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Service Protector 8 Maximizes Service Uptime with Advanced Sanity Checks

Service Protector 8: Maximize Uptime with Advanced Sanity Checks

Service Protector 8.0 was released on November 9 2021. Here are the most significant changes in this new version:

Easy to use Sanity Checks will help you keep your service running 24/7

Are you struggling with a Windows Service that says it’s running but is actually dead on its feet?

How about a network server that is supposed to accept incoming TCP/IP requests but is suddenly refusing all network connections?

Or a service that is hung and has stopped updating a log file?

Those nuanced situations — where the service is running but not actually working — can torment you and your customers who rely on the service!

Fortunately, Service Protector’s new sanity check feature is here to help.

What is a sanity check?

A sanity check is a “helper” utility that Service Protector runs to detect if a service is not functioning as expected. And whenever a sanity check detects a problem, Service Protector knows that it’s time to restart the service.

Service Protector version 8.0 supports four powerful sanity checks. They can:

  1. Test basic TCP/IP network connectivity;

  2. Check that a log file was recently updated;

  3. Confirm that a web server is responding properly;

  4. Run your own custom program to detect any kind of problem you like.

The user manual describes how to configure a sanity check. For now, let’s review a real-world scenario where a sanity check can improve reliability and uptime.

Protecting the Apache Windows Service with a sanity check

Apache is the world’s premier web server. It installs as a Windows Service, to start at boot and remain running all the time:

Apache Windows Service

This step-by-step guide show how to bulletproof the Apache Windows Service with Service Protector.

Even though Apache is very reliable, customers have reported situations where the service is running but the web server refuses to serve pages. In those cases, attempting to visit a URL fails with a timeout or protocol error.

With Service Protector 8, we can deploy a sanity check to watch out for that. Here’s how:

  1. Start by editing the Apache entry in Service Protector.

  2. Switch to the Monitor tab. Check the Whenever it fails a periodic sanity check box and click the Set button:

    Set the Sanity Check
  3. In the Add Sanity Check window, choose the Check that a web server is responding properly entry and click Next:

    Check web server sanity check
  4. Enter the web address you would like to monitor. If this URL is inaccessible, Service Protector will recycle Apache.

    Since Apache is running on your machine, the default localhost URL will likely work:

    Configure the web server sanity check: URL

    Note that you can click Check now to run an interactive test and ensure that you have entered the correct URL.

  5. At this point, specify how often Service Protector should fetch the URL. Every 5 minutes is enough for us:

    Configure the web server sanity check: Frequency

    Click Next to move on.

  6. Finally, review the summary and click Add to record your new sanity check:

    Add web server sanity check

And with that sanity check in place, Service Protector will attempt to fetch the URL every 5 minutes.

If the page comes back normally, nothing will happen.

But if there is a problem fetching the page, Service Protector will quickly stop and restart the Apache Windows Service to resume normal web services.

In effect, we’ve capped Apache’s downtime at five minutes!

Service Protector is fully compatible with Windows 11

Windows 11 Ready

Here at Core Technologies, we’ve been interrogating Windows 11 for the past few months — ever since preview builds became available via the Windows Insider program.

To date, Service Protector 8 has performed very well. We have detected zero incompatibilities. In fact, our testing services (including MySQL, Print Spooler and our home-grown simulators) have performed as well as they did under Windows 10.

Other fixes & improvements

  • We’ve improved internal logging. As a result, we’ll be able to diagnose problems and resolve thorny issues quicker.

  • “splwow64.exe” processes, which are spawned to aid in printing, are terminated when launched from a Windows Service.

As usual, please review the release notes for the full list of features, fixes and improvements included in Service Protector version 8.

Upgrading to Service Protector 8

If you purchased Service Protector version 7 (after January 2021), you can upgrade to version 8 for free. Simply download and install over your existing installation to preserve your existing services and all settings. For instance, your registration code will continue to work.

If you bought Service Protector version 6 or earlier (before January 2021), you will need to upgrade to use version 8. Please buy upgrades here — at a 50% discount.

See the complete upgrade policy for more details.

Enjoy!

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OneDrive Will Soon Stop Working on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1

OneDrive Will Soon Stop Working on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1

As announced in a succinct Tech Community blog article, Microsoft is ending support for the OneDrive desktop application on personal Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 devices in 2022. The move is all about focusing the company’s technical resources on new versions of Windows, which is an understandable goal.

However, Microsoft seems to be partially jumping the gun here. Windows 8.1 is still under extended support, until January 2023!

In any case, if you are managing an older version of Windows and rely on OneDrive to synchronize your important files, the end is nigh. You should develop an exit strategy, pronto.

When will OneDrive stop functioning?

Here are the key dates for computers running personal editions of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1:

  • January 1, 2022: Non-business OnDrive installations will stop receiving updates.

  • March 1, 2022: OneDrive will stop syncing with the cloud.

Running OneDrive as a Service will not help

Customers running OneDrive as a Windows Service, will not be shielded from those events. While AlwaysUp will continue to ensure that your OneDrive executable starts at boot and operates 24/7, that will do you no good after March 1 2022 because OneDrive will stop copying your files to and from the cloud. In essence, your OneDrive service will become a lifeless zombie. 😮

OneDrive for Business will remain viable through 2022

Have you installed OneDrive for Business (also known as OneDrive for work or school)? If so, then the deadlines above do not apply.

But the clock is still ticking.

Support for OneDrive for Business is now aligned with the Windows lifecycle, which means that OneDrive for Business may stop functioning as early as January 2023.

Upgrade to Windows 10 or 11 to continue using OneDrive

All editions of OneDrive will remain fully supported on Windows 10 and Windows 11 — at least through 2025. Upgrading is probably the easiest way out of this predicament.

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Q&A: How do I (Easily) Access MyFolders in Windows 11?

Q&A: How do I Easily Access MyFolders in Windows 11?
  Thank you for providing MyFolders for free. It’s made everything much faster.

I recently upgraded to Windows 11 and it took me a while to find MyFolders. It doesn’t show up in the right-click menu and I had to click “Show more options”. Is there a fix for this?

— Spiro A.

Hi Spiro.

Microsoft released Windows 11 in October 2021. The shiny new operating system introduced a basket of exciting goodies, including virtual desktops, improved integration with Microsoft teams, and more.

However, there is one well meaning “improvement” that we didn’t appreciate — the hasty reconstitution of the File Explorer’s useful right-click context menu.

Dude, where did my Context Menu go?

The new, abbreviated context menu — which comes up when you right-click on your desktop or in a File Explorer window — shows only a handful of entries:

Windows 11 Right-click Context Menu

To perform an operation that is available but not listed there, you must select the Show all options entry. Doing so reveals the “full” context menu — as shown on earlier versions of Windows:

Windows 11 Right-click Context Menu - Show all options

The argument Microsoft makes for changing the context menu is fairly compelling. Basically, they are concerned that the right-click menu has grown unwieldy and confusing. And as a result, Microsoft’s product designers have intervened — to protect overwhelmed users from poor organization. Commendable thinking indeed.

However, experienced users like you (us!) who are quite happy wielding the power available in the “traditional” context menu may be peeved to find out that there isn’t an obvious way to always see the full menu and avoid unnecessary clicks. That is, there is no Windows setting to say “restore the old context menu”.

But why is that a problem? Well, what you accomplished with two clicks in Windows 10 now requires three in Windows 11. And that small but annoying “tax” adds up if you use applications like MyFolders extensively.

How to re-enable the full/classic Context Menu in Windows 11 from MyFolders

MyFolders version 7.1 provides the missing setting and makes it easy for you to re-enable the “classic” context menu.

Simply:

  1. Summon MyFolders (by right-clicking on the desktop or in a File Explorer window)

  2. Select Show all options to show the full menu

  3. Click the MyFolders entry and choose Re-enable the full Explorer context menu:

    MyFolders: Re-enable the full Explorer context menu
  4. Click OK to complete the process. As noted, you may need to restart your machine for the change to take effect:

    MyFolders: Full Explorer context menu re-enabled

After you reboot, a right-click will bring up the full context menu.

Easily restore the default context menu

If you tire of the full context menu and want to return to the streamlined default, MyFolders will help there as well. Repeat the steps above, but in step 3 choose Restore the default Explorer context menu instead:

Restore the default Explorer context menu

Happy foldering!

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Q&A: How do I get AlwaysUp to Run the Latest Google Drive for desktop?

Q&A: How do I get AlwaysUp to Run the Latest Google Drive?
  We’re using your AlwaysUp to run Google Drive for desktop even when no one is logged on. But the install folder keeps changing on update (folder name is the current Google Drive version). After an automatic update, AlwaysUp (obviously) still starts the old version of Google Drive. Is there a solution or workaround for this problem?

— Panzo

Hi Panzo. This is an interesting problem!

Let’s start by outlining the issue.

Why Google Drive Auto-Updates cause trouble for AlwaysUp

Curiously, Google Drive for desktop installs itself to a path that includes the version number of the software.

For example, when we installed Drive for desktop version 51.0.9.0, the executable files were placed in:

C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\51.0.9.0

You can see the arrangement here:

Google Drive for desktop installation folder

While this is fine for Google Drive, it can lead to problems for AlwaysUp. Let’s explain with a real-life scenario:

  1. You install Google Drive for desktop version 51.0.9.0, as pictured above.

  2. Following our tutorial, you configure Google Drive File Stream to run as a service with AlwaysUp. In doing so, you provide the full path to the Google Drive executable to AlwaysUp:

    C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\51.0.9.0\GoogleDriveFS.exe

    You can see the path here in the “Application” field:

    Google Drive application path in AlwaysUp
  3. AlwaysUp starts Google Drive at boot and everything runs as expected. You celebrate with some chocolate and move on to one of life’s more pressing problems.

  4. A few weeks later, the Google Drive team issues an update. A new version 51.0.14.0 is available. Eventually, your Google Drive installation “phones home” and automatically updates itself.

    As part of that update process, Google Drive:

    1. Creates a folder to house the new version:

      C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\51.0.14.0

    2. Deposits the version 51.0.14.0 files into the new folder.

      You will now have two folders containing Google Drive executables:

      Google Drive folder after auto-update
  5. This is completely fine as far as Google Drive is concerned. However, AlwaysUp still points to the executable in the folder containing the old version. Therefore, whenever your computer reboots, AlwaysUp will launch the outdated version of Google Drive (51.0.9.0). And therein lies the problem.

How to ensure that AlwaysUp launches the latest version of Google Drive for desktop

It turns out that Google has provided an elegant solution that AlwaysUp can leverage too.

The solution starts to take shape when you examine the details of the desktop shortcut that launches Google Drive. Instead of directly targeting the “GoogleDriveFS.exe” binary as we expected, the shortcut runs this batch file in the top-level folder:

C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\launch.bat

You can see this in the shortcut’s properties:

Google Drive desktop shortcut: Properties

When we opened the launch.bat file, the comments at the top made us smile:

Launch.bat file

Indeed, the code finds and starts the latest version of GoogleDriveFS.exe, interrogating the registry and enumerating sub-folders as necessary. It’s exactly what we were looking for.

So with this script in hand, the solution is simple:

Instead of having AlwaysUp run “GoogleDriveFS.exe”, configure AlwaysUp to start “launch.bat”.

You will make that change in the “Application” field:

Update AlwaysUp to run Launch.bat

And with that change in place, the next time your computer boots:

  1. AlwaysUp will run “launch.bat”

  2. The batch file will start the latest version of Google Drive and exit

  3. AlwaysUp will continue to watch Google Drive and restart it if it fails, etc.

In fact, the sequence played out exactly as expected on our test server:

AlwaysUp running Google Drive as a Windows Service

You will be good to go — no matter how many updates the folks at Google throw at you! 😎

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AlwaysUp Version 13: Easily Install Dropbox, OneDrive, Java and more as Windows Services; Full Support for Windows 11

AlwaysUp Version 13: Easily Install Dropbox, OneDrive, and Java as Windows Services; Full Support for Windows 11

AlwaysUp version 13 is available for download!

To give you an idea of what to expect, here is a summary of the most impactful changes in this edition of our popular software:

The new Application Advisor will help you add a well-known application — in seconds

Introducing the AlwaysUp Application Advisor

Are you looking to run a popular application — like OneDrive, Dropbox or Java — 24/7 as a Windows Service?

After years of refinement, AlwaysUp contains all the tools you need to install your application as a service. However, each application is different and it can be challenging to get all the settings right.

For example:

… and more.

In short, it’s virtually impossible for an average user to figure out those quirks on their own!

And while following one of our 140+ step-by-step tutorials helps significantly, even that is not as easy as we would like.

Enter the AlwaysUp Application Advisor, our new wizard component that understands the inner workings of several popular applications. Instead of configuring your application via the generic interface (which features over 50 powerful but complex options), the Advisor interviews you to ask only what is needed. The result is a Windows Service configured with all our recommended settings, in a fraction of the time.

What applications does the Advisor support?

The Advisor can configure these 12 prominent applications:

Dropbox: A popular cloud storage service that lets you save files online and sync them to your devices.
OneDrive: Microsoft’s premier cloud storage service that allows you to sync and share files between your computers and mobile devices.
Batch files: Script files containing a series of commands to be executed by the Windows command-line interpreter.
InfluxDB: A robust, open-source time series database designed to handle high write and query loads.
Java JAR files: Java is a popular cross-platform programming language and application environment supporting millions of devices worldwide.
Kibana: An open source data visualization plugin for Elasticsearch.
Node.js scripts: Node.js is a JavaScript runtime built on Google Chrome’s JavaScript engine.
PHP scripts: PHP is a popular general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited to web development.
Plex Media Server: A global streaming media service and a client–server media player platform.
Python scripts: Python is one of the world’s most popular general-purpose programming languages.
VMWare Workstation Player: A free desktop virtualization package.
Windows Forms (WinForms) programs: WinForms is a widely-used GUI API included with Microsoft’s .NET Framework.

In future releases, our team will introduce support for other prominent applications covered in our tutorials. Moreover, please be sure to let us know of any programs that you would like the Application Advisor to support sooner rather than later.

How to install OneDrive as a Windows Service

To illustrate how easy it is to use the Application Advisor, here are the steps to add OneDrive to AlwaysUp.

  1. Start the Application Advisor by selecting Advisor from the Application menu:

    Start the Application Advisor
  2. Click Next to move to the application selector screen.

  3. Select OneDrive from the list:

    Select OneDrive
  4. After gathering OneDrive information from your PC, the Advisor asks you to enter the credentials for the Windows account where you installed OneDrive. Click Next after you have supplied that information:

    Enter your Windows credentials
  5. And on the final step with the Advisor, click Next to move past the summary screen and open the Add Application window with all the recommended settings to run OneDrive 24/7 as a Windows Service.

  6. Next, in the Add Application window, click Save to create your new service:

    Save OneDrive
  7. And finally, now that OneDrive is installed as a service, start OneDrive normally on your desktop and update its preferences as described:

    Adjust your OneDrive preferences
  8. Click Done to complete the process.

To find out more about the Application Advisor, please see pages 38-51 in the AlwaysUp User’s Manual.

AlwaysUp is fully compatible with Windows 11

Windows 11 Ready

Here at Core Technologies, we’ve been interrogating Windows 11 for the past few months — ever since preview builds became available via the Windows Insider program.

To date, AlwaysUp 13 has performed well. We have detected zero incompatibilities. In fact, the entire stable of testing applications (including Dropbox, OneDrive and our home-grown simulators) have performed as well as they did under Windows 10.

Needless to say, we will continue to test AlwaysUp on Windows 11 to maintain 100% compatibility after Microsoft releases the full retail versions on October 5. In short, we’ve got your back!

Other fixes & improvements

  • Internal logging has been improved. Consequently, the added information should help us diagnose problems and resolve thorny issues quickly.

  • Customers running versions of Windows configured with the highest levels of security (e.g. Windows SHB) would occasionally run into licensing issues. Our team has resolved these problems.

  • “splwow64.exe” processes, which are spawned to aid in printing, are now handled and terminated properly when running in the context of a Windows Service.

As usual, please review the release notes for the full list of features, fixes and improvements included in AlwaysUp version 13.

Upgrading to AlwaysUp 13

If you purchased AlwaysUp version 12 (after March 2020), you can upgrade to version 13 for free. Simply download and install “over the top” to preserve your existing applications and all settings. Your registration code will continue to work as well.

If you bought AlwaysUp version 11 or earlier (before March 2020), you will need to upgrade to use version 13. Consequently, please purchase upgrades here — at a 50% discount.

See the complete upgrade policy for additional details.

Enjoy!

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