Excel showing a blank screen until window is resized

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I came across this issue this week when a user reported that for certain spreadsheets, intermittently when she opened them, the entire data section of Excel would be white. The ribbon would be visible and the field immediately below it where you can enter data along with the cell identifier were showing correctly but the main area would just be white. The weird thing was that if you resized the entire Excel window (e.g. went from maximized to windowed or vice versa) the data would show up as if nothing was ever wrong.

We tried a number of things including repeating the test (we confirmed that sometimes it broke and sometimes it didn’t with no apparent rhyme or reason) and repairing/reinstalling Office (neither of which worked).

The last thing I thought of was that since it was technically a visual issue only (the spreadsheet worked fine for other people, and even most spreadsheets didn’t exhibit the problem), what else is involved in displaying the Excel window? The graphics subsystem. And what is our last remaining link to that subsystem? The video drivers.

Sure enough, after upgrading her video drivers to the latest Quadro drivers from Nvidia, all was well.

This whole situation reminded me that when you’re going through a troubleshooting tree, you need to include ALL of the relevant systems, not just the most obvious ones.

Quick Tip: ALT key in MacOSX Terminal

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Need to send the equivalent of the ALT key through a terminal session but getting frustrated that the Option key isn’t letting you do that?

Simple.

Go to: Terminal -> Preferences -> Keyboard and the check the “Use Option as Meta key” box.

You won’t even have to close and re-open Terminal as it will start working immediately.

Happy typing!

Quick Tip: How to allow Chrome to open in multiple sessions of a shared profile on a Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server

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I encountered this issue today, where only the first logged in session of a shared profile on a Windows 2008 Terminal Server was able to open Google Chrome. Every subsequent attempt to open Chrome in any other session resulted in a silent crashing.

It turns out that each instance tries to write to the same profile files and when it can’t get exclusive access to that file (since it’s already in use by another instance of the profile), it silently fails.

As per https://code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=160676, the solution is to upgrade the shortcuts (desktop, start menu, taskbar) to include the parameter

--user-data-dir=%LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\%SessionName%

at the end of the “Target” field. This will force it to create a separate file for each session without the lock, allowing Chrome to open normally.

Quick Tip: How to remove old Ubuntu kernels

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If you haven’t disabled the auto-upgrade feature, often you’ll find that your /boot partition in Ubuntu will fill itself up with newer and newer kernels.

To remove all but the latest one, run the following command (the first is a very long one that should be entered on a single line):

sudo apt-get remove --purge $(dpkg -l 'linux-image-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d')
sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get upgrade