Thoughts From My Life

Advice from someone who does not know everything.

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S.K. Parks Consulting – Manuscript Editing, Research Consulting, Seminars, Tutoring

My brother-in-law has recently returned from living in France for the past decade. He earned his PhD in Canada before moving abroad and working in Labs in Nice, France and Monaco. He has over 15 years of experience in scientific research, publishing & peer-review for internationally recognized journals and teaching in the Medical and Biological Sciences.

Now living in Victoria, Canada, he is has launched his own website, S.K. Parks Consulting. He provides a variety of services such as:

  • Manuscript Editing & Evaluation
  • Research Consulting
  • Guest Seminars
  • Tutoring
  • Translating Services (French & English)

Check out his site if you are interested.

Unable to Download Blocked Gmail Attachment

I ran into an issue recently where I was trying to retrieve an attachment in an email and it was blocked. Gmail blocks the download of attachments it feels are a risk. Files with certain file extensions (like .exe), zip files that contain them, etc. The full listing and help from Google is here: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/6590?hl=en .

The message you will see is:


Anti-virus warning 
– 1 attachment contains a virus or blocked file. Downloading this attachment is disabled.

I was searching for solutions and a lot of them involve asking the sender to send a different way or use a Google Drive folder or equivalent. In my case that would not work as the file was in an email I sent myself.

Eventually I found this article, which describes how to download the original email, open it in Windows Mail, and download the attachment from there. Very simple, free, and convenient to do. I imagine opening the email in a Mac email client would work as well.

XBox Kodi Unable to Open NFS Folder

Problem

I am running Kodi Alpha 3 on my XBox One and on my Surface.  Everything works fine on my Surface, but my XBox One in particular has this issue.

My media is stored a QNAP network attached storage on my local network. 

  • I try to add media by adding a file source. 
  • Add Videos -> Add Video Source -> Browse -> Network File System (NFS)
  • It automatically shows the IP of my NAS. 
  • I select the NAS IP name and it navigates to show me the root list of shared folders (Multimedia, Downloads, Public, etc).  
  • At this point I cannot descend any further into any of the folder names except for Public.  The other ones if I click on them just make an audible UI noise, but nothing happens.
  • I have checked the settings on the Multimedia folder, but they appear to be readonly for guest/everyone access.

On my Windows 10 Surface, the same procedure lets me descend into the Multimedia share and select a folder to index or view a file from.  It is like my XBoxOne is restricted or unable to go any further, but no error message is displayed.

Solution

I first posted about this on the Kodi forums in the article Xbox Kodi Unable to Open NFS Folder.

So my Kodi app on my Surface was working, because from my Surface in Windows Explorer I had logged into the NAS folders using a login/password.  The XBox One Kodi I had not done that (and not sure if you can).  I had to log into my QNAP and comb through the settings.  I had set up access as read only in one spot, but I needed to change a pick list to say “NFS host access” and then set “Access right” enabled.  Once I applied that setting, then I could descend into the folder from Kodi on the XBox One.   Was not able to upload my screenshot here, but here are step by step instructions for my NAS admin page.

1. Connect to your QNAP NAS admin page.
2. Open Control Panel
3. Select Privilege -> Shared Folders. 
4. You will now see a list of folders.
5. In the Actions column, hover over the icon that gives the tooltip that says “Edit Shared Folder Permission” and click it.
6. A window will appear that says “Edit Shared Folder Permission”. 
7. I did have “Guest Access Right” pick list set to “Read Only” here.
8. Change the “Select permission type” pick list to be “NFS host access”.
9. Enable the checkbox for “Access right”.
10. Click Apply.

You should be good to go now.  If you found you needed more steps, please post back here.  But this worked for me. 

I’m running the QNAP TS-231.  Firmware version: 4.3.4.0675 Build 20180810

Public Mobile – Ultra Discount Cellular Network in Canada

I recently signed a family member up for a Public Mobile account. I have to say I am quite impressed at what you can get with the ultra-discount mobile providers if you don’t have a lot of needs.

Essentially, the plan we selected is as follows:

  • $23/month (it is actually $25/month, but you automatically get a $2 discount if you automatically pay with a credit card)
  • 1GB of data (500MB is standard and you receive another 500MB for autopaying)
  • Unlimited calling Canada wide
  • Unlimited text and picture messaging
  • Voicemail and call display

What Are the Cons?

They are ultra discount for a reason, so there are a few things you should know about.

  1. Minimal Customer Service: There is a non-existent customer service. Not even a phone number to call. Information is available online and they utilize a forum to ask questions and other users answer them.
  2. 3G Data Speeds: The data is at 3G speeds and not LTE or 4G.
  3. Priority on a Tower: I’m not 100% on this, but it was described to me that if a specific cellular tower had a lot of customers trying to use it, then Telus/Bell/Koodo/Virgin customers would be prioritized higher than you would be. I’m guessing at a sporting event or festival this may be an issue. I haven’t heard of anyone experiencing this though.
  4. Add on data is expensive. For some reason just adding a GB of LTE data is $30. Seems pricy if you needed it. If you needed more data within a billing cycle, you can just switch plans as well and get pro-rated at the new plan data size.

What are the Pros?

  1. Great Coverage. Public Mobile is a division of Telus. So it is on the Telus/Bell network. So the coverage is great and works for rural users that would normally be with Telus/Bell.
  2. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Hard to beat the plans. They start as low as $10/month and go up to $60 (the latter actually includes 2GB of U.S. roaming data).
  3. Referral Discounts. If you refer other customers to sign up (and they use your referral code), you receive $1/month discount per customer while they stay on Public Mobile.
  4. Helping Discounts. If you help out by answering questions in the forums, you can earn up to $20 per billing period against your bill.

Am I Limited to 3G Towers?

No. From what I can see, you are only throttled to 3G speeds and you will still connect to any of their towers.

Cloning Your Hard Drive to Another Hard Drive

A friend of mine the other day had their hard drive approaching death. It was grinding away and had a number of errors occurring. It was time to replace it.

After picking up a hard drive that was almost double the size, he gave it to me as I offered to install it.

There are two main things you need to do when upgrading or replacing your hard drive:

  • Installing the drive.
  • Copy over your data.

Installing the drive is the easy part. Just open up the case, find a spot that is available and the data and power cables can reach the drive from there. Plug everything in, turn on the computer and make sure it can detect the drive.

Continue reading

Koodo Error Message During Phone Number Swap

I was recently helping someone switch their phone plan over to Koodo. This involved putting in their new SIM card, registering an online account, and swapping out their new Koodo phone number with their previous number from their old provider.

This is a typical activity when switching phone companies. When you sign up in store, they often take care of this, but with Koodo online signups, you have to do it on the web.

An Issue Though

To swap your number, you login to Koodo Self Serve and click Mobile services. On this screen you will have an option called Manage your phone number, click on Manage.

At this point, we received a warning message at the top of the screen.

You are not able to change your number at this time

Oops! You can’t change your phone number within 14 days of activating or renewing a phone.

Error message displaying on Koodo manage phone number page.

Not Really an Issue

Well that is really annoying if you can’t get your old number of right away. But it turns out, you can still change your number. That error message is either referring to something else or is a bug in their online system.

Simply select the option Transfer your phone number and click Next.

On the next screens you can just input your information as requested.

It will say it may take up to 2 business days, but the number switches I did (three of them now) were finished within 10 minutes.

So luckily what appears to be a potential issue is really nothing.

Beyond the Horizon – Colin Angus

I read this book during my last holiday and was quite entertained.

Basically, the author writes about his experiences being the first man to circumnavigate the globe on his own power. This means using his own strength. No sailing, no motorized vehicles, etc. He cycles, walks, and rows around the northern hemisphere.

Below is a paid link to purchase the book.

The book is interesting not just because of the physical trials and setbacks that he incurs, but also the relationships he has with his teammate and fiance (who later joins him on his travels).

I won’t talk much more about it here, but I definitely recommend reading it. It is an easy read with lots of interesting tales and trivia from around the world.

By the way, Colin Angus is from Vancouver, Canada.

Checklist For Traveling

This is what you freak out over just before you leave on the big holiday. Did you bring enough stuff? What happens if there is an emergency? The best thing to do is write your self a travel checklist a month or two in advance and keep it on hand all the time. Ask people who have been where you are going what you might need. If you are traveling with others, split the shareable items to lighten the load. Here is a travel checklist that you might find handy.

If you want to build your own, try using the following categories. My own list is farther down.

  • Before You Leave
    Make sure everything is going to be okay at home while you are gone. Will Fido be taken care of?
  • Documentation Essentials
    These can take the longest to be ready, so start early. You cannot even get on a plane nowadays if you do not have your passport on you.
  • Clothing and Shoes
    You will not enjoy your trip if you don’t have the proper outfit. Remember, some places you can buy what you need for less money than at home, if you have the time to do so.
  • Toiletries
    Another biggie. If you need anything special and you are going somewhere it cannot be purchased, it can really ruin a trip.
  • Medical Supplies
    Some people would lump this in with toiletries, but I like it in its own section. Typically things that would go in a red emergency kit.
  • Essentials
    These are must haves that don’t really fit into the other categories. I always take flat duct tape for fixing stuff. Sunglasses fit in here as well.
  • Extras
    Same as Essentials except not as big a priority. Throw things in here that would be nice to pick up for the right price or a friend will let you borrow.
  • Food
    That is right. It is good to take along some snacks, vitamins, and protein bars to help you through some days where you do not have the time to eat or what there is to eat is not very appealing.
  • Children
    Anything specific to children.
  • Photography Equipment
    This will appeal more to the photography crowd, but everyone will still take a camera. Make sure you do not have any down time with your camera because pictures is the biggest “souvenir” from your trip.

Keep in mind that this is never complete. If you have any suggestions, email them post a comment on this article. If I like them, I will add your suggestion and your URL to the article. My checklist is for a lot of situations and you can scratch off anything you know you don’t need.

A Note on Smart Phones and the Internet

When I originally published this list, it was prior to the smart phone revolution. It is an incredibly power device to have with you. Below I talk about having documentation, backup documentation, contact information, backup camera, reading material, etc. An iPhone or Android phone can cover a lot of these for you. I keep a password keeper and document safe on my phone that has an extra password on it. It stores all of my passport info and other documents that are valuable.

If you have these stored in a cloud drive (like Google Drive), you can potentially have access to a lot of information if getting an internet connection will be simple.

Travel Checklist

Before You Go

  1. Cancel subscriptions or put on vacation stop.
  2. Redirect mail or arrange for someone to get it
  3. Leave copies of documents and itinerary with someone
  4. Arrangements for house/yard care
  5. Thermostat settings (upgrading to a “smart” thermostat is an option)
  6. Lock windows, doors, garage
  7. Turn off water to toilet tanks and washer/dryers

Documentation Essentials

  • Travel visa’s for destination countries
  • Passport
  • Drivers license
  • Health card
  • Airline tickets
  • Insurance phone numbers
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • Money belt
  • American cash
  • Mastercard, Visa, American Express
  • Bank card
  • Small purse
  • Diving certification
  • Diving log book
  • Travel rewards cards (Aeroplan, Airmiles, etc)

Clothing

  • Pants, zip-off
  • Belt
  • Sleeping pants/shorts
  • Long sleeve sweat shirt
  • Long sleeve t-shirt
  • Short sleeve t-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Underwear
  • Black socks
  • Tall socks
  • Rain/windbreaker jacket, rollup/stuffable
  • Bathing suit
  • Knitted hat/tuque
  • Hair bandana
  • Brimmed hat
  • Fake wedding rigs (if theft is a concern)
  • Women Specific
    • Skirt thin material
    • Bras (1 sports, 1 regular)

Shoes

  • Runners
  • Sandals (sport sandals/birkenstock style)
  • Flip-flops, thin

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush, travel size/children’s
  • Toothpaste, travel size
  • Brush ups (optional)
  • Brush/comb combination
  • Mini deodorant/antiperspirant
  • Birth control/condoms
  • Cream (face/body)
  • Nail clippers
  • Malaria pills
  • Razor
  • Q-tips
  • Dental floss, travel size. Flossing sticks are also handy.
  • Shampoo-conditioner, travel size
  • Tweezers
  • Bath gel/soap, travel size
  • Cloth detergent/dry soap packets
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Contact lenses
  • Contact lens solution, travel size
  • Glasses/case
  • Visine/eye drops
  • Afterbite
  • Mini mirror
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sani wipes
  • Women Specific
    • Tampons
    • Feminine cleaning wipes
    • Panty liners
    • Hair elastics
    • Bobby pins
    • Nail file

Tenting

  • Sleeping bag, appropriate rating
  • Pillow, mini/stuffable

Medical

  • Band aids
  • Butterfly strips
  • Polysporin or equivalent
  • Penicillin
  • Tylenol 3
  • Syringes
  • Diarrhea pills
  • Pepto bismol
  • Gravol or equivalent
  • Throat lozenges
  • Dimetapp or equivalent
  • Motion sickness wrist bands

Essentials

  • Flat duck tape
  • Alarm clock/watch
  • Sunscreen
  • Ear plugs
  • Safety pins
  • Lip balm (with SPF)
  • Sun glasses
  • Flashlight/LED headlamp
  • Extra batteries
  • Bug spray (deep wood brand?)
  • Power plug adapters (there are great ones with built in USB power)
  • Power converter (if 110V and 220V discrepancies)
  • Toilet paper in a zip-lock bag
  • Microfiber towel (pack towel)
  • Matches
  • Cinch cords
  • Elastic clothes line
  • Sink plug
  • Mesh travel bag or just big zip-lock bag for all clothing
  • Blue and red pens, mechanical pencil
  • Notebook

Extras

  • Mini photo album (10 pictures). Or get key personal photos on your phone.
  • Umbrella
  • Clothes pegs
  • Deck of cards
  • Tea light candle
  • Lice comb
  • Calculator
  • Reading materials (e-Reader is great for portability)
  • Handheld electronics and chargers (iPod, video games, etc)
  • USB power adapters
  • Necessary charging cords
  • e-Reader
  • Headphones

Photo Equipment

  • Camera
  • Backup camera (cell phone)
  • Memory cards
  • Spare batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Lenses
  • USB or connection cords
  • Flash
  • Tripod/beanbag
  • Digital backup device (there are adapters for cell phones that do this)

Food

  • Vitamins, daily packs
  • Granola bars
  • Fruit bars
  • Protein bars/Vector bars (don’t have to be the expensive ones)
  • Sesame seed bars
  • Fruit snacks
  • Tea bags
  • Juice crystals (individual size for bottled water)
  • Nescafe (individual size)

Children (age dependent)

  • Diapers/pull-ups
  • Spare set of clothes for on plane
  • Favourite toys
  • Pack and play playpen
  • Car seat
  • Stroller
  • Changing pad
  • Life jacket and/or inflatable flotation toys
  • Snacks/food for plane/driving

A* Pathfinding Algorithm

I have been messing around with my Nintendo DS again and trying to write some simple programs. Hello World that can be dragged and dropped on the screen somewhere is as far as I have advanced.

I have been learning the A* algorithm however. I have implemented it in Java and now I am working on C/C++ versions. I think I will also try to do a demo version in javascript to what how it works visually.

Continue reading

Recovering Pictures or Files on Flash Memory

I had a scary moment on my most recent trip. My card appeared to fail after I had taken a week’s worth of pictures in Nepal.

My Nikon D70s started flashing “For”, which indicates the compact flash card inside needs to be formatted. I was unable to view the pictures and if I put it into a card reader and tried to access it on Windows, it just wanted to format the card.

I waited a month, until I arrived home, to try and recover the pictures. I tried 8 different programs and I found two that were able to do it.

RescuePro was one of them. They let you download a trial of it and see if it will actually work before you have to buy. It will access the flash card and then scan it. After awhile, it shows you thumbnails and will let you recover a small number of the files for free. If you see your files and think it is worth it, then you can pay the US$40 for a license.

Active File Recovery is the other one that worked. This program is a little more full-featured. It can recover files on hard drives as well. RescuePro was strictly for flash cards.

Anyhow, if you have ever deleted, formatted, corrupted, or had some other failure with files or flash cards. Don’t just erase the card and start from scratch thinking you lost everything. Download a trial copy of RescuePro from the link above and see if you can spot your missing items. It will be well worth the $40 in a lot of cases.

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