Thursday, August 07, 2014

USB Multiboot Heaven

Here I will list all of the tools that make creating a multiboot USB drive easy and fun.

1. YUMI. This program does all the hard lifting. Choose the utility or Linux distribution you want to add to your boot menu and it will do the rest. The built in format function is great for drives up to 32GB.

2. GUIFormat. When you have a USB stick greater than 32GB, it will not format in a bootable manner with most utilities. GUIFormat handles large drives with ease. So you would format, say, a 64GB USB drive with GUIFormat and then proceed to use YUMI to add your tools.
[I'm going to save you 15 minutes and point out that the download link for the 32bit version of the program is the screenshot itself!]

3. BOOTICE. This is a low-level utility for tweaking your USB drive. In several clicks you can wipe, repartition and format the drive. BOOTICE will default to exFAT format on large drives over 32GB. One important use for BOOTICE is to correct a wrong drive type. For most situations, you will want the drive to show up as USB-HDD removable with a single partition. Sometimes the drive comes up as a fixed drive or maybe even a floppy. When repartitioning the drive, BOOTICE will allow you to select the correct setting. Then you can proceed to reformat with GUIFormat if you need to.

Several tools I have loaded on my own USB multiboot drive:

1. Clonezilla. Indispensible at work, since that is what we use for imaging. Good for other places as well.

2. Ultimate Boot CD. Tons of diagnostics for PCs, now even better on a USB drive!

3. Hiren's Boot CD. Loads into a stripped down version of Windows XP. Lots of utilities to help your Windows install come back to life. I have used it many times to correct a no boot situation just by running a chkdsk on the boot and/or main partitions of the hard drive.

4. AVG Rescue CD. For when you are seriously infested.

And of course, don't forget to add your own utilities to the USB drive to use from within Windows.

Friday, August 01, 2014

"Unable to access computer" error when accessing Device Manager remotely

Problem: "Unable to access computer" error when accessing Device Manager remotely from Computer Management (compmgmt.msc)



Solution:
(You can do this from your workstation instead of the remote workstation in question)

1. Run "gpedit.msc /gpcomputer: computername" where "computername" is the name of the remote computer.

2. Go to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Device Installation.

3. Enable "Allow remote access to the PnP interface"

4. Close gpedit

6. Run "services.msc"


7. Right-click "Services (Local)" and choose "Connect to another computer"

8. Choose "Another computer" and enter the computer name, then click OK.

9. Set "Plug and Play" and "Remote Registry" services to Automatic.

10. Start the "Plug and Play" and "Remote Registry" services.

11. You may need to force the group policy update. You can either restart the remote computer, or run "gpupdate /force" at the remote computer. If you are sure no one will be interrupted, you can do "shutdown /r /m \\computername /f /t 00" where "computername" is the name of the remote computer for an immediate remote restart.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Hybrid and electric cars will save us?

In these days of continually increasing energy costs, economy has become a driver of technology. Technology for its own sake is worthless; it must improve the human condition. There is nothing like the continued march of peak oil to slap a society that worships the god of technology into awareness.
Having totaled a nice, fuel efficient 2003 Toyota Corolla in 2013, I took my insurance payout and bought what I could: a 1999 Chrysler 300M. It's a nice car, but going from 28 mpg to 20 mpg was a bit of a shock. Through more efficient driving, most especially driving with the secondary objective of avoiding brake usage (primary objective is always safety), I manage to get 20.5 mpg according to the readout on the car, although I think I may be getting 21 or even 22 mpg. Anyway, driving a six cylinder engine has completely opened my eyes to the fact that American roads and highways are designed for cars with 200+ HP. The 300M (250 HP) doesn't break a sweat where the Corolla (130 HP) would have gone to 3500-4000 RPMs just to maintain speed up certain inclines.
As an old car, now 15 years old, it could go out anytime. I take good care of it (as I have done all of my cars) but you never know. So in my curiosity I decided to review my options for a new car that wouldn't take a large toll on my budget, should I need to buy another one due to a catastrophic mechanical breakdown on my 300M. Initial price is important, but fuel costs are important, too. I settled on three contenders: the Chevy Spark, the Toyota Prius c, and the Nissan Leaf.
The Chevy Spark is a small, fully-gasoline powered car that gets 32 mpg combined. The Toyota Prius c is a budget, non-plug-in hybrid that gets 50 mpg combined. The Nissan Leaf is an all-electric car that gets 99 MPGe combined. I'm not getting a lot of horsepower with any of these vehicles but I can't afford to pay for a new car with 200+ HP, so I better enjoy my 300M while I can!
I created a spreadsheet that calculated the monthly cost of owning each car at various gas prices and various annual mileages. For the Nissan Leaf, each MPGe is equivalent to .0292mi/kWh, so at 99 MPGe, the Nissan Leaf gets 2.8908 miles for each kWh used. Fuel cost is calculated using this figure and the national US average electricity cost of $0.12 per kWh. The car payment is estimated using the MSRP from Edmunds.com for the model and dividing by 60, making the assumption that I qualify for zero percent financing.
US drivers average 15,000 miles per year on their cars:


$/GAL CHEVY SPARK TOYT PRIUS c NISSAN LEAF WINNER
$5 $436.06 $477.38 $555.89 Spark
$6 $475.13 $502.38 $555.89 Spark
$7 $514.19 $527.38 $555.89 Spark
$8 $553.25 $552.38 $555.89 Prius c
$9 $592.31 $577.38 $555.89 Leaf
$10 $631.38 $602.38 $555.89 Leaf


Well there you have it. Until about $8/gallon, an old fashioned fully-gasoline powered vehicle is more economical than even a hybrid. The hybrid reigns briefly around the $8/gallon mark, with crown going to all electric right away at $9/gallon. Now let's stop and think about this for a minute. Aside from the glaring economic practically of a cheap, gasoline-only car, it almost makes no sense to buy a hybrid. By the time gas prices get to the point that a hybrid is a better economic choice, the all-electric car is only $3.51/mo more expensive.
Some may complain that the price of hybrids and electrics will go down in the future. This doesn't change the cost of ownership for several reasons. One, increasing gas prices will result in inflation that makes the car more expensive to start with. The same increasing gas prices will increase the cost of electricity needed to run an electric car. Last, my fuel cost for the Nissan Leaf doesn't take into account charging losses of up to 15% (electricity lost between the wall and the battery), so I've given it a bit of an advantage in my comparison.
But what is absolutely insane is when you take a look at the bigger picture. Where do you think our economy will be with gasoline at $8/gallon? Commuting costs will be the least of your worries, if you even have a job at that point. The golden rule of increasing oil prices is 2008... a tipping point is reached, the economy hits the skids, the economy recalibrates to higher energy costs producing higher inflation and higher base unemployment, gas prices drop temporarily, then meet and exeed their previous high until another, higher tipping point is reached. By my guess we are two more "recessions" away from $8/gallon gas, and our economy will be in shambles by then, unless our government takes us to war.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The End of Growth... at the Office

There is coming a day when we will not have the knowledge workers necessary to maintain our current economy. Technology is great, but it must be built, installed, and maintained by specialists. As far as economic development goes, building the technology is one thing, but it takes a whole new level of economic development to support the necessary technicians.
Now don't get the mistaken impression that I am referring to electronics only. I am referring to any number of advanced processes that have become a part of the business world. Whether it is IT, HR, Accounting, Marketing, Facilities, Electronics, Electrical, etc. and etc., knowledge workers exist on the premise that they can leverage modern techniques to improve the efficiency of a company's operations.
Companies these days are getting squeezed by a long-term economic downtrend caused by expensive oil. They are cutting costs by minimizing wages and minimizing workforce. The existing workforce is being put into multiple roles, paid less, and trained less. As a matter of fact, few companies develop their employees anymore. The hot new job requirement (though it is unspoken) is that you must be able to hit the ground running and train yourself. Even when a "training period" is provided, it is more of a honeymoon period where the new employee tags along with existing workers for a short period.
No development also means no promotion. A skeleton crew is by definition static. There is no place to move because everyone is on essential duty. Furthermore, promotion means more money. So then there is an unspoken "promotion freeze," even if hiring is going on. This feeds back into the lack of development. Why develop employees that aren't going to be promoted anyway; the company risks losing highly-trained employees.
The second facet of this issue is the destruction of college education. Costs are rising to the point where many young people are skipping or dropping out of college. Those who graduate can't find jobs because companies are running lean. All of this means that there is little next generation workforce. Ultimately, there will be no next generation force if present trends continue. The economy is not providing a level of growth that makes college education spending worthwhile, nor is it providing a level of growth that allows companies to provide true apprenticeship and development.
What about people who quit? Certainly replacements will be needed there. What you have to take into account is that the economy is in a long-term contraction trend. Attrition doesn't mean new hires; it is becoming a way for business to ride the contraction down. Another force that is going to help cancel out the upside of attrition is labor arbitrage, or moving jobs to countries where the labor is cheaper.
However, by the time the day comes that we don't have enough skilled workers, our economy will be degraded enough that it won't matter.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Windows Time not syncing on network

Scenario: For a Windows computer on a domain, the time is not syncing correctly. The Windows Time service may even be missing.

Solution: Go to an elevated command prompt and type the following commands:

c:
cd\windows\system32
net stop w32time
w32tm /unregister
w32tm /register

Then go into services.msc and ensure that the Netlogon service is set to Automatic, and that it is started. Then check that the Windows Time service is set to Automatic, and that it is started. Lastly, reboot the machine.

Error: "Your system administrator has disabled windows features"

Scenario: When attempting to access "Turn Windows features on or off" in Win 7 you get the error "Your system administrator has disabled windows features"

Solution: Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Programs and change the value of the "NoWindowsFeatures" key to "0".

Follow-up issue: If Windows features comes up blank, run the System Update Readiness Tool for Windows 7. If you are on POSReady 7, this won't work as nothing is supposed to show (unless you've installed a new version of IE)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

White Flight, Urban Decay, and Oil

I watched the movie Riding in Cars with Boys today. It is about a teenage girl in the early 1960s who gets pregnant out of wedlock at 15, marries the father, and ends up a single mother who is over attached to her son. What stuck with me is the stereotypical depiction of that time period. As I mentioned to my wife, it was a time period where the most run down parts of the inner city today, were relatively clean and safe. The story is familiar to any student of recent US history: Jim Crow gave the power of segregation to whites who banished blacks at will; the Civil Rights Act was passed and the blacks moved into the city while the whites continued segregation by other means and moved out in what is known as "white flight," creating suburban sprawl.
This does not explain the subsequent onset of urban decay. Many racist individuals would like to claim that blacks ran down the inner city because they did not have the character to maintain it. However, white flight did not occur all at once; but perhaps over a time span of 5-10 years, as previously white uptown neighborhoods started getting less and less white. By the time white flight had left its full footprint on urban living, the economic woes of the 1970s had hit. Oil shocks produced stagflation that increased inequality. This hit those on the lower end of the economic scale hardest, including minorities such as the blacks that had moved into the city. Left with only a fraction of the economic resources the previous white inhabitants had, they also were less able to maintain the same standard of living.
Stagflation not only depressed inner city minorities but also ended of the post-WWII economic golden age. Societal promises were broken, the New Deal wasn't working, inflation ripped through American society. So much so that by 1980 Ronald Reagan could get up and say that government was the problem--and America voted him in.
But we forget that the problem never was government. The New Deal worked. But it was based on the presence of a healthy, growing industrial economy that in turn depended on cheap energy. The oil shocks of the 1970s strangulated industrial economies worldwide for this reason.
We should've started down the road to an oil-free economy then. Instead, America wallowed in a glut of North Sea (and cheap Middle Eastern oil in the 1980s) and then Cantarell(Mexican) oil until 2005... and you know the rest. Our current economic "improvement" (such as it is) is attributable to shale oil (Bakken, etc.) which will run out by the end of the decade. The solution is not to drill, the solution is to transition our economies off of oil, then off of fossil fuels altogether. This is the big story--economic and social chaos from ongoing economic crises and expensive oil will hit harder than any effects of climate change and leave us utterly unable to deal with them. Any oil remaining should be used as a transition stock. The time is past for this. When the shale oil bonanza runs out (2016-2020) what then? What then? All of our modern society with its abundance and medicine and gadgets and human rights and science is supported by industrial processes that CAN'T BE PRESENTLY SUSTAINED WITHOUT RELATIVELY CHEAP OIL.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Microsoft .NET 4.0 SP1

There is no SP1 for NET 4.0 but if you run across a reference to it, it means the patch referenced in Microsoft KB article 2600211.