I had to format and re-install Vista on a laptop over the holiday break. Given that it was an OEM version, and the original disks were not available, I was faced with a bit of a conundrum. How will I restore the activation data without having to contact Microsoft?

Perhaps you have faced a similar problem. Often, OEM installation media is packed with software you don’t need, and it only serves to slow down your PC right from the get-go. However, you can install Vista using standard installation media, and then ‘backup and restore’ the Vista activation data. This way, you are starting with a truly ‘clean’ system. Of course, you will then need to download and install all the necessary drivers for your system.

Before starting the process, I backed up the activation data using the software at the link below. After obtaining some installation media, I installed Vista without providing any product keys (you should be able to do this with any retail Vista media). Then, I restored the activation data. It worked perfectly.

You can download the activation backup and restore utility at http://directedge.us/content/abr-activation-backup-and-restore

You can find a pretty good guide to re-installing a clean system at http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=120228

Revit makes it very easy to produce a LOT of drawings. This can result in a large deliverable. In one recent case, our Tender Issue of drawings consisted of 132 A1 sheets. Using CutePDF (with a couple of handy tweaks), we printed these to a PDF file of around 48 MB.

Depending on your email size policy, a file of this size would take anywhere from 5 to 16 emails to transmit.

To avoid this eventuality, I have explored various options for uploading large files and making them available to our colleagues. FTP seemed to be the answer, but one of our Clients is behind a proxy or firewall system that doesn’t allow FTP access – even with an anonymous account! So it was back to the drawing board…

Therefore, I decided to setup a HTTP server for file access. I downloaded Apache 2.2 (for Windows, without SSL). I took the following steps:

  1. Allowed a port through our firewall and directed it to the PC running Apache. We have a static IP, so I could now access Apache by typing in xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx:portnumber.
  2. Ensured that the opened port setting matched the Apache port in the httpd.conf file
  3. Disabled the ‘Indexes’ feature for a subfolder of the Apache ‘root’ folder (in my case this was C:Program FilesApache Software FoundationApache2.2htdocsFILES).
  4. Created a password for this folder using htpasswd.exe
  5. Enabled password access to the same folder using the following text in httpd.conf

    Options FollowSymLinks
    AuthType Basic
    AuthName “Restricted Files”
    # (Following line optional)
    # AuthBasicProvider file
    AuthUserFile “C:/Program Files/Apache Software Foundation/Apache2.2/password/.htpasswd”
    Require valid-user

Now I can login to the PC running Apache, copy any file I want to serve via HTTP to the password protected folder, and then send a link to any of our colleagues that I want to gain access to this file.I also setup Filezilla FTP Server on another PC in our network, and forwarded port 21 through our router to this PC. I setup a user for a folder on this PC, and disabled all rights apart from ‘read’.I can now send an email that contains two hyperlinks to any large file we wish to transmit, one for FTP and one for HTTP. Both of these links are password protected.And all of this is done using free, open source software!

After trying many free PDF Writers over the years, I have found CutePDF Writer to be the best.

In order to ensure you are producing the best PDF files you can (high quality while still keeping file size relatively small), please follow the steps below (when you have a chance, no hurry 🙂

Install the updated CutePDF Writer from here

Change the setting in the printer properties (Preferences and Printing Defaults) for ‘PostScript Output Option’ to ‘Optimize for Portability’ as a default.

Change the setting in the printer properties (Preferences and Printing Defaults) for ‘TrueType Font’ to ‘Download as Softfont’ as a default.

Navigate to C:Program FilesAcro SoftwareCutePDF Writer and open the file PDFWrite.rsp in Notepad. Change the line FROM
-dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress TO

(The path is C:Program Files (x86)Acro SoftwareCutePDF Writer for 64 bit machines)

Enjoy producing high quality PDF’s for free everyone!

Did you know that in Windows Vista you can quickly copy the file name and path of a file, and put it into the Clipboard as text? Simply:

  1. Select the file in Explorer
  2. Hold ‘Shift’ and right-click
  3. Choose the ‘Copy as Path’ option

You can then use this to ‘paste’ into a hyperlink, for example, in Outlook. I found this at http://www.watchingthenet.com/copy-file-name-and-path-as-text-in-vista.html

We use a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo as our fileserver. Recently we started to experience some annoying and disturbing error messages, such as:

  • Access to {path}{CentralFileName}-backupeperms.dat was denied
  • Encountered a hardware I/O error while accessing {path}{CentralFileName}-backuprequests.dat
  • An unknown error occurred while accessing {path}{CentralFileName}.rvt

This resulted in some loss of work and lots of annoyance.
I discussed the issue with our local reseller and they basically recommended I stop using the NAS and use a different share. But I didn’t want to do that! However, it did seem likely that the problem was with the NAS. I played around with some settings in the NAS setup…and I think I found the answer. It was to do with ‘oplocks’. I needed to disable the oplocks for the share, and the problem went away! How do you do it?

  1. In the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo ‘Frontview’ administration page, go to the ‘Shares’ page.
  2. Go to the ‘Share Options’ for the share you are using to store Revit Central Files.
  3. Scroll down the bottom to ‘Opportunistic Locking’ and disable the ‘Enable oplocks for this share’ tick box.

What are ‘oplocks’? According to the utility:
Opportunistic locking (oplocks) can enhance CIFS performance by allowing files residing on this ReadyNAS to be cached locally on the Windows client, eliminating network latency when files are repeatedly accessed.
This definition indicates that oplocks could certainly have caused this issue. Since disabling the option, we have experienced none of the aforementioned errors.
Have you experienced this problem? If so, I hope my solution helped you.
Also, it looks like I haven’t been the only one with an issue like this:
“Specific applications known to exhibit this behavior include Solidworks and AutoDesk Revit, as demonstrated by your experience.”

EDIT Associated issue may result in error such as:
This issue was with a user not being able to write to a particular file that Revit uses to maintain the state of the central file.


No doubt there are a few utilities that you just can’t do without. Here are a few of my absolute favourites:

  1. CutePDF Writer – just brilliant, and its free!
  2. 7-Zip – best archive utility (in my books), and again, its free!
  3. IrfanView – very fast and very functional image viewing and editing
  4. FolderGuide – if you are still on 32 bit Windows, this is the best way to navigate folders (in my opinion)
  5. CCleaner – great way to clean up after yourself
  6. FileZilla FTP Client – open source FTP client
  7. FREE PDF Tools – these are simply awesome, and yet again, totally free!

That was just a shortlist. I may post some more in future. In the meantime, what are your favourite utilities? Feel free to comment and share them with all of us…