Block all traffic from Russia to coming your site

Whether you want to say “no!” to Putin’s war or you just want to block Russian hackers from attacking your website, the solution is as easy as:

  1. Connect to your website via FTP and download current version for .htaccess file from there
  2. Make a copy of this file, just in case…
  3. Go to Country IP Blocks website
  4. Search for Russian Federation and check the checkbox next to it
  5. Scroll the page all the way up and make sure that Apache .htaccess Deny is selected
  6. Click Create ACL button and copy all the content from ACL Results list that will appear
  7. Paste it at the end of your .htaccess file and save the file
  8. Upload it back to your website via FTP overwriting the existing file

Sure, this is not the ultimate solution. Use of proxy servers, Tor networks, botnets and other techniques for spoofing actual IP address will get them through your “so called firewall”. Also, IP address assigmnets changes often, so Country IP Blocks database might already be out-dated (if fact, it is). But, hey!, it’s always something. As good for the start as anything else. And surely better than doing nothing.

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Simple data validation or enum fields in Excel

Excel is still often used for simple time tracking or roadmap planning in small IT projects. It is good to know that with a simple steps you can create a basic data validation for certain fields in your sheets.

Kind of validation, as discussed here, focuses on forcing user to select or enter only values that are found in some reference list (dictionary). A classing enum / enumerator field well known in databases. If user provided an incorrect (out of scope) value then an error is displayed:

Unfortunately, due to nature of Microsoft Excel, this fails completely when data is pasted.

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Fix small HDD surface errors using low-level format

Anyone out there still using a non-SSD disks or hard disks at all? :) While I do believe in cloud data storage, I am an old dinosaur that wishes to have some off-line copy of my most important data. For this reason, I am using (for past 12+ years) a NAS and a number of 4-5 TB disks (I have a lot of important data).

Two days ago one of my disks started to get wako with me being unable to copy certain files. My diagnosis was quick and only confirmed by designated software — surface error, years ago known as “bac blocks”.

Since the disk was one month after five years long warranty, I had to try to fix it myself. For this reason I used two free pieces of software — HDD Low Level Format Tool 4.40 and HD Tune 2.55 Free to confirm.

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Get rid of “Pick up where you left off” from Word — three methods

Microsoft loves to “enrich” our lives with a wonderful (in their opinion) yet totally useless and pissing off (in our opinions) features. The “Pick up where you left off” is one of them.

This tiny little thing wouldn’t be so irritating and could be easily ignored, if it wouldn’t be for a single fact. It blocks keyboard shortcuts completely, until it hides itself (so for approx. 3-5 seconds)! Preventing you from pressing Ctrl+F to do an ultra-fast-searching-millisecond-after-opening-a-document (my beloved feature).

There’s a fairly easy solution to this problem (my own article) that requires you to do some dirty tricks in the Windows Registry. One and a half month after writing that article it turned out that a method described there simply isn’t working at all on one of my computers. So I came out with the following post.

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Randomize background of a webpage

Suppose that you have a landing page (or just a cool background) and you have some many versions of it, and all so beautiful, that you can’t decide which one to show. Some kind of weird solution is to show them all in a random manner.

If you wish to achieve something similar to this then all you need is a really short piece of HTML, JavaScript and CSS. All can be put to a single file.

Since I like a clean and easy solution, this one use pure-JavaScript. No jQuery stuff etc. included.

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Sending executable file through Gmail in Windows

For obvious security reasons, Google will do anything that is in their power to stop you from sending .exe, .apk and other executable files as email messages’ attachments. But, sometimes it is very needed to send such file (in a completely legitimate scenarios). And doing so in Gmail becomes a serious task.

This is, because simple encrypting (password-protecting) such files isn’t enough right now. Since password-protected files encrypts their content only and thus list of attached files is available. Gmail can scan such file and learn that you’re trying to send an executable file even without knowing the password.

Simple extension rename: .exe –> .nothing also doesn’t work today. Google is somehow able to check mime-type of files attached in encrypted archives and doesn’t rely on file extensions anymore.

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Start Office 365 apps with a document

Office 365 off-line apps brings new start-up behavior of showing a summary screen instead of starting with an empty document open. If you like the “old” behavior then there’s a very easy way to achieve this:

  1. Open Word / Excel / Power Point
  2. Go to OptionsGeneralStart up options
  3. Uncheck the Show the Start screen when this application starts item
  4. Click OK to confirm

Restart app to see the effect.

Full-screen vertically and horizontally centered text in CSS

This is as easily as adding one single div:

<div class="css-vh-center">
    Hello World <br />
    Hello World <br />
    Hello World <br />
</div>

and styling it properly:

.css-vh-center {
    position: fixed; /* or absolute */
    top: 50%;
    left: 50%;
    /* bring your own prefixes */
    transform: translate(-50%, -50%);
}

All the glory goes to this Stack Overflow answer.

Note that this is not using flex-box solution (see the above linked answer for details), so should work even in older pre-IE8 browsers.

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Disable “Pick up where you left off” in Word

The “Pick up where you left off” is one of the worst features that Microsoft added to Word, because it prevents you from quickly opening and searching the document. With this feature enabled, now you have to wait approx. 3-5 seconds after you open any document and before you can hit Ctrl+F.

Disabling this feature is fairly easy, but — because this is Microsoft — again involves messing up with the Windows Registry, so you need administrator account in order to perform these steps.

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Remove one-letter word (orphans) from the end of line

In English an orphan is:

A paragraph-opening line that appears by itself at the bottom of a page or column, thus separated from the rest of the text

Thus, in English typography it is understood in the context of the whole paragraph. Single line of a new paragraph, left alone on the preceding page (before page break) is not allowed.

Polish language is more strict by that and “explores” an alternative (less known) definition of “orphan”. In Polish typography this term is understood in the context of single line and regarded as a:

Single word (single letter in most cases) left along at the end of line (next to right paragraph).

And similarly this is prohibited in Polish typesetting.

In this article you can find a Word macro for removing such orphans from your text.

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From Google Maps to Strava…

…or any other service, software or device that supports .gpx files. In one… two… six… steps! :)

  1. Plot any track in Google Maps
  2. If there are alternative routes found by Google, make sure that you’ve picked just one
  3. Copy entire URL and paste it into Maps to GPX service
  4. Download resulting .gpx file
  5. Create a new route in Strava
  6. Click Upload GPX button and upload downloaded .gpx file

And… you’re done.

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Update Origin when it claims a missing DLL

Because Electronic Arts hires a complete morons as developers of their Origin software, you will often find yourself in a situation where:

  • Automatic update of Origin for PC fails asking you to download offline installer
  • Running offline installer fails with missing DLLs error

Leaving you with virtually no options for updating Origin client.

“Virtually”, because by a complete accident I found a solution for EA stupidity.

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The “start here” point in Ultibo

Ultibo is the very new / completely different way of programming for Raspberry Pi. You are no longer installing any kind of Linux on your RPi and writing some app or script for it.

Instead:

  • You create your own kernel image, in which you can do virtually anything
  • For very simple solutions your entire RPi “system” can be as small as 1 MB
  • You’re programming everything that you need using Free Pascal in a modified Lazarus IDE

Developing anything from scratch sounds like a extremely huge and overwhelming task. More like inventing the wheel again. Well… not necessary.

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Enable FTP support in Chrome / Edge (August 2021)

There’s an answer at Super User that explains how to enable FTP protocol support in Chrome. It is dated May 29th and right now (Chrome 92 / Edge 92) it is already out-dated / no longer valid. It took only two months to make enable-ftp flag completely gone from Chrome and Edge browsers:

Right now (August 2021) you still have a chance too access FTP address in Chrome / Edge (details below), but I expect that my answer will become outdated in next couple of months just as in the above mentioned case.

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Rename an Amazon Lightsail instance

Amazon Lightsail is a perfect solution for a newbies to cloud computing like me. It offers a very simplified interface and overall approach into creation and management of fully featured VPSes (Virtual Private Servers) without the overhead and hassle of using more complex and more professional solutions like Amazon EC2.

The most important part of its greatness, next to simplicity, is pricing. The smallest possible option (just a virtual server with:

  • 512 MB memory and 1 core processor
  • 20 GB SSD disk and 1 TB of outbound traffic per month

which is far enough to host a simple-to-middle WordPress site will cost you 3.5 USD per month only. One static IP (with the possibility of using your own domain thus) is added free of charge.

You will be billed more only if your site has enough interest to go beyond that 1 TB outgoing traffic or if you decide that you need more computing power. Other than that — just a plain three and a half buck per month.

However, there’s a little glitch when you create your instance with an incorrect or misleading name, because the process of renaming Amazon Lightsail instance includes a few steps and some downtime on your website.

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Fix incorrect mp3 duration with mp3val

I’ve found a few files for which:

  • Video LAN for Windows was playing them without any problems (after a 1 second glitch),
  • Winamp for Windows was playing them also without problems, but showing 00:00 as each file’s duration
  • mobile player for Android failed to play them showing Cannot play content error.

A quick look-around the Internet showed that a tiny mp3val program can validate any .mp3 file and fix most errors, it finds.

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Batch remove silence from many MP3 files

I’ve downloaded over fifty one hour long recordings of my church-related celebrations. As with most of such recordings, every file contains about 5-6 minutes of:

  • silence or
  • non-related sounds

in the beginning during priest’s processing, people gathering etc. Plus it concludes some silence during various moments of celebrations. I wanted to get rid of it.

I found this eleven years old question at Super User. It’s not only very old, but also off-topic (no software recommendation-like questions allowed at SU) so I decided to put my own update here.

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Print two A5 pages on singe A4 paper sheet

Suppose you have a Microsoft Word document that is formatted to be printed on A5 pages. For any reason (you don’t have A5 page, you want to save paper etc.) you want to print it so that two A5 pages will appear next to each other on single A4 page.

On contrary to common beliefs this is not as easy as selecting 2 Pages Per Sheet because, without additional settings, your printer will be still asking you to feed it with A5 paper.

It’s not that easy, but the solution is still surprisingly simple.

This article is specific to (ISO 216 standard) paper size standard and for printing two A5 pages on one A4 sheet. But the very same steps should theoretically work in every scenario where you want to print two half-sized pages on single page format that is twice as big. Thus, printing (plotting?) two B3 pages on one huge B2 poster should work. Or printing two Letter-sized pages (216 × 279 mm) on one Ledger page (432 × 279 mm).

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