David's Blog
David's Blog
| Misc ramblings about things in general, work and technical items of interest.

Aug/15

2

Windows 10 Upgrade Experience

Typically I don’t upgrade the OS of a computer and run the OS that came with it. I get a new OS when I get a new computer that contains a newer OS. I decided to update the Windows 7 notebook I use at home as my main personal computer, though 80% or more use of it is related to ham radio. Here’s my experience:

I reserved my free Windows 10 update when Microsoft had Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 users sign up. When Windows 10 launched, within a few days I was prompted to upgrade and I held off a day or two until the weekend rolled around and I had some time. To prep, I uninstalled a few programs I no longer used and cleaned up temporary files that could be deleted. I then cloned/imaged by existing partitions using Macrium Reflect Free and the instructions found here to create a recovery image

the instructions found here to create a recovery image
 using a USB flash drive as the boot recovery and a USB hard drive as the storage for the images. It took about 1.5 hours or less to back up my 3 partitions and < 300GB from my Windows 7 notebook SSD.

Once backed up, I rebooted without the USB hard drive plugged in and initiated the Windows 10 upgrade. I again didn’t stare at the screens but it looks like a 3 step process – downloading what is needed, doing the actual upgrade, and then configuring settings. There are a few reboots that occur as part of the upgrade all handled by the automated process. I estimate that the upgrade process  took about 1 hour in total but I was doing other things and checking back from time to time.

As part of the final startup of Windows 10, there’s a screen to take the Windows 10 default options or customize and I chose customize because I knew a couple things I wanted to configure. There’s a known issue with Cortana, the Microsoft version of Siri, and at least one of my ham radio programs. It happens to be specifically around DDE, an older but still valid way for applications to communicate with each other. Seems Cortana causes a large slow down in DDE communications, so I told it not to enable Cortana. There were other options related to sharing of info/advertising I also disabled.

After completing the configuration screen Windows 10 booted up and I noticed I wasn’t on the internet. I could ping my router (192.168.1.1) but I wasn’t getting out on the internet though other devices in my home were fine. This was the same for my wired and wireless connections on the notebook. After some messing around, I ran a “repair” on the wired connection and it became active. As I checked things out, after sometime between 10 & 20 minutes I noticed I again lost internet access. Another repair seemed to resolve it again reporting an issue with the default gateway. I started to look online and I saw multiple reports suggesting re-installing anti-virus software might resolve it, so I uninstalled AVG and ran for a while without any issues, so I then reinstalled  AVG and the issue has not re-occurred, even after 18 hours.

I configured Windows 10 to not share my download of Windows 10 with computers outside my home. It’s a way for Microsoft to not have to fulfill bandwidth needs for the millions of Windows 10 installations and, as long as you don’t configure it otherwise, your download of the Windows 10 installation will be used to share to others. You can configure your Windows 10 setup to not share with machines outside of your home and I have mine configured that way.

The programs I tested out all worked fine including my ham radio programs which rely on uncommon devices such as an Edgeport 8 port USB Serial device. I have encountered an issue with Family Tree Maker 2014 aka FTM 2014 and failing to startup successfully after upgrading to Windows 10. Most times after a failed startup , it would prompt to reset some settings and then successfully startup. Doing some digging this morning, this issue seems to be specific to the 64-bit version of FTM 2014 and the 32-bit version doesn’t seem to have issues. There’s a way to re-install Family Tree Maker with the 32-bit version as outlined here

re-install Family Tree Maker with the 32-bit version as outlined here
, but I’ll hold off for now and see if they resolve the 64-bit version issue.

I haven’t hit any other snags yet though I haven’t fired up every program I have installed. I’ve printed and scanned to my computer with the Epson Workforce 645 and that worked perfectly. Chrome is running fine, Quicken ran fine, TeamViewer, etc. All worked without having to take any action after the Windows 10 upgrade.

We’ll see how things work after an extended period, but so far the UI isn’t as jarring moving from traditional start menu based versions of Windows from what Windows 8 was with its tile view.

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Mar/13

4

HP ToolboxFX Error on Startup

I’ve run into this problem a couple of times in the past 2 years and it takes me too long to find the resolution, so I’m posting it here.

HP ToolboxFX is a system tray program for some HP printers. From time to time, a system change causes the program to fail on reboot and you receive an alert message (see picture below)  stating “HP ToolboxFX has encountered an error and can not recover.” Once the error is displayed, I can’t print anything. It’s likely do to some change in IP or USB port numbers, but here is the quick fix:

  • Go to the following directory  C:\ProgramData\Hewlett-Packard\ToolboxFX\Settings
  • Under this directory delete all the files in Settings folder
  • With the printer connected and on, reboot the PC

HPToolboxFX_Error

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After switching companies in January, I was confronted with a choice of which smartphone to acquire – Blackberry, iPhone or Droid. I have been a Blackberry user since the first units were available. My most recent unit was an 8130 (Pearl) and I could type quicker on it with my eyes closed than most folks could type on a traditional computer keyboard. But the Blackberry units have become very dated and with all the activity focused on iPhones and Droids I really didn’t look at continuing with a Blackberry.

Blackberry
Pros: Email/calendar integration with Exchange is the best
Cons: Dated hardware, less apps then iPhone and Droid

Up until this past month, iPhones = AT&T, and that was a problem for me. I had heard nothing but horror stories from coworkers about the service. The individual I was dealing with at my new company was extremely helpful and had a loaner iPhone 4 I could use for a couple weeks. He said he doesn’t have issues with AT&T like I have heard so give it a shot. I get the iPhone loaner and start using it normally. “Normal” for me is very data heavy usage ith minimal voice. Lots of typing, web browsing, Gmail, Google reader, etc. I quickly notice on my 30 min train commute in Northern NJ that I experience pauses using the iPhone on AT&T. Pauses occurred when the iPhone showed no signal and when it also showed a signal of 3 or more bars and 3G coverage. Over the course of the time I had the loaner I could tell what spots would likely be a problem as it occurred every trip in the same area. Also, regaining a signal after going through a tunnel or any loss of signal could take a couple minutes. There is also no physical keyboard which, though not horrible, was another concern of mine.

I discussed getting the Verizon iPhone but it is CDMA only which could be an issue when travelling abroad. I don’t have any immediate plans but with my company it is a possibility. The fact that you can’t do both data and voice at the exact same time on the initial Verizon iPhone was a non-issue for me and I imagine most anyone else too.

iPhone
Pros: Excellent user interface, tons of apps, out of the box ready to go
Cons: AT&T service, Apple’s lockdown/control, AT&T service

Verizon offers multiple Droids and I selected the Droid 2 Global because it has the fastest processor, a physical keyboard, and provides global voice/data support if I traveled outside of the US. Within the next 2 weeks, Corporate IT will be allowing Droids to connect to Exchange for mail, calendar, etc so until them I’m not hooked up to my work email. My Droid 2 is running the latest released Android OS v2.2 (froyo). I have seen no data delays at all on Verizon taking the exact same route using the data connection non-stop. Acquiring a signal coming out of the tunnel is seconds not minutes and that is even if I lose the signal in the tunnel. The phone is much more configurable than the iPhone but that comes with more complexity the “average” phone user might be less comfortable with compared to a pretty brain dead easy iPhone. Also the device comes with a tremendous amount of pre-installed apps some of which run in the background and the battery drains quickly. I removed a lot of the background services and that helped a great deal with improving battery performance.

Droid
Pros: Faster than iPhone, Verizon service + global capable, physical keyword on some models, tons of apps, highly customizable
Cons: More complex UI than iPhone, battery draining apps installed out of the box, no vendor supplied iTunes mindless sync for those that need it

 

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Feb/11

7

Evolution of URLs in Advertising

In watching television lately I realized that the URLs that advertisers are showing has again gone through a change, though this time much less subtle . Below is the evolution of web URLs in advertising that I recall.

Back in the dial-up days before or just after companies started to have their own web sites, you’d often see the following in ads:
AOL Keyword xxxxxx

As companies got their own web sites up and running, they replaced or added to the AOL keyword info with their own:
http://www.somesite.com

It didn’t take too long before the http:// was dropped and advertisers showed:
www.somesite.com

Then next change was dropping www and showing the more abbreviated:
somesite.com

And what I am noticing now is a rather drastic change and looks like:
facebook.com/somesite

Why would a company replace their own site URL in advertising with Facebook?  Well the most obvious reason is that when someone visits their site, depending on the company, the site could primarily be for marketing and there’s no obvious way to stay in contact with the visitor (customer). In other words, no stickiness. It is up to the individual site visitor to come back on their own. But if a company has a presence on Facebook, a simple single click to “like” the site and the company can now push info to your Facebook pages and continue to market to you. That is as long as the communication is relevant and doesn’t occur too frequently. I have “liked” sites and then “unliked” them when the info they were pushing to me was excessive or no longer relevant.

I have used RSS feeds for a long time to get a similar benefit, though less company specific. I can’t visit 100 sites every day to see if they have anything new worth being aware of, so RSS feeds allowed me to get alerted to the info when it was published. RSS feeds could stack up and if I didn’t get to it quickly it was still available. Unless someone is on Facebook all day or has very few “friends” the info pushed to you will quickly overflow the initial page or two and I doubt folks are scrolling back a day or more to see what they missed. Are companies figuring out when their audience is most online on Facebook and post messages then in hopes the largest audience will see it before it scrolls off their feed?

I wonder what comes after facebook.com/somesite?

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Aug/10

20

Fun with Maps

As long as I can remember, I enjoyed maps. Maybe it is from when we went on family vacations when I was young and my parents would always have those AAA TripTiks (now online

online
) that were custom put together for each trip with their map pages and routes defined by an orange highlighter that got me hooked? I used to enjoy being the co-pilot and figuring out where we were on old fashioned maps.

When mapping programs like Delorme Street Atlas or Microsoft Streets &  Trips came out, I always had a copy installed somewhere to play with. Before my first standalone GPS I had an Earthmate puck GPS connected to a notebook I would sometimes run in the car.  I even had a way to hook the puck up to my old Palm III and have it show maps on that.

I always wanted a GPS and got a Garmin GPS V back in the ‘old days’ before color units were more portable. As much as I enjoyed using the GPS in the car, I spent more time enjoying the mapping programs that came with them. After a couple years I moved from up to another high end GPS 76CS with color. I used that GPS for hiking/geocaching as well as turn-by-turn directions while traveling. I even have a small bluetooth GPS I can connect to my Blackberry and use on that device.

After getting my ham radio license I purchased equipment that allowed me to connect the GPS to the ham radio and transmit my position over the air to be picked up by other ham radio stations. They would take the info and submit it to Internet servers where web sites such as APRS.fi take that info and show your current location as well as historic info on Google maps.

I have spent endless hours playing with Google Maps and other online mapping sites as they matured and added features and satellite views. I have written some web applications that use Google Maps to show ham radio information. I was looking for graphical ways to work with existing data and I couldn’t find sites that did what I wanted, so I put these pages together. The pages now get many hundreds of hits a day from folks all over the world.

I just recently purchased another GPS to use in the car. All 3 of my GPS units have been Garmin’s and I think they are the best. The new unit is a Garmin Nuvi 1490T. Updating the maps on my existing GPS would cost about half of buying a new unit which comes with the latest maps and enough memory to store the entire US, so it made sense to upgrade again. Along with the new GPS, I installed the latest version of their mapping program on my notebook and spent a bunch of time playing with it mapping out routes, etc.

After all these years, I still love maps.

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Jul/10

24

Reinventing the Wheel

In the IT field probably once a day someone says “lets not reinvent the wheel”.  I am starting to wonder what would happen if we did reinvent the wheel?  It’s been a few 1000 years since it has been invented and I think we would be smarter now. Maybe we’d do a better job and come up with something better.

The original wheel was stone and over time has changed and included spokes and been made out of different materials, had rubber tires added, etc. So what if those people never reinvented the wheel?  I think reinventing the wheel is something we should all think about the next time someone tells us not to.

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May/10

1

GPS – 10 years ago today

10 years ago today on May 1, 2000 President Bill Clinton had Selective Availability turned off and GPS accuracy for civilians went from 1000 ft to 65 ft or less. The consumer GPS revolution was set to begin.

Statement by President Bill Clinton

We use a GPS for many things now though most folks associate it with driving directions on their Garmin, Magellan & other brands of auto GPS units. I’ve had one for many years before they were $100 and full color so I’ve seen quite a change in the capabilities of the technology.

I got my first GPS to start geocaching.  I did that for a few years with the family or on my own. It also helped me get in the best shape of my life doing mega hikes of 15+ miles in a day over pretty extreme terrain.

I also use a GPS connected to my ham radio in the car which runs APRS and allows my position to be transmitted to a worldwide network of other ham radio stations.  I don’t run it all the time, but my most recent activity can be viewed on APRS,fi.

As the technology becomes more accepted and exploited, location based services will continue to emerge so as you move through your daily life you will be notified, if you so choose, about nearby items of interest and friends.  It is all there already just waiting to become more mainstream. I wonder what we’ll be experiencing via GPS on May 1, 2020?

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Season ticket holders were allowed to preview the stadium and our seats yesterday. I went with my wife, one daughter and a friend that goes to all the games. All that pops into my head is the word UNIMPRESSIVE.

Everything is grey. The outside is grey, the floors are grey, the escalators are grey, the paint everywhere is grey, the signs are grey, the bathrooms are grey, the barriers are grey and every seat is grey. If the turf wasn’t green, you’d think you warped to a B&W world. Talk about leaving you in a grey mood!

My wife took pictures and my daughter posted them. I’m not sure if you can see them all but here’s the link to the album - http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/album.php?aid=58918&id=1374146934&ref=mf . The first picture is the old stadium in the process of being torn down. I’ll look to add them someplace else if they can’t be viewed via Facebook.

The first annoyance I noticed was the escalators. In the old stadium there was a set for each of the 3 levels and you only needed to take 1 escalator. I’m not sure who thought up the escalators in the new stadium, but they are all shared. and if you are on the top level, you need to get on 3 different escalators and walk between each. Everyone going to the 1st, 2nd or 3rd tiers uses the same escalator to start. Imagine when the game lets out and there’s 60k people all trying to get onto 2 narrow escalators at each gate? Unlike a normal multi-tiered facility with the next up escalator right next to the one you got off, this design has them stacked on top of each other so when you get off, you need to then walk back to the next level escalator and get on that one. Obviously this was designed by someone who will never attend a game/event at the stadium.

A real hazard though are the railings at the front of the 3rd level. They are way too low. I can sit on the railing at the edge of the top level if I wanted to. Who will take a bet that a drunk Jets fan will be the first to fall over from the 3rd to 2nd level? The folks from the stadium that were there yesterday said everyone is saying the same thing and they imagine they will have to do something to address it.

The stadium was also very cold and windy. I won’t go into the fact that for a bazillion dollars these idiots didn’t make it a dome stadium but man is it going to be cold. You can tell from the pics that yesterday was a beautiful sunny day out and it was cold in there. There was a breeze, like there always is around the meadowlands area, but it was whipping inside. The sides of the stadium are completely open and on the lower levels, it’s wide open by each gate. Unless the goal was to make this the windiest stadium in the league, whoever designed this obviously didn’t take the wind into consideration. It wasn’t windy in our seats, but it sure was walking around and even being in the seats that  are near any of the gates.

When I go to a game, it’s about being in my seat and watching the game. It’s not about the bazillion TVs they have outside in the hallways or the fried clams (yes, that’s on one of the signs) at the concessions. I’m sure folks care about that, but not the real football fans. They care about the experience of watching the game. Our seats are nearly the exact seats we had in the old stadium, but the view is now different. The 3rd level is higher up and farther back off the field. I’d still want the seats I have as it is how I’ve watched football games since 1976, but I’d like to be the same distance away as I was before. The reason it is higher and farther away “in the same seats” is they made the middle tier much larger in the new stadium as well as minimal overlap between the levels. The 2nd level of the old stadium was almost completely overlapped by the 3rd level but that isn’t how the new stadium is. So I’ll use my binoculars a bit more when they are on the other end of the field, but I’ll be at the game and as long as they win, I’ll have a good time.

UNIMPRESSIVE is all I keep thinking. When they show the new stadium on TV for the the home opener, they will show the luxury boxes, the various private “clubs” you can join and how posh they are. But for the 60k true fans that are there to root for their team to win, well they’d be more then happy to be doing that in the old stadium, in their old seats, with all the Personal Seat License money still in their bank accounts. What an unimpressive failure.

Apr/10

4

My iPad Impression

I’m not an Apple fanatic. I’ve owned an Ipod as have my kids and wife, but nothing else. I even had the option of an iPhone at work but opted for a Blackberry because I type on it so much I can type without even looking which I didn’t think would be the case with a touchscreen iPhone (or touchscreen BB). I went to our local Apple store yesterday afternoon in Northern NJ. When I walked in, they said they still had units if I wanted one which I was surprised to hear. I went to one of the tables where they had 40 or so total setup in the store and played with one for a while. My thoughts with spending about 20 mins with it are the following:

1) Holding and typing was not easy nor productive. It seems too big to productively type and hold the unit.

2) On the small pedestal they had on the table for each unit and with the unit in landscape mode, I could type pretty quickly. In fact, one of the Apple employees noticed me typing and called another employee over to watch. I was typing quickly with my 2 index fingers. I wasn’t touch typing. Maybe it’s from a decade or so on a Blackberry but I was quick enough to get a small crowd (2 Apple employees). Some of the punctuation seemed a bit awkward as bringing up numbers slows things down too. But, it was very acceptable when not being held, as long as you are ok with looking at your fingers when you type.

3) It was fast/responsive. Must faster then I expected. Browsing the internet was snappy as was moving between applications.

4) The price, though low for Apple, is still relatively expensive compared to a full featured Windows notebook/netbook. If you need to run anything beyond an iPad/iTouch application, a more traditional notebook can provide that.

5) It’s lacking some things in the first release which make me hesitate getting one – camera/web cam and GPS are two of the more obvious features. With the 3G unit you’ll get assisted GPS.

6) Commuting on a train for 2 hours a day, a 3G unit might be preferred, but I hear nothing but horror stories from all the iPhone folks in my office. Will Verizon ever get a chance to have a unit on their network?

7) It’s Gen 1 of the unit. There have been some reports that charging via traditional USB power isn’t always sufficient. We’ll have to see if anything else crops up as the units start to age a little.

I think it’s definitely a winner but I’d be interested how sitting on the couch and typing out a few emails would go? Reading – no problem at all. Writing – to be seen.

Yes, it was all of 20 or so minutes with the device, but it was enough to make the above observations.

Mar/10

26

NJ Transit Fare Increase

Below is the email I submitted to NJ Transit proposing the 25% increase in fares.
I am very disappointed with the proposed increase. I have calculated that since I started commuting in June 2005, my fare will have gone up 55%. That is an unbelievable increase in a time when folks are not seeing pay increases and often pay decreases associated with the economy.
In that same time frame, I’ve seen no noticeable improvement in service. The cars are nearly the same as they were when I started commuting with the small exception for the double decker cars which aren’t used on my normal express times. I am often on rail cars that were refurbished in the 1980’s, let alone originally manufactured in the last 20 years.
How much money is being spent by NJT on the Ridgewood station and Rutherford stations? Why spend all that capital money now when there is a budget problem? It makes no financial sense.
On my standard in/out train, I know there are at least 2 groups of 7 total commuters that have formed car pool groups and are going to abandon NJ Transit. That’s about a $1600/mo loss and it’s just 2 groups I know of. Those 2 groups losses require 28 people’s increases to just break even. So instead of a $400 increase in revenue from those 7 commuters, your decision is resulting in a $1600 loss of revenue.
You have to make hard decisions as any business does, but I don’t think most/any businesses solution is to raise prices 25% for their customers. In fact, it’s probably the last thing they do before the “Closed” sign is permanently on their door.

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