By aaron.axvig, 6 March, 2009

A week ago I bought some new lead (graphite) for my mechanical pencil.  Looking at the rack of refills, I realized my choice would not be simple.  There are different hardness ratings, in addition to the sizes.  I use 0.5mm.  Summoning memories from my 8th-grade art class, I selected 4H as it was one of the harder options.

This selection of mechanical pencil refills has completely revolutionized my note-taking and homework-completing lives.

  • This lead writes much crisper lines.
  • I have yet to snap the end of the lead off (used to happen frequently).
  • I’m still using the first lead.  It probably lasts twice as long as regular lead
    • I have to click the end of my pencil less.
  • It does not leave dust on the paper, which used to cause smudges.
  • I don’t need to rotate my pencil as much because the edge stays sharp longer.
  • Erasing marks made with this lead leaves virtually no traces of the marks and consumes less of the eraser.

The message is clear: I love this 4H lead so much that next time I buy a mechanical pencil I will throw away the *** lead that comes with it and buy some sweet 4H lead refills.

By aaron.axvig, 19 February, 2009

After pounding my head at this off-and-on over the last five weeks (previously thwarted), I have mashed enough VBScript skills into it (my head) that I figured out how to script the pinning of items to the taskbar.


Set objShell = CreateObject("Shell.Application")
Set objFolder = objShell.Namespace("C:\")
Set objApp = objFolder.ParseName("Notepad.lnk")
For Each verb in objApp.Verbs()
If verb.Name = "Pin to Tas&kbar" Then verb.DoIt

For this to work, you need to have a valid shortcut Notepad.lnk in C:\.  To do a pin to the start menu, replace “Pin to Tas&kbar” with “Pin to Start Men&u”.  Yes, you need the ampersands, they are there as keyboard shortcuts.  Right-click on a shortcut and push K and it will pin that to the taskbar.


By aaron.axvig, 5 February, 2009

I encountered an issue at work when we wanted to add some gadgets to the Vista Sidebar.  Upon opening the Add Gadget panel, all of the available gadgets briefly appeared and then faded out, leaving a blank window.

This can be resolved by resetting the user’s Settings.ini file for the Sidebar.  This is located at %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar.  Just rename Settings.ini to something else after you close Sidebar (must be closed from system tray too), and then re-launch Sidebar.  A new Settings.ini will be created.  All of the user’s Sidebar settings will be reset, but at least they are now able to add gadgets.


By aaron.axvig, 13 January, 2009

I have been annoyed by needing to setup my taskbar pinned items every time I set up a new Windows 7 install, so really wanted to find out where they are stored.  They are buried pretty deep: C:\Users\**Username**\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar

So now I will be able to keep a copy of a bunch of shortcuts handy and just copy them in there.  I'm thinking cmd, Notepad, Calculator, several Office apps, Irfanview, and Paint will be priorities for now.


By aaron.axvig, 11 October, 2008

When I ran the installer for SQL Server 2008 Books Online (download here) I got an error.

This installation package cannot be installed by the Windows Installer service.  You must install a Windows service pack that contains a newer version of the Windows Installer service.

How Vista is not auto-updated with the latest installer is beyond me, but here's what you have to do.

  1. Download the new installer package.
  2. That page says you need to use wusa.exe to install the package, but if you just double-click on what you downloaded it will do that automatically.
  3. Restart.  (Yes, I tried not restarting, but it doesn't work until you restart).
  4. Bask in brand-new installer glory.


By aaron.axvig, 12 September, 2008

Sure Outlook has great spam-filtering, but what if you are relying on Outlook Web Access instead?  You will waste a lot of time moving messages to the Junk folder.  Or even consider the amount of bandwidth saved by having the server do filtering rather than the client.  Thankfully it is quite easy to setup a spam filter based on the ZEN IP blocklist provided by

  1. Install the Anti-spam components following these directions if they already aren't.
  2. Open "Exchange Management Console".
  3. Expand "Organization Configuration".
  4. Left-click "Hub Transport".
  5. Select the "Anti-spam" tab.
  6. Right-click "IP Block List Providers" and select enable.
  7. Double-click "IP Block List Providers".
  8. Go to the "Providers" tab.
  9. Click "Add".
  10. Enter your choice in the "Provider name" box (I recommended "Spamhaus Zen").
  11. Put "" in the "Lookup domain" box.
  12. Leave "Match any return code" checked.

The following screenshot shows pretty much all these steps:


Doing this cut me to about 17 spams per day, rather than the ~170 I was getting. 

By aaron.axvig, 11 September, 2008

Vista seems to have an annoying habit of creating several "Tunnel adapter Local Area Connection* ##" entries in my ipconfig results, which means I have to scroll up to see the actual entries I want to.  That is a pain to do on a laptop with a touch pad, but also I think it was contributing to connectivity problems when switching between wireless and wired connections.

If you want to remove them, there is a method that seems to be harmless:

  • Right-click My Computer, go to Manage.
  • Go to Device Manager
  • Click View on the top of the window, and check Show hidden devices.
  • Now expand the Network adapters tree, and you should see several entries that start with isatap.(something).
  • Disable (right-click, Disable) several of them, and verify that all your networking things still work.
  • If that didn't cause any problems, you should be able to safely delete them (right-click, Uninstall).

Now your ipconfig readout should be a little more sane.  This problems seems to be caused by IPv4 and IPv6 tunneling of some sort, which you can read about here.


By aaron.axvig, 3 May, 2008

The idea is to create a new site with no real documents to look at, that is purely for re-directing one URL.  It took me a few tries to get this working, so I thought I would document the steps.  In the example we'll be redirecting to

  1. Create a new site in IIS7.  Pick a name, point the Physical Path to the folder you just created, and in the Host name box.
  2. Double-click on HTTP Redirect (in the lower half of the pane when you have the site you just created selected).  Check the first box, and put in the box.  Check the box that reads "Redirect all requests to exact destination."  Change the drop-down to permanent.  Click apply.
  3. Notice that it created a web.config file in the folder you created.
  4. May need to restart the site.
  5. Create a folder for the site.
  6. Give the Network Service and IUSR users read access to the folder.  Note that your mileage may vary; I have historically had a difficult time with IIS file permissions.

Not too difficult really.  I tried to do it without a folder first, and was thwarted by file permissions after that.


By aaron.axvig, 20 April, 2008

Ever wondered what service is running inside of each instance of svchost.exe that you see in Task Manager?  You can tell by right-clicking on the instance and selecting "Go to Service(s)".  This will take you to the Services tab and select the appropriate service(s).  You might want to sort by PID so that they are all grouped together.