Windows Explored

Everyday Windows Desktop Support, Advanced Troubleshooting & Other OS Tidbits

Archive for April, 2011

Know the Stack (or More Hang Analysis Using Process Explorer)

Posted by William Diaz on April 28, 2011

A few moments after opening Outlook, the user complains of unresponsiveness. We start by running Process Explorer. Process Explorer is “self-contained”, so there is no installation required. You can run it directly from SysInternals Live: I also have it on our lab so I ran it from there:
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Don’t Dismiss That Error

Posted by William Diaz on April 28, 2011

Instead, click the click here:
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Out With the Old, In(stall) With the New

Posted by William Diaz on April 12, 2011

It’s not uncommon for outdated drivers to have a negative impact on user applications. Without knowing how to do some basic crash analysis, finding an outdated problem driver can be quite daunting when you consider how many drivers there are on the average system. However, you can simplify this by looking for or obtaining a crash dump of the application.

In the case here, we have a user complaining of frequent crashes while working in Adobe Photoshop. This is an XP system so I am hoping that Dr Watson, the default post mortem debugger*, is capturing the crash. I ask for the computer name and UNC to the location where the drwtsn32.log and user.dmp files are written when an exception is caught; this can be found in \Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\Dr Watson. Both files are there and have a recent modify date-time, and I copy both of these to my system for analysis.

Because Photoshop is primarily graphics, I am guessing we might find a graphics driver somewhere in either file along with an exception. I start by opening the drwtsn32.log, a plain text file that records a history of all the crashes it captured. The file is read from the bottom since this is where the latest information is added. From there, I do a text search going up for the word application to verify that Photoshop is the crashing application:
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Size Matters

Posted by William Diaz on April 8, 2011

Open exiting some client management software program each time, our user ran into the following error: “The instruction at … references memory at …. The memory could not be ‘read’…
This is a network based application that relies on .Net 1.1 so previous troubleshooting involved removing and reinstalling the .Net dependencies, all to no avail. An important detail was overlooked, though, which would have saved us time and get the issue properly escalated: our user was a timekeeper for another user, who also was running into the same error on their workstation when exiting the application. From this minor detail, we could assume the issue was not workstation or user specific.

Beyond this, I have no insight behind the internal workings of this application. But, that did not mean we cannot turn to the power of the dump to get an idea of what was happening. When you encounter such an error dialog, do not click OK, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Instead dump the crashing process.

After creating a .dmp file, I copied it to my workstation and opened with WinDbg from the Windows Debugging Tools. In the only thread was an important clue in the top frame of the stack (you read threads and stacks going up, so this would be the last routine before crashing):
cmsbase is the module and the “!” tells us where the function starts, in this case CMSTempFile Size. Then user heard me muttering to myself this and noted that the attorney’s Subscription List was rather large. Upon escalation to the software developer, this issue was confirmed as a bug with large subscription lists. To correct, the subscription list needed to be shortened (or recreated in cases where it persisted).

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The Case of the Print to PDF Hangs

Posted by William Diaz on April 4, 2011

One morning I started hearing a few reports of cases where users were not able to print to the BullZip PDF software printing device. After a wait of 5 minutes, the BullZip printer would return the following error: “An error occurred. Error 1008: Ghostscript timed out – Make PDF

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