Windows 7 update errors resolved

Here’s how I fixed a friend’s computer that stubbornly refused to install some Windows updates, including the upgrade to Windows 10.

The computer was riddled with viruses/malware, which corrupted drivers, files and registry entries. AVG Free antivirus and Malwarebytes helped disinfect the computer, but the damage remained.DjMSROG

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force Windows updates to install. I received error codes including 80070002. I tried methods such as running sfc /scannow for the command prompt and installing the Windows Update Readiness Tool. No luck.

The problem — at least with upgrading to Windows 10 — turned out to be corrupt drivers. (I never was successful in finding a way to install smaller Windows updates. Only moving to Windows 10 resolved the issue.)

The solution was to install a program called Driver Talent, which scanned the computer for damaged and outdated drivers. After identifying two corrupt drivers, the program allowed me to download clean and updated drivers.

Driver Talent charges money to automatically install the drivers, so I installed them manually:

  • Locate the location where Driver Talent downloaded the driver in .7z format.
  • Extract the contents of the file using a program like WinZip.
  • Go to Device Manager, find the system device with the bad driver, select Properties and then Update Driver, and then browse to the folder where the new driver was unzipped.

After doing so, I was able install Windows 10 by downloading the Media Creation Tool and putting the Windows setup files on a clean USB drive. Then I ran Setup from the USB drive, chose NOT to download updates, and the process worked!

Cut the cord and free your TV

cut_cable_TV_smallCable TV costs too much, wastes time with commercials and fails to offer channel packages I want. Who needs cable when we have the Internet?

So I cut the cord this week, which will save me money and focus my viewing on the content that I want to see. Without cable, I’m left with MLB.tv for baseball, Netflix for movies and TV, and an antenna on my windowsill to pick up over-the-air HD broadcasts.

I had enough of steep monthly cable bills when I didn’t even watch it that often — mostly for live sporting events or DVR’d movies that are also available through Netflix.

I was paying a promotional rate of $95 a month for 6 megabit Internet and AT&T’s U-verse 200 cable package, which didn’t even include MLB Network. Without the discount, full price for this package would have been about $135 a month, which seemed crazy to me. Now with 12 megabit Internet alone, my monthly bill will be about $51 each month.

For Internet content (Netflix at $8/month and MLB.tv at $50 for the remainder of the season), I use a Roku media player so I can watch shows on my TV. I’m also considering Hulu Plus ($8/month), but I’m not sure I need it.

For network and local channels, the over-the-air antenna ($10-$20) might seem old-fashioned, but the picture is fantastic and I don’t have to pay for the content.

I’ll miss out on some college football games under this setup because I won’t get ESPN and other sports channels. But I can instead see games over the air, at friends’ houses or sports bars. Even if I pay for food and drink at a restaurant while watching a game, I’ll still be spending less money.

Saving money may have been the primary reason for getting rid of cable, but it wasn’t the only one. I now have the freedom to choose the channels I want and watch them on demand.

How to avoid MLB.tv blackouts

Unblock-UsBaseball blackouts, be gone!

A service called Unblock-Us allows customers to get around MLB.tv’s blackouts of local games, which have long been an obstacle for fans who want to pay for online or TV viewing of their home teams but can’t.

MLB.tv allows viewers to watch any baseball game, with the catch that you can’t watch your team within its coverage area. This restriction limits the promise of MLB.tv, rendering it useless to fans who live in the same cities as their favorite teams.

MLB.tv

Unblock-Us avoids blackouts by routing an MLB.tv subscriber’s Internet connection through remote servers, making it appear that the subscriber is located outside of the blackout area. It works on desktop computers as well as media players such as Roku and Apple TV.

Being able to watch baseball through the Internet instead of on cable TV is a major benefit to fans who want to avoid paying for cable, watch game replays, view games across the league or listen to broadcasters different from those in their home market. In the Atlanta area, being able to switch to the visiting team’s broadcast is a great relief from the Braves’ regular crew in the booth.

Setup of Unblock-Us should be easy for most users. I had a harder time setting it up because of how my Internet service provider wired my home. A previous post titled “Make AT&T Uverse i38HG access point behave” explains how to address the same technical problem I had.

Fortunately, Unblock-Us comes with a seven-day free trial, and it costs $4.99 per month afterward. Unlike some VPN or proxy services, Unblock-Us does have any monthly data usage limits or require additional software.

I was surprised I hadn’t heard of Unblock-Us before now. If more baseball fans knew about it, they’d swarm to this kind of solution and MLB.tv would profit from new subscriptions.

Make AT&T Uverse i38HG access point behave

i38HGWhen AT&T hooks up residential Uverse Internet, it sometimes puts the actual router in a box outside the house, and the box inside the house is just an access point. This can prove problematic to customers who want to install their own routers for purposes such as setting up Unblock-Us.

Because the AT&T Uverse 2Wire i38HG access point and its i3812v router provide only limited settings options at their 192.168.1.254 address, a third-party router may be required. Unlike other home Internet configurations that allow customers to plug their wall cable directly into a router, the AT&T router’s outside-the-home location makes it difficult for customers to use their own routers to manage Internet traffic.

This post will explain how to make the i38HG access point and i3812v router behave more like they’re in bridged mode.

The best way to do so is to follow the instructions found here:

1. Set your router’s WAN interface to get an IP address via DHCP.  This is required at first so that the 2Wire recognizes your router. (On my router, it was configured to get IP addresses via DHCP by default, so I didn’t have to change any settings.)

2. Plug your router’s WAN interface to one of the 2Wire’s LAN interfaces. (The WAN interface is the one that’s labeled “Internet” on some routers.)

3. Restart your router, let it get an IP address via DHCP.

4. Log into the 2Wire router’s interface (by visiting 192.168.1.254 in your browser).  Go to Settings -> Firewall -> Applications, Pinholes, and DMZ

5. Select your router under section (1). (Select your router by finding its MAC address. On a Linksys router, find your MAC address by navigating to 192.168.1.1 in a new browser window, clicking on “Setup” and then “MAC Address Clone.” A MAC address may also be found by looking at the label on the bottom of the router.)

6. Click the DMZPlus button under section (2).

7. Click the Save button.

8. Restart your router, when it gets an address via DHCP again, it will be the public outside IP address.  At this point, you can leave your router in DHCP mode (make sure the firewall on your router allows the DHCP renewal packets, which will occur every 10 minutes), or you can change your router’s IP address assignment on the WAN interface to static, and use the same settings it received via DHCP.

9. On the 2Wire router, go to Settings -> Firewall -> Advanced Configuration

10. Uncheck the following: Stealth Mode, Block Ping, Strict UDP Session Control.

11. Check everything under Outbound Protocol Control except NetBIOS.

12. Uncheck NetBIOS under Inbound Protocol Control.

13. Uncheck all the Attack Detection checkboxes (7 of them).

14. Click Save.

That should do it. Your router will now handle your Internet traffic and settings after it passes through your AT&T equipment largely uninterrupted. For wireless access, connect to your new router instead of the 2Wire access point. I took the extra step of turning off wireless in the 2Wire’s settings, but I’m not sure whether that’s necessary.

Cloud comparison

I’ve been using three cloud services recently — Google Play, SugarSync and Dropbox. Here is a brief comparison of the three.

Google Play: This service is incredible for music storage and mobile device music streaming. Google Play allows you to upload up to 20,000 of your songs for free. With a conservative estimate of 3MB per song, Google Play is giving away somewhere in the neighborhood of 60GB worth of storage, which is pretty incredible. There’s a free Google Play app for Android devices, and for the iPhone, I use a neat app called Melodies that I downloaded for $0.99.

SugarSync: With 5GB of free storage and syncing of any file type, SugarSync is a great option both for backup storage and cloud access of frequently used files. I recently upgraded to SugarSync and dropped Dropbox.

Dropbox: The Dropbox cloud service is the easiest to use. It creates a folder on your PC/Mac desktop, and any file you put in that folder is automatically uploaded. You can also set upload folders more specifically in Dropbox’s preferences. The big downfall of Dropbox is that it only provides 2GB of free storage, which is a pretty strict limitation as personal data needs grow.

iPhone wins

I held off buying the popular iPhone for years, instead using the Blackberry Pearl, Palm Pre and Samsung Epic 4G as I resisted my eventual conversion. Now that I’ve joined the Apple empire with an iPhone 4S, I’m satisfied that I finally own such a high-quality phone.

My personal phone evolution was an attempt to find the best smartphone for me. In some ways, I held off on the iPhone because I feared if I jumped to it too early, I may never give other phones a chance. My fears were justified; the iPhone is the best phone I’ve ever used.

Compared to the Epic 4G, it’s not much of a contest.

Reasons the iPhone4S is superior to the Samsung Epic 4G:

1. Longer battery life. The iPhone battery lasts me a good 16 hours on work days. The Epic 4G, even with the JuiceDefender app, could go about 12 hours. Without Juicedefender, battery life on the Epic was more like six to eight hours. I’m glad I don’t have to constantly keep a spare battery fully charge and tucked into my wallet.

2. Speed. The iPhone is more responsive to the touch. There’s none of the lag I sometimes experienced with the Epic.

3. Boot times. The iPhone starts within seconds. With the Epic, I had to wait about five minutes before I reached the start screen, the SD media card was scanned and the “today” widget loaded. It was a waste of time.

4. GPS/Google Maps. The GPS on the iPhone seems to pinpoint my location more accurately and faster than the Epic. Sometimes, the GPS on the Epic would fail entirely unless I rebooted the phone, which was unacceptable.

5. No 4G. Sprint charged me $10 extra per month to have 4G on the Epic, which I rarely used anyway. I’m happy that with the iPhone, I have a better phone and I save that $10 monthly.

6. Siri is fantastic.

7. Applecare>normal phone insurance. I paid $8 per month in insurance for a two-year contract on the Epic ($196). With the iPhone, I paid $100 for Applecare up-front on a two-year contract.

8. Apps. Apple’s App Store is still the standard that other phone marketplaces are trying to emulate. The Apple app ecosystem still has the best app selection.

9. Ease of use. The iPhone attracted so many fanboys for good reason — it simply works well and feels intuitive. The iPhone experience is bug-free and pleasant. I never want to throw my iPhone against the wall when it doesn’t do what I want it too. Frustration shouldn’t have much of a place in phone usage. There’s enough hassle with technology.

10. Autocorrect on the virtual keyboard. It works very well, and I make fewer mistakes on the virtual keyboard than I did on the Epic’s physical keyboard.

There are some downsides to the iPhone too, including its attachment to iTunes, its closed nature, the lack of good cloud integration (iCloud isn’t there yet) and the need to hook up to a computer to load media. But those disadvantages are offset by user happiness — my happiness with such a fine piece of tech.

Computer cleaning

I want to record a few links of computer cleaning software that I find useful. Much of the advice and links came from MajorGeeks.com and this post about malware cleaning and removal.

Use these along with an antivirus program, which is essential for a Windows computer.

SUPERAntiSpyware: Gets rid of cookies and other more obvious threats.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: Pretty self-explanatory — this utility scrubs malware.

Combofix: I’m not sure about this one. McAfee antivirus detected several supposed trojans when I tried to run Combofix, which could have been a fluke, but it could also indicate the version of Combofix I downloaded isn’t safe.

TDSSKiller.exe: This utility from Kaspersky is supposed to get at some of the more difficult trojans that can infect your computer.

Infinity Blade review

Infinity Blade opening scene

Soon after a friend passed me a note recommending Infinity Blade, I was hooked.

The swordfighting game on the iPad is a lot of fun and completely addicting.What kept me interested for such a long time is that it really does take skill and practice to improve at this game. And of course, it’s fun to upgrade your character.

The first time through the game wasn’t too difficult, especially once I looked at curi’s Infinity Blade Guide, which gave some helpful tips about everything from how to fight the God King to what items are important to buy.

Unfortunately, I didn’t read the guide closely enough, and when it came time to continue to the NewGame+, I had neglected to sell any of my items.

That failure on my part left me penniless as I started the game over again in NewGame+, which greatly increased its difficulty. The hardest part for me was against the Level 300 God King, when I had to work hard to learn how to beat him because I didn’t yet have a shield with resistance to light. It took me about a week before I finally took him down.

After that, the game moved steadily. I set a goal of beating the Level 1,000 God King and again vanquishing the dungeon bosses. It was only a matter of time after passing the Level 300 God King and buying the Infinity Blade before I killed the Level 1,000 God King.

It’s a testament to how fun the game is that I couldn’t stop there. I continued on, buying up more and more expensive items. I don’t want to start over again on another NewGame+, so now I’m just maxing out my character so he can always live on as a badass. Then I’ll try to set the game down and move on to something new.

As of July 2, the last God King I had beaten was at Level 1,400, and I’m only one bloodline over the minimum (due to how pour I was when starting the NewGame+ with no money).

UPDATE: Defeated Level 1,500 on July 4.

UPDATE 2: Defeated Level 1,550 on Aug. 6.

Phone evolution

Nokia 5110

Nokia 5110, Dec. 2000 to ~May 2004: This ancient phone seemed like the most popular model in the world for a few years when everyone was first starting to get cell phone plans. It was simple and easy to use, which led to its widespread appeal. Carriers: PowerTel, which quickly switched to VoiceStream before becoming T-Mobile.

 

 

 

 

Motorola v300

Motorola v300, ~May 2004 to June 2005: I bought this phone a few months before traveling from Atlanta to Chile, where I decided I didn’t want to have a cell phone anyway. So I found a better use for this phone — as an alarm clock. Even in that purpose, it didn’t last too long because the different electric sockets in Santiago eventually burned the phone out. Carrier: T-Mobile

 

 

 

 

Blackberry Pearl 8100

Blackberry Pearl 8100, June 2005 – July 2009: My first smartphone, the Blackberry Pearl served me well. The full keyboard made a huge difference in texting, and its email system kept me on top of my messages. I was proud to have the original Blackberry Pearl, which I believe to be the only model in which you could change the color of the scroll wheel using a program called BlingBall. I went through two Pearls, with my first getting smashed when I fell off my bike on the way to work at the Hawaii Capitol. Carrier: T-Mobile

 

 

 

 

Palm Pre

Palm Pre, July 2009 – March 2011: The Pre was a step up from the Pearl. If it had been released a few months sooner, marketed better and run faster, it could have competed with the iPhone. I especially liked its card metaphor multitasking system, which had a look and feel that still hasn’t been replicated outside of Palm products. The battery life was terrible, and the hardware was weak. I went through three Pres and eventually got frustrated with its speed, small screen size, battery life and lack of apps. Carrier: Sprint

 

 

 

 

Samsung Epic 4G

Samsung Epic 4G, March 2011 – present: By far, my best phone yet. It’s speedy, has a large screen and good battery life with the Juice Defender app. I like the horizontal keyboard better than the portrait keyboard on the Pre. It’s also much more sturdy. On the Pre, my microphone jack would eventually lose connectivity with my earphone plugin, which forced me to get the Pre replaced a few times. That issue hasn’t happened with the Epic, and it’s survived quite a few drops already. It’s larger than I was used to, but I wanted the bigger screen. I enjoy the Android operating system. The only phone that currently rivals the Epic and meets most of my preferences is the Evo 3D, but it doesn’t have a physical keyboard, which is pretty nearly a dealbreaker for me. Carrier: Sprint

Root Samsung Epic 4G

Trying to use One-click root on my Samsung Epic 4G on Sprint caused me a bunch of headaches and problems, so I’ve found my own solution using files originally designed for the Android Fascinate on Verizon.

My solution mixes One-click root and Fascinate Root_v02 rooting procedures.

Here are instructions for this method, which worked for me.

1) Download and install Epic 4G drivers.

2) Download the files for One-click root either here or here.

3) Extract the files for One-click root to a folder on your hard drive, but don’t install anything and don’t click on adb.exe.

4) Download Fascinate Root files and extract them to a folder on your hard drive called C:\FascinateRoot_v02

5) Go back to the folder you created for One-click root, find the file called “busybox,” and copy and paste it into C:\FascinateRoot_v02. This will overwrite Fascinate Root’s default “busybox” file, which didn’t work on my phone.

6) Follow the detailed instructions in post 4 of the Tools and Quick links thread for the Verizon Fascinate.

After completing these steps, your phone should be rooted!

Disclaimer: Most phone companies won’t repair or honor the warranty of a rooted phone, so take these steps at your own risk. If you do need work on your phone to be done by your cell phone provider, be sure to unroot your phone first.

Once rooted, you can do all kinds of fun things, like getting free wifi tethering.