Author Archives: Andrew Comeau

Unplugging to Reconnect – The Technology Sabbath

It Started With a Game …

By now, you’re probably familiar with Pokemon Go, the game where people search for Pokemon characters around town with their smartphones. In 2015, I played a forerunner of this game called Ingress. The basic idea was the same – run around town accessing game spots, collect digital items, compete with other players for territory, etc..

At first, the game seemed like a great idea. I figured it would get me out for some desperately needed exercise and it did. I found out some of my favorite walking routes had a bunch of game spots I could access while  walking and I was out there at 6 a.m. every morning … willingly! It was a miracle!

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Screen Rapidly Flashes On and Off After Windows 7 Update

Problem

After installing updates in Windows 7, I found that my primary display flashed on and off rapidly and I was unable to activate any menus on the screen. My extended display, powered by a StarTech USB to VGA Adapter, remained off even though the drivers were properly installed and everything had been working prior to the updates. Unplugging the StarTech adapter restored the primary display to normal but left me without a second monitor.

Cause

The recent update had included dozens of individual security updates so I researched the issue online and found the symptoms linked to the following Windows update:

KB2670838 – Platform update for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1

This is a graphics performance update that has had a number of reports of compatibility problems and other issues.

Solution

My solution was to simply uninstall the update. This required a restart of the system, after which both monitors worked fine.  The KB2670838 update is a prerequisite for Internet Explorer 10 / 11 and removing it will cause these versions of IE to malfunction or be removed from the system. Re-installing IE 10/11 will also reinstall KB2670838. Removing it did not affect my installation of Google Chrome, however.

Windows 7 Update Gets Stuck While Looking for Updates

Windows UpdateAfter doing my year-end rebuild of my Windows 7 system, I went ahead and did a check for updates, preparing to wait for awhile as there were currently over 150 important updates for my system even after installing SP1.

So I waited … and waited … and waited some more.

After a couple hours, I knew something was up so I started searching for solutions. Finally I found an update that took care of it; an update was needed to fix the update process.

KB3135445 – Windows Update Client for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2

To apply this fix:

  1. Restart your computer. I prefer to do a complete shutdown, wait a few seconds and then start it backup.
  2. To be safe, disable any anti-virus programs you have running. This update might not work if they’re active.
  3. From the above link, download the version of the fix that’s appropriate to your computer.
  4. Double click on the file to run it and follow the prompts. The installation process is short and simple.
  5. After the update finishes, restart your computer again.

When you run Windows update, it should now find any available updates within a reasonable amount of time.

If that update doesn’t fix the problem, there are a couple of others that I found out about when dealing with this problem on another machine.

KB3020369 – April 2015 servicing stack update for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2

KB3172605 – July 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1

Again, be sure to disable your anti-virus software when installing these and possibly when checking for updates as well.

Primes in the Key of C#

Yes, prime numbers are a go-to challenge for me that I’ve been casually playing with since my earliest programming days. I’m not alone; prime numbers are important and popular enough that there’s an entire distributed computing project dedicated to finding the highest Mersenne Prime number (primes such as 31 and 127 that are one less than a power of 2). A decent grounding in math is also important for programmers and prime number algorithms are a much better programming exercise than “Hello, World”.

That’s why, during a holiday trip to a local Barnes & Noble, I was looking through their collection of quick and shallow knowledge books (“100 Factoids That Will Make You Sound Knowledgeable  …” ) and found one called Math Squared: 100 Concepts You Should Know. I wasn’t expecting a degree out of this small, 256-page book but it’s been awhile since math class, I thought it might give me some good ideas for programming exercises and I like the feel and smell of new books.
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My First Steps with Python – Prime Numbers

I recently started studying the Python programming language. I’m getting ready for a new programming-related position next year and one of my colleagues suggested using Python as part of it. I’ve heard of Python more and more over the past several years and I figured now would be as good a time as any to finally learn it.

I can definitely recommend Udemy’s Complete Python Bootcamp by Jose Portilla. This course is written for complete programming beginners and does an excellent job of introducing the fundamentals and guiding the student through various programming concepts. It’s probably more basic than I actually need but it never hurts to go back to school.

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Alexa and the Echo Dot on the Go

Amazon Echo Dot at my office.

Setting up the Echo Dot at my remote office and hoping Alexa will absorb some more technical knowledge.

I’ve been playing around the Amazon’s Echo Dot for just under a week now and was curious about its portability. Obviously, the hardware just needs a place to plug in and a Wi-Fi network to access but I was really wondering if I could run its data through my phone’s 4G hotspot. Public networks are fine and I don’t do any secure transactions through the Dot but I just had to know!

I have one of the Samsung Galaxy Prime phones which has served me pretty well for the past year. I don’t use the hotspot much but it comes in pretty handy when I want to login to a private site from a local restaurant and the MetroPCS 4G signal is really good in the area.

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My First 24 Hours With Alexa

Chatting with Amazon's Alexa and the Echo DotI couldn’t resist any longer and decided to welcome Amazon’s Alexa into my home. I was a little hesitant at first about letting Amazon put a microphone in my house but my curiosity won out. I live alone anyway and the device can always be unplugged if necessary. At worst, it might get me to stop talking to myself so much.

I wasn’t sure how useful the service would ultimately be but at $49.99, I decided the Echo Dot was affordable enough to take a chance on.  Miniaturizing the Echo and setting the price low was a smart move on Amazon’s part.  In addition to decreasing the cost of purchase, it also turns it into a potential repeat purchase as customers decide they want access to Alexa throughout their homes. Amazon is even offering the Dot in discounted 6- and 12-packs.

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Power Up! Weekend – Ocala’s First Hackathon

Ocala’s Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP) and the Ocala I.T. Professionals are sponsoring Ocala’s first hackathon at the Power Plant Business Incubator on October 15 & 16, 2016!  For complete details and to register, visit http://powerupweekend.eventbrite.com. Attendance is limited to the first 100 people registered so be sure to sign up early!

Both days will start at 10 a.m.. Attendees are welcome to stay until 10 p.m. on the first day when we’ll be forming teams and beginning to code. The event will wrap up at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct 16, when each team will present what they’ve made.

This is an awesome chance for you to put your coding skills to use, build something great and meet other area programmers. Again, attendance is limited to the first 100 people registered so sign up now at http://powerupweekend.eventbrite.com.

Hackathon Flyer

A Quick Guide To Keeping Your Flash Drive Data Safe

Flash_Drive_v._Floppy

Personal data storage has come a long way …

When I started using computers about 30 years ago, the floppy disk was the standard of personal data storage. I actually started out using the 5.25″ disk so the 3.5″ disk with it’s hard case and a little bit more space was a welcome improvement at the time.

We’ve come a long way in the last three decades and now we have flash drives that can store tens of thousands of times as much data as the old 1.44 MB disk. Although smaller sizes are still available, the smallest flash drive you’re likely to see now can carry 8 GB of data which would have been enough to backup my first hard drive a few hundred times over.

While file sizes have gotten much bigger, that’s still a lot of data to carry around, especially if some of it is of a personal nature. That has its own risks as I found out first hand a couple weeks ago.

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