Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Perfect Father’s Day – 2016 edition

This past Father’s Day, dear little Alvis and her husband invited me over to their place for some hang-out time.

We watched some great Copa América soccer matches.

We wrestled with their “schnoodle” (schnauzer poodle mix) Molly.

We ate spicy chicken and I wolfed down red-beans and rice.

We laughed and then hunkered down when a ferocious storm blew through dumping rain by the bucketfuls, tossing lighting, drumming up thunder. And killing the power for about 30 minutes.

It was perfect!

Along the way I couldn’t help but be a dad and do some fixing of Alvis’s laptop.

See about a week or two prior, her husband had been using it when suddenly it died right in the middle of some work.

Alvis tried some pretty good troubleshooting but couldn’t make headway. It seemed to sort-of boot but would just display a black screen and power off.

To make matters more challenging, the kids reported that Microsoft had foisted a stealty/scammy Windows 10 upgrade on them. It was running Windows 7 just fine, but did a Windows 10 upgrade they didn’t ask for or want anyway. Classy.

However, they were good sports and adjusted. It seemed the Windows 10 upgrade went ok and the laptop survived the experience intact.

Was it a Windows 10 upgrade black-screen problem related to the upgrade? Was it a bad system board or power-source issue? Bad display? That snoodle can get rough at times though I didn’t see any teeth-marks on the lid.

In the worst case scenario, I was prepared to do a data-recovery and then port Alvis’s files onto her external USB drive so she could still work with her data on another laptop if her’s was dead.

I made sure the device was on the AC power cord and tried to boot it with a bootable USB stick first. Nothing.

I removed the stick and tried a power cycle again.

Miraculously, it sprang to life this time – for a moment. Enough to partially display a Windows 10 boot loading routine and for me to see an exasperated and amazed look on Alvis’s face that it was working for me – before the screen went black again and nothing.


I pulled the battery out of the laptop and removed the AC cord plug.

I pulled a Leatherman Micra multitool out of my pocket and removed the bottom laptop access cover.

Alvis said she had started to do that earlier but stopped since she was afraid she would loose the tiny screws.

I was proud she had considered that (exploring under the access cover) and explained that the lid screws were “captive” and probably wouldn’t come out – though I did keep my eye closely on the schnoodle.

I pulled out the single DIMM of RAM, then firmly reseated it and clipped it back in.

The access cover was snapped back in place and screwed down, the battery returned to the bay, and the A/C power connected.

It booted right up normally and ran like nothing had happened. Fixed just like that.

After offering to roll her laptop back to Windows 7 (declined by Alvis) she did say that the thing that frustrated them them most was the “new” Start button and menu.

I downloaded and installed Classic Shell and after a bit of tweaking had the Windows 10 start menu tamed into a format Alvis was familiar with again.

Mischief managed – for now!

A right-perfect Father’s Day and I was still able to be handy and useful.

Thank you Alvis!

You are the best daugher a father could ever hope to have. I’m so proud of you.


Time for a larger laptop hard-drive?

I’ve got two laptops that are near and dear to me; Tatiana and Alister.

Tatiana is my main personal laptop – it’s a Dell Studio 15 (1558) notebook running an i7 core, a 500 GB drive, and 8 GB of system RAM.

Alister is my hot-rod racer – it’s a hand-me-down Dell XPS L702X laptop also running an i7 core, one 250 GB SSD drive (system/boot) and a 2nd 500 GB HDD in the 2nd bay. It has 16 GB of system RAM.

So here is my quandary.

I really, really love the boot speed and performance of the Samsung SSD 840 EVO 250 GB SSD drive. Once you go SSD it’s very difficult to consider a traditional spinning platter HHD.

However the prices for larger storage capacity on a SSD are still pretty high.

I’ve almost filled up the 250 GB SSD in Alister. Luckily I’ve been able to migrate more files and apps to the 2nd HDD drive and am fine for now.

For Tatiana, all those music and video files, utilities and applicaiton installs are taking their toll and the 500 GB drive in it is almost filled up too. And unfortunately, I don’t have a 2nd drive bay space on that laptop.

My gut tells me I will do better in the long run if I pick up some nice 1TB traditional HDD’s for both laptops.

If I go with a speedy 7200 RPM drive with a big and fast cache I would still come out ok. I could easily pick up 2-3 of those drives for less than the price of a single 500GB SSD drive (when I honestly want a 1TB SSD size).  Though I could probably find a budget SSD drive, I’m spoiled with the Samsung EVO line right now and it would be hard to walk away from.


Any recommendations for a solid, fast, and dependable 1TB or larger 2.5 inch internal HDD for a laptop?

If I rolled Alister back to a 1 TB HDD for the system drive, I’d likely pass the SSD drive in it now over to Lavie and upgrade her older Dell laptop with it. She doesn’t need near the storage space and the faster boots would make her happy. It would be an easy-peasy performance upgrade for her system.

More SSD links to ponder…


--Claus Valca

File under “You think they would have learned by now”


Remember these GSD blog posts from a year ago or so?

I guess you can’t keep a crappy “helpful app updater” down when it is an exploitable “feature” to help consumer’s out.

Constant Vigilance!

--Claus Valca

Now showing on the small screen – Ransomware!

Must read for all you IOT fans…

Next targets; your smart-refrigerator, your smart-washer/dryer, your smart-car, and your smart thermostat.

And you thought it was bad-enough fighting with your spouse over the room temperature?

Pay bitcoins now or your whole home (and heating/cooling bill) will be held hostage!


IOT lovers beware!

--Claus Valca

Windows Service Triggers

I was troubleshooting some issues with WSUS server updating firing off on some Surface Pro tablets the other week.

In doing so, it seemed the root cause was that the Windows Update Service was set to not run full time or Automatically but rather manually and based on service trigger starts.

Hmmm. Time to learn me some facts about Windows service triggers.

Now we know!

--Claus Valca

Yep, it broke things…MS16-072 (that’s by design folks!)


Let it be said, let it be applied, so be it now broken, so be it now removed.

Thus sayeth the sysadmin.

Now let’s go fix it…well, you know…


--Claus Valca

More EMail Client Thoughts…

When I posted Wrestling with Outlook Troubleshooting I was in the middle of helping an older church-member sort out his email client issues.

He had suddenly lost the ability to send emails in his Outlook client that was also using the Outlook Hotmail Connector (64-bit).  I fiddled around troubleshooting it for a weekend, but in the end had to punt and just reconfigured Outlook to tie into his hotmail & email accounts via an manual IMAP configuraiton. 

I also set them up in Thunderbird as well to confirm it wasn’t an “account” issue.  Both worked fine so I returned the laptop and encouraged him to try both and settle on one he was most comfortable with.

Only the next week he reported more email problems. This time, he couldn’t delete his emails.

That’s an issue I haven’t had before in either Outlook or Thunderbird.

Long story made short the emails were deleting – but it took a while due to the synchronization delay between the local account and the server.

What do I mean?

So the gentleman wanted the email client to “reflect” what was on the remote email server account, rather than downloading a copy of the contents to a local file store on the laptop.  Had we set it up that way, then the email “deletion” would have been immediate – at least in terms of what he was seeing in the client itself.

Because we were not using the Outlook “Connector” plug-in, there was a lag between when he deleted an email and when the normal sync-time would trigger a re-sync of the “local” seen email contents.

So I would select an email message in the email client, hit “delete”, then…nothing for a while. It just stayed there.

If we were logged into the web-mail account directly in a web-browser session (rather than an email client application) the message delete was immediate. So it wasn’t a problem with the account.

However, back on the email client, if I hit “send/receive” right after deleting the message, the folders would re-sync and the email would “delete/disappear”.

Once this delayed delete was understood, I could tweak some of the settings, but I didn’t want to re-poll the mail server every few seconds/minutes!

Thunderbird seemed to be the fastest with “deleting” the message on it’s own with Outlook taking the longest.  The gentleman was OK with Thunderbird but I wasn’t getting a vibe from him that he loved it either.

In the end I found a compromise in Windows Essentials Live Mail.  It mimicked Outlook pretty well and had very intuitive control icons on the Ribbon. And it seemed to sync not quite as fast as Thunderbird, but much faster than Outlook.

My father-in-law loves Thunderbird – and I like going with it first since it is the one I use at home and am most familiar with it’s setup and operation for support needs. Dad still uses Outlook 2003 as that is what he was used to from his pre-retirement days. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

IMAP configuration worked great – though it does come with drawbacks when using with Microsoft mail server accounts – the greatest of which is that online contacts and calendars will not sync. In this case that didn’t matter as the gentleman didn’t use those features of his web-mail accounts.

Were I to do it again, I’d work my way down through these other free email clients until we found a winner that he liked:

  • Thunderbird - Mozilla
  • Windows Essentials – Windows Live Mail – Microsoft
    • Windows Live Mail and Outlook Mail - Microsoft Community – additional tips on setting up WLM to use IMAP connections due to the Microsoft changes killing the DeltaSync protocol that made it so seamless in the past. This is what I ended up doing and it worked perfectly.
  • eM Client – beautiful email client that should make WLM users feel right at home as Microsoft drops support of the Windows Live Essentials software packages. Free version of eM Client supports up to two email accounts. eM Client PRO ($) supports unlimited numbers of email clients.
  • Mailbird 2.0 – a more “modern” chromed email client in both free (Lite version) and $ versions.
  • Inky – free basic version and $ for subscription based version that has more features and IMAP support.
  • Pegasus Mail – free (dontation ware) email client that reminds me a bit of the Outlook Express application for some reason. Fully featured and not restricted, its a solid choice.
  • Shortcut URL on desktop – Seriously I’ve done this from time to time. If a user has an issue with an email client and the email service provides web-mail, I just make a shortcut from their web-brower to the desktop, label it “My Email” and that’s it.  The user goes right to their web-mail inbox and with Gmail,, and other email providers having highly improved and slick web-mail interfaces—an argument could be made “why bother with an email client at all?”


--Claus Valca

Telenet Clients

This week I was working with a network team-member to pilot some changes that will lock our network switches down more tightly.

I’m used to using PuTTY Portable or KiTTY Portable which are simply portable versions of PuTTY and KiTTY and seem hands-down better than Microsoft’s Hyperterminal that got left behind when Windows 7 came out (although it can run just fine on WIn 7 if you copied the snagged binaries over).

However, the network admin I was working with requested we use the terminal Poderosa.

Apparently Poderosa has been out for a very long time and I’m just now finding out about it.

What makes it very nice – aside from the beautiful GUI – is the “tabbed” nature of the application so you can have multiple sessions running and organized very similarly to browser tabs.

It felt very natural and easy to use and is pretty light and fully portable.

Like other telnet clients you can change the back color, text color, and font for improved legibility. The buffer size can be adjusted to allow capture of more of the session content, and copy/paste support feels more natural (IMHO).

GSD Bonus:

Don’t forget these great Cisco reference sites:


--Claus Valca

Unpacking Inno Installers

Some – but not all – applications that come packaged as “installers” can actually be run “portable” without needing to do the full install.

There are degrees of portability when attempting this. Some applications are truly portable in that they don’t write extra files to the Windows Registry or ProgramData locations but either use their own “local” ini/config files or helper portability wrappers to retain settings and option selections (if available).

Others will run after being unpacked, but may still write settings and changes into the Windows Registry and other system locations.

All that to say, that a common installation packer I encounter is Inno.

Normally, I just run Universal Extractor where I have updated the dated inno unpacker binary with the latest one from innounp to be sure that I can unpack those built with the latest versions.

Or you can try out the newer project UniExtract2 which the author is trying to create an updated and feature enhanced version of Universal Extractor. It’s very nice too though you still may end up having to manually update innounp when a new version comes out.

Anyway, if that is too much overhead, you might want to try one of these Inno-focused unpacker utilites.

  • InnoEx – GUI based extractor. see the Help/tips for more ideas.
  • InnoExtractor – HavySoft
  • innoextract – supports multiple platforms like Windows, Mac OS X, and multiple Linux flavors
  • - A tool to unpack installers created by Inno Setup

Of course if your CLI-fu is strong, you could just keep it old-school and use innounp directly from the command line and be done with it.


--Claus Valca

Supplemental Spell Checking in OLW with tinySpell

The biggest feature I am missing in Open Live Writer is the lack of “real-time” spell checking when running it on a Windows 7 system.

My “fix” at the time of this post - Open Live Writer – we will (eventually) get through this – was to compose my post, copy/paste it into a session of Notepad++ where a spell check plugin was configured, and then correct any spelling issues back in the original post.

It worked but felt very clumsy.

So a few weeks ago I found a more streamlined solution.

  1. Download the free version of tinySpell – a free (and portable) spell checker.
  2. Launch tinySpell.
  3. Launch Open Live Writer.
  4. Compose post and fix spelling errors on-the-fly while composing as notified by tinySpell.


tinySpell comes in both installed or portable versions and there is also a tinySpell+ version as well for $ if you need more of the advanced features it offers.

You can easily add additional words into a custom dictionary. Set the application to run at system startup if desired. Make an audible beep if a spelling error is detected, and change the font size and color of the spelling tip notification.

tinySpell has restored my blogging confidence in using Open Live Writer as it continues through the development process.


--Claus Valca