Category: Tips and Hints


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 July 8, 2019.

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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

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.

This is a question I am asked from time to time: what can I do to save money on my cable television bill? Likely you have noticed your cable or satellite TV bill go up and up. What you may not realize is that the most of the price hikes are not because of the satellite or cable TV provider. Greedy cable TV providers, such as Disney and Viacom, charge a fee to rebroadcast their channel. Even though they keep finding ways to pack more and more commercials per hour, they still charge a fee per channel. This would not be so bad except that these same greedy pigs also require you to purchase their shows in packages. For example, you cannot just get the History channel and nothing else, you also have to get Discovery channel and TLC and so on. If that wasn’t bad enough, local stations that you can get free with an antenna also make the cable provider pay a fee to rebroadcast. And when the greedy pigs want more money, they play the victim and ask you to demand your cable provider to keep the channels even though the channels are going away only because your provider doesn’t want to pay them more money.

Still, despite the deck being stacked against you by channel creators, you can save money. But it does require a little bit of technical know-how. Some much more than others.

Before we begin, I strongly do recommend you get a good universal remote regardless, such as Logitech Harmony remotes. You can program these where you push a button that is labeled, for example, “Watch TV” and it turns everything on and does all the changes needed to your TV or stereo. However you decide, save up some money and get a good universal remote to make life easy.

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I had a customer who had trouble installing Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update (Feature Update 1709) and who had Trend Micro antivirus. For some reason, Windows said it wouldn’t install because Trend Micro 2009 was installed. Some people have noted that Windows balks about other older versions. This link was a good start. But the problem remained.

What fixed it for me was to go to the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags\UpgradeMigration, delete the file or folder listed, and then delete the registry key data. Most likely the update still won’t install normally. So I took a chance and choose the option to restart and update. That worked. So if you have an old program possibly causing issues, go to that registry key and then reboot and update instead of using the normal update way.

Here is a problem I just encountered. Windows was getting past the initial boot screen and then looked like it would let you log in. But before you could or before you could even enter a password, it immediately began to shut down. Safe mode worked just fine. The problem ultimately was a bad Intel driver. Specifically, the Intel Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework Generic driver. Once I disabled that, everything worked fine.

If your computer will not let you log in for any reason then most likely it is a driver causing the problem.

Here is what did not work. I first turned off fast boot because it causes more problems than it helps. Everyone should turn off fast boot, no exception. The user account had no password, so putting in a password in safe mode didn’t help either. It would shut down before you even log in. I couldn’t try Last Known Good Configuration because Microsoft in their idiotic selves decided to remove this most helpful feature. Seriously, the people who decided to get rid of that and F8 need to smack hard in the head every day for the rest of their life, and twice on Sunday. I am not joking. Neither did System Restore or system refresh work.

I only figured this out by doing a fresh install. When I installed the Intel drivers, immediately the system began to shut down. So in Safe Mode, I disabled all Intel drivers and then re-enabled them in a normal boot one-by-one until I found the problem driver. There may be more than one problem driver, so make sure you repeat until all possibles have been found.

REMEMBER that Stupid Windows 10, by default, updates drivers. It is my belief that drivers should not be touched except in these rare situations: something is not working well or you are a gamer. Even then, I only update my video card driver. What this means is that when Windows 10 updates your drivers — without your permission — then this problem will re-appear. Microsoft has become like the music and movie studios, that the product is theirs and you are given permission to use it. I am of the opinion that if I paid money for it, then it is mine and if I want to delay updates or not install a driver, then that is my right.

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.

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.

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These are the instructions to make a cloned drive bootable again if the original had bad sectors. These instructions are only applicable for any Windows that uses the BCD, which is Vista and beyond, and has a MBR. You will need a Windows 7 or later DVD or equivalent USB stick; a Windows Vista disc will be harder. This assumes that the OS files were cloned successfully.

  • Run chkdsk on all the partitions.
  • Identify which partition has the BCD files. If there is a recovery partition, chances are good the BCD is stored on that drive.
  • Use the following commands in the diskpart program:
    • LIST DISK (use this command to identify the cloned hard drive number)
    • SELECT DISK # (where # is the cloned hard drive number)
    • LIST PARTITION (use this command to identify the partition with the BCD files)
    • SELECT PARTITION # (where # is the partition with the BCD files)
    • ACTIVE
    • EXIT
  • Now run the following commands: (Of course, some are redundant!)
    • bootsect /nt60 sys /force
    • bootrec /fixboot
    • bootrec /fixmbr
    • bcdboot d:\windows /s c: (where d:\ is the drive letter with all your Windows files and c: is the system partition from above)
      • NOTE: Usually but not always the system partition is given the driver letter c:. If it was not given any drive letter, you will have to use the diskpart commands to assign it a drive letter. But it some cases it may not be c:, in some cases it may be on the same drive as your Windows files.
  • Reboot.
  • If problems still persist, run startup repair.

Earlier this year, I bought two identical USB drives for my repair tools. I spent a lot of time making the repair tools USB drive just the way I needed, so I rightly wanted a backup. USB drives always fail, and when you use one as much as I do, they fail quickly. This was, of course, the reason why I bought two identical USB drives. I decided to use Clonezilla to make the backup. I have had a lot of success copying drives with Clonezilla.

Today I tried to recover my backup using Clonezilla. I spent one hour trying. No matter what options I chose, what I did, it would not succeed. The error message it gave me corresponded to a disk too small, but how could an identical drive of an identical size be smaller than the original? Anyway, lesson learned. Now I will have to spend a lot of time re-creating my USB drive. This time, I am going to use a different backup program.

Many of my customers are confused about the various cable standards. This blog post will explain in just a little detail what each cable standard is and what is the purpose of it. But it will only deal with external cables, not the ones inside your computer.

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