Another System Upgrade Tonight

My Linux computer named ‘Phoenix’, which acts as my Web-server, underwent a minor upgrade tonight, for which reason this blog was offline from 21h58 until 22h05.

Because this sort of upgrade requires I reboot the machine, my blog is also unable to display any Maintenance Mode message during such an interval.

I hope this did not inconvenience any readers.

Further, my IPv6 connectivity was not restored until 22h10, which is the normal amount of time doing so would take.



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Printing Legal-Sized on a Canon MX922

Currently my printer is a “Canon MX922″, and perhaps it would be a good subject for a later posting, how I installed the CUPS device drivers to use it under Linux. Being a WiFi-printer, it is also shared by my two Windows machines.

In keeping with modern times, my bank only sends me certain forms in electronic form, that used to be mailed to us in their entirety, on paper. And some of the forms, which I need to submit along with my Tax Declarations each year, are in Legal-Sized format, which in Canada and the USA means 8.5 x 14 inch paper, instead of a 8.5 x 11 inch format.

I had never realized that this printer is capable of receiving paper in the 8.5 x 14 format, until today. Basically, my Linux and Windows software have two different behaviors, when told to print an 8.5 x 14 PDF on 8.5 x 11 paper, but both of those behaviors is wrong. Under Linux, “Okular” tends to resize the document to fit, while the Windows software tends to write past the end of the sheet. A resized document will not get scanned correctly by the Revenue Agency’s machines.

On the MX922 printer, there are two paper trays. The upper tray is for smaller formats of paper, as well as having interesting features that seem to allow printing directly onto Blu-Ray discs.

The lower tray accepts the 8.5 x 11 sheets. But if we take out the supply of 8.5 x 11 (Letter-sized) sheets, we see that underneath there is a slight feature in the plastic of the tray, which seems to lock into one of two openings. Between the two openings there is labeling stamped into the plastic, which has the letters “LGL” and which seems to point between the two openings.

What one needs to do, is to depress the button which seems to fit, with our thumb, not to pull on that part of the tray, but to pull on the outermost edge of the tray, so that the button we’re holding down slips out from under the visible surface of the tray, and then slides into the second opening, which is located in the tray facing down, further away from the body of the printer, next to the first opening. Once the button clicks into this second opening, the tray is able to accept 8.5 x 14 sheets.

One needs to be careful though, not to apply brute force if something doesn’t move, because this mechanism looks fragile, and could easily be damaged if force was used.

Also, one needs to remember that after we have extended the tray and fed in Legal-sized paper, we still need to slide the tray back into the printer, so that the printer will register the fact that paper is available. At which point in time extra length of tray will be standing out from the printer, where the tray was flush when accepting 8.5 x 11 paper.

Next, our software needs to be told that it is printing to 8.5 x 14 sheets, so that this software does not decide to resize, or otherwise to mismanage the print job.

Once the correct paper-size is set up on the printer, my Linux “Okular” program is as able to print the tax documents, as the Windows “Acrobat Reader DC” is.



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Windows Update no longer allows us to skip MRT.exe

When performing monthly updates, my Windows 7 computer ‘Mithral’, and my Windows 8.1 laptop ‘Maverick’, are also programmed by Microsoft, as usual, to run the “Malicious Software Removal Tool”, aka ‘MRT.exe’ . On ‘Mithral’, this scan takes more than 40 minutes, while on ‘Maverick’, this only takes less than 10 minutes. So what I used to do on ‘Mithral’, was to kill the actual process, ‘MRT.exe’, in the Task Manager, in order to speed along the update, while not doing so on ‘Maverick’, where I allowed the scan to complete.

I do not really need to be told once per month, that my computers are free of malware.

But starting with the most recent update, Microsoft no longer allows us to do this. When I killed the process ‘MRT.exe’ on ‘Mithral’ today, as part of an update that was a few weeks past due, my doing so was logged as an official Failure, of one of the components, in the Update History Log. This does not yet hinder operation of the computer, and we are allowed to run ‘MRT.exe’ ourselves whenever we feel like doing so. Thus, in order to make it up to the updater, for having killed the process prior to the restart, I ran ‘MRT.exe’ as an administrative user.

AFAIK, This move by Microsoft is part of an honest effort, to make our computers more secure.

But when I ran ‘MRT.exe’ manually, I discovered why the scan took 45 minutes on ‘Mithral’, that only takes 10 minutes on ‘Maverick’.

Apparently, when ‘MRT.exe’ does its Fast Scan, it finds issue with a software installation on ‘Mithral’, that is named “Crystal Space”. Crystal Space is an Open-Source 3D Game Development SDK, which should not contain any malware, and which I do not make active use of in practice. I custom-compiled it. But for some reason it triggers ‘MRT.exe’ into an alarm. In response to this alarm, ‘MRT.exe’ next proceeds to do an In-Depth Scan of the Crystal Space folder, which is what takes so long.

And then as a result of the In-Depth Scan, ‘MRT.exe’ actually determines that no threat was found. I know this because when we run ‘MRT.exe’ manually, it displays a nice little GUI, in which we can see its progress. It first thinks it finds infected files, but after the In-Depth Scan it displays that “No Malicious Threats (sic) Were Found.”

I have an observation about this behavior. The Crystal Space version I have installed on ‘Mithral’ is an old, archaic coding example. And sometimes, the way old code is compiled and linked can set off anti-malware software, without being malware.

In any case the GUI has answered a long-standing question to me, as to why this scan was always taking so long. Apparently, ‘MRT.exe’ was doing exactly the same thing, in past cases when I allowed it to complete.

And I do not have Crystal Space installed on ‘Maverick’.



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Why I Am Happy, that my Computers Are Working Again

The recent power failures left me in quite a state of distress, not knowing what the fate of my computers would be.

The computer acting as my Web server, ‘Phoenix’ is a Linux computer, running a “Debian” version of Linux, and a flavor of that, which is “Kanotix / Spitfire” . After the second power interruption this morning, ‘Phoenix’ was actually easier to restart fully, than my Windows 7 machine ‘Mithral’ was. This was somewhat reassuring, since ‘Mithral’ has stronger hardware, and since If the software on ‘Mithral’ was ever permanently messed up, I could in fact try to resurrect it by installing Linux on it. It seems that Linux was after all more stable than Windows.

But what happened to ‘Phoenix’ was also better than a scenario would have been, which I had running through my head between 7h30 this morning and 12h00, the time at which I got ‘Phoenix’ running again.

I had had the scenario in my head, that ‘Phoenix’ could have started to perform an ‘unattended upgrade’, at the moment the power went off, a coincidence which I would have been unaware of.

Luckily, this was not what happened.

But had this happened, my own version of what would have gone wrong differs slightly from the official version, according to which the package manager would simply have gotten jammed in some locked state.

There happen to be other power-users, who complain on the Kanotix user forum, that they had been running a lengthy upgrade while their power was strangely cut. Those people ask for Expert support in unjamming their package manager, which more detached people on the forum give advice on how to do.

According to me, they had such a hard time unjamming their package manager, because this is not all that was wrong with their computers. According to me, those users suffered from two problems at once: A jammed package manager, plus A corrupted file system.

I had a vision of having to approach the Kanotix user forum with the familiar line, ‘An upgrade was running, when the plug was pulled.’ But luckily, no upgrade was running at that time…

…And, there is a specific reason why No Unattended Upgrades Were Running. After I rebooted ‘Phoenix’ successfully, I performed the upgrades manually, which were to have run, just to confirm that my package manager still works 100% .

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