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Slipstreaming the Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup #

This guide ended up being a little long for a blog post, so I've added it to the document vault: Slipstream Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup into a universal x86/x64 installer

/windows | May 21, 2016

Synchronize, backup, or copy files and folders #

with SyncFolders. Features include: versioning (including auto cleanup of old versions), filtering, previewing, scheduling (via Windows' Task Scheduler), verifying (via CRC32, MD5, or SHA-1 hash), launching via command line, support for long file names and UNC paths, and more. Does not natively support VSS, but can be paired with ShadowSpawn to copy in-use files after configuring and saving job rules in the GUI; e.g.,

shadowspawn.exe C:\Users\foo Q: "C:\Program Files\SyncFolders\SyncFolders.exe" /background /synchronize C:\Users\foo\Documents\backup.rls /log:C:\logs\backuplog.txt

which:
  1. Runs ShadowSpawn.
  2. Mounts shadowed version of C:\Users\foo to Q:.
  3. Runs SyncFolders
  4. in the background,
  5. executing (rather than previewing)
  6. the backup.rls rule file,
  7. and logging results to backuplog.txt.
(To prevent "You do not have write access to folder Q:." when using this procedure, uncheck "Use local database to track file changes" in the Advanced tab for the rule.)

SyncFolders is unrestricted freeware and requires the .NET Framework.

/windows | May 17, 2016

Virtual electronics education kit #

Poking around for something like a virtualized Elenco EP130 130-in-1 Electronics Playground ("Learn basic principles of electricity, electronics, physics and magnetism!"):

Elenco_130-in-1-small

I stumbled onto Winston Wolff's Electropocalypse for iOS, OS X, and Windows:

electropocalypse-small.

He credits The Incredible Machine and Rocky's Boots as inspirations, but far surpasses them for learning about electricity, covering "switches, current and voltage, resistors, using voltmeters and ammeters, series vs. parallel circuits, polarity, and Ohms law."

The only downside is that an Internet connection is required, since the circuit analyzer (SPICE) is hosted online instead of being embedded in the game.

I asked Winston via email what would happen if Electropocalypse was abandoned; he kindly replied that the game would probably be open sourced at that point.

After completing Electropocalypse, check out 5Spice for Windows (free for non-commercial use) or MacSpice (free) for OS X.

/misc | May 16, 2016

Yandex suddenly the default search engine in Safari on Mac OS X #

While browsing in Safari with 30-40 tabs open, I opened a new tab and performed a search. Instead of receiving Google results, I landed on a Russian Yandex page.

After switching the default search engine back to Google and performing the obligatory malware scan, Safari reset, etc, a quick search turned up Yandex becomes Safari search option in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, which seemingly pointed to a DNS or language issue, as I was not located in or near those countries.

Switching between several trusted DNS servers did not remove the Yandex search engine option, but removing the Unicode Hex Input from System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources did. Screenshot

/mac | Apr 27, 2016

Microsoft Error Reporting for Mac 2.2.9 Update #

The past few days, the following error has appeared when attempting to update new installs of Microsoft Office 2011 and 2016 for Mac:
An unexpected error occurred.
These applications were not updated:
Microsoft Error Reporting
All other updates would install, but "Microsoft Error Reporting for Mac 2.2.9 Update" remained.

MacUpdate's listing pointed to MERP_229.dmg hosted on Microsoft.com, but the resulting dmg file turned out to be simply an HTML file containing a 404 message. The original Microsoft Error Reporting for Mac 2.2.9 Update webpage at Microsoft had also vanished; Google has a cached copy.

Happily, I stumbled onto TJ Luoma's large repository of Mac apps, including the missing MERP_229.dmg. Installing it resolved the update error. Thank you TJ!

/mac | Apr 24, 2016

Change msconfig boot options from command prompt via boot disc #

During a malware cleanup, msconfig was used to change the boot method to Safe Mode with Networking (msconfig > Boot > Boot options > check Safe boot > check Network). On reboot, Windows would not load. Reverting the changes and returning to Normal Mode was done like so:
  1. Boot from Windows install disc and open command prompt (Shift+F10)

  2. Check the current boot mode:

    X:\>bcdedit
    ...
    Windows Boot Loader
    -------------------
    identifier {default}
    ...
    nx OptIn
    safeboot Network

  3. Remove the Safe Mode with Networking option:

    X:\>bcdedit /deletevalue {default} safeboot
    The operation completed successfully.

  4. Check boot mode again:

    X:\>bcdedit
    ...
    Windows Boot Loader
    -------------------
    identifier {default}
    ...
    nx OptIn

BCDEdit can be used on offline drives via the "store" command (the help documentation oddly refers to it as a command instead of a flag or switch), e.g., bcdedit /store E:\Boot\BCD /deletevalue {default} safeboot. (Found this handy for editing BCD on a DiskCryptor-encrypted drive mounted inside of a Windows PE session.)

Sources:

/windows | Apr 17, 2016

A better Problem Steps Recorder #

Windows' Problem Steps Recorder makes it easy to create step-by-step screenshots for troubleshooting, documentation, etc. However, annotation and output options are severely limited.

Searching for a Windows program similar to MacSnapper1 or Explainer2, I stumbled upon Wink, a freeware, cross-platform screen capture tool that allows you to "[C]apture screenshots, add explanations boxes, buttons, titles, etc and generate a highly effective tutorial for your users." Additional features include audio recording, importing BMP/JPG/PNG/TIFF/GIF files, and exporting to PDF, PostScript, HTML, Flash, EXE, and the aforementioned image formats.
  1. "Create lesson webpages and PDFs from snapshots and images"
  2. "A screenshot app for those of us who explain 'computer stuff' to other people"

/windows | Apr 14, 2016

Paragon's rich collection of freeware #

Paragon Software Group has a surprisingly large collection of powerful freeware offerings. Here is, to my mind, a better organized catalog:

Windows

Windows XP

Mac

Linux

Android

/misc | Apr 11, 2016

Windows Update stuck "Checking for updates..." / Error 0x80070005 #

TL;DR: WSUS Offline Update solved the problem.

Windows Update was stuck overnight "Checking for updates..." on a virtually brand new, clean Windows 7 install. Tried the following:

  1. Reset Windows Update Agent - "This Script allow reset the Windows Update Agent resolving issues with Windows Update." Runs under XP - 10. Last updated Feb 29, 2016. Did not resolve issue.
  2. Fix Microsoft Windows Update Issues - "This troubleshooter will detect and solve Windows update issues automatically." Did not resolve issue, but reported an unresolved "error 0x80070005".
  3. Error 0x80070005 in Windows Update when you try to install updates - Uses a batch script and SubInACL to repair file and registry permissions. More information. Did not resolve issue.
  4. 0x80070005 – Fix for Windows - Several suggestions, none of which resolved the issue.
  5. Repair or reinstall Windows Update - Massive collection of potential fixes, including WSUS Offline Update, which resolved the issue and fixed Windows Update.

Wish I had found this first - exact same issue and resolution: Windows 7: How I Solved the Infinite 'Checking for Updates' Hell.... More suggestions: Windows 7 SP1 Windows Update stuck checking for updates

/windows | Apr 06, 2016

A lickable Linux distro #

Apricity OS is an Arch-based Linux distribution with a simple, beautiful, and consistent UI:

Apricity OS

According to the developers, "Apricity OS idles at around 500 megabytes of memory usage, as opposed to other popular operating systems that idle at up to several gigabytes. This also helps bring boot times down to just a few seconds." I found it fast and responsive running in a VM with just 2GB of RAM. Love the little coffee cup icon in the menu bar which functions much like OS X's caffeinate, though it has the added benefit of disabling the screensaver as well.

(via Hacker News)

/nix | Apr 03, 2016


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