How to set up a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows 7 or above without any software

I came across a router which had an issue with the Wi-Fi; the LAN connection was working fine but the wireless functionality appeared to be busted. My friend wanted a temporary fix, as he waited for the replacement router to arrive.

how to setup a mobile hotspot in Windows

Windows 10 has an option for setting up a mobile hotspot without a software.  Thinking this would be a good fix, I fired up the Settings app, navigated to the Mobile Hotspot screen and in a matter of seconds I was able to set up the connection to use the PC’s Ethernet network. It’s never that easy, is it? Apparently not.

The Hotspot was created, our phones could see and connect to it, but there was a notification that said “This Wi-Fi network has no internet”. The computer’s browser also threw up errors which said the connection failed. What happened is, the Hotspot was active, but the internet wasn’t working. Disabling it fixed the issue on the system.

Time for the manual fix, command prompt to the rescue. This method works on Windows 7 and above.

How to set up a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows 7 or above without any software

1. Open a Command Prompt window with administrator rights.

2. Type the following in the window,

netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=wifiname key=password

Replace wifiname with a name that you want to assign to your network. For the password, choose a strong non-pronounceable one. The password should have a minimum of 8 characters.

For e.g. netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=ghackshotspot key=g_hacks!

3. Hit the enter key and the screen should read “The hosted network mode has been set to allow. The SSID of the hosted network has been successfully changed. The user key passphrase of the hosted network has been successfully changed.”

how to setup a mobile hotspot in Windows

4. Congratulations, you have created a hotspot. Now to activate it. Type

netsh wlan start hostednetwork

5. You will need to configure the hotspot to use your Wi-Fi. Open the Network and Sharing Center from the Control Panel. You can paste the following path in Windows Explorer.

Control PanelAll Control Panel ItemsNetwork and Sharing Center.

6. You’ll see all available network adapters, including the newly created hotspot. Choose the one that you wish to share. It’s usually your Ethernet or Local Area Connection, but sometimes it may have the adapter’s name instead. Click on the network’s name and it should open the Network Status window. Select the properties option.

how to setup a mobile hotspot in Windows

7. Click on the Sharing tab and enable Internet Connect Sharing by checking the box next to “Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s internet connection”. Next, click on the drop-down menu and select the hotspot network with which you should share your network. In this case, I selected Local Area Connection 11.

8. Hit the ok button, and your Hotspot is ready to be discovered. You can verify this by observing the “Access Type” of the hotspot at the Network and Sharing Center screen, it should say “Access Type: Internet”.

Enable Wi-Fi on your laptop or phone and try connecting to it using the password that you chose.

Note: My laptop’s Ethernet port doesn’t work, so I had to use the Wi-Fi adapter in the screenshots, but the procedure is the same. I’ve tested it with my friend’s computer.

To stop the hotspot, use the following command

netsh wlan stop hostednetwork

This Microsoft document and Dell support page were used as a reference for the article.

If you ever find yourself with just a wired network connection, but have a laptop or a desktop PC with a Wi-Fi card or USB dongle, you can use this method to create a hotspot. This can also be useful if you’re using USB-tethering to access your phone’s mobile network.

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What are Firefox Containers?

You may have heard of Firefox Containers. But do you know what they are? How do they help us? To understand the purpose of this feature, you need to understand how web tracking works.

What are Facebook Containers

Let’s begin with Facebook.

For e.g. John looks up used cars on a search engine and visits some pages for more information. Later he visits Facebook, and starts seeing recommendations for used cars. John is puzzled because he never searched for these on the social network.

How did this happen? The pages John visited may have contained elements related to Facebook, such as the Share and Like buttons. The site also most likely used Facebook Pixel which is a piece of code from the social network, and I’m quoting the official description here “a snippet of Javascript code that allows you to track visitor activity on your website.”

Facebook pixel

The website may have had ads, and/or third-party tracking cookies. The cookies may be used to link activity to a particular computer, and they remain active unless they expire or they are deleted on the local machine.

All these are part of your digital fingerprint which may include personally identifiable details such as your IP address, browser information, location, or operating system. This data is “shared” by the website you visited (through the elements on the page), to the social network. So when John logs into Facebook, the cookies are used to identify him as the one who visited the used cars website.

This is how they track you and display “Relevant Ads”, “Recommended Pages”, and all that. In case of ads and third-party cookies, it can be worse. The data may be shared with companies affiliated to the advertising network, in other words unknown entities.

Facebook uses different kinds of tracking methods, this example is just one of them. That’s the reason why Mozilla has a Facebook Container add-on, an extension dedicated to prevent the tracking atrocities of the network.

I still hear stories of privacy horror like “I was planning a trip with my friends, and began seeing Facebook ads for hotels located there”. This was from friend, and he had used Google Maps to look up the distance from his city to the destination. How did Facebook know that? He claims the app was listening. I cannot confirm such theories without evidence, but yes these have happened to me too. Recently I was discussing visiting a book fair with a family member. A few minutes later he handed me his phone and I saw that the phone app was recommending a page about books. That’s creepy. I have no explanation for these things.

Note: I don’t hate Facebook, I have had clients contact me through the service. It’s a pretty good way to stay in touch with friends/family, but the tracking has gone too far. That’s why I don’t use the app, I login to the mobile website only when required (or when someone texts/calls me to say “Hey Ash, check Facebook”). But that’s me, I understand that people need to use messenger for day-to-day communication. You should definitely use the Facebook Container extension to minimize the tracking.

Cookie based tracking

Not all cookies are bad. The ones you used to sign in to your accounts, and stay signed in are helpful. You want to store these.  But some cookies do more than that, they track your internet usage, even when you leave their website, i.e., they can know which website you visited after you left their site. Firefox blocks third-party tracking cookies by default. Some can be even more intrusive and use information from other cookies.

Time for another example.

Let’s say you bought some cookies, they are of different kinds. But you have a single cookie jar, so you put them all together. What happens? Bits and pieces, crumbs of cookies get mixed up with one another. It’s a mess.

Now, replace the edible cookies with browser cookies. For e.g. Google, Facebook, Shopping sites, Financial sites, etc. Your browser stores these cookies together. That ends up in a digital breadcrumb trail. So they can know what you searched for, or which pages you previously visited etc, all in the name of offering a “personalized browsing experience”.

This is the reason why you will see ad banners or pages related to the product you search for or purchased. At what cost, though? Would you be okay with some random company having (parts of) your medical history, insurance or banking information, your home address, or your family information? NO.

What are Firefox Containers?

One unique way of preventing cookie based tracking is to isolate them, sort of like storing them in different jars. But in this case, we use Firefox Containers. Note that you may also block all third-party cookies in the browser, and that should deal with the bulk of cookie-based tracking as well.

Firefox container tabs

You can have a container for Google, another for Twitter, a separate one for Amazon, one for your bank, a different for PayPal, and so on. Each of these act as a digital container, each containing the cookies of the website you want. Your Amazon cookie is restricted to its container, your bank’s to its container, etc. Get it? This way, none of the websites have access to the cookies or the history of the other websites. This enhances your privacy greatly.

Firefox containers always open

Another advantages of using Firefox Containers is to use multiple accounts, in case you have more than one on the same service. While you are at it, you should also use uBlock Origin to prevent ad banners and malicious scripts from tracking you.

Firefox containers

Will Firefox Containers guarantee my privacy?

They can minimize the tracking. Nothing can guarantee your privacy, because most services are constantly finding new ways to track users for marketing, advertising, affiliate purposes and some of them have unlimited resources for this. We live in a digital world, we can only do so much. Don’t use cloud services for storing personal data, passwords, clear your cookies regularly, avoid shady sites and suspicious URLs, use throw away accounts if you have to. Tor and VPNs can help too, but make sure you don’t use them with your regular account’s containers.

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How to disable autoplay videos in Telegram Desktop

Autoplaying videos are one of the biggest annoyances on the Internet. Nobody likes a loud, blaring, noisy video to play unexpectedly.

Telegram desktop autoplay videos in chats

Sadly, many websites think it’s cool to have them. I have seen them on Steam too, during sale events or a new game launch or award ceremonies, or on Netflix, with its dreaded auto-play on hover.

The Telegram Desktop application was updated to version 1.9.3 today and it adds a few features (Telegram app was updated as well). I like the new spell checker and the resume playback option for videos is nice too. But the update also brings autoplay videos in chats. I don’t really see why they enabled this by default for the desktop version.

Initially, I didn’t notice it. But when I switched to another program and back, I noticed that I had received a couple of video messages which were autoplaying in-line. This was odd because, I always manually downloaded videos and they played in the full-screen mode. The in-line autoplay media’s audio was muted while the video kept playing.

disable autoplay videos in Telegram Desktop

What really annoyed me was that there was no way to pause this in-line video, so it just kept playing (which in turn should be using some memory in the background). I thought sending a new message would stop the video but it did not. Multiple videos were playing at the same time too. Clicking on the video switches it to the full screen view and right-clicking on it just shows the regular options.

Then I remembered that the service had introduced this autoplay feature in their mobile app last year and that it was optional. Fortunately, the update message from Telegram does mention where to find the setting to disable autoplay videos.

But look at the screenshot and you will probably agree that it is a bit confusing.

How to disable autoplay videos in Telegram Desktop

1. Click on the menu button and then on Settings.

2. Select “Advanced”.

3. This screen has a section named “Automatic Media Download” that has 3 options “In Private Chats, In Groups, In channels”.

How to disable autoplay videos in Telegram Desktop app

4. Click on the first one (Private chats) and in the next screen, disable the toggles next to Videos and Round Video Messages.

disable autoplay videos in Telegram Desktop program

5. Hit the Save button.

Once you do this, videos will no longer automatically be downloaded or autoplay. Depending on your requirements, i.e., whether you want to disable autoplay videos completely, repeat Step 4 and 5 for Groups and Channels.

Personally I would have liked one setting named “Autoplay videos” and a toggle for it, instead of having to switch to three screens and repeat the steps. Disabling autoplay videos also disables the in-line video player. So, even if you’ve downloaded a video manually, the only way to view it is in the full-screen mode. The in-line player for desktop would actually be nice if it had an option to pause the video. In its current state you literally can’t use it at all.

For those who don’t know, Telegram’s Round Videos were formerly called Telescope videos, and that’s just a fancy term for “video messages” that are sent in a round format instead of a rectangle. And I thought Xbox nailed it with their naming schemes.

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How to copy, select and search text in ePub books using SumatraPDF

SumatraPDF has been our go-to PDF and ePub reader for quite a few years, and I’m sure that some of you may be using it too.

I’ll admit to using Microsoft Edge (Chakracore) occasionally to quickly view a document or two, but the solution is not as fast and usually not my top choice when it comes to that.

Tip: check out our EPUB reader overview here.

How to copy, select and search text in ePub books using SumatraPDF - issue

But with the new Edge-Chromium browser dropping support for ePubs and the fact that it will replace the other Edge, I stopped using it as a document viewer and rely solely on the light-weight reader.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to help with an ePub. This was a textbook which he was trying to take notes from. But the problem was that the ePub’s text could not be selected, hence there was no way to copy content from it.

Now, if you find yourself with an ePub and want to search for text,  you may notice that the toolbar at the top  (which has the find tool) won’t be visible, so you can’t do that.

There is a very simple way to fix this, and it only takes a few seconds.

How to copy, select and search text in ePub books using SumatraPDF

1. Click on the menu button (in the top left corner) of SumatraPDF’s interface

2. Navigate to the Settings menu and click on Advanced Options.

3. A text document named “SumatraPDF-settings.txt” should open in Notepad (or your default editor).

4. Look for the line which says UseFixedPageUI = false. It’s under the EbookUI settings.

How to copy, select and search text in ePub books using SumatraPDF reader

5. Change the value from false to true, so it should read UseFixedPageUI = true.

6. Save the document, close SumatraPDF and re-open it.

Load the ePub document again in the program, and it should now have text that is selectable and searchable. That was easy, wasn’t it?

How to copy, select and search text in ePub books using SumatraPDF

There is a caveat to this. It breaks the document’s formatting, but the extent of it depends on the ePub.

That’s because the program doesn’t support XHTML completely (ePub is based on HTML). So, when you force the change, it renders it in HTML and the CSS style elements which aren’t supported are broken. If your ebook does not contain a lot of CSS formatting, it should work perfectly fine. I tested this with some free eBooks from Gutenberg and some textbooks, and the latter had some issues. But, there’s an easy solution for this as well.

Even if the document does not display perfectly, you may still use the feature to copy the text that you are interested in before you restore the preference to its default value.

SumatraPDF breaks eBook formatting

SumatraPDF’s stable version was updated sometime in 2016. But the program is still actively being updated frequently on the pre-release and daily builds. Download the latest one, and try the same fix which we mentioned above for enabling search, selection, etc. And you’ll find that the new builds may preserve the eBook formatting.

An alternative would be to use the Calibre program for reading ePubs. It does offer selecting text and the other options natively. But it has always been considerably slower to load, at least for me.

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How to install VMWare tools if the option is grayed out

I use VMWare Workstation Player primary to run Linux but a few days ago I wanted to install a virtual copy of Windows 10 to test some upcoming features. Virtual machines are great for testing operating systems or programs as they can be set up relatively quickly, don’t alter existing installations and don’t interfere with the underlying operating system.

How to install VMWare tools if the option is grayed out

I got the ISO using Martin’s guide and the installation went fine. But then, I noticed that it didn’t install the VMWare tools like it would normally do.

One of the important features that these tools add is the ability to copy data from the virtual machine to the host operating system or vice-versa. That’s how I actually came to know that the tools weren’t installed, it didn’t let me move some folders from my main Windows 10 to the VM version.

I knew that I had chosen the option to download VMWare tools when creating the virtual machine. I even remember the message log displaying the notification that the tools had been downloaded. Oddly, when I clicked the Manage option the install VMWare tools option was grayed out.

Hoping to find a fix, I began to look around and came across official documentation on VMWare’s support portal. According to the page, the virtual CD/DVD drive should be set to “Auto Detect” so that VMWare would let the user install VMWare Tools. The option which I wanted to change in the virtual machine’s CD/DVD drive was set to use my Windows 10 ISO and I couldn’t change this setting.

How to install VMWare tools if the option is grayed out - new issue

Here’s what I tried (and failed)

  1. Ejecting the Windows ISO. I hoped this would free the drive and the virtual machine would let me install the tools.
  2. Disconnecting and reconnecting the virtual optical drive.
  3. Adding a second CD/DVD drive. It just kept giving me SATA0 errors.

None of this worked. This is when I searched the VMWare forums and found the solution on this thread.

How to install VMWare tools if the option is grayed out

1. Shut down the virtual machine.

2. Open VMWare Workstation Player and right-click on the VM. (Don’t start the VM)

3. Select the “Settings” option to edit the hardware settings.

4. Highlight the CD/Drive on the left side-bar under the Hardware tab and click on the remove button.

5. Repeat the above step to remove the Floppy Drive. (Optional, but this is what fixed it for me. Courtesy: AskUbuntu forums)

6. Click on the “Add button” and select “CD/DVD” Drive and select finish. The right pane should have now have the option “Use Physical Drive > Auto Detect” enabled. (Previously, it had the Windows ISO selected)

How to install VMWare tools if the option is grayed out - add cd dvd drive

7. Click on “OK” to close the window, and Start the VM as normal.

8. Once it has booted to the desktop, click on the menu at the top left corner and go to “Player > Manage > Install VMWare Tools”.

The option should no longer be greyed out. Click on it to install the VMWare Tools. You will also see a new tab at the bottom of the screen prompting you to install the tools.

How to install VMWare tools if the option is grayed out final

If this doesn’t work, you can try to manually download the VMWare Tools ISO, mount it in a virtual drive and install it. This isn’t limited to Windows 10 VMs, it should work on any VM be it Linux, macOS, or older versions of Windows.

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