Category Archives: Tips for computer

My Computer Mouse is Possessed (Random Moves and Double Clicks) – How I Fixed It

For the last two months or so, I experienced a strange phenomenon on my Windows 7 computer. In the middle of my computer session, the computer mouse cursor would randomly move, click and double click as if it’s possessed by ghosts. This happened most often after several sleep/wake-up cycles. It’s normally OK on the first power up.

At first, I thought some malicious Russian Mafia schemes to take over my computer through a virus of sorts. So the first thing I did was to run the anti-virus scan and Microsoft’s Vicious Software Removal Tool. I had no virus.

Then I thought the 7-device powered USB hub may have a data/power initialization issue. So I unplugged the wireless receiver from the USB hub when it happened (I have a Microsoft Arch Touch Mouse). The “possessed” behavior continued. I tried plugging the wireless receiver on a different USB port; it didn’t help. I even unplugged my other tablet mouse. No help.

To make the long story short after trying so many things, I decided there must be mouse driver conflicts among all the USB mouse drivers. I click on the Device Manager (Start -> Computer (Right click and select Property) then click on Device Manager on the left panel. I saw there are 3 “Mice and other pointing devices”: The built-in laptop touch pad (ELAN PS/2 POrt Smart-Pad), Microsoft mouse (Microsoft USB Dual Receiver Wireless Mouse) and the Tablet Mouse (PenPad VisTablet for drawing) (see below).
Mouse devices
I first right click on each of the device driver and click on “Update Driver Software…” and click on “Search automatically for updated driver software”. Windows 7 informed me that all 3 drivers are all up to date. This doesn’t mean that one of the device drivers might have a bug/conflict. So I decided to disable one mouse driver at a time by disabling the “Tablet Mouse” first as it was a recent addition and if I remembered correctly, the problem started when I first got the PenPad VisTablet Mouse.

After disabling the Tablet Mouse, I’m no longer seeing the mouse ghosts. Problem and mystery solved. My computer has been exorcised!

Update: 3/30/15
I recently discovered that the real root cause of the problem is that I kept the laptop cover/screen down while displaying on my 24″ monitor. Somehow, the touch pad is picking up signals from the top of the cover in closed position, as if fingers are touching the touchpad, especially after coming out of “sleep.” All I had to do is the open up the cover/screen and then close it. The touchpad will calibrate itself and no longer pick up the false finger touches from the top of the cover.

Corrupted Internet Explorer 11 Files – How I Fixed It

While fixing some Windows 7 system issues (like running Internet Explore or Quicken would hang) , I ran a lot of “sfc /scannow” command. And each time, it would complain that there were corrupted files that could not be fixed. (“Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.”)

After looking into the log file residing in c:\windows\Log\CBS\CBS.log , I noticed that the majority of the corrupted files were related to Internet Explorer 11. Then I discovered this little “Search Protect” icon showing up in the task bar. Upon further search, I concluded that this was a malware from “Conduit”. I suspected this was the one that caused the Internet Explorer 11 to be corrupted.

First, I need to get rid of this malware. Based on the recommendation form my Google Search, I downloaded JRT (Junkware Removal Tool) and proceeded to remove the “Search Protect” from my system. Well, JRT didn’t quite remove it from the auto-start programs so I had to manually remove it using Microsoft’s autoruns. This was the only way to get rid of the annoying warning message that it couldn’t find the “backgroundcontainer.dll” software (already removed by JRT) upon logging into Windows 7 every time.

Since Internet Explorer 11 was the most up-to-date Internet Explorer, there was no new update to override it. I even tried downloading directly from Microsoft but the official download site was still down level. So I decided uninstall it, which was not a trivial task since Internet Explorer is an integrated software for Windows 7. Based on this recommendation, I would need to deselect Internet Explorer 11 in the Windows Features (Start -> Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> Select “Turning Windows Features On/off” on the left panel -> Deselect “Internet Explorer 10” ). Then go into Windows Update and Uninstall Internet Explorer 11 (Start -> Control Panel -> Click on “Installed Updated” on the left panel on the bottom -> Enter “Internet Explorer” -> Right Click on Windows Internet Explorer 11 ). By doing the above steps, upon reboot, the previous Internet Explorer (in my case IE 9) became the Internet Explorer app.

After doing more “sfc /scannow” and a few more reboots, I was able to run Internet Explorer 9 without any problem and my Quickens App was finally able to run without crashing. Evidently, Quickens uses Microsoft Framework which is integrated tightly with Internet Explorer.

Lessons learned:
1. Watch out for any strange icons on your task bars. Research their purposes. When in doubt, get rid of them so they don’t cause conflicts with other software.

2. Every so often (2 weeks), run “sfc /scannow” to check for any corrupted system files.

Migrating My Defected Ultrabook SSD to a New SSD – My Journey and Lessons Learned

Last few months I have been seeing strange behavior on my Windows 7 Ultrabook – like failing to boot on occasions and getting same Windows updates over and over, certain application wouldn’t install correctly, and etc. I figured the original 240GB SSD may be reaching its end of life, though I have been using my laptop for just 2 years. After downloading HD Tune Pro, my fear was confirmed. The SSD had more than 8% of damaged blocks. I quickly purchased another SSD from Amazon of the “same” size (at least I thought), then the real battle began…

First, the new Samsung SSD was advertised to have 250GB of storage when in fact has only 232.88GB of true storage (Lawyers’ ears should be perked up by now). My original Micron SSD was advertised to have 240GB by Acer when it has 238GB of true storage. So the new SSD is slightly smaller than the old one. This was bad news. It’s much easier to migrate from a small disk to large disk. Lesson #1: always buy a bigger disk than the original. When in doubt, go for the next bigger size. In order to overcome this issue, I had to shrink the original disk: 1) Right click on Computer and Select Manage, 2) Click on Storage->Disk Management, 3) Select the partition to be shrunk, 4) Right Click -> Shrunk Volume). So I managed to shrink just 8GB. This was good enough to scrape by and meet the new SSD size.

Next, I had to clone the disk to the new drive. The new Samsung SSD came with their migration tool. Unfortunately, their tool refused to work because my original disk had data corruption. It’s kind of silly to have a tool that wouldn’t work with the situation it’s called out to do. Then I tried CloneZilla, which was a nice tool I used to clone and backup disk image. It’s good at duplicating disk verbatim, as long as the destination disk is larger than the source disk. But it choked badly on this task because I needed to go from a slightly larger SSD to a smaller SSD. No Go. I tried manually copying the partition but the Windows partitions were a nightmare to copy correctly. I almost gave up and was ready to return the SSD back to Amazon for a next-size, 500GB SSD, which cost another $100. Then I remembered Acronis True Image (2009 version I used), whose “Clone Disk” function was smart enough to skip the empty partition when copying and eventually saved my butt and migrated correctly to the new disk. Another lesson learned, a good disk migration software goes a long way of solving a real challenging problem.

I’ll spare you the painful story I went through in replacing the SSD (12 screws on the cover, 5 screws on the SSD housing) on my Ultrabook. What a relief to see the new disk booted up nicely and performing well. A journey indeed. One last lesson: SSD may be a technology wonder in terms of its high performance but it’s still a way off to have the same reliability as a hard disk.

Windows 7 Update Kept Failing – Rebooted Many Times – How I Fixed it

Since 10/10/13 for several days on my laptop, my Windows 7 has been prompting me to update Microsoft .NET Framework 4. And I did, but every time it failed to update. See the screen shot of the update history below:
Windows Update History Snapshot
It was awfully annoying because the update requires a shutdown, a very inconvenient maneuver for me as I usually put my ultrabook laptop to “sleep” for faster wake-up and use. I did my usual chkdisk to remove bad sectors on the flash disk – no issues. Ran Microsoft Security Essentials – no virus or other issues. I even downloaded one of those registry fixer, which in self acted like a virus as it kept scanning each time it powered up and complained that my computer has over 2000 issues to resolve and I need to cough up $30 to purchase the registered version of the software to fix the problems. I uninstalled the software fairly quickly.

After some search, I suspected my .NET framework was probably corrupted and needed to be repaired. So I went to the Control Pannel->Programs and Features and performed “Repair” (by Right Click->Uninstall/Change then select “Repair .NET Framework 4 Client Profile to its original state.”) on the 5 .NET related framework below:
NET framwork view

And voila! The next time I shutdown and performed the update, the update was successful. See the first screenshot on the 6th line from the top. No longer the Windows was prompting me to update and shutdown. One problem solved! I believe you can use the same technique to fix other corrupted programs.

Now I need to figure out how to successfully update for windows 7 for x64-based system: See the 3rd, 4th, and 5th line of my first snapshot. Sigh!

Cygwin Installation Problem – “Unable to get setup.ini”

For those people who work between Windows and Unix environments (like Solaris, Linux and etc.), Cygwin and Cygwin-X is like a godsend. Cygwin-X allows the PC to work in the X-windows environment with ease. Most of the Unix X-windows applications can be “hosted” under Cygwin-X running on MS Windows, making it a seamless extension of the Unix OS.

During one of the Windows 7 update, my Cygwin app environment got wiped out, probably because I installed the 32-bit version of the Cygwin-X, while my Windows 7 is 64-bit. So I had to re-install it from Cygwin.

I downloaded the “setup.exe” from the website and kept encountering the “Unable to get setup.ini” error message (see below) after switching to many other mirror download sites.


To spare you of the pain I went through, I downloaded and ran the setup-x86_64.exe from directly. Voila, the problem was fixed. I was able to install all of the Cygwin apps without any issue.

Strange Windows 7 Behavior – not able to change proxy setting – how I fixed it

For the last few days, I have been trying to fix a strange Windows 7 behavior – the proxy setting of the LAN network was frozen – I couldn’t modify it or remove it. Every time I saved the configuration, the old configuration came right back. And Internet Explorer crashed every time I clicked on it, despite my attempts to disable all the add-ons. And the worst part is that it’s causing Intuit’s Turbo Tax 2012 to NOT being able to take any credit card charges for my eFiling, just days from the April 15 deadline. I needed to fix this problem pronto.

I suspected some disk problem. Sure enough, performing a disk scan using Windows’ Error Checking tool (by right clicking on the drive in Windows Explorer and click on “Property” then select the “Tools” tab, see below screen shot), I was able to find several bad sectors.
Error Checking on disk

The bad disk sectors could be caused by not gracefully shutting down the system – normally accidentally – or simply a normal aging/degrading process of the hard drive, in my case, an SSD (solid state disk or flash disk). After a long scan and reboot, I still couldn’t fix the proxy setting problem. Then I suspected the system files may have been permanently corrupted, since the disk scan detected some file problems, it didn’t repair them.

Googling around, I saw that there’s a Windows 7 utility that can repair or replace the corrupted “system files,” thanks to this particular link by Microsoft. It’s called the “System File Checker Tool.” After performing the system file repair by following the directions, I was able to bring the system back to normal. This is a very handy tool.

Use the System File Checker tool (SFC.exe) to determine which file is causing the issue, and then replace the file.

To do this, follow these steps:
Open an elevated command prompt. To do this, click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as administrator. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for a confirmation, type the password, or click Allow.
At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press ENTER:
sfc /scannow
The sfc /scannow command scans all protected system files and replaces incorrect versions with correct Microsoft versions.

The lesson is that if your Window 7 behaves very strangely, you’d need to do the following two steps: 1) perform the disk scan to get rid of the bad sectors. 2) run the system file checker tool to repair the bad system files. It could save you many days and even weeks of frustration.

Book Review: “Designing Embedded Systems” by John Catsoulis

I read this book on Safari Online – great technical resource. This book serves a good refresher for me in the system design discipline. I’ve done a lot of computer system designs but I’m not exposed to the arena of embedded designs. So I’ve learned a few new things and got a taste of what it’s like to do embedded designs that go into most of the appliances. Due to the volume and competitive nature of the market. The designs tend to be very cost sensitive.

The author starts out on introducing the system design including assembly language programming, electronics 101, simple power source designs (a big part of the embedded system), The he goes into great lengths on all the major buses like SPI, I2C, RS232, LPC, Irda, Ethernet, and etc. Some of the buses are new to me. Next, he touches on the analog design for environment monitor and control, which are essential for embedded system. Finally he dives into the various kinds of controller chips, starting with the simple 8-bit controller all the way to 32-bit one.

After reading this book, I feel like dabbling with embedded designs as a hobby like creating a automatic train, and other simple controller to control the house. Heck, I may even want to design a smart trap for that gopher/mole that’s been digging up my lawn!