Saturday, January 23, 2021

Still Here…Still Fighting the Good Fights

“Growing up, I always had a soldier mentality. As a kid I wanted to be a soldier, a fighter pilot, a covert agent, professions that require a great deal of bravery and risk and putting oneself in grave danger in order to complete the mission. Even though I did not become all those things, and unless my predisposition, in its youngest years, already had me leaning towards them, the interest that was there still shaped my philosophies. To this day I honor risk and sacrifice for the good of others - my views on life and love are heavily influenced by this.”
― Criss Jami, Healology

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Current Browser Extensions: Vivaldi, Firefox, and Chromium


As best I can tell it was over three years ago that I last posted a roundup of the Add-On extensions I was using.

Firefox as at version 40.0.3 (x32 bits).

Vivaldi was still a “technical preview” release at version and totally amazed me with “tab tiling.”  I cannot image going through a natural disaster or other scale event without using tab-tiling in Vivaldi.

Here I am during the January 2018 Great-Houston-Ice-Crisis monitoring multiple weather and traffic events in Vivaldi using the split-screen tab-tiling feature.


Yes Virginia, that’s five open browser windows on a single page. Four blocked with a fifth on the far right side fully extended top-to-bottom.

And no, I’m not counting my SwiftOnSecurity Twitter-feed window on the far-left because that is not a “browser window” but actually running in a Vivaldi “web-panel” from the side-bar. I can collapse and extend it as needed to check that particular media feed.

If you look closely, this tab (with five web-pages) is just one of four “stacked” tab sets each with their own multiple sets of related browser pages.

Vivaldi lets you do some crazy stuff – all built in without the need for more extensions – to maximize your browsing efficiency.

That’s why the only “product” link badge I run on my Grand Stream Dreams blog is Vivaldi’s; and I do so proudly.

So here is my current web-browser line-up:

Vivaldi - If there is a crisis or massive multi-stream op-center monitoring work to do I go Vivaldi without question. Current (snapshots line) version 2.2.1373.4 (Official Build) (32-bit)

Firefox - If there is blogging or RSS-feed wrangling – I still go to Firefox (due to my custom system integrations with the Omea RSS Reader.  Current version 63.0.3 (64-bit)

Chromium - If there is deep-web exploration work needed – I use a stripped down version of Chromium. Current version 72.0.3620.0 (Developer Build) (64-bit)

And here are my Extensions/Add-ons for each of them:

Vivaldi Extensions

Yep. That’s correct. Just three extensions. Vivaldi (by default) provides all the other heavy-lifting that I need – natively!

Firefox Extensions

Quite a lot more, but mostly because of the needs to support my RSS/blogging process flow (stop laughing! I know there hasn’t been much GSD blogging of late, but, “Reasons!”.

Chrome/Chromium Extensions

More extension use here than with Vivaldi even though Vivaldi is built on Chromium.


--Claus V.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Fix: Windows 8.1/10 Black Screen with Cursor at boot

After upgrading my home laptop systems to Win 10 I began to notice a trend; every couple of times I tried booting the system I would be presented with a black screen and a blinking cursor…but no Windows 10 load.

Fortunately, powering the system off and then back on would allow the Win 10 OS to load OK.

It was an annoyance and signal that something was wrong, but nothing that this workaround wouldn’t address.

Then we upgraded our laptops at work to Windows 10 and started noticing the same behavior.

And our Surface Pro 3 users also occasionally complained about similar behavior.

After careful troubleshooting and searching the Internet, I fixed this particular problem on all our platforms by disabling “Fast Startup” in the power settings.

I’m not 100% why it seems to impact mobile platforms rather than desktops, but I suspect the fact that it involves loading the system from a specially saved/crafted “Fast Startup” hibernation state, if some hardware gets removed or not-detected between power-states – for example USB devices or the dock-station - it might cause the wake-up process to hang.

To fix this particular problem first go into the “classic” Control Panel for Windows, and into the Power Options applet.

On the left-hand side, select “Choose what the power button does”

Near the top of the loaded page to the right, select the “Change settings that are currently unavailable”  (note you may have to confirm a UAC prompt and provide admin-level credentials).

Once you do that, more options will appear below.

Uncheck the “Turn on fast startup (recommended)” checkbox.

Select “Save changes”.

That fixed my laptop issues at home, and by pushing this out to our systems as a standard configuration setting, it fixed the issues at work too.

More technical resources:


--Claus V.

HP C6280 All in one Ink System Failure & other travails

Almost two years ago our HP C6280 “All In One” inkjet printer suddenly decided to toss up a mysterious error code and refused to print.

Swapping out ink cartridges did nothing.

Turning it off and on did nothing.

I was running a two-prong approach to resolution; dig deep in the Googles and research a replacement unit.

Finally I stumbled on this tip.

HP C6280 All in one Ink System Failure – FixYourOwnPrinter

Following the steps of combo-button pushes documented on that page resulted in a restored-to-operation HP C6280.  Since performing those steps I’ve not had that particular error problem come up since!

Here’s a slightly cleaned up version of those steps. YMMV try at your own risk.

Follow the below steps on the front panel of the All-in-One printer: (Note: you may want to read the comments on that page above as well.)

A. Press and Hold the “Print Photos” & “Red Eye Removal” buttons. Release both buttons. Display should say “Enter Special Key Combo”

B. - Press and release in sequence “Red Eye Removal”, “Print Photos”, “Red Eye Removal”
(display says "enter special key combo")

1. Press and release in sequence “Red Eye Removal”, “Print Photos”, “Red Eye Removal”
(display may show a message like “support COxxFN0723BR”

2. Press and release the right arrow button until the display says “System Configuration Menu.

3. Press and release the “OK” button.

4. Display should say “Hardware failure status”. If not there already, Arrow Key over to “Hardware failure status.

5. Press and release the “OK” button.

6. Display should say “Hardware failure status: Clear. Press OK to clear”.

7. Press and release the “OK” Button. Message changes to “Hardware failure status Cleared. Press Cancel to continue”.

8. Press and release the “CANCEL” button as many times as necessary, so that, either the “Welcome to Photosmart Express” screen appears, or, the “Ink System Failure” screen appears. PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO PRINT AT THIS STAGE.

9. Using the Power Button, turn the unit OFF and unplug the power cable from back of the printer and wall outlet.

10. Wait 30 seconds for the power to get discharged and then plug the power cable into the wall outlet first and then into the back of the printer.

11. Turn the unit on. The printer may display message “USE POWER BUTTON TO SHUTDOWN THE PRINTER” followed by “PRESS OK TO CONTINUE”. Press OK.

12. If the printer has already initialized, then go to the next step. If not, the printer will start the “ONE TIME INK INITIALIZATION PROCESS”. Allow this process to complete and do not interrupt. Once the initialization process is complete, the printer will print out a Diagnostic Page.

13. To verify printer functionality print a SELF TEST PAGE.

FYI: The TinyApps bloggist also posted some tips with working with other HP Officejet hardware: Resetting an HP OfficeJet 5740

Then about six months ago the C6280 started experiencing paper-tray feed issues.  I tried a number of things and sometimes could get the paper to barely feed but usually not. I checked/cleaned the rollers, looked for jammed bits of paper, did everything but a full tear-down.

I gave up for a while and started researching new printers again, and put a note on it to not try printing as it wasn’t feeding.

Lavie came in one day while I was away and needed to print. She worked on it as well but also gave up.

Finally one Saturday I really, really needed to print something and didn’t want to run out to find somewhere to print from or pick up a new printer so I made a final attempt at troubleshooting.

When I lifted it up off the small side-table it sat on I noticed a small bit of plastic beneath. Hmmm. Hadn’t seen that before.

It was 1/2 of a geared wheel that seemed to be made out of a black nylon plastic. That couldn’t be good.

With the aid of a flashlight, I inspected the gear mechanisms and drive shafts. After a patient review I eventually found a drive shaft with a matching 1/2 gear piece that engages other gears.  It seems that this drive shaft powers the paper pick-up rollers from the paper-tray. Somehow it had broken in two and this was keeping the paper from picking up.

With nothing else to loose, I use a combo of super-glue gel, long needle-nose pliers, and a ton of patience to re-glue the two gear halves back together while aligned and engaged carefully with the drive gear wheel above it.

I let it set for several days to make sure the glue cured properly and then with fingers-crossed, loaded the paper tray back up and sent an print job through.

It fed and printed just fine…and has held fine many printing jobs later after all these months.

It was a miracle that that 1/2 piece of small broken wheel didn’t get lost or drop into the carpet with all of our earlier troubleshooting.

So if you still have an old HP C6280 here’s proof you can keep it limping along after all this time.


Claus V.

Win 10 Laptop Storage Space-Drain Solved!

A lifetime ago (back in July) I was struggling to understand why my Win 10 workplace laptop’s hard-drive was running out of storage space.

grand stream dreams: QuickPost: PowerShell Scripts and Win 10 Helps

Despite my best efforts the 500 GB HDD had gotten down to about 60 GB – 80 GB of free space despite some pretty severe Windows space-hog/temp-file cleaning work.

That post detailed a number of PowerShell scripts I was using to try to find out the source of the space usage.

Reminder – because this was a work-laptop, my use of the normal third-party storage analysis tools I would rely on was verboten.

After several weeks of running modified versions of many of these scripts I was nowhere closer to finding the issue. I had lots of data, but the results suggested that the file or folder where the space eating usage had happened was off-limits to typical admin-level scripting runs.

Just before giving up and planning for a system reimage, I had an epiphany; Windows 10 comes with a built-in Storage Sense platform to let you understand (at a very high-level) space usage of your local drives in a categorized manner!

How to manage Disk Space & Storage using Windows 10 Settings – The Windows Club

Go into Settings (the gear icon in Win 10), select “System”, on the left side-bar select “Storage”, then click on one of the local system drives at the top you want to explore under the “Storage” section.

Let it run for a moment and it will then give you a report of storage use.

In my case it was immediately apparent that the “System & reserved” section was where the maximum file-usage was occurring; way more than a baseline Win 10 laptop in our enterprise.

You can click on any section and dive deeper into that.

That revealed that I had over 250 GB of files related to “System Restore”.

This was an interesting find as our Group Policy turns off System Restore. A visual check of all the options and settings under “Manage system restore” confirmed these were all disabled…so what was there and how did it get there?

VSSAdmin to the rescue!

I opened an administrator-elevated CMD window and ran the following command:

vssadmin list shadows

That revealed one “orphaned” shadow copy file created quite some time before I actually noticed the space drain.  A check of our operations logs for that timeframe couldn’t find any obvious actions or infrastructure routines that should have created it. So how it was triggered remains a mystery.

With the shadow copy ID known now I next ran this, using the actual ID # I found for that argument variable:

vssadmin delete shadows /Shadow={shadow copy ID}

It ran for quite a while, but then returned back to the blinking prompt cursor.

Another “vssadmin list shadows” confirmed it was gone, and a look at the local drive properties showed my space usage was back to a normal level with lots of free space available again.

Mischief managed!

More resources:


Claus V.

Friday, October 12, 2018

QuickPost: Removing Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security Agent without the password

Not too long ago one of the ministry departments of the church-house needed a computer set up in their room to help manage things.

We had an older Dell laptop that was a beater, but was a business class device that still retained more than adequate performance.

It took me the better part of a weekend to bring the Win 7 Pro OS back up to a fully patched and updated state and clean a lot of older/abandoned applications off.

One of my last tasks was to remove the long-expired Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security Agent off the system.


Before the uninstaller can complete, you must provide an administrator-set password (as a security feature).  Unfortunately, the admin who set it had long-since left the congregation and no documentation was left as to what it could be.



Luckily, PowerBiz Solutions “down-under” had a promising tip:

How to uninstall Trend Micro’s Worry Free Business Security client agent without the password - PowerBiz Solutions

Note: The referenced link back to Trend Micro’s solutions page is now “404” but PowerBiz’s post provided a good start: (Update: Archived Trend Mircro solutions page via Wayback Machine – hat-tip to TinyApps bloggist!)

Basically, it involves setting the registry key “Allow Uninstall” to 1.
For WFBS versions 5.x and 6.x, this key is located here – HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\TrendMicro\PC-cillinNTCorp\CurrentVersion\Misc
For WFBS versions 7.x, this key can be found here – HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\TrendMicro\UniClient\1600\Misc

In my particular case, the version appeared to be 7.x.


A quick look in the Registry found the “AllowUninstall” key.


…which I then changed to the needed “1” value.


Once set, I was then able to go back and run the uninstaller without any password prompt.



Success and done!

I then followed it up with a Microsoft Security Essentials installation that went on without issue and will provide sufficient real-time protection and current signature updates for AV/AM protection.


--Claus V.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

QuickPost: PowerShell Scripts and Win 10 Helps

Since having a system migrated to Windows 10, I’ve noticed a trend of the hard-drive getting significantly fuller now.  I’ve done all the standard post-migration cleanups. I cleared over 40 GB of old software packages off the system and was feeling pretty good.  The next day all my space-gains were lost and I was back at 100 GB of free space where I started.

I suspect there is some caching activity going on in the background and that it running off a quota that keeps me returning to the magical 100 GB free of a 500 GB drive.

Normally, I’d just run one of these tools to identify the space/file hogs and start cleaning up. I’ve ordered these in my general preference; though I like them all for slightly different things they bring to the table on a space-hunt.

However in this case I cannot use any third-party tools and must stick with using Microsoft OS-based solutions only.

So that led me to find a script I could use in PowerShell.

I’ve divided them into file-size analyzers and folder-size analyzers.

I found it is relatively easy to hunt down singular files on your system in PowerShell that are the largest. However, what happens if you have a bunch-load of very small files? Individually they may never float to the top, however in aggregate, they could add up to a lot of space usage.

I’ve listed these as well in my order of preference.

Note: They all seemed to run fine on my Win 10 systems in PowerShell ISE – though tweaking was needed for each one to target specific folders and/or report outputs – depending on the script.

PowerShell File-Hog Hunters

PowerShell Folder-Hog Hunters

If you do export output to CSV and don’t “pre-format” the bytes output to MB, here is a tip on a custom formatting rule in Excel you can use to make it more readable.

formatting - How can I format bytes a cell in Excel as KB, MB, GB etc? - Stack Overflow

I’ve not loaded Ubuntu on Windows to have a Bash console, but in looking for tools, I came across this that looked pretty neat: ncdu: Identify Large Files on Windows 10 - Trevor Sullivan

Finally, on Win 7 I used a pretty small set of common keyboard shortcut to navigate my way around the system.  In Windows 10, I’m finding a desire to expand my quick-access key combo skills. Here are some good resources:

If I’ve missed a useful script or you have any tips for hunting for space/file hogs using only “on-board” native Windows 10 OS tools, please drop a comment!

I expect I’ll be adding to the list of links in this post too as I uncover more PowerShell scripts that could be useful. As I post this, I think I am overlooking one or two others that I found useful


--Claus V.