so I don’t know personally how well it works, but if you have a look on http://exo-blog.blogspot.com/2007/11/update-re-testing-vista-w2gb-ram-office.html there is a suggestion that it might actually make things run a bit faster, but ill believe this when I see it.

If you are not part of the Microsoft universe, on Friday (the 11th) there is a new version of the KDE desktop manager being released. It will be version 4 and has some cool new features, check out http://www.kde.org/ for more info.