Tag Archives: Computers

Headphones not working in Linux

I’ve tried to run Linux off and on over the years. It’s a kind of geek merit badge, you aren’t a true geek until you can do all of your work in Linux. During my most current trial, I was having trouble with the sound. It worked until I plugged in my headphones and the headphones worked when the machine booted Windows.

screenshot-volume-control-hda-intel-alsa-mixerNow, the Ubuntu forums have a Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide and this Google search shows that it’s a fairly common problem.

I tried all the solutions, including bringing up a terminal and typing all kinds of sudo vodo, but to no avail.

The solution was so simple. Double clicking on the speaker icon, the one near the clock brought up a volume control panel. There is a separate volume control for headphones. They were muted by default.


While Malware does bite, MalwareBytes ROCKS!

In my day job, I’m a one man IT shop for a 50 user company, so I’ve seen a fair number for dirty machines.  Machines with malware, viruses, trojans and root kits.  Usually, I am able to cleanup the machines and return them to service.  Until now.  Real-Av has gotten of a few of my machines and I had to resort to format/reload Windows.

Real-AV is not nice.  It renames system files and folders, prevents normal AV programs from running, locks into the WinLogon process, Windows boot process, changes the wallpaper and creates fake AV buttons.  Once the machine is infected, clicking on just about anything causes the program to run.

Real-AV is immune to Norton Antivirus, ClamwinAV, Spybot S&D, discovery with CCleaner and manually going through files and RegEdit; however, MalwareBytes is able to remove it!

Real-AV is able to prevent MalwareBytes from running, but simply renaming the mbam.exe file to something else took care of the problem.

The only weird thing I ran into wat that during the installation, MalwareBytes sat for 5 mintues at the “Finishing Installation”.   Maybe it was Real-AV, maybe not, but it did installation complete and it did a fantastic job!

Edited to Add: MalwareBytes works great to remove AntiVirus 360 (A360) Also!

Restoring the Master Boot Record on Vista after installing Linux

Ok, you installed Ubuntu, Fedora or some other Linux.  It was fun to play with, but now it’s time to get back to work.  Maybe you managed to configure GRUB to boot Windows by default and you want to keep your Linux, maybe not.

If want to remove Linux (and the GRUB boot loader), you are going to need to restore the MBR (Master Boot Record) and Windows boot record.

With Windows XP, it was easy.  Boot from the Windows CD, work through the screens until you can pick the recovery console, sign in, then use the commands FIXBOOT and FIXMBR.

I tried the same trick with Vista, but it wasn’t quite the same.  ExpertsExchange.com did have this thread, which shows that Vista can do the same thing, but with different commands.  Kind of like Microsoft Office 2007.  You can do all the same stuff, you just have to learn a new way to do it.

  • Boot from the Vista CD
  • choose repair windows, choose command prompt window, change directory to the cd/dvd drive and type:
  • bootrec /fixboot
  • bootrec /fixmbr
  • exit
  • reboot

WordPress plugins

WordPress is the software I run this, and several other websites on. One reason I like WordPress is it’s plugin structure. Plugins add features and functions to your website. Here are my favorites:

All In One SEO Pack is a complete search engine optimizer. It combines the best practices in search engine optimization, in one simple to use package, including keywords, page descriptions, title updates and many other features.

Google XML Sitemaps creates sitemaps.org compatible sitemap of your website, which makes it easier for Google, Yahoo, ASK.com and MSN to find web pages on your website.

Ultimate Google Analytics inserts Google Analytics code into your website, without having to modify your WordPress templates. Google Analytics is a website statistics package that tracks traffic sources, web hits and a wealth of information about the people are on your website. I prefer it to WordPress Stats.

FeedBurner FeedSmith redirects all RSS readers to FeedBurner.com. FeedBurner is a great way to track and manage your RSS subscribers. Since FeedBurner is serving up your RSS feeds (instead of your web host), it lightens the load on your website.

Sociable automatically adds links on your posts and pages to popular social bookmarking sites (Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Technorati and many, many others). It’s another great way for readers to find you.

WordPress Database Backup is On-demand backup of your WordPress database. You should backup your database on a regular basis and before major upgrades and this plugin makes it a snap.

There are plenty of other fine WordPress Plugins, these are the few that I almost always install

Learn to program with Scratch

There isn’t anything better to learn the concepts of programming than Scratch, a GUI based, programming kit from MIT. It’s like programming with Lego Blocks!

I started programming with BASIC, FORTRAN and COBOL in the 70s, and I have programmed in C, C+, Pascal, COBOL, FORTRAN, PERL, Assembly and all kinds of scripting languages. Noting is more frustrating than having to look up how to put something together in a language you don’t know. You spend all your time looking in reference manuals.

Forget Object Oriented programming languages for learning. Not only do you have to learn the language, you have to learn the object library.

That is not the case with Scratch. Everything you need to know is on screen. You just drag the programming elements into program execution area and click them together.

You can build multi-threaded programs in minutes! You will very quickly learn the concepts like FOR LOOPS, WHILE LOOPS and IF THEN statements, and be ready for other languages like Pascal or VisualBasic, then move on to more challenging languages like PERL, with it’s super-powerful pattern matching regular expressions and advanced Object-oriented languages like C++, Java or Delphi.

You should start out by trying to write simple games. Nothing will teach you more. You will have to let the player have a turn, computer have a turn, display information on the screen and save data.

After writing games in high-school, I got my first job programming. The tech manager wanted to teach me about finite-state machines. I realized it was the same way I had coded my games. The only thing I would have gotten from a college degree would have been the names of what I already knew.

So, get Scratch, write games, have fun. You’ll be surprised what you will learn.

Lotus Notes from a TrueCrypt volume on a USB disk

Starting with version 7.0.2, IBM developed an installation method for Lotus Notes they call NOMAD. See the IBM developerWorks document here.

I tried it and it works, even within a TrueCrypt volume on a USB disk. It’s not a PortableApps package, but it is usable.

NOMAD will take 350 to 500meg of disk space.  To install NOMAD, you will have to open a command prompt window and go into the folder where you expanded the Lotus Notes client, c1652en for version 7.0.3. Type the following command:

setup /a /v"NOMAD=1 TARGETDIR=F:\ /qb+"


  • This will overwrite the AUTORUN.INF on your USB or in your TrueCrypt volume, so make a backup copy before starting!
  • F:\ is the drive letter to install to. This will need to be consistent because NOMAD will expect to run from this drive letter every time.
  • Type the command as-is (other than changing the drive letter) and don’t forget any “.

This will create the following files and folders on your USB:

  • AUTORUN.INI (contains reference to drive letter, if you need to change it after running setup)
  • Lotus Notes 7.0.3.msi
  • program files folder
  • system32 folder

To launch Lotus Notes, double click on the AUTORUN.EXE.  AUTORUN will then perform a “mini-install” and copy the appropriate files to your hard drive, create a shortcut on your desktop then Launch the Notes client.

Exiting Notes will NOT remove the Notes Client files.  Make sure you right-click (from Explorer) on the USB drive Icon and select “Eject”.  This will perform the “mini-uninstall”, then allow you to remove the USB drive.  If you are running from a TrueCrypt volume, dismounting the TrueCrypt volume will trigger the same events.

Chris Whisonant provides some additional information, along with some tips on what to delete after running setup, to free up some disk space.

Autorun Truecrypt 5 on a USB drive using Traveler Disk Setup

Earlier, I posted a HowTo on using Autorun TrueCrypt from a USB drive. I recently upgraded to version 5.1a.  Here is how to accomplish the same thing, using the built in “Travler Disk Setup” in TrueCrypt.

I suggest you read the 7 Applications I carry on my TrueCrypt USB drive, to help you decide what goes into your encrypted volume and what stays out.

The current version of TrueCrypt is 5.1a.  There are many bug fixes!  Make sure you are using the most current code.  Get a fresh copy here.

Follow the instructions and install TrueCrypt to your system.  We are then going to create the volume and finally, use the Traveler Disk Setup to install TrueCrypt to the USB and have it create the AUTORUN.INF.

Run TrueCrypt and from the menu pick File -> Create New Volume. Select Create a file container, next, Create a Standard Volume, next and use the select file button to select your USB drive, make a folder called TrueCrypt, select it, then type in a filename of your choice (hint: TrueCrypt.tc), next, select your encryption algorithm (hint: take the defaults), next, select the size. You can use almost the entire USB drive. You will need about 1.5 meg for the TrueCrypt programs. On a 2 gig USB drive, I left 500meg for anti-virus, anti-spyware and repair programs, so I can check out a machine before I open my encrypted volume.

travelerdisk.pngWhen TrueCrypt is done creating the volume, go back and complete the Traveler Disk Setup. From the TrueCrypt menu, pick Tools -> Traveler Disk Setup. Use the first Browse button to navigate to the root directory of your USB drive. Uncheck the “Include TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard”, Click the Auto-mount TrueCrypt volume, use the lower Browse button to navigate to your file (TrueCrypt\TrueCrypt.tc). I suggest checking the “Open Explorer window for mounted volume”. Click “Create”. TrueCrypt should pop up a windows telling you that it was successful. Then click Close. You will have to eject the USB drive then reinsert to test it.

For more information on Traveler Mode, see the TrueCrypt documentation.

Microsoft Developer network (MSDN) has an article, which covers all the options in a AUTORUN.INF file and DailyCupofTech an article AUTORUN.INF Tweaking.

A number of people (including me) have had trouble with Autorun NOT working. First, make sure you have the latest patches and drivers.

Then, go into the registry with REGEDIT (Start->Run->RegEdit)

Look at this information:


If this is 0 (Zero) set it to 1 (One)

Then check (Windows 95 through XP, not Vista)


If this is 95 (0x5F hex) set it to 91 (0x5B hex)

For details on the above information, check out document, KB 330135. It details things to try when AUTORUN or AUTOPLAY do not work and document, KB 136214 which details the second registry edit.



Microsoft has more hits than I can catalog when searching for AUTOPLAY at search.msdn.microsoft.com


I did have a machine that never ran my AUTORUN file. I eventually made it into a print server…

How to add “Open with Notepad” to the Context menu

HowtoGeek.com has a handy tip for Windows users, How to add “Open with Notepad” to the Context menu for All Files. This is Great! There are times when Windows makes it difficult to open unknown file types and this tip puts the “Open with…” on the Right-Click menu for ANY file.

I am not much of a Notepad person, I prefer EditPadLite, so here is how I altered the instructions to work with EditPadLite.

I went into RegEdit.exe (WindowsKey-R, regedit, enter) and opened HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, then *. I had to add a new key “shell”. I opened “shell” and added a new key “Open with EditPadLite”, then opened “Open with EditPadLite” and added a new key “command”. I double clicked on the (Default) and entered:

"C:\Program Files\JGsoft\EditPadLite\EditPadLite.exe" %1

(click for full sized image)

Close RegEdit and test it out.

You may have to use a different path, if you installed EditPadLite into a different folder. I had to add the “” because of the space in C:\Program Files folder name.

If you prefer the functionality without the fuss, try a copy of NotePad++. The installation program can add NotePad++ to the Right-Click menu.

via LifeHacker.com

Windows Vista is Not Linux and Not XP…

While avoided Windows Vista for as long as I could, the time had finally come. The laptop I wanted to order for one of my co-workers only shipped with Vista.

Even before I booted it for the first time, I knew the added visuals of Aero were going to do nothing but slow the system down and the new User Account Control security was just going to get in the way. I couldn’t imagine the other horrors that were waiting.

Maybe I started out with the wrong attitude. My first day with Vista, I used it for about 1/2 the day and gave up. I couldn’t install the ActiveX components I needed and I couldn’t map a drive to my Novell server.

User Account Control is the right idea, it’s the implementation that Microsoft got wrong. Ubuntu Linux and Fedora Linux both have a similar security measure, which requires you to act as Administrator to change certain items or install software. If you are using a GUI program, Linux prompts for your password, then allows the changes. When you close the program, you go back to being a regular user.

With Vista, UAC doesn’t allow you to become “Administrator” to make the changes you need, then become a regular user again. While trying to configure the system, you are constantly prompted, “do you want to Allow?”.

At work we use Lotus Notes for e-mail, which according to IBM, does not work with User Account Control. You have to disable it. Once you disable UAC, Vista keeps prompting you that it is off and should be turned on. Fortunately, I read about Vista4Experts on Lifehacker.com. Vista4Experts allows you to disable the alert from Vista that UAC is disabled, along with a host of other Vista tweaks.

Vista4Experts is one of those rare treats which does NOT have an installation utility. You just unzip it and run it. I wanted to copy it to the \Program Files folder so I could add it to the Start Menu. It turns out that another security enhancement of Vista is to make that \program Files folder writeable to only, you guessed it, Administrator. There are ways to get around this, but since this is something I would do frequently, I wanted an elegant, easy to use solution. This is what I found. The website Windows Insight has this post, which essentially describes how to make an Explorer Icon that is set to “Run as Administrator”. This trick works on folders other than \Program Files and makes it almost painless to configure the system just the way I want.

We have an in-house web-based applications which uses Crystal Reports for output. To display the reports in the Internet Explorer, Crystal Reports needs to install an ActiveX component. With Windows 2000, XP and 2003, I was able to add the database server to “Trusted Sites” then run a report. The report would cause the IE to prompt me to download and install the ActiveX control, which I would do and then I would be all set. Vista wasn’t that easy. I ran the report but IE kept telling me that my “security settings didn’t allow ActiveX to be installed”.

It took me a little while to remember to “Right Click, run as Administrator”. I did this on Internet Explorer and it did the trick. While running Internet Explorer as Administrator I was able to Install the Crystal Reports ActiveX and Adobe Flash.

We have two Novell servers. Novell has always had their own software which you load on each client to access the server. There is even a version for Vista; however, I want to move away from using it. The Novell Client is a big program and gets weird when used on laptops when they are out of the office. On both of my Novell servers, I have NFAP (Native File Access Package) which lets the Novell servers act as Windows servers (CIFS). I have used NFAP successfully with Macs and Windows XP machines and expected it to work with Vista (what was I thinking). It turns out that Microsoft has made enough changes to the way Vista logs into a network, that it doesn’t connect to the Novell servers without a Registry hack. According to this article, Vista needs to be configured to use a lower version of LANMan authentication. Now I’m sure that Novell really is at fault here and should update NFAP because some versions of LANMan authentication send passwords over the wire “clear text”, but for now, it’s working.

Here is the Registry Edit:

  • Go to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE” –> “SYSTEM” –> “CurrentControlSet” –> “Control” –> “Lsa”
  • In the pane on the right change “LmCompatibiltyLevel” to “1”

So, my take on Microsoft’s new operating system? From what I read, Windows XP (with service pack 3) will be faster than Vista, on the same hardware. I had to disable many of the security features and edit the registry just to use network resources that I am already using with Windows 2000 and Windows XP. This is a step forward?

The 7 Applications I carry on my TrueCrypt USB Drive

This Christmas, I received a Target gift card, which I used to purchase a new 2gig USB drive. I don’t normally purchase new electronics for reasons outlined in this article, so I was quite excited!

1. The first thing I loaded was TrueCrypt, so I could protect all my data. I checked the TrueCrypt.org website and they are scheduling the release of TrueCrypt 5 for later this month some time in February, I can’t wait to upgrade. Version 5 should have a Linux and OSX GUI.

I used TrueCrypt to create a 1.5 Gig NTFS volume on my USB drive. I keep ALL my documents and programs in the encrypted partition. Why, you ask? If I kept my program files outside the encrypted volume and my USB drive was lost or stolen, it would be like my laptop was stolen while it was signed in. Who ever found it would have full access to every website and FTP host I use.

Running programs from encrypted volumes might seem like it would be slow, but it is not. USB drives can be formatted with FAT or FAT32, both of which are very inefficient. TrueCrypt can format the encrypted volume as NTFS, a vast improvement. I have noticed that programs actually run more smoothly from the encrypted volume, at about the same speed.

I did leave about 500meg outside the encrypted partition. I use this to store TrueCrypt and virus/spyware cleanup programs like HiJackThis and SpyBot Search & Destroy. That way, I can cleanup a machine before I open my encrypted volume.

2. The second application is PStart. PStart is a great, minimalist start menu.

I’ve looked at other program launchers including the PortableApps suite, Imation’s U3 and Lexar’s PowerToGo. None are as simple and useful as PStart. Pstart lets me add programs or folders to my start menu. It can be configured to close as soon as an application is launched, remain resident until closed, or remain open. Because of it’s size, it loads very quickly and the only thing I have to do to install it is copy PStart.exe to the root directory of my encrypted volume.

3. EverNote PE, a recent addition, is a note manager. It’s user interface reminds me of the old Apple Newton, like one continuous roll of toilet-paper. I use it as a place to store information about networks I manage, IP addresses, software license keys, notes on how I setup a particular server, technotes, quotes and various other random bits of information. You can drop in graphics or clippings from other programs like Excel, Word, Paint, etc. Data is accessed via a hierarchical tree or via a terrific search feature. It is actually fun software to use. This is the only commercial software of the bunch. Everything else is Free. I purchased the Portable Edition, especially designed for USB drives.

4. KeePass – an awesome open source password manager. I use it to track all my passwords for work, personal, online banking and e-mail. KeePass encrypts the passwords and since KeePass is already on an encrypted volume, everything is doubly protected.

5. TotalCommander is a swiss army knife style file manager. It displays two folder windows side by side and allows you to copy or move files from one to the other. You can also delete, edit and do many other things, but the two I use it most for are FTP and synchronizing files from my USB to my Hard Drive. The built in FTP client is great. Once I realized that I needed to define a transparent firewall, I found that it worked better than FileZilla. I use TotalCommander for all my FTP needs.
Not only are my files on my USB drive encrypted, but so are the ones on my hard drive. I actually have 1.5gig TrueCrypt volume on my hard drive that matches what is on my USB and I use TotalCommander to synchronize the files.
TotalCommander is not a portable application, but from the authors website, you can download a utility which will copy TotalCommander, it’s plugins and the .INI file to your USB drive. Totally cool.

6. EditPadLite – this is my choice for a multi-file, tabbed interface text editor. The keyboard shortcuts in EditPadLite make sense to me and EditPadLite can be configured to keep it’s settings in an .INI file, making it an ideal portable editor.
There are other nice editors, including a PortableApps version of NotePad++.

7. Thunderbird Portable Edition. This is a version of Thunderbird e-mail, specifically configured to run from a USB drive. It is part of the PortableApps suite. I normally use web based e-mail for my personal e-mail and Lotus Notes at work. I have Thunderbird to read all my mail boxes as IMAP using SSL, for those times I just really want a real e-mail client.

I also have a copy of Q10, which I am trying out for writing posts. It is the most minimal program I have ever tried. All that is onscreen are yellow letters on a black background. Since I can’t use it to fiddle with graphics or fonts, it helps me focus on writing. One cool thing about Q10 that I just discovered is that it reopens the last file that you worked on, even if the USB drive letter changes. Q10 worked so well for this post that I may try it out at work for memos and TPS reports.

What’s on your USB drive?