Dell Hell 2

If the Connect a fingerprint sensor fiasco wasn’t enough…

We needed a new way to backup our remote users’ files who regularly work on their laptops in the field. The USB thumb drives we assigned to those users no longer work since we discovered they were full of unecessary files and basically not being used since the backup process was not automagic.

Enter Offline Files, included as a standard feature in Windows XP Professional or better. Offline Files is not without it’s own quirks though. I quickly discovered how temperamental it can actually be, behaving normally one minute and totally out of whack the next minute. After completing several run-throughs with Offline Files in my test environment, we concluded that it would be highly beneficial to the company not only for backup purposes, but since the remote users’ files were now being stored on our server, we could integrate those files with our project management software and cut down on email usage.

Moving forward with the implementation, it was finally time to make a trip to Las Vegas and set up the remaining four users. This wasn’t just a business trip however; this trip happened to fall on my two year anniversary with my girlfriend who just turned 21. We made the trip together by car instead of taking my boss’ private plane and we arrived there around 1 AM. Our rooms at the Circus Circus manor were so terrible that we had to order some towels to lay over the crusty bedsheets they supplied us with. Two hours passed by without a towel in sight so we packed our bags and headed off for the New York New York hotel. By 4 AM I was finally asleep. Three hours later my alarm was blowing its lid and I promised her I’d be done working by noon so we could hit the casinos.

Needless to say, noon rolls around and I’m still trying to figure out why I can’t get Offline Files to synchronize. It just kept giving me an access denied error for every file it tried to sync. The girlfriend calls me up so I invite her over to our Las Vegas office where she could … sit and be bored until I was done. Sorry babe! Every 10 minutes I looked over at her with a reassuring look that I was almost finished, while at the same time thinking to myself how the hell I would get this damn thing working. It wouldn’t sync no matter how many different ways I tried or configured it.

Success!

My last ditch effort was to end several tasks from Task Manager to see if another program was causing a conflict. It worked! I could now tell Offline Files to synchronize and it wasn’t throwing an access denied error anymore. Taking a step back and retracing my steps, I ended one process at a time and tried the sync again until it worked. The culprit: WavXDocMgr.exe. This program is the Document Manager component of Wave EMBASSY Security Center, which is installed and enabled by default on new Dell laptops. It seems like the Document Manager is trying to lock down files on the laptop, which would explain the access denied error.

In hindsight, I could have used Sysinternals’ Process Monitor (ProcMon) to detect which running process had a lock on the files that were being synchronized.

How to Disable the Wave EMBASSY Document Manager (WavXDocMgr.exe)

The solution is simple, just use MSConfig (Start –> Run –> msconfig) to disable the automatic startup of WavXDocMgr.exe, or uninstall Wave EMBASSY Security Center entirely from Add/Remove Programs. You won’t miss it, I promise :)

For more information about compatibility between Offline Files and Wave EMBASSY Security Center, see http://forums.techarena.in/windows-server-help/942215.htm.

Update – October 23, 2009

What I’m finding on some of our newer laptops is that the Wave EMBASSY Security Center cannot be found in the Start menu or Add/Remove Programs, even though several components are loaded by default when at startup. Now isn’t that a real treat, Dell?

Conclusion

Once again we see Dell pushing out crap they haven’t really tested or don’t have a full understanding of. It would have been nice if these features could be enabled if and when they were needed, but instead they were enabled by default. Maybe one day Dell will offer an option to exclude all of their crappy software, but for now we must comply with what Dell thinks we should be running on our laptops straight out of the box…

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