Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Google Hatchet is falling on the Chrome web browser

Over the years I have encouraged countless numbers of computer users to switch from the notoriously insecure Internet Explorer web browser to a much more secure Google Chrome web browser instead.

Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of using ANY Google produced product is Google's notorious habit of randomly and arbitrarily discontinuing products with little or no apparent concern for the users that have come to depend on those products.

Recently millions of users of the Google Chrome browser have been getting notices that the notorious Google Hatchet is about to fall on their Chrome web browser. Users of the old Windows XP, Windows Vista, and users of 32bit Linux operating systems are due to lose all security updates for their Chrome web browser effective March 2016.

Conspiracy aficionados are claiming this is due to a behind the scenes 'deal' between Google and Microsoft to force owners of these older computers to purchase new computers running a new version of Windows. In reality, anyone with any real experience using Google developed products and services knows that this is just a recent example of Google being Google.

So.... The big questions is, if you are one of the millions of computer users that are seeing this message, what should you do?

1) If you are still using Windows XP then STOP. Upgrade if you can, to at least Windows 7/8, assuming that you just HAVE to keep using Windows. Upgrading to Vista is pointless at this stage of the game, since support for Vista is due to end in early 2017.

2) If you are still using Windows Vista, it's time to get your upgrade ducks in a row as well. Again, if you simply MUST keep using Windows, you should check into whether or not your computer can be upgraded to Windows 7/8.

3) If you are using a 32 bit LINUX system, then it's time to look into a 64bit upgrade if your machine can handle one. If not, then for now, your best solution is to stop using Chrome, and switch to Firefox instead. Be aware that the chances of Firefox also following Google's lead on dropping support for these systems in the future is probably very high.

4) Win XP/Vista users also have the option of switching to Firefox as well, with the understanding that this may be a stopgap solution if Firefox follows Google's lead in support for these systems.

5) Needless to say, my suggestion for everyone is to upgrade to a 64bit LINUX operating system. If your computer can't handle this, then by all means, it's time to start shopping for a new computer.

You can see the details of the announcement of Google's intent to take their notorious hatchet to Chrome by visiting this webpage:

And if you do decide that switching to Firefox is the best solution for your situation, the simplest way that I know to accomplish that is to download it directly from Mozilla here:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to run SleepMapper or Sleepyhead CPAP software on LINUX with Virtualbox.

As a new CPAP user, I quickly discovered that the SleepMapper software for my Philips Respironics® CPAP machine is only supported for Windows or Mac computers, with Linux users being once again, left out in the cold by corporate America. (For a more extensive rant on just how much this offends me, feel free to read this blog entry). Being the supporter of open source that I am, and not being the type to accept such attitudes against LINUX users lightly, I set out to develop a solution to this problem that Philips, in it's infinite wisdom, does not consider important enough to address.

What follows is the method in which I was able to successfully use the SleepMapper Windows SD card import data program in a Virtualbox WindowsXP machine running on a LINUX Mint computer. Right up front, this blog entry is NOT a tutorial for installing and using Virtualbox, or a tutorial on how to create a WindowsXP machine for Virtualbox. Tutorials of this type abound on the Internet, and for purposes of this blog entry, it is assumed that you have a working Virtualbox installation on your LINUX machine, and that you have a working WindowsXP machine set up and working under Virtualbox.

The key element in getting the data from your CPAP machine into the SleepMapper software is the SD card from your machine. On my machine, it looks like the picture above. In addition, if your computer does not have an on board SD card reader, you will need a USB-SD card adapter, similar to one of the ones shown below.

Once you have inserted the SD card into your reader, and connected it to your computer you should see a file manager entry like this one from my LINUX Mint computer, which shows that your newly inserted SD card has been mounted for read/write access in your home directory. The red star indicates where my computer has correctly located the P-Series folder which contains the CPAP data on the SD card. 

Now it's time to fire up our WindowsXP machine in Virtualbox, and adjust the settings so that our virtual machine can find the needed SD card data. Clicking on the Settings button of our virtual machine will bring up the settings for Shared Folders, as shown below.

Clicking on the Shared Folders section lets us create an entry for our SD card. We will need to select the appropriate location using the drop down, and make sure that Read-only is unchecked, and that Auto-mount and Make Permanent are checked. Once this is done we click OK to proceed.

When it is all set up, you should see an entry in your Shared Folders setting that looks like this-

Now it is time to fire up our WindowsXP virtual machine in Virtualbox

If we open Windows Explorer, and navigate to

My NetworkPlaces-Entire Network-Virtualbox Shared Folders-\\vboxsvr

we should now find our P-Series folder. In addition, we should also find an entry with our SD card shown as a separate drive, in my case, as drive F:

Now that we know our WindowsXP virtual machine can see our SD card, it's time to fire up the SleepMapper SD card reader program

When the program runs, and you have entered your SleepMapper account information, you should see the following message letting you know your SD card data has been uploaded to SleepMapper.

Once this step has been accomplished you can choose to log into your SleepMapper account with your web browser

Or you can access your SleepMapper account with your mobile device

 SleepMapper for iOS SleepMapper for Android

To be honest, the open source Sleepyhead CPAP software gives a much more detailed analysis of the data from your Philips Respironics® CPAP machine than the Philips supplied SleepMapper software. And although there is supposedly a LINUX version of Sleepyhead, in my case, I found that it too had problems trying to properly access the SD card data. In the time that I spent with it, I was never able to successfully resolve the SD card access problems in the currently available LINUX version of Sleepyhead. Fortunately, there is also a Windows version of Sleepyhead, and if you have taken the above listed steps to make your SD card readable to the SleepMapper software, a Windows version of Sleepyhead, installed into your WindowsXP virtual machine will also be able to access your SD card as well.

Firing up the Sleepyhead software in your WindowsXP virtual machine, and creating a user data entry will give you the option of importing your SD card data

Selecting the SD card CPAP importer will ask you to confirm the data location for the import

And once the import is complete, you will have access to the full range of Sleepyhead's reports, graphs, and full analysis of your CPAP machine's data.

You can download the open source Sleepyhead software for your Windows or Mac computer by clicking on the Sleepyhead sheep logo below. Since I had problems with the LINUX version currently available, I suggest LINUX users follow the steps in this blog to run the Windows version of Sleepyhead in a Windows virtual machine

 Sleepyhead Downloads

Why would anyone bother with the SleepMapper software, which is cumbersome to use if you are a LINUX user. and gives such skimpy data when compared to Sleepyhead? A good question! For myself, I suspect that my doctor will only be able to use/access the official Philips Respironics® SleepMapper data, and have little or no use/access with the more comprehensive data available from the open source Sleepyhead software. For now at least, since BOTH will work fine in my WindowsXP virtual machine, I will run both for the time being. The SleepMapper software so that my doctor can access my CPAP data, and the Sleepyhead software to let me learn, explore, and monitor my CPAP data for my own interests.

In closing, if you are a LINUX user who is also a user of a Philips Respironics® CPAP machine, and have been informed by Philips that they offer zero support unless you are using their software on a genuine Windows or Mac computer, hopefully a Google search has lead you to this blog entry, and you now have a way that you can indeed use not only the SleepMapper software on your LINUX machine, but also the more comprehensive Windows Sleepyhead software as well.

And Philips is more than welcome to refer any LINUX users to this blog entry, with my compliments. It's not that Philips couldn't have had one of their computer people work out this solution, it's that they simply didn't think it was important enough to bother with.
Fortunately for any Philips Respironics® users who only have access to a LINUX computer, I disagree, and offer this solution for one and all to use.

David Jarrett © 4/08/2015
All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FBReader - The small eReader app that can handle it all

Back when I got my first Android tablet a few years ago, and converted from a dedicated eReader device to the tablet, I sampled quite a few Android apps for book reading. One of those was FBReader, which back in those days, you had to install manually (called side loading) on your Android device. As I fully transitioned my reading activities from my trusty Pandigital Novel ereader over to the LePan tablet, I eventually settled on the Kindle App for ebook chores. Looking back I would say that a major factor in this decision was because although FBReader could easily handle .epub  files, it could not handle .mobi or .azw files.

As my reading habits evolved some things changed. I set up a calibre server on my home network to handle the chores of cataloging, converting, and distributing my growing collection of ebook titles. Another thing that changed is that the Kindle app grew larger and larger, and eventually became a fairly bothersome resource hog on my LePan tablet, even though the basic reading functions were still just fine. Constant error messages about sync failures, having to access my calibre server through a tablet browser and then do a manual download and subsequent file move to the kindle directory, in an app that had grown to nearly 100MB (one of the largest apps installed on my tablet) finally forced me to start looking for alternatives to the Kindle app.

screenshots courtesy of FBReader

Enter the "new and improved" FBReader app. Not only can you download/install FBReader direct from the Google Play Store, it's also available for installation on a wide variety of non-Android devices. Windows, Mac, LINUX, and Blackberry users can all install FBReader. And the list of new features? Simply amazing-

Personal Cloud Storage (integrated with your Google Drive)
Support for numerous other ebook cloud services
Plugin to access your local or remote calibre server directly
Bookshelf Display plugin
Multiple Languages Supported
Around 20MB with Bookshelf & calibre plugins
Supports fb2, epub, mobi, text, rtf, html and other ebook file formats

Now that I have made the switch back to FBReader, my reading habits continue along just like before, but maintaining the selections on my tablet are simpler, and the resource friendly FBReader makes my hard working tablet a LOT happier! If you are an avid ebook reader, you owe it to yourself to check out the "new and improved" FBReader.

Check it out here on Google Play

 FBReader on Google Play

or go the the main FBReader website for non Android devices

FBReader Home

All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

System Program Problem Detected Fix for Mythbuntu

In the beginning my Mythbuntu system worked great. But over time, with various upgrades and updates, things have gotten a little wonky at times.

One recurring problem is the popup telling me that a "System Program Problem Detected". This popup gives no real information on what has happened, and although it does offer to 'report the problem' there is no real resolution of the issue(s) that may have caused the error. And ignoring the problem, and proceeding to use the system seems to cause no real problems either.

The catch is that, although this problem was intermittent at first, the frequency of these events have steadily increased to the point that they are occurring almost daily. Ultimately it was time to put a little Google-Fu to use to see what can be done to address the current state of affairs.

From what I can tell, this issue seems to be caused by an application caused apport, which *should* be disabled in a stable, LTS version of Ubuntu, but does apparently somehow get itself enabled anyway. A quick check on my system determined that this was indeed the case. It only took a quick edit of the appropriate control file to set things right.

In a terminal window execute the following command.

sudo nano /etc/default/apport

Look for the line that says enabled= and make sure it is set to:


Save the file, and reboot. This *should* solve the recurring 'System Program Problem Detected' error message.

Many thanks to Manuel Jose at the Tech Drive-In for this solution!

All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

VLC - now for Android!

VLC has long been my 'go to' media app, on computers running LINUX or  Windows. Now that it is also available for Android, it's officially a Triple Media Treat! If you are not using VLC, it's past time you did!

VLC Beta for Android

VLC for Windows or LINUX

The Best Hidden Features of VLC

All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How's your anti-phishing IQ?

On an average day, I routinely report anywhere from 6 to 12 email accounts to the appropriate authorities for phishing email activity. 

How is your anti-phishing email smarts??? 

Take this test to see how good you are at spotting these nefarious types of email!

Phishing IQ Test

By anyone's measurements, there is an ever increasing worldwide phishing epidemic. The reason I report so many email accounts for phishing activity on a daily basis is because I receive that many phishing emails each day. It's up to all of us to report these emails to assist the authorities in stemming this onslaught.

Phishing Email Q and A

Q. How do I report phishing emails?
A. Most often you would report phishing emails to the company or organization the email is pretending to be sent from. For example, emails claiming to be from Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or PayPal should be reported directly to them. A quick Google search "How do I report phishing emails to xxxx" will most often give you the correct way to report these types of enails.

Q. I don't even have an account with this company. Why shouldn't I just ignore the email instead of taking the time to report it?
A. That certainly is an option. However, even if you don't have an account, are you certain that one of your friends or relatives don't have an account there, and could be tricked by this same sort of phishing attempt? By reporting all phishing emails you also help protect others from being taken advantage of. We are all in this together, and phishing hurts everyone, directly and indirectly.

Q. What should I do if I think I may have responded to a phishing email by mistake?
A. Contact the company that has your account IMMEDIATELY. Explain the situation and follow their instructions on how to protect your account.

All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

MythTV Users, Big Changes in Schedules Direct Coming!

If you are a MythTV user, and you are using Schedules Direct for your listings data, there is an important change coming, effective Nov1, 2014. Full Details of the changes can be found here:

In a nutshell, if your MythTV system is running a version prior to .27, you will need to upgrade in order to get the required fixes. This upgrade is mandatory to all backend and frontend machines if you want to keep using Schedules Direct as your listings source. For most folks using Mythbuntu. you can select the version .27 repository from the Mythbuntu Control Center. Then run the system update manager.

It took a bit of work on my backend  since a partial upgrade was needed due to some residual issues from a previously failed upgrade. But once this was accomplished, and the machine rebooted, all I had to do was run the MythTV backend setup program, run the mythfilldatabase program, and my system was completely updated. Updating the frontend machines was accomplished by selecting the .27 repository from the Mythbuntu Control Center and then running a system update as well.

And by the way, the enhancements in version .27 over versions .26 and before are really SWEET!

10/25/2014 Followup:
I had a few days last week where the listings did not update, and the number of days in the listings dropped down as low as 11 days instead of  the usual 13-14 days. The most recent update seems to have resolved that and now I am showing 13-14 days of listings, which extend well beyond Nov 1st .

All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.