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

CAT | Tech

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 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, 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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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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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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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/07

23

Old DOS batch commands still useful!

Every once in a while, the quickest way to do something is go back to using an old DOS Batch command. Every time I know I’ve done something similar before, I can never find where I did it and I hunt around looking. I figured I’d post an example or two here so I know where to find them in the future.
Both the commands below expect a file called filelist.txt to contain a list of file names to process.
Command 1:
for /f “tokens=*” %%a in (filelist.txt) do @xcopy /y “%%a” “.\%%~pa” >nul
processes each row in filelist.txt in the format of:
Y:\directory\file1.htm
and copies file1.htm from a network share to .\directory on the current drive.
Command 2:
@echo off
for /f “tokens=*” %%a in (filelist.txt) do IF NOT EXIST %%a ECHO %%a
pause
processes each row in filelist.txt and checks to see if it physically exists in the current directory. If not, it outputs the name of the missing file to the command window.
I don’t know if these will help anyone else, but I know I’ll be able to find these examples quicker in the future!

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I know I haven’t posted recently. I guess I haven’t thought of anything to post others might benefit from. Well yesterday, it was raining all day so I figured I wasn’t going anywhere so why not update the software I use for this blog – Movable Type.
I’m pretty disappointed in the support they have previously provided for the Windows platform which is what my hosting is (by choice). Things never go smoothly with their upgrades which is why I typically wait weeks or months before upgrading in order to have enough people work through the problems that I can find solutions or workarounds on their support forums.
It looked like things were going smooth enough with the recent update to give it a shot. I downloaded and unzipped the install. Read the readme which referenced a web page. Their documentation is definitely lacking and I feel relies too much on the knowledge people have if they are intimately familiar with the software. I think that’s fine if I lived for blogging, but it’s just a tool I use to post. I backed everything up and then uploaded the new version after tweaking the config file. It didn’t work which based on my past experiences with this software wasn’t much of a surprise.
So I search the forums and find some hits on my problem. Some were involved and some were a bit more straightforward. I chose the option to edit the CGI files vs contact my webhost to make a change. I added a code snippet to the top of each CGI file (maybe 12-15 of them) and got past that problem. It wasn’t over yet…

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Aug/05

5

It must be wrong if you read/heard it on the Internet

I listened to a (not to be named) podcast on the commute home last night. It was the first podcast for this particular show I listened to and it was because of the recommendation from another podcaster that I subscribed (free) to this new one.
As I’m listening, I start noticing inaccuracies that are being made. This show is hosted and co-hosted by people that are (or are professing to be) computer experts. Now everyone can’t know everything about the Internet, but if you’re going to say something, one would hope you’re relatively certain about it, and with multiple “experts” participating, you think they’d correct any misstatements one of the others on the show made. Well, they didn’t, and it bothered me.
So imagine 10’s of thousands of people that listen to this, and yes their audience is this large, walking away with incorrect information on multiple topics. And then these people tell others and before you know it, the misinformation starts to spider out.
Now this info was relatively harmless though it was all about one web site – Google. Some of the misinformation was you couldn’t search Google and select only relevant content in a site, but you could on Yahoo. Well as long as I can remember, you could add site:somedomain.com to your search query and it will return just pages within that domain (or subdomain if you further qualify the site feature). You can also type it in on the advanced search form on Google where there’s an existing spot for limiting searches to a specific domain.

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Jan/05

10

Spamming your Spam Filter Service?

I received (actually caught by Spam Soap, a tremendous spam filtering service I have) an email with the subject of Block Spam in Your Inbox! I was intrigued who might possibly think that spamming someone about blocking spam was a good idea.
The email message just has a lot of text and link to a url with a very non-descript domain name. The page that is displayed professes the service as stopping spam in its tracks. There are testimonials of people from all over the world on how this service (or is it a program, I can’t really tell) will save you from spam.
The claimed advantage of their service is it’s a one time fee vs an annual solution and if you act now, it’s even discounted another $20. There’s a link to Click here for Instant Delivery and lo and behold, you’re brought to a page to provide them with your Name, Address and Email but most importantly your credit card information. Of course, the page is not SSL!
Who in their right mind (besides me) would:
1) Open the email?
2) Click on the link in the email (which contains words broken up to try and fool existing spam filtering)?
3) Click on the link to proceed to order the service (or product)?
4) Enter in all their personal and credit card info on a non-secure page?
I wonder how many people ordered it today? :-(

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