Sunday, July 5, 2015

my OS customizations


This is an on-going list of standard customizations to make my online life smoother.

Browsers (Chrome/Firefox)
  1. Generic references/settings
    1. Startup: show tabs from last use
    2. Home page:  Blank or Google
    3. Download
      1. Default download folder: Desktop
      2. Prompt for each download
  2. Plugins (and allow in incognito)
    1. Ad blocker: uBlock Origin
    2. Image Zoom: Imagus
      1. Imagus is cross browser
      2. alternatives are Thumbnail plus for Firefox or Hover Zoom Hover Zoom+ for Chrome
    3. Add to Pocket
    4. Reload Page:
      1. Chrome: Reload Monkey
      2. Firefox
    5. Honey
  3. Firefox specific settings (about:config)
    1. Disable disk caching (with sufficient RAM or running on USB/flash/SSD)
      1.  browser.cache.disk.enable;false
    2. Disable close with last tab
      1. browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab;false
    3. Enable Tracking Protection
      1. privacy.trackingprotection.enabled;true
  4. Chrome specific settings
    1. Enable Click-To-Play
      1. Settings > Advanced Settings > Privacy > Content Settings > Plug-ins > "Click to play"
    2. Chrome flags (chrome://flags/) (from Gizmodo)
      1. Enable download resumption
      2. Download status in Notification Center
  5. Linux Mint specific
    1. change search engine to Google

Windows

  1. Windows
    1. Make the keyboard easier to use: Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys
  2. Windows 10:
    1. Turn on fast startup (from lifehacker.com)
      1. Start > “Power options” > “Choose what the power buttons do” > “Change settings that are currently unavailable.” > “Shutdown settings”: “Turn on fast startup”
    2. Turn on Find My Device (from Tech Times)
      1. Start > Update and Security
      2. This option is only available from Build 1511 (Nov 2015)


Outlook 2013

  1. File > Options > Mail
    1. Replies and forwards
      1. Open replies and forwards in a new window
    2. Save messages
      1. Check: When replying to a message that is not in the Inbox, save the reply in the same folder
  2. File > Options > Advanced
    1. Start Outlook in this folder:
    2. Reading Pane: Uncheck
      1. Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane
      2. Mark item as read when selection changes
  3. File > Options > Search
    1. Include results only from: All mailbox
    2. Uncheck: Improve search speed by limiting the number of results shown

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Cyanogenmod 10.2.1 experience on Google Nexus 7 2012 (Part 1)

I try not to re-post stuff that are easily found on the web. And this may seem like a really old topic that has been covered before.

While there are multiple proclamations on the speedup after a Cyanogenmod install (or indeed after a factory reset of Lollipop), there seems to be little follow-up user experience after a few months of general use. Specifically on whether the slow-down returns after the benefits of a clean-install wears off...

This is what I intend to address in this 2-part post. Part 1 (this post) details why I installed Cyanogenmod and selected a particular version, as well as my initial impression.

Part 2 will reflect my experience after some time.

In Summary

My initial experience with Cyanogenmod 10.2.1 has been a breath of fresh air.

The Nexus 7 isn't particularly fast or snappy, and neither do I expect that of a 3-year old budget tablet. But user interactions are consistent. Gone are the unpredictable, multi-minute lags running Lollipop 5.0 and 5.1.

For now, if you're suffering from Lollipop induced Nexus 7 lag-icitis, I encourage you to take the plunge and "downgrade" to Cyanogenmod 10.2.1. It's only a downgrade in terms of Android versioning, but you'll be getting back a usable tablet.

If you're less adventurous or want more certainty, check back here in a month or two, when I intend to post Part 2 on the continued usability of Cyanogenmod 10.2.1 on the Nexus 7 2012, including whether or not the speedup is temporary.

So what's the long story?

To start off, this is written in the context of someone who has been suffering for months in the lag-inflicted hell of Lollipop 5.0 and subsequently 5.1, on the Google Nexus 7 2012 (Wifi, 16GB)...

Why now? Is this still relevant? "10.2.1 is outdated and so is the Nexus 7..."

To answer, I need to share my Nexus 7 journey.

An iPad was my primary tablet. I had an opportunity to purchase a refurbished Nexus 7 2012 (wifi, 16GB) in Oct 2014, with 90 days warranty for what I consider a steal at ~USD 65.

At that time, it came with Android 4.1. I booted it up, saw that there were updates, and immediately updated to 4.3, which I used for a month or so.

The initial experience, while nowhere near trailblazingly fast, was overall positive. Responsiveness was acceptable.

A month later, in Nov 2014, as soon as I was received the prompt that Lollipop (5.0) was available as an OTA update, I upgraded.

The fresh install performed well, for what I recall lasted a few days. Then intermittent lags and slowdowns occurred, and progressively worsened over time. By Jan, my Nexus 7 was effectively useless unless you were prepared to use it as a single-tasking secondary tablet.

Which I did between Jan and Apr. S-I-N-G-L-E. T-A-S-K'ed.

Cyanogenmod and why 10.2.1

In late Apr 2015, with my 90-day warranty over and nothing to lose, I decided I had enough and resolved to re-flash back to a lower version in order to get back a usable and useful device.

I had good prior experience with Cyanognmod on a Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Version 10.2.1 is the latest Stable release available for download (as of Apr 2015).

The instructions on Cyanogenmod wiki were neither straightforward, nor impossible to follow. They require a little improvisation, which may be a result of my downgrading from Android 5.1 (Lollipop) and resultant changes in folder structure relating to simulated SDcard storage.

Overall, an hour's research and downloading, a few reboots, and a few nervy minutes rebooting the tablet was all it took to convert my Nexus 7 to Cyanogenmod 10.2.1

So what's next then?

My experience so far is positive, and I'm currently more interested in preserving a usable tablet than chasing the latest and greatest features.

So I'm gonna hold off abit on upgrades/updates, and report back on the user experience after a few weeks or a couple of months.

However, a couple of things interest me.
  1. Cyanogenmod 11.x updates are available as an OTA update. Sooner or later, I will be tempted into tapping the proverbial "Update" button, and likely write another update.
    But not for awhile. Not until I can ascertain if 10.2.1 stays stable and responsive under sustained use for some time.
  2. Cyanogenmod Nightlies based on Lollipop are also available, and the stable "M" release is inevitable. Given my negative experience with stock Lollipop. I'll definitely monitor the XDA and Cyanogenmod forums for other user reports before taking the plunge myself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Opening Network Folders in Command Prompt from Windows Explorer


A favorite Windows shortcut of mine is to open a specific folder in a Command Prompt, by typing "cmd" in the address bar of a Windows Explorer window.

This saves a little time, and a serious number of keystrokes, compared to opening a Command Prompt, and using "cd" to navigate down to the desired folder, which may be deeply buried in the folder hierarchy and contains long foldernames that are a pain to type, even with "tab-completion".

However, by default, this shortcut does not work with UNC (Universal Naming Convention) paths. Or in plain English, you cannot jump to a "Network folder" like that, resulting in the following error.



However, this is easily fixed by modifying a registry key, as per Microsoft Knowledge Base number 156262.


  1. Open Registry Editor (Start -> Run -> regedit)
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER -> Software -> Microsoft -> Command Processor
  3. Add a new the DWORD value with the name DisableUNCCheck 
  4. Set the value to 1 (Hexadecimal)

What the article does not say are:

  • It works with Windows 7 64-bit.

    By extension, I believe it should also work in Windows Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Windows 7 32-bit.

    (Please comment if you have tested it working in those versions, or in Windows 8. Thanks!)
  • It works in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Command Processor

    I personally find it makes more sense for me to apply this setting in "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\", as I would prefer it to apply to all the accounts I use, rather than in "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\", where it will only apply to the current user.

    My use case is where I have multiple accounts on a personal Windows laptop. If this is applied to a multi-user system (eg. Windows Server), applying a per-user setting in "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\" definitely makes more sense.
  • It works (close to) immediately, without needing a reboot or re-login.

    In my case, the first time I tried using the shortcut, which as a few seconds after modifying the registry, the error message occured.

    But my subsequent attempt succeeded, so there appears to be a number of seconds before the registry change took effect. YMMV!
I am now a happy user!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

iTunes hangs at "Processing Album Artwork" *solved*

I hit a problem where iTunes hangs at "Processing Album Artwork".

While it is still possible to play music, other important functions like sync'ing your iPhone/iPad does not work.

I initially tried rebooting, then re-installing iTunes, but that didn't work.

Then I took the lazy way out, and simply Google'd. Surprising, as of Aug 2014, there were no solutions within the first two pages.

Although:

  • there was someone who claims to get a new top-of-the-line iPhone 5s free by complaining to Tim Cook. Feel free to try it!)
  • there were the usual long/complicated/convoluted steps that may appear to have helped one or two but didn't fix the problem for (most) others.


So I started my "hard-work" of finding a solution on my own. And the "hard-work" took all of 5 minutes before I lucked-out on the solution that worked for me. And it was really really simple.


  1. Close iTunes (it may hang or refuse to close, in which case you need to "End Process" using Task Manager if you're using Windows, or "Quit Process" using Activity Monitor if you're using Mac OS.)
  2. Delete your album artwork cache folder. (Or back it up by renaming the folder.)
  3. Start iTunes

That's it!

The location of your album artwork cache folder depends where your iTunes files are, which in turn depends on your Operating System. You can refer to the official knowledge base article from Apple on how to find your iTunes folder. But unless you used customized settings, it can usually be found at:

  • Mac OS X: /Users/username/Music/iTunes/Album Artwork/Cache
  • Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\Album Artwork\Cache
  • Windows Vista: C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes\Album Artwork\Cache
  • Windows 7: C:\Users\username\My Music\iTunes\Album Artwork\Cache
  • Windows 8: C:\Users\username\My Music\iTunes\Album Artwork\Cache

Remember to substitute "username" with the appropriate name you used, eg. "C:\Users\smith\My Music\iTunes\".

Hope this helps!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Windows Server 2012 R2 on VirtualBox

Just a quick note on the CMPXCHG16B VirtualBox issue.

It's supposed to be fixed, according to https://www.virtualbox.org/ticket/11899.

But as of Mar 2014, when installing Windows Server 2012 R2 guest, on VirtualBox 4.3.8, on a Windows 7 64-bit host, it still failed very early in the initial boot process with the 0x000000C4 error.

I still needed to run the following command
"C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox>VBoxManage setextradata VM_name VBoxInte
rnal/CPUM/CMPXCHG16B 1"
where "VM_name" is whatever your VM is named as.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Open links in Google Chrome Incognito mode from other programs by default


For various reasons (mainly security and cross-site-scripting), I didn't want to open links from various programs in Google Chrome, which typically has me signed in to various accounts.

Instead, I wanted unknown URLs to open in Incognito mode.

Assuming Chrome is already configured as your default browser, the following registry change will open links in Chrome's Incognito mode from other programs by default.

Run Windows Registry Editor

  1. Start -> Run (or Win-R)
  2. Type “regedit”
  3. Hit "Enter" key

Allow Registry Editor to make changes

  1. By default, Windows UAC will pop-up a precautionary dialog box "Do you will to allow the following program to make changes to this computer".
  2. Click "Yes".

Find the registry key Windows uses to start Chrome

  1. "Edit" -> "Find" or (CTRL-F).
  2. Type "HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command".
  3. Uncheck the "Values" and "Data" checkboxes.
  4. Click "Find Next".

Edit the command used to run Chrome to run Chrome in Incognito Mode by default

  1. On the right hand pane, double-click "(Default)".
  2. Add " -incognito" just after "chrome.exe"".
  3. The tail end of the string should look like "\chrome.exe" -incognito -- "%1""
  4. Click "OK".

Quit Registry Editor

  1. File -> Exit
That's it. Now any links from other programs will open URLs in Google Chrome's Incognito Mode.


If my article helped you, please leave a comment so that others know that it works.


If it didn't work or is factually inaccurate, do leave a comment as well so that I can do further research or add a caveat.


Thanks!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

how to upgrade Dexpot Portable (without rebooting)

I use the portable version of Dexpot, sync'ed across my many computers using SugarSync.

When new versions are released, I will upgrade Dexpot Portable using the following steps:

  1. Download Dexpot Portable
  2. Unzip the download file
  3. Copying the expanded contents into my Dexpot folder, overwriting existing files, EXCEPT FOR the "portable.ini" config file

However, two files often cannot be over-written. These two files are:

  • hooxpot.dll
  • hooxpot64.dll

One possible solution is simple. Restart Windows in Safe Mode and the files will now be over-writable.

However, I find that simply closing the "bigger" apps (and Dexpot of course) is sufficient. In my case, that would be Microsoft Outlook and Google Chrome.

Look out for large programs hiding in the system tray as well. iTunes is one such possibility.



If my article helped you, please leave a comment so that others know that it works.


If it didn't work or is factually inaccurate, do leave a comment as well so that I can do further research or add a caveat.


Thanks!