Background noises can be good for productivity, no wonder that many like to go to a coffee shop, where non-critical tasks can be done pleasantly while sipping a cup of joe. As for me, I like rain and thunderstorms, but sadly I can't control the weather, and people around me would be cross anyway.
Recently I found Noizio on Mac, an app that lets you configure your own set of ambient sounds in the background. I enjoy using it, but mostly I work on Windows, and they didn't develop this app for my system. I wish someone made one! Well, actually...
Ambience, my take on Noizio for Windows
Just set up which sounds you'd like to hear, adjust the volume for them individually and enjoy! If you've been looking for Noizio for Windows, look no further.
Developing this application was a lot of fun. The makers of Noizio didn't hide the sounds and artwork they used in their app, it was easy to extract them. When I looked into if I could implement such a multi-channel audio player, it turned out to be a smaller challenge than I anticipated. The rest of the work was just making everything work well and look pretty.
I don't work on Windows Forms applications too often, so I took the chance to try some new things with this one.
- The app utilizes DPI scaling, works well on all DPI settings. On High DPI displays it uses high resolution images; looks great on my retina Macbook Pro.
- I got to create and use custom controls for each sound, even the volume slider is custom to avoid displaying a selector border around them.
- It's available as a Microsoft Installer (MSI) package, but turns out, digital signing is still a complicated and expensive procedure, so it goes unsigned. You can trust it, but I don't blame you if you don't.
- It's also available as Normal (Zip) and Portable (Zip) versions.
- The Normal/MSI version saves sound settings in the user's Application Data folder, so it's usable by multiple users on the same computer, and also by roaming. The portable version saves sound settings in the application's folder.
Download the application for Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10
Ambience - Normal (Zip)
Ambience - Portable (Zip)
Ambience - Microsoft Installer (MSI) - Unsigned, sorry!
When it becomes possible, this app will be available in the Windows Store.
Big thanks to the makers of Noizio for the sounds and images, they deserve all the credit for those. Go and check them out if you've got a Mac!
Normally Windows Update runs just fine, but sometimes installing certain update packages can give you a challenge. The most frustrating thing is when it doesn't give you a reason, just installation failed or an often useless error code like 80070002. Then the awkward dance begins.
Sometimes the issue is with the local content and history of Windows Update, for which Windows provides a fix in Windows 7 and 8, but unfortunately it's missing from Windows Server 2012.
Probably I don't need to point it out that the following commands require Administrator privileges.
Scan and repair system files
The Microsoft Windows Resource Checker can reveal issues so it's worth running it when the situation is grim.
This scans the integrity of all protected system files and repairs files with problems when possible. It will take a few minutes but it has a progress indicator.
Troubleshoot and repair Windows Update
Open Troubleshooting from the Control Panel. Select System and Security and from this screen choose Windows Update - Resolve problems that prevent you from updating Windows. It may look a bit different on Windows 7 but it's there.
The utility asks you to run it as Administrator, then it tries to resolve issues it finds. Usually it finds some problems to fix and it might wipe out your Windows Update history, but so be it.
At this point you should just reboot, then try to run Windows Update again to see if it fixed the problem. This is how I managed to install Windows 8.1 Update 1 (KB2919355).
Fixing a rare issue
With the coming of Windows 8, Microsoft no longer assumes that people mess around with the Start Menu by personalizing folders and the location of shortcuts. I use Start8 as a Start Menu replacement and of course I customize things, just like I've done so since Windows 95. When I tried to install Windows 8.1 Update 2 (KB3000850), it just wouldn't work and it provided no explanation why.
Turns out, it was missing some Start Menu folders from their default location, the root folder.
- Accessibility (lately displayed as Ease of Access)
- System Tools
I figured it out by looking into the log file that the Microsoft Windows Resource Checker (sfc.exe) generates; apparently the Update packages use this system utility.
Look for the Error lines with the approximate timestamp when you tried to run the update. You may find something like this:
STATUS_OBJECT_NAME_NOT_FOUND "\??\C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\System Tools"
It's a handful, but this can give you a hint about what's missing. After you create the folders in the Start Menu (even without shortcuts), the update will install properly.
A more radical solution
In certain situations you may want to go for removing Windows Update related files manually, but probably this should be your last resort.
net stop wuauserv
net start wuauserv
Once you restarted the Windows Update Service, it will re-create some of the folders and files you deleted, then you can try to run Windows Update again.
Welcome or welcome back, depending on whether you've seen this website before on a very similar domain. I decided to start it all over again, simplified, with different goals in mind.
This space is for me to write about subjects that I find interesting, along with code snippets, system tweaks other nerdy things that you may find useful, but ultimately these are just notes for myself.