What shall I do with a new computer?

July 6, 2014 at 2:02 pm (computers) (, , , , , )

I’ve just bought my daughter a new laptop and so there are a number of things I always like to do to get it usable by someone in the family.

First off, being a refurbished laptop, I’d like to get it back to factory installed state – well no problems there, The supplier did that anyway, and in this case included the repair image on a second partition on the hard disk and including a factory restore DVD.
So, my todo list shapes up as follows:

  • Set up an adminstrator account for me and a standard account for my daughter.
  • Remove the default accounts (this has a ‘user’ account with no password, for adminstrator).
  • Uninstall any unwanted trial or free software – things like trial versions of security and office software.
  • Uninstall software that will be really out of date and will need updating (like Java and Adobe Acrobat reader).
  • Connect to the network and run Windows updates.  Being a refurbished laptop, this takes quite a long time – around 150 updates and a service pack to install … sigh.
  • Install MS Security Essentials – includes an update and virus scan, and setting up a regular scan – I suggest either daily with a low CPU usage (e.g. 30%) or weekly with a higher usage (but the machine isn’t always on for the weekly scan).
  • Set up parental controls.
  • Set up MS Windows Live Family Safety.
  • Install a second browser if required (e.g. firefox or chrome).
  • Reinstall standard software from the web in its latest versions (Java, Adobe reader, Infrarecorder, other MS Live programmes).
  • Install any licensed software we are entitled to from our other student purchases (we have various things bought from software4students that can be used on multiple machines).
  • If I’m feeling optimistic I might also install something like Scratch or Python – sometimes it can spark an interst in learning a bit about programing.
  • When largely complete, I’ll login as them and set up a few basics – browser home page, power plan, nice background, etc.
  • Then I might install any special case software they want – e.g. to sync to their phone or whatever.
  • Setup some kind of local, automatic (e.g. weekly) backup – if there is space, I might configure it for regular backup onto the second partition.  This naturally doesn’t protect against disk failure of being stolen, but gives some level of accidental or malicious problem recovery.
  • Perform a full system backup onto my non-local backup media (I’ll repeat this from time to time just to be safe).
  • Create some recovery disks if it seems likely this is required – it can often speed up restoring it to some kind of usable state without having to redo all of the above in the case of problems.

Finally, if this for a family member, they need the “don’t give out personal information”, “your PC is running parental controls to stop you doing anything that breaks it” and “when it tells you to update something – you must do it, as I won’t be checking it for you” talks before I let them log in.

Then I can get back to non-IT support related things to do.



Permalink Leave a Comment

Using Windows 7 as an IP Router

December 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm (computers, moan) (, , )

Short answer – don’t, use a bootable Linux distribution instead – really, I’m sure it will be less trouble!

Still, my laptop is Windows 7 and I have a cross-over Ethernet cable and from time to time I’d like to connect to something via a point to point Ethernet connection through my laptop using my laptop’s Wifi connection to the Internet – can that be done?  Yes – sort of, as long as you don’t try to be too intelligent about it!

Windows 7 provides Internet Connection Sharing – in theory – when you have a lan and WiFi connection, simply right-click on the WiFi network, select properties and then the “share” tab.  Once this is done, the TCP/IP properties for IPv4 on the Lan interface get changed to a static IP address – in my case (I didn’t choose this, Windows did) – and anything connected over the Lan can request an IP address from the laptop using DCHP.

However, what is weird is that if you do ipconfig /all on the laptop, IP routing is shown as disabled and there is no evidence of a DHCP or routing service running on the laptop.  Also, my Lan network always seems to come up as an Unidentified Network according to Windows no matter what I do.

So, my advice if you really want to use Windows 7 like this:

  • Don’t attempt to configure IP routing by hand (as you’d think you’d have to) – following Internet tech articles to enable IP routing on Windows doesn’t seem to help.
  • Don’t try to enable the “Routing and Remote Access” service – that doesn’t seem to help at all either.
  • Don’t attempt to set up IP routes by hand – route print will show a basic routing table for both interfaces, but don’t attempt to do anything like tell the Lan interface that the default route should be via the WiFi interface or anything like that.
  • Don’t attempt to set up a DHCP server by hand – using ICS, magic does seem to happen (I’ve seen the wireshark traces to prove it) even though there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of the laptop running a DHCP server.
  • Don’t attempt to set the network type of the Lan interface to anything like Home or Work – once ICS is running, it doesn’t seem to matter that Windows thinks it is Unidentified.
  • Don’t set a static IP address on the Lan interface yourself, just let Windows use what it wants to, and accept that the Lan interface will use (or whatever else ICS chooses for you).
  • Don’t attempt to turn the firewall off, configure special routes through it or otherwise fiddle with it at all!  Like everything else in Windows, it keeps all that nasty,  messy stuff about actually knowing what your firewall lets in and out nicely hidden away!

In short – if you need to share you Windows Internet connection then just let ICS do its stuff and hope the magic just works – don’t bother try to do anything clever yourself, like trying to actually understand why it is working or not.

And if ICS doesn’t work for you, then you can try resetting TCP/IP, rebooting, disabling and re-enabling sharing, disabling and re-enabling adaptors.  But if none of that gets it going again – then my advice is to get that bootable Linux distribution, because from what I’ve seen so far no one seems to expect you to be able to debug ICS!  Certainly it doesn’t appear to be consistent or integrated with any of the TCP/IP tools Windows provides that actually let you see what is going on (although I’ve not ruled out some deep netsh magic – but my interest has waned now).

So I do have ICS working to share my WiFi across to my lan interface, but have:

  • No evidence of running a DHCP server, although DHCP is working.
  • No evidence of any firewall configuration updates, but packets are being let in and out.
  • No evidence of IP routing being enabled but packets are being forwarded between networks.
  • No questions asked about IP configuration for my “subnet” but a configuration has been set.

So it does all appear to work.  For now.  But how and why is opaque to me and I’ve given up trying to understand it with the tools I seem to have at my disposal.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Wireshark lua problem on Windows 7

June 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm (computers) (, , )

Warning: geek post, largely as a reminder-to-self if I have this problem again!

I wanted to use lua with wireshark and followed all the instructions on the web to get it running … but it wouldn’t work.

After quite a lot of head scratching, I finally went off to a dos box running as admin to run wireshark and look at the files to see if I can see what was going on (everything I could see from the Windows GUI Looked fine).  It turns out that the uncommenting you need to do in init.lua to make it worked hadn’t been done … but I had done it!

I think what was happening is that the new filesystem virtualisation stuff in Windows was kicking in.  As a normal user, I could edit the init.lua file in the wireshark directory and even save it and see it again.  But Windows wasn’t changing the real file.  When I opened it as admin, I could see that the change hadn’t actually been made to the real file – so I changed it as admin and now it all works.

I can see the reasoning behind all this, from a security and backwards compatibility point of view.  But if you get caught by it, it can waste a lot of time!


Permalink Leave a Comment

Error 13: Invalid or Unsupported Executable Format

October 27, 2009 at 8:25 pm (computers) (, , , )

Just a quick techy post.

I was setting up Windows 7 on my laptop, which trashed access to the existing Linux Ubuntu installation on the machine (as any Windows install will do).  By the way – if you want to install Windows 7 on a free partition to dual boot, its possible, but I had to make the free partition ‘active’ to make Windows recognise it as a ‘system’ partition … but I digress.

Anyway, I followed the instructions in this post – http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=224351 – to restore the boot loader (Grub) and get Linux booting again, but then had to add an entry to allow me to select the new Windows installation.

Well, again I was able to use the usual way you get another non-Linux OS running within Grub, and there are loads of resources on the Internet to tell you how to do this.

For me it was an entry like this in menu.lst:

title          Windows 7
rootnoverify   (hd0,1)
chainloader    +1

But I was getting the error “Invalid or Unsupported Executable Format”.  After quite a bit of searching around, with lots of varied responses to this particular error, I just couldn’t see what was wrong.

Then, after staring at the grub configuration for quite a long time, eventually I realised that the rootnoverify command had no space between the rootnoverify and the brackets – i.e. “rootnoverify(hd0,1)” … after adding a space, as shown above, all was well.

This post is just in case someone else has the same problem, and to remind them that before they start trying all the variants of grub commands and partition numbers that the Internet serves up in response to that error, do check the exact syntax of the menu.lst file first!


(Now thats enough geek for today)

Permalink 2 Comments