Newsletter Archives

  • Ewaste or usable – week 2

    It’s week 2 of my experiment to see if two computers I have are either e-waste or usable.

    So this week I have decided that trying to make either laptop into a usable and supported Chromebook is not going to happen. Now that Chromebook has bought out Cloudready they have a much more specified listing of hardware they will support.

     

    Clearly they want me to buy new hardware. So we will be trying next week with a Linux version.

    Now if you want to buy a new Chromebook this is where they have the advantage over other platforms, they are much cheaper. You can get a decent Chromebook for under US$250 and some even less than that.

    If all you want to do is surf the web and read your email online – the Chromebook is a viable option. It does take a pivot to the cloud as it wants your files up there, and you need to accept the privacy issues and risks of a gmail account log in.  But it will be useable for such tasks as telemedicine.

    Now for those of you that need to support people on Chromebooks, this is where it is vastly different than both Windows and Linux platforms. In the case of Windows and Linux you can install remote access tools and be able to remote into it. You can set it up so that you can remote into it even without someone sitting at the laptop and giving you access.

    Chromebooks, however, all of the tools I’m able to have access to, the person asking for help has to approve your access. And then with some tools you have only view access and cannot control the mouse. Chromebooks have their own remote tool, but it’s not quite as exact as others I’ve used.

    So bottom line these two old laptop will NOT be Chromebooks.  Stay tuned until next week when we see what options we have to install Linux.

  • Do you want a bit more In private browsing?

    Do you use private mode or incognito mode in Firefox, Edge or Chrome?

    Do you know you can set it up so that the browser launches automatically in this mode. In the case of Chrome you can right mouse click on the icon on the desktop and go into the properties line at the top and adjust the application setting by putting -incognito at the end of the application line. Click okay, approve the change and now when you launch Chrome it will be in private or incognito mode all the time

    “C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe” -incognito

    Firefox does it a little differently.

    Three-lined menu
    Options
    Privacy & Security
    Scroll down to History
    In the Firefox will drop-down menu choose Use custom settings for history

    Choose the button to have Firefox always use Private mode.

    Mind you when you do it like this, the browser will not have the visual dark background, it will just always be in that mode.

    If you want to see what I’m talking about, watch this video here. I showcase how to get to these private modes in Edge, Chrome, Firefox on 10 as well as 11.

    Why do you want to use private mode? Often websites give you different prices (travel sites in particular) when they don’t see cookies left behind from other searching. Bottom line there are lots of normal reasons why being a bit more private in your browsing is a good thing.

  • If at first you don’t succeed

    I have these Linksys Velop Wi-Fi repeater units at the office …. or rather had. Because everyone has an iPhone or a streaming thing, or some sort of device I have a separate external Wi-Fi that goes out our secondary Internet connection. We do this to isolate all of the “Internet of things” from our main business network.  Normally it works perfectly but every now and then you have to reboot it… or as I call it “hang on folks, I have to reboot the cloud”.  So the other day it had little red icons at the top of each unit indicating it was having issues and would not reboot/reconnect no matter what I did.  I even moved it around temporarily to another Internet connection we had and still no go.  Finally I did what I normally do when I get so frustrated with technology, I went to Office depot and bought a similar product and replaced it.

    Sometimes with technology you just give up and buy something else to fix your problem.

    Mind you while I was at the office I had even tried resetting the devices back to factory default to set them back up again and they would not hook into the Linksys set up at all.  As an aside if you don’t have a cell phone these days, you pretty much are not setting up any Wi-Fi repeater/router/whatever-er these days as they ALL depend on having an app on the phone to walk you through the process.  The instruction book has 47 languages that all say “start by downloading the app called…… and then follow the instructions”.  No written manual these days EVERYTHING is online.  Remember the days of Novell when you had MANUALS?  Ah but I digress in my story.

    So I was about to chuck them out into e-waste and I was like …hang on I have the same model at home I can always take them home and try to reset it there when I’m more calm and not in a mood.

    Meanwhile other weird stuff started occurring with that Internet connection and I had to totally reboot the Internet modem – taking the battery backup out of it because it wouldn’t turn off by merely pulling the plug. So finally realizing that my issue all along was probably was a problem with the Comcast modem that hasn’t been rebooted in eons (you tend not to reboot office Internet connections until you REALLY have to), I take my three Linksys Velo towers home and try to set them up as additional repeater stations at home since I have the exact same model.

    Still, they will not connect.  The phone is sitting right next to the tower and it keeps saying it can’t connect to it. So then I go…. hmmmmm… I’ve had this issue before where slightly older technology will not get connected to existing equipment using my fully patched up to date iPhone.  EVEN THOUGH I have followed the instructions to allow access on the local network as the application set up instructions tell me to do. So I pull out my out of date, no longer getting updates from Google android/Vintage Samsung tablet, download the Linksys application and see if by using an older device that I can get the tower connected.

    Sure enough, it connects immediately with no problem whatsoever.

    The moral of this story? As much as I urge people to never use out of date devices as they may put you at risk, keep one around for setting up tech.  This is now the fourth time I’ve had to use an older ipad or an older android device to set something up because all of my newer iPhones and iPads kept fighting me and would not complete the onboarding process of whatever geek thing I was trying to set up.

  • Don’t move your printer spooler files

    Video here

    This came up the other day on one of the patching lists. Someone was trying to install the recent patches that include print spooler fixes and the updates kept failing/causing issues. Turns out the print spooler was moved to a different drive and the update was expecting it to be on the C drive. Once they moved it back all was well.

    Moving the print spooler is something that can be done with a registry key, but it’s something I honestly don’t recommend doing. While we can say Microsoft shoulda/coulda/woulda and gee shouldn’t it be able to know where your spooler is located and not care which drive it’s on? I just feel that your best patching experience is when you stay with a normal Windows location for the files on the system. And while in a perfect world, every patch should be such that it wouldn’t care where the spooler is located, we live in the real world where your patching experiences are just better if you stick with “normal”.

    So what else do you do to stay with normal when it comes to patching?

  • Tips for the weekend – February 12, 2022 – do you need a second monitor?

    Watch my video here demonstrating my USB monitor

    Do you need a second monitor – but not one that takes up a lot of room?

    At home I have a large main monitor and then I purchased a usb connected small flat screen to work as my second monitor.  It’s a smaller sized monitor but it allows me to pull a spreadsheet or a web site over to a second monitor. It’s a 15.6 inch Acer that plugs into any USB slot on the computer.

    The other day I was watching “The business of Tech” podcast by Dave Sobel and he talked about how he worked remotely for a week. He showcased that he used a device to make his iPad a secondary monitor. Called Astropad, it allows you to use your Ipad as a secondary monitor. It works on both Windows and Mac platforms.

    I had never seen it before.  So do you use multiple monitors?  I HIGHLY recommend having two displays (or more).  At the office everyone has two, several people have three and one person has four.

  • Using a VPN to access different content

    Video here

    One of the tools I use to watch different content online is a VPN or virtual private network software. If you choose a different country, many times it unlocks video content from that content to be viewed on your computer. This can be seen this time of year when the Olympics are on and you can view other country’s coverage by changing your VPN to be located in that country.

    Take for example the links to Canadian Olympic coverage or French TV’s Olympic coverage. Unless you are in that country, you can’t access them. Oh but wait, turn on your VPN, choose that country in your VPN connection so that the IP address of your computer is now assigned to that other country and refresh your browser. Suddenly you can watch that country’s coverage on your computer.

    Just remember to turn off the VPN when you stop watching to “move” yourself back to your location.

  • Have you done a privacy checkup?

    Video here

    January 24 to January 28 was data privacy week. It’s okay if you missed it, rather we should have a privacy year. Start by reviewing this checklist to check out the privacy settings and in particular, their privacy disclaimers of the tech you use.

    While many recommend using VPN services to keep prying eyes away from their data, I was surprised by this listing of recommended VPN providers by consumer reports. It was not the vendors I would have thought would have been recommended. Furthermore  they suggested following “important safety steps, most of which are free, include using a password manager, setting up multifactor authentication, enabling HTTPS-only mode on your web browser, and blocking ads or trackers with a tool like Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin. ”  What did you do this week to increase your privacy?

    Links that I refer to in the video include:

    Data Privacy Week – Stay Safe Online

    Privacy Badger

    uBlock Origin – Get this Extension for 🦊 Firefox (en-US) (mozilla.org)

    DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials – Get this Extension for 🦊 Firefox (en-US) (mozilla.org)

    No More Google

    Manage Your Privacy Settings – Stay Safe Online

  • Tip for the weekend – January 22 – the Microsoft Catalog site

    Video here

    This weekend I’m demonstrating how the Microsoft Catalog site works. This month if you use business VPN software you may need to manually download patches from the Microsoft catalog site.

    But there’s a slight little problem with the site, while part of it is in https, the links to the patch itself comes down on http. In the modern browsers that we use, this makes the download process throw off an error. So to get around it, you have to click to enable the download.

    Mind you this “bug” has been there since 2018.

    Bottom line, it’s normal. This is one of those times I’ll tell you to go ahead and “just click”. One of the FEW times I’ll tell you to click through a warning.

     

  • Tips for the weekend – Browser checkup – January 15, 2022

    This weekend I’ll want you to check if you are being impacted by either of these two browser bugs that popped up recently.

    Video here

    The first has to do with Edge browser….

    On the Patchmanagement.org list the following was reported on Edge 97:

    “Hello everyone,
    We’ve been seeing a weird issue where users are having Microsoft Edge open at log on. I was able to trace it down to coming from MicrosoftEdgeUpdate.exe. There is a scheduled task to run Edge update with two triggers: one at logon and one at a random time period. We’ve found that disabling the logon trigger stops Edge from opening at log on, but I’m a bit wary of disabling this for everyone, even if there is a secondary trigger available.
    Has anyone else seen this?”

    “Yes, version 97 that dropped on Thursday 1/6 added two registry keys found at the below location. The AutoRunOnLogon is set to 1 by default, if you change it to 0 it fixes the issue. Our machines are set to only get updates from our WSUS servers, but this one bypassed if the machines were not behind a firewall that specifically blocked all of the Microsoft update servers.”

    Path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\EdgeUpdate\Clients\{56EB18F8-B008-4CBD-B6D2-8C97FE7E9062}\Commands\on-logon-autolaunch
    Type: REG_DWORD
    Value Name: AutoRunOnLogon
    Value: 0 (zero)

    Note if you need this registry value – the link to automatically fix this is here.

    Next up is Firefox.

    As noted on the 9to5mac blog,  Firefox may hang on certain web sites. If you are seeing this, edit the following:

    Open a new Firefox window.
    Type about:config in the URL bar. This will open a settings screen.
    Search for the setting ‘network.http.http3.enabled’.
    Set this setting to ‘false’ to disable HTTP3.
    Then, fully close and restart Firefox.
    This workaround applies to all desktop versions of Firefox, so it’ll work regardless of whether you are on Windows and Mac.

    Of course, once the actual software bug has been resolved, you’ll want to go back and re-enable HTTP3 so that you can use HTTP3-dependent services in the future.

    Edit 1/16/2022: Note Firefox has resolved this bug so you should not be seeing this in your Firefox browsers.

    So are you seeing either of these two bugs in your browsers?

     

     

  • Tip for the weekend – you got a Win11

    So Santa bought you a new laptop for Christmas. And it’s Windows 11. And you’ve tried that center menu for a bit and it’s well… annoying.  Or you have so many other Windows 10 machines that your brain can’t handle something new. What options do you have?

    Can you install Windows 10 on it?  Yes, you have the rights to downgrade rights to Windows 10. But I always wince when you take a brand new computer that was built for and designed for a specific operating system and put something else on it. Now if there is flat out some program that will not run on it? By all means, it’s your computer to do with it whatever you like. But if you don’t have a blocking condition and just don’t like the new menu?  You’ve got options:

    Watch this video here for demonstrations of them.

    You may wish to install an alternative Windows 10 menu instead. There are two that are highly recommend: Startallback and Start11. Both will provide you with a Windows 10 or even Windows 7 experience.

    Want to have file thumbnails back in a folder? There’s a workaround for that as well. However you might just want to use this opportunity to do a better job naming files.

    Bottom line while you can install Windows 10 with downgrade rights on a brand new computer, if you are like me where you slightly wince doing so, you may want to try out those options first.

  • Can you install Windows 11 home without a MS account?

    In a word YES.

    There are several ways to do it.

    The key way around the issue is to either close down a certain screen at a certain time using Alt-F4 to close the window right after it asks you for Ethernet access.

    On Windows 11 pro this process is easier because you don’t HAVE to have your computer connected to the Internet, whereas Windows 11 home gets you to this Ethernet screen and won’t let you go past this.

    As the link above explains …”However, for Windows 11 Home Edition users, this operation cannot bypass OOBE, because there is no “I don’t have Internet” option on the interface. User Adam provided a simple and practical method, which is both interesting and surprising; when Windows 11 Home Edition prompts the user to connect to the network, a simple Alt + F4 shortcut key will close the prompt and the screen will directly enter the local Account creation page. This is never provided to the user in the usual process.”

    I personally found that if I unplugged the Ethernet right at the point it asks for the Microsoft account and then clicked the upper arrow back at the top, it then went onto the next screen where it wanted to ask for a user. You must have Internet to start the install process. Windows 11 home will get to an Ethernet connection screen and unless you have a connection, it won’t go forward. BUT. And this is the key here:  After it checks for Internet, asks you for the name of the computer and reboots and then gets to the spot where it asks you for a Microsoft account, disable the Internet connection right then and there. At that point in time it will then allow you to click the big arrow key at the top of the windows back and it will bypass the setup for the Microsoft account.

    Let’s see if I can capture this process here in this video that is my tips for the weekend.

    I did!

    Click the video here to view the process.

    But bottom line, there are SEVERAL ways to set up a Windows 11 Home without a Microsoft account.

  • Tasks for the weekend – Nov 20, 2021 – It’s the annual geek clean up

    (Youtube here)

    This week’s Tasks for the weekend is brought to you by MuscularPortfolios.com.  Brian Livingston brings his tech mind to the Investing world. Sign up for his free newsletter to learn more.

    It’s that time of the year that we start planning to visit with family and it’s also the time of year that I recommend reviewing the computer systems of your loved ones and make sure their browsers are not riddled with extensions they don’t use, notifications they don’t want. See if they want to try out the Brave Browser or the Duckduckgo search engine.

    Review for new programs you don’t recognize added to the Programs and features section. Make sure their antivirus is up to date and if they use a third party program, that the subscription is current. (I’m still a fan of defender. Even now Windows is fighting with third party antivirus vendors like Kaspersky). Check what feature release they are on and make sure they are not on Windows 10 2004 soon to be out of support.

    See if they are being offered Windows 11 and if you want to use the targetreleaseversion to block it or use the gui opt out. It will look like the image below in the Windows update panel.

    You can click on that “stay on Windows 10 for now”.

    So when you visit loved ones, do you end up fixing their computers?  What are your tasks that you do?