January 22nd, 2016 by Paul Hutchinson
I’ve hit this twice now when the Google App has updated so I figured I should note it for future reference.
Symptom 1, trying to record using the stock voice recorder on my LG phone I get a message that says Cannot start voice recording while other application is using audio. Symptom 2, the alarm clock/timer doesn’t make any sound.
Solution, go to Google Settings -> Search & Now -> Voice -> “Ok Google” detection and turn off the From any screen option.
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January 1st, 2016 by Paul Hutchinson
I’ve been struggling to resolve some odd infrequent problems with LibreOffice crashing for about a year now. The problems were not fixed by uninstalling and deleting my user profile as well as many other suggestions that had resolved similar issues for other users. The worst part was how usually the attempts would appear to help but it was always just a perception not a reality.
A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my NAS to a QNAP TS-231 and the problems got worse. I tried a whole bunch of things to fix the problems and nothing really worked. Yesterday the problems got severe enough (trashed ODB file) and repeatable enough that I decided to take some time to research them carefully.
It turns out at least some of the various problems were actually caused by the LibreOffice Windows Explorer Extension which had been a problem for me twice before since 2012. The solution is to simply remove the Explorer Extension as shown in my 2012 post. Now that this feature has caused me major problems for a third time I’m going to have to remember and recommend that whenever installing LibreOffice on a PC that will access files from a *nix based NAS, use the custom option when installing and avoid the Windows Explorer Extension like the plague.
Posted in LibreOffice, Tech | Comments Off on LibreOffice Windows Explorer Extension Problems
December 27th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
As I mentioned in my first post in this series I just started doing frequent hikes this year. I also just started using a smart phone this year and I’ve found it to be an excellent tool for hiking. There are of course the obvious uses, to call for help or a ride home and sending text messages of the hike progress to the person responsible for calling emergency services when you don’t come back.
The first non-standard use is GPS navigation, for my purposes I found that GPS Essentials is the best choice. It’s a versatile and powerful program so be prepared to spend some time getting up to speed using it. There is a support forum where the author and other users, including myself, are happy to help solve problems. Frequently the problems are due to not easily being able to figure out which of the huge number of features will get you the result you want.
Something to be aware of is the possible lack of accuracy with the GPS and compass sensors. On my LG pulse phone the compass is basically useless it has errors of over 30 degrees at times. The GPS accuracy is excellent when there are no hills, clouds or trees blocking the view of the GPS satellites. However my hiking virtually guarantees poor GPS reception sometimes making the error greater than 150 feet. This brings up one of the first field lessons I learned, a GPS in your pocket can be absolutely horrible, I saw errors of over 300 feet. To avoid that problem I bought a wrist strap to hold the phone. In addition to keeping the GPS readings as accurate as possible it also makes it more convenient for other phone tasks. When I’m out exploring new trails I find the only times I need a compass are when I get to an unexpected intersection (frequent occurrence in SE New England forests). To work around the inaccurate compass I simply walk a few hundred feet on one trail and see how the recorded track compares to my trail map. This has the added benefit of recording the unknown trails direction for adding to my map.
One very important thing to keep in mind when using a smart phone as a hiking companion, electronic devices fail. They run out of power and have other problems that will prevent you from using the GPS. This is why I always carry my trusty old Silva compass and a paper map. I have also added a portable phone charger/emergency LED flashlight to my day hiking gear. It has come in handy a couple times allowing me to finish recording my GPS track instead of turning off the phone to save the power for an emergency call if needed. To keep the whole package small and dust/water resistant I replaced the included USB cable with a 6″ cable and installed a pair of RooKaps.
This reminds me of another important safety tip, set your phone to automatically power off at 10% battery left so that you won’t get stranded due to a dead phone battery.
The other smartphone features I’ve come to rely on are the camera, voice recorder and eBook reader. In addition to taking photos of interesting things seen, I like to take pictures of trail signs and oddly shaped intersections. Those pictures come in handy as I build up my comprehensive forest map. The voice recorder is a great way to take down long notes and record odd natural sounds for later identification. On my very first hike I heard a strange cacophony of sound emanating from many areas of the forest but could not see what critter was making the racket. I eventually tracked it down to some type of frog in vernal pools, when I got home I used the recorded sounds for reference and determined it was the mating calls of Wood Frogs. Voice recorded notes have also been very handy for documenting the appearance of birds I see. I can quickly speak a description of what I see and then later use the recording while searching through my bird identification books. This leads me to the last feature the eBook reader, with some field guides downloaded to the phone I can look up the critter while observing it if I’m not in a hurry or wait and look when I’m taking a rest break.
A final thing I’ve learned the hard way about using my smartphone as a hiking companion. CHECK ALL THE FUNCTIONS BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE. On one hike when I went to make some voice notes I got error messages saying the microphone was locked by another application. After trying reboots and other things that came to mind for about 15 minutes I finally gave up and started the hike. When I got home and researched the issue I learned that a recent update to the Google app had set it to take control of the microphone from everything except the telephone app. A simple settings change and I was back in business, if I’d checked it before leaving I would have been able to hike an extra 3/4 mile instead of fumbling round trying to fix the voice recorder.
Posted in Hikes, Tech | Comments Off on Android Phone as Hiking Companion
December 1st, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
I ran into this post on the old CNET forums today and I had to laugh (bolding mine).
First off by Jimmy Greystone
First off, always remember an important Internet axiom: Your right to be taken seriously is forfeit if you quote Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is rife with misinformation, bad information, and flat out WRONG information. It’s made by people just like you and me, who may like to think we know more on a subject than we really do.
Case in point: you clearly do not understand the difference between logical and physical processors, because the Wikipedia article is actually correct, and answers your question.
He slams Wikipedia for allegedly being wrong about almost everything while saying it was absolutely correct on this topic. Dear Jimmy, wake up and face reality, Wikipedia is as good as any paper encyclopedia and it is way easier to check its references than those in a traditional paper encyclopedia. A good rule of thumb is that as long as it’s not a political or current events topic Wikipedia usually gets the basic facts correct. If the accuracy is important then simply check the references in the Wikipedia article and if they or the article needs fixing please help out by fixing it rather than complain and slam Wikipedia.
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October 11th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
My hike today took me along the west central edge of the Douglas State Forest. Most of the hike was on private property and quite a few areas have been logged over the years. Most of the logged areas are clear cuts but today I hit an area where obviously the property owner is selective cutting because on the trail I saw this:
A line and the text 11 carved into a tree and filled in with white paint. Behind it two trees where marked 12 & 13 and looking around I saw these other trees.
The highest number was 60 so it appears the property owner is going to selectively harvest 60 hardwood trees of various species. Pretty cool I’ve never seen this kind of preparation before, it will be interesting to see what the end result is the next time I hike that trail. It could leave some more open habitat that I’m sure will be enjoyed by the deer and other forest edge species (there’s very few open areas so any additions should be an environmental plus).
Posted in Blackstone Valley, Hikes | Comments Off on A Sign of Logging to Come?
October 2nd, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
Fourteen months ago I broke my right ankle while on a pleasure walk with my family at Purgatory Chasm. The force of the break was so bad that it sent a pressure wave up my fibula leaving a small fracture under my kneecap. Unfortunately for me the ER doctor did a bad job on the splint which left my skin so badly damaged that the surgeon had to wait three weeks for my skin to heal before he could operate on me. I had three screws put in the ankle but also got the bad news that two of the screws where going to have to come out later if I ever wanted to walk without a bad limp. I got started on physical therapy but I couldn’t progress very far because the ankle just couldn’t flex enough with the two temporary screws in place. I did get to the point of being able to climb the stairs to get to my bedroom and home office and then to only using one crutch by Christmas.
The last week of December I had the two screws removed and by the middle of January I was back on one crutch and able to re-start physical therapy the last week of the month. By the middle of March I’d used up all the physical therapy insurance would cover and was walking well and driving again. Knowing it was going to take a long time and a lot of work to get my ankle as flexible as it could be, my therapist and I discussed options for continuing self therapy. Since the best therapy is something you will actually stick with (almost everyone gets bored and stops too soon) we decided I would do a bunch of rough terrain hiking to really work the ankle flexibility. The plan was that as soon as the snow was gone (couldn’t risk a slip on snow and ice) I’d start slowly with short easy mostly flat trails then as I felt more confident and comfortable I’d increase the distances and terrain roughness. A few very important conditions were placed on me by the therapist, first I needed to get good tall hiking boots to provide excellent ankle support for both legs. Next I had to wear my soft orthopedic ankle brace inside the boot as added protection for my injured ankle in case I fell. I was also told to use a walking stick to help prevent me from falling when traversing rocky and hilly terrain. The final condition was that I had to be careful and not push too hard, it ‘s OK to be sore and tired but if I caused pain in the ankle I’d probably slow my getting it back into shape.
As everyone living in the valley remembers we had massive amounts of snow last winter so the trails and woods weren’t clear of snow until very late this year. Waiting for the snow to melt and a weekend day with no rain kept me from getting started until April 12th. My first hike was the easy heart healthy Bird Blind and Cedar Swamp trails in the Wallum Lake Park area of the Douglas State Forest. This hike was only 2 miles but it was challenging enough to give the ankle a good work out and fun enough to make we want to do more. Needing a goal to keep me motivated all year I decided I would task myself with locating, hiking and mapping every foot of trails in the Douglas State Forest. As of last weekend I’ve finished the trails in the DSF as well as most of the trails in the adjoining Mine Brook Wildlife Management Area and bordering private properties. My injured ankle is nearly as flexible as the other one, I’ve rebuilt most of the atrophied muscles in the leg, and now after hikes it’s other body muscles and joints that are more likely to be sore than my ankle or leg. I can now hike 9 miles in a day over very rough terrain and average 17 miles per weekend. My total hiking distance for the year so far is 210 miles. Another great thing is I’ve lost more than 20 of the extra pounds I gained while I was on crutches.
Posted in Blackstone Valley, General, Hikes | Comments Off on Hiking as Physical Therapy
September 29th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
A guy over on Google+ posted a rant to the LibreOffice Community and at first I didn’t reply because it seemed like he didn’t have a problem just a complaint. I’m not the type to tell people, sign up as a developer and help them implement this feature you want, or call him an lazy idiot for complaining instead of doing the obvious work around.
Well after a few other people replied the original poster modified his position and made it seem like there was no way for him to set it up to be easier to use for his 8 year old son. This was when I replied and pointed out to him how he can easily accomplish it. His reply to me was rude and insulting, that’s the risk you take when you try to help people on the internet. No good deed goes unpunished .
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September 29th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
I wanted to stop Windows from creating Thumbs.db files on the network servers at work and my NAS at home, the solution is in this post on superuser.com.
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July 31st, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
I tried out Windows 10 on my 2013 ASUS Q200E 11.6″ touchscreen netbook the other day. I primarily use it like a touch tablet for playing simple games, surfing the web, watching Netflix, etc. When I travel or go to a library for research it’s nice to have a good keyboard and track pad/USB mouse/Wacom tablet which makes it much more convenient for writing, data entry and media editing than a tablet. The desktop environment in Windows 10 is pretty good and if that was my primary usage I would have kept it installed. But with my primary usage as a touch screen device I very rapidly found Windows 10 to be far more difficult and less pleasant to use than Windows 8/8.1.
Below is part of a photo that shows the main problem I had with trying to use Windows 10 (click to see whole image in the original tweet). The tiny little icons you have to tap to work with Windows 10. In the picture that’s a pinky and ring finger showing and you can clearly see that you have to be very careful to hit the icon you want. If I was using a tablet like in the picture it would be easier but on a netbook there is a keyboard 90 degrees to that icon space making it very difficult to select the correct one. In Windows 8/8.1 I never need to try hit tiny targets like this, instead of a permanently showing tiny task bar, you swipe open the charms bar and tap nice big, finger friendly, targets. Far too often while trying out Win10 I had to switch from touch to the track pad so I could hit the targets accurately.
Another change that I found annoying was the loss of the simple single swipe to switch between Metro (full screen) programs. In Windows 8/8.1 if I’ve got two running, e.g. a game plus a forum, I simply swipe left to right and the other program is there. In Windows 10 you have to swipe left to right which opens an Alt-Tab like display and then you tap on the program you want to see. I suppose the new way would be easier if you routinely have lots of Metro programs running at the same time but I never have more than three or four open. Another Win10 annoyance was that you can’t simply swipe between desktop and tablet mode, you have to select a tiny icon and turn off tablet mode to get to the desktop which makes all Metro apps act like maximized desktop apps with title bars using up more of the 768 pixel vertical screen space. Often I’ll want to have a traditional desktop type program running as well as a couple of tablet style Metro apps, on Win8.1 I simply swipe to move between the Metro apps and the desktop.
While I was playing around I opened the mail app and saw an email from Microsoft telling me I had exceeded the limit for how many devices can be connected to the store. This was rather surprising since I have only one device connected to the store and opening the store showed there was only one device registered. I guess the server software running the Windows Store has a big bug that makes it think one is greater than 10 :-). You can see a copy somebody else received here, Windows 10 “Device Limit Reached”.
With my evaluation done in just over an hour it was clear I would be far better off rolling back to Windows 8.1. The rollback appeared to go well but a few glitches made me spend some time getting things working the way they were before the upgrade.
- It lost my account picture, I use one of the stock Microsoft Live.com images and Windows 10 used it. On rollback it was not in Win8.1 and I couldn’t locate it anywhere on the drive. So I copied the image from Live.com and put a copy on my hard drive.
- I cancelled the reservation after rollback but on every reboot it started to re-download the 2G Win10 install. Had to uninstall the Windows update item then go back into update and when it showed up again as available I hid it so that it never comes back (hopefully). Went ahead and did the same with the get Win10 icon update too to stop it from showing up.
- The Photos app ended up with a duplication of the Camera Roll folder that can’t be deleted in Photos (OneDrive error). So I deleted the whole Camera Roll folder via the OneDrive web interface which did delete both copies from Photos.
- account.microsoft.com/devices still shows my Netbook as Windows 10 not sure what if any problems this is going to cause.
- Google chrome got trashed causing it to duplicate all its bookmarks that of course synch across devices and then began to fail to start at all. I deleted all the duplicate bookmarks from a different PC and went to bed. The next morning when I fired up the system Chrome fixed itself and is running fine again, Google for the win!
Most reviewers seem to be excited about the return of the Start menu, something I’ve been sick of for more than a decade (was so glad that Vista/7/8/8.1 let me just press the Win key and type the name of the program to find it). The following posts are more in line with my feelings about this new touch version of Windows.
Maybe Microsoft will bring back parts of the Win8.1 touch interface that I find easier to use as either options or defaults in the future. If they do and Win 10 is still free I’ll try it again but it doesn’t really matter since the end of support for Win8.1 is long past the time this netbook will be useful or possibly even functioning. If they keep the harder to use touch screen UI, I’ll just move on to another brand, I like the IOS & Android touch UIs almost as much as the Win 8.1 touch UI. Heck after over a decade of usage I dumped Office when it got harder for me to use than OpenOffice. I still have Office on a work PC because my employer is stuck paying for it whether I use it or not due to Microsoft’s licensing rules. Every once in awhile I fire it up and every time it’s still slower and more frustrating to use than LibreOffice. At least Microsoft will get my business for new Desktop PCs at work and my home office every 5 years or so because the Windows 10 desktop UI is at least as good as the Win 7 UI.
I really wish Microsoft had made better decisions once they got slammed over Win 8. All they needed to do was bring back the Start menu and have a selectable option in setup to turn off all the Win8 touch features. All the people I know who where going ballistic hating on Win 8 would have been 100% satisfied with that solution. But nope, Microsoft releases Win 8.1 with a stupid Windows button on the task bar which did not satisfy any of the people who were pissed off. Then they spend enormous effort on Windows 10 and instead of simply leaving the touch UI as it was (I don’t recall anyone complaining about it for touch devices) they completely re-write it. They probably spent a huge amount of money on the re-write and other than a few Microsoft fanboys I haven’t seen anyone say the new touch UI is significantly better than the one in Win 8.1.
Posted in Tech | Comments Off on I Tried Windows 10 and Rolled Back to 8.1
May 14th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson
My previous post on this topic had a fix for the built-in gadget however I found that the gadget kept breaking so I looked for a replacement. I chose the Weather Center Gadget and have been very happy with it.
Posted in Tech | Comments Off on Weather Gadget Replacement