Sunday, December 20, 2015

PrizeSelect Raffle Program - downloadable

Download: Free raffle ticket, prize drawing program with no registration or trials; a simple .exe. NewVersion 1.07, updated 2015.12.20 with user-changeable wallpaper and a variety of other options.  This replaces and dramatically improves on an earlier program written in Excel (PrizeOrama).


 
PrizeSelect is a Windows raffle program that randomly selects winners from a pool of contestants and displays the results in real-time on the screen.  Fully configurable, with graphics, wallpapers, prize-lists and numerous options.


Free to download.
No registration, no nagware, no advertisements, no installation.
Simple EXE copy for installation.

Running Prize Select, about to give away a car.  Click for larger image.


PrizeSelect understands how a raffle operates
- especially in front of a live audience


It is designed to be used in front of a live audience and can handle either raffle-tickets (numbers) or people names.  The presenter has great flexibility in changing which prizes are awarded, in what order, and you can control repeat-winners and other aspects of a raffle.  This program knows how raffles should be run.


Small Program, Many Features:
  • Free for all personal and commercial use.
    No registration or licensing. 
    No Adware
    No bull
     
  • No hassle installation:
    Download/Copy the EXE along with a couple of graphics for the wallpaper.
    Run the exe.  An ad-hoc raffle is ready to begin.
     
  • Supports instant ad-hoc (on-the-fly) raffles in either a numbered-ticket or "named" mode.  Or, with a little setup, the raffle can be configured, with all contestants and prizes pre-loaded via a simple ascii-text configuration file.  

    Multiple configuration files can be used, each with separate prize-lists and other criteria.
    Once the raffle starts, contestants can be added on-the-fly
  • Winners can optionally be restricted to one (1) win per contest. 
    Changeable on a prize-by-prize basis or at the whim of the Prize Master.

    For example, when giving away minor prizes, only allow one win per person, but for the Grand Prize, let all contestants be eligible. One mouse-click changes this mode.
     
  • As names/tickets are drawn, you choose whether to "accept" them as a winner (for a 'Must be present to win' raffle) or if the winner declines the prize, simply draw a new name. Declined names are eligible to win the next prize.

  • Contestants can be unobtrusively removed during an in-progress raffle.
     
  • Jazz-up the program with user-defined wallpapers.  In addition to the default blue wallpaper, illustrated above, you can make your own, company-branded wallpapers.  Several are illustrated in this article. 
     
  • Fully documented with a 50-page PDF   


Ticket Sale Features:
  • Contestants can be entered into the raffle either by selling "raffle-tickets," typically from a roll of numbered tickets, or more commonly by "Name," as in "John Smith."

  • Numbered Raffle tickets can be entered en-mass, as one transaction, moments before the raffle starts. For example, you could enter tickets "1000-1546" and the raffle would choose between these numbers.

    Tickets can be entered from multiple, non-intersecting dis-contiguous rolls. Additional tickets can be added after the raffle begins.
  • Of particular interest, numbered tickets can (and should be) sold by "Name."  (using the "Names" method).  For example, John Smith may have purchased 15 numbered tickets. When entering his purchase, you could type "John Smith x15" -- giving Mr. Smith 15 chances (15 copies of his name in the contestant list).  Or, if multiple John Smiths, "John Smith of Accounting"

    Use this method even if you are using numbered tickets.  With this, there is no need to track the ticket numbers. This is a popular way to use the program with medium to small groups.
  • If Mr. Smith later returns to buy 5 more tickets, enter the second transaction ("John Smith x5").  No need to look up the previous purchase. Mr. Smith would now have 20 chances to win.

  • Contestants can also be entered via a previously built configuration file.

    For example, for a company party, you could import all employee names and the prizes before the gathering.  Then, after the party starts, other names can be added ad-hoc during the raffle. The program automatically warns if duplicate names are found.

    All contestants (or tickets) can be edited and viewed from within the raffle program.

  • As names are drawn, the chosen name rolls like a slot machine.  The actual effect looks neat.  Here is a GIF animation that lamely tries to simulate the event (the GIF is too slow and does not progress the way the real effect does.... )


  • A winning numbered and name-draw looks like this:

Prize-List Features:
  • Optional Prize lists can be built ahead of time with pictures acting as advertisements, independently of the contestant lists.  Here is a different wallpaper, along with a Playstation prize:

    Different Wallpaper, drawing for a Game Console.  Winner not yet awarded.

  • Prizes without illustrations are displayed as text in the center of the screen.
     
  • Prizes can be awarded in a preset order or prizes can be selected at-will from a list.
     
  • Unannounced, unplanned, ad-hoc prizes can be awarded via an "unspecified prize." The Prize-master can switch between the original prize-list and ad-hoc prizes with a mouse-click.

  • Prizes can optionally and automatically move to the next "available prize" as winners are chosen -- or the next prize can remain hidden until the Prize-master chooses to expose it.

  • Awarded prizes are automatically removed from the Prize List so there is no risk of accidentally awarding twice.

  • Accepted winners are recorded to an external transaction file for later reporting. In the event of a power failure, results are safely recorded. The original and modified contestant list is backed up with each new ticket transaction and can be recovered up to the point of failure within moments.

  • If a predetermined prize-list is not available, or if all "known" prizes are exhausted, the program switches to an "unspecified prize mode" without interruption. This allows the Prize Master to give away ad-hoc prizes, as Prize-masters and MC's often like to do.

Downloading:


Download PrizeSelect.exe from Keyliner's Public GDrive link for free.
No registration required.

Link: Download PrizeSelect

This link opens a directory, which includes the executable, wallpapers and instruction guide.  Each can be downloaded separately or download the all-inclusive .zip file.  To download, other-mouse click the file's name.

              Note:  prizeselect.exe MD5 check:
                         1f-81-f1-ac-a0-f4-3c-c8-b8-3f-e0-cd-e6-cd-8d-bd

I recommend downloading the Installation/User-guide (PDF) and wallpaper files -- especially the default wallpaper.  The All-in-one zip file contains the executable, several wallpapers and complete documentation and sample files.  Even at that, it is still a small download. 

Most of the features in this program are somewhat hidden
 in order to give the program good "curb-appeal"
The PDF demonstrates various scenarios on how to best use the program,
along with a list of helpful tips and tricks

You can literally download the EXE; double-click it and start using it now, for a quick test.


Because it is being downloaded from the web, Windows will report the program comes from an untrusted source (e.g. 'The mark of the web').  If you trust my program, let the program run.  I have considered purchasing a Digisign certificate, but the cost cannot be justified at $400 per year. 

The remainder of this post highlights some of the most commonly-used features.  The installation PDF has full details, including great examples and best practices. 


More on the Features:

Contestant names can be copied and pasted into configuration files, typically from Excel. Names can also be imported from one or more external ASCII files, allowing automated population. Typically, links are made to external lists, such as club-memberships, school rosters, etc.

Individual names can also be added on-the-fly, as in this screen shot (note the holiday themed wallpaper):

Click image for larger view, "Back" to return

Once names / raffle-numbers are added, the contestant list can be modified with rename, delete and find-duplicates. This is a screen shot showing a contestant list:



Standard Raffle Ticket Drawings:

PrizeSelections can be started in an ad-hoc mode (on the fly, without pre-configuration). This is particularly useful for traditional raffle-ticket drawings where you are using rolled-tickets. Data-entry for the tickets is easy, where you enter all the tickets in one transaction.

Illustrated, tickets #13456 through 13521 are being added in one step:

Multiple ticket ranges are supported, as are multiple rolls and dis-contiguous numbers. Sold tickets can be managed from this inventory screen, in this case, showing numbered tickets instead of names:







Version History:
Full details in the Installation PDF guide.
Program written by Traywolf @ Keyliner.




1.02 Initial Release

1.03 Added support for "Discard All". Added support for non-ranged, single-raffle-ticket data entry. Fixed bug when loading backup.ini files which contained non-ranged numbers.

1.04 Added support for copying Winner list to clipboard. Modified "Autoadvance to next Prize" to behave more smoothly when on an "unspecified prize"; it automatically advances to a new Unspecified prize even if auto-advance is disabled. In practice, this feels more natural during an impromptu prize-give-away.

1.05 Added Slot-machine effect while names are being drawn. Changed the "List All" page, adding more options. Improvements in documentation.

2015.12.20 ---

1.07 Recompiled with Visual Studio 2015.  Added a self-signed certificate, but it will still show as an unknown author.   Everyone clamored for user-defined wallpaper, which was finally added.  Added cool support for changing "One win per contestant" switch, on the fly, controlled by inventory -- this means no more screw-ups by your Prize Master/Master of Ceremonies.  Fixed bug by adding "x5" support in both INI files and in Files=import.text.  Improved font sizes in several areas.  Expanded and enhanced documentation; included new screenshot illustrations.   


If this program has helped you, toss in a buck or two using Paypal.  You do not need a paypal account to do this. 



I have had fun writing this program.  
If you use it, drop me a note and tell me how it went.  
Happy to hear from you whether you donated or not.


Related articles and links:
keyliner PrizeSelect - Download 
PrizeOrama - Raffle-ticket selection in Excel

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Code Formatter for HTML pages

Use this screen to generate html-compatible code-blocks. Paste results as html code into your page. This program was originally from codeformatter.blogspot.com and has been modified with additional features and bug fixes.

Formatting Options
Convert Tabs to Spaces :
Box Fill Color :
Box Line Style :
Box Line Thickness :
Line Height :
Line Code Numbering :
Code Block Width :
Code Block Height :
Embed Styles :
Alternating Line Shading :
Remove blank lines :
Optional Top Caption :
Paste Source Source Code Here
Result Code (copy this)
Draft Preview (not accurate on this page but looks great on yours)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Windows 10 - Booting into Safe Mode

Booting into Safe Mode, Windows 10

Booting into Safe Mode is easier and harder in the newer versions of Windows.  In the past, you had to power on the PC and repeatedly press the F8 key right after the BIOS splash -- and hope you pressed the key at the magic time. 

Now, choose one of these two methods:

Method 1:

1. Cold-boot the PC.

2.  Immediately after the BIOS splash screen (if displayed), but before the Windows splash, press and hold the F8 key. 

Method 2:

1.  From a booted PC, press and hold the Shift key.

2.  Click "Start, Power, Restart"

3.  Once in the Recovery Environment, select "Troubleshoot", then "Advanced Options".
     From the Startup Settings, select Restart

Upon restarting, you will see a list of options.  Choose F5 (option 5) for Safe Mode.

Windows 10 Activation

Quick Notes on Windows 10 Activation



Check the Status of your Activation:

From File Explorer, other-mouse-click "This PC" (formerly My Computer), select "Properties".  Note the Windows Activation status near the bottom of the panel.  Look for "Windows is Activated".

If Windows is not activated, and assuming you installed the correct upgrade version, Home vs Professional, 64-bit vs 32-bit (gosh no!), wait a few days.  By most reports, the machine will re-activate itself.  Agreed there is not much solace in having to wait before you install all of your apps and data.

If prompted for a Product Activation Key (Product Key) during the install, always click Skip/do later.  Neither a Windows 7, 8 or 10 product key will work in this installation box.

Doing a Clean Install

Unless you have purchased a copy of Windows 10, and you have a Windows 10 Product Key, you cannot wipe the disk and do a fresh/clean install without first running an in-place upgrade.  In other words, to get the free upgrade, you first must allow Windows 10 to upgrade from your Windows 7 or 8 machine to 10.  After that, you can download the Windows 10 Media Creation tool and do a fresh install, wiping the disk and starting over.  Just be sure the in place upgrade fully activates before doing the second install.  In all cases, skip any Product License key screens.

Still have Activation Problems?

Engage the licensing utility with Start, Run "slui.exe 4"  (no quotes) and follow the prompts.

Want to talk to a human for Activation Problems?  Search Microsoft.com for "Microsoft Volume Licensing Activation Centers Worldwide telephone numbers".  You will need your Windows 7/8 Product Key.

http://microsoft.com/en-us/licensing/existing-customer/activation-centers.aspx

Saturday, September 19, 2015

How to install a Windows driver INF file

How to install a Windows driver INF file

Some Windows drivers are downloaded with SETUP.exe's, but others are simpler, and arrive in a ZIP file, with manually-installable INF files. The contents of the ZIP will usually show several files, including some SYS files, and an INF file.  It is the INF that needs to be installed, but it cannot be installed while still housed within the ZIP. 

Double-clicking the ZIP file gives the illusion it has been opened, but File Explorer shows the contents, even allowing you to tunnel, but it has not yet been de-compressed.  Follow these steps to expand the files within the ZIP.

1.  Set Windows Explorer to show file extensions, this way you can easily identify the INF file.

From File Explorer, [View] ribbon, select "File Name Extensions"


2.  Highlight the downloaded ZIP file.  In the Ribbon-bar (Windows 8), note the top-tab [Compressed Folder Tools], click button "Extract All".  Using the default-prompt, it will create a new folder, next to the ZIP, of the same name.  Allow it to extract.

Older versions of Windows, or as an alternative in Windows 8, 10:  Double-click the ZIP to view the contents.  Click the first file or folder in the list.  Press Ctrl-A to highlight all contents.  Other-mouse-click, choose COPY.  Paste into a different folder, or a new folder, at least one layer higher up in the tree-diagram.  This will be the expanded files.

3.  Open the newly-created folder (not the ZIP file).  Locate the INF.  "Other-mouse-click" the INF, choose "Install" from the Context menu.

Some ZIP files may contain multiple folders, for multiple drivers and they may contain separate INF files.  Although not difficult, it is a nuisance to figure this stuff out.  Ideally,, the vendor would provide a SETUP.exe to automate these processes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Yahoo is a swindler

Yahoo Search is dishonest and has sold you out. 
Or, "How to tell if your downloaded software is legitimate or not."
Here is your chance to learn from my mistakes.


I needed to install the Foxit PDF Reader.  One would think it would be easy to find the download, but Yahoo went out of its way to make this unsavory.  Without scruples, they guided me to the third-most dishonest site on the web (I am sure there are worse places).  Let me explain.


Searching for "Foxit Reader" brought this result:


This is an ad, which at first I did not notice.

More importantly, notice the site:  DownloadDF.com, which opens to this legitimate-looking page. On the surface, I thought this was Foxit.  They must be using a third party to host their downloads (www.downloaddf.com/foxitreader).  In retrospect, this is an odd thought; Foxit is big enough to have their own site.... 



I clicked download....




The .exe name seems legitimate, "Foxit Reader Setup.exe".  Notice the publisher -- "darwendlmtowerworld.com" -- not "Foxit."  Like most people, I clicked "Save File" and continued on my way.


The Last Defense:

Running the executable produces this message in Windows 10 (another good reason to upgrade from Windows 7).  The App is "Foxit Reader Setup.exe" by "Funnel Superb (Fried Cookie Ltd.)"  Fried Cookie Limited?  Are you kidding?



I won't bore you with the actual install.

It installs five other toolbars, spyware programs and "sharing" programs. By the time you are done, your machine will be so infested with crap,you will be lucky if the machine runs.

Technically, the install might be legal, but it is certainly immoral.  For each of the 5 spyware programs being installed, you are being prompted to accept or decline -- that makes it legal.  But each program used a different method to opt-out.  Some used a radio-button with a popup-checkbox to un-click, others used a backwards-worded "do you want to decline this install", etc.  It was confusing, and difficult.  This does not pass the "Mom test".

Everything about this install was flaky.  I bailed before the final "Ok" and I still feel dirty.  I am now scanning for viruses.


Yahoo?  Why???

Yahoo accepted money to make this the top result.
The next five results are similar.  None of the top five results are legitimate. 

Contrast this with Google's top 3 results, where the legitimate site was returned.  Bing behaved similarly: 




Yahoo is dishonest and disingenuous.  This is disgraceful.

My internal alarm bells started ringing after the second or third hint, but I was well into the process before I understood what was happening.  I did not realize my mistake until the final Windows 10 prompt.  Most people would blow past these messages and it would be hell.  You cannot trust people.


You wonder why Windows machines get a bad rap for getting viruses.... When you click "Yes," it is often self-inflicted.


What Should You Do?

Always download programs directly from the publisher's site,
Never from a third-party site, such as SourceForge or DownloadDF.

For example, Foxit Reader can be found at
https://www.foxitsoftware.com/products/pdf-reader/

Use Search to find the site, but once there, do a little poking around to see if the site you arrived at is actually the publisher's site.  Watch the URL's.  This can be tricky.  Finding these sites can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you are using Yahoo.

Pay attention to the publisher's name.
When running the exe, look at the publisher's name.  Be suspicious if different.  In this example, the publisher was "darwendlmtowerworld.com" -- they are not your most honest citizen.



Hesitate when Windows displays the UAC nag
-- especially if it is Windows SmartScreen.  Granted, Microsoft will almost always display this prompt when ever you run an executable.  Stop and study the message.  If it seems fishy, it is.



Pay attention to the options.  Always choose the Advanced Install.

Options often include "optional" or "recommended" software, such as Search Toolbars (such as Ask.com), or virus scanning software, such as the evil Mcafee Security Scan Plus.  Do not install the options.  Ever.


Most importantly: Change your browser's default Search Provider.
I am biased.  Make Google the default, or perhaps Bing.  Remove Yahoo, Amazon, and all others.  How to do this depends on your browser.
 
It is too bad Mozilla decided to use Yahoo; I guess they needed the money...  You will have to go out-of-your-way to make this change.  It is worth it.



Related Articles and Links

Foxit Reader can be found at
https://www.foxitsoftware.com/products/pdf-reader/

How to install Foxit Reader
http://keyliner.blogspot.com/2015/07/time-to-uninstall-acrobat-reader-and.html

Scanning for Viruses - Keyliner Recommended Steps:
http://keyliner.blogspot.com/2015/07/virus-cleanup-steps.html

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Office 2013 Custom Install - Administrative install - Install Options

How to install Office 2013 HUP with selected options
How to install Office 2013 using advanced install or /Admin options
How to install Office 2013 using advanced options instead of the Click-to-Run options
How to install Office 2013 to the D: drive, to a different drive, to an SSD drive
How to uninstall selected options or programs in Office 2013

Issue:
Office 2013 (Home, non-corporate editions, "HUP") editions do not have any options when installing.  You cannot chose which drive to install to; you cannot chose which options to install. You are forced to install all of the office suite, including Powerpoint, Lync, Outlook, Clipart, additional fonts. Using Add-Remove Programs, Change, only allows a repair.  You cannot install or change selected options.

Unclear why Microsoft decided on this installation method. In any case, here is the somewhat painful and stupid solution.


Solution:

1.  Uninstall previous Office 2013

2.  Download Office 2013 Free Trial from Microsoft.com

Download the trial version that matches your disk.  For example, my disk came from an employee office purchase (commonly called "HUP") and was for Office 2013 Home-Professional Edition. As of 2015.08: 
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/evaluate-office-professional-plus-2013?i=1

or search Microsoft.com for Technet Evaluation Center or search "trial downloads".

Download either the 32-bit or 64-bit version.
I recommend the 32-bit version, even if 64-bit Windows.

Login using your Microsoft.com account.  Likely, you already have the account and this would be the same account you use to login to your Windows 8 or Windows 10 desktop  (the original account, not the Windows 10 PIN).

Before starting the download, you will have to take a short registration survey.  This is minor.  Follow the on-screen prompts.



3.  Burn the downloaded .IMG file to a DVD

a.  Locate the downloaded .img file.  As of 2015.08 "OfficeProfessionalPlus_x86_en-us.img"

b.  With File Explorer, "other-mouse-click" the .img, chose "burn to disk"


4.  From the new DVD, run Setup.exe.  Chose your installation options


5.  For the Registration Code, use the same Microsoft number used with your original Office installation disk.


Other solutions suggested on the Web will not work:

Especially if you are using a HUP install (from your office), these often suggested ideas will not work....
*  From Add-Remove Programs, choose "Change"  (only offers to Repair)
*  setup.exe /admin   (cannot be used with a non-enterprise disks)
*  Office Customization Tool (OCT) (cannot be used with non-enterprise disks)
*  Editing the Config .xml file  (not available with the Home or HUB install)
*  Copying the CD to a local drive, then running Setup /admin  (fails for reasons above)

Every time Microsoft dumbs-down an install, it is frustrating.  I spent about 4 hours reading and trying options before this one was found.

Your comments welcome.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Windows 10 problem - Partitions are not in the recommended order

Windows 10 installation problem: 
"The partitions on the disk selected for installation are not in the recommended order.  For additional information about installing to GPT disks...."


Symptoms:
You are doing a fresh install, from a Windows 10 ISO image, or are installing Windows to an existing hard disk that had a previously-installed operating system.

You have selected the (largest) available partition to install, likely the same partition Windows 7 or 8 was installed.  Other partitions, such as an ESP partition, are ordered earlier in the list. 






Solution 1
(not recommended, but easy)


A.  During the installation, select the previous Windows 7/8 partition and ignore the error.  Windows will install properly, even with the error.  However, this is not recommended, leaving old partitions and wasting disk space.


Solution 2 (recommended)

Older versions of Windows included a basic partition utility, exposed during the installation steps.  With this utility you could delete partitions and consolidate the disk, as well as other functions.  But with Windows 10, Microsoft chose to hide the utility - right at the time you needed it most.

Fortunately, there is an easy, albeit geeky solution.  A hidden DOS utility can delete the disk's partitions during Windows 10 Setup. 

Obvious caution:  This will erase all partitions, destroying all data, files and partitions.


1. Start the Windows 10 install ("Install Now").

Typically choose "I do not have a product key" (which is the normal choice for all Windows 10 non-Enterprise upgrades/installs).

After accepting the license agreement, choose "Advanced Installation".

2.  At the Windows 10 "Setup Partition Screen" (where it shows the C: drive),

Press Shift-F10
This opens a DOS prompt

3.  Type this command:  "diskpart"  (no quotes)

4.  Type "List Disk".

Note which disk is your largest.  This is likely the one where your existing operating system is installed.  For most, DISK 0 is the disk you care about.  


If you have SD card slots, they will also show in the list; ignore them.
Your CD drive may appear as "no media"; also ignore.

5.  Type "Select Disk=0"  to activate your disk.

6.  Type "List Partition"  (singular, not "partitions")

-- You could confirm this matches what the Windows Setup screen showed.  My disk looks like this illustration.  In this case, some of the partitions were from Windows 8. When Windows 10 upgraded, it adds its own new partitions rather than risk damaging the older ones.  The space occupied by these is negligible but would be wasted:



7.  Type "Clean"

One command does it all.  There is no warning. It will run for just a few seconds.  
Results: "DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk."

8.  Type "List Partition"  (singular)

- expected results: "There are no partitions on this disk to show"

9.  Type "exit", closing DiskPart
10. Type "exit", closing the command window


Return to the already-in-progress Windows 10 setup, where the old partitions still show. 
Continue with these steps:

11.  Click "Refresh"  

-Note:  Drive 0 shows all as "un-allocated space" - all on one partition.

12.  Click "*new",  then "Apply," accepting the recommended disk size. 

(Special note: If you are installing a new SSD drive *and* are cloning an existing Windows disk, look at this article, which recommends holding back 10% of the disk partition for an Over Provision partition.  See this keyliner article:  Crucial 500GB MX300 Enable Over Provision Partition.  If you are re-installing Windows from scratch, continue with this article.)

13.  At the prompt, "To ensure Windows features work correctly, Windows might create additional partitions."  Click OK

Continue with your Windows install


Benefits of the recommended solution

By cleaning the drive, all partitions, including vendor recovery files, prior versions of Windows utility partitions, which are now obsolete, are erased.  You gain back the disk space and will have a simpler partition table to manage.  As the Windows install continues, it will build its own partitions, and these will be in the recommended order for all eternity.

Drawback to the recommended solution

Most vendor PC's come with a hidden partition which contains an emergency disk recovery image.  With this, you can restore the PC to a factory image - which is often Windows 7 or 8.  The steps above destroy that partition.  My experience is these recovery partitions seldom work or you need to spin them to a DVD before using.  Few of us ever bothered.  The vendor sells a recovery DVD for a nominal cost, usually for $20 or so.

With this said, in Windows 10, I no longer bother with the vendor's recovery disks.  Instead, download the Windows 10 installation ISO (The Windows 10 "Media Creation Tool" - you are probably running that install disk right now).  The rebuild will work because your PC has already registered with Microsoft and you can recover at any time with this method, including re-installing to a new hard disk.  Once rebuilt, download all drivers from your original OEM vendor.  In other words, You no longer need the vendor's recovery disk.

-end

Related Articles:
keyliner:   Crucial 500GB MX300 Enable Over Provision Partition
keyliner: Erasing all partitions after a Clone and Formatting
keyliner: Best Virus scanner

keyliner: Western Digital Cloud-Drive Review
   and Happy backups on Western Digital Drives

Related links:
Microsoft.com Windows 10 Media Creation Tool
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10/



Windows 10: Unsupported video configuration detected

Windows 10 error - Unsupported video configuration detected.  Action is required.  This computer has an add-in graphics card, but the monitor cable is plugged into the integrated video connector...

Issue:
You connected the monitor to the onboard video port, bypassing a third-party video card (e.g. NVidia, etc.), and began the Windows 10 install.  You did this in order to see the BIOS setup screens to change the boot order.  See Keyliner article:  Black or Hung BIOS Setup Screen XPS 8700

Solution:
1.  Power off the computer, as instructed on the error

2.  Chose one of these options or the other:

a.  Physically remove the third-party video card and keep the Display Port or Onboard Video
b.  Or disconnect the onboard video cable and only use the third-party video card

Middle of a Windows 10 Install?

If you were in the middle of a Windows 10 installation, boot the computer.  At the "Press any key to boot from CD" -- do nothing... wait.  Allow the computer to boot from the hard drive and the Windows install will continue from before the error.

If you allow Windows 10 to finish the install using the onboard video, wait for a finished desktop to appear.  Then, power-down the computer and re-install the third-party video.  Detatch the onboard video cable.  Reboot.  Then install the (NVidia or third-party video drivers).  If found this to be difficult and frustrating process.  Unfortunately, I did not record the exact steps.


Black or hung BIOS Setup Menu on Dell XPS 8700

How To article: Entering BIOS Setup on a Dell XPS 8700, and other Dell models.
Screen black when booting, cannot find the BIOS setup menu
F2 / F12 BIOS setup menu not visible when booting
PC Hangs if F2 pressed

You are likely trying to change the BIOS boot order, moving the CD/DVD (ODD) or USB to the first boot position.

Symptoms:
Pressing F2 to enter BIOS setup does not appear to work
Pressing F12 to enter the Boot Order menu does not appear to work
Computer seems to hang after F2 is pressed; no screen activity
You have a DVI-attatched monitor, connected to a third-party video card (NVidia, and possibly other brands)

Issue:
I believe the monitor enters into a power-save mode and does not display video signals, or the monitor does not respond to the hardware / bios splash screens.  This appears to be a bug in the hardware and is because of a third-party video card (NVidia?).

Solution:
I could not find a good solution for this problem, but did find a workaround.
Physically remove the third party video card.  Use the motherboard's onboard Video instead.  With the XPS 8700, this means using the Display Port video port. Hopefully, you have a Display Port-capable monitor...

If you have a DVI port built into the system, continue with that setup, just be sure you are using the on-board port.

Steps:

1.  Open the PC and remove the external third-party video card.   (Don't forget the video card has a plastic catch at the end of the card slot, which must be released to remove the card.)

2.  Plug a Display Port cable (looks similar to an HDMI cable, but different) into the computer and monitor.  Or, if you have DVI/VGA, plug the monitor into the system's built-in port.

3.  Cold-boot the computer, pressing F2 at the hardware banner screen.  This will get you into the BIOS setup screens.


After making your BIOS changes, return the video card to the system, and disconnect the Display Port cable.  If you continue installing or booting into Windows 10, you will get this message if both the Onboard and third-party video ports are active at the same time:

Windows 10 error - Unsupported video configuration detected.  Action is required.  This computer has an add-in graphics card, but the monitor cable is plugged into the integrated video connector...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Time to remove Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash has lead a moderately good life, but with security flaws, and because Adobe keeps tries to install malware with each Flash update (see Keyliner article: Adobe installs Aggressive McAffee Security Scan Plus), it is time to disable then un-install this product.

Will you miss Flash?  Probably not.  Most of the sites still using Flash are using it for advertising. Some web-games may use flash, often driving in-app purchases.  Finally, I have seen news video clips that still use flash.  Better sites have changed to HTML5, mostly to accommodate Apple. 

Important Update:  As of 2016.11, removing or disabling Flash will cause problems with airline ticketing sites, with some banking sites, and I noticed problems using Pandora.   This was enough of a nuisance, that I had to undo these changes on my computers.



Follow these steps to disable Flash, then once satisfied, uninstall the program.  While disabled, if you find it is needed, it is only a click away to re-enable.  These steps were written for Microsoft Windows.

Disable Flash in Internet Explorer

Do this step, even if IE is not your default browser.


1.  Launch IE.  Open the top-line menu (File, Edit, View...) by pressing ALT, or by other-mouse-clicking just below the URL line and selecting "[x] Menu Bar"

2.  Select Top-menu "Tools", "Manage Add-ons"

3.  In Tools and Extensions, other-mouse-click "Shockwave Flash Object", choose "Disable"

4.  Click bottom "Close"

If you do not see Shockwave flash, you may be running IE11 and the Flash Player may not be installed.  Microsoft is calling this product "Shockwave Flash" -- this is the Flash Player, even though Adobe has another product called Shockwave.


Disable Flash in Mozilla Firefox

1.  Open the top-line menu (File, Edit, View..) by pressing ALT, or by other-mouse clicking a grey area next to the URL tabs and selecting [x] Menu Bar

2.  Select top-menu "Tools", "Add-ons"

3.  In the left-nav, select "Plugins"

4.  Locate the Shockwave Flash plugin.  Click the far-right button, changing from Always Ask (or Ask) to "Never Ask".

5.  Close the add-on manager tab to save the changes


Disable Flash in Google Chrome

1.  Launch Google Chrome.  In the URL, type chrome://plugins/  and press Enter.

2.  Locate Adobe Flash Player

3.  Click Disable

4.  Close the Tab


Testing
Open this site:
http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about

If the top-section shows an animation, flash is still active.  If the area is blank, it has been disabled.  Ideally, test in each of your browsers.

If Flash is set to auto-update, it may re-enable the features.  I have not tested this thought.


Permanently Uninstalling Adobe Flash

For Windows 10:
Flash cannot be uninstalled (at least not through the control panel's Add-Remove).  Do the following to cripple it:
A.  In Control Panel, Flash, see the first [Storage] tab.
B.  Select "Block all sites from storing information on this computer
C.  click button "Delete All"

If you are more adventurous, continue with these steps.  However, be aware this leaves flash in a zombie state and future Windows updates Flash updates will have problems -- but it still helps cripple the product.

D.  On the Windows Start Menu, Search for COMMAND (a DOS Prompt).  Other-mouse-click and choose "Run as Administrator"

E.  Type this command:  CD \Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash

F.  Type this command:  Regsvr32 /u Flash.ocx

G.  Ideally, you would also unregister "FlashUtil_ActiveX.dll" and you would rename "FlashUtil_ActiveX.exe" to some other name, but you will find you do not have rights and no amount of 'rights-granting' will give you enough power to completely kill this program.


For Windows 8 and older:
once your testing is complete, remove Adobe Flash Player with these steps:

A.  Download the Uninstaller from Adobe.com

http://download.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/current/support/uninstall_flash_player.exe

Save to a known location, such as your desktop.

Note, it is not recommended using the Control Panel 'Programs and Features'.

B.  Close all Browsers (IE, Firefox, chrome, etc.). 
C.  Close other programs, such as Yahoo Instant Messenger and any games that might use Flash.

D.  Using Windows File Explorer, locate the downloaded un-installer.  Launch the program and follow the prompts.

Next, follow these optional steps:

E.  Using Windows File Explorer, tunnel to these locations and delete all files and folders at these locations:

C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash
C:\Windows\SysWow64\Macromed\Flash

F:  Using Windows File Explorer, type this address in the URL\file-line at the top of the screen:

%appdata%\Adobe\Flash Player  (note percents)
%appdata%\Macromedia\Flash Player  (note percents)

Delete all files and folders within these locations.

Source for this information was Adobe.com
https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/uninstall-flash-player-windows.html

G.  Reboot


Recommended Next Steps

Consider removing Acrobat Reader / Acrobat Reader DC.  Acrobat Reader has become a pig.  It is big, complex and cumbersome and it too has had more than its share of security problems.  With all of its features, most of which you never use, it also loads slowly.

Adding further insult, Adobe Reader keeps trying to install McAfee's advertising program "McAfee Security Scan plus", which I consider to be malware (see Keyliner article: http://keyliner.blogspot.com/2012/06/aggressive-mcafee-security-scan-plus.html).  Because of this, I never allowed the program to auto-update.

A simpler program, "Foxit Reader" is a free PDF reader and it perfectly replaces Adobe's Reader. 

1.  Using the Control Panel's "Programs and Features", uninstall Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.

optionally, use this recommended de-installer from Adobe.com.  Be sure to pick the correct version.  As of 2015.07, you probably want version "10.x and later"

http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/acrobatcleaner.html


2.  Download and install the Foxit Reader:

https://www.foxitsoftware.com/products/pdf-reader


As an aside, Adobe released the PDF format to the public domain and there are many other players in the PDF market.  I have been very comfortable with this change.  It displays all of my PDF's without issue.

It may seem I am on an anti-Adobe crusade with this article.  I am not.  It is just that Flash has become dangerous and Acrobat Reader has become unwieldy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

PSExec - Access is denied

Solution: PSExec - Access is denied

Symptoms:
Using Microsoft Powertool "PSExec" to execute a program on a remote server. This message is displayed on the source computer: Access is denied

Solution:
On the Remote (destination) server or workstation, the calling credentials must be in that machine's Administrator's group.

1.  On the remote server, see Windows Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management

2.  Still on the remote server, in Computer Management, under Users and Groups, add the userID to the Administrator's Group.  This is the source-machine's User-ID/Credentials (the machine launching PSExec).

On the remote server,
You do not need to build Shares, but they are handy to shrink path-lengths
You do not need to grant the remote ID "Execute" rights within the share
You do not need to worry about turning on File Sharing
Do not bother installing PSExec on the remote machine

This is regardless of whether -u and -p parameters are used.  Because the user is in the Administrator's group, it gets all of these rights, regardless.  To my knowledge, you cannot bypass the Administrator requirement.


Discussion:
The local PSExec temporarily installs a service at the remote machine and because it is building a new service "on-the-fly," it needs to have Administrative rights.  Because you have to grant Administrative rights, the elevated privileges trump all other rights.

The program literally copies a file, psexecsvc to the remote server's Admin$ share and starts the service on that device.  When the command completes, the service is de-installed.



Other helpful hints:

*  On the Source computer, copy PSExec.exe into C:\Windows\System32 so it will be on the path
*  On the Source computer, launch PSExec.exe with no parameters at least one time to approve the Legal-accept screen

Example, as typed on the Source machine:

psexec.exe  \\RemoteServerName  \\RemoteServerName\Share\Path\program.exe
psexec.exe  \\RemoteServerName  "C:\Program Files (x86)\program.exe"  param-1  param-2
psexec.exe -acceptULA \\RemoteServerName  "C:\Program......"  (etc.)

Different credentials can be used.  Naturally, this account must be defined in AD or as a local account on the remote server:

psexec.exe -u myaccountname -p mypassword   \\RemoteServerName  "C:\Program....."  (etc.)

use psexec.exe /? for additional help and parameters.


What is PSExec:

This is a tool developed by the talented Mark Russinovich, now of Microsoft, that allows system administrators to execute programs on a remote computer, without having to have direct control of the desktop or without using a remote console.  This is also known as Windows SysInternals or formerly "power toys".  The "ps" refers to similar Unix system commands.

When the remote program runs, it runs *on* the remote computer -- not from the calling computer. 

For example, this command retrieves the ipconfig.exe program from the remote computer and runs it on your local CPU -- giving you your machine's IP configuration -- probably not what you wanted.

\\RemoteServerName\Share\ipconfig.exe

while: 
psexec.exe  \\RemoteServerName  "ipconfig.exe"

runs on the remote server, getting the remote server's IP Config information and displays the results on your local computer.

Downloading PSExec

Download the program directly from Microsoft as a ZIP file.  An install is not required. 

From www.Microsoft.com, search for "PSTools" or "PSExec". 
Download the ZIP file.  
Open the ZIP and copy PSExec to C:\Windows\System32 or another directory of your choice. 
An install is not required.

It is helpful to have this program on the local workstation's path.  You do not need to install the program on the remote servers.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Virus Cleanup Steps

How To: Virus Cleanup steps for Windows PC's.  Generals steps that work for almost all infections.

Over the years I have written many articles on how to cleanup specific viruses but the articles become dated and are less useful when other viruses take their place.  This article generalizes the steps I take for all infections.  Although time-consuming, the results are almost always good.

When cleaning viruses, it is best to boot from a non-infected virus-cleaning disk -- usually a bootable CD.  Because you are booting from a guaranteed, non-infected operating system, and because it has full-control of the hard drive, there are no locked or in-use files and the software gets complete access to the disk.  Because of this, it can clean the most stubborn infections

Microsoft and other vendors now have free, bootable CD's.  To do the job right, you will have to run multiple products, from multiple vendors.  This will take time. 



In General:

Build the bootable CD's from a non-infected machine
You will be building multiple CD's, from multiple vendors
You can build bootable CD's or bootable USB sticks; I prefer CD's
Build the disks on the day they are needed -- they become obsolete within a few days

Important: If you have a laptop, running Windows 8.x or 10.x, see below for concerns about UEFI disks***.


Build the CD's

From a non-infected computer

Download Windows Defender Offline

This is a bootable CD* that runs Microsoft's virus cleaning utility.
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/what-is-windows-defender-offline


- You must use Microsoft's Internet Explorer to download
- Always download and use the latest version
- It will download a stub program, msstools.exe.  Run this stub.
- It will build the CD automatically; follow the on-screen prompts or see the steps below.
- Most Windows 8, 7 and Vista users should choose the 64-bit version.


Download Kaspersky Rescue Disk

This is a bootable CD that is downloaded as an .iso file.  Use the .iso to build the CD


http://support.kaspersky.com/us/viruses/rescuedisk#downloads
Click "Distributive" to download the ISO

- Click the Download Kaspersky Rescue Disk link.
- This will write an ISO file, which is a CD disk image.
- From Windows 7, 8 or 10, follow these steps to write the ISO file to a CD.


Download AVG Rescue CD

This may be overkill, but a third vendor may find things that the others miss.
 http://www.avg.com/us-en/avg-rescue-cd

- Click the AVG Rescue CD Free Download link; download the ISO version.
- See these keyliner steps to write the ISO file to a CD.



Begin the Cleanup

Once the Bootable CD's have been built and labeled, do the following:


0.  Malware Bytes

If your machine is healthy enough to run other software, from the infected machine, download and run this program, from MalwareBytes.org.  This is my favorite anti-virus program.
https://www.malwarebytes.org/mwb-download/

If the machine is not healthy enough, download the installation from another computer and burn it to a CD.  Then, disconnect the network cable from your infected computer, or disable the Wireless.  Then run this program; it will probably succeed.  Because it is not on the wire, it won't be able to update its definition files; cancel the update and let it run a full-scan with the version you downloaded. 

- Select the Free Download
- Decline the offer to install the 30-day trial
- If possible, allow the program to update its definition / dictionary files
- Allow the program to do a full-system scan
- It will take hours to run.  It runs unattended

Once it is complete, continue with the next bootable CD

If you cannot get MalwareBytes to install or run, continue with the next CD.


1.  Kaspersky First

Have your network cable plugged in or your wireless enabled.  Boot the computer with this CD and follow the on-screen prompts.

- Insert the Kaspersky CD into your drive and boot the computer.
- Hopefully, you are prompted "Press any key to boot from the CD"
- If you do not see this prompt, see below on how to change your BIOS boot Order**

Allow the program to do a full-system scan.  The program is a little weird.  Click the big red (or green) button in the upper-left corner to begin the process.  On the current version as of this writing, the button looks like a bunch of LED' in a circle and it is not clear this is a button.

The scan will take hours and can run unattended.


2.  MSE Second

Boot the Microsoft CD and instruct it to do a full (not quick) scan.


3.  AVG - Optionally Third

Consider booting the AVG disk if you want to be even more thorough.  Personally, I have not actually done this, but if you have the time, it is worth the effort.  It may find something the others missed.


4.  Last Step

If you were unable to run MalwareBytes in Step 0, allow the computer to boot normally (without a bootable CD).  Install MalwareBytes and allow it to run.


In my experience, these steps have almost always fixed the computer, with one notable exception.

RANSOMWARE Viruses

If you detect a Ransomware virus, the programs above will remove the virus but they will not be able to save the data and many programs.  It will render your computer useless.  It is repairable, but your data will be lost. 

(Ransom viruses encrypt all of your data files, such as Word, WordPerfect, Excel, PPT, photos, etc., and invite you to pay a fee of $100-$500 for the decryption key.  The fee is usually paid in bitcoins, which are untraceable.  Under no circumstances should you pay.  To begin, they will take your money and may not give a decryption key.  They may give the key, which will restore your data files, but will like re-encrypt in the future and charge ransom again.  This is truly a lost-cause.)

The only way I have found to 'recover' from this type of attack is to build your system recovery CD's (from your hardware vendor - usually a menu to build "recovery disks", or contact the vendor to have one shipped), format the hard disk and start over.  This will save the hardware, but all data will be lost.  Recover data from your backups.

Other Notes:

**BIOS Boot Order

Your PC may not allow booting from a CD.  Follow these rough steps, which vary by each computer model.

A.  Cold boot the PC
B.  At the hardware banner screen, press F10, or F12 or F2, to enter the BIOS Setup or Boot Setup menu.  Sadly, this varies.
C.  If you arrive at at UEFI Secure Boot screen, see the note below* before going further
D.  Enter the BIOS Setup (sometimes called simply "Setup").
E.  In the top BOOT menu, look for a choice that shows boot order.  Arrange the order so the CD is first to boot, then the Hard Disk.
F.  Most BIOS screens use a bottom-menu F10 to SAVE your changes.
G. Allow the PC to reboot.  Watch the screen for a Press any key to boot from CD


***UEFI Disks

Very new laptops, with Windows 8.x or 10.x have a UEFI encryption, which prevents viruses from writing boot-sector changes.  Unfortunately, this also blocks bootable CD's from seeing the disk (UEFI is actually a very good security feature -- it just stops some of these tools).  If your vendor has signed drivers, they can boot, but as of this writing, I have not found a vendor who can do this.

For example, if you have a UEFI disk, Microsoft's MSE claims to be able to boot and clean the disk, but I have not yet got this to work.  I am still researching this.

If you have a UEFI disk, I do not know how to use these bootable CD's.  Your only hope will be MalwareBytes.

Your comments are welcome.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Burn ISO Image menu missing from Windows

Problem:  The "Burn ISO Image" menu is missing from File Explorer's context menu.  This article describes the solution.

To burn an ISO file to disk, follow these normal steps:

A.  With File Explorer, locate the .ISO file.
B.  "Other mouse click" the file, choose "Burn disk image". 




If the menu, "Burn Disk Image" is missing, another program has taken control of the ISO file extension.  Use these steps to return control to the default settings.

These steps work for Windows 7 and above:

1.  Open the Windows Control Panel
 
2.  In the Programs category, click "Default Programs"
 
3.  Click "Set your default programs"
 
4.  In the left-nav, select "Windows Disk Image Burner"
 
5.  On the bottom, click "Set this program as default"

This sets the Windows program
"Windows Disk Image Burner"  (C:\Windows\System32\isoBurn.exe)
as the default program for ISO and IMG files.

Why is the menu missing?  Likely, another CD-burner (such as Nero, Roxio, or other CD software provided by your hardware manufacturer) intercepted the menu.

Related documents:
Keyliner: Burning an ISO Image in Windows - Step-by-step with other hints
Keyliner:  Burned Audio CD's do not play in car or stereo

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pandora - Server not found on Sony Bravia TV

Solution: On a Sony Bravia TV, Pandora displays an error on launch - "Server not found".  Previously, Pandora opened and was registered correctly, but now displays an all black screen with this ~ message.

Symptoms:
Pandora had worked before; the TV was registered with Pandora, and the program loaded correctly. Then, with presumably no changes, the program refused to load, displaying a black screen with the above message.  The message included a link to Pandora support, but the link was not useful.

Uninstalling and re-installing Pandora did not resolve the problem.
Cold-booting the TV (disconnecting power) did not resolve the issue.

Suspicions:

The unsubstantiated belief is the TV acquired a new DHCP IP address from my home network and Pandora became confused.  The application provides no means to re-register.  I suspect de-installing from the main app screen does not really uninstall the program; it just removes it from the main menu.



Solution:

I followed these steps to recover.  These steps assume your TV has already logged in to the Internet at least one time and performed its default firmware update.

1.  Perform a factory-reset on the TV (essentially a re-format, returning the TV to original factory settings).  Steps vary by brand and model.  Search the Internet for your exact instructions. 

For my TV, a Sony Bravia KDL-60W630B,

a.  Turn on the TV.  Wait 1 minute for the Operating System to completely load.
b.  On the TV remote, press and hold the up-arrow.
c.  While holding the up-arrow, reach around the back of the TV and press the POWER button on the back control-panel; this is not the remote's power button.

2.  Allow the TV to restart.  Re-register and re-set-up the TV, setting region preferences, time-zones, etc., following the TV's normal first-time-start.

Note: The TV will not have to re-download the Firmware update, this was already applied when first installed and a factory reset does not undo this operation.

3.  Important change:  For the Network connection, set manually, using the Advanced menu.  You will need to set a fixed IP Address, not a router-assigned DHCP address.  Do this by selecting the Advanced Network Setup menu, with detailed steps, below.

When picking an IP address, pick one outside of your normal DHCP address range.  For 99% of all routers, set the IP address's last octect to 130 or 150.  Avoid numbers below (120) as these probably conflict with the DCHP broadcast range.

For example, I set my TV to this IP address:
192.168.100.150

All other IP settings, subnet masks, etc., should stay at their defaults.  Your prefix address range (192.168) may be different. 

Typical IP Addresses:
IP Address:  192.168.100.150
Subnet: 255.255.2550.0
Default Gateway: 192.168.100.1

Detailed Steps:
Press the remote's [Home] button.
Then, from the TV's top-menu bar, select [Settings]










Select:
[Network Setup]
[Setup Network Connection]
[Advanced] -- Set a manual IP Address in a range, as suggested above.

4.  From the [Network Setup] menus, select [Refresh Internet Content].

This updates the software and applications and your TV's step may be labeled differently.  It will take several minutes to complete.   

5.  If the Pandora tile is installed on the My Favorites (App Screen), highlight the Pandora tile.  Select Options, and remove.


6.  On the App Menu, click the "+" tile, re-install Pandora.  I actually launched the "Opera Store" and found Pandora from there, but I do not believe this was a significant difference.

Pandora should be working correctly.