Problem with 'help'

#1
TCC 15.01.52 x64 Windows 7 [Version 6.1.7601]
TCC Build 52 Windows 7 Build 7601 Service Pack 1

Yeah, I know. Old version. I'm always very slow to update.

Within the last day or so there's a problem with TCC's help system. The CHM opens and a dialog appears immediately, containing: "Unable to open this Internet site. The requested site is either unavailable or cannot be found. Please try again later." It happens if I:

  • Use the "help" command at the TCC prompt, with or without arguments;
  • Type a command at the TCC prompt and press F1;
  • Use the "help" command, open the CHM, close the error dialog, then attempt to read a help topic by clicking something in the TOC or the index;
  • Click the Help button if I'm looking at, say, the Option dialog.
The error does not occur if I:
  • View other programs' CHM files;
  • At the TCC prompt, go to the directory containing TCMD.CHM, type "start tcmd.chm", and then click something in the table of contents or the index.
The only changes I've made on this machine within the last day or so have been that I'm installing a bunch of "Patch Tuesday" updates via Windows Update. I'm not done yet due to having a big fight with Windows Update, which was trying to force Windows 10 on me. But I can't imagine that Windows Update has any bearing on TCC's help system. It never has in the past that I know of.
 

rconn

Administrator
Staff member
May 14, 2008
10,494
94
#2
The help system is 100% Microsoft's -- it's actually a component of IE that is executing / displaying TCMD.CHM. So Windows Update can definitely be involved.

If you have selected "Web Help" in OPTION / Startup, then the help is executed / displayed by your browser, accessing the help files on https://jpsoft.com. If you're sure you're running a local tcmd.chm, then try right clicking on the tcmd.chm icon in Explorer, and make sure Windows isn't blocking it (which it will do if you've downloaded the tcmd.chm file instead of installing it with the TCMD installer).
 
#3
Web Help is off (in the Option dialog). I've right-clicked the file in Explorer -- then, "Open" launches the CHM without any error messages appearing. Is there any other information (displayed, say, in the file's Properties dialog) to indicate that Windows has blocked or reduced some functionality? Typing "help [command]" at the prompt certainly launches the CHM -- but the help system apparently isn't finding what it's looking for thereafter.

(Until I solve this, Web Help certainly works well enough.)

Thanks.
 
#5
> Yes, in the file's Properties dialog, if the bottom of the General tab has an Unblock button, click it and then OK.

No sign of an Unblock button there.

I tried going to the directory containing tcmd.chm and typing "
start tcmd.chm dir" (to replicate typing "help dir"). That opened the CHM without any error messages appearing, but it didn't pass the argument "dir" — I suppose I'd have to pass an actual URI that the help system understands.

. . . well, not so much. Also tried:

start tcmd.chm "mk:@MSITStore:C:\TakeCommand\tcmd.chm::/dir.htm" — that opened the CHM (no error message that time) but didn't display the help info for "dir". The URI comes from viewing the "dir" page, right-clicking, and getting the "Address (URL)" information.

Most strange. I wonder if this would start working again if I were to relocate the CHM to some other directory. Somewhere within \Windows\System32, perhaps?
 

Charles Dye

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 20, 2008
3,570
46
Albuquerque, NM
prospero.unm.edu
#6
TCMD.CHM doesn't take args; it's not a program. It is an arg, or part of an arg, to HH.EXE. If you want to launch that help page without using the HELP command, you could do something like:
Code:
hh.exe "c:\bin\tcmd\tcmd.chm::/dir.htm"
(Substitute the correct path, of course.)

You might look for an HH.DAT file (in the "%APPDATA\Microsoft\HTML Help" directory) or an HH.INI file (in C:\Windows, or maybe it's C:\Windows\System32 ). Either one can be safely deleted.

If you want to try moving the help file, C:\Windows\Help seems like a good place to try.
 
#7
No HH.INI in C:\Windows. No HH.INI at all, actually — which seems odd. I copied tcmd.chm and .chw to \Windows\help and then hid them temporarily within their original directory. No joy. Same result. For now I guess I'll use the web-based help system, or "start tcmd.chm" and just search within the chm file for whatever I'm trying to find. Baffling. What could have happened?
 
Jun 2, 2008
295
1
#9
Turns out I'm having this same exact issue too with TCC LE v13.06.77 on both Win7 and Win10 x64 machines, but it works maybe 1% of the time just out of the blue at least on the Win7 machine. I have the same version on a Win8.1 x86 machine and it works fine every time. I also have zero issues with "hh.exe tcmd.chm" or double clicking tcmd.chm in Explorer, and HTML help works just fine in other programs like Registry Editor and Registry Workshop.

The Win7 machine is what I've been hacking on this with and I just can't narrow it down. I've tried deleting hh.dat (I have no hh.ini and I don't think I've ever heard of it), clearing out IE's cache, clearing out my Temp folder since I saw a couple files being written there with SysInternals' Process Monitor (even though they do get deleted when the Help window is closed), but nothing I do actually triggers it to work. I just does when it wants to, which is hardly ever. Along with Process Monitor, Process Explorer has helped me discover that hh.exe is not used, but rather mshtml.dll (IE, basically) and hhctrl.ocx (plugin). Also, on the rare occasion it does work, tcc.exe will usually crash in mshtml.dll while I'm navigating around the help or using Ctrl+F to look for text on a page. Given that IE is ultimately what's used to display HTML help, and it has worked fine on this installation on the Win7 machine for years (the Win10 and 8.1 installations are much more recent), I'm sure it's some IE update that has caused this.
 
#10
A wild guess ... Did these machines use a file system that was left over from the installation of another version of Windows? Check on the owner and permissions of whatever TCC and TCMD's %TEMP is. Is the owner a left-over from another OS?

Also, going way back to your earlier post, your START command didn't work here either. But this works (your path will differ), with or without START.
Code:
g:\tc18> hh "mk:@MSITStore:g:\tc18\tcmd.chm::/dir.htm"

g:\tc18> start hh "mk:@MSITStore:g:\tc18\tcmd.chm::/dir.htm"
I also remember (vaguely) that deleting HH.DAT solved some problem for me a long time ago.
 
#11
Have you tried deleting HH.DAT? I have a vague memory of solving an issue that way once, years ago....
Yesterday, after seeing your recommendation about that, I renamed HH.DAT to HH.DAT.OLD. Same result. There's a new HH.DAT file since then (in C:\Users\Mike\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\HTML Help). I've deleted it and the ".OLD" file.

Same result as before. There was an update to IE on "patch Tuesday," and that's when the problem surfaced. <sigh>
 
#12
A wild guess ... Did these machines use a file system that was left over from the installation of another version of Windows? Check on the owner and permissions of whatever TCC and TCMD's %TEMP is. Is the owner a left-over from another OS?

Also, going way back to your earlier post, your START command didn't work here either. But this works (your path will differ), with or without START.
Code:
g:\tc18> hh "mk:@MSITStore:g:\tc18\tcmd.chm::/dir.htm"

g:\tc18> start hh "mk:@MSITStore:g:\tc18\tcmd.chm::/dir.htm"
I also remember (vaguely) that deleting HH.DAT solved some problem for me a long time ago.
I bought this machine used from a former co-worker. It's possible that he was running XP on it before he installed Win 7. I'll have to check with him. Both I and the "Administrators" group have full permissions for %appdata\temp (same as the value for %temp). Where is Owner displayed?

The suggested "hh" command, with argument, (also "start hh" + arg) does work. For that to be practical, though, a person would have to know the filenames for all the topics. Some are obvious, some aren't.

What's odd is, without thinking much about it I copied and pasted your suggested "start hh" command and ran it as-is. Pretty silly of me, since I don't have a drive G: or a TC18 subdirectory. And, the command worked anyway: the CHM file opened without any error message appearing, and it displayed DIR.HTM. Go figure.
 
#13
%TEMP ... right-click context menu ... Properties ... Security ... Advanced ... Owner ...

Here, although I and admins, and eventually everyone in my experimenting, had full control over %TEMP, the Microsoft XPS Writer would not work on one machine because that folder was owned by some long GUID, a relic of the XP that was installed before Win7. Do your TCC/TCMD use the same %TEMP that all other apps use?
 
Jun 2, 2008
295
1
#14
To see the owner, click the Advanced button on the Security tab of the folder's properties.

My Win7 machine has had that installation since day 1 in 2010. My Win10 machine was updated from Win8 through 8.1 through some of the preview releases of 10. I am the owner of the Temp folders on both. Since IE is pretty much always updated on patch Tuesday, I think it's just a buggy update, but it's very weird that it only seems to affect TCC. Perhaps it has to do with invoking HTML help from any console program. Anyone have a different console program that invokes HTML help?
 
Jun 2, 2008
295
1
#16
So, you can open the help file with HH.EXE, but not via the HELP command? That's... just really weird.
Yup, and the same for pressing F1. VERY weird, and it just decided to work again a few times in a row and then went back to erroring out. Here's a screen shot just for the heck of it. Note it says "Web Browser" in the title bar.

upload_2015-10-18_18-0-2.png
 
#19
I'm positive my system is clean. That string comes from ieframe.dll.
MalwareBytes also shows my system as clean. I get the very same dialog box: Unable to download .
Unable to open this Internet site. The requested site is either unavailable (etc. etc.) What's up with that "." sitting out there by itself, I wonder.
 
#20
So, you can open the help file with HH.EXE, but not via the HELP command? That's... just really weird.
To clarify in my case: the CHM opens but no topic is displayed. The dialog containing the error message appears instead. If I close the alert, I seem to have access to the TOC, the index, and the search feature. But trying to open any topic brings up the same dialog.

On the other hand,
start tcmd.chm opens the CHM without error, and I can use the TOC, index, and search functionality without error.
 
#30
Was the KB2847204 update installed around the time the problem began?
That does not show up in a search in Control Panel > Currently Installed Updates

[Edit:] Fantastic sleuthing, TEA-Time. Thanks. I could certainly uninstall that update, though I'm alway a bit timid about uninstalling security updates. Not that I use IE all that often. But still. (On clicking "Like" for that post, I notice that the icon changed to "Unlike" and the "Like" counter wasn't incremented. That needs work. Hope I didn't inadvertently "Unlike" it.)