Migration

A few years ago I decommissioned my website so that I could move it to another hosting provider. Since then LinkedIn and other social sites got a lot better and the need to have a website was satisfied by other public and free websites. I want to get back into writing blogs and articles so I decided to take the time to get my website back up and running. Please excuse the mess below. I need to re-link images.

Michigan’s silly deposits on cans and bottles

One thing I absolutely loved about moving from Michigan to Texas was I didn’t have to deal with deposits on cans and bottles.  When I moved back to Michigan I was upset that I had those stupid deposits once again.  In case anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about let me explain.  In a handful of states there is a deposit when you buy certain products in certain containers.  in most states it’s 5 cents when you buy a soda or a beer in a can, plastic bottle, and glass bottle.  Michigan is the ONLY state that charges a 10 cent deposit.  What that means is when you checkout the store charges you 10 cents for each soda or beer that is in a can, plastic bottles, and/or glass bottle.  Notice how I said soda or beer.  I’ll talk more about that later.  If you buy a 6 pack of beer that is marked at $5 you pay tax on that $5 plus an additional 60 cents in deposits.  When you bring the cans and/or bottles back you get your deposit back.  It’s done as a way to strongly encourage people to recycle via loss of their own money.  It’s also a way for people to walk the streets and pick up cans and bottles(yes you see it all the time).  This whole deposit thing is a pain in the ass!  People have to try to rinse out every can and bottle and keep them somewhere in their house just to haul off to the store to get their deposit back.  It’s also very disgusting as I’ve seen people dump dirty cans and bottles into shopping carts where the stale soda and beer is dripping through the bottom of the cart all over the ground.  That means you might lay your food when you’re grocery shopping on the bottom of a cart that just had stale soda and/or beer all over it.  We all know grocery stores never clean their carts.  As for the smell of the machines that accepts these items and the areas people go to return them is awful.  Imagine a room where someone spilled beer all over the ground and rarely cleans it up.  IT STINKS!  Below is what one of the machines looks like near the opening and also what one of my plastic bags looked like so you have a clue on how dirty everything is.  Of course if everyone were to rinse their returnables nothing would get dirty but you can’t depend on EVERYONE doing the right thing. 

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To make matters worse a store/store chain will only take back a can or bottle if they sell it.  If a store won’t take a can or a bottle the typical response would be to just throw it away but it’s actually against the law in Michigan to throw away a bottle or can that has a deposit on it!  Now you can “recycle” using approved recycling services but if it hits a landfill then you broke the law.  I believe in recycling but there are only deposits on beer and soda cans, plastic bottles, and glass bottles.  There are not any deposits on wine bottles, liquor bottles, non-carbonated energy drink cans, and water bottles.  That just doesn’t make sense.  If you’re encouraging people to recycle why exclude a bunch of items? 

Today I decided how much time it would take me to return two tall kitchen trashcans full of returnables.  Since a store only takes back cans and bottles they sell I had to visit two stores.

In the table below there are two columns.  The first column shows how much time would be involved if I was already making a trip to the store.  The second column shows how much time I actually spend as my only reason for going out of the house today was to return the cans and bottles. 

 

Activity At Store Special Trip
Sort through cans/bottles and separate them by store at home 7:22 7:22
Drive to Meijer and walk to the returns area NA 11:25
Time to feed one can/bottle into the machine 8:26 8:26
In line/walk back to car NA 6:46
Drive to Aldi and walk to the returns area NA 15:35
Time to feed one can/bottle into the machine(there was only one machine and it was being used by someone before me.  Also it became full and we had to wait for someone to empty it). 9:25 9:25
In line/walk back to car NA 2:12
Time to drive home NA 15:35
TOTALS 25:13 76:46

If I was going to both grocery stores I would have spent a little over 25 minutes just returning the bottles and cans!  Since it was a special trip just for returning cans and bottles it took me over 76 minutes!  All of that time to get my measly $8.50 back.  That’s right, 85 cans/bottles = $8.50.  I haven’t even talked about the money involved for stores to buy and maintain these machines as I’m sure the cost is being passed to the customer. 

I wish the state would do away with deposits or at the very least make all cans and bottles have deposits but I doubt that will ever happen. 

My Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

My family made fun of me for buying an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite a few months ago. They asked me why I would buy that when I had an iPad. Like I always say people do things for a reason. My reason was I wanted something that was smaller and lighter than my iPad and easier on my eyes. My iPad weighs 1 pound 7 ounces and my Kindle weighs 7.5 ounces. 1 pound might not seem like much but it does make a big difference holding something in your hand for a while. I like the size of my iPad but to be honest with you I can slide my Kindle in my front and rear pocket of shorts and kakis. That’s something you can’t do with an iPad. Maybe you can do it with the mini iPad but I really didn’t want to spend a few hundred dollars to replace something I had with a smaller item. Reading the Kindle is much easier on the eyes also. Most of the time I have my backlight off as there is enough light in the room for me to see the text. For times when it’s dim or dark the backlight comes in handy.

Another reason I prefer my Kindle at times is I’m less tempted to breakaway from the book and putz around on the internet or check my email. Sure the kindle has an experimental browser but doing any web surfing on an e-ink screen is just too time consuming. As for the battery life I have no clue what happens when the battery gets critically low as I’ve never gotten to that point. I’m not a hardcore reader and I always try to keep my device charged but I’m heard you can read for 30 minutes a day for 30 days without charging.

Overall I’m very happy with my Kindle Paperwhite. As an option I can still read books on my iPad, iPod, computer, and Windows Phone. With the Whispersync technology the last furthest page syncs among devices do you never have to try to find where you left off.

If you like to read books I highly consider looking at one.

Redeem your Bing reward credits for 100GB of OneDrive storage for a measly 100 credits!

I have 787 Bing reward credits and was going to redeem some of them for a $5 Starbucks or $5 Amazon card.  Normally a $5 card is about 475 Bing Reward credits but I noticed an option for 100GB of storage on OneDrive for only 100 credits.  100GB of storage on OneDrive retails for $50 so if you ask me that’s a deal.  Unfortunately I can’t use it as I already purchased the largest storage plan available but I wanted to share this with everyone.  If you want to redeem this offer you have until June 30, 2014.

 

To renew visit http://www.bing.com/rewards/redeem/000100000056

 

If you haven’t signed up for Bing Rewards and want to learn more visit http://www.bing.com/rewards/dashboard

 

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Tips to keep your checked luggage from disappearing

I travel a lot.  I picked up a few tips and tricks that at times makes traveling easier and/or less frustrating.  Today I wanted to discuss checked luggage and what you can do to help keep it from disappearing.  At times checked luggage does go missing but I feel if you go out of your way to tell whoever sees it how to contact you you’ll have a better chance getting it back. 

Below is true for United airlines.  I think it might be true for other airlines but I’m not sure. 

When you check your luggage they attach a printout on your bag (see photo one).  The tag is pretty strong and durable but I’ve seen them ripped off before.  If that tag gets ripped off there’s a very good chance your checked luggage will sit somewhere until a representative researches who it belongs to and attempts to contact you.  Who knows how long that would take.  If you notice the first photo shows three bar codes at the bottom of the tag.  Those are actually stickers.  Sometimes the bag agent will remove one or two of them and stick them on your checked luggage, sometimes they won’t.  Sometimes you have to take your checked luggage to the TSA scanner, sometimes you won’t.  My point is it’s in your best interest to have those stickers on your checked luggage.  Make sure you or the bag agent takes them off and places them on your checked luggage.  This way if for some reason the tag gets ripped off at least they can scan the stickers referencing the data when you checked your bag.  The more places that bar code appears the better.  The stickers are pretty strong but won’t leave residue when you pull them off.   

Of course I recommend having luggage tags on and inside of your checked luggage in multiple places.  Remember, if you lock your bag the airlines can’t get inside of them so make sure you think about that.  It would be pointless to have your contact information only inside behind lock and key.  I have two tags on the outside of my checked luggage and one inside of every compartment.  That’s a total of five.  You don’t have to get fancy.  The self-laminating ones work great.  I have my name, phone number, email address, and my frequent flyer number designating what airline it’s for. 
www.amazon.com/MMMLS8535G-TAGS-LUGGAGE-LAMINATING-CR/dp/B0009EIO3W/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1392764345&sr=8-2&keywords=luggage+tags+3m

Sure it might be overkill to have so many luggage tags, airline tabs, and airline stickers but I like my luggage and what’s inside of it.  I really want someone to be able to find me rather than I find my luggage.   

 

Notice the three bar codes at the bottom of the printout. 

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Removed the stickers.

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Stuck the stickers all over my bag. 

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Broadcom drivers not allowing Windows to mange the TPM chip

Background

I’ve been working on a project creating the light-touch task sequences in Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012 to deploy Microsoft Windows 7 to bank branches using offline stand-alone media.  Recently we noticed that three of the thirteen Dell notebooks weren’t prompting the on-site technician to hit the F10 button after the PowerShell script ran and rebooted to clear the TPM chip owner information.  We were also noticing BitLocker wasn’t being enabled.  When you remotely (via script, PowerShell, etc) modify the TPM chip on Dell machines it prompts you at the BIOS screen on reboot to acknowledge a planned change was made to the TPM chip.  This is so malware can’t clear out your TPM ownership and make your machine unbootable until you find the recovery key.  It’s a pain in the rear but I understand why Dell does this.  

 

Summary

In comparing the three notebooks that weren’t working properly to the ten notebooks that were working properly there were some common results seen in both groups. 

 

  Device Manager Drivers Services
Three notebooks not working properly Broadcom TPM listed under System Devices Drivers Provider
=Broadcom
TPM Base Services not started and will not start
Ten notebooks working properly Broadcom Trusted Platform Module X listed under Security Devices Driver Provider
=Microsoft
TPM Base Services started

I also noticed when trying to query for data via WMI to rootcimv2SecurityMicrosoftTpmX nothing was being returned.

I was also getting an error when running the PowerShell script.

Testing I uninstalled the Broadcom TPM device including the Broadcom drivers and refreshed Device Manager.  At that time it installed the Broadcom TPM device using the Microsoft drivers and it listed Broadcom Trusted Platform Module X under Security Devices.  I was then able to start the TPM Base Services.  When I ran the PowerShell script no errors were generated. 

 

Resolution

I deleted the Dell Driver Packs for those three notebooks in ConfigMgr and imported them again NOT including the Broadcom TPM drivers.  After imaging those three notebooks they now use the Microsoft drivers for the Broadcom TPM chip.  That allows the TPM Base Services to start allowing the PowerShell script to run.  They now prompt for the F10 to acknowledge changes have been made to the TPM chip and BitLocker works!

 

Details

Left screenshot not working right screenshot working

Device Manager Differences

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Driver Differences

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Service Differences

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WMI Differences

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TPM PowerShell Script

$oTPM = gwmi -Class Win32_TPM -Namespace rootCIMV2SecurityMicrosoftTpm

$oTPM.SetPhysicalPresenceRequest(10)

If(!(($oTPM.IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent()).IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent)){

$oTPM.CreateEndorsementKeyPair()

}

If(($oTPM.IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent()).IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent){

$OwnerAuth=$oTPM.ConvertToOwnerAuth(“customrandompassword”)

$oTPM.Clear($OwnerAuth.OwnerAuth)

$oTPM.TakeOwnership($OwnerAuth.OwnerAuth)

}

 

TPM PowerShell Script Results

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Text From PowerShell Results

Not Working

PS C:UsersarafelsDesktop> .tpmactivate.ps1
You cannot call a method on a null-valued expression.
At C:UsersarafelsDesktoptpmactivate.ps1:3 char:33
+ $oTPM.SetPhysicalPresenceRequest <<<< (10)
    + CategoryInfo          : InvalidOperation: (SetPhysicalPresenceRequest:String) [], RuntimeException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : InvokeMethodOnNull

You cannot call a method on a null-valued expression.
At C:UsersarafelsDesktoptpmactivate.ps1:5 char:40
+ If(!(($oTPM.IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent <<<< ()).IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent)){
    + CategoryInfo          : InvalidOperation: (IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent:String) [], RuntimeException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : InvokeMethodOnNull

You cannot call a method on a null-valued expression.
At C:UsersarafelsDesktoptpmactivate.ps1:11 char:38
+ If(($oTPM.IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent <<<< ()).IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent){
    + CategoryInfo          : InvalidOperation: (IsEndorsementKeyPairPresent:String) [], RuntimeException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : InvokeMethodOnNull

PS C:UsersarafelsDesktop>

 

Working

PS C:UsersarafelsDesktop> .tpmactivate.ps1

__GENUS          : 2
__CLASS          : __PARAMETERS
__SUPERCLASS     :
__DYNASTY        : __PARAMETERS
__RELPATH        :
__PROPERTY_COUNT : 1
__DERIVATION     : {}
__SERVER         :
__NAMESPACE      :
__PATH           :
ReturnValue      : 0

__GENUS          : 2
__CLASS          : __PARAMETERS
__SUPERCLASS     :
__DYNASTY        : __PARAMETERS
__RELPATH        :
__PROPERTY_COUNT : 1
__DERIVATION     : {}
__SERVER         :
__NAMESPACE      :
__PATH           :
ReturnValue      : 2150105089

__GENUS          : 2
__CLASS          : __PARAMETERS
__SUPERCLASS     :
__DYNASTY        : __PARAMETERS
__RELPATH        :
__PROPERTY_COUNT : 1
__DERIVATION     : {}
__SERVER         :
__NAMESPACE      :
__PATH           :
ReturnValue      : 2150105108

PS C:UsersarafelsDesktop>