4 October 2016

History of the Google Nexus and Pixel phone series

History of the Google Nexus and Pixel phone series by original price, total CPU GHz, RAM and Camera MPxs.


1 October 2016

Advice for using SSDs with Windows



There are several ways to get your SSD working properly and optimally, just searching for it is likely to bring up results.

  • Run winsat formal - see instructions here - in Windows 8 and above, Windows will need to have this run after installation to correctly identify the disk as an SSD, otherwise it will start defragmenting it which is not needed and reduces the life of your SSD
  • Upgrade the firmware
  • Disable write caching on the disk using Device Manager, see instructions here. Without this the SSD would often hang for 30 seconds at a time. See the section below for some error messages I used to get
  • Disable power management and energy efficiency - Change the standard and hidden ACHI power settings if available
  • Prevent the disk going to sleep - Change Power Options >  'Turn hard disk off' to 0 (Never) see here for screenshots
  • Upgrade the drivers
    • for Intel RST and under Performance, set Link State Power Management to disabled
    • for the SATA AHCI driver (use Device Manager)
    • for the Intel Chipset
    • If using an external SSD, do not upgrade the USB driver because it may cause a bluescreen. E.g. if you have a Renesas USB 3.0 driver or Intel USB 3 driver. There are no updates to the UASPStor.sys driver from Microsoft since 2006. Trying to slipstream the driver into a Windows 8 installation didn't make it use this driver
  • Hibernation or hybrid sleep - personally I prefer having the option of hibernation, however, external SSDs may not properly handle booting from hibernation properly, so you may want to disable it
  • Check the low battery options - go to Control Panel, Power Options, Change plan settings, Change advanced power settings, Battery, Critical battery action. Make sure you change this from the default 'Hibernate' if you have disabled Hibernate! I have set it to Shutdown.
  • Run TRIM on a regular basis - Once winsat has been run and defrag identifies your SSD correctly, you can optimise it - this will run the TRIM command to tell your SSD that free space can be reused. If you don't do it, then your SSD will get slower as it struggles to find completely zeroised sectors.
  • Zeroise free space on an occasional basis - If your SSD is becoming more slow, then zeroising the free space may speed it up. Use SDelete -z c: for this.
  • Improve boot time by disabling startup items using Autoruns, C-CleanerTask Manager or msconfig
  • Turn off unused drives - If using an external SSD, then use Disk Manager to take the internal HDD offline if you don't need to use it, and the Device Manager to disable the disk altogether.
  • Don't use regular disk monitors - Don't use an automatic SMART monitoring program like Acronis Drive Monitor because it may cause a serious about of lagging and timeouts. Only use this for traditional HDDs.
  • Use one-off disk monitors - for example Passmark DiskCheckup
  • Disable search indexing
    • Empty the index (Control Panel > Indexing Options > Advanced)
    • Disable the Windows Service
  • Disable Superfetchthe Windows Club recommends disabling this 
  • Disable automatic boot into Windows - Use EasyBCD to disable the timeout on the Windows Boot Manager screen so that you can easily get to the recovery options if you break your Windows (pressing F8 on startup doesn't always work)
  • If external
    • To install Windows without it being certified Windows To Go, use WinToUSB - requires an ISO or installation disk
    • Change the cable to a gold-plated one 
Issues with SSD

I've got these errors before in Event Viewer, these are caused by not following the first 6 configuration steps above.
  • Reset to device, \Device\RaidPort1, was issued (or RaidPort0)
  • The IO operation at logical block address 0x78f47c0 for Disk 0 (PDO name: \Device\0000003a) was retried
Screenshots here:




28 September 2016

Maintaining your PC



Just a simple list of maintenance tasks that I regularly use and carry out.
Also see my blog Useful Free Windows Tools, alternativeTo, FileHippo and Download.com

27 September 2016

Kaspersky Removal Tool Bug

I found a bug with the Kaspersky Removal Tool. It will break System Restore on Windows 10. I've reproduced this on 4 different machines.

The error message appears as below.



There was an unexpected error in the property page. System Restore encountered an error. Please try to run System Restore again. (0x81000203). Please close the property page and try again.

Fix

After exporting the registry before and after and then comparing, I found the UpperFilters were deleted for the Storage volumes class. As far as I understand it, you need both Upper and Lower Filters in any given case.


To apply the fix, copy the following blue text, paste it into Notepad, save it as "repair.reg", then double-click to Merge it with the registry.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Class\{71a27cdd-812a-11d0-bec7-08002be2092f}]
"UpperFilters"=hex(7):76,00,6f,00,6c,00,73,00,6e,00,61,00,70,00,00,00,00,00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{71a27cdd-812a-11d0-bec7-08002be2092f}]
"UpperFilters"=hex(7):76,00,6f,00,6c,00,73,00,6e,00,61,00,70,00,00,00,00,00

After applying this, restart the machine and try to open System Restore again - the error will disappear.

Tools used to help investigate
This error is also caused by other programs like TuneUp Utilities - see this Microsoft support page.

25 September 2016

iPhone thinness

Nice little infographic I made of iPhone "thinness" over time.



24 September 2016

My policy on property in the UK


  1. Anyone not paying rent for over 3 months or damaging property must be evicted immediately
  2. Council properties will be repurposed into standard housing and put on the market. Current council flat dwellers will be moved to live in portacabins if they cannot afford rent.
  3. Redevelop all existing dilapidated, damaged, and uninhabitable property and get it on the market
  4. Unoccupied properties for more than 6 months are automatically put on the market
  5. As time goes on and properties remain unsold, their price must come down by 10% per year until it is sold
  6. Any new properties that are built must have an energy performance rating of A or higher e.g. LED lighting and insulated walls, and must not be built on floodplains - if unavoidable, the property must be build at least 2 foot above ground level at the lowest part of the house

Additionally:

  1. Target of 100% national employment rate should be achieved by 2025 which includes those on benefits. People on benefits must find paid or voluntary work (now mandatory) of some description even if it is online or community service.
  2. Transport will be improved for all locations e.g. buses and trains. 
    1. All buses and trains must now accept contactless only - coins and paper are now invalid. Only reusable cards can be issued by a cashier, if they are not intended to be kept then they are reused as temporary cards. Every station must now have a card reader, and a map of the local nearest facilities (toilet, defibrillator, seating), and must have a vending machine with essentials like water.
    2. All buses must now be running on 100% renewable energy. LED lighting will also be used. Wi-Fi should also be at 100% UK coverage by 2026.
    3. All trains should be running on 100% renewable energy by 2036. Same again for lighting and Wi-Fi.

9 September 2016

Some of my favourite TV shows as a kid


  • Bernard's Watch
  • Old Bear and Friends
  • Noddy
  • Wizadora
  • Oakie Doke
  • SMart
  • Art Attack
  • Zzzapp!
  • Finger Tips
  • The Big Bang
  • Jungle Run
  • How 2
  • Come Outside
  • Through The Dragon's Eye
  • Rosie and Jim
  • Brum
  • Button Moon
  • Rainbow
  • Postman Pat
  • Fireman Sam
  • The Worst Witch
  • My Parents Are Aliens
  • Spongebob Squarepants
  • Sabrina The Teenage Witch
  • Thomas the Tank Engine
  • Tiny Planets
  • The Moomins
  • Blue Peter
  • Teeny Tots
  • Get Your Own Back
  • Shortchange
  • Pokemon
  • Digimon
  • Raven
  • Basil Brush
  • The Queen's Nose
  • Bob the Builder
  • Hilltop Hospital
  • Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids
  • Clangers
  • The Wombles
  • SMTV and CD:UK
  • ChuckleVision
  • Animals of Farthing Wood
  • Bodger & Badger

1 September 2016

Renting Advice

Before putting down a deposit, I'd recommend following up on the following topics at your viewing, with the landlord or agency. For more information and guidance, see gov.uk.

The basics

  • Rent - What is your total income minus rent, bills, food, insurance, travel, etc. Can you really afford it and save up enough for the future?
  • Furnished - What stays and what goes? Things like beds, tables, television, microwave, washing machine/tumble drier, sofas, chairs, desks, racks.
  • Other viewings - How many other people have been or are coming to see it? From this you'll know how fast you need to respond.
  • All bills - Some contracts may advertise all bills but actually don't - often TV Licence is excluded, but from 1st Sept 2016, TV licences will be required even if you don't watch live TV.
  • Share bills - Are you all sharing the bills, who is in charge, and where does the money go?
  • Cleaner - Is there a cleaner for communal areas and perhaps your own room? Is there a rota for all housemates to cover, and who buys cleaning products etc.?
  • Landlord availability - How long does it take for the landlord to sort things out?
    • Does the landlord ever live in? Generally I wouldn't recommend these.
    • If you have issues what is the process - Estate Agent first or landlord first? Usually it depends on the issue.
  • Why moving out - Why is the room available? Why did the person move out?
  • Parking - Is there on-land parking, on-street parking, and parking for visitors? Are permits needed?

Health and safety

  • Mice, rats, slugs - Check if there are any signs of them, and check for holes
  • Police.uk - Check this website for crime rates and types in the area.
  • Damp - Check for moist walls, especially against the walls that on the building like near windows. Also check for where sections of walls have been painted over as this may be to cover up damage or damp.
  • Insurance - Do you have enough that you want to be insured?
    • Age of property - you will need this when setting up contents insurance
  • Fire extinguishers - (only required if H.M.O. property) are the indicators in the green zone? Is there at least 1 on every level?
  • Fire exit - Is there a clear exit on every level?
  • Fire/smoke alarm - Is there one and is it working? Usually a tap of the test button will do the trick.
  • Security - Do all external-facing doors have a rim/mortice lock or a rim latch lock, or a level handle lock? Each have varying degrees of safety and how easy they are to break in.
  • Gas safe - Are the boilers gas safe and checked within the last year?
    • British Gas Home Care - Is the property covered by this? I'd recommend it for immediate and professional cover of gas/electric issues.
  • Keys - Do you get your own set of keys for your room, windows, and other doors?
  • Windows - Do they all open, are they clean, who cleans them?
  • Street lamps - Are there visible street lights from the window that could distract you in the night? Is there adequate street lighting at all for safety?
  • Police check - Have there been any burglaries or any other criminal activities recorded at the property within the last couple of years? You can also ask the police or firemen to inspect the property for weaknesses.
  • Carbon monoxide detector - (Gas property only) Is there one near the boiler and is it working?
  • Documentation - Each property must have an EPC and annual gas certificate if applicable

Policies

  • Pets - Are you allowed to keep or bring over pets?
  • Partners and guests - are you allowed to have anyone over? Friends, guests, partners etc. How many nights per week is too many?
  • Rubbish and recycling - where are they bins stored and how often are they emptied? Who's job is it to take out the rubbish?

Comfort and convenience

  • Storage - What's the policy on storage, and is there enough room for all your stuff? If not, will the landlord allow you to get cabinets or an Otterman bed?
  • Noise - Is it noisy in the area - do you need silence to sleep? You're looking for traffic noise from nearby roads and motorways, noisy neighbours, and transport like trains and airports nearby.
  • Sunlight - Is the sunlight coming into your room - would it be a distraction - or is there no sunlight at all. Too much will discolor the walls and not enough means the room might be colder.

Utilities


  • Washing and drying - Is there a washing machine, dryer, and what is the policy on using airers/horses in your room/other rooms?
  • Bathroom - Is there an extractor fan and if so, is it working?
  • Hot water - How long does it take to get hot water from a tap? Is it mild or piping hot?
  • WiFi and cell strength - If there is no signal in your room, you might need to consider extending the WiFi or using Powerline
  • Latest router and specs - How old is the router? Newer ones are likely to be dual band, and grade b/g/n/ac, and should be fiber. Ask if you can get a speed test.

Features and fittings

  • Lighting replacement - who will replace the lightbulbs and batteries for fire alarms etc/? Are any of the light fittings loose or not working?
  • Wall mounts - Are you allowed to pin or stick anything up? Often white-tac is allowed, but some places may give permission to pin things up like paintings or hooks for keys/jackets.
  • Plugs - Are there enough of them in the room, are they in good condition, and are they in a good place for where you stuff will be?
  • Extra switches - sometimes properties have extra switches next to the lights, what do they do?

Beautiful songs

Some of my favourite beautiful songs of all time include:

  • Lara Fabian - The Dream Within
  • My Morning Jacket - Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Part II
  • Moby - Porcelain
  • Simply Red - Holding Back The Years
More on my Spotify Playlist.


These are probably all good contenders for my funeral to be honest.

29 August 2016

Malware website example

I was browsing a news website on my phone and came across these screenshots.



The URL that Chrome loaded was this, which is sneaky. Repeat visits to this URL do not change the page being returned. Obviously it is Base64 so the decoded form is below.



It decodes into HTML of which contains the bad URL in the iframe tag below:



Some tips for reporting badware, malware, phishing sites, and sending email submissions.
Remember suspicious emails and attachments should be sent as a saved message, not forwarded as it will lose the originator's details.