Windows Live Messenger Shows Contacts as Offline When They Are Really Online and You Cannot Send Offline Instant Messages to those Contacts

November 7, 2010

Recently I discovered a strange phenomenon under Windows Live Messenger 2011 (and it apparently also affects Windows Live Messenger 2010 as well). Some of your contacts will always be shown as being in “Offline” status when they are actually online (they show up as Online in other Messenger clients). You can receive instant messages from them, and messages sent to them from other clients also show up in the instant message windows of Windows Live Messenger 2011. When you attempt to send them an offline instant message, it reports: “The following message could not be delivered to all recipients”, and fails to send it it.

My wife is usually logged into a Windows Live Messenger instance through her cell phone carrier, and I often use Windows Live Messenger to send messages to her cell phone. For the past week or so my copy of Windows Live has shown her as Offline and failed to send her offline instant messages, which I initially thought to be a problem with her cell phone carrier’s system. When I started receiving messages from her which I could not reply to, I opened up Windows Live Web Messenger and verified that she was actually online the whole time. Web Messenger could also send her instant messages, which oddly enough would show up in the Windows Live Messenger 2011 instant message window.

I suspect that it is most likely a problem between the Windows Live servers and different versions of the Messenger protocol.

In the case of my wife’s account, I think her cell phone carrier’s software is using the old Messenger protocol, and it is somehow not being properly linked to the Windows Live servers (and ultimately clients) using the new protocol. Windows Live Web Messenger probably uses the old protocol.

The only solution seems to be to use a client which uses the older Messenger protocol.

You can use Windows Live Web Messenger which has no problems. The online version of Windows Live Messenger which is integrated into Windows Hotmail doesn’t work as it seems to (at least on my system). You can install Windows Messenger alongside MSN/Windows Live Messenger. It is lacking a lot of features and doesn’t always work well…but it is handy for situations where MSN/Windows Live Messenger is not working. You can download Windows Messenger 5.1.0701 here. To install it under Windows Vista or Windows 7 you will need to use a workaround or disable UAC to get the messenger.msi file to install correctly.

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Install Windows Messenger 5.1 on Windows Vista or Windows 7

October 19, 2010

Windows Messenger was an instant messaging client from Microsoft which could connect to Microsoft .NET Passport (now Windows Live ID), SIP (session initiation protocol) communication services, and Microsoft Exchange Instant Messaging. Windows Messenger 5.1 was included with Windows XP but was not released for any newer versions of Windows (it has been replaced by newer products like Windows Live Messenger and Office Communicator). You can obtain more information about Windows Messenger from the Windows Messenger How-To Center on Microsoft’s web site.

Windows Messenger is fairly out-dated and does not have many of the features included in newer versions of MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger (see this Microsoft document for some details). It can still can be useful (or even necessary) for some things. It is especially handy because it works alongside MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger and is not affected by their installations. If Windows Live Messenger is broken or unable to connect you can use Windows Messenger as a backup. Windows Live Messenger also cannot connect to SIP communication services or Exchange instant messaging.

You can download the installer for Windows Messenger 5.1.0701 from here.

When you run the “Messenger.msi” installation file under Windows Vista or Windows 7 it fails partway through the installation process, reporting that the installation was interrupted. The problem is caused by a compatibility issue between the MSI package and UAC. You cannot simply adjust compatibility modes or elevated privileges for standalone MSI packages like you can for setup executables because they are handled by the Windows Installer service.

To get it to install properly, open an elevated command prompt (right click the “Command Prompt” shortcut under the start menu and select “Run as Administrator”). From the administrative command prompt enter the commands:

msiexec /a <path>
msiexec /i <path>

Where <path> is the location of the messenger.msi file. So if I saved it to my desktop, the commands would be:

msiexec /a C:\Users\Keith\Desktop\Messenger.msi
msiexec /i C:\Users\Keith\Desktop\Messenger.msi

The installation will run and should be able to complete successfully.


How to Remove a Network Driver that Locks Up Device Manager When You Attempt to Uninstall It

August 20, 2010

A typical fix for networking issues in Windows XP is to uninstall the device in Device Manager and then have Windows reinstall it by selecting “Scan for Hardware Changes”. Under Windows Vista and Windows 7 the network troubleshooter will do this automatically if you choose to reset the network driver. I don’t know the exact reasoning, but I suspect it is because of the interaction with the NDIS miniport driver.

Sometimes there is a problem with the drivers and they simply will not uninstall. When you try to uninstall or disable the device, Device Manager will stop responding until the end of time (or until you end the task). You can re-open Device Manager and try as many times as you like, but the same thing will happen every time. Afterwards Windows will usually also hang during the shut down process and never complete it.

The broken driver most likely has an outstanding IRP request which it never completes or cancels.

When I was doing contractor work one of my clients was specifically having this problem with the Intel wireless drivers on a lot of their systems. The driver could not be updated or reinstalled with Intel’s installer either, as it would also stop responding.

The solution is to disable the driver’s service entry so that Windows does not load it at all, and it will no longer have any open IRP requests which prevent it from being removed.

The first step is to obtain the name of the driver’s service entry. You can do this easily if you open the device’s properties in Device Manager and select the “Details” tab (other tabs may cause Device Manager to stop responding if you click them, but Details will work). Select “Service” from the drop down list in the middle of the Details property page. If you can’t access the Details tab in Device Manager, you can also use the command: ‘sc query type= driver group= NDIS’ to display all of the network drivers on your system along with their service name and obtain it from there.

Once that’s done open the system Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and navigate to: ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services’. Expand the ‘Services’ tree and look for a subkey underneath it with the driver service name we located in the step above. Select the driver service subkey and there will be a DWORD entry inside it named “Start”. Double click the “Start” entry and set it’s value to the number ‘4’ (decimal). Setting the value to 4 disables the service on startup.

After you reboot the system, the device should appear in Device Manager with a bang and you should have no problem uninstalling it.


Installing Windows Live Suite 2010 Wave 4 Beta

June 17, 2010

The beta release of the next Windows Live suite of applications has been leaked to the internet and is available for download. It can be installed on a regular system with no issues, but there are problems with the login process. The wave 4 applications detect that your Windows Live account is not part of the wave 4 beta program and will prevent you from logging in unless you sign up for the “dogfood” program (Microsoft employees only!). There are patches available to get most of the wave 4 applications to login with a regular account. A public beta of the suite will hopefully be available soon.

You can download a good torrent with the installer and required patches here.

The Windows Live Essentials installer is about 126MB and works offline (doesn’t download any components). The installer includes the following Windows Live applications: Windows Live ID, Windows Live Messenger (15.2.2583.119), Windows Live Call (part of messenger), Windows Live Mail (15.2.2583.119), Windows Live Contacts (part of Windows Live Mail), Windows Live Companion (15.2.2583.119), Windows Live Writer (15.2.2583.119), Windows Live Photo Gallery (15.2.2590.301), Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live Family Safety, Windows Live Sync, Microsoft Outlook Connector, Bing Bar (replaces the MSN Search Toolbar/Windows Live Toolbar). Windows Live SkyDrive has been integrated into the web interfaces for hosting photos and documents and also can now stream video.  Windows Live Mesh is still a separate beta but many of it’s features have been moved into Windows Live Sync. There may be other updates to the web based applications like Live Mail (Hotmail) and Spaces, but they are not available without a valid beta participation account.

Main Issues With the Wave 4 Beta

  • Windows Live Sync which requires a valid beta account and doesn’t run.
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery will work but cannot login to the network (also requires a valid account).
  • Windows Live Movie Maker requires an Aero compatible video card or it will not run at all.
  • Some of the applications crash at times (they are still beta!).

Overall, the applications run fairly well and perform decently. There are probably features that are still missing (like ribbon customization) but they are decent enough quality that they were released to Microsoft employees for testing.

 

Installing the Windows Live Essentials Wave 4 and Patches

  1. Extract the RAR archive from the torrent and run the Windows Live Essentials installer named “run this first.exe”. Select the components you would like and proceed through the installation process.
  2. Make sure that no Windows Live applications are running, if they are make sure you exit them.
  3. Open the XML file “then run this second.xml”, it will open up in Internet Explorer and the information bar will pop up and tell you it has blocked running active content on your computer (picture).
  4. Click the information bar and select the option to run the content. After the page reloads it should be installed.
  5. Finally, run the patch named “then run this patch lastly.exe” and install it.
  6. Restart your computer. After rebooting you should be able to use the new Windows Live betas!

(You do not have to worry about the Internet Explorer 9 tech preview installer that is also included in the archive)

New Features

The main feature is the new ribbon interface which has been added to Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Writer. Many of the apps have moved things to the ribbon or to new side panes. There are new view and sorting options for many applications.

The new social integration features (like FaceBook updates) have been integrated into Windows Live and there are better publishing options as well. Live Messenger now supports tabbed conversation windows (like Lotus Sametime) and a new Social Mode.

Windows Live Writer adds better account support and blog sites can provide links to services and extensions which are available in the editor. You can create custom manifest files which define features for other types of blog sites. Editing is much easier with the options on the ribbon (rather than under menus) and plugin features are more accessible. You can also configure advanced permissions for posts like allowing comments and pings from the editor.

Windows Live Photo Gallery adds GeoTags (location tags) and many additional photo editing tools. The ribbon also makes working with tags and other meta data much easier.

Other Notes

  • Windows Live Mail is prone to crashes when switching between the shortcuts (the lower right icons for Calendar, Contacts, Feeds…).
  • Various Windows Live Writer plugins may cause it to crash, but most of them have no problem. Unfortunately there is no published command line option for running Live Writer without plug-ins so you can use the GUI to manage them. You will have to manually remove the offending plugin from the “C:\Program Files\Windows Live Writer\Plugins” folder. If they are in another location they may be COM objects and you should run their uninstall program to unregister them (or use “regsvr32 /u <DLL FILE NAME>” to do it manually).
  • All of the tested Windows Live Photo Gallery plug-ins worked properly.
  • A-Patch is an application which patches Live Messenger to remove adds and change other features like nudge delay and maximum file transfers. There is no version of a-patch which will patch the beta version of Live Messenger yet.
  • Microsoft beta’s often do not update automatically to the full release and may require you manually uninstall the beta from Programs and Features (appwiz.cpl) before you can install the release version (when it comes out).

Conclusion

The new Windows Live beta applications are pretty nice and I personally like the new versions enough that I will use them instead of the old versions on my systems. This post was written and published in the beta Windows Live Writer.

I would not recommend installing it for every user, especially with the sign-in issue and possible crashes. Some of the earlier Windows Live betas (like the first Windows Live releases, and wave 3) were good enough that the betas could be installed for most users. I don’t feel this release is good enough quality yet.