How I beat shortcut virus

​A few days ago, I repaired an external hard drive of a friend who’s drive happens to be infected by a shortcut virus, which hides your files in a hidden folder and makes you think they’re gone or corrupted, and makes you think  you have nothing to do other than to reformat your hard drive. I repaired his drive by going into Safe Mode, ticking “Show hidden items, folders, and drives”, “Hide extensions for known file types” and “Hide protected operating system files” on the Folder Options Advanced settings. I deleted the Javascript and batch file associated with the problem, and before I go out of Safe Mode, the problem didn’t came back. Or so I thought it didn’t.

Although it did ultimately repaired my friend’s external hard disk drive, little did I know that it already infected my computer. Just yesterday, I noticed that when I inserted my USB thumb drive; I was surprised that the same thing is happening again. “No worries”, I said. I simply did all the things I did before. I entered Safe Mode, enabled “Show hidden items, folders, and drives”, “Hide extensions for known file types”and “Hide protected operating system files” on the Folder Options Advanced settings and deleted the batch file named “Drive.bat” and a hidden folder with a Javascript file. I even reformatted the thumb drive for good measure. Upon restarting the computer and after booting normally, the problem is back. That’s where I started to think that the computer is infected. Baffled, I started finding answers on the Internet, which often advices to download various anti-malware programs. I already have Avira as an antivirus but it didn’t detect the shortcut virus. Nonetheless, I did downloaded all the programs said to remove the malware. The next problem is, the virus won’t let me open them. Frustrated, I thought of pinpointing the virus’ source myself. I ran Task Manager and look for suspicious programs running in the background. There, I saw two very suspicious-looking programs named gorajol.exe and txnqegjc.exe. I opened their file locations and saw that they are residing in the AppData/Roaming folder, inside a folder named kdrfddg. Obviously, this is a red flag. I tried killing them using Task Manager but they’ll just simply pop right back. Next step, I ran gpedit.msc (Local Group Policy Editor), enabled “Don’t run specified Windows applications” policy and added the suspicious programs on the “List of disallowed applications”. After that, I went back to Task Manager to kill those programs, and upon doing so, my computer shuts down after a few seconds. Aha! So you finally showed yourself. I once again entered Safe Mode, opened the AppData/Roaming folder and deleted the folder where the suspicious programs resides. After that, I ran CCleaner to clean the files and registry, then restarted the computer and booted normally. Voilà! Problem solved. I didn’t know it was that simple. And I didn’t even used an anti-malware program to begin with. 

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ABX test: FLAC vs Ogg Vorbis 96 kbps

My first post after more than 2 years! How cool is that?

I have been playing with Spotify this past few days after being disappointed on playing gapless albums on my Samsung Galaxy S7 (it looks like this issue is prevalent on Samsung devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, since I have seen posts regarding Samsung Galaxy S6 users being able to play gaplessly on Android 5.0 Lollipop, only to lost it thereafter upon OS upgrade.)

Anyway, as probably most people know, you have three quality choices for Streaming and Download on Spotify namely Normal, High, and Extreme, the latter being only available for Premium subscribers. As someone who’s into details, Normal, High, and Extreme to describe quality isn’t enough.

What’s great is Spotify already has this information on their website:

  • ~96 kbps
    • Normal quality on mobile.
  • ~160 kbps
    • Desktop and web player standard quality.
    • High quality on mobile.
  • ~320 kbps (only available to Premium subscribers)
    • Desktop high quality.
    • Extreme quality on mobile.

And most importantly, they’re all in Ogg Vorbis format.

Ogg Vorbis had been shown to perform significantly better than many other lossy audio formats especially MP3.

Personally, I wouldn’t use Extreme quality. I know my hearing isn’t that perfect than it used to be; listening tests show that my hearing rolls off at about 15 kHz. And besides, it would consume a lot of bandwidth. I only have 800 MB/day, I wouldn’t use it all on streaming music alone.

To test whether I need High quality setting or is Normal enough, I did an ABX. For those who doesn’t know what ABX is, it is a method of comparing two choices of sensory stimuli to identify detectable differences between them. I don’t have any fancy equipments like a desktop digital-to-analog converter, or an amplifier. All I have is my Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Studio Monitoring headphones plugged into the 3.5mm headphone jack of my desktop computer using onboard VIA® VT1705. For the ABX software, I used foobar2000’s ABX comparator tool on WASAPI event.

I started the test using a lossless digital copy of my favorite pop artist, Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in Your Eyes”. Surprisingly, I failed the test, meaning, I cannot distinguish the 96 kbps Ogg Vorbis version from the original, lossless version. This is actually a good thing, since this means that Ogg Vorbis has done its job well of being transparent, at least as I am concerned, at lower bitrates compared to MP3, which I can ABX successfully up to about 160 kbps. But I’m not satisfied. Knowing that I have been ABXing the whole day (before this test, I have been ABXing different formats, bitrates for other purposes), I slept on it. A few minutes after waking up, I did the ABX again. This time with a more complex song, Theatre of Tragedy’s “Storm”. I ran the test 14 times, and correctly identified which is which 13 times (I failed the first trial until I got to pinpoint what I need to hear to tell the difference). As usual, this fast-paced metal song revealed a smearing on the cymbals sound, but the difference is so subtle, I don’t think you’re gonna hear it using your typical earphones that came with your smartphone or by a casual listening session on a typical home audio system.

Simply put, I can tell the difference between a lossless audio and Spotify’s 96 kbps Normal quality. Then you would finally say, “Great, choose High!” Well, no. I don’t think High quality will offer a “higher” perceivable quality as my hearing is concerned while offering almost 70% increase in data consumption. And besides, as I have already said, the difference between the lossless and the 96 kbps Ogg Vorbis is so teensy-weensy minute that I don’t think you would notice it on its own (without an original, uncompressed audio to compare it with).

Dilemma solved. Normal it is!

 

 

Sources:
https://support.spotify.com/ph/using_spotify/search_play/what-bitrate-does-spotify-use-for-streaming/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABX_testhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorbis#Quality
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Sugar Hiccup’s “Five Years” and the History Behind It

I had a conversation in Facebook with Ms. Jeanette Reyna-Jorge, the latest vocalist of Sugar Hiccup, the band from the 90’s that brought you indie rock classics such as “Five Years”, “Moden De”, “Bleed” and “Awa”. Everyone knows Sugar Hiccup’s “Five Years”. No one knows Sugar Hiccup without knowing that song. Back in 1995 upon the release of Five Years as Sugar Hiccup’s first single, mainstream radio stations in the Philippines were initially hesitant to play it. With its unintelligible, funereal wailing, thunderous drums, and doleful guitars, it was welcomed by Manila’s alternative scene before it was embraced by the masses. Like me, some of Sugar Hiccup fans out there want to know the story behind this hauntingly beautiful song. I accomplish that by asking Ms. Reyna-Jorge this several questions:

Ronald Cubelo (June 3 at 7:58am)
Good morning, Ms. Jing! I have this question. Alam kong wala pa kayo sa Sugar Hiccup at the time of  “Five Years” production, pero baka lang alam mo, or if not, you can ask fellow band members of this. Everybody knows “Five Years” has a haunting sound, kaya medyo naghesitate ang mga local radio stations na patugtugin yon. I want to know the history behind it; bakit ganoon ang kinalabasan ng kanta, halos one-line lyrics lang? Who wrote it and how did the band come up with the idea of making that? May gusto ba silang maachieve like sounding like a “goth” or something? And the title also, what does the “Five Years” mean? Anong significance ng title sa minimal lyrics, etc.? Hope you can quench my curiousity, Hehe.. Thanks, Ms. Jing! More power to your band 😉
[Good morning, Ms. Jing! I have this question. I know you weren’t still at Sugar Hiccup at the time of “Five Years” production, but maybe you knew, or if not, you can ask fellow band members of this. Everybody knows “Five Years” has a haunting sound, that why local radio stations slightly hesitated to play it. I want to know the history behind it; why is the song like that, almost one-line lyric only? Who wrote it and how did the band come up with the idea of making that? Did they wanted to achieve like sounding like a “goth” or something? And the title also, what does the “Five Years” mean? What is the significance of the title to the minimal lyrics, etc.? Hope you can quench my curiousity, Hehe.. Thanks, Ms. Jing! More power to your band ;)]

Jing Reyna-jorge (June 3 at 12:56pm)
One of sugar Hiccup’s major influences during that time was a British band called Cocteau Twins, if you’re familiar with their music, more of the ambient, sort of gothic, dark and haunting sound. And their lyrics are in gibberish or in tongues sometimes, and could be poetic with soaring vocals. The name Sugar Hiccup is actually a track from one of their albums. I think that’s where the band got it’s name and undoubtedly their haunting sound but of course there are other influences, but more of the new wave/dream pop/ambient genre. Well according to the bassist, he’s the only original member left, “Five Years” doesn’t have a title before, and the bassist actually thought of the main riff for the song, explaining the dominant bass part at the beginning of the song. They were just jamming it, no lyrics yet, whatsoever, the bassist wants it to be just a humming song; they usually performed it at the beginning of their gig, cause it’s meant to be a warm up for Melody, sort of vocalisation thing, explaining the crescendo patterns of the humming parts. I don’t know if this is accurate, but the title came in after as a suggestion. I think Melody has a story behind that lyrics which is ver apt.. Interesting no? It was an instant hit, I think they got signed because of it.

Jing Reyna-jorge (June 3 at 1:02pm)
Again the bassist shared a story behind that one liner lyrics of Melody, it’s meant for someone yata, and she is sort of frustrated or angry in a way with that someone, well I can only assume.
[Again the bassist shared a story behind that one liner lyrics of Melody, it’s meant for someone maybe, and she is sort of frustrated or angry in a way with that someone,well I can only assume.]

There you go. By Ms. Jing’s story, we can speculate that she (Melody del Mundo, the vocalist of Sugar Hiccup at the time of Five Years recording) and someone had been together for FIVE YEARS, broke up, and “He will never be back..” Well anyway, only Melody could clarify this.

Hope this will give some peace of mind to every Sugar Hiccup fan that are not yet breathless, senseless, or thoughtless* 🙂

— Written by Ronald Cubelo, (June 03, 2011 Fri 2:04pm UTC +8)

*lyrics from Sugar Hiccup’s song “Death”

originally written and posted here.

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Dancer in the Dark (2000) – a review

Dancer in the Dark” is a 2000 Danish musical/drama film directed by Lars von Trier and starring Björk as the main character, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Cara Seymour, Peter Stormare, Siobhan Fallon Hogan and Joel Grey.

After more than a month, I finally got the time, chance and courage to watch this 2-hour and 14 minute film of mixed musical and drama. The film starts with incoherent, colorful patterns that I still don’t know what to do with the rest of the film. It actually made me remember of watching another Lars von Trier film, “Antichrist” with almost the same kind of opening sequence.

Back to the story, it all starts with Selma, a Czech immigrant who has moved to the United States with her son, Gene. Selma and her son lives in poverty while Selma works at a factory with her friend, Kathy. She also attends a rehearsal of a theater play with Selma as one of the main characters. Selma lives in a trailer home inside the property of Bill, a policeman and his wife, Linda. Selma also has a “suitor” named Jeff. None of Selma’s acquaintances know her secret, even her own son, that they have a hereditary disease which gradually will make them blind. Selma is saving up money (putting it in a candy tin can and hides it in her kitchen) for her son’s operation to prevent him from suffering the same situation as Selma’s. Selma is somewhat very inclined to music. A simple rhythm (the sound that machines in the factory makes, etc.) can make her daydream that everyone in her surrounding, including her, suddenly burst into musical numbers very much like Hollywood. Because of this, Selma often make mistakes in the factory that almost injured her and ultimately broke a machine.

I’m sure that most people, as the film progresses, will think Selma as a psycho (it’s extreme daydreaming she encounters). I also thought of that at some point. Anyway, Bill, the police officer who owns the property where Selma’s living, reveals that there is nothing left in his inheritance, because his wife Linda is living a luxurious life while they are behind payments and the bank is going to acquire Bill’s house. Selma tells her own secret about her disease to comfort Bill and promising each other to keep each other’s secret. As the story goes, Bill then asked Selma for a loan, knowing she’s been saving up, but Selma declines, telling him that the money she’s been saving is for the eye operation of her son, Gene. On one of the scenes, Bill and Selma said goodnight to each other. Bill then closes the door. On the other hand, Selma, heard the door closed, thinks that Bill has gone out but in reality, Bill is still inside, watching Selma where she’s hides her money (Selma, at this time sees almost very poorly). The next day, after having broken her machine on night shift through careless error, Selma is fired from her job. When she comes home to put her final wages away she finds the tin is empty; she goes next door to report the theft to Bill and Linda only to hear Linda discussing how Bill has brought home their safe deposit box to count their savings. Linda additionally reveals that Bill has “confessed” his affair with Selma, and that Selma must move out immediately. Knowing that Bill was broke and that the money he is counting must be hers, she confronts him and attempts to take the money back. He draws a gun on her, and in a struggle he is wounded. Linda discovers the two of them and, assuming that Selma is attempting to steal the money, runs off to tell the police at Bill’s command. Bill then begs Selma to take his life, telling her that this will be the only way she will ever reclaim the money that he stole from her. Selma shoots at him several times, but due to her blindness manages to only maim Bill further. In one of the scenes, Selma slips into a trance and imagines that Bill’s corpse stands up and slow dances with her, urging her to run to freedom. She does, and takes the money to the Institute for the Blind to pay for her son’s operation before the police can take it from her. Selma is then caught and eventually put on trial. From this moment forward, I feel so much pity on Selma and so much anger for Bill for dragging Selma in all of this. Selma’s been saving up to “save” her son but Bill took it from her. As the court scene progressed, Selma is eventually convicted and is to be hanged. Meanwhile, Kathy and Jeff got Selma’s money back using it instead to pay for a private lawyer who has an ability to win her case. Knowing that the money to be paid was the one intended for her son’s operation, Selma becomes furious and refuses the lawyer, opting to face the death penalty rather than let her son go blind. The day of the execution comes and Brenda, a sympathetic female prison guard accompanies Selma to walk. While walking, she is then again goes into a daydreaming mode, dancing, opening cells and hugging other inmates. Arriving at the gallows, Selma becomes terrified which made her to be strapped on a collapse board. She screams that she can’t breathe after she is placed with a hood over her face. To calm Selma, Kathy then rushes to inform her that the operation was successful and her son, Gene will be alright. Relieved, Selma sings a song on the gallows in a cappella, when suddenly she was hanged before she finishes the song. A curtain is drawn in front of her while she is seen hanging (resembles the musical/theater part of the film, which can mean the final curtain, the end, etc.) while the unsung part of the song was shown on screen: “They say it’s the last song/They don’t know us, you see/It’s only the last song/If we let it be.” The ending is one of the most wretched and depressing film endings I saw to date. The gallows scene especially the part that she fell and ultimately hanged then accompanied with a silence is very brutal and disturbing for some. Being a fan of horror films, I am quite used in terror but this is of a different kind. But I will stay on my word on watching every film on “25 Movies That Will Destroy Your Faith in Humanity” list.

To conclude, the film is a mixture of drama and merry musicals with a serious tone in it, most of the scenes are certainly depressing. This film is not for the faint-hearted. I give Björk a 5 out of 5 for an outstanding performance. Meanwhile, Lars von Trier, quoted from the 25 Movies That Will Destroy Your Faith in Humanity article, is “so good at completely destroying his audience” that I will also give him a 5 out of 5 (His “Antichrist” film will also give the same feeling, though more brutal.. literally). All in all, definitely a great film to watch. But don’t say I didn’t warned you.

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Antichrist (2009) – A review attempt

(My first attempt to review a movie. Didn’t gave much of the plot to not spoil the story. You watch it yourself.)

Antichrist is a 2009 Danish art film written and directed by Lars von Trier, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It follows horror film conventions and tells the story of a couple who, after the death of their child, retreat to a cabin in the woods where the man experiences strange visions and the woman manifests increasingly violent sexual behaviour.

I first saw the link (http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/25-movies-that-will-destroy-your-faith-in-humanity) from a Facebook friend who shared it. Apparently, I’m looking for this kind of films. It’s been almost a month and finally I’ve got the time, energy (and courage). I watched the film at about 3am without any expectations. The first thing that shocked me was the love scene between He (Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and I told myself “This is definitely NSFW”. Moving on, the death of their child due to an accident is reason why She was in deep anxiety while her therapist husband does everything to cure her. The first 70 minutes was all about weeping, fear, and talk. I was about to doze off until the start of the brutal scenes which left me very awake until the end of the movie. The last 28 minutes will made you realize what really is evil on this film. I watched the movie in it’s entirety even up to the credits which is almost 6 minutes long. Since I’m wearing headphones and the credit’s music is as eerie as the woods mentioned in the film, those 6 minutes feels like an eternity. I actually had a big sigh of relief after. Caution: this is not for the faint-hearted. If you think that “horror” is all ghosts and monsters and “brutal” in the likeness of the movie “Saw”, think again. Wait until the truth unfolds.

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Perfection

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

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