The Psychology of a TechNet Forum Thread

I like spending my free time on Microsoft’s TechNet Forums site. I feel like it’s a great place to test my mettle by helping to solve people’s problems, but also it helps me gain a deeper perspective into the issues the technical community faces with a given product. This in turn, of course, makes me a better engineer and consultant – But before you try this at home, let me warn you: it’s addicting!

I have been surfing, helping, contributing, asking for around 2 years now and I’ve noticed some funny behaviors from the people who post there. I have also noticed what “types” of posts seem to get answered the fastest and which posts seem to linger unanswered indefinitely! This is what I want to point out today. Hopefully with my advice you’ll get your questions answered faster and with more accuracy! See below for 7 do’s and do not’s of online tech forum etiquette:

1. Do use punctuation! I am not talking about proof reading your English exam here, but it’s surprising how distracting a lack of: periodslinebreaksandspaces can be. Remember that other than the few paid Microsoft employees who roam this site, we are all answering questions voluntarily. I won’t say 🙂 how many times I have skipped a question because the reading the article was going to take more energy than I felt like expending at the moment.

2. Do a quick internet search for your error code or problem description before you post! I don’t think anyone REALLY minds looking the error up and pasting the link back for you, but I can’t understand how people will post their error on a technical forum, which takes considerably more effort than to just look it up in the first place! I have reminded myself to hold back on many occasions from posting lmgtfy.com links in my answer!

3. Do not put ***URGENT!!!!!!!!1!!! in the subject line. A mentor of mine once taught me the subtlety of Urgent vs. Important. Many things are important, but not all of which are urgent. The accuracy of the definition, of course isn’t my gripe. It’s the impatience or perhaps arrogance of the poster. I can assure you that adding “urgent” to your subject will not move you higher in the mental queue of the participants. In fact when I answer these types of quotes I typically roll my eyes before reading the thread, expecting a question from someone who has taken no time to think about the problem for themselves.

4. Do Use paragraphs. Yes, this is similar to #1 but I wanted to give its own attention because having your problem reported in paragraph form makes it easier to digest and analyze. I love it when someone breaks their post out into: background info, specific conditions, and question sections! This allows our analytical minds to work better and to focus on specific areas of the problem.

5. Do ask one question at a time (ok maybe two). These threads usually come from people looking for design help. They often have no idea about the technology they have suddenly found themselves managing, and ask questions about anything and everything all at once. The reasons for this number should be obvious but it’s often forgotten in the panic of the poster. Ask a single question about a single procedure, or possibly how two or three items interact, or pros and cons, etc. Remember, there is no limit of threads you can start! Don’t try to cram everything into a single request. Also bear in mind the forum serves two purposes, only one of which is to answer YOUR question. The other is to serve as a reference for others. With long winded design discussions, this second objective is lost, the first is rarely accomplished either. Either RTFM or pay a consultant to come and assist.

6. Do not bash Microsoft’s products. It is perfectly acceptable to ask “on system “x” I could do this – how do I do it with Microsoft’s solution?” But on occasion I have seen that turn into whining or outright insults to the people who work at Microsoft. This type of post is immature and unwelcome. If you have something that you need to air, start a blog, and if it’s worth reading people will find it. In the mean time get out of the way of people trying to do real work here.

7. Do keep it short and sweet. Please provide enough information so that the problem can be analyzed without requiring a bunch of back and forth questions, but let’s not start with huge memory dumps or lots of event logs. I offer this advice only because it makes the problem seem more complicated than it may actually be. That in turn means you may have people shy away from reading your post entirely.

And there you have it! Happy posting!

Remotely Enabling Remote Desktop (the 1337 way)

So this one is a little obscure, but lemme paint a quick picture:

A few years back, I had a small client site that had some remote users and executives that would connect to their office workstations from home via VPN / Remote Desktop.  One day an executive got a new computer and “we” forgot to enable Remote Desktop for her.  Normally this could have been addressed by a GPO, but it was a really small client site, and we just didn’t put that much complexity into the configuration.  Anyway, this same day the user wanted to work from home and she was not able to connect.  She proceeded to call me during dinner to inform me of this situation!  I wanted to help but was thinking it would be tough to allow remote access REMOTELY!  But I thought of a way!  After I completed the below steps I contacted the user and she was able to connect!

I was so proud of myself I saved the steps and now I want to share it with everyone today.  I used a combination of a free utility called psexec which can be downloaded here.  I also used the built-in command prompt and registry editor that comes with Windows.   Look at the below window, and follow the command prompt progress.  I’ve commented along the way in green.

C:\Documents and Settings\admin>”C:\Documents and Settings\admin\Desktop\psexec.exe” \\computer0123 cmd.exe

 

PsExec v1.94 – Execute processes remotel

Copyright (C) 2001-2008 Mark Russinovich

Sysinternals – http://www.sysinternals.com

 

 

Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]

(C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

 

C:\WINDOWS\systeadmin2>hostname

computer0123

#verify hostname

C:\WINDOWS\systeadmin2>netsh firewall add portopening TCP 3389 rdp enable

Ok.

#now I’m sure remote desktop will be allowed through the firewall

 

C:\WINDOWS\systeadmin2>netstat -a

 

Active Connections

 

  Proto  Local Address          Foreign Address        State

  TCP    computer0123:epmap       computer0123.Eedge.net:0  LISTENING

  TCP    computer0123:microsoft-ds  computer0123.Eedge.net:0  LISTENING

  TCP    computer0123:39259       computer0123.Eedge.net:0  LISTENING

  TCP    computer0123:netbios-ssn  computer0123.Eedge.net:0  LISTENING

  TCP    computer0123:netbios-ssn  computer0123.Eedge.net:0  LISTENING

  TCP    computer0123:microsoft-ds  kaserver.eedge.net:10442  ESTABLISHED

  TCP    computer0123:1332        kadata.eedge.net:microsoft-ds  ESTABLISHED

  TCP    computer0123:1535        kaserver.eedge.net:netbios-ssn  ESTABLISHED

  TCP    computer0123:2033        kaserver.eedge.net:1025  TIME_WAIT

  TCP    computer0123:1060        computer0123.Eedge.net:0  LISTENING

  TCP    computer0123:10001       computer0123.Eedge.net:0  LISTENING

  UDP    computer0123:microsoft-ds  *:*

  UDP    computer0123:isakmp      *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1025        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1026        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1027        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:4500        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:ntp         *:*

  UDP    computer0123:netbios-ns  *:*

  UDP    computer0123:netbios-dgm  *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1900        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:ntp         *:*

  UDP    computer0123:netbios-ns  *:*

  UDP    computer0123:netbios-dgm  *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1900        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:ntp         *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1028        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1044        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1209        *:*

  UDP    computer0123:1900        *:*

#I see Remote Desktop is not enabled, as port 3389 is not in the list

#I then use regedit from my machine and remotely connect to the registry on her workstation and enable remote desktop.  (HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\fDenyTSConnection=0)

 

C:\WINDOWS\systeadmin2>shutdown -m \\computer0123 -r

The machine is locked and can not be shut down without the force option.

 

C:\WINDOWS\systeadmin2>shutdown -m \\computer0123 -r –f

 

C:\Documents and Settings\admin>

#it works now

For those who are lost in the command prompt, just look at these steps instead:

  1. Use psexec to open a cmd session on the computer0123 
  2. Use netsh to open a hole in the remote computer’s firewall for TCP 3389.  This is the port Remote Desktop uses.
  3.  Use netstat to check to see if remote desktop is currently listening/running
  4. Use regedit (not shown) to connect to computer0123’s registry and change the 1 to an 0 in the fDenyTSConnection key.
  5. Use the shutdown command to restart the computer, which is required when enabling Remote Desktop via the registry.