Sunday, November 13, 2022

Office Deployment Tool - Revisited

Once again I found myself with a new laptop and no Microsoft Office license. 

I found one of those gray market key vendors and bought a Office 2021 Professional Pro key for less than $20. It came promptly and even included a link to a Microsoft download site. (Don't rush to download.)

I don't need all the included Office apps. The legacy installation dialog would let me choose which application and features would be installed. I used to use that dialog to omit all the Office apps except Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

But now Microsoft has an Office Deployment Tool that lets you customize the installation.

I recalled the solution I had found earlier and revisited my previous post.

The referenced site, MS Guides, seems to have gotten crossways with Google and probably other organizations. I used to retrieve the instructions. This post is my recap of the process and is heavily based on MS Guides.

Step 0: Uninstall all the Click-to-Run Office 365 apps that come pre-installed.

Step 1: Download the appropriate version of the Office Deployment Tool from Microsoft. Use Google to find the proper download and download it.

Step 2: Double click the download to extract the contents of this file. It will create a new folder with configuration files (xml) and setup.exe.

Step 3: Tailor the following code as needed and paste it into a new text document.

      <Add OfficeClientEdition="64">
        <Product ID="ProPlusRetail">
          <Language ID="en-us" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Access" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="InfoPath" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Lync" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="OneNote" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Outlook" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Project" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Publisher" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="SharePointDesigner" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Skype" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Skypeforbusiness" />
          <ExcludeApp ID="Groove" />
      <Display Level="Full" AcceptEULA="TRUE" />

The above sample code will only install Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Then save this as config.xml in the folder created earlier.

Step 4: Copy the code below into a new text document file.

    @echo off
    cd /d %~dp0
    setup.exe /configure config.xml

Then save this as install.cmd in the folder created earlier.

Step 5: Double-click on the install.cmd file and it'll run. You may have to right-click on it to run it as  an administrator. I didn't have to do this.

The process will even download the required bits.

Step 6: After successfully installing Office, launch one of the apps. You'll be prompted to login OR enter a product key. Enter your new product key there.

You're done.

Friday, September 30, 2022

USB-C vs Lightning - Redux

Earlier this year I shared a post on USB-C vs Lightning. It was mostly on the durability aspects of the different connectors.

But with the recent release of the iPhone 14 Pro, there's another furor around Lightning connectors.

The earlier post included the following chart:

But I didn't pay much attention to the last row - Maximum transmission speed.

There's a 40 fold increase in transmission speed when using USB-C. FORTY FOLD!

And Thunderbolt is twice as fast as USB-C.

So what does iPhone 14 Pro have to do with this? 48-megapixel ProRAW photos - four times as many pixels as iPhone 13 models.

Full-resolution ProRAW photos taken with the iPhone 14 Pro can be close to 100MB per file.

I hope you're not in a hurry to offload your photos from your shiny new iPhone 14 Pro.

The good news is that there's lots of talk that next year's iPhone 15 Pro will have USB-C.

We can hope.

Here's a good recap of the issue from Lifewire (

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Green Light is Back

Insteon users have had a bad couple of months. I gave up and moved on.

Then Insteon rose from the ashes.


Here's their blog post:

A New Day for Insteon!
We are a small group of passionate Insteon users that have successfully acquired Insteon. Like many of you, our homes are powered by Insteon’s amazing dual-mesh technology and highly configurable products. 

Most of you discovered that the Insteon Hubs began coming back online. Our first priority was getting the hubs online immediately before we had access to this site, the email service provider, social accounts, etc. Every day more customers were giving up hope so it was critical to get that restored as soon as possible. We are aware not all functions are back online but we are actively working on it. We hope you understand this urgency and appreciate your patience. 

Going forward we are committed to responsibly re-building the Insteon business. Our commitment to you, as part of the Insteon family, is to listen, communicate and be as transparent as possible in everything we do. 

Please stay tuned for updates here as well as on twitter, facebook, reddit and elsewhere. If you are an Insteon Hub account holder, look for an email in the coming days. 

Thank you all for your patience. We look forward to sharing this new journey with you. 

Best regards,
Ken Fairbanks
CEO, Insteon Technologies
No thanks.

And here's an e-mail thread between me and some co-workers:
A: Are either of you doing anything with the new Insteon company??
Me: Not with a 10 ft pole. The new owners seem to be well intentioned but the brand is sullied beyond reprieve.
A: That’s my thinking too. Plus I am [not] as dependent on them as some people.
B: No. Pretty much moved all to Wyze.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Z-Wave to the Rescue

You'll recall the disaster that Insteon caused me.

I started off down the road to use "simple" Wi-Fi devices and bought a couple of Kasa (by TP-Link) plugs and a switch. They were easy to install and setup and worked fine.

But every one of them was a separate device on my IoT Wi-Fi network. Long term, that could get to be a problem.

Then another problem opportunity arose. My alarm system went south. But it was 20+ years old.

My alarm company suggested a new system. As I was researching it, I noticed that it included a Z-Wave controller.

So, I stopped my Kasa roll-out after 2 plugs and ordered Enbrighten Z-Wave switches.

The alarm system uses for an Internet interface. The Internet services costs $5 per month. To add Z-Wave service adds another $5 per month. At least has a business plan unlike Insteon.

Adding the Z-Wave switches to was easy. has a good system to create device scenes and schedule them but I wanted to concentrate my automating into my Amazon Alexas.

Amazon has TWO Alexa skills for alarm. com. One is for alarm settings, e.g. scenes, and the other one controls individual devices.

This one is for the alarm and scenes:

This one is for devices:

It would be nice if there was something more obvious to differentiate them other than inferring function from the terse text.

Anyway, initially I installed the alarm and scenes skill. With that, Alexa didn't see the individual devices. So on the app, I created scenes for the each logical activity I wanted, e.g. "Outside Lights On".

This caused further complications in the Alexa routines. Notice that I had to use the syntax of "Alexa ask to run outside lights on".

That works fine but there are undocumented syntax restrictions on the Alexa action command. It took lots of trial and error to get names that would clear the restrictions.

Then I discovered the Alexa skill for devices. With that, Alexa could see the individual devices. I haven't undone my successful work and switched to the more direct constructs.

For thermostats, I'm going with Honeywell RTH6580WF.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Almost as Good as Wired CarPlay

I've been running CarPlay in my car for a couple of years. I dedicated an old iPhone to this function and left it in the call full time. We run the car enough to keep it charged.

That worked very well. Every now and then the car's head unit wouldn't recognize the iPhone. Sometimes unplugging and replugging would fix it. Sometimes you had to turn off the car and restart it.

Nevertheless, it was very satisfactory.


My wife wanted to be able to call and text from her phone using the car's integration. The dedicated iPhone worked fine for that but presented a different phone number.

I had tried a wireless CarPlay dongle from AliExpress in 2019. It required me to download an app and install it in my car's head unit. Microsoft Windows Security pitched a fit when I downloaded that app and then it wouldn't install in my car's head unit.

Recently I gave it another try.

I ordered CarlinKit 3.0.

This time it worked almost flawlessly.

I say "almost" and that's not a big negative. Even wired CarPlay is not 100% dependable. This CarlinKit 3.0 is "almost" that dependable. The CarlinKit 3.0 disconnects more than the wired iPhone but not enough to be a real problem. When either CarPlay disconnects and reconnects, any trip in progress is terminated and has to be restarted.

CarlinKit 3.0 connects quickly, "almost" as quickly as the wired CarPlay.

The only thing I've found that is different from wired CarPlay is that CarlinKit 3.0 occasionally switches away from FM to CarPlay audio. But I'm not convinced that that is a CarlinKit 3.0 problem. Since I am no longer using a dedicated iPhone for CarPlay, my passenger uses the iPhone connected via CarlinKit 3.0 while we are driving. If the iPhone starts emitting audio, e.g. from an autoplay video, I think that triggers the switch. That would be a CarPlay issue, not a CarlinKit 3.0 issue.

Overall, it is worth the minor issues. Being able to use CarPlay for voice calls and text messaging is very valuable.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

That's where ALL Insteon users find themselves.

I've had a good ride with Insteon. Until April 15, 2022.

I'll let you read Stacey on IoT's coverage. And even SmartLabs' feeble and belated attempt at explaining.

Where that leaves me and 1000s of other Insteon users is that their in-house equipment is fine but crippled due to being down for the count.

So, where do I go from here? There are several organizations out there trying to help.

But let's think about those solutions. They all cost a couple of $100s. And when you're done, you still have the Insteon switches and plugs which you can no longer buy and the Insteon hub which you can no longer buy. And the solutions put a server in your house that you have to support and maintain.

That's the Rock.

Then there are the alternatives. These mostly consist of Wi-Fi switches and plugs but depend on a cloud service.

What do you do if/when the cloud service goes away like Insteon did?

That's the Hard Place.

My decision is "Less is More." I'm going with Wi-Fi switches and plugs with no hub and server in the house. At least there are less moving parts.

And I plan to use Amazon Echo to create the automation schedules and routines. That gives me one degree of separation from the Wi-Fi switch and plug vendor's cloud service.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Internet

I guess the title of this post is obvious but from time to time I just have to repeat it.

You'll remember that I'm a big fan of Wyze. But that doesn't lower my expectation of them.

The Verge did a "The Sky is Falling" story on Wyze's v1 camera. Incidentally, Wyze stopped selling them in 2018. They continued supporting it until January 2022.

The security research firm Bitdefender discovered a vulnerability in the v1 camera in March 2019. For some unclear reason, Bitdefinder didn't go public with this after a responsible time. Nor did Wyze share the vulnerability with it's customers.

Then the media started piling on. Read some here.

Even my favorite security podcast featured the vulnerability as "Not So Wyze."

Squarely in the doghouse this week is WYZE whose super-popular webcams have problems which are just as serious as those of the company itself... and, oh!, the authentication bypass details, which I'll share, are SO wonderful!

But don't stop listening there. Listen on to 1:31:12. Someone in the chat room asked "Would it be safe to use a Wyze cam v1 behind a firewall?" Steve answered "I think so. ... The threat model is that you might have mapped a port through it so that you had access to the camera directly, remotely ..."

Listen folks, if you have mapped a port through your firewall to your security camera, you get what you deserve.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Guest Network for IoT

Several years ago I posted a diagram of my home LAN. It's still very much the same.

While that diagram covered the wired network, I didn't mention the wireless network. That diagram showed 3 wired IoT devices: the Insteon Hub, the Obihai terminal, and the Cisco femtocell.

I have replaced the Insteon Hub due to failure, upgraded the Obihai to OBi200, and replaced the Cisco with a new AT&T Cell Booster.

For the wireless IoT devices, I've created a "guest" network using my Asus RT-AC68R.

All of my IoT wireless devices use 2.4GHz so I didn't even enable the 5GHz band.

Notice that the Asus screen says:
The Guest Network provides Internet connection for guests but restricts access to your local network.
What it doesn't say is that the guest network as implemented by the Asus allows access FROM the local network TO the guest network.

So I can view and control my IoT devices from my local network.

I was inspired to write this post by a recent article on Android Central. In that article, they say:
Your home router's guest network is wholly separate from the one you connect your smartphone or computer to. [emphasis mine]
Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

AT&T Cell Booster and Wyze Cams

02/22/22 was the day that AT&T turned off their 3G network. I had been using an AT&T microcell (Cisco DPH154). That afternoon I replaced it with a new AT&T Cell Booster (Nokia SS2FII) provided by AT&T. The installation went well (considering that AT&T was involved).


That evening, I opened the Wyze app on my iPad and NONE of my cameras (v2 and v3) could connect. My first suspicion was Wyze firmware as I had done a mass firmware update the previous night at bedtime. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t check that they worked after the update.

First I power cycled all the cameras. No improvement.

Then I backleveled the firmware on one of the v2 cameras that I could reach. No improvement.

Then I stopped and restarted my 2.4GHz IoT network. No improvement.

Then I rebooted my router. No improvement.

The rest of my 2.4GHz network seemed to be working fine but I didn’t comprehensively test it. I have Ring Doorbells and Amazon Alexas on it as well.

Hmmm. What else had changed since last night? Ah, ha! The AT&T Cell Booster.

Then I unplugged the power to the AT&T Cell Booster.

All is well. Except my cell coverage.

Does anyone else even have one of these AT&T Cell Boosters? Has anyone else experienced this? Anyone have an idea for a workaround?

Sunday, January 16, 2022

If It Breaks Then You Get To Keep Both Pieces

Back when I was young, I worked in the mainframe arena. There was lots of free software available. The saying that went along with that free software was:
If it breaks then you get to keep both pieces.
Years later, I worked in the open systems arena as the Internet was emerging. And along with that revolution came "open source" software.

Our strategy group wouldn't let us use "open source" software.

With the recent log4j and NPM issues, finally I understand why.

Thank you, John O.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

USB-C vs Lightning

My last Android phone, the Essential PH-1, used USB-C. Obviously, my iPhone uses Lightning.

For my usage, they're pretty much the same. I just use the cable for charging. And I charge overnight.

But a couple of articles have raised my interest.

This comment triggered my research:
USB C sucks, Apple lighting is the best even tho I’m not a fan of apple, it’s so much more durable
USB C wins hands down on technology. This article ( does a good job of summarizing the technology.

But, look closely at the chart they used.

Vention doesn't mention that the representations of the "Interface drawing" are fundamentally different.

That "Interface" for the Lightning is inside the device. That "Interface" for the USB-C is dangling at the end of a cable.

Here's a real world example of the difference from reddit:
The apple phone charger chips or breaks and you get a new charging cable, the design is reversed for USB-C, so if the reciever [sic] in a device chips or breaks you now need to replace the reciever [sic] for a phone or other gadget instead of getting a new cable...
Pocketnow has some similar comments:
USB C's design protects the pins and connectors on cables, but there might be some durability concerns over the tab inside a device.

I think it's clear which will win in the long run but it's going to be like Beta vs VHS without the porn.