Category Archives: Webstuff

The Crash!

It was one of those moments that every computer nerd dreads – the computer locked up, and the only possible thing to do was to switch it off and restart.

The moment of truth was actually when it was restarted, for it went straight into diagnostic mode – and there was no alternative available. I had no experience of how Windows 10 would handle such problems, and fully expected to have to visit my technician friend for a complete new software installation. However, I decided to give it a chance first, and see what I could do on my own.

It took a while to sort itself out from there, but eventually decided that the C: drive had a problem, and needed to be repaired. It automatically switched into repair mode, and took about an hour to finish the job. At the end of this, a restart was required, but it was immediately apparent that we were not back to normal yet.

The next part of the cure was to restore the system to an earlier point. There were 2 repair points available, and I chose the most recent one. This would involve the least amount of work getting the computer back to normal, as fewer programs would have been disconnected.

Unfortunately, after the process terminated, I was given the message “Unable to complete System Restore. Choose another restore point?”

After another restart, I went back to System Restore, and this time checked the box for “Show more restore points”. The files that were used at the last installation then became available, and I opted to use them. Again, after the process completed I was given the same message:- “Unable to complete”.

In resignation, I shut down and restarted, and – lo and behold – it had worked after all! I was back to “bare bones” as far as software installation was required, but at least the computer was functioning normally.

Windows 10 handles things differently as far as System Restore and Safe Mode are concerned. Useful information can be gained from the following web pages:-
“How to Enable System Restore (and Repair System Problems) on Windows 10”
https://www.howtogeek.com/237230/how-to-enable-system-restore-and-repair-system-problems-on-windows-10/
and
“Start your PC in safe mode in Windows 10”
https://support.microsoft.com/en-ph/help/12376/windows-10-start-your-pc-in-safe-mode

Among other things, my Bitnami installation was not working, as the MySQL function had failed, and I had lost my WordPress installation completely. However, with Bitnami newly installed again, we are now up and running.

It has been a busy couple of days, but I can now relax – until the next crisis!

Aren’t computers fun !!!??!!!

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Its a long way back – Part 2

So, I had a site up and running, I entered my first post, and then had a look around to see what was new. I had installed an older version of WordPress, and a new version was on offer – 4.9.8, and it could be downloaded and installed automatically. Well, that I had to try, and sure enough, it worked fine. So now I had to come to terms with the changes in the new version – some of them quite surprising, I don’t find anywhere to log in, for example.

In addition to that, there is a new editor being touted – Gutenberg, they call it. I decided to give that a try, (the last post was written with that), and hurriedly went back to the old system. When I looked at the result of Gutenberg, I was rather disappointed. Every block has a label round it defining its start and finish. We don’t need the labels – we can see if a piece of text is a paragraph or not, the same as we can see if a picture is a picture. A lot of extra work to learn a new system that doesn’t make life easier than before, and bloated files as a result.

Gutenberg? – No thank you!

I had downloaded Gutenberg as an optional editor, but after deciding not to use it, and downloading the standard editor as an option, Gutenberg was no longer to be found!

Back to the saga. I was really unhappy about the password for MySql, and tried to change it. There seemed to be a way of doing it via WordPress itself, but unfortunately the communication failed because of a setup problem. I haven’t found what that is yet. In the meantime, I found another way of changing the password directly via the PHP control for MySql. Although that appeared to work for a short time, it wasn’t long before I could no longer access the site at all.

If I couldn’t access it, why did I need it? Obviously I didn’t, so I decided to delete it and start again. This involved removing one database from MySql, and making another new one available for a new installation. Apart from a hiccup where I forgot to update the database name in wp-config.php, everything went smoothly. It is called the “5-minute Installation, but in fact takes far less time than that with an empty site to load.

Its taken about a year and a half, but I am now back to the state that I was in early last year. I have my site at home for experimental work, and can refine any posts I want to put on my blog before they actually go anywhere.

Welcome back, WordPress

Wheels within wheels!

It’s very strange how one thing leads to another.

I had an email message to say that “Limitless” liked a post on my blog. Well, I was curious about that, and went to look at his blog to see what he was doing. He really is doing some amazing things with graphics, and I would certainly recommend a visit to anyone else. The address is https://lucid-being.com/

While I was there, I looked at some of the comments people were making about his work, and they were all very appreciative. One of these was from a young lady called “rue202”, who lives in Australia, and who also runs a blog at https://rachealnovel.wordpress.com/

This blog I found very interesting, for Rachael, as her name turns out to be, has a rather different way of doing things – she posts chapters of her books on her blog! Seriously, she has already completed two parts of a trilogy, and is heavily into the third book already.

I read a couple of chapters, and thought to myself – “this is just what I need!” I had found a project that I could really get my teeth into, metaphorically speaking, of course. I downloaded all of Rachael’s chapters, and copied them into Open Office Writer. I ended up with three large files – one for each of Rachael’s books. The third one is the largest, and is not yet complete, as she hasn’t finished writing it yet.

The reason for using Open Office Writer I explained in a previous article “Electronic Publications”, https://trythisoneforsize.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/electronic-publications/
The “Writer2epub” extension to the Open Office Writer makes short work of converting a long string of text into a conveniently paged document. However, “Writer2epub” cannot handle everything you throw at it, as I found out in the course of the last 2 weeks.

It doesn’t like hyperlinks in documents, and it doesn’t handle graphics properly. The answer is to take all the links and graphics out of the material before you create the Open Office Writer document. They can be put back into the Epub file later, when you are tidying it up with “Sigil”. If you are at all into Epub, you must have “Sigil” available – it really is magic!.

Still not sold on EPUB? Grab the Epub Reader Extension to Firefox, subscribe to http://ebookscart.com/ and download a few books for free. Most are available in both PDF and Epub formats, some only PDF. One that I particularly wanted, “Fat Chance”, by Robert H. Lustig, was only available in Mobi. No problem – I can use Calibre to convert that!

Just think of the bandwith you can save by downloading a book instead of a video. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example:- the video – 1.47 Gb, the PDF file – 2,133 Kb, and an Epub file would be smaller than that!

Are you convinced yet?

Dead, but it won’t lay down!

Microsoft 10 rears its ugly head periodically and still causes problems. Although I thought I had successfully killed the updates, I sometimes find that unexpectedly large volumes of data are being downloaded, and there is no indication of where this data is going at all.

All I see is that my prepaid load is disappearing much faster than I think it should, and unless I have picked up some unwanted virus, there is one most likely suspect – Windows Update has been switched on again.

It is easy enough to find out!

Go first to the Control Panel, and select Administrative Tools.
Control

From the available tools, select Services.
Admin

And in Services, scroll down until you can see Windows Update.
Services

If you don’t want updates, this service must be set to “Disabled”. If it is set to anything else, right-click on Windows Update, and select “Properties”. This will take you to a further panel where you can set the service to the state you wish.
Properties

Even though you set this service to “Disabled”, you may switch on your computer in a weeks time and find that something has set it back to “Manual”, and that it is running again after all.

Note 1. Microsoft does not like this service to be switched off, and may ignore your attempts to change its status. If you insist, however, it will eventually give in.

Note 2. Microsoft doesn’t want everything to be easily available if it means that their program is not going to be used as they intended. For example, the program I use to provide Screen Captures is Paint Shop Pro. Capturing the pictures above produced some strange results. The first two were completely normal, and no problem. The second two, however, could not be captured as a Window, or as an area – I had to use Full Screen, and then cut the pictures to size.

Just another example of Microsoft being difficult!

Your computer should now be behaving itself, and no longer have this voracious thirst for data as before.

Be aware, however, that this could change back at any time, as there are hidden mechanisms within Windows 10 to restore the status quo. You could just wait for the next incident to happen, or you could take a pro-active approach, in that you may a check on the state of the Windows Update service every couple of days.

Electronic Publications

There are various forms of electronic publication, some suitable for specific display devices only. My main concern, however, is with those suitable for an ordinary desktop computer, which leaves basically two formats – PDF and EPUB.

Of the two, although PDF was first available, and is in widespread use, it is not so easy to use as EPUB. The PDF file is treated initially as one long scroll, with all the attendant problems of getting from one part to another. Using books with pages makes much more sense, and the EPUB format goes one better, normally displaying 3 pages at a time. A single click of the “Right Arrow” key takes us to the next batch of 3 pages, and the “Left Arrow” takes us 3 pages back

Furthermore, the file size for an EPUB document is about 1/3rd the size of the same file in PDF, as the EPUB format is compressed. Saving disk space and download times are both excellent ideas, and good reasons for choosing EPUB over PDF.

To view EPUB documents, I normally use the Epub Reader extension to the Firefox browser.

It is possible to change from one format to another using special programs. Calibre will convert PDF format to EPUB, but doesn’t do a clean job of it. Although Calibre is excellent for making small corrections – correcting spelling errors in an existing EPUB document, for example – it is not particularly suited for correcting a complete document if the layout is not as desired.

An alternative program, Sigil, does not currently have the ability to convert from PDF to EPUB, but it will accept the output from Calibre when already converted, and is easier to use than Calibre, in my opinion. Sigil uses the F2 key to switch from the code display to the text display. Calibre, on the other hand, uses the same screen area to display both the code and the text.

As far as writing EPUB files from scratch is concerned, I first thought of using Calibre, but that would have been too cumbersome. When you are writing, it is better to use a text program for simplicity. Looking around, I found that there is a “Writer2epub” extension to the Open Office Writer, and that is what I am currently trying out.

After a little experimentation, it is beginning to look quite good. The first attempt produced a document with every single line of text on a new page, but this is easily altered. Select the Metadata button, (the center button of the W2E controls), go to “Document Preferences” and turn off all file splitting. An alternative would be to merge html files using Calibre, but turning off file splitting keeps the number of files to a minimum, and is certainly preferable.

I was so impressed by one book – How Not To Die, by Michael Greger M.D. – that I really put in a lot of effort to convert it. It was only available in PDF format, and I wanted a nice clean copy in EPUB. After I had converted it in Calibre, I was left with a massive clean-up job, as almost every line required attention for one reason or another. It took me about a week!

I also found that some of my attempts to clean up were actually making matters worse. In both programs, Calibre and Sigil, you have the chance to make changes in either the code or the text display. Experience shows that making changes in the text display can lead to “code bloat”, and your file sizes become significantly larger to no useful purpose.

For example, where text is in italics, you may find the instruction for italic has been duplicated for different parts of the same word. This happens where the text that is affected by the instruction is moved, and the part that is moved requires the instruction to be added separately.

Similarly, problems can and do occur with Span. When moving text in text display mode, the Span instruction, and all sorts of unnecessary text control codes, may be added. If you are working in text display mode, you will not see this happen, and your file sizes may increase dramatically.

As a matter of policy, it pays to check the part of the document you are working on in code display mode, and then you can see where “Search and Replace” can be put to good use.

Is it worth the effort?

That very much depends on whether you have the time to spare, or not. I have lots of time, being retired, and am always looking for things to do. I also like a challenge, and since I started this conversion process have become quite proficient at it.

Your situation will probably be very different, so if you have better things to do with your time, use PDF!

Video File Conversion

It is not always possible to use video files on all devices. Although modern mobile phones do a grand job with most formats, sometimes it is necessary to convert to another format they can handle better. There are a number of programs available to do this, some of them paid, some of them free. Some will do the conversion on your own computer, while others require you to upload the file to the Internet, (or at least provide the url.), for the processing to be done elsewhere, and the result downloaded.

My personal preference is always to work on my own computer. Having downloaded the video once already, I fail to see why I should pay for the bandwidth to download it a second time in converted form.

One of the programs I normally use for this purpose became unusable for some reason, and I was able to recover it, so I looked for an alternative.

Movavi offered a 7-day trial, with the restriction that it would periodically show adverts for Movavi during the replay. I tried this out, and threw it away – it was hideous.

I looked for recommendations on the Internet, and came up with a program called “Any Video Converter”, (AVC). This was free, and easy to download, so I decided to try it out.

A few minutes and 49,6 mb later, I was ready install. The installation was straightforward enough, and so was loading the program to be converted, but then came the tricky part – selecting the output format. These people have really gone overboard on options. For example, for Samsung mobile phones, there is a choice of 18 versions, another 4 for Samsung tablets, 10 for android phones, 19 for android tablets, etc., etc. So you make a choice, and get started.

One of the things that puzzled me was the slow reaction time of the program after it had already been started. It was several minutes before an indication of 1% completion was indicated, and the next change was certainly not going to happen very quickly. I had almost decided that the program was a failure and was about to kill it when the first indication of movement indicated that it was actually alive and doing something.

This type of behaviour is very unusual in my experience, and I wondered what could be the cause. A quick look at the computer loading in Task Manager showed the problem immediately. AVC was loading the computer up to 100% continuously! This one program was using 2 Intel Pentium cores running at 3.3 Ghz almost completely, and was taking over 41/2 hours to convert a video file of 1.39 Gb.

I was already aware that video conversions were time-consuming, but not to this extent! I’ll see what the result is before passing final judgement,.

The final file size is 5.76 Gb, more than 4 times the size of the original file. Considering that a conversion targeting a mobile phone with correspondingly small screen size compared to a desktop computer, the final file should have been considerably smaller than the original 1.39Gb. The file is too big to fit in the target phone!

On balance, I think that AVC fails, and I need a new converter!

Taming the beast that is Windows 10

My experience with Windows 10 has been very negative, in common with many other sufferers from what I can gather. Updates were downloading but crashing out before completion. The best I could manage was 68%, then I had to throw it all away.

I did manage to update the Internet Download Manager, but was rewarded with failure for my trouble. It complained about an incorrect password, and refused to run.

I deleted it completely and installed Eagleget, a completely free alternative!

I did install “Win Update Stop”, but this was not effective, and kept being reset to the off state.

Then I went for the jackpot – a big update that would require about 6 gigabytes of bandwidth – some going for a wifi hotspot, but it managed somehow. The problem was that the result was again failure. About an hour later, I was informed that I should contact Microsoft, and reference failure number “xxxx”.
This was just too much. Windows 10 was costing me too much time and money. It had to stop!

Step 1. Remove Windows Update Assistant – permanently!

You can uninstall this program as normal, but Windows will only reinstall it, so you have wasted your time. The trick is to stop Windows from reinstalling it!
a) Open the file manager, (ThisPC on the Desktop)
b) Browse to the Windows folder on your hard drive
c) Inside that find the “UpdateAssistant” folder, and click on it once.
d) Click on the “UpdateAssistant” folder a second time. The name of the folder can now be edited.
e) Insert an underscore before the folder name and press “Enter”.
f) A pop-up menu will appear saying that you need permission to make this change. Click on “Continue” and it will be accepted.
g) Your new folder name is now “_UpdateAssistant”, and all the programs in this folder can no longer be accessed by Windows – it can’t find them!

Step 2. Although Update Assistant has now been dealt with, Windows has other mechanisms by which it can perform its nefarious work. If you go to Internet Options on the Control Panel, you will see that the default webpage to go to is http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=255141

It is not possible to permanently change from here, as the “Use Current” tab has been greyed out. We will have to dig into the Registry to make the changes, so you are well advised to create a Restore Point at this juncture.

a) Open the Registry Editor and search for “go.microsoft”
b) There are many such entries, and for each one we need to right-click on the highlighted entry. This brings up a menu with the terms “Modify”, “Modify Binary Data”, “Delete”, and “Rename”.
c) Select “Modify”, and the Value Data containing the link to Microsoft will be highlighted. Press “Delete”, and then “OK”.
d) Continue searching through the Registry until all links back to Microsoft have been removed.
(Use F3 to repeat the same search).
e) Some items refuse to allow alterations:-
MSDE, Support, Microsoft, PrivacyLink.
Live, Roaming
Ignore them, and hope for the best.

Now, when I switch on my Opera browser, I just close any spurious tabs that come up before switching on the wifi. I have retaken control of my own machine!

Microsoft’s Biggest Mistake?

One of our best defenses against computer virus is to see if a file is executable or not, that means the extension is either .exe or .com. There may be others I am unaware of now.

As far as I can remember, Microsoft has always prevented Windows users from being able to distinguish an executable file, as by default the extensions are hidden!

The cure is simple, and I highly recommend it for any Windows user.

First find the ‘Control Panel’, and double click on ‘File Explorer Options’.

Ignore the “General” and “Search” panels, and select “View”.

In the lower panel, labeled “Advanced Settings”, the second item from the bottom is labeled “Hide extensions for known file types”. Make sure the check-box beside it is empty!

If there has been a change, the “Apply” button will be available. Click that, and then you can click “OK”. The job is done.

Your protection has now been increased. Make the most of it!

Back in Business!

It had to happen sooner or later. I just couldn’t stay away. I had to have my own server, with my own copy of WordPress running on it!

There were some niggles along the way, of course. I have changed from a 32 to a 64 bit system with the new processor, which rules out some of the simpler solutions, like Xitami. So I plumped for a new Wamp installation, 64bit of course, as I had some familiarity from a previous installation on the old computer.

However, memory being what it is – (mine, I mean) – I did need some prompts with the installation, and found this one – http://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-tutorials/how-to-install-wordpress-on-your-windows-computer-using-wamp/ the best for the job. Not only are the pictures clear and readable, the text is also good English, which is extremely important when you are trying to install software. I mean, “Open directory where WAMP server you have been installed and perform the following steps” does not quite ring true, does it?

On the way, I did get some error messages, such as “Wamp cannot start because Vcruntime140.dll is missing”, and likewise it couldn’t find Msvcr110.dll.

For Windows 64 : Be sure that you have installed the Visual C++ 2010 SP1 Redistributable Package x64 : VC10 SP1 vcredist_x64.exe

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=13523

Apache will not run without this component.

Once you have Wamp running, it is then a question of making a database for it in MySQL.

Now we come to the delicate bit!

You will of course have already downloaded a copy of the latest WordPress file, which is going to look like “wordpress-4.9.1.zip”. Before we can use this for anything, it has to be unzipped, and we can do this anywhere convenient. I use the Desktop, as its easy to find there.

It unzips into a folder called “wordpress-4.9.1”, which contains …
another folder called “wordpress”, which contains …
the files we need to paste into C:\wamp64\www\

Note:– If we just paste the folder called “wordpress-4.9.1” into www, as here –
C:\wamp64\www\wordpress-4.9.1
we will be making a mistake, and this will cause the dreaded 404 errors (file not found).

We need to remove the other folder called “wordpress” – it does nothing for us, and it is in the way!

So, cut all the files from the “wordpress” folder, and put them into the “wordpress-4.9.1” folder. The “wordpress” folder should now be empty, and you can throw it away!

For convenience, you may like to rename the “wordpress-4.9.1” folder to “mysite” or something more to your liking, as I did. This folder now gets pasted into Wamp, and the end address looks like this:-
C:\wamp64\www\mysite

Now open your web browser and go to http://localhost/mysite/

This starts you on the famous “5-minute Installation” that WordPress is renowned for, and in no time at all you will be rewarded with this –
Mysite

a beautiful, freshly minted WordPress site with the theme Twenty Seventeen.

Truly, a site for sore eyes!!!

Happy New Year!