Categories
computing windows

Backup Awareness Day

Life goes on.

Family stuff’s been on my mind recently, and there’ll be a deep post about the last couple of months at some point. It’s been a while since I did deep personal here, and that’s probably good for my life in general, but I can’t help but realise that I’ve got archives of my life going back 16 years here and 10 on livejournal, but for the last four or so anything of deep import’s gone to Facebook. I mean, I archive my facebook posts to machines I control, but it worries me a bit how much goes up there.

Anyway, Odyssey’s next week, and I’ve been spending evenings reviewing and recoding in prep for that. Work’s ramping up a bit, so that’s a lot of my head, and I was looking forward to spending this evening putting all of those things out of my head for a couple of days and brain-reset with the aid of some mindless pixel shooting.

Mindless pixel shooting was suffering from some performance issues, which I traced to my primary hard drive pegging at 100% with no applications running. A reboot sent windows into a cycle of “Attempting repair of C:\… 18%”… reboot “Diagnosing your PC” … “Attempting repair of C:\”… An hour or so looping through this, and it was obviously not going to work.

Resigned to the death of my hard drive, I dug out an old spare drive and set my old windows test laptop to download the Win10 media to a USB key, and found a Linux-based boot CD with a drive checker on it. Happily ever after, that came back with no problems, and rebooting into Windows worked again. So I’ve installed SSDLife and upgraded the firmware on the drive, and now I just hope it doesn’t happen again…

Well, more than hope, really. My system is designed so that almost everything I care about is on a different drive, the different drive is actually two mirrored hard-drives, the contents of that drive are backed up to Backblaze, and most of the important stuff is also synced with Dropbox. Losing my SSD would mean some hours redownloading a couple of games (though most are on a third drive), a while reinstalling software, a pile of irritation and a significantly less relaxing weekend. But it wouldn’t be a disaster.

I had my disaster about 15 years ago, and a lot of my documents and music went with it, and my setup was tested last year when an errant bit of software deleted the contents of my dropbox (which calmly resynced the now-empty folder to all the machines that once held it).

But yeah, today is National Backup Awareness day. Ideally your backups should consist of something local, something connected, and something nearby. I use an external drive for local, Backblaze connected, and Dropbox sync for nearby.

It’s worth doing.

Categories
Apple computing linux tv windows

Ripping TV Yarns

I’m in the process of ripping some boxsets of DVDs to Plex, and I thought I should probably document the process. The most obvious thing I’m not using here is Handbrake, which works really well for some people, but I am not one of them.

Physical to Digital

MakeMKV turns any DVD or Bluray I’ve thrown at it into an MKV file. The one thing it could do to make my life better would be custom tags on filenames, but the default {Directory}\{DVD Identifier}\title{nn}.mkv  is good enough. {DVD Identifier} is annoyingly unspecific most of the time, and sometimes within disks of the same box set (The thing I’m currently ripping has both WW_S4_T5_D3 and WESTWING_S4_D6 in it, as discs 1 and 6 respectively), so the next stage is to make those directory names consistent. It doesn’t matter what they are, so long as when I “ls” the directory, they are in the right order. Then, I run this:

export COUNT=1; # Start at 1
find . -name \*mkv \ # Find all files ending MKV
	| while read fle;\ # For each of those (as variable $fle)
		do mv $fle $(printf "The_West_Wing-S04E%0.2d.mkv" $COUNT);\ # Increment the filename
		COUNT=$(($COUNT + 1));\ # Add one to the filename count
	done

Note: You’ll need to collapse that back into a single line without the comments for it to work:

export COUNT=1; find . -name \*mkv \| while read fle; do echo mv $fle $(printf "The_West_Wing-S04E%0.2d.mkv" $COUNT);COUNT=$(($COUNT + 1)); done

This gives me a directory of well-named MKV files.

Digital to MP4

Plex is happier with mp4 encoded videos than with MKV files, though, plus they’re smaller without a noticable (to me) drop in quality, so when I’ve got a few series of these built up, I’ll run this overnight:

for fle in mkv/*.mkv; do encode.sh $fle; done

Where encode.sh looks like this:

#!/bin/bash
file=$1
ffmpeg -i $file -codec:v libx264 -profile:v high -preset ultrafast -crf 16 -minrate 30M -maxrate 30M -bufsize 15M -metadata:s:a:0 language=eng -c:a ac3 -b:a 384k -threads 2 ${file%.*}.mp4

Which is a standard ffmpeg encode line, the only real weirdness being the ${file%.*}.mp4 bashism, which basically turns the $file variable from “Foobar.mkv” into “Foobar.mp4” (It will also turn “Foo.bar.mkv” into “Foo.mp4” though, so be careful)

MP4 to Mediacentre

Once that’s finished, I’ll get rid of the mkv files, and send them into Plex. To ensure consistency of my filenames and also get any subtitle files I need, this is done using filebot, like this:

filebot -script fn:amc --output "/media/mediashare" --log-file amc.log --action move --conflict skip -non-strict --def music=y subtitles=en artwork=y --def "seriesFormat=TV Boxsets/{n}/{'S'+s}/{s00e00} - {t}" "animeFormat=Anime/{n}/{fn}" "movieFormat=Movies/{n} {y}/{fn}" "musicFormat=Music/{n}/{fn}" --def plex=localhost .

(Filebot, rename using the (included) automediacentre script. Output to directories below my media drive mount, log to amc.log, move (don’t copy) the files, if it already exists skip it. Don’t do strict checking, download music, search for subtitles, get series artwork, send TV shows to the “TV Boxsets” directory in {Series Name}/S{Series Number}/s{Series number}e{Episode Number} – {Episode Title} format. Anime should go somewhere else, Movies somewhere else, Music somewhere else, then notify plex on the local machine. Do this on the current directory)

Operating System Notes

None of this is OS specific. Filebot, FFMPEG Plex & MakeMKV are available – and work identically – on Windows, Mac & Linux. The various bash scripts could be adapted to powershell, but I’d instead recommend Babun, which is a repackaging of cygwin with a far nicer interface and package management system that’ll give you the basic *nix commandline tools on your windows machine (all of the above up to MP4 to Mediacentre runs on my beast-sized windows gaming rig, to avoid making the puny media centre CPU cry too much)

Categories
Apple computing linux sysadmin windows

My Terribly Organised Life III:B – Technical Development

Code starts in a text editor. Your text editor might be a full IDE, custom built for your language, a vim window with more commands than you can remember, or an emacs with more metakeys than you have fingers. Nowadays, it might even be a window in a browser tab, but that’s always given me flashbacks to deploying software by pasting lines into textareas in Zope, but the lines I type are in a text editor, and currently that’s Sublime Text 3.

I used Eclipse, Netbeans and Aptana and variants on the Java-based juggernaut for years, but partly because my main development languages are PHP and Python, it never really worked that well for me. My primary development OS is OS X, on by beloved Macbook Air, but I don’t want that to matter at all. I use SublimeText because it has plugins to do most of the things I liked about IDEs (SublimeCodeIntel, some VCS plugins, and a small host of other things) and it works the same, and looks the same, across every OS I use day to day. I’ve got my prefs and package lists syncing via dropbox, even, so the plugins stay the same.

I work as a contractor for hire, most of the time, and I’m terminally addicted to new projects. So I’ve generally got upwards of a dozen different development projects active at any one time. Few of them use the same language/framework combination, and all of them need to be kept separate, and talk to each other only in the proscribed ways. Moore’s law has made that a lot easier with the advent of things like Virtualbox being able to run several things at once, but getting those all consistently setup and easy to control was always a bit of an arse. Vagrant is my dev-box wrangler of choice right now. It could do a lot more, but mostly I use it to get up and shut down development VMs as I need them, safe in the knowledge that I can reformat the environment with a single command, and – with most projects, after prep work I’ve already done – anyone can set up a fresh and working dev environment in a few minutes.

(In theory. In practice there’s always some “How up to date is your system” crap)

Plus, the command line history always looks like it’s instructions for some kind of evil gift-giving robot. Vagrant up! Vagrant Provision! Vagrant Reload! VAGRANT DESTROY!

It’s a year or so since I switched almost everything to vagrant environments, but it’s only in the last few months I’ve looked in more depth about using something other than shell-scripts to provision them. I don’t really want to run a separate server for it, I’m not working to that kind of scale, so Ansible is currently my provisioning system of choice.

Ansible technically breaks my rules on development environments being platform agnostic, since it’s fairly militantly anti-windows as a host platform, but with babun (which is a cygwin repackage, complete with a replacement for the awful cygwin interactive shell, zsh, and a full package manager. If you take away nothing else from this, never install cygwin again) it works fine.

I’m fairly lucky in that all my clients have standardized on git as their vcs of choice, as it’s my choice too. Tower absolutely shatters my platform independance rule, but it’s hands-down the best git GUI I’ve used, and its built in git-flow support makes a lot of things easier. In Windows I’m using Atlassian SourceTree for the same job, which does a passable job. I’d still not recommend a git gui unless you know how to drive the command line to some level, if only because the terminology gets weird, but at the same time I’ve really liked being able to work with cli-phobic front-end developers who could still commit directly to the repo and make changes without needing a dev to rebuild.

For that, and not much else, I’ll recommend the Github client (in both Windows and Mac forms). It’s the most easy to use git client out there, but it’s doing that by hiding a lot of complexity rather than only doing simple things. It will work with non-git repos, even, though it’s not terribly happy about the concept. Does have the massive advantage of being free, though.

For the full Rained On By The Cloud experience, current primary deploy stack for Skute backend involves pushes to Github branches automatically triggering CodeShip CI, which runs the test suite before deploying (assuming success, of course) to Heroku. Secondary stack is similar, but deploys with ansible to AWS (for Reasons. At some point in the future I’ll no doubt be doing deeper stuff on how I’ve built the backend for Skute). Leaning heavily on the cloud is, in IT as much as life, not entirely a good idea, but it’s a really good starting point, and redundancy is in place.

Heroku’s mostly been a good experience. We’ve run into some fun issues with their autodetection (They decided our flask-based frontend service should be deployed as node.js, because the asset build system had left a package.json in the root) but the nodes have been rock-solid. Anyway, I’ve drifted into specifics.

Other dev utilities I couldn’t live without? Putty, in windows, for all the normal reasons. Expandrive is a Windows/Mac util for mounting sftp services as logical drives (or, indeed, S3 buckets or a dozen other similar things). LiveReload automatically watches and recompiles CoffeeScript, SASS, LESS etc. when necessary, Sequel Pro is an OS X GUI for MySQL access… and Evernote, where go checklists and almost every other bit of writing that isn’t also code.

There’s probably more, but that’ll be another article now.

Categories
Apple computing Personal Projects windows

My Terribly Organised Life III:A – Home

The previous MTOL were in 2004 and 2007, and soon I’m going to get over this “I’ve been doing this too long” kick.

Organisation

Google & Omnifocus, mostly. My email is google-app based, although most of my interface with it is with Mailbox, which allows me to do things like “Tell me about this in a week” or “Bother me with this when I’m on my laptop”. Google Inbox looks like a nice idea, but doesn’t work with Google Apps right now. My Calendar is Google Calendar, and even my contacts are in there. Email is reproduced to a local server, contacts less so, but they sync to most of my devices.

I made my choice between the Apple and Android ecosystems long ago, and I’m generally happy with my choice. There are good reasons to use Android, and some of them better than mine for using iOS, but none that will override the investment in app store things at this point. So I run an iPhone and an iPad.

Documents and notes generally live in Evernote, physical items are scanned with a Doxie scanner and automatically PDF’d and added to a Scans Inbox notebook, those get sorted every so often. Should I be trapped without a GUI, Geeknote is CLI access to evernote.

Files are mostly in Dropbox, which is synced to my desktop, laptop and a home server.

Tasks and Projects are the only major thing remaining without a web interface, because Omnifocus doesn’t have one (Spootnik exists. I’m not impressed, and it appears not to have been touched in a couple of years). It does have accept from email, which I use a lot.

I have a preference for platform agnosticism in my apps, for things that will work on any windows, mac or linux client I’m using, over a web connection if necessary.

Words

Entries generally start in Evernote, Stories in Scrivener, some of them even get finished.

Pictures

Photo manager is another area lacking. I’ve yet to find a decent photo manager that’s cross-platform, so everything’s still in iPhoto (Well, actually it’s in the beta of the new Photos App for OS X, which is fairly nice). Editing and creation is done in whatever’s most appropriate of Illustrator, Photoshop or Gimp.

Sounds

For listening to mine, still iTunes. Partly part of the Mac-Ecosystem thing, partly because Smart Playlists are still beyond most of the alternatives. I maintain a spotify subscription, though, and to be honest most of my music listening goes through that.

Recorded in Audacity, edited in Garageband while I’m trying to get to grips with Audition.

Movies & TV

Under the TV is a server running Plex Media Server and a large external hard drive. Everything goes to that, and is watched from wherever I am. Sometimes over the web from a very long way away.

Code

Is a whole other article 🙂

Information

Some people are on Facebook, others Twitter, others Google+, others Ello. Some are even still on Livejournal. I miss exceptionally the days when I could say something somewhere and know that a large percentage of my friendship circle would have seen it. Nowadays a larger friendship circle *might* have seen it if Facebook liked me that day.

Despite how dead RSS is, how everyone hates it, and how it’s not viable in a post-Facebook internet, generally I read everything on Feedly except actual news News, which I read in newspaper form on my iPad, like some kind of throwback to last century.

I like the concept of Reddit, liked it even more when it was Usenet, and still haven’t written an NNTP client for reddit yet. Soon.

Categories
windows

Windows 8

I installed the Release Candidate for Windows 8.

We are not friends.

There are three parts to Windows 8 that I’m going to cover. The first is the install and general behavior, the second is the advancement of the Desktop environment, and the third is the New World of the Windows 8 Style previously known as “Metro”, with specific reference to how absolutely and inexplicably horrific it is to anyone with the timidity and hubris to dare to use more than one monitor.

As I say, we are not friends.

My computer system is called Thundersnow, and looks like this:

My desk

It specs out like this:

CPU: Intel Core i5 2500K 3.3GHz 6MB)
Memory: 16gb Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: MSI P67A-GD53
Case: Coolermaster Elite 330U
PSU: EZ Cool 700W Tornado

AMD Graphics card, Radeon HD 6850 (Specifically, ASUS HD 6850 Direct CU 1GB GDDR5)

Hard drives:

  • OCZ 60GB Agility 3 SSD (Boot)
  • 500GB Seagate ST95005620AS Momentus (Magnetic-backed SSD drive. Like Apple’s new Fusion thing, only not OS integrated. Mostly contains games)
  • A couple of 1Tb drives software raided for data.

The RAID is done in software, because the home-spec RAID card I bought had drivers that sucked planets.

The Install

I downloaded the image from Microsoft’s website and installed it to a USB stick, which I booted from. The install asked me where I’d like to install this, and I pointed it at the SSD drive. After that, it asked me no questions until user setup happened.

User setup connected my local login account with my Microsoft (formerly Passport) account, which wouldn’t allow me to change my email address from the one I was using ten years ago when I set the damned thing up. Fortunately it’s an address I still own.  It downloaded wallpaper settings and such from my account, where it had saved them from my attempt at trying the Consumer Preview earlier this year.

 Good Things

  • The install is rapid and smaller than the default Win7 install.
  • The new install sequence looks pretty and does what you ask it to.
  • It boots so fast that I don’t even see the Windows logo
  • The new login screen is quite nice
  • Downloading old settings is handy.

Bad Things

  • The lack of an Advanced install system between means it is not possible to put your User directory on a different drive without post-hoc fucking about with junction points.
  • Same thing for Program Files. With the existence of SSD drives this is nothing short of stupid. You can solve this with Slipstream, but that’s a several orders of magnitude more complicated than these requirements.

Windows 8 Desktop

Windows 8’s Desktop environment is an evolutionary step forward from Windows 7. The new Explorer “Ribbon” based UI works well, the support for multiple monitors is much improved with options to have applications appear on the task bar of the monitor they are on, and almost every aspect of day to day use of the system has been improved, from the redesigned and more useful Task Manager to the speed graphs and feedback of the Copy/Move progress boxes. Hundreds of Quality of Life improvements make Windows 8 Desktop a great upgrade from previous versions of Windows.

Windows 8 “Metro” Style

I’m going to continue to call it Metro. Firstly, because it’s a far better name than “Windows 8 Style”, and secondly to distinguish it from the Desktop above.

Let’s start with the good. I like the aesthetic. The clean vector styles and the joined up design appeal to me, the tile-based start screen is a nice idea, and the dymaic tiles system give you an at-a-glance view of things you want to be aware of. It’s an evolution on the well-designed Windows Mobile experience, and I look forward to trying a Surface device that suits its advantages.

The advantages of a desktop or laptop over a handheld device still exist. We may be in the “death of the desktop”, but I feel that is because a subset of day to day tasks are more easily done on a tablet. Most web-surfing, email reading, keeping up to date, and casual gaming is a lot of the time far more suited to a tablet experience; and that set of activities is the complete set of requirements for quite a large number of people who currently or formerly would have bought desktops. The advantages of a full Desktop Environment include User Multitasking and the advantages of experience.

Advantage of Experience

On a tablet-based interface, everything you can do from here is obvious. Buttons and menus are context sensitive, and follow the worn paths of what a user expects. On my desktop, I can configure what comes up on startup, can replace everything from the clipboard mechanism downwards, configure slide-in menus and global shortcuts, and have a myriad things configured Just So, to the point where another user sitting at my computer might be bewildered. Android tablets exist in a state somewhere close to this, but what you can do is limited by what you _should_ be able to do, and the power you want to draw.

User Multitasking

As I type my desktop has PuTTY windows open to six servers, has Outlook, three Chrome windows with around 70 tabs between them, Spotify playing music, Metrotwit popping up with ambient sociality, Netbeans for development, Evernote for keeping track of my day, and an IM window to my coworkers to share links. There are another half dozen things running in the background. At the moment Chrome has most of my full attention, but in development I am generally running at least two different apps with split focus – Chrome and Netbeans, mostly. Flicking attention between them, and transfering data between them, is most of my day.

Full Screen Applications

Metro is a world of Full Screen applications with large chunky UI elements and single use things. You can “dock” some apps to the side, so they’re also running as you do other things, but this doesn’t seem either elegant or fitting, and jibes badly with the chunky UI aesthetic. The full screen applications work well as they are, and generally look great, and for someone looking to do one thing at a time – maybe with their IMs on the side of the screen – it would work very well.

Metro, however, doesn’t support multiple monitors.

15% of Windows desktop PCs have more than one monitor attached, which as a percentage might not look that high, but as a number is quite a whack of people. Metro apps run on the monitor you pressed Start on. You can drag the Metro interface from one monitor to another, but it will only ever run on one monitor.

Key to Windows 8’s new world order is also “Charms”, a series of icons that appear if you push against the side of the desktop. I’ve never triggered them on purpose, though, because to the side of my desktop is… another desktop. You can, as mentioned above, “dock” metro apps to one side of the monitor. But not another monitor. Application switching between Metro apps is done by going into the top left of the Metro instance, which is fine so long as the top left of your metro instance is the top left of your desktop.

If they hadn’t made such a big deal about multiple monitor support in Windows 8, it might be understandable. I am, I admit, in the 0.85% of users on this one, but it’s such a massive step backwards.

This is all on top of the Metaphor Shear and Surprise! Interface problems that caused me to ditch the Consumer Preview before.

There are people for whom Windows 8 is a great upgrade. Anyone whose computer use is based around IM, websurfing, email and facebook will probably be entirely happy with it. But if you know what a BIOS is, or ever want to play games, or have more than one monitor, Metro is a bad upgrade for you. Which is a shame, because the desktop bit is great.

I’ll… probably upgrade, I think. I want to develop Windows 8 apps, which means having the ability to run them. But Stardock have released a thing to put the Start Menu back instead of launching Metro, and that looks promising.

Categories
windows

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Last time I attempted to install a preview version of Windows, it all went a bit entertainingly pear-shaped.

This time, the install went better. Well, the software did. On Wednesday, my computer made the fatal mistake of blue-screening with memory management issues just after I’d been paid, and so I finally decided today was a good day to replace the soul of my desktop. Traditionally, when I replace the case, motherboard and CPU of a machine it gets a new name, and thus Cloudburst is retired, and Thundersnow comes to the fore. Given that I had a clean new machine to try it on, I thought I’d download the new Windows 8 Consumer Preview and try that, and the last act of Cloudburst was to burn it to a CD.

First problem, my new machine is too modern to plug my DVD drive into. The new motherboard scoffs at your fancy ideals of “IDE” and only accepts SATA devices. So, I dug out a laptop and a method of turning an ISO into a bootable USB stick, and eventually we were off to the races.

The new Windows 8 logo

It starts off with your user based off your Microsoft passport/live/msdn network account details, which is a bit annoying. The new start menu is built in the tile-based Metro UI, and is quite nice. I like the aesthetic of Metro a lot, partly because anything that displays an actual artistic style rather than the semi-realistic gloss-plastic look everything is currently drifting towards is something to be commended. The tile mechanic looks nice, and all the full-screen apps built into it are clear and stylistically consistant. It’s a very nice phone/tablet interface.

The Windows Desktop interface is very much an evolution from Windows 7. If you haven’t yet groked the UI language of the Ribbon, you’re going to not like the Explorer windows interface much, but generally it’s similar to previously, squarer and flatter to be closer to Metro, but also simplified for common tasks. I like the evolution of the Windows 8 Desktop interface a lot.

So, here’s the problem. If I go into control panel (Start (Metro), Control Panel (Desktop), User Accounts (Desktop), Change your Password (Desktop), I’m told this functionality is in PC Settings. Clicking that launches a Metro application to change some account details (but not others). Every switch between the two distinct interfaces is a metaphor shear, a reminder that you are using a thing, a giant cognitive load on the user which would be unforgivable if the user could always predict when it was going to happen, which they can’t.

IE launches in Desktop. Messenger is Metro.  Metro only ever launches in the primary display, making it painfully obvious it’s just a Windows Media Center-like overlay for the normal desktop.

The new Windows 8 Start Screen, making use of ...
Image via Wikipedia

Metro is a fine phone/tablet interface. It’s not a very good desktop interface for anything beyond basic browse/mail/music tasks. It isn’t good for the Desktop’s biggest strong points, multiple tasking, task switching, etc. For any of the things you would use a desktop over, for example, a Tablet.

The Metro interface on the desktop feels like a forced Grand Unification Plan sewing a decent tablet UI into an evolution of the Desktop metaphor, entirely ignoring that the greatest thing about different devices is that they can be used differently and concentrate on their strongest suites.

This schizophrenic substandard suddenly switching schlock should select a single standard scheme. Soon.

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Categories
Apple computing windows

Huh

I buy an iPad, and Steve Jobs resigns.

D’ya think I should start a Kickstarter project to get a Windows Mobile device?

Categories
sysadmin windows

Windows 7: How To Automatically Backup Your PuTTY connections

Go to:

  1. Control Panel
  2. Administrative Tools
  3. Task Scheduler
  4. Create Basic Task (In the bar on the right)
  5. Name: “Backup Putty Connections”
  6. Next
  7. Run Daily
  8. Next, Next, Next (Until “Start a Program”)
  9. Program/Script: C:Windowsregedit.exe
  10. Arguments: /E "Putty_connections_backup.reg" "HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareSimonTatham"
  11. Start In: (The directory to put the backups in. Somewhere in your Dropbox would be good)
  12. Open Properties when finished
  13. Finish.
  14. Check the “Run with highest privileges” option (If you don’t see it, find your new task (You may need to click on “Task Scheduler Library”) and right click on it, then select “Properties”)
  15. Right click on it again
  16. Run it.
  17. Make sure the file’s been created.

How to restore them:

  1. Install PuTTY
  2. Double click on that file.
Categories
Computer Games windows

Skipping User Account Control (UAC) in Win7/Vista without disabling it

UAC is actually quite good for security in Windows, as it means that anything that could steal your dog and run away with your favourite pillow/boyfriend/girlfriend has to get your permission first. However, the annoying popup that asks me if I’m sure I trust CoH every time it launches has annoyed me since I upgraded to Windows 7. This is how to solve it for arbitrary applications:

Disclaimer

I am a geek. This is geek advice, fraught with assumptions of savvy and technological pitfalls that didn’t happen when I tried it. It assumes you know what you’re doing and that if following these instructions word for word does cause an explosion that destroys you, your computer and your favourite pillow that you will not track me down and take me to a haberdashers to be forced to replace it. Caveat lector.

Tech Background Bit

UAC has no such concept as a “whitelist” and doesn’t provide a mechanism for skipping the prompt, but it does allow you to schedule a task to run with elevated privileges that doesn’t ask permission (because a scheduled task that asks for permission every time it is run is as useful as a chocolate tea service). Martin Zugec came up with a proof-of-concept utility called “Elevator” that creates a scheduled task to be launched immediately with elevated privileges

The method of making it work

  1. Go to the webpage and download “SkipUAC.zip”
  2. Extract the contents somewhere non-temporary, like c:program filesSkipUAC
  3. In that directory, right click “Install” and click “Run as Administrator” (If you do not click “Run as Administrator” and instead just run it, it will look like it has worked, and the right click menu below will be there, but nothing will happen. RUN IT AS ADMINISTRATOR)
  4. Find your Application with the nifty blue and yellow quartered shield on it, right click on it, and select “Elevate Me”. This should work without prompting you. If not, please read the words in the bullet point above, read the text on the web page linked to above, or complain to someone on the internet.
  5. Copy your Application’s icon, in case this bit doesn’t work.
  6. Slightly complicated bit now. Right click on the Application icon and go to “Properties”, then in front of the command line, prefix it with the path to the place you put SkipUAC, and ElevatorRunner. So if your patcher icon reads: 

    "C:Program FilesGamesCity of Heroescohupdater.exe"

    it should now read: 

    "C:Program FilesSkipUACElevatorRunner.exe" "C:Program FilesGamesCity of Heroescohupdater.exe"

  7. The natty blue shield should be gone when you click “OK” (and it may have changed the icon to Elevator’s ugly pixelated thing, but you can fix that). Run it, and the application should launch without any permission boxes.
Categories
Apple windows

On being a late adopter III

Depite my great and brand new phone and its wonderous open-sorcery, I still don’t hate Apple.

I mean, I assume my new phone is great, as I write this it still hasn’t arrived.

I said, at the end of that article, that the choice of whether I wanted to waste my battery life is mine, the choice of what I install on my computer is mine. This is because I am a geek, and it matters to me.

I actually believe that there is not a right to tinker. In fact, having worked Desktop Support for a while in both professional and power-user contexts, I am firmly of the opinion that the right to tinker by someone who “knows better” than the guy who set up the system is, sometimes, to be nuked. From orbit. Twice.

In fact, the concept of giving a barely-computer-literate a machine that will work one way, can do the things it should do and also let them change the wallpaper, is a Very Good Idea, because it would minimise the amount of time I, or someone like me, spent on the phone or in a dusty back-office attempting to work out how to revirginise the PC in front of me.

(My favourite, ever, was a machine with a Windows 2000 install where they had infected it with a couple of buckets of spyware, and then ran out of diskspace as the porn-bot-net it was running filled up the hard drive. They had then seen the “Compress Drive” option when looking for ways of gaining space back. As a result, you had a PC running out of memory, where all its swap files needed to be decompressed in memory before access. It ran like almsot frozen blackstrap molasses)

One of the favourite metaphors surrounding the closedness of the iPhone & iPad ecosystems (For those of you playing at home, the iPad and iPhone can only get software via the “App Store”, which required apple vet every piece of software available. The vetting process is currently inconsistant, which is bad, but there is no other way to install stuff, which people see as worse) is that of the car engine, and how this turns the computer industry from the old days where you could see where all the bits went, into the modern car industry where everything is hermatically sealled under a plastic case. The complaint is that the barrier to tinker with your stuff is now higher.

I can accept some of this. I have been tinkering with computers for longer than I can remember. one of my earliest memories is crawling along the carpet to behind the sofa, and pressing the magic button on the white thing that made the numbers go to zero. This – I found out many years later – was the tape counter on a Commadore 64. My first computer was this same C64, where the entire interface *was* a Basic input shell. Shift Run-Stop, Press Play on Tape. I can see how people would say that this meant more people would become computer programmers when they grew up, but I think we’ve already passed that. With PCs up until Windows 95 and the Rise of the Mac, you *had* to learn the basic concepts of computer command lines to use them, be it the ability to type “cd gamesDoom” “doom2” or the inner workings of the config.sys file on the boot disk you created for when you wanted to play Theme Park.

The rise of GUIs pushed a lot of the people who would have become programmers, I think, to having their first experience of source code to be HTML. It just shifts a bit, and if it means that people do not have to understand how a computer works in order to use it, that’s possibly even better. To continue the car simile for a bit, it’s not as if the rise of BMW-type sealled engine blocks entirely removed the people who know how your car works. I’m pretty sure that the people with the mental tendancy to tinker with code aren’t going to be put off forever because their phone or their video player doesn’t compile things for them, as they’ll gravitate to the ones that do, and if it means that I can know my non-existant Uncle Martin has bought an iPad and I won’t be spending the 27th December scrubbing spyware from it, so much to the better.