Category Archives: Information Technology

IT related tips tricks and posts

Microcomputing, breaking all the rules

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Posted on November 30, 2016 by

Rule #1, work on a static free environment

Rule #2, keep the cats out of your box

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Raspberry Pi Zero 1.3 for nearly Free

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Posted on November 30, 2016 by

For a brief time, MicroCenter had offered the Raspberry Pi Zero 1.3 for 99 cents. The current suggested retail price is still only $5.00 US.

raspberry-pi-zero-dollars-capture

  • 1Ghz, Single-core CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports
  • Micro USB power
  • HAT-compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset headers

 

I have a lot of fun comparing modern computing power to my first computing experience. The Radio Shack TRS-80

Catalog: 26-1001 TRS-80 Model 1
Released: August 1977
Price: US $599.95 (with monitor)
Video: 64 x 16 text
CPU: Zilog Z-80A, 1.77 MHz
RAM: 4KB, 16KB max (or 48Kb with the expansion interface)

 

Got the Raspberry Pi launched

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Posted on December 26, 2015 by

I got one of the Microsoft starter kits to get into the internet of things (IoT). it was very easy to download the latest Windows 10 and flash the SD card. The Internet of things was emphasized at the Build conference in 2015. At the Consumer Electronics show, that is going to be the rage.

Develop Windows 10 IoT

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

Converted to Windows 10 on my home PC

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Posted on August 22, 2015 by

It went without a hitch. The update program works exactly as advertised. It went as smoothly as (dare I write this?) the OSX 10.4.5 update! The program downloaded the update, then it let me decide when to kick it off. I have been making triple backups, so I was not worried about losing anything. A piece of advice, the only reason YOU should not worry about the update is if you also have a backup. I backup my files to a USB drive. I also have a WD Cloud drive to which I copy my files, and which also serves as the drive for the nightly Windows backup.

I have been a member of the Windows 10 Preview since the Microsoft Build Conference in 2015. I am not sure how revolutionary it feels. The most obvious change is the start menu.

I was at the release of Windows 8 at Build 2011, and I thought it was revolutionary. Microsoft was going for the tablet platform in a big way, and we were all given prototype Samsung tablets to develop our first touch apps. Since then, the PC producers and consumers have played a cat and mouse game to determine what the best PC platform would be, and whether the tablet is really viable as a PC platform.

There are a lot of PCs out there with touch screens, but touch screen is not terribly convenient on a PC. The iPad and Kindle users believe laptop touch screens cause a malady called “gorilla arm”, as users reach up to touch their screens.

In practice, I have owned PCs with touch screens for many years, and the only screen touching that goes on is when other people point to things on my screen.

I have heard a lot of younger IT people gripe about how Windows 8 took away the beloved Start menu that Mick Jagger sang about in 1995. Having been present at the rollout of Windows 95/98 in many companies, I can tell you it was not a straightforward adoption.  A lot of people really liked their old Windows 3 program manager groupings, and were righteously indignant about the Windows 95 treatment of them. The transition to Windows 2000 and Windows XP was not smooth either.

When Windows Vista came out with Aero, people rushed to upgrade and became dismayed because of User Account Control, and pronounced it worthless. Windows 7 was basically Vista with service packs rebranded, and now it is seen as a rousing success. In fact, it has been a hard act to follow. Windows 8 was booed off the stage. Now, as we are 4 years into Windows 8, and Windows 8.1, the PC population has become accustomed to it.

But here comes Windows 10, with a revamped start menu.Windows 10 Start Menu

I actually liked the Windows button jump to my favorites. Now I have to transition them. I have been a big user of the Quick launch / taskbar pinning on the bottom since that functionality was introduced in the Internet Explorer 4 update for Windows 95. Most of my app launches occur from there.

Many corporate IT organizations finished their Windows 7 migrations by 2010-2012. I have been on a corporate build since 2011. At my company, I have been in the Windows 8 pilot for a year and a half. I only had two specific problems, and neither of them had to do with the operating system itself, more to support for corporate apps that ran on old versions of Internet Explorer.

I would expect large corporations to develop a transition plan for company PCs to Windows 10. Most new ones would be shipped with Windows 10, but downgraded to match a company image. At some point the home user population is going to demand the update.

Spotlight Search under Mac OSX 10.10 (Yosemite)

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Posted on March 16, 2015 by

Apple has moved to go content not chrome with the release of OSX Yosemite. I find the Spotlight search to be less visible than before.

Spotlightdifference

On Yosemite, the Spotlight search box jumps into the middle of the page, with very little outlining and the light words “Spotlight Search”. On the previous versions of OSX, the Spotlight search has appeared on the top bar highlighted. I prefer the older version after nearly five months with Yosemite. I have a Mac that I maintain that still has Mavericks.

More Team Motivational posters

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Posted on October 14, 2014 by

Teamworkcaptionbuilder48599898

 

 

We all did this, it seemed ripe to parody

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Consensus

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Posted on May 30, 2014 by

We had some fun on our new project.

CONSENSUS: It’s easier to go down with the ship if everyone is on board.

Consensus Despair 12521971

Using Sublime Text as my new essential development tool

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Posted on August 16, 2013 by

I have list of PC must haves in my toolbox. A good text editor is a must. I have been using Textpad  ( http://www.textpad.com ) for a long time and really have nothing bad to say about it. It can open large files and has a decent regular expression editor. It is able to delete at column and row level.

I dabbled with Notepad+ and Notepad++ as I looked for replacements for notepad. I used Editpad for quite some time.

When I attended the BuildWindows conference this summer, I saw many of the presenters using Sublime as a text editor. It runs on both PCs with Windows and Mac. It also works on Linux. It seemed to be the consensus editor of choice. http://www.sublimetext.com/. I have enabled my Sublime plugin to prettify the XML files I work with on a regular basis. I used this tip here: http://www.bergspot.com/blog/2012/05/formatting-xml-in-sublime-text-2-xmllint/

You will need the xmllint command for your PC from Google CodePlex. https://code.google.com/p/xmllint/ Take the one that allows inline piping.

More about xmllint: http://xmlsoft.org/xmllint.html

 

The command line to fix your XML: xmllint –format –encode utf-8

MSI Building options: InstallShield LE, MakeMSI, WiX

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Posted on July 24, 2013 by

We had been packaging one of our Windows WPF clients since 2010 using InstallShield LE. It was available as a free option for Visual Studio 2010 to create an MSI.

This had been problematic since we had continuous integration with MSBuild and  CruiseControl.NET. There was not a nice way to produce that MSI as part of the integration. LE really does mean Limited Edition in this case.

In 2012 we implemented MakeMSI. The MakeMSI scripts have been used to build the MSI files on each Cruise Control build. We made a bat file that runs all the environment versions of the MSI files. The environments each have their own configuration (mm) file. The mm file includes the specific header of Mem.mmh. We customized three header files that determine the MSI properties: Mem.mmh which #include(s) Dept.mmh, which #include(s) Company.mmh. The ver files set the version.

Today I set up the same MSI builder using WiX. The Windows Installer XML (WiX, pronounced “wicks”), is a free software toolset that builds Windows Installer (MSI) packages from an XML document. It supports a command-line environment that developers may integrate into their build processes to build MSI and MSM setup packages. WiX was the first software released by Microsoft under an open-source license called Common Public License.

Evidently, since Visual Studio 2012, the traditional setup project type has been removed. WiX becomes a recommended option to create Windows Installer package.

I used dark.exe to reverse engineer my existing MSI created with MSI. With some tooling around, I created a better config file for candle.exe, the wxs file.

It took about two hours from start to finish. I found this book helpful in a couple of spots as a reference.

WiX 3.6: A Developer’s Guide to Windows Installer XML by Nick Ramirez

InsallShield LE:

http://learn.flexerasoftware.com/content/IS-EVAL-InstallShield-Limited-Edition-Visual-Studio

MakeMSI:

http://www.dennisbareis.com/makemsi.htm

WiX

http://wixtoolset.org/ WiX Project Home
http://wix.tramontana.co.hu/ WiX tutoria
http://wix.codeplex.com/ WiX CodePlex files

 

New WDC My Book Disk drive as Network Storage

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Posted on June 8, 2013 by

I was shopping at my local computer center, and thought I would pick up a 3 TB drive for father’s day. The floor salesman mentioned I could get a Network attached storage (NAS) device for only $50 more. This seemed quite the deal. I have been thinking about how to setup a small server for shared storage in the house for  many years. I had thought about Linux and Windows server as possible solutions. Cloud storage through Skydrive, Google, GoDaddy or Amazon is 10 times as much for one tenth the storage space.

It seems incredible to think that when I began my IT career in the late 1980s, that it took a learned professional to set up a system like this. The process took days. The equipment cost thousands of dollars. And in the end you got 100MB or so of LAN storage.

I picked up the Western Digital WDC My Book 3 Terabyte drive.

http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=280

Here is what I can tell you so far. It is pretty easy to get started. But you need to have the following items:

1.) A PC with Java installed for a browser

2.) A home network, connection to the outside world is optional

3.) A structure in mind for how you want to store your files

I can see that I want to set everyone in the house up with their own user space. Also, I would like to use the MyBook remotely.

In the first use, file copying is not fast. I wanted to transfer 30gb of pictures to start. That took about four hours. The MyBook is connected to the router, and my source PC is wireless. I suspect the antivirus software may be slowing the process down.

One needs to keep the following things in mind with this device

1.) It is not a backup device. Surprise! This is a device you would keep a backup of. If you have managed LAN servers in your career, you know that you need good backups of your shared files. It can be used as a backup drive and has a folder already named for Time Machine. In practice, this may not be the best use of a NAS.  The user comments in Amazon are pretty specific about how catastrophic a failure is for one of these devices. The best advice might be to keep backups of this backup.

2.) It can be opened up to the internet. It communicates with the wd2go app via https. You are going to want to manage your user IDs, passwords, and permissions accordingly. You might not have wanted to go into the sys admin business, but that is part of the deal.

3.) The download speed is only as good as your service providers upload speed. Most consumer ISPs like your RBOC or cable company throttle back upload speeds to maybe 10 percent of your download speed. Also, most are Tier II network connections. Do not expect full on cloud performance as if it were Google in Tier I.

4.) I have a basis in computing and networking going back a quarter century. The concept of a plug in file server seems fabulous to me. To a computing novice or casual user, this setup and management process may seem overwhelming.