How to remove “Get Windows 10” update notification from system tray (KB3035583)?

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If you are running Windows 7 or Windows 8 you may have seen the “Get Windows 10” icon in the system tray.

If you are annoyed by it (like me), you can remove it easily. Here is how:

1) Press Windows logo key and start typing: Windows Update and press Enter key to open Windows Update window

2) Click on the small link Installed Updates (on the left side)

3) List of updates will open. Now, in the search bar (upper right) type in KB3035583 – that is the number of update responsible for displaying this icon.

4) Click Uninstall and restart your computer when it asks you.

After doing the above the update may reappear in the list of offered updates. If that happens, simply right click on the update and select Hide Update and it won’t be offered again.

Once again Microsoft is pushing sneaky updates described as “Important” and “Recommended Update”. While I welcome their move to offer Windows 10 for free to users, I still think the option to disable the tool or to uninstall it should also be offered, and not pushed to users.

How to clean up your Inbox

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New email keeps on coming every day. You carefully read it, file it, archive it, move it to various folders, reply to it, but it just keeps on coming. Forgetting to file one email often means leaving it “for later” and that later never really comes. Time passes and you end up accumulating tons of messages in your Inbox. And you never seem to reach your “Inbox Zero” nirvana. Does this sound familiar?

“Inbox Zero” is actually a great idea but for many, it is hard to achieve, due to just one simple thing – lack of simple habit of cleaning up.

So here are 5 ideas how to clean up your email to eventually reach empty Inbox.

1) Each day, set aside a minute or two to clean up 5-10 emails which are not needed and can be deleted. The key here is to develop a habit. It does not take much time to clean up 5-10 emails. To file them to proper folders or to simply delete them. It may seem overwhelming to see tons of messages in the Inbox and quickly give up, but the fact is that the more you clean it up, the less there will be and with time, just as they accumulated, they will be cleaned up. If you don’t know where to start – start with the oldest ones. They are most likely best candidates to be deleted.

2) Speaking of delete – do not be afraid to use delete. It might seem a good idea to file everything, archive into special folders and so on, but some things are simply not worth keeping. Do not attempt to be perfect, as that will not get you nowhere. Do you file every conversation you had with every person (in real life that is)? Of course not. So why do it with email? Many messages are simply not worth keeping once they have been read.

3) Use the rule – if it is older than 2 years, it will likely never be read again and can be deleted.

4) If you replied to it and there is nothing there to keep, delete it immediately.

5) If you really have to keep some messages, then at least remove them from Inbox. Move them to “Archive” folder or something of that sort. Leaving Inbox empty will remove visual clutter and will give you some sense of accomplishment at the end of a day.

How to install Windows 10 without Microsoft Account

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When you are prompted to sign in to your Microsoft Account do the following:

1) Click on the small link Create a new account

2) Just below the form for creating Microsoft Account there is again small link called Sign in without a Microsoft account. Click on this link as well.

3) And that’s it – Now you can create a regular local account!

Windows XP end of support – What happens after April 8th, 2014?

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I though I’d take a few moments to write about this topic. As many of you know, April 8th, 2014 has been set as the date when Windows XP extended support will end. So what will happen to existing Windows XP installations as there are still at least 10% of Windows XP installations out there. It may not seem much but it is millions of users.

After the given date, Microsoft will stop publishing security updates for Windows XP which are distributed through the Windows Update system. This means, security patches for the discovered security issues with Windows won’t be published anymore. Of course, the Windows XP won’t stop working after April 8th, but your system could quickly become compromised by malware.

Here is a mechanism hackers will abuse – once a security issue is patched within Windows 7 or Windows 8 and published through Windows Update, hackers will check for these updates, reverse engineer them and check if some of the security issues are shared with Windows XP. If they discover they are, they will attempt to create a so called 0-day vulnerability and as there won’t be no more security updates the vulnerability will essentially stay there forever. As Microsoft publishes patches every Tuesday, this may happen sooner than you may expect. Microsoft will start showing warning dialog on March 8th notifying users of the end of support.

Some sites have reported that the support for anti-malware will be extended to 2015. One of the reasons I write this post is because this has been misinterpreted quite a bit that this means that the security updates will be published until 2015. This is not true – only the anti-malware warnings will be issued. In other words, you’ll be given new buckets but the holes that leak won’t be patched anymore. And the effectiveness of antivirus or antispyware software on compromised system is at best limited. So in the long run, the upgrade to more recent operating system will be required. Of course, having malware on your system means all kinds of security issues, issues like compromising your private data and its integrity.

Will it be possible to continue using Windows XP – it depends – if you don’t need to connect it to Internet or any other network, then you can probably continue to use it. If however you need to connect online (even if it is from time to time) it means the system may be compromised. The time required to be online doesn’t need to be long so even short connection can be enough. My best advice is forget about patches and quick fixes and – upgrade.

Windows 8.1 Preview – How to install without Microsoft account (skip Microsoft account)

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Windows 8.1, also known as Windows Blue was released as Windows 8.1 Preview. If you wanted to try it out and install it like I did, you may have found that there is no option to skip connecting it to Microsoft account. In fact, FAQ on Microsoft page – http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/preview-faq says the following:

Warning – In order to use Windows 8.1 Preview you must sign in to your PC with a Microsoft account. The option to create a local account will be made available at the final release of Windows 8.1.

So according to this you can’t install it and bypass Microsoft account and additionally, there is no option to skip connecting it to Microsoft account and creating a local account instead. However, there is a way to do this.

Update: It seems that this “feature” has made it into the final version as well. But the following methods to avoid it still work:

Method 1:

1. Click on link Create a new account (near the bottom of screen, below the “Don’t have an account?” text)

2. When sign up form appears click on Sign in without a Microsoft account (also on the bottom).

Method 2:

1. Disconnect your Internet connection before installing Windows 8.1 (or after the first part of installation has finished). Windows detects at some point if there is an active Internet connection – if it isn’t available, it will skip the screen where Windows wants you to Connect this PC to your Microsoft account and offer you to create a local account instead. This is the simplest method of skipping this screen.

Method 3:

You can keep your Internet connection enabled. When a screen called Connect this PC to your Microsoft account appears it will ask you for Email Address and Password (for Outlook.com or similar Microsoft service). If you have one you may put it in or if you don’t have it (or use Gmail instead), you have an option to create one. I suppose you want neither otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right?

1. If you don’t want to create Microsoft account enter some invalid email here for example:

  • Email Address: localhost@localhost.localhost
  • Password: whatever you like, doesn’t matter (I entered 12345678).

2. Windows will now check this account and conclude that there was a problem with logging into this account (as it obviously doesn’t exist).

3. On the side a text will appear – “The email address or password is incorrect. If you don’t remember your password, create a local account now and set up your Microsoft account later.”

4. Click on create a local account now part of the text and you’re now creating a local account.

It is likely that Microsoft did this on purpose to test the resistance against mandatory cloud services. As this is a beta version and not the one which will sell, it certainly looked like a perfect opportunity to do this test. If they really wanted, they could easily disable logging in with local account but instead they advertised it like “it can’t be done” even though they left a small gap to squeeze through.

It is also possible that they wanted to use this beta to increase a number of accounts for their Outlook.com service (once people sign up, some of them are likely to continue using it).

As for the first impressions here is something you might also be interested in:

  • Start button is a fake – instead of start menu it opens start screen. It is back but that’s not really it. There is an option though to show only applications – it is called Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start (right click Taskbar, then select Properties and finally click Navigation tab).
  • To boot directly to desktop right click Taskbar, then select Properties and finally click Navigation tab. The checkbox option is called Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in.

Slow or inaccessible network on Windows 7 or Windows Vista – these tips may help

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If you had an issue with yellow exclamation point showing over the network icon in Windows 7 (or Windows Vista) this may be caused by certain network related technologies which this operating system enables automatically. Sometimes, they can cause issues so you may need to disable them manually.

This problem may manifest after putting a lot of load under network (like for example – downloading or uploading a lot of files at the same time). Then you may experience network slowdowns or complete inaccessibility and a yellow exclamation point could appear over the network icon indicating a problem.

Word of caution
Although these tips may help, you should exercise them with caution and only apply them if you are sure what you are doing, because you will be modifying some low-level network settings. You should modify settings if you actually experience a problem with your network. If you want to return to original settings, this is possible too and it is described below.

Running an elevated command prompt

In order to execute these commands you need to open an elevated command prompt:

  1. Click on Windows orb (or press Windows key) to open Start menu
  2. Into the Search programs and files type cmd (or command prompt)
  3. Right mouse click command prompt icon and select Run as administrator – this will run command prompt in elevated mode
Running elevated command prompt on Windows 7
Running elevated command prompt on Windows 7

Viewing current network settings

In order to know the default values of the settings you are about to modify you need to view them. Type the following into command prompt and press Enter key to execute command:

This will show you all the settings as they are currently configured so you may return them to original values if something doesn’t work properly. I suggest you remember or write these down.

TIP 1 – TCP Chimney Offload

TCP Chimney Offload option releases some of the workload from your CPU to the network card, whenever possible. If the network card supports this and it works correctly, then it should be enabled. But if it doesn’t work well, you may want to disable this by entering the following command:

In case you encounter difficulties you can return this to default value which you can view using the netsh interface tcp show global command from before. So if it was set to automatic you may return it to original value by entering the following into the command prompt:

The same goes for all of the following options.

TIP 2 – TCP Auto Tuning

Windows can automatically optimize your network for best performance, but sometimes they may also optimize it incorrectly, causing problems. Disabling this optimization may help – type into command prompt:

As before you can return to default value by looking at it first using the command netsh interface tcp show global and typing the displayed value back into the above command.

TIP 3 – ECN Capability

ECN or Explicit Congestion Notification improves network optimization when a lot of data is being transferred back and forth. But it is not compatible with some routers so you may need to disable it. To do so type:

If you have a router that can support this, then you may also try to enable this option to see if there are some improvements.

TIP 4 – Receive Side Scaling

Receive Side Scaling or RSS speeds up things by utilizing your dual or quad core CPU cores. Once again, it may cause issues under certain occasions. To disable it type:

Tourist promotional video about Zagreb ft. Phazze music

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I was involved in interesting project for the purpose of tourist promotion of Zagreb, capital of Croatia. My part of the assignment was producing custom music and synchronizing it with provided video. Based on comments we received on various news portals, people like the movie. 🙂

Note: I am available for hiring for other music projects – if interested – contact me.

Here is full length YouTube video in HD 720p quality:

And this is shorter, 3 minute version:

More information about the video:

A short film made of thousands of photos, timelapse and video sequences filled with special visual effects and custom composed music. The goal of this film was to capture positive energy of the city of Zagreb, Croatia. The film also shows Zagreb’s rich street and nightlife, culture and sacral heritage together with internationally known attractions, events and many more.

Material for this film was filmed during the period of 2010-2012, post-production and special effects were made by Dražen Zeljković while music and sound effects were made by Zvonko Tešić.

Gear used: Canon 5D Mark2, Canon 7D, Kessler’s Cineslider, Revolution Head and Oracle controller with lenses Canon 17-40 F4 L, Canon 70-200 F4 L IS, Canon 100-400 F4-5.6 L IS and Sigma 300-800 F 5.6.

Music and sound effects are produced using Renoise. Zvonko Tešić is also one of the original authors of Renoise software.

Authors wish to thank to all the people and organizations who helped in making of this project. For more info on our works and contact details please visit our web sites: Marko Vrdoljak, Drazen Zeljković, Zvonko Tešić.

DuckDuckGo – new search engine that might hit jackpot

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If you thought that in the search engine world everything is established this might be a nice little surprise for you.

There is a new player in town and it’s called Duck Duck Go – http://duckduckgo.com/ – well, not exactly new, it’s been around since April 2010.

Despite of its funny name, the interesting thing about this new search engine is that it doesn’t try to compete with Google (which is nearly impossible) but instead it hurts Google where it hurts the most – privacy issues. With increased concern about user and search privacy and new Google privacy policy recently introduced more and more people are looking for an alternative way to search. It also adds wisdom of crowds to the search results (e.g. from sites like Wikipedia) to better fulfill search requests.

Will this one hit the jackpot? We’ll have to see – according to their own public search statistics their traffic is increasing and it looks much like an exponential curve to me – see it yourself: https://duckduckgo.com/traffic.html

Did I also mention that it also gives pretty good search results? Try it out yourself and tell me what you think.

Internet safety and how to protect yourself online – proven and reliable tips

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I am quite often asked by individuals or companies how to protect yourself and your computer online – you know, the usual stuff – avoiding viruses, spam and such things. Often, the rationale is – “If I bought the computer and service from my Internet provider – it should all work flawlessly right?”

Well – not quite, the story is a bit more complicated than that. If you are not a car mechanic you don’t service your car – you leave it to professionals. But unfortunately, the perception is not the same with computers – just because you keep them in your bedroom doesn’t mean they are any less complicated to maintain and that you can use them carelessly without knowing what you are doing. You do need to learn to drive your car, don’t you? Well, computers are zillion times more complicated than driving a car but fortunately, there are some simple rules you can apply to make them easier to handle.

As a software publisher, security to our users is of utmost importance – so we have a set of rules you can all use to be safer when connecting to Internet (but also when designing software too). Here they are in arbitrary order and in plain language without too much technobabble.

  1. Use original software – Original software at least gives you a certain level of guarantee that the program hasn’t been tampered with (software developers and virus-makers are both engineers after all) and with pirated software you cannot be that certain. This doesn’t mean original software is any more secure if the authors don’t apply the security measures themselves.
  2. Apply software patches and updates religiously – especially if computer is connected to Internet or if the software is Internet-related. In Microsoft Windows this is called Windows Update and for Microsoft Office it is called Office Update. Many other programs from less known companies also have their own update mechanisms – use them! This also applies to online-software (blog software, forum software and similar). Also to bust one more myth – people often claim that Macintosh is more secure than Windows-based PC. Not really true – in fact, there are security leaks a few months old in OS X and still not taken care of. Similar goes for iOS and sometimes for Linux too. So if you paid it more that doesn’t mean it is automatically more secure. Windows are most popular but for this reason alone their emphasis on security is at higher level. I’m not advertising the use of any of these systems, just pointing the fact that software developers do need to patch their software too as well as their users.
  3. Use latest version of your Internet browser. These days any is really good and a matter of choice – IE 9 is as good as Chrome 17 or Firefox 10 (yes, I know about Safari and Opera too). Yes, there are differences, but they are all very competitive. When using the latest version you make sure you have all the security updates all the time.
  4. Use firewall and anti-virus (anti-spyware) program. Paid or free is a choice of yours but more often, paid has more advantages – and these guys are constantly into security leaks and patches. Use their wisdom. Companies I would recommend are Kaspersky, Norton 2012 products and the one I personally use – NOD32. As for free variants I like Avira – has some quite nice features but AVG or Avast are also quite good (I did not go too much into virus-detection charts as they change all the time). Note that they can’t be used as substitute to Windows Update – you still need to have fully patched operating system. Fortunately, with Windows and antivirus software – update mechanisms are very easy to use and completely automated. Firewalls on the other hand will stop software to send outgoing data unless you permit them to and with most of them you can do this on individual program level.
  5. Quick guide to less reliable software sources – Even though you should install software from reliable sources, sometimes you might need to install something from less known manufacturer. Note that digital signature doesn’t mean software is more secure – Gator Corporation for example had fully legit digital signatures while their software was installing spyware. Good way to install unreliable software is to use Sandboxie. The solution which I use myself is virtualization – a full operating system within isolated environment such as VirtualBox or VMware Workstation. The idea here is to install software in a controlled environment and not onto your main operating system. If the software or manufacturer proves to be reliable one, you can proceed to install it onto your main system, if not, you can easily remove it or restore virtualized operating system image to starting one.
  6. Read those “Do you want to…” dialogs… for God’s sake! Don’t just click “Yes”. I am always amazed how many spyware, toolbars and similar things are installed just because user doesn’t read whatever is offered on the screen. Do not install software if you are tired.
  7. Do not use unsecured or low-security WiFi – There is always someone listening to such connections – this is probably the easiest way to steal passwords. WEP encryption is easily broken, with WPA and WPA2 you are a bit more secure. But it doesn’t hurt to add additional level of security – make sure you always use HTTPS (secure) version of web sites if available (Facebook has it and Google has it and so do many others). Make sure you always use SSL/TLS-encrypted connections (for Email access, for Usenet access, for web access) wherever possible and available.

I tried to minimize this list as much as I could but security issues are not something that should be taken lightly and you should at least do those minimal measures I’ve covered above. Of course, me – as software developer has quite a bunch of others like – checksuming (MD5, SHA1), comparing binaries by content, compiling software in an isolated environment (like virtualized operating system), making a copy of installation file before running it for testing or storing it in non-compatible environment (for example Windows binary hosted for download on Linux host – where it can’t be executed) and much more – but I don’t think these should be presented to average user that just wants to use his computer without having to worry too much – after all, software can be very complex and needs to be as easy for the end user as possible.