Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Remove Apps From MS Windows 10

Microsoft is push-installing many more applications in Windows 10. A user may remove some applications by clicking the Start button then right-click on an app and choose uninstall. The uninstall option is not available for many apps installed by Microsoft.

This list of MS Windows 10 PowerShell application removal lines can work on some versions of Windows, and may depend on the current naming and the build number of Windows. The following were tested on several versions of Windows 10, including Microsoft Windows 10 Pro version 10.0.19043 N/A Build 19043.

Right-click on the Start button and choose: Windows PowerShell

If you are not able to run PowerShell as administrator in order to remove the application packages for all users, you will receive an error:
Get-AppxPackage : Access is denied.
Access is denied.

You may instead run the following commands without this option: -Allusers

If you are looking for application package names to install, try this example for the Solitaire game:
> Get-AppxPackage | select-string  "solitaire"

Microsoft.MicrosoftSolitaireCollection_4.4.8204.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

Then use "solitaire" and remove the game:
> Get-AppxPackage *solitaire* | Remove-AppxPackage



List of what you may want to remove. If you are not logged in as administrator, remove "-AllUsers" from the following:

Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.YourPhone -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage
# or
Get-AppxPackage *windowsphone* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage


Get-AppxPackage *xbox* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage


Get-AppxPackage *3dbuilder* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Microsoft3DViewer -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage


Get-AppxPackage *people* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage
# or
Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.PeopleExperienceHost -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage
# or
Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.people -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage


# Cortana
Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.549981C3F5F10 -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *Microsoft.GetHelp* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *windowsalarms* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *windowscommunicationsapps* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *skypeapp* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *officehub* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *getstarted* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *onenote* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *bingweather* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *windowscamera* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *windowsmaps* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.WindowsFeedbackHub -AllUsers Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *music* -AllUsers Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *solitaire* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *portal* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

Get-AppxPackage *stickynotes* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

# Movies & TV

Get-AppxPackage *zunevideo* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

# Snip & Sketch
Get-AppxPackage *screensketch* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage

# Sound Recorder
Get-AppxPackage *soundrecorder* -AllUsers | Remove-AppxPackage


Microsoft OneDrive may be removed from within the legacy "Control Panel" application. Press Start button, then begin typing "control panel".


After you have uninstalled applications, it is usually useful to create a Windows "restore point" to snapshot the current configuration. If you feel more advanced, you may want to explore the "Services" app to stop services you may not be using.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Disable Windows 10 Search Advertising

This post covers two topics which are similar though separate - File Explorer search box suggestions; and Start Button search advertising.

 

In Windows 10, the File Explorer shows suggestion pop-ups when you begin to type in the File Explorer search box. While tolerable, it becomes annoying if you frequently search. If you prefer for the File Explorer search box to return search results after you are done typing, the search pop-up functionality may be disabled.


If you have a Windows 10 version with group policy editor, press the Start Button and type: gpedit Run the Edit Group Policy application as administrator. In the group policy editor, go to User Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, File Explorer.
 



Edit the entry for "Turn off display of recent search entries in the File Explorer search box". Choose "Disabled" and press OK button.


The setting should now be Disabled.


 



A separate issue with Windows 10 is invasive keystroke monitoring and advertising. Press the Start Button and begin to type a program name or file name. Windows 10 will show matching program names, file names, and also provide search engine results. This is like a mini search engine in the Start Button based on your typing and geo-location. If you type "burgers", not only will it search for local programs and files named "burgers", but you will also get a review of where to locally purchase burgers and a map for local burger shops. Microsoft calls this feature Web search.  Many people call it "intrusive and annoying". There does not appear to be an intuitive and easy way to turn off this advertising.

 
This feature can be turned off with the registry editor. Press the Start Button and type: regedit
Run the Registry Editor application as administrator. The registry key will include Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows. (While it may appear the key Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer can configure this for all users, it doesn't seem to work.)
Confirm this registry key exists, or add it: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer

Right-click on the "Explorer" key, and add a new DWORD 32-bit value with name: DisableSearchSuggestions


Set the value to 1.


Reboot the computer and test that the Start Button advertising functionality has been disabled.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

How to mine Monero on Ubuntu Linux

Please refer to the recent post about setting up a Monero pool miner on Microsoft Windows. That post provides some background information along with how to use wallet software.


Now let's focus on running a miner on Linux Ubuntu 20.04. We will use the same public key address as the previous post. We will simply change the identifier in the start file to allow both the Windows and Linux miners to be monitored on the same page at SupportXMR.com. 

Log on to the Linux machine. Create a new unix group and user. Download and install the software by going to github release webpage, finding the filename you want, and adding "?raw=true" to the filename. Download from command line will look like (all on one line):
$ wget -O xmrig-6.16.2.gz github.com/xmrig/xmrig/releases/download/v6.16.2/xmrig-6.16.2-linux-static-x64.tar.gz?raw=true

Start the miner and monitor it at the mining pool website. Setup the miner to start and stop, and tune the software to more fully use the fourth CPU core.

$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description:    Ubuntu 20.04.3 LTS
Release:        20.04
Codename:       focal

$ sudo addgroup cryp
Adding group `cryp' (GID 1004) ...
Done.

$ grep cryp /etc/group
cryp:x:1004:

$ sudo adduser monero --ingroup cryp
Adding user `monero' ...
Adding new user `monero' (1005) with group `cryp' ...
Creating home directory `/home/monero' ...
Copying files from `/etc/skel' ...
New password:
Retype new password:
passwd: password updated successfully
Changing the user information for monero
Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default
        Full Name []:
        Room Number []:
        Work Phone []:
        Home Phone []:
        Other []:
Is the information correct? [Y/n] y

# If you want the new monero Linux user to be able to log on to the machine remotely, add user monero to the "AllowUsers" line in /etc/ssh/sshd_config.
$ sudo vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# Now edit the config file and add the monero username.
$ grep monero /etc/ssh/sshd_config
AllowUsers install1 minec monero

# Restart ssh to apply the new configuration.
$ sudo systemctl restart ssh

# ssh into the machine as the monero user.
$ whoami
monero

$ groups
cryp

$ id
uid=1005(monero) gid=1004(cryp) groups=1004(cryp)


# Earlier we ran "lsb_release -a" it showed the name "focal" for the Ubuntu release. Get the monero software for "focal" from https://github.com/xmrig/xmrig/releases.

$ wget https://github.com/xmrig/xmrig/releases/download/v6.15.2/xmrig-6.15.2-focal-x64.tar.gz 

$ gzip -d xmrig-6.15.2-focal-x64.tar.gz

$ tar -xvf xmrig-6.15.2-focal-x64.tar
xmrig-6.15.2/
xmrig-6.15.2/config.json
xmrig-6.15.2/SHA256SUMS
xmrig-6.15.2/xmrig

$ ls -l
total 8256
drwxr-x--- 2 monero cryp    4096 Oct  5 10:38 xmrig-6.15.2
-rw-r----- 1 monero cryp 8448000 Oct  5 11:30 xmrig-6.15.2-focal-x64.tar


# Go into the software directory and create a new (or replace the example) config.json.
$ cd xmrig-6.15.2
$ ls -l
total 8256
-rw-r----- 1 monero cryp    2351 Oct  5 10:38 config.json
-rw-r----- 1 monero cryp     150 Oct  5 10:38 SHA256SUMS
-rwxr-x--- 1 monero cryp 8441704 Oct  5 10:38 xmrig

# Put the following into file config.json. Note the "user" public key is on one line.
$ cat config.json
{
"autosave": true,
"cpu": true,
"opencl": false,
"cuda": false,
"pools": [
        {
                "url": "pool.supportxmr.com:443",
                "user": "44YkNzrdJnmAqwoTRMPV2e4fihv3AfZ5vMmrtaWCGQaxKuXp5eiZeRREzhPi9tVqGuA3VBRriNwKa2QxmZmRGmHVTkUSTMc",
                "pass": "runDemoB",
                "keepalive": true,
                "tls": true
        }
        ]
}


# Test it from the command line. Stop the program with ctrl-c after you verify it is working.
$ ./xmrig -c ./config.json




# Create and test a command file which will be used by the Linux process monitor so the miner will be started upon machine reboot.
$ cd ~
$ pwd
/home/monero

# Put these three lines into the command file named startminer.sh. Note the last command is all one line.
$ vi startminer.sh
#!/bin/sh
umask 026
/usr/bin/nice -n 15 /home/monero/xmrig-6.15.2/xmrig -c /home/monero/xmrig-6.15.2/config.json

# Make the file executable.
$ chmod +x startminer.sh

# Test the command file from the command line.
$ ./startminer.sh

# In another terminal window, run "top" and look at the "NI" column. It should be the "nice" value in the command file. This sets the process priority lower, so the machine can more easily prioritize other work (if there is other work).


# Configure the system services so the mining process will automatically start with the machine.
# For the following commands with sudo, log in with a unix account which is in the sudoers file.
$ cd /etc/systemd/system
$ sudo vi monero.service
[Unit]
Description=monero miner
After=network.target
[Service]
Type=simple
User=monero
Group=cryp
ExecStart=/home/monero/startminer.sh
KillMode=mixed
Restart=on-failure
Type=forking
TimeoutStartSec=120
TimeoutStopSec=30
RuntimeMaxSec=infinity
[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

# Enable the service.
$ sudo systemctl enable monero.service
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/multi-user.target.wants/monero.service → /etc/systemd/system/monero.service.

$ sudo systemctl start monero.service
$ sudo systemctl status monero.service

# Run top or htop to confirm the miner is running with the specified "nice" level.
# Reboot the machine to test the miner will restart automatically.
$ sudo shutdown -r

# After machine restarts, login and run the following to verify the service is running and that it is only running one.
$ top
$ htop
$ ps -fu monero

Let's look into the mining process a little closer, and focus on the number of tasks or processes that are run. From a defensive system administration standpoint, we may want to configure the service so it can not errantly consume thousands of processes.

With the miner running as a service, it is currently using just a handful of processes. This seems to be correct, as one process per CPU core (in this case 4 cores) is reasonable.

$ ps -fu monero
UID          PID    PPID  C STIME TTY          TIME CMD
monero      1046       1  0 15:02 ?        00:00:00 /lib/systemd/systemd --user
monero      1047    1046  0 15:02 ?        00:00:00 (sd-pam)
monero      1145    1043  0 15:02 ?        00:00:00 sshd: monero@pts/0
monero      1146    1145  0 15:02 pts/0    00:00:00 -bash
monero      1471       1  0 15:10 ?        00:00:00 /bin/sh /home/monero/startminer.sh
monero      1472    1471 99 15:10 ?        00:05:38 /home/monero/xmrig-6.15.2/xmrig -c /home/monero/xmrig-6.15.2/c
monero      1517    1146  0 15:12 pts/0    00:00:00 ps -fu monero

$ ps -fu monero | wc -l
9


# In another terminal window with a Linux user which has access to sudo.
$ sudo systemctl status monero.service
● monero.service - monero miner
     Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/monero.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: activating (start) since Sun 2021-10-10 15:12:24 MDT; 1min 57s ago
Cntrl PID: 1531 (startminer.sh)
      Tasks: 10 (limit: 18964)
     Memory: 2.2G
     CGroup: /system.slice/monero.service
             ├─1531 /bin/sh /home/monero/startminer.sh
             └─1532 /home/monero/xmrig-6.15.2/xmrig -c /home/monero/xmrig-6.15.2/config.json
Oct 10 15:12:38 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:38.338]  net      new job from pool.>
Oct 10 15:12:38 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:38.338]  cpu      use argon2 impleme>
Oct 10 15:12:38 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:38.341]  msr      msr kernel module >
Oct 10 15:12:38 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:38.341]  msr      FAILED TO APPLY MS>
Oct 10 15:12:38 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:38.342]  randomx  init dataset algo >
Oct 10 15:12:38 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:38.342]  randomx  allocated 2336 MB >
Oct 10 15:12:45 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:45.958]  randomx  dataset ready (761>
Oct 10 15:12:45 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:45.958]  cpu      use profile  rx  (>
Oct 10 15:12:45 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:12:45.960]  cpu      READY threads 3/3 >
Oct 10 15:13:46 d990 startminer.sh[1532]: [2021-10-10 15:13:46.126]  miner    speed 10s/60s/15m >

$ systemctl show --property DefaultTasksMax
DefaultTasksMax=18964

# Note the service is using 10 tasks of the 18964 limit. It appears it uses the default maximum setting.
# Note the service is using 2.2 GB of memory.
# Since the service is running correctly and the machine has four CPU cores, let's ensure the service does not run more than 99 processes.

# Add two lines to the end of /etc/systemd/system/monero.service.
[Service]
TasksMax=999

# Reload the systemd configuration.
$ sudo systemctl daemon-reload

# Restart the mining process.
$ sudo systemctl restart monero.service

# Look at the Tasks limit for this mining process. It should use 999 from the monero.service file.
$ systemctl status monero.service | grep Tasks
      Tasks: 10 (limit: 999)

# Restart the machine to test the configuration.
$ sudo shutdown -r


Go to the SupportXMR.com website to monitor the mining activity. Enter the address from the config file at this website to see your miner activity.

Using top and htop, you may notice with four CPU cores that it seems only three are being used. The load average will be in the 3s rather than 4 (the number of cores). For this example on this four-core CPU, you may edit config.json and add the fourth core to the "rx" line, like this: "rx": [0, 1, 2, 3],

# Then restart the service.
$ sudo systemctl restart monero.service

# If you make this change to use more CPU, closely monitor if more hashes are being calculated. You may find that while more CPU is used, less hashes are performed due to CPU cache issues. Please read this tuning document and consider de-tuning to the prior setup. In short, hyper-threading (more logical processors than cores) usually does not scale CPU-bound processes.



To tune the OS settings, look into huge pages. First, get the current settings and monitor the current miner hash rate so you know the baseline before making tuning changes.

Without tuning, the OS may be configured like this:

$ grep -i huge /proc/meminfo
AnonHugePages:         0 kB
ShmemHugePages:        0 kB
FileHugePages:         0 kB
HugePages_Total:       0
HugePages_Free:        0
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB
Hugetlb:               0 kB

Stop the miner process, make temporary changes to OS kernel settings, and restart the miner to determine if the hash rate changes.

$ sudo sysctl -w vm.nr_hugepages=1280
vm.nr_hugepages = 1280
$ grep -i huge /proc/meminfo
AnonHugePages:         0 kB
ShmemHugePages:        0 kB
FileHugePages:         0 kB
HugePages_Total:    1280
HugePages_Free:     1280
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB
Hugetlb:         2621440 kB

If the restarted miner process shows an increase in hashing, then make the kernel OS settings permanent.

$ sudo bash -c "echo vm.nr_hugepages=1280 >> /etc/sysctl.conf"

Reboot the machine and check the huge pages setting and the miner hash rate. For this example, the per second hash rate went from 965 to 1381 just by tuning huge pages.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tuning Microsoft Windows for CPU Cryptocurrency Mining

This post covered setup and basic configuration of a Monero crypto miner on Microsoft Windows.

The PC had 16GB of RAM, and rarely used more than 9GB of RAM. In the Performance tab of Task Manager, under Memory, it shows the amount of RAM in use and the amount compressed. RAM compression uses a small (and typically unnoticeable amount of CPU to compress RAM pages which are not being used. While compressed RAM pages can't actually be used by a process when they are compressed, the idea is that by compressing RAM it may avoid swapping RAM to disk in a low-memory situation. Certainly reading swapped pages from disk should be considerably slower than  using CPU to uncompress RAM pages which are already in memory. For anyone using a machine which is not using all of the RAM, this is an optimization looking for a problem - if the machine is not swapping, then there is no RAM slowdown due to swapping. Compressing RAM when there is not a RAM shortage slightly increases CPU use. While the small additional CPU use may not be noticeable on many workloads, it can be noticeable and detrimental to do this speculative RAM optimization when the CPU is already near 100% usage, as is typical when mining a cryptocurrency on CPUs.


With the machine not in danger of swapping in-memory RAM pages to disk, let's turn off RAM compression. In the worst case if a process takes more RAM than the installed 16GB, some pages will be swapped to disk as has been standard for decades.

In this example with the Monero miner and a web browser and other applications, Task Manager shows the machine had 5.2GB available and 1.6GB compressed of 15.9GB total RAM. Even if the compressed RAM is uncompressed at triple the compressed size, everything should still fit into the real 15.9GB of RAM.


Let's look at the current RAM compression setting. Right-click on the Start Button and choose "Windows PowerShell (Admin)". Then in PowerShell run this command: Get-MMAgent

This shows "MemoryCompression" is set to True. This confirms what can be seen in the Task Manager, that some amount of the memory was "Compressed". Get some statistics with: Get-Process -Name "Memory Compression"

Disable RAM compression with: Disable-MMAgent -MemoryCompression

Reboot so the change will take effect. After reboot, use PowerShell to check that the setting is False with: Get-MMAgent

Run your typical processes, and also run the Monero crypto miner. Look at Task Manager. In this example, Task Manager shows about 7GB of RAM available without using compression. Note that "(Compressed)" is zero.


Presumably the Microsoft Windows 10 developers put considerable effort into optimizing the RAM compression code. When a machine is pushed to limits such as nearly 100% CPU, there may be noticeable performance differences when turning off the speculative RAM compression. In general use, we should expect to find the changes basically unnoticeable from a user interface standpoint. On CPU-bound processes like crypto mining we might be able to see a performance change. I was surprised to find a consistent increase in Monero mining performance (measured via hashes per second) of over 15%. The peak hash per second increased over 20%.

While this dramatic increase was unexpected, it shows the dangers of premature optimization ("let's do RAM compression just because it might be good"). It also shows the benefit of benchmarking before and after a change. Both before and after the change the "huge pages" mining feature was enabled.


October 17 update on Monero miner tuning - it makes a small difference by forcing the miner to avoid using CPU core 0. On the machine in this example, there are four CPU cores. The mining process consistently starts three processes, which leaves one of the cores unused. The unused core was consistently core 3, and cores 0 - 2 were consistently pegged at 100% CPU usage. On a hunch that hardware interrupts may still be serviced by core 0, I used Task Manager to set processor affinity to cores 1 - 3. This had the effect of moving the miner process off core 0.

Task Manager shows a process named "System interrupts". This is more of an indication of interrupts rather than a real process. If a hardware driver is misbehaving, this process could indicate greater than zero CPU usage. In a properly functioning system, interrupts should have nearly zero CPU usage. It is possible that even with low CPU usage, interrupts are causing miner code removal from the core along with possible small CPU cache issues.


The Performance Monitor application allowed viewing of percentage interrupt time. Right-click and choose "Add counters" then look for "Processor information" to find "% Interrupt Time". The first counter in the following graph is the overall interrupt counter and one counter for each of the four CPU cores. The scale on the graph is increased from 1 to 100 to highlight the differences. CPU core zero (colored red) frequently spikes. The overall interrupt (color blue) also spikes though is tempered by the other CPUs. The lines for CPUs 1 - 3 are flatlined against the bottom of the graph. This shows interrupts are being serviced by CPU 0. Therefore, removing the mining process from CPU 0 should provide smoother process execution as measured by better program performance.


Looking at the hashes per second of the monero miner process, the high-water mark increased about 6% and a day the average hashes per second increased about 3%. On a mining process, a 3% increase in performance at no hardware cost is a nice improvement. A more precise performance measurement would need a dedicated machine running without other programs for several days.

The following line has been added to the command file to set the processor affinity when the miner is started:
start /BELOWNORMAL /affinity E /b E:\tech\crypto\monero\GUIs\xmrig-6.15.1-msvc-win64\xmrig-6.15.1\xmrig.exe -o pool.supportxmr.com:443 -u 44YkNzrdJnmAqwoTRMPV2e4fihv3AfZ5vMmrtaWCGQaxKuXp5eiZeRREzhPi9tVqGuA3VBRriNwKa2QxmZmRGmHVTkUSTMc -k --tls -p runDemoA

While affinity "E" works for this four-core system, it depends on your CPU core count along with available hyper-threads so please view this post to determine the binary number. Then view this website to convert the binary number to hexadecimal to use with the "affinity" flag of the "start" command.


Tuning update for CPU hyper-threading:

Hyper-threading allows a CPU core to support typically two separate threads. The idea is that usually threads are not completely CPU bound and often wait for network disk. During that time the other thread can run on the CPU core. If the CPU core is already 100% consumed by a thread then adding another thread should not increase throughput of that task.

Often BIOS settings can turn off hyper-threading, though this may not be available in some laptop BIOS. Using BIOS to turn off and on hyper-threading, the miner ran about 2.5% better with hyper-threading off. Throughput went from 826 hashes per second to 846 hashes per second. This was tested on two separate machines of the same make and model, with similar results on both machines.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

How to mine Monero on Microsoft Windows

If you are interested in trying to try out mining a cryptocurrency, this guide can be used by most people - even those with low internet bandwidth and a weak or old computer. You will learn the mechanics of how to mine a cryptocurrency through a pool, though don't expect to make much money.

Bitcoin was the original cryptocurrency, with the proof of work software released in January 2009. Proof of work means the cryptocurrency mining software performs calculations using the CPU to determine which miner will put the next block of transactions onto the blockchain. The Bitcoin software can still be run on CPUs, though the majority of the miners use specialized hardware which is optimized to specifically run the Bitcoin mining algorithm. 

The other well-known mining algorithm is proof of stake. In general, this requires a person to "stake" tokens or coins as collateral. Based on shares or round-robin or other methodology, a staker is chosen to submit the next block of transactions. If an invalid block is submitted, others can slash the staked tokens as a penalty.

Ethereum is a proof of work cryptocurrency which is undergoing changes which will allow the network to move to proof of stake. Some people consider proof of stake to have advantages over proof of work, including using a small fraction of the electricity consumed by proof of work blockchains.

Monero is a proof of work blockchain which is specifically designed to be mined only on computer CPUs. This makes mining on video graphics cards or specialized hardware difficult and not cost effective. By allowing anyone to run the mining code on a CPU and to be competitive, Monero aims to create a larger and more distributed group of miners.


This post focuses on running Monero mining software on Microsoft Windows through a mining pool. The mining pool reduces network and storage costs by relieving the client machine from hosting the full node software to route and store transactions. While this allows a person to more easily mine, it does reduce the usefulness of the mining node to submit and validate transactions. Nonetheless, mining Monero through a pool is a good way to gain mining experience.


The basic tasks for running a Monero mining node is to download and install the software, create a wallet, and then run and monitor the mining code.

The cryptocurrency wallet creates and stores a private key / public key pair. The wallet can typically view balances and send and receive coins.

For now, let's focus on mining using Microsoft Windows, a wallet, and the xmrig software. Download the xmrig software from github. Look for the win64 version. Use Windows File Explorer to uncompress the zipped folder. Go into the folder structure (currently it looks like "xmrig-6.15.1-msvc-win64\xmrig-6.15.1"). Create a file named something like startminer.cmd as a txt file. This is a Windows Command Script file which will contain your settings and run the miner.

Edit startminer.cmd and add these three lines:
@echo off
xmrig.exe -o pool.supportxmr.com:443 -u 44YkNzrdJnmAqwoTRMPV2e4fihv3AfZ5vMmrtaWCGQaxKuXp5eiZeRREzhPi9tVqGuA3VBRriNwKa2QxmZmRGmHVTkUSTMc -k --tls -p runDemoA
pause

Open a command prompt by pressing Windows Start Button, type cmd, and click on the Command Prompt app. Go to the location of the startminer.cmd file. Type: startminer.cmd 
Depending on your internet filtering and DNS settings, you may see some warnings. Also, Microsoft Windows security may flag the miner as being a cryptocurrency miner trojan. Since you want to be mining, disable this specific security warning.

After the miner is running, you may use a web browser to monitor your miner. Please note the mining pool at SupportXMR receives at least a 1% fee for their services, and any mining rewards will go to the address in the command script which starts with "44...".

The Command Prompt window will continue to show output from the miner. In the following picture, the first two orange circles show that Microsoft Windows has "core isolation" memory integrity turned on and that it uses a Virtual Machine. If your operating system is running with the VM on (probably a good thing for most people), ignore these apparent errors in the first two orange circles. The third orange circle shows the current mining work output. This picture is from an older machine which shows how a CPU which is several years old can be used to mine transactions via a mining pool.

To monitor the miner in the mining pool, go to SupportXMR.com and enter the public key from the Command Script file: 44YkNzrdJnmAqwoTRMPV2e4fihv3AfZ5vMmrtaWCGQaxKuXp5eiZeRREzhPi9tVqGuA3VBRriNwKa2QxmZmRGmHVTkUSTMc

You will be able to see information including the custom name in the startminer.cmd file, along with your hash rate.


It is typically good to lower the operating system priority of the mining process to reduce interference with other processes on the machine. You certainly want to lower the priority if you are also using the machine for regular play and work. Right-click on the Windows Start Button and click on Task Manager. In task manager click on the Details tab. Click on the CPU column so the highest CPU consumer will appear at the top. This will typically be the xmrig.exe mining software. Right-click on the xmrig.exe line, and set the Priority to Below Normal.

Download the wallet software and install the program. Create a new wallet, and write down the recovery words. Learn more by reading the wallet README.


Copy the wallet primary account address and the public key from the GUI wallet. You can put that address into your Command Script file and restart the miner to allow any rewards to go to your wallet.



Saturday, October 09, 2021

Microsoft Windows File Explorer Customization

The File Explorer in Microsoft Windows allows access to various context-sensitive menus by right-clicking the mouse button. You may customize many of the menus. This post will show you how to modify the context-sensitive menus for "new" file, "open with", and "send to".

The "new" menu may already have items for BMP image and several other document types. Look at your configuration by going to an empty place on the Desktop or in File Explorer, right-click the mouse button, and go to New.


Let's add an item to create a new JPEG image. Press the Windows Start Button and type registry. Click on the Registry Editor app. 

In the Registry Editor go to registry key: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.jpg

Right-click on ".jpg" and add a new Key with name ShellNew.

In ShellNew, create a new "String Value" with value of FileName. Modify the FileName entry with "Value Data" of Template.jpg.


You may close the Registry Editor. Now right-click on the Desktop or in File Explorer, go to New, and there should be an option to create a new JPEG image.



The context-sensitive Open With menu shows appropriate choices for each file type. Because there are many file types, there are many settings which may be shown depending on the file type. In the following picture, this is a text file and the file type is ".txt".



Create the new text document, then right-click on the file and go to the Open With entry. You should see various text editors.



These settings are stored in the Windows registry and may be modified with the Registry Editor for each file type.

Let's add a program in the Open With menu. Click on the Windows Start Button, type regedit, and click on Registry Editor.

In the left pane of the Registry Editor, go to key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\

Go to the .txt entry, and click on OpenWithList.



Add the office writer application to the Open With menu for ".txt" files. In the right-hand panel, right-click and press New, String Value. The Value Name should be the next letter in the alphabet. 

Double-click the new entry and in the Value Data field add the office writer application of "soffice.exe".


Now when you go to the Open With item, you should see the office writer application as a choice.

While you are in Registry Editor, you may also remove items. Go to the file type, select the item, and then press Delete.



The Send To in File Explorer is a context-sensitive menu which appears when you right-click an item. Let's add an item to the list.


Press the Windows Start Button and type: run
Click the Run App. In the Run app, enter shell:sendto and press the OK button.



This will open a folder which contains the various items. 



Delete any items you do not want by selecting the item and deleting it. 


Add items by copying a shortcut to the program into this folder. For example, if you would like Microsoft Paint to appear in the Send To menu, find the path to the program (Start Button, scroll to Windows Accessories and expand it, right-click on Paint, choose More, then choose Open File Location. After the File Explorer window open, right-click on Paint and choose Copy. In the SendTo folder, right-click on a white sort and choose Paste Shortcut.)


The SendTo folder will look like:


Now when you are in File Explorer and right-click an item to display the context-sensitive menu, Send To will show the new entry which you just added. It may be useful to add the Notepad application to the Send To menu to make it easy to quickly bring up the editor for working with ".cmd" files (Windows command script files or batch files).



Monday, July 26, 2021

Microsoft Windows Core Memory Integrity

Microsoft Windows 10 memory integrity, or "core isolation", uses hardware virtualization to protect memory used by Windows system processes from manipulation (often by malware). This is generally a good security feature to enable, though it may interfere with older device drivers. This option is not automatically turned on by some vendors, so you will need to check this yourself.

Read about Microsoft's Core Isolation.

A recently purchased MS Windows 10 chromebook from Dell had this option turned off, so Core Integrity should be checked even on factory-delivered machines. The Dell chromebook was runing the Windows version known as "Windows 10 Home in S mode". 

For any Windows 10, check if Windows is running with virtualization by looking in Task Manager. Press Start button, and type: task manager
Choose the Task Manager app. 

In Task Manager, click the Performance tab, then CPU. Look in the lower right for Virtualization. In the following picture of Task Manager, hardware virtualization is enabled. Alternatively, open a command prompt, run systeminfo, and look for the Hyper-V line.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Virtualization is not enabled, reboot the machine and press a key for BIOS setup (often a function key or the DEL key). In the BIOS setup utility, look for virtualization or "VT" and turn it on. Save the BIOS settings and restart the machine. Here are a couple different BIOS pictures:














After rebooting and starting Windows, go to the Settings app (press the Start button, press the gear icon). In the Settings app, type: security
Press the Open Windows Security button. In the Windows Security app, on the left hand list, press Device Security, then select Core Isolation Details. 


























 

If you do not see Memory Integrity, you will need to restart the computer and enter the BIOS settings and look for virtualization options. 

If Memory Integrity is already turned on, your machine is configured to use core memory integrity and your are done. 

If Memory Integrity is off, try to turn it on. In some cases it will turn on. In other cases it will want a reboot. In more challenging cases it will find incompatible drivers, and you can decide how to correct each driver.














 

It may take a restart to fully set to on. If it finds incompatible drivers, press the Review link.














 

Some incompatible drivers must be completely removed. In one case, I encountered an incompatible Realtek sound driver that I removed, rebooted, turned on Memory Integrity, and then was able to reinstall the same sound driver while successfully keeping Memory Integrity turned on.

























 

 

In this example, the Realtek sound driver and the ViMicro web cam drivers are incompatible. To remove these drivers, look in device manager and uninstall the drivers. In this case, the old ViMicro driver "oem3.inf" could not be removed through device manager, though it was able to be removed from the command line using pnputil /delete-driver.










If a driver will not uninstall, you can also remove it by hand (or rename it). Look in folder C:\Windows\System32\drivers.


When done resolving incompatible drivers, the Memory Integrity setting in Windows Security Center should look like this.






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When finished, you may want to create a restore point. Press the Start button and type: restore point
Configure and Create the new restore point. 

You should now check for corrupt Windows files. This will run the Windows Module Installer and verify and correct the Windows software.