Category Archives: Windows

How to set up a 10-foot interface in Windows 7

The biggest problem with an HTPC is tinkering around “under the hood” as you generally have to crane your neck and strain your eyes to read the teeny-tiny type that is intended to be seen on a desktop monitor. Windows was never intended to have such a 10-foot interface, but you can build some resemblance to it using standard controls built into the OS.

In the Control Panel, choose “Appearance and Personalization”, then click “Display”. Here you can set the standard size for all objects within Windows, including icons and text. I like to use a custom setting of 175% as it is slightly clearer and far more comfortable to read than the text at 150%. Click the “Apply” button when you have the settings the way you like them, then click the back button to return to the Appearance and Personalization section of the Control Panel.

Now, choose “Personalization”, then click “Change mouse pointers” from the left sidebar. The dropdown menu in the Mouse Properties dialog allows you to select from different pointer schemes that will prove to be easier to see from across the room. I like the “Windows Aero (extra large)” scheme as it matches the rest of my OS setup and is available by default. Click the “OK” button, then close the Control Panel window.

I’ve been using this setup for a few weeks now, and it has at least saved me the headaches that come solely from eye strain when working on the VCR. Now, if I can get that IR issue worked out….

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How to get a device to reappear under playback devices in Windows 7

I did a dumb thing the other day: I was playing with a new Bluetooth headset on the VCR and trying to set up the sound output so I wouldn’t disturb a sleeping Barbie with some late-night A-Team viewing. To get the sound pushed through to only the headset, I opened the playback devices dialog under the sound options and disabled the HDMI out.

POOF! The device disappeared from the list!

Now, I admit that I’m not the savviest person when it comes to Windows 7 (I write a lot of these how-tos as a guide to myself–“I scour the help fora so you don’t have to!”), but this had me boggled; I could not figure out how to reactivate the device! A quick DuckDuckGo search revealed the answer, though.

In the device list, right-click the blank space in the panel and choose the “Show All Devices” option.

Whoomp, there it is.

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How to install the Insignia USB Bluetooth adapter in Windows 7

EDIT 1/16/2017: Commenter Anony Mous (haha, well done) has confirmed that the HP drivers work with the Insignia Bluetooth adapter as well. I have both the Lenovo and the HP copies of the drivers mirrored here.

EDIT 12/29/2016: Commenter Angry Dude has found a mirror for an older driver at Lenovo’s website. Give it a try for now until a proper solution is found.

EDIT 12/13/2016: It seems that Broadcom has pulled the Windows 7 driver for this device. I will investigate and update as I find more information!

This is more for future reference than anything considering it comes with paper instructions to download some software and does not come with a disc. Welcome to the future!

  1. Plug the adapter into a free USB port.
  2. Download the driver and software from
  3. Install the driver and restart the computer when finished.
  4. Profit!
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How To Run A Batch File As Administrator In Windows 7

There’s a couple of automated command line routines that I’ve needed to write and have run at startup on the VCR, but they require elevation to actually run (damn you, UAC!). My goal has always been to have the machine boot with no input from me until it’s ready, so I needed a way to run these scripts automagically without requiring a physical “right-click, run as administrator” routine before the boot process is finished. To solve this, I needed to figure out how to run a batch file as administrator.

One does not simply right-click and run a *.bat file as administrator, though. Oh, no! Windows doesn’t like that! It takes a little more stupidity to run a batch file as administrator in Windows 7!

One does not simply run a batch file as administrator

Once your batch file is written properly, you’ll need to create a shortcut to the *.bat. This is the first step in the roundabout process. Windows allows shortcuts to *.bat files to be automatically run with elevated privileges while the files themselves cannot (it must be some kind of idiot-proofing to prevent you from running a coup de grace downloaded from the interwebs). Take note, though, that you can’t click the option for “Run As Administrator” from the compatibility tab like you normally would; you must open the “Shortcut” tab, then click the “Advanced” button, THEN select the option to run as administrator.

Once you’ve set the shortcut’s settings to run as administrator, then you can point Task Scheduler or EventGhost at the shortcut and have it run whenever you like!

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How To Fix the d3dx9_43.dll Error In Windows 7

As the VCR continues to evolve, I’m adding game support to the system, making it an all-in-one entertainment box. To start, I’ll be using Retroarch for most of my classic game emulation. I’ll write more about the program in another number, but the biggest problem getting it to run in Windows is the need for DirectX 9 support. Without installing DirectX 9, upon your first run of Retroarch, you’ll receive a d3dx9_43.dll missing error. In this number, I will direct you how to fix the d3dx9_43.dll error in Windows 7.

Download DirectX End-User Runtimes to install d3dx9_43.dll or any other missing libraries

Interestingly enough, newer DirectX distributions may not come with the required dll files, so you’ll have to download these from Mircosoft. The June 2010 DirectX End-User Runtimes package contains all the files you should need to support Retroarch and other, older Windows games. Simply navigate to the download page, and run the setup file.

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Windows 10 Dealbreakers

Ever the optimist, I jumped feet-first into Windows 10 on the VCR, because there isn’t much documentation on the sorts of things I’m trying to do with Windows and the project. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been blazing a trail through the digital wilderness trying to get peripherals and software working perfectly under the new OS, and I hate to say that I’ve run across some glaring dead-ends.

The first to go was the real support for my remote control. Because it uses the MCE protocol, which is no longer supported by Windows 10 (since they dispensed with MCE in a vaguely boneheaded move to sell more XBones? [Pun intended]). WinLIRC, which was already a finicky primadonna under 7 has simply refused to work more than once under Windows 10. The Xbox 360 remote still works (sorta), but I prefer to have the different protocols so I’m not transmitting odd signals to one machine or the other. I’ve been having to use a keyboard and mouse combo primarily for simple navigation, which is getting old, so I decided to give the gamepad a go. Which leads to dealbreaker number 2.

Either Logitech is not supporting its devices properly or Microsoft has decided to abandon support for generic X-Input devices. Probably both. Logitech has taken the official position that gamepads should use Direct-Input and map controls through their proprietary software which immediately does not work because I lose the programmable functionality of the “Guide” button which I will make extensive use of in future upgrades to the system.

It stands to be said that the only reason I am using Windows in the first place is for proper game support. Instead of a hacked-up solution involving WINE under Ubuntu, I would rather have the operating environment with minimal “intrusion”. Granted, for media and hardware support, I would rather be running under Ubuntu anyway, but I’ve got to sacrifice one to get the other.

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How To Automatically Log Into Windows 10

It used to be fairly easy to find things in Windows 7, but after 8, Microsoft decided to start hiding system settings under oddly generic menu headings. This has become a tradition now in Windows 10, which makes it somewhat difficult to find the correct user settings to automatically log into Windows.

The easiest way, of course, is to ask Cortana. Type “netplwiz” into the search bar. This will bring up the list of accounts on the computer. Highlight your account (or, if you’re like me and the only user, the Administrator account) and uncheck the box next to “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer”.

Upon restart, you should no longer be prompted for a password with that beautiful Pacific beach scene. Oh, well.


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How to Optimize Windows 10 For GAMING & Power Users

Despite his douche-bro hair and choice of on-screen wardrobe, this guy gives a sound primer on setting up your Windows 10 installation for better security and slightly faster operation.

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How to get Command & Conquer The First Decade to Work in Windows 7

Command & Conquer is perhaps the greatest PC game franchise in history, and Electronic Arts in one of its most surprising moves released an unadulterated collection of all the franchise games up to that point–before subsequently ruining the whole thing with C&C 3 and Red Alert 3. I ran across a clean copy at the local thrift shop, so I picked it up for a few dollars. (Yes, I know that technically, I could’ve downloaded the game from EA for free, except that it’s probably not still available, or–if it is–it’s surprisingly difficult to locate the original download links.) Here’s how to get Command & Conquer The First Decade to work in Windows 7.

Command & Conquer The First Decade
Pictured: Four of the best PC games ever made, One fun little RTS, and a forgettable FPS
The problem

The problem here is that I’m playing a twenty-year-old game written for a twenty-year-old operating system on a 21st-century version of Windows. One consolation is that Windows 7 has a pretty decent level of compatibility with applications written for older versions of the OS, and that is our saving grace.

The solution

The trick is that we’re not going to run any of the games through the launcher that EA installs; we’re going to do this old-school, via good ol’ Windows Explorer. For the older titles in the franchise, we’re going to need to take one more step that I’ll elaborate on in a moment. For each of the titles in the series, you’ll need to set the compatibility settings for the game’s executable.

For C&C, original Red Alert, and Tiberium Wars, the exe file should be set to Windows 95 compatibility, and all the check boxes should be marked (640×480 resolution, 256 colors, disable visual themes, disable desktop composition, disable display scaling). Also, you’re going to need to kill explorer.exe to prevent any funky colors from accidentally showing up in the game. This is where our batch file comes in. Open Notepad and type the following code:

taskkill /f /IM explorer.exe
C:\"Program Files (x86)"\"EA Games"\"Command & Conquer The First Decade"\"Command & Conquer Red Alert(tm)"\"ra95.exe"
start explorer.exe

Note that this points to the default installation location of Red Alert. If you’ve installed to a different location, make sure to use that instead!

Save this file as “RA95.bat” or something easily recognized. On running, the code will force-quit Windows Explorer (the Windows “shell”, or operating environment), run the game, then reopen Explorer when finished.

Red Alert 2 only needs to be run in compatibility mode for Windows 98/2000, no other settings need to change. Renegade should work in 98/2000 mode as well, though I have yet to verify this.

Generals should be run in Vista SP2 compatibility mode, with no other settings changed.


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How To Enable Fast Boot In Windows 10

“Fast Boot” is some sort of new “hybrid shutdown” feature that Redmond came out with in Windows 8, but since no one used that stub of crap, everyone (myself included) thought it was a new feature in Windows 10. Either way, it’s a great feature that really speeds up the boot time through some sort of Windows OS magic! In my copy, it was turned on by default, but just in case yours isn’t (or just to ensure that it is), it’s a fairly simple task to enable fast boot in Windows 10.

Ask Cortana for Power Options (in other words, type “power options” into the search bar; it should be the first result). You can always navigate Control Panel -> All Control Panel Options -> Power Options.

On the left sidebar, click “Choose what the power buttons do”.

enable fast boot in windows 10

In the “Define power buttons…” dialog, click the “Change settings that are currently unavailable” option.


Under “Shutdown settings”, make sure the fast startup option is checked.


Save settings, close, and you’re all set!

Source: Redmond Pie

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