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How to get rid of Music.UI.exe

Lately (maybe since last month), I’ve had that Music.UI.exe executable, located in C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.ZuneMusic_3.6.19261.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe, regularly (like, every few hours) popping up in my firewall, trying to access the network 😮 Every time, I denied it and killed it, but it kept coming back.

I tried deleting the file, with no success (permission denied, even as admin).
I eventually found the solution: go to Settings > Privacy > Background Apps, and turn off Groove Music. While you’re at it, you might want to disable the shitload of other apps that are there too.

Posted in Windows 10.


How to prevent Windows 10’s auto volume reduction?

Sadly this time it is still an open question.
Whenever there’s a system beep sound, Windows 10 automatically lowers the volume of everything else for a pretty damned long while (maybe 5-10 seconds). This is particularly annoying when trying to adjust the volume, as adjusting the volume will itself generate a beep, causing the volume to be automatically reduced (WTF were those engineers thinking when then did that? :o).

Anyway, apparently this could be caused by Windows trying to be smart and “guessing” that you are using VoIP, and then reducing the volume of other activities so that you can hear your communication better. The solution, as I found there for instance, would be to disable that feature, by going to system sound settings, then in the “Communications” tab and choosing “When Windows detects communications activity, do nothing” (the default is a huge “reduce the volume of other sounds by 80%” :o).

Sadly, for me it didn’t do the trick, even after a restart (which was suggested there).

I’m running out of ideas to fix this (already), so if you have a magical solution do post it in the comments ^^

Off-topic bonus: apparently Windows 10 comes with an annoyance called Xbox DVR, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily linked to owning an Xbox and can fuck up performance in some games. Steam provides a guide to disable it there.

Posted in Windows 10.


aToad #23: Dan’s Tools

Lots of little development-related tools

This time it’s not one tool but a pretty large collection of tools. I found Dan’s Tools while looking for a Unix timestamp to date and time converter (or the other way around), but the site also have many other helpful little (or not that little) things, such as:

  • HTML formatter
  • Javascript formatter and minifier
  • JSON formatter, minifier and validator
  • PHP formatter
  • Python formatter
  • Ruby formatter
  • SQL formatter
  • CSS sprite generator
  • Regex testing
  • SHA-1 hash generator
  • URL encode/decode

… and some more. Quite a tool belt 🙂

Posted in A Tool A Day, programming.


My Visual Studio Code config file (TypeScript-oriented)

Just to find it easily whenever I switch computer, my Visual Studio Code user settings file (for TypeScript development):

{
    "telemetry.enableCrashReporter": false,
    "telemetry.enableTelemetry": false,
    "typescript.check.tscVersion": false,
    "typescript.disableAutomaticTypeAcquisition": true,
    "files.exclude": {
        "**/*.js": { "when": "$(basename).ts"}
    },
    "update.channel": "none",
    "git.enabled": false,
    "git.path": null,
    "git.autofetch": false
}

It should be quite self-explaining in most part, but what these settings do is:
– disable telemetry and crash reporter
– disable checking for mismatch between VSCode’s TypeScript and the globally installed TypeScript (which gives a pretty annoying warning that can’t be permanently dismissed and shouldn’t be a problem if you update everything regularly)
– disable Automatic Type Acquisition (ATA)
– hide .js files when a .ts file of the same name exists
– disable auto-updates
– disable Git integration (probably the 3 settings I used are a bit redundant though), although in the end I reactivated it because it’s pretty convenient to spot which lines you recently edited

Posted in JavaScript / TypeScript / Node.js.


How to move Livedrive’s cache folder

In its older versions, Livedrive had many “advanced” settings. Notably, it was possible to move around its cache folder (which is the folder where, notably, files are temporarily stored while they’re being uploaded to the briefcase, or permanently if you choose to keep them both locally and “in the cloud”), which I found quite useful so as to avoid filling up, or simply wearing out the SSD where Windows resides. Sadly, the new, redesigned version came with many oversimplifications, and this setting was removed. However, I noticed that my upgraded version did retain the modified value from the previous version. So I dug around a little, and found there is a registry setting for it 🙂

So, simply run regedit, then go to key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Livedrive\Users\[your email], and edit the string (REG_SZ) value CacheLocation. Default value is C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Livedrive. Make sure Livedrive is not running when you change that. Also, I think it’s a good idea to manually move the contents of the cache folder from the old location to the new one.
On a side note, it seems that all settings are stored in this key: it might be a convenient way to modify them without looking everywhere in the control center.

Posted in software.


aToad #22: Dillinger.io

Online Markdown editor

I’m really not a fan of Markdown, as I’ve been used to MediaWiki syntax, BBCode, or even more simply, plain HTML (HTML is so trivial, I don’t really get why so many people feel the necessity to invent their own markup language over it…). But with Github’s quasi-monopoly on easy Git hosting (I personally like Bitbucket though – but they use Markdown too) it seems to become kind of a necessary evil.

Dillinger.io provides an easy way to edit your markdown readmes, with a simple and efficient interface: code to the left, “what you see is what you get” (just a non-editable preview) on the right. It lacks a syntax help, but the provided example document already has plenty of the useful syntax and you probably won’t need more than that.

Posted in A Tool A Day.


How to disable Vivaldi’s disk cache

I recently changed computer, and in the process I manually migrated some stuff, notably my browsers’ data folders (if you’re looking for them, they’re usually located in C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local or C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming). To speed up the transfer as those USB keys can be quite slow when dealing with many files, I packed them each in a 7-zip archive. And I noticed Vivaldi’s folder was huge. Like, 1+GB huge 😮

It turned out Vivaldi inherits from a behavior inherent to Chrome and forks, which is to stuff its cache in the same main folder as your profile. Or more specifically in:
C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Local\Vivaldi\User Data\Default\Application Cache and
C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Local\Vivaldi\User Data\Default\Cache

Of course, I didn’t really want to transfer those. So I looked for a way to disable disk cache (I’ve got RAM for fuck sake, use it you stupid damned browsers), then emptied those folders and transfer the profile without the cache.

Sadly, Vivaldi doesn’t provide an easy option to turn off disk cache (comparatively, in Firefox and forks you just need to go to about:config and set browser.cache.disk.enable to false). You need to launch it with the --disk-cache-size=0 command like option. So basically, edit Vivaldi’s shortcut so that the target becomes something like "C:\Program Files\Vivaldi\Application\vivaldi.exe" --disk-cache-size=0. Source is here.

Note that this actually doesn’t totally prevent that annoying browser from junking said cache folders: I usually have about 350 MB of stuff in those folders. Hopefully some day it will be cleaner…

Posted in Chrome/Chromium/Vivaldi, Firefox.


How to get rid of Intel(R) System Usage Report

This executable, who also apparently goes by the nickname of “Energy Server Service WILLAMETTE” or SystemUsageReportSvc_WILLAMETTE (located, by default, in C:\Program Files\Intel\SUR\WILLAMETTE\ESRV), is installed along with the Intel(R) Driver Update Utility. And it appears that you cannot prevent its installation when you install that update utility.
The problem is, it will keep running in the background, and try to send mysterious data to who knows who (Intel, I guess). That’s actually how I caught it: it popped up a firewall alert. Some people also reported CPU usage issues, with the executable (esrv_svc.exe) eating up a whole CPU core.
You can try to disable it in your Services configuration, however in my case it still kept running after I disabled its service! So the only option left for me was to uninstall the Intel(R) Driver Update Utility, which is much useful once you’ve figured out precisely which drivers you need anyway.

Posted in Intel.


Windows special folders short names (%something%)

I always forget some of those ones, so let’s have a recap of short names for Windows folders, and the full path they point to (in Windows 7, although 8 or 10 shouldn’t be much different, or probably exactly the same). Note that all those short names are NOT case-sensitive. Also, apparently the official name of those %ShortNames% is “Windows Environment Commands”.

  • %HomeDrive% => C:\ (NB: all the full paths I give here assume Windows is installed on C:\)
  • %AllUsersProfile% => C:\ProgramData
  • %AppData% => C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming
  • %HomeDrive% => C:\Users\[username] (NB: accessing this folder by using the short name will actually NOT show you the full path)
  • %Temp% => C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Temp (NB: can be different if you moved the temporary folder, obviously – but who does that?)
  • %SystemRoot% => C:\Windows

%AppData% is supposed to be the folder where most programs put their user data. For instance, that’s where you can hope to find your saved games (also some are located in “%userprofile%\Documents\My Games), or your browser settings. However, it seems that as many or more programs use the C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local folder instead. Some, rarer, use the C:\Users\[username]\AppData\LocalLow folder. All in all, just go to C:\Users\[username]\AppData and then try the various subfolders there.
Some programs store stuff both in Local and Roaming, notably Firefox and its forks: Roaming contains the settings, Local contains the disk cache.

See also: a list of run commands / common program names

If you know more of those pretty convenient shortcuts, please post them in the comments and I’ll add them!

Posted in Windows.


Some Windows 10 post-installation customizations

How to install gadgets

I was quite surprised to see Microsoft removed gadgets after making such a fuss about them in Windows 7. Although I didn’t like many of them, CPU meter turned out to be a must have and I really missed it. Gladly, a third-party software, 8GadgetPack, will let you install most gadgets. And it even bundles quite many of them, including the CPU meter one.

How to disable Windows Update

Sounds to good to be true, so time will tell how well it works, but apparently all you need to do is to go to Services and disable the Windows Updates service. Source.
Also, you can set “Configure Automatic Updates” to disabled in group policies in Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Windows Update

How to disable Telemetry

First, there are a bunch of options that pop up during the initial set up. Then you should also have a look in the system settings (apparently that’s not called control panel anymore?). All in all, you should already have seen a bunch of options to drastically reduce the amount of collected data.
And finally, the last touches:
– using the registry editor ([windows key] + R, then “regedit”), go to key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\DataCollection, create a 32-bit DWORD value named AllowTelemetry and set it to 0
– go to Services and disable the Connected User Experiences and Telemetry service (NB: it used to be named Diagnostics Tracking Service before the 1511 update) and the dmwappushsvc service
Source: http://winaero.com/blog/how-to-disable-telemetry-and-data-collection-in-windows-10/
There might be more, as I believe I remember from previous readings that there are quite many things to edit for a complete removal… I’ll edit this post when I find more.

How to disable Windows Defender

That annoying thing can only be disabled temporarily. The settings reads “if it’s disabled for too long, it will re-enable automatically”, but it turns out that “too long” barely means “until the next restart” :s
Anyway:
– run ([windows key] + R) gpedit.msc
– select Computer Configuration
– go to Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Windows Defender
– double click the Turn off Windows Defender policy and enable it
You should immediately notice that the Windows Defender icon in the task bar shows and alert indicating it’s disabled, and that you can’t open Windows Defender anymore.
Source: Microsoft Community – How to disable Windows Defender in Windows 10

How to disable Cortana

Not only that piece of **** has a questionable privacy behavior, it can also make your start menu lag like hell. Two ways to disable it:
1) via regedit: create dword value HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search\AllowCortana and set it to 0.
2) via group policies (Win 10 Pro or Enterprise only): run gpedit.msc, then go to Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Search, and disable the Allow Cortana setting

How to disable Search on the web

By default, when you search for something in the start menu, it also fires a web search (hurray for privacy again). This behavior can be disabled via group policies: go to Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Search, and enable Don’t search the web or display web results in Search

How to disable fast startup

Fast startup allows to start up the computer a bit faster. But this isn’t that noticeable on a fast SSD, and it comes at a cost: the computer writes an image of its current running state when you shut it down, so it wears out the SSD (and shutdown is a bit longer). Not worth it IMO (more reasons to hate it there). You can disable it via the power options (see there for a detailed guide), or simply via regedit:
go to key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Power, create a DWORD value named HiberbootEnabled, and set it to 0.

How to add stuff to the Start menu

Similarly to Windows 7, you can copy/paste shortcuts into %appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu (for the current user, it’s the short name for C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu) or C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu (for all users).
However, unlike in Windows 7, you’ll probably run into permission issues if you try to right-click-and-drop and executable in order to directly create a shortcut to it in the Start menu. To bypass this, just create the shortcut somewhere else first, then cut/paste it into the Start Menu folder.

Once you placed your shortcut there, you can right-click it in the Start Menu to Pin it, etc. Cf here for many ways to customize the Windows 10 Start Menu: those tiles are pretty handy IMO, and I find they make a decent replacement to the long-gone Quick Launch that I used to miss so much in Win 7. That is, once you’ve removed all the default junk that’s there.

Miscellaneous other things

Update list (can be used to download update packages manually)

Various safe-to-block crap

Those Windows components will try at some point to access Internet and I found the simplest way to deal with them is just to block them at the firewall level:

  • BackgroundTransferHost.exe (might be related to Windows Update, or just App Updates in general?)
  • InstallAgentUserBroker.exe
  • slui.exe
  • SpeechModelDownload.exe

You can also disable those services:

How to disable Quick access

In File Explorer, go to File → Change folder and search options. Then in the General tab, choose “open file explorer to: this PC”. You can also disable showing recently used files and folders at the bottom of this tab.

Posted in Windows 10.