Greenway the Other Way

We finally had a beautiful, warm, sunny day, and I took advantage of the opportunity to take a bike ride on the Greenway.

I’ve ridden the Greenway quite a few times, but this time I started in Mission Creek Park and rode “the other way” toward Gallaghers Canyon.  It’s been a few years since I’ve gone out there, and I wanted to check it out again.  I found well maintained trails shared by cyclists, walkers, and dog walkers.  It’s a great ride on a nice day.

Starting at Mission Creek Park and heading on the Greenway toward Ziprick Rd, you’re riding a little uphill and a little bit on big gravel.  That doesn’t last long.  Keep going past the Ziprick entrance and you’ll come to what looks like the end of the Greenway.  Just jog onto Creekside Road, which is a wide residential street, and take it a couple of blocks until you come to Gerstmar.

Gerstmar Park

Gerstmar Park

There’s a nice little park at the Gerstmar entrance to the Greenway now, and there are public washrooms there.  Jog right, toward the creek, then onto the Greenway.  Mission Creek is on your right.  People’s back yards are on your left.  This part of the route is pretty flat and smooth.  I found plenty of dogs and people walking, and a few other cyclists.

Pretty soon you’re out of the back yard portion of the trail, although if you look left you can see there are houses on the road kind of above you.  Looking right, you can see across the creek.  I’ve seen deer and coyotes there, but not today.  There are bear sightings over on that side from time to time.  Today, just rocks and trees.

The trail narrows and there is a little up and a little down, a couple of twists, and then a nice beach.  Be careful as you come around the curve.  There are often dogs playing there and the trail is pretty narrow if you have to do an unexpected dismount.



Ride through the trees a little farther and you’ll end up on singletrack.  When it’s raining, this is basically mud.  Today it was absolutely perfect.  No mud but not dry enough to be dusty.  And purple things and yellow things and pink things on either side.  Stunning.

This short track will take you past the bike skills park at Hollywood Road, right exactly at the spot where Randy Zahara assured me that the off-leash dog area would be, back when he was in charge of  dog park prevention.  That would have been a terrific place for an off-leash dog area, but some study or other determined that there wouldn’t be adequate parking for that.  It’s great that these kids have a bike skills park, and that there also appears to be adequate parking there.

Continue across the road to the parking area for Scenic Canyon Park.  There are also washrooms here, and lots of parking.  This area seems pretty heavily used, at least on a beautiful Saturday, by people out for a walk alone, with other people, and with dogs.  The trail is beautiful, winding through wooded areas and across bridges.

And then…the trail is closed.  You can see that it continues, but the dire warning of falling rock and trail erosion was enough for me.  I stopped for a bit to watch the creek and headed back the way I came.

 When I got to Ziprick this time I crossed the bridge and took the smoother side of the creek back to the Eco Centre.

All told, this was just over 13 kilometres (8 miles).  With a couple of stops to take pictures and admire the view, it took me an hour and 20 minutes.  You might want to ride it faster, but I took my time and enjoyed the scenery.  Here’s a gallery.   You can click through it.

What rides in or around Kelowna do you like?  Please leave a comment.

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My Life In Tech: The Chitka Incident

A good customer recommended me to her sister-in-law because her sister-in-law needed some help finding her way around Windows 7.  My customer said, “I live just around the corner.  When you’re through there, would you come over and take a look at my computer.  I’m having some issues.”

No problem.  I know better than to press people about their issues.


Chitka is Devil App from Hell

I got there Friday afternoon to find Internet Explorer with at least eleven toolbars and four (or maybe five) rogue search engines.  The home page was  I see this a lot, and I have tools to get rid of all of it most of the time.  What surprised me was something I’d never seen before.  On every site I browsed to, there were popup ads.  Some were just annoying ads for bellyfat products.  Others were pretty racy.  Some popups insisted I had to download a flash player before I could view the content.  They really looked like they were being served up by the website, but they were not.  Some ads said “Chitka” and some said “iLivid” and some didn’t have any clues.

I started my cleaning routine.  Microsoft Security Essentials didn’t have anything in its history.  My customer said a quick scan with the free Malwarebytes didn’t detect anything.  I ran a full scan, and it didn’t detect anything then, either.

As I kept on uninstalling malware and cleaning temp files and the registry, I checked and kept getting popups.  I could not get rid of them.  I scrubbed Internet Explorer, I ran the cleaning utility.  No change.  Tool after tool said everything was fine but the popus were still there.


Worse than just the browser

Eventually I realized it would be good to know if it was just Internet Explorer that was hooped or if this went deeper.  I have portable Firefox on a flash drive, and when I fired that up…I got the popups.

I had a real Scooby Doo moment.


Got to be the hosts file.

Fixing or replacing the Hosts files on a 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium is not as straightforward as I would like it to be.  That’s why there are tools and scripts that are supposed to do that.  But none of them worked.  And the really confusing thing about this was that when I looked at the Hosts file, it looked right.

Normal Hosts file

Normal Hosts file

At that point I drew a line under the billable hours, shut down the computer and told the customer I’d be back on Monday with a plan.

Over the weekend I prowled the usual fixit sites.  I found plenty of people who had problems with Chitka, and I found lots of people helping them.  What I did not find was anyone who had actually resolved the problem.  Just a dozen or so open threads.

“Interesting,” I thought.


I love it when a plan comes together

When I went back this morning, I had a plan.  It wasn’t a great plan, but it was, in fact, a plan.  And it was an OK plan because this is both a good customer and even if I really screwed up, a new computer wasn’t out of reach for her.

I did get the Hosts file problem fixed.  Here’s what I figured out to do, based on all the help threads I found.

First, I ran a program called DDS, which produced an inventory of some important settings, including the Hosts file.  That certainly confirmed the hijack.  And it was comforting in a way to know that I hadn’t completely misread the situation.

DDS logfile shows browser hijack

DDS logfile shows browser hijack

Microsoft Fixit for the Hosts file didn’t fix it.’s fix didn’t fix it.  Every time I looked at the Hosts file, it looked normal, but DDS kept telling me it was screwed up.  And the popups were relentless.

I know how to edit the Hosts file in 64-bit Windows Home Premium, but when I opened it, the file looked normal.  Where the heck is the hijacked file?  And why can’t I edit or replace it?

Well, the hell with it.  My weekend research project had turned up a tool called RogueKiller, and wow did it ever look scary.

RogueKiller fixed the Hosts file

RogueKiller fixed the Hosts file

I had taken the time to read a little bit of the tutorial, so I had a general idea that if it found a hijacked Hosts file it would fix it.  The other important thing to know is that not everything it finds is a bad thing, so you don’t generally just want to start clicking on things.  I’d downloaded the 64-bit version, so I copied it onto the customer’s desktop and ran it as administrator.

It found the bad Hosts, and when I clicked on Fix Host…it did.  I could see the Hosts file was back to normal.  I rebooted the computer, fired up Internet Explorer and … no popups.


The Aftermath

I then ran the Malwarebytes Antirootkit tool, which found vestiges of Trojan Sierdef.C and cleaned them.  I ran the scan a second time and finally got a clean bill of heath, no toolbars and no popups.

Next I updated Java, FlashPlayer, AdobeReader and all the usual suspects, installed Mike Lin’s Startup Monitor, and flushed the System Restore.

Finally, I uninstalled Microsoft Security Essentials and replaced it with the free version of Avast! antivirus.  It’s more verbose and it nags about keeping risky programs up to date.  And I replaced Malwarebytes with SuperAntiSpyware, which will lock the browser home page, even in the free version.

Then, I set up a backup.

Three and a half billable hours.  Expensive enough to make the customer think twice before clicking indiscriminately, but still not as expensive as a new computer.

Now I just have to fix the thing that makes Outlook 2007 ask if she really wants it to make changes to her computer every time she opens Outlook 2007.  I hope there’s a tool for that.


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My Life In Tech: How Many Geeks Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Warhol's Light Bulbs

Photo: CC-licensed image by zetson, via Flickr

One night as I was doing the wash I flipped the light switch for the light in the laundry room.  Big flash of light, then darkness.

The light fixture in the laundry room is a globe that I have to stand on a ladder to remove before I can change the light bulb.

Three things about me:  I have a healthy respect for electricity, I live in a house built in the 1980’s, and I don’t have a fear of heights, but I do have a fear of falling.

I waited until the next day when it was light, climbed up on a step ladder and changed the light bulb. Brand new pack.  I climbed down, turned off the light and went off to do something somewhere else.  That night, I turned on the light.  Big flash of light, then darkness.


Changed the bulb again.  Flicked the switch.  Light came on.  Turned the light off,  turned the light on again.  Big flash of light, then darkness.

OK, OK.  I know the one about doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  I figured out that I needed to replace the fixture or do something with the wiring.  I just didn’t really relish the thought of standing on an aluminum ladder and monkeying around with electricity, so the next few loads of wash were done either in the daytime or by the light from the hallway.

One night after curling my skip mentioned that he’d rewired something in his house.  I told him my little story and he volunteered to come over the next day and fix this problem.   We’d both had many beers, and I wasn’t going to hold him to that, but sure as shooting the next day he showed up with a screw driver and a multimeter.

He climbed right up that aluminum ladder and started taking readings.  He said, “This doesn’t make sense.  Everything is working perfectly.”

I gave him another bulb from the package.  He screwed it in.  I turned on the light.  It lit.  I turned it off, then on again.  Big flash of light, then darkness.

“Do you have any other light bulbs,” he asked, “that you know WORK?”

I took one out of a lamp in the spare bedroom.  It worked in the laundry room.  I put a fresh bulb from that pack in the lamp in the spare bedroom and it would not light.  Nothing wrong with the fixture or the wiring in the laundry room.  The whole pack of bulbs was bad.  I don’t think that had ever happened to me before.

Now this guy just saved me a whole lot of time and money.  Replacing that fixture wouldn’t have made any difference.  It would just have been expensive and a hassle, and it wouldn’t have solved the problem.

Here’s the thing.   Troubleshooting is troubleshooting.  This is what I do for other people’s computers, but I was completely flummoxed when it came to troubleshooting my own light bulb problem.

I’ve had this running through my head ever since.

I’m beginning to see the light

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

It’s that time of year again.  That time of year when we wrestle technology to the ground and live stream our Christmas tree.  This year is our 16th year.  We were doing this back in the last century, when it was called “webcasting.”

Here is our tree.  As Eric puts it, “as always, the best one ever.”


Watch live streaming video from tree2012 at

You’ll mostly see the tree.  Sometimes you’ll see Eric.  Once in awhile you’ll see me.  Sandy Dog puts in the occasional appearance, too.

There’s chat there.  We don’t monitor it all the time, but if you leave a comment, we’ll see it eventually.

Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2013.

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My Life In Tech: Just Shoot Me

PDF User Manual

4th key from the right, top row

The last couple of week have been hectic, and the last few days have been long ones.  The economy must be improving.  People are buying computers, tablets, and routers.  And it looks like this is a great time for people to catch up on the maintenance they’ve deferred for eight or nine months.  The good news is I’ve been up early and up late with lots of work to do.

So last night when I checked my calendar I was glad to see there was nothing scheduled for early this morning.  That would give me a chance to finish the next column, do the laundry and some grocery shopping and maybe sleep until 8:15 or so when Sandy Dog would have to go out.

At 8:45 I was still in my jammies checking email and working my way through the first cup of coffee when the phone rang.  An elderly gentleman was calling for help with his computer.  I’d set up his laptop for him last February.  His story:

“My wife was on the computer and everything was fine, and then all of a sudden she said Google was broken.  So I tried a few things and now I have a thing that says all my wireless devices are disabled and I need to enable them.  What do I do? “

I checked my notes to see what computer I had set up for him, and started searching Google for a setup guide or a manual.  I figured if I could tell him how to switch on the wireless we’d be home free.

“Also,” he said, “this thing seems to be frozen.”

Talking him through holding down the power button for 10 or 12 seconds to restart and then through pressing Enter to Start Windows normally bought me the time I needed to find the PDF manual online.  Once Windows started up again, I told him to look at the top row of keys on the keyboard, and count to the 4th one from the left.

“Is there a light on by that key?”  The manual says if the light is white, the wireless is on.  If amber, the wireless is off.  It shouldn’t be a problem to get him to hit a key combination and turn on the wifi, right?

“Yes, I can see a light there.”

“What color is it?”

“Cate, I have no idea.  I’m color-blind, and my wife is in the shower.”

Just fucking shoot me.

In the end I just had him open a browser and see if it worked.  We got lucky; apparently rebooting connected his wireless again.  We left it that if he had any more trouble he’d schedule a service call.  But what a crazy first call of the day.


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