Ok Google – Not Working?

August 28, 2015

I stumbled into an interesting little problem with my Android phone.  I was getting ready to send a text message to my wife when I couldn’t get my keyboard to appear.  Google Voice had taken over and wanted me to do voice texting.  I worked around it, got my Samsung keyboard back up and working and didn’t really think much of it.  Then, a couple of days ago I tried to use my “Ok Google” to find and address.  It didn’t work, and not having time to play around with the app, I simply typed the information in.  Today, I decided to work some of the recent bugs out of my phone and I stumbled across an interesting little problem.

Language and Input / Google Voice Typing / “Ok Google” detection / From Any Screen  –  It was OFF.  I had it set up to detect the command from any screen.  So, I hit the section to turn it on, started through the process, then was told that Google could not access the microphone.  What?  So I slipped out of the settings area, went to the Camera where I have the phone set up to snap a picture on voice command, said “Smile” and the camera shot a picture.  I reset the phone like the Google app recommended, then tried to the process all over again.  Again, Google cannot access the Microphone, restart your phone and try again.

Twice playing this game and spending about twenty minutes looking for anything in the settings and I was not finding any solution.  On top of that, when I went to the Google page on the phone and tapped the microphone, the app crashed.  Time to do a little research on the internet.

Motto users were having a discussion about how they were looking at fixing the problem.  There was talk about going into the App section of the phone’s settings, finding the Google App and setting the “Record Voice” setting to allowed.  I can’t pick and choose app permissions.  Then I found it.  A person in the discussion online commented that they “uninstalled updates” on the Google App and it resolved the problem.  That would make sense.  It hit me that a Google Update had come in and screwed things up on the phone, knocking out my keyboard and when I over-rode that bug, it created the new one.  Now, most of the time it wouldn’t be a problem.  I would rather have my keyboard for texting than my Ok Google.  But come on Google.  You force this app onto Android users, you can at least put out updates that don’t create more problems than they fix.

So … Ok Google just stopped working.  Go to your Settings / Applications / find Google and uninstall updates.  That should fix the problem and hopefully soon Google will correct the problem in the updates that crashed the feature.

Hijackware

August 11, 2015

A few years ago I was introduced to a new game being played by scammers.  It’s called Hijackware and what it does is take over your computer, originally claiming to be from the FBI and demanding a payment of a $300 fine in order to unlock your computer.  Come on people, it doesn’t work like that.  Recently, I heard another story, about a the computer locking in on a Virus Alert Page with a woman repeating that you need to call a particular number.  SCAM!!

win81startup_repair1Now, while I read that the problem cleared itself up, there is a way to get around these hijacks.  They use the startup file to redirect your computer to this screen.  You can reboot in regular or safe mode and end up in the same place.  How do you get around it?  You have to break into your Computer Repair setups.  Here’s how you do this for Windows 8 and 10.

  1. Go to the Power Menu.
  2. Hold down the SHIFT key and hit RESTART
  3. You will find yourself on a blue screen menu
  4. win81startup_repair2Click TROUBLEHOOT
  5. Click ADVANCED OPTIONS
  6. Click START UP REPAIR

Just follow the directions of the Computer as it goes through the process.  If that does not work, then return to the Trouble Shoot Screen and hit “Reset your PC”  This will take your computer all the way back to the factory settings and delete all of the files on your computer.  This is a LAST RESORT.

I have not had to do this for anyone on Windows 8 or 10, but this is how I have removed hijackware once for myself and a few times for friends in the past on Windows 7 and XP.  When you get your computer reset, if you didn’t wipe the computer doing it, then you need to run a Malware program such as Malwarebytes.

You can watch a YouTube Video on Start Up Repair for Windows 8 (and 10) here.

Weather On Android

August 10, 2015

“What Radar do you use?”  I hear that question a lot when I am standing outside at a Camp or Event, looking at the skies and looking at the radar data on my phone.  I smile and explain to them that I am using a program called Pykl3 and then that its a program that you pay for.

Pykl3 – Android

Why did I pay for the program instead of using one of the many free radars that are out there.  Faster updates.  More configurations I can tap into such as windshear, tracking the wind that is moving toward and away from the radar, great for tracking rotations such as Tornadoes.  A variety of features for the map, and for the weather information available.  In my book, well worth the one time fee of $9.99.  Now, if you’re wanting to take it to the extreme, get spotter reports, NWS reports regarding funnels, hail, and Tornadoes, you can subscribe to a service such as AllisonHouse or Caprock.  You can enter your spotter network id so that when you turn on Pykl3 it sends your status and location to the servers so others can see where you’re located and how to contact you.  You can run Pykl3 on multiple devices at the same time.

Weathertap – Desktop / Android

Weathertap is a subscription service.  The base cost of the service is $7.99 per month, and you can only run it on one device at a time.  However, you can purchase more features, you can purchase access to more devices under your account.  I don’t go beyond the basics, I use it on the desktop at home, or on a laptop when I’m out someplace and need it.  If I want multiple screens, I bring up Pykl3 on my tablet of phone, normally using it to look at the windshear.

Weathertap is highly configurable.  You can specify what aspects of the map and the weather that you want to see.  There are several types of radar that you can run, from a stand alone java driven version to an HD version you run in your browser and can add pages to for different effects, including windshear.  Weathertap has come out with an Android and iPhone app for its subscribers, but to be honest, I find that for running radar on my phone, I like the Pykl3 app better.

Weathertap offers a great feature that will send you text messages and email alerts when Warnings are issued in the areas you select (two counties per setup).  By using a comma between email addresses, you can have the email set to several people all at once, and you can update that service at anytime online.

I combine the two programs when I’m watching the weather for my Scout Units when they are out on an activity or at Camp, for when my kids are working at a Scout Camp or out on an activity with Scouts.  When the weather gets bad, I have the system up and running and I can often pre-empt warnings and take necessary action with a bit more warning.  Recently, I was at a Scout Camp.  My phone warned me of an event to the north, and I pulled up the Pykl3 app on my phone and started watching Radar and the Sky as the storm cell backed up towards me.  It gave me the opportunity to tell several adults that they may want to get back to their campsites before the Take Shelter command was given and we were all moved to our FEMA shelters to ride out the weather.

Now, I am not going to say that these two programs will remain on top in my system.  What I’m saying is that until something better comes along, these are the programs I will use to keep track of the weather.

officeSometime this fall, Microsoft is going to release its latest version of Microsoft Office.  Over the past few months, Microsoft has allowed people to preview the new version while they work out any bugs that are found.  I installed the Preview on one of my laptops a few months ago, and after playing with it, and after installing the Windows 10 update on my desktop, I installed the MS Office 2016 Preview on my desktop so that I could get a better look at it.

To be honest there is not a lot that truly affects the common home user.  There are some new features in Power Point to make your presentations stronger, there is a feature in Excel that will allow you to train it to sort out your email, moving lower priority message to the bottom of your in-box.  There is a feature in Word and Excel called “What would you like to do?” that will help you figure out some of the tricks you do know about.  But frankly, even searching the Internet, there isn’t much coming out talking about the new features that isn’t Corporate based.

However, if you’re using Office 2010, you’re going to find some features that you will either love or hate.  One Drive allows you to store your documents online so that you can access them from anywhere or share them with others.  If you and your associates are moving to 2016, then you will be able to collaborate a little easier, even refresh a document if you and another person has it open at the same time.  I will be interested to see what happens when two people are making changes at the same time.

onenotePutting attachments in Excel is a little different, the button opening recently opened or created files instead of opening in a file explorer.  Take a bit to get used to.

But my favorite improvement is in One Note.  In the past, One Note was great if you were working with only one computer.  Now, using One Drive or another Cloud service, you can share your One Notebooks a little easier than before.  Also, One Note is supported via Windows 10, and if you have One Note on your computer, you can upgrade to the 2016 version for FREE.  I’ve played with the 2010 version in the past, and the new version just has a more comfortable feel to it.

Now, the big downfall is … if you run the preview of Microsoft Office 2016, when it is officially released, you will either have to purchase it or uninstall it.  That is, unless you are running a subscription of Microsoft Office 365.  I have heard the arguments about running a subscription software.  I was one of the people who spoke out against using Software by Subscription.  My issue is going to be using software that is only accessible if you have an internet connection.  As for paying for Microsoft Office 365, I am content.  I have five installs of the software, all of which have access to the latest updates on demand.  And as long as I am connected to Microsoft Office 365, if they come out with a new version, like the upcoming change from 2013 to 2016, I get the upgrade free as a part of my subscription.  And I get the Premium version of the software, which means Outlook is included.

New discovery this morning while running maintenance on my computers.  I was wondering about Windows Firewall, if it was up and running or if I needed to go out and find a new copy of ZoneAlarm.  What I discovered was that Windows Defender had been disabled.  Interesting, I had always ran Windows Defender as a backup to AVG-Free, but now I have found that with Windows 10, the installment of AVG-Free has disabled Windows Defender, and from what I can find, there is no way to turn it back on.

I have no complaints with AVG-Free.  It has served me well for many years, and I have never found myself in a position where I needed to purchase a subscription for the full version.  Not when I am looking at the number of computers in my collection, and throughout the rest of the house.

So, the loss of Windows Defender in my anti-virus array isn’t a major issue at this time.

Windows10Still more things coming out of Windows 10.  And while over 14 millions downloads of Windows 10 have taken place, and people seem to be pretty content with it.  There are reports coming out that the data harvesting by Microsoft via Windows 10 has reached an unprecedented level.  At least, that’s the reports that are coming out.  Now, a little research and you can find the 13 screens that you need to go through to adjust the automatically set privacy issues.  Here is a starter:

  1. Open Settings – then open Privacy.  You need to go through each of the 13 sections you will find there and turn off anything that you are not comfortable with.  You will be surprised the information that is being shared, but at least you can turn it off.
  2. Experts are recommending that you dump Cortana.  It may seem like a great feature on Windows phones and tablets, but the experts are saying that it plays fast and loose with your data.
  3. Then, if you use your PC to venture out into the Internet, you need to visit this site and decide on if you want to be opted in or out of the Microsoft Personalized Ads.  You can do that by going to: https://choice.microsoft.com/en-gb/opt-out.
  4. Finally, the experts are saying that if you want to insure that you’re not being data mined by Microsoft, you need to dump the use of your Microsoft Account in your system and go directly to an account generated solely on your system.
  5. Go to SettingsNetwork and InternetManage WiFi Settings.  There will be two settings.  The one that you need to seriously consider turning off, unless you live out in the middle of nowhere like I do, is “Connect to Networks share by Contacts.”  The description states: “Give and get Internet access without seeing shared passwords.  You’ll get connected to WiFi networks your contacts share, and they’ll get connected to networks you share.”  This has been flagged as a potential major security issue by the Techs out there looking at Windows 10 and Security Issues.  I immediately turned it off.

There is also the matter of networking.  I have noticed that all three of my computers are now networking with each other a little better.  Unexpected surprise, and I have yet to consider the nightmare that may be waiting for me in this feature.  They are connecting through my Router, and I’m not one of those fools who leaves the Router open to any one to access or uses a cheap password to secure the system.  I will be keeping an eye on this.

Now, I have upgraded my desktop and two laptops.  It really doesn’t take a lot of time to go through the system and made the changes to the privacy sections for Windows 10.  The headache may be when you get an update, will the update set all of the Privacy issues back to default “on”?

Now, for some interesting news for those who have or are looking at upgrading.  The upgrade you get will be dependent on what product you have now.  Here is the information from Windows of how the upgrading will work.

  • Upgrade to Windows 10 – Home Version
    • Windows 7 – Starter
    • Windows 7 – Home Basic
    • Windows 7 – Home
    • Windows 8.1
    • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro
    • Windows 7 – Professional
    • Windows 7 – Ultimate
    • Windows 8.1 – Pro
    • Windows 8.1 – Pro Student

According to information I’ve been able to find who were using Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1 are excluded.  Those who are running Windows 8 simply need to upgrade to 8.1.  Those who are running the Enterprise and RT versions are usually large corporations who have licensing agreements with Microsoft.  If you’re running a version of Windows prior to Windows 7, if you’re one of the people who are still on Windows 7 or XP, then you’re out of luck.  But you might be able to find a cheap useable instalment of Windows 7 that can get you started.  But don’t sit around and think about it too long.  After one year, the free upgrades are gone and you’ll have to pay the retail price for the software you could have gotten for free.

My desktop was on Windows 8.1 Home version, so I only got the $119 Windows 10 Home version.  But my two laptops were running Windows 7 Professional, so both of them upgraded to the Windows 10 Professional Version.  What’s the difference?  Not much that matters to me at this time in my life.  Here they are, in a nutshell:

  • Domain Join Services
  • BitLocker Drive Encryption
  • Remote Access Services
  • Group Policy editor
  • Windows Update for Business

Now, if you’re using your laptop for work, these features may mean something to you.  But on a personal level, I have yet to see who they are going to benefit me.

Day Two – Windows 10

August 1, 2015

Windows 98 was okay, Millennium wasn’t
Windows XP was okay, Vista wasn’t
Windows 7 was okay, Windows 8 was tolerable with modifications

The current early reviews of Windows 1o are that people are pleased.  Yes, there are issues.  It can be cranky trying to do the update.  The WiFi Sense feature is scary, but you can turn it off.  Your apps automatically share your information, but again, you can go in and make adjustments.  But for those who got their hands on Windows 8 and found it sluggish, found it to be foreign, Windows 10 will feel more … comfortable.

The Start Button is back.  It automatically starts in the desktop mode, not the touch screen tablet/phone mode.  When the upgrade was finished, my desktop was basically what I had on the screen when I started, on both of the computers that I upgraded.

And for those of us who go ahead and connect to our Microsoft accounts, there is a new feature that is a lot better than entering your Microsoft account password.  You now use a Pin to unlock your computer.

Now, you really need to go digging around.  You’ll have to reinstall your printer.  If you want to use Edge, you need to go set it up with all the features you like.  You need to go find the settings for your apps sharing your information and make the adjustments you want the system to work with.  And be prepared for Video streaming to be a bit sluggish.

But I’m pleased.  My experience with Windows 10 so far has been good.  I haven’t had any problems with system stability yet.  I haven’t noticed if the Internet has been ‘in and out’, but I’m running both Wifi and Lan.  I’ve run speed test from the system, and the results have been good.  The system performances have not changed all that much, and after the system is completely booted up, I’m not having a lot of lag.

So, now comes the next challenge.  I still have one more laptop that needs to be upgraded.  I have a Dell Business Laptop that I normally use as my field computer.  It’s currently running  Windows 7 Service Pack 2, which upgraded smoothly for me on my Toshiba.

Would I recommend updating to Windows 10?  That would depend on what version you’re on now and how attached you are to some of the older video games.  But if you’re not using your computer to play games, yes, I would.

Windows10The morning of July 29 I was met with two computers that were ready to update to Windows 10.  My plan of attack, knowing that there are generally issues with these things?  Upgrade the spare laptop first.  So, hit the button to start the download and went about my business.

First Upgrade

My spare laptop is a Toshiba Portege business laptop with  Touch Screen and Finger Print Scanning.  It passed all the test for compatibility, had the necessary RAM, the Hard Drive Space, Processor, there was nothing that came up in the compatibility test that would tell me that there would be any problems.  And the installation of the update went without any problems.  The update was a nice smooth process, and when you look at it from the correct angle, that should be a warning.  However, the only problem I found was a problem with the touch screen.  It simply stopped working.

Research time.  I got on the internet and started looking for talk about the touch screen not working.  Yes, it is a bit early for a lot of information to be out regarding Windows 10 upgrades, but what I found was that the problem started in Windows 8, and to date, there is no fix for the issue by Toshiba or Windows.  To be honest, this is an early version of touch screen, and I rarely used the touch screen feature.  So, I have time to sit back and see what people come up with as the bugs are found and fixed.

HP Desk Top

Upgrade number two, and this one was a major headache.  I found the Windows 10 upgrade in the update history, marked as FAILED.  I looked at the error code, looked at the internet and … nada.  When I did finally find some information, I ran the fixes and forced the update to restart.  Four times the update failed.  I ran the Microsoft Update FixIt program, I went into the hard drive and deleted the installation files, to no avail.  Let me save you some time.  Microsoft Media Creation Tool.  Download the version that best fits your system, either 32-bit or 64-bit.  After all the failures that I had, this finally got the upgrade on my computer.

Installation Issues

Now, after the time spent downloading, after the time spent getting the system ready, copying the files and installing the upgrade, some people (such as myself) have had an interesting little issue during the second reboot.  For those of us who are using HD or HDMI connections to our monitors, the reboot can be scary when you get nothing but a black screen and a mouse cursor you can move around the screen.  DO NOT PANIC.  I got around this scare mainly because I have the analaog connection and HD connection both connected to the Screen.  I simply hit the button to select source, changed to Analog and voila’, my screen was back.  After the next reboot I checked my HD source and everything was back to normal.

Do a little Reading on the Internet First

There are some interesting issues that may be a problem in the future or may scare the hell out of some people.  First is this little thing called WIFI Sense.  It allows your friends, those who are in your contacts, your Facebook Page other social media connections to share you WIFI connection by sending them an encrypted router password.  Living out here in the middle of nowhere its not a real issue for me, but you may want to go into Settings – Network Internet – Manage WiFi settings and turn off the option ‘Connect to networks shared by my contacts’.  This will turn off this little feature that is all over the internet right now, some people even over stating the threat.

THE START BUTTON IS BACK!

Yes, for those of us who really wanted the Start Button back when we moved to Windows 8, Microsoft heard our voices.  The start menu looks a little different and you need to do a little looking around to figure out what has changed.  There are features in  Windows 10 that are more attuned to a Windows Cell Phone or Tablet, but over all the OS seems to be working pretty smoothly at the moment.

Check out the system settings.  For those of us who have multiple drives, there is panel were we can specify where you can choose what drive new files are stored on, by type of file.  This will be a major plus on those with Windows cell phones.

More to come later…

 

Gay Adults In Scouting?

May 28, 2015

UPDATE:  The policy prohibiting Gay Adults from being a part of the Boy Scouts of America has been officially removed from the organization’s policies.  However, the new policy leaves it in the hands of the Religious organizations of which are chartering Scouting units to take it upon themselves to restrict whether-or-not Gay adults can be a part of their programs.

Warning:  I have never been known for sugar-coating my opinions.  I have warned people inside of the upper leadership in Scouting that I do not care about fitting into the political landscape of the Council.  My focus is the youth.  This program is supposed to be focused on the youth.  So, if you are easily offended by people speaking their mind, you may want to stop reading now

Robert M. Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America and former secretary of defense, called for an end to the Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders, warning the group’s executives that “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”

Speaking at the Boy Scouts’ annual national meeting in Atlanta, Mr. Gates said cascading events — including potential employment discrimination lawsuits and the impending Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, as well as mounting internal dissent over the exclusionary policy — had led him to conclude that the current rules “cannot be sustained.”

If the Boy Scouts do not change on their own, he said, the courts are likely to force them to, and “we must all understand that this will probably happen sooner rather than later.” – NY Times

Be prepared.  The last time the issue of a policy change regarding Gays in Scouting, it was just the policy regarding the Youth.  The number of adult leaders who claimed that it would be the downfall of Scouting and said that they would leave the program, taking their sons with them, was highly verbal.  I had people tell me to my face that they would leave Scouting.  I have yet to see any of them resign their membership in Scouting.  All in all, I have yet to see a change in the landscape of Scouting.  The two youth that I knew who were claiming to be Gay, were already open about it, and I told them when it came up that it was “not my business and not a proper discussion between a Scout and a Leader.”  I did not lose any Scouts or any adults from the Units I was involved in because of the policy change.

Be grateful that this announcement by the President of the Boy Scouts of America came in Mid-May.  In my District, the monthly Roundtables take June and July off.  I will not have to deal with the issue until at least August at a District Level.  The discussion has already reached the units I’m involved in the adults seem pretty disinterested in the issue at this time … mainly because its not an announcement that a vote is coming, just that the Boy Scouts need to look into the matter, and a call to suspend any enforcement of the Policy until the matter can be further discussed.

“I support a policy that accepts and respects our different perspectives and beliefs.  I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”

“Such an approach would allow all churches, which sponsor some 70 percent of our Scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith.”  “We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.”

“If we wait for the courts to act, we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard,”

It is clearly a concern that if the Boy Scouts of America fail to act in a timely matter, the courts, who have been extremely liberal over the past decade, could reach as far as striping away the standards regarding Faith.

Where do I stand on the issue?  I couldn’t care less about the sexual identity or preferences of a Scout or Scouter so long as their actions do not present a danger to one of the Scouts in the Unit.  We are strict about our adherence to the Youth Protection program.  Out leaders are drawn from the Parents of the Scouts involved in the Units, or those who have a history of Scouting.  We check the names of our adults against the Sex Offender’s List for our area.  I do not believe that any change in the policy regarding Gays in Scouting is going to have a major affect on the program itself or the future of Scouting.  As I have told countless people regarding the issue of homosexuality.  Its not my Karma, I am not the one living the lifestyle.  Other than the lifestyle being too much in my face in television, movies and other media, it has no real affect on how I live my life.

So, how about we worry about things that are more pressing within Scouting?  Let’s look at improving our programs.  Let’s look at the issues affecting recruiting of new Scouts, advancement, training, and retention of Scouts.  The recruiting, training and retention of adult Scouters.  These are issues that will have a greater impact on the future of Scouting.

For those who told me once before that you’d leave if Gay Youth were allowed in Scouting, when you come to me complaining about the suspension of enforcement of the policy regarding Gay Adults, I have only one thing to say …  “you’re still here?”