Monthly Archives: July 2006

Automatic Time Sync in Parallels Virtual Machines

Posted by Mike Brittain on July 29, 2006
Apple, Microsoft / 4 Comments

I’ve been running Parallels on my MacBook so I can boot up a few of the Windows applications I still rely on… which I can tell you is a dwindling number. I noticed a few weeks ago that the clock in Windows XP had gone out of sync on the machine. Basically, if the virtual machine was not running, the Windows clock was completely asleep.

For the first few weeks of running Parallels, I solved this by writing a very simple .bat file that would execute at startup of Windows XP. It ran the Windows time manager and told it to check one of the time servers on the Internet and reset the time on my laptop. I don’t run on a domain or any fancy network at home, so I don’t have a local server I can use for syncing the time.

Anyway, here’s how to set that up:

  1. Open a new text file in Notepad
  2. Paste the following command (without the quotes) into the file: “w32tm /resync /rediscover”
  3. Save the file as synctime.bat. You may find that Notepad automatically helps you by adding on the default .txt extension. If that happens, just rename the file and take off that extension.
  4. Put the file somewhere in your path, maybe c:Windowssystem32.
  5. Create a shortcut to the synctime.bat file and put it into your Startup folder.

When the operating system is restarted, a command prompt will briefly appear showing the w32tm process running, and then it should go away after your clock has been updated.

Voila!

Well… not exactly. After running this for a few weeks with no trouble, I found that the clock was no longer updating. I opened the command prompt today and entered the w32tm command manually and found the following error:

The computer did not resync because the required time change was too big.

A quick Google search landed me at Microsoft’s TechNet article for Windows Time Service Tools and Settings, which provides in-depth detail on the switches and parameters for using the w32tm utility. Since I’m not running my own time server, most of it was irrelevant to me. I found a couple of registry settings that would correct the issue. These are MaxNegPhaseCorrection and MaxPosPhaseCorrection, and they are found in the registry at:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesW32TimeConfig

The default (decimal) value for both of these keys was 54,000, which is 15 hours. This means that if your local clock and the Internet clock that you are syncing to are within 15 hours of each other, the time on your PC will be updated. If they are more than 15 hours apart, forget it.

The TechNet article highlighted a special case for this setting: “0xFFFFFFFF means always make time correction.” So fixing this issue is just a matter of editing a couple of Registry keys.

  1. Open up the Registry Editor. (From your Start Menu, select “run” and enter “regedit”.)
  2. Browse down to the “config” key to find the phase correction settings.
  3. Double-click on MaxNegPhaseCorrection to edit the value. It will read “d2f0” in the hexidecimal value, or 54000 in the decimal value. Select “hexidecimal” and enter “ffffffff” in the field.
  4. Click “OK”.
  5. Make the same change for MaxPosPhaseCorrection.
  6. Close the Registry Editor

Re-run the synctime.bat file and you should fine that the time in Windows has been updated.

If there is a better way to do this, or a different setting that should be used, I’m happy to hear about it. This seems to have fixed my problem with time syncing in Windows, but I’m also pretty new to how Windows manages time syncing on a local network or on a managed domain.

If you have a better suggestion, please post it in the comments area below.

WANTED: Alerts for the New York City Subway

Posted by Mike Brittain on July 26, 2006
Mobile / Comments Off on WANTED: Alerts for the New York City Subway

I would give my right arm for a decent alerting system from the MTA in New York. I get into the subway during rush hour probably once every two months to find out that there is some delay or service disruption that causes me to completely re-route, or even walk to work. Short email alerts that I could route to an SMS email address, or even the email client on my cell phone, would alert me to trouble before I got to the train.

Seems like the DC Metro is already doing this. I’m going to test that out over the next few weeks and see what the alerts look like. If you’ve used this service, I’d like to hear your comments.

To add salt to the wound, the MTA recently released a podcast service to provide news and service advisories. While podcasts should typically be subscription-based, I’m curious as to whether these will actually have follow-up casts, or whether they are a one-shot deal. The weekend service advisories might be somewhat useful, but I can get that already in a format I prefer — email. And anyone who has access to a podcast would definitely have access to email. In my opinion, this is a wasted effort, in terms of time and costs of producing and marketing these podcasts. Besides, podcasts are not real-time, especially for an iPod. They have to be downloaded from the Internet when you are syncing the device. I can’t get to that info when I’m entering the subway station.

Real time information, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I’m after.

Buy My Printer — With Beer!

Posted by Mike Brittain on July 25, 2006
Personal / 1 Comment

I’m selling my laser jet printer… for two 6-packs. It’s in Manhattan. Want it? Buy me beer. See the listing on Craiglist. No Budweiser, Coors, Genny, Schlitz, or any of that crap. I’m accepting decent beers, only. Some small or local brewery will probably do. As stated in the listing, in Manhattan this normally equates to about $22. Yes, that’s right. Want to move to Manhattan? You’re likely going to pay $10-11 for a decent 6-pack of beer. Ever figured that into your cost of living?

UPDATE: Sold! The buyer, however, is not a beer drinker and was uncomfortable making a selection for me. So we arranged on a financial settlement, instead.

Microsoft’s Anti-Virus Business Will Hurt the Global Network

Posted by Mike Brittain on July 24, 2006
Microsoft / Comments Off on Microsoft’s Anti-Virus Business Will Hurt the Global Network

There is an article on ZDNet today about Microsoft’s security get-together with security and anti-virus companies. The gist is that Microsoft is now a competitor in the space for anti-virus products and will be less likely to reveal some product secrets that they used to share. My guess is that this is true.

It’s unfortunate that Microsoft can’t keep their focus straight. The company’s job, with respect to Windows, is to put forth a secure operating system that is immune, so-to-speak, from computer viruses. The goal shouldn’t be to build some junky security scheme and build another process to guard it. Instead, build the security policy well and maintain an upgrade program that fights problems that arise.

Norton, McAffe, and others have a very valid place in the industry. They play the role of third-party watch guards over the Windows (and Macintosh) operating systems. The product that watches for security problems and viruses really shouldn’t be built by the same people who build the OS and the security policy. That leaves the company (Microsoft) open to compromised decision making on what is and is not a flaw.

Sadly, I believe that companies in the anti-virus industry are going to be hurt by Microsoft’s new tools in Vista. Consumers will tend toward using the tool that comes along for free with Vista. This will inevitably spell trouble for the global network (the majority of consumers and businesses who use the Windows OS) as third-party anti-virus tools, which are now common place, begin to disappear. I suspect that exploits, viruses, and worms will be on the rise.

The watched becomes the watcher.