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Issue #571: July 1-7, 2018

Geek Note: If you’re a long time reader, you know that my annual Christmas Lights and Music Show, the Geek Lights on the Corner, has been around almost as long as this column.  I participate in quite a few online chat rooms where I exchange ideas and technical information with fellow lighting Geeks.  The following question was drawn from one of those forums, and paraphrased here because I thought it might be useful to others, since it isn’t specific to Christmas lights.

 Q: Please help! I don’t know what happened, but I just ran xLights and opened a sequence to work on. My music is gone to all of my sequences! No matter which one I open.  Can someone help please?

– Jana T.
Indianapolis, Indiana

A: This has happened to me before too, Jana.  So relax, your audio files aren’t gone, they’re just moved.  It may come as a bit of a surprise when you learn who moved them.

It’s important to understand that this is an issue with Windows, not with xLights.  What happened is that at some point, while moving your mouse around the screen, you accidentally clicked the left mouse button.  Through sheer bad luck and perfect timing, the mouse cursor happened to be over the Audio folder at the moment the mouse button went down, and over some other location when it went back up.  Windows interpreted this unlikely series of events as a drag-and-drop operation, and moved the entire Audio folder somewhere else, exactly as if you had performed a cut and paste operation on it. It’s very easy to do this without realizing it, and Windows happily moves the folder and all of its content without so much as an “Are you sure?”  Thanks, Bill!  Of course, with one of its necessary folders moved, xLights throws errors next time it runs, but again, this is not realistically an xLights problem.  It could happen to any application software if files that it needs in order to run are moved in this manner.  It’s not just applications that miss files.  Accidental relocation can also be cause for similar panic when someone’s entire photo library suddenly disappears without warning.

You can fix the error by doing a little careful looking around on your hard drive, and moving the folder back where it belongs.  Because of the way Windows displays files and folders, the missing folder most likely got moved into another subfolder that’s located in the same place where the missing folder is supposed to be, so start there.  If all else fails, you can search the entire hard drive for the folder, but folder names are not unique, so it’s possible you’ll find more than one folder with the name you’re looking for.  Make sure you have the right one before you drag it back where it belongs, lest you compound the problem.

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Q: I keep getting emails for a lot of stuff on diets, medicines, home insurance, etc….about 5 a day.  I have unsubscribed from them but they keep coming – anyway to stop them?

 – Dennis O.
Destin, Florida

A:  You are being plagued by one of the scourges of the Internet, Dennis: plain, simple, oh-so-annoying SPAM.  The first thing I’d recommend is that you stop trying to unsubscribe from them.  Purveyors of unwanted e-mails aren’t going to honor your removal requests anyway.  However, in the process of contacting their server, you have verified that your e-mail address is valid and active, which makes it that much valuable on the dark part of the web where such information is sold.  Another thing you should avoid doing is blacklisting every address that sends you SPAM.  Many spammers use a different address each time, and some even use the addresses of your friends and family, so you could be blocking addresses you’d rather not block.

Most e-mail providers have SPAM filters built right into their service.  One of the best I’ve seen is the one on Gmail, which I use as the e-mail service for this column.  It’s a pretty rare occasion for me to see SPAM in my Inbox, while at the same time, very few legitimate e-mails ever wind up in the SPAM folder.  The e-mail provider that you specified in your contact information – Cox Communications – has a configurable SPAM filter built-in to the service.  You’ll find in in the configuration options for your e-mail account.

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