Sunday, December 14, 2014

Find out when Windows was first installed

For those curious and those tech support people who don't believe it when a customer says they "just" reloaded their OS, this command can be run at the command prompt to tell when Windows was installed:
systeminfo | find /i "install date"

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Remove Metro Tiles Bloatware

I do this on new Windows 8/8.1 computers. It just totally removes all the bloat from the Metro Start tiles except the basic Windows stuff. Open powershell and run these commands:

Get-AppXProvisionedPackage -online | Remove-AppxProvisionedPackage –online
Get-AppXPackage | Remove-AppxPackage

Voila, clean slate!
Add the Metro apps you really want through the Windows Store.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Target Name not Correct with Mapped Drive / Network Share

Problem: You are unable to access a network share or mapped drive and you are given the error that the target name is not correct.

0. Log out of Windows and log back in to make sure your credentials have not become invalid.
1. Make sure your DNS servers are set properly. If you are on a domain, check with your network admin, or use nslookup.
2. Go to a (elevated) command prompt and enter the command ipconfig /flushdns
3. Enter the command netsh interface ip delete arpcache
4. Enter the command nbtstat -RR
5. Restart the computer

The drive or share should now be accessible.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Kids Computer Running Xubuntu Linux

I have had great success in converting my kids' computer from Windows 7 to Linux, specifically Xubuntu. This is on a Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM, a machine that Windows 7 should run fine on, but kept having performance issues. I got to the point where I considered buying them a Chromebox, running Google Chrome OS. Then I thought, why do that when I can load Xubuntu? So I loaded Xubuntu 14.04.1, did the updates, and installed the latest Chrome (not Chromium) so they could watch Netflix. Now they can play all of their Flash games and watch their shows and I never have to worry about them complaining that the computer "is not doing anything."
Of course, I use the computer from time to time and have found the need to make some changes so that I can use it the way I like. I've added LibreOffice, for one thing, as I use spreadsheets all of the time. On the system side I found it beneficial to remove Light Locker and install X-Screensaver (and the extras package) to get screensaver support. Also I installed the hardinfo package so I could view my hardware specs and I installed the gnome-disk-utility package so I could easily view the SMART status of my hard drive. Finally, I installed the gufw package so I could control the ufw firewall from system preferences, and then turned it on. Of course I also loaded Synaptics before doing any of this so I am not repeatedly typing sudo apt-get blah blah blah all the time.
The only thing I miss is pointer trails. Yes I am aware of the alternatives, and no I am absolutely not going to load xeyes (really??). I want pointer trails, and I can't seem to find an X11 mouse theme that features it. Really it should be an option independent of whatever mouse theme you are using.
The one major hiccup in all of this was setting the resolution. I've worked with Xubuntu on multiple computers and it has had a dismal record of properly detecting monitor capabilities when connected via VGA. A series of xrandr commands fixes this but I am really disappointed here. The Display control panel should allow me to activate and select unsupported resolutions.

P.S. Also the package ttf-mscorefonts-installer! Nice to have the Windows fonts for word processing, but also the web looks like I am used to again, especially my blog that uses Georgia.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Economic Inequality is Incompatible with American Values

In a capitalist economy, money is power. This is why economic inequality poses a grave danger to American ideals: democracy, freedom, and equal rights. Over the last 35 years, economic inequality has already eroded our society. The federal minimum wage is $7.25, which is 24% less than 1978, adjusting for inflation. Yet the price of a Big Mac, for example, is 76% more than 1978, again adjusting for inflation. Someone's making more money and it's not you.

Using Linux as a Video Kiosk (and wrestling with VGA monitor detection)

After too many times of VLC crashing on a public video display, I decided to try the combination of Xubuntu and mplayer. After installing Xubuntu, I created the following shell script and added it to the startup through the Sessions and Startup preference panel:

mplayer -fs ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

Which will ask mplayer to play the video full screen and loop it forever.

Then I modified the settings in the Light Locker to never turn off the display, and disabled power monitoring in Power Manager. I also disabled all desktop pop-up notifications using the following command:

sudo apt-get remove notify-osd

This worked great except for two things: Xfce would only allow a max resolution of 1024x768 on any VGA connected display, which caused mplayer to play the widescreen video with bars on the top or bottom. So I tried this:

mplayer -fs -aspect 4:3 ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

...which filled the screen so the problem wasn't obvious. But the 4:3 aspect ratio would be problematic in any instance where Xfce did detect and use a widescreen resolution.
I knew the LCD panels could handle 1920x1080@60Hz, so I modified the script to use xrandr to specify, assign, and set a custom mode. Then it looked like this:

xrandr --newmode "1920x1080_60.00" 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode VGA1 "1920x1080_60.00"
xrandr --output VGA1 --mode "1920x1080_60.00"
sleep 1
mplayer -fs -aspect 16:9 ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

I added the sleep 1 between the resolution switch and launching the video because I was worried that mplayer might get confused otherwise. This worked great, and because all of the video displays in question are going to support 1920x1080@60Hz, I could use this anywhere. I decided to force a 16:9 aspect ratio to ensure it would fill the screen, even if we changed the video.
Then I rebooted. The script ran, but the resolution did not change, and I was back to the black bars in mplayer. It occurred to me that xrandr was trying to change the resolution to soon after the initialization of Xfce, so I added sleep 5:

sleep 5
xrandr --newmode "1920x1080_60.00" 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode VGA1 "1920x1080_60.00"
xrandr --output VGA1 --mode "1920x1080_60.00"
sleep 1
mplayer -fs -aspect 16:9 ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

That worked perfectly, even on a reboot. The lesson here to is to give the GUI time to load before changing the resolution.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

HP ProDesk 600 G1 DisplayPort Adapter Problems

Problem: An HP ProDesk 600 G1 computer will not recognize a monitor connected to the DisplayPort via a DisplayPort adapter.

1. Update the video driver from the HP website
2. Update the BIOS
3. Clear the CMOS (power off the computer, unplug the computer, hold the CMOS button on the motherboard for 5 seconds)
4. Use an HP DisplayPort adapter - I have specifically observed certain 3rd party DisplayPort adapters that refused to work with a ProDesk 600 G1 even after performing the above steps, just to have things work when I used a different brand of adapter. So if you need to, just order an HP brand adapter.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Outlook Crashes on Startup / mso.dll

Problem: Outlook crashes on startup, or after clicking the File menu, or anytime shortly after launch. Viewing error details in event viewer or reliability history indicates that mso.dll is involved.

Resolution: Go to Account Settings. Remove any listed Internet Calendars under the Data Files tab and the Internet Calendars tab. Alternatively, this can be accessed through Control Panel>Mail>Email Accounts.