How To Upgrade to Windows 7 to Windows 10 For Free While You Still Can (Until January 14 2020)

If you’re using Windows 7, you’ve likely seen this message. Like it or not, support for Windows 7 is ending. That doesn’t mean Windows 7 will cease to work. It does mean that Microsoft will stop providing free updates for it as of January 14, 2020. If your computer is connected to the internet, that matters. Any issues or security problems won’t be patched or fixed beyond that date, leaving computers vulnerable to being taken advantage of or compromised.

Suffice to say, it’s had a good run, but it’s time to upgrade, and you might as well do so for FREE until January 14, 2020. Windows 10 is, for most people, a completely worthy upgrade, and will last you another 10 years, hopefully mostly problem free. Yes, there are some changes, but the learning curve isn’t huge, particularly with a couple of “tweaks”.

Go to this page on Microsoft’s website to download the Media Creation Tool. It’s free, and will scan your computer to ensure it qualifies for Windows 10. If your system is in fact 10 years old, it might not. But if it’s newer, hopefully it will.

Once Windows determines your system qualifies, either choose “Upgrade This PC Now” or “Create Installation Media”. I’d recommend the second option, as it provides more peace of mind since the installation files won’t be located on the same hard drive (or SSD) you’re trying to upgrade in case something goes wrong.

After Windows installs the files on your external hard drive or USB thumb drive, run the “setup” file from there, and it’ll walk you through the steps to upgrade to Windows 10. The amount of time it takes will vary depending on your computer, how old it is, if you’re using and SSD or not, among other factors.

Suffice to say, the upgrade should go quite smoothly. Windows 10 will ask you a bunch of questions on how you’d like it to be setup post-install. Read those carefully, as some relate to privacy and how you Windows will behave and how data collected will be used.

The screen above is after I’ve changed some settings and installed a few programs. Otherwise, this is what Windows 10 looks like.

By the way, I highly recommend either Ninite or PatchMyPC (both FREE) to install various free programs all at once. Go have coffee or tea, come back and it’ll be done.

Be sure to check Windows Update to ensure you have all the latest updates installed as well. (Start Menu > type “Windows Update” and click it, OR Start Menu > Control Panel > Updates and Security)

To view information about your PC and Windows 10, open the Control Panel (Start > type “Control Panel” w/o quotes), then click on “System”.

This isn’t the default (factory settings) Start Menu. Since the day I started using Windows 10, my first install is “Classic Shell“. It’s free, and makes it look closer to what the Start Menu looked like in Windows 7. I have recommended it for years, and everyone I’ve installed it for loves it.

That’s it. You’ve just upgraded to Windows 10. Personally, I love it, and especially for the fact I got it legitimately for FREE! I’m a serious computer geek, and it’s been reliable for me since day one! Hopefully it treats you just as well! 🙂

What To Do When Weewx Stops Updating and Sending Data to Meteotemplate – Part 10

From the Beginning: An Introduction – Part 1

Previous: Publishing Weather Station Data to Third Party Websites – Part 9

After using Weewx and Meteotemplate the past couple of years, I noticed that sometimes Weewx randomly stops updating and/or sending data to my Meteotemplate website, Twitter, and other services.

Sometimes, the fix is simply to run a software update on the Raspberry Pi and restarting the Raspberry Pi. Other times, directly restarting Weewx itself is the solution.

As per this page of this guide, run the software update in Terminal using these commands:

  1. sudo apt-get update (and press enter and wait until it’s done)
  2. sudo apt-get upgrade (and press enter and wait until it’s done)
  3. Then restart your Raspberry Pi. Type “sudo reboot” (w/o quotes) Or Start Menu > Shutdown > Reboot

To restart Weewx itself, open Terminal, and copy/paste this:

sudo /etc/init.d/weewx restart (and press enter)

From the Beginning: An Introduction – Part 1

Previous: Publishing Weather Station Data to Third Party Websites – Part 9

What To Keep in Mind When Including a Powerpoint in Your Toastmasters Speech

I have been a member of a few Toastmasters clubs over the years. I have noticed on a few occasions that although speeches have been prepared, some have been unprepared regarding their Powerpoint presentations and proper setup.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

– If using an existing computer:

IF the computer in the room is logged in, it should be easy enough to plug in a USB thumb drive (assuming ports are available) and open the presentation (assuming Powerpoint is installed). Ensure the projector HDMI cable is connected to the back of the computer, press the power button on the wall panel or on the projector itself, and it should be good to go.

– Bring your laptop anyway as a “Plan B”.

Ensure it has an HDMI port, or bring an HDMI adapter that the projector’s HDMI cable can plug into. If it’s not the same computer you created the presentation on, confirm that either Powerpoint or Open Office (Google it, it’s free) is installed.

– Presentation Clicker

Although it’s not required for a Powerpoint presentation, it’s quite handy to have a wireless bluetooth clicker ($20 on Amazon, or maybe your club or members can share the expense?). It’ll make your speech and presentation go more smoothly as well, since you’re not rushing over to the laptop to press the “next” arrow key on the keyboard after each slide.

If your laptop doesn’t need to always be plugged in, the less cables in the way, the better! It’s best to have the laptop screen in front of you mirroring what’s on the projector screen behind you, so you’re not looking back to check after every slide to make sure it’s on the right slide or has moved on to the next slide.

– Bring an HDMI cable with you

Don’t assume one will be provided. Knowing technology the way it is, cables don’t always work. So I strongly suggest bringing your own just in case anyway. Better to invest in a longer one than a shorter one, just make sure people don’t trip over it. Ensure it is long enough to reach your laptop.

– Powerpoint vs Open Office

I haven’t used Microsoft Office for many years, and I don’t miss it. Open Office (free and open source, meaning community developed) is awesome! However, pay attention to the file format you’re saving files in. Don’t save the file with the “.ODT” file extension if you’re going to open it in Powerpoint. It won’t work. Save it in the “.PPT” file format. “.PPTX” should work as well, but NOT if the computer is running an older version of Office.

– Save your presentation in a couple of different places

It’s quick and easy to save your presentation on your laptop. Don’t save it to “the cloud” such as Google Drive or Dropbox, unless you KNOW your device works with the WIFI well at where you’re giving your presentation. Save it to your laptop AND to a couple of thumbdrives or an external hard drive.

In Conclusion…

You don’t want to be scrambling to make things work minutes before your speech and presentation, so please plan ahead. 🙂

How to Backup DVDs and Stream Them on Plex to Watch On Your Roku

Let me be perfectly clear: I am absolutely NOT promoting the idea of piracy here, nor sharing the DVD content online or in any way, redistributing, or selling the DVDs or content in any way.

Over the years, my family and I have collected countless TV series and movies on DVD and they’ve been taking up room on shelves. Over the years, we (Dad and I) have been slowly going through them and ripping many of them to our computers for backup purposes, and more recently to stream via the Plex app to our Roku devices to watch on our TVs. DVDs can take up a lot of space, and they get scratched easily.

After Dad passed a little over 3 years ago, I have continued that tradition. It’s a tedious and time consuming process, but has allowed us to donate a lot of them to second hand stores after we’ve ripped them. We can’t be bothered to try and sell them online, and we’re not sure it’s even legal to do.

Most recently, I got The Rifleman series on DVD from a seller on eBay. Here is the process I used to rip them – again, solely for backup purposes and for streaming to our own TVs using Plex and Roku.

The program I use to rip the DVDs to my hard drive is MakeMKV. It’s free. Start by clicking ‘File’, then ‘Open disc’, then select the DVD drive.

MakeMKV will then scan the DVD for content.

Next, MakeMKV will show the content it has found categorized as each ‘title’ or episode. All titles will be selected by default. I recommend leaving that alone. Then under ‘Output folder’ click the folder icon and tell MakeMKV where to rip the contents of the DVD to as individual episodes in MKV format. Then click the hard drive icon with the green arrow under ‘Make MKV’.

On this screen, MakeMKV is ripping the individual episodes to your hard drive. Once that’s done, close MakeMKV and open Handbrake to convert the MKV files to MP4 (M4V) format, which will stream easier on Plex, and be a MUCH smaller file size in M4V format. (1.XGB vs 150MB+)

Open Handbrake, click ‘Open Source’, then ‘File’.

Navigate to the folder and MKV files you want to convert to MP4 (M4V) format, and click ‘open’.

Handbrake has now loaded that MKV file. Simply click ‘Browse’ on the bottom right to tell it where to save the MP4 (M4V) file. Then click ‘Add to Queue’, then ‘Start Queue’.

The conversion process will take some time (5-10 minutes in my experience) depending on the size of the file you’re converting. You can see the real-time progress in detail at the bottom.

Repeat this process for every MKV file you want to convert. That being said, you can also do a ‘Batch Scan’ and add multiple episodes to the Queue and Handbrake will do them all, but you MUST tell it where to save each converted file using the two-step process below.

To convert many MKV files to M4V format at once, click ‘Open Source’ then ‘Batch Scan’. Then select ‘Title’, and one by one (no way around this), click them, then ‘Browse’ to tell Handbrake where to save each M4V file, then ‘Add to Queue’, and repeat the process for each episode. Then click ‘Start Queue’, and go have coffee or lunch or something. It’s going to take a while. You can do other things on your computer at the same time, but I wouldn’t recommend anything intensive as to take it easy on your computer.

Once all your MKV files are converted to M4V format, the files will have a MUCH smaller file size. This screenshot and the next one illustrate that. The MKV file is 1.84GB. The M4V file is 178MB. Significantly smaller.

This step is optional, but once you convert all the files to M4V format, I suggest deleting the MKV files to free up a lot of hard drive space.

Once you’ve finished converting all of your DVDs from each season of a TV show, you will NEED to organize them into folders for each series, season, and name them appropriately for Plex to know what to do with them. For example, Season 1 Episode 1 could be ‘S01E01’. I do this manually, but there might be a program that will do it for you. This also allows Plex to pull information from IMDB for the TV series and each episode.

Open Plex on your “server”, or the computer running Plex that your media is stored on. Scroll down on the left pane, and click ‘Libraries’. Then click ‘Add Library’.

Click the category of media that you want to apply to the media folder you want Plex to use, and give it a name in Plex, then click ‘Next’.

On this screen, browse to the folder on your computer you want to add to Plex.

This is an example of what Show Page might look like after it’s added and you browse to it within Plex.

(You may notice it looks like I’ve ripped a lot of stuff in the left pane. That’s honestly not the case. It just shows multiple folders I’ve added from stuff I’ve ripped over the years and haven’t organized as well as I should. Once I better organize it on my computer and in Plex, less will show up there.)

Here is what a particular season of a TV show might look like in Plex.

That’s it. It’s really not very complicated, just a few steps involved. If you do it a few times, you’ll get used to it. This was certainly a learned process, so I’m happy to share my experiences. 🙂

As We Approach the Holidaze…

I saw this tweet thread a few weeks ago, and think it’s great advice! Apologies for the delay in posting this.

Read the rest of Alex’s tweet thread here.