How to Access Windows 7 Shares From Network

Posted on December 12th, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

There are many articles on how to get  non-Windows machines to access Windows 7 shared files but I found it the hard way that there’s always something amiss. So here’s my take on it.

First, if you have the ability to use Homegroups – then use them. While right now this is limited to networking between Windows 7 machines (and perhaps some other Microsoft devices), it’s the way of the future. Homegroups are simple to set up, (probably) secure and most importantly, they just work. No messing with user names, machine names, domains, workgroups, NETBIOS and God knows what other arcane Windows networking lore.

But if you have to access Windows 7 files from a device such as O!Play media player or another linux box, then you might have to work at it.

It would be good if you could restrict access only to authenticated users but I was not able to do so or find any guide that allows it. Therefore only anonymous access will be allowed which is very convenient and very insecure. So bear in mind that there’ll be little to no security on those files that you allow access to. Therefore only share stuff that is intended to be public using this method. I.e. share your multimedia but don’t share your private financial documents and serial numbers and such. Or if you do make sure you’re on the private network.

You can use Homegroups alongside “classic” shares – that’s what I’m doing, with the intention of eventually retiring classic sharing, though I have no fantasies about that happening any time soon.

Go to folder you want to share using Windows Explorer and right-click on it, select properties. Go to Security tab and click “Edit…”. Now click “Add..” and type “Everyone”, click “Check Names” and then “OK”. In short, add “Everyone” to the list of “users” that can access this folder. It may already be there, depending on what are you trying to share.

Now we need to let Windows 7 know that “Everyone” includes anonymous. There actually is “ANONYMOUS LOGON” “user” defined but I was not able to get it to work. So be aware that from now on everything that has “Everyone” in its security list will potentially be available to anyone who can see your PC regardless of whether they have any kind of account on it. To do this go to Local Security Policy – just click on the Windows button and start typing in the search box, you won’t even have to type more than 2 letters before it shows up. Alternately you can go to  Control Panel, open System and Security, Administrative Tools and then Local Security Policy. Anyway, go to Local Policies, Security Options and scroll down to “Network access: Let Everyone permissions apply to anonymous users”. Set this to “Enabled”. Don’t close this window, we’ll change a few more options.

Make sure that Restrict anonymous access to Named Pipes and Shares is disabled. Alternately, you can let it be enabled and then manually enter all shares you intend on being available anonymously using the “Shares that can be accessed anonymously” setting. This might provide better security.

Next, Sharing and Security Model for local accounts should be set to Classic.

There are several other settings that should not be touched if they are at their defaults. Those are:  Accounts: Limit local account use of blank passwords to console login (should be enabled), Network access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM accounts and shares (disabled).

Make sure Guest account is disabled.

Now go to Control Panel, Network sharing, Change advanced sharing settings. Turn on network discovery, file and printer sharing and public folder sharing (you might not need it but the music and video I want to share are in the public folders). Finally, turn off Password protected sharing.

Now reboot and you should be able to browse your

Windows 7 PC and access folders you designated as shared to “Everyone”. A few things to note: changing settings through Local Security Policy can cause a change of options in the “Advanced Network Sharing” so you should do those changes last. E.g. password protected sharing tends to get turned off often in my experience. You also may need to first stop sharing folders and remove “Everyone”, to start from a clean slate so to speak. If you use Homegroup sharing you might end up “competing” for privileges on some folders so you may not keep removing/adding Homegroup – e.g. right-click, “share with…’”,  “Specific people…” and so on.

UPDATE: As I witnessed again yesterday, it looks like Homegroup networking is really not compatible with “classic” SMB file sharing. I have copied a file from my laptop to my PC via homegroups and suddenly my ASUS O!Play was not able  to access any folders; it was able to log in and see the list of folders but that was it. I had to: disable Guest account AGAIN, reboot, disable password-protected file sharing AGAIN but only after half an hour of fiddling with shares and their security settings. In summary, don’t expect to be able to use both methods of sharing at the same time. Read access may work but as soon as you do any writing to the “server”, it will have some of its settings reset. I hope developers start switching to Homegroups for Windows file sharing ASAP – it’s really a better, simpler method. I am not sure how open Microsoft is to this though as nothing but Windows 7 and Xbox 360 support it right now.

How to Play and Tag FLAC Files in Windows 7 using Windows Media Player (WMP)

Posted on November 18th, 2009 in Audio,Hardware & Software by andrija

If you are serious about music, you are probably storing it in a lossless format. Most popular choices are FLAC, Apple lossless (M4A) and Windows Media Lossless (WMA); there is also Monkey’s Audio which isn’t as popular. All of these choices have advantages and drawbacks. Both WMA and M4A are proprietary and the only tool that can create them is WMP and iTunes respectively. It is possible to get all of them to play on a non-windows machine, but it’s often quite difficult to do so. Even more difficult is getting them to play or stream to standalone hardware devices which is what you’d want to do at home. And support for portable devices is divisive to the max.If you choose FLAC as the best middle ground, you may want to at least be able to play it using operating system’s audio player. Windows Media Player is not a bad player but it does not support FLAC out of the box. Playing it is one thing, it needs to be able to display its tag as well as edit it. Here I will only mention how to get it to work.Download oggcodecs for your OS flavour – 32 or 64 bit. These are DirectShow filters that let WMP recognize FLAC and some other formats. Also download FLAC support, as this is what will actually allow you to play FLAC files. Finally, download the WMP Tag Plus. This one allows WMP to see tags embedded in FLAC files as well as edit them, and is the best of its breed as it integrates closely with the WMP.Now you’ll be able to deal with FLAC files as if they were any other support format (e.g. MP3 or AAC). One thing still does not work though – you won’t be able to stream FLAC to another Windows PC’s WMP or to a media extender. I haven’t had luck finding a solution for this yet.

UPDATE: as Ben mentioned below, if you use 64-bit OS, you need to make sure FLAC filters from Xiph get installed into a proper folder for 64-bit which is <system drive>\Program Files\Xiph.org because it will otherwise overwrite (or be overwritten by) the 32-bit version.

How to flash firmware of OCZ Agility or Vertex SSD on Sony Vaio Z laptop

Posted on October 26th, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

In case someone does a google search and ends up here: I was able to flash firmware of my Vaio Z VGN-Z555DN laptop w/OCZ Agility SSD firmware to 1.4 using this convoluted procedure.

First you must flash laptop BIOS to R2168M3 (if using Vaio series 5); prior version might work too. Then use the hack to enable advanced menu in the BIOS – search for “Feature Enable” and VT enable on Vaio Z; you’ll need a USB stick with EFI/BOOT etc. Then after flash you will be able to enter BIOS (press F2 during boot) and enter advanced menu and change SATA mode to IDE. Now use CD or USB to flash firmware to 1.4. After that, you can again reflash R2170M3 (needed for graphics drivers in Windows 7). You will now again be in AHCI mode and you should enter BIOS again to enable VT as well if you wish. This downflashing of BIOS is needed because version R2170M3 removes advanced menu so it’s not possible to change AHCI to IDE.

This is still easier and faster than disassembling the laptop.

Monoprice Flat HDMI Cables do not Work

Posted on April 2nd, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

Surprisingly enough, while Monoprice usually supplies great stuff at even better prices, they seem to have stumbled on this one.  So, their flat cables – of which I got two 3 feet and one 6 feet – do not work for me at 1080p or higher resolution.  I tried them from my laptop to a HDMI switch and from the switch to the 24" LG monitor (when driven by my PC’s 4870) and it did not work.  Neither of 3 feet cables worked.  I will try connecting my laptop to my TV to see if that works…  Incidentally, my laptop – Sony Vaio Z – does not like my monitor either and does not want to output at 1920×1200.  It claims it does but the picture is screwed up.  I can’t use newer drivers because of proprietary hybrid graphics switching.

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2008 Game of the Year

Posted on January 7th, 2009 in Video Games by andrija

My 2008 Game of the year is – Grand Theft Auto IV (as played on Playstation 3).

Bear in mind this is the first game from that franchise that I played.

Top games of the year in approximate order of goodness were:

  1. GTA 4 (Playstation 3)
  2. Fallout 3 (PC)
  3. Dead Space (Xbox 360)
  4. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)

All of these games were fairly close to each other in quality and excellent overall.  GTA 4 however was a highly polished, high production value game and was clearly a notch better.

Biggest dissapointment of the year award goes to Resistance 2 (Playstation 3).

Sharp LC-46D62U Firmware Update

Posted on September 8th, 2008 in Hardware & Software,TV by andrija

Believe it or not, TVs have firmware too.  I owned my Sharp for close to 2 years now but just last week I decided to look up whether some of the issues I had were resolved.  Namely a missing line (I was able to see only 1079 instead of 1080) and an annoying issue with BTB/WTW (blacker than black and whiter than white) signals.  The latter was manifesting itself through flicker and noise-like artifacts when using Playstation 3, either when playing some games like Haze or even just in XMB.  Setting the PS3 display to output limited range when routed through my Yamaha receiver (which clips BTB) or full range if connected directly to TV would take care of XMB but the game issue was new.  That mean that TV does not like getting limited signal when it believes it should be getting full range, or vice versa.  Or something along those lines.

Anyways, I found firmware 1.07 on usual site for such stuff (www.avsforum.com) and used my old 256MB SD card.  It worked, but the firmware consists of two files, each for a different subsystem of the TV.  It looks like only the first one is being read so I had to delete it after successful update in order to get the other one to be applied as well.  In the end, it looks like my second issue is now resolved so I’m happy.  I also learned a few things about my TV I didn’t know – dynamic contrast is active always if using movie, dynamic and fixed dynamic modes and is disabled otherwise.  I might use movie mode in the future when watching movies in order to get maximum benefit in dark scenes.  The biggest find was that discrete code for input 5 (second HDMI input) actually does exist and is even available on Harmony website (within TV definition like any other key).  That means that I was able to get rid of the macro to switch to input 5 which never had 100% success rate and took pretty long to execute.  In the end I managed to get rid of two annoyances with my TV and learn how to utilize one of its features so I am quite happy.

Sakura in July?!

Posted on July 2nd, 2008 in Vancouver by andrija

In front of my office building, there are still some cherry blossoms.  But it’s July now!  Exactly what kind of cherries are these?  There were plenty of blossoms on these trees in early to mid May so I’m not sure are these leftovers (two months later?!) or something else entirely.

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Remote Desktop to Vista Home

Posted on May 18th, 2008 in Hardware & Software,Software Development by andrija

It’s well known that only Vista Ultimate and Business have the Windows Remote Desktop server so that they can be remotely controlled.  Fair enough.  Just use VNC for a free alternative, right?

Wrong.  But of course.  You should have expected that from Vista, no?

Due to change in the security model, software like this does not work any more.  For example, the perennial favourite TightVNC only works in user mode and only after you jump through a bunch of hoops – and the solution is not permanent so you’ll need to fiddle with it every time you reboot.  Of course that is not acceptable for a software which purpose is to remotely access a computer.  There are supposedly some alternatives such as UltraVNC but that one is not free, at least not the version that works on Vista.

Well, turns out you can enable windows’ remote desktop itself on Vista versions other than two previously mentioned.  Go here.  There are multiple version around and the one most frequently found does not work after you install Service Pack 1.  I believe the software simply copies a different version of terminal services DLL file  – likely from version of Vista where remote desktop works.  Just be sure you really want this since installing it will enable remote control of your PC (duh) and it looks like you won’t be as aware of it as if you had the actual "full service" version of vista.  For example it might let you log in even if your Vista is set to automatically log in a particular user without typing a password – something my Vista Ultimate does not allow if one is to use Remote Desktop service.

Vancouver Cherry Blossoms 2008 – part 4

Posted on April 27th, 2008 in Vancouver by andrija

Finally, Kanzan cherries are in bloom!  These are my favourites.  Large pink double flowers.  There’s plenty of trees around Main Street and they already look fabulous even though it will still take a day or two until they’re in full bloom.

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Vancouver Cherry Blossoms 2008 – Part 3

Posted on April 17th, 2008 in Vancouver by andrija

This time around I got to see a bunch of rare cherries.  First off, between Inverness and Knight, on 47th Avenue, there are some Spire cherries.  Probably – because people disagree on the festival thread that discussed them.  These were pretty much finished, there were barely any flowers left on a few trees.

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Supposed Spires looked like this.  Not great pictures but such was the day.

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Before I got to these though, I had to walk through the park on 41st, between Fraser and Knight.  There was a single cherry there, a huge Yoshino (or Akebono).

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Next up, beautiful Accolades which aren’t exactly rare but it’s rare to see any left at this time of the year as they normally bloom in March.  I stumbled upon a few still open flowers.

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Next up are Akebonos, or Yoshinos.  Not sure which cultivar were these as I didn’t pay much attention.  They were just a bit past full bloom.  This was the biggest tree on the block.

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Beautiful cherries.  Very common around here, though.  The second picture is Accolade, by the way.  I sneaked it in.

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Next trees are supposed to be pretty rare, though.  Tai Haku cherries.  Incredible display in Marpole, on 66th or was it 67th?

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And some more.  I think these might be the most beautiful cherries in Vancouver.

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Aren’t these just amazing?

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And finally, Shirotae – Mount Fuji cherry.  These big, white double flowers looked great in full bloom, and the tree was overcome with flowers.

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