Archive for the ‘System Administration’ Category

Docker for Windows (beta) and msysgit

Friday, April 15th, 2016

I’ve recently joined the beta program for Docker on Windows (now based on Hyper-V).

I wanted to keep my current config using msysGit but got weird errors when executing Docker commands from msysGit: https://forums.docker.com/t/weird-error-under-git-bash-msys-solved/9210

I could fix the issue by installing a newer version of msysGit with support for the MSYS_NO_PATHCONV environment variable. With that installed, I then changed my docker alias to a better approach:

docker()
{
    export MSYS_NO_PATHCONV=1
    ("$DOCKER_HOME/docker.exe" "$@")
    export MSYS_NO_PATHCONV=0
}

Hope this helps!


PHP composer and… Bash!

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Bash bash bash!

It’s been a very long while since I’ve last played with PHP.
I’m not really willing to start a new career as PHP integrator, but it’s still cool to see that the language and the tooling around has evolved quite a lot.

Atwood‘s law states that any application that can be written in JavaScript will eventually be written in JavaScript. One could also say that any language will ultimately get its own package manager (hello npm, NuGet, Maven, …).

So here I am, needing multiple PHP libraries and willing to try a PHP package manager :).

Apparently, composer is the coolest kid around in PHP-land. As you know I still like BASH … on Windows, so here’s a quick guide to get PHP and composer available in your Windows bash universe.

First, you need to download the PHP binaries for Windows; you can get those here (always prefer the x64 version).
Once you have the archive, unzip it where you wish then, in the folder, make a copy of “php.ini-development” and call it php.ini. That’s the configuration file that php will load each time it runs on the command line.

Edit php.ini and in it you need to uncomment the following things (for starters):

  • extension_dir = “ext”
  • extension=php_openssl.dll

With the above, you’ll have SSL support and PHP will know where to find its extensions.

Now, create a folder in which you’ll place PHP extensions. In my case, I’ve created a “php_plugins” folder and placed it right next to the folder containing the PHP binaries (I like to keep things clean).

Next, open up you bash profile and add something along those lines:

alias php7='export PHP_HOME=$DEV_SOFT_HOME/php-7.0.1-Win32-VC14-x64;append_to_path ${PHP_HOME}; export PHP_PLUGINS_HOME=$DEV_SOFT_HOME/php_plugins;'
alias php='php.exe'

Make sure to call ‘php7’ at some point in your profile so that PHP is actually added to your path. Personally, I have a “defaults” alias in which I list all the things that I want to be loaded whenever my shell is loaded:

alias defaults='php7; ...'

# Initialization
defaults # Load default tools

Close and reopen your shell. At this point you should have php at your disposal anywhere you are (eeeewwwww scary :p).

Now you’re ready to get composer. Just run the following command to download it:

curl -sS https://getcomposer.org/installer | php

Once that is done, you should have a “composer.phar” file in the current folder; grab it and move it to your “php_plugins” folder.

Finally, edit your bash profile again and add the following alias:

alias composer='php $PHP_PLUGINS_HOME/composer.phar'

Close and reopen your shell. Tadaaaaa, you can type “composer” anywhere and get the job done.. :)


So fond of fonts

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

I can’t say that I’m in love with typography, but I do enjoy writing (code or otherwise) using a good editor and… a good looking font.

I’ve recently stumbled upon the Hack font, which has its roots in the open source world and derives from Bitstream Vera & DejaVu. I immediately liked it; it feels good to change stuff once in a while… :)  I might still choose to switch back to Consolas, but for now I’m very pleased with Hack and it gave me a reason to mess around with Bash yet again ^^.

Of course, this alone is not a sufficient justification for a blog post! As I’ve described in an earlier post, I always try to maximize the ‘portability’ of my development environment and overall configuration and changing fonts should be no exception ;-)

I do not install fonts manually in the OS; I prefer to put my fonts in a central folder of my CloudStation share (i.e., along with the rest of my configuration & tools) so that it gets replicated on all my devices (I also do the same with tons of other stuff including wallpapers).

A major issue with this is that customizing fonts can be done in plenty applications but each has its own specificities, either they give you a lot of control or you have to go through hoops to achieve what you want. More specifically, many applications will only allow you to select fonts that are available through the OS’s font system (i.e., that are registered) while others will require additional flags or even worse, will want you to copy the font files around.

Under Windows, installing new fonts requires administrator privileges due to the security risks (laugh all you want :p). Thus even if I was to register the fonts, I couldn’t do so at work which is a bummer.

Fortunately, there are programmatic ways to register fonts in a user’s session without administrator privileges. I’ve found two programs that can do this from the command line:

I’ve found regfont to be better  as it is a bit more *nix friendly, comes with a 64-bit executable and is less verbose than RegisterFont (it could use a –silent switch though). 

Using regfont, you can easily register a new font in your user session using the following:

regfont.exe --add cool.ttf

You can also add a complete folder in one go using a wildcard. As you might already know, I’m a bit of a bash fan, so indeed I added a few more aliases to my profile to automate the registration of my custom fonts whenever my bash profile is loaded. It adds a bit to the overall startup time but it’s still quite reasonable.

First things first, since I wanted to keep a clean organization in my fonts folder, I couldn’t use the wildcard flag of regfont as it doesn’t look for font files recursively. For this reason, I needed to find the files myself (using the find command) and execute regfont once for each file.

Since the find command returns *NIX paths, I needed to convert those to WIN* paths; this was easy enough with the help of StackOverflow (as always ^^):

winpath() {
	if [ ${#} -eq 0 ]; then
		: skip
	elif [ -f "$1" ]; then
		local dirname=$(dirname "$1")
		local basename=$(basename "$1")
		echo "$(cd "$dirname" && pwd -W)/$basename" \
		| sed \
		  -e 's|/|\\|g';
	elif [ -d "$1" ]; then
		echo "$(cd "$1" && pwd -W)" \
		| sed \
		  -e 's|/|\\|g';
	else
		echo "$1" \
		| sed \
		  -e 's|^/\(.\)/|\1:\\|g' \
		  -e 's|/|\\|g'
	fi
}

Later in my profile, I’ve added the following for registering the fonts:

export MY_FONTS_FOLDER=$CLOUDSTATION_HOME/Configuration/Dev/Fonts
...
export REGISTER_FONT_HOME=$TOOLS_HOME/RegisterFont
append_to_path $REGISTER_FONT_HOME

register_font(){ ("$REGISTER_FONT_HOME/regfont" "--add" "$1")& } # alternative "RegisterFont.exe" "add"
alias registerfont='register_font'
...
# Register all my fonts for the current user session
# Works also if the user is not local administrator
# Reference: http://www.dailygyan.com/2008/05/how-to-install-fonts-in-windows-without.html
register_fonts(){
	SAVEIFS=$IFS # save the internal field separator (IFS) (reference: http://bash.cyberciti.biz/guide/$IFS)
	IFS=$(echo -en "\n\b") # change it to newline
	fontsToRegister=`find $MY_FONTS_FOLDER -type f -name "*.ttf"` # recursively find all files matching the original extension

	for fontToRegister in $fontsToRegister; do
		fontToRegisterWinPath=`winpath $fontToRegister`
		#echo $fontToRegisterWinPath
		register_font $fontToRegister
	done
	unset fontToRegisterWinPath
	unset fontToRegister
	unset fontsToRegister
	IFS=$SAVEIFS # restore the internal field separator (IFS)
}

I then simply invoke the register_fonts function near the end of my profile, just before I call clear.

With this in place, whenever my profile is loaded, I know that my fonts are registered and usable in most applications.

Just as a side note, here’s how you can manually install a custom font for use with Java-based applications such as IntelliJ, WebStorm, Netbeans, etc: you need to copy the font files to the jre/jdk lib/fonts folder.

As a second side note, ConEmu will load the first ttf file it encounters in its folder and make that one available for use.

As a third and last side node, I couldn’t find a way to load a custom font with Sublime Text 3, it only seems to be able to list system-registered ones…

So.. which font are you most fond of?

 


Use bash to open the Windows File Explorer at some location

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

TL;DR: don’t bother clicking your way through the Windows File Explorer, use bash functions instead! :)

I’ve already blogged in quite some length about my current Windows dev environment and I’ve put enough emphasis on the fact that bash is at the center of my workflow, together with my bash profile & more recently with ConEMU.

I continually improve my bash profile as I discover new things I can do with it, and this post is in that vein.

I often find myself opening the Windows File Explorer (Win + e) to get at some location; for that purpose, I simply pin the often used locations in the ‘Quick access’ list, although that means that I have to go the ‘click-click-click-click’ route and as we know, one can be much more efficient using only the keyboard.

To quickly open the File Explorer at locations I often need to open (e.g., my downloads folder, my movies folder & whatnot), I’ve created the following utility function & aliases:

# Aliases to open the Windows File Explorer at the current location
alias explore='explorer .' # open file explorer here
alias e='explore'
alias E='explore'

# Open File Explorer at the given location
# The location can be a path or UNC (with / rather than \)
# Examples
# openFileExplorerAt //192.168.0.1/downloads
# openFileExplorerAt /c/downloads
# openFileExplorerAt c:/downloads
openFileExplorerAt(){
 pushd $1
 explore
 popd
}

The ‘explore’ alias simply opens the Windows File Explorer at the current shell location while the ‘openFileExplorerAt’ function goes to the path given in argument and opens the File Explorer before going back to the previous shell location.

With the above, I’m able to define functions such as the one below that opens my downloads folder directly:

downloads(){
	openFileExplorerAt //nas.tnt.local/downloads
}

And since i’m THAT lazy, I just alias that to ‘dl’ ^^.

That’s it! :)


Additional Windows 10 Configuration Tips

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

I’ve recently blogged about my Windows 10 configuration. In this post I’ll list some additional things that I could disable/tweak/configure using a new application called W10Privacy.

If you haven’t read the first part, then I recommend you to do so first as it has some interesting tips in store for you :)

First, you need to download the application here. Once downloaded, you should uncompress it and run it with administrator privileges. To have access to the list of System applications, you can also download PSExec and place the executable in the folder where W10Privacy is located.

Here’s what I’ve configured using that tool (knowing that my configuration already covers many of the settings it provides):

  • Privacy
    • Turn off SmartScreen Filter to check web content (URLs) that Windows Store apps use
    • Disable sending of information on writing behavior
    • Disable location for this device
    • Disable asking for Feedback
    • Disable the AutoLogger
    • Block Microsoft server, to which telemetry data will be sent (in the hope that this setting has additional domain names to block)
  • Search
    • Do not search online and do not include web results
    • Disable the retrieve of Bing search suggestions and web results (applies only to the actual user)
  • Network
    • Do not connect to proposed public hotspots
    • Do not connect to wireless networks shared by my contacts
    • Do not share my networks with my Outlook.com contacts
    • Do not share my networks with my Skype contacts (w t f)
    • Do not share my networks with my Facebook contacts (w t f)
  •  Explorer
    • Remove search option on the taskbar (searching by Windows key + Q is still possible)
    • File Explorer opens at “This PC” instead of “Quick Access”
    • Show a desktop icon for “Computer”
    • Show extensions for known file types in File Explorer
    • Show hidden files, folders or drives in File Explorer
    • Show protected operating system files in File Explorer
    • Turn off Windows SmartScreen
    • Remove “- Shortcut” suffix from future shortcut file names (w00t!)
  • Services
    • Disable Windows Diagnostics Tracking Service – reboot required!
  • Edge
    • Send “Do Not Track” requests
    • Do not help me protect me from malicious sites and downloads with SmartScreen Filter
  • OneDrive
    • Do not start OneDrive automatically when I sign in to Windows
    • Remove OneDrive from the File Explorer sidebar in Windows 10
  • Tasks
    • Disable the task “Microsoft Compatibility Appraiser”
    • Disable the task “ProgramDataUpdater”
    • Disable the task “Proxy”
    • Disable the task “Consolidator”
    • Disable the task “KernerlCeip Task”
    • Disable the task “UsbCeip”
    • Disable the task “Microsoft-Windows-DiskDiagnosticDataCollector”
    • Disable the task “DmClient”
    • Disable the task “FamilySafetyMonitor”
    • Disable the task “FamilySafetyRefresh”
    • Disable the task “SmartScreenSpecific”
  • Tweaks
    • Disable automatic restart, the user is instead asked to plan a restart
    • Disable updates for other Microsoft products on Windows Update (e.g., office, etc)
    • Updates and apps will no longer be distributed to other clients (disables the lower switch) (i.e., my bandwidth is my own)
    • Distribute updates and apps only on the local network (disables upper switch)
  • Background-Apps
    • Disable background functionality for … (ALL THE DAMN APPS!)
  • User-Apps
    • Uninstall the following:
      • Money
      • News
      • Sports
      • Weather
      • First Steps
      • Get Office
      • OneNote
      • Skype download
      • Groove-Musik
      • Movies and TV shows
      • Maps
      • companion phone

As you can see, W10Privacy has quite a lot of nice features. I know that disabling the privacy related features will not protect my privacy much more than it currently is (i.e., it ain’t), but it can’t do harm either and at worst it’ll just save me some CPU cycles.. ;-)


ConEmu is my new console replacement

Friday, August 7th, 2015

TL;DR: ConEmu is the BEST console for Windows power users!

Update 2015-08-24:

A recent update to ConEmu has added support for a feature I’ve requested last month, the ability to automatically restore the ConEmu console on the currently active screen (i.e., where the mouse is located), this makes ConEmu even more awesome! :D


 

In a previous post about my Windows dev environment configuration, I’ve explained that I was using AutoHotKey in combination with Console2 to get a quake-like console on Windows. Since then, I discovered ConEmu… and I ain’t going back!

I’ve recently switched from Console2 to ConEmu and because of this change, I no longer need AutoHotKey to show/hide the console since ConEmu show/hide can be bound to a global hotkey (i.e., I can get the same behavior). Altough, I still use AutoHotkey in order to start ConEmu when pressing ‘²’ in case ConEmu isn’t started already.

ConEmu has a gazillion features, one of which being the holy grail for me: an actual Quake-like console with animated dropdown and support for image backgrounds :D. It’s not my goal to describe all it can do but do yourself a favor, just try it out.

Basically the rest of my configuration is as explained in my earlier post apart from the fact that I now use ConEmu rather than Console2. In fine, I’m still using Bash :)

Here’s a link to my ConEmu configuration file

ConEmu configuration highlights:

  • Main
    • Font
      • Consolas
      • 16
      • Clear Type
  • Main > Size & Pos
    • Full screen
    • Centered (not important actually)
    • Long console output: 9999
    • Restore to active monitor (MUST HAVE if you use my configuration). See my update of 2015-08-24 above)
  • Main > Appearance
    • Always on top
    • Auto scrollbars (hidden after a small delay)
    • Quake style slide down (
    • Auto-hide on focus lose
  • Main > Background
    • custom background image (dark.jpg)
  • Main > Tab bar
    • Always show
    • Font
      • Consolas
      • 14
    • Console (text)
      • <%c> %d
      • console id
      • current working directory
  • Main > Confirm
    • No confirmation for new consoles/tabs
    • No confirmation for tab closing
  • Main > Update
    • automatic check on startup
    • Release type: latest
  • Startup
    • {Bash::Git bash} (can’t live without my Bash shell :p)
  • Startup > Tasks
    • {Bash::Git bash}
      • set as default task for new console
      • set as default shell
  • Features
    • Sleep in background
    • Log console output (great!)
  • Features > Text cursor
    • Active console
      • Block
      • Color
      • Blinking
  • Features > Colors
    • Scheme: Solarized Git (I’d love to have a Seti_UI one here)
    • Fade when inactive
  • Features > Transparency
    • Active window transparency: ~90%
  • Features > Status bar
    • Shown
    • Font
      • Consolas
      • 14
    • Selected columns
      • Console title
      • Synchronize cur dir (not sure what this one does)
      • Caps Lock state
      • Num Lock state
      • Active console buffer
      • System time
  • Keys & Macro
    • ²: Minimize/Restore (Quake-style hotkey also)
    • F1: Create new console or new window
  • Keys & Macro > Controls
    • Send mouse events to console
    • Skip click on activation
    • Skip in background
    • Install keyboard hooks
  • Keys & Macro > Mark/Copy
    • Detect line ends
    • Bash margin
    • Trim trailing spaces
    • EOL: CR+LF
    • Text selection: Left Shift
    • Copy on Left Button release
    • Block (rectangular) selection: Left Alt
    • Copying format: Copy plain text only
  • Keys & Macro > Paste
    • All lines
    • Confirm
    • First line Confirm pasting more than 200 chars

Here’s the new version of my AutoHotKey script. Now it:

  • starts ConEmu if not running already
  • lets the ‘²’ key press pass through if ConEmu is running (so as to let ConEmu show/hide the console window
; ConEmu script (start it if it ain't running)
; ConEmu class: VirtualConsoleClass (reference: https://github.com/koppor/autohotkey-scripts/blob/master/ConEmu.ahk)
; Change your hotkey here
;SC029 == ²
SC029::

DetectHiddenWindows, on
IfWinNotExist, ahk_class VirtualConsoleClass
{
	Run "C:/CloudStation/Programs/tools/ConEmu/ConEmu64.exe"
	WinWait ahk_class VirtualConsoleClass
}
else{
	; let the key pass through if ConEmu is active
	; reference: http://www.autohotkey.com/board/topic/2121-hotkey-pass-through/
	Suspend, On
	Send,{SC029}
	Suspend, Off
	return
}
DetectHiddenWindows, off
return

Bonus: here’s the link to the background images that I use (I don’t claim any rights on these ^^).


My development environment on Windows

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

TL;DR Use Bash on Windows like me and you’ll be in heaven too, with penguins and ice creams :)

Update 2015-08-07: I now use ConEmu rather than Console2; apart from this, my configuration is still as described below


In this post I’ll describe my current Windows configuration and development environment. I’ve already covered how I’ve customized my Windows 10 install, but here I’m going to explain what I do to have an efficient workflow and a ‘portable’ configuration.

For those wondering, yes I use Windows as my main operating system (don’t throw the tomatoes just yet). As I’ve said in the past, I do prefer Linux, but I also enjoy gaming and dual boot is just not for me anymore. Moreover having one OS across all the machines I use at home and at work (apart from tablets) is useful.

Before going in the nitty gritty details, here’s a brief overview of my setup:

  • CloudStation (Synology NAS application): synchronizes files between my desktop, NAS, laptop & tablets; you can substitute this with Dropbox or whatever else you like
  • Git (i.e., msysGit) & git bash: because I love git and MSYS
  • Console: a great Windows console enhancement (supports multiple tabs, different shells, different fonts, easy text selection, shortcuts, …
  • AutoHotkey: create macros & scripts. I use it to show/hide my bash console with the ‘²’ key
  • bash profile: if you know *nix, you know this but I’ll cover the basics below
  • a ton of portable apps (or non-portable ones adapted)
  • GitHub: great Git client for Windows

Here are a few examples of things I can do with my setup (on all my Windows machines):

  • hit ‘²’ and start typings commands
  • use common *nix commands such as ls, cat, less, sed, …
  • type ‘e’ and have the File Explorer opened in the current folder
  • type ‘s’ and have Sublime Text opened
  • type ‘s cool’ and have Sublime Text opened with the file ‘cool’ opened it in
  • type ‘npp’ and have Notepad++ opened
  • type ‘n’ and have my notes opened
  • type ‘m’ and have my GMail mailbox opened
  • type ‘g cool’ and have a new browser tab open with the Google search results for ‘cool’
  • type ‘imdb shawshank redemption’ and see the IMDb info about the best movie of all times
  • type ‘wiki’ and have my wiki opened
  • type ‘f’ and get facebook opened
  • type ‘nlfr echt waar’ and have google translate opened with the translation of ‘echt waar’ from dutch to french
  • same with frnl fren …
  • type ‘img mario’ and see pictures of Mario all over
  • type ‘mkcd test’ and have the test folder created and cd into it
  • type ‘ws’ and have WebStorm started
  • type ‘idea’ and have IntelliJ started
  • type ‘write 001’ and have my 001 project opened in Scrivener
  • type ..3 and be 3 levels higher in the file system tree
  • type ‘p’ and have my bash profile opened for edition in Sublime Text
  • type ‘mindmap’ and have my Mindmap opened in FreeMind
  • well you get the idea … :)

The goal of my setup is to strictly limit the number of steps to get my development environment up and running (e.g., after I get a new device or need to reinstall one) and to synchronize my configuration(s) between all devices I work on.

At the heart of my configuration, there is CloudStation, the synchronization app provided by Synology NASes (best NAS devices you can find on the market). I use CloudStation to synchronize the following between my devices:

  • Configuration files (I’ll cover these later)
  • Programs
  • Books I’m currently reading (or plan to read soon)
  • Comic books (only thing that I synchronize w/ my tablet)
  • Pictures (e.g., wallpapers & pictures of my face — if I need to upload one somewhere)
  • Podcasts
  • Book drafts (stuff I’m writing from time to time)
  • My notes.txt file

The most important parts are the config files and programs because that’s the core of my setup.

My CloudStation folder is organized as follows:

  • _FOR_HOME: stuff to bring back home
  • _FOR_WORK: stuff to bring to work
  • _NOW: stuff I’m currently busy with
  • Books
    • Reading
    • Later
  • Configuration
    • Bash: contains my bash profile
    • Dev: contains the configuration for all my dev tools
      • Eclipse: my Eclipse preference files (.epf), code style rules, etc
      • IntelliJ: my portable IntelliJ config (config & plugins)
      • WebStorm: my portable WebStorm config (config & plugins)
      • Git
      • Templates: project templates
    • Home: my *NIX home folder (.gitconfig, .npmrc, .ssh folder, etc are in there)
    • Scrivener
    • XBMC: my portable XBMC config (worth another post in itself)
  • Electronics: my current electronics projects
  • Guitar: that thing with strings that I learn when I find free time (i.e., not often enough)
  • Lightroom: my LR catalog (worth another post in itself)
  • Music: things that I listen again and again
  • Pictures
  • Podcasts
  • Programs
    • dev: JDK, maven, docker-machine, groovy, intellij, mongodb, nodejs, npm, python, eclipse, svn, webstorm, …
    • electronics: arduino IDE, atanua, circuit, fritzing, …
    • emulation: zsnes, project64, …
    • games: minecraft and other small games ;-)
    • readers: e-book readers & comic book readers (e.g., ComicRack)
    • seb: my own tools
    • tools: a huge ton of (portable) apps
    • writing: apps like Scrivener, WriteMonkey, …

To give you an idea of the tools I have in CloudStation, here’s a part of what I use:

  • SublimeText: my current preferred text editor (no it’s not VI, I’m more of a nano guy)
  • Notepad++: my previous preferred text editor
  • SysInternals suite: greatest Windows toolkit ever
  • 7-zip: it does it all
  • KeePass: one passphrase to rule them all
  • kitty: putty portable replacement
  • ADExplorer
  • AntMovieCatalog (again worth another post)
  • AutoHotKey (more on it below)
  • borderless window tool: useful for games that don’t have a fullscreen windowed mode
  • calibre: manage my e-books
  • Console2: awesome Windows console replacement (more on it below)
  • desktops: obsolete with Windows 10 :)
  • ffmpeg: holy grail (or so I thought)
  • exiftool: dump exif
  • ext2explore: let me see EXT partitions
  • fat32format: format stuff
  • folder2iso: sudo make me an iso
  • freemind: can’t live without mindmaps
  • guiformat
  • HexChat: coz IRC is still there in 2015 (yeah I’m tired looking for the links ^^)
  • hfsexploer
  • hxDen
  • ImageMagick: do me some magic with images
  • JDownloader: download all the things
  • jude: sometimes helpful for quick UML drawings
  • libmp3lame: encoding stuffz
  • mplayer: who can live decently without mplayer around?
  • MySQL Workbench
  • netcat: netcat for Windows, weee
  • PortQry: check UDP ports
  • Privoxy: local proxy
  • ProxyGet: dumps info about the currently configured proxy (useful in locked-down environments)
  • PS3Splitter: split large files
  • restoration: restore deleted files (family helper)
  • SolEol: download subtitles easily
  • SQLite
  • SteamMover: move steam folders around
  • SubtitleEdit: fix me thy subtitles
  • twt: CLI for Twitter
  • USBDiskEjector
  • uTorrent
  • wakeMeOnLan: wake up LAN devices
  • wget
  • win32diskimager: create img files
  • WinDirStat: where’s my free space gone??!
  • WinMerge: diff me up
  • WinSplitRevolution: can’t live without this to re-arrange/resize windows around
  • winscp
  • YNAB: yes you do need a budget

Okay so all of that currently sums up to about 30GB so clearly the initial sync time is quite long because there are a huge amount of very small files to sync, but once synchronized, you get an idea of all I have available at my fingertips.

There are apps that I do actually install on my OS for two reasons: either the app is way too large to be copied around or it integrates too deeply with the operating system. Here are some applications that aren’t in my CloudStation folder:

  • Lightroom
  • Photoshop
  • VLC: much easier to install & have the file type associations
  • Winamp: same idea
  • Git
  • Spotify
  • Google Chrome
  • Steam
  • Battle.net
  • Daemon Tools
  • CrashPlan client
  • Dropbox
  • GitHub client
  • VirtualBox

Okay, so far you have an idea of the stuff I carry around with my but you don’t know yet how I use it all. Let’s assume for a moment that my PC goes up in flames and that I need to setup a brand new one.

Here’s what I need to do in order to get back up and running (to the point of being able to work):

  • install the OS (haha)
  • install drivers (hoho)
  • install CloudStation and let it sync all my files
  • install msysGit
  • create a .profile (bash profile) file in my home folder with the following contents
    • source /c/CloudStation/Configuration/Bash/bashProfile.txt
    • this loads my actual bash profile which is part of my CloudStation synchronized files
  • add AutoHotkey to the startup list (i.e., put a shortcut under ‘shell:Startup’)
    • C:\CloudStation\Programs\tools\AutoHotkey111502_x64\AutoHotkey.exe
  • copy my AutoHotkey script to the Documents folder
  • at this point I can already hit ‘²’ and my console opens up, with all my tools available
  • install the few other apps I like to have
  • done!

Okay so let’s see how my console is set up.

So when the OS boots, it now starts AutoHotkey. I’ve written a small script that opens up Console2 when I hit ‘²’ and hides it when I hit ‘²’ again, a bit like Quake’s console or Yakuake under Linux (although I don’t have the nice animation ;-)).

Here’s the script

; QuakeConsole, used in combination with Console2
; Change your hotkey here
;SC029 == ²
SC029::

DetectHiddenWindows, on
IfWinExist ahk_class Console_2_Main
{
 IfWinActive ahk_class Console_2_Main
 {
 WinHide ahk_class Console_2_Main
 WinActivate ahk_class Shell_TrayWnd
 }
 else
 {
 ; put the console at top left
 WinMove, 0, 0
 ; show the console
 WinShow ahk_class Console_2_Main
 WinActivate ahk_class Console_2_Main
 }
}
else
 Run "C:/CloudStation/Programs/tools/Console-2.00b148-Beta_64bit/Console2/Console.exe"
DetectHiddenWindows, off
return

The script is quite simple: if Console2 is running, pressing the configured key will either show/hide the window (and put it on the top left of the screen on show); if not, it starts the program.

As you can see Console2 is also in my CloudStation folder, just like AutoHotkey is.

So now, here are the relevant parts of my Console2 configuration (console.xml file placed in the Console2 program folder in my CloudStation tools)


	
		
			...
		
	
	
		
			
		
		
		
		s caption="1" resizable="1" taskbar_button="1" border="1" inside_border="5" tray_icon="1">
			
		
		
		
	
	
		
		
		
	
	
		...
		 
		
		
	
	
		
			 
  			 
  			 
			
			
			
			
			
		
	
	
		   
		
			
			
			
				
					
				
			
		
	

With this Console2 configuration:

  • I automatically get in a Git Bash shell in my workspace (i.e., where I have my project folders)
  • I can hit ctrl+ F1 to open a new tab, also with the same Git Bash shell
  • I can use ctrl + c / ctrl + v to copy/paste
  • I can use the middle mouse click to paste
  • I can use shift + click to select & copy text

Okay thus so far you can see how I can use my bash shell on Windows, I just hit ‘²’ and I can enter commands, not much harder than hidding the Windows key to open up the start menu & searching for stuff, except that in my shell I’ve got all my commands & aliases available.

The final (and most important) part of my configuration is my bash profile. It’s where I configure my environment, define functions and aliases, configure programs in my path, etc. 

Given how long it is I’ve create a Gist of it here (note that it’s just a subset of my whole config): https://gist.github.com/dsebastien/47d24a5d6c1b8005f434

I don’t claim any rights on the functions I use in my bash profile as it is mostly based on stuff I gathered over time from various sources. Though there mustn’t be many crazies like me to do this kind of things on Windows ;-)

In the file, you’ll see that the basic principles are quite simple & straightforward, folders added to the path, functions and aliases with shorter names, etc.

I have tons of ideas to improve my bash profile but I just don’t have time now. There are just tons of worth-looking examples all over the place if you’re interested. And if you have ideas/links, just post them in the comments!

What I like with my current configuration is that it is portable in the sense that if I add a new tool or change the configuration of an existing one, all my machines are directly updated.

Of course it is far from perfect, most apps aren’t up to date and the more I add into my system, the harder it gets to update stuff. Package managers are indeed the solution and *NIX has had them since the dawn of ages, but there’s hope on Windows too.

In the future, Windows package managers like OneGet (now part of W10) and Chocolatey should simplify things, but I don’t feel like it’s usable for my goals right now (correct me if I’m wrong).

The most evident and easiest solution would simply be to use Linux, but for as long as I’ll be playing games from time to time, I won’t go back. 

 


Windows 10 configuration tips

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Update 2015-08-26:

I’ve posted a new article with some additional configuration steps/tweaks.

Update 2015-08-05:

Removed some additional tracking services & bloatware using: 

I’ve also removed OneDrive from autorun, removed the app, etc. Thanks Microsoft but no, I’m not interested and if I ever am, I’ll let you know. It’s not because I’m using Windows that I want all the software you’ve ever produced. Propose me to opt in if you want, but don’t force additional products on me!.

Tip:

If you want to get a list of the other currently installed apps just use: Get-AppxPackage -User <username>. If one of them bothers you then you can invoke Remove-AppxPackage <package name>

In the previous post, I’ve mentioned that almost all of my applications and settings were kept during the upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. Almost all, but not all.

And anyway, each time I switch to a new OS release, I can’t help but spend some time going through all the options and policy settings just to configure it the way I like.

With Windows 10, it’s the very first time that I’m done in less than two hours, which is nice :)

Now let me list all the things that I’ve done after upgrading, in no specific order:

  • Activate Windows (first things first right? :p)
  • Installed the latest NVidia drivers (these didn’t survive the upgrade)
  • Put the resolution back to 1920*1080
  • Configured the File Explorer to show “This PC” rather than “Quick Access”, because I don’t care about frequent folders & recent files. I know where I need to go and how my files are organized
  • Reinstalled Virtualbox as I’ve noticed that it crashed when started
  • fired up gpedit.msc (which you will only have with the Professional & above editions..)
    • disabled thumbs.db files generation: because I can’t stand trying to move/delete things to discover that the damn thumbnails file prevents me from doing what I want…
      • User > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer > Turn off the caching of thumbnails in hidden thumbs.db files
    • disabled things that send data to Microsoft: Sorry MSFT, but I never like having my machine send data around (just a general principle that I stick by)
      • Computer > Windows Components > Windows Error Reporting > Disable Windows Error Reporting
      • Computer > Windows Components > Windows Error Reporting > Do not send additional data
      • Computer > Windows Components > Data Collection and Preview Builds > Allow Telemetry
    • made sure that the shutdown button on the logon screen was disabled: If you have young children you’ll understand why
      • Computer > Windows Settings > Local Policies > Security Options > Shutdown: Allow system to be shut down without having to log on
    • enabled always sending Do Not Track (DNT) header: because if there are still non-evil people on the Web, I need them to know that I somehow value privacy
      • Computer > Windows Components > Internet Explorer > Internet Control Panel > Advanced Page > Always send Do Not Track header
    • disabled Windows SmartScreen: because I don’t need Microsoft to tell me what is safe and what isn’t
      • Computer > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer > Configure Windows SmartScreen
    • enabled confirmation for file deletion: because I can’t trust myself that much ;-)
      • Recycle Bin > Properties > Display delete confirmation dialog
    • disabled documents history: who cares about history (don’t repeat that to my son ^^)
      • User > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar
        • Clear history of recently opened documents on exit
        • Do not keep history of recently opened documents
    • disabled searching for files/documents/internet in start menu: because I care about apps when I use the start menu, nothing else (personal choice indeed)
      • User > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar
        • Do not search communications
        • Do not search for files
        • Do not search Internet
    • forced listing desktop apps first (rather than metro apps..)
      • User > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar 
        • List desktop apps first in the Apps view
    • disabled MS Edge app usage tracking: I love MS Edge but I just don’t like tracking
      • User > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Edge UI
        • Turn off tracking of app usage
    • customized the File Explorer
      • User > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer
        • Remove the Search the Internet “Search again” link
        • Start File Explorer with ribbon minimized
        • Turn off display of recent search entries in the File Explorer search box
        • Turn off caching of thumbnail pictures
  • forced numlock at boot (logon screen also!): this setting was apparently lost during the upgrade
    • run “regedit”
    • go to \HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Keyboard
    • change value “InitialKeyboardIndicators” from “2147483648” to “80000002”
    • restart and u will have NUM LOCK ON always on windows startup

After this I already felt a bit more at ease, although that was only the first part.

The next part was to go through all the Settings and trying out the new features..

  • created a new virtual desktop: Hey MSFT, great that you’ve finally added virtual desktops but why so late? :)
  • fixed the default apps: this is one of the things I disliked. MSFT, you’ve managed to keep so many things and just decided to replace my default apps by all of yours? That really sucks!
    • Switched default browser back to Google Chrome
    • Switched default music player back to Winamp (because it really… :p)
    • Switched default video player back to VLC
  • modified the folders that appear by default in the Start Menu
    • File Explorer
    • Settings
    • Downloads
    • Personal Folder
  • modified privacy settings
    • Settings > Privacy
      • General
        • Send Microsoft info about how I write…
          • OFF
      • Location
        • Disabled
      • Removed various rights from apps…
      • Feedback & diagnostics
        • Windows should ask for my feedback: Never
        • Send your device data to Microsoft: Basic
        • Background apps: Remove
  • removed default Windows 10 apps: MSFT I get why it is all there, but I just couldn’t care less
    • Finance
    • News
    • MSN Food & Drinks
    • Health & Fitness
    • Travel
    • Get Skype
    • Get Office
    • Get Bored
    • Get Whatever :o
  • Windows Store
    • signed in with my Windows Live account: ONLY for apps
  • Cortana & Search settings
    • disabled web search results

Done!

I’ll probably edit this post over time to reflect config changes, but for now I think it’s already in a pretty good shape :)

PS: For those wondering, no I’m not hardening my Windows box in any specific way, I just have a local firewall (Net Limiter) set to ask me to allow/Deny anytime there are inbound/outbound connections (when I don’t already have rules covering those), so as long as apps cannot bypass that Firewall, I know what tries to go in/out and I’m in control. That combined with the Antivirus is all I need. I wouldn’t configure a Windows box just like that at work, but at home that’s just more than enough :)


Upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 10

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

TL;DR: Huge kudos to Microsoft for making the upgrade from W7 & 8 to Windows 10 a breeze!

This post is a summary of my experience upgrading from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10; I’m not going to talk about the new features as there are already a huge amount of articles about that.. :)

Yesterday, the binaries for Windows 10 were available on MSDN so I wanted to finally give W10 a try. I’ve never been keen of installing technical previews on my main machine and I just don’t have time to test that kind of things anymore.

So first things first, I’ve downloaded the ISO & claimed my key. Once downloaded I mounted the iso and let the magic happen.

One HUGE step forward with the Windows 10 installer is that it is now able to perform the upgrade while keeping most applications and settings.

In my case, although I have a “pretty complicated” configuration, I was back up and running directly after the upgrade which is just of awesome :)

Here’s what makes it surprising for me:

  • all of my applications are still there, intact (i.e., still configured just as I’ve left them)
  • my registry settings were kept (for the most part)
  • my services are still there after the upgrade (I’ve got a local MySQL instance, a Confluence wiki and a bunch of other stuff)
  • all my drivers are still there
  • my custom Firewall (Net Limiter 2) is still there after the upgrade (impressive given how deeply it must be integrated with the OS (filter drivers & al)
  • Daemon tools is still installed and my virtual devices are still there
  • (most of) my startup applications are still in the autorun list
  • my Windows defender settings & folder exclusions were still there
  • my custom power plan was still there & active
  • my favorites in File Explorer were still there (ok that’s no magic but hey ^^)
  • my desktop icons are still there
  • my regional settings & other are still there

I think that the difference between XP & 7 was MUCH more important and given how “close” W10 is to W8, I can’t say that any of the above is really surprising, but it’s still very nice.

Hopefully the next upgrade from W10 to W.Next will not even require a reboot anymore.. ;-)

In a follow up post I’ll describe the things that I’ve configured after the upgrade.

Huge kudos to Microsoft for making the upgrade from W7/8 to Windows 10 a breeze!