Outlook 2016’s “Unsafe Rules”

Microsoft Outlook has a robust system of rules that you can use to move, copy, delete (or alert you) when you receive an email based on a number of conditions.

One option I use quite a bit is “when I receive an email with x in the subject line, run a script”. Here’s why: I have an app that downloads files to a specific folder that cannot be changed. When the downloads are complete, I want to move those file(s) to a shared network folder. So I have Outlook set up to where if I send an email to myself with a certain string of letters and numbers, a script runs that moves the file(s) from one folder to the other (I often want to do this while away from the computer, hence the need for the Outlook rule and script).

However, it would appear that December’s updates for Office 365 removed the “run a script” option from the rules, along with a couple other “unsafe rules”. Thankfully, it appears that Microsoft didn’t remove the options, it just hid them. If, like me, you use the “run a script” option, here’s how you can re-enable it:

  1. Close Outlook, if running.
  2. Open Regedit.
  3. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\Security 
  4. Right-click on an empty space in the right pane and choose New > DWORD Value. Name the new value EnableUnsafeClientMailRules and set its value to 1.
  5. Close Regedit; open Outlook.

At this point, go to the “Rules & Alerts” applet. You should see that the “(error)” message next to any existing “run a script” rules is gone, although you might have to check the box to actually enable the rule again.

A Virgin Mobile Tip

Whether you’re considering becoming a Virgin Mobile customer, or if you’re an existing customer looking to upgrade your phone, consider looking at Virgin Mobile phones on Amazon first.

I bought a Samsung Galaxy Ring back in 2014. I hated it: it locked up, rebooted, and stock apps crashed all the time. Virgin Mobile replaced it four times, but after the last time I said enough was enough.

I bought an LG Tribute ($79.99 on Virgin’s site) as a temporary fix until I could switch carriers, or until Virgin got some better phones. But I ended up liking the Tribute. It had an awful camera and a mere 4GB of space, of which only 1.1GB was available to the user. But other than that, the phone just worked. It never once locked-up or rebooted, and was generally everything you could hope for in a $79.99 Android phone.

But then my girlfriend accidentally dropped it in a parking lot, creating a huge crack in the screen. She offered to buy me a new one, so I thought I’d check Amazon to see if they had a better deal. They did: $39.95!

I got the upgrade bug in December 2015 and saw that Virgin had the LG Stylo. But it was $199… not super expensive, but a bit too much for an impulse buy, especially at Christmas. I checked Amazon and saw that it was $109.99. Toss in a $25 Amazon gift card I’d gotten and the total dropped to $85.99 – 58% less than Virgin was selling it for.

A couple weeks ago I was running some errands and the Stylo’s screen starting acting weird. It was “wavy”, like an LCD monitor with a bad capacitor. Amazon to the rescue again: the LG Stylo 2 – $179.99 on Virgin Mobile’s site – was only $69.95 at Amazon! That’s 61% less than Virgin Mobile’s price! (Virgin has since put the phone on Black Friday sale for $129.99 while Amazon has raised their price to $99, so it’s not nearly the deal it once was.)

If you’re wondering, all the phones I’ve purchased from Amazon have been brand new in sealed Virgin retail packaging. Virgin does have refurbished phones they send as warranty replacements. These come in generic white boxes with no graphics. The Amazon phones are not refurbs.

Also, these kind of deals don’t last long, so you have to move quickly. These deals mostly apply to Virgin’s middle-of-the-road ($129-$249) phones. You won’t see Virgin Mobile iPhones or Samsung Galaxy S phones with such discounts. You can find Virgin’s low-end phones on Amazon, but there won’t be much of a discount: the Alcatel DAWN is currently on sale for $39.99 on Virgin’s site but $74.80 at Amazon (a slight discount off Virgin’s regular $79.99 price).

Exporting LG’s Quick Memos

Many LG phones come with Quick Memo, a pre-installed note taking app. It’s not as good as OneNote or Evernote, but since it can’t be uninstalled, I thought I’d give it a try rather than waste precious storage space on duplicate apps. Come to find out, it handles my basic note-taking needs pretty well.

One downside, however, is that there’s no Quick Memo app for Windows. Thus, you can long-press on a note to share it with yourself (or others) via Gmail, but once you save the attachment, there’s no way to open it on your desktop or laptop. Nice.

However, after futzing with a sample file for a while, I found that the exported LQM files are just zip files, and can be opened with most compression apps. I’m a big fan of WinRAR, so here’s what a note looks like when opened in that app:

Quick Memo

As you might guess, any audio or video files saved in a memo will be located in their respective folders. Image files are saved in the “Images” folder, while text (or drawings) captured by stylus input will be saved in the “Drawings” folder:

Quick Memo Drawing

If you’d like, you can right-click an LQM file in Windows and choose Open With > WinRAR and check the “Always use this app to open these files” box to have Windows always use WinRAR (or WinZip or 7-Zip) to open the Quick Memo files.

Open a Command Prompt from File Explorer

Most power users know this already, but I’ve noticed that a surprising number of “Average Joes” do not: if you’re using File Explorer (or Windows Explorer, as it’s known in older versions of Windows) and you want to open a command prompt at that particular location, all you have to do is type CMD+Enter in the address bar:

cmd_shortcut_01
File Explorer, open at C:\adb

 

cmd_shortcut_02
Type CMD in the address bar and press ENTER.

 

cmd_shortcut_03
Command Prompt opens to the current folder

Thanks, Spotify!

One of the big draws of Spotify Premium is that the service allows you to download music for offline listening. So if you’re going somewhere where LTE or Wi-Fi might not be available (camping) or might be expensive or slow (most airports and flights), you can save tunes to your device and listen offline. Hell, even if LTE or Wi-Fi is available, you might want to download a song anyway: if you’re one of those people who plays a track on repeat, it’s better to download a song once over Wi-Fi than use your precious data to download the same bits over and over again.

Spotify Premium allows you to download music to (up to) 3 devices. Like most software with such limits, you can log in to your account and revoke permissions for a device… in case one of your devices is lost, stolen or broken and you order a replacement. But Spotify’s UI isn’t that helpful:

Spotify WTF

I have Spotify installed on an LG G Stylo (phone), Asus ZenPad (tablet) and Amazon Fire (tablet). But I can’t tell which device is which, because Spotify’s programmers can’t be bothered to add a few lines of code to their app.

Thanks, Spotify!

The Welcome Screen 24 Hour Clock

I once worked in an industry that used the 24-hour clock (“military time”) almost exclusively. While I hated it at first, I’ve grown to love its lack of ambiguity. There is no “7AM” or “7PM” in my world, just “07:00” and “19:00”. I’ve set all my electronic devices to display 24-hour time, and even bought an alarm clock specifically because it can display 24-hour time.

Which is why Windows 10’s Welcome Screen drove me insane. In Windows, most regional settings are handled on a per-user basis. So if my GF and I shared a computer, I could use the 24-hour clock on my account, but she could use the 12-hour clock on her account. But the thing is, when you boot up a Windows 10 computer, no user is logged in. By default (in the United States, anyway) Windows 10 displays the 12-hour clock. It’s hardly the end of the world: I only reboot my computer once a month for updates… but it just nagged at the OCD part of my personality to see “2:34PM” on the Welcome Screen instead of “14:34”.

Can you change that? Of course you can!

Open Control Panel and go to “Region”.

If you haven’t already, use the drop-down boxes to choose the 24-hour clock option under “Short Time:” and “Long Time:” (red arrows) and click “Apply”. Then (or if your computer already uses the 24-hour clock) click on the “Administrative” tab (blue arrow):

Welcome Screen 1
(click to embiggen)

Click the “Copy Settings” button:

Welcome Screen 2
(click to embiggen)

Lastly, check the box under “Welcome Screen and system accounts”. I also read a couple of posts saying to check the “New User Accounts” box, too. Since I’m the only one who uses this computer… why not?

Welcome Screen 3
(click to embiggen)

From here on out, the Welcome Screen should display the 24-hour clock. Hooray!

Plex: Still Sucks

I have a desktop computer in my upstairs office. I have an HDTV in the downstairs living room. All I’ve ever wanted to do is stream video files from the computer to the TV, under two specific conditions: 1) I don’t want any kind of “app” running on the desktop PC; and 2) I don’t want to deal with any kind of “library” feature.

After researching for weeks, I decided on the WDTV Live, because it was the only one that met my two conditions.

As to the former, the WDTV Live was (at the time) the only streaming box I know of that supports SMB. Since I’d already shared my video folder to the local network, all I had to do was configure the WDTV Live to access my Wi-Fi network, then click Video > Choose Source > Network Shares > Windows Shares > [My Computer] > Video.

As for the latter, the WDTV Live has the ability to search for metadata and create a nice library of my videos. But since all I want to do is watch the video once and then delete or archive it, I like that all I have to do is download a video and make sure it’s in the correct folder: no adding it to (or removing it from) a library… in an app that has to run on my desktop PC 24×7.

I’ve had the WDTV Live for several years now, and the local video part of the device still works as good as ever. I download a video to my “Videos” folder, and it’s available instantly on the WDTV Live. The device plays almost any type of video file, except for WebM, gifv or flv (none of which are really used for TV shows or movies) and HEVC files (which are newer). DivX or XviD in an avi container, mp4, mkv containers, DVDs ripped as ISOs… the WDTV Live seems to play them all.

The WDTV Live also has a variety of streaming apps, too, like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and others. But Western Digital discontinued the WDTV Live in 2015, having not updated the firmware a long time before that. So many of these apps no longer work. So I have a box that can play any type of locally networked file… but can’t do Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu, Spotify, TuneIn or Pandora any more.

I asked for (and received) one of the new(ish) Chromecasts for Christmas. And it works OK, but has a strange bug: my Vizio smart TV loses connection to the device randomly. For 2-5 seconds the screen will go black and say “No Signal”. Sometimes it’ll happen three times in five minutes; other times it’ll only happen once every 2-3 hours. Since my Time Warner DVR and the WDTV Live have never had this problem, I thought the issue might be the Chromecast. So I ordered one of the new Roku Streaming Sticks.

Continue reading “Plex: Still Sucks”

Moving VirtualBox Machines

I have a client who makes extensive use of virtual machines for a remote office. Back when I set this up (almost a decade ago), I chose Microsoft’s Virtual PC because it was free (and VirtualBox didn’t exist yet). I let Virtual PC put the config files wherever it wanted under AppData, but I kept the VHD files in a folder called C:\VMs (for easy backup purposes).

Well, time passed, and Virtual PC seemed slow and creaky. So I switched the client over to VirtualBox. There was a bit of a learning curve with this: under Virtual PC, for example, I could easily make a copy of a VHD and attach that to a new virtual machine (for a new hire, for instance). You can’t do that in VirtualBox, at least not without getting “UUID already exists” errors. You can reset this from the command-line but… eh.

In VirtualBox, the easiest way to duplicate a virtual machine is to open the management console, right-click on an existing virtual machine and choose “Clone”. You can then choose a name for the new virtual machine, and an exact duplicate will be made. Only problem is, in my case, the new hard drive will be located in c:\users\[user]\Virtualbox VMs\[new VM name] instead of C:\VMs.

Of course, I could easily just edit the backup script to include the new location. But I like having all the virtual hard drives in one location. So how can you move the virtual hard drive?

For starters, make sure the virtual machine in question is powered off. Then click File > Virtual Media Manager. Right-click on the new hard drive you just created and click “Remove”. Click “Close”, then move the VDI\VHD to its new location. Back in the VirtualBox manager, right-click on the virtual machine and choose “Settings”. Choose “Storage”, then, under “Storage Tree”, click the “Add Hard Drive” icon (the one with a tiny hard drive and a + symbol). Then choose the VDI\VHD file you just moved. OK and close out of everything, and you should be good to go!

One GREAT Mega Feature

You may have heard of Mega, a cloud storage service started by notorious hacker-turned-entrepreneur\wanted fugitive Kim Dotcom (Dotcom has since left the company).

Mega offers 50GB of storage space for free accounts, and also has a “MEGAsync” app for computers that synchronizes the cloud data to your local computer (like the Dropbox or OneDrive desktop apps). Like those services, Mega also has apps for Android and iOS that let you access your cloud drive anywhere, and also automatically upload photos taken with mobile devices to your cloud account.

One thing the Mega app does that no other mobile app does is… give you the option of keeping your photos’ original filenames. This may sound trivial, but it’s not. Here’s why:

Dropbox renames all the pictures you upload, and (last time I checked) it doesn’t give you the option to disable this. Dropbox’s official reason for doing this is because some devices name your pictures sequentially, as in IMG_01.JPG, IMG_02.JPG, IMG_03.JPG and so on. So if your software were to update, or if you upgraded your SD card, or if you got a replacement phone, the numbering might restart at IMG_01.JPG, causing problems for Dropbox. By renaming the pictures, Dropbox avoids this problem.

Which is great… until you want to manually back up your pictures. You attach your phone to your computer via USB, open the SD card via Explorer, and drag the photos to your Camera Uploads folder… instantly creating a giant mess of duplicates, because your computer doesn’t know that IMG_1234.JPG and 2015-06-25 17.34.10.JPG are the same picture. This is especially annoying if your mobile device already names pictures like Dropbox does, but does it just a bit differently. Because again, your computer doesn’t know that 2015-06-25 17.34.10.JPG (Dropbox) and 2015.06.25.173410.JPG (LG phone) is the same photograph.

Which is what makes Mega’s app so cool. Just open the app, go to Settings and scroll down to the Camera Uploads section:

Mega Photo Name Option
(click to embiggen)

Problem solved! The next time you want to manually back up your pictures, Windows will warn you about duplicates!

Disabling LG’s KnockON

Most LG phones come with a “knock code” lock screen feature. Instead of using a pattern or PIN, you can elect to tap the screen in a certain pattern to unlock your phone.

I like having options, but never actually use this myself. Consider how difficult it is if you need someone else to access your phone. Imagine driving somewhere, and you need a passenger to check your phone. If you use a PIN, you can just say “yeah, the PIN is 1234” and the passenger can quickly figure it out. If they’re unfamiliar with knock codes, you’ll have to explain the entire concept: “OK, imagine the bottom half of the lock screen divided into four equal boxes numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4 starting at the top left. You need to tap 1, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4”.

Yeah, not easy.

Many LG phones also come with a similar feature called KnockON. This turns the screen on (but does not unlock it) if you double-tap it. Thing is, this sometimes causes the screen to come on when you don’t want it to. If you have your phone in a bag – or, in my case, between my fingers with a handful of stuff getting out of the car – the screen can turn on by itself, wasting precious battery life.

LG used to provide the option to turn this off. All one had to do was go to Settings > Lock Screen and tap the LockON option to turn it off or on. But LG has hidden this option in newer versions of Android. So how do you turn it off?

Note: Please see the update at the bottom of this post!

The following procedure is easy, doesn’t require root, and is easily reversible.

1) Open the Play Store, search for, and install, an app called Activity Launcher.

2) Once the app is installed, open it.

3) At the top of the screen, you’ll see a drop-down box allowing you to change the display from “Recent Activities” to “All Activities”. Select “All Activities”. It will likely take a minute or two to load the next screen, and you’ll see a progress bar giving you information about that.

4) Scroll down (waaaayy down) to Settings, and tap on that. If you have more than one “Settings” entry, try the first one.

5) Scroll down (waaaayy down) to KnockON. Tap the first option, the one marked

KnockON
com.android.Settings$KnockONSettingsActivity

KnockON 01
(click to embiggen)

6) The KnockON settings page will open. Uncheck the box at the top of the screen to disable it (as shown in the screencap below), or check it to enable the option:

KnockON 02
(click to embiggen)

Contrary to what the Settings page says, after unchecking the box, you’ll be able to turn your screen off or on via the power button, like a normal person.

7) OPTIONAL: If you like, you can create a home screen shortcut to the KnockON option by long pressing the KnockON option in step 5 and choosing “Create Shortcut” instead of just tapping it.

8) OPTIONAL: If you like, uninstall the Activity Launcher app. You will, however, need to download and install it again if you want to enable\re-enable KnockON. If you’ve made a home screen shortcut (mentioned in the previous step), it will continue to work if you uninstall Activity Launcher.

UPDATE (04/17/2017): An easier option is an app available on the Play Store called V10 Hidden Settings. Although it’s designed for the LG V10, many of its functions – especially the ability to turn KnockON on or off – work on my Stylo 2. Note that many features of this app will not work on a non-V10 phone: “Quick Info”, for example, gives me a “this device not supported” message when I tap on it. And “Screen Mode” (which gives you the option of choosing standard, vivid and natural color options) doesn’t give me an error message, but doesn’t appear to do anything at all on my Stylo 2.