Category Archives: tips

Dropbox Uploads Consume Available Space

I notice that the Android Dropbox app, when uploading a file to the Dropbox server, first copies the source file to a cached file. Then it uploads the cached file to the Dropbox server. 

Why? I don’t know for certain. Maybe the app developers wanted to ensure that the source file isn’t altered during the upload process.

So what?

The cached file consumes precious storage space on your phone.

Regain lost storage space

To regain that space, delete the Dropbox cache. You can do this from within either the Dropbox app or Android’s settings (Applications, Application Manager, scroll down to Dropbox and press the Clear Cache button).

Speed Up Twitter On Android 

I’ve been using Twitter on my Android phone and noticed that over a period of days or weeks it slows to a crawl. A simple way to kick Twitter back into high gear is to exit Twitter and just delete all of its data, and then restart Twitter.

On my Android 5 phone, I go to Settings, Applications, Application Manager, and scroll down to Twitter, then press the Clear Data button. You’ll be asked to confirm. Click CLEAR – you do wish to clear all data.

Exit Settings and Restart Twitter. It should find your profile and download your tweets. Now it should be faster.

Try this at your own risk. It works for me, but your mileage may vary. 

Google reviews must include text

I tell my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) clients that “Five-star Google reviews are like gold”. One client listened and encouraged customers to write reviews . . . which his customers did. Unfortunately, while they scored my client as a five-star vendor, their reviews included no text. None.

These five-star reviews with no text are, as far as I can tell, worthless. Google places them at the end of review lists, and seems to give them no value. They seem to provide no SEO benefit.

Moral: To receive SEO benefit, ensure that your customers include some text when they create a review of your business. A review of three or four sentences is fine.

Remove the Windows 10 upgrade popup, updated

If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1, and you’re sick of being nagged by Microsoft’s pop-up to upgrade to Windows 10, go to the Ultimate Outsider website and download and install their GWX Control Panel. It’s received rave reviews. Cost: gratis. Here’s the full description.

Microsoft Strikes Again – How to NOT Upgrade to Windows 10

 

New and Improved Method

Update, April 3, 2016: Steve Gibson, founder of GRC (Gibson Research Corp), has written a great little freeware utility that also blocks upgrades to Windows 10. Steve writes most of his code in assembler, so his utilities are tiny. He calls this newest utility Never10. He’s created a page dedicated to Never10, where you may download it for free. It’s only 81 kilobyes in size and doesn’t require installation on your Windows PC.  You need just run it once to turn off upgrades to Windows 10, and run it again to allow upgrades to Windows 10. Short and sweet, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Make VoIP work on your LAN

I have a client with a local area network with about forty client PCs. A few months ago, a third-party phone vendor added an Elastix “PBX” phone server, as well as a new workgroup router. Elastix provides a graphic administrator interface to its underlying Asterix telephone private branch exchange (PBX). Elastix and Asterix run on a Linux server.

The client has complained that phone callers’ voices have been randomly distorting, incoming calls randomly terminating, and after ringing, desktop phones’ handsets randomly die. The phone vendor assured my client that the new router (an Asus RT-N66U) was not at fault, and suspected that the problems were caused by cabling problems or configuration problems with the Elastix server.

After months of frustration, the client asked me to have a look. I began with the workgroup router. I noticed that it was configured to use cut-through switching. (Asus calls this “NAT Acceleration”, which sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?  NAT is Network Address Translation. The router apparently defaults to cut-through switching mode.) VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) uses UDP (User Datagram Protocol), rather than TCP/IP. UDP is used for streaming real time audio and video because of its low overhead and potentially reduced latency. It does, though, require that its underlying transport mechanism be rock solid.

Cut-through switching does NOT provide a rock solid transport mechanism! Cut-through switching is fast, but it can damage frames and forward previously damaged frames. The more conservative store and forward method ensures that all frames that traverse a switch remain undamaged. It also will not forward damaged frames. Result?  A cleaner network.

Onion layer 1

Troubleshooting system problems is like peeling an onion. You remove one layer at a time and look for changes.

For our first layer, I reconfigured the workgroup router so that it employed store and forward, rather than cut-through switching. Then I waited for user reports. Users reported that we’d fixed the distortion problem, but calls occasionally dropped and/or weren’t initiated.

Onion layer 2

Next, I activated the workgroup router’s QOS (Quality Of Service) feature. I assigned highest priority to all traffic in and out of all active ports on the Elastix server. Then I waited. Users reported that all phones now work as they should.

Problem solved.

Think before adding boxes

Adding boxes to networks often works with little tweaking. Eventually, though, services begin to fail and users complain of slow response, as traffic jams the network’s pipes. Eventually, someone must reduce unnecessary traffic, and assign priorities to different classes of network traffic. I recommend doing this before problems occur — not after.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Restore phone orientation sensing

Last week, my Samsung Galaxy Light SGH-T399 phone with Android 4.2.2 stopped responding to orientation changes. When I rotated the phone from vertical (“portrait”) to horizontal (“landscape”), the display no longer rotated accordingly. In vain I clicked on the Screen rotation button.

sensor test screens markedupI feared that I’d physically broken the orientation sensor when I dropped the phone the previous day.  I loaded a rotation app, but found that it was a pain to use.  Eventually I discovered (thanks, Google) that by typing an odd sequence of keys, I could peek beneath the operating system and directly examine the data streams from the sensors. When I did this, the phone’s screen rotation function returned.

Here’s how:

  • Run the phone app, which displays the dial screen.
  • In sequence, press the *#0*# buttons on the dial screen.
  • A hardware test screen with 14 buttons should appear.
  • Tap the Sensor button
  • You’ll see the numeric outputs of the Accelerometer, Proximity, and Magnetic sensors
  • Press the IMAGE TEST and Graph buttons for the Accelerometer. The displays should respond to movement of the phone.
  • Cross your fingers
  • Restart phone

That did the trick for me. Your mileage may vary.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

One more reason to hate wireless keyboards

Today, while trying to reinstall Windows XP (I know — it’s obsolete) on an old Dell Vostro 200, the setup failed after I pressed F8 to accept Microsoft’s EULA (End User License Agreement).  I thought that the setup CD was faulty,  but had the same problem with two other setup CDs.

wireless keyboardThen I replaced the Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse with wired mouse and wired keyboard.  Installation proceeded without hesitation.

If it were my site,  I’d replace all wireless keyboards and mice with wired replacements.

  • Strategy: I plan to install Xubuntu on a second partition on this PC, and allow dual booting to either the default (Xubuntu) or optional (Windows XP) operating system.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Don’t push CD-ROM/DVD drive doors!

While I’m in a cranky mood about dumb hardware problems, I’ll mention another pet peeve.

I hate encountering CD-ROM and DVD drives whose trays no longer work because their user always pushed their drive trays closed. The photo below shows the plastic rack and pinion mechanism that converts a small motor’s rotary motion into the in and out linear motion of the drive’s tray. It assumes that the user will electrically power the DC motor with one polarity to open the tray and with the opposite polarity to close the tray.

DVD drive tray rack and pinion gears
DVD drive tray plastic rack and pinion gears

When a user doesn’t press the little “tray open & close” button on the face of the DVD drive, but instead physically pushes the tray in, he/she risks stripping the teeth from the plastic rack or pinion gears. Eventually, when enough teeth are broken, the tray will no longer open.

CD-ROM drive

If you like your CD-ROM, DVD, and BluRay drives, don’t just force their trays to close by shoving their trays. Take a moment to locate their “tray open & close” buttons and press them instead. Your drives will return years of service, instead of only months.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Recover a disappeared Windows partition

A client recently complained that his Windows XP computer had run slowly for weeks and now Windows wouldn’t start. Following power on, the Windows XP splash screen appeared for a few seconds, followed by a system reset. This sequence would repeat in an endless loop.

A low-level check of the disk revealed no bad sectors and Memtest86 revealed no bad cells. I used an Ubuntu (a Linux distro) boot CD-ROM; Ubuntu couldn’t see any partitions on the hard drive(!). This is not good news. I booted from a BartPE1 CD-ROM. It couldn’t see any partitions on the hard drive either. I booted from a Windows XP setup CD with a view to doing a repair install, but it could not see a Windows partition or system on the hard drive. Uh-oh.

BartPE screenshotThe cure for this sick pup? Boot from a BartPE CD-ROM, go to the command prompt, and enter the command CHKDSK C: /F. On this disk, chkdsk needed nine hours(!) to repair the NTFS partition and its table. At the 19% point during phase 1, the screen didn’t update for more than an hour. Several times, the PC seemed to have frozen. I was tempted to shutdown BartPE, but the PC’s drive activity light indicated that something was accessing the hard drive, so I allowed it to continue.

After nine hours, chkdsk reported that it had finished repairing the disk and exited to the DOS prompt. I rebooted the PC. Sure enough, Windows started and ran. A quick look revealed tbat the 160 GB disk had 0 (zero!) bytes free. This sick puppy needed more attention, but at least its data could now be salvaged.

I don’t need BartPE often, but when I need to access an NTFS partition and run a Windows or DOS command on a machine that can’t boot Windows, it’s just what the doctor ordered.


  1. BartPE (Bart’s Preinstalled Environment) is a lightweight variant of the 32-bit version of Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, similar to Windows Preinstallation Environment, which can be run from a Live CD or Live USB drive. – from Wikipedia

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

How to share a 32-bit Windows XP PC’s printer with 64-bit Windows 7 PCs.

Offices are introducing 64-bit Windows 7 PCs into workgroups of existing 32-bit Windows XP PCs. Allowing locally connected printers on the 32-bit Windows XP PCs to be shared over the network by the 64-bit Windows 7 PCs may seem to be impossible, if while adding a printer to the 64-bit Windows 7 PCs, you merely browse to the shared printer that’s locally connected to a 32-bit Windows XP PC. I’ve never been able to make this work. However, I have found a method that does work. Assume

  • A 64-bit Windows printer driver for this printer is available. (Check its setup CD.)
  • Existing 32-bit Windows XP PC with locally attached shared printer is named FRONTDESK.
  • This locally attached printer is shared with share name HPLaserj1.

Follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that the 64-bit Windows 7 PC has the correct 64-bit printer driver installed. One way of doing this is to
    • Temporarily remove the shared printer from the 32-bit Windows XP PC and connect it via USB to the 64-bit Windows 7 PC.
    • Within Devices and Printers, add the new printer.
    • After the printer has been installed on the 64-bit Windows 7 PC, remove it and reattach it to the 32-bit Windows XP PC. You may delete the shadowed printer icon from the 64-bit Windows 7 PC’s Devices and Printers group.
  2. On the 64-bit Windows 7 PC, within its Devices and Printers group, choose Add Printer.
  3. Choose local printer. (I know that you want to choose Networked printer. Don’t.)
  4. Choose Add a port. Name this new port \\FRONTDESK\HPLaserj1. The 64-bit Windows 7 PC should find the printer that’s shared by FRONTDESK and add it to its Devices and Printers group.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Easily Install All of Your Favorite Apps

Save time when installing application programs on a PC.
Installing two or more application programs on a PC can chew up your time as you wade through web pages, download prompts that don’t always work, and questions and answers. Now ninite.com (http://ninite.com/) does this tedious work for you. I’ve tried it on a few PCs and it’s worked flawlessly. Install everything in one easy step on your brand-new Windows 7 PC!

 

Thanks to The Real Deal podcast for this tip.
Visit my website: http://russbellew.com

Stop Windows Automatic Update’s “Restart Now / Restart Later” nagging popup

Have you been annoyed by this popup dialog box after Windows Update has run? It annoys you every ten minutes until you finally relent and restart your computer.

Here’s a way to get rid of this (in Windows XP):

  • Click Start
  • Click Run
  • In the Run window, after “Open”, Enter sc stop wuauserv

(Be sure to press the OK button after entering the command.)

The nagging will stop and its tooltray icon will disappear. This allows you to restart when you wish.