Saturday, April 30, 2016

Goodbye Quicktime on Windows

In case you missed it, Apple is no longer going to support patching of Quicktime on Windows.

As a potential web-browser plugin, having an unpatched version present is an avenue for vulnerablity exploit on your system.

And with lots of other video playback options that can handle Quicktime media files, it just doesn’t make sense to keep this one around.

Convinced yet?

Constant Vigilance!

--Claus Valca

Knife Shapening 101

My awesome family recently gave me a gift that was a set of J.A. Henckels Synergy 16-pc Knifes (Amazon link).

I passed our previous (still nice) knife block set to my in-laws who were discovered to be knife-less in the kitchen after their recent downsizing move.

I had also been gifted a set of high-grade japanese whetstones in four different grades along with a diamond-embedded whetstone leveling tool.

So, no more using the cheap little grindstone wheel kept in our cutlerly drawer; although it does do a great job on our “regular” kitchen knife.

My first attempt to use the new whetstones wasn’t a total failure. But as I learned from my pre-attempt studies, it takes a LOT of practice and patience to do right.

Here are some of the best links I found for my skill development.

I’m still refining my technique, though it is a surprisingly good exercise in stress reduction; especially since it is almost a ritual getting all the items prepared for the activity at hand.


--Claus Valca

Possible Windows 10 Alternative Install?

I’m not sure anyone really knows what Microsoft will do once the “free upgrade” period to Windows 10 expires.

Will folks who haven’t upgraded their systems get a second chance from Microsoft and still be able to attempt a free upgrade after that point?

Will Microsoft remove the “free” offer and require purchase of future Windows 10 upgrades for supported OS’s?

If so, will Microsoft uninstall/strip out all their “Get Windows 10” software dumped on Windows 7/8/8.1 systems and their browsers?

I guess we will find out in a few months.

So I was wondering if there could be a backup plan to get Windows 10 safely and stably installed on our seemingly incompatible laptops before that time limted offer expires – just in case.

My thought was to take a backup of our Windows systems (see previous post), then wipe out Windows entirely and reload a clean build of a Linux OS version.

All of these come in (or support) the Cinnamon desktop theme that I like best.

I’ve already been able to run all of them on my laptops via Easy2Boot to confirm they all work just fine (actually stupid-fast and stable unlike Windows 10) on our laptop hardware and WiFi network.

Once I have Linux running, I can then either install VMware Workstation Player or Oracle VM VirtualBox.

Next I should then be able to create a VM and just do a clean install of Windows 10 into it and activate it. I’ve been running the free Windows 10 VM’s offered by Microsoft for some time in both just fine.

I guess the only serious drawback is figuring out how to “secure” the Linux OS – or if I really need to!  I’m so conditioned to have so many firewalls, anti-exploit, anti-malware, and anti-crypto-locker layers running on my Windows systems I’m honestly not sure what to do. It’s one thing for a Windows guy or gal to play with and use various Linux distros in a “LiveCD” type of manner, it’s another thing to load them on your hardware and depend on them as your daily driver OS.

There really just aren’t the same number of Linux AV/AM products out there – because they really aren’t needed? To a Windows sysadmin running an OS without that protection in place just seems like going out in public naked!

Does anyone have any thoughts, links, or software recommendations regarding setting up a layered security approach on a home-user’s Linux OS system? Or it is really just not needed?

Cinnamon Extras:

Easy2Boot Extras:


--Claus Valca

Call Me Burned but Recovered: Windows 10 Upgrade Failure

Hope springs eternal, but upgrading my vintage 2012 Dell XPS 17” L702X Windows 7 Pro laptop to Windows 10 Pro seems futile.

Despite what the cheerfuly positive Windows 10 Upgrade assistant says, Windows 10 just will not work on it.

Dell says the same thing.

Last weekend I was feeling bored so I decided to give it another go. I figured they’ve had a few months to fix some of the bugs and maybe make a more stable release version. I had it mostly working at least one time in the past before rolling back to Windows 7.

As a precaution I first uninstalled all my AV/AM/AE programs in case any of them gave the installation process the blues.

Then I let it run.  When I checked back the next morning (because the upgrade was still running overnight when I went to bed) it had “finished” and presented a BSOD type message amost illegibilly painted on the wigged out laptop display.

I booted from a Win 10 CD and tried to do both repairs and roll-backs but the loaded Windows 10 was having nothing of it and said it couldn’t. Seriously?

I had already been considering a “clean install” of Windows 10 based on my previous Windows 10 failure and thought that might present a better chance of getting a stable installation of Windows 10 on this laptop.

So I went through those paces too; How to do a Clean Install of Windows 10, the Easy Way via How-To Geek.

Only that just left me at a blinking cursor on a black screen when the Windows 10 installation was done. Seriously!

I did some cursory troubleshooting like taking the 2nd HDD out of the laptop but it didn’t make any difference. The primary drive is a SSD Samsung EVO 840 and maybe I need to change some options in BIOS. Don’t know and really don’t care.

At this point I had no Windows 7 and no Windows 10.

How to “roll back” now?

Fortunately I had taken out two insurance policies on just this kind of failure.

I used Disk2vhd to make a VHD “image” of my Windows 7 system’s primary HDD to an external USB HDD in case I needed to mount it and pull off any files after the Windows 10 upgrade had finished.

I also considered a plethora of Windows-based backup drive software options, but in the end just used OSFClone to simply and easily take an image of that same Win 7 primary HDD before turning the Windows 10 upgrader loose on it.

I also have a prepped and dead-useful Easy2Boot built USB stick that contains the OSFClone ISO image. So I had booted my Windows 7 system with Easy2Boot and selected the OSFCLone ISO I had copied there.

The whole configuration recognized my WD 2 TB external USB 3.0 HDD so I just wrote the IMG format file there.

So I had two “backup” images of my original system system drive.

Now how did I want to put them back?

In the end I decided to go simple.

I first booted with my custom WinPE boot USB stick and used DiskPart to rebuild the system’s primary HDD, “Clean” it, create a single primary partition, set it Active, assign it a drive letter, and then format it to NTFS.

Then, using my Easy2Boot USB stick I selected a pre-loaded ISO of Linux Mint (Cinnamon version) and booted my system with it.

I used the Ubuntu Disk Image Writer already integrated in the Mint OS build shell to browse to my IMG file on the external USB drive and simply selected my system’s primary HDD to write the image back to, after first confirming I was selecting the correct one with gParted.

Screenshot from 2016-04-24_2016-04-30_15-41-48

Once the image had been applied I shut down the system, removed all the USB drives, and rebooted.

I was prepared to need to do some repairs to the MBR post image reapplication, however they weren’t needed.

Up came my Windows 7 system just like I had left it…as if that entire unfortunate series of Windows 10 upgrade events had never happened.

I liked this whole-drive based backup/restore method as both the imaging and restoration were light and simple and didn’t require any system-based software installations.

I later found this application Drive Snapshot that looked like a great alternative as it is portable, says it is compatible with all Windows RAID types, and dead tiny/light.

There is a free 30-day trial version but since the product is offered over in Germany, I’m not sure just how easy it would be to order and try the full version from here in the States.  I would love to give it a shot.

I’ll do a follow up post with a bunch of Windows 10 rollback/restore information (for normal people) soon, but this method worked best for techie me.


--Claus Valca

Ambient, Classical and Sacred Music Links

I usually post about technical stuff but I wanted to make sure I could locate these references to some groovy down-tempo chill beats.

Happy listening.

--Claus Valca

Chrome\Chromium\Vivaldi Extensions

Here is a list of the installed extensions I am now using in my Google Chrome\Chromium(Dev) Portable and Vivaldi browsers … because I can’t ever seem to remember all of them.

That’s it.

Lean and simple.

--Claus Valca

Quickpost: Import Firefox bookmarks into Vivaldi

I’ve been regularly using the Vivaldi web-browser (portable version) for some time and am really loving it.

I still run the snapshot builds to stay on the bleeding edge, but have found them very stable.

That said, I still use Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition as my daily web browser.

One challenge I ran into was trying to bring the bookmarks in the Vivaldi browser current (manually synced) with my Firefox bookmarks.

The “best” way should be to simply open Firefox’s Bookmarks Manager (Ctrl+Shift+B), then export your bookmarks as a HTML type file.

Then open Vivialdi’s Bookmarks Manager (Ctrl+B) and import the HTML file.

Only that just doesn’t really work correctly.  I’ve got a ton of bookmarks and all this accomplished was to copy a handful of bookmarks folders from Firefox and not the full set.

I checked the Vivaldi forums and found others who had issues like my experience when they attempted to export their Firefox bookmarks as an HTML file and then import it into Vivialdi; lots of missing bookmarks after the import completed.

I can’t directly use the Vivialdi “Import Firefox” bookmarks option as I use a portable profile location and the current Vivialdi builds dosn’t (yet) allow for browsing to a custom profile path.

So here are two methods I found success with in case you also have this problem.

Method 1

I thought I could be clever and try to use the free version of Transmute to convert the JSON or HTML file I exported from Firefox to another Vivaldi supported import format that would let me pick the file & location to be imported.

  1. Use Firefox’s Bookmarks Manager to “backup” your bookmarks as a JSON file to your desktop.
  2. Run Transmute and
    1. For the Source select the Firefox JSON type from the drop-down list and then select the JSON file you just exported.
    2. For the Target select “Opera” type from the drop-down list and then select your desktop as a file location. Name the file something you can remember like “my_exported_bookmarks” it should show an “adr” filetype extension.
    3. I unchcked the “Backup collection” option.
    4. Hit the Start button and if/when the preview window opens, go ahead and close it.
    5. Once export is done close Transmute.
  3. Run Vivaldi and
    1. To to Tools –> Bookmarks
    2. In the Bookmarks tab select “Import”
    3. Select From “Opera Bookmarks File”
    4. Click the “Choose a FIle” button and browse to your converted file from step 2.2 above.
    5. All your bookmarks & any folders should import into a new bookmarks folder in Vivaldi called “Imported”
  4. From there just move them out into your main Vivaldi bookmarks folder structure as needed.
  5. Success!

Method 2

  1. Use Firefox’s Bookmarks Manager to “backup” your bookmarks as a JSON file to your desktop.
  2. Download and run Pale Moon - portable! to a location of your choosing.
  3. Run Pale Moon.
  4. Open up the Pale Moon Bookmarks Manager and select the options to “Restore” your bookmarks.
  5. Browse to the location you saved your exported JSON file from step 1.
  6. Import the file. When done all your Firefox Bookmarks should appear in Pale Moon.
  7. Now (still in Pale Moon Bookmarks “Library” manager window) export your bookmarks from within PaleMoon Portable as an HTML file. I exported mine to my desktop as “bookmarksPM.html”
  8. Once done close Pale Moon.
  9. Run Vivaldi and
    1. To to Tools –> Bookmarks
    2. In the Bookmarks tab select “Import”
    3. Select From “Bookmarks HTML File”
    4. Click the “Choose a FIle” button and browse to your converted file from step 7 above.
    5. All your bookmarks & any folders should import into a new bookmarks folder in Vivaldi called “Imported”
  10. From there just move them out into your main Vivaldi bookmarks folder structure as needed.
  11. Success!

Apparently there is something about the HTML structure created by the newest versions of Firefox that Vivaldi can’t handle. Pale Moon seems to like the JSON structure of Firefox, and seems to use a different HTML format when exporting that Vivaldi does accept.

Be aware that Vivaldi doesn’t seem to support bookmark “separators” in its bookmark structure so if you have those in Firefox they will be lost in Vivaldi.


--Claus Valca