Latest Entries »

Updated with a new patent by Google about this very subject. Updated again with a link about how much information Alexa keeps. Updated again with a link showing that Amazon pays employees to listen on Alexa recordings. Updated again with a link about Best Buy shutting down their smart home servers.

Imagine if the FBI asked you to put a device in your house that is always listening. The FBI promises us that it will only listen for certain things, such as gunshots or the voices of people on the FBI’s most wanted list. In exchange for this device that is always listening, you are getting greater safety. After all, if someone fired a handgun in your house, the FBI device can automatically dispatch the police much faster than you could dial 911. Would you volunteer for that?

Just change a few words and you have people not only volunteering but paying money to do so. Imagine if Google asked you to buy a device for your house that is always listening. Google promises us that it will only listen for certain things, such OK Google. In exchange for this device always listening, you are getting some convenience. After all, if you wanted to make coffee, OK Google can automatically start your coffee maker faster than you could.

And what convenience! I can unlock my door with my smartphone. I can turn on my lights without using my legs. I can find out about something without the hassle of typing.

Here is the bottom line: Can you really trust a for-profit business to permanently respect your privacy? (Especially one whose business it is not to respect your privacy.) Can you really trust that these devices will always be secure?

Smart homes are a dumb idea. And I can also say smart cars are a dumb idea as well. These are all solutions looking for a problem.

View full article »

This post has been updated.

A lot of people think I dislike Apple products. I once had no problem with the quality of Apple products, but that has changed. Now, because of how lousy the quality is and how horribly Apple treats the customer, I strongly recommend you avoid any and all Apple products like the plague. I am going to links to Youtube videos that show how Apple has no problem lying to you and treating you like dirt. No other company can treat people the way Apple does and stay in business. View full article »

Here is a problem that affect some Xerox printers, especially older Xerox WorkCentre printers. You update your internet settings, and suddenly scan to email does not work anymore. You’ve updated your SMTP settings and are absolutely sure it is correct. It turns out, this is a simple DNS problem. If any of your DNS servers is in the range of 0.0.0.0 to 1.1.1.1, scan to email won’t work. So if you set your router’s DNS servers to Cloudfare’s DNS server of 1.1.1.1, 1.0.0.1, it will mess up the Xerox scan to email feature. You can assign a static IP and DNS in the printer manually, or you could just use your ISP’s default DNS servers in your router.

Here is a problem that affects Microsoft Publisher 2016, 2019, and Office 365. You can open Publisher, but after you try to start a new document or open an existing one, it crashes. The problem is likely caused by a bad printer, bad settings in the registry, or both. There is also a chance it could be caused by corrupt Office files.

View full article »

There is a new type of technology out there that allows hard drive manufacturers to increase the capacity of hard drives.  It is called shingled magnetic recording.  These hard drives should be avoided at all costs, at least for several years. Before buying a hard drive, look up the model number on the manufacturer’s website. Make sure the specs do not mention shingled magnetic recording or SMR. These types of hard drives are now being found in capacities as low as 2 TB.

View full article »

This is a general overview of the different and audio video standards for computers, movies, Blu-Ray players, and so on. It will not delve into how each standard works.

The first thing you must know is that the real world is not digital, but analog. A synonym for analog is infinite and for digital is finite. What this means is that we must convert the analog real world to a format our electronics can process. This is where a codec comes into play. Codec is short for coder/decoder. A codec is an algorithm that converts the analog real world into groups of 1’s and 0’s. Newer codecs do a better job of this conversion and thus have a smaller file size or are closer to the real world equivalent.

The second thing you must know is the difference between lossless and lossy. Like the names suggest, lossless does not discard any data in the algorithm. The quality is therefore higher but the file size is higher too. Lossy algorithms discard data to achieve a smaller file size. Ideally a lossy algorithm would appear the same as a lossless one.

View full article »

The 0xc0000001 blue screen in Windows is related to the hard drive controller. If you ever get this blue screen, the first thing to check is if the drive standard was changed in the BIOS or UEFI. If it was AHCI but you changed it to ATA (or IDE), change it back and see if the blue screen goes away. This blue screen can also appear after you clone a hard drive. Some computers do not support SSD’s even if it using the SATA cable. And if you clone a hard drive to one using the M.2 interface, this problem can appear.

By the way, if you accidentally bricked your CD/DVD/Blu-Ray drive with a firmware upgrade, you will need to use ATA/IDE mode to unbrick it.

Fortunately, in Windows 10 there is an easy way to change your hard drive controller type. There isn’t much to like about Windows 10, but this is one thing it does make easier. Before you make the change in your BIOS, use the MSCONFIG program to boot into safe mode the next time. Change the setting in the BIOS, boot once in safe mode and use MSCONFIG to undo the safe mode setting, and then you should be able to boot as normal. However, if you cannot get into Windows or the BIOS, hopefully you can get into the Windows recovery environment. (I still say that the absolute dumbest thing Microsoft ever did was disable the pre-boot F8 button.) In the recovery environment, look for the startup settings in the menu options. When the computer boots, choose safe mode in the blue screen of menu options.

If 0xc0000001 persists, then you will have to try the SFC command, system restore, registry backups, and the other usual generic repairs.

Here is a problem that still affects every version of Windows 10, including the most recent March 2019 (1903) update. It only affects Windows 10 and solid state drives. And I think it only affects Intel computers, although it is not an Intel flaw. I am not convinced it is a Microsoft flaw either. Microsoft has an advisory this flaw about dated July 29, 2015. So the flaw is now over 4 years old. The flaw is in the storahci.sys file. Here is the fix.

View full article »

Recommendations

People ask me all the time what products I recommend. Here is my list of different computer and software recommendations. This list was last updated September 26, 2020.

View full article »

Here is a problem that has plagued some copies of Windows 10 after the problematic 1809 (Fall 2018) update. After every reboot, your display resets to 1024×768. This problem may affect other versions of Windows too, but this happened to multiple customers after the 1809 update. All were using Intel CPU’s and HP laptops, but it is not a HP or Intel issue. Here are steps you should take to fix it.

  1. Try the obvious first. Make sure the video card itself is not bad or someone accidentally lowered the resolution or the monitor is not bad. Increase the resolution to the maximum and reboot to test. If you have trouble with the monitor’s known resolution, try another monitor if possible.
  2. Run msconfig command. Under the Boot tab you will a section that says Boot Options. You want to make sure Base video is not checked. If it is, uncheck it. Click OK and test by rebooting.
  3. Update the video card driver. If there is no update, roll back your driver. Very very important: When you are asked for the reason you are rolling back, check the box “For another reason” and put “NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!” in the text box. I am not joking when I say this is very important. Test by rebooting.
  4. Open regedit and navigate to the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\GraphicsDrivers\Configuration. There will be several subkeys that may begin with GSM, NOEDID, or SIMULATED. These will be followed by a long hexadecimal number. Each one of these will contain one of more subkeys; always a 00 and sometimes a 01, 02, or higher. For every possible subkey, look for PrimSurfSize.cx, PrimSurfSize.cy, ActiveSize.cx, and ActiveSize.cy. All the .cx entries are for horizontal resolution and all the .cy entries are for vertical. You want to modify every single one of these to your monitor’s maximum resolution. The entries are in hexadecimal, not decimal, so you have to convert. Once you modify every one, test by rebooting. Below are common hexadecimal resolutions:
    • f00 (3840) by 870 (2160) – standard 4K HDTV
    • 780 (1920) by 438 (1080) – standard HDTV
    • 780 (1920) by 4b0 (1200) – high quality HD computer monitors
    • 556 (1366) by 300 (768) – standard laptop

Here are the symptoms: You clone a hard drive in any number of ways, but the cloned drive will not boot. This problem may manifest itself if you are cloning a larger drive to a smaller one. This, of course, requires you to shrink the partition with your files from the original boot drive. If the original boot drive is connected to the computer with a USB adapter, it will boot just fine. Otherwise you will get a blue screen with the stop error code 0xc0000225. If this is Windows 10, you will get the message “Your PC/Device needs to be repaired”.

View full article »

I had a customer whose Quickbooks 2017 would freeze in the check register. Through some elimination, I discovered that it only froze when SEND was in the check number. If you put anything else, letter or numbers, it worked fine. You put SEND in the check number to send the transaction to your bank who, in turn, use that to pay a bill corresponding to that entry.

The quick fix is to go to your chart of accounts (Lists -> chart of accounts) and de-register the appropriate account from the bank. Then you have to set up online services again to re-register the account with your bank. Do not forget to re-enable online bill pay. This will require you to edit the account under the chart of accounts section again.

What I did first, each of what did not work, was to run the Quickbooks file doctor. Then I tried the QBInstall repair tool. Then I tried creating a portable account and then import the portable account. None of that worked because the problem was the online banking information was corrupt, not the file itself.