Friday, September 11, 2020

Bark for Schools | G Suite for Education Web Filtering -- Where Have You Been All My Life?

We were using [another web filtering solution] because they offered a free trial and we started sending Chromebooks home with students in March (Covid). We enjoyed [another web filtering solution], for sure. No problems, easy to implement...their Smart Filter is really neat and scans textual content and graphical content of pages to block things that would make it through, otherwise. But then the trial ended. Boo. We couldn't afford their pricing, but had to have some type of filtering. I searched and there were a few other comparable content filters we could trial for a month or so until we got funding sorted out...but then I saw Bark for Schools.

Bark for Schools is free. So I thought it would seriously lack features as compared to [another web filtering solution]. Not really. No Smart Filter for per-page scanning, but they have category-based blocks and an allow/block list for overrides, plus (outside of traditional content filtering) they monitor student email and searches and generate "alerts" when dangers things are communicated about or searched for.

The included documentation is good. I've done Chromebook extension pushes before, so didn't anticipate any trouble...but I had our old system removed and Bark installed on all 10,000+ Chromebooks (instructions to remove and add, respectively, on next login) in about an hour.

This morning a Bark rep contacted me and we scheduled a meeting. They told me what their "paid" version offers that the free one doesn't and it isn't really much that we are concerned with. Slightly more timely data polling required as Google charges depending on how frequently they are polled for data. The pricing is reasonable, but the increased features aren't especially appealing to us at this time.

No disrespect to [another web filtering solution] -- it was a great product that we underutilized, in the grand scheme of things. But Bark for Schools ticks the right boxes and looks like it will keep our students safe for the time being at the perfect price.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

I couldn't access the steam store (DNS issue)

I just wanted to make my kid a steam account.

But I couldn't.

Then I realized that I couldn't access the steam store at all. Strange.

I'm an IT guy. I got this.

No malware.

Restarting didn't help.

I guess I have to actually think.

A Google search wasn't helpful. Even if I listed the error code I was getting when I tried to create a new steam account.

Ok, it isn't down for everyone.

But when I nslookup, the resulting IP is a .jp domain. And it seems legitimate...but decidedly *not* Valve's Steam.

Maybe my router's settings are causing trouble. After all, *it* is my DNS provider.

...nope, my router has some built-in tools and shows my isp as my dns provider. So this strange result is coming from Comcast.

The fix was easy enough, just specify with as my DNS servers in IPv4 properties, or in my router's WAN settings. Then ipconfig /flushdns. But why it happened and why more people weren't (presumably) affected, I have no idea.

*more research* -- even though my router listed my ISP as my DNS provider, it seems to be a router issues instead of a ISP far as I can tell. Or at least I can't fault comcast at this point without more research. Changing my router's DNS to fixed this for me. I'll keep looking into the Comcast issue and report back if I have an update.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Removing Duplicates from Multiple Columns in LibreOffice Calc (OpenOffice)

So I was trying to remove duplicates from a .csv in LibreOffice. I could do it no problem for a single column, following instructions referenced below, but not with multiple columns. Here's how I worked around the problem to get the result I needed. TL;DR -- you don't, you import the columns as one column and remove duplicates on the single column, which works just fine.


  1. If you are using a .csv, you are good to go, skip to step 3.
  2. If not, save as a .csv or copy to a new file and save as .csv (if you have a workbook -- so you don't lose the 2nd/3rd worksheet information).
  3. Close the .csv and then open it again -- when prompted to import the file, select nothing under 'Separator Options' (defaults are comma, tab, and semicolon), so the content is loaded into one column. Note you may have to right-click and open with > LibreOffice Calc if that isn't your default .csv editor. You can open Calc then use File > Open if you'd prefer.
  4. *These instructions are available most anywhere and work at this point* Select column A > Data > More Filters > Standard Filter.
  5. Set 'Column A' = Not Empty.
  6. Expand the options and select 'No Duplicates' and select the 'Copy results to:' box and copy the results to B1.
  7. Delete Column A (right-click > Delete Columns) then save as new .csv (just in case) or copy the resulting content wherever you need it.


Monday, June 25, 2018

My Moto G4 Play (XT1607) Finally got Android Nougat (7.1.1)

I have a carrier unlocked Moto G4 Play (XT1607) which I purchased about a year ago. I've enjoyed the phone. I've really only had two issues: 1) an issue with speaker after a drop which I posted about here and 2) an issue with the GPS which seems generally sub-par, but was notably terrible on my last phone until I requested a replacement a few months ago, which I tweeted about.

This phone is notably better than the one it replaced, a Moto G LTE with 1GB memory and only two cpu cores, I think. The screen is bigger and the quality is similar or better. The extra ram and double internal storage really make a difference, as does the newer OS version.

The problem is that the phone was "promised" an update long ago...pretty much when I first got it. I actually considered the OS update potential before was pretty bummed when the update didn't roll out promptly. Not that Marshmallow (6.x) cause me any trouble, really. And, with Google decoupling much of their software from the OS so that search and assistant can get updates, I didn't really feel I was missing out on anything dire...but the update was promised! Each time I looked it up, someone in another country on another carrier had started rolling out the updates...but my version was carrier-unlocked and should get updates pretty soon...certainly before something with the additional bloat of Verizon, right?

Well, the day has arrived. My update finally came through. Aside a few changed icons and the option to split-window or use "on-body detection" to keep my phone unlocked (which I will probably at least try), it will probably not change my day to day use. It will probably allow me to continue considering Motorola/Lenovo products in the future, though. I'll take a late update over a lie, even though I hope this lax schedule doesn't become the norm. I'm tolerant of delays, but they should be the exception.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

ASRock AB350 Pro Memory Trouble (feat Corsair Vengeance LPX cmk16gx4m2b3200c16 -- may help with other memory!)


If you have 4 memory slots and only 2 DIMMS, be sure you are using the 2 slots preferred by your motherboard manufacturer. I have 4 slots (A1,A2,B1,B2) and couldn't get expected speeds using A1 and B1 but got the speeds with no trouble on A2 and B2 as the mainboard FAQ (and, presumably, manual) suggest. Who needs logic?


So I built a new PC recently and it was tons of fun. My sons helped me. I mostly went off the cuff (I've built a few before) and referenced the manual a couple of times. The first mistake was putting the M.2 SATA drive in the NVME slot (which doesn't work)...but moving it to the other M.2 port works. The second error wasn't as obvious, as the PC booted mostly just fine.


The memory I purchased (2x8GB sticks of Corsair Vengeance LPX cmk16gx4m2b3200c16) wouldn't run at the expected speed. It defaulted to 2133, but when I bumped up the the XMP 3200, it would boot three times before fail-safing to the 2133 speed. I updated the BIOS before even starting, so that wasn't it. I tried various settings and was finally able to get 2800 working mostly, with 2666 being completely stable. This wasn't terrible, but if I wanted slower memory, I could have saved $20 or so and gotten a cheaper kit. After reading into custom timings and memory training (woah, that escalated quickly), it dawned on me that memory placement *may* matter. I had put the memory in A1 and B1, which made sense to me. When I glanced at the FAQ on the website, though, it said to use a2 and b2 if only using 2 of the 4 available DIMM slots. I only decided to try this because I'd seen reports of 4-stick kits not achieving the same speeds as 2-stick kits. FINE, I'll try. Bam...worked immediately, first boot, with default 3200 timings -- CPU-z verified speeds. So far, my minimal benchmarks haven't really shown much gain, but I slept a little better last night knowing my speeds were as expected.


I was muttering bad things about Corsair when the memory didn't perform as I expected, even though it wasn't a verified chip for the motherboard (ASRock AB350 Pro4). Turns out the problem was mine, though I'd lean a little towards blaming ASRock over Corsair since the board prefers the non-logical 'a2' and 'b2' slots. For the record, I'd imagine the manual would have the information if I'd read it more closely. If your memory isn't working as expected with current BIOS updates, verify the memory chips are in the correct slots (if you have 4 available slots and 2 dimms). Your manual or manufacturer website should help!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Moto G4 Play // No Sound after Drop

I've have a Moto G4 Play for about two months and after a pocket-level drop onto pavement, the speaker-sound stopped working entirely. The microphone still worked, as did the audio port and (presumably) Bluetooth, but neither calls nor speakerphone/music produced any audio. *Will post video soon* I was just about to start the RMA/Warranty service process (after looking through the recommended solutions on this lenovo thread and seeing the factory reset / cache clearing fail to resolve the issue for pretty much anyone), but thought I'd take the back plate off and have a look at the little speaker module area and see if anything jumped out at me. I unplugged the battery and removed the micro-sd card. I didn't take the sim card out. Then I put them back in and pressed my finger pretty hard around the speaker area (around the camera) a few times. Nothing 'clicked' or anything, so I turned the phone back on and continued browsing the web. A few minutes later, I heard a notification sound. Yay! I started some music and kept pressing various locations near the speaker on the back of the phone and could cause the speaker to stop working intermittently depending on the pressure of my finger and the location it pressed. I'm concluding that (in my situation, at least) the drop caused[/exacerbated] an issue with the wiring in that area and caused a wire break or slight connection gap, which for now has been rectified. With the back plate gently put back on, the sound is still working correctly for now. I won't be surprised if the problem comes back occasionally with any trauma to the phone, whether I sit on it or drop it or my kid is too rough with it...but at least I'll know how to attempt to fix it myself. I hope this helps someone!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ion Job Rocker Review

So I've always liked the idea of connecting my phone to battery-powered, Bluetooth, speakers, but always feared the (anticipated) sparse battery life, weak output, etc. I've had two of these devices and while they weren't terrible, they were just barely better than the built-in phone speakers*. My wife had one, too, and it was similarly better than music straight from the phone, it didn't really provide the incentive to charge regularly, find, and connect for most daily uses.

Cue the music from the Job Rocker Plus from Ion -- honestly, I like Groupon's description better and the ratings speak for themselves. Considering I'm no audiophile but appreciate full-range sound (for reasonable cost)*2, this thing is a delight. I got one for myself that I've used extensively and one for my brother-in-law, who is much more used to high-priced things than I am. We both love them! We got the refurbished models from Groupon, but I think they are available for about the same on Amazon (probably refurbished) for $75 or so*3. The look and feel calls to mind the amp that you (or a friend) had with the first electric guitar you played terribly. It isn't quite as hefty, but not so small that you really worry about the output. The sound is good. When the volume is too high in bass-heavy music, I did wish for a separate bass-adjustment dial, but everything else really works well on this thing. It has a spot to charge your phone -- it connects (to charge) via a standard PC cable (included), and it works with auxiliary 1/8" input in addition to the Bluetooth I've used so far.

The Job Rocker + just survived a 40th birthday bash for my brother-in-law. His brother is a real DJ (who offered to bring his gear) and, while I'm sure the sound wasn't on par with what he could have provided, I was VERY impressed with how little the 10 to 15 adults bodies soaked up the was still easily loud enough for the "into the wee hours of the morning morning" gathering with music blaring the entire time and everyone there fighting to play the next song.

While the Job Rocker Plus can't fit in your pocket or even backpack, it would be great for a trip the the beach or family picnic. I use mine in my kitchen all the time and in my back yard while the kids are playing often. I'll be surprised if my wife isn't using this all Summer.

The Takeaway

If you want a (heavy and loud) Bluetooth speaker and can find this thing for $100 or under, get it. This is not for you if you want something to fit in your hoodie pocket or backpack. Tailgating, yes. Shoulder, to replicate the feel of a boombox a-la the '80s or '90s, yes. Speaker for your phone or laptop to connect to with the option to carry elsewhere when the need arises, yes. For a stationary speaker, of course, you'd be a little better off getting a true 2.1 system.

Astericks and such. Apparently, that is the plural.

* Subjective...and in hindsight after using the much more powerful Job Rocker from Ion. I never really minded using them at the time, but the appeal seemed to quickly fade. The previous devices were much more portable and $15-$30 devices with much less battery life / lower wattage / more comparison isn't really fair.

*2 I don't know the best way to describe my ear sensitivity...but I really miss my Klipsch Pro-Media 2.1 system. The subwoofer died and I've salvaged the satellites to use with my home theater, but the $50 Logitech 2.1 system I've replaced them with is notably less impressive.

*3 They are $200 on the Ion site...but I'd not have taken the plunge at that price. Maybe I'd pay $100 or $125 now that I know how well they perform.