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Microsoft Desperately Wants to be Apple

March 30th, 2016 by Paul Hutchinson

This morning I got the email from Microsoft saying they are downgrading OneDrive to 5Gig making it as useless as iCloud. They also keep pushing out Windows 10 upgrades disguised as recommended updates to people who have declined or rolled back after upgrade incompatibilities as they desperately want to be able to handle their OS like OS-X. They are delusional if they think they can get away with treating their customers the way Apple does and still maintain a large market share (there’s a reason why Apple has never grown beyond being a niche PC company).

It’s sad to see a once great company fall to such low levels. Oh well, as we move forward through the century Google, Amazon and Apple will continue to take away Microsoft’s business. The only remaining question is when will, not if, Google or Amazon make a concerted effort to take away Microsoft’s corporate customers.

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Android Audio Problem

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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LibreOffice Windows Explorer Extension Problems

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

Android Phone as Hiking Companion

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

Thumbs.db files on a Network Share

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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I Tried Windows 10 and Rolled Back to 8.1

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.

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Weather Gadget Replacement

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.



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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


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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 on Windows 7 Update Breaks XP Mode

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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