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Enable Anti-Ransomware Feature in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Posted in How-to Guides, and Windows

A new type of ransomware named Bad Rabbit has emerged and is currently spreading across Europe.  In light of this, it’s understandable that users would want to take efforts to protect themselves from being infected (as let’s face it, a machine compromised with ransomware will need to be formatted and re-installed).

Windows 10 users have the option of enabling a hidden security feature which prevents ‘unfriendly’ applications (and most known strains of ransomware) from modifying files within protected folders and I will show you how to enable it.

In case you aren’t aware, ransomware is a strain of malware that encrypts system files as well as your personal files and ‘holds them ransom’ by demanding payment for decryption.  Needless to say, should you be foolish/desperate enough to actually pay the money there’s absolutely no guarantee that you will receive the decryption key.

By enabling Controlled Folder Access, the malware will be blocked from making changes within known locations, it’s a nifty feature that is turned off by default but can easily be enabled.

Prerequisites:

Ensure Windows 10 is updated with the latest Fall Creators update (1709).

Ensure Windows Defender Security Center real-time protection is enabled – unfortunately, the Controlled Folder Access feature does not work with 3rd Party virus protection.

Open Windows Defender Security Center and scroll down to Controlled Folder Access, and toggle to switch to on:

You can also add your own folders to the list by selecting Protected Folders > Add a protected folder:

And finally, should you need to white-list a flagged app you can select Allow an app through Controlled folder Access > Add an allowed app:

Should you decide that the Controlled Folder Access feature is not for you, you can easily toggle the option back to off.

Game of Thrones – A Retrospective [Spoilers, Ahoy!]

Posted in Film & Television

Ever since it first aired back in 2011, Game of Thrones quickly became the most watched and easily the best series ever made as its viewership continued to grow with each passing season.  Now it’s 2017 and we have reached the end of the 7th season with one final season scheduled to hit our screens sometime next year.

Keeping in line with a 10-episode structure since season 1, fans (myself included) were disheartened to hear that Season 7 would only consist of 7 episodes.  Thankfully, my spirits were raised given just how good this season proved to be as it once again retained (increased certainly) its ultra-high production value and concluded with a feature-length final episode.

I have also read that season 8 will consist of 6 feature-length episodes so it will undoubtedly be the spectacle everyone expects it to be.  Given the fact that we now have to wait a year for this fantasy epic to conclude, I’ve decided to re-watch GOT from the beginning and possibly begin reading the novels, although since season 6, the series started to diverge quite a bit from the novels.  I would also like to ensure that I finish Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One before the film adaptation releases next year as well as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (before I watch the much-talked about series) although time is not always so merciful.

Needless to say, there were also many revelations revealed in season 7 as well as the very satisfying death [finally!] of the slippery Petyr Baelish.  The Night King’s newly-acquired frost dragon destroys The Wall – a colossal fortification that stretches for 300 miles and is 700 feet tall, which has kept the undead out of the Seven Kingdoms for centuries and Jon Snow is revealed to actually be Aegon Targaryen who ends up sleeping with his aunt – fan favourite, Daenerys Targaryen.

Further to the popularity of the show, The Hound has inadvertently spawned a new meme/fan-favourite in the form of “Dumb Cunt” a bad-ass wight (season 7, episode 6) that even has his own discussion thread here.

‘Stark sisters’ Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams have also found additional popularity in the form of their hilarious carpool karaoke antics, so all-in-all, The Game of Thrones has proven to be something of a phenomenon. Hell, just Google any of the actor’s names and you will find a multitude of articles pinned to the landing page.

Game of Thrones is so popular that it even has a presence in other high profile shows such as The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and Leonard purchased a replica of Longclaw which proceeded to become a permanent fixture in their apartment.

There is just simply too much to talk about when it comes to Game of Thrones and I’m pretty certain the phenomenon has been the subject of many student’s thesis’ exploring the sociological impact it’s had and so forth but the simplest piece of advice I can offer is that if you have even the faintest hint of interest in the fantasy genre, that you check out Game of Thrones – it’s not overly fantastical in the beginning as it slowly introduces the supernatural/magical elements as the story progresses so its accessible to both seasoned fantasy fans and novice watchers alike.  In closing, I suggest that you just don’t form any attachments to the characters too soon as everyone is fair game in Game of Thrones.

Don’t Get it Right, Get it Written

Posted in Meanderings, and Writing

Don’t get it right. Get it written. – James Thurber (Pictured above).

 

The above quote is perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice any writer should adhere to, it’s telling you to write down your ideas regardless of whether or not it’s perfect.  Just get it down on paper or screen so that you have a framework to work with.

Your idea can be perfect but your initial implementation of that idea doesn’t have to be.  In fact, can you imagine just how long it would take an author to put out a book if he attempted to make every written page perfect each time before moving onto the next?  That’s what editing is for, so remember that.

So that’s just what I’ve done.  I whipped out my first draft for my first novel in a matter of months after a single, solitary idea popped into my head one night and lo and behold I fashioned an entire book around one key idea.  Oftentimes I couldn’t get the ideas out faster enough to the point where I had a backlog of chapters in my head, this backlog served as the perfect goalpost as the story I had to tell poured out of me like a broken sieve.  I had plenty ideas in my brain and every time one popped up I had to work out how my story would reach that point, and after enough instances of that I was sitting with a full-length book ready to be edited and fine-tuned.

Believe me when I say that having a completed draft to work with makes the experience all the more enjoyable.  Do the characters and names have to stay the same? Do their motivations and agendas need to be fixed? Of course not and I guarantee you as you progress through your novel with each revision you will go back to change things or omit something in order to make your story all the more greater.

I’ve been editing my work for almost three years now and even though a lot has changed the one thing that never did was the book’s core.  So tear a page out of Thurber’s book (completely metaphorical of course – he was a great American author), and just get it written!

Said Bookisms

Posted in Writing

I came across the term said bookism quite a while ago which caused me to re-examine my dialogue-tags and the prose that populated my work. A said bookism is a form of Purple Prose (prose that is too elaborate or ornate) where the writer goes out of his way to avoid the word said.  A person could even purchase ‘said-books’ which contained lists of verbs that one could use instead of the word ‘said’ – hence the moniker Said Bookism or Said Books. Said bookisms were quite fashionable at one point with the result that ‘said’ would be replaced by words like exclaimed, replied, retorted,  inquired, pontificated and so forth.  J.K. Rowling’s infamous use of the word ‘ejaculated’ (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, see page 242) – “Ron ejaculated loudly” has undoubtedly been taken out of context numerous times and is of course the butt of many an internet joke.  In this instance, the word ‘ejaculated’ was meant to portray something said quickly or suddenly as opposed to the image every reader older than 10 would have conjured up in their minds.

Needless to say, I was once an offender of said bookism myself, believing in fact, that I needed to supplement ‘said’ for more complicated, flowery wording to ensure that my writing didn’t become tedious. Ironically, the over usage of said bookisms contributes to tedium and actually detracts from the literature as the reader becomes overly aware of the magniloquent (couldn’t resist) words instead of focusing on the actual exchange of dialogue.

This is where the beauty of the word said comes in.  ‘Said’ is an invisible word, one which is often skimmed over when read, and that’s why it’s so important.  It allows the reader to follow the dialogue without getting caught up with complicated words that require one to pause reading in order to Google the meaning of the word in question.  So while a lot of writers who are just starting out or trying to make a name for themselves may want to try to spruce things up by using more ‘exciting’ verbs or verbose wording, this practice tends to make the writing look amateurish, especially when you consider that by using said bookisms at every opportunity, you are removing the impact of a well-placed verb that would have otherwise contributed to the story instead of detracting from it. People read books for escapism and enjoyment, not to see how well you know the thesaurus.

In closing, of course not all said bookisms are bad, and there are a few which are considered acceptable, namely ‘asked’ and ‘replied’ – which I will use when deemed necessary, but remember, the dialogue should speak for itself without the need for over-embellished dialogue tags.  Some experienced writers will avoid repetition of ‘said’ by describing the speaker’s actions and emotions through the spoken words and insert said bookisms only when they serve to enhance the delivery of the dialogue.  You will learn the do’s and don’ts as you go along – I myself, am still learning and will continue to share my findings in the hopes that these rules, tips and so forth contribute to improving that story or novel you’ve been working on.

Should you have any queries or criticisms, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Remove Dead Share Folders

Posted in How-to Guides, and Windows

I make use of a Raspberry Pi running Kodi (OpenELEC) media centre which has access to various share folders from my main PC running Windows 10.  Recently I’ve moved a lot of data from one hard drive (drive :D) to another (drive :I), after which I deleted the empty Movies share from Windows. Then, when I wanted to remove the empty share from OpenELEC I was unable to do so.

It seems that after moving the information in Movies to another drive and deleting the share folder thereafter, I created a dead share.  Even though the Movies folder had been deleted from Windows, when I tried to share the information again using the same name (Movies) on another drive (drive :I), Windows renamed it to Movies2 and stated that there is already a share of the same name residing on drive :D.

Needless to say this was incredibly frustrating, thankfully though after several attempts at correcting the problem I was able to find a solution.

Open regedit and navigate to the below path, once in shares, locate the dead share folder and delete the entry.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Shares

After deleting the registry entry, the dead share no longer showed on OpenELEC and I was able to freely re-create the share on drive :I in Windows.

Work Constraints

Posted in Meanderings

Hi Everyone,

While there hasn’t been any new posts in a while, you can be rest assured that there will be more content coming soon.  Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way of the creative process and unfortunately a day job is a necessity, so that I can keep writing…and you know, keep living.  Anywho, while work constraints have definitely impacted on my ability to release more articles, I will be taking as much time in between to resolve this.

It’s also worth noting that I have a book to finish editing, but somehow I will be victorious.

| Brad.

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How to create a shortcut for locking your PC in Windows 7 – 10

Posted in How-to Guides, and Windows

If like me, you find yourself in a situation where you need to quickly lock your screen, and the Win+L keyboard shortcut isn’t an option – in this case the SteelSeries keyboard I’m using has its own logo-key (pictured below) instead of the traditional Windows key and using the Win+L shortcut doesn’t work, then there’s a very simple workaround available.

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Simply, right-click wherever you want to create the shortcut, Right-click > New > Shortcut.  Enter the following text into the shortcut text box:

rundll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation

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And finally, just rename the shortcut to whatever you please, in this case I named it LockMe, click Finish and you’re done.

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Review | Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted in Film & Television

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Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, epic space-opera

Director/s: J.J. Abrams

Running Time: 135 mins

Budget: $200 million

Released: 16 December 2015

Plot:

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

 Review:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is probably one of the most anticipated films in the last decade (since 2005’s Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith), and after many teasers and much hype it is finally here.  With new and old faces alike and promises of a back to basics, practical effects-driven Star Wars experience, The Force Awakens promises to undo the damage that the prequel trilogy has done to the franchise’s credibility with director J.J. Abrams at the helm.  Backed by Disney’s inexhaustible financing, the 200 million dollar  sci-fi epic is a visual spectacle and opens a wonderful new chapter to the Star Wars universe.

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So the first paragraph pretty much tells you that The Force Awakens is good, and it is – real good, and if you were able to avoid the hype machine then you will probably have enjoyed this film even more.  I make a point of limiting my trailer watching to the odd teaser only as trailers have a way of spoiling films in my opinion, don’t believe me, then check out the Rise of the Silver Surfer teaser trailer which revealed the entire Human Torch/Silver Surfer chase scene – that was the defining moment for me.  Anyway, I digress, as a huge Star Wars fan I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens and it definitely had that nostalgic, classic Star Wars feel to it although it’s still not as brilliant as the originals, least of all Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

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So let’s start with the good stuff.  Firstly, fans have been clamoring for that original Star Wars feel since Return of the Jedi, while I for one did enjoy the prequel films, many people did not.  J.J. Abrams has managed to produce a film that is something of a love-note or ode to fans of the first trilogy.  Abrams’ attention to detail has enabled him to add all the essential ingredients to The Force Awakens that was sorely lacking from the prequels with the result that we are given a true Star Wars experience.  The acting is spot on, the effects are amazing and most of all, the film is just plain fun.

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So what’s it all about then? Well without giving too much away – The Galactic Empire has been succeeded by The First Order, armed with a new breed of Stormtrooper, Star Destroyers and the mysterious Kylo Ren, The First Order wishes to seek out a droid named BB-8 which holds the key to finding Luke Skywalker, who has since gone into exile after failing to re-build the Jedi Order.  A scavenger named Rey discovers BB-8 and together with Finn – an ex-stormtrooper, Han Solo and Chewbacca, they set off to help the rebel cause and put an end to The First Order’s new Starkiller base.

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So all-in all a pretty solid premise however, in an effort to re-create the original Star Wars flavour, The Force Awakens borrows heavily from A New Hope, and this is one of the key points of criticism of the film. It follows the original formula a little too closely, as broken down below:

  • Luke Skywalker, farm boy on desert planet forced to leave his home to find his destiny | Rey, a scavenger on a desert planet forced to leave her home to find her destiny.
  • Both Luke and Rey cross paths and join forces with Han Solo and Chewbacca
  • The Galactic Empire is embroiled in a battle with rebels | The First Order is embroiled in a battle with rebels.
  • R2D2 carries crucial information to the rebel cause, as does BB-8.
  • Both films have planet-sized world-ending weapons, namely The Death Star from the original trilogy and the new Starkiller base of the First Order…
  • …which leads to the fact that both bases have exposed weaknesses susceptible to a small rebel attack force.
  • Darth Vader | Kylo Ren

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So while there are a lot of similarities, The Force Awakens is still a great film, and a great gateway for the newer generation to experience the old Star Wars nostalgia so many veteran fans will tell you of.  The other criticism is that Kylo Ren is a rather weak villain, a poor facsimile of Darth Vader. While this may be true, as Vader was definitely on a different level, I believe that Kylo Ren was purposely made to be weak, as he struggles to embrace the dark side of the force and follow in Vader’s footsteps.  It’s also worth noting that Kylo Ren is undoubtedly being groomed for an ‘ascension’, no doubt in the next couple films, and I think that’s where we’ll really see his power and true potential as a worthy villain.

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Furthermore, there is a lot to like about The Force Awakens – the TIE Fighters, X-Wings, Millennium Falcon and various nostalgic locales (akin to Endor and Hoth) combined with fresh faces and just enough fan service (Han, Chewy, the Falcon), make for a great sci-fi experience and needless to say everything is looking flawless thanks to big-budget nature of the film.  The Force Awakens feels like the true continuation of the Star Wars Saga, not that I’m discounting the prequels, only that the prequels seem far removed (almost like a different series of films) from the dusty, retro-future styling of the originals and Episode VII.

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Conclusion:

So were I to nit-pick, I’d say it would have been nice to have seen a bit more lightsaber action, at its heart, The force Awakens is a space opera and is rather devoid of the epic lightsaber duels we have come to expect, although I expect they will become more frequent in the upcoming sequels and apart from the similarities with A New Hope, I can’t really fault The Force Awakens, it’s a solid sci-fi epic and worthy chapter to the Star Wars mythos.  Highly recommended.

Score | A

Seasons Greetings & Happy New Year

Posted in Meanderings

Hi Everyone,

While this is certainly a ‘place-holder’ post, December month has been an extremely busy one for me and trying to get any new posts published has proven to be a challenge (there are several unfinished ones under drafts though…).

However, you can be rest-assured that new content will find its way on these pages in 2016.  For now, have a festive holiday and a happy new year!

Brad.

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Review | No Hero

Posted in Comics & Books

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Info:

Publisher/s: Avatar Press

Genre: Superhero, science-fiction

Author/s: Warren Ellis

Artist/s: Juan Jose Ryp

Format: Limited Series

No. of Issues: 8

Vintage: June 2008 – September 2009

How much do you want to be a super human? In the 1960s, a chemist named Carrick Masterson creates a revolutionary drug that creates the first and only S.P.B’s (super powered beings) in an effort to curb the increasingly violent police activity throughout America.  In the ’60s, the first generation of super humans are called The Levellers, so-called after the popular movement that came out of the English Civil War.  Masterson’s drug, labeled FX7, a designed alteration of 5-methoxy-diisopropyltryptamine, has side-effects as dangerous as the powers they gain.

Juan Jose Ryp is responsible the the amazing, if somewhat disturbing artwork.
Juan Jose Ryp is responsible the the amazing, if somewhat disturbing artwork.

The secret to Masterson’s FX7 is jealously guarded, and over the years The Levellers, who eventually become known as The Frontline, have to contend with various government agencies who are desperate to get the formula for FX7.

Fast forward to 2011, members of The Frontline are being assassinated one after another, as after several decades, Masterson (who has obviously taken FX7 himself, due to the fact that he cannot die) has managed to step on the toes of half the world, with his exploits of super-heroism but as The Levellers begin to dwindle, Masterson seeks out potential members – enter Joshua Carver.

Josh Carver really wants to be a superhero, so much so that he trains vigorously everyday, doesn’t smoke, take drugs or drink and doesn’t even eat meat.  In peak psychical condition, Carver masquerades at night as a vigilante, dispensing hard-hitting justice to the scum of society in a desperate attempt to get the attention of Carrick Masterson.  So what does it take to get noticed? For Josh it was jumping from three stories and landing on some punk (crushing him of course) and his friends.  Impressed, Masterson invites Carver to his not-so-humble abode and starts the procedure that will enable Joshua to become the newest member of the most powerful group on Earth.

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In the typical Warren Ellis fashion, No Hero is extremely violent.

So that’s the premise of No Hero and if it strikes your fancy I highly recommend that you read it.  No Hero has a kind of Watchmen-like tone to it in that both comics share key elements –  heroes from the old days, a ‘mask killer’ and a wonderful plot twist.  While nowhere near the level of Alan Moore’s masterpiece, No Hero is a fine piece of work and together with Juan Jose Ryp who has done a brilliant job of illustrating the story (the artwork is amazingly detailed and I’d hate to think how much time must have been spent to achieve such painstaking attention to detail), Warren Ellis has once again managed to dream up an interesting take on the superhero genre.  Much like the FX7 drug, nothing is as it seems in No Hero and somehow Avatar Press has managed to impress me yet again with another brilliantly gruesome and hugely entertaining story and I look forward to future releases of Warren Ellis and Avatar Press.

Score | A