Getting Remote Support

If you’re looking for remote support from me, you just need to download and run one of these available tools. Firstly – follow the link below.

FOLLOW THIS LINK

OR THIS LINK

Depending on your browser or settings, you may get an error when you try to open the first link. That may happen if you’re running an older OS (Windows 7) and your certificates are not up to date.

You’ll get that page above which has a number of different tools as you can see. For primary support, please go to the highlighted REMOTE UTILITIES.

Once that page loads there are again a number of options. Depending on what your needs are we will use either #1 highlighted in red, or #2 highlighted in blue.

The first option is for persons that need immediate support and do not want unattended access. While it does ask for elevated privileges, you can bypass this if you do not have administrative rights to your system.

The second option is for persons that will be using support on a regular basis. This installs the host which will allow me to connect whenever you call/message for remote assistance.

Other Platforms

If you happen to need support on Mac then please follow the instructions for AnyDesk in the link below.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR ANYDESK

Remote Utilities currently does not support Mac, so I have no choice but to use that for now.

You may also use TeamViewer 11 if you have access to that.

In Closing

As stated in the previous post, I’m moving fully to Remote Utilities because clients (in Jamaica) don’t want to support the subscription model. Primarily that. I do have a perpetual license for TeamViewer 11 and can use that if needs be. AnyDesk has a free option which works for most one-off support if needed. Contact me beforehand so we can arrange the remote support and discuss which tool is best to be used.

Finalized Remote Tool Changes – 2022-04-24

So we’ve moved deep into 2022 and the landscape has changed where IT is concerned. Once again.

Lots of companies have moved from their older models to subscription. It’s better for everyone in most cases. You pay a relatively small amount and get the software always updated – the company gets revenue that they can use to continue development.

One of the companies I talked about before is RemoteUtilities. I also said that they were really good for the price, but the features were a bit lacking in comparison to others. Still – for a single payment software, I don’t mind the minor inconveniences.

Moving to RemoteUtilities

As of this date, I will be moving to RemoteUtilities as the tool of choice. Simply go to their site and download the AGENT file. This will grant temporary access for me to do support. If you need me to provide constant support, using the HOST will get things done.

The reason for the move is the cost versus who is paying. Very few individuals or companies in Jamaica are willing to pay a monthly fee per device for servicing to be done. This has prompted the move to a single payment platform which I can update at my own leisure.

If you need support – call and ask. I’ll do a post on how to set it up and all that later on.

Still Use AnyDesk & TeamViewer

I will still use AnyDesk and TeamViewer if needed, just that the support on those platforms will have limitations.

TeamViewer I have a license for version 11 – so you will have to install that version.

AnyDesk has no limits really, but I will need all the connection details in order to go on.

RMM In Future?

There are a lot of different platforms that support RMM. I’ve used a few and may move to one of them later on. Depending on what happens. If I find enough customers that will actually pay for that kind of service, I will look into deploying one of the solutions. Until then? Remote support will be provided using the available tools.

Self-Hosted Streaming – 2022-01-23 Update

I may have mentioned before – verbally to persons since I’ve not posted about it before – but there are a number of streaming services that can be utilized.

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney Plus and a whole slew of others exist. For personal servers, there are ones like Plex, Emby, JellyFin and – on the much older scale – XBMC. You can look up each one and check out the features – I’ll be going into details of a few soon, but the focus will be functionality and the “watch together” feature.

COVID

Fortunately – or unfortunately maybe? – COVID came around and forced everyone to stay indoors. This then prompted the various companies to implement methods for friends/family to watch content synchronized. I honestly don’t recall who was first, but users all over had various things developed that pushed things forward to where they are now.

One of the mentions would be the MPC (Media Player Classic) ports that have been around. There was an addon to a version that allowed you and friends to “watch together” any video file. The downside is that everyone had to have the same video file on their system, and then have the addon running. This would then synchronize the playback – mostly – but it would not allow pausing by anyone. That means – if I paused it would only pause for me. I believe later iterations developed on this, but by then the big companies had caught on.

Enter the “watch together” features from Netflix, Amazon and the other big players. These allowed users of the platform to plan a date/time and stream the same content. This would be hosted on the provider (Netflix/Amazon/etc) and the play/pause would be global. This means if someone had a call or needed to rush to the bathroom, everyone would be paused until someone hit play again. I believe Netflix took things a step further and allowed for a sidebar chat to be available.

SELF-HOSTED SERVICES

Some persons that either have private content – or “not so straight” content – would want to have these features available as well. Enter services such as Plex and Emby.

Plex was more along the “commercial” line while Emby was somewhere on the fence about being “commercial” in comparison to Plex. The main fork of Emby became Jellyfin, and I assume that the open source core components are the same, but development has differed along the way.

Regardless of which you choose, each has their pros and cons – but each will allow you to selectively give access to your personal library. This content can be hosted on your PC at home, or on a server somewhere else that you rent/own. You could – for example – place your wedding or funeral videos in a shared location that could then be streamed to persons that you grant access. Let’s get into the main three.

PLEX

Plex is by far the “top dog” when it comes to a commercial product with great features. As with the others, it’s a streaming media server and service that you own and place whatever content you like there. The difference with the others is you pay for monthly, yearly or lifetime subscriptions which opens up other features.

Based on how Plex works as a service, you share your content with other Plex users based on their email/username. You can specify what content they can see, and you can have a “local” login set for your household with parental controls available.

Plex was the first of the self-hosted services to have a “watch together” feature available. This pushed the envelope and made it the #1 service in the self-hosted category.

As of this writing, Plex still works nicely but has some recent bugs that may be related to an influx of users, or changes to coding which has caused the service to take a downturn. Specifically with remote hosted content, your videos will play fine – pause fine – resume fine. Seeking through a video (fast forward or rewind) now causes the video to playback at 2X speed for some strange reason. The “watch together” feature has become extremely buggy, and the issues seem to be across the board.

While Plex is probably still the easiest to find and install on any device, the current problems make it unbearable to keep using. As a more “commercial” service, I expect that the issues will be fixed – but there seems to be no timeline. Work was done on the back-end it seems, and some features were added, but the playback issues and “watch together” issues still persist. This has been going on since December 2021.

EMBY

Emby has (or had?) cemented itself squarely at the #2 position when it came to a Plex alternative. The mixed open and closed source code with stalled development seems to have caused a diminished following.

While Emby is still one of the best self-hosted services available, the lack of a “watch together” feature has caused persons to move to either Plex or Jellyfin – which the latter is a fork of Emby. We’ll get into Jellyfin next, but let’s look at the Emby features.

Emby allows you to do most of the things that Plex does – except “watch together” – yeah – sorry about that. I’m kinda upset that Emby has not added this feature. But let’s move on.

Emby allows you to easily and quickly log in using a code – Plex does something similar with a “claim code” for the servers. Emby allows you to set parental and other restrictions to users. Emby, though not as popular as Plex, has begun to have apps available in mainstream TV stores. Let me get into that a bit…

Prior to the prevalence of Android TVs, each manufacturer like Samsung and LG would have their own stores. You could still “sideload” Android apps, but they were not always easily supported. Plex was available in these stores, but Emby has started to gain a presence there as well. In terms of simply installing from my Samsung TV – some difficulty on other older models – Plex is king of this while Emby would be the close second.

If your TV isn’t 100% smart or running Android, I would suggest using an Android box or an Amazon Fire TV – stick or box. This would allow very easy installation of any streaming service.

Emby has premium features that can be purchased, and they also have a lifetime option. Unlike Plex that only periodically offers the lifetime, Emby has it available for purchase whenever you want.

That’s about it for Emby – so let’s get into the #3 on this list.

JELLYFIN

Welcome to the new kid on the block that has blown everything else out of the water. Almost.

Jellyfin is a fork of Emby with a lot of community work going into it. While Emby still has an active community, one of the biggest requests has been a “watch together” feature to keep up with Plex. For whatever reason, Emby did not progress with the feature. Community members made two main addons which work, but they require a bit of technical knowledge to get it working.

Someone – or a group of persons – developed “Jelly Party” as an option for Jellyfin. This was a website that you could go to and follow the instructions. It would then allow synchronized playback with a “watch party” situation. Because Jellyfin is a fork of Emby, this feature ended up working with Emby as well. Jellyfin then integrated this into their later releases and it’s now a part of the mainstream Jellyfin. This leaves Emby in the dust. Sort of.

One of the issues I’ve had with Jellyfin recently – on a Fire Stick – is constant crashing of the app. This doesn’t happen in the browser, but sometimes you want to watch on the bigger screen.

Jellyfin is 100% free and has the community assisting with development. This seems to push the overall process faster than Emby, but it may still take some time before Jellyfin becomes more mainstream.

Honorable Mention

What persons have been doing is using YouTube, FaceBook, Discord and other services to stream video that they’re watching. While this works, it’s entirely up to a single person to manage the playback. There’s also the risk of an account being banned if it’s reported as playing “questionable” content.

In Closing

Plex, Emby and Jellyfin are great tools regardless of which you pick. The issues I have with one or the other may only be specific to my servers or media. I would recommend that you try out the one you like and see if it works for you.

For general playback, Plex is unbeaten overall. The CPU usage for transcoding is lower than the others, but the current issues with playback and the “watch together” not working is a pain.

As a 100% free tool, Jellyfin is the next best thing since sliced bread. It works overall, but the recent issues with crashing on the Android platform (Fire Stick specifically) makes things a bit tedious. If you want to watch together though, it’s probably the best choice currently. For self-hosted that is.

Emby is probably the most stable of the three mentioned. It works great overall, but the main reason persons shy away is the absence of the “watch together” feature. If you only want your library shared for yourself and watching with friends is not a concern, then Emby is definitely the one I’d suggest.

If there’s something else that you’d like to suggest, please do so in the comments area so we can discuss it. Have a good one!

Dealing With Macs

This is something that I’ve discussed with friends a few times before. I have friends that are hardcore Mac users – some are in the middle – and some are adamantly against Mac. I’m…in the middle I guess from a user perspective. From a HARDWARE perspective – I love them. From a TECHNICIAN perspective? Hatred. I’ll explain.

USER

If you’re just using the device, the stability is excellent. The lack of virus infections and lovely interface makes it easy. Once you get into the ecosystem it’s a quick and easy transition from any one Mac device to another. The iOS and OSX interface is very similar. The fact that your purchases stay with you is great! A little annoying that most things are paid, but most of them are worth it. Some apps as well do far better on the Mac than on any other platform. Except maybe Linux in some cases.

HARDWARE

With the exception of exploding phones and other things you’ll find online, the Mac hardware is pretty solid. There are small nuances that are integrated that you may not really notice, but it’s there and quite satisfying. Like the Apple Pencil for example. It is balanced to ensure that it will always roll to a particular side once on a flat surface. Little things that make a big impact.

TECH PERSPECTIVE

Macs are a nightmare to work with – especially if you don’t have another Mac to use. From having to back-date the system in order to reinstall, to having to FORCE INSTALL an OS in order to update – these are the particular things that make it difficult to work with. Macs have forced obsolescence ingrained in their DNA. Regardless of how good your Mac is, it will become obsolete to the point that it’s not useable. If you’re not a technical person, you have no choice but to change your Mac at end of life.

The “end of life” situation is fine for persons in countries that have good exchange and warranty programs, but the rest of the world does not have those luxuries. You buy a system and you need to do all you can to make it last.

MY VIEW

As with any piece of hardware or software, I have little to no preference. That entirely rests on you the end user and your wants or needs. Doing video or audio mixing/editing? Mac. Don’t want virus issues? Mac. Want a solid piece of hardware that will last you 5 years or more? Mac.

If you’re in a country where recalls for defects can be easily accessible, then great! If you’re not – then you have to suffer with what you have. While Macs are great in lots of respects, the availability of compatible software (free or otherwise) is limited. Yes you can find some Mac counterpart to a Windows platform software, and it may even be better, but it is a hassle.

CASE STUDIES

I have three case studies that I’d like to present – for the Mac enthusiasts. These are situations that I’ve resolved, but the level of tediousness was…tedious?

MacBook Pro with defective board. Off warranty. Problem is it doesn’t recognize the internal drive periodically. While data was retrieved – this is a “M13” SSD – the user was unable to have an OS boot on this device ever again. While I resolved this using an external drive, bear in mind that you cannot install MacOS on a USB drive. Just saying.

iMac with a failed drive. While I can’t recall the versions, it was something like Lion that shipped on the device originally, and it was upgradeable to High Sierra. Internet recovery – one of the BEST THINGS on Mac – put back Lion on the device. There was literally no way to get High Sierra on the device. None. Attempts to get the OS upgraded failed. Could not connect to the store to upgrade – would not install the DMG when downloaded – upgrade could not go through. Resolved by forcing an install using a patched HFS and a CLOVER boot tool from within Windows. Still had to back-date the system during setup for it to go through though. But yeah. Go Mac.

Last one. MacBook (not pro) that died. Was taken to another tech before who had managed to get the system restored after a replacement was purchased (identical). This is running OSX 10.5.8 or something – and the system can run 10.11.3 or something. As you know, any Mac that is outdated cannot access certain websites and applications cannot work – minimum requirements and all that from the forced obsolescence. This one was a bit more tricky. Even after getting the “El Capitan” installer app set up on a “High Sierra” system – then exporting it to USB – the thing refused to install. Booted fine and everything, but REFUSED to install. This was “bypassed” using a forced install method – not the date/time method. But these are the things that you go through when working on a Mac.

Much of the problems with OS reinstalls could be resolved by validating the model/serial during internet restore, then putting on the last version available instead of having techs go through all these hoops. Having something on the back-end do this so the user will always have the latest version for their system would be best IMO.

CONCLUSION

Macs are great devices. They are pretty stable in both the hardware and software. If you’re an end-user then you won’t have many issues, and if you have an upgrade program that you can get into – you’ll have zero issues. If you’re in a country where you have to stay on an older model for an extended time? Ensure you have backups. Get a technician to create the install media for your current/latest OS and have that saved somewhere. Whether iCloud or some other cloud backup – ensure your important files are safe. The cloud storage thing applies to EVERYONE – not just Mac users.

If you’re not purchasing “official” software then go Windows. You can find more “unofficial” software and free software that can work. If you REALLY want to go fully free – go Linux.

Collections

Good night everyone. This will be my final post on the matter of outstanding balances for this year (2022) before I get back to regular tech posts – periodically.

I checked today and it will cost 30% of what is owed plus GCT. I don’t mind since something is better than nothing – and with some persons with outstanding amounts, that’s been the case for months/years.

If JPS/NWC is not paid then your service is disconnected. I may not be as large as they are, but I do have overheads that need to be addressed. Having me tied out for an extended period of time makes me have to shift things up. As a client – if you had to wait until you paid everything up front, you’d have been highly inconvenienced and unable to meet deadlines or get work done. I usually get the job done beforehand as most persons need their equipment in order to earn.

Let’s leave it at that. Let’s hope that the general outlook for persons in 2022 will improve, and persons will be more forthcoming with their status.

2022 – Update to collections & service terms

Happy New Year everyone. 2022 wants to be 2020 too….started off badly if you ask me. Aside from family passing away, we lost Betty White in December and started the year with Sidney Poitier leaving as well. While there are other celebrities that we’ve lost, those are the two most prominent ones that are easily identifiable to locals (Jamaicans) if you ask me.

One of the younger deaths in 2022 was Bob Saget. That was unexpected if you ask me.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2022

Now – with those unpleasantries out of the way – let’s get into some more unpleasantries. The topic of the post.

TERMS OF SERVICE

While there are no major changes to the terms, there will be updates to how I handle some things. I will also be updating these terms on the main site. I’m probably going to be lazy and type it out here then just copy/paste into the main site. Or not.

https://carlosthomas.net/TOS/

I’m going to be rather blunt about certain topics here. This has come out of necessity. I will also go a bit more into details about certain clients here – without getting too specific. I assume you will read the details and be aware of where things are.

Unfortunately I’m getting older – and I’m getting a bit less tolerant when it comes to providing the services without payment being sent. I love I.T. There are few things that I enjoy as much as doing repairs and troubleshooting, but having a love for something does not pay the bills.

My day job is my priority. If I’m not able to address your issue in a timely manner, I’ll refer you elsewhere or discount your repair if you’re willing to wait. as I’ve said on the main page link, some persons have had me waiting for payment for 3+ years now. I’ve held old devices for persons for 5+ years. It’s going to stop.

CASE STUDIES

I have two cases that I’d like to highlight. Just to give examples and make the persons involved aware.

One customer I ensured to have the system back up and running as it’s needed for them to earn. Partial payment was done, but almost 50% of the invoice has been outstanding for 3+ months now. That’s on the lighter end of tings.

The next customer – I’ll highlight that this is a business – has owed for 6 separate invoices within 2018, and only 1 of 6 has a partial payment. That’s going on 4 years now.

I’m not doing it again. I’m sorry. The details are on the website – which covers my legal obligations. While I already have a network of IT persons that I spread delinquent names among, I am going to check with my lawyer about posting the names of these persons/businesses online. Maybe I should. Maybe I can’t.

The information given to the network of IT persons/businesses simply has the details of the offender, and a warning to ensure that collections are done. But some offenders will not have me doing work for them ever again. I’ve been patient enough I believe.

I’d like to mention something – just so individuals don’t think I’m picking on them and praising businesses. Government is no better. Had a situation where one of the Parish Councils owed me for a printer repair for 2 years. When they needed me again – I sent someone else. After the other person visited twice and brought reminders physically, they finally paid. Government of Jamaica. TWO YEARS.

IN CLOSING

That’s it for now. I’m done being that nice. I love what I do – but free work does not cover the petrol cost (have you seen those lately?) or the electricity costs to do the work. Has got to stop.

Especially for those who have long outstanding payments – if no effort is made to clear the balances, the collection will be handed over to an agency.

AnyDesk Update – Version 7

Hi everyone. This update is done from my phone, so no photos or anything yet. I’ll probably update this post with some pictures and added links once I’m able to.

UPDATE – 2022 – As of version 7.0.4 the profiles issue (mentioned below) has been fixed.

So as you know, I’ve been using AnyDesk as my primary support tool in more recent times. While not as fully featured as ScreenConnect or TeamViewer, it gets things done nicely.

The latest update adds a feature that still needs some work, but will be useful when all bugs are worked out. That would be what I’d call “connection profiles” – official name is “Permission Profiles”.

The update comes with 4 existing profiles that you can tailor, and a menu item suggesting more custom profiles can be added, however that presently doesn’t work. Still, 4 should be enough for most persons to define their connections. What’s available so far are:

  • Default
  • Screen Sharing
  • Full Access
  • Unattended Access

You can specify the level of control each profile will have, and set passwords for each. If you’re a technical user, you can specify access for yourself and others. If you’re an admin, you can set your access and secondary access for assistance when you’re not fully available.

Again, 4 should be enough but I’m waiting for future updates when the profiles can probably be renamed and custom ones added.

As a workaround – if you happen to click on the “ADD PROFILE” option and find a blank page like below – don’t worry about it. Simply close the window and then go back in settings (if you need to) or – if you JUST clicked it – just hit ENTER on the keyboard to get rid of the screen and get back to the settings.

Windows 10 Updates – Printer Problems

In recent times I’ve found that people have been having problems printing. Most of the issues occur with networked printers or network shared printers.

My first encounter was around October 14th, 2021.

Apparently this is due to Windows Update. Some specific updates taken keep breaking the network printing, whether it’s an actual networked printer or one shared from another PC.

The main culprit is KB5006670. If you can’t manage to find it within “Add/Remove Programs” or such, you can remove it manually using a command.

Run the command without quotes “wusa /uninstall /kb:5006670” from an elevated command prompt. The exact command is below for your convenience to copy/paste.

wusa /uninstall /kb:5006670

The problem is – many times the update reinstalls. You’ll have to use your favorite tool/s to block updates and prevent it from being reinstalled.

Some other removal commands which include other updates that could cause your issue are listed below. I’ve included the one above as well.

wusa /uninstall /kb:5006670
wusa /uninstall /kb:3197868
wusa /uninstall /kb:3170455
wusa /uninstall /kb:5005613
wusa /uninstall /kb:3163912
wusa /uninstall /kb:3172985

At the end of that, you may want to run “msdt.exe /id PrinterDiagnostic” to start the print troubleshooter and see if it’s possible to resolve your issue.

If you had the printer installed before and it stopped, these may help. If your printer disappeared from your list – you’ll have to add it back.

If you’re in an organization and can afford to, you may want to deploy up a localized Windows Update server. This will allow you to cherry pick what gets distributed.

Links to external resources can be found below. Just note that my specific reason for the research was a bit different. Yes – I had the printing issue – but my client also had failing drives and I initially thought the print failure was due to corrupted files. This was the case on one (1) of the machines on that network.

Hopefully the information provided helps to get your print issues resolved.

https://www.howtoedge.com/fix-printer-error-0x00000709-on-windows-10/

https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/280261-a-policy-is-in-effect-on-your-computer-which-prevents-you-from-connecting-to-thi

http://www.networksteve.com/windows/topic.php/When_trying_to_add_a_networked_printer_i_get_this_error._On_wind/?TopicId=26560&Posts=1

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/888046/en-us

https://www.ubackup.com/windows-10/dism-offline-repair-windows-10.html

2021-2022 Cleaning

So I’m just putting this here. Each year I try to clean up and clear out things that I have for various persons/customers and many times things don’t get picked up. I’ve literally had some items for more than 5 years – some more than 10 years – and I’m seriously going to be clearing out by or before January 2022.

If I have a device that belongs to you – request it back before then. If I’m working on something for you – request an update. I am not going into next year with any open tickets in my system. Everything needs to be purged or updated. Whatever’s not working – you either take it back or I dump it.

Without giving names – for privacy – you can review and see if any of these are yours. If your device isn’t listed then please reference your ticket number or other details for me to locate and return your device. If you don’t want it – it will be dumped or donated.

I have:

  • 1x Printer (HP)
  • 1x Printer (Epson)
  • 1x iMac
  • 1x Laptop (Acer)
  • 1x Laptop (HP)
  • 1x Desktop (DELL)

These are the only items that belong to clients that I’m still working on. The printer I’ve had for 5+ years and will be dumping soon. The Acer I’ve located because it was packed away with other things – so I’m testing to return. The Mac I’ll be returning soon if I can’t get anything out of it. The owner of the Mac also owns the printer. Both need to go, and I’ll be working on that by or before the end of November. The DELL desktop has been in my possession for maybe 10+ years. The owner has moved to laptops in the household so I will be dumping if no action is taken.

The last HP laptop – I cannot get a sale for since it has either a board or screen issue, and the internal storage is 64GB EMMC. I’ll be returning that in the next week or two.

That concludes everything. I should have everyone sorted by or before the end of this year. I NEED things to be streamlined by or before 2022. Whatever I can’t do I’ll pass on to someone else. Time is an issue with my day job, so please let me know what should be done with your items. If I get no communication by January 1, 2022 – I will just dump or give away everything.

Browser Certificate Errors

Recently I’ve gotten a few calls about “Certificate Errors” with browsers on various Windows installs. Quick version – solution in link to Microsoft.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/support-for-urgent-trusted-root-updates-for-windows-root-certificate-program-in-windows-a4ac4d6c-7c62-3b6e-dfd2-377982bf3ea5

This happens when updates aren’t installed, but that’s another story. Been seeing recently where updates are breaking Windows functions, especially with network printing. Will touch on that later/tomorrow.

Download the update from the link above if you keep getting certificate errors from trusted sites such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc.

One user attempted to test from a site called “ttyoutube” which I had to explain is not a trusted site. While other websites exist to help with downloading videos from YouTube and other sites, you run a risk of malware installations by using those sites. Pop-ups and tracking cookies are hopefully the only things you’ll encounter.

Hopefully this will help if you find yourself with errors while browsing known good sites.