Fixing computers (Software)

In the old days it was super easy to fix a software fault. From since the Internet the battle front has changed and can be daunting from Malware, Spyware and Viruses.

Today I am passing on some quick easy ways to fix such things and tips from keeping your computer in shape.

Typically most users end up with what I call a downloader. I use this term with clients so they can better understand when they ask what is wrong. It’s typically a fake program that runs in the background constantly spreading Malware and Spyware. It causes havoc on system resources. This is where you need to know your software. For an example you look in the Software list of what is installed. Any odd third-party software you never heard of and know the client or yourself would not use. For a example a Coupon Finder program. This will create unwanted Ads to pop up and also install other programs like WeatherBug and the fake AVG Antivirus and so forth. The best bet is to reboot in SafeMode and backup data such as Pictures, Music and Documents to a Flash Drive. If you have a big enough Flash Drive you could save Video.

You want to uninstall everything that is third-party as much as possible. Do not reboot if it asks. Next you need to run MSCONFIG and remove pretty much everything from the start-up. You can leave things such as nVidia, ATI and RealTek stuff that goes to the hardware.

Go into Task Scheduler and remove any third-party programs from that list.

Next you need to edit the Registry. Most people are afraid to do this but if you know what you are doing and follow the directions you will be fine. Run RegEdit and run as Administrator. Under HKEY_CURRENT_USER select Software then Microsoft Then Windows then CurrentVersion then Run. From this section you can remove pretty much everything. on the right side of the screen. This section controls on what loads up third-party wise as a typical user level. Now we need to do this again but under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. That section controls system wide including the Administrator login. So you would go HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, Software, Microsoft, Windows, CurrentVersion, Run.

Next we need to manually remove some files. Most programs default into C:\Program Files (x86) or C:\Program Files. Just delete the folders that contain the same names as the programs you deleted. in the beginning. If it doesn’t let you delete them then that means they are still loaded/running. Reason being the Registry still has the location of the files in memory. You can however move the Folders/Directories to the desktop so when you reboot you can get to them quicker and delete them since the Registry entry is wiped. After doing much as possible of deleting them you can now finally reboot. Just boot in Normal mode and see if all is well and finish deleting the files. Now I recommend cleaning the Registry with a program called CCleaner. While you’re at it go ahead and delete the Internet history and Cookies to avoid the same mishap happening again. Also run a program called Malwarebytes. They offer a free 30 day trial but I would recommend to buy the full version. Clear out the Downloads Directory as well for the sake of the client reinstalling the program that started it all.

Now this is a typical clean however there are many more such as www-searching and some new Virus or Trojan. About 90% of the time you can just Google the issue for an example”remove www-searching”. Read blog posts or message boards for the solution. Avoid websites that have an all in one free scanner, those will add more problems.

I’ve been asks so many questions over the years about Identity theft if a user’s system gets infected. The chances are very slim unless they know for sure of they are attacking and they typically will use Social Engineering instead of breaking into your home system. Hackers/Attackers attend to only go after huge companies such as Sony, Target and so forth.

Anti-Virus programs are also a huge debate and honestly I don’t like them. It’s like a person buying Optical Insurance when they have perfect 20/20 vision. When a Anti Virus picks up a virus warning it is an old virus that has been around. New Viruses and Trojans will not be detected until it has hit the mainstream and companies such as Norton and McAfee have created a patch/update for the Anti-Virus. In all reality they just bog down the system and some times be annoying. When you come into contact will a old virus you can typically download a removal tool from Norton for no charge. Or you can google a removal process. Same deal most of the time with new Viruses.

If this is your personal system then keep this in mind. When you install a program do you honestly need it to start when Windows is loaded? Chances ar not really so you can always delete the entry in MSCONFIG. If you need a peice of software to load when Windows loads up I would recommend to put a shortcut under the StartUp section on the StartMenu or whatever Windows calls it these days (I don’t use Windows 8 or 10). Make backups or invest in a Google Drive account. Do not turn off the Firewall. Do not add your system to a DMZ list on your router. Run CCleaner and Malwarebytes once a week. If you really want to see what is going on in Windows there is a awesome Task Manager replacement called Process Hacker This will give full detial on what is running.

However if a client demands of a Anti-Virus then I would Recommend Atvast It’s very user friendly and is updated weekly. Not to mention free.

Also advise everyone you know to do not trust the Ads that contain “Flash Update”, “Java Update”, “Driver Update” and the little fake computer lock Ads that claim you need to call Tech Support or send money to a Government Agency. All of this will screw up your computer and your wallet.

DIY Ultrasonic cleaner idea

If you clean a lot of parts from Automotive to Electronics you can use an Ultrasonic cleaner to do the job. Some people think you can toss on an Electric Sander to a bucket and think it works the same but not really.

The frequency of the transducer under the tank that causes the cavitation of bubbles that is nothing more than high frequency pressure sound waves to agitate a liquid to beat the dirt off. From Wikipedia on the subject an Ultrasonic Cleaner can output 20 to 400 kHz. These bubbles collapse with enormous energy; temperatures and pressures on the order of 5,000 K and 20,000 lbs per square inch. So a Sander wouldn’t do the job or depending on what you’re cleaning it can destroy the item you’re cleaning.

From my findings a typical circuit for this just takes a AC source from your wall outlet and converts the 50/60Hz frequency and increases it to somewhere in the kHz range.

You can build a cleaner from off the shelf parts but it can cost hundreds of dollars and in the end you could have bought one from Ebay or Craigslist. However I found an easy cheap solution to build a small one for electronics, jewelry, coins such.

A simple 555 Timer in a Stable congratulation with a LC filter on the output to convert the square wave to a sine wave. A set of old mono amplifier such as computer speakers to amplify the output and modify a speaker much like the Tactical Transducer I talked about before and mount it to the bottom of a food service pan or a thin gauge stainless pot. There are also a couple of other ways to do this by using an old cellphone and a Function Generator App so you can have an adjustable frequency. Instead of a speaker as a transducer you could go to a junkyard and use a Knock Sensor from a car. You might even be able to use a Sawtooth wave instead of a Sine wave. I honestly don’t know if it would make a difference or not.

It will be a while before I try this myself. I’m just passing along an idea.

New Job

Well on December 30th I will no longer be working for McDonald’s. I got a new job that I can somewhat use my technical skills with. I would be running cabling for security systems for homes that are still under construction.

The downside however I would have to use my own vehicle but they will pay for Gas. It’s also piece-rate pay but the more I do the more I get paid. As long as it’s more money I’ll be happy.

A friend even gave me a power inverter, for the life of me I can not find mine. It’s only a 75watt unit but it should be enough to run a battery charger or a small power tool for a few minutes.

I’m just excited really. My current Boss is kinda pissed and told me I wouldn’t be able to recall my notice. I don’t care if I can’t recall my notice honestly I’m just glad I can leave that forsaken job.

News 11/27/16

Last week was my 33rd Birthday. Didn’t do much on my Birthday since my three sons also share their Birthdays in November as well. My wife made all of us our own Cakes and selected our choice in Ice Cream. A friend gave me a LG G3 Cell Phone with a Wal-Mart Family Mobile Sim Card. I am thinking to activate the phone soon and probably do away with the house line.

I got a hold of a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) from work. It doesn’t work and after spending a few attempts to get it going I stripped it down. It’s a TrippLite brand unit and I have to say it is well-engineered and does not use any cheap components. However since it was soldered together with Lead-Free it is a pain to use my cheapo soldering irons to remove the parts. I am going to use the case for my dual power supply project that I keep putting on the back burner. The case is the same size as the old Shuttle desktop computers.

The Van is still running well however the Gas Gauge doesn’t show the proper Gas levels anymore. Probably because the new pump assembly didn’t line up exactly so a couple of degrees makes a huge difference. Some time I’ll probably end up dropping the tank again and fix that issue.

On the 29th and 30th I will start on a little construction project of a spice rack for my Wife. I plan to use Oak Pallet wood so it will match the Country Kitchen look we have. I might even attempt to make some Milk Paint to finish it. No-matter how it will end but it will have a white with blue trim color scheme.

The same friend that gave me the Phone is really into Google products and he bought himself one of those Google Home devices. I asked him last night how he likes it and he said he loves it so much he bought another one for the bedroom. He also said Google is coming out with a WiFi system so you can connect multiple Google devices together on a network so you can have for an example two or more Google Home devices work together in tandem.

The other night at Wal-Mart a co-worker and I were looking at 4K TVs and he was noticing a fair price for them. When I was looking at them I noticed how they’re lying to the consumer. The TVs in question are not truly 4K but 2K Ultra HD. Every single TV they had except the super expensive Samsung curved screen they had listed the pixel rate for the horizontal  2,048. A real 4K screen resolution for the horizontal is 4,096. However a lot of times you will see it listed as 3,840. So if you are in the market for a 4K TV then just keep in mind that stores such as Wal-Mart will list the TV incorrect and sell you a TV claiming to be 4K but is really 2K. Just remember you get what you pay for.

Coffee

I am an avid coffee drinker. Probably since I work nights most of my life and when I stopped drinking booze I replaced it with coffee. A friend gave me a Keurig Coffee Maker that a room-mate left behind. I cleaned it up and tried it out. Honestly it makes the weakest coffee I have ever had. Even with the smallest cup I got is like drinking water. Granted the K Cups that came with the coffee maker probably isn’t the best choice however the amount of caffeine intake isn’t that much. I’ve had iced coffee from work that all of the ice melted and was still stronger. The K Cups I tried with this machine were Black Silk from Folders. With my Mr Coffee machine for every cup I brew is a table-spoon of coffee grounds and I typically use Folders Colombian Bean. I attend to brew four cups at a time since most of my coffee cups can hold three to four cups worth. However days when I have to get up early I don’t have time to enjoy a large amount of coffee so a small single cup is enough.

I love the fact I can make a cup at a time. I can make a cup at a time with my current Mr. Coffee maker but it doesn’t brew straight into the cup and if you don’t pour it into a cup ASAP the hot plate will burn the coffee. I might buy of those reusable filter K Cup kits and use it for brewing espresso. Even if it did brew a proper cup to my taste from a typical K Cup it would cost way too much for 10 bucks for 18 cups or 27 bucks for 40 so a reusable filter kit would be the best thing. You can get one of those kits for 10 bucks and Cafe Bustelo Espresso coffee is almost four bucks a can from Wal-Mart. However since the Cafe Bustelo is a very fine coffee ground the screen filter might let fine particles through and you end up with some thick coffee on the last couple of sips. I know this happens with my main coffee maker but honestly it doesn’t bother me.

I guess what I am getting at is if you or a loved one loves strong coffee that can put hair on your chest or wake the dead then I wouldn’t buy one of these unless you want to use it as a dedicated espresso machine. I know I’ll use it for that and I know my wife will love it since she is a lite coffee drinker.

How one project turns into another

Today I was playing around with some Digital Rotary Encoders and thought it would be great to see the wave form on my scope. Sadly I only have an Analog scope. In the past I have played with a Arduino based DSO and thought I would look into it again. Well sure enough I ran into a instructable post that some one took the Poor Man’s Oscilloscope and updated it. So naturally I tried it out and works great.

It’s more of a face lift to the Processing portion of the code. Some added features such as pausing the wave form and able to zoom in and out.

When I built my board up I used a 1MGEG resistor as a pull down from Ground to A0 and also since I’m using it as a scope I tossed on a BNC connector. Since I have a 10x probe I am able to do a voltage divider and able to probe signals higher than 5 volts. With the Probe in the 10x setting 5V is 500mV (Half a volt). That comes in handy for probing CMOS ICs that run at higher voltages. I could also toss on a Capacitor for some AC coupling.

So if you need to see some rising and falling edges or a wave form and all you got is a Analog Scope then I would give the Arduino Poorman’s Oscilloscope a try.

A long week

I had an opportunity for a new job this week but let me tell you, everywhere I turned lady luck was dishing out bad luck.

My wife took the van to help a family friend buy a car. They made it to the local McDonald’s for I guess food and the Van stalled out and wouldn’t start again. We thought it was the battery because it was a cheap battery begin with from Wal-Mart and back when we had Alternator issues it was running on the battery only for a couple of days. A Mechanic from across the street brought over a battery to jump the Van with but do dice. He recommended the spark plug wires so I changed them out, no dice. So the next morning I changed out the Key Lock Cylinder thinking that has to be the issue since some times the key sticks or you have to fight the key. It started right up as if nothing had happen. I turned off the ignition and went to start putting the steering column back together. When I tried to start it again it would only turn over and not start like before. Since there was no trouble codes or check engine light, I was starting to get worried that I might have to take it into a shop. So I tried switching around relays and checking the fuses again and decided to have my brother take me on the other side of town for my Drug Screening for the new job and when we come back we’ll see if the van starts. If it starts we can quickly drive it home. Well sure enough that idea worked. I was able to drive it home with no problems.

After reading the Hanes manual for the Van I figured out it must be the fuel pump. I checked for spark and with most Dodge/Chryslers you can disconnect the Cam Shaft Positioning Sensor and see if it turns over. So instead of buying the whole pump assembly (pictured left) I bought just the pump (pictured right).

a38002_p04_ange16145_p04_top

I had to “drop” the fuel tank to get to the pump. I also had to take apart the lower half of the pump assembly to get to the pump. After swapping it out and one of my sons and I were fighting the full tank back in the van worked fine. By time I finished and did a quick test drive I had to pick up my wife from work. After picking her up the van died in the middle of the street and we got it pushed into a gas station lot. By this time I was feeling lost and mad. We walked back to my Wife’s job and caught a ride home. That night I had the Van towed home. When the tow truck came the driver told me I have two days to fix it or it will be towed to impound because it is “immobile” and the property management will see to it.

While all this was happening we had not paid rent yet for the month. Since Friday was Veterans Day the property manager gave us a break and told us no later than 4PM Saturday. So my mother loaned me her truck and I went to NAPA Auto Parts and got the whole pump assembly. Got back home and with in an hour the Wife and I had the tank back out on the ground. I pulled the old pump assembly and what do you know… The hose to the pump I replaced the day before had disconnected (circled in red).

e16145_p04_top

I could have just put it back on but with the luck we were having I would have been probably dropping the tank a third time. So, I replaced the whole unit and we got the tank back in the Van and now it runs like new. We got the rent paid and everything is now back to normal for the exception of my back. Since the first tank drop I have been having muscle spasms that literally make me fall to my knees. Last thing I need to happen is making my back worse at the new job that requires a lot of heavy lifting. So in other words I had to turn down the job even though I was thrilled about it and would have been a huge career change for me.

I want to thank my friends and family that were able to help my household on this endeavor. Also thank my Boss for letting me stay at the last-minute.

So my advice is on this, sometimes you can’t cheap out on car repairs. You’ll end up doing it again and end up spending the same amount that a shop would have charged. Most of the time I try my best to do things right the frist time but when finances make you avoid it than Murphy’s Law will cut in.

Continuity Tester / Signal Injector

Having a Continuity Tester / Signal Injector is nice to have to pinout a circuit. Most Multimeters will have a Continuity tester built in but if you only have one meter and it’s being used for something else a standalone tester is great.

How the tester works is it just tosses a low voltage around 1.5 volts into a circuit and makes a beep/buzz when the two probe ends touching together creating a short.

The unit I built is just a old stereo PC speaker amp and a PICAXE 08m2 micro controller.
The right channel on the amp is only used and Pin3 on the PICAXE sends out a square wave so when the output of the PICAXE finds a connection to the positive input of the amp it closes the circuit and a beep is played. Both the micro and amp uses the same power supply. Since the PICAXE can only handle 5volts I tossed in a LM7805 to power it but use the same common ground. The speaker was also replaced with a small three inch 16ohm 25watt speaker I had in the parts box.

The amp also has a AUX input for a external device and a headphone jack. So I can always toss on some remote speakers and also inject another audio source and use it as a signal tracer for Radios and such.

As I said it is a very simple circuit to add to a audio amp. Just add a LM7805 voltage regulator to power the PICAXE add a 0.1 cap for protection on the output of Pin 3 of the PICAXE. The Positive probe would also be Pin 3 and the Negative probe side would be the input of the amp. Both the PICAXE and amp share the same ground. If you put it on a scope you’ll see a 2.5V Square wave.

The code for the PICAXE is very straight forward.

main:	sound C.1,(100,100)		        ; play the sound
	pause 10				; wait
	goto main				; repeat

Here is the Schematic
continuity

I might use the AUX input for a signal generator.

Retro PC Update 2

I installed Windows 98 Second Edition and it is a blast from the past for sure. It took a while to get all of the hardware working and figured out I don’t have a ATI All in Wonder but a ATI TV Wonder VE. I can’t find the ATI Multimedia Center that is compatible however VLC works well. So for giggles I tossed on my Arduino Voltmeter that uses the TV out add-on. I’m currently installing SmartDraw and I’ll attempt to install some updates and try out the KernelEX add-on and see about getting a HTML5 compatible browser going. After that I’ll get DOS 6.22 going for some DOS gaming.

A couple of hurdles had came my way like transferring files from my Win7 driven laptop. I had to waste a CD for a simple 400KB driver set for the Ethernet card. After that I just created a file share on the Retro PC and copied files over that way. I also couldn’t get the built-in sound working so I tossed in a SoundBlaster Live Value PCI card. Every USB device I plug in is “too new” and it complains for drivers. There is a Unofficial Service Pack that has all of the updates from the old Windows Update site from back in the day. Maybe after installing that I can get further with USB support for my old 256MB jump drive.

Retro PC Project update

I slapped together a Intel Celeron as my “Retro PC”. It works very well and can run all the games and programs I want from back in the day.

Here are the specs of the system.
Intel Celeron 700MHz
512MB RAM
Maxtor 120GB PATA drive
Iomega 250 PATA drive
1.44MB Floppy
Realtek Ethernet
ATI All in Wonder
A-Open desktop case

As I said with this setup I can run almost anything from the old days and even have enough hard drive space to boot different operating systems.

A few snags on the build hasn’t made my day. The Power supply kept shorting out and come to find out it was the Optical drive. So now I need to replace it and the only other PATA/IDE drive I have is a DVD drive. A while back I bought a unopened box of floppies and I finally found my old USB floppy drive. Sadly all of the disks do not work. I get write protection issues on my main system and the Retro PC  complains about Sector Zero. So maybe today or Tuesday I’ll swing by the other Thrift store I go to often for old PC hardware and see if they still have some sealed boxes of Memorex floppies. The box that test bad before were some Neon colored floppies from CompUSA.

When I get this system up and running I’ll probably pull out mt Mechanical keyboard and play some DOOM and Duke Nukem. After that hunt down a copy of Railroad Tycoon or build my Parallel protoboard and control some relays or something.