Kate’s been ill with a throat infection the last couple of days, so I’ve been busy. A dose of antibiotics has her on the mend now, which is good! My regular waffling service should resume tomorrow.

Lectures via Podcast

This is a brilliant idea! I could have saved a massive amount of time. Blackburn college is about 15 miles from home, but work is about the same in the opposite direction. So if I’m leaving from work, it’s 30 miles. In some cases I have to leave work early in order get to the evening classes that start at 6pm. Fortunately, I have a very understanding boss.

It would be nice to think they’d do podcasts for lectures at some point, but I can’t see it. They can’t even manage to email students when lecturers are unable to attend.

File locking and backups

A couple of weeks back I switched to using SyncBack SE, from an old version of Retrospect (6.0), for doing my home backups. I’d got increasingly annoyed that Retrospect would just stop backing up at all, if it had a problem. The main cause was because my Outlook PST was always open / locked, thanks to Copernic Desktop Search (I’ve only just switched to Yahoo Desktop Search in the last week).

I emailed Copernic to see what could be done and they replied that it needed to access the file in order to index it, which makes total sense, but the crux of the problem is that it did this even when Outlook was closed. I had to write an app that would run before my backup (via Windows Task Scheduler), close CDS down and then reload it later. Unfortunately it appears that Yahoo Desktop Search, suffers from the same problem.

This stuck me as quite a nasty problem. Use of search tools from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Copernic et al is becoming more and more widespread and if the backup tools are not capable of working with constantly locked files due to search indexing, then it renders them redundant.

However, there is an answer, which for me was SyncBack. Now there is a free version, but the SE version ($25), has the ability to copy locked files using Volume Shadow Copy Service (part of Windows XP and 2003). Regardless of whatever has my PST (and other files for that matter) open, SyncBack is usually able to back them up. Further to that, if there is a problem, it doesn’t stop running the other backups. It emails me to tell me what the problem is and carries on, which is exactly what I want.

It’s odd, but this strikes me as common sense, I had to write a basic backup program for work a while back that had lots of little jobs to do and the last thing I wanted was for it to completely stop if it hit a problem. That poor program has been replaced with the behemoth that is Veritas Backup Exec.

If you want to find out what has open or is locking a file see here. Also at some point I’ll do a proper write up on SyncBack since it’s an ace little program.

Sysinternals to the rescue

I was trying to load Outlook 2007 when I got the following error message:


Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Cannot open Outlook window. The set of folders cannot be opened. The file <C:\…\Outlook.pst> in use and cannot be accessed. Close any application that is using this file, and then try again.

Microsoft are getting pretty good at descriptive error messages. After drawing a blank on Google groups with that, I thought, well I should be able to find what program has it open by looking at file handles and a search for that found Handle from Sysinternals. A quick 130 KB download later and a jump to a command prompt gave me the answer:

C:\Utils>handle “C:\…\outlook\outlook.pst”

Handle v3.11

Copyright (C) 1997-2005 Mark Russinovich

Sysinternals –

YahooDesktopSearch.exe pid: 3844    B70: C:\…\Outlook\Outlook.pst

YahooDesktopSearch.exe pid: 3844    BC8: C:\…\Outlook\Outlook.pst

YahooDesktopSearch.exe pid: 3844    D5C: C:\…\Outlook\Outlook.pst

Closing down Yahoo Desktop Search, and then opening Outlook did the trick. Good old DOS to the rescue!

Apologies for the crappy looking Command Prompt listing. The paths were trimmed on purpose just to tidy it up a bit.

Symantec have lost the plot

I received the following email earlier today offering me feel cinema tickets if I upgrade to the latest Norton crap:


I stopped using Norton in 2003 after I had the cheek to attempt an upgrade from Norton Antivirus 2002 to 2003. It crapped out halfway through the install and had totally corrupted itself. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to install. From that day on I stopped using any Norton products at home (unfortunately we use various Symantec bits and bobs at work) and went with free apps such as AVG Antivirus and ZoneAlarm and I’ve had no problems.

The daft promotions don’t end there though, I was on the Symantec site yesterday, looking for Vertias Backup related guff and saw a bizarre offer for a free Symantec backpack. Unfortunately I forgot to take a screenshot of the offending webpage, however I did save the backpack:


Instead of wasting time on marketing crap, why not improve the software?

Yahoo Uh-Oh

So there I was looking for Veritas related PDF’s in Yahoo Desktop Search when a file came up with an error:


Looks like that one slipped past the testers! 

Out of all the desktop search tools I’ve used, Yahoo is probably the best of a bad bunch. At some point I’ll have to do a mini review of them. Its a real pity because each of them does various things that the others don’t. There isn’t one good all rounder.

Shadowgrounds and Eurovision

Yeah, yeah, enough of that Eurovision crap already, but I was just over on the Shadowgrounds website reading the news when I noticed the following:

The whole development team of Shadowgrounds would like to congratulate Finnish monster metal band Lordi for winning the Eurovision song contest with a landslide. Big congratulations on making Finnish music history! HARD ROCK HALLELUJAH!

Calming down, it is also worth noting that Lordi guitarist Amen worked with Shadowgrounds Soundtrack composer Ari Pulkkinen to create some fantastic guitar riffs for the the acclaimed Shadowgrounds soundtrack...<snip>

Ha, small world!