Monday, April 3, 2017

Programs such as Excel, Word, Acrobat suddenly and persistently pop up dialog boxes on the wrong monitor

Problem:  After weeks/months/years of trouble-free operation, various programs such as Word, Excel, Acrobat etc. start popping up their dialog boxes on the "wrong" monitor in a multi-monitor display.

For example, the "Find" or "Format cells" dialog of Excel may appear on the right-hand monitor instead of the center one, or on the center one instead of the left-hand one.  Or, for dual-monitor displays, it shows on the left if Excel is on the right, or vice-versa.

Possible solution:  If you are running an AMD FirePro graphics card, chances are your monitor settings recently got f^ck@d up for no apparent reason at all and completely scrambled your nice monitor setup.  God only knows why this happens at all (I sure don't) but I'll bet it happened to you.

You went through all the pain of resetting monitor positions in the Windows Display settings, because your left monitor became your right, your center became the left, etc.  And (probably) re-organizing all of your 100s of desktop icons on your displays which similarly got scrambled, and your damn icon restore programs didn't work.  Now you find that dialog boxes are effed up as well.

If all of the above is true, the culprit could very well be the AMD Catalyst Pro Control Center setting called "Enable Dialog Repositioning".  It is buried in Catalyst Pro Control Center under Hydravision / Desktop Manager.  Chances are it is enabled and set to "Show on preferred display" where the "preferred" display is NOT the one you want.

To fix it, you can turn off dialog repositioning completely - I really don't know why it is there in the first place - or you can reset it to "Show on application's display".  You may need to try both settings to see which one works better.

Of course, if you prefer dialogs to appear on one of your displays all of the time, you can keep it set to "Show on preferred display".  Just make sure the number of the "preferred" display, waaay off there to the right, is actually set to the one you want to call the preferred display!  It does NOT automatically default to the Windows "main" display.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sudden and inexplicable "Your connection is not secure" on Firefox with major sites (Google, Mozilla, PIA, etc.)

Problem:  Firefox suddenly barfs "Your connection is not secure" messages on major sites such as Mozilla, Google, Blogger, PIA, and possibly several others.  But several other major sites (news, Bing, etc.) are OK. 

Phones, tablets and other PCs on the same network are not affected.  And there is nothing in recent news that Google has somehow messed up their security certificates and basically screwed the entire online population of the planet.

Solution:  Chances are your PC clock is wrong, either because you just reset your BIOS or replaced the backup battery in your PC, and forgot to re-set your clock. If your PC thinks it's 2004, it will fail a lot of current security certificates.

Another possibility is your antivirus is interfering with Firefox security validations.  This is not likely unless your AV and/or Firefox has changed recently, but is supposedly a known problem with Avast in particular.

Similar issues can cause a "Your connection isn't private" error in Chrome.  For a list of possible fixes to both issues, see this post at Quora.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hard drive indicator solid, seemingly large activity from System process (PID 4)

OK, I assume you didn't deliberately change anything.  If you did, start checking the drivers for your latest hardware before doing anything else.

Symptoms:  Stable Windows 7 x64 system suddenly has HDD indicator light on solid (or nearly solid).  Happened suddenly without warning, re-occurs within a few minutes after booting. 

PC will freeze for at least several seconds at a time.  CPU activity is high.  Task Manager is slow, hangs frequently and tells you nothing useful.  Process Explorer seems to show System process (PID 4) taking lots of CPU, but no other details - no real indication which process is actually hogging your hard drive. 

Turning off antivirus doesn't help.  Acrobat may complain about a "serious error" when started and/or freeze up.  Inability to use Disk Management tool.  Shutdown takes tens of minutes, if it happens at all; might freeze on "Logging off" or "Shutting down".

Cause:  Something probably broke.  Chances are your DVD-RW drive, CD-RW drive (if those exist anymore) or a secondary hard disk/SSD in your system has bit it.  This can cause the HDD indicator light to stay on permanently even though the PC is actually not trying to do anything in particular.

(As a guess, it's probably that "secondary" high-capacity hard drive you stuck into your PC when you did your first SSD upgrade.  You don't use it much and tend to forget it is there.  It's probably old, old, old by now.)

If you're smart enough to have placed your virtual memory swapfile on the pseudo-dead drive, you may have additional problems.

Poking around in "My Computer" may tell you which drive is at fault.  It may show up but be inaccessible; it may be partly accessible but might disappear later.   You will probably not be able to run any kind of disk check on it; trying will result in an Explorer hang.

Solution:  Manually shut down and disconnect the suspected offending drive or burner.  If possible, try reconnecting with a Dock to run Seatools or other diagnostic utilities and/or to copy files off the drive.  (You are backing it up, right?  RIGHT!?!?!?!  Stupid!)

Note that maybe the SATA port went bad, rather than the drive.  So be sure your replacement is a known-good drive and/or use a different port.

(Why this affects Acrobat is beyond me and is just one more example of why that is a poorly coded program.)

If it's not the above, then you're down to shutting down programs to see if you can find an offending process.  Good luck.