« Wil Wheaton
Home Page
Winston Churchill »

Wrestling with the infrastructure and Nazis
(permalink)

Published Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 8:39 PM EDT
Jun 19 2018

In addition to the Windows system problem I talked about last week, the overall tech situation worsened on Saturday with a power outage. West Penn Power restored service in a little over an hour, but the reinitialization surge apparently took out our Comcast Xfinity X-1 cable box/DVR in the living room and the main surge suppressor/uninterruptible power supply in my office.

Dealing with the cable box was simple. I scored a new one as well as a new cable modem/wireless router just by driving to the local Comcast office- it was open on Saturday until 7 p.m. Getting the unit up and running was uneventful. The X1 boxes store recordings and schedules in the cloud, so we didn't lose anything.

The only aggravations were getting used to a smaller remote (Comcast calls it the XR11) and having to fix the 30-second commercial skip feature.

The older boxes supported entering a code into the remote to enable the 30-second commercial jump feature. With the new configuration, the page up button jumped five minutes ahead. A workaround is using X1's voice command feature: tell the remote "jump ahead 30 seconds." You can apparently tell it to jump forward or backward in five second increments up to 30 seconds. It's neat, but it's a lot faster just to hit the page up key a couple times.

In the new setup, the "jump ahead" stuff is not stored in the memory of the remote, but in the X1 box itself. You have to program the box via a secret input sequence: get the remote close to the box, point the remote at it, hit the exit key on the remote three times as fast as you can, followed by 0030. I had to try it a few times before it "took." There's no indication whether or not the input worked. In fact, hitting the exit key three times and the four digits results in the box going back to wherever the main tuner was set, and displaying the mini-guide with channel 30 highlighted. Patience and persistence will win out, though.

Regarding the UPS system blowout, I think it was just time to replace the batteries in the unit. I've done it twice already, though. The unit's over ten years old, and I need one with a greater capacity, anyway. I ordered a 1,500-watt unit via Amazon Prime. Pulling the old unit out, installing the new one, and re-cabling everything is a long and tedious operation. I wanted to get the replacement in ASAP. Aside from West Penn Power's "normal" summer fair weather blackouts, it's also thunderstorm season. I decided to take a vacation day from work and do it today, instead of waiting for the weekend. So, of course...

-----

On the brighter side, replacing the hybrid drive on my Toshiba laptop with a standard mechanical drive appears to have solved all my Windows 10 problems. There was absolutely no indication the drive was the source of the trouble; it passed all the diagnostics with flying colors. The problem is the way in which a hybrid drive manages the solid state drive (SSD) portion of the device. It is totally opaque to the user. I suspect something was cached in the SSD that wasn't compatible with a Windows 10 or driver update. That's just a guess, based on my observations that the system started to act up each time I installed a new application, or a new Windows update was applied.

I'm not comfortable not knowing if the drive was actually the cause of the problem, but I have no software tools to dig deeper into the system, and I can't waste any more time investigating. Four to eight hours every weekend for three months, plus another four hours during the week just getting the thing to boot correctly... I'm too old for this stuff.

Final results: From a system with no user apps running, shutdown, reboot, and Windows load to the desktop with taskbar populated and the "Windows" chime: two minutes. I can live with that.

-----

Godwin's law
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Godwin's law (or Godwin's rule of Hitler analogies) is an internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1"; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds. Promulgated by the American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin's law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.

So, how bad are things now in the United States?

Pretty bad. Godwin's suspending his own law.


Categories: Adolf Hitler, amazon.com, Evil, Godwin's law, Mike Godwin, Nazis, West Penn Power, Windows, Xfinity


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Forward to the past
(permalink)

Published Tuesday, June 12, 2018 @ 10:22 AM EDT
Jun 12 2018

As reported yesterday, my main system is more stable than it was before, leading me to believe that something with my hybrid drive (part mechanical disk drive, part solid state drive) was causing all the problems. I replaced it with a mechanical one terabyte drive and things have been running well for two days.

As for the alleged loss of performance caused by abandoning the large cache the SSD portion of the drive provided, I really haven't noticed it. Windows 10 has a service called Superfetch that speeds up application launching and improves system responsiveness by preloading frequently used applications into RAM so that they don’t have to be called from the hard drive. Some people have reported problems with Superfetch- slow response time and occasional hanging. I suspect this may be due to resource limitations. I have 16 gigabytes of memory on my machine, and an Intel Core7 processor running at 2.5 GHz. Task manager says that I'm using 7.8 gigs of memory, so after two days, even will all the caching, I still have more than half of the physical memory in the machine still available. Superfetch does slow down boot a bit, but after a few minutes, things return to normal. Since switching back to ancient technology, I've not seen a decrease in performance or program initialization.

I've found the most important thing you need when running Windows is patience. My machine has 78 background processes running on it right now (thanks, Adobe), and all these have to fire up and settle down during the boot process. I've learned that when I need to reboot my machine, it's best to do it before a meal or when I need to take a trip to the store. I reboot, login, then go away. Windows is, in many ways, like a watched pot. The latter never boils, and the former never fully loads while you're sitting there watching it.

You may ask, why did I not replace the drive with a solid state drive (SSD)? There are all sorts of pros and cons about switching from mechanical hard drives, but the bottom line for me is... the bottom line. A 1 Terabyte hard drive costs under $50. A 1 terabyte SSD is about $250. My backup regimen is to clone the drive to a duplicate external drive via a USB adapter. If the internal drive dies, I just swap it out. Time, under an hour, cost, about $50.

But time is the major consideration for me. I've spent over 100 hours the past three months screwing around with this machine, and time is something I don't want to waste. I have better things to do than watch Windows reload from a system image.

So, there's my Luddite solution to my problem. And from now on, no cutting-edge technology. I want to see it in the field for two years first. There's an old saying: you can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs. At my age, I don't need any more sources of back pain.


Categories: Technology, The Big Book of American Political Quotations, Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Insanity...
(permalink)

Published Thursday, June 07, 2018 @ 11:35 AM EDT
Jun 07 2018

...is, the old saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So when for the fourth time in as many months all the wise gurus told me to do a clean reinstall of Windows 10, I got to thinking that there may be a madness to their method.

Whatever conditions that cascade into the inevitable implosion of my PC are probably just going to happen again if I follow this inane advice. I would feel more confident if there was a single explanation for my machine's instability. I spent eight hours reviewing seven different, well-respected technical forums and collected no less than 13 plausible reasons Windows self-lobotomizes itself after running for two weeks or so. And of course, each explanation is provided in the condescending, self-assured expert tone that leads me to believe the user just accidentally stumbled across something that worked on his specific computer.

My laptop has a hybrid hard drive. Part of the storage is a traditional, spinning disk drive, part is solid state disk (SSD). Through some magic, the drive supposedly knows what data is most frequently used and caches that information in the faster SSD storage.

In the past, my backup technique was to clone my laptop's hard drive to an identical drive connected via a USB adapter using a reliable third party utility. If the laptop drive went belly up, it was a simple matter of turning the machine off, flipping it over, removing two screws, swapping in the image backup drive, screwing the cover back on, booting up, and ordering a new external clone drive from Amazon.

Alas, this "superior" hybrid drive can't be cloned because of its magical structure. Instead, you need to use Microsoft's system image backup utility. Windows 10 doesn't have a native program to do this, so Microsoft included the one from Windows 7/8. Restoring this image requires performing a number of time consuming steps before having to arduously copy the external system image back to the new internal drive. To make things even more interesting, there are several references that Microsoft "deprecated" the system image restore function for this utility on Windows 10. Sometimes it will work. Sometimes it won't. If it does, you're welcome. If it doesn't, well, you were warned.

So, here's the plan: Once I restore all the stuff missing between my last backup and system failure- fortunately, just a few hours' worth, thanks to Mozy Online Backup- I'm going to create yet another system image. Then I'm going to replace this hybrid drive with a plain ol' reggly spinning microscopic rust particle drive. I then have to use a USB stick to boot into recovery mode and restore the system image to the new drive. The machine should boot and my problem should be solved.

I'm then going to revert to my old method of cloning to an external drive every day. So, if the drive in the machine fails, it's just a matter of taking out a couple of screws and swapping drives.

Did I say a couple screws? Ah, this is a premium laptop. I have to remove 11 screws, the optical drive, the battery, and then pry the back off with a special tool, being careful not to damage the dozen or so plastic retaining clips.

Ah, progress.


Categories: Microsoft, The Daily KGB Report, Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Fortunately, it still works in the opposite direction
(permalink)

Published Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 7:56 AM EDT
May 24 2018

Donald Trump cannot block critical Twitter users, court rules

WASHINGTON- A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that President Trump may not block users from following his Twitter account because the social media platform is a "public forum" protected by the First Amendment.

A group of Twitter users sued the president in July after the @realDonaldTrump account blocked them from replying to his messages. The seven users had each tweeted a message critical of the president before they were blocked.

"Blocking of the individual plaintiffs as a result of the political views they have expressed is impermissible under the First Amendment," Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote in the decision.

"While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president's personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him," she wrote.

The White House did not respond to a request for a comment. The Justice Department said in a statement it disagreed with the decision and is considering its next move.

Trump has more than 52 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account, which has become the platform he uses most often to communicate to voters.

"The president's practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end," said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, which filed the suit.

(via USA Today)

-----

Windows 10 has crashed on me- again- causing another painful bout of trying to reconstruct everything. Backups are useful, but it doesn't help that Microsoft has designed an operating system and applications with file structures that resist or even conceal themselves from recovery utilities. I'm almost the at the point of considering getting a new system; I've rebuilt this one from the oxide up three times so far. Perhaps four years is the limit for the reliable operation of consumer PCs. Whatever... in the immortal words of Paul Simon, "You know, I don't find this stuff amusing anymore."

-----

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, KGB Report on the web will return on Tuesday. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent updates.


Categories: Donald Trump, Microsoft, The Daily KGB Report, Twitter, Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Adventures in Windowsland
(permalink)

Published Friday, August 05, 2016 @ 6:14 PM EDT
Aug 05 2016

For what it's worth, I upgraded all three of my PCs (one desktop and two laptops) to the Anniversary Edition of Windows 10.

One laptop was already running Windows 10, the only one on which I was able to successfully install it earlier this year. A relatively new machine (2014), it took several tries to get it up and running.

With the availability of the Anniversary Edition, I figured I'd update the current Windows 10 laptop and the other laptop (2008) and desktop (2009) running Windows 7. I started the update last night, so that I'd have the weekend to recover if anything went wrong.

Unlike my initial attempts with the first releases of W10, this one went smoothly on all three machines. The trick is to start the update, then walk away. It takes several hours, the machine reboots several times, and if you sit there watching it, you'll go insane. "Just a few minutes..." can mean over an hour in Microsoft speak, depending upon your computer's processing speed, internet connection, etc.

So, what's it like, being up to date? Honestly, I don't believe I've used any of the highly-touted new features. It keeps bugging me to try the personal assistant Cortana, but until speech recognition becomes faster than my fingers and mouse hand, I'll stick with my current methods.

My major worry is about the continued usability of the old, 20th century 16-bit command-line console programs I use on a daily basis that originally ran under Windows NT or XP. So far, so good.

And yes, I've tried, without luck, to find conteporary replacements for those critical old programs. I'm waiting for the day someone uses on me the line I used when I was a software support rep: "I'm sorry, we only support versions released in this century."


Categories: Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Frozen out
(permalink)

Published Friday, February 05, 2016 @ 5:11 PM EST
Feb 05 2016

Windows 10 continues to be a source of ongoing adventure.

Every few days, my machine randomly freezes solid. The mouse cursor is unresponsive and even control alt delete isn't recognized. The only thing to do is hit the power switch and hope the open applications refreshed any recently open files.

As usual, MIcrosoft has no specific solution for this problem. Searches suggested it had something to do with Windoes' active-state power management feature: in power options, PCI Express, set both options to off. We will see. The freezes don't happen daily, If I make it to next Friday, I'll consider it fixed.

Unless you have an urgent need to go to Windows 10, I'd suggest waiting. Word is there will be another build released before the free ugrade offer expires on July 29.


Categories: Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Tech update
(permalink)

Published Friday, January 08, 2016 @ 11:37 PM EST
Jan 08 2016

To be honest, since leaving my job in November, I've spent most of the time since relaxing... reading fiction, watching films I've missed, and upgrading one of the three computers in my office to Windows 10, a process that negated any beneficial effects of my otherwise stress-free routine.

The latest major Windows update this week took over an hour to install, and when it rebooted, of course, the start button didn't work and none of my taskbar apps appeared. While Windows said it was done updating, the hard drive activity light was on solid. So, I did what anyone with over three decades of computer experience would do... I went to dinner.

When I returned, the machine's disk was no longer thrashing, but then the taskbar apps still weren't there. Again, calling on my extensive background, I restarted the machine and went upstairs to watch NCIS.

Upon my return, the taskbar apps were back and the system appeared to be responsive. Suspicious, I opened the event viewer and checked the error logs, which I had cleaned out before starting the update. There were several thousand errors.

So, I deleted the logs, restarted the machine, and went to bed.

The next morning I was about a half hour into my normal routine when I remembered the previous evening's hilarity. Obviously the machine was working now. At least there weren't any problems other than the OS changing the default application for opening pdf files from Adobe Acrobat to Microsoft Edge. An easy fix.

I glanced again at the error log files which were substantially smaller but contained scores of obscure messages. Suddenly a box appeaeed asking me if I'd like to know what's new with Windows 10. I clicked on it, and:

Faulting application name: WhatsNew.Store.exe

My recommendation remains to stay on Windows 7 unless you have some compelling need to go to Windows 10. If you do, and you've had your machine for more than three years, consider buying a new one with Windows 10 installed.

On a positive note, I finally got my Android phone to cast videos to the tv via Roku, and because of the nifty server-side include codes in my template pages, the copyright notices always display the current year.

It's the little things that count...


Categories: Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Windows 10, Me 1
(permalink)

Published Saturday, December 12, 2015 @ 12:26 AM EST
Dec 12 2015

I had finished all the backups and was preparing to wipe out my existing hard drive by installing a clean copy of Windows 10 when I noticed something odd.

The last reboot of the machine took under 50 seconds, from the time I clicked on "restart" until the time the Windows 10 lock screen appeared.

Ok, Sherlock... first rule of troubleshooting: what changed? Zeroeth rule of troubleshooting: check the cables first.

Aha. The cable between the machine's USB 3.0 port and the external hard drive was disconnected. I had removed it after my last backup and shifted the drive itself to the other side of the desk.

Ok... click on restart. Shutdown, reboot, lock screen, 46 seconds.

Plug in the USB cable and turn on the external drive. Wait until the notebook sees the drive. Click "Reset."

About 30 seconds to shut down. The boot screen appears, and... stays there. Two minutes... six minutes... 20 minutes.

Hit the power button until the machine stops.

Unplug the offending USB port. Hit the power button. 35 seconds later, lock screen.

That's it for the day. Lots of things to check: bad cable, driver software, misconfigured port. Unplugging the external drive between boots is a minor inconvenience, but I can live with it.

Family commitments today. We'll see what Sunday brings. I'm just relieved I don't have to reinstall all my application software.


Categories: Microsoft, Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Windows 10, Me 0
(permalink)

Published Friday, December 11, 2015 @ 6:28 AM EST
Dec 11 2015

It's clear to me now that the proper route from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is to buy a machine with it pre-installed, or to do a "clean" install, starting with reformatting the hard drive .

Alas, I took the route Microsoft pushes most- a reminder from the Windows Update app that W10 was merely a button-click away.

I succumbed to the temptation, since it meant I wouldn't have to reinstall all my applications and backup and restore all my data.

Thirty years of computer experience should have told me that slapping a new operating system over an old one was a disaster waiting to happen. But I figured if Microsoft was touting the Windows Update approach, it was the way to go.

Nope.

Once it's up and running, Windows 10 performs OK and has a couple new features that will boost productivity. But I still can't get the machine to shut down and reboot consistently, and the Windows error logs suggest driver and application incompatibilites are widespread and possibly contributing to my ongoing troubles.

Were it not for the fact that my profession requires me to have the latest Microsoft OS running somewhere so I can answer questions and confirm software compatibility, I would have stuck with Windows 7.

So, I have to bite the bullet, organize my files and applications so they can be quickly backed up and restored, and do a full-blown install.

The executive summary: Windows 10 appears to be stable and nowhere near as user hostile as Windows 8. But don't try to migrate to it using Windows Update. Either buy a new machine with it pre-installed, or download Microsoft's Media Creation Tool, which builds a full Windows 10 idistribution on a DVD or USB stick.

Sigh. Imagine sitting down at the keyboard and discovering all the letters had been rearranged, and you have to restore them to their proper positions before you can do anything.

It's like that.

See you tomorrow, I hope.


Categories: Microsoft, Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Onward and sideways
(permalink)

Published Wednesday, December 02, 2015 @ 8:45 PM EST
Dec 02 2015

For the third time I installed Windows 10 on my main system. This time it appears to work, or at least I haven't encountered any of the previous difficulties that required me to revert to Windows 7.

The process was not without incident. The "This is taking longer than expected... just a few more moments" message displayed not for moments, but for over an hour. Then it wouldn't shut down. Then when it rebooted, it came up to a black screen.

If you're going to do a Windows 10 upgrade, it's essential you have another machine nearby so you can search Google and YouTube for solutions to these problems. As usual, the worst place to look is on the official Windows support site.

Once you're up and running (and, it seems, running slower than Windows 7), you'll discover Microsoft is like Giant Eagle... rearranging the layout of things for no obvious reason. For example, the Backup and Restore functions on Windows 7 were located on the control panel and named "Backup and Restore." On Windows 10, those functions are located under something called "File History." Why? In my 30+ years in computing, I've never asked or been asked for a current "file history." The term has been, and will continue to be, "backup."

I'm certain more delights await, but I'm committed now, at least on this machine.

To paraphrase myself, calling Windows 10 Microsoft's most advanced operating system is like saying Moe was the smart Stooge.


Categories: Microsoft, Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


Feedburner RSS Subscribe  Home   Commentwear   E-Mail KGB


Donate via PayPal


Older entries, Archives and Categories       Top of page


Like KGB Report on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

« Wil Wheaton
Home Page
Winston Churchill »