Windows 10 Controlled Folder Access – Good Idea, Implementation not Quite There

The new Windows 10 Controlled Folder Access (CFA) feature is a great idea – prevent unknown programs from modifying your files, to stop ransomware in its tracks.  It is so good that I forced an early update to Windows 10 Build 1709 (“Fall Creators Update”) on a couple of my home machines and enabled it.  Now, I have quickly disabled it, as it is not possible to actually use it in a real environment.  It just stops things a bit too hard.

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Off-Topic: Getting Rid of the Heads in Skype for Business

Skype for Business is an interesting beast.  It is a nice little program for internal collaboration, but some of its behaviors are just super-annoying. One my pet peeves is the fact that when you get into a meeting with screen sharing you have a bunch of big heads covering up a sometimes significant chunk of the materials being presented. I finally figured out how to get rid of them.  It comes down to the view mode. This little icon in the toolbar:

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Kindle App on Android: Turning off Annoying Page Curl

kindle-app-curlA recent update to the Amazon Kindle app on my Android devices introduced a severely annoying page curl animation when flipping through pages in a book. This unnecessary animation slows things down and disrupts the reading flow, or at least that is my opinion. It was really hard to find any kind of help on the Amazon pages or elsewhere on the Internet for how to turn it off. I finally figured it out, and here is how I did it so that other people with the same problem can search and find a solution…

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Off-Topic: Outlook Plugins do not activate when program starts – registry fix

skypemeetingIn my sporadic series of IT fixes that I happen to find, here is another one about how to fix the load behavior of plugins in Outlook.

This is a solution to a problem that I have had myself with plugins for Outlook. I assume it works the same for other office programs. Basically, some plugins, in particular the Skype Meeting/Lync Meeting plugin, would not load when Outlook started and I was forced to manually enable it in the add-ons manager each time. Highly annoying. I managed to fix it by doing a small registry fix.

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Windows 10 – An Upgrade Worth Doing

icon-windows-logo  Now that Windows 10 has been officially out for a while, I decided to give it a try on one of my home machines. I expect that all my Windows 8.1 machines will be updated eventually – it is a free update, after all, and supposedly things should work just as well as in Windows 8.1. Just with a different user interface. Windows 10 is indeed different from Windows 8.1 in fairly significant ways, and it really feels like what would have come after Windows 7 if Windows 8 hadn’t come between. I can see why many or even most people see this as the better upgrade path, even if I lament some of the changes made.

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Off-Topic: Dropbox not Synchronizing Files Linux-Windows: Watch that Colon

blue_dropbox_logoI am using DropBox quite a bit to move files around between various machines (nothing confidential, just stuff that I need to move around and that is a tad on the large side). Today, I hit a very issue where I saved screenshots from a Ubuntu machine and waited for them to show up on a Windows machine. And they never did. Confused, I went to the web interface, and the files were indeed in place there. I could download it from the web interface without an issue. Weird. Other files did sync in the meantime, so just what was going on?

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Off-Topic: Microsoft Word styling of change tracking balloons & text

winwordI just got hit by a strange behavior in Microsoft word: the comment and format change “balloons” that pop up next to the text when using change tracking and viewing changes started to overflow their allocated balloons. The font used look very funny too. The issue was that a document contained a format specification for these balloons that used a font not present on my system, which in turn caused Word to use something like Courier to display it. Which did not look nice. However, it was easy to solve.

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Off-topic: How to Get Rid of the Annoying Webex Tab on Top of Skype Windows

2014-11-03_09-49-56I am using the “Webex productivity tools” at work to quickly schedule and start meetings from within Outlook. It really is a very useful piece of software for those of us that do quite a few Webex conferences each week. However, it came with one annoying side effect: little webex tabs started to appear on select application windows. In particular, on top of Skype windows.

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I Like Windows 8 (More Precisely, Windows 8.1)

windows8logoWhen Microsoft released Windows 8 in 2012, the operating system received an incredible amount of bad press. There were lots of good ideas, but also a lot of bad execution, and some pretty drastic changes to the old familiar way that personal computer desktops had worked since approximately 1995. Most people that voice an opinion about Windows 8 dislike it, whether it be on social media or in person. For some reason, I seem to be one of the few people who really like it. When I just recently got a new laptop at work and it came with old Windows 7, I was actually disappointed. Here is why.

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Application Expectations built on Touch

windows8logoI recently made my first acquaintance with Windows 8, having bought a new Sony ultrabook for the family. Including a touch screen. The combination of the touch-based interface and the phone-like look of Windows 8 even on a PC has led me to think about the (unconscious) expectations that I have come to have on how systems behave and how services are accessed, from how smart phones and tablets have come to work in the past few years. In particular, where are web-based services going?

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Building a Spy-Proof OS?

I am not in the computer security business really, but I find the topic very interesting. The recent wide coverage and analysis of the Flame malware has been fascinating to follow. It is incredibly scary to see a “well-resourced (probably Western) nation-state” develop this kind of spyware, following on the confirmation that Stuxnet was made in the US (and Israel).

In any case, regardless of the resources behind the creation of such malware, one wonders if it could not be a bit more contained with a different way to structure our operating systems. In particular, Flame’s use of microphones, webcams, bluetooth, and screenshots to spy on users should be containable. Basically, wouldn’t cell-phone style sandboxing and capabilities settings make sense for a desktop OS too?

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Off-Topic: Analyzing Outlook Mailbox Size

Where I work, we use Exchange as our email server and Outlook as the primary client (at least I do). We also have an email quota that I keep bumping into, since I have a tendency to attract many emails with large attachments like image-happy PowerPoint files or binary code modules to patch things. I am also an extreme user of email folders. My main Outlook account contains some 650 folders, and my offline archive of all my old emails reaches towards 1300, with many 100s of thousands of emails for a total of almost 20 GB. So, pretty extreme.

My problem is: what do I do when the email system tells me (and it is serious, I can attest) that I am close to hitting my quota and that soon email will neither be received nor sent? I want to find the folders that are very large and candidates for some archiving. The answer has eluded me for a long time, until I stumbled upon a 2010 Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3skJOd4GIak, from “tech-informer.com” (which now looks pretty dead). With some modifications, this solved my problem.

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Off-topic: Windows tip: Hide Desktop Icons

I often have to create screenshots and screen recordings as part of my job, and to make that look good I don’t want any part of my Windows desktop or task bar to show in the results. Until now, I have done this the hard way by using very few desktop icons and putting them around the edges of the screen.

There is a better way.

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msys git – error could not allocate cygwin heap

I am using TortoiseGit on Windows for a while now, and it works OK. However, today, it just stopped working. The error I got persistently was:

0 [main] us 0 init_cheap: VirtualAlloc pointer is null, 
Win32 error 487 AllocationBase 0x0, BaseAddress 0x68540000, 
RegionSize 0x480000, State 0x10000 
c:\msysgit\bin\sh.exe: 
*** Couldn't reserve space for cygwin's heap, Win32 error 0

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Cubase64 – Impressive Impossible Retro

I recently read the “Cubase64 White Paper” by Pex Tufvesson. It is a fantastic piece of retro computing, where he makes a Commodore 64 do real-time audio effects on a sampled piece of music. There is a Youtube movie showing the demo in action. Considering how hard we worked in the early 1980s to make a computer make any kind of useful noise at all, this is an amazing feat. It is also a feat that I think would have been impossible at the time.

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Product Holes: Microsoft Office vs Internet Explorer

There seems to be no shortage of bugs that “should have been obvious” and subject to the “how can you not check that your own products work together” phenomenon. Just the other day, I stumbled on another one. This time, it was the Microsoft set of applications and operating systems that do not quite work together the way you would expect them to.

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Eclipse: Changing the Java Heap Size

eclipseiconI just won a battle against Eclipse, managing to finally rid myself of a string of strange out-of-heap warnings. It is a long story, involving lots of web searching and fiddling with the eclipse.ini file options for the JVM. It just never seemed to work as I wanted it to, despite changing the -Xmx VM argument to 256, then 512, and finally 1024m.

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Off-Topic: Getting Excel to Open Files Again

excel1For a while now, I have had the issue that I could not open Excel sheets (files) by double-clicking them in the Windows Explorer, nor could I directly open Excel sheets sent to me in email from within Outlook. I got an error like this: “Cannot find the file path (or one of its components). Make sure the path and file name are correct and that all required libraries are available.”

Turned out this is a fairly common problem, with a documented solution.

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Driving an Old Canon Scanner using a VM

lide30I have an old Canon LIDE 30 scanner that I purchased sometime late in 2003. At that time, it was connected to a PC running Windows XP, and drivers worked just fine. However, after I got my new computer in early 2009, with Vista 64, there are no more drivers available. There is a funny way around this though, using a virtual machine.

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StackOverflow interviews CouchDB

couchdbLast year, FLOSS Weekly interviewed Jan Lehnard of the CouchDB project. I put up a blog post on this, noting that it was interesting with a scalable parallel program written in Erlang, a true concurrent language. The interview was interesting,  but not very deeply technical. Now, almost a year later, the StackOverflow podcast, number 59, interviewed the founder of the project, Damien Katz. This interview goes a bit more into the technical details and what CouchDB is good for and what not, as well as some details on the use and performance of Erlang.

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Off-Topic: Vista, Laserwriter 12/640 PS, and FoxIt

laserwriter12640I have an old Apple LaserWriter 12/640 PS network printer at home that I bought back in 1997. In those days, I had a PowerBook G3 at 266 MHz, Windows NT was new, and my work computer was one of Sweden’s first 300 MHz Pentium II machines… since then, my home machines have moved from MacOS 8 to Windows NT 4 to Windows 2000 to Windows XP and now Windows Vista 32- and 64-bit. But the trusty LaserWriter remains, keeps printing, and is still on its first toner cartridge!

However, moving to Vista has made the printing bit harder.

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Questioning the Choice of C++

flossweeklyIn FLOSS Weekly issue 57, about 20 minutes into the show, Randall Schwartz and Leo Laporte express genuine surprise that the XMBC media player application is all in C++. That is pretty telling, some parts of the computing world are indeed moving on to more modern pastures like Python, Perl, Ruby, and even Objective C (for the Mac people). And quite a contrast to the EDA world where C++ is still considered the new shiny thing, as I have lamented before… thanks for that small but golden genuine surprise, Randall and Leo!

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Off-Topic: Hilarious: MS Songsmith

Since I am slow to follow Internet fads, I am probably the last blogger on the planet to write about this… but it is too good not to mention. Microsoft research has created a brilliant or nutty piece of work called Microsoft (Research) Songsmith. The idea is pretty cool in theory, just sing into a microphone and the program creates background music matching… except that it does some pretty hilarious things when put to the test.

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Eclipse Linux Kernel Indexing Works

Edited on 2009-Feb-01, to include the link to the illustrated guide that really helps you get there faster. Thanks Simon! Also, promoted to front page, original post was put up on 2008-Nov-09.

Thanks to Simon Kågströms post (and the even better second-generation with screenshots) about using Eclipse for the Linux kernel, I have a much nicer work environment now for my ongoing work in learning Linux device drivers on PowerPC, which has helped me work my way through several hard-to-figure-out system calls. Continue reading “Eclipse Linux Kernel Indexing Works”

Off-Topic: Office 2007 Weird Windows Explained

excel1This is a short note about an “aha” moment: ArsTechnica just explained why Excel 2007 windows that look like being documents are not quite that, and how I sometimes manage to start multiple Excel processes by mistake. It seems that Excel is not truly a multi-window app like Word is… but still an MDI app that fakes windows in a way that makes the Windows task bar and Vista task switcher fairly confused. Thanks for the explanation.

Off-Topic: Getting the good Vista Screen Capture Tool

VistaI have heard some rumors that Windows Vista had a good screen capture tool built into the operating system itself. So when I needed to do some capturing on my home machine, I started looking for it. Turned out that it is an optional install on certain versions of Vista only, but Home Premium is one of those versions. The tool is called “Snipping Tool” in English versions, or “Skärmklippsverktyget” in Swedish versions.

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Off-Topic: Moving an iTunes Library to a New Machine

ituneslogoI just got myself a new home PC, to replace my no longer very trusty five-year old Athlon-based PC. In the process, I realized I had to move my iTunes library from the old machine to the new. Reading on the web and the Apple support area made me somewhat skeptical as to the feasibility of this operation… would all my cover art, podcast subscriptions, playlists and ratings survive the move? There are many stories of failed moves and lost data out there… and moving from Windows XP to Vista 64-bit did not make the dread less.

In the end, it turned out it was really dead easy!

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Off-Topic: Toddlers Rotating the Screen in Windows

VistaThis is really quite funny: it is now twice that slightly panicked family members have called me to ask how to rotate the screen in Windows XP back to normal after toddlers of about six to eight months of age have managed to rotate it to 90 degrees or upside down by just banging on the keyboards of their computers, as small children tend to do.

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Off-topic: Outlook 2007 Zoom Bad GUI

It is a symptom of bad UI design when things just happen, and you have no why, and no visible indication to help you figure it out. Last night, I noted that the text in Outlook when composing email suddenly was way larger than normal. I put that way as a fluke, but today, the effect was still there, all the time. Strange. So I went in and checked my font settings, which were all fine. This being Office 2007, I suspected some kind of zoom effect, but there was no zoom indicator in any Outlook window. I tried ctrl-+ and ctrl– to see if Outlook respected the web-style view size shortcuts. But no effect.

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