Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mac OS X Boot to Single-User Mode USB Keyboard

I had to boot one of our iMacs into Single-User mode using the Command-S during start-up.  The problem is that the (ahem) Mac wouldn't recognize the keyboard (a Mac keyboard no less) until the system booted. 
Resolution: Dell USB keyboard. At the login prompt, I told the Mac what kind of keyboard I had (it's a wizrd that came up automatically) then rebooted.  Instead of COMMAND, though, I had to hold the WINDOWS key.  Make a note of that.  So, boot with WindowsKey-S and that will take you to single-user mode.  Hope this helps someone.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Force Moodle to show course descriptions

We ran into an issue where course descriptions were no longer displayed if the number of courses in any given category reached 10.
I tried playing with various settings, and nothing worked. Supposedly, this is an option in Moodle 2.2. As of this writing, we are running 2.1.2. My fix came from a post I found on the Moodle.org site, dated 2006! And, THIS worked perfectly:

Thanks for this link, as it has also helped us to 'force' the Course Description display.
In our system, increasing COURSE_MAX_SUMMARIES_PER_PAGE from 10 to 25 in /course/lib.php did the trick i.e.
//define('COURSE_MAX_SUMMARIES_PER_PAGE', 10); // courses
define('COURSE_MAX_SUMMARIES_PER_PAGE', 25); // courses
Cheers
Geoff (Rowland)
Moodle forum link: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=56358

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Create your own distribution lists in Google Apps/GMail

To create your own distribution list in Google Apps/GMail:
  • Click "Contacts" at the top of the page.
  • Click the "+" on the picture of the TWO people (located beneath the words "Google apps" on left, above "My Contacts")
  • Type the name of the distribution list (ex: School Techs)
  • Next, click on "All Contacts" on left
  • Check each person you want in your new list (you can select multiple people, just check each box)
  • With the people selected, on the RIGHT, click the drop-down under "Groups"
  • Under the "Add to..." section, click the name of your newly created group
After a moment, you will see the number on the left change from "0" to the number of people you selected
*** Repeat the above steps for each distribution list you want to create. ***
Now, you have to SIGN OUT and sign back in to send mail to the groups.  It's weird, I know.
When you go back to MAIL and select "Compose Mail," as you start to type the name of your group, it should show up in the auto-complete drop-down. Just select the group and you're golden!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Cannot print from Windows in parallels

Are you having trouble printing from Windows inside Parallels on a Mac?  This might solve the problem:
First, make sure Parallels has installed the printer in Windows.  If not, then you will need to run the installation software for your printer.
If you've installed the software, but still can't print, you may need to force Parallels to play nice.  In some cases, you can simply use the "Devices" menu at the top of the Parallels window.  Inside, choose USB and force it to Windows.
That did not work for me, for whatever reason.  But, what DID work was to put Parallels in Windowed mode, then find the USB icon (shown below):
Click the USB icon and force the printer to use Windows.  Now, this means you cannot print from the Mac-side while running Parallels, but at least your computer should now be able to print from Windows!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Connect your Mac to a Windows Share

If you are having trouble getting your Mac to see a particular server or share on your network, you might want to first check your DNS server(s) if you are running them. If you are not running a local DNS server, and you cannot access your shares, you can try this: In Finder, choose GO then Connect to Server... At that point, enter the IP address of the server preceded by smb:// first. Example: smb://192.168.1.10 When you then Connect, you will be prompted to supply a valid username and password for the server. Once proper credentials are supplied, you should then see a list of shared folders. From there, choose the folder you wish to see and then you should be able to open, copy, etc.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Windows screen upside-down or sideways?

If you suddenly find yourself looking at your desktop sideways or it is upside down, chances are you've run into a "feature" built-in to several graphics card software.

The easy fix is to hold CTRL-ALT and while holding those, press one of the directional arrow keys on your keyboard.  Here is a list of commands anf their results:

CTRL-ALT-UP ARROW = Upside-right/Normal screen
CTRL-ALT-DOWN ARROW = Upside-down screen
CTRL-ALT-RIGHT ARROW = Screen turned on it's side to right
CTRL-ALT-LEFT ARROWN = Screen turned on it's side to left

Note: You do not have to cycle through these!  Simply press CTRL-ALT-UP and your screen will return to normal, regardless of its current state.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Work Life: Make your GMail act like Outlook with Labels, Filters, and Archive

Is your GMail Inbox overloaded with messages?  Have you tried using labels for your mail, but you find yourself buries in a cluttered Inbox anyway?  Here is one way to keep that Inbox clean without missing mail!

By using labels, filters, and the Archive feature in GMail, you can keep your Inbox looking neat and keep your messages organized the way Outlook does!  It's like creating folders and rules!
   find a message that you wish to apply this.  For example, a message from your boss.
   click the checkbox to the LEFT of the message.
   click the drop-down menu named "More actions"
   choose "Filter messages like these".  The "From:" should have your boss' email address filled in
   Click "Test Search" to make sure it only pulls messages from your boss
   Click "Next step"
   Check the "Skip Inbox" box
   Check the "Apply the label..." box, then in the drop-down select an existing label or create a new one.  In GMail, "labels" can be used like folders in Outlook.
DO **NOT** create the filter yet!!
   Select the checkbox for "Also apply filter to XX messages"
   NOW, you can click the "Create Filter" button.
After a few moments (depending on how many messages this filter applies to), you will see a "Filter Created" message and then you will be returned to your Inbox.

Your boss' messages should be gone!!  Oh no! Where'd they go!?  Look on the left!  See the label you just created?  Click that, and you will see your boss' messages!

** Repeat the above steps for each type of messages you want to act like folders/rules. **

NOTE: You may have to play with some of the fields to get the results you want.  For example, you may have to use the actual name of a listserv instead of the email address the messages come from.  You can use any one or multiple fields in the filter creation section to narrow down the results.

Also note, I would only apply *ONE* label to any messages that I am putting through this procedure.  I have no idea what happens if you try to archive with multiple labels.  My gut tells me you would just have multiple ways to pull up the archived messages (like putting them into multiple folders), but I don't know that and I haven't tried it.  Worst-case scenario is that if it doesn't work the way you want, you can always MANAGE FILTERS to edit or delete a filter you created.

Remove WiFi from Dell Control Point on Dell Laptops

I prefer to use Windows Wireless Configuration, and cannot stand third-party apps trying to muscle in on my WiFi.

Dell laptops ship with a beastl;y application called "Control Point" that tries to take over all your connections.  Well, here is how you get control of your computer once again:

Start >> Dell Control Point >> connection manager >> profiles >> change settings >> program settings >> uncheck ALL of the available technologies boxes
That will allow you to use the Windows Wireless Configuration tool, as it should be!

SuccessMaker asks for CD to be inserted

I ran into a situation where SuccessMaker would allow the students to log in but when they wanted to use one of the installed apps, the program would prompt for the CD.  The school is running the Enterprise Edition of the software, so all apps are running from the server and do not require CDs.

The culprit turned out to be a drive mapping issue.  Make sure that the drive you use for SuccessMaker is MAPPED and not just pointing via UNC.  Also, make sure that the drive is mapped in the appropriate login script, so you will not have to map it on each machine manually.

Switch between built-in sound and Smart Board sound

I had a user that needed to switch between a headset for Skyping and the audio on the Smart Board.  While there is not a simple one-click solution that I know, changing the settings is not TOO bad:

In Control Panel, Audio/Sound:

On the "Audio" tab, there should be a drop-down under "Default Device."  The default is usually "USB Audio Device," which is the Smart Board.

Click the drop-down and choose the built-in audio instead (in this case, "Realtek HD Audio Output").

Click "APPLY" then "OK" and close out any Control Panel windows.

Sounds will now play through the "green" plug in the back of the computer.  To swicth back, return to Control Panel and change the "Audio" device back to the USB Audio.

Hope this helps!

Turn off "Conversation View" in Google Apps

Are you losing messages because GMail likes to keep things together by conversation (mail subject)?  Well, here is how you can fix that in Google Apps:
   Log in to your Google Apps GMail account
   Click the "gear" in the upper right corner
   Click "Mail Settings"
   In the 6th section down, you should see "Conversation View:"
   Change it to "Conversation View Off"
   Scroll to the bottom of the page and click "SAVE SETTINGS"

User cannot delete offline folder in My Documents

Problem Description and explanation:

User's laptop had accidentally shut off the wireless adapter.  Wireless adpater has hardware switch on side of laptop.

Tech engaged the adapter, user connected, but still got the error.  User logged off and logged back in, but still could not delete folder.

Files were deleting, but not going to recycle bin.

Problem "fix:"

Rebooted machine and everything was fine.  Evidently, turning on the adapter was not enough, must perform complete system reboot.

Windows Moodle Email STARTTLS error - fixed!

THE FOLLOWING APPLIES TO AN OLDER VERSION OF MOODLE. YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY:

The Windows Moodle package is a great, easy way to get Moodle up and running on a Windows machine. The downside? Setting up email is a pain in the rump.  It didn't have to be.

The problem we had was one where the SMTP server would respond with "STARTTLS" errors.  I spent a LOT of time editing my sendmail.ini file (and even installed the latest sendmail for Windows).  Nothing would cure the problem.

I started poking around the Moodle forums, and while they are generally helpful for many things, the STARTTLS error is not one of them.  However, *nix forums ARE helpful.. sorta.

In the Moodle directory on your Windows server, you need to edit the class.phpmailer.php file *in addition* to setting up sendmail as your mailer. Why? Who the heck knows.  In any case, here is what is working for us, so I hope it helps you!

FIRST: MOODLE ADMIN
   Site Administration > Plugins > Message Outputs > EMAIL
   Type your SMTP host, username, password as needed (you NEED the SMTP host, the others may be optional based on YOUR mail handler/mail host. Google requires it)
   Type noreply@yourdomain.com for the no-reply address.  Substitute your REALY domain for the "yourdomain" part there!
SECOND: SENDMAIL
   Download the latest SENDMAIL to your Moodle server and unzip it to X:\moodle\server\sendmail (substitute the actual driver letter for X there!)
   On your server, go to your X:\moodle\server\sendmail folder
   EDIT the sendmail.ini file:
       smtp_port=25 (usually leave this as is)
       smtp_ssl=auto (could specify TLS here)
       auth_username=valid.user@yourdomain.com
       auth_password=ValidUsersPa$$word
       hostname=yourdomain.com
THIRD: PHPMAILER
   Navigate to X:\moodle\server\moodle\lib\phpmailer on your server (again, substitue your actual location for X)
   EDIT the class.phpmailer.php file (use WordPad)
   SEARCH for TLS
   A few lines down, edit the "SMTPSecure" line:
       public $SMTPSecure = 'tls';
   DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS FILE!!
FOURTH: PHP.INI
   Navigate to X:\moodle\server\php
   EDIT the php.ini file:
       SMTP = yourmailserver.com
       smtp_port = 25
       sendmail_from = valid.user@yourdomain.com
       sendmail_path = "X:\moodle\server\sendmail\sendmail.exe -t"
   SAVE the file.
Once you have done these, you need to STOP MOODLE then START MOODLE in order for the system to take the changes.
Moodle email may not run by itself.  You can use Task Scheduler in order to call the CRON.PHP page in your Moodle environment. Or you can use MoodleCron for Windows. Very easy to use!
NOTE: Use at your own risk. This worked for me. I hope it works for you, but I will not be held liable for anything that goes wrong with your server/environment/etc.
NOTE: The above steps may be a bit of overkill.  Some steps may not be required in order to get email working in Moodle. I have not gone back to determine just which step(s) worked.  Once it was fixed, I didn't break it again.

Decipher an unknown text file with Wintext

I had a user with a file that had a WPD extension. Normally, this would be a WordPerfect file that could easily be opened in Microsoft Office or Open Office or a myriad of other programs.  Nothing worked.  Instead, all we got was jibberish.  I even tried zamzar.com to convert it to Word, and that produced garbage.

After searching the net, I found a program called "Wintext!"  Wintext will take ANY file and extract any viable text from it.  With that program, I was able to pull out the text the user needed.

The file can be had from here:
http://www.softoxi.com/download-wintext.html

Open .pages file in Windows or without Mac Pages!

I encountered a few .pages files that were created on a Mac.
I am using a PC and my MacBook doesn't have Pages on it, so I was a bit stumped as to what to do (short of asking the author to export them as PDF).
Instead, here is a solution:
change the extension to .ZIP and open the files with Winzip or whatever.  Inside there, you will find a folder called "QuickLook." Inside Quicklook, you will find a PDF of the .pages document! Bingo!  Copy and paste the content, and you should be good to go.

Work Life: Awesome Links for Custom Install Disks

November 30, 2012
I really enjoy deployment in the enterprise environment and also making the perfect Install disk for my home computers. I don't like wasting time with installation. I want to start it up and walk away.
Links 
With all MS Service Packs and hotfixes, Microsoft has made it possible to slipstream them into installation disks which is a great thing. It really cuts down on the time having to babysit the computer to do updates (if you don't have WSUS). Well, as time goes on and more patches being released, it is really time consuming keeping up with all of them and also time consuming running each one in slipstream mode.
Along came Ntlite and RyanVM. Nlite is the most awesome Installation Customization tool. I have used quite a bit of them but this one is probably the best. It will let you do pretty much anything. And the other godsend is RyanVM who is a guy that has been keeping up with all of the patches that are post SP2.
Winnaddons is probably the most amazing set of programs that you can integrate into your installation disk. These add-ons allow you to have programs automatically installed for you during the installation of windows. It will take some time to go through the list but I guarantee that you will find programs that you will want to install right away and programs that you will want to integrate into your installation of Windows.
RyanVM also has some add-ons to download.
Nlite has a General Usage Guide up. It is old but it will get you started.
RyansVM's Forums has some interesting stuff.
And the best link ever for windows users, admins, and techies: http://www.msfn.org/ Peruse the forums and you will get more then you will ever have time for.
Best Practices 
Some things that I have learned:
Make sure that you have a copy of Windows XP with SP2 that is in your license notebook. You can create your own slipstreamed copy of Windows XP with SP2, but I have run into issues doing it that way. Some things don't get upgraded when you slipstream SP2 into the Windows Gold disk. It is better to start with the 'real' version of Windows XP with SP2.
Test these in Virtual PC 2007 before using of course.
You will not be able to use these disks when you create your Images for Windows Deployment Services. I haven't found out why, but it just doesn't work. So until SP3 comes out your WDS solutions will suffer unless you have the patience to download all the critical hotfixes and slipstream them yourself or unless you have an awesome script to do it for you. I have neither, but we use WSUS and it gets the job done pretty quickly without any intervention
Stay as organized as possible. It is easy to get jumbled up with all the files that you will be using.
Stay simple at first and then get more daring. It is easy to do all that work and testing only to have the machine blue screen on you.
(Matthew Johnson)

Work Life: IP Address range Calculator

November 30, 2012
Need a quick way to find the IP address range for a network? There is an online calculator here:
You enter any address on the network, then input the subnet mask, tell the page to calculate the range and Voila! It will give you the 1st address in the range, the last address in the range and the broadcast address.

Work Life: Remote Shutdown Windows Server

November 30, 2012
I thought I had lost my old friend shutdown.exe that I found on one of the old Resource Kits, but found out I hadn't and with Windows Server 2003, it's included. I loved the ability to reboot computers when I was out of the office and of course before WSUS some updates required a restart so this tool came in real handy. With this tool you can restart, shutdown or Annotate Unexpected Shutdown. I won't use the last one but the first two are useful.
From the server, open a command prompt and type in shutdown /i. It's not the old GUI interface but it is workable. Select the system you wish to shutdown using the browse button or just type it in. You must give it a reason as the Event Tracker is back. I tend to turn it off on my servers, hate it...
This tool is great for administrators who have large sites and want to give their feet a break!

Work Life: Specops Gpupdate

Here is a little ditty that I found about a year ago to help with remote restarts, shutdowns, and Wake-on-LAN startups. It also will do remote gpupdates. The best thing about this program is that it integrates with your existing MMC's that you have already created.



As you can see it is really nice. The best thing is that this only needs to be installed on one server in the domain; there is no client proggie to deploy.
You can download it here. On the top of the menu bar is the download link. You just need to fill out some info for the download link to be sent via email.
Make sure that you read the deployment instructions. (Matthew Johnson)

Work Life: apt-get -f install Error

When you try to update some of the software on your EeePC, you may run into an error telling you to run the following command: apt-get -f install.
The problem is that your user account does not have the "rights" to run that command. So, how do you get around it?
  1. Bring up a Console Shell (CTRL-ALT-t in EasyMode)
  2. Type: sudo su (Press Enter)
  3. Type: apt-get -f install (Press Enter)
  4. Answer YES to any prompts given to you (In my experience, there are usually two questions asked)
  5. After the updates are done, type: exit (Press Enter)
  6. Type: exit (Press Enter again)
Once you have completed the steps above, you should be able to click on the "Update" button for the program that gave you the error and install your updates.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Far Cry 5 - The not-so open world, not-so-free choice game (Spoliers)


Before I get rolling, please note there are spoilers in this article. This article contains information about the game and a lot of opinions now that I have beaten the game after many hours of gameplay. I am going to talk about the good, the bad, and the stupid. Well, mostly about the stupid. This will cover several of the stupid things I hated about playing Far Cry 5. Of course, I will cover some of the things I thought were very well done, too.  If you do not want to read spoilers, stop here.


The image above means nothing by itself, so hopefully, it's not much of a spoiler. But, it represents one of the dumbest story lines I have ever seen. You see, the floating girl is Faith Seed, the "sister" of the man bad guy, Joseph. Her whole story revolves around a drug-influenced view of the world. She uses this stuff called "Bliss" to control people. The game interrupts your gameplay every so often with interludes where you are one-on-one with the girl who spouts crap about Bliss and whatever else she says.  Frankly, *ALL* of the cutaways from *ALL* of the characters are stupid. Basically, the game puts you in a trance at certain times and you are, for no good reason, whisked away to the particular boss' hideaway. It's stupid. One of the characters has you trapped in a house where you escape by shooting good guys who disappear in a puff of smoke. You cannot refuse to take part because you will either sit there forever waiting to move or your time runs out and you play the stupid level over and over and over and over... When you finally play out this stupid dream-like level enough, you end up killing one of your good friends. Again, you have no choice, When I came a round the corner and recognized my friend, Eli, I pointed my gun (which turned to a green reticule, letting me know he was my friend) and I didn't shoot. Time ran out, and I was forced to play the level all over again. You have to kill the dude. Another stupid thing happens after you kill him. Let's say you kick the guy to death. Doesn't matter. The next cut scene shows your friend with a bullet hole in his head. Evidently, my boots are made by Chuck Norris or something.

The game plays like that the whole time. You are walking around, exploring, killing baddies, and *poof* you are suddenly put to sleep and wake up in some other place. Frankly, it makes no sense why they don't just kill your character.


You can fish and hunt. Yeap. Nothing says, "Hey, we should really take down the leader of this cult" like spending the afternoon with a fishing pole in your hand. Or a gun to hunt bears, deer, skunks, and whatever other creatures are running around.

Speaking of characters, you can choose to play as a male or female, but it doesn't matter. In 99% of the dialogue, your character never speaks and those around you often refer to you at them or dude or man. You might as well be a mannequin.


The game pretends to be somewhat open and let you follow the paths and missions you want, but really, you can't. You end up having to follow the script and in many places, that is quite literal. Your choices don't matter. All you have to do is earn enough respect points (or whatever they are called) to face the next boss. In fact, I ended up destroying the giant statue before it was an assigned mission. Luckily, it let me do it anyway. That was NOT the case for the radio tower I climbed. I found a tower and climbed it. At the top, there was a switch. I couldn't trigger it. Later in the game, I was sent to the exact same tower to specifically flip the same switch. Seriously!? Can we not get past script-specific events?! This is 2018, right?

Another annoyance: incessant planes and helicopters that spawn out of thin air and chase you around. I wouldn't mind it, except that when running across the map, the planes and helis spawn and despawn so often that the game can't even keep up with which sounds to play. It's ridiculous. At least if you stand still, you can grab one of your favorite heavy weapons and shoot the things down.

Speaking of helicopters, I wholeheartedly recommend using them to beat most of the Judge bosses. The Judges are these super-charged animals you have to beat. There's a lot of drug-induced hallucinations, making it difficult (er, supposed to be but it isn't really) to kill the beasts. Why do it on foot when you can grab a helicopter with a mounted gun and just blast away at the creatures!? Now, THAT is fun (if not also a bit cheat-y). Ans, while you're at it, take over outposts (Er, Cult Houses, or whatever they call them) with the helicopter, too. I'm telling you, tons of fun there!


The end I got was the nuclear ending. That's right. You play through the whole game and if you kill Joseph, well, you don't really kill him. Instead, there is a nuclear blast that sends you on a "drive where we show you and maybe swerve a little" rail-run. This ends with the boss taking you to a bunker o live out your days. Again, he doesn't kill you... Whatever.

Another ending lets you walk away. You get into the truck with your friends and drive away. But, the driver turns on the radio, you hear the "trigger song" ("Only You" by Elvis) and the world turns red around you as the credits suddenly appear. The presumption is that you're infected, converted, or whatever they call it.


As for positives, I have to say there are a LOT of NPCs running around. Some are friendly, some you have to recuse, and some are just out for a good hunt. Some, you can hire if you want and others you MUST hire to help in the game. I completed the game using NPCs only when the game forced me to. Many of the NPCs will give you clues or tips for finding Prepper Stashes, while others will guide you to finish the main story. Some reveal other characters, and some reveal places. I'm not sure what people in Montana are SUPPOSED to sound like, but most of the characters in the game actually sound like they are from Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi...you get the picture, right? There are some cool weapons. I prefer the silenced sniper and SMG myself. Nothing like make short work of a takeover like going in silent but deadly.

Oh, I almost forgot. I was out exploring and ended up at one of the boss houses. There were no guards and the boss wasn't there (because I hadn't triggered the script for it), so I just waltzed in, looted everything, and left. Silly game.

If you haven't heard, there is actually a "secret" ending. Basically, don't arrest Joseph at the start and instead, look around and take in the scenery. Like in 10 minutes, the game is over.

Frankly, after playing through, I think I would have preferred that.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Work Life: PDF Missing Links on Mac OS

My boss came to me with a weird issue: Her PDF document was missing hyperlinks.

The document had been created in Word for Mac then saved as a PDF. We can easily recreate the problem. Just create a Word doc on Mac, add some hyperlinks, save as a PDF, open the PDF and tah-dah: no links.

After a bunch of research, we actually found a solution that did not involve jumping through a bunch of hoops, though it does involve a couple hoops.

OPEN THE DOCUMENT IN GOOGLE DRIVE, EXPORT AS PDF.

There it is. Easy peasy.

Hope this helps someone out there!