Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How to Enable the Windows 10 Administrator Account

So I tried to let iTunes do an automatic update to the latest version and something went wrong during the update process that made it hang. I tried to cancel the update but that hung as well. So I killed the process and then tried to uninstall iTunes. That's where I ran into a very interesting problem.

Turns out iTunes takes over the C:\Program Files\iTunes directory during an update in such a way that you have zero security access to it. Even if you are an Administrator of your own Windows 10 computer, you still cannot take over Permissions of the directory. It's completely and hopelessly hosed. Or so I thought...

Turns out Windows 10 comes with a "super user" Administrator account that is inactive by default that is perfect for situations just like this iTunes debacle (thanks Apple!).

To enable the Windows 10 administrator account do the following:
  1. Press Win+S and start typing Command Prompt
  2. Right-click the Command Prompt result and select "Run as administrator" from the context menu
  3. Run the command net user to display the list of user accounts on the Windows 10 system
  4. To activate the Administrator account, run the command net user Administrator /active:yes
Once you have the "super user" Administrator account activated, you can switch to that user by doing:
  1. Click on the Start Menu
  2. Click on the Users icon (just above the Settings icon) and select the Administrator user

This will start a user session with the Administrator account which then you can do anything you need to in order to fix things like Apple's mess with iTunes automatic updates.

(As as FYI, I uninstalled every Apple product using the Administrator account, which actually required a reboot before I could uninstall iTunes)

Once you are finished doing your tasks as Administrator, go to the Users icon under the Start Menu and select Sign out so that you can log back in with your regular Windows 10 account.

Also, since there is no password on the built-in Administrator account, I highly recommend inactivating the account once you are finished with it. Just repeat the steps above and run the command net user Administrator /active:no instead to turn the account off.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Transfer SMS Text Messages From One Android Phone to Another

For whatever reason, the default transfer process between Android phones does not transfer your existing SMS text messages from your old phone to your new phone. In order to do this, use a tool from Carbonite called SMS Backup & Restore:
  1. Download and install SMS Backup & Restore to both Android phones
  2. While on the same WiFi network
    1. Open SMS Backup & Restore on each phone
    2. Select Transfer
    3. From the phone you want to transfer from, select Send From This Phone
    4. From the phone you want to transfer to, select Receive On This Phone
    5. Follow the instructions on both phones to sync them up via an invitation process
    6. On the phone you are transferring from, select Transfer text messages and call logs from the current state of your phone
    7. Accept the transfer on the receiving phone
The only quirk to the process is that on the receiving phone you need to make SMS Backup & Restore the default messaging app in order for the restore process to work properly. But once you have finished this, you can go back into Google Messenger and set it back to being the default.

And voila! You should now have all of the text messages from your old phone on your new phone!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Popular Windows 10 Applications

This is a handy list of popular Windows 10 applications to install once you have gotten that shiny new Windows 10 PC / Laptop / Tablet up and running.

Graphics Driver

This one is going to depend on what kind of graphics chipset is used to render what you see on your screen.
  • Intel Graphics Drivers: If you don't have a separate discrete video card, chances are you will be running with integrated graphics on your Intel CPU. This is the place to get the latest graphics drivers for your system.
  • AMD Graphics Drivers: If you either have an AMD video card, or an AMD CPU with integrated graphics, this is the place to get the latest graphics drivers for your system.
  • Nvidia Graphics Drivers: If you have an Nvidia video card (or some laptops have a separate Nvidia GPU), then this is the place to get the latest graphics drivers for your system.

Google Chrome

The above comic pretty much sums up my usage of Microsoft Edge. Some prefer Firefox or Opera, but I'm a Google fanboy so Chrome it is!

Ensure Chrome is Using GPU Hardware Acceleration

If you go to chrome://gpu in a Chrome tab, you should see something like the following:

If you don't see anything listed as "Hardware accelerated", then you need to go into chrome://flags and Enable the "Override software rendering list" option which should get most of the above graphics features to become hardware accelerated.

Go back to chrome://gpu again and double-check the Rasterization feature. For me, it seems no matter what that this feature is still "Software only". So the way to turn hardware acceleration on for Rasterization is to go to chrome://flags again, search for "GPU rasterization", and then select Enabled in the drop-down box.

Sign Into Chrome

Make sure to sign into your Chrome browser with your Google account. When you sign in, you can save and sync things like bookmarks, history, passwords, and other settings to your Google account which allows you to access all of this information from any device.

WARNING: Only sign into Chrome from trusted devices!

Office 365 Home

I don't know what the best thing about Office 365 Home is:
  • Access to the latest full Microsoft Office suite including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher
  • 1 Terabyte of OneDrive storage accessible from Windows / Mac / Android / iOS
  • 60 Skype minutes per month
  • Oh, and all of the above is also available for up to four other family members!

Download 64-bit Version of Microsoft Office

For some arcane reason, Microsoft will give you the 32-bit version of Office by default when you download the installer from your Office 365 account. To download the 64-bit version, follow the installation steps found at the bottom of this Office 365 support article.


Dropbox is actually a great cloud storage provider as it is extremely fast, lightweight, and is available on all platforms including Linux. While OneDrive is a better deal for the family with the Office 365 Home subscription, Dropbox is nice to have if you need to sync with any Linux machines as neither OneDrive nor Google Drive support sync to Linux. A Dropbox Basic account is free and includes 2GB of space.

Google Drive

So yes, this is the third cloud storage provider on this list. Why so many, you ask? Well, OneDrive is great for the family, Dropbox syncs to Linux, but Google Drive is a must-have for backing up photos and videos from Windows, Mac, Android devices, iPads, and iPhones. The Google Photos website, desktop app, and Android/iOS apps are fantastic to use and seamlessly backup all of the photos and videos you take with your phone or tablet.

Google Drive will also backup your Android and iOS devices so that they may be restored whenever you upgrade your phone or tablet.

Oh, and if you're not the paranoid type, Google Drive is a fantastic place to put all of your documents in the cloud. You can upload Microsoft Office documents to Google Drive and convert them on upload to Google Docs (Word), Google Sheets (Excel), or Google Slides (PowerPoint). The best part about this is that all documents stored in Google Docs/Sheets/Slides format are free to store as they do not count against your allotted Google Drive storage space (which is 15GB for a free account).

Acronis TrueImage

Acronis TrueImage is a great backup tool that does full and incremental backups to either network shares, NAS drives, or external drives. You can also clone a drive which is really cool and can help migrate your entire PC to another hard drive, SSD, or even another computer. Acronis TrueImage comes in two flavors, Local and Cloud. Since I use other cloud storage providers for backing up files such as documents, music, pictures, and video, I just use the Acronis TrueImage Local version so that I can do a local backup of my Windows 10 PC and laptop. When it comes to your personal data, you can never be too careful!

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Even though you can view PDF files with various applications these days, I still like to install Acrobat Reader because it has a richer feature set and has an option to save ink/toner when printing a PDF from Acrobat Reader.

Just remember to unselect both optional offers when downloading Acrobat Reader so that you don't get any additional junk installed with it.


If you leave your PC on while you are away from it, downloading BOINC and signing up for one or more of the many distributed computing projects that run on BOINC is a great way to volunteer your computer's excess processing power to a noble cause. Use the idle time on Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android to cure diseases, study global warming, discover pulsars, and do many other types of scientific research.


Even though I don't own any Apple products, I still use iTunes to manage my music library and listen to music on my PC. I also use iTunes on my NAS to manage the music I end up using in both my car and on my Nexus 5x. I like iTunes because it is relatively easy to use, sounds good during playback, and I am a big fan of importing my CDs with iTunes into the Apple Lossless format.


I have been using KeePass for many, many years to manage all of my passwords to web sites as well as other sensitive information such as software license keys. If you don't already use a password manager, KeePass is a great place to start. It is free, open source, and you can put the password database file on your favorite cloud storage provider (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc) so you can access it from all of your devices.

MakeMKV / Handbrake / Plex Media Server

So the best way to digitize those DVDs and Blu Rays and make them available to stream on devices such as Roku is to do the following:
  1. Use MakeMKV to rip the DVD / Blu Ray down to your computer
  2. Use Handbrake to transcode the raw DVD / Blu Ray into an encoded format such as H.265 (HEVC) to save a ton of space while preserving most of the original video and audio quality
  3. Install the Plex Media Server and add your transcoded video files to its library (check out the media formats supported by Plex)
  4. Install the Plex app on a streaming device such as Roku in order to watch your video library anytime on-demand

MakeMKV License Key

Even though MakeMKV is "free" during its "beta" phase, they make you jump through a couple of hoops in order to get it to work after installing it on your Windows machine.

When you run MakeMKV the first time, it will complain about being too old or something like that. All you need to do is get the current beta key and register MakeMKV with that key. Then you should be good to go.

Handbrake Settings

I will do a separate post on what Handbrake settings I use, once I get through my DVDs and Blu Rays and test them out on Plex. Copying raw Blu Rays and transcoding them down to H.265 takes some time!

Plex Account Status

Plex is kind of annoying as they constantly ask you to pony up money to upgrade to "Plex Pro". However, you can ignore all of this marketing fluff and just focus on using the free Plex Media Server which will get you most of the functionality you would need in order to support on-demand video playback.


TextPad is a great alternative text editor for Windows, especially when compared to Notepad. It is free to download and use, but you will get periodic messages about purchasing a license key to make it "legal". A single-user license is just £16.50 which is quite reasonable for such a great piece of software.

VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player is a free, open source media player that will play just about any audio and/or video file under the sun. Just be careful when installing it as it will try to become the default player for every audio and video file in existence on your Windows 10 machine. Instead, I like to only select things like .avi files which won't play in Windows Media Player and then if I want to watch another file with VLC I will just right-click it and say "Open with → VLC media player".

VMWare Workstation Pro

VMWare Workstation Pro is a great tool for creating virtual machines on your PC or laptop. I use it often to create virtual development machines running Ubuntu Desktop which helps keep all of my development tools, environments, etc separate from Windows 10.

If you decide to invest in VMWare Workstation Pro, you only need to purchase one license regardless of the number of machines you have at home. This is because you can create any number of virtual machines with VMWare Workstation Pro and then run them on another machine with the free version of VMware Workstation Player.

VMWare Workstation Pro is quite expensive to purchase (I only have it because I keep upgrading my original license from way back in the day), so the popular free, open source alternative is VirtualBox which will probably work for most tasks you would want to perform in a virtual machine.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Installing and Configuring Windows 10

Even if you just bought that shiny new computer or laptop, it makes a lot of sense to reinstall Windows 10 from scratch. For instance, I have had an HP laptop for the past six months and after being very annoyed the entire time with how freaking slow it was, I decided to reinstall Windows 10. Reinstalling Windows 10 naturally gets rid of whatever bloatware HP installed from the factory and now my laptop runs like the beast that I paid good money for.

How do you reinstall Windows 10 on a PC or laptop that you bought from the store? Easy, just visit the Download Windows 10 page and download the MediaCreationTool.exe to run on your PC. From the tool, when it asks "What do you want to do?" you want to select Create installation media for another PC and click Next.

On the next screen, select your Language, Edition, and Architecture. I would leave the Use the recommended options for this PC checked and take the defaults it provides. Click Next. Then you have the option to choose which installation media to choose to download. If your PC has a DVD burner, I would suggest the ISO file so that you can create a DVD which should work in most cases. The USB flash drive option will also work for many PCs, but you probably need to have at least an 8GB flash drive handy.

Before Installing Windows 10

For the past twenty-five years, I have always built my own PCs instead of purchasing them from the store. When I build a PC, I always buy two hard drives, one for OS/Apps and another for Data. Even in the world of SSDs, it is a good idea to have the SSD for OS/Apps and a spinner hard drive for Data.

The primary reason to separate the OS/Apps from Data is so that you can always reinstall Windows in the future onto the OS/Apps drive and leave your Data drive intact. Another reason is that this configuration is what I would call a "Poor Man's RAID 0" where your PC can take advantage of the fact that executable code resides on one drive and the data resides on another.

If your PC does not have two drives available, you can always check and see if it makes sense to add a drive before reinstalling Windows. If your PC came with an SSD, I would purchase either a regular spinner hard drive or even a hybrid SSHD to use as your Data drive. If your PC came with a spinner hard drive, I would definitely invest in an SSD for the OS/Apps drive.

If you cannot or do not feel comfortable with adding another drive to your PC, then I would definitely recommend partitioning your hard drive into two separate partitions during Windows 10 installation. The OS/Apps partition needs to be at least 128GB (I would recommend 256GB) and then the Data partition can take up the remaining space on your hard drive.

WARNING: Using a separate Data drive/partition in no way protects your data from loss in the unfortunate event your hard drive fails. ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA!!!!


Configuring Windows 10

It is a good idea to implement the following configurations on a new Windows 10 installation in order to maximize the use of your PC:

Change Timezone

When you first install Windows 10, it defaults to Pacific Time. If you don't live in the Pacific timezone, you will need to change the timezone in order for the system time to display correctly.
  1. Right-click the Time & Date in the System Tray and select Adjust date/time
  2. In the Date and time Settings section, find the Time zone and select the proper timezone for your region

Move User Directories to the Data Drive/Partition

  1. Go to the C:\Users\{username} directory (where {username} is your Windows user ID) to find all of the default data directories Windows creates on installation
  2. Create a D:\Users\{username} directory
  3. To move each data directory from C:\Users\{username} to D:\Users\{username} (EXCEPT for the OneDrive folder)
    1. Right-click on the folder (i.e. Contacts) and select Properties
    2. Click on the Location tab
    3. Click the Move... button
    4. Navigate to D:\Users\{username}, create a corresponding folder here (e.g. Contacts) to the one you are moving from C:\Users\{username}, select the new folder and then press the Select Folder button
    5. Then click on the Apply button, and select Yes when asked if you want to move files from the old location to the new location
    6. Do this for each data directory under C:\Users\{username}, EXCEPT for OneDrive
  4. To move the OneDrive folder from C:\Users\{username} to D:\Users\{username}
    1. Right-click the OneDrive icon in your System Tray and select Settings
    2. On the Account tab, click the Unlink this PC link and then click OK
    3. Usually Windows will ask you shortly thereafter to login to OneDrive. When you re-login to OneDrive, you have the option to select where the OneDrive directory is located. This is where you want to specify D:\Users\{username}\OneDrive as the OneDrive base directory

Move Pagefile to Hard Drive

  1. Press Win+S and search for View advanced system settings. Click on the Control Panel entry that comes up
  2. In the Performance section, press Settings...
  3. Click the Advanced tab
  4. In the Virtual memory section, press Change...
    1. Uncheck Automatically manage paging file size for all drives
    2. Select the C: drive and choose No paging file and press Set
    3. Select the D: drive and choose Custom size. Whatever size you choose (i.e. 8192MB), make sure you put that value in both the Initial size and Maximum size fields and press Set
    4. Press OK

Move Temp Directory to Hard Drive

  1. Create a D:\Temp directory in Windows Explorer
  2. Press Win+S and search for View advanced system settings. Click on the Control Panel entry that comes up
  3. Press the Environment Variables... button
  4. In the User variables section, Edit both the TEMP and TMP variables to point to D:\Temp
  5. In the System variables section, Edit both the TEMP and TMP variables to point to D:\Temp
  6. Press OK

Make PC Network Discoverable

In order to view other devices and computers on your local network, you first need to make your PC network discoverable in Windows 10.
  1. Left-click the Start menu and select Settings
  2. Click on Network & Internet
  3. If you are connected via Wi-Fi select Wi-Fi. Otherwise, select Ethernet
  4. Select the Network icon
  5. For the Make this PC discoverable settings, turn it to On

Rename PC

Windows 10 generates a default name for your PC. It is a good idea to rename your PC so that it makes more sense and is easily identifiable on your local network.
  1. Press Win+S and search for View your PC name. Click on the System Settings entry that comes up
  2. Click on Rename PC
  3. Name your computer whatever you wish and click Next
  4. You will need to restart your computer in order for the name change to take effect

Change Update Settings

Windows 10 has a "BitTorrent" update setting enabled by default where your PC will download updates from Microsoft, other PCs on your local network, AND other PCs on the Internet. What this means is that your PC will also be used to send updates to other PCs on the Internet by default.
  1. Left-click the Start menu and select Settings
  2. Click on Update & security
  3. Under the Update settings section, click Advanced options
  4. Click the Choose how updates are delivered link
  5. Select the PCs on my local network option which will disable your computer from participating in sending and receiving updates to any PC on the Internet

Disable Network Throttling

For some arcane reason, Windows 10 throttles your network bandwidth to a maximum throughput of around 11MB/s. If you have a Gigabit network at home, that is an order of magnitude slower than what your network is capable of supporting (I get around 113MB/s max).

  1. Press Win+R and type in the Open field regedit.exe and press OK
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Multimedia\SystemProfile section
  3. Double-click on NetworkThrottlingIndex and change its Value data to ffffffff. Press OK

Optional Windows 10 Settings

The following settings are optional and are useful only if you leave your computer on and donate your spare processing power to projects like SETI@Home on BOINC.

Put the Computer to Sleep: Never

By default Windows 10 will put your computer to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity. To disable this behavior and leave your computer on indefinitely, do the following:
  1. Press Win+S and search for Power & sleep settings. Click on the System Settings entry that comes up
  2. Click on the Additional power settings link
  3. The Balanced plan should be selected. Click on its Change plan settings link
  4. For the option Put the computer to sleep, select Never
  5. Press Save changes

Disable Automatic Restart After Update

Windows 10 will automatically restart your PC after it performs updates. This is usually not an issue, however it will disrupt SETI@Home processing until you log back into the PC. In this case it is better to control the reboot process manually so that impact to distributed computing processing is minimized.
  1. Press Win+S and search for Task Scheduler. Click on the Desktop app entry that comes up
  2. In the left-hand column, expand Task Scheduler Library -> Microsoft -> Windows
  3. Scroll down and select UpdateOrchestrator
  4. In the middle column, right-click on the Reboot option and select Disable

That's It!

Enjoy having an optimized Windows 10 computer!