Saturday, 7 March 2020

Can't Click on Settings in Google Home App

So with Microsoft crapping all over Wunderlist now, my wife and I have had to find a new, free, syncable option that works with our Google Home Mini.

As we are in Canada, Google Shopping was unavailable - I liked that it was theoretically able to work offline - something we have found important in the past when we haven't had data on our phones, and something we still value as out in the country here, data and wifi are still things that aren't 100% reliable.

Today I thought again about Google Keep as another option - my wife had complained about the ads that appeared in Google Shopping, and we both didn't really like the interface.

After a few minutes fiddling with Google Keep, I was super happy to see how many boxes it actually checked off - and as a bonus, it looked like it could even fill in for my wife's Microsoft OneNote commitments.

I was able to use her Google Home App on her phone to switch the default note app on our Home Mini to Keep, so she can verbally add things to our shared shopping list.  Bonus!

Imagine my annoyance when on my Google Home App, I was unable to click on ANY of the Google Assistant options.

I removed and reinstalled Google Home - but no dice.  I started researching Google Assistant, and decided to re-download it onto my phone to see if I could get at the required settings through it.  It complained that there was a problem with my phone once it was installed.  That's when all these similar looking icons and logos made me wonder about their cross-integration.  I remembered that I had mercilessly gone through my phone and disabled all apps that I wasn't committed to using, and that were impossible to install.  An app called simply "Google" was on that list.  From my experience, it just served up time wasting news clips.

Re-enabling it, updating it, and then returning to my Google Home application suddenly allowed me to make the required changes.  I guess I could uninstall the assistant and the Google app again, but maybe I'll let them ride for a bit and see how intrusive they just may be.

TLDR: Ensure that the Google App on your phone is also enabled and updated before attempting to make changes in the Google Home App.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Youtube Restricted Mode Issues on Roku

So, between having a tween in the house, and our own preference to avoid salacious or overly profane content on the internets, we like to keep what content we consume fairly open with one another.

We also rather dislike excessive and intrusive advertising while we are online.  As such, all of our laptops have the uBlock Origin extension installed nearly by default.  Also, I cannot recommend the Shut Up extension enough.  It makes Youtube bearable.

Recently we have noticed that while watching Youtube videos on our two Roku televisions, many educational videos have suddenly been coming up as "unable to view in Restricted Mode - switch to a G Suite account" or some such drivel.  At first we blew it off, but lately it has seemed as though almost half the videos we have tried to watch have been flagged this way, and it's been very annoying.

Yes, I have gone into my account and ensured that "Restricted Mode" was off.

Yes, I have uninstalled and reinstalled the application on the Roku.

Finally this morning I believe I have cracked the issue.  It wasn't with the Roku at all.

One quick and easy way to protect your family internet use is to switch from your ISP's default DNS to something like OpenDNS - something I have done for years to "good" effect.  Questionable content is always a matter of a combination of personal taste and playing whack-a-mole.  OpenDNS does a great job of it, and it was my go-to and will likely remain so.

But, in an effort to reduce online advertising - I recently switched from OpenDNS to AdGuardFamilyProtectionDNS.  I'm also all about streamlining, so instead of doing this on each of our laptops, I always just make these changes at the router level, and the laptops just have DHCP set to automatic (with occasional IP reservations again at the router level).

Well, on a lark today, I switched back from AdGuard to OpenDNSFamilyShield and immediately, the videos resumed playing as we expected!  Awesome!

So that's about it - if you're getting this restricted mode issue on your Roku devices, it's likely because you have some sort of DNS blocking issue at the router level (Roku devices seem to be unable to set their own IP and DNS addresses - at least I could find no evidence that it is possible).  You'll have to log in to your router and switch up the DNS settings from there.

I'd recommend Google's DNS if you want things wide open. and
I'd strongly recommend OpenDNSFamilyShield if you want to block loads of crap, but still have a seamlessly functioning internet for adults. and


Sunday, 29 September 2019

Bluetooth Mouse Connection Issues Solved

EDIT: This did not work consistently, and I ended up chucking out all the cheap Aliexpress Mice I had purchased.  I have given up on cheap Bluetooth Mice for now.  I believe good quality ones exist, but I haven't found them yet.  I will leave this up as a guide for others who may wish to exhaust all options before following in my footsteps...

At least, I hope they are solved finally.  I'll revisit and delete or modify this post if it's just been a fluke.

I recently opted to purchase several mid-priced bluetooth mice from Aliexpress.  After using the first one for an afternoon, the dropped connections that only seemed to be solved by switching it off and on again were really getting me frustrated.  I changed out my usual AAA rechargeable batteries for brand new alkaline ones, but that didn't solve the problem.

Now I think I have figured that the issue is with the default Windows settings for bluetooth - you need to hit up the Device Manager (WIN + X) and then the bluetooth devices.  Pick your adapter, either generic, or Intel, or whichever it may be, and then under power management, turn OFF the option for Windows to be able to control the power to it.

Not sure why, but Windows will shut it off even if you've only left it dormant a few seconds.  Blah.

I am not blaming Microsoft, perhaps these cheap devices aren't using standard protocols or something...  But at least this is a quick and easy fix.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Macrium Reflect Mysterious Opening Windows - Solved!

I love Macrium Reflect - not denying that.  It works very well for imaging drives (except when it doesn't - but that's usually a hardware issue with the drive itself).

But lately it's been acting weird for me.  A few times a day, I would notice that there was a nearly empty window that had opened itself up and only had a "close" button.

Today I finally took the time to use the drop down menu at the top and realized that it was a window opened by a certain hotkey combination - alt-ctrl-m.

This may not be a common one for many of you, but I use that combo a few times a day to <comment> in Google Sheets.

I just unchecked the "use hotkey" radio box, and I anticipate all should be well with the world again.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

What to do when .gdoc and .gsheet no longer open correctly.

Okay, so here's a problem I've had for a long time and only just ciphered out this morning.

I use Dropbox for most of my file syncronizing needs.  It is very frustrating to use - I don't approve of some of the business decisions they have made as a company, they have killed off several useful features (currently the predicted time of sync), and they don't have a good way to share plans with family.

But I also really enjoy using Google Docs - it's very helpful to not have to have an office suite installed on my smaller computers, and the instant syncronizing of spreadsheets and documents is a real boon.

I would have switched to Google Drive last week, if only they offered a 1TB package similar to what Dropbox does...  Instead, they jump from 200GB (too little) to 2TB (too much) - I need that Goldilocks zone!

Anyway, I keep Google Backup and Sync running in the background so I have a local copy of my documents - they would be pretty devastating to lose if something ever happened to my Google Account.  I also like to organize the documents on my local drive to help keep them clear in my head.

The issue I had was that sometimes I'd see a document locally and want to open it from my drive, rather than try to use the web-based documents interface, which isn't very intuitive for an old-timer like me.

Somehow the association must have broken at some point, and of course, I tried to open them with Chrome - a natural assumption, as you view and manipulate them in Chrome.  Unfortunately, they wouldn't open.  You'd get a cryptic address that CONTAINED the online address for the file, with other settings, but didn't actually OPEN the file.

Google searches were surprisingly unhelpful!  Hence this post to help anyone out...

Change the association for .gdoc and .gsheet from Chrome to Google Backup and Sync!  It then passes along the proper address to Chrome anyway and things work as expected.

So in file explorer, you right click, scroll down to "open with..." and on the next screen, first make sure you check the box "always use this programme to open files of this type" and then select backup and sync as the programme to open with.  If it isn't immediately displayed, select the more option, and if it still isn't there, then select that you will search for a programme, and drill down to the backup and sync executable (C:\Program Files\Google\Drive\googledrivesync.exe on my machine).

It's as simple as dat!  (Simple, but not easy - at least for me, and seemingly many, many others...)

Friday, 18 January 2019

Problems Imaging a microSD card with Win32DiskImager or balenaEtcher- Access is Denied Error 5. Bonus Safe Mode From Windows 10 Easy Access.

So I dusted off our RetroPie and was trying to reimage the microSD card in it.  Should have been easy-peasy, but instead, it was very frustrating.  I tried using the recommended "balenaEtcher" but got nowhere but unhelpful "denied" type errors.  I also tried using the tried and true Win32DiskImager and still received the same messages.

I puzzled over it a few hours, repartitioning, reformatting, trying to use my phone or camera to low level format the card, using different SD to USB adapters and different cards, all to no avail.

Then I contemplated that perhaps Windows 10 was doing fritzy stuff in the background with the card.

A quick reboot into safe mode, and things worked just fine.  It is annoying, and takes twice as long to do, but it works.

Safe mode in most versions of Windows wasn't challenging to access by tapping F8 while booting up.  Windows 10 has changed that, so it's easiest to get access by holding down the Windows key and pressing "R" (for run).  Then type in "msconfig" and tap enter.  Select the "boot" tab, and then check the box for "Safe Boot".

Apply/OK (what purpose does having two keys serve?) and you're all set.  Reboot your system, image your card, and reboot again!

Friday, 4 January 2019

Accessing Hidden Advanced Settings on a Linksys EA9200 Router

I'm having a few regrets about supplying this router to a client.  It seems to have some spotty connection issues, so I've swapped it for an Asus and brought it home to test on my own home network.

It was very disheartening to realize that it doesn't support any third party firmware (no DD-WRT, OpenWRT or Tomato?!)

In the meantime, I wanted to play with some of the more advanced settings on it to suit my own situation - and low and behold, they've not provided access to those settings for owners by any documented manner.

Fortunately, I did find a reference to similar models having a "hidden" advanced settings screen that does indeed work on this model too.

When you hit up the home screen of the web interface, simply substitute "advanced-wireless" for "home" in the address bar, and you'll be all set.

Enjoy!  If I discover anything earth shattering, I'll try to report back.