PC World Instant Reference Card #25 (June 1992)

I finally finished digitizing everything from the blue shoulder bag. Last week, maybe Friday night, I became angry that doing all this was taking so long, and I went on a scanning rampage to get it all in. As I’ve mentioned before, I usually scan and post one thing at a time, but I didn’t want to wait any longer. As a result, I’ve pretty much lost all momentum for posting more items from the bag. I was more interested in posting the video-game-related material anyway, which I’ve done.

So, here’s an instant reference card from the June 1992 issue of PC World magazine, for Windows 3.1. Looking at the card, I’m reminded of the file manager in Windows 3.1 which I had forgotten about. There are also quite a few shortcuts that still work in current versions of Windows, and others that are probably gone forever.

While Windows 3.1 was nice, I think my favorite windows from that time was 3.0. It was my first version of Windows, and I’ll always remember the big splash screen that took up the entire monitor, versus the little box from Windows 3.1. If I recall correctly, it took only five 1.2-megabyte floppies to install Windows 3.0. Compare that to a multi-gigabyte ISO for Windows 10, twenty-five years later. I’m still traumatized from using and supporting Windows 10 at my last job.

I put the rest of the items from the blue bag that might be worthy of posting in the museum in a queue, and may or may not post them in the coming days. For now, please enjoy this instant reference card from PC World 1992.

PC World Instant Reference Card #25, Windows 3.1 Basics (June 1992)

PC World Instant Reference Card #25, Windows 3.1 Advanced (June 1992)

Guest

The past couple of nights have been the same. Still waking up very early in the morning. Last night I think I dreamed about my cousin, and after I woke up I remembered that earlier in the week (or recent past) I dreamt of his sister. I wonder what they (or my subconscious) are trying to tell me?

Things are slowly changing now. The days where I have seemingly limitless time are occurring less. The past two days I have been working on an XP to 7 migration in a small office. As small offices tend to do, they ordered all Windows 7 Home Premium machines.

It’s a challenge getting these things to network with each other when I’m used to the Professional versions. One of the first things I learned in my computing life was to always disable the Guest account, but that doesn’t always apply when sharing on the home versions. Yesterday, I had an issue where previously the machines were talking to each other, then inexplicably one of them would only talk to certain ones. When it couldn’t connect, it would tell me that the username and password were invalid, even though I was not using account-based or password-protected sharing. Finally, it occurred to me to type in “Guest” as the username, and all was well.

It was annoying trying to find answers in Google. In the past I’ve had good results with search terms that I think people would use for a certain problem, but now Google corrects the terms and tries to tell you what it thinks you were searching for (in the end I didn’t get the answer). I guess now even if you do put in the right term, the result won’t be too helpful anyway because so many sites cheat with their so-called SEO shit. One of the worst is a Microsoft Q&A site. So many questions are marked as “answered” when the answer is just some canned-response from a Microsoft “MVP VGA CEO ABCDEFG” telling you to “press F1 for help” or “call tech support”. SMH.

Windows 7 Home Premium Password Expiration

A lot of small offices without IT departments buy whatever the deal of the day is when it comes to PCs. More often than not, these PCs come with the home version of Windows. In this particular office, file-sharing on a Windows 7 Home Premium peer-to-peer network stopped working because one of the passwords had expired.

I searched around trying to find a solution, and used the information in the links below to solve the problem.

Brablc.com: Disable password expiration in Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Command Line: wmic useraccounts

Instead of disabling password-expiration on all accounts, I used the following command to disable expiration on one particular account:

wmic useraccount where Name='Username' set passwordexpires=false

No, it’s not a good idea to have passwords that never expire, but in the real world in small offices where IT is the last thing on anyone’s mind, it happens.

Batch File Renaming – One Method

Like a dummy, I recently accidentally deleted all my DuckTales episodes (photo of my collection so that the FBI doesn’t get on my case) from both my desktop and my portable backup drive (be careful when using robocopy with and without the /mir switch). Fortunately, I still had a backup on my computer at home back in the Bay Area, so I have been transferring these files back onto my desktop. Because I’ve been using IRC to send the files, one side effect is that spaces in the filename turn into underscores, like this:

DuckTales_#67_-_The_Duck_Who_Would_Be_King.mkv

I could go in and manually remove all of these underscores (on occasion I have, sometimes it’s just easier and quicker to do it that way), but with 75 files overall it’s worth it to create a system for quickly renaming the files.

Here’s a quick rundown of the tools used:

  • Windows 7 Command Line
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Notepad++ (get it here)

Ultimately, we want an Excel spreadsheet that will generate the ren commands. It will have 3 columns: one for the source filename, one for the destination, and one for the command.

We start by generating a list of the files in the folder/directory. This can be done with the classic dir command, with the /b switch (/b for “bare”, resulting in filenames only; otherwise you’ll get dates, times, and filesizes). In Windows 7 (and Vista and 8, I believe), if you hold SHIFT and right-click the Explorer window, you can open up a command window that already has the proper path. In XP, you can download a PowerToy that does the same thing. Otherwise, you’ll have to navigate to the path using the CD command.

Once you’ve opened up a command window with the proper path, input this command:

dir /b *.mkv > list.txt

The command above lists all the MKVs in this folder in bare format, then redirects (the > sign) the output to a new file called list.txt (as opposed to the screen; if list.txt already exists, it will be overwritten). Without the *.MKV, dir will recursively list list.txt inside list.txt. You could manually remove it from the list, but I like to keep it clean so I use the wildcard.

Now we open up list.txt with Notepad++. You can use any text editor you like, maybe even Microsoft Word (though over the years I’ve found its spell-check and auto-correct features can sometimes cause issues), as long as it has a search/replace function. Before we do the search/replace, however, we want to copy this list of files into column A (our source filename column) of our spreadsheet. Use Ctrl-A to quickly select the entire list and then Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V it into Excel (obviously I like keyboard shortcuts, but you can copy/paste using whatever method you prefer).

Column A

Back in Notepad++, do a search/replace for the underscore, replacing it with a space. Once again, select-all and then copy/paste. Now you should have a list of original filenames in column A, and a list of desired filenames in column B.

Column B

Column C is where you will input the formula for creating the ren command. Here is the command that we want:

ren "DuckTales_#67_-_The_Duck_Who_Would_Be_King.mkv" "DuckTales #67 - The Duck Who Would Be King.mkv"

Notice how the filenames are inside quotation marks. When a filename has spaces, it’s best to use quotation marks to avoid ambiguity. I know that on occasion I haven’t used them and commands completed successfully, but there have also been times when they haven’t. So, quotation marks.

The formula for creating this command is:

="ren """&A1&""" """&B1&""""

In Excel, if you want to represent a quotation mark as text, you need to escape it using another quotation mark. That’s why there are 14 of them in the formula above. You have 6 for the formula itself, and 2×4=8 for the filenames (and if you look at the example above, you’ll see 4 quotation marks total in the command). The ampersand is used to concatenate text, so basically we’re concatenating a bunch of text to create the command.

Review the command to make sure it’s correct, and then copy/paste the formula to the rest of the column. In Excel, there’s a convenient way to do this. Select the cell with the formula, then double-click the little black square on the bottom right. I don’t know what the square is called, but it will autofill the rest of the column for you.

Excel Autofill

A convenient side-effect of the autofill is that the entire column will already be selected afterwards. Now you can quickly copy this text back to Notepad++. If you had left it open after the search/replace function previously, all you’d have to do is paste over, since the text would already be selected. Ctrl-S to save, then quit Notepad++.

Back in the Explorer window, you can now rename list.txt to list.bat*. Confirm that you want to change the file extension, then double-click or hit enter to run the commands. Wow! The files are now properly renamed!

*This assumes that your system is configured to display file extensions, which IMHO is something that should be enabled by default. To enable it, type ALT-T-O in any Explorer window, then uncheck Hide extensions for known file types under Advanced Settings in the View tab.

At this point you can delete list.bat or rename it back to list.txt for later use. I usually just delete it. I do save the Excel spreadsheet since I now have the formula in there. I suppose I could save it permanently since it’s a generic formula for renaming any two files, but it’s so easy to re-create it that once I’m done renaming all my DuckTales episodes, I’ll probably just delete it along with the temp folder I’m using to hold the episodes.

So, there you have it. Though it may seem like a long procedure (this is a pretty long post, and I tried to explain everything thoroughly), it’s actually quite a time-saver once you’ve set it up and get used to all the keyboard shortcuts. I’ll summarize the steps below:

  1. SHIFT-right-click to open command window
  2. dir /b *.mkv > list.txt
  3. Open list.txt, copy/paste filenames to column A of new spreadsheet
  4. Search/replace list.txt, replace underscores with spaces
  5. Copy/paste new filenames to column B
  6. In column C, enter formula ="ren """&A1&""" """&B1&""""
  7. Autofill formula
  8. Copy column C back to list.txt
  9. Save and close list.txt, rename to list.bat
  10. Run list.bat

Not too bad!

I first used this method back at work, when we sometimes had to rename hundreds of files at a a time. There are probably utilities and/or creative ways of using wildcards to make this happen, but when I tinkered around and looked online, I couldn’t find anything that didn’t require buying something or learning something new and esoteric. These are the tools that I had and knew at the time so I made do. The cool thing is that most people already have them on their PCs, so anyone can do it.

Sometimes, you never know what you might come up with when the need arises. I hope you found this post useful!

FALLS.BMP

FALLS

I was digging through some old files and found this drawing that I made in Windows 3.1 Paintbrush in 1994. These old-style graphics are very comforting to me, perhaps because they remind me of growing up in the 90s in our little cozy apartment in San Francisco, my old 386 humming quietly as I put this little scene together. Today’s games and graphics seem too advanced by comparison. Perhaps the simpler graphics are a reflection of simpler times.

Even then, I was already a fan of the night. This drawing depicts how I feel when I stay up late at night. I am calm. I am at peace. I lay awake contemplating this thing we call life, the sound of the splashing water lulling me slowly to sleep.

These old bitmaps don’t resize well, so please click to view it full-size.

My Thoughts on Windows 8, and Why I Went Back to Windows 7

I’ve been reading quite a few articles on Microsoft’s latest OS, so I thought I’d chime in with some of my own thoughts.

I used Windows 8 for about 3 weeks. During that period of time, I learned about the new Start screen, the removal of the Start menu, Charms, Hyper-V and Win-X. I enjoyed the speed of the new OS. I thought the new Task Manager and copy dialog were huge improvements. Having the taskbar on both screens was a boon. In the end, however, I concluded that the way I used Windows 8 was too similar to how I used Windows 7, with the difference being that Windows 8 actually removed functionality that I wanted. In other words, Windows 8 offered nothing compelling enough for me to upgrade.

I have never been a fan of Microsoft simply removing features in new operating systems rather than making them optional. For example, I still miss the network activity tray icon that was available (and optional) in Windows XP. When Vista came along, the icon showed activity, but not which direction. With Windows 7, the icon was completely removed. Still, I upgraded from XP to 7 because the benefits of 7 outweighed its drawbacks. I wanted to say the same for 8. Here’s a list of things that did not work (for me) in Windows 8:

Virtual PC 2007 – Yes, I realize that this program is old, but I have a few virtual machines running MS-DOS, Linux, Windows 98, and Windows 2000. I could not get them to work properly under Hyper-V. In addition, Hyper-V does not support sound, which meant no Windows 98 games. It was suggested that I could move over to VirtualBox, but that would have meant learning a new application and probably re-installing my precious virtual machines that I had already configured to my liking.

Desktop gadgets – I really liked the slideshow and CPU usage gadgets in Windows 7. If my PC ever acted strangely, a quick glance at the CPU gadget would tell me if something was hogging up the CPU. The slideshow would brighten up my day with random photos of JC or my family. Again, I’m sure there are 3rd-party offerings for Windows 8 that achieve the same thing, but again, nothing else in 8 compels me to do the legwork to find them.

Some old games – I had issues with Unreal Tournament and Star Trek Armada II. These are ancient games, but they worked perfectly fine in Windows 7. To be fair, it may have been NVIDIA’s drivers, but probably not since the same drivers work fine in 7.

Wireless keyboard – I have a wireless handheld USB keyboard that I use for HTPC purposes. The arrow keys no longer worked to navigate through files in Windows Explorer.

Start Menu – I put this last on the list because unlike a lot of other users, the removal of the Start Menu did not really hinder my use of Windows 8. Actually, I thought that the Start screen was a giant (read: full screen), backwards version of the Start Menu. Like Windows 7, you could simply hit the Windows key and then type the name of the program you want to run. Unlike Windows 7, you can no longer hit the Windows key and type the name of a file you want to find. I forget exactly now, but in Windows 8 you have to hit an extra key combo (I think it is Alt-f?) after the Windows key to search for files. Also, unlike Windows 7 and every other Windows before it, installing Desktop programs means that every shortcut that used to appear in the program’s group in the Start Menu (or Program Manager if you go back far enough) now shows up as a tile in the Start screen. After a while, my Start screen was getting cluttered up with random tiles such as “Read the manual” or “Uninstall”. At least in the old Start Menu, these items were hidden in their respective program folders.

The other odd thing about the Start screen is that clicking a tile for a Desktop program took you to the Desktop (duh?). I think this is the drawback of trying to combine a desktop operating system with a tablet one. Windows 8 starts up to this pretty Start screen, but when I click the Firefox tile I’m taken to a screen that looks like Windows 7. I kept thinking, what’s the point? I ended up never using the Start screen at all, instead opting to simply hit the Windows key upon every start-up.

With Android and iOS encroaching on and taking over a lot of Microsoft’s old territory, I can understand why Redmond would try to make Windows 8 tablet and phone-centric. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t just create a separate product for tablets and call it Surface or something. The few Windows 8 Apps I used took up the entire screen, and other than Desktop mode, nothing in Windows 8 actually uses windows.

My impression of Windows 8 is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. I have both an Android phone and tablet so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with using touchscreens and mobile apps, but when I’m on my desktop computer I have no desire to use it like I do my phone or tablet. My current 24-inch monitor is 2 feet away from me; I can’t even reach it, and even if I could, my arm would get tired. Yet, a lot of PC manufacturers are embracing Windows 8 and creating all-in-ones with touchscreens. Would I really want a huge 27-inch all-in-one in my face so that I could touch-interface with it? Would I type an email on the keyboard and then reach up to touch “send”? I don’t see myself doing that.

I commend Microsoft for trying something new and trying to revolutionize the way we use our PCs (removing the Start Menu after 17 years is arguably revolutionary), but it just seems like they saw the desktop market shrinking and decided to slap something together so they could get a piece of the touchscreen action. For me, the experiment was a failure. I tried to embrace Windows 8’s new features but found myself naturally gravitating back to the desktop space while completely ignoring the Windows Store and Start screen. Looking back at how Microsoft responded to ME and Vista, I hold out hope that Microsoft gives Windows back its identity.






MPC-HC H.264 Playback Stutters When Subtitles Enabled

options

I recently installed the 64-bit Media Player Classic – Home Cinema (MPC-HC), version 1.6.5.6366 (744df1c) on a new Windows 8 computer. When I tried to play back H.264 content that included subtitles, the video stuttered terribly. Scenes without subtitles played fine. Turning off subtitles was not an acceptable option.

After clicking around in the settings to no avail, I looked online and stumbled onto this Subtitles FAQ at Codec Guide. The answer was to uncheck Allow animation when buffering in MPC-HC’s subtitles options. Thanks Codec Guide!

Windows 7 Power Management

Here’s another little tidbit I was reminded of when putting together a new workstation. On a fresh install of Windows 7, the operating system will stand by after a certain period of “inactivity” (if I recall correctly, 30 minutes). Apparently, activity does not include CPU usage. I’ve encountered this before when encoding videos. I spend all this time before bed setting up the encode the way I want it to thinking that when I wake up I’ll have a nice video to load onto my portable device, but when I check it in the morning the computer is in standby and the encode has barely progressed.

In the case of setting up a new workstation, I started Prime95 on all four cores hoping to get some burn-in action, only to be disappointed in the morning seeing that the workstation was shut off. I thought something had failed. After I hit the power button, though, I realized it was just standby.

Disk activity, on the other hand, counts as activity. How do I know this? I started formatting a 2 terabyte drive at the same time that I started Prime95, and the timestamp on Prime95 showed that the PC went into standby about 30 minutes after the time the format would have completed.

So, a reminder to myself and to anyone else setting up a new workstation, or preparing to do any lengthy task not involving disk activity: change the power settings!


Another beef I have with Windows 7 Power Management is that you can’t always activate a power icon in the system tray. Before I go to sleep, I like to set my profile to what I call “super power save”, turning everything to low and the CPU to 5%, to keep things quiet and cool. In Windows XP, it was possible to add a power icon and then use that power icon to change power profiles. It was a couple of mouse clicks. Notice how on my Windows 7 desktop the power icon is disabled:

The Power icon is not available, period.

I haven’t figured it out, but I’m guessing it’s because my desktop doesn’t have a battery. The solution (or perhaps workaround would be a better term) is to hit the Windows key and actually type power options to quickly get to that screen to change settings. A step backwards in my opinion.

Compare with XP, much easier to select a power plan.

Event ID 2017 from Source SRV

I recently upgraded my family’s network to gigabit ethernet. We started noticing that some shares would become inaccessible, and that restarting the Windows 7 server would solve the issue. I poked around the event viewer and found a few event ID 2017s from source srv, so I googled and found the following registry settings that should solve the issue:

Set HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache to 1.

Set HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters\Size to 3.

Thanks to alan.lamielle.net for this useful information.

Update 1-28-14: The server has been running well for a year and a half with no issues.