It’s been a while dear friend…

Sadly with working shifts and long hours for a local telecoms company, I haven’t had the chance to do as much as I would have liked to in my spare time.

I really wanted to get involved in the whole home automation side of things and this idea is still pending and still on the “to-do” list.

Since I last wrote on this blog, I have moved house to a lovely little flat and both Bear (my dog) and I feel relaxed and at home now.

It has been such a long journey to get here. After breaking my ankle and needing surgery and having a plate and 7 pins fitted and then having to learn to walk on my foot again and then being able to drive again etc etc but we are finally here.

Anyway, so going back to the point of this blog, the whole tech theme, I have finally dug out the Raspberry Pi 3 I purchased ages ago. I blew off the dust and dug out all the other bits I purchased along side it for the project I wanted to carry out: to turn the Pi 3 into an Amazon Echo device.

I had done my homework on this and I knew that although it wouldn’t connect the Alexa Voice Service to any audio apps like Spotify, I could still use all other features, known as “skills” that work with the Echo.

Using the pi brought up a few snags though. First of all, because I was connecting the Pi to a TV using an HDMI cable, the audio automatically defaulted to playing through the TV and of course I did not want that feature as once I had installed everything, I wanted it to be headless.
I had to force the audio through to the 3.5mm audio-out that the Pi had but it was simply one line of code so nothing too drastic to grumble about.

I also had a problem with getting the voice recognition software to work. I was following a tutorial from online and I was literally just doing a copy and paste from the page to Raspbian CLI. There were two choices, one was a trial version and the other was a full version of KITT.AI but I believe, because the version had changed, so had the file name as well as it’s location so it wasn’t just a case of doing a copy and paste.

I also had to contact Amazon as apparently, there is no phone number for the Alexa Voice Services department, just a forum and I was struggling because I had started up my JAVA applet which I was going to use for recording my voice and sending it to the Alexa server using localhost:3000 but when I went to accept the T&C’s from Amazon, it was flagging up an error and the site wouldn’t communicate back to my applet to give me a bearer token which is what Alexa Voice Service uses so that it knows exactly what device you are using and what profile it is from. I even went into my router settings and setup port forwarding so that all communications on port 3000 would definitely reach the Pi but still nothing.

I haven’t resolved any of the issues above yet so this is a bit of an adhoc blog but I will be adding resolutions to this once I have found out more information.

Oh and just to go back to my old ways and repeat myself again, I am still hoping to learn C# over the summer. I know it is not like the alphabet and once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. I understand that it is a forever learning process but you have to begin somewhere so watch this space as I am hoping that blogs are going to start coming through thick and fast now I have escaped the clutches of a corporation and finally have my life back to enjoy some me time.

Ciao for now!

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Slow WIFI speeds

A lot of devices nowadays that connect to the internet are smaller and more portable. As you want to be able to use them in numerous locations, it means that they are typically enabled with the option to connection to a wireless network. Whether that be at home, if your office or even whilst eating your breakfast in McDonalds.

WIFI is taken for granted and as much as some people need to know, you just search for a suitable wireless network on your device, enter the requested wireless key and then you are online and up and running.

Did you know… A small patent used in WIFI today was originally created for a whole different purpose at the time. It was used in an experiment to detect exploding mini black holes the size of an atomic particle.

The standard
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) set the standards when it comes to this. This means that if a company was to create a router then it would have to use a standard so that all WIFI capable devices could connect to it.

They created the standard of 802.1.1 for WLAN (Wireless Local Area Networks).
When purchasing a router, you may see on the box that is says 802.1.1 and then mentions dual band or dual frequency. This refers to the fact that the WIFI signal can be transmitted either through a 2.4Ghz frequency or the 5Ghz frequency.

The idea behind having both these frequencies available is because the 5Ghz option will allow a faster speed of data transfer but there are limitations with that such as a short range so it is only suggested to use it whilst you are in the same room as the router. Also, a lot of network cards within the devices such as laptops do not have the latest hardware and so can only discover the 2.4Ghz option.
2.4Ghz has a larger range that it covers but the data speeds they send across can be slower in terms of speed.

There is also the factor that wireless networks are susceptible to interference. Lots of facts come into play that may cause issues such as a microwave, flashing Christmas lights, additional wireless devices and sometimes random things like an old TV or a treadmill.

There is also the factor that when you turn on a router, the channel that you are using to communicate on is typically set to “Auto” meaning that the router will do a quick check at that time and choose a channel of 1-13 to communicate on and send data back and forth to the router. Now if your neighbour is using the same channel then it means that there may become a build up in traffic on that channel and you may have to wait your turn to send/receive which will show itself as slow speeds or WIFI disconnections.

The best thing to do is to go into your router settings and change the wireless channel. You can access the router settings by going into its default gateway through a browser, typically with a 192.168.*.* number and then logging in with a default username (usually admin) and a password. Most routers have this information on a sticker on the router.

Then, if you have a smart phone, download an app called “WIFI Analyser”. It is a free app and it will do a scan and inform you of which channels in your area have the least amount of data traffic on and then in accordance, you can change your router channel to that number it suggests. This will certainly help in the first instance and then if necessary and you are trying to cover a large area, you can always introduce a wireless booster.

Wireless is great technology but it will never be as fast nor as stable as a cabled connection so if you have the opportunity to connect your device to a router using an Ethernet cable then this would be the recommended option.

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Mobile Broadband

It is often common for smart phones purchased in the last few years, whether bought on contract or PAYG (Pay As You Go) to come with a minutes allowance, a text allowance as well as data allowance.

The data allowance will typically refer to a 4G connection where the average download speed is about 8Mbps (Mega Bits Per Second). The allowance represents how much data you can transfer from the internet to your device, whether that may be pictures, music, movies or browsing the internet for the latest news or train time information. Even your apps on your mobile phone chew up some of your data allowance as they are trying to sync with a server to obtain the latest information.

The latest mobile phones use an OS (Operating System) to offer you a nice friendly user interface so all you have to do is tap the screen or drag and drop icons and the device knows exactly what you want it to do.

The Operating Software basically sends instructions to the hardware in your handheld device and gets it to behave as requested. These instructions can be quite lengthy and complicated but as long as they work and do everything you want them to do, then you do not have to worry about what instructions they contain.

Common operating systems used on mobile handsets are Windows (used on Nokia devices) IOS (used on the Apple Iphone devices) and Android (used on everything else). This blog is MY blog so I can state my point of view whether it is factual or correct and so in my eyes, Android is the better OS simply because it isn’t licenced which means that you aren’t paying extra money for a polished turd and simply the fact that Android is a form of Linux so it is open source and you can therefore create your own apps and download them to your phone from any source as an APK file and then just install it. This cannot be done on Iphone as you have to get files from the Apple store so you have to register them first which is a lot of hassle if you just want to test a simple app that you have developed. This was also the same issue with the Blackberry phones but I haven’t mentioned them as I am not even sure they are still making phones any more and if so, their app store isn’t brilliant so has quite a lot of limitations.

Anyways, you will be surprised to learn if you didn’t know already that you can use your phone as a mobile hotspot. which means that you can tether devices to it like you would with your wireless internet at home.

You would turn the hotspot on using the network settings on your phone and then you can change the network name which may be known as an APN (Access Point Name) or the SSID (Service Set IDentifier) name. This is the name that shows up when you search for wireless networks available in your area and how you can distinguish which one is which. You can also set up the network passphrase or network key. It is known by many different names. This typically has to be at least 8 characters long and seeing as you are using this code to connect numerous different devices at different times, why make it too complicated for yourself? Why not just set it to a simple date of birth or something memorable like 11223344.

Once your device is connected, devices such as a laptop, tablet or even another phone will start using the data package you currently have in place.

I am writing this blog in Hull which at present has one main service provider – Kingston Communications, also known as Kcom. They pretty much own the monopoly in Hull and even have different colour phone boxes rather than the traditional red ones.

Majority of their customers found on forums comment that the prices are extremely high as there is no other competition and the quality of the internet is poor and people have experienced issues. Please notice that I have not stated how many people and not stipulated that this is a recurring issue, just an observation that has been brought to my attention through the means of social media.

On this information I have realised that in most areas of Hull, the only available network service to a property is ADSL (ASymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) This is what a lot of people just refer to as broadband or “The Internet”. The key word in all of this jargon, if you were to remember any of it, would be ASymmetric. This means non-symmetrical. So in other words, your download speed will be faster than your upload speed.

When you want to connect to a website, you type the web address into your web browser, it will then knock on the door of a DNS (Dynamic Name Server) and returns an IP (Internet Protocol) address. This is like a physical postal address you have for your property and it will give you the address to where the big computer or server is that stores your website that you want to visit. It will hold all the pictures, the text and the format of how they want the page to look on your screen.

When you hit the return key on your Google search, you are then sending your request along the network to knock on the front door of that IP address and say “Please Mr Computer, may I see the site that you are sharing”. You will also send a few of your credentials as well to that server such as your internet IP address so it will know from which country you are wanting to view from (This is useful if you want to purchase something so it will show a price in the correct currency for you). Then the server decides that it will share the information with you and send the data back down the network and to your computer for your browser to decipher. This is a good example of why you need an upload and download speed. Another would be downloading files such as music from the internet or uploading all your newest photos on to Facebook.

As data allowances grow, they are still quite limited in size at present due to the fact that 4G is newer technology and so they do not want to give away too much allowance as it will strain bandwidth connections so some mobile phone providers only offer as much as 20GB of 4G data per month and even if you contact them asking how much more data would be, they wouldn’t sell it as a standard package and so every month, for extra data you would have to top up with a booster or a bundle or whatever exclusive name the provider has created for the purchase of additional data.

I do not use a phone line any more. I am always out and about and so prefer to give out my mobile number and also the fact that line rental costs money. I only ever had one previously as a donor line for my ADSL to run on.

Although Fibre broadband is now available in some areas, including small areas in Hull, which means faster connection speeds and no need for a PSTN phone line for it to run on. The downside to a Fibre connection is that people learn to expect that speed and also willingly accept the cost that is involved and so are paying at least £50 a month for this “treat”. I was sat here thinking carefully as to how to word the privilege and I can really only think of it as a treat because it isn’t essential, you could get by with ADSL for what most homes use the internet for, the cost in my eyes is not justified and also you have to weigh in the factor that you may have an extremely faster connection and you can download X amount of Mbps but what if the server you are getting the data from has poor bandwidth, has a low upload speed or numerous requests so it can only remain stable if it sends data out at a slower speed?? It then wouldn’t matter what spec you have as you are reliant on a third party resource and I cant see you offering to pay their bill too!

So back on to the subject of mobile broadband… There is now a device called MIFI and it is provided by numerous different phone service providers.

The MIFI is a small box (Sorry no free licenced images available to add to my site) that has a SIM card installed, just like your mobile phone would and then it will connect to your service provider and establish a network connection.

The MIFI device will then project its SSID name (as mentioned above) for you to be able to pick this network up on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

The MIFI I have is an EE one, it also has a network port in the back so that I could connect a device directly to it which should in theory, make my connection faster, as it would be hard wired and therefore not be susceptible to the flaws or problems that can be experienced whilst using the 802.11 WIFI protocol.

My contract is currently £44 a month and includes the free device which meant all I needed to do when it arrived was insert the SIM card which also came in the same box. The device itself needs to have a mains plug connection, I could have got a device that’s more flexible and could be operated by batteries but then I assumed that even with Lithium-Ion batteries, they wouldn’t last that long and the lack of power may contribute to the lack of signal. Plus I am using this device for my laptop which eventually needs to be plugged in so this was a trivial issue for me and saved money.

So as soon as I plugged in my device it took seconds to establish a connection and the small little card that came in the box told me what network name to search for and also the password to enter. Then Hey Presto! I was connected and able to search the internet and stream videos and do anything I wanted to with my 50GB of data that got replenished every month.

Being a geek, the first thing I did was a speed test. I wanted to know exactly how fast my data was travelling. I went to www.speedtest.net and got quite a quick ping reply (that’s the response to the knock on the door I mentioned). I then got a download speed averaging 11.32Mbps and an upload speed of 7.74Mbps This was quite impressive seeing as though service users using the local ADSL service were commenting on their connections losing sync all the time and their download speed being as low as 2Mbps.

Going further into the geek dimensions, I didn’t want to stick with the classic MIFI**** SSID I was set up with by EE and I also didn’t want to have to keep going to find this little card to find the WIFI credentials every time someone wanted to connect to my internet.

The following information can also be followed for your router at home, even if you have ADSL or Fibre and you are using a WIFI connection.

These instructions are for Microsoft Windows users as this is the Operating System I use on my laptop and Microsoft was my choice for certification back in the days.

The following will allow you to change your WIFI name and also your WIFI password:

First of all, on your laptop/computer keyboard, you will see the space bar, to the left of that you will see an ALT key and to the left of that, the Windows key (seen as the Windows symbol). Hold down the Windows key and push the R button on your keyboard at the same time. This will open up the RUN box on your computer. Then clear anything in that box and type in “CMD” and hit the return key or click OK. This will then open the command dialogue box which has a black background and text that looks like its written in the old MS DOS format.

In this section you need to type in “IPCONFIG” and hit the return key. This will show your internet protocol configuration details. You will see a lot of gumpf that you really don’t need to worry about but one bit of information you are trying to find is something that says default gateway and then it will be followed with an IP address. Usually this is something like 192.168.1.1 or something like that. Please make a note of this as this is easily forgotten when you get distracted and then you have to repeat the method again.

The default gateway opens up access to your home router as you will see soon.

If you then close all the boxes and open up your internet web browser, this could be either Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or anything that suits your browsing needs.

Once your browser is open, where you would usually type in a web address to go to, instead, clear that box and enter the default gateway information you previously wrote down: 192.168.something.something and hit return.

This will take you to your router settings and depending on who provided your router, you may be prompted to enter login username and password details to access these settings. On the EE router, these credentials were also provided on the card which was extremely useful. If you have a Sky router then typically the defaults are as follows: username: “admin” Password: “sky”.

You can usually find these credentials written on a sticker on your router or they can be easily found via Google so don’t panic too much.

So once you are in the default gateway, you can even change those initial security details to a suitable username and password that you will remember.

Make sure you go to the wireless LAN or WLAN tab and then change the SSID to anything you like.

You can then do the same with the password key and then once you click apply, your wireless connection will drop out.

You will then need to search for available wireless networks in your area again and then enter your new password if you changed it.

That’s it! You have now got a customized broadband router which will be easier to connect future devices to.

One thing I will mention on here, which is not totally relevant but I was asked this question by a gentleman at the last Raspberry jam I attended – he said that IP addresses have sections so go as high as a certain amount. If there are a limited number then how can his home printer have an individual IP address.

This was a really good question and I am glad he asked me it.

I was able to explain to the gentleman that IP addresses at present use IPv4 which means that they have 4 sections. These sections are known as an “octet” which means a group of 8 things. In computing and the use of Binary, there are 8 bits to a Byte and when calculating, the highest number they could reach is 255 but there are only 254 combinations, which means that in each octet, you can have a number combination going from 0 to 254.

As there are only 4x octet’s this means there are limitations on the amount of IP addresses you can have and the max amount will be 254x254x254x254.

If you have read a few IT/Networking journals then you may have heard of IPv6 which adds another 2x octet’s and therefore adds a lot more numbers available in the list of available IP addresses. I think a journal that I read stated that every human in the world population can have about 13 IP addresses.

Another thing that I had to explain to the gentleman is the different between a public and private IP address. Companies like Coca-Cola, which is a huge company only own about 6 public IP addresses and they are extremely expensive. Instead companies use one IP address and then can do clever things on servers to split domain names, hosting and key words so that you can find exactly what you are looking for within one IP address.

When you connect a device such as your laptop, tablet, mobile phone or wireless printer to your router, you are connecting it to your private network and so therefore it still has a unique IP address, otherwise information being sent back and forth would become scrambled, but the router itself assigns an individual IP address for each device and typically routers give out a 192.168.something.something IP address (does this look familiar to the format of your default gateway). If you turn your wireless router on for the first time and then try and connect your phone, it will use DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). This means that it will assign an IP address to it, typically 192.168.0.1 and will send across the network details including a DHCP lease time. That means that if after a certain period (stated in minutes) a connection isn’t established with the device given the original IP address then this allocation with expire and the IP address will then be back on the list of availability.

The alternative to DHCP is static IP addressing. When you set up your wireless router, it may not be on all the time, just when you want to print something so it could be that the device lays dormant for longer periods of time and therefore a DHCP IP address would expire. This wouldn’t be good when you have configured your printer to send print information to a specific network device when you click on the print button. Its like sending postal mail to a caravan that keeps moving plots so you would establish a static IP address that it would keep and then you would instruct your computer to keep sending the print data in that direction.

The last question the gentleman asked was, if he has security cameras in his house and he can connect to them using their IP address, then doesn’t that make them vulnerable to other viewers. The answer to that would be that in purchasing the cameras, he has paid for a subscription to the company server where he will be able to live stream the cameras images on a laptop or mobile device and it asks for his camera IP addresses so it can establish the route it needs to take to make a secure connection to allow him to view his cameras from anywhere in the world. The security behind it would be as much as you can assume from a company who transfers data over the internet and allows its customers access to relevant cameras by a username and password which the credentials would be stored on an SQL database on a different partition of the server.

I guess the more you know about technology, the scarier it can be but then you also have to remember that you are a small fish in a big pond and if you are not doing anything sinister then you should have nothing to worry about, including paranoia.

If you have any further questions or queries about what I have written in this article then please feel free to contact me.

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Breaking News

So a week before uni starts, just as I am finishing my last shift at work, I run to my car to get out of the rain, fall over nothing and break my ankle!

I would like to say I was doing something heroic like saving orphans from a burning building or a kitten from a tree but sadly it wouldn’t be true.

I am currently waiting for a phone call from the fracture clinic to be told that they want me in the next day to have an operation on my ankle where I will have a plate and pins installed – I don’t do things by halves!

Anyways, the good news is that University has started, I have my timetable and I am good to go. Despite now having to get a taxi to and from University and it costing me a small fortune, I am still attending every day and not using it as an excuse.

As I am missing all the social activities, I am investing this time in studying as much as I can to try and get ahead of things.

I have also written a University bucket list of things I would like to achieve before my 3-4 years of University are over. These include:

  • See a famous live band
  • Get back down the gym - this will have to wait until my ankle is better (good excuse to skip leg days)
  • Learn to play the piano
  • Go scuba diving
  • Be in the audience of a TV show
  • Give blood
  • Learn another language
  • Visit Bletchley Park


If you have to ask what is at Bletchley Park then you really shouldn’t be reading my site – we simply aren’t friends!

I am also looking at societies that I can join at the university and I am thinking of joining the Engineering society and RAG (Raise and Give) who do different fund raising events for different charities.

Sadly the volunteer work at the Library for Code Club has had to go on hold as I haven’t got the transport to get to the library from the University and I also don’t want to spread myself too thin and take on too much whilst my leg is healing.

If there is a lesson to learn from this whole experience, it’s that exercise is NOT good for you and also, NEVER run across roads as you can fall over your own feet where ever you are!

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Code Club Returns

code_club_high_res_logo_720

After a well deserved Summer break, Code Club is starting back up at Hull Central Library from Thursday 22nd September and I shall be volunteering to help assist with teaching children 9-11 years of age how to code.

Our existing “Code Clubbers” will move on to CSS/HTML and new starters will start by learning Scratch and going through a few projects together.

If you haven’t heard of Code Club by now then basically it is a opportunity for children to get together, with supervised guidance, to learn new skills. They will be learning Scratch, CSS/HTML, Python and I’ve also heard that the library have just invested in the BBC Micro:bit.

Why bring your children along?

Computers are used everywhere and there is no longer a need to be afraid of them. I would even go as far as to suggest that most people use a computer each day without realising it – When you turn on your washing machine and push a button, it is running a program and knows how much water to allow, how many cycles before it then drains the water, when to rinse and also when to keep beeping at you to tell you it has finished, usually just in the middle of your favourite TV episode.

More about the topics we teach

Scratch

Scratch is software created by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) aka VERY clever people. This software can be found on a Raspberry Pi (see http://raspberrypi.org/ for more information) as well as on the Scratch website (https://scratch.mit.edu/). This software allows children to create different objects and characters and alter their environment and behaviour. To make this simple, MIT have created jigsaw type blocks that click together so that you know they are compatible and these blocks are also colour coded. This teaches children the method for object oriented programming. This is the type of programming used for Java which can be found on some phone operating systems and in Blu-ray and DVD players.

CSS/HTML

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is used to style an HTML document. You would title different areas in your HTML document and then on the CSS file you would state certain preferences. For instance, in the “title” section, you would want to use a larger size font and have the font a certain colour.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is typically the code used behind a website. A web developer would write certain code to create a website which could be used to show off video, animations and pictures as well as forms and text. When you open a web browser i.e. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Firefox to name a few, and search your favourite website, it will show you a nice user friendly finish which has been created using HTML.

Python

Python is another programming language. This is being taught in Schools and even Universities. It can be used to create games and applications.

Python used with a Raspberry Pi can open up a lot of exciting adventures where you can create lots of different projects including a traffic light system with LEDs, creating a weather station, creating a music and video entertainment system and much much more.

BBC Micro:bit

These are the small computers that are currently being given out in Schools, they are also available to purchase from retailers now if you missed out on getting one from School and although prices change, I believe they are quite reasonably priced.

The Micro:bit has been created to allow children to design and create their own projects once again using code and also learning about hardware compatibility.

The Code Club community

We are trying to create as many Code Clubs as possible because technology will be a strong part of everyone’s future and definitely for the younger generation. We want to provide a place for them to come and explore their imaginations whilst learning some really cool stuff along the way and these are relevant skills that will help them in the future in terms of education and hobbies.

More Information
Our Code Club is currently on a Thursday evening between 6pm and 7:15pm at Hull Central Library. We do have limited places so please contact the Library on 01482 300300 to register your place.

We appreciate that sometimes children may have alternative after School activities on the same night so if you need to find an alternative Code Club, they can be found on the Code Club Website.

Hull Central Library has the following address: Albion St, Hull HU1 3TF

Or you can view the following map:
Hull Central Library Map

We look forward to seeing you soon

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Hull Raspberry Jam Saturday 10th September

https://www.raspberrypi.org/

Why not join in on the fun and learn more about the Raspberry Pi and how to code by attending a Raspberry Jam.

The next event takes place on Saturday 10th September and starts at 10:15 until 13:15.

The venue for this event is Malet Lambert School – James Reckitt Avenue, Hull, HU8 0JD

This is a free to attend event – tickets plus more information is available from the Eventbrite website.

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Feeling Appreciated

So as a lot of you who know me know, I have been volunteering at a Code Club on a Thursday evening during term time teaching children 9-11 how to code.

We start with Scratch and then progress to CSS and Python and I’ve just heard that the library have invested in a few of the BBC Micro:bit computers.

I haven’t had chance to play with the Micro:bit yet but obviously this is my chance to learn something new along side the children and help support them in their understanding and knowledge of technology.

This makes volunteering both rewarding, exciting and educational. I do not want to sound like a sales person as sadly there is no affiliation program but helping others does have its own rewards as seen in the picture below.

If there are future Computer Science students out there who want to gain exposure then volunteering would be a brilliant idea and it also gets you involved in the community.

Appreciation email

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University Challenge

I now have only 20 days until University starts!

This is most definitely a “Dear diary” moment. I have completed my online registration as well as me e-induction which, may I add, contained a video about sexual consent but used the analogy of a cup of tea – how British. Apparently someone may arrange to come over on Saturday for a “cup of tea” but that doesn’t always mean that when they get there that they will still want that “cup of tea” and if someone comes to your house for a “cup of tea” and passes out from alcoholic intoxication, remember that this is important, they DO NOT want a “cup of tea”. I am not sure if this video is sincere or not but it has definitely made a good talking point!

Anyways… In the next 10 days I will hear from my AST (Academic Support Tutor) who will be the one to give tutorials during the academic year and will pay close interest in my progress to ensure that I have the support I need.

As of yet, I haven’t got my timetable and in all the Fresher’s groups I have joined on Facebook, it seems that everyone is in the same boat, anxious and not quite sure what to expect as well as not knowing if their previous knowledge will be enough to see them through.

The reason I am writing this post is because I want to look back in a years time and see that there was nothing to worry about at all but also for future Fresher students to read this and have reassurance that what they are going through is perfectly normal and someone has been there before.

If you are reading this then do not panic too much about University. As long as you do your bit and keep turning up and doing work that is set for you in a timely manner, then everything will be fine. If you get stuck – ask for help, it’s what people are there for.

I know a lot of people are buying new laptops and this, that and the other but I have decided to just treat myself to a new pad of paper, a new BIC biro and will just use my existing laptop. IF I do need something with a higher spec then I will work on building a desktop PC at home as this will be cheaper than a top end laptop and parts will be easier to replace/upgrade as well and then I can just remote into my desktop from university and use it almost like a cloud device.

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Bypassing Windows login

So here is a little secret I have discovered: being able to get into Windows without a password.

A lot of people will already know that if someone forgets their Windows password then you can remove the hard drive and slave it to access the data but this method will show you how to access Windows through the user interface.

First of all you will need some software that Microsoft provide for free called DART – diagnostic and repair tool.

If you put this on a pen drive then you can boot to this using one of your F keys and choose it from the boot menu.

In DART you will have the option to explore files and folders on the system.

Navigate to C:/Windows/System32 and look for a file called “utilman.exe”. Rename this file to “utilman.exe.bak” and then copy and paste the “cmd.exe” file from and to the same directory. Then rename your second cmd file to “utilman.exe”.

You will then be able to restart the computer and when you get to the Windows log in screen you will see in one of the corners next to the shutdown button an accessibility options, when you click on this it will then bring up your command box and from there you will be able to turn on the admin profile.

Then with a restart, you will be able to access the computer as an administrator and have full access to the computer and all accounts.

If you want to remove this feature afterwards then turn admin off in cmd and restore the original utilman file back to its original name.

Happy playing!

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Todays Adventure

So I decided that it was time to upgrade from my Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE to the new shiny Galaxy S6 which may I add, is totally amazing as it has a decent amount of internal memory so hopefully won’t keep telling me it is running low!

Anyways, I decided that as my S4 was still of value, I would see if anyone was interested in the purchase. To my luck someone was but they didn’t have an O2 sim card and didn’t know how much it would cost to unlock the phone.

As some of you may have picked up from my previous blogs, I sometimes class myself as a tech person and if something can be done, I want to know how to do it rather than paying money for someone else to do it for me.

So I went online and read a few tutorials about unlocking a phone, specifically the S4 I9505 LTE. It said that if I was to dial *#0011# then it would come up with a service menu, which it did. It then said that if I was to use the menu and select the key input “1” then it would take me to a different menu – Sadly this did not happen. So I then went down the path of downloading some flash software called ODIN and some software so I could root the phone. I had never done this before so it did seem a little scary but I thought I would give it a try nonetheless.

I managed to root the phone. I was even able to find the setting for the second menu as a root Super User and change it from hidden to not hidden, not that it made any different as it was still not allowing me to get to the menu that I needed to change in the first place to unlock this handset to allow access for sims on alternative carriers.

So I looked into things further and downloaded software that would back up my existing ROM on the phone (REMEMBER TO ALWAYS BACKUP). I then transferred this backup data from my SD card to my laptop to allow space for a custom rom on the SD card as this was how I wanted to install it.

As I was using the wiping software I was very sure I wanted to wipe the cache as well as the System as this is what all my helpful websites that I read had told me to do. So when I went to then install my custom ROM, which failed in seconds, I was in a bit of a panic as I now had no OS on my phone so it wouldn’t boot into anything and the backup ROM that I made was on my laptop and I couldn’t even get the laptop to recognise the phone or the SD card as a mass storage device.

At this point I had two options: to either cry in a corner and admit defeat or try and find a stock ROM that I could then flash to the device. I managed to find such ROM and it flashed fine, optimized all my 200 something apps and then I was able to root it again.

The phone now is back to how it was previously although I haven’t got the right size sim to test it at the moment but I will do tomorrow when it isn’t 2am in the morning.

It certainly has been a learning curve and I am quite sure it wont be my last experience with mobile phones as these are the things that will be in our future for quite some time.

Once I have established a way to unlock this phone without having to pay, of course I will share this knowledge with my readers.

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