Friday, June 27, 2008

Fix: After undock, ThinkPad wireless connection doesn't work

For most of the time I've had my ThinkPad T60 laptop (running Windows XP SP2) and Advanced Mini-Dock, when I would undock the laptop from the docking station, the ThinkVantage Access Connections application would automatically and successfully enable the machine's wireless radio and connect me to the local wireless network. 

However, following a recent (May 2008) round of system software updates installed via ThinkVantage System Update, this no longer worked.  After undocking, the wireless connection would not automatically be made, and when I tried to manually connect using ThinkVantage Access Connections, the attempt would fail on the first step of the process, "Applying wireless settings."


After encountering this failure, I would be able to get the wireless to work correctly once again by rebooting the machine.  (Needless to say, I wasn't happy with this workaround, due to the delay involved in rebooting, and the need to close all open applications.)

The Fix - Executive Summary

I was able to fix the issue on my machine by reverting from ThinkVantage Access Connections version 4.52 to version 4.42.

The Fix - Long Version / Investigation

On one recent occasion where I undocked and subsequently encountered the issue, the ThinkVantage Access Connections service process, AcSvc.exe, crashed (with the typical Windows XP "This application has encountered a problem and needs to close" crash dialog).  I restarted the process (via the ThinkVantage Access Connections application shortcut on the Start menu), and after doing that, the wireless started working again, with no reboot involved.  This led me to believe that the issue was with the Access Connections software.

I reproduced the undock issue again, and this time manually killed the AcSvc.exe process (via Windows Task Manager), and restarted it, and that once again got the wireless networking to work.  So at that point I at least had a better workaround than needing to reboot. 

I continued to investigate the issue, and found a post on the Lenovo Support Forums indicating that another ThinkPad owner was having an apparently unrelated problem with AcSvc.exe, but that he was running Access Connections version 4.52, and that he had been able to resolve the issue by reverting to version 4.42.  I checked my ThinkVantage System Update log, and noticed that an upgrade to Access Connections 4.52 had been among the changes in the recent round of updates I had installed.  A co-worker who also had a T60 and was having no wireless issues also reported that he was running Access Connections 4.42.  Armed with all of this information, I decided to try reverting to Access Connections 4.42 to see if that would resolve the issue. 

I was somewhat nervous about doing this, since if the Access Connections installer didn't do a good job of handling the case of installing an older version of the software on top of a newer one, I could conceivably left in a broken state where my network connectivity (both wired and wireless) might not work at all.  To try and mitigate this risk, I backed up the registry entries and program files for Access Connection 4.52 before proceeding.

Fortunately, the Access Connections 4.42 installer had good handling for installing over a newer version: it recognized that I had a newer Access Connections version installed, and (with my approval) uninstalled the existing version before installing the 4.42 version.

Following a reboot, with Access Connections 4.42 installed, the laptop now once again automatically and successfully connections to the wireless network following an undock!

There was one remaining minor issue, though.  With Access Connections 4.42 reinstalled, I started seeing a new issue where upon an undock, I would get an error dialog with caption "netsh.exe - Unable to Locate Component", and dialog text "This application has failed to start because framedyn.dll was not found.  Re-installing the application may fix this problem."


Fortunately (and unlike for the original "Applying wireless settings" failure issue), help was readily available via a Google search for this issue.  Per a suggestion given in several of the search results, I copied the file framedyn.dll from my C:\Windows\system32\wbem folder to the C:\Windows\system32 folder; with this done, the error dialog now no longer appears.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fix: Altered Logitech mouse behavior in some apps

In a previous post on an issue with Logitech mouse sensitivity settings, I noted that I had an unresolved issue on my Windows XP machine, where the speed and acceleration settings for my Logitech MX500 mouse getting lost while Microsoft Virtual PC Console was the foreground (active) application.  (The sensitivity of the mouse would suddenly increase quite a bit, causing a corresponding increase in the speed of the mouse cursor.)  Since then, I've noticed the same issue occurring in a couple of other applications as well, including the JMS queue browser HermesJMS, and the ThinkVantage Active Protection Windows Control Panel applet.

Today, I figured out the fix: In the Control Panel, in the Mouse applet, on the Motion tab, uncheck the "Disable acceleration in games" checkbox, then click OK.

Apparently the issue is caused by the Logitech software erroneously identifying the affected applications as games, and disabling the custom mouse speed/sensitivity and acceleration settings while those applications are active.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The "red squiggle" and user-entered filesystem paths

Wouldn't it be nice if the "red squiggle" that appears under misspelled user-typed words in many applications these days (such as Microsoft Word and Firefox 2) would also appear under mistyped portions of a filesystem path in "Open File" dialogs and other places where the user can manually type in a path, such as the Start | Run dialog, and the address bar of a Windows Explorer window?


Look closely at the highlighted section in the above Open dialog.  The last word in the path name entered by the user, "mircosoft," is a nonexistent file/directory name, and so a "red squiggle" appears under that portion of the entered path.

The image above is just a mockup; Windows XP doesn't actually do this.  Are there any current operating systems out there that do?

This would be a nice additional UI cue to the user that they have misspelled or mistyped something.  Currently, the only such cue in Windows XP that the user gets is that intellisense suggestions (suggested path/file names) stop showing up under the input field.