John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Chromebooks what are they and is there a place for them?

The title is exactly where I am starting from, I wondered WTF are Chromebooks, who might buy them, and is there a place for them in todays crowded marketplace. Based on the number of devices out there one can easily assume it’s a booming market sector, which even more peaks my curiosity. So, there was not a chance I was going to buy one to write this article, now if I loved the experience … well then. So off we go. It’s important to note that Chromium OS was never intended as a generic OS to be consumer installed, it was meant to be bought on a laptop ready to go, installed and configured by the OEM. Based on Linux, and based on more recent hardware the older the hardware the more sketchy your experience will be. It’s important to note I am running this off a USB stick, is a developer edition (so likely heavy with debug code) and lacks some functionality such as the Playstore which would allow me to run Android apps. Some Chromebooks do not even support the Playstore, so be aware, without it your use case is EVEN MORE limited, if that is even possible. Processor wise, you also want to be careful, some are based om ARM processors which will mean putting something like Linux/Windows onto the Chromebook should you get bored will be unlikely. Memory and SSD wise I would not expect these to upgradeable at all, so make sure it has 4G for the best performance and the max number of open browser windows.

I downloaded the VMWare OVA from Neverware’s office web site but quickly ran into an inability to install VMware tools making this completely useless as the mouse was erratic.

I moved onto a roll your own usb stick from Neverware which made getting a stick up and running pretty easy. On my VERY OLD Dell Inspiron 3147, Pentium N 4G performance was ok, not zippy, with occasional pauses. Power management didn’t work well and the laptop did not come out of sleep well at all. The touch screen worked, as did the wireless, I disabled sleep in the power settings and things were better. On a more modern Lenovo L480 performance was better. Boot up time is a little longer than say windows, but your really intended to use sleep. Power management worked better on the L480, than on the Inspiron, but it would only come back out of sleep with a power button, not USB keyboard/mouse, but this might be a BIOS setting? Overall hardware support was better than I expected. From this same USB boot disk you can install to the hard drive, but this is quite hidden, that or I’m thick. But from the initial startup screen you click on the clock and then install. If you are already into Chrome OS click on the settings and click install OS. This will wipe your drive and install Neverwares Chrome OS onto your hard drive. It says it may take as much as 20 minutes. Drive space on the Live booted USB, even on a 64G USB stick had only 2G free making installing onto the hard drive more useful. I found performance off the USB stick noticeably slower than on an SSD. Once up and running performance is good, and on part with a Windows browsing experience on the same Pentium N, but not as instantaneous as I had imagined. And thus the problem with expectations … especially ones with no foundation 😦

From within the files app you can map SMB file shares to get at things like NAS and windows shares. I got this working but for some reason I had to use the IP rather than the name. Printer shares are another matter, they do not support SMB printers being shared, I could not get my LaserJet 1020 working even locally and seem to support a small number of protocols. We have a Canon MG2920 and this was found detected and installed. So if you need to be able to print from this device some research is necessary.

Chromebooks can also run Linux apps but this will require 3G free space and then space for the virtual machine. I had NO LUCK getting this working, it kept erroring out with no useful information. And googling it was not revealing either, so that thought died quickly. To support this will also require a processor that support virtualization, so again you need to be careful what you buy and do your homework or this avenue will also be shut to you. Here’s a list of all chromebooks that support Linux. It’s worth noting that this is intended to be used for developing, and is text mode Linux support only, so of limited use for the average Joe. Heh they even call it the Linux development environment …

The main purpose to Chromium OS is to provide a stable, relatively virus free browsing experience with Chrome as your only choice. The Chrome web store and extensions can be used to add additional functionality to your device, I quickly found XTRA Logic RDP and an SSH client.

I had no issue with keyboards, mice, USB ethernet adapters and even multi monitor working.

Chromium supports native setup for VPN and a number of different ways, so that’s nice.

You can get to a Chromium debug shell (at least on the Cloud ready release) by pressing CTRL-ALT-t. From there you can run some limited commands including top for example to see how much memory etc your using.

Once setup, your logon becomes your google account, and it’s not obvious how you would use, or would want to use, without a Google account. With that added all of your Chrome bookmarks, extensions from other computers and history from other devices are visible. Using the share feature a web page can easily be moved from one computer/iPad/Chromebook to another to pickup from where you left off. You can also cast out to a Chromecast to watch see a web page on a TV if your in the Google ecosystem.

So in the end, I’m glad I spent some time with Chromebook, and disappointed to not be able to try Android apps, that MIGHT have made the difference and justified keeping it, but as it is, I think my time for now Cloud Ready’s Chromium is done, nothing left to do … Next … And in the end, what is the use case? Not entirely sure I know, maybe if you had a bunch of them to loan out to students and were tired of having them come back crashed/etc, maybe?

January 19, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Long Point birding

We decided to make a trek out to the Long Point Port Rowan area in search of sandhill cranes. I had seen numerous people talk about this trip and while I was nervous that we would drive a long way and see nothing, this turned out to be NOT the case. In prep for the trip I used eBird to find the areas where Sandhill cranes had recently been seen following this blog post. The result was this map, each red dot is a sighting, which on eBird you can click on and see the details including when it was seen and how many. Narrow the date range as much as possible for current sightings:

The other species that are worth looking for in the area are tundra swans (we weren’t able to find them) and snowy owls which we found down on Long Point itself. You can do similar maps to above. So basically what you need to do is drive along 42 East/West (also called Lakeshore Rd), Concession Rd A East West and Concession Rd 1 East West between 59 and 23 and watch the farmers fields. These birds are large and can easily be seen in the air, it’s how I first found them. They are also VERY loud so can also easily be heard. Finding them turned out to be quite easy when we were there which was 1/8/2022. There were hundreds in the fields and locals said their number can range well over 1000. The grey coats of the sandhill stand out in the snow. You can also look for the cars with lenses sticking out at them as an indication there are Sandhills in the area. This map shows you what we actually did, recorded using an exercise ap. Everywhere you see a mark on the track that’s a place we stopped for pics (or a stop light ;)).

The marsh area all along in the center is also a favorite for Sandhill Cranes.

We took along a picnic lunch to maximize our time with the birds. FYI Long Point Provincial park is actually closed for the winter season. We found two adjacent fields the sandhills were enjoying with a road separating them and the sandhills were shuttling between the two overhead giving lots of opportunities for birds in flight shots. For this I set the camera on max shutter speed to freeze the large wings. This gave us the closest pics of the birds as the farmers fields are large and trespassing on their fields is not appreciated, so your a reasonable distance from them. A good zoom lens really helps and a monopod or tripod isn’t a bad idea but I didn’t use one. My camera is a Canon T7i with a Sigma 150-600 and my GFs camera is a Nikon P900 mega zoom bridge camera.

Be sure and take extra batteries and extra memory cards as you will take a LOT of photos. On our trip we were there for most of the day and took 1920 shots between 2 of us and saved 229 of the best. On the way we saw lots of red tail hawks, coopers hawks, and keep an eye open for kestrels on the wire. Snow buntings may also be around.

A complete gallery of everything we saw can be found here: Gallery

Here are a few samples from the gallery:

January 12, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

AEOMI Backupper

Ok, so so far, I’ve cover off Windows server backup as well as VEEAM backup and recovery At this point I have two remaining nagging issues: creating a more comprehensive, and flexible file level backup as well as a bare metal restore backup for my main file server. To say this server is critical is an understatement. This server holds all of my most precious files. These files are all behind mirrors, and those drives are being watched by Stable bit scanner. To digress for a moment, Stable bit scanner does two things, first it watches the SMART drive parameters that attempt to look for predictive signs that a drive is about to die. This also allows you to monitor the drives temperature to look for issues like over heating. This code can email you anytime an issue is found, if you set that up. BUT, what it also does is to scan the entire drive surface for bad sectors. A sector can be written, and for things not touched for a long time you may never know that a sector has degraded and no longer readable if you aren’t checking. This is what Stable Bit scanner does.

Ok, now back to Backupper. My server is running Windows server 2019 which limits the code you can use. In hindsight it was probably a bad choice, but it is what it is … So I looked through a myriad of choices and landed on this one, AEOMI Backupper. They had a Christmas/New Year special that brought this down to a price I could swallow. I tried the demo first and put it through the paces. I confirmed a FULL bare metal backup and restore, it worked, as well as confirmed the ability to restore from different points in time. So what all can this Swiss Army knife of backup tools do? Well lots. Let’s start off with the primary limitation of this tool, while you can have multiple flexible tasks, only one can run at a time. So for internet based backups/syncs (for example), this can be problematic as it will freeze all other tasks until complete. It means I won’t be able to use this code for sync, at least not initial sync as that would take days to weeks rendering backups paused. Ok with that limitation aside, let’s get started:

You can have three types of jobs, backup, sync and clone. You can have multiple different backup jobs, that each can have their own set of parameters from encryption, compression, location of backup, schedule, etc. You can setup a bare metal restore, and create a USB boot drive to be able to restore from. This USB drive can be based on WinPE or Linux based. Locations for backups can be to a local drive, an SMB file share (Windows share), a NAS, or a cloud provider assuming you have the cloud client software installed (Google drive, OneDrive, or DropBox appear to be supported). For cloud drives, as I mentioned above, remember only one job can run at a time so if it takes days for initial sync, your backups stall/pause until this is complete, so make sure the other jobs are done first. You can completely customize exactly what is being backed up. You can get emailed after each job, or only when errors. Log files of the backups are good but lack the detail of how long the backup took to complete or how much was actually backed up on incrementals for example. To see how much was backed up go to the directory where it was backed up to and you can see the incrementals as individual AEOMI image file. It would have been helpful to have both of these pieces of information in the log files. I was hoping to use this code also for offsite backup over the internet using a VPN, but this didn’t work out. Speaking with AEOMI I was told they only support the above internet sources and the code does NOT restart where it left off if the backup is interrupted as may happen over the internet. So this could be seen as a limitation as well. What I decided to do is to create a local backup of the files I want offsite, encrypt them, and make sure they are broken into small chunks that can easily be replicated. I chose 50MB and then will use a sync program like Syncthing to get these offsite. This pretty much allows me to have only the one program for file level backups for both on and offsite.

For offline backups you can do periodic backups to a location that is only occasionally available, but be aware the code does not handle this well as it keeps looking for the backup location. It still works fine, but the code does not seem to have taken this into account.

You can have AEOMI execute commands before/after backups which is a nice added feature.

The code appears to include the ability to move the backup location, but I couldn’t get this to work, it just kept not doing it in spite of clicking save and being prompted by this, (a rare bug in this code). I found it easier to just delete it and move it. I confirmed with AEOMI this is a known bug.

Backups can be encrypted using a password, and AEOMI confirmed the encryption key is 192 bits long. Here is what the manual says about encryption: One can assume shorter passwords would be easier to crack.

AOMEI Backupper offers easy encryption way to protect your backup images. The password is used as a key by the industry-standard AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) cryptographic algorithm, which will totally encrypt all data in the image.

  • A maximum of 64 characters is allowed.
  • You must remember your password or it will be impossible to recover your backup.
  • Currently the program does not support changing the password of a password-protected backup after the backup was created.

The ability to control each and every parameter of how ever many backup jobs you want is supremely flexible. Allowing you to spread your backups across as many locations and have as many versions of backups as you want. This means you don’t just have to have one large drive with one job as you do with Windows backup. This alone can save you money having to buy a large drive just support backups, which, I had done. Image files can be copied off and brought back for off site backups as well. This actually might work better than offline backups which as mentioned above don’t seem to be handled well.

The next two features I am less interested in so will include them just for the sake of completeness. Sync:

Clone is also there, which is nice to have when you need to upgrade or migrate drives.

January 10, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Windows server backup

I’ve been using Windows server backup for a LONG time now, it has it’s limitations, and quirks, but, first and foremost, it’s free, and has been included with Windows server for a long time. It’s really poorly documented IMHO. I use it for file level backups, and if you want any form of versioning, backups MUST be done to a volume, meaning you have to dedicate a drive to the backups, and this drive should be large enough to handle the size plus growth plus enough for incrementals. Microsoft recommends a minimum size of 1.5 times the original backup size. Sizing is really important because as the drive get’s full, behind the scenes the tool will start deleting incrementals without any warning or information on what’s been removed. And if the size of the backup approaches the size of the backup volume, it will start doing only full backups (not incrementals) which will mean less coverage (no versions of a file other than the last), will take longer periods of times and may not even complete. I ran into exactly this situation, hadn’t realized how large a directory had got, and backups were really for all purposes ineffective for a while. One the biggest short comings is that this tool provides no mechanisms to inform when backups are failing. The easiest way to get around this, it turns out, is to create a scheduled task that triggers when an event is raised in event viewer from Windows backup and then I email myself that it failed, I use a free mail service called Mailgun. The scheduled task looks like this.

  <Query Id="0" Path="Application">
    <Select Path="Application">*[System[Provider[@Name='Microsoft-Windows-Backup'] and (Level=2)]]</Select>
    <Select Path="Microsoft-Windows-Backup">*[System[Provider[@Name='Microsoft-Windows-Backup'] and (Level=2)]]</Select>

Another limitation of Windows Server backup is that you can only have ONE backup job. That means, one set of files, that backs up to one location, that runs on one schedule. So plan accordingly.

Initial backups are painfully slow and may take days to complete, subsequent incrementals are of course much faster. For example, it took 54 hours to do the initial backup which was 3.64TB, which translates to a speed of 19.7 MB/s, and that’s to and from local drives, and that’s without encryption. An incremental of this same fileset backed up 106GB of data in 4.5 hours. So this is not not, by far, the zippiest backup program of all time 😉 And if a backup hasn’t completed when the next scheduled backup goes to run, well it just throws an error and quits.

Every now and then, and I have no clue how it decides when to do this, it decides to Compact the backup volume. This takes and REALLY LONG time, think over a day and backups will fail while this is running. I see no way to disable this either.

So all in all given a myriad of limitation, it works, and can be made to do what you need … maybe.

January 5, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Samsung 24″ cheap monitor (LS24R350FZNXZA)

Since I’ve been working from home I’ve been using a 22″ VERY OLD, VERY CHEAP RCA RLED 2265 monitor, it’s been fine, but not the crispest, but it just won’t die.

Looking around I wanted something similar in size but crisper. I found a couple that were in a price I could swallow and this one was even on sale, $100 off, and then it wasn’t … I missed it. And then it was on sale again so I grabbed one. Now, I have NO EXPECTATIONS this is going to be one of the best monitors EVER but hoped it would be an improvement. I bought it from Bestbuy for $155 so if I didn’t like it I could just return it. Out of the box it includes an HDMI cable, a stand with all the hardware, and it even has a standard VESA mount on the back if you want it. The stand once assembled is a little flimsy, and taller than I would have preferred, that, and the height is not adjustable. About 10 cm off the table. The three legged stand takes a bit of room to the front of the monitor, 5cm and quite a but to the rear of it, 15cm, but all in all not horrible in terms of desk footprint.

The monitor is powered by a 25W brick with a reasonably long power cable. My old monitor drew around 30W for reference. Once powered on the monitor actually only draws about 12W so quite a bit less than my old monitor and low enough to be … who cares. Windows puts the monitor to sleep perfectly and in sleep mode it draws a mere .1W, impressive. It comes out of sleep perfectly. The old RCA had to be powered on and off manually.

The unit has both a HDMI and a SVGA port, but nothing else. You can switch manually between them using the menu button that is on the back of the monitor. Something you can get use to, but this is by means a video switch. In fact, for the input not selected the computer still sees it and so does not adjust it’s video settings.

So … you can not use this to switch between computers, so your still going to need a video switch if you want to move between two computers, as I am. I use a separte keyboard and video switch so I can direct them at will.

Video switch

Additionally I use Microsoft’s free Garage mouse to allow the mouse to move freely between a number of computers I have setup.

On initial setup I was having a LOT of issues with the way the monitor was auto detecting things. It seems, for whatever reason, the issue was a USB-C docking station that I had that had a HDMI port in it. Once this was out of the picture everything worked perfectly. I have it hooked up using the SVGA port, but there are no speakers on this monitor anyway, so no loss from using HDMI.

The monitor is crisp, and bright and works well, it’s a HUGE improvement over the RCA, and I would, in no time flat, be hard pressed to go back, I’ve been ruined. For the price I think this is a bargain, and should be much appreciated working from home, or editing photos.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

VEEAM backup Community edition (free)

There are only two kinds of people, those who have had data corruption (and have learned the value of good backups) and those that will, it’s inevitable. Hard drives fail, laptops get lost/stolen/broken etc. So having a good backup solution is your ONLY line of defense.

There are two different kinds of backups, one being file level, and one being bare metal backups. Bare metal backups are intended to quickly rebuild a machine that has gone poof, an entire hard drive has died etc. In this article I will address bare metal restores. I’ll have a future article on file level backups.

I’ve been using VEEAM for a while now and I’d love to say this, it is HANDS DOWN the best product I’ve ever used … MEH it’s not that. It is, however an almost complete solution to my backup situation in the home … At the center of this code is a VEEAM backup server. This acts as the repository and the console to all your backups. So, in a nutshell, what can this do? Well … you can use it to backup licensed VMware ESX servers, as well as HYPERV hosts, and it can also backup Windows, Mac and Linux clients. And the backups of these clients is BARE metal restore. The VEEAM server provides you the tools to make a USB boot device that will pull from your repository over the networks and get you back up and running. The USB boot is done using WinPE so any devices supported by windows will be supported. This is BY FAR the most complete end to end solution I’ve seen for handling multiple machines in your home. I played with a few others (like UrBackup) and the USB boot was done using SYSLINUX so not all adapters will be supported, VEEAM uses WinPE boot environment so any devices supported by Windows are supported to be booted from. The community edition (read FREE) let’s you run up to 10 what they call workloads. A workload is a VM or a client. If you decide to pay for the code to get more, it gets pricey REAL FAST, so your almost better to install another VEEAM server in your home, it’s $80USD per client, per year sold in increments of 5 according to the web site. Ok, so that’s the good lets get onto the bad …

Documentation on this code is not great, the code is not well written and gives you a lot of meaningless error messages that will have you butting your head against a wall trying to figure out WTF it’s doing and why it won’t work. Couple this with a VERY POOR uninstaller (leaving code around, a dirty registry, and remnants of previous installs you will have trouble getting past issues. So, what this means, is you really get one chance for a clean install. Do it right and you will be a HAPPY CAMPER. How many times have I put capital letters on things in this post already, getting the picture this code is great and crap all wrapped up in one?

Ok, to get started it is HIGHLY recommended you install VEEAM Backup and recovery on a stand alone VM doing NOTHING else. They actually don’t even recommend you backup that server, just rebuild it, assuming you remembered to backup the config file (options configuration backup). Your going to want to pass the drive to the VM as a raw disk so that you are aware of any SMART drive errors. This code is big, in trying to be everything to everyone it installs a LOT. And the installer gives you few options to minimize the install. Think I’m exaggerating, count them, 17 services.

In the add/remove once installed and running there are 27 installed programs, from VEEAM code, to Visual C libraries, SQL 2016 to name just a few. The installer itself if a WHOPPING 7.5G. All this comes at a price in terms of memory too … My VEEAM server on Server 2019 needed 8G to get even reasonable performance, and even with that it had a swap file of over 2G.

With the VEEAM central server installed your ready to start configuring. Adding in VMware ESX servers is straight forward and it works extremely well to be able to backup your VMs, of all the parts of VEEAM, this is the best done … Adding HYPERV is a little more challenging. I banged my head against a wall for days trying to find an error message that simply said invalid password or not a HYPERV host … Well, it turns out that the userid needs servername\administrator if your not in a domain, and this is inconsistent even within the code. Seems the code didn’t think to parse this, check user inputs, or recommend this. Posting on the forums got me no where, seems as a first timer your posts, as in PLEAS for help, are moderated, and days later still not up. This is typical of what you can expect from this code, once you get it running well, great but getting there … Moving on … Once the HYPERV host is in, the proper code is loaded onto your HYPERV host and your good to go. I assume it can also backup HYPERV guests running on Win 8/10/11 to but I’m not sure on that one.

The Backup and Recover Console is supposed to be able to push out code to clients to setup backups, but in my environment (and based on Google many others too) this didn’t work. And helpful Harry would simply tell me scan failed with errors. Ok what error? Well good luck with that. I couldn’t even find where it logs these.

So, to get around this, I recommend you manually download the agent for your OS, and manually install it. Once in you can point it at your network VEEAM server and your done. This will save you A LOT of time and dints on the wall (from banging your head).

Your scheduling options on the client are oddly limited to daily, the same jobs from the back end are much more flexible, daily, weekly, monthly etc. You can also just manually do it for machines that don’t change all that much.

Once installed create, and save as an ISO the recovery media for this client (ie USB boot). You can use RUFUS to create the USB for it, or if you want, make an actual USB drive from it and save it, hoping to NEVER need it.

Speed wise, over a 1G network I backed up my laptop, a LenovoT450s Core i5, the drive itself had 507G on it. The backup program ignores swap, and hibernate files leaving 479G, which transferred over the network in just under 2 hours, all the while I was using the laptop, albeit lightly. The backup on drive took 435G for a compression of roughly 10%. Not outstanding but better than nothing. In the console you get a nice summary of the backup. Subsequent backups are incrementals so will take less time and less space.

Be sure and setup your email SMTP server and the code will tell you how your backups went (Settings, General options, Email settngs). You will get an email like this:

Full bare metal restore of a different laptop with 30G of OS on it restored in under 10 mins. I restored to a larger drive and the restore program struggled a bit, not finding the original sized drive and in the end left unused space that was at the end of the drive with an unmovable partition in between so I couldn’t extend the drive and use the space. Definitely not perfect, but not exactly what this tool is intended for, but something to be aware of.

On a tablet with 32 bit Win 10 I was able to backup, and restore from the local SD card and the backup went relatively quickly, it’s a slow older Quad core atom backing up to a class 10 uSD card. But at least it worked.

In the end, on a decent network, say 1G, you will find the rotating media will be your bottleneck, in spite of what the code tells you.

I ran into, and never solved a client installer issue with a server that was previously the Backup and Recovery server, saying the settings were controlled by an administrator, which I gave up on, in spite of raising a ticket and even discussing it with VEEAM.

So all in all, I like it, have it up and running, and it’s nice piece of mind, as backups are! To minimize the resource drain and to keep backups offline, I’ve written powershell scripts that power off this VM for all but 2 of 7 days.

start-vm veeam -Confirm:$false

I also ran into an issue I couldn’t solve and VEEAM were unable to help where one server, and it just happens to be my main fileserver and hyperv server refused to have the agent installed, nor could the hyperv VMs be backed up remotely. To get around yet another VEEAM issues I installed VEEAM backup and recovery on this server to backup the hyperv VMs. To reduce memory when this is not needed I wrote a script reverse engineering VEEAMs startup procedure and again only have VEEAM up on demand. To stop VEEAM:

net stop "Veeam CDP Coordinator Service"
net stop "Veeam Backup Service"
net stop "Veeam Backup Server RESTful API Service"
net stop "Veeam Broker Service"
net stop "Veeam Explorers Recovery Service"
net stop "Veeam GCP Service"
net stop "Veeam Guest Catalog Service"
rem net stop "Veeam Installer Service"
net stop "Veeam Mount Service"
net stop "Veeam Hyper-V Integration Service"

timeout 120
echo Stopping remainder of services
rem stop services that are set to start at server start
net stop "Veeam Backup VSS Integration Service"
net stop "Veeam Data Mover Service"
net stop "Veeam Distribution Service"
net stop "Veeam vPower NFS Service"
net stop "Veeam VSS Hardware Provider Service"
net stop "Veeam VSS Hardware Provider Service"

rem stopping SQL
net stop "SQL Server (VEEAMSQL2016)"
net stop "SQL Server Browser"
net stop "SQL Server CEIP service (VEEAMSQL2016)"
net stop "SQL Server VSS Writer"

And to start veeam:

rem start SQL
net start "SQL Server (VEEAMSQL2016)"
net start "SQL Server Browser"
net start "SQL Server CEIP service (VEEAMSQL2016)"
net start "SQL Server VSS Writer"

rem start services that are set to start at server start
net start "Veeam Backup VSS Integration Service"
net start "Veeam Data Mover Service"
net start "Veeam Distribution Service"
net start "Veeam vPower NFS Service"
net start "Veeam VSS Hardware Provider Service"
echo Waiting for services to start
timeout 240
echo Starting remainder of services
rem start the rest
net start "Veeam Backup Server RESTful API Service"
net start "Veeam Broker Service"
net start "Veeam Explorers Recovery Service"
net start "Veeam GCP Service"
net start "Veeam Guest Catalog Service"
rem net start "Veeam Installer Service"
net start "Veeam Mount Service"
net start "Veeam Hyper-V Integration Service"
net start "Veeam Backup Service"
net start "Veeam CDP Coordinator Service"

So I think your getting the jist, great code, lots of bugs, but once you get it running it does work well.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Squirrel proof bird feeders

Ya ya, I know, off topic … AGAIN … 😉 Working from home I sit and look out on my backyard. To make this more entertaining I bought bird feeders. These feeders have provided many hours of enjoyment, and some amazing close up pictures. I previously wrote a blog post on what I’d learned, and I’ve just added a new feeder to the group … Peanuts attract a host of beautiful creatures from nuthatches, to bluejays, woodpeckers, etc … unfortunately, squirrels can smell the peanuts a mile away and they come in droves and feast like that teenage bottomless kid you have 😉 I love squirrels, love watching them, but they would eat me out of house and home, well at least peanuts, if I let them … Oh and in my town there are bylaws prohibiting feeding squirrels. I tried everything to slow them down, put the feeder on a clothes line, etc, nothing deterred them. So I finally gave up, and Brome the company that makes the squirrel buster brand added a nut feeder to there line of products, so I bought it. The mayhem that ensued was HILARIOUS. At first the squirrel would walk the tight rope that is the clothes line and then hang from there back feet and tail to grip the feeder. At this point the squirrel would put his front paws on the roof of the feeder only to discover, holy crap, it moves, and down would go the squirrel. This happened over and over again with the squirrel not being able to get his claws into the mesh of the feeder. Well after about a week the squirrel finally figured out how to get onto the feeder, and the weight of squirrel closes the feeding port, it’s spring driven. The squirrel tried for a few minutes from the bottom, from the side, every which way but loose, and eventually gave up, getting nothing. I suspect it will take a few more tries like this before he gives up, he has given up on the seed feeder. So much fun. Check out this pic of him with the feeder port closed. He can smell the nuts and is unimpressed 😉

November 26, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ontario sparrows

I had a curiosity to see how many different types of sparrows there are, and of course the internet solved the mystery, there are 53 according to AllAboutBirds. But then I got to wondering how many of those are in Ontario (ignoring the rare ones). So the answer is 20, and here’s the list, including the ones we have already, to date photographed, we are at 14!   

American Pipit Nonbreeding adult/immature (rubescens group)
  1. American Pipit

2. American Tree Sparrow

3. Chipping Sparrow

4. Clay-colored Sparrow haven’t photographed or ID’d

5. Dark-eyed Junco     

6.Eastern Towhee    

7. Field Sparrow

8. Fox Sparrow       

9. Grasshopper Sparrow not yet taken or ID’d  

Horned Lark Male

10. Horned Lark not yet photographed or ID’d

House Sparrow Breeding male

11. House Sparrow 

Lapland Longspur Breeding male

12. Lapland Longspur not yet photographed or ID’d  

Lincoln's Sparrow

13. Lincoln’s Sparrow not photographed or ID’d 

Savannah Sparrow Adult (Savannah)

14. Savannah Sparrow   

Snow Bunting Breeding male

15. Snow Bunting

Song Sparrow Adult

16. Song Sparrow   

Swamp Sparrow Adult

17. Swamp Sparrow 

Vesper Sparrow Adult
Vesper sparrow

18. Vesper Sparrow not yet photographed or ID’d   

White-crowned Sparrow Adult (Dark-lored)

19. White-crowned Sparrow 

White-throated Sparrow Adult

20. White-throated Sparrow

November 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Windows 11

Windows 11, the future of Windows is starting to roll out, first coming to new machines. If your buying anything in this timeframe be sure it comes with Windows 11 at time of purchase. But for the rest of us Windows 11 is a treacherous bag of requirements that will leaves most of us behind. On initial cursory examination of the list of CPUs supported almost everything in my existing repertoire is not supported. Microsoft decided to cut off official support only for CPUs that are Intel 8th generation and beyond. This is an attempt to move the whole platform forward from a security point of view. In the past Microsoft by default turned additional security features off, not knowing if the hardware supported it, in Windows 11, by setting such a high min bar, they are changing to the opposite, default to on. There are ways around this, such as downloading and installing it anyway, but what one is hard pressed to get around the need for a TPM 2.0 chip, well shy of hacking. Interestingly once you get around the install check for TPM using this hack, Windows 11 runs just fine without it. Bizarre.

My laptop a Lenovo T450S (my newest machine in the house) which uses a Core i5-5300 from Q1-2015 for example only supports TPM 1.2 according to TPM.MSC that you can run. So this means, I’m SOL. Now that said, Windows 10 end of life is not set until Oct 2025 so we have some time to deal with the conundrum, more on the T450s experience below …

Wishing to start to play with Win 11 I first attempted to run it on a VM on vmware 6.7 and immediately ran into the issue of TPM support, a hard stop. On HyperV I got further and was able to load it even on a host where TPM support didn’t exist, with hyperv handling virtual TPM duties in software. Turns out VMware does virtual TPM in Vcenter which I don’t current have.

Using the hack mentioned above I’ve been able to move forward … What this hack does is download the source ISO from Microsoft and neuter the installer so it doesn’t look for the TPM, or the min CPU. The best way to use this hack is to run it on the machine you want to upgrade and then everything is good.

With this I was able to install on a Dell Inspiron 3147 using a Intel Pentium N3540, 4G of RAM, an SSD and no TPM. So this gets around the TPM and newer CPU issue. With a clean install it took up about 18G on the hard drive and on boot about 2G of memory. I had to load Win 10 drivers for items like the chipset and the like to get a properly running machine, however even with that I have a number of unknown devices in device manager. Overall performance on this machine is shockingly good on Win 11.

Vmware loaded fine with the no TPM hack.

On my T450S which has a Core i5-5300, 8G of memory, an SSD and a 1.2 TPM I decided to do an in place upgrade. I first backed up the machine using CloneZilla created the USB boot on this machine and then away it went. I did get a nasty warning message before I went ahead and upgraded.

Warning message about not meeting min requirements

The part of this warning that concerned me the most was the no updates, but for now anyway, this does not seem to be the case as I am getting updates.

Windows updates still working after install

The oldest machine in my ragtag barely still working fleet of my daughter’s beaten up cast off is an Acer Aspire V5-471 which uses a Core i3 2367M, 8G RAM and an SSD. Getting a trend here. Yes, a while back I moved to an SSD and can NEVER go back. Performance and smoothness is night and day. After install I had a complete crash of the OS. After reinstall (so the second install) the machine is up and running, but with a number of unknown devices in device manager. The weakest link on this machine is the processor and performance was barely ok, even worse the than the Dell Inspiron.

Looks wise, I have to say, it feels a lot like MacOS minus the dock, it’s got that feel. By default the start menu is centered, but you can easily change that to left centered which makes it feel a lot more like what we are use to … The start menu is quite different and the idea of live tiles is gone, with Widgets replacing them. Also gone is the News and Interests on the taskbar that recently got added to Windows 10, I miss that, I liked having the weather right on the taskbar. Tablet mode is also gone, making Windows 11 seem even less tablet friendly than win 10, which is bizarre to me coming from a company that has a whole offering of tablet machines … ie Microsoft Surfaces.

On an upgrade I found I had a LOT of cleanup to do, something I should have done before the upgrade.

On a clean install the OS is largely clean as indicated by the small drive space requirement, but there are still lots of things to remove, Microsoft teams for example. There are stubs that allow you to install things like Office 365, Adobe lightroom etc. This of course requires downloading large files for install …

I had hoped to play with the pen in win 11 but sadly my Asus Note 8 using an Atom Z3740 would not even run the installer.

I have not run into any compatibility issues whatsoever. Couple this with the fact that Win11 will allow you to use drivers dating back to Win 8 and even older, I think it’s safe to say while the user interface has received a nice and welcome freshening, what’s other the covers is not all that new … IMHO. Honestly, I can’t think of a reason so far that says I have to, or want to go back to Windows 10 … Overall performance seems fine, not a lot different from Win 10 …

The remaining question in my mind is how long will Microsoft continue to allow older processors and machines lacking TPM that do not their minimum requirements. That is to say at some point do they just flat out stop working or stop getting updates as the warning above suggested. For now, I think I will stick with Win 11, in my hacked no TPM mode and see where it goes.

October 15, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hybrid and plug in hybrid discussion

I love math, spreadsheets and the like. They have a real way of making sense of stuff, well for my head they do 😉 This discussion is about numbers, and have nothing to do with you buying a hybrid to help save the planet or some other non monetary reason, just so we are clear, this is cost effectiveness and payback only. So let’s talk about the math behind hybrids and plug in hybrids. The difference, in case your unclear, plug in hybrids generally have an additional battery for use on some limited range in all electric mode. Once exhausted the vehicle slips into standard hybrid mode. And for the sake of completeness, hybrids have a way of capturing braking energy, storing it, and then using that energy to power the vehicle, more often supplementing the gas engine. The most common way is electrical but there are hydraulic based systems on trucks and the like. Ok with the basics down let’s have a boo shall we … The 2022 Ford escape provides the perfect opportunity for comparisons. I’ll be using CDN $$s at time of this article from the web, and MSRP.

Ford SE Escape gas comes in at $29,149 base, with the hybrid coming in at $32349, or a cost premium on the hybrid of $3200. Fuel efficiency goes from 7.8 l/100KM down to 5.8 for the hybrid using combined numbers from Ford’s web site. At a cost of 41.75 per litre this means it will take you just over 90,000KM to even break even on the hybrid. Obviously higher gas prices means a quicker payback.

Ford Escape Plug in Hybrid adds a 14KWH battery for a range of 61KM of all electric. Vehicle cost goes from $32,349 up to $37,649, or a premium of $5300 for the plug in option. For the sake of simplicity let’s say you drive at least 61KM per day, 5 days a week, and let’s assume you don’t have access to a charger at work. If you have a charger at work then this could potentially half my projections. Using a off peak electricity cost of 8.2 per KWH means a full fill will cost $1.18, meaning a savings per weekday of $8.53. Additionally you will need to install a Level 2 charger in your home for this to be practical, otherwise charge times go from 3.5hrs up to 10. A rough cost for the charger is $1000. So, to recoup your costs will take almost 3.3 years. (Oh by the way I didn’t even bother including the additional sales tax on the price premium).

Similarly let’s have a quick look at Toyota Prius to see their numbers. They don’t offer a non hybrid model, so we will skip that part and jump right to the plug in hybrid numbers. Toyota, by the way, fought the market for years, arguing there is no cost justification for a plug in hybrid, but eventually mollified the market and added one. So the base Prius costs $28500 with the Plug in hybrid, the Prius Prime coming in at $33500, or a price premium of $5000. For this you get a 8 KWH battery with a range of 40KM of all electric. Using all the same points mentioned above the projected payback is just under 8 years, right around when the warranty runs out 😉

Now, this does not even take into account that the all electric range is what it is the day it rolls out of the factory, this can only be expected to decrease as the battery ages, look at your cell phone or laptop batteries for an idea of how much that range will drop off in 3 years. Additionally, batteries are ALWAYs less efficient in the cold, and Canada gets some cold weather. Not to mention you have the demands of your heating and cooling of the passenger compartment that will additionally impact the all electric range. So with that, I’ll close out the post … if your getting the idea that I’m not a fan of either, hybrid or plug in hybrids, ya that’s true. I drive a big honking V8, climate change might not be at the top of my priorities.

September 9, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment