No Nonsense pfSense CITRT Ten Talk

  • On Feb. 27, 2013, at the Spring Church IT Roundtable in Phoenix, AZ, I gave a brief ten-minute talk called a “Ten Talk” that was an introduction to the open source firewall called pfSense. Here is the presentation itself that you can watch, UPDATED on March 4th to add fully re-recorded audio!

Several people have spoken to me after my talk showing interest in the system and the NetGate firewall that I showed that we use. UPDATE: If you were at the Church IT Roundtable in Phoenix, AZ in Spring 2013, we gave away one of the firewall units we use, the NetGate pfSense Alix 2D3/2D13. Thanks to those who entered and also everyone at the Roundtable, because everyone was completely awesome!

Microsoft Office 2013 Preview Crashes with DisplayLink

UPDATE: Thanks to Aaron Sudduth for the tip that there are beta DisplayLink drivers available! They work on Windows 7 in addition to Windows 8. I downloaded them (version 7.0 beta 1), installed them, and when I plugged the Diamond BVU195 device back in, I pulled up the “installing drivers” dialog and skipped Windows Update driver checking. It found the beta drivers and everything started working again, including the third display and Office 2013! Problem solved!

For a couple of years, I’ve used the Diamond BVU195 USB-to-DVI external monitor adapter (it’s relatively cheap on Amazon) so I could use my laptop monitor, an external monitor, and a second external monitor (third total) even though my Latitude E6420 Advanced Dock has two DVI ports, because the laptop only supports two monitors total simultaneously (including the laptop display) using its internal video card. This has worked great. However, I also wanted to try the Microsoft Office 2013 Preview. Which installed after a little difficulty but every time I tried to open it, would crash instantly when I tried to open any of the apps (Word, Excel, and Outlook are the ones I tried). The splash screen (for Outlook, for example) would come up and along with it, a box with the title “Microsoft Outlook” that says “Microsoft Outlook has stopped working. Windows is checking for a solution to the problem.” and it would finish crashing, close, and I couldn’t use it.

Microsoft Office Outlook 2013 Preview crash screen

After some Google-fu, I found a site that mentioned something about DisplayLink, which is the company who makes the hardware/drivers for the Diamond adapter and many other similar adapters and third-party docking stations (they also make software that lets you use an iPad as an external monitor on a PC or Mac). I don’t recall which website it was with this hint, though I found another one that recommended these steps for disabling add-ins (which I eventually did for all non-included-with-Office-2013 add-ins as well once I got farther along). Anyway I checked my Programs and Features area in the control panel and discovered the DisplayLink Core Software that was installed (automatically through the Windows Update driver install of the Diamond device), and uninstalled it, rebooted, and Office 2013 worked!

DisplayLink Core Software installed in Windows 7

There were some compatibility issues that I fixed by disabling some third-party add-ins per my above link as well but at least I could start the apps and they all seem to work well! I reinstalled the DisplayLink adapter this morning in my office and immediately Office 2013 crashed on startup again. Uninstalled DisplayLink, rebooted, back to normal!

There are some other pieces of software that seem to cause this, such as ABBYY Finereader and apparently in some cases some versions of Visual Studio (I saw references to Visual Studio 2010 Tools and Visual Studio 2008 Tools (for Office) and Visual Studio 2012 RC along with Visual Studio 2010, not sure what combination causes problems because I have Visual C# 2010 Express and Visual Basic 2010 Express that cause no issues for Office 2013). But with very little out there mentioning the DisplayLink issue, I figured I’d mention it here (I reported it to Microsoft with the “Report a frown” in Word as well). I’m running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and Office 2013 Preview 32-bit, by the way.

How do I like Office 2013 now that it runs? Too early to know. It functions closely enough to Office 2010 (including Outlook picking up all settings (three Exchange 2010 accounts) from Outlook 2010) that it’s been a mostly easy switch so far, but I haven’t gotten into it. The connectivity directly to SkyDrive and SharePoint sites is nice.

F.lux makes computer look better at night

It’s been around 2 years and 4 months since my last post here. A lot has happened. But I’ve decided (for now) to leave the old as-is, the layout the same (not that you’ve seen it recently to remember, if you’ve ever even been here before) and just dive right in. I’m going to be posting whatever random stuff I want to here, from cool computer software to my experiences assembling IKEA furniture for my home office (maybe). Let’s start with some cool software (freeware, so it’s extra nice).

The software is f.lux from Stereopsis, written by Michael Herf, the guy who wrote Picasa and sold it to Google. His wife is an artist and the process of lighting her studio and finding lots of information about light (probably more than you want to know) led to the creation of f.lux. What is it? A small program, available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, that runs in the background and adjusts the color temperature of your monitor so it matches daylight during the day, and incandescent light at night, so the monitor matches your surroundings (you can customize some of this for your light sources). All you have to do is tell it where you are, but it even makes a good educated guess at that (I assume with IP geolocation and/or the timezone setting in your computer, I haven’t checked).

The whole thing is straightforward. Just install and run; tweak if desired. You can click for a quick preview of how the monitor will change over a 24-hour period. This is my second night trying it. After sunset, my monitor has a warmer color tone. It’s a little odd, but it doesn’t have the same glaring brightness to my eyes, and when I look at the TV over my laptop screen the laptop’s backlight doesn’t scream at me out of the corner of my eyes as much, it blends in better with the room. It was annoying enough in the past that I would usually shut the laptop lid while watching TV, but it didn’t bother me nearly as much tonight (I reduced the screen brightness down significantly from full as I usually do, as well).

It’s still a bit odd to see the cast of my screen look slightly different at night, but it’s so much more comfortable I’m pretty sure f.lux is here to stay. It’s free, easy to turn off (or disable for an hour with a checkbox), is automatic and unobtrusive. No real reason not to try it. Oh, and you can open up the advanced settings and adjust the color temperatures in case you work in fluorescent lighting instead of daylight during the day, for example.

And you can’t help but like a guy who in 2001 was ranting about how credit card offers were terribly annoying when made to look like important, urgent bills. That must mean he writes good software :-)