Oct 212017
 

Men are often irrational beings. For example I simply hate F1 key. I know, that key is there to give me help but realistically if I need help I will google for it. Absolutely every time I press F1 it is by accident and it leads to annoying wait for Help to load – especially in Microsoft Office. That key is useless!

Fortunately, deep in Microsoft’s Keyboard and mouse class drivers documentation there is a chapter on scan code mapper for keyboards. In short, there is a functionality enabling us to remap any key just by writing entry in registry without any external programs.

At first I though to simply disable F1 key. But reading a bit further into documentation I though better – why not use F1 key as a mute button?

For this conversion it is necessary to know codes for both F1 and Mute key. A bit of searching later I’ve found that information in USB HID to PS/2 Scan Code Translation Table. This ancient document has exactly what we need under PS/2 Set 1 Make column. F1 key has scan code 0x3B while mute is a bit more involved 0xE020 (disabling would be 0x0000).

Format of Scancode Map field is a bit confusing at first, but table examples do help a lot. For my use-case, table would be as this.:

Value Field Interpretation
0x00000000 Version Set to all zeroes.
0x00000000 Flags Set to all zeroes.
0x00000002 Count Two entries in the map (including null entry).
0x003BE020 Mapping Remap <F1> (0x3B) to <Mute> (0xE020).
0x00000000 Mapping Termination entry.

These values would need to be written in registry under key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout as binary entry named Scancode Map. Of course, since binary data has to be little-endian, (hex) value would actually be:

00000000 00000000 02000000 20E03B00 00000000

Or one can simply download prepared registry file for creating mapping and, if necessary, removing the same.

Oct 172017
 

Honestly, I almost lost hope this day will come. However, finally there is a download of Visual Studio Express 2017. Because no sunshine can happen without clouds here in Redmond, only Desktop edition is available. Moreover, Microsoft found it necessary to clarify it further with the following asterisk:

* Visual Studio Express 2017 is available for Windows Desktop developers. This will be the final version of Visual Studio Express, and there will not be a UWP or Web offering of Visual Studio Express 2017. We encourage all users to look at the free development options offered by Microsoft such as Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio Community for future development needs.

Yep, this is the last edition for the fans of Express. It has been a good ride I guess.

PS: And no, answer is not using Community as its licencing restrictions make it wildly unsuitable for the whole host of scenarios where Express was shining. For example, use in a bigger company is not really allowed – even if you are not using it for production software but only for internal tools.

Oct 162017
 

When I got my new Dell XPS 15 with Windows 10 Home; the first thing I wanted to install my own fresh copy of Windows 10 Pro.

Guess what? Dell, as many other PC manufacturers, stores key in BIOS (Home edition in my case) and it will never ask you for it. Try as you may but Windows installation will never even ask your for alternate key. That is, if you don’t adjust it a bit.

First part is preparing installation USB and these same steps are needed even if you don’t need to change install key. Press <Win>+<R> and write diskpart, followed by OK. This will execute partition editor tool. Be very, very careful to select disk you want to clean and make new installation USB:

DISKPART> LIST DISK
  Disk ###  Status         Size     Free     Dyn  Gpt
  --------  -------------  -------  -------  ---  ---
  Disk 0    Online          476 GB      0 B        *
  Disk 1    Online          931 GB      0 B
  Disk 2    Online         7168 MB      0 B
  Disk 3    Online         7648 MB      0 B

DISKPART> SELECT DISK 3
Disk 3 is now the selected disk.

DISKPART> CLEAN
DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.

DISKPART> CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY
DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.

DISKPART> FORMAT FS=FAT32 QUICK**
  100 percent completed
DiskPart successfully formatted the volume.

DISKPART> EXIT

Assuming that your, newly created and empty, USB drive is under letter U: and your Windows installation disk is at W:, you can use XCOPY to transfer files. Again, press <Win>+<R> to get a prompt where you can enter following command:

> XCOPY W:*.* /e /f U:\
Once copy is done, USB is ready and, if we didn’t need to change key, we could install Windows.

For getting our key into installation we need to create PID.txt with following content (use your key instead of XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX):

[PID]
Value=XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX
This file you then copy onto USB to U:\sources or U:\x64\sources folder, depending which one is present.

Now you can plug USB into XPS 15, boot to USB using F12 key and proceed with Windows installation as you usually would. The only difference is that Windows will now use key from USB instead of BIOS and give you the correct edition.

PS: If you want to use USB drive bigger than 64 GB, use CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY SIZE=8000 to make disk appear a bit smaller. Otherwise FAT32 formatting won’t work and that is important for UEFI.

PPS: To avoid entering legacy mode, I like to add custom EFI boot option pointing to \efi\boot\bootx64.efi on USB.

Oct 122017
 

This minor update essentially brings only two significant changes.

First is inclusion of NTP check before time-based two-factor authentication code is generated for the first time. If you are getting code on freshly installed computer with wrong date or your clock simply drifted more than required 30 seconds, Bimil is now going to check time and issue correct code regardless of your system clock.

Second important change is Debian package. While you could run Bimil on Linux before, you had to deal with installation and requirements yourself. Now it is enough just to download package and use your favorite (Debian-based) installer. And yes, it does install in /opt.

To check these changes together with a few minor improvements and bug-fixes, you can download Bimil from these pages or update it through application.