Archive for the Technology and Software Category

Software Upgrade for the TV

Posted in Technology and Software on October 25, 2011 by Mike Procario

We have a 42 inch plasma TV that we bought in 2005. We have watched two Steeler Superbowl victories on it. It recently began to pop up the setup menu for no apparent reason. We would exit the setup menu and it would go away to just pop back minutes to seconds later. The longer the TV was on, the faster the menu came on. It really smelled like a software problem.

I looked for a firmware upgrade on the web. It is a Phillips TV and I just plugged in the model number and it produced the required files. I downloaded the file and copied it to a USB thumb drive. I plugged the drive into the TV and turned it on. The TV saw it and did the upgrade automatically.

The TV appears to be fixed. It was really quite a simple process. The key was recognizing it was a software problem.

I chatted with some my physicists friends after I fixed it and I asked if what they would have done. Turning the TV off, even pulling the plug was mentioned, but they did not come up with upgrading the firmware. I told them my solution and they thought they would have eventually have come up with the same solution.


Christmas Computer Cleanup

Posted in Technology and Software on December 27, 2010 by Mike Procario

Erin had some rogue antispyware on her computer. It claimed to find viruses and spyware and then demanded payment to remove them. The pop alerts looked like they might be official system alerts, but the  warning written over the desktop looked cheesy and suspicious. I ran the antivirus and it found a couple of infections, but it did not fix the problem. I was able to successfully get rid of it with Malwarebytes Antimalware. I tried the free trial and I think I will buy the full version for her.

This has set me off on a series of computer maintenance tasks. I copied all of Erin’s school work into her dropbox folder, so it would be backed up online. I also invited Megan to install dropbox. When she does I will get an additional free 250 MB of storage.

Now I am checking the startup programs on all of my PCs. You can find a list of what startup items do at  These programs can be either legitimate programs that are critical or legitimate programs that do not really need to be started at boot up, or malware.

You can see the programs set to start at boot time by using msconfig. Sarah’s laptop looks clean.  It did not have an excess of legitimate startup programs or visible malware. I checked my desktop and found that Windows Live Messenger was listed. I don’t use it and I always end up stopping it. Now I won’t have to.  I also stopped a couple of other programs of this type. I hope that will speed my boot times.

Fixed the Router

Posted in Technology and Software on November 12, 2010 by Mike Procario

I have had trouble with our wireless router, a Netgear WNDR3300,  since we got it.  It has always dropped the connection more often that I thought was acceptable. I spent a significant amount time surveying the signal and found that it was reasonable strong. I switched to channel to 11 for 801.11G, which seems be pretty empty. Most people in the neighborhood were on channel 6. Despite this I still had the connection drop every 30-45 minutes at the worst times.

I was considering installing dd-wrt firmware on my router, but before I took that step I checked to see if Netgear had upgraded firmware available. There was new firmware  available, and it solved all of my problems.  I have now had a rock solid signal that almost never drops.

Windows 7

Posted in Technology and Software on October 25, 2009 by Mike Procario

I upgrade to Windows 7 today, but I did with a clean install on a new disk that I added to my computer. This required me to reinstall my applications. I decided to only add those programs that I use regularly.  It turned out to be more programs than I thought.

  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • Google Chrome, which makes three browsers on the computer
  • OpenOffice
  • Picasa
  • iTunes
  • KeePass
  • ProcessExplorer
  • TeraCopy
  • Filezilla
  • Foxit PDF reader
  • CutePDF writer
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Launchy
  • GIMP
  • 7-Zip
  • NeatWorks

I Still Got It

Posted in Technology and Software on April 11, 2009 by Mike Procario

I installed Virtualbox virtualization software today on my PC. It allows me to run Linux inside of Windows. I did an install of Ubuntu 8.10 and it is working fine. I have a dual core processor which helps a lot. I can see that one processor is busy almost constantly.

VirtualBox has a feature that lets you share folders between the guest OS, Ubuntu in this case, and the host OS, Windows in this case. I had trouble getting it to run. After some serious poking around, I discovered that VirtualBox provides linux kernel modules to support this feature, although they call them Linux guest additions.

I had upgraded my linux kernel with the automatic updates feature of Ubuntu after I had added the Linux guest additions. When I then tried to turn on faolder sharing, it did not work. I discovered that I had the needed kernel modules for version 2.6.27-07, but I was running 2.6.27-11. The fix was simple, and I might have stumbled on it even if I did not understand it. Reinstall the Linux guest additions. I looked, and I saw that I had the correct kernel modules now.  Folder sharing is now working.

I think that I am happier that I figured out what was really wrong than that I have a properly working system.

Welcome to the Federal Government

Posted in Technology and Software on January 22, 2009 by Mike Procario

The Washington Post reported today that new White House staff was quite disappointed by the quality of the IT equipment and the restrictive rules on the use of IT. As a federal employee all I can say is welcome to the federal government. The poor quality of the tools provided to me is my number one complaint about working for the government. 

When I joined the Department of Energy in 2000 the department was still running Windows 95. We have reached Windows XP after several years of Windows 2000, but we are still running Internet Explorer 6.

People working in jobs with similar responsibilities in the private sector have a laptop that can be docked when they are at their desk. Laptops in my department are only used for travel and are never connected to the internal local area network. We do not have wireless in the building since we do not use laptops. I cannot count the number of times I have been meetings arguing over some fact or budget information that could be looked up in two minutes if we had access to the LAN from a laptop taken to a meeting.

We are limited to a basic suite of office software. It is one size fits all. Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and that’s about it. If you can’t do it with those programs, you probably can’t do it at all. When I wanted to get some data off the website of one our labs on a weekly basis, I wrote a small python script to scrape the pages and calcualte some totals. Once the script was written a weekly 15 minute task became a 1 minute task. I could write the script at home, but I could not run it at work. Python is not on the approved software list.

Perhaps the new President can get us some decent tools to allow us to do our jobs better.

Now Running Wireless N

Posted in Technology and Software on January 20, 2009 by Mike Procario

I installed a new wireless N router. It is dual band, and this is being transmitted from my MacBook Pro over the 5.0 GHz band using WPA2-PSK.  Now I have to see if I can get the older computers in the house running on G over the 2.4 Ghz band.

UPDATE: I had to update the driver for the Dell wireless 1450 miniPCI card in the Dell INSPIRON that my daughter uses.  The installed driver did not support WPA. I still had a Linksys USB adapter for one of the desktops. It was only 802.11b, but I has a very similar Linksys USB adapter that supported G lying around, so I switched to that one. Now I have two Windows XP computers running 802.11g and two Macs running 802.11n.