Solutions

Malware XcodeGhost Infects 39 iOS Apps, Including WeChat, Affecting Hundreds of Millions of Users

Unit 42 finds that malware XcodeGhost infects 39 iOS apps, including WeChat, affecting hundreds of millions of users.

Update your software now as many of the affected developers have updated their official Apple Xcode IDE, which is NOT affected, and republished their apps. If you can’t update the app, it’s better to temporarily uninstall it.

Also make sure to change your app passwords and AppleID password as it’s likely being phished by hackers.

Here’s the list discovered by Palo Alto & FOX-IT.

网易云音乐  2.8.3
微信  6.2.5
讯飞输入法  5.1.1463
滴滴出行  4.0.0.6-4.0.0.0
滴滴打车  3.9.7.1 – 3.9.7
铁路12306  4.5
下厨房  4.3.2
51卡保险箱  5.0.1
中信银行动卡空间  3.3.12
中国联通手机营业厅  3.2
高德地图  7.3.8
简书  2.9.1
开眼  1.8.0
Lifesmart  1.0.44
网易公开课  4.2.8
马拉马拉  1.1.0
药给力  1.12.1
喜马拉雅  4.3.8
口袋记账  1.6.0
同花顺  9.60.01
快速问医生  7.73
懒人周末
微博相机
豆瓣阅读
CamScanner
CamCard
SegmentFault  2.8
股公开课
股市热点
新三板
滴滴司机
OPlayer  2.1.05
电话归属地助手  3.6.5
愤怒的小鸟2 2.1.1
夫妻床头话  1.2
穷游  6.6.6
我叫MT  5.0.1
我叫MT 2  1.10.5
自由之战  1.1.0
Mercury
WinZip
Musical.ly
PDFReader
guaji_gangtai en
Perfect365
网易云音乐
PDFReader Free
WhiteTile
IHexin
WinZip Standard
MoreLikers2
CamScanner Lite
MobileTicket
iVMS-4500
OPlayer Lite
QYER
golfsense
同花顺
ting
installer
下厨房
golfsensehd
Wallpapers10000
CSMBP-AppStore
礼包助手
MSL108
ChinaUnicom3.x
TinyDeal.com
snapgrab copy
iOBD2
PocketScanner
CuteCUT
AmHexinForPad
SuperJewelsQuest2
air2
InstaFollower
CamScanner Pro
baba
WeLoop
DataMonitor
爱推
MSL070
nice dev
immtdchs
OPlayer
FlappyCircle
高德地图
BiaoQingBao
SaveSnap
WeChat
Guitar Master
jin
WinZip Sector
Quick Save

Source: Malware XcodeGhost Infects 39 iOS Apps, Including WeChat, Affecting Hundreds of Millions of Users

Fatherhood, Health, Solutions

What to do if your child got HFMD

Introduction

HFMD, all parents dread these 4 letters & with good reason. It’s the chicken-pox of the 2010s, where your child cannot go to childcare or school and there’s no cure and no vaccine.

In Singapore, MOH has declared it endemic and there’s a good chance it’ll infect your kids like it happened to my (then) 4yo daughter.

As an insurance professional, I’ve handled many HFMD claims for StarShield babies so far this year (2015) and heard many horror stories regarding the pain & suffering of their toddlers and themselves. My kids are 6 & 5 so I understand their pain and I was somewhat prepared when my 4yo (at that time) daughter got HFMD. So I’m here to share how to be prepared to handle the situation if this happen to your child.

What is HFMD?

Hand Foot Mouse Disease is caused by 2 different families of virus, and like flu, your immune system is only primed for that particular strain in that particular sub-family. If you’re infected by a different virus strain, your prior infection isn’t going to help you.

The symptoms appears 3-4 days after infection and the most common ones are lesions around the joints & mouth, a low level fever and most painful of all, many many ulcers in the mouth. It’s seriously scary to see so many ulcers in your child’s mouth if you’re unprepared so I’d prepare you by showing my daughter’s. 😉 13-14 ulcers in total!

The ulcers are the worse part of the disease. That’ll take about 5-6 days to clear before the doctor can declare your child healthy and non-infectious. HFMD affect different children differently because there’re so many virus that can cause it and these virus particles can survive even when the mucus is dried up. So the best defense against HFMD is to ensure your kids washes their hands before eating anything. Since there’s no vaccine & no treatment available, it’s a waste of time & money to see pediatrician unless your child is below 2 years of age.

Just see a normal GP for liquid Paracetamol or acetaminophen to manage the fever & pain from the ulcers. Some GP prefer to prescribe Ibuprofen and that’s fine because it’s more effective as a painkiller, but the dosage MUST be strictly followed because liver damage is a known effect even with a light dosage. This is why I opted for Paracetamol.

If you want more detail on HFMD, click here.

What to do?

  1. First of all, don’t worry, most HFMD in Singapore don’t result in death. Hospitalisation may be needed if you can’t manage it properly so I’m here to help you manage it properly!
  2. Be prepared to take 1 week leave if you cannot find someone willing to take care of your child. Please don’t ask your parents to take care of your sick child. Elderly has a weaker immune system & if they catch HFMD, they’ll suffer badly!
  3. ENFORCE hand washing for everyone at home if you don’t want everyone to be infected! Also, no kissing and reduce touching to minimize the chance of contaminations and increasing the itch to those blisters.
  4. DO NOT share food! Always pass the food to the child so that his/her utensils never touches what the rest of the family is eating.
  5. Wash your child backside or ensure he/she washes his/her hands after using the toilet because HFMD is passed from feces to the mouth.
  6. Prepare some topical (non-steroid) cream to reduce itching.
  7. Prepare the following if ulcers start appearing. (Painkiller, ulcer cream, watermelon plant powder)
  8. If ulcers becomes bad, prepare plain porridge everyday with some salty or sweet condiments. Everything that goes into the mouth is going to hurt like hell for your child. Sympathise with the pain but ensure your child gets the food down because he/she really needs the nutrients to fight off the infections! (Contrary to many advise, ice cream hurts!) High salt or sugar content hurts the ulcers so plain and warm is good.
  9. Use alcohol swaps to wipe down all the child’s regular toys + surfaces he/she touches everyday like door knobs to minimize cross-contamination. Sterilising the whole house is frankly impossible and since HFMD viruses are not air-borne, just ensuring everyone washes their hands before food and you’d be fine. My 6yo son has close contact with his sister but by following our instructions, he never contracted it.
My main weapons against the ulcers.
My main weapons against the ulcers.

What NOT to do

  1. Do Not Let your child play in public & spread the virus.
  2. Do Not Bring you child to childcare & expect them to take care of your sick kid.
  3. Do Not Eat all sort of medicine, western or traditional. It’s not going to help. Just ensure your child is well-fed & hydrated.
  4. Do Not Use steroid based cream or medication. (It hinder the child’s development.)
  5. Do Not Punish the child for not following your instructions or being cranky. Trust me, the ulcers are driving him/her crazy enough.
  6. Do Not Overdose your child with painkiller.
  7. Do Not Give lots of kisses & hugs. If you go down, it’ll take twice as long for YOU to recover! Then WHO’s going to take care of you & your child?

Dealing with the ulcers

  1. The most painful ulcers are those at the back of the throat & mouth. Those under the tongue will make it hard for your child to eat anything.
  2. Give painkiller. Follow dosage carefully especially with Ibuprofen. For very young toddlers, watch out for these side-effects & stop the medication immediately and see your doctor.
  3. For Paracetomol or acetaminophen, you can safely increase Paracetomol dosage slightly if needed.
  4. If you believe in Watermelon plant powder, you can spray 2-3 times to the back of the tongue. My girl didn’t like it because it’s so bitter.
  5. Personally, I prefer the ulcer gel because there’s no restriction on dosage.
  6. Clean your hands and carefully apply a dot of ulcer gel on your little finger.
  7. Dap or rub the dot on the ulcer. Repeat until you’ve covered all the ulcers.
  8. For those ulcers at the back of the throat, I squeeze a liberal amount under my daughter’s tongue and ask her to mix it with saliva, gargle & swallow.
  9. If you do all 3, most of the pain will be gone enough for you to feed your child!

Feeding

  1. Since there’s no cure for HFMD, it’s important your child is able to fight off the infection him/herself. This means he/she must eat or at least drink formula milk that can fulfill the daily nutritional needs.
  2. Plain, bland, soft & warm food is the best. I found plain porridge is the best for my daughter, together with those Taiwanese mock duck or glutten which is not too strongly flavoured. After a few initial tentatively swallows, my daughter manages to finish her porridge in record time! Just remember to spread the porridge in a big plate so it cools down fast!
  3. We’ve tried different food, milo, cold milk & ice-cream. All hurt her badly especially cold stuff.
  4. After food, I find that another round of ulcer gel helps to take the edge off the pain enough for her to sleep soundly.
  5. For hydration, I found that plain water is the best because the sugar in flavoured beverage hurts the ulcers for a long time. If your toddler is young, you can try to thin the milk a bit if he/she is rejecting the milk.

Fever

I generally wouldn’t worry about the fever unless your child becomes listless and lethargic, or worse, have a seizure. If you follow the dosage of the painkiller & the fever stays high, quickly seek medical help.

Recovery

By following these rules, my girl recovered nicely with no weight loss or lasting effects. I hope this article helped you if your child got HFMD.

Insurance

Most insurers don’t comprehensively cover all aspects of managing childhood disease like HFMD. Fortunately, I know one that does that. From outpatient GP/Specialist costs, to taking care of the taxi fare or parking fees shall your child be hospitalized, to the actual hospital bill. It’s very affordable to boot.

A happy claim for my clients.
A happy claim for my clients.

For more information, please email me! erictay_et@aia.com.sg

Errors? Comments? Questions? Use the comment box below!

(PDPA: Note that by emailing me, you consent to allowing me to email you back regarding HFMD information shared in this article. Don’t sue me later saying your email is in the DNC ah!)

Reviews, Solutions

Best Replacement for Weave News Reader

Update: 16/3/2015 – Corrections & additions to WP8 Nextgen Reader & Magnify, Weave Server deactivated
Update: 15/3/2015 – More in-depth review of NextGen Reader for Windows 8 & WP8
Update: 12/3/2015 – additional info for NextGen Reader for WP8

Weave is no more!

Weave News Reader was one of the first and one of the best news reader for the Windows Phone platform. I started using it when it was Windows Phone News. It is a Windows Phone exclusive app from Windows Phone 7 till now but like we Chinese say, “There’s no celebration/banquet that lasts forever.” Weave stopped working on 16 March 2015, with @Selesgames pulling the plug on the Weave server. This also means that Weave for Windows 8.x has stopped working as well.

@Selesgames has posted on Windows Central regarding the abrupt decision and while I’m sad that Arash Emami, the sole proprietor of @Selegames, is discontinuing Weave, I’m happy that he’s joining LinkedIn. Hopefully he can do something about the LinkedIn app in Windows 8 / WP8 & Windows 10.

I exclusively use Weave (Windows 8/WP8) for news on Windows, Windows Phone, Technology in general, Science & Astronomy, World News and Self-help. In fact, based on Battery sense, Weave is usually the single biggest usage of Battery!

Above half shows Weave for Windows 8.x, below is Weave for WP8.
Above half shows Weave for Windows 8.x, below is Weave for WP8.

So what’s next for users like me? Well I think it’s time to do a comparative review of some of the best news reader for the Windows/Windows Phone platform.

The contenders

There are many great news aggregator in the Windows Store but I have chosen these few to compare against Weave. The areas that I’ll compare include ease of initial & subsequent setup of accounts & feeds, ease of synchronization between devices including Windows & Phones, speed of app in pulling feeds online & offline, speed in displaying news aggregate and individual articles, UX and customisations.

Converge 4.3.1 – Converge is a popular app with a 4.5 star rating. It focuses on Tech news only which makes it less useful for me but it has a very nice UI & includes a Video Hub that display all videos embedded in all the downloaded articles.

The Popular page is the Home page and you can switch between Tile mode shown below as the 2nd screen or Slideshow mode (find this in Settings) which changes to a magazine mode shown below as the 3rd screen.

It doesn’t sync to other devices and also doesn’t have a Windows 8 app, which is a waste, as the potential for this app to be popular as a Universal app on Windows 8 & 10 is definitely great.

The UI & UX of Converge is very attractive & smooth. It's also distinctively Modern.
The UI & UX of Converge is very attractive & smooth. It’s also distinctively Modern.

Flipboard 2.6 – Flipboard is a social-media driven news aggregator app that’s ported from IOS. The main draw of Flipboard for IOS users was it simulates the page curling and flipping when you switch between articles, akin to flipping the page of a magazine. Alas, this flipping transition was not ported in WP8 thus reducing the “magic.”

The lineage of the app is very Apple-esque. The Windows version is very versatile but UI takes some getting used to. Things like Following which Feed or which Category was scattered all over the Modern app. I have not tried Flipboard on my iPad so I can’t tell if it works the same way there but I felt it could have been better organized. Flipping the page and other navigation is through keyboard left and right cursor keys or the Scroll on your mouse. BUT, there was NO indication on the screen on how that’ll work if you’re not using a touchscreen! Unlike other Modern apps like Microsoft News which has pop-up left/right edge cues, Flipboard for Windows doesn’t have those!

After you spend a few hours sieving through all the hundreds of feeds/website/categories/whatever and Follow the correct Feeds, you’d be very happy as it syncs back to your Flipboard account and that will propagate to all your devices. Unfortunately, there seems to be some issues with my Flipboard for Windows. After I’ve followed some feeds, it doesn’t sync back to my Flipboard account. It will always revert to the default Flipboard feeds & categories.

FlipBoard for WP8 works much better as it syncs perfectly with my Flipboard account and with other devices. However, it overwrites all the categories I’ve selected in FlipBoard for Windows. Now sieving through so many feeds isn’t productive on a small screen so it’s a real bummer that FlipBoard for Windows wasn’t synching properly.

A lot of potential here but it takes too much time to get to the news I want.

FlipBoard for Windows is fully functional, powerful & a bit messy. FlipBoard for WP8 is Beautiful, easy to navigate but lacks the ability to easily customize feeds.
FlipBoard for Windows (Above) is fully functional, powerful & a bit messy. FlipBoard for WP8 (Below) is Beautiful, easy to navigate but lacks the ability to easily customize feeds.

Fuse 2.4.0.2 – Fuse is created by legendary Windows Phone developer Rudy Huyn. It is a very functional software with an interesting Film reel layout. Setting up is quite easy but still requires you to sieve through a huge list categories of RSS feeds. After which you can categories it according to your preference.

It is the least polished of the apps in this round-up and lacks important features like sync to cloud and a Universal app for Windows 8/10. The film reel news feed, while functional, is very distracting with huge website name and the perforated separator for time making this part of the UI rather clunky and un-modern.

There’re some nice touches and animations here and there like all of Rudy’s other apps but this app definitely could use more development.

Fuse from Rudy Huyn is great for getting to the news and categorizing them according to your preference.
Fuse from Rudy Huyn is great for getting to the news and categorizing them according to your preference.

Microsoft News 3.1.4.381 – Microsoft 1st party News app is a showcase of how a Modern app should be like and they have more or less succeeded in that mission. BUT, it’s also the least customizable of all the apps in this comparison. There’re also some nagging bugs like the Featured News showing SUPER OLD NEWS. See the picture below!

The pre-installed list of news sites are very few and doesn’t cover the full spectrum of interests and categories. You could make it show news from all your favourite websites but you’d have to manually key in the address and configure the RSS, which is why I only use MS News to follow Singapore & World news.

For some reasons, MS removed a great feature which allows you to add your own “Topic of interest.” This is moved to Cortana so I suppose MS means for us to use Cortana as our News source?

MS News app is fully modern and a joy to use. Navigation on all devices is fantastic and intuitive.
MS News app is fully modern and a joy to use. Navigation on all devices is fantastic and intuitive. News for Windows (Above) has a tendency to show old news. News app for WP8 (Below) is great though with Auto-sync.

Nextgen Reader 6.3.0.5 – Nextgen Reader is another 4+ star app that has won the praise of many user and reviewers. It is highly functional and the Windows UI is modeled after Outlook Express. It’s also a Universal app which automatically syncs your account between devices.

However, its Achilles’ Heels is the configuration has to happen at the Feedly website. As a client only, it is not possible to configure from the Windows app. Fortunately, the Feedly website is easy to navigate with interest & categories clearly sorted and searchable. Even though the list isn’t pre-selected or curated, it was very easy for me to add the individual websites into the category as major topics of interest are #hashtagged in search. Unlike Flipboard or Fuse, getting organized was super easy & quick, and I don’t feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of websites.

After I’ve added some of the websites that was curated from Weave, I selected a few more which were not in Weave’s list. After that, clicking Sync in the Windows 8 Nextgen Reader immediately displays all my selection from the website. It was super easy!

Opening the app in WP8 was the same, the list and news feeds were all sync and ready to read. I just have to change the view to “Headline with Large Image” and it works almost the same as Weave!

You can add & delete Feeds from within the WP8 app which makes it a bit weird that the Windows app can’t. Did I miss something? WP8 Nextgen Reader has an awesome built-in Twitter sharing engine but if you prefer another app, you can always disable to share via WP8 Shares, or you could have BOTH! This multiplicity of functions is what I’ve come to expect from Desktop software. To see it in mobile apps without clunking up the whole UI is why I love WP8 platform and why I’m growing to like Nextgen Reader more everyday.

I subscribe to a large number of Feeds from multiple sources and it can go into the hundreds within a few hours. I don’t read every article, so I scroll through the list and tap only those I’m interested in. A very useful feature for both Windows & WP8 is the ability to, “Mark above as Read.” This allows me to go through a huge list of articles and simply mark ‘read’ the posts that I’ve scrolled past so I don’t have to go through them again later.

Nextgen Reader is not the prettiest of the bunch but so far, it’s the closest competitor to Weave. After using it for a couple of days I find that there were some areas that can be improved. In the WP8 app, currently in List view, ‘Read’ articles are denoted by a greyed Headline, it would be much clearer if the preview image was greyed as well. And when I go into an article, I have to tap “get full article”, why not set this as the default behavior? This is true for both Windows & WP8.

NextGen Reader for Windows (Above) was shockingly empty when I just opened it! After following the instructions to add feeds from the website, both Windows 8 & WP8 app (Below) filled up with glorious news!
NextGen Reader for Windows (Above) was shockingly empty when I just opened it! After following the instructions to add feeds from the website, both Windows 8 & WP8 app (Below) filled up with glorious news!

Magnify News Reader 3.1.7 – Magnify (Beta) is a beautiful app with so much bells and whistles, they had to create a video tutorial that runs the first time you open the app. It is also a Feedly client like NextGen Reader and thus, all my feeds are downloaded and sync to the app immediately after I sign in. If you haven’t create feeds in Feedly website, the app will appear empty and that’s why I scratched my head the first time I installed it months ago. The UI & UX is vastly different from NextGen Reader and users who like 3D animations are in for a treat.

All the transitions have 3D animations, from Home Page to individual section, there’s that flying pages animation. In the Preview page, scrolling up & down also scrolls up and down the Preview images. Once inside the article, a 3D cube effect changes the page instead of a standard scroll.

The app is also packed with tons of features that I use regularly in Weave so this is definitely a strong contender, although I must say that after reading a few articles, I got a headache from all the animations. Fortunately, there’s an ‘Article view’ which switches off the 3D cube effect and just scroll as per normal.

A very important feature that sets it apart from Nextgen Reader is the included Curated lists when you tap the “+” hub. It is a full featured Feed management system which gives users the ability to manage their Feeds completely within the app or use the pre-selected ones in each category or interest. It’s also more powerful than Weave and almost as easy to use as the Feedly website, which is an impressive feat given the limited screen size. Also, when I tap to view an article, Magnify shows the preview while downloading the full (mobilised) article automatically in the background. Kudos to the developers!

Its biggest annoyance is perhaps the lack of the “Mark above as Read” which is so useful in Nextgen Reader. Since the Feeds are not paginated, I have to tap on individual Feeds group if I think I cannot finish all the posts at one go. Within the Article list, you can only Mark all ‘Read’ or ‘Unread’. This can definitely be improved. Personally, the app is a bit too colourful for my liking but if you like your Groups to be colour-coded and fully customizable, you’d love Magnify!

Magnify is another Feedly client, like NextGen Reader so whatever I added in Feedly was automatically added to Magnify after I installed the app and sign in.
Magnify is another Feedly client, like NextGen Reader so whatever I added in Feedly was automatically added to Magnify after I installed the app and sign in.

Weave News Reader 8.7.0.2 – Weave News Reader. Much has been written about it. It’s a fantastic news reader for the busy person. It looks fantastic when it first came out. While the look is a bit dated now with Flipboard & Magnify looking awesome, Weave still gets the job done pretty well.

One of its best feature, the Weave (mobiliser) server that Weave News Reader sync to is no longer unique and in fact, can be unstable at times. Certain website also doesn’t get mobilised, including some of my favourite websites, causing Weave to switch to the much slower Web View. Beside mobilising the webpage, the Weave Server also prepares the page for Text-to-Speech, which is a great feature not available in most other apps.

Unfortunately, Weave News Reader has its fair share of bugs like the synchronization of Read/Unread posts can become out-of-sync between devices. When the Weave server was unstable, Weave News Reader would crash or its Live Tile can go haywire. Another very common complain was a stuck Live Tile but that’s less common after WP8.1.

Having said that, Weave still has the best curated list of websites sorted into interest & categories to get newbies up and running quickly. After that, you can opt to sync to your Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter or Google Account. This allows your selected feeds to sync between devices, including read/unread posts so you can continue reading on the go or at home/office.

You can easily customize your preferred website or add more if you so desire although IIRC Feedly isn’t supported. Articles can be easily shared to multiple destinations without any fuss and you can favourite any posts so it stays in your synchronized feed forever, or until Weave server goes dark on 14th March.

Weave has tons and tons of features but somehow doesn’t feel cluttered and is one of the best example of a modern app there is!

Which app is the winner?

Well, after this review, I still prefer Weave but since I have to choose an alternative, my recommendation goes to NextGen Reader. It has the best balance between UX, UI, features & customisations. I’d continue to play with the other apps and update this article with my thoughts as I go along.

To help readers make up their own mind, here’s a table.

Winner in Red.
Winner in Red.

Comments are welcome and if you want me to review another app on either Windows or WP8, I’d be happy to do so when I have the time. Remember to like my post & subscribe!

Solutions

Solving Windows 8.1 Upgrade Error 0xC1900101 – 0x20017

Unsolved mystery of Windows 8.1 upgrade

As readers on my website knows, I’ve been using Windows 8.0 since the Developer Preview beta program on my Fujitsu T4210 TabletPC and I bought the license on Day one for my TabletPC.

I also bought 2 additional licenses for my desktop PC & for my wife’s laptop but I didn’t install Windows 8.0 on my desktop for quite a few months because Windows 8.0 was less keyboard/mouse friendly than Windows 7.

I did do a multi-boot for my wife so she can try Windows 8.0 if she wanted on her Fujitsu S6310 laptop or she can continue to use Windows 7 if she didn’t like Windows 8.0. Turns out she didn’t like Windows 8.0 because her laptop doesn’t have a touchscreen, which makes Windows 8.0 harder to grasp and use than it needed to be.

Before Windows 8.1 was launched, I installed Windows 8.0 on my desktop in anticipation of the much better keyboard/mouse environment in Windows 8.1.

My Fujitsu TabletPC and DIY desktop upgraded without any issues but my wife’s laptop couldn’t be upgraded. Whatever I tried, I ended up with the error 0xC1900101 – 0x20017 which indicated some kind of driver issue or hardware problem.

The symptom is always the same. It’ll install everything but during the final phase of booting up to Desktop, it’ll crash and refuse to boot, thus triggering a roll-back to Windows 8.0.

No Solutions in sight

You can find MANY threads at Microsoft forums of people who have this exact problem or something similar but few people manages to solve it.

This issue dragged on for months and months with Microsoft promising to solve it once and all in a major patch for Windows 8.0. Unfortunately, while it solved the problem for many people who has driver issues, it didn’t help my wife’s laptop.

I’ve tried different versions of drivers, including NOT installing drivers for unknown devices. I’ve tried upgrading Windows 7 using a Windows 8.1 Boot disc, which had the same issue, rendering the Windows 7 partition corrupt. I even tried to rename the Windows 7 partition as “System Reserved” because I read Windows 8 requires a separate recovery partition. Nothing worked. So my wife was stuck with 2 Windows 8.0 installation at the Boot screen but only one works.

Suffice to say my wife wasn’t too happy with the situation but since she only uses the laptop to watch TV dramas, I wasn’t in any danger of having to sleep on the sofa.

Solution came after solving an unrelated problem

Well if you read my previous post about installing Windows 8.1 without DVD or Product Key, you’d know that Microsoft recently updated their Windows 8.1 installation to handle more hardware, especially the new Ultrabooks which doesn’t have any DVD drives and all the recovery information are stored on the harddisk. So if said harddisk were to crash, like the one in the article, you must download a program from Microsoft which creates a bootable recovery disk on a USB thumbdrive or DVD disc.

After I recovered that laptop, I noticed that the Recovery disk has created 2 additional hidden “System Reserved” partitions at the front & back of the SSD besides the main System partition. Now in my wife’s laptop case, I only have the one at the back of the harddisk.

During the installation of Windows 8.0, the installer created 1 additional System Reserved folder which exceeded the maximum number of 4 allowable for a Basic Disk. In order to have more than 4 partitions, I needed to convert to a Dynamic Disk but that will create a lot of compatibility issues with harddisk and data recovery software that I have. So I opted to stick to a Basic disk and of course, Windows 8.0 couldn’t boot to continue the installation.

So I booted up to Windows 7 and ran Eason Partition Manager 8 to delete the extra partition and shifted some other partitions around. Windows 8.0 booted up fine and finished the installation after that but as a consequence, the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) now has missing and non-continuous partition numbering. I had to edit Windows 7 BCD so it can dual-boot with Windows 8.0. It was messy.

This turned out to be the actual problem with our Windows 8.1 upgrade!

The Solution

Since I still have the USB thumbdrive for Windows 8.1 installation, I tried to upgrade my wife’s laptop and of course, the same error code cropped up. Then, I remember about the partitioning issues a few years back & realized that I could just edit the BCD! But I thought, now I have an extra partition, it’ll be cleaner to just backup her data and just delete off all the partitions and start over.

So I did just that and it was the exact same procedure as my previous article except before installing, you have to delete off ALL the partitions on the harddisk/SSD. My wife’s laptop was based on the old IBM-PC BIOS so I had to key in her Windows 8.0 Product Key. And YES, even though the Recovery Media program is meant to install Windows 8.1, it happily accepted the Windows 8.0 Product Key!

After that, it was smooth sailing all the way! 🙂

Her laptop is working better than ever!

I hope this helps some of you. Like the article and subscribe. If you have any questions, feel free to comment!

Solutions

Recovering a Windows 8 laptop without DVD & Product Key

Disaster! My Laptop Harddisk has crashed! How many of you had this happened to your laptop or your child’s laptop?

This is a very nice looking laptop!
This is a very nice looking laptop!

You were happily using your new Core i7 laptop which you got it cheap during Black Friday or Cyber-Monday, or during one of the 4 IT shows in Singapore. But after using for a year, the harddisk crashed right after the warranty expires? Sounds familiar?

That's what I thought. A cheap, slow & not so shock resistant harddisk.
That’s what I thought. A cheap, slow & not so shock resistant harddisk.

No problem, you tell yourself, Windows 8/8.1 has a “Recovery” function that will restore the laptop to factory condition! So you booted to the Recovery section of Windows 8 where you can “Refresh” or “Remove everything & Reinstall Windows”. Neat!

Windows 8 Recovery Page. Great for software rescue!
Windows 8 Recovery Page. Great for software rescue!

Except it takes forever to do the “Automatic Repair” or “Remove everything” fails at some point due to a head crash or media degradation and all because the laptop was moved around while in use! Or worse, the laptop simply don’t recognise the harddisk anymore!

Behold the inside of an Asus laptop.
Behold the inside of an Asus laptop.

OK, never mind! You (hopefully) have a backup of the important data, let’s just change the harddisk to something more resilient, like a Solid-State Disk (SSD)! You can get a Samsung EVO 850 256GB at $220+ these days and reviews are great for these SSDs, 10x faster than harddisk, no moving parts to crash, useful lifespan of more than 10 years & uses half the power! Why didn’t you buy a laptop with an SSD in the first place? Oh, that’s right. Cheaper models don’t come with an SSD option.

This is the battery resting on the Aluminium shell.
This is the battery resting on the Aluminium shell. The 2 silver oval you see either sides are the B & O speakers in their bass chambers!

The Recovery nightmare continues!

Alrighty! You bought your SSD, replace the failed harddisk yourself, which was easy enough, let’s open the laptop box for the recovery DVD & Windows 8 Product Key. Except your new Ultrabook doesn’t come with a DVD-ROM or Recovery DVD & maybe even without a Windows 8 Product Key! Faintz!

OK, don’t panic, let’s go to the maker’s website for support! What? You have to pay extra for a Recovery Disc to create a special thumbdrive because you didn’t do it the FIRST time you switched on your laptop? What is this daylight robbery?!?!

Now what? Try cloning from the old harddisk? Can’t do that. It’s bigger than the SSD & it’s full of bad sectors!
Get someone to do it? Will they do a good job & what are the charges?
Download the Recovery disc from Torrent? Is it infected with virus?
Search Forums? Most of them don’t have a clue.
Ask Microsoft for help in their forums? Moderators ask you to look for your OEM/laptop maker…

The solution for new laptops with UEFI BIOS

Lucky you! You’ve come to the right website! The solution with many recent (last 3 years) laptops is so simple that I’m amazed no one’s got it! Or at least publish it widely enough that a simple Google or Bing search will find it. There’s no need to extract the encrypted product key from UEFI, no need to create Bootable thumbdrive & mount the Windows 8 Rescue ISO. No need to mess with Linux Bootloader like Grub or syslinux. I’ve tried so many different methods and they don’t work due to some incompatibility here or there. It was a massive waste of time! Argh!

Microsoft has published the solution starting from Windows 8.1! Why they don’t publicise is a great mystery! Anyway, many newer laptop have the new UEFI BIOS instead of the old IBM-PC BIOS. Without going into details about how great UEFI BIOS are, one of the features these new BIOS allows is for laptop makers to embed a Windows 8 Product Key into the BIOS itself! This is why there is no DVD or Product key or License sticker included in the laptop box!

So the next question is, how do you install Windows 8.1 onto your new SSD? Just get a fast 8GB thumbdrive or SD card, go to this Microsoft website and follow the instructions!

* For your convenience, I’ve included the steps & things to watch out for below.

Windows Installation Media Creation Tool

Why do Microsoft like to use such LONG names for their stuff?

Are you at the Create installation media for Windows 8.1 page?

Windows 8 Installation Media Creation Tool
Windows 8 Installation Media Creation Tool
  1. Click the “Create Media” button & run the downloaded file
  2. Select your Language
  3. Select the Edition. Most consumer laptops are running “Windows 8.1”. Business laptops will likely be “Windows 8.1 Pro”.
  4. Select the Architecture. If your laptop will NEVER EVER be installed with more than 4GB of RAM, chose “32-bit (x86)”. If you have more than 4GB of RAM or you’re planning to install more in the future, you MUST choose “64-bit (x64).
  5. Click Next and you’ll see this.
  6. Choose USB flash drive
  7. Select USB flash drive and click Next.
  8. Make sure to select the correct drive!
    Make sure to select the correct drive!

    Select the correct drive before clicking Next!

  9. Click OK if you're sure.
    Click OK if you’re sure.
  10. Click “OK” at the dialog box if you’re sure you have the right drive.
  11. Download starts...
    Download starts…
  12. Wait for download to complete & for it to check the files & getting the files ready & creating the USB…
  13. Once it’s completed. You should click “What’s next?” which will take you to a Microsoft website that guide you on using this Thumbdrive to install Windows 8.1. Print it or open it on your phone or something! This is the link for Boot from the media you created to install on a partition.
  14. Insert the thumbdrive into your laptop & boot from the thumbdrive instead of the SSD. Different laptops has different keys to enter the Boot Manager. Search for your brand online. It’s usually ESC or DEL or ENTER key.
  15. Install Windows 8.1 even though your laptop came with Windows 8! It’ll even auto-activate if you’re online! There’s no need to key in any Product Key! This thumbdrive has now become your Rescue/Recovery drive as well! Keep it safe!

Well I hope this help you. Leave comments, subscribe and like my posts!!! 🙂

Solutions

More Fantastic ways to add Text Effects in MS Office 2013

A few months ago I wrote about adding Rainbow Text to your Word 2013 document and a reader shared with me this really cool eBook on how to really use the Standard Text Effects in Word 2013. Check it out!

7 Best Text Effects By Vaclav Krejci
7 Best Text Effects By Vaclav Krejci

Remember Text Effects is a standard Office 2013 feature so this is doable in PowerPoint & other Office software as well!

Fatherhood, Solutions

Alternate way to cure asthmatic cough or bronchitis

Coughing kids are no fun

Many parents will go through this stage of their toddler having wheezing/asthmatic cough, which develops into bronchitis, causing sleepless nights for both parent(s) & child. The toddler may also lose appetite, requiring additional medication to boost appetite and/or immune system or to protect the lungs.

Clogged airways when the Bronchi is infected.

As a last resort, pediatrician may even prescribe antibiotics together with steroids which must be delivered directly to the bronchi through a nebulizer. Keeping the mask on the toddler is another adventure altogether! Steroids retard growth in toddlers so it’s only prescribed where absolutely necessary.

We bought this Omron Nebulizer NE-C801 for our boy.

Each course of treatment cost around SGD$300 & it’s no guarantee that it’ll cure the child immediately. We went back to the same pediatrician twice because he’s highly recommended but the medication only lessen the phlegm & cough but it never cure our 2 year old boy.

Sure looks easy doesn’t it? First thing a toddler do is claw at the mask!

Within 60 days, we burnt through $800 trying to cure our boy, including doctor visits, cost of the nebulizer + the 2 visits to the pediatrician. And our boy has hardly improved since day 1! Argh!

The Environment has no effect

While all the treatment is ongoing, we also tried ways & means to ensure a clean environment for him. We tried to purify the air in the room with our Delphin vacuum cleaner, use the 3M air-con filter with carbon, adjust the humidity & temperature (28C/26C) in the room, put special essential oils that supposedly helps with sinus problem & change his bed sheet every week. We even tried to open the windows + fan with ionizer.

Well, nothing really helps.

An Epiphany

We were about to bring our boy to an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist, Dr Brian Heng, who cured my wife’s bronchitis & my client’s prolonged dry cough due to smoking, when I had an epiphany!

30+ years ago, my parents spent hundreds if not a thousand dollar trying to cure my childhood asthma. I even went for weekly swimming lessons to build my lungs to reduce my wheezing cough. Eventually, after a few visits to Dr William Heng, who’s Dr Brian Heng’s late father and a pioneer of ENT in Singapore, I was cured.

Unfortunately, it came back a year or so later and I had to go through the same treatment. However this time, the durian was in season & my dad bought a big bunch of durian home. I really loved durian & without thinking how it’ll affect my cough, I just ate a huge amount of durian!

(I seem to remember some old folks saying durian is heaty so you can’t eat it while having a cough.)

(We didn’t see Dr Brian Heng initially because we’re not sure if he can see a toddler. But we also didn’t call and ask.)

The Cure!

Yup! The king of fruits!

Disclaimer: This “cure” only works when the child has green phlegm or what Chinese call winter cough.

After taking the durian, I realize the next day that most of my phlegm has cleared & I only had a bit of itchiness in my throat. After taking a bit more of the cough syrup, I was completely cured!

I discovered early on that when I had “heaty” cough with yellow phlegm or just itchy throat, the durian actually makes things worse. So durian is not a cure-all.

So I did the next logical thing for my boy. I bought durian & made my boy eat as much as he wants. The next day, his phlegm was mostly cleared. I let him continue the cough syrup, stopped nebulizing, steroids, ventolin, etc., until he’s cured within a few days.

So now, every time he coughs with (usually green) phlegm, we’ll let him have the usual expectorant and ventolin for a few days, then finish it off with a round of Durian! 😀

Did it work for you or your child? Comments are welcome!

BTW, this works for adults as well! 😉

Solutions

Solving problems with Nokia Lumia Wireless charging shell

Overview

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a fantastic smartphone & camera at a reasonable price. However, Nokia removed the wireless charging coil from the phone to keep it slimmer & lighter. In order to use the wireless charging pad I got from the Lumia 920, I had to buy the Wireless Charging shell for Lumia 1020.

For the first 2-3 months of owning the phone, I always have the Wireless Charging shell on, so that it’s easier to hold. Without the shell, the edge of the camera protrusion is quite uncomfortable to touch due to its sharp edge. This made me hold the phone lower & made it unbalanced. Every time I held it, it wanted to leap off my hand!

The Wireless charging shell improved the Lumia 1020 by giving it the capability to charge wirelessly & also made the phone a lot more comfortable to hold & use.

Problem

Unfortunately, as I suspected when I first got the Wireless Charging shell, problem started on the 3rd month of using it. I say as suspected because looking at the design of the connector, I know from experience it’s going to have contact issues in the future.

Nokia Lumia 1020 external power connector (inset)
Nokia Lumia 1020 external power connector (inset)

The symptom is straight forward. The Lumia 1020 wouldn’t charge when positioned correctly. When the induction coil is not aligned, the Wireless charging pad will blink white. I tried many positions & orientations & the LED simply wouldn’t turn white & charge the phone.

As you can see from the above picture, one of the terminal (probably – ) is blackened. This is caused by oxidation, especially when the copper contact points move around due to improper fit or insufficient pressure on the terminals. Guess what? The Wireless charging shell can move around when jiggled.

When the oxidation builds up, it insulates the terminal & can no longer conduct electricity. No electrical current, no charging, no white LED. Duh!

Solution

The solution is also very simple. You just need to clean the contact point & ensure it doesn’t oxidise again.

Little bottle of wonder.

Just take a cotton bud. Shape it such that the tip has a bit more cotton. Spray it with a little bit of WD40 or your favourite non-conductive lubricant.

Use the oiled cotton bud to clean the blackened terminal until it is mostly shiny.

Wipe off the excess oil from the polycarbonate body using blotting film or microfiber cloth & that’s it!

* Do Not wipe off the oil on the copper contact. Leave a thin film of oil to prevent future oxidation.

* Avoid using tissue or toilet paper as they may be abrasive & make micro-scratches on the phone surface!

Conclusion

This works & my Lumia 1020 is charging like normal. 😀

Man Matter, Reviews, Solutions

Solving Denon AVR-3808 DLNA repeating problem

Update 04 September 2014: New solution! Click here to skip to the solution!

 

Audiophile delight

That’s a mighty fine AVR with some seriously sweet sound!

Anyone who’s using a Denon Audio Video Receiver (AVR) can tell you how good it is.

Beside above average sound quality & a superior video upscaler, the last few generations of their AVR are also Cloud connected for firmware upgrades & streaming radio station management, amongst other benefits.

Their Audessey automatic EQ & room acoustic adjuster makes it SO easy to tune & optimize a room’s audio characteristics to get the best sound possible. And its menus are accessible via webpage, Onscreen, On-remote & even in WP/iOS/Android Apps.

Generally the higher the series, the better the fidelity in audio output + the more options you have in surround.

Anyway, I think you get the idea that Denon AVR are geared towards Audiophiles as well as catering for the movie buffs who only need the amp to pump out enough power so explosions & metal clashes can vibrate the sofa.

(OK, movie buffs also need low channel crosstalk to ensure good channel separation but with today’s digital technology, that shouldn’t be an issue for all Hi-Fi equipment.)

One of the most useful feature of an AVR is the support for DLNA.

What is DLNA?

Yup! I need ALL that connectivity!

Seriously if you’re reading this & you have no idea what DLNA is, you’re REALLY underutilizing your Denon AVR!

I bought a decent AVR-3808CI in 2008 as it had enough inputs for all my AV sources & a single HDMI output since I only have a Samsung LED TV as my monitor. I also own quite a few audiophile HDCDs but times have changed & it’s becoming a bit of a hassle to insert a CD into my player.

Ever since I got the 3808, I’ve ripped all my CDs into WMA-lossless (so they can play in Windows Media Player) and use DLNA to push CD quality (but not HDCD quality) music from my PC or NAS to the AVR. It was (almost) audiophile heaven.

* if anyone knows how to rip HDCD & play it back on the 3808, please leave a comment!

After using it for a year or so, the DLNA function broke. I believe it was after a firmware upgrade. When playing music, the 3808 will keep playing the same song over and over and over again. It was damn irritating & frustrating because nothing I did helped.

I tried to switch off Repeat & Random on the 3808, tested different versions of Windows Media Player on different OS like Windows 7, 7 SP1, 8, 8.1, and all with 32bit & 64bit. I even tried using it on my Windows Phone & only my HTC Trophy 7 played through the playlist.

When I upgraded to the Lumia 800 or 920 or 1020, it’ll also get stuck playing the same song over in a loop.

Searching the web, I discovered that there were MANY people who had the same issue & most of them have given up. I tried emailing Denon & got no respond. I tried many forums over the years and no one could answer me until yesterday.

The SOLUTION!!!

Updated & easier solution!

Unfortunately I can’t remember which forum I saw this. I’d update the article when I find out & give proper credit.

Just enable "Allow Remote Control of my Player". That's it!
Just enable “Allow Remote Control of my Player”. That’s it!

For those of us using WMP to stream DLNA, just enable “Allow remote control of my Player…” It’s THAT simple!

If you’re using another device or software, you can still use the original method below.

I can’t thank “Alki” enough! His/her 4 posts to the AVS forum about 1/2 year ago solved my 3 year old problem!!! Here’s the link. I’d give credit where it’s due. 😉

“Alki” was using an AVR-4308 and I have confirmation from Microsoft support forum that this works for the Denon AVR-5308CI as well. It seems like many of the AVR-xx08 in 2007-2008 have this problem.

The solution is while the song is playing, change the “Repeat” (to ALL) and “Random” (to ALL or ON).

By the end of the song, the next song should play. Yay!!!

Depending on which model you’re using, you may have to manually set both the Repeat & Random settings to “NO”.

It is that simple & no one had stumbled on the solution for 3 years. Worse, Denon hasn’t given any support or updated the firmware in the past 3 years as well! I wish these makers will support their products longer like how Microsoft support their OS for 10 years! Yes, I know it’s wishful thinking…

Right-click on an Album or a Song & choose Play To to activate DLNA
Right-click on an Album or a Song & choose Play To to activate DLNA

Anyway, there you have it! I can now wirelessly stream my music from my smartphone anywhere in the house, or use the AVR to stream music from my PC or NAS like it was supposed to.

I’m in musical bliss again! 😀

Photography, Solutions

How to take great photos on the Lumia 1020

WP_20131009_18_46_31_Pro

So you have just purchased the best camera phone of 2013 & you’re excited to get started taking incredible photos like those seen in reviews.

In bright daylight, all the photos turn out great but when the lights dim, your photos aren’t turning out so great. What’s up? Lumia 1020 is supposed to be the champion in low-light photography. Is your Lumia 1020 faulty?

Likelihood it’s performing fine. It’s just not what you’re expecting in the picture.

This article aims to help you overcome inherent problems in digital photography. It’s broken down into sub-sections, each corresponding to an individual manual setting in the Nokia Camera app, the default camera app on all Lumia 1020. This article also applies if you’ve install Nokia Camera on other Lumia WP8 models although instead of the Xenon Flash, you’d only have the LED light.

Click here to start the tutorial!