View from the Potting Shed http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk The Revd Gareth J M Saunders' weblog Fri, 29 May 2015 06:42:57 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Software removal tool fixed my problem with Chrome running slowly http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/28/software-removal-tool-fixed-my-problem-with-chrome-running-slowly/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/28/software-removal-tool-fixed-my-problem-with-chrome-running-slowly/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 22:20:00 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5739 Continue reading Software removal tool fixed my problem with Chrome running slowly]]> Progress cursor shows an egg-timer next to a pointer
They call this progress…?

Me and Google Chrome had another falling out this week. This time it wasn’t about bookmarks but speed.

For some reason, over the last couple of days Google Chrome suddenly felt very sluggish. Whenever I opened a new tab it would take a few seconds to open and a few more to load the page—notably longer than usual.

And a similar experience after closing a tab: the cursor would change to the ‘progress’ cursor (arrow with egg-timer) for a few seconds.

Having put up with it for a couple of days I couldn’t stand it any longer.

Things I tried that didn’t fix it

  1. Running system file checker (sfc /scannow) from an elevated command prompt.
  2. Disable all extensions (chrome://extensions/).
  3. Disable all plugins (chrome://plugins).
  4. Disable hardware acceleration in settings.
  5. Uninstall Chrome, reinstall dev channel version.
  6. Uninstall other recently-installed applications.
  7. Run Malwarebytes scan (0 threats found).

One forum suggested installing the latest NVIDIA graphics card drivers. Another pondered whether it was related to the recent Windows update. Plenty of people advised switching off hardware acceleration (I’d tried that, it didn’t help).

What I tried that did

The Chrome software removal tool — still currently in beta — is a clever application that scans and removes any software that may cause problems with Google Chrome.

This application will scan and remove software that may cause problems with Chrome, such as crashes, unusual startup pages or toolbars, unexpected ads you can't get rid of, or otherwise changing your browsing experience.
This application will scan and remove software that may cause problems with Chrome, such as crashes, unusual startup pages or toolbars, unexpected ads you can’t get rid of, or otherwise changing your browsing experience.

I ran it. I waited, and hoped, and it worked! I have my whizzy Chrome back. I guess that something was corrupted.

As well as scanning for typical malware that can corrupt your installation of Google Chrome it also kindly offers to perform a ‘factory reset’ and return your browser settings to defaults.

In a way I find it curious that Google are only now offering this as a currently beta standalone application when Microsoft Internet Explorer (for all its criticism) has had this built-in for years.

I ran the software removal tool which quickly returned this dialog:

No programs found
No programs found

Nothing suspicious found. I clicked Continue and was invited to reset my browser.

Reset Chrome settings — that's what fixed things for me
Reset Chrome settings — that’s what fixed things for me

That’s what fixed it.

This is definitely another useful tool in my diagnostics toolkit. Thanks Google.

It’s a relief to have had this fixed. That said, I’ve said it before that if there were the same Trello plugins available I would move to Opera tomorrow.

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Acer ES1-111M-C3CP review http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/26/acer-es1-111m-c3cp-review/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/26/acer-es1-111m-c3cp-review/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 22:22:28 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5728 Continue reading Acer ES1-111M-C3CP review]]> Acer ES1-111M-C3CP
Acer ES1-111M-C3CP

A few months ago I bought a new laptop: the Acer ES1-111M-C3CP. I wanted something small and quiet. I didn’t need anything particularly powerful—that was the point: just something that would allow me to get on with some writing projects while Reuben. Joshua and Isaac hijack my desktop PC to play LEGO computer games.

Specification

The laptop features:

  • Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • Intel Celeron N2840 2.16 GHz
  • Intel HD graphics
  • 11.6″ HD LED display screen (1366 × 768 pixels)
  • Fanless (silent performance)
  • 8 GB DDR3 RAM (upgraded from 2 GB)
  • eMMC 32 GB (solid state disk)

Setting up the laptop

My plan was to install only a few applications:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (selective sync of only writing projects)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. LibreOffice (a Microsoft Office-compatible office suite)
  6. Scapple (free-form text
  7. Mindjet Mind Manager (mind mapping)
  8. MusicBee (audio player)
  9. VLC media player (for watching the occasional Mpeg-4)
  10. Skype (video and text chat)
  11. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

Out of the box, set-up didn’t take terribly long (once I’d swapped out the 2 GB RAM for an 8 GB module) and I signed into my Microsoft account

I then uninstalled most of the bundled applications (McAfee, Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student trial, a few Acer media/office applications, plus a bunch of Windows Modern UI (Metro) apps and set about the seemingly never-ending task of running Windows Update which pulled in more than 130 updates.

But here’s the thing… the laptop only started with 32 GB of hard disk space. On initial startup there is a little more than 9 GB of free space. After the Windows updates only 3.13 GB of hard drive space is left.

Windows updates ate almost 6 GB of hard drive space!?

And that’s after uninstalling the bundled software and running Disk Clean-up to remove remnant update files.

Experience

Over the last couple of months I appear to have performed a factory reset more often than actually using the laptop for the purpose for which I bought it.

The factory reset is pretty good, to be fair. The 32 GB drive is divided into three partitions:

  • 100 MB (EPI system partition)
  • 19.40 GB (NTFS—Windows 8.1)
  • 9.5 GB (recovery partition)

Despite what the Acer factory reset application advises, once you’ve created a USB recovery disk you cannot delete the recovery partition. According to some on various discussion forums, this partition is a Windows Image File Boot (WIMBoot) that is required to run Windows.

Which means that if you find that you’ve installed too large a collection of applications you end up with your C: drive reporting 0 bytes free, as I did for the umteenth time last night.

To try to get around this I attached a tiny Sandisk 32 GB USB 3.0 drive as storage (installation files and music) and onto which I could install applications. But, of course, whenever you install any software on Windows, no matter where, the C: drive is always used.

And so I still managed to overflow the C: drive and had to perform yet another factory reset.

Currently my ambitions are a little less ambitious:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (Modern UI)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

I’ll see how I get on. With those five applications installed I have 2.63 GB free on C: drive. Far from the 9.5 GB that I had expected when I bought the machine.

Conclusion

I can’t help feeling rather disappointed with my first couple of months with this machine. The build quality is really pretty decent for something at this price (£179): the screen is large and bright enough for my needs, the keyboard feels comfortable, and so far I’ve had no issues with the touchpad (though I do prefer to use a USB Microsoft Intellimouse Optical mouse.

32 GB is clearly not enough. I would have happily paid more for double that. 64 GB would have made this gem of a machine far more flexible. Instead I have to worry about installing as little as possible. I can’t simply get on and write, I always have to have an eye on whether Windows Update has run and used up the remaining sliver of hard drive.

Hey! There’s not even enough free space to keep the trial installation of Microsoft Office 2013 that it ships with—how utterly ill-thought through is that?!

If I’d been using this as a Windows-flavoured ChromeBook-equivalent, relying entirely on web apps and storage, I would probably be delighted with the machine. But as it is, I’m not writing everything in Google Drive and I’ve more or less given up on Microsoft OneDrive due its unreliable file synchronisation for documents. (Something that a friend of mine from St Andrews was also complaining about on Facebook the other day, prompting her move to Dropbox.)

Anyway, I’ll report back here in a couple of months to give an update on how I’m getting on… in the meantime, if you’re looking to buy this laptop yourself be warned that once you’ve done all the updates you’ll have next to no drive space to store anything, let alone run the thing.

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Check for WinZip update… regardless of what I say http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/22/check-for-winzip-update-regardless-of-what-i-say/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/22/check-for-winzip-update-regardless-of-what-i-say/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 19:01:03 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5724 Continue reading Check for WinZip update… regardless of what I say]]> The other day when I tried to open a zip file WinZip popped up with the following dialog box.

WinZip update dialog offers six options
Options, options, options…

How many options?!

I shared it with my colleagues, via Slack. Most laughed. Particularly the final option: “Setup proxy server settings”. (And it wasn’t because they had used a noun rather than a verb: see ‘setup’ vs ‘set up’.)

Anyway, I clicked “Don’t check, but ask me again in a week”.

Pause.

Your version of WinZip is up to date
Your version of WinZip is up to date

Wait a minute?! Did it… Did it just…?!

Did it just check? I definitely clicked on “Don’t check…”

It’s maybe time to go looking for a new zip application, WinZip is getting unnecessarily bloated and slow. And now it doesn’t even listen to what I want it to do.

Would you like me to check for the availability of an alternative?

Any suggestions, folks? I’m running Windows 8.1 Pro.

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My last visit to the ophthalmology clinic http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/20/my-last-visit-to-the-ophthalmology-clinic/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/20/my-last-visit-to-the-ophthalmology-clinic/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 13:06:35 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5716 Continue reading My last visit to the ophthalmology clinic]]> That's a scan of my eyes on the computer screen.
That’s a scan of my eyes on the computer screen.

This morning my father-in-law kindly drove me to Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy for what turned out to be my last ophthalmology clinic appointment.

I started going there last August after an episode of suspected vital meningitis took a side-swipe at my eyesight. Nine months later and my eyesight has recovered remarkably well, with only a little ‘wobble’ in my right eye to show for it.

I went through the usual eye clinic rigmarole: which letters can you see on the eye chart? what’s the smallest writing you can read in this book? eye pressure test (where they flick a tiny piece of paper onto your eyeball); eye drops to dilate my pupils; then scan and photographs of my eyes, before I returned to the waiting room to… well, wait.

Having found the waiting room a rather tiresome experience the last few visits this time I brought a book. Completely forgetting that by the time I get back to the waiting room everything is about three times brighter than normal and completely blurred. Still, I persevered, removing my glasses and holding my book (The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kalistos Ware) about 10 cm from my face and got through about 10 pages before I was called by the eye doctor.

One of them: an ophthalmologist's machine thing.
One of them: an ophthalmologist’s machine thing.

He was a doctor I’d never met before. He looked middle-eastern, spoke quietly and calmly and examined my eyes using that thing above.

There was nothing obvious from either the earlier scan or his examination, and not much change at all since my previous visit six months ago. So the doctor disappeared to another room for a few minutes to double-check with the consultant that it was okay to discharge me.

Before I left the nice doctor told me that they still had no real idea why this had all happened, but he did assure me that one of two things might happen: my eyesight may simply continue to improve. Or it might not.

I’m hoping that it will. Or do I?

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My HP LaserJet P1606dn stopped printing duplex—here’s how I fixed it http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/15/my-hp-laserjet-p1606dn-stopped-printing-duplex-heres-how-i-fixed-it/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/15/my-hp-laserjet-p1606dn-stopped-printing-duplex-heres-how-i-fixed-it/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 21:01:40 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5712 Continue reading My HP LaserJet P1606dn stopped printing duplex—here’s how I fixed it]]> HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn
HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn

I have an HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn, which has been great. It prints double-sided (duplex) — that’s the ‘d’ in P1606dn — and it connects to the network — that’s the ‘n’ allowing Jane to print wirelessly from her laptop.

The problem

But today… for some reason my P1606dn stopped printing double-sided. The option was still there in the printer properties—on the Device Settings tab, under Duplex Mode both “Allow Automatic Duplexing” and “Allow Manual Duplexing” were both ticked.

Hmm…

I tried changing various settings but nothing seemed to fix it. I checked if the driver had been updated. I rebooted the PC. Again, no improvement.

How I fixed it

I was actually in the process of trying to downloading the HP Smart Install software when I stumbled upon the answer.

If you have this printer, you’ll know that you can also connect to a configuration screen via the network. All you need is the printer’s IP address. Mine is at 192.168.1.73 on my local area network.

Well, lo and behold, under the Settings tab there is a section called Paper Handling, and the Duplex option was set to Off. Changing it back to On fixed things for me.

HP P1606dn network settings
HP P1606dn network settings

At least, it did for the first document. I then discovered that (again for another mysterious reason) the next document’s paper settings were blank. Setting it to A4 restored the option to print double-sided.

So, in summary:

  • Check settings (Control Panel > Devices and Printers > Right-click the printer and select Printer Properties > Device Settings tab).
  • Connect to the printer settings via the network.
  • Make sure the print dialog shows the correct paper size.

At least, that’s what fixed it for me.

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Four more years… http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/08/four-more-years/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/08/four-more-years/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 06:59:13 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5705 Continue reading Four more years…]]>

As I said on Twitter this morning:

Honestly UK, you just had one job: get the Tories out of Downing St. Five more years of punishing the most vulnerable in our society.

As the result trickles in this morning and the political map of the UK begins to look like Maggie Simpson and that the Conservatives are likely to remain in government, I have had this song from Warrior Soul’s debut album Last Decade Dead Century (1990) going around my head.

Can you believe how little you care?
The friendly face of the empire leader
Conquest of style, ego hate
Walk amongst the dogs
While the violence kills the declined state

Have you eaten today?
Iam glad
Your digestion is the sorrow of the hungry
So tired of rejection and stupidity

[…]

I want the world to heal
I want the world to love
But it cannot

4 more years
4 more years
4 more years
4 more years

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What colour is it? Hex clock http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/02/what-colour-is-it-hex-clock/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/05/02/what-colour-is-it-hex-clock/#comments Sat, 02 May 2015 18:32:00 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5671 Continue reading What colour is it? Hex clock]]> Who knew that 7.06 PM looked dark blue?
Who knew that 7.06 PM looked dark blue?

There have been a few occasions over the last few months when I’ve been standing at one end of my office and needed to keep an eye on the time. Each time I’ve pulled up What colour is it? on my browser. Because it’s fun.

What colour is it? is one of those really simple why didn’t I think of it ideas: use the time to specify RGB values.

How does it work?

RGB is a system for representing colours on a computer display. Red, green, and blue can be mixed in different proportions (on a scale of 0 to 255) to display any color in the visible spectrum.

A few examples:

  • rgb (0, 0, 0) represents black: no red, no green, no blue.
  • rgb (255, 0, 0) represents bright red.
  • rgb (0, 83, 155) represents the dark blue used on the University of St Andrews website.

As well as decimal values, CSS also accepts hexadecimal values. Hex is useful for computers because you can count up to 255 using only two characters. Decimal 255 equals hex FF.

The same examples, but in hex:

  • #000000 black
  • #FF0000 red
  • #00539b St Andrews blue

Which brings us back to the clock.

Take the time in 24 hour format, HH:MM:SS and map hours to red, minutes to green, and seconds to blue.

  • 19:06:46 = #190646 = rgb (25, 06, 70) = dark blue/violet
  • 23:58:00 = #235800 = rgb (35, 88, 00) = dark green

Another example of a hex clock can be found on Luke James Taylor’s website: THE HEX CLOCK.

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Metallica—St Anger… the way it could have sounded #STANGER2015 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/04/29/metallica-st-anger-the-way-it-could-have-sounded/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/04/29/metallica-st-anger-the-way-it-could-have-sounded/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 20:40:42 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5664 Continue reading Metallica—St Anger… the way it could have sounded #STANGER2015]]>

I have a confession to make: I like Metallica’s 2003 album St Anger.

It seems that I’m not the only one. This week Metal Injection reported that Jimmy Page and Jack White apparently really like Metallica’s St Anger.

The YouTube video above shows a project from Daryl Gardner (guitar and bass) and Chris Dando (vocal) from Grace The Skies, and Dave Cox (drums) of Adust who re-recorded the entire album.

But this version is 15 minutes shorter, and the snare drum doesn’t sound like a dustbin.

It’s even been given permission by Q-Prime Management, Metallica’s managers.

Check it out! It rocks!

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Digital change—a lecture by Paul Boag http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/04/27/digital-change-a-lecture-by-paul-boag/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/04/27/digital-change-a-lecture-by-paul-boag/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 20:52:31 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5658

At work just now we’re currently working with UX designerconsultant, speaker, author and podcaster Paul Boag.

Here’s a video of a lecture he gave a few weeks back, explaining the vital importance of digital change in organisations these days.

 

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Have you been pwned? http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/04/26/have-you-been-pwned/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2015/04/26/have-you-been-pwned/#comments Sun, 26 Apr 2015 20:03:23 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5651 Continue reading Have you been pwned?]]> Check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach
Check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach

With so much personal data stored online, keeping your password secure is really important.

Troy Hunt, a Microsoft MVP for Developer Security has created a website that allows you to check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach.

Have I Been Pwned checks against 41 known data breaches, including 152,445,165 Adobe accounts, 4,789,599 Gmail accounts, 453,427 Yahoo! accounts.

Secure

The site is secure, and doesn’t ask for your password: just the username or email address that you’ve used to sign up for an online account. The site then checks it against a lists of compromised accounts.

As Troy Hunt says, “all the data on this site comes from publicly leaked ‘breaches’ or in other words, personal account data that has been illegally accessed then released into the public domain.”

The who what &  why and FAQ pages provide a lot of detail about what’s going on behind the scenes, and answer a lot of questions about the security of this site.

Good news

I only use a couple of email addresses. Against one of them I’ve had no breached accounts—hoorah!

Good news — no pwnage found! No breached accounts and no pastes
Good news — no pwnage found! No breached accounts and no pastes

Bad news

Against the other, though…

Breaches you were pwned in
Bad news — breaches you were pwned in

My main email address was involved in the big one: in October 2013 the data for nearly 153 million Adobe accounts was leaked. Adobe made it public pretty quickly and all users were encouraged to change their password, which I did.

I’m really impressed with this website: using leaked data for good, rather than ill. Check it out and find out if you’ve been pwned: Have I Been Pwned?

Note: the word ‘pwn‘ is geek-speak for ‘own’, implying that you’ve been dominated. It came about probably due to a typo as ‘o’ and ‘p’ sit next to one another on a QWERTY keyboard.

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