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Weather Gadget Fix

March 19th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson

The Windows sidebar weather gadget stopped working this morning on my work PC. All it showed was the message “cannot connect to service“. A simple fix was posted by Kot86 on the Tech Support Guy forums (full thread here).

Basically all you do is:

  1. Close the gadget
  2. Open C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live\Services\Cache\Config.xml in a text editor
  3. Save the file without changing anything
  4. Wait about 20 seconds
  5. Add the gadget back


Posted in Tech | No Comments »

Windows 7 Update Breaks XP Mode

June 8th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

There is an optional Windows update, KB2830477, that causes intermittent crashes in Windows Virtual PC XP Mode. The only solution is to uninstall (or avoid installing) the update. For more information see this site.

Posted in Tech, Windows Virtual PC | Comments Off

Postal Scam

June 8th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

Here’s a clever postal scam of some sort. A post card in UPS colors claiming there is a package waiting for you. No idea what they would try to scam you for if you call their toll free number but I’m sure it can’t be good.



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Public Domain Images

April 20th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I was about to take some quick photos of household objects for a demo home inventory system today when it dawned on me to simply look for suitable ones online. Searching around I found one great site and one that is totally clueless as to what public domain means.

First the great site, PublicDomainArchive.com, an absolutely wonderful collection of images that are truly public domain.

Now the clueless site, PublicDomainPictures.net, I found one picture that I thought I might use but then I read this on the images page.

License: Public Domain. If you are going to redistribute this image online, a hyperlink to this particular page is mandatory.

The highlighted part is completely contradictory to the concept of public domain. The CC public domain license they link to disagrees with the highlighted text.

The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

When you waive all of your rights you can’t have a mandatory attribution provision, you can ask for a link and many people would freely give one but making it mandatory is right out. Because they want attribution in the form of a link they need to use one of the CC attribution licenses. Considering how clueless they are, and that their one image I was considering was not that good anyway, I’ll pass on ever using or recommending their site. People who are this clueless on copyright and public domain I’ve found are often trouble waiting to happen so I strongly recommend you stay well away from their site.

Again if you want fantastic unencumbered by licenses images, click this: public domain images.

Posted in Copyright, Photography | Comments Off

A Lubuntu LAMP VM

March 4th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I wrote previously about the pre-made OpenSUSE 10.2 LAMP Server for Windows Virtual PC and it has been helpful in brushing up on command line Linux with a LAMP stack. After playing around it dawned on me that if I had a virtual LAMP server with a more recent version of PHP I could have a development mirror of this WordPress blog. So starting with the Lubuntu VM I created I’ve added a LAMP solution stack and a cloned copy of this blog.

Installing the LAMP Stack

Most of the pages I found about installing a LAMP stack on Lubuntu where very old (in Linux years) so they had far more steps than necessary. The fastest way I found was in a Comment on the Installing LAMP On Ubuntu For Newbies page.

Its really easy to install LAMP with ONE single command in ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install lamp-server^ phpmyadmin

When the installation nears the end you’ll be prompted to do these steps.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Linux, Windows Virtual PC | Comments Off

Compacting a Linux VHD

March 2nd, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

When you compact a Linux dynamic virtual disk in Windows Virtual PC you’ll find that almost no space is saved. This is because the compact routine only compacts disk area that is filled with zeros. For Windows guest OS’s Microsoft provides a Precompactor tool that zeroes out the unused space so that compaction works.

I thought I’d found a solution in  Ben Armstrong’s MSDN Blog, Compacting the virtual hard disk of a Linux virtual machine. You run the following command, turn off the VM and then run the Compact virtual hard disk function.

cat /dev/zero > zero.dat ; sync ; sleep 1 ; sync ; rm zero.dat

It didn’t work for me then I thought, probably needs a sudo before the commands but that didn’t seem to work either. Searching around the net I found many sites suggesting the same or similar commands and others suggesting dd to do the job. After reading a lot of information I came to the conclusion that these methods are more of a hack than an elegant solution and there are quite a few technical reasons why they are sub-optimal.

That’s when I learned about the zerofree program for Linux from Ron Yorston. Read about this nice utility at his Keeping filesystem images sparse page.

Searching for use case examples for zerofree yielded many different recommendations most of which involved what seemed like unnecessary complications. These include installing zerofree on the system you want to run it, restarting in single user mode and remounting the file system read-only to run it.

Then I saw some sites saying to run zerofree from a Linux live CD and that struck me as the smartest and fastest way to do this process. The SystemRescueCd, a great live CD that I’ve used before, includes zerofree and nearly every other Linux disk utility there is.

Here is the process I came up with that is fast and really shrinks your Linux virtual hard disk.

  1. Shut down the virtual machine and if you have the undo disk feature enabled apply or discard the changes and then disable the feature.
  2. Backup the VHD file because low level manipulation of the disk file system could break it.
  3. Boot the virtual machine from the SystemRescueCd ISO.
  4. Check the file system before zeroing it out.
    fsck /dev/sda1
  5. Zero out the file system, it took 13 minutes to complete on my VHD.
    zerofree -v /dev/sda1
  6. Check the file system after zeroing it out.
    fsck /dev/sda1
  7. Shut down the VM.
  8. Compact the VHD, Settings -> Hard Disk 1 -> Modify button -> Compact virtual hard disk button and remove the ISO from the DVD Drive setting.

That’s all there is to it, I think this is by far the fastest and easiest way of getting this done.

Posted in Linux, Windows Virtual PC | Comments Off

Disable Windows Magnifier

February 26th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

Soon after Netflix added profiles I started using one, unfortunately the Windows Media Center plugin has not been updated to use profiles and likely never will. At first I tried the Kylo browser plugin for Media Center but it was a bit difficult to use with the remote. So I’ve been using a little program called RemoteKCWin7 that allows you to make the Media Center Remote control act as a mouse or keyboard.

This has worked well with one exception. When I accidentally press the clear key Windows Magnifier would come up and then I’d have to get up shut down magnifier and rewind the show (happens frequently since the main mode key, *, is right above it). Searching around I found a lot of people accidentally starting the screen magnifier and wondering how to truly disable it. For those people the problem is that Windows 7 has a hard wired shortcut key of Win + Num Pad Plus. FYI – Microsoft does not mention this hard wired shortcut in its official page of shortcuts, Microsoft.com – Windows 7 Keyboard shortcuts.

Some applications use Ctrl + Num Pad Plus for zoom so it’s easy to accidentally hit the magnifier shortcut. The only way to disable magnifier start from the shortcut key is to rename the Magnify.exe which of course isn’t easy because it is a system file. This post, Tampa Bay Times – Solutions: Getting rid of the Windows Magnifier, has good instructions on how to get this done. However it didn’t work on my Win7 x64 Pro. Browsing the file system I found that on Win7 x64 there is second copy of Magnify.exe in \Windows\sysWOW64\, a 64bit version I assume. By following the disable instructions I finally got both copies disabled and the keyboard shortcut is truly disabled. Although it doesn’t apply to me here’s instructions for Windows 8, Permanently Turn Off Windows 8 Magnifier.

If the magnifier is starting at boot time then you need to change ease of use settings as detailed in this long thread, Microsoft Community – How do I disable the Windows 7 Magnifier?.

Believing I had this all sorted out I was surprised the other night to have an error message pop-up when I accidentally hit the clear key on my remote. Reading the error message it was clear that the error message was coming from RemoteKCWin7 which is an  AutoHotkey application. Since AutoHotkey is my language of choice for writing tiny utilities for Windows I decided to look at the source code to see what was up. Unfortunately I had never downloaded the RemoteKCWin7 source code for the version modified to work in Win7. So I went looking for it, that’s when I found out about the loss of all the old code links when AutoHotkey moved from a .net domain to a .com domain. Searching around I found out that a number of AutoHotkey users had gathered up and archived all of the old source code and applications. Thank you to all the users who gathered up all that useful code it helped me solve the problem.

Reading through the source code I found that the clear button acts as the keyboard Esc key. The code was set to start Magnifier on the first press and close it on the second press. Trying it out I found that unfortunately on my PC the second key press only closed the Magnifier tool bar dialog not the magnified view window. So I commented out the code that starts magnifier, re-compiled it and voila, no more magnifier from the remote. You can download an archive with the source code and executable from here.


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Do Not Track Solution to Network Device Access

February 25th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I was doing some maintenance on my network devices and I could not get the password to work on my AP’s web interface in Firefox. To get the job done I simply used Internet Explorer and it worked OK. The solution is to change the Firefox Do Not Track setting. Here’s the whole chain needed to get there: Firefox menu –> Options –> Options select the Privacy tab and change the Tracking radio button to Do not tell sites anything about my tracking preferences.

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Print Preview Problem in LibreOffice Calc

February 25th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I’ve had a problem with the LibreOffice Calc print preview function for a while. The problem is not showing the selected sheet(s) and I’ve always assumed it was more a problem with me than with the software. I finally got annoyed enough with my work around for the problem that I decided to search for an answer. The answer I found was 2½ years old making me feel even dumber for not looking sooner. So if you can’t get some sheets to show in print preview simply go to the sheets that do show and delete the defined print ranges (Format –> Print Ranges –> Remove). When you think about it this is the proper behavior, setting a print range tells Calc to not print anything else in the spreadsheet.

Posted in LibreOffice, Tech | Comments Off

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 Virtually

February 24th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I needed to install a program on my replacement PC the other day so I had to dig through my installation disks looking for the CD. That’s when I saw the original Packard Bell Multi-Media Master CD for my 1994 Packard Bell Force 53CD PC. The CD contained the full version of MS-DOS 6.00 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 so I just couldn’t resist installing this in a virtual machine. The process turned out to be a very fun and time wasting trip down memory lane.

Since both DOS 6 & WFW3.11 are still under copyright, I can’t provide a VHD file like I’ve done for the Linux distros. So if you want to play around with this 20 year old OS you’ll need to roll your own VM. Here are a bunch of tips for getting a Windows Virtual PC going with WFW. At the very end of this post is a list of downloadable drivers, updates and programs with links.

VM Setup

  • Give the VM 128MiB of RAM and don’t make the virtual disk bigger than 2GiB (old size limit). In my trials I found a 200MiB drive was large enough to install everything including keeping a full copy of the WFW installation files.
  • Use a fixed size virtual disk, I saw a number of disk read errors when I tried using a dynamic disk.

DOS & WFW Setup

  • You can’t run MS-DOS setup from a normal CD or from a hard disk. Since my Master CD had a copy of the files from after installation I just copied that directory to the disk and used a DOS 6 boot disk to partition and format the drive. If you really want or need to install DOS 6.x make three physical bootable CDs with the three installation disk images. Then set the VM to use your real drive, boot off of disk one and when prompted to put the next disk in A: change the CD.
  • Use the /S option when formatting so that you don’t have to run SYS on the disk after formatting.
  • Copy all the files from the 8 WFW floppy disks into a single directory e.g. WIN_INST. This makes installation faster and comes in handy later when you are prompted for install disks during driver installations.
  • Don’t use EMM386 in you DOS CONFIG.SYS file, it seems to cause a lot of GPF’s in Windows.
  • The WFW Express install option always crashed at the network adapter screen but simply choosing custom setup and taking the default options avoided the crash.
  • After you finish installing all of the drivers and programs set the swap file to none. With 128MiB of RAM a swap file is not needed.
  • When you’re finished installing everything run a full DEFRAG on the drive, it speeds up operations significantly.
  • Add EMMExclude=A000-CBFF to the [386Enh] section of the SYSTEM.INI file. I found this tip here (comment by Zinc) and here.
  • When I had 15 program groups in Program Manager, groups would randomly disappear from the screen at start up. I merged some groups until I had only 8 total and it solved the problem. I didn’t take the time to see what number of groups makes the problem occur.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Tech, Windows Virtual PC | Comments Off

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