Another Tech Tool to Save Your Ass (And Sanity)

Morning from Reno!

This is one of my more technical blog postings and is aimed at a very specific audience (sorry if you get lost in the mix).

I share responsibility for a virtual server at work, and bumped into an issue with a very detailed and confusing configuration file that had me losing my mind and up in arms for hours. After scouring help manuals and consulting with a colleague, we determined that a single line of code was possibly causing the error (frustrating to say the least). The file contained hundreds of lines of code, and each and every line was ample opportunity for a single string to send the entire server configuration plummeting into an unending pit of cyberdeath and obscure errors that make you want to pull your hair out.

All we could figure out was that before last Wednesday, everything worked fine, so clearly the best way to fix this was to compare a file that was created before the problem arose, to one that was created after. Easier said than done, as most of you techies will know! As it turns out, all you need are a few simple ingredients:

  1. Notepad ++ – this is a very advanced and much more capable version of the standard Notepad software. Available for download here:
  2. Compare plugin – Notepad ++ does not include the compare feature on its own. You can find instructions and download information here: How to Compare Text Files
  3. Remote connection to your server – update the file and then upload it back into your server. You are good to go (and can now go celebrate for the countless hours you saved fixing this file)

After opening both of the files in Notepad ++ you can hit “Compare” and instantly the software scours the two files and highlights ANY differences (even if it’s just a comma). I found the line of code I needed to change and off I went for a test run!

Although this didn’t solve my entire problem, it did eliminate a HUGE troubleshooting step, and saved me a rather brutal headache of scouring line after line of seemingly foreign characters looking for the one that had turned my world upside down. The IT professionals “tool box” is always expanding and improving. Hope this helps!

Picture credit 1. Picture credit 2.

What other extra add-ons or plug-ins do you use to make your IT job easier?


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