Tips and Answers

 

Various

  • Things you should know about Windows 10
  • Bite the Bullet - Upgrade from VISTA/W7/W8 to XP!
  • Program the XP right-click menu
  • The Complete Guide to Cows, by Eric W. Tilenius
  • WordStar 4 - Antique word processor revived
  • Electronics Stuff
  • Daily Planet Temperature Images.

    Web

  • Use Explorer For FTP If You Have Firefox
  • Keeping Spam from Your Website

    Android

  • Rooting the Acer Iconica Tablet
  • Updating the Android hosts file

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

    Rooting the Acer Iconica Tablet A500             (  Android Honeycomb 3.1  )

    What is Tablet Rooting Anyway?

    People who have only had experience with microsoft windows operating systems will no doubt be wondering what this "rooting" stuff is all about. Well, this is definitely NOT used in the classic Australian context!

    In these tips I will be considering the Acer Iconia A500 Tablet which is a linux based system, specifically "Android Honeycomb 3.1". For other versions of android you will need to find a specific rooting package. The procedure is basically the same.

    A Greatly-Simplified History of Linux and Windows

    Linux is UNIX cut down for the personal PC. UNIX was one of the first computer operating systems, used on mainframe systems. It is completely open-source.

    When IBM released their personal computer, an operating system was required for it. UNIX was considered but it was just too big to fit on desktop-sized PCs. UNIX was developed into "Linux" by Linus Torvalds in 1991, like UNIX it is completely open-source which means - no secrets, nothing hidden, nothing that everybody can't look at.

    Another development that preceded linux was CP-M which became microsoft MS-DOS which definitely was NOT open source and was later developed into windows that most people are familiar with.

    The underlying philosophies of Linux and Windows are thus diametrically apart with linux being a global community-based project which everybody is encouraged to participate in, and windows which is sealed, secret and very un-friendly to work with. To many linux people working with windows is like trying to eat gravel.

    "Android" is a linux based operating system was developed specifically for small hand-held devices like mobile phones and tablet PCs.

    What does "root" mean?

    Consider a tree with roots and branches. The "root" is the lowest part. Everything develops from the root. The branches are the various files and applications, everything depends on the root. A slight change at root level and everything else is affected.

    Anything at hardware level is at root level. This includes the hard drive, memory etc. Anything that affect the way the operating system works is also root level. Anything that affects the security of the system is also root level. A user has "root" access when they have "permission" to alter any of the above.

    Why the need to "ROOT" it?

    There are many applications that require certain minor changes to the operating system to work. For instance, an internet filter needs to be able to install files of web addresses to block. To do this it needs to update certain system files - this requires root access to do. So a person without root access cannot install many types of applications. If you try to install an app requiring root, it will stop with an error message about not being able to access certain facilities or not being able to write to certain files. Many people like to have this ability, even if they don't want to install apps needing root, because without it their tablet is not entirely their own.

    What's Involved?

    Linux has excellent security. It was originally designed that way with the development of UNIX. Every file on a linux system has a set of "permissions". Permissions to read, write and execute for various types of user. Ordinary users are at the lowest level. System operators would be next. Then come the Super-Users. This class of user has root access, they have access to the entire system.

    In the android system thankfully, a little loop-hole was left available to make it possible for the owner to become a Super-User. This means that the owner can "take possession" of their own tablet.

    This is not a job for the inexperienced however. Thankfully this job is greatly simplified by some apps which do the job for you. Be warned that poking around as root is dangerous. If you do anything at all, make sure you first know what you are doing. Many manufactures will void the warranty if they discover that root access had been granted.

    As root, certain applications will install and run. That's the main thing. Unless you know what you are doing, just leave it at that.

    Procedure to Root Acer Iconica Tab A500

  • The usual warnings about backing up any important data apply.
  • Make sure that the USB Debugging is enabled in your tablet.
  • Setting up

    Whenever you run an app that requires root access the Super User will pop up asking you to confirm the granting of root access to that app.
    Answer YES and it will be remembered.

     

     
     

     

    Updating the Android hosts file

    What is the hosts file?

    The hosts file is a linux / windows file that lists IP addresses and domain names.
    On linux systems it can be found at "/etc". On windows systems it is buried at "C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc".
    Consider it as the first option for DNS (Domain Name System) Lookup - given a domain name, lookup the IP address.
    The difference between the hosts file and DNS Lookup is that the HOST file is a local file. DNS Lookup is done by a remote DNS server.
    Being a local file, it is most often used in local networks but can also be used to define web servers on the internet.

    A common use for the hosts file is to redirect traffic from the web to the local network.
    For example, here is a simple hosts file:-

      127.0.0.1 localhost 74.125.237.152 oo 192.168.7.7 www.rampant.server.com 0.0.0.0 www.disgustingad.server.com

     

    On the first line the address 127.0.0.1 is universally reserved to indicate the local computer. So that whenever the domain name "localhost" is encountered, that IP address is provided.

    On the next line a shortcut address is provided for Google. If you then open a web browser and type "oo" you will get Google (without having to do a DNS Lookup).

    On the next line, all requests for the server "www.rampant.server.com" are redirected to a local computer with the IP address of 192.168.7.7 which has its own alternative server to provide some or all of the functions of "www.rampant.server.com".

    The most common use for the hosts file is to redirect calls for unwanted servers into a "Black Hole". This is illustrated by the last line which redirects requests for "www.disgustingad.server.com" to a special reserved IP address of 0.0.0.0 which means nowhere. This is often used to prevent web pages from accessing malware and spyware sites as well as certain types of ad servers.

    Updating the Android hosts file

     

     

     

     

    Bite the Bullet - Upgrade from VISTA / W7 / W8 to XP!

    While Windows 7 and Vista look very nice, once you get over the novelty of all the beautiful graphics, you start to notice more and more all the things missing that you were used to in XP. All these little things soon add up to make you wish you still had XP.

    One thing that they have never fixed even with windows 8 is Vista/W7/W8's inability to consistently restore network connections after standby or hibernate. What you are often met with is an error message about the network name already being in use! (oh dear....) If you had 20 folders open when the computer went to sleep you will often have 20 error message boxes when it wakes up - and you have to close each of them individually. Whereas with XP this kind of thing NEVER happens. This alone is enough to keep me with XP as my "windows" of choice. (Unless it is Wi-Fi connection. Windows XP will then issue the error messages before it restores the wi-fi)

    Another thing I find annoying is that the computer will go to sleep/hibernate/power off while it is being used. I kid you not! If you are doing a anti-virus scan or other diagnostics and you come back some time later ready to get on with the next thing you will often find that it has gone to sleep and not finished. One has to disable sleep power management beforehand or turn it off completely.

    Another annoyance is that windows 7 will delete any network icons on your desktop (Scheduled weekly usually at 1am sunday or the next opportunity). It looks as if microsoft are just trying to be annoying!

    As for windows 8, it seems be all-round worse than w7. At least W7 had aero as it's one saving grace - W8 does not even have that! Also, Gadgets have been removed from Windows 8. Another example: windows explorer gives misleading information about the last-modified time on files. The most recent file shown can often be incorrect - even of you refresh the listing! You actually have to open the file (and not modify it) and close it again before explorer will update file info. Also, if you change things like entries in your hosts file (even as administrator), W8 will simply change it back again.... (You must disable "defender" to prevent this kind of behaviour. Windows 7 will at least give you a choice.)

    Another thing is that is has become much harder for the user to tailor how windows opens files. Under XP there is an applet to allow the user to set the file associations and icons that explorer uses to display filenames. Under Windows 7 (32 bit) this is absent. However the user can still do this via the registry. But under W7 64 bit using the registry to do this just does not work - file associations are not changed and chosen icons never appear. The problem seems to be fixed in W8 however.

    This stuff is fundamental - these are basic precepts of computing which are being flouted. It seems that every new version is somehow worse than the previous, instead of the other way round.

    Now with Windows 10 all your personel files will be automatically copied overseas to a microsoft server ("The Cloud"). It is very difficult to prevent this happening when you "upgrade" to W10. (Be carefull as under Australian law it is illegal to store certain legal documents overseas.) Also, Microsoft thinks they have the right to claim as their property all your files because they are stored on their servers. This is still being fought over in the courts. Also Microsoft wants access to your files (not just keep them on their servers), you can however choose not to share your file content with Microsoft by un-ticking a box.

    The "FREE" upgrade to W10 comes with not just strings but chains attached.

    If you want to replace Vista/w7/W8 with XP the easiest way is to delete the existing partition table before installing XP because the bootloaders are quite different. Boot off a DOS disk or a WIN98 CD, or a linux live CD and use the fdisk utility. You can also use "Advanced Options" on a w7 instalation disk to delete the partitions. (This will of course delete all your files so back-up whatever you want to keep first.)

    Also on certain new notebooks there may only be support for SATA hard drives and no floppy drive to give XP setup SATA drivers when asked, so you would then need a XP disk with SATA drivers integrated. An excellent program for making integrated windows disks is nLite. SATA drivers for your mainboard can be obtained from the manufacture's download site. Many boards use Intel chips so try Intel SATA drivers if all else fails.

    Continue using XP after April 2014
    Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. As usual there are a lot of fear inducing statements from microsoft and others as to why you should immediatly rush out and buy a new PC. This is absolute RUBBISH!.

    XP is a reliable and stable platform, for most people it is quite safe to use for as long as hardware drivers support it. If you buy a new computer however, there may not be drivers available for XP, so XP won't last forever, but it will last as long as the supporting hardware lasts.

     

     

    Things you should know about Windows 10

    Windows 10 is Microsoft's latest brain-child and promises to be VERY lucrative for them. "How?" - you may ask, when they are giving it away for free! The answer is simple and it will bring tears to the eyes of psychopaths world-wide:

    Stick with windows 7 (or even XP). Get rid of windows 10 upgrade malware. There are a lot of ways to do this. Here is one by Steve Gibson.

    The Upgrade malware comes via Windows Automatic-Updates. Initially it was part of an "Optional Update" and it pops-up adverts to upgrade for "free". The status was then changed to "Recommended Update" which means that if you have "Optional Updates" unchecked, you will now get the malware.

    Now is has been advanced to "Security Update" which means that you will get it if you have automatic updates turned ON. It is now virtually compulsory. You can still decline, but you have to have the Windows Updates screen visible to do so. However, if you click the red cross at the top RHS to cancel the upgrade, it may received as an "OK" to upgrade.

    You may be using your computer and it will suddenly re-boot with the message "Do Not Turn Off Your Computer - Installing Critical Security Updates..." and upgrade to W10. Many of your programs (Apps) will be disabled and some files may be lost.

    This Malware has been described as the Worst Malware Ever. If you are using W7, W8, or W8.1 then it is strongly recommended that you take steps to avoid getting this malware.

    Also, it is getting harder to buy a new computer without W10. Microsoft make if very difficult for big stores to sell a computer with any windows version but W10. Shop at the small stores.

    In a nutshell - Windows 10 is Spyware.

     

    Create a System Image safeguard:-

    If you don't want to turn Automatic Updates OFF then you can still be protected from the upgrade by creating a System Image on an external Hard Drive and keeping your current working files backed-up on a memory stick etc.

     

     

    Keeping Spam from Your Website

    I maintain a small website with a simple form to allow users to leave comments and ask questions. Recently I've noticed an increase in the amount of spam hits to that form. The comments are generated by robots and mostly consists of random sentences collected from other sites. Sometimes just random words. Most include a web link to operations marketing all kinds of consumer junk.

  • In a 12 month period I had approx 77,000 spam hits.
  • These consisted of about 12,000 individual IP addresses.

    I hate Captchas, and do not want one on my own website.

    My first approach was to simply filter out all messages that included a web link with a note to bona fide users not to include web links in their message. The attacks were still hitting my CGI but did not progress any further.

    However, up to 30 hits per hour (without links) were still triggering emails. These have no intelligible content whatsoever, purely designed to overload small web servers like my own.

    I decided to start investigating the source of these attacks. First of all I started recording the IP addresses of the attackers but I soon realised that:-

    
      Of the 12,000 individual IP addresses used:-
      
      CN   9053    China
      UA   1340    Ukraine
      US   819     United States
      RU   475     Russian Federation
      LT   79      Lithuania
      FR   66      France
      BR   55      Brazil
      GB   40      United Kingdom
      ...
    
    
    What was needed is a Country based filter against the worst offenders. My web site statistics show almost no bona fide visitors from China or Ukraine, but quite a lot of bona fide visits from many of the countries below them on that list.

    Filters were created to block access from China and Ukraine. (I hate to block anybody but in this case there was simply no other way. Also, using filters, particularly htaccess files can affect performance.)

    I have prepared a series of text files containing Apache CIDR "Deny From" strings to be inserted into a '.htaccess' file or directly into a Directory entry within httpd.conf.

    For other servers the 'IP ranges' files are also provided.

    I have covered all countries because in your location other countries may be a problem. The files can be download from Here

    I have also provided a file of Apache "Deny From" strings of the worst of the recent spammers  - deny.txt (from countries other than CN or UA)

    All these files are updated monthly.

    This is by no-means a perfect solution. These spammers are still using some of my bandwith. I'm still getting about 1-2 attacks per hour from other countries but these I can cope with.

    Download Country Filters

     

    The data is extracted monthly from GeoIP database - http://www.maxmind.com.

     

     

    Program the XP or W7 right-click menu

    While it is possible to do this using a similar method to the method shown above for Use Explorer For FTP If You Have Firefox.  (Instead of using "Edit", select "New")

    It is recommended that you use the .reg method to write directly to the registry as you get much more control over what happens:-

      Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00   ;RightClicks.reg   ;.Reg file to add the DEMUX option to the XP right-click menu for .MPG files     ;create the class MpgStuff [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\MpgStuff]   ;this line defines the explorer file Type description in folder listings ;for the MpgStuff class @="mpg file"   ;define flags:- ;EditFlags 00 means no special attributes have been defined for that class. ;BrowserFlags 0x8 or 0x9 indicates that a particular app should open in its ;own window when its associated file is clicked. "EditFlags"=dword:00000000 "BrowserFlags"=dword:00000008   ;this line creates the shell key for MpgStuff [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\MpgStuff\shell]       ;Now define the demux function for MpgStuff:- ;add the shell\demux key [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\MpgStuff\shell\Demux]   ;This line defines the right-click menu text for demux @="Demux mpg"   ;this line creates the Demux command key [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\MpgStuff\shell\Demux\command]   ;this line specifies the actual command to perform the demux ;in this case a batch file located in c:\bats. @="C:\\bats\\Demux.bat \"%1\""   ;(The double backshashes are intentional as the first one escapes the second ; as do the ones preceding the quotes)       ;these two entries point file classes ".mpg" to the new "MpgStuff" class:- ;(The windows default for .mpg is "mpegfile") [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.mpg] @="MpgStuff" [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\.mpg] @="MpgStuff"

     

    (Copy and paste to a text file named RightClicks.reg then save, double-click and confirm.)

    Once you have the new "MpgStuff" class then another entry can be added for .mpg file. This ads a Demux-Remux option.
    The selected .mpg file will be demuxed and then remuxed:-

      Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\MpgStuff\shell\DemuxRemux] @="Demux-Remux" [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\MpgStuff\shell\DemuxRemux\command] @="C:\\bats\\D-Rmux.bat\"%1\""

     

     

      And here are the batch files:-

      Demux using ProjectX:-

      

      rem "Demux.bat"   rem Define output folder:- set outpath="c:\ProjectXfiles"   java -jar C:\ProjectX\projectx.jar %1 -ini C:\ProjectX\x.ini -out %outpath%\ pause

     

    If you don't already have a "C:\ProjectXfiles" folder then create one or change the above "outpath= " line to suit.

    The "-ini C:\ProjectX\x.ini" is optional, use "x.ini" file to define certain ProjectX refinements such as Mpeg2Schnitt IDD support etc.

      To use demux.bat from the command line:-

      demux moviefile.mpg
      

     

      Here is the D-Rmux.Bat file:-

      

      rem "D-Rmux.Bat"   rem Define output and temporary folders:- set drive=C: set outpath=\TV set PjXoutpath=\ProjectXfiles   rem Demux %drive% java -jar C:\ProjectX\projectx.jar %1 -out "%PjXoutpath%" if errorlevel==1 goto done   rem Remux cd "%PjXoutpath%" set soundfile=0 if exist "%~n1.mp2" set soundfile="%~n1.mp2" if exist "%~n1.ac3" set soundfile="%~n1.ac3" if %soundfile%==0 goto nosound   c:\mplex\mplex -f 8 -o "%outpath%\%~n1.mpg" "%~n1.mpv" %soundfile% goto done   :nosound @echo off echo Can't find a "%~n1.ac3" nor a "%~n1.mp2"   :done pause

     

    If you don't already have a "C:\TV" folder then create one or change the above "outpath= " line to suit.

     

    Mplex.exe is a utility used to multiplex (re-mux) a video and sound file to make a .mpg
    Put it into a folder c:\mplex

      To use D-Rmux.bat from the command line:-

      D-Rmux moviefile.mpg
    

     

     

     

     

     

     


    David Dorling May 05, 2016
    PC Repair and Service
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