Customizing the Text ScreenSaver with Group Policy

“Customizing screensavers?” I hear you cry, “That’s a bit retro isn’t it?”

Nowadays screensavers have more or less disappeared. It makes much more sense to just turn off the screen after 10 minutes of inactivity. However, there are some instances where a screensaver can be useful, for example, an always-on kiosk or even digital signage.

One of the more useful standard screensavers in the Windows operating system is called “3D Text”. Useful because by default it will display the time but can be customized to display some text instead

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Resetting an HP LaserJet’s serial number – Send a PJL command over FTP in Windows 7

Users press buttons.

If something stops working as expected, they will probably press every button they can see before reaching out to IT for help.

While I’m all for self-service when it comes to IT issues, we had a recent problem where a user managed to perform an NVRAM reset* on one of our HP LaserJet printers! This wipes out the serial number, page counts etc. and replaces them with XXXXXXXXXX. Unfortunately the page counts seem lost for good but  to reset the serial number you need to send PJL commands directly to the printer.

This used to be done by connecting a PC to the printer via a parallel cable. You would then enter some DOS commands to copy a “PJL” file onto the printer for processing. You can also send the PJL file using the HP Firmware Update Utility/Tool but I can’t seem to find it available for download anywhere.

As I am writing this in 2013, I only have network printers and Windows 7 x64 to hand. After a lot of digging I managed to work out how to do it.

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Why now is as good a time as any to upgrade to Windows 7

Windows 7 branded mug of teaYou may be wondering why you would bother upgrading your existing Windows XP and Vista machines to Windows 7, when Windows 8 has just been released.

Whether you are a home user or a large company there are great benefits to be  had from upgrading and using your new Windows 7 PC as a stepping stone to Microsoft’s latest and greatest.

Windows XP recently celebrated its 10th birthday, a major achievement for it to keep such a stronghold but also a major issue when it  becomes time to change to something new. The are always scare stories when Microsoft releases a new OS. The fact of the matter is, change often creates such fear-mongering when really its an opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of.

Businesses stayed away from Windows 7 for 2 major reasons

  1. Windows Vista had a terrible launch, fraught with bad reviews and needing an extra expense of upgrading hardware
  2. Due to people sticking with XP, business software wasn’t upgraded and smaller bespoke software would cost a fortune to redevelop for a new OS

Nowadays, this isn’t as much of an issue. Windows 7 runs easily on hardware  over 4 years old and really flies on the latest kit. All major applications have been updated or can be delivered via modern methods like application virtualisation or by using tools like Microsoft’s free application compatibility toolkit or XP Mode. OS deployment technologies have moved on too, meaning you can upgrade people from XP to 7 in a couple of hours.

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You’ve got Emoji – Smilie Characters discovered in a font

Screenshot of all of the special characters
To get these simple but cool emoticons/emoji/smilies or whatever you want to call them you will need the Segoe UI Semibold font that comes with Windows 7 (possibly Vista too?).
In Microsoft Word, click the Insert tab on the ribbon. On the far-right click the Symbol button, followed by the More Symbols option

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Creating custom Windows 7 RSS Dynamic Themes

personalizeThis is old news but is something I could never get to work, until now!

Windows users have always enjoyed customising their Desktop with new icons, cursors, sounds, wallpapers and even title bar colours. One of the problems is that you can easily get bored with staring at the same picture everyday. Windows 7 includes the option to have a slideshow of pictures rather than one static image but even that can be cumbersome to keep fresh. One way around this is to use images supplied by RSS. If you aren’t familiar with RSS then you can check out the info here but basically it’s a way of getting automatic website updates. This can be seen in the Bing Dynamic theme provided on Microsoft’s Personalization website.

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Offline Files versus VPN a.k.a. The case of the missing “Work Online” button

I have been having a nightmare of an issue lately with Offline Files and the Windows 7 Sync Center.

Offline Files is a very handy issue for people who work with laptops or who are regularly disconnected from the company network. The feature allows a seamless cache of you network files that can be accessed and modified when you are not connected to the Local Area Network (LAN). Then, when you are next in the office, or connected via a VPN, all modified files are synchronised with the file servers and any conflicts can be resolved. The feature is present in Windows XP but it isn’t the most efficient process and was modified in Windows Vista with the introduction of the Sync Center. This is basically a dashboard for Offline Files as well as Windows Mobile phones. The background process was also further refined in Windows 7. It was this refinement that broke our systems!

Read on for more info and the solution…

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Getting Outlook 2010 to read your emails out loud

I stumbled across a feature of Outlook 2010 today and as well as being great fun it could also come in handy for people with accessibility issues so I thought I would share it

You can add a “Speak” button to the Quick Access Toolbar (or a custom ribbon) that will enable Outlook to read your email aloud

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Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Technical Launch, Wembley: The new efficiency?

View Microsoft's New Efficiency
Click to view the full album

I have just spent the day at Wembley stadium for the technical launch of Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 & Exchange 2010 dubbed as “the new efficiency”. The launch demonstrated what the latest offerings from ms can do in order to help streamline your infrastructure in order to save time and money. i guess this is the bottom line for every windows launch ever but it was good to see something aimed at the it pros rather than a PDC or full on tech:ed event. I am pleased to report that the latest produce from the MS market actually will help you to achieve your goals.

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