Mac Equivalents of PC Programs

I get asked a lot by people “where is this thing I used to have” when people have switched from a Windows computer to an Apple. This article is just a quick write up to show people the equivalent or similar software between the two systems.

  1. Task Manager: In windows this is the program you go to when you need to end a task when its no longer responding. In windows you can access it by pressing ctrl + alt + delete on your keyboard or right clicking on the task bar and clicking on “Task Manager”. On a Mac you’ve got basically the same tool its just called something different – “Activity Monitor” you can access it by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities >Activity Monitor. If you just need to force close an app and don’t need the other features of activity monitor you can simply press Command + Option + Escape
  2. The “Start Menu” & Search: From Windows Vista onwards we’ve had search available in the start menu. On a Mac we have a magnifying glass in the top right of the screen known as “Spotlight” to use it, simply click on the magnifying glass then type in whatever you are searching for. As for the start menu, on a Mac you don’t really have a menu you’ve got the dock – the colourful pictures along the bottom of your screen. If you still can’t find a certain app you think you have you’ll need to go into Mac’s equivalent of Windows Explorer. More on that next
  3. Windows Explorer: This one tends to confuse a lot of people for some reason, probably because everyone got so used to clicking “Computer” or “My Computer” – on a Mac your file explorer is referred to as “Finder” it’s the first application in your dock that looks like a strange smiling face. If you click on this you’ll notice you can now navigate your files. Here’s another trick though if you want to go to a specific path where you know a file exists press command + shift + g and you can specify the folder you would like to open.
  4. Control Panel: On a Mac your equivalent of  “Control Panel” is System Preferences. You can access it via the Utilities folder in Applications, you can use spotlight to find it – or you can press the option key and certain function keys to bring up specific System Preference windows (for example try Option + F2 (Increase Brightness) – another thing that confuses people here is the lack of an “Apply” button – once you change settings they apply. The only time they won’t is if you haven’t clicked the padlock to allow changes first (this is in the bottom left of certain preference windows in case you haven’t noticed it)
  5. Command Prompt: Some people, especially computer technicians still like to have access to a command based or terminal system for running certain commands. On a Mac this program is called “Terminal” again you can find this in the Utilities folder or use spotlight to find it. Keep in mind though that commands you may have been used to in Windows command prompt don’t necessarily translate to Mac Terminal. For example, if you want a directory listing you’ll have to type “ls” instead of “dir”. If you’re familiar with Linux commands you’ll probably recognise that terminal responds to nearly all linux commands.

This is really just scratching the surface an mainly focused on things that are installed out of the box on each system. If you have a question about an equivalent app for either system leave a comment below!


Repeating Wireless Signals

We get asked this a lot and I think there is a lot of confusion between repeating a wireless network and “extending” it.

Netgear had a few products a while back that did the extending trick, but the issue with them is that they create a second SSID for devices to connect to. Devices that can properly repeat networks will maintain the same SSID and devices that do this particularly well will prevent your device from dropping a connection as they move between the repeating points.

The problem with using range extenders – as listed above is that your device will drop connection from the first network, then reconnect to the new SSID – this works OK, until your device realises the other network and then can’t quite figure out whether it should connect to the first SSID or the extended one then drops out.

There are two manufacturers that we have used for doing repeating wireless networks (there are a lot more than two manufacturers that are capable of this though).

The first is Apple – using an Apple Airport Extreme and an Apple Airport Express. The extreme provides the network that the Airport Express can then connect to and repeat. They are relatively simple to set up using the Airport Utility Tool – however, if you don’t have that they can not really be configured. This setup also allows some other nifty features such as Airplay and USB sharing.

The second is TP-Link. If you have any TP-Link Modems or routers you should be able to repeat them with one of these – a TP-Link WR702N – this nifty device can repeat your existing network and once its configure you can just go and plug it in somewhere that has signal and it will repeat happily. Another advantage of this device and the Airport Express is making connection to a wired device without running a cable to it. Both devices have LAN ports for connecting cabled devices, which can be very useful in apartment buildings or sites where you can’t really knock holes in walls.

We’ve found it best practice to have the main router doing DHCP then assigning the wireless repeaters outside of the DHCP range so that everything can continue talking over the network even back through the repeating points. Be aware though that the TP-LINK WR702N should have its firmware updated before you deploy it, as some of the older firmware versions had issues that caused settings to be wiped or reset.

Open Drawer/Till Windows 7 / VendHQ Without Printing ANY Receipts

Recently I had to set up a computer to manually open a till drawer without using an installed program and without printing a receipt.

I read several forums and info and finally put together the information to allow me to do this.

One of the  biggest issues I noticed was people trying to send commands via COM ports to USB printers or LPT1 – there is a really simple way to actually fix this up.

In Windows it is actually possible to map LPT1 to a network share with the following command:

net use \\computername\sharename lpt1

Edit (3/4/2014) just realised the above command is wrong correct command below:

net use lpt1: \\computername\printersharename /persistent:yes

So the first step is, share your printer and make sure you know the share name. Find out the name of your computer (CTRL+Pause Break on your keyboard or Right Click Computer and goto Properties)

Once you know the two details the command is as above – net use lpt1: \\computername\printersharename



Once this is done, you can now send plain text print jobs via LPT1 but it will actually send it to your USB connected printer, or realistically any printer that you have set up the mapped connection to.

The next step is to get your till open codes for your printer. There is a comprehensive list of them here.

Once you have the till codes you then need to actually convert them to hexadecimal (hint: if you are using a calculator you need to do each number inidividually then put them together end result will be something like 1b700019fa or similar)

I then used the info from here that explains how to convert the code from hexadecimal to ASCII using Notepad++

Once you save that file, you are ready to send it to your printer and provided you have the correct codes it should open your cash drawer without printing a single line.

To send it to the printer, make a batch file in the same location as your text file that contains the open drawer codes and add this line to it:

Copy /b open.txt lpt1

Call it opendrawer.bat or something similar so you know what it is for. Now you can just double click this to open the drawer. All the above line does is sends the text file that you created earlier as a binary file to port lpt1 – which we conveniently have mapped to our POS printer earlier. When the printer receives this file its response is I got a drawer open code, send those voltrons out the DK port and open up that bad boy (technically it sends a 24V signal to a solenoid in the drawer that makes it open but I think the other description is easier to understand)

I ended up setting this up for a customer because VendHQ can not open the drawer without printing a small line of text (because of the way Vend prints it is practically impossible to support opening a drawer without printing something so don’t hold that against them)

If you want to make the opendrawer.bat file accessible from quick launch there is a trick to, create a shortcut to the batch file, then copy this (ctrl+c) then create a new shortcut (right click create new shortcut anywhere on the desktop) and paste in the location that you just copied. However, before clicking next make sure you add ‘explorer’ to the front of the line:



Click next, name the file what you want and you can now drag it to the quick launch bar (however it will have an explorer icon)

Hope this helps some people out there. Later I will upload my batch file and code file that I created to open the drawer on an Epson TM88V.




The Windows Starter Issue

I admit now with windows 8 we wont see this much but I know some people still unfortunately have the  base Windows starter 7 edition on some netbooks.

What is the issue?  For some strange reason after 180 days starter believes your password is incorrect or expired and will not allow you to log in.

Reset the password using MsDART locksmith and you are good to go again right?

No, well you are temporarily but the problem will come back again.

Unfortunately as well windows starter has much of the basic user password abilities inaccessible so you can’t just edit your users and fix the issue. Oh and forget about gpedit.msc that won’t work either

Luckily though we can use the trusty command prompt to set what most people normally see as a tick next to “Password Never Expires”

The command is simple:
net accounts /MaxPWAge:Unlimited

Once you have done this, you shouldn’t be prompted to set a password in 180 days again and can continue to use your computer as normal.


Blue screen of Death (BSOD) Fatal, but useful

We have all seen this screen before at some point in time – well if you use Windows anyway.

The BSOD shows when a system has had a fatal error of which it is unable to recover from. Sounds pretty nasty – it can be, but there is some useful information on the BSOD when it occurs.

Before I explain what this information is we need to know how to make it visible. Ever notice how when it occurs your computer generally reboots and tries to run as normal again?

Some years ago Microsoft changed the operating system to reboot whenever a bluescreen error was encountered – this was so that in public spaces such as airports instead of blue screens with white writing that said FATAL ERROR on them people would see the Windows logo with the loading bar.

Luckily, the ability to stop this behaviour was left in the operating system. Under Startup and recovery in the System properties found in control panel (Advanced System Settings in Vista and above) there is a check box under system failure for “Automatic Restart”. Simply uncheck this box and next time if your computer generates a BSOD – you will have the ability to read it.

Note though, this is only useful when the BSOD is occurring after windows has actually loaded. If it is occurring on boot there is a slightly different procedure.

Most of us will recall pressing the F8 key to get to the boot menu that allows us to go to Safe Mode. What most people never realise is another option that says “Disable automatic restart on system failure”

Selecting this option will attempt to boot your system as normal – However if a BSOD occurs the system will stop on the screen which will allow you to read its contents.

Now that we know how to make that screen stay visible, we can look at using it to determine what is failing.

A BSOD has a stop code, listed near the bottom of it an example is:

STOP 0X0000007B

This code can be one of the most important parts of the screen – another is any filenames that may occur e.g.


If you have the information from the BSOD you can really drill down to what exactly is causing the error. Microsoft support site for example has articles for many of the known stop codes and these articles not only provide a description of the problem but in many cases ways of resolving the issue.

If you have a filename as opposed to a stop code – you can sometimes determine whether an application may be causing the issue. If you work in the tech industry you should know certain files are responsible for certain things e.g. in the example above NTFS.SYS – a system driver responsibly for accessing NTFS volumes. If this filename is on your BSOD it is likely you have an issue with your hard drive, it could be failing or corrupt.

Some virus scanners such as AVG have also been known to cause BSOD errors with there DLL files – try be aware of system files vs application files. In the case of application files in many cases it is possible to remove problem software in safe mode that will rectify your issue.

BSOD’s can also be used to determine issues with faulty memory. How? look at the stop code, if your system has a particular fault your BSOD Stop code will be consistent. If it has faulty memory – the stop code will be random.

So even though a BSOD indicates a severe system failure – it can indicate to you very precise information about what is causing the system failure.

Virus Removal Tricks

Viruses are annoying. Now they are moving between all platforms as well – Apple, Microsoft, Linux even mobile operating systems have issues with bugs. This post will primarily focus on virus removal from Windows systems.

Recently there has been much more of occurrence of Malware – programs that appear to be safe but are actually malicious.

One of the keys to removing viruses is being able to find where they are running from. Some viruses are smart and limit your ability to use programs to find where they are running, or spawn randomly named processes that make it more difficult to find them.

Recently I came across a malware infections called Windows Protector SL, this program ran on boot and showed random messages saying there were infections and hardware failing.

To find the infections process, normally I attempt to run Task manager by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ESC or right clicking the task bar and going to Task Manager and alternatively typing taskmgr into the Run dialog box.

This virus however prevented it from running – so I attempted to use regedit, same error occurred. Luckily in Windows the command prompt provides some useful commands that can help aid in finding at the least the name of the infection and sometimes can even stop the process from being active.

In this case, we use the command tasklist. This will give a list of the processes running on the system, and other useful details such as the Processor Identifier or PID and the name of the file running.

If you can identify the malicious process you can use the following command to stop it:

taskkill /pid XXXX /f

This command stops the process from running in a forceful manner. In some cases this will be enough to allow you to navigate around the computer using the GUI and possibly delete the virus file that has arisen.

There are a few known locations where they like to hide:
– All temp directories (Windows\Temp and Temp files within User folders)
– C:\Users\Username\Appdata\Local
– C:\Users\Username\Appdata\Locallow
– C:\Users\Username\Appdata\Roaming
– C:\ProgramData

***Please note the above paths refer to Windows Vista and above systems, XP uses “C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Applicaiton Data”***

If you have used taskkill to stop the process running, check these folders for a file with the same name as the malicious one you stopped earlier and DELETE it.

I also suggest you look in msconfig to see if there is a registry loading point for the virus and remove it, if you can not open regedit just disable the loading point in msconfig. Be sure to check the startup folder as well for any strange entries and remove them as well.

Once you reach this point, reboot your computer and see if the virus loads. If it doesn’t try and use a scanner to remove any further infections that may be present.

I generally use Malwarebytes Antimalware as it now offers a tool called Chameleon that is able to kill known malicious processes which then in turn allows Malwarebytes scanner to operate. This program has saved me a significant amount of time on several occasions as it not only removes malicious files but also malicious registry entries. I also use Combofix as it has great log files and an exceptional removal ability due to its process of killing the explorer.exe process to aid in removal.

There are other tools available, I have found though in most circumstances it is best to begin with a manual approach, without this manual approach it is likely you will need to run BartPE cd’s just to get a start, and who wants to wait for one of those things to load.

NiNite Autoinstaller – Save time building new Windows Systems

If you are a system builder, you probably hate having to spend so much time downloading all those extra little applications that do not come bundled with Windows.

For example:

  • Adobe Reader
  • Windows Live Applications
  • Skype
  • Alternative Web Browsers
  • Adobe Flash (because you want YouTube right?)
  • Java

Luckily there is another way – using Ninite.

Ninite allows you to select the applications you would like to install and bundles them as a single package, you no longer have to go to each individual site and grab all the individual packages then install them one by one. Just go to NiNite, click the apps you would normally install, then click get installer.

Once downloaded, open the application and let it run, it will do all the work for you. You can now go something more important, and you have saved yourself a considerable amount of time in the build process.

iertutil.dll was not found Windows XP

Recently Microsoft started rolling out Internet Explorer 8 as a non-optional update for Windows XP. Considering how insecure the older versions are this isnt really a bad thing except when the automatic update fails and stops your computer from booting correctly.

You may have seen the following errors pop up:

iertutil.dll could not be found


Error the ordinal 681 could not be loaded.

This happens as explorer is starting to load, and causes problems with automatic installation of USB devices as well. Fortunately though there is a fix.

There are several different methods that people reccomend on how to fix this particular issue. One of them is to use system restore to return the computer to a useable state. Although this is likely to fix this particular error, it can cause you more errors and despite what people believe it DOES delete data.

The appropriate way of fixing this error is to replace the iertutil.dll file with the version that windows is expecting to find – not the corrupted version.

This file is located in c:\windows\system32\ problem is it is corrupt or incorrect, luckily though Windows saves a copy of the file in C:\windows\system32\dllcache

Now there are two ways to move this file, if you have a recovery CD such as UBCD for Windows or MSDART you can copy the file from C:\windows\system32\dllcache to C:\windows\system32 and overwrite the existing file. I would reccomend doing this only if you are having issues with keyboard/mice since USB recogniton is broken.

If you can boot into windows still it is much easier to do the following:
1. Press ctrl+shit+esc on your keyboard, and you will see the task manager pop up.
2. Goto File > New task
3. Type in cmd and press enter

This should open the command prompt, although one computer I repaired recently would throw an error as soon as you typed into the run box, if this happens, click the error then use your keyboard to move the text cursor and continue writing the command

4. Once in command prompt type the following to enter the system32 directory

– cd \ (then press enter)
– cd windows\system32 (then press enter)

Your path should now show c:\windows\system32

Now that you are in this directory I suggest you rename your current iertutil.dll file just in case you need to revert back to it. Type the following:

– rename iertutil.dll iertutil.old (then press enter)

The command line will just return it will not say file successfully renamed or anything like that.

Now we need to copy the file from the dllcache into the system32 directory. To make the command more simple you should do the following:

Considering your path should show c:\windows\system32 you will only need to cd (change directory) into dllcache not an entire path

– cd dllcache (press enter)
– path will now show c:\windows\system32\dllcache

Now you are in the dllcache directory type the following to copy iertutil.dll to where it needs to be

– copy iertutil.dll c:\windows\system32 (press enter)

You should get the message “1 file(s) copied”

If you have got this far – you can now reboot your computer. Providing this was your only issue, you should now be able to boot all the way in to your desktop.

Now – before you go doing anything to avoid the error occuring again download Internet explorer 8 full installer and install it. I strongly recommend running windows updates as well.