Saturday, December 20, 2014

Jetdirect Java Error on Web Interface ( java.security.AccessControlException )

Problem: When using your web browser to administer a JetDirect unit, the Java applets seem to load but you get java.security.AccessControlException errors and you can't navigate the menus.

Resolution: Uninstall Java from your machine and downgrade to Java 6 HERE. (The x86 version is what you want since most browsers are 32bit.) Remove the Java Update Scheduler from your startup (in the registry) so it doesn't upgrade you again. I recommend Autoruns for this.

Alternate Resolution: Use HP Web JetAdmin to administer the JetDirect box. It's sort of unwieldy in my opinion but it is nice to have in an environment where you have lots of HP printer devices on the network.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Find out when Windows was first installed

EDIT 12/13/16: Under Windows 10 the install date does not reference the initial installation of Windows 10 but the date when the last updated build was 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.

Resolution:
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.

Resolution:
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.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

SSD Partition Alignment and Layout for Windows 7 and later

There are a lot of places on the Internet that describe how to use GParted to realign your data for an SSD. Unfortunately, they are primarily written for people with just one partition, which isn't necessarily the case for Windows 7 and later. They also don't mention the need to leave 10% free, unpartitioned space at the end of your SSD to assist the SSD in more efficiently writing data.

[Instead of the below, just use the align partitions option in the bootable Mini Tool Partition Wizard. It's just so much easier]


First, get the live CD image of GParted and burn it to a disc. Or use the instructions there to create a USB boot drive.

Boot to the disc, and follow the following instructions from Lifehacker for the VERY FIRST partition on the drive:

"...find your SSD in the upper-right dropdown menu. Select it, and click on your first partition in the menu. Hit the Resize/Move button in the toolbar. Change the "Free Space Preceding" box to 2MB, uncheck "Round to Cylinders", and hit "Resize/Move". (If you're using a newer live CD, check the "MiB" box). Hit Apply once and let it do its thing.

"Now hit Resize/Move again, and change the "Free Space Preceding" box to 1MB. Uncheck "Round to Cylinders" again, hit Resize/Move, then click Apply."

Before you go any further, or IF YOU SUSPECT THAT YOUR PARTITIONS ARE ALREADY ALIGNED, you can verify in GParted:

Right click the first partition and choose Information. The first sector should say 2048. Right click all remaining partitions and check the the first sector is evenly divisible by 2048. If so, skip the next paragraph.

Next, you will notice that you have unallocated space after the first partition and before the next partition. Use GParted to move all successive partitions backwards so they butt up right against the previous partition. The only unallocated space should exist right at the beginning (the 1MB you created earlier) and possibly at the very end.
 

Lastly, determine if the total allocated space at the end of the drive represents 10% of the drive space. If it does not, resize the VERY LAST partition (expand or shrink, as necessary) so that 10% of the drive space is left unallocated at the end. (If you have a Samsung drive, you can do this last step in Windows using the Samsung Magician software, through which you also optimize the OS and enable RAPID mode.)

If Windows does not boot after these procedures, check out GParted FAQs 14, 15, and 16 for how to use the Windows install disc to repair boot options.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Easy Strawberry Yogurt Drink

As an alternative to paying $3.17 for a quart of El Mexicano Drinkable Yogurt...

32 oz container of Strawberry Yogurt (Wal Mart brand - $2.47)
1 1/2 cups milk ($0.33)
1 tbsp sugar ($0.04)

Mix thoroughly. You can drop the sugar if you do not need it to be as sweet as El Mexicano.

You save 33 cents over the bottle of El Mexicano, but you actually save more since you end up with 44 oz of drink. So you actually save $1.51 over the same amount.

TIP: Mix in a blender on the highest speed for 1 minute to get rid of all the strawberry chunks so it's easy to sip through a straw.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Oil Price as a Weapon: The Game is Afoot

The current drop in oil prices is due to increased production from Saudi Arabia. What does this mean? It means that Saudi Arabia has not peaked in oil production, but that is all that it means. It does not mean that we are not facing depletion, nor does it mean that the oil market can handle low prices over the long term and remain stable. Remember that the North American shale oil boom, as well as other unconventional projects worldwide, need a specific level of price support to remain economically worthwhile.
Additionally, producing nations that depend on oil exports for national wealth and well-being (much of the Middle East, and Russia) have their own specific price support needs. These levels vary depending on the economic makeup of the country in question. It is fairly settled that below a specific price point, and oil-export dependent nation will begin to face significant socioeconomic and even political challenges.
So in the face of the higher prices required by new unconventional sources and the higher prices required by such nations, why is Saudi Arabia allowing oil to sink to $75/barrel? More to the point, Saudi Arabia's production is intentionally driving down the price of oil. It is a form of suicide.
I agree with others that this is a political favor to the US. Yes, the US economy benefits from lower oil prices. However, the bigger and more important benefit (at least to the current administration) to place economic pressure on Russia and Putin. The US has supported Saudi Arabia for a long time and this is just returning the favor. This is a cunning geopolitical move designed to destabilize Russia. AND - our administration is willing to put domestic oil shale production under the gun to do it!
The last thing we need is for our economy to get used to lower oil prices just to have them snap back up once the US has completed its dirty deed, allowing our economy to grow then shoving it back into recession. Also, lower oil prices will have a destabilizing effect on nations OTHER than Russia. We are playing with fire, here.

Turnover, and how HR is a corporate tool.

Think companies care about turnover? Think again.
Turnover, as a corporate strategy, has both its costs and its benefits. Benefits you say? Yes, benefits! If you are prepared for a high turnover rate, you can get away with treating your employees how you want. More to the point, though, employers commonly see employees as widgets to be replaced if they quit or "malfunction." They can get away with this because of extended high unemployment. You see, the official government unemployment rate was redefined in 1994 (from U5 to U3). So despite the official (U3) 5.7% number that suggests near full employment, the classic measure (U5) stands at 7.1%. Even during the recession of the early 2000s, U5 never rose above 7.2%. So by the true classic economic measurement, we are a fair ways off from full employment.
It's not just continued high unemployment that has contributed to the "widgetization" of employees, but the "commoditization" of labor. For all but the executives and the most creative professions, employers are taking a "Hamburger Helper" approach to labor: engineer the division of labor within the organization to provide each employee with a static set of tasks and the routine training and reference tools to complete them, and then just add warm bodies! Enforce compliance within this prearranged set of affairs with draconian attendance policies and quick punishment for not staying strictly within the established policy and procedure.
The result is that there are enough acceptably qualified warm bodies that need a job that the job will always be filled. Experience and skill are devalued in favor of compliance, so a new employee that can follow the rules is just as good as a 10-year veteran, actually better since he has not developed an opinion and can be paid less. In this paradigm, who cares about turnover? Just treat employees well enough so they don't walk out the door their first year and you're set.
Even technical jobs can be commoditized. Consider the hapless level one technical support rep who reads from a script and always has at least three pat answers to your problem. That's just the start. Sony Corporation of America eventually disbanded all US-based high-level technical support operations for its VAIO line of computers because they felt they had developed a knowledge base sufficient for Philippine outsourcers to handle all support needs.
As the classic paradigm of unending capitalist growth increasing collides with a world with shrinking cheap energy sources, companies are just going to get more cunning and brutal in their quest for profitability and maximizing shareholder value. As the end of cheap oil restricts growth, companies will find their profits not so much through innovation, but through financial games like reducing costs and stock buybacks.
So when I hear HR professionals on LinkedIn talk about "talent" and "retention," the disconnect is striking to me. The game has changed. Outside of headhunters for executive, creative, and programming professionals, HR is really all about paperwork and job postings and compliance. It just is. The worth of an HR department is the worth of the company's workforce, and companies are valuing their workforce less and less. I dare say that most HR these days is no more vibrant and innovative than Accounts Payable.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Prosperity and Global Warming

I am most of the way through "Waking the Frog" by Tom Rand. In it, he argues for strong, immediate, and concerted action to limit greenhouse gas levels with the goal of limiting global warming. His discussion of economics and carbon pricing is intriguing and he makes his case well.
I tend to agree with him that cap-and-trade would be an ideal solution to control carbon dioxide emissions. It is a market-based solution that requires relatively little government intervention. What most people who oppose cap-and-trade don't know is that it has already worked spectacularly in the case of sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain. In the 20 years since the start of the SO2 cap-and-trade system, SO2 levels have plummeted to next to nothing. Another place cap-and-trade is working is in Europe, where it was begun in 2005.
You don't have to be an expert on the climate science to understand that mitigating the risk of global warming by controlling CO2 emissions is a good insurance policy. It's an uncertain risk with a horrific downside, so we ought to extra careful to hedge against it. An apt analogy would be that of the cold war. One could have made the argument that the US and the USSR would never use their nuclear weapons because of ABM, or mutually assured destruction. That did not stop anybody from being concerned about the prospect of nuclear war, nor should it have. It did not stop the push to stop nuclear proliferation and international treaties continued to be signed for arms control and reduction. Why? Because as illustrated in movies like "Threads" or "The Day After," the potential downside of maintaining the status quo was too horrific to ignore.
So it is with global warming. However, getting global warming under control is a little different than stepping back from a nuclear arms race. It is different because it hits people in the pocketbook. When you price carbon into the market, prices rise. This more than anything is one of the major problems people have with cap-and-trade. The reaction to any government initiative that will raise prices has only intensified since the Great Recession. Yes America is in recovery and the unemployment rate has gone down, but housing and groceries have gone up and the low unemployment rate hides the vast number of low wage jobs and the hordes who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. There are core fundamental weaknesses in our economy that have led many economic commentators to conclude that the "recovery" is only due to continued Fed intervention.
So the ethical argument that NOT pricing carbon is like dumping trash where you like instead of paying for proper disposal doesn't mean much when people struggle to pay for life's necessities. As a matter of fact, I've known a number of people who have had to move because of economic pressure and actually dump their unwanted stuff on the side of the road because they had neither the time nor the money to deal with it. The environment takes second place to personal needs. Perhaps this is why cap-and-trade could pass in countries with a strong safety net but fail in the US. If I remember correctly, the years leading up to the Great Recession in the US were characterized by increasing public awareness and concern for environmental issues. But then everyone lost their shirts.
Enter Peak Oil. The US peaked in March of 1971 when the Railroad Commission of Texas lifted production caps for the last time. Incidentally (and I believe consequently), real wages in the US have been on a long-term downtrend since right around that time. The volatility of oil prices since then is a consequence of our needing to source oil internationally.
Consider also that for most of history, mankind has never been able to combine the accumulation of wealth with systemic care for the environment. The fact that we have had the resources to turn around and pay attention to environmental issues at all is due to the massive amount of wealth and technology that has been made possible by oil: an incredibly dense, powerful, high EROEI fuel, until now.
EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested, also EROI) translates directly into economic growth, profits, and general standard of living. We are already challenged on all three fronts in the US; reducing the EROEI of fossil fuels through cap-and-trade is a hard sell. We could have done it in the 1990s. Now... I am not so sure. We have waited a bit too long as our combined EROEI continues to drop.
Back to the book, Tom Rand advocates for three baseline electric sources: next-gen nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, and geothermal. Geothermal is a poor choice from an EROEI standpoint, and nuclear is off the table after Fukushima. It's no wonder the market prefers to power on with coal with CCS.
As a matter of fact, moving to more coal with CCS generation will bring unexpected benefits to global warming. As our CCS technologies get better and cheaper, we can use CCS to sink CO2 in the atmosphere and bring down CO2 concentrations.
Our population will not stand for any more across-the-board reduction in EROEI. Although the average person does not know the term, they know the effect: a reduced standard of living. Since the Great Recession, there is no more tolerance for this. (Europe's cap-and-trade started before the Great Recession.) Geothermal has low EROEI and nuclear is off the table. Oil's EROEI continues to fall. The best solution in this case is exactly what the market has been doing: electrify everything and increase electric generation from coal with CCS. Obama has been able to implement the kind of EPA regulation to push CCS in the right direction with his so-call "War on Coal."
Although I still support cap-and-trade, this is going to have to wait until people have something to give again.

I just had to add these quotes from this article:

"The transition to renewable energy can’t be achieved without massive fossil fuel expenditure and carbon emissions along the way. 'What we forget,' says Miller, 'is that the process of bringing renewable energy to mass scale requires huge fossil fuel inputs for extraction, manufacturing, and transport.'

"My friendly Cassandras have a point: The ecological and economic breakdown is already under way for most of the planet. For the economically secure in the wealthier nations, we can periodically wake up to the breakdown, but still ignore its systemic nature.  But if you’re a Bangladeshi farmer, you’re already trying to survive climate change and you’ve possibly become a climate refugee. If you’re a farmer in the Central Valley of California, you are wondering if your unprecedented drought is part of a 'new normal' with weather."

"The radical insistence on limits to growth seems the choice of privileged people who volunteer for a simpler lifestyle and then inflict it on others with far fewer choices."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Present Distress or Present Crisis of 1 Cor 7

"I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are."
1 Cor 7:26 (NRSV)

The Apostle Paul gives this advice to the unmarried at the early church in Corinth. He admits he has no hard and fast rule from God on whether single people should get married. So he basically says that, in his opinion, it is better for single people to remain single. Reason being is that there is an "impending crisis."
What is/was this impending crisis? Interpretation of this verse has long been guided by the KJV rendering, which uses the phrase "present distress". Specifically, it has traditionally been interpreted one of two ways. The first claims that because of the persecution in the early church, life would be easier for those who were unmarried. The second claims that, because the Christian life promises trials and tribulations, it is easier to remain unmarried.
While the persecution of the early church is well understood, with the exception of Nero, systematic persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire did not begin until 250 AD. The book of 1 Corinthians was written in the 50s AD, even before the actions of Nero. So then it is very unlikely that it is referring to persecution.
The second traditional interpretation is guided by the concept of "present" distress. While there are no major textual variations here, the Greek itself has been translated quite a few different ways into English. The Greek word translated "present" is not quite so specific, and actually carries the broader idea of immanency, as if to say that the "distress" is right at the door. In other words, "present distress" is better understood as "the distress we are presently faced with". Other versions translate this as "present crisis" (NIV, NLT), "impending crisis" (NET, NRSV), or a similar variation.
The concept of "immanency" is familiar to modern followers of theology as an eschatological buzzword. It is understood in that context as the concept that Christ could return at any time. The point here is, that the early church expected the return of Christ in their lifetimes. Understood in this way, "present distress" refers to "imminent trouble," the great shaking and cleansing of the earth that will occur near or upon Christ's return. If true, apparently the Apostle Paul expected it soon enough to warn off single people from getting married!
Another interpretation is the identification of the crisis as a famine. There is plenty of historical evidence to suggest that there was a famine in the eastern Mediterranean area roughly around 60AD, which would have led to the collection for the Jerusalem saints in 2 Cor, as well as the Jewish uprising in 66 AD. In the mid-to-late 50s such a famine would at least be in its early stages. This understanding also helps to counter the poor interpretations of the Jerusalem collection as a failure of communalism, the decision by the Jerusalem Christians to pool and share their wealth.
However, this "impending crisis" is one of three "timestamps" in 1 Cor 7 (NRSV):
v.26: "in view of the impending crisis..."
v.29: "I mean ... the appointed time has grown short"
v.31: "...the present form of this world is passing away."
We have three doctrines represented here. The "impending crisis" is the trouble expected in the Christian's life. The "appointed time has grown short" is the promise of Christ's second coming. "The present form of this world is passing away" is the eschaton, the end times.
Paul is saying because of the trials of the Christian life, the Christian should keep life simple (vv.26-28). Because Christ is coming again the Christian should live in moderation for the end is near(vv.29-31).
What is unmistakable is that Paul was looking for the second coming in his generation.
I guess the question remains, did Paul expect the second coming in his generation as a matter of a generic principle of immanency, or did Paul expect the second coming as a matter of (what was to him) fact? It is difficult to say for certain.
I am tempted to say that Paul accepted as a matter of fact that Christ would come in his generation because of his position on marriage. Paul essentially starts 1 Cor 7 by telling the church that the best option is to be celibate! Such a philosophy doesn't bode well for sustaining the church for 2,000 years. His discussion of remaining where you were called (vv.17-24) also seems to indicate that there wasn't much earthly future to look forward to.
I am also urged to this position by examining the fruit of the modern American church. By and large the American church (at least in it's evangelical and fundamentalist forms) holds to immanency as a generic principle, having eschewed date setting. What you do not hear are calls from church leaders and teachers to remain single if at all possible. Nor do you hear church leaders and teachers telling people to stay at their station in life. A principle of generic immanency just simply does not justify such measures.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mount error 12 Cannot allocate memory when connecting SMB share

Problem: When mounting a Windows network share from Linux (such as Clonezilla), the mount command fails with error 12 cannot allocate memory.

Resolution:
On the Windows server, set
HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache
to "1"

and set
HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters\Size
to "3"

Then reboot.

I found the solution HERE.

Windows 7 Won't Boot After Installing Intel HD Graphics

Problem: After installing the Intel HD Graphics driver and rebooting, Windows 7 will not boot, and ask you to run startup repair.

Resolution: Use F8 to boot into Safe Mode. Uninstall the driver, then reboot normally. Install SP1 for Windows 7; or, install the hotfix from KB979903 and reboot. Then reinstall the driver.

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, then that version of IE will be the only thing to show)

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.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Adobe CS Install Sign In Unable to Connect to the Internet

Scenario: On Windows, after entering the serial number for an Adobe CS product, you are instructed to sign in with your Adobe ID, but the installer claims it cannot connect.

Solution: Run certmgr.msc and then go to the following:




After clicking properties for the GlobalSign Root CA, choose "Enable all purposes for this certificate"
(If you don't see "GlobalSign Root CA", exit certmgr and visit THIS SITE, then close IE and reopen certmgr.msc)



Click OK and close out of the Certificate Manager, then have the Adobe installer retry the connection.