How to tell if a Lionel tender has a whistle

One of the things Lionel did that set its electric trains apart from its competitors was integrating a whistle in the tender that was included with its steam locomotives. Because of the added play value and charm, the whistling tender is a sought-after feature, even in this era when electronic sounds are so inexpensive that even dollar store toys sometimes have them.

Here’s how to quickly tell if a Lionel tender has a whistle.

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Don’t fall for the netstat scam

A longtime friend’s aunt almost got taken by a fake tech support scammer. He told me about it, and in the process, this was also the first I’d heard of the netstat scam.

She saved herself by saying she’d have to check things out with her nephew first. That’s a good trick. Fortunately for her, the scammer didn’t try to delete anything, though he did immediately change from being very pleasant to being very rude. That matches my recent experience with these low-life crooks precisely.

She was vulnerable because the flawed MS14-045 gave her trouble and she had a case open with HP. So when this crook called, she thought at first that HP or Microsoft were following up with her about that.

The scammer’s best trick was to get her to open a command prompt and type netstat. Read more

How to fix Firefox–really

I’ve been having problems with Firefox for a while now–crashes and other odd behavior. I’ve put up with it for a while, but I shouldn’t have to. It turns out the fix is very easy, but non-obvious.

Mozilla’s documentation is abysmal. When you move stuff around for no reason, change your docs to reflect the move, so people can find what you’re talking about. Or better yet, leave well enough alone.

If you actually want to fix the problem, don’t fiddle with the menus. Do this:

  • Type about:troubleshooting in the address bar
  • Click “Reset Firefox” in the upper right corner Read more

Don’t forget the .NET Framework when troubleshooting

I’ve been troubleshooting a program that’s written in a combination of Java and .NET (yes, now I’ve seen everything), and the program misbehaved. It misbehaved a lot, and the vendor was confused too. About four hours in, one of us had the idea to uninstall the .NET Framework 4.0 and install the newest .NET Framework 4.5.1. The 4.5.1 framework is designed to be backwards compatible with multiple predecessors.

It turned out to be the miracle cure that had eluded us.

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Troubleshooting machines that won’t update from WSUS or SCCM

In my younger days, I administered WSUS on a small (300 servers or so) network. Every once in a while, I ran into an issue where a server just didn’t want to talk to WSUS. These days, some companies prefer to push patches with SCCM but it uses the same mechanism to push patches.

Apparently my old problem still happens from time to time. So I did some research to come up with a solution. This mechanism is still largely a black box, but it’s a lot better documented now than it was in my day. Here’s what I came up with for troubleshooting WSUS or SCCM. Read more

“Mario” from “Microsoft” calls the wrong guy

“Mario from Microsoft” called me last night. I’ve never heard a Mario with that kind of accent, and, I thought he worked for Nintendo. I’ll bet he gets that a lot.

“Microsoft has no reason to be calling me,” I said to “Mario.”

“Oh, we’re a Microsoft certified partner,” he said.

“That’s nice,” I said. “I’m certified too. What’s going on?”

“You are having computer issues,” he said. Read more

Cyanogenmod 10.1 runs surprisingly well on a Nook Color

Cyanogenmod–the open-source distribution of Android for undersupported/abandoned devices–went to version 10.1 this week. Version 10.1 is based on Android 4.2.2, so it matches what’s in stores right now.

My Nook Color was sitting unused, so I figured I had nothing to lose by loading Cyanogenmod 10.1 on it. It was slow and laggy and crashed a lot under 7.2, so it wasn’t like it could be much worse.

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Deconstructing my conversation with “Computer Maintenance Department”

My tell-all about my encounter with “Computer Maintenance Department” was a little heavy on the jargon yesterday. It occurs to me that explaining what some of the terminology means, and the problem with their reasoning, may be helpful. I’ve also heard a few questions through various channels, and I think those are worth answering. Read more

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