Recently I noticed my laptop was acting rather sluggish after rebooting. As a Windows geek I swiftly started the improved Windows 10 task manager and noticed something peculiar.
A “McAfee Process Validation Service” (or
mfevtps.exe for you techies) was gobbling up a lot of CPU cycles. I know McAfee of course, but I never installed any of their antivirus products, so how on earth did that get on my system?
I found out that this thing is actually a Windows service, which you can see in the Service tab of your Task Manager. So when you look into the startup tab to see what triggers the process, you don’t even see it there.
It also turns out that this bit of software is automatically installed when you run the McAfee Stinger antivirus detection software.
Now Stinger is great, or at least used to be great. It’s supposed to be a standalone executable you can just pop onto any system and use it to scan for viruses and malware without having to install any full blow antivirus suite.
Unfortunately this now also installs a bit of malware itself.
Now how do I get rid of something that I never installed? It can’t be found anywhere when you use the regular Windows uninstall tools. I knew this thing was sitting in my
c:\windows\system32 folder, but I didn’t want to just rip it out by hand because there might still be some other crap littered here and there that I don’t know about, and might be causing problems once it’s half destroyed.
If found out that McAfee has a specific removal tool. I guess they get this question a lot…
Finally this MCPR.exe removal tool deleted the unwanted service and after a single reboot my system now is a tiny bit cleaner and a tiny bit faster again.
Which is nice.
Time to chill to some nice ambient tunes from the French one-woman project Zalys. I ran into this one by accident on bandcamp. I also found a nice range of her atmospheric deep space ambient, sci-fi backgrounds and apocalyptic dark-ambient tracks on Soundcloud. I kid you not, that’s what is says on the Soundcloud bio.
Good stuff to block out noise, get into the (dark) zone and get some work done, or just have in the background will chilling, reading or whatever.
Here’s a taste. You’ll also find this in my ambient playlist filled with more chilly goodness.
Now that we’re in a sci-fi mood we have some more of those eery space drone type soundscapes from jonnie13black.
He’s an ambient DJ of sorts, if that’s even a thing, and you can find him mixing all sorts of ambient darkness into long sets on Youtube. If you dig some background drones there’s plenty right there.
This is also an excellent resource to find some more artists in this realm as each set comes with a complete playlist. Way to go Jonnie.
Here’s another taste of what you can expect.
Can’t get enough? Try some previous posts with stuff from Moby or this.
I’m a desktop minimalist myself and the trashcan is about all I want to see on my desktop. However if you like your desktop with lots of icons on it, arranged according to some non-alphabetical grouping system you might find out that Windows sometimes rearranges them nicely in alphabetical order, aligning them all nicely to the top left of your desktop without your prior consent.
This typically happens after reboots, switching between resolutions, plugging and unplugging a secondary screen or docking/un-docking the laptop.
It can drive people mad.
This seems to be an issue that has been plaguing Windows 8 and 10 for quite a while already, driving lot’s of people bonkers. Unfortunately when looking for a solution online in various fora you tend to find a lot of useless tips or the suggestion to install some third-party desktop icon position-saving software. Eew.
There is a simple solution in the Windows settings however, but I have to admit it’s not very obvious and I had to look for it quite a bit to find it.
It’s all in the settings as expected, but it’s spread out in two different spots, which makes it hard to get right.
Here’s how to fix it:
1. Right click on your desktop and disable the auto arrange feature by disabling the checkbox next in View > Auto arrange icons.
You’d think that should do the trick right? Well most people do. But there’s another option that interferes with your desktop icon zen garden staying the way you want it.
2. Right click again on your desktop, now click Personalize.
You’ll see the Settings screen appear.
There you select Themes.
Now click Desktop icon settings.
Now look what we have there. A checkbox labeled “Allow themes to change desktop icons“.
Uncheck it and press OK.
You should now no longer experience the frustration of computer code messing with your desktop icons.
Zen at last.
Build errors on build servers suck. If it builds locally, why the hell doesn’t it build on the build server? Well there’s plenty of reasons for that, but as a .NET developer is usually means that something you have on your machine that came with your Visual Studio install isn’t installed on the build server.
But you probably don’t want to install the full-blown VS on the build server, so the question now is: what bit do I need to install?
Recently I ran into the following build error on 1 specific build server (yep, not on another one, fun, fun, fun).
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\BuildTools\MSBuild\15.0\bin\Microsoft.Common.CurrentVersion.targets(1111, 5): error MSB3644: The reference assemblies for framework ".NETFramework,Version=v4.5.2" were not found. To resolve this, install the SDK or Targeting Pack for this framework version or retarget your application to a version of the framework for which you have the SDK or Targeting Pack installed. Note that assemblies will be resolved from the Global Assembly Cache (GAC) and will be used in place of reference assemblies. Therefore your assembly may not be correctly targeted for the framework you intend.
It clearly has something to do with a project which targets .NET framework v4.5.2.
The answer in fact is right there. You need to install a “targeting pack”.
But WTF is that thing and why do I need it?
Apparently having the .NET framework itself installed on your machine isn’t enough to be able to build a project if that project targets a specific version of the .NET framework. It makes sense as the .NET framework installation is actually the runtime, used to run .NET applications, not build them.
If you want to build apps against a specific version of the .NET framework, you need that targeting pack as well on your build machine. This is either your development box, which has VS on it, and thus the required targeting packs which come with the VS installation. Or this can be your build server, where you have to install the targeting packs as well.
You can check what targeting packs you already have on a machine by checking the sub-folders in “
C:\Program Files (x86)\Reference Assemblies\Microsoft\Framework\.NETFramework”
For each supported framework version, there’s a
v<version number> folder there. In my case there was no v4.5.2 folder on that one machine.
So where do you find those targeting packs for the various .NET framework versions? Microsoft luckily compiled a nice list where you can find all the download links and instructions.
For the versions listed as “included in VS 2017”, you can see them all listed in the VS 2017 installer if you go to the “Individual components” tab.
So a shortcut to install all the packs at once, is to grab the VS2017 installer and use that one. But you might want to disable all the IDE specific stuff you won’t need on the build server though.
Maybe you have some Azure credits lying from a Visual Studio subscription you have from work, waiting to be spent on cool and nifty experiments, but don’t end up actually using them.
How about spending some of those dollars on cancer research? Or help find a cure against Zika? Fighting AIDS maybe?
Enter the World Community Grid, a vast grid computing network running on the Open Source BOINC client software, started as a philanthropic initiative by IBM.
Sounds good right?
All you need to do is create a WCG account, spin up a Linux machine on Azure, install the BOINC headless client on it and link it to your account. In about half an hour you’ll be computing cancer markers, folding genes or fighting some horrible disease. Well, the software will be doing that really, which is even better.
Here we go, step by step.
1. Setup your Azure Linux machine, I chose an Ubuntu 16 LTS machine. I pick the classic VM because its way easier to setup.
Depending on the type of machine you’ll have more compute power and thus turning out more results. Try a few out and see how you can maximize your Azure credits.
2. Once provisioned, log in using PUTTY or your favorite SSH client. Now it’s time to update the Linux packages and then install the BOINC client:
sudo apt-get updatesudo apt-get install boinc-client
3. Setup auto startup of the BOINC client, so if your machine reboots, you don’t have to go in and start it up yourself (automate all the things remember):
sudo /etc/init.d/boinc-client restart
4. Get your BOINC authentication key so you can hook up the client to your account:
boinccmd --lookup_account https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org
5. Now use the key to attach your selected projects from WCG:
boinccmd --project_attach https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org
Of course you want to check what’s going on, so you can check the BOINC client’s state like this:
This should give you a list of the tasks and their state. It might take a while before they start kicking in, but you’ll see results coming in after a day or so on the WGC website under your contribution history.
That’s about it. Your client is all set up. All you need to do is keep those VM’s running in the cloud, which normally takes non effort at all. Neat.
There are more boinccmd command line switches in the documentation if you’d need to troubleshoot or find out more.
What’s next? Well, you can set up more than 1 machine if you like, or a heavier one and see what gives you more bang for your buck. You can also join my World Computing Grid team called “Team Azure” and see how many cloud bucks we can burn. It’ll be effortless fun, I promise! ;)
Credit goes to Joel Christian’s headless Ubuntu installation guide. His guide made my quest to setup BOINC on an Azure Ubuntu box a lot easier.
Photo by Dan, cc-licensed.
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