Reset Your LimeSurvey Password

Let’s say you forget your LimeSurvey admin password and, very importantly, the server it’s running on cannot send email. Since the normal method for resetting a forgotten password involves email you will need to update the password via the underlying MySQL database.The password is stored as a SHA256 hash, so you need to use the MySQL function SH2() to complete the update. The actual query looks like this:

UPDATE `tblpr_users`
SET PASSWORD = sha2('newPassword*',265)
WHERE uid = 1

Keep in mind that the table name (in this case tblpr_users) should be adjusted to whatever your table prefix is. Also, the password string (the first parameter in the SHA2 function) needs to be changed to whatever your password is.

Disable Wi-Fi Assist on Your iPhone to Avoid Excess Data Charges!

In iOS 9, Apple added a feature called Wifi-Assist that the description says “Automatically use cellular data when Wi-Fi connectivity is poor.” Oh boy! New features! Don’t be so enthused. With the decision to default to having this feature turned on, I’m pretty sure Apple has received a big payoff from wireless carriers. Why? Well, because this “feature” can run your cellphone bill up in a big way (as if you don’t pay enough). Wi-Fi is normally “use as much bandwidth as you want,” whereas cellular data is “pay for each gigabyte you use.”

Here’s a likely scenario a lot of unsuspecting users fall prey to. Let’s say you’re streaming your favorite show from Netflix while you’re connected to wi-fi at your house. You need to go the basement for something, carrying your happily streaming phone with you. The iPhone detects that your wi-fi signal has suddenly dropped to one bar because your router is upstairs on the other side of the house. To keep you from missing precious seconds of your show, it switches from wi-fi to cellular data without giving you any notice. Since you probably don’t have unlimited cellular data, you end up paying big data overage fees, especially if this scenario happens a few times a month (or worse, a few times a day).

My suggestion to most people is to turn this “feature” off. Here’s how:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap Cellular
  3. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list (because the carriers don’t want you to turn this off)
  4. Toggle the Wi-Fi Assist slider to the off position
  5. Use your iPhone without unknowingly running up a huge data bill :)

 

 

How to Fix PreSonus Audiobox USB Electrical Noise (Hissing, Popping, and Clicking) Problem

The short answer that fixed the electrical noise problem: Plug a powered USB hub into a USB port on your machine. Then plug the Audiobox USB into that. From what I can tell, if your USB port isn’t putting out enough power, you will get hissing and/or electrical wave noise. (I used a cheap, powered USB power squid hub I’ve had forever.)

The long answer with details: Back in April, I bought a PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 audio interface so I could use a Shure SM-58 microphone to record instructional videos. I’ve tried many other mics, including a Blue Yeti USB, and while several sounded good, I could never get the level of noise rejection that I wanted. My mouse and keyboard clicks were always too loud and I have a noisy heat pump. No matter what I did with gain, levels, and pop filters, there was always too much unwanted background noise. The SM-58 has excellent noise rejection and had a nice rich sound for spoken-word content like I would be producing.

I got the unit home and setup the latest driver from PreSonus prior to plugging the unit in as instructed. I plugged up the unit and it installed fine. I opened Audacity and recorded several test tracks to get my levels set properly. The problem was when I set my levels in the butter zone between too quiet and clipping, there was always some form of electrical noise. Sometimes, it was a hiss, sometimes it was a sine wave pattern, sometimes it was a “click click click.” It was totally unacceptable. Here’s all the stuff I tried that DID NOT work:

  1. I unplugged and plugged back in the unit in the same USB port.
  2. I unplugged and plugged back in different USB ports, including ones integrated on my motherboard and others on a Silverstone PCI-E USB 3.0 card hooked to the machine. No difference.
  3. I rebooted many times in different configurations.
  4. I made sure all peripherals plugged into my machine were on the same AC circuit (to make sure it wasn’t a ground-loop problem).
  5. I bought a new gold-plated, shielded USB cable from Monoprice. This helped actually helped a little, but not enough.
  6. I rerouted every cable going into my machine such that the Audiobox USB cable had no other cables within 6″ of it. Additionally, I made sure the monitor headphones and mic cables were straight and not crossing one another in any way.

I was fed up and tempted to order a more expensive unit from a different company. In a last ditch effort, I plugged in a cheap USB powered power squid hub into one of the integrated USB ports on my motherboard, then plugged the Audiobox One into that. To my sheer amazement and delight, that worked like a charm! Even with the gain all the way up on my mic channel, no noise whatsoever. And playback through the unit into the monitor headphones is crisp and clear. None of the aforementioned electrical noise! My only guess is that the unit doesn’t do well if there isn’t enough power coming from the USB port. Instead of not working at all, it makes due and produces a terrible signal.

I didn’t try a powered USB hub sooner because back in the day, the conventional wisdom was that any USB audio gear should be plugged directly into the motherboard. It’s 2015, so I guess that isn’t always the case anymore. For what it’s worth, I’m not going to plug anything else into the powered hub for fear that it may mess up the sweet perfection of my current audio signal!

Wifi Signal Map at My Place

Today I used the free Ekahau HeatMapper on Windows to map out the wifi signal strengths here at the house. I took the resulting map into Photoshop and made, what I consider, a fairly nice map. (Note that it is not perfectly to scale, because I don’t have an actual floor plan to use as the map.)

wifi signal map at my house

Here’s the wifi signal map taken at my house on June 26, 2015.

HeatMapper seems pretty accurate since the indicated wifi signal strengths match what my devices usually tell me. The program could definitely help to troubleshoot slow wifi in a crowded neighborhood as it provides channel information for all detected hotspots. I have no crowding here: There are only two other routers I can see and the signal is so low they couldn’t interfere with a gnat.

What I Did When HeatMapper Found No Signals

One thing I ran into before being able to complete this fun-waste-of-an-afternoon project is that your wifi chipset has to support monitor mode (or promiscuous mode, as it was called back in the day :). If a chipset doesn’t support it, HeatMapper just sits there waiting for signals and nothing shows up. Not surprisingly, the Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 chipset in my laptop doesn’t support monitor mode. I remembered that I bought a Netgear N300 Wi-Fi USB Adapter last year to help with a project I worked on (which had been buried in the back of the Jeep, long-forgotten). I plugged it in an HeatMapper immediately started picking up signals.

(Special thanks to Patrick Norton of TekThing for introducing me to HeatMapper! I’m super excited to see him still on the air. You should support his show at https://www.patreon.com/TekThing)

Dual-boot Windows Technical Preview (aka Windows 10) on a UEFI-Enable Computer

I’m really excited about the Windows Technical Preview (aka Windows 10) that was released today. I decided to forgo a virtual machine and dual-boot it on my laptop running Windows 8.1. My laptop is an Asus G55VW and the existing Windows 8.1 installation being setup in UEFI (with the requisite GPT partition scheme).

I downloaded the image and made a flash drive using the Windows 7 USB Download Tool, but when I booted from the drive and tried to install, I got an error message: “Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk is not of the GPT partition style” when I clicked on the empty partition I wanted to install to.

I realized the flash drive was booting the MBR installer, but I needed UEFI. I realized I needed a USB flash drive setup to boot the Windows Technical Preview installer in UEFI mode. Here’s what I had to do to create the bootable flash drive that does just that:

  1. Plug a flash drive into a USB port on your machine.
  2. Download the Windows Technical Preview 64 bit ISO at http://preview.windows.com (you’ll have to join the free Windows Insider program and click through a few screens to get to the download link)
  3. Download Rufus. Rufus is a small utility that will put the ISO files on a flash drive you can use to boot from and install Windows. While there are other utilities that do this, Rufus allows you to specifically setup the flash drive as a GPT boot device. This will allow you to install Windows Technical Preview on a GPT drive, side-by-side with Windows 7/8/8.1.
  4. Launch Rufus.
    1. Set the Device dropdown to the flash drive you want to turn into a technical preview installer.
    2. Set the Partition scheme and target system type dropdown to GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer.
    3. Click the little disc icon next to the ISO image drop down and point to the Technical Preview ISO you downloaded in step 1.
    4. Click Start and wait until the status says DONE.
Setup Rufus as shown

Setup Rufus as shown, using the Windows Technical Preview ISO as the source image

You should now be able to boot from the USB drive and install the 64 bit Technical Preview in dual boot on most machines that boot using UEFI and have a hard disk with GPT. I’ll leave it to you to find out how to create a empty partition to use for the installation, but at least now you will have a UEFI flash drive installer.

Appalachia 2050

I just had the pleasure of finishing a documentary by Prestonsburg native Ralph B. Davis entitled Appalachia 2050. Davis interviews several influential and educated people in Eastern KY, asking them what needs to be done so that the region will have overcome the issues still present after nearly fifty years of LBJ’s War on Poverty.

The consensus seems to be that the War on Poverty has indeed improved the well-being of most of Eastern KY’s poor, however, we are far from where the program hoped we would be compared to the current national averages in areas such as education, health, job opportunities, and economic growth. Nearly all participants believe that cooperation within the region is the number one key to helping the area thrive by 2050.

I encourage anyone who is interested in the future of Eastern KY to watch this documentary. I also encourage Mr. Davis to keep giving us these thought-provoking pieces because they create useful conduits for dialog. I cannot wait to see his next project, whatever that may be.

A Fix for Windows Installer Error 3728

If you ever get a Windows Installer Error Code 3728, I found a really easy fix that might work for you. ( I say might because I’ve had many problems with MSI installers over the years and it has normally been a lot of trial-and-error to fix them.) As with any fix I post, follow these steps at your own risk. There’s no way I can know every single configuration out there and your mileage may vary.

  1. Click Start, type regedit.exe, and press enter (Give the ok for Administrator privileges if you have UAC enabled).
  2. Right-click on the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive and choose Find…
  3. Type (or copy and paste) this key into the find box: {B54F3741-5B07-11cf-A4B0-00AA004A55E8}
  4. If this key is found anywhere in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive, right-click and Delete it. Very, very important: Do not delete this key from any hive other than HKEY_CURRENT_USER. Doing so may seriously mess up your system.
  5. Re-run whatever you were trying to install that was failing. If the install goes through, you’re good to go. If not, keep Googling because that’s all the medicine I’ve got for Error Code 3728 :)

As far as why this error occurs, it has something to do with the TrustedInstaller account permissions. The various sources I read to help me fix this issue had a lot of conflicting information and I managed to piece this fix together from bits and pieces of a few of them. I hope this helps!

 

Get Rid of Text Formatting (in Almost Any Program)

Have you ever copied some text from a webpage (or any formatted program, for that matter) and pasted it into another program only to find that all the fancy formatting simply doesn’t look right in its new location? If I had a nickel for every time that copy and paste between program hasn’t played nice, I’d be a wealthy man…Anyway, I’ve always relied on a trick that most people don’t think about when I want just text and nothing else:

  1. Copy your text from your source (no matter how heavily formatted it may be)
  2. Open Notepad
  3. Paste the text into Notepad
  4. Highlight and copy the text from Notepad
  5. Paste your (unformatted text) into the destination program.

This tip isn’t rocket science, but a lot of people have never thought if it.

Google Search Tricks

Google is, in my opinion, the search engine that all other search engines aspire to be. You throw in almost any half-way coherent word or phrase and Google will try its best to show you everything it thinks relates to that phrase.

The cool thing is that there are many ways to help Google find exactly what you want. Usually, it’s just a matter of using a few symbols or prefix words to get more of what you want. Check out the examples below:

Search a Specific Site for Some Words or a Phrase

To search a specific site, use:

site:wired.com wearable computer

In this example, we are searching the website wired.com for the terms wearable computer. Just put the URL of a site you want to search after site: and you’re good to go.  (Make sure not to put a space between the colon and the URL or it won’t work.)

Search for Synonyms of a Word

Putting the ~ character (called a tilde or colloquially a squiggly) before a word causes Google to search for that word and its synonyms. For example, searching for

~colleges in canada

brings up sites that are about colleges, schools, universities, and education in Canada. All those words are synonyms (or have ties to the meaning) of college.

Use Double Quote to Search for Exact Phrases

If you know you’re looking for an exact phrase, you can include the phrase in double quotes, like:

“green turtle”

If you’re searching for a common phrase, most of the time, this won’t alter your results much because Google usually tries to go with exact phrases when it can, however, it can sometimes help you get more specific. (By the way, if you do a Google search for “green turtle” with and without quotes, the results are a little different.)

Exclude Sites that Contain Certain Words

It’s possible to exclude sites that have certain words in the results. Simply put a minus sign (-) in front of any word you want to make sure DOES NOT appear in the resulting pages. (This next example is liable to get me hurt but…) For example, if I wanted to search for wildcats but didn’t want any pages that mention Kentucky in them, I could type:

wildcats -Kentucky

(If you do search for wildcats without excluding Kentucky, Kentucky Wildcats is the fifth listing. If you do it with -Kentucky, you get much different listings.)

Search for Specific Filetypes

If you know the type of file you are looking for, you can use filetype: followed by the extention you are looking for. For example,

filetype:jpg woodrow wilson

would find only jpg files with the words woodrow wilson in the filename. (Note: This usually doesn’t work with the extensions: mp3, avi, mov, or mp4 because Google got in hot water back in the day for making it so easy to search for pirated media files.)

Look for Definitions of a Word or Phrase

To look for definitions, type define: and the word or phrase you are interested in. So, a search for

define:onychophagia

would give you that definition. (Note that the definitions returned are usually correct, however, I have seen cases where the definition may be wrong. You must use your own judgement on this. [but the definition given for my example is correct :) ])

Find Something by a Specific Author

Use author: to find something by a specific author. So

systems success author:mclean

would find articles on systems success authored by anyone with the name of McLean. (Note this isn’t 100% foolproof, but if you know an author you are looking for, it doesn’t hurt to try it.) An excellent source for searching for academic articles is Google Scholar. This has helped me with many papers over the years.

There are many more Google tricks (and I’m sure many that I don’t know about), but the ones listed above are the ones I use almost on a daily basis. Google google tricks and you’ll find many articles on the subject.