I’ve cracked my Facebook addiction.

Around a couple of weeks ago, I had a moment – the moment was a realisation that I was hooked on something, and just like any addict, I just couldn’t leave it alone. Now I’m not your typical person in regard to addiction – I can stop and start both alcohol and nicotine on a dime, as the Americans would say. Yup, very true – friends, colleagues and family all call me various names for my ability to go cold turkey and not turn into a raging monster (Then there’s the other side where I start up with no ill effects!).

Anyhow, despite my lack of traditional addiction, in the moment, I realised that Facebook was an unwelcome intruder in my mind, every five minutes whilst watching TV I’d be on the endless scroll quest to get yet more crap. I’m particular in the crap which flows in – for example, I don’t watch adverts on TV, and try to limit my news intake. Yet despite everything there was Facebook – even saying “Facebook” sounds like some kind of dirty word now.

I understand that some aspect, in a vague nebulous way, some long-ago nascent thought said “It’s a great way to keep up with Friends and Family”. It lied. You know the best way to keep with Friends and Family. See them. Call them. Be with them. Try it, you’ll appreciate the fresh yet old-fashioned way of doing things. Be in the moment. There is no spoon!

At first the revulsion was so bad, I turned off my devices and left them in another room. If I was going to go cold-turkey, I was going to do it full-bore. I managed to make that last most of a weekend, and then I had to re-join the connected-world (I work in I.T. and it’s kinda expected that you’re online 24*7). Even now, getting connected to the News and the world still gives me a mental twitch which I can’t shrug off. I’m conversant with the sardonic nature of recording these thoughts and posting them online – it’s like a great big dirty burger of filth, demolished with gusto, coming back with that sick sinking feeling of “What have I done!?”.

Can I escape Facebook completely? No. The insidious Facebook has managed to weave itself into minds and hearts like some kind of meme-virus. The insidious Facebook had managed to integrate into modern society, it’s truly the electronic equivalent of a symbiote. Instead of a community notice board for my area, there is a Facebook Group. Instead of a buy and sell board, there is a Facebook Buy & Sell Group. Instead of phoning up the local authority, they’re on Facebook, posting official notifications for the masses to digest. You get the picture – Facebook has a Face-Tentacle in everything everywhere.

Where am I left now? In Face-Limbo.

Fuck.

OneDrive not downloading all your files?

Before we begin, I will say that I love OneDrive.

Towards the end of last year I was getting a little tired of Google Drive (Which is now called something else… Baby, I just dont’t care), so decided to give OneDrive another go. A long time ago OneDrive was pure shite, wouldn’t even trust it with a backup of a single meme – WoW – how wrong was I – I tried it again and it was the unicorn of the file storage solution I’d been looking for.

To make OneDrive useful, like all useful things in life involves payment – it’s a small payment, and you get the full, industry standard power of Microsoft Office with it (Or is it the other way around, you tell me 😉 ) – either way £6 per month won’t break the bank in most cases, and for 1 TB of online storage, it’s great.

One drive has the best features:

  • Great Interface
  • Fire and forget installation in most cases
  • Granular file and folder selection
  • Works well with MS Office
  • Business and Personal versions
  • Online sharing, expiring links and password included
  • Click on the icon and it tells you what it’s doing
  • Brilliant online views, especially for your images
  • Ransomware protection
  • 30 Day File-Restore (Like previous versions)

Anyhow, the above said, Microsoft have been doing some fuckery with OneDrive recently, and I feel a public duty to undo it! One of the best features of OneDrive was the ‘fire and forget’ install, but Microsoft had to fiddle with it!

Until recently, I was happily using OneDrive to download and sync my files across multiple devices, then all of a sudden it stopped, and every time I tried to access one of the newer files, I was faced with a ‘xxxx program is downloading this file in OneDrive’… ‘fucking odd’ I think! But then… then the worst happens, you grab your device and run, knowing that your files have all been downloaded in the background, and you’ll have them offline.

W R O N G.

Click for full-sized version

In one of the latest Windows updates, a ‘feature’ has been made live, in full on stealth mode I might add. The ‘feature’ is ‘Save space and download files as you use them’, which means that none of the newer files will be background synchronised between devices, and when said devices are later offline, you’ll be screwed. BAD Microsoft! There is however an easy way to disable this ‘feature’ and restore the full glory to OneDrive.

  1. Click on your OneDrive icon (Note it tells you what’s it’s doing / done!)
  2. Select Settings
  3. Go to the Settings Tab
  4. UNTICK FILES ON DEMAND
  5. Don’t forget to click on OK.

Once the above is done, you’ll find that OneDrive goes off and catches up, downloading all the stuff you probably thought it had done already.

… And they all lived happily ever after…

Adding a batch script to the Windows Context Menu

With my previous article on How to remove the metadata title from MKV files I discussed methods for using a simple batch file to process a folder, removing metadata from individual files, plus an option to do this recursively; this got me thinking how great it would be to add that to the right-click menu for Windows folders.

As it turns out, it’s really easy, and using the example of recursively processing all MKV files in a folder structure, this is how…

Save the following to a file called MKVCleanup.bat, place this in your Windows folder (Usually c:\windows). You can download a copy by right-clicking here, and selecting “Save As”.

@echo off
cd %1
for /r %%i in (*.mkv) do (
echo processing "%%i"
"C:\Program Files\MKVToolNix\mkvpropedit.exe" "%%i" -d title
)
Echo Done.
pause

The next step, actually adding the right-click command is a registry addition; save the following text into a file on your desktop called MKVCleanup.reg, then right-click on it, selecting “Merge”. You can download a copy by right-clicking here, and selecting “Save As”, you’ll still need to right click on it, selecting merge. This makes an entry in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell – it just includes a title, and one command which points to the batch file.

It takes advantage that the environment automatically starts in parent of the folder indicated by your right click, and passes the target folder as a command line parameter.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\MKVCleanup]
@="&MKVCleanup"

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\MKVCleanup\command]
@="\"C:\\Windows\\MKVCleanup.bat\" \"%1\""

If you’re actually using this, you’ll also need the MKVToolNix Program (Backup link to 64 bit installer, since their site seems to be down a lot). Go download and install. It’s free, and doesn’t nag.

That’s it, no reboot required, as soon as you’re done, you’ll have a new & shiny right click option in Windows Explorer for folders called “MKVCleanup” – simples 🙂

How to remove the metadata title from MKV files

mkvYou may have come across the need to remove the metadata, or extended title information from an mkv file downloaded from the internet.

Not all files are equal – in the case of regular files, for example .jpg and .mp4 files, you can simply right click in Windows, select Properties, and happily click away at the Details Tab, then “Remove Properties and Personal Information” – provided you have the right permissions, it’ll all work fine. MKV files will give you a permissions error, which is a lie, a dirty stinking filthy lie – don’t believe the lie.

Windows just doesn’t know how to deal with an MKV file title.

You need a 3rd party tool, and a small amount of knowledge.

The tool you need is MKVToolNix (Backup link to 64 bit installer, since their site seems to be down a lot). Go download and install. It’s free, and doesn’t nag.

Then you need to understand how to use the command line.

The basic command you need is: “C:\Program Files\MKVToolNix\mkvpropedit.exe” *mkv file name* -d title

When run, it will simply empty the metadata title from the file, no fuss, and it’ll only take a second.

Update: A number of people have asked me how to automate this to make it recursive, i.e. start at the top of a specified directory (Folder), and go through all sub-directories, processing all files.

This is how:

​@echo off
c:
cd \users\USERNAME\downloads\*.mkv
for /r %%i in (*.mkv) do (
echo processing "%%i"
"C:\Program Files\MKVToolNix\mkvpropedit.exe" "%%i" -d title
)

The For loop goes through every file in the folder structure (Given the *.mkv spec), and executes the mkvpropedit command on every file found in the list. Simples.

Feel free to nick the code above, and use it for your own purposes, but remember to change the relevant path names to those on your own system.

If you would like to know more about batch files, and how they (Plus the command line) work in Windows, please visit the excellent Wikibook: Windows Batch Scripting which should get you started, or go Google it 🙂

Batch scripting (Or otherwise known as Batch Files) enable simple yet powerful processing of almost anything in the DOS or Windows environments, however the batch-language is largely superseded by the more powerful Windows Powershell; but in my opinion it is still very much a valid and ultimately useful tool, for it’s ease of use and simplicity.

This article (Click here) shows you how to add this to the right click context menu in Windows – even easier!”

iOS: 10 Top Tips which aren’t so well known

This article details some ideas to reduce annoyances, and improve your iOS 10 experience on your iPad and iPhone, plus gives you new features to play with.

These are little tips I’ve picked up over time when using my iPhone, features that are, in some cases, just not publicised during the iOS upgrade & launch. It’s almost like they don’t want you to know 😉

Either way, it’s the little things which make iOS superior to Apple’s competitors, and we should all know about them!

Before and AfterDevice going slow? Clear some memory quickly.

For this one, your device needs to be powered on and unlocked.

Simply press your power button until the power slider appears, then press and hold the Home Button until the screen returns to normal.

This has the effect of dumping some of the cached memory and freeing up a chunk of working-memory for applications to use. If your device is performing poorly, this is a quick alternative to a complete reboot of your device, which can typically take a few minutes, and interrupt your work.

Save some power.

Save power by turning off AirDrop, whilst keeping Bluetooth on.

Bluetooth on an iPhone / iPad isn’t a bad thing, and you can keep it on permanently without using too much power – the only instance where this uses a ton of battery charge is when you leave on AirDrop. Simply turning off AirDrop will enable you to just leave Bluetooth on, without using all that precious power – this is useful, for example, for people who use their phone in and out of the car all day.

To turn off AirDrop, just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the control-centre, then tap until it’s off.

Reopen Closed TabsClosed a web page by accident?

Did you know, if you’ve closed a web page in Safari on your iPad / iPhone, you can simply and easily re-open it?

Just hit the button for a new tab, and when the “+” symbol is displayed, press and hold it. This will reveal all of your recently closed tabs, from where you can simply open them back up!

Is that scrolling background causing you a problem? Want to see the text more clearly?

If you’re anything like myself in this instance, the answer will be yes! The good news is that Apple have provided a couple of things to make this better. Firstly, you can turn off that annoying scrolling of the background, and secondly you can make all the text bold.

Simply hit Settings > General > Accessibility, scroll down a little, turn on Bold Text, then Reduce Motion. This will give you an easier to look at and read home screen.

Do you have an ad-blocker installed? Do some pages fail?

Ad-blockers are essential when browsing the web these days, I never venture on to the web without one enabled, however they can cause severe problems with some sites.

Rather than diving into the settings, and turning off the ad-blockers, then reloading the page, … and turning them back on again later on, did you know you can simply and easily reload the page without the ad-blocker?

Easy to do – simply press and hold on the re-load symbol in the address / search bar at the top of safari, this will pop up a menu, which will allow you to either reload the page without ad-blockers, or request the desktop version of the site (As opposed to the mobile version, for example).

Do you ever miss alerts?
Do you have difficulty hearing people during calls?

If the answer to either of the two questions is yes, I have some good news for you!

When you’ve accidentally flicked the switch on your phone to put it into silent mode, and it’s just lying there, vibrating, but you can’t feel it… You can turn the camera’s flash on for the alert! This is also useful in especially noisy environments, and you’ll see it alert, giving you another chance to notice your phone is demanding attention.

To access this feature, select Settings > General > Accessibility > Scroll down to the Hearing section, turn on LED Flash for Alerts.

In the same section as mentioned, you’ll also notice Phone Noise Cancellation – this is absolutely fantastic – this feature, almost magically reduces the background noise, making those all important calls much easier to hear.

Save your home-button

One of the most used physical features of the iPhone and iPad is the home button, which also doubles as the fingerprint scanner in later versions of the devices. This button has been known to fail with excessive use, this problem has been made worse recently as it’s used to wake-up, and unlock you phone in the later instances of iOS. There is a new setting you can enable to reduce the usage of the button.

For example, where you wake your phone with the home button, then want to unlock via a fingerprint, you have to press the button a second time – enabling this function will allow you to simply rest your finger / thumb there and unlock without actually pressing the button a second time. You can save even more button presses on this one, if you wake your phone with the power button instead.

To enable the function select Settings > General > Accessibility > scroll down to Home Button, and select this. Inside the Home Button select Rest Finger to Open.

This function also allows you to use the device almost silently, for example if your partner is sleeping next to you, and you’re catching up on Facebook in bed 😉

Firefox: Prevent Unicode Phishing Attacks

IMPORTANT

This is concerning an extremely troubling phishing attack vector for the Firefox browser (Also impacts Chrome), which could leave you wide open to handing over login details to virtually any site, yes even those sites with the little green padlock (Which is supposed to be a sign of security).

The attack works by taking advantage of the unicode feature to display a false web address in tbe address bar, complete with working SSL certification. I won’t go in to further detail here, however you can read about it from the Wordfence Blog Entry, complete with an in-depth explanation.

The fix, for Firefox, is to set the variable network.IDN_show_punycode in Firefox about:config to True – setting this will reveal the real web address, instead of the phishing version for any domain.

The moral of this is not to hide the address bar and other bits of the browser which are slightly technical – this is a problem with technology which is wider than this specific example – programmers hide things, supposedly to make the experience more user-friendly – well, the world isn’t user friendly, and users should damn-well learn to deal with it!

Greater e-mail control & privacy with Google Mail

gmailThis is one of those “Did you know” articles which will become more useful the longer you remember to use the knowledge.

Have a GMail / Google Mail account? Yes – Good. No – Go get one.

You register for gmail, and have a gmail address, for example e-mail@google.com, but did you know that you can actually have as many as you like?

Now you say, “Why would I want more than one address?”. Well, say you don’t like spam, and you register for a website, one which gets hacked, or plain plays dirty and gives that address out – you can then easily filter anything to that address to the bin. The problem is that it’s hard to do when you only have one address, hence the need for multiple addresses. Previously this was one of the bonuses available to domain name owners, or geeks with a million e-mail accounts, but now this can be yours for a few extra key presses with any GMail account.

Simply add dots in your e-mail address, or a + symbol, followed by numbers or letters before the @gmail.com part of the address.

Examples:

So if your address was e-mail@gmail.com, you could automatically just use:

e-ma.il@gmail.com, e-mail+spammywebsitename@gmail.com, e-mail+reallyspammysite@gmail.com

You’d get all of the mails, the same as if you’d just used e-mail@gmail.com – get it?

When you register for websites, just use your-e-mail+sitename@gmail.com, then if they spam you, you can simply autofilter anything to that address into the bin. Simples.

As a side-note – this will also enhance security as often hacked account details are circulated, now as this almost always done via an automated process, a unique e-mail address for a site is by definition going to make the job of the “hacker” more difficult when using an automated process.

Further along the security lines, often phishing e-mails, for example claiming to be from your bank, are spammed at random e-mail accounts. Say you’d used your e-mail@gmail.com address with your bank, it’d be quiet hard to tell if it was legit – but (Not 100% foolproof, but goes a long way!), if you’d used e-mail+banknameyourname@gmail.com, it’d go a long way to telling you if the mail was genuine or not.

Remember though, in general – if you get what you think may be a dodgy e-mail from a financial institution, CALL them on their publicly known numbers and verify it – BEFORE you click on links!

Never forget the basics of diagnostics.

Win10I fix a lot of computer problems, it’s a part of my daily life, my occupation, job etc… Sometimes it’s the really simple things which trip you up – it’s a problem in my profession where we tend to sometimes skip the really simple steps of problem solving and go straight for the solution, assuming (The mother of all fuckups) that the simple things are all OK.

IMG_1431
I fell into the trap this weekend, installing Win 10 on my main desktop machine… I know the machine is a beast of a bastard of a machine, and the build isn’t simple – for start it has five physical hard drives in the box, three DVD writers, two other USB3 drives attached, plus capacity for more when I’m performing system backups. The primary reason for the diverse storage is to eliminate bottle-necks – with everything having dedicated physical storage, even under very high workload, this thing doesn’t slow down. Anyhow, when upgrading the existing Win7 64bit Pro install to Win 10, I had the error “Something Happened. Sorry, we’re having trouble determining if your PC can run Windows 10. Please close Setup and try again.” Now, I did the usual simple fix, and turned it off and on again, with a more basic software config loaded, e.g. no VPN. No luck. This is where I dived off the deep end.

Welcome to the deep end. I Googled it. Probably a partition thing. OK. Storage management, and set the active partition to the OS Part, not the sys part, re-ran the setup, and got past that error – easy I think, so I set the system partition active again, continuing with the install.

IMG_1432No such luck, along came the next error, “Something happened. We can’t tell if your PC has enough space to continue installing Windows 10. Try restarting Setup”. Oh Noes! So… I KNOW the free space on my system, I’d just backed up and cleaned it out to make sure this process was smooth – there is enough physical space – after all, as part of the system design, there is a 500mb fast hard drive dedicated to the OS and apps, only about 60gb used in total.

To cut a long story a little short – I went though the system, even down to the BIOS to power off all internal storage, save for the OS drive… Even unplugged all other devices – in the end the only thing the installer could see was the OS drive, and still nothing. Insert Win7 Setup Disk – ran through the automatic fix it options, even hitting the BootRec command, and replacing boot-sector, mbr etc… No luck, still the same error.

Then it smacked me firmly in the face. Space – what is the free space dependent on – the file system. What if the file system is broken in some subtle way, not impacting any other process on the system – after all I’d had zero warnings from anything, even the drive mirroring program used to backup the system. Enter chkdsk. Chkdsk the saviour of everything. Simple first step fix which I’d skipped over due to the lack of file system warning messages.

Ran chkdsk /f, rebooted, let it do the job.

Rebooted. Upgrade through with no problems.

Check the simple things.
Check the simple things.
Check the simple things.

I tell you three times.

.m3u playlists and Winamp…

winampRemember WinAmp?

Do you still use WinAmp?

Do you have a load of favoured, lovingly built .m3u playlists?

Would you like the files copied to another folder, without having do them manually one by one, to play on another device?

If the answer to all of the above is yes (This means you’re old!), look no further. Below is some batch file code in Windows which will allow you to do exactly that. Run it from the command line with the single parameter of the playlist.mu3 filename (Filename cannot contain spaces).

When run the batch file will create a folder in the current location named after the .m3u file, go through the .m3u file, then copy all of the tracks to the destination folder for you – from there all you need to do is reorganise them to your own preferences – you could use DBPowerAmp to convert the formats, and Mp3Tag to do the filenames / ID3 tags 🙂

I’ve recently used this to extract my playlists from my PC, copying the files, then setting the ID3 tags with Mp3Tag as a compilation, then shoving over to my iPad with CopyTrans Manager.

Have fun with the code, feel free to use and modify, however you are forbidden in using it in any form of commercial project without significant modification. If you do find the code handy, please comment, and link back here!


@echo off

if "%1"=="" goto NoFilename

if exist "%1" (goto continue) else (goto FileDoesntExist)

:continue

echo Extracting filenames from %1

find /V "#" %1 > tempfileextract.txt

set DestTemp=%1
set Dest=%DestTemp:~0,-4%

mkdir %dest%

for /f "delims=" %%a in (tempfileextract.txt) do (

echo Processing %cd%\%%a
copy "%cd%\%%a" %dest% >nul

)

goto end

:NoFilename
echo No Filenname specified
goto end

:FileDoesntExist
echo Cannot open %1
goto end

:end
echo.
echo Cleaning up.
if exist tempfileextract.txt del tempfileextract.txt
echo.
echo Done.