PrintNightmare – manual fix

There’s now a manual workaround to fix the important all-Windows ‘PrintNightmare’ security hole, at least for domestic and standalone PC users who don’t need to print over a network.

See the official Microsoft Workarounds / Option 2.

Stop the Print Spooler as a Service.
Change the PC’s Group Policy to block “inbound remote printing operations”.
Restart the Print Spooler.

This will “will block the remote attack vector”. Yup, it seems the fix is that easy.

Update: Cancel that. Ten days later and another hole has been found, which for now means that the Windows Print Spooler service should be stopped totally even on domestic and standalone PCs.

The new-look DOAJ

The DOAJ site has had a design makeover. On the front page they’ve gone for a 1964 home-decor ‘modernist abstraction wallpaper’ look, which will likely have nostalgic connotations for Baby Boomer librarians, and perhaps a few who recall the early arcade videogame Pac-man, but will mean nothing to most students.

The initial ‘modernism at home’ buzz does not then sit well with the styling of the numbers or of the “Find open access journals & articles” strapline on the front page. Either the fonts are all sleekly retro-modernist or they’re not. Don’t mix the two.

The main Search box button is a very unfortunate shade of yellow, made even more jarring in combination with the blue flash on the dropdown menu…

Having made a search, the search button becomes a soft orange which better matches the new logo. But this still has the jarring blue flash on the dropdown menu.

Text-selection colour leaves the selected text clear (my Web browser has a UserScript that keeps the text-selection colour the same across all sites, but I turned it off to test).

Search results are looking good, but on a widescreen desktop I have to scroll down to get them.

What I get…

What I want (and have to scroll down to every time)…

Overall, pretty good. But the front page still needs some tweaking.

Setting up QuietRSS

I finally made the move from the trusty old FeedDemon to QuietRSS. Both are free desktop PC feedreaders for RSS feeds, but FeedDemon is increasingly old now (2013) and was starting to refuse to acquire perfectly valid Atom feeds. QuietRSS is maintained (Jan 2021) and has no such problems. It does however take some initial wrangling to set up — in terms of font choice, font sizes and CSS styles — to get it looking good and working as required. The basic steps are:

1. Tools | Options | change Font types and sizes. Arial Unicode and Segoe UI work well together.

2. Then View | Applications Style and choose a new CSS style for the UI. A number of pre-made CSS styles ship with the software, and ‘Dark’ will be the choice of many. This can then be opened with Notepad++ and hacked re: changing colours. There’s also an online ‘replace theme’ utility that can extend the Dark theme by writing a new variant of it.

3. You may find the dark blue ‘new items’ links stubbornly remain, even with a new CSS style, and thus ruin your tweaked colour scheme. Note that there are also font colours to hack in the QuiteRss.ini file, but the easier way is to use the tab tucked away at the back of the Fonts…

4. It appears the only way to compact the database is to have this done automatically at each shutdown. FeedDemon could do it manually, and compacting is important because it speeds up a feedreader running many feeds and keeps it fast. In QuietRSS the switch for compaction is reached via Tools | Options (or just press F8), and then you work through to this tab. Enable cleanup on shutdown, and also DB optimisation on shutdown…

It usually takes some time for a database to ‘learn’ what’s new and what are old posts dredged up from the past, and for the feedreader to settle down into showing you only the most recent posts.

Missing in open

Google Scholar has a useful new feature. If an article was funded from the public purse, and yet not freely published online with the agreed time, then Scholar will flag that the expected public open access version is missing.

However the flags appear on the Scholar Profile section, not as a red flag alongside each search result.

Taking a purely random example, this is what appears on the sidebar of the author’s page…

On clicking through from this widget, one gets a list with the missing papers sorted to the top…

You can see that the OA mandates are usefully itemised per-paper.

Freeware to automatically screenshot every time you click

Software that automatically takes a screenshot every time you click somewhere with your mouse? You’re in luck, there’s one built into Windows 7 and later. Or there was until the Windows 10 Creators Update, when it was bjorked.

In Windows 7 it was called Problem Steps Recorder (PSR), later just Steps Recorder, and can be found by via typing psr or steps into the Start menu search-box. It automatically makes one whole-screen screenshot per user click, but is limited in the number of screenshots it can make. It’s meant to be a quick tool that helps IT technicians see what a user is getting hung up on, without having to record and send video or launch a Remote Desktop connection.

Slightly more advanced is the Windows freeware Imago Recorder 1.2, which has no cap on the number of screenshots. You do need to manually hack its config file to get full-size screenshots (open imago.conf.xml and change resize to 0). Automatically captures the whole screen only. Although I’m guessing it may be able to capture a region if you delve into hacking the .XML config further?

The freeware Snappy can capture the whole screen on a click, and is a bit more friendly and fully-featured than Imago. I had no success with getting it to repeatedly capture a pre-defined region on a click, only the whole screen. Though it can grab a region in the usual way.

StepsToReproduce 1.0 was freeware meant as a taster for the more fully featured and paid StepShot, later StepShot Guides. StepShot was bought out for the underlying technology in 2019 and since 2020 is no longer available for purchase. However this cut-down freeware still works, and is a rarity in freeware in that it can do more than full-screen… but it appears to be limited to 800 x 600px in its region capture. The cursor being captured was a feature that could not be turned off, as StepShot was meant to be for rapidly producing software how-to documentation. But if you need the cursor gone, then try a temporary ‘one dot’ or thin ‘bar’ cursor that won’t be noticed. The full StepShot could automatically capture a custom region of unlimited size, simultaneously with user mouse clicks.

Beyond that you start to quickly get into expensive/subscription corporate territory.

Those have lots of full-screen screenshots would then need to crop their repeating target-region from each one, by using a friendly freeware batch image-cropper such as Image Tools.

How to extract Windows Explorer thumbnail previews

How to extract Windows Explorer thumbnail previews from a specific Windows folder, using old-school desktop freeware:

1. Install the freeware Q-Dir, a quad-view Windows Explorer replacement. This has a useful “print the folder as you see it” feature, something lacking in Windows Explorer.

2. Use Q-Dir to navigate to your chosen folder. Show the folder with medium or large thumbnails, as you prefer. Then print the folder view to a Microsoft .XPS file, using Q-Dir. The .XPS format was Microsoft’s attempt at a .PDF rival, and all Windows installations should be able to print to it.

3. Now install the little freeware utility STDU Extractor and load the .XPS file you just printed. This utility can extract images inside several formats, including from .XPS files. STDU will show you a preview of the available thumbnails and let you extract as .PNG files or in other image formats. For some reason its batch extract is very slow, but the individual select-and-extract is fast.

For batch processing of a folder with thousands of Windows thumbnail previews, you’re probably looking at an overnight job — due the slowness of batch in STDU Extractor. The workflow is more useful if you just want a few dozen at a uniform size, and without faffing around trying to manually take exactly-sized screenshots. As you can see from the above final-output example, the drop-shadow is also extracted. But neatly so.

What you don’t get is the extracted thumbnail being given the name of the file it represents. So far as I can tell, no such software exists for that sort of extraction.

So long as you have software that gives you Windows Explorer previews for its file-types, the above workflow can work even on files that are not images. For instance, the above test is with an E-on Vue 2016 3D scene file.

Saving the .XPS to .PDF and extracting images from that will not work. The preview thumbnails become fragmented into strips by the PDF printing process.

There are also freeware extractors that will attempt to load the Windows thumbnails .db database in the Windows ../System folder and extract from that. But that’s ‘pot luck’, even if you can get them to open. The above can target a specific folder and a few specific icons.