Friday, August 4, 2017

Visual Studio Missing "Open Project/Solution"

Background

A very weird thing happened to me the other day...

I have a client that was having trouble running SQL Relay to run on Windows 7 x86. After getting a Windows 7 x86 VM working, I ran into some of the same problems.

Hmm...

Well, my x86 packages are built on Windows 8.1, with the correct switches for Windows 7 compatibility, but who knows, maybe I should just build it on Windows 7 to see if I get better results.

The Problem...

So, I installed Visual Studio 2013 Community, which is what I use on Windows 8.1, and got everything to compile and run. But, to build packages, I needed to use Visual Studio Pro 2010, because it actually supports building deployment packages, unlike the free versions.

No problem, I own a copy of that, so I installed it too.

Post-install, the UI looked weird and the File menu had an "Open File..." option but no Open Project/Solution, or New Project/Solution, or anything like it. Opening the deployment project with Open File just opened the file itself in a text editor.

What the heck?

The web suggested Tools -> Import and Export Settings... -> Reset All Settings.

This did nothing.

The Solution...

I ultimately discovered that installing VS 2013 first had caused the problem.

To uninstall 2013 completely, I used:

vs_community.exe /uninstall /force

...from the install DVD image.

To uninstall VS 2010 and start fresh, I used the "Uninstall a program" link in the Control Panel. I also removed the various things that I'd seen the VS 2010 installer install the first time, like Dotfuscator, Tools for Office Runtime, various SQL Server-related things, and Silverlight. Unfortunately I don't have an exact list of them now, and looking at it now, it's not clear what was installed by VS 2010 and what was installed alongside something else. It's also not clear how important removing them is, so it might not matter. I just did it to be thorough.

After that, I re-installed VS 2010 and the UI looked correct. Installing VS 2013 afterward didn't hose 2010 either.

All of this took hours and hours.

Why...

Why does it matter what order you install them in?

After much digging...

It appears that every time you install a new version of VS, it attempts to emulate your UI settings from any existing version. This works OK when upgrading from an older version of VS because it already existed prior to the invention of the newer version. If you already have a newer version installed though, the old version might get confused trying to make sense of its newfangled configuration. Apparently this happens when 2010 Pro tries to read the settings from 2013 Community.

Ha!

Well, at least I'll know to avoid that in the future.

Sketchy Windows 7 x86 Activation

Man!

I bought a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit) from a guy on eBay, and what I got in the mail was nothing like I'd hoped I'd get. I'd hoped for a new, in-the-box copy. Instead, I got a disc that said something like "Intended for distribution with a refurbished PC" on it, and an obviously peeled-off product key stuck to the back of the sleeve.

Great.

In hindsight, it was probably foolish to expect more for $27.99. Would it even work?

Well, kind-of. I was able to install it in VMware and the key worked at installation time, but when I tried to Activate Windows, it failed with an error saying that Microsoft had blocked that key!

Wow.

So, maybe the guy bought a refurbished laptop which eventually died, and he resold the disc that came with it, along with the product key that he peeled off of the laptop???

Conceptually, that seems like the kind of thing that something one ought to be able to do. But, of course, logistically, if Windows 7 had already been activated on the laptop, then after it died, there's no good way for Microsoft to know that, or any process that I know of to deactivate a key, and it ends up being up to the new owner to sort it out.

Fortunately, I was able to do so, very easily.

MS has a new (well, new as of August 2017) online chat thing that you can use for customer support at https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/contactus/. I typed in my problem, it gave me a potential solution, which didn't work, and then asked me if it solved the problem. Clicking No gave me the option of chatting with a guy, and the guy was able to get everything going.

It did require a bit of legwork though. I had to take a photo of the product key and a screenshot of the eBay order and put them on the VM's desktop, basically as proof-of-purchase. Then, I had to go through some steps to let him take over the PC. He looked at the images, "convinced his supervisor" that I had legitimately purchased the product, generated a new key, activated Windows with that key, and left me a copy of the key on the desktop.

Excellent!

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you may not just be out $27.99. There is hope.

Windows 7 - Get Genuine!

I'm sure this has happened to someone else...

Years ago I bought a cheap laptop from WalMart, an Acer Aspire One 725 - 0802 to be exact, which came with Windows 7 Home Premium. Given how inexpensive it was, I expected to have to replace it a year later, but no, it just kept bumping along until the paint was worn off of almost every key. One day though, it just wouldn't turn on any more.

Between backups and the cloud I was able to move the software and data to a new laptop, but I didn't want the copy of Windows 7 to go to waste, so I did a P2V conversion by pulling out the hard drive, putting it in an external case, dd'ing the drive image, etc. I also saved the product key, just in case.

I ran it in VMware for a while, and then one day the screen turned black and I got "Get Genuine" messages every time I'd try to do anything. I tried to Get Genuine, over and over, but every time it failed, telling me to contact Acer. Attempts to Activate Windows just sent me to a Windows 10 FAQ.

No good!

For a long time, I tolerated the messages, but eventually called customer support to try to sort it out. I explained everything to them, and the fix was remarkably simple.

Open a command prompt and run:

slui 3

Then, enter the product key.

That's all.

At least on my side. What I don't know is whether they had to do something on their side too, to allow it.

Either way though, it was ultimately quite simple. So, if you've run into the same problem, try slui by itself, and if that doesn't work, call customer support and walk through it with them. They don't appear to just outright reject these kinds of activations because of the OEM key.

The only remaining problem was a black background. That was easily fixed by right-clicking on the desktop, selecting Personalize, and selecting the Windows 7 theme.

Good as new!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Oracle TLS/SSL Encryption Tutorials

So, you want to secure communications between your application and an Oracle database with TLS/SSL...

Most TLS/SSL-capable servers are secured by generating a private key, getting a certificate, and adding a few lines to a config file to tell the server the locations of the cert and key files. Of course, if you generate the certificate yourself, then you also have to tell the server about your fake certificate authority. But, for most apps, that's it. Three parameters in a file somewhere: cert, key, and ca.

With Oracle, the idea is similar, but the details are very different.

Rather than storing certificates and keys in files and providing the paths to them in a config file, you store them in an Oracle "wallet" and provide the path to the wallet.

While Oracle wallets are more secure than flat files, the security features introduce some interesting quirks that are worth reviewing before attempting an implementation.

When you're ready to take the plunge, tutorials follow: