Category Archives: Resolving problems

Posts about tricky problems that i want to resolve or when i manage to resolve them. So others don’t have to go through problem solving nightmares…

Bring privacy under your control again

Took me a while, but when Google fired James Damore for his memo, that was a tipping point for me. It was also a day when I entirely dropped Google Search. And also a day when I decided to start using more and more “independent” alternative services that are more privacy focused. Some are easier to switch to, some are not. But let me tell you, it’s worth it when you realize how these mega corporations are just straight up evil.  From their fucked up internal politics to endless meddling with politics worldwide to how they handle our sensitive private info with next to no regard for anything or anyone. Sure, they offer services for free in exchange for our privacy, but there will be a point when you’ll ask yourself, is my private info and data really worth so little that I trust it to Google instead of paying a relatively small subscription for a secure encrypted private mailbox with nearly same features as found on GMail? It takes some time to realize that, but take some time and think about it.

To make final decisions easier afterwards, here are some tips on what services to use in order to break free from mega corporations mining your personal data…

DNS Service

OpenDNS
Cloudflare DNS

Web Search

DuckDuckGo
Qwant
iquick | StartPage
Unbubble

e-Mail Service

ProtonMail
Tutanota
Hushmail
StartMail
Mailfence
PrivateRelay
Posteo
Kolab
Lavabit

Data Storage

MEGA
DropBox

Online maps/navigation

HERE WeGo | HERE Maps for Android
OpenStreetMap

Two-Factor Authenticators

FreeOTP

Web browser

Mozilla Firefox
Vivaldi

VPN

ProtonVPN

 

Summary

After long hours of research and investigation, I’ve dug up these services that are highly focused on privacy and security, are mostly located in countries with most rigorous privacy laws or they are designed in such a way no one can even force them to uncover your data, because only you have the decryption keys. They may not be free, but can you really put a price tag on your privacy when you think about it? Some services cost a bit more a year, others less. Some are even free but with certain limitations like e-mail storage space and less features which kinda forces you to upgrade. But you can evaluate them cost free this way and decide which ones you like.

Suggestions?

If you know any other services that you feel they need exposure here, leave them down below in the comments and I’ll check them out. If I feel they are worthy, I’ll include them on the list above.

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Resolving no audio/sound on some videos

I’ve had this bizarre issue where most videos online, be it on Twitter or Youtube had sound, I had sound in Musicbee and in video players, but there were some videos online that were just dead silent. It looked like audio is playing, but I couldn’t hear anything. Couldn’t figure it out for a while till it hit me I’ve done a soundcard driver update recently. The reason was I’m using 2.1 speakers and the soundcard reset itself to 5.1 mode after driver update.

When this happens, videos with mono sound won’t play any audio at all because the mono channel is expected to play on a center speaker which, with using 2.1 speakers, you do not have. Switching back to Stereo mode in soundcard settings forces mono sound from non-existing center speaker into both stereo channels and sound should “appear” again.

So, if you’re having such problem, check your soundcard settings speakers mode to see if it changed by itself to 5.1, causing this problem…

Hope this helps 🙂

Adding custom AdBlock filter lists to Opera browser

As you might know already, Opera comes with integrated AdBlock for quite a while. And it’s generally very fast because it’s an integral part of the rendering engine in this browser. It also comes with widely used EasyList and EasyPrivacy out of the box as well as with NoCoin protection from cryptocurrency mining scripts that can abuse CPU usage during visits on certain webpages. But there are a lot more out there that you can use to filter out of webpages…

How to do it?

OperaCustomFiltersScreenshot.png

 

 

What lists to use?

Most widely used ones are from EasyList and Fanboy. EasyList and EasyPrivacy are already included in Opera out of the box, so you basically only need Fanboy’s lists as an extra.

https://www.fanboy.co.nz/

My favorites are Annoyances List (which includes blocking of social widgets and cookie messages), Anti-Facebook List and Enhanced Trackers List (which also includes Problematic Websites List).

Read the descriptions of lists well because some already contain the others and you don’t want to unnecessarily duplicate them as it will just make browsing slower with no other benefits.

This way I filter out all the nonsense and tracking garbage from websites without using a single extra extension.

How to use the lists?

To use the list, just go to Fanboy’s webpage, right click on “View List” link and “Copy link address”. Paste it in the “Add a site” field and press ENTER. It’ll import the list and it will also regularly auto update on its own.

Congrats! You’ve just removed bunch of nonsense from webpages you visit, keeping them clean and without social networks that track you everywhere you go.

Slim down your Windows with Auslogics Windows Slimmer

AuslogicsWindowsSlimmer.png

If you’re tired of constantly running out of disk space, especially on smaller SSD’s, and Windows Disk Cleanup doesn’t do much and you don’t want to use magic all in one optimizers that usually just break everything, maybe it’s time for you to check out Auslogics Windows Slimmer. It’s a very focused tool that doesn’t do anything magical, but it does focus on Windows stuff that gets accumulated the most. WinSxS libraries, Old Windows versions which always remain after larger Windows updates, Windows Update remnants and System Restore points. Under Regular Maintenance you’ll find few more usual entries like Memory Dumps, Recycle Bin, Temporary Files and old Windows Logs. Over time, all this can accumulate quite a lot of stuff and this is by far the easiest (and free!) tool to remove all that clutter. CCleaner generally does similar, but this one focuses on few more areas not covered by CCleaner.

Just a word of caution, installer of Auslogics Windows Slimmer offers bunch of their other apps which you have to manually decline during installation, so watch out what you click during installation.

DOWNLOAD

Prevent Firefox from closing browser when closing the last tab

If you hate that clicking CLOSE TAB button on last tab in Firefox closes entire browser, do the following:

In URL bar, type about:config, in Search field, copy this string browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab. Switch it to FALSE by double clicking the entry.

After you do this, clicking close button on last available tab will just close the last tab and leave browser available for further use with empty page.

Out of all browsers, only Opera insists on doing the old fashion way where closing last tab only closes that tab and nothing else. Respect to Scandinavians. Good choice. The rest is just copying from Chrome like they don’t have any own identity or design skills… Yeah Mozilla, I’m looking at you. You did it like Opera still until you decided to copy the feature from Chrome. Why, I don’t know… It was a stupid decision.

Disable intro videos in Prey 2017

I absolutely love this game, but like almost every new game, what absolutely pisses me off are god damn retarded half an hour long intro videos which of course can’t be skipped. Not the first time and I’m very much sure not the last time either. And if you’re like me, who likes to hop into a game, play it for a while, close it and do something else for a while and go back playing the game, you spend 1/3 of the time watching stupid intro videos. Who thought this shit should be unskippable? God…

Anyway, I figured out that while there is no config file, you can make them skip by simply renaming or deleting the intro video files.

So, go to:

.\Valve\Steam\SteamApps\common\Prey\GameSDK\Videos

Rename or delete following videos:

  • ArkaneLogoAnim_Redux_1080p2997_ST-16LUFS.bk2
  • Bethesda_logo_anim_white.bk2
  • LegalScreens.bk2
  • Ryzen_Bumper.bk2

This is it. When you’ll fire up the game next time, it’ll go straight into “PRESS ANY KEY” intro screen without half an hour of idiotic intro videos.

Enjoy

Watch Youtube/Twitch smoothly on very low end systems

So, I’ve been dealing with this issue for a while as Youtube performance has dramatically deteriorated over the years on my old AMD E-450 APU based laptop.

The thing is, only place where video acceleration doesn’t work well at all is in 3rd party browsers. Firefox, Chrome or Opera, they all run Youtube really badly, but if I fire up high bit rate 1080p video in MPC HC, it plays absolutely smoothly. I couldn’t get it to play smoothly for like 2-3 years now inside browsers. Luckily, there are few solutions I figured out recently and I’ll talk about them here so you guys can watch Youtube smoothly again even on your otherwise already obsolete systems. Why waste money on new devices when few simple tricks can give them back the power to serve you 🙂

Windows 8.1 and 10 Apps for Youtube/Twitch

While I generally don’t like the UWP (Universal Windows Platform) system as anything useful or positive globally (especially how it borks up games), but it has few useful specific apps. Specifically in this case, apps for Youtube which seem to run Youtube HD videos beautifully smooth on really crappy old hardware.

Youtube Windows 8.1 and 10 apps on Windows Store that I’ve tested and really like:

  • Hyper for Youtube
  • ProTube
  • PerfectTube

They all work a bit differently with different interface and functionality experience so try them out and see which one you like the most.

Twitch Windows 8.1 and 10 app on Windows Store that I’ve tested and really like:

  • MyTwitch

This one I also really like. Plays Twitch streams smoothly on same low end notebook and it’s actually so convenient I prefer it over browser for Twitch streams even on my desktop PC which has enough grunt to run several 4K streams at once without taking a sweat. It’s just so fast and straight to the point.

Play Youtube videos in external media player

Other way to achieve smooth Youtube playback without sacrificing convenience of viewing it easily via browser is by using certain browser add-ons and 3rd party programs. This method especially applies to Windows 7 or even Vista systems since you don’t have any Windows 8.1/10 apps to use.

What we need for this?

Install PotPlayer,use default install location so add-on will auto detect its path, making things easier. Then install Firefox or Chrome browser and also install the PotPlayer Youtube Shortcut add-on/extension in your browser.

Go to Youtube, right click on any video thumbnail and select “Open link in PotPlayer”. PotPlayer should open, playing selected Youtube video…

PotPlayer_Youtube.jpg

There are two more things to do…

Hardware Acceleration

Click on that S/W button marked with number 1. It should switch to H/W and you should see the “Use built-in DXVA Video Decoder: On” appearing on top for a short time. Like so…

PotPlayer_HW.jpg

This ensures video is played by a dedicated video acceleration, offloading most of the video decoding on GPU (graphics card processor), freeing up CPU (processor). This means your low end netbook or old laptop will be more responsive during video playback, video itself will play a lot smoother and you’ll experience less generated heat (quieter laptop fan) and longer laptop battery life.

Be aware that H/W (DXVA) mode may not be supported by all devices. If it switches back to S/W by itself, it means your device doesn’t support hardware acceleration of a given resolution or video codec. This may happen with very old Intel integrated graphics or when using resolutions or codecs not accelerated by your GPU.

Video Resolution and Codec

Now that we have fired up H/W acceleration, you may want to click on the menu marked with number 2. Doing so will bring you option to select video quality.

PotPlayer_YTResolution.png

You can experiment how high your GPU may support acceleration.

While testing, my GeForce GTX 980 was able to H/W accelerate 4K video using MP4 AVC codec. Using WebM VP9 switched the mode back to S/W automatically. AMD E-450 APU with integrated graphics in my old laptop on the other hand could only H/W accelerate up to 1080p MP4 AVC, but I was surprised that it was able to smoothly play it at 60 fps (1080p60). Using anything higher and audio started skipping and video stalling since it was running in S/W mode, forcing all the processing on CPU which is too weak for such demanding task.

Preferred resolution and codec should be up to 1920×1080 using MP4 AVC. This should ensure perfectly smooth playback with excellent image quality on most low end devices.

Conclusion

I really don’t understand how it came to this point that hardware acceleration of Youtube in browsers other than Internet Explorer/Edge is total poop these days. I mean, same laptop that played 1080p60 video above with absolute perfection struggles with 480p videos in a browser. Don’t tell me that’s not an absolute joke.

But again, the laptop is around 4-5 years old and it was low end when I bough it. This workaround extended its life for few more years, costing me exactly nothing (other than few minutes to set it all up and figure it out). Yes, it won’t track how much of the video you’ve watched and you’ll kinda break Youtube’s statistics, but really, that’s a small trade off for actually being able to view the content comfortably and without being in constant rage mode because stupid Youtube videos are lagging and stuttering.