Setup your computer with Windows XP Professional for use with Remote Desktop

I used to never believe in laptops, but I got one from work and after a long time, I think I started using it out of pure necessity one day. The more I used it though, the more the form factor grew on me, and at the end of my tenure at MS, I was using it almost constantly. I think its the portable nature of the power that drew me. Sure, in this day and age, its specifications were almost laughable:

Toshiba Portege: 1.7 GHz Pentium M, 2 gigs of RAM, 60 Gig harddrive, 1400×900 (4:3) resolution on a 12.1” screen.

But I’ll be damned if that thing didn’t do everything I needed. I compiled the programs I needed just fine, and since I didn’t play any games, the only other thing I was doing on it was e-mail and web surfing. After Youtube added its HD resolution format the CPU started showing its age, but the spacious ( for a laptop ) screen resolution and excellent brightness made up for it. So why am I talking about all this now? Well, I don’t have a laptop anymore, but I can still bum a terminal or laptop off people when I at different locations. So I decided I needed to access my computer while I was out of the house. Its pretty simple, so let’s get to it!

What do you need?

  • You’ll need an active, semi-permanent web connection ( you can’t power down your machine )
  • Windows XP Professional ( You can hack XP Home edition, but I haven’t done that yet )
  • Admin access on your computer AND your router if you have one.

Credit where credit is due: I looked at the ScrewTurnWiki for the steps. The link to their article is here. Microsoft also has some guides to installing remote desktop here. Now you must be asking: Huong why are you writing up the steps then? Because I’ll have some specific steps for my router, the D-Link DI-524 that are not in their write ups.

What to do:

  1. Open up Control Panel –> System ( This may be inside Performance and Maintenance ).image
  2. Select the Remote Tab and you’ll see the Remote Access options:image
  3. You’ll want the bottom checkbox marked that says Allow users to connect remotely to this computer. Also, If you want other people on your computer to be able to Remote Access the machine, you’ll need to add them in the Select Remote Users screen. If you are not sure you already have access, You can click the screen and it will tell you who has access:                                                                                blog picture
  4. Once you are happy with everything, you’ll need to click OK. Windows will setup your WINDOWS firewall for you, but now you need to setup your router. My instructions will be specific for my router. So go log into your router now.
  5. By default, most routers default to If not, you’ll need to find out what it is. Type that IP address into your browser and you should get a prompt that looks like this:image
  6. If you don’t have a router, you’re done! You should probably get one though, because now your computer is even MORE vulnerable to the internet, and anyone can access your machine now if they figure out your password.
  7. If you’ve been following the ScrewTurnWiki, you’ll know we are here to enable the ports in the router and to direct the traffic to your computer. You could always hope the default settings works, but let’s not. The main screen looks like this:                     image
  8. Select the DHCP button. What were are going to do here is give your computer a permanent IP assignment based on the MAC address of the LAN card. Sounds complicated but its easy!                                                                                         blog picture
  9. Once you’ve picked the right MAC address, Select Enabled. Then type in a name ( the same name as the computer you have Enabled Remote Desktop to is a good idea ). Now select an IP. I don’t know what your router looks like, but usually 102 or greater is usually a safe bet. Then click the Clone button and it will copy the MAC address for you from the dropdown menu. Click Apply. After you click Apply, the router will turn it self off and reboot. This will take a while and it will kill you internet, so don’t get impatient. Once its done rebooting, your computer will now have a permanent IP assigned to it by the router.
  10. Now click on the Advanced Tab up above:                                                              image
  11. Some routers have Port Forwarding, but our router has something called a Virtual Server. For the purposes of Remote Desktop, they do the same thing, so don’t be confused. What we are doing here is having the router always send Remote Desktop communication to our specified computer. What you’ll want to do is Select Enabled. Type in a name ( Remote Desktop is a good idea ). For the private ip, you’ll want to give it the IP we assigned in the last section. Note that here you’ll need the entire IP instead of just the last digits ( i.e. 192.168.0.XXX ). Leave the next field at TCP. For the public and private ports, assign 3389 and then click always. Select Apply.
  12. Voila! Your computer is setup for remote desktop. Note you’ll need your computer’s IP. As mentioned in the wiki, you can use to get your IP. You can also setup a DNS and have a friendly name, but I haven’t done that you. When I do, I’ll report back here. For now, enjoy your computer from anywhere! I know it’s been very helpful for me.

All that glitters is not gold…

There is a great Kanye West song called Family Business off his album The College Dropout, and one lyrics really hits me:

As kids we used to laugh,

Who knew that life would move this fast?

Who knew I’d have to look at you through a glass?

My dad passed away on July 8th 2003 after being involved in a horrific car accident on the way to Tai Chi. My mom was in the car and survived, but with some severe injuries that she still hasn’t fully recovered from. After that, it became customary to visit home to take care of my mom and we’d also visit his grave. You’d think that my dad dying would have brought us together, but for us it didn’t. At the time I blamed my brother for things, and he was pretty weird. I’m not going to get into the stuff he did, but looking back, I just think that was his way of coping. I think we justify some things because we feel like we always have more time to make things right.

Two sons

So it makes me really sad to look at this photo. How was I to know that this is the last photo I’d ever take with my brother? How true the lyrics to the song. I sometimes wonder what he would have done different had he known how fast life moves. I wonder what he would have felt had he known that I’d be looking at him inside a coffin almost exactly 1 year later. We never know what the future brings.

2004 all over again in 2009

I’m almost finished processing all of my photo’s that were taken in 2004. W00t! I hope all my friends enjoy these photos that I’ve been hogging all these years. It has been immensely satisfying getting these out, and it has really been a trip down memory lane. For those of us who grew up in the US, I think Christmas has to be one of the more memorable holidays, and this photo had been hiding away all this time:

Erik, Laura, Zak, his wife, me, and Adam

I promised I’d give a rundown after adding several photo albums, so what better place to start than with this photo.

1) Christmas at Erik and Laura’s House

I was supposed to fly home when a massive snow storm basically destroyed all the airports in the entire North East. Erik and Laura happily put me up at the last minute so I didn’t have to spend Christmas alone with my cats. 🙂 Her brother Zak also was there with his wife and aside from the happy times exchanging gifts, I distinctly remember partaking of more than a few games of Homeworld 2 against Erik and Zak. It’s times like this that makes me glad for the photos I took. I hadn’t exactly forgotten it, but seeing the pictures made the memories so much more vivid for me. A real gem amongst my older photos and one’s I’m happy to put up on my blog.

2)  Picnic at Gary and Sandra’s House

Little did I know that I’d come back to this house 4 (!!!) years later as a groomsman, but as Conan would say, that is a tale for another day. These photos are noteworthy because they feature Sandra happily showing off her garden, otherwise a mundane picnic in most respects.

3) Lunar Eclipse of 2004

All of the photos sucked except for this one. Not really accustomed to shooting at night, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Point of fact, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but this photo turned our very nice. 🙂

4) Helen and Marty’s House

Working on these photos was another great recall moment as the evening came back to me strongly. I am pretty sure that I had just bought my camera and was shooting a lot of totally horrible shots, but there are some nice photos in here. These photos also feature my VERY good British friends Kevin James and Kate Fox. At the time, they were together, but unfortunately they have now split. 😦 Seeing these photos makes me miss them, but it also reminds me of all the good times we had.

5) My Cats

This picture is the only picture I have of all the cat’s I’ve ever owned. Starting from the left, it goes: The Cheat, Mimi, The Kitten, and The Creature. It’s kind of sad to think of the 2 missing cats ( Mimi is still around my house, she has gone completely feral though, and The Cheat disappeared in a particularly bad snowstorm ), but looking at this picture makes me think of the innocent times I had as a first time cat owner.

6) Erik and Laura’s House…again!

Erik was my best friend back in New York, so I spent many and evening hanging around with him and Laura, eating dinner with them, and playing with their cats. In fact, I got my 3 cats from them in the first place! They have a really interesting house, and these two shots are pretty indicative of the place.

Your life in pictures

As storage and the cameras themselves get cheaper, we will accumulate more and more pictures. Unfortunately, that means the amount of time we spend editing pictures grows as well. I’ve got a backlog about 5 years long of photos. I’ve resolved to work my way through them to try to get to the present, so you’ll see more photo galleries being added. You might have already noticed a few new albums being added. A few galleries will get their own posts, but most of these just need a little blurb which I will post after a decent number have been added. So without further ado:

1) The accidental kitten

I used to own 3 cats, or maybe they owned me would be a better way to say it. 🙂 I’m down to 1 now 😦 and how I lost the other 2 is another story, but this one is about the kitten I got by my carelessness. 2 of the cats were girls, and their names were The Cheat and Mimi. Mimi escaped one day and I got her back a little while later, so it didn’t phase me at all. I noticed later that she was getting fat and used to tease her about it. One day, while I was taking a nap, I was awoken by the sound of panting. Looking down, I saw a GIANT pool of blood and several very dead looking kittens. The kitten in the pictures was the only survivor. I got Mimi fixed after that. lol. I gave the kitten away to Jason and Peri, a nice couple who later moved to California. The kittens original name was Lover-boy, or Trai Lo(???) in Vietnamese. They renamed him to Bort.

2) Vancouver with the ex-girlfriend

My first girlfriend in Seattle. This trip is full of ex’s because the other couple sadly split up to. Probably the best thing about this album is the great B&W I took of the mall roof. And it makes my fiance mad at me that I posted the pictures. LOL

3) Crankworx/Whistler Trip

Traveled with my sister’s family and her husbands dad to a downhill biking event. We also got to see Whistler and walk around the glacier. Pretty fun, and I also got a GIANT handful of condoms that I’m sure shocked the hell out of my mom when she was snooping around my room. Don’t ask. Great pictures, and I wish I’d processed some of the family shots. Putting this up made me change my policy of editing photos. What good are pictures if they never have any people?

4) Skydiving in New York

Totally amazing, especially doing the Accelerated Free Fall class. That means they jump out with you but you pilot the chute down yourself. Still, it always make me sad looking at these pictures. Mark Lepkowski RIP. I’ll always remember him this way.

How to fix build warning: Invalid search path ‘C:Program FilesMicrosoft Visual StudioVC98mfclib’ specified in ‘LIB environment variable’ — ‘The system cannot find the path specified. ‘

I recently upgraded from VS 2005 to VS 2008. It was all peaches and cream until I started getting this mysterious error. If you do a search, the MSDN blog will come up with this post.

Unfortunately, the person writing the blog didn’t write the actual instructions in the blog, and the links are totally out of date! What to do??? Fortunately for us, my former team ( Go Brent Serbus, Don Tan, and crew! ) and helpful MVP Taylor Michael come to the rescue.

I’ll distill his wisdom into some more easily followed steps ( XP, I haven’t got on the Vista train yet ):

  1. Go into Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Environment Variables
  2. You’ll see a variable called LIB. The old entries if you use all the default values will look like something from the Title of the blog post. You should be getting 1 warning per offending entry in the LIB variable.
  3. Delete all the entries that are causing your problems. I know its scary. Take a deep breath and do it. Apparently this is some holdover from VS 2005/2003 that doesn’t get updated with the installer/updater.
  4. Restart Visual Studio.
  5. Voila! Your warnings should be gone.

Hope this helps. It drove me nuts looking for a straight answer.

Why your Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 won’t charge i.e. Microsoft cuts corners on hardware….again

I’ve had the MS wireless mouse and keyboard combo for a while now. It works very well, but one thing always bothered the hell out of me. The battery just wouldn’t charge! You’d place it on the cradle and leave, and the next morning, it would be flashing red at you merrily, with no charge. Not just annoying, but productivity killing since I’d have to root around and find my wired mouse. Not my favorite way to start the morning. Poking around the web, I cam across this forum thread:

If the above instructions are confusing or elaborate:

1) Open your battery compartment

2) Take the battery out and you should see a metal half ring in the bottom of the compartment. This detects if the battery has been seated correctly. This is also what is causing your problems.

3) The cheapest fix is to jam the battery into the compartment making sure its pressing the switch. Place the mouse gently onto the charger and it should work.

4) If it still doesn’t work, you’ll need to copy what the original poster did or get a new "bigger" battery. I know all AA batteries should be the same, but evidently the one you’ve got isn’t big enough. Sorry, sometimes size matters. 😛

As an aside, you know, regardless of my status as an employee, why does MS hardware always have problems? I’m not just talking out of my ass here, here are all the problems I’ve had:

1) Xbox 1: DVD drive dies…TWICE! I had to replace both by hand. Thank you Llama and your xbox pages!!

2) Xbox 360: Red ringed, AND the xbox at work red ringed, AND this DVD drive is dying too. I’m going to pop it open and try cleaning it, but it usually takes 5-10 tries to get my copy of Soul Calibur IV working…my 3rd copy because the other 2 started cracking.

3) Mouse won’t charge because the battery switch is poorly designed and won’t recognize battery unless you "wiggle it, just a little bit".

Maybe I’m being overly hard, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you should get better hardware testers looking over your stuff. I have never had as many problems with electronics as I have with MS hardware. The part that kills me is that its so well designed in many other ways. Guess I’m a glutton for punishment….:)

Relevant portion reposted here ( all credit to detroit doug ):

(Msg. 9) Posted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:15 am
Post subject: Re: Problem Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 – Bluetooth [Login to view extended thread Info.]
Archived from groups: per prev. post (more info?)

There is a much easier fix that will only require you to open the
battery compartment once and only once.
Microsoft and whomever they have contracted to build the batteries had
the same issue with the 7000 series as well and this is a fix Ive used
on all the 7000 series Ive ran across.
First take a piece of paper and cut a strip slightly under the length
of the battery itself
Then wrap this strip around the battery 2 to 3 times and cut off the
excess length and tape it into place to keep it from unrolling
Replace battery into compartment and test – it now should be the
appropriate thickness needed to depress the sensor switch within the
compartment and verify to the mouse itself a battery is indeed
installed, THAT is the reason for the flashing red light, Microsoft
contracted with a company that built a series of batteries that are too
thin and do not depress the switch and the wonderful QA department never
caught it and obviously marketing figures it is more cost efficient to
continue to sell these units with an improperly designed battery than
re-build and replace all of them already shipped
Hope that helps


Getting laid off sucks. Getting laid off with outplacement sucks less

I just finished my orientation session with the outplacement services company Drake Beam Morin (DBM) and was pleasantly surprised. To rewind a little bit here, Microsoft laid off 1400 people in a restructuring and as part of the severance package monies, each of the employees ( myself included ) were given a 16 week period with DBM.

DBM’s mission is to help you help yourself get a job. I thought I knew a lot about job searching, but they really broke things down in a way that made me examine some of the things I’d been assuming. You know, the thing that really knocked me on my heels was how positive everyone there was about me. It made me feel really good, in a way that I hadn’t felt for a while, even before the lay off. I almost felt embarrassed, but I needed it. Just like they were straight with me when they told me to drop the whole laid off bullshit. Ione, my counselor, told me that she almost felt like I was sabotaging myself by doing that. That really blew my noodle. Was I? Maybe I’m still blaming myself for getting laid off. There is a lot of things you lean about yourself when something like this happens. It’s hard to articulate the feelings that run through you. I’m still dealing with it, and I probably will be for a while. But I think DBM was a great step I didn’t know i needed to take to deal with it.

Best advice I have for those MS people who haven’t taken advantage of the service is do it. Its 2 days of your time, and it doesn’t cost anything. If you’ve been laid off elsewhere and you don’t have an outplacement service, the best advice I can give you is the really lean on your friends and family. I knew that was what I should be doing, but you know what? We as people know many of things but we don’t always use that knowledge. Smoking ring any bells?

My last day is coming up fast. March 23rd. Damn, 2 months went by like they were nothing. Still interviewing, still looking. Stay motivated! Funny thing happened at the center though. I got to be pretty good friends with the 2 other guys there, and at the end of today’s session, Ione was like, I’ll see you guys later. And the other 2 guys (Mike and Cliff) responded likewise. But something stuck in my head: The ending of good will hunter. At the end, the best friend of the main character tells him friend he never wants to see him again. Not because he hates him, but because he loves him and we wants him to succeed. By leaving the main character will have fulfilled his dream and potential. So I told Cliff I hoped I didn’t see him tomorrow. Because that means he got a job.