The Woes of Windows Vista/7 Mapped Network Drives

One of the biggest, bestest, and most-hyped features of Windows Vista (according to Microsoft, that is) was the brand spanking new TCP/IP networking stack. Ask us, it sucks. Network performance hasn’t improved any over the ancient stack used in XP (nor should it – it’s not like there’s anything new in IPv4) though it does add better IPv6 support out-of-the-box and ships with some even more functionality in Windows 7. But more importantly, Microsoft threw out decades of testing and quality assurance work on the existing Networking Stack and replaced it with something rather questionable.

We’ll be following up some more on this topic from a technical side later in another article, but for now, an example that most of you are sure to have come across if you’ve ever tried to map network drives before:

This popup is shown at system startup if you have any mapped network drives to UNC shares which are not protected with a username and password. If you map a network destination that does require authentication, Windows will map the drive OK. To further complicate matters: this message is shown only when you startup from a cold boot! If you restart your PC (vs shutdown and powerup), it won’t appear.

Resolving the issue is straight-forward enough: just double-click on the network drive in My Computer and it’ll automatically, instantly, and silently connect. Which makes one wonder why Windows couldn’t connect in the first place.

Good question.

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Gutsy Gibbon and Really Slow Internet

Last month, Canonical Ltd. released the newest update to their extremely popular Ubuntu: Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon (7.10)… But it hasn’t been all fun and games, as thousands of irate users will tell you… If you search the web, the blogosphere, usenet, and the Ubuntu Support Forums for slow internet problems, you’ll get more than you ever bargained for. Ubuntu 7.10’s networking stack is broken, make no mistake about it.

The symptoms include incredibly-slow internet access, inability to access certain domains, slow logon times, slow application launch times (under GNOME), and so on and so forth. There hasn’t been any official acknowledgement, but the consensus is that it’s a bug that’s re-surfaced from Ubuntu Edgy Eft (version 6.10).

In short, internet on Ubuntu is useless. There are multiple guides across the net with the solution along with an “explanation” we find to be inadequate and fundamentally flawed. The solution is to disable anything that even smells remotely of IPv6. Remove it from the network settings, remove the definitions from the hosts file, configure your favorite web browser to pretend it doesn’t exist, and you’ll get your internet back.

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Windows Vista Forgets its Name – Again

The worst bugs are those that you can’t fix without formatting. Most people – before they knew any better – used to recommend formatting as the “tool” of choice for fixing any bug or issue with the operating system or even a piece of software. But as people learn and experience new things, they find alternative (read: less painful) ways of dealing with these issues and making them go away. But what about the bugs that can’t be dealt with otherwise? Like this one: You install Windows Vista, you give it a computer name, you join a domain and change it. Two weeks later, Vista forgets its name, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It’s a bit complicated when taken out of context, but just look at the image below (click it for a hi-res screen capture), it might make things more clear.

Basically, Windows Vista reverts to the “automatically determined” computer name internally, while all settings point to the name you gave it. The name it uses is the default name provided during setup, whether or not you accepted it at the time. This was a reported bug during the beta, and it’s still driving us crazy now.

Multiple Wireless Networks with one Wi-Fi Card!

You’ve experienced it before. You’re at work, you need to copy files from one file server to the other, but your misconfigured network infrastructure means you need to connect to one wireless network, copy the files to your hard drive, disconnect, connect to the second network, and then transfer. Or maybe you’re at home, and you want to erm.. “borrow” some files off your neighbor’s unprotected wireless network and upload them through your internet connection. Either way, you had to spend a lot of time connecting and disconnecting, associating your card with first one network access point then another. But you don’t have to, because there is another way.

Microsoft Research‘s “VirtualWiFi” utility could do with a better name and could definitely use a lot better marketing, because this amazing utility let’s you connect with one wireless card to as many separate wireless networks as your bandwidth can support – yet no one knows about it! Continue reading

Vista 5365 Haunted by Bug from the Past: PDC 2003!

5365 is was a good build. It looked pretty; it had nifty features, stunning wallpapers, and a fairly stable core. But, as the say, looks can be deceiving.
Can an operating system without the ability to access the internet be considered a "good" OS? As a desktop machine? I doubt that the best written operating system is worth a dime if it can't connect to other computers and services. It just won't work. So, excuse me while I uninstall Windows Vista Build 5365, and update GRUB2 to reflect the changes and boot FC5 instead.

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On Building the Best Cheap Home Server

So you've read our article regarding the importance of a server in a home network.. and now you're looking for the best cheap server you can get. We don't blame you, as a matter of fact, we are here to help!
What you need to keep in mind is, this is a home server (note the italics). It's going to be one machine that will take care of everything; but believe it or not, it doesn't have to cost a fortune nor be the very best to get the job done. We will be using NewEgg for all our purchases just to make things easier, but feel free to shop around for the best deal.

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The Importance of a Home Server

Do you…

  • Test new operating systems or beta test system tools?
  • Format more than once a month?
  • Have more than more computers than users in your home?
  • Download movies, music, or programs?
  • Love having all your files in one place without sifting through piles of recovery medium?
  • Write web-based scripts or design websites?
  • Have one printer and need 24/7 access to it?
  • Want to share an internet connection securely and professionally, complete with port forwarding and more?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need a home server. The good news is, its not hard to set up, expensive to get, or difficult to configure, but before we get there, let's see just how a server in your home can make you a more productive person, save you time and money, and leave you wondering why you didn't do this before.

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Vista 5231: The All-New Networking Center

The all new ‘Network Center’ is more than just a pretty face.

Networking appears to have been rewritten completely from the bottom up in Vista 5231. For those of you piping on about how its ‘just a number’ trust me, its not.

The new Network Center allows you to do somethings that users have demanded for years: for instance, configure multiple connections to automatically switch between themselves when connected to the appropriate network.

For example, at work you connect to one wireless router that does not use DHCP, and at home one that does, while at University you connect to a third that doesn’t. In XP you would have to manually configure 1 of the connections every time. In Vista, you don’t.

But it goes further than that: Vista automatically queries the SNMP for all local networks. I plugged in my Efficient Networks SpeedStream 5100b DSL modem, and Vista let me know that the address could be used to access the configuration page for the SpeedStream.

The new ‘Network Map’ draws a cloud diagram of your PC and all the networks its connected to. It correctly identified that I was connected to a Wireless Network with my Wi-Fi adapter, and that I was connected to the Internet via my wired LAN connection. It correctly ID’d the routers/modems on both ends, and supplied the network name.

On the Command Line side it has also added the ‘route’ command which can be used by advanced users to dictate how traffic should be routed across the various simultaneously connected networks, and to quickly and easily solve issues that previously required luck and conformity.