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…

Enhance Android privacy with Blokada app

Are you privacy conscious, but you realized you don’t actually have any options? You can either use a dumb phone, a ridiculously overpriced iPhone or Google infested Android. There are literally no other options unless you sacrifice everything that makes a smartphone virtually “smart”.

So, you’re stuck with Android with all its Google shit. There is a cure for that. It’s called Blokada and it seems to be so effective Google removed it from GooglePlay because it was “going against their business practices” (which just means it blocked their ads and data hoarding). You can also grab it on F-Droid Android software store and if you still have doubts, you can also check Blokada source code

Blokada

Blokada_3_5.png

How does it work?

In an essence, it works as a local VPN, so you don’t have to root your device. Just install it from its webpage (you’ll have to manually allow installation of a 3rd party app, under Android Oreo it should give you access to controls for this directly with the popup, at least on my Xiaomi Mi5 it does) and fire it up. It’ll connect as VPN service, but it’s not really redirecting traffic anywhere, it’s just a neat trick to filter traffic without having to root the phone.

Blokada is using blacklists just like AdBlock, AdGuard or uBlock. It’ll block ads, trackers and even allow you to change DNS to whatever you like.

It gives you a huge selection of various blacklists as well as DNS servers and also has a whitelist where you can exclude apps from filtering in case they get broken or you want to support the devs of that app specifically by allowing ads.

Potential problems

In general, not many apps have problems with it even though I’ve removed most of predefined whitelist exclusions. Some banking apps may refuse to function when any kind of VPN is enabled and since those apps can’t differentiate from actual VPN or a local VPN like Blokada, you’ll at least know what is causing the problem and you need to turn off Blokada entirely for the time you want to use such apps. Whitelisting doesn’t seem to help since those apps seem to detect VPN of any kind is on and just plain refuse to work properly.

Does it work?

Can’t say for sure other than my battery seems to last for quite a bit longer now, I’m not seeing any ads anywhere, not even on Youtube (could be just that I watch videos without ads), but the notifications do show a lot of trackers being blocked and the number of total blocks is in the thousands after just few days of using Blokada. I guess it’s working alright.

Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable Mega Pack (MVCRP) released!

I have released a Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable Mega Pack (MVCRP) for the convenience of quickly installing all the Visual C++ Redistributable Runtime libraries in one go without silly downloading of each package and then installing one by one. MVCRP delivers ALL current Visual C++ Runtime libraries in a single package that gets installed in a sequence one by one. I’ve decided to still let users click things in them opposed to running them in Silent mode, but it’s still WAY faster than doing everything manually.

Original post with all the extra info and downloads:

https://rejzor.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/microsoft-visual-c-runtime-redistributable-downloads/

Windows Security Center protection status delay fix

WinDefenderNonsense.png

If your Security Center icon in taskbar has a yellow exclamation mark warning or even red circle with cross warning for several minutes after every system restart just because Security Center is trying to figure out what’s the status of your protection software (even when only using Windows Defender!) and goes away after that really long time, this fix will most likely resolve it for you. I don’t know why this nonsense started happening all of a sudden and why it’s happening with all antiviruses except avast!, but I found out the reason.

Windows Security Center service is set for Automatic start with Delay. Which means it takes forever to load on startup and as a result, you see that warning on the taskbar icon forever.

Applying my fix (simple registry file) however forces Security Center to start in a normal, non delayed way which refreshes the status instantly on every system restart, showing green checkmark next to a Security Center shield pretty much instantly. It doesn’t really affect performance or startup time, but it gets rid of the warning/error icon on Security Center, so you instantly know whether there is an actual problem with protection because you’ll get the actual status instantly after startup.

FIX: DOWNLOAD

Update 2018-08-12: Added additional REG file to restore default state

Devastating performance hit from KB4338825 update on AMD A9-9420 APU

For weeks I couldn’t figure out why my AMD A9-9420 based laptop bought in January 2018 became so horrifyingly slow just half a year later I can’t even use it anymore. Sure, it’s an entry level dual core laptop, but it clocks ridiculously high to 3.6 GHz and with single thread optimizations replacing multicore “Bulldozer” microarchitecture it was super responsive. It also has 4GB of RAM which is alright, but it also comes with a 256GB Samsung SSD. It’s not one of those crappy DRAM-less SSD’s, this is basically an OEM version of mid end Samsung Evo drives. Something between 750 Evo and 850 Evo. A well rounded package for not very demanding usage of music, videos, browsing and Youtube.

Except it became so slow opening Start menu takes 1-2 seconds and it opens in laggy way, opening simple JPG image takes up to 10 seconds, opening Opera browser takes like half a minute, playing 480p video on Youtube was lagging and 1080p30 was so slow it literally stalled the whole laptop and even moving mouse across the screen feels like it’s lagging and stuttering. All this at CPU usage of 0-5%. But feels like you’re having a 100% load on CPU by something.

I thought AMD drivers were the problem, but no matter what I tried, nothing changed. So I downgraded Windows 10 April Update (1803) back to Fall Creators Update (1709). And it was fine. Until it updated itself. So, after 5 total OS reinstalls, I managed to pinpoint the problem. This motherfucking KB4338825 update. As soon as it gets installed, laptop becomes the slowest thing in this world. I had to rollback from 1803 to 1709, but there is no way to selectively uninstall and disable fucking KB4338825 update, not even with the tool for this. And if I install April Update (1803), this garbage gets carried over automatically.

So, now I’m literally at a point where I can’t uncheck this update, uninstall this update and block this update from installing and fucking up my laptop. As soon as I’m on build 1709, this fucking update gets installed and fucks everything up.

If Windows Update worked like it did in Windows 7, I could reinstall OS, uncheck this update and I’d be using the laptop normally until I annoy Microsoft enough for them to finally fix this shit. But that’s just wishful thinking. God knows what else is screwing up my main rig because it often feels like it’s performing worse than i did months and years ago down to as simple things as moving mouse which just feels laggy. Sounds oddly familiar to this situation with my laptop, but since PC is so fast, it’s not as dramatic. But I can sense something is off.

So, here it is, if your PC or laptop feels like it’s entirely useless because it’s so slow (despite clean Windows 10 install), it’s because of this shitty update. I’ve left the report on Microsoft’s Feedback Hub, but I’m not expecting much because they won’t give a shit about a single user. Which just shows a sad state of PC industry. Linux is still garbage despite years of everyone saying it’ll overtake Windows and Microsoft just plain doesn’t seem to give a shit about the state of Windows or what its users want, because they know Linux is shit and we have to use their OS whether we like it or not. Which absolutely stinks as hell. And I run 3 systems, 1x Windows 10 Home and 2x Windows 10 Professional, all genuine licensed versions. Absolute fucking disgrace Microsoft.

What’s even worse, I used to have AMD E-450 APU, 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD laptop and it became exactly like this at one point. Which is why I bought this newer, much faster one. Which yet again turned garbage slow with exact same symptoms. Do you know how annoying it feels that I bought a new laptop because some other update fucked up performance of that one for no logical reason and I thought it just got slow somehow? Unless Microsoft is doing this intentionally to screw AMD and subtly force people to buy new laptops and migrate to Intel because everything AMD gets slow as turd “eventually” thanks to these magical updates. After seeing this on 2 laptops with like 4-6 years of age apart, something is going on. And it stinks.

Windows 10 Core Isolation Control 1.0 released!

Microsoft has introduced several new security features in Windows 10 Spring Update/April Update, one of which is called “Core Isolation” and is designed to prevent attacks from inserting malicious code into high-security processes.

In theory, it’s a great feature. In practice, Microsoft cocked it up. Again. Not with the feature itself, that should work fine, but with controls for it. And I can’t believe this slipped past their QA control given that I noticed the feature being broken in 1 minute after trying the Spring Update.

You can enable it just fine under Security center, but if you for whatever reason want to disable it again, you’re greeted with this message:

BuggedCoreIsolation.png

I’m the bloody Administrator. What the hell? Well, after some fiddling, I managed to figure out the controls for this thing and created a tool to manage Core Isolation externally.

I present you Windows 10 Core Isolation Control tool:

Win10CoreIsolationControl.png

It’s a simple tool to flip Core Isolation controls ON or OFF regardless of what Security Center interface says. I even made it aware in what state Core Isolation is, so you basically don’t have to use Security Center anymore to control it (or check its status).

DOWNLOAD

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…

UPDATED: 2020-07-10

Web Browser

Mozilla Firefox
Brave
Tor Browser
Vivaldi

Opera removed due to privacy concerns. Its Chinese owners doing questionable things and business practices.

DNS Service

NextDNS (USA)
Cloudflare DNS* (USA)
SecureDNS (Netherlands)
Neutopia 89.234.186.112 / DoT: dns.neutopia.org (France)

* For now there is no evidence that Cloudflare could pose an immediate risk to privacy. They claim they are private and they also do external audits to have their claims verified.

Web Search

DuckDuckGo (USA)
SwissCows (Switzerland)
Qwant (France)
Lilo* (France)
Ecosia* (Germany)

* Alternative search engines to big corporate ones like Google, but have slightly questionable privacy statements. They do allegedly convert your searches into charity support…

StartPage removed after it was taken over by Privacy One Group which is a targeted marketing company.

e-Mail Service

ProtonMail (Switzerland)
Tutanota (Germany)
Hushmail (Canada)
Mailfence (Belgium)
PrivateRelay (France)
Posteo (Germany)
Kolab (Switzerland)
Criptext (USA)
Vivaldi Mail (Norway)

* FastMail is not on the list because it’s an Australian company and Australia has recently (December 2018) passed an encryption bill that demands companies to hand over backdoors or master encryption keys to Australian government. I wouldn’t trust any such company or government for that matter even if “I don’t have anything to hide”.

StartMail removed due to questionable ownership by targeted advertisement company Privacy One Group.

Instant Messaging

Signal (USA)

Wire removed due to weird ownership, HQ location and operation changes. People also raised concerns over communications encryption which is apparently severely flawed.

Data Storage

pCloud (Switzerland)
MEGA (New Zealand)
DropBox (USA)
AllSync (Netherlands)
Degoo (Sweden)
Koofr (Slovenia)

Online maps/navigation

HERE WeGo | HERE Maps for Android | HERE Maps for iOS
OpenStreetMap
Apple Maps (searching for locations in DuckDuckGo uses Apple Maps)

Two-Factor Authenticators

FreeOTP
Authy*

* While not open source or anything, it’s not owned by corporation like Google and it has certain features that are very useful in securing your access to services that you own and pay for. What good is all security if you can’t access your stuff…

VPN

ProtonVPN (Switzerland)

Disclaimer

Company country doesn’t always mean they absolutely fall under their jurisdiction only. For example, some companies have HQ in Switzerland, but host data elsewhere, like for example pCloud which hosts data in Texas, USA. Others like ProtonMail have HQ and hosting in same country. Do further research if that is important for you.

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.

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.