The BlindDIYPC, Revision 1

Ok Twitches, this isn’t gonna be a long post, but I wanted to quickly update everyone on the status of the first modifications I’ve really made to the BlindDIYPC since I built it. I’m slowly replacing old, dated components as I can afford to, so I’ll keep this post updated and bump it to the top of the list as I do.

With that said, here’s what I’ve done so far…

As many of you know, the main HDD in the system, a 320GB Samsung Spinpoint leftover from my old Acer, has been getting ready to shit the bed for a few weeks now. I got a good deal on a Samsung EVO 840 series 120GB SSD on Amazon and have replaced the failing drive with that speedy little bitch!

Also, I had a Seagate FreeAgent 2TB external USB 3.0 HDD that was failing. The issue with this drive turned out to be merely the USB controller in the external enclosure, so I tore it apart and am now rocking the Seagate 2TB as an internal SATA drive.

I replaced the 2TB Seagate external with a Western Digital 3TB MyBook USB 3.0 external HDD and it now handles the Seagate’s old duties.

So, to summarize, I’m now rocking a 120GB Samsung EVO 840 Series SSD as my (C:) drive, a 2TB Seagate internal HDD for data storage and a 3TB Western Digital MyBook for everything else.

Other than that, I’m still rocking the quad core 3GHz AMD Athlon II processor with 16GB of G.Skill DDR3, my kickass ASUS mobo, 850W Rosewill power supply and an ASUS 24x DVD burner all wrapped up in a Thermaltake V9 Armor case.

Yeah, it’s a boatload of badass if I do say so myself!

Got any questions or want to configure a BlindPC for yourself? Just hit me up on Twitter where I’m both @BlindSarcasm and @BlindPCs.

Woof! :D

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How To: Reset A Forgotten Windows 7 Password!

Ok Twitches, since I end up fixing this exact issue for people fairly often, I thought I’d do you all a service and outline the steps required to unbugger yourself if you’ve somehow forgotten your Windows 7 login password.

The steps below are written as simply as I think I can make them, but if you run into issues, feel free to contact me on Twitter, where I’m @BlindSarcasm, or via email at rick@theblindgeek.net.

Resetting a forgotten Windows 7 password:

1.
Insert either your Windows 7 install DVD, or a Windows 7 System Repair disc, into your optical drive and restart your computer. If you have it on a flash drive, that works too.
Note: If you don’t have original Windows 7 media and never got around to making a system repair disc, don’t worry. As long as you have access to any other Windows 7 computer, you can burn a system repair disc for free.

2.
After your computer boots from the disc or flash drive, click Next on the screen with your language and keyboard choices.
Tip: Don’t see this screen or do you see your typical Windows 7 logon screen? Chances are good that your computer booted from your hard drive (like it normally does) instead of from the disc or flash drive you inserted, which is what you want.

3. Click on the Repair your computer link.
Note: If you booted with a system repair disc instead of a Windows 7 installation disc or flash drive, you won’t see this link. Just move on to Step 4 below.

4. Wait while your Windows 7 installation is located on your computer.

5. Once your installation is found, take note of the drive letter found in the Location column. Most Windows 7 installations will show D: but yours may be different.
Note: While in Windows, the drive that Windows 7 is installed on is probably labeled as the C: drive. However, when booting from Windows 7 install or repair media, a hidden drive is available that usually isn’t. This drive is given the first available drive letter, probably C:, leaving the next available drive letter, probably D:, for the next drive – the one with Windows 7 installed on it.

6. Select Windows 7 from the Operating System list and then click the Next button.

7. From System Recovery Options, choose Command Prompt.

8. With Command Prompt open, execute the following two commands, in this order:
copy d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe d:\
copy d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
To the Overwrite question after executing the second command, answer with Yes.
Important: If the drive that Windows 7 is installed on in your computer is not D: (Step 5), be sure to change all instances of d: in the commands above with the correct drive letter.

9. Remove the disc or flash drive and then restart your computer.
You can close the Command Prompt window and click Restart but it’s also okay to restart using your computer’s restart button.

10. Once the Windows 7 logon screen appears, locate the little icon on the bottom-left of the screen that looks like a pie with a square around it and click it!
Tip: If your normal Windows 7 logon screen did not show up, check to see that you removed the disc or flash drive you inserted in Step 1. Your computer may continue to boot from this device instead of your hard drive if you don’t remove it.

11. Now that Command Prompt is open, execute the net user command as shown, replacing myusername with whatever your user name is and mypassword with whatever new password you’d like to use:
net user myusername mypassword
So, for example, I would do something like this:
net user BlindSarcasm IPuntY0urT4int!
Tip: If your username has spaces, put double quotes around it when executing net user, as in net user “Blind Sarcasm” IPuntY0urT4int!.

12. Close the Command Prompt window.

13. Login with your new password!

14. Create a Windows 7 Password Reset Disk! This is the Microsoft-approved, proactive step you should have done a long time ago. All you need is a blank flash drive or floppy disk and you’ll never need to worry about forgetting your Windows 7 password again.

15. While not required, it would probably be wise to undo the hack that makes this work. If you don’t, you won’t have access to accessibility features from the Windows 7 login screen.
To reverse the changes you’ve made, repeat Steps 1 through 7 above. When you have access to Command Prompt again, execute the following:
copy d:\utilman.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
Confirm the overwrite and then restart your computer.
Important: Undoing this hack will have no impact on your new password. Whatever password you set in Step 11 is still valid.

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#Recipe: One Pot Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup!

Nothing says “comfort” like a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, but nothing says nasty quite like that crap in a can masquerading as “real” chicken noodle soup.

With that said, I propose this easy, one pot version of this kitchen classic. This was my first dinner of 2014 and I sincerely hope you try it soon as well.

Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut into small chunks
1Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups baby carrots, cut in half
1 small to medium white onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped (complete with the leaves, please!)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 cups good chicken stock (no bullion crap here folks)
2 packages frozen egg noodles, thawed (I prefer Reames Egg Noodles here)
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Cook the chicken, stirring frequently, until you can smell the pieces beginning to brown. Add the onions, celery and carrots, reducing the heat to medium and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Return the heat to medium-high and add the stock and spices save the salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the baby carrots are almost tender. Taste your broth and add the salt and pepper to suit your taste. Let simmer an additional 5 minutes to let the salt and pepper mingle with the other ingredients. Add in the egg noodles, cover and let cook an additional 10-15 minutes or until the noodles are tender and the broth has thickened just slightly. Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Serves 4 normal people or 2 Fat Bastards!

Enjoy! :D

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#HowTo: Create A Streaming, #AudioDescribed Station For VLC Media Player:

Ok Twitches, if you, like me, have ever wanted a random audio described station from our friends over at BlindyTV (@BlindyTV on Twitter), you could just play in our favorite media player, VLC, (and you know you have, or you wouldn’t be reading this), you’ll love this little gem!

Anyone wanting specific instructions for Mac will just have to figure it out on their own since I no longer do the MacMac thing…

Here we go:

Creating your station in VLC for Windows:

1. Open VLC Media Player however you normally do so. (If you don’t currently have it installed, I recommend installing it using the Ninite Accessible Installer.)
2. Once VLC loads, copy and paste the following link, without the quotes, directly into the program’s main window: “http://blindy.tv/audiotv.m3u”
3. VLC will give you some instructions. Listen to them and then tab to the play button to confirm your new station will play correctly. You should hear whatever station is currently playing.
4. Open the “Media” menu and select “Save Playlist To File”.
5. Give your new station a memorable name, ( I called mine “AudioTV”), and save it somewhere where you can find it. You may want to save it to your desktop if you’re prone to losing things.
6. That’s it! Now just run the created file whenever you wanna listen to your new station.

Alternatively, just cause I like you Twitches, you can download the AudioTV file that I created and use it. There, don’t say I never gave you anything… :p

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#Recipe: Apricot Balsamic Chicken!

Simple, sweet and savory are the 3 s’s I’d use to describe this fruity, yet tart staple in my dinner repertoire. Give it a shot and you won’t regret it!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins, cut into bite-size pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, or to taste
20 dried apricots
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Directions
1.Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook in the hot oil until golden brown around the edges, but still pink in the center, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onion, and cook for about 3 minutes more. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, bring it to a simmer, and allow it to reduce for a few minutes.
2.Cut half of the apricots in half, leaving the others whole. Place the apricots into the skillet, and pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the apricot preserves and thyme. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the apricots have softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.

I particularly love this dish served with my Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and a fruity Chardonnay!

Enjoy! :D

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#Recipe: Roasted Rosemary Potatoes!

I absolutely love the combination of good olive oil and rosemary on potatoes! This easy recipe combines simple, earthy flavors into a side dish worth waiting for.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds small red, gold or white-skinned potatoes (or a mixture)
1/8 cup good olive oil (EVOO preferably)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Dump the potatoes on a baking sheet and spread out into 1 layer; roast in the oven for at least 1 hour, or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking to ensure even browning.
Remove the potatoes from the oven, season to taste, and serve.

This is a delicious side dish I particularly like to pair with my Apricot Balsamic Chicken or Herbed Salmon.

Enjoy! :D

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Recipe: Slow Cooker Hard Cider Ham!

Ok friends, this is by far the tastiest Holiday ham recipe I’ve ever tasted! It’s so simple even you’re average MacMac could pull it off without risk of serious injury!

Ingredients:

1 boneless smoked ham, about 5 or 6lbs
1 bottle of hard cider, I prefer Angry Orchard, but choose a semi-dry variety
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
Fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

Place the ham in your slow cooker and pour in 1/2 to 3/4 of the hard cider and pound the rest, (waste not, want not, eh?). Rub the applesauce over the outside of the ham to coat it and sprinkle generously with freshly cracked black pepper. Cover and set your slow cooker to it’s “low” setting. Your ham will be hot, tender and delicious in about 5hrs. I like to add some small gold potatoes about 2hrs before the ham is done to have them cook in the delightful juices, but that’s up to you.

How many this serves really depends on many hungry Fat Bastards you have!

Enjoy! :D

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Dealing With @BitCasa And @BitcasaSupport: An Uphill Battle…

If you’ve been under a rock for the last couple years you may not be familiar with cloud-based storage services like Dropbox or BitCasa. These services offer online storage for moderate or no cost and offer apps for most mobile devices, giving you access to your files on the go.

As some of you know, I’ve been trying to use Bitcasa’s service, but have been having considerable difficulties in doing so. My main issue began when I decided to use BitCasa’s folder mirroring option to make my collection of audio-described Big Bang Theory episodes available on my mobile devices. A fairly simple process, mirroring my folder involved simply right-clicking on the folder and selecting “Mirror to BitCasa” from the context menu. Once uploaded to the server, the contents of that folder would be available on any device with a BitCasa app installed and also available via their web interface.

Simple enough, right? Well this is where my nightmare began…

The next day I went into the BitCasa app on my iPhone 5 while I was running errands and found that I now had 5 copies of my mirrored Big Bang Theory folder and was 5GB over my 10.5GB storage limit. I addressed this with the @BitCasa and @BitcasaSupport Twitter accounts and received only generic, useless responses. I then received the following email from noreply@bitcasa.com warning that I was over my limit and I either needed to delete files or upgrade my account to avoid suspension of my BitCasa account.

“Hello Rick,
>
> Access to your Bitcasa account has been suspended as you have exceeded your storage limit for over 14 days. Upgrade now to immediately regain access to your account. If you do nothing we reserve the right to delete your data per our Terms of Service.
>
> For more information please see our FAQ.”

I’m sick of playing this support game with these geniuses, but being the nice guy that I am, I’m giving them one last chance to fix this and potentially gain me as a paying customer.

To that end, I have sent an email to support@bitcasa.com with a copy of the email I received as well as this response:

“Hello,

Since I have received no useful help on this matter from either your @BitCasa or @BitCasaSupport twitter accounts, I thought I’d give it one final shot here…

My account is over its limit because your service created multiple copies of a folder I was mirroring from my desktop and would not let me remove the duplicates. I had actually wanted to sign up for an unlimited account back when it was just $99/yr, but your apparent inability or unwillingness to resolve my issue kept me from doing so.

In short, if you cannot or are unwilling to resolve my issue, I will be deleting all BitCasa apps from my devices and going back to dropbox where they resolve issues in a timely manner.

Thanks…

Rick Reed
Certified Assistive Technology Specialist
Equine Assistive Therapy Specialist
iOS Accessibility Advocate”

So, only time will tell if or when this will be resolved, but until further notice, consider BitCasa to be in the doghouse…

I’ll post updates here as this fiasco progresses.

Stay tuned Twitches! :D

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#Recipe: #SlowCooker Spicy Thai Peanut Orange chicken!

As most of you who have followed me for a while know, I’m a big fan of crock pot cooking. Many people don’t realize just how versatile their crock pots really are. They tend to only hink of pulling that old slow cooker out when something like a chicken or a pot roast are involved, but there are so many possibilities. Don’t be too quick to typecast your crock pot into a single, dated role. Instead, try thinking outside the box and really push the envelope of what you usually ask it to do.

With all that said, I present to you the slow cooker dish that currently has my apartment smelling absolutely divine…

Slow Cooker Spicy Thai Peanut Orange chicken!

Ingredients:

3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 cup Soy Sauce
1cup Oranje Juice
1 to 3 Tablespoons Sriracha
2 heaping Tablespoons Peanut Butter (crunchy or creamy, your choice)
1/4 teaspoon dried Rosemary
2 cups frozen Broccoli florets

Directions:

Place the chicken breasts in your slow cooker. Add the Rosemary, peanut butter, orange juice, soy sauce and Sriracha. Cover and turn the slow cooker on to it’s low setting. Let it cook for about 4 hours on low, then uncover and add the frozen broccoli. Cover and let cook another 1 to 1 1/2 hours on high, or until broccoli is tender and hot.

I like to serve this over steamed short grain rice or I’ll cook some pasta, usually linguini, until almost al dente before adding to the mixture in the slow cooker and letting cook on high another 30 to 40 minutes. The smell of this one cooking is enough to drive you mad! You have been duly warned! :D

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How To: Create an AudioBook in iTunes!

How to Create an Audiobook in iTunes by Merging MP3 Files
If you’ve got a series of recordings, ripped tracks (from a CD based audiobook), etc., that you want to splice together into an audiobook (similar to the M4b format), then you can do this in iTunes without having to use third-party software. You can bookmark audiobooks (either in the iTunes software media player, or on your iPod / iPhone for example), which makes it far easier to follow a book which could be quite a few hours long. Follow the simple steps below to see how to join multiple audio files together to create an audiobook in iTunes that has chapters.
1. Displaying the Files in Your iTunes Library — With your iTunes software running, locate the Library section in the left window pane. Click on the Music menu option to list all the files in this category.
2. Select MP3s to Combine — Hold down the [CTRL Key] (Mac: [Command Key]) on your keyboard and click on the tracks you want to include in your custom built audiobook. Right-click and choose the Get Info option when you have highlighted the files you want to include. If you see a pop-up message appear asking if you want to edit information for multiple items, then just click the Yes button to proceed.
3. Creating the Custom Audiobook — On the Multiple Item Information screen, click the Options menu tab. Click the drop-down menu for the Media Kind option and select Audiobook from the list. Click the drop-down menu next to the Part of a Compilation option and choose Yes. Finally, do the same thing for the Remember Position option by clicking the drop-down menu next to it and selecting Yes from the list. Click OK to proceed.
4. Checking Your Custom-made Audiobook — To verify that the multiple tracks you selected have been merged into an audiobook, click the Books menu option (found in the Library section) in the left pane of iTunes. Double-click on the newly made audiobook to start it playing. You should also see that the audiobook has multiple chapters that are the individual tracks which were combined earlier. You should now find that iTunes will also remember the playback position if you stop it before the end of the last chapter.
Rolling Back Changes
If you want to reverse the above procedure in the future to split your custom audiobook back into its original components, then it’s easy to do. All you need to do is:
•Right-click the audiobook in the Books category and choose Get Info.
•Click the Options menu tab.
•Change the Media Kind option to Music
•Change the Part of a Compilation option to No.
•Change the Remember Position option to No.
•Click OK.

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