Monday, September 4, 2017

Tassimo machine runs cleaning or add water cycles instead of descaling cycle

Problem:  Tassimo machine runs the wrong cycle with the cleaning disc in.  Usually, the problem is it will not run the descaling program no matter how long the brew button is pressed.

For example:
-  It runs a regular cleaning cycle instead of a descale cycle; or
-  It runs an "add water" cycle instead of a descale cycle; or
-  It runs an "add water" cycle instead of a cleaning cycle.

You can sometimes tell that this is what the machine "wants" to do because the wrong icons light up when you put in the cleaning disc.  For example, the "add water" icon may light up, which is not supposed to occur with the cleaning disc in place.

Solution:  It's probably reading the wrong barcode off of the cleaning disc.  Mostly this occurs because the window that lets the machine "see" the barcode is dirty.

To fix, lift up the disc holder and clean the little rectangular window underneath, then re-insert.  The machine should then be able to properly identify the cleaning disc and everything will work as it should.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Stopping machines from connecting to the internet when the VPN goes down on DD-WRT

VPNs are good but their connections are rarely perfect. 

Usually, when they disconnect, your router fails over back to using the unencrypted WAN connection.  This is convenient but leaves your network connection exposed, which rather defeats the purposes.  Likely little point in being protected only 99% of the time, right?

Worse, you don't even know if the VPN is off.  Everything just blithely continues on as usual.  You'll only know if you manually check.  Which is stupid.

If you're like me, there are some devices on the network where you don't really care if they keep working or not.  Perhaps there are some where you actually want them to keep working, even if the VPN stops (Netflix?).  And there are probably a couple where you want them to stop working the second the VPN goes down.

If you search you will find lots of VPN monitoring programs that purport to kill programs upon VPN disconnect.  However, not one of these will work if you've set up your VPN in your router, because they can't see the VPN at all.  All those programs can see is your router, so they cannot tell if the router has lost the VPN connection, so they cannot work as advertised. 

So, those of us who have the VPN in the router have to implement the kill switch in the router.  Fortunately, OpenVPN on DD-WRT can do this.

To prevent a machine from accessing the net when the VPN is not working:

-  Make sure the device you want to block has a static IP address
-  Go to DD-WRT home page
-  Go to Administration
-  Go to Commands
-  Paste the following command in to the "Commands" box:

iptables -I FORWARD -s <ip-address> -o $(nvram get wan_iface) -j DROP 

-  Replace <ip-address> with the static IP of the device you want to STOP working if the VPN dies.
-  Click "Save Firewall"

To delete this rule later, click the "Edit" button (which will show up after the save), delete the command and click "Save Firewall" again.

To test, go to Services/VPN and disable the OpenVPN client, then click Save and Apply Settings, in that order.  The blocked machine should lose all internet access (but not local LAN access).  Re-enable the VPN to get it back, and you're all set.

I imagine the IP address might also be a subnet range, which would make it capable of blocking a whole range of devices.  I haven't tried it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Copying files from a VLC xspf playlist into a new directory

Problem:  You have a nicely curated VLC playlist in xpsf format, and you want to copy those files (and only those files) to a new destination.  Like, your phone or portable device, for a trip or something.

There is a tool called "XSPF Export Tool" out there, done by Gerald at Dragonzero.  It did not work for me.

There is another tool called AmoK Playlist Copy.  It does not support .xspf playlist format.

So what worked for me was:

-  In VLC, save the playlist into *.m3u format, and

-  Use AmoK Playlist Copy to copy the playlist files to a new directory.

Worked perfect for me.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

P.I. Engineering Macroworks 3.1 for X-Keys running impossibly slow under Windows 7

Problem:  Macroworks 3.1 starts to run / respond slower and slower until it pretty much hangs completely.

Note this is for "MacroWorks3g.exe", which is the GUI interface.  MacroWorks3r.exe, which is the system tray utility, doesn't seem to have any problems.

One possible solution: 

-  Exit the GUI (kill it if you have to)
-  Optional:  Exit the system tray utility. 
-  Go to where these files are (likely C:\Program Files (x86)\PI Engineering\MacroWorks 3.1)
-  If necessary, right-click MacroWorks3r.exe, and choose "Run as administrator". 

OK, here's the trick: when you want to access to GUI:

You >must< go to  C:\Program Files (x86)\PI Engineering\MacroWorks 3.1\MacroWorks3g.exe, right-click, and "Run as administrator".  Do this EVERY time you want the GUI.

What will not work:

-  If you access the GUI from an elevated system tray program, it will NOT behave.
-  If you check the "Run this program as an administrator" in the Compatibility tab, it will NOT behave.
-  If you use the programming switch on the Xkeys to invoke the GUI, it will NOT behave.
-  If you run it from any ordinary shortcut, it will NOT behave.

Again, you have to manually run the GUI as admin EVERY time.

For some reason, this works differently than the "Run this program as an administrator" in the Compatibility tab. I had that checked but it didn't help.  Running the program manually in admin mode using the right-click menu did work.  Don't ask me why, but it cleared up all the hesitation on my machine.

If that doesn't work on it's own, try going to the Compatibility tab for both programs and setting Compatibility Mode to "Windows XP (Service Pack 3".  I did both and I don't know if it made a difference.

Note you can avoid much of the inconvenience of having to run the GUI as admin by minimizing the GUI when you don't need it, rather than closing it.  Then it will stay running properly all the time.

Note this may cause the programming switch on your Xkeys to stop working.  Also, you will no longer be able to press an Xkeys button to get it to program - you have to double-click the key in the GUI.

These effects are probably because the stick hardware can no longer control the MacroWorks program when it is running as admin.  This is because admin programs direct other programs, not the other way around.  But these are a small price to pay to have a properly programmable X-Keys system again.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Microsoft Word stops accepting non-text keys (a.k.a. keyboard stops working in Microsoft Word)

Problem:  Word stops accepting non-ASCII keys.  Everything works using mouse shortcuts, but keyboard equivalents do not work.

For example, you can type "normal" text.  But arrow keys, function keys, and keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl-X for copy, Ctrl-V for paste, do not work.  Home and End keys do not work.  Function keys like F7 for spell check do not work.  Number pad arrows do not work.

Possible solution:  Using the mouse, try starting the spell checker (Review / Spelling & Grammar.). 
For whatever reason, this unlocked all of my special keys again in Word.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kodi / XBMC not respecting ".nomedia" file or "excludefromscan" tag in advancedsettings.xml

Things to know:

-  XBMC is too old to recognize the ".nomedia" file.  You'll need to upgrade to a recent build of Kodi.

-  To get a proper ".nomedia" file in Windows, you have to tell Windows to name the file ".nomedia.", with a trailing period.

-   advancedsettings.xml should be in "%appdata%\Kodi\userdata\".

-  You don't need all the fancy regex crap you see in the examples.  <regex>somethingsimple</regex> will do.

-  If you're having problems with "excludefromscan", you should know there is a separate tag for TV shows called "excludetvshowsfromscan".   So if you're having problems with "excludefromscan" not excluding TV show directories, this is probably why. 

That last one killed me for bloody hours.  I suppose it makes sense to have different settings for movies and TV, but why oh why isn't the first tag "excludemoviesfromscan"?

Also, Kodi 17 Krypton doesn't seem to respect the .nomedia file properly in all cases.  I don't know why I seem to be the only one having that problem.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Programs such as Excel, Word, Acrobat suddenly and persistently pop up dialog boxes on the wrong monitor

Problem:  After weeks/months/years of trouble-free operation, various programs such as Word, Excel, Acrobat etc. start popping up their dialog boxes on the "wrong" monitor in a multi-monitor display.

For example, the "Find" or "Format cells" dialog of Excel may appear on the right-hand monitor instead of the center one, or on the center one instead of the left-hand one.  Or, for dual-monitor displays, it shows on the left if Excel is on the right, or vice-versa.

Possible solution:  If you are running an AMD FirePro graphics card, chances are your monitor settings recently got f^ck@d up for no apparent reason at all and completely scrambled your nice monitor setup.  God only knows why this happens at all (I sure don't) but I'll bet it happened to you.

You went through all the pain of resetting monitor positions in the Windows Display settings, because your left monitor became your right, your center became the left, etc.  And (probably) re-organizing all of your 100s of desktop icons on your displays which similarly got scrambled, and your damn icon restore programs didn't work.  Now you find that dialog boxes are effed up as well.

If all of the above is true, the culprit could very well be the AMD Catalyst Pro Control Center setting called "Enable Dialog Repositioning".  It is buried in Catalyst Pro Control Center under Hydravision / Desktop Manager.  Chances are it is enabled and set to "Show on preferred display" where the "preferred" display is NOT the one you want.

To fix it, you can turn off dialog repositioning completely - I really don't know why it is there in the first place - or you can reset it to "Show on application's display".  You may need to try both settings to see which one works better.

Of course, if you prefer dialogs to appear on one of your displays all of the time, you can keep it set to "Show on preferred display".  Just make sure the number of the "preferred" display, waaay off there to the right, is actually set to the one you want to call the preferred display!  It does NOT automatically default to the Windows "main" display.