Bits and Bytes

A byte is a sequence of eight bits. A bit is a unit that can be set either on or off, represented by 1 or 0. In other words, it’s a switch, like a light switch.

One byte can hold an unsigned value up to 255 (technically, as all zeros counts as a value, that makes 256 values).

Units

Unit No. of bytes
Byte 1
Kilobyte (KB) 1000
Megabyte (MB 1,000,000
Gigabyte (GB) 1,000,000,000
Terabyte (TB) 1,000,000,000,000
Petabyte (PB) 1,000,000,000,000,000
Exabyte (EB) 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
Zettabyte (ZB) 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Yottabyte (YB) 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Storage

These units are used for measuring memory and data storage sizes. Early computers had very little memory (I once programmed an ICT 1301 with the equivalent of 4K of memory, and an IBM 1440 with 8K of RAM. I’m writing this on a PC with 32GB of RAM).

For operations, computers work with multi-bytes. For example, Windows 32-bit uses a four-byte unit for its instruction set. Windows 64-bit uses eight bytes.

Telecommunication Units

Instead of bytes, data transmission rates are usually shown in bits per second (bps). For example, a download speed may be rated as up to 100 Mbps (100,000,000 bits per second).

Mbps vs MBps

The lower and upper case ‘b’ is important. MBps refers to bytes, not bits. When you see speed ratings, check that letter. MBps is 8 times the size of Mbps (e.g. 100 Mbps = 12.5 MBps).

 

Open Word Without Blank Document

I don’t like Word presenting me with a blank document each time I open the application, as I’m far more likely to search for a recent document I’ve been working on. To avoid the new document being shown, Microsoft provides a “/n” switch.

To use the switch, create a shortcut and enter the following as the target, assuming Word 2016 is installed in its default location.

“C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\WINWORD.EXE” /n

NordVPN Clash with GlassWire Resolved

GlassWire is a free background process that keeps tabs on network activity. Recently when I switched my VPN service to NordVPN, I ran into a problem where NordVPN could not connect to any of its servers. After an exhaustive search for the cause, NordVPN identified a setting in GlassWire that was preventing the connection.

GlassWire provides a personal firewall. This prevents malware from using my network for nefarious purposes. On this occasion, it thought that NordVPN was up to no good. To get around the problem, NordVPN suggested a change to GlassWire’s glasswire.conf file. Instead of hostname_enable_lookup = true, the setting should be false. This fixed the problem.

Intuos 5 Installation Problem

I’ve had the Wacom Intuos 5 graphics tablet and pen for a few years and it’s worked a treat, but a few months ago, following a software update, it was left with limited function. I installed a later update but that made no difference.

To ensure that the hardware was not at fault, I installed the software on a Windows 10 laptop, connected the tablet, and it worked fine. I compared the Wacom  folder with the 8.1 folder and noticed that the laptop had an extra service. Clearly the issue was 8.1-related.

I reported the problem to Wacom, and over a few weeks followed suggestion after suggestion from their support team. Just as I was resigning myself to never using the tablet again on my PC, Wacom came up with the solution.

Following their instructions, I turned off the Malwarebytes Premium antivirus* and re-ran the install. This time it set up everything it was supposed to. The tablet is fully functional again.

* The strange thing is that the laptop also had Malwarebytes Premium running.

What is WOT?

WOT is Web of Trust, a free, popular browser add-on I’ve used for a long time. It acts as a website checker, notifying you about each site’s reputation. It uses a colour-coded icon alongside the site name, as here:

WOT site safety example
WOT site safety example

The codes are green, yellow, and red, while grey indicates no rating:

WOT Safety Rings
WOT Safety Rings

If you hover your cursor over the icon, you can see the rating:

WOT rating
WOT rating

You can view the full scorecard and add your own rating if you wish.

Windows 8.1 Taking Too Long to Shut Down

This is a problem I experience from time to time. I click Restart and then sit looking at a screen that says it restarting or shutting down for seemingly ever. Sometimes there’s an open program, say Outlook, that won’t shut down, and you get an opportunity to force a close. But even after those programs close, it seems the system has gone into an infinite loop. The problem is that I’ve no idea what’s happening.

To help, I’ve added a setting in the Registry to display some clues. Here it is:

Open RegEdit from  Start > Run…

Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System

In the right side of the window you may see an entry called VerboseStatus with a value of zero. If so, click Modify and change it to 1. If not, you can create it by right-clicking on a blank area and select New and DWORD(32-bit) Value. Create an entry called VerboseStatus and set its value to 1.

Close RegEdit. Next time you restart or shut down, you’ll see some information about what programs and services are closing. It’s not as detailed as I would like it, but it helps.

 

Sneaky Adware

Ever had an advert appear on your screen while browsing that you weren’t expecting? Chances are it’s adware.

These programs tend to insinuate themselves by grabbing a free ride on the back of software you download from within a browser. Those free downloads that look so enticing are the usual culprits. For example, I’ve downloaded a couple of free video downloaders, only to end up with PUPs (potentially unwanted programs). Those video downloaders work fine, but they were free because of their hidden payload.

Some anti-virus programs will detect them on a deep scan, but a faster way is to use a selective program like the free AdwCleaner (now owned by Malwarebytes).

AdwCleaner start screen
AdwCleaner start screen

It is very easy to use. Just press Scan Now and off it goes. When it’s finished, it presents you with a results screen:

AdwCleaner identifies unwanted programs
AdwCleaner identifies unwanted programs

Click Clean & Repair. You are prompted to save any work that’s open:

AdwCleaner warning message
AdwCleaner warning message

If you click Click and Restart Now, the system will close down, hence the warning.

When the system reboots, you see this:

AdwCleaner cleanup completed
AdwCleaner cleanup completed

As you can see, only two of the three threats were removed. Clicking View Log File revealed:

AdwCleaner results
AdwCleaner results

The one it didn’t delete is WOT (World of Trust), which is correct. Though it has the profile of a PUP, it’s a worthwhile security feature.