Q&A

Q&A has gone on-line!

Due to the restrictions on group meetings, OPCUG is holding its Q&A sessions in Zoom video-conferences (see “Q&A and DYOB” in the May issue of the newsletter).

Questions on any computer-related issue are welcome, as are your answers on any of the questions asked.  Also, we all find programs, add-ons, and utilities that make life easier. While you are not the only person to have discovered them, there are probably lots who haven’t.  How about giving a brief presentation about, or simply just mention, your favourite software?  To give us a heads-up on your issue, send the details in an E-mail message to SuggestionBox@opcug.ca.

Our next Q&A session will commence at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, September 30th.  Everyone is welcome to attend Q&A sessions and to ask questions about their specific computer-related problems.  Join us at: https://tinyurl.com/opcug-meeting (if you use the Zoom client, the meeting ID is 924 9556 0898 and the password is opcug)

Don't forget...

Technical Solutions 2020

Would you be interested in more in-depth information about your specific computer- issues?

OPCUG is considering providing a series of Zoom video-conferences to discuss things like backup practices, digital image editing, safe passwords, and how to install a solid state drive.

Check out our suggestions, give us yours, and tell us what days and times would suit you best.

Full details at: https://opcug.ca/technical-solutions/

OUR MOST RECENT Q&A SESSION

PDF versions of the PowerPoint presentations, audio recordings of the associated discussions, and copies of the comments in the Chat window, from our weekly Q&A sessions are available as the following files:

MOST RECENT Q&A SESSION – September 23, 2020

20200923_PowerPoint (1.63 MB PDF)

20200923_Audio (25.9 MB M4A)

20200923_Chat (3 KB TXT)

For the content of previous Q&A sessions,
please visit our archives

What do we do at a Q&A session?

One of the strengths of computer user groups is the technical assistance provided to members – by members. The Ottawa PC Users’ Group is no exception to this general rule. Our motto “Users helping users” says it all.

We publish a wealth of useful information in Ottawa PC News, our monthly newsletter, and answer questions on the members-only forum on our web site. Following each monthly meeting, we hold a question and answer session where anyone can raise any computer-related queries and, hopefully, have them answered through the combined knowledge and experience of the members present.

The Q&A session is held at 9:00 pm, normally on the second Wednesday of the month, immediately following the club’s monthly meeting.

Articles posted on OPCUG’s web site and published in the newsletter provide tips, tricks, and (solutions to) traps related to Windows (and other operating systems) and its associated software products. Additional information is often developed as a result of our Q&A sessions. Some of these contributions are reproduced below.

Historical Note:
Over the years, OPCUG has had a number of Special Interest Groups (SIG’s). Most recently, the Beginners’ SIG, Windows SIG, and the Linux, Free Software and Open-Source SIG have all morphed into the current Q&A session. People attending our monthly meetings are invited to join the session and ask questions about Windows, Linux, or any computer hardware or software problems. We may not have all the answers, but we will try our best to help.


Do you have questions? — We have answers!

Multi-tasking, multi-processing and multi-threading
By Alan German (26-Aug-2020)

“All Core i5 desktop processors offer 4 cores and no hyperthreading while in the mobile sector all Core i5 processors have 2 cores and hyperthreading.”

What, in plain language, does this really mean to a run-of-the-mill laptop buyer?

A single core CPU with no hyperthreading can only do one thing at once. But, we know the computer can multi-task and run a word processor, an E-mail client, and a web browser all “at the same time”. The OS achieves this by time-slicing the CPU cycles, giving some time to each process in turn. It happens so quickly that, to us, it appears that the tasks are concurrent.

A computer with multiple cores on its CPU can actually run different tasks concurrently, each task running on its own physical core. Suppose that we are running a word processor in one window and, at the same time, in a second window, we are exporting to disk a video file that we have edited. If our computer is dual-core, the word-processing task runs on Core 1 at the same time that the video is being written to disk using Core 2.

If our computer is single core but dual-threaded, the CPU appears to the operating system as having two (virtual) cores. The “trick” is that the two threads provide some pre-processing capabilities such as fetching instructions from RAM and feeding these into the single physical core. So, if one channel becomes stalled, waiting for an action to be completed, it is likely that the second thread can continue to feed the processor with instructions for it to keep executing.

For example, suppose we have a word-processing task where a file has been sent to the printer and a second file has been opened for editing. The print job is run on one thread of the single core of the CPU, while the editing is running on the second thread. Since it takes “forever” (in CPU time) for our finger to move from one key to the next, while the word processing task is waiting for a character to process, control is switched to the thread for the print job and data is sent to the printer. Once the editing thread is ready to accept a new keystroke, control is switched to this thread. So, both tasks appear to be running concurrently while in actual fact the CPU is switching between them.

In general, hyperthreading provides a performance gain but this is limited to about 25%. So, a quad-core computer with hyperthreading
would be about equivalent to having five cores. But a quad-core computer with no hyperthreading will generally perform better than dual-core with
hyperthreading.

For more details see:

Gary Sims – Gary Explains

Multitasking vs Multithreading vs Multiprocessing<br>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn0u-IIBmtc

What is Hyperthreading?<br>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSZpDF-zUoI

Linus Sebastian – Techquickie

What is Hyper Threading Technology as Fast As Possible
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnS50lJicXc

TechQuickie

Immersive Reader in Edge
By Chris Taylor (26-Aug-2020)

The old version of the Edge browser (based on Microsoft’s rendering engine) had Reading view that removed ads, menus, etc. from web pages, when on a page that supported this feature. I thought it was gone in the new version of Edge (based on the Chromium engine) since every web page I went to failed to display the icon for Reading view.

It turns out it is still there. It has been renamed to Immersive Reader. The problem is that it only appears when on a page that supports reader mode and fewer and fewer pages provide this support. (One that does is
https://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/current-branch-services)

Google Chrome supports Reader mode but is off by default. Browse to: chrome://flags/#enable-reader-mode and change its setting to Enabled. Firefox, Opera, and Vivaldi all have reader modes enabled by default

Keyboard Remapping
By Eldon Gaw and Chris Taylor (12-Aug-2020)

One of our members was having a problem in accidentally hitting the Caps Lock key. He found a web link with an easy way to disable this key, while another solution allowed the remapping of multiple keys.

SharpKeys (https://www.randyrants.com/category/sharpkeys/) allows one key on the keyboard to be remapped to another key, or disabled entirely by having the key perform no action. For details, see: https://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/map-any-key-to-any-key-on-windows-xp-vista/

Microsoft’s PowerToys (https://github.com/microsoft/PowerToys) includes a Remap Keys utility. This software offers considerable flexibility in that multiple keys can be remapped, and individual keys can be remapped so that they only work in a given program (e.g. map Ctrl-F to F4 in Outlook so you can “Find” using Ctrl-F).

Finding Licence Keys
(05-Aug-2020)

Do you need to find the licence key for installed software, such as Windows or Microsoft Office? Magic Jelly Bean KeyFinder
(https://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/) may be just what you need. This freeware utility can extract licence keys from the Windows registry.

MagicJellyBean

How do you list installed apps?
by Alan German (29-Jul-2020)

One way to do this is to use an uninstaller utility such as Geek Uninstaller (https://geekuninstaller.com).

Running the program, displays a list of installed programs that you might want to uninstall; however, in the present case it is simply the list itself that is useful.

 Navigating to File – Export to HTML… allows the list of installed programs to be output as a text file (.html). This file can be displayed in a browser, printed, or opened in a text editor spreadsheet for further processing.

Geek Uninstaller

PowerToys – Image Resizer
by Alan German (22-Jul-2020)

Another of Microsoft’s PowerToys – Image Resizer – hooks into Windows Explorer as part of the context menu.

Right-click on one or more image files and select Resize pictures. By default, the dialogue box will offer to resize the selected images to small, medium, large of “phone”, but a custom size may also be selected.

Check boxes allow you to specify if you wish the images to be made smaller but not larger, if copies of the originals should be retained, and if the aspect ratio should be maintained for both landscape and portrait image formats.

LOCATE/COPY IMAGE FILES
(Jul-2020)

Question How do I locate all the image files on my hard drive and make backup copies using a command line or a batch file?


There are multiple methods to both list and copy files.

Note that a list of files and/or folders, when generated by one of the following commands, can be further processed in a spreadsheet, word processor, or text editor to refine the list of folders that are required to be backed up. While some of the following commands are specific to one file type (extension), multiple file types can often be specified on the command line.

In Windows Explorer, search for *.png OR *.gif OR *.jpg OR *.jpeg*. Select all files, and copy them to wherever you want

Use the Everything utility from voidtools (https://www.voidtools.com) to locate all JPG files. Save the list of JPG files and their folders to a comma-separated values (CSV) file using File – Export – CSV Files (*.csv). Review the list of files and folders. Copy the required folders to an external USB drive.

List all JPG files in all sub-folders:
DIR \*.jpg /s

List just the folders containing JPG files (e.g. Directory of D:\Dad4PhotoFrame):
DIR \*.jpg /s | FIND ” Directory of ” > DirList.txt

Use a for-in-do loop to list all JPG, GIF, and PNG files:
for %e in (jpg gif png) do (dir /s *.%e) | FIND ” Directory of ” >> DirList.txt

Use a PowerShell script to remove the leading “Directory of”:
get-content DirList.txt | foreach-object {
  $_ -replace ‘ Directory of ‘,”
} > DirList-Bare.txt

Use a PowerShell script to list the folders containing JPG files (e.g. D:\Dad4PhotoFrame):
dir c:\*.jpg -Recurse | Select Directory -Unique | sort Directory | export-csv c:\users\ralf\desktop\All_JPGs.csv

Use a for-in-do loop to copy multiple file types:
for /R “C:\” %E in (*.png *.jpg *.jpeg *.gif) do copy “%E” “E:\allPictures\”

Use xcopy to maintain the folder structure:
for %e in (jpg gif) do (xcopy E:\agtemp2\*.%e G:\agtemp2\ /s)

Use RoboCopy to maintain the folder structure, record the items copied to a log file, and (using the /L) switch show what will happen without actually copying anything:
ROBOCOPY e:\agtemp2 g:\agtemp2 *.jpg *.gif /S /LOG:e:\logs\robo-jpg-gif.txt /L

Faxing from your computer
(08-Jul-2020)

faxZERO

FaxZero (https://faxzero.com) will let you send faxes for free to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Each free fax is limited to 3 pages plus a cover sheet. A paid version allows sending more pages. For frequent faxing, there are by-the-month services. Or, use a cheap fax machine or multi-function printer (requires a landline.)

Fancy Zones
by Chris Taylor (08-Jul-2020)

Using this PowerToys utility from Microsoft, how do you define different zones for different monitors (in a multi-monitor setup) and for different desktops (using Windows Virtual Desktops).

The trick is to load the zone editor on the desktop for which you want to define the zones. In multi-monitor mode, you can just switch to the
monitor you want (click the mouse somewhere on the screen) and press the hotkey for the zone editor (default is Win+`). Or, you can launch the PowerToys app from the system tray, drag it to the monitor you want, and then click the Edit Zones button. When you apply new zones, they will apply to that monitor.

In Virtual Desktops, do the same (load Zone Editor on the virtual desktop you want). When you apply a zone, it will apply to that virtual desktop. But, the settings are not retained if the virtual desktop is deleted and then started again; it will pick up the same zones as your main desktop. However, if you don’t delete the virtual desktop, when you reboot, the virtual desktop is recreated automatically and the zones you defined for that desktop are re-established. Cool!

Fancy Zones

Always show file extensions
by Chris Taylor (03-Jun-2020)

Since Windows 95, file extensions for registered file types are hidden by default. This can affect hundreds of file types, such as Word documents (*.docx), PDF files (*.pdf) and programs (*.exe). This can be a security issue. For example, let’s say someone sends you a file, or you download a file,  that is displayed in File Explorer as SecurityAlert.pdf.

Default settings

Is this truly a PDF file? Well, probably not if you are using the default settings for File Explorer. The registered file type PDF should have been hidden and the file displayed as “SecurityAlert, i.e. without the .PDF.  And, don’t be fooled by the icon for Adobe Reader – it’s trivially easy to add any icon to an executable file.

The file may actually be named SecurityAlert.pdf.exe. This is an executable file, a computer program, that may well be malware intended to do some form of harm to your system.

The problem is that, by default, Windows 10 hides the true extension (.exe) of the file. The double extension, i.e. the inclusion of .pdf in addition to .exe, is being used to trick unwary users into believing that the file is of a different type than it actually is.

To prevent any confusion, the default settings for File Explorer should be changed so that the extension of each file is always displayed. To do this, open File Explorer, select the View tab (1 below), and check the box marked File name extensions (2 below). The full file name is then displayed as “SecurityAlert.pdf.exe” (3 below).

File name extensions checked

Note that in the second screenshot, the full file name is displayed as “SecurityAlert.pdf.exe”. This tells you two things at a glance:
(1) The file is a program, not a document.
(2) Someone is trying to trick you into believing their malicious program is a harmless Adobe Reader document. The fact that they went to the trouble to add the icon for Adobe Reader to their program gives further confirmation that they are trying to trick you.

Laptop

QuestionI am in the process of looking for a new laptop. I have not been a fan of Apple products, nor am I a gamer.  How shall I determine my requirements such as the type of hardware, screen size, processor speed, storage capacity, and sound quality? Do I look for an external camera and a DVD/CD player?

by Chris Taylor (27-May-2020)
There are almost as many answers as people wanting to buy laptops! However, some items to consider are:

  • Start with your budget and see what you can get for that
  • Decide the screen size you want
  • If your budget allows, go for a Core-i5 7th gen or later, or an AMD Ryzen 5 or better
  • A minimum of 8 GB RAM
  • 1 TB storage (HDD) or, if your budget allows 512 GB SSD
  • Keep in mind the number of USB ports you want (Type-A or Type-C)
  • All laptops (should) have a webcam
  • Do you really need a CD/DVD? That will limit choices severely. You can always get a portable unit for under $30.
  • Shop the sales; two seemingly equal computers can differ by $500!

[Editor’s Note: And, when OPL restore their series of information sessions (https://opcug.ca/opl-presentations/), look for Chris’s comprehensive discussion on How to Buy a PC.]

[Don't] Pay As You Go!
by Alan German (29-Apr-2020)

Don't Pay As You Go! I “cut the cord” on my landline telephone and moved exclusively to the use of my cellphone.  I looked through my past cellphone bills and created a spreadsheet of the number and frequency of telephone calls, text messages, and data usage.  From the data it was clear that a pay-as-you-go service would accommodate my specific needs and cost considerably less than a monthly plan. My choice of provider was Petro-Canada Mobility whose pay-for-what-you-use plan provides calls at 30 ¢/min; text messages at 15 ¢ each, and Internet data at 15 ¢/MB. These rates are all fine until I need to talk to a friend or a relative for an extended period, and especially if I need to make some sort of support call where I get put on hold and then spend hours troubleshooting a problem.  Then, the rate of 30 ¢/min would really blow through the dollars and quickly wipe out any savings on my previous plan. So, how do I save money under such circumstances?  The answer is to use an app to make free outgoing calls.  Two possibilities are Fongo Mobile and WhatsApp Messenger.  I use the Android version of these apps but there are also versions available for the iPhone. Both apps use VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).  This effectively provides a free connection over an available Wi-Fi system, but can also result in the occasional bad connection and call dropout.
Fongo Mobile
Fongo provides a local Ottawa telephone number which means incoming calls on this number from anyone in the local area will be toll free.  However, it also means having a second  telephone number to deal with.  My preference, therefore, is to use Fongo exclusively for outgoing calls when I know they are likely to take considerable time.  Some other features of Fongo are free “Canada-wide” (except to the territories) calling, inexpensive international rates (e.g. 2¢/min to the US and UK), and free Fongo-to-Fongo connections.
WhatsApp Messenger

WhatsApp provides free text, telephone calls, and video chats but only on a WhatsApp-to-WhatsApp connection (however, this includes international contacts).  The app is smart enough to display only those in your list of contacts who are also subscribed to WhatsApp.  Sending a text message provides the ability to attach photos, videos, documents, and even voice messages.

A quick look at VPNs
by Chris Taylor (29-Apr-2020)

At the 2020-04-29 Q&A session, I presented some quick thoughts on VPNs.

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. When you enable a VPN service, all your network traffic is encrypted and sent directly to the VPN server, which can be located anywhere in the world. Most companies running VPN services have VPN servers dispersed around the world and you can choose which to use. Once your traffic hits the VPN server, it is decrypted and sent on to your intended destination. To the destination (your bank, Facebook, Netflix, etc.), your traffic appears to be coming from the VPN server. When traffic comes back from that destination, it comes into the VPN server, gets encrypted and forwarded on to your computer where it is decrypted by the VPN service running on your computer.

Traffic routing without a VPN

Without a VPN, if you are at a coffee shop, anyone on the WiFi at the same location can sniff the traffic if it is not already encrypted (such as when browsing using http:// rather than https://…) The destination servers see your traffic as originating wherever the WiFi router is, i.e. in Canada.

Traffic routing with a VPN

With a VPN, your traffic follows the green path. All network traffic is encrypted between your computer and the VPN server and travels in so-called “encrypted tunnels”. All destination servers see your traffic as originating in the location (i.e. the country)  of the VPN server.

Good aspects of VPNs

  • You can evade geoblocking, where a service is unavailable because of (for example) your country of origin. If you use a VPN server that is located in a different country, your traffic appears to originate there.
  • While on a WiFi connection, your traffic cannot be sniffed by others on the same WiFi.
  • If your ISP is blocking access to sites that they feel are objectionable, or if they are throttling certain types of traffic, a VPN can get around this because the ISP cannot determine the sites you are visiting, the type of traffic, or the protocols you are using.

Bad aspects of VPNs

  • You could have a false sense of security if you think VPNs do anything more than they actually do.
  • You have to trust your VPN provider. They have access to all the information that flows between you and all the destinations you connect to other than traffic that is encrypted separately (for example if you connect to an https:// web site). They do know all the sites you visit.
  • Generally, a VPN service will cost money. There are some VPN services that will give you some VPN for free (TunnelBear – https://www.tunnelbear.com/ – will give you 500MB per month for free.) You can also use the Opera browser which will allow you to toggle free VPN-like services while browsing.
  • A VPN might slow your access. All your traffic is being routed through the VPN server and if it is congested, everything could bog down.
  • If you switch back and forth from the VPN being on and off, it can cause some services (Gmail is one of them) to think your account has been hacked, since you appear to be coming from Ottawa one minute and from Paris the next. They may lock your account.
  • There are countries where using a VPN, other than one that is sanctioned by the state, is illegal. This includes countries such as China, Russia, Iran, UAE, and Iraq. If you take your laptop on a trip outside of Canada, check to make sure you won’t end up in jail and/or paying a hefty fine!

Take Control with Quick Assist
by Chris Taylor and Alan German (08-Apr-2020)

Does someone you know need help with their computer but is some distance away such that it’s not convenient to travel in order to physically access their machine?  What you need is remote-control software.  Fortunately, one such package is built into Windows 10.  Meet Quick Assist – remote-control software that will let you see their screen, control their mouse and keyboard, and provide the ability for you to fix their problems, or show them how to accomplish tasks. All this without you needing to be at their location.

Both of you need to run the program.  Navigate to Start – Windows Accessories – Quick Assist, or simply type Quick into the search box.  Running the Quick Assist app will display a dialogue box (see screenshot).  On your computer, press the blue Assist another person button.  You will now need to sign in with a Microsoft account. For most people, the userid and password you use to login to Windows is a Microsoft Account. The person you are assisting does not need a Microsoft Account.

The system now displays a one-time, six-digit security code (which will expire in ten minutes).  Provide this code to the person you are assisting, for example, by telephone or E-mail.  They now enter this code into their Quick Assist box labeled Code from assistant and press the Share screen button.

A dialogue box now offers you the choice to Take full control or View screen.  Full control is the default option.  Press Continue.  A new dialogue box is now displayed on the other person’s screen saying Select Allow to let view your screen during this session.  The person you are assisting presses Allow.

The Quick Assist window on your computer now displays the other person’s desktop.  Any mouse actions or keystrokes you make are replicated to the other computer.  You can launch programs from the desktop icons, open the Start menu, change settings, install software, or do just about anything else on the remote  computer.  There is an option for annotation with which you can draw lines and circles to bring attention to the location of some feature on the desktop.  Other options include selecting the screen if the other person has multiple monitors, screen scaling, and pausing screen sharing (if the person getting assistance needs to type or display something sensitive).

You, or the person you are assisting, can stop the remote session at any time by simply closing the Quick Assist window.

Quick Assist

Freeing up More Disk Space
by Alan German and Chris Taylor (08-Jan-2020)

We have seen previously how to reclaim disk space by tweaking access to the Recycle Bin using the Disk Cleanup utility, and how to use a utility such as TreeSize Free to check what is hogging the available disk space.

The latter came in useful recently, when Windows was issuing a disk-full error.  Running TreeSize Free, and selecting Drive C: to be scanned, allowed the identification of a number of large folders that were redundant.  These included a 4.7 GB folder, plus a number of associated smaller folders, that were left over after uninstalling Android Studio.

Another oddball entry in the list of folders was found in the Users/toaster/AppData/Local/ directory (where “toaster” is my user name on the computer).  Here, a folder named VirtualStore contained a sub-folder named XnView that was using almost a quarter of a gigabyte of disk space.  This was yet another redundant folder left after uninstalling the XnView image manager.

TreeSize Free

Once identified, such redundant folders were easily removed by right-clicking on the folder name and selecting the Delete option in the context menu.  It should be noted, however, that when running TreeSize Free as a regular user, the resulting disk space is not reclaimed until the computer is rebooted.  To have files deleted immediately, use Shift-Delete.

Another utility that can be used to recover disk space is CCleaner. It can remove a lot of useless files. But be careful! It can also remove some really useful stuff such as saved passwords, browser history, and taskbar jump lists.

The safest way to use CCleaner is to click on Custom Clean in the left panel.

On the Windows tab, select only:

  •      Microsoft Edge: Internet cache
  •      Internet Explorer: Temporary Internet Files, and Index.dat files
  •      System: Memory Dumps, and Chkdsk File Fragments

On the Applications tab, select only:

  •      Internet Cache and Compact Databases for every browser listed

Review the list of all that CCleaner can remove and if you are sure you don’t need some category listed, select it.

Then click the Analyze button. Once the analysis completes, review what CCleaner says it will remove and, if you are happy with the list, click the Run Cleaner button.

CCleaner

Finally, we recommend that nobody use the CCleaner option for Registry Cleaner. If you don’t believe us, read:   https://decentsecurity.com/registry-cleaners/

Questions – and answers – from previous years are posted in our archives section:

Do you have a question? – We have an answer!

Send your question to us by E-mail:
Q and A