How to Start Investing for Free

Hello! This post is going to be a little different than my normal technology-related stuff, but it’s something I’m very interested in and wanted to share with all of my readers.

Investing can be a very daunting task – the buy low/sell high moniker is hard to follow because when looking at a stock, how do you know if it’s low? Or how do you know if it’s high? I recently stumbled across an app called Acorns that takes all of the guesswork out of investing and actually has a very solid theory behind it – all set to help make you money. Here’s how it works…

You make plenty of purchases with your bank account, we all do. So let’s say you go to the stores and buy a pair of shoes for $65.37. Acorns monitors your bank account for all of your transactions and rounds them all up to the nearest dollar. So those shoes actually end up costing you $66 instead of $65.37. The extra $0.63 is transferred to Acorns (after your round-up balance reaches $5) and invested in various stocks – all automatically. Acorns will assess how risky your profile can be and does all of the investments on their own. You can even set Acorns to manually take money out of your account every month in addition to their round-up scheme.

I transferred $20 into the account two day ago as a way to “seed” the account and ended yesterday earning $0.14. That’s not a lot, but imagine if I had a lot more money in the account.

If you sign up using my sign-up code we both get $5 completely free. They don’t take your $5 and give it to me, and they don’t take my $5 and give it to you. I also don’t make any more money off of you and you don’t make any more money off of me. Signing up with an invite code simply causes Acorns to spend $10 of their money and splits it between us.

Click here to sign-up with Acorns and get $5 completely free.

Install Android 5.1 on VirtualBox

Hello all! It’s been quite some time since my last update, but I’m posting quite a doozy today. I spent a good couple of hours recently trying to setup and run Android in a VirtualBox environment. I’m here now to try and alleviate all of the issues I had and hopefully make things a little less painful for those of you wanting to do the same.

First off, you’re going to need a copy of VirtualBox installed as well as the “android-x86-5.1-rc1.iso” downloaded from this page.

Once you’ve got those handled, you should be presented with a black VirtualBox window, like below.

Click the “New” button at the top left and you’ll be presented with the following window.

You can name this whatever you want, however I’m opting to name it “Android 5.1”. For the “Type” choose “Linux” and then for  “Version” choose “Other Linux (32-bit)”.

Click “Next” and you’ll be presented with the “Memory size” screen. Depending on how much system memory you have, I typically allocated half of my available RAM. This is because if I’m working in an emulated environment, I don’t typically swap back and forth a lot to the host system so I can afford to spare half of my RAM. My laptop has 16GB of RAM so I’ll give this one 8GB (8192 MB). Click “Next”.

Choose “Create a virtual hard disk now” and click “Create.”

On the following screen choose “VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image)” and then click “Next.”

Change the selection to “Fixed size” and click “Next.”

Usually with any virtual operating system made from Linux that I’m testing, I’ll give it 16GB of space. This is typically more than enough for what I need, however if you plan to download a ton of apps or whatever and need the extra space, then adjust accordingly. Set the size you want the hard drive to be and then click “Create.”

Now you’ll be presented with the following please wait screen…

After that’s completed you will be taken back to the main VirtualBox window. Now we need to modify a few settings for our virtual environment, so click the “Settings” button at the top.

The first setting to change is to disable USB inputs and set them to be PS/2. This is done under the “System” settings and the “Motherboard” tab. Change the “Pointing Device” option to “PS/2 Mouse.”

Now we want to assign 128 MB to our “Video Memory.”

Under the “Storage” options, click the “Empty” selection under the “Storage Tree” options and then click the little blue disk icon at the far right so that we can select our Android ISO, and then under the fly-out menu click “Choose Virtual Optical Disk File…”

Navigate to where your ISO downloaded to, double-click it, and you should now have the ISO loaded.

The Android emulator environment has an issue loading the ICH AC97 audio controller for some strange reason, so under the “Audio” settings change “Audio Controller” to “SoundBlaster 16.”

Now let’s disable all USB inputs by unchecking the “Enable USB Controller” option under “USB”.

That’s it for the settings. Click “Ok” to save your changes and close the window. Now, we need to boot it up by double-clicking the “Android 5.1” entry on the left side of the VirtualBox window.

You should be presented with the Android boot menu. Use your arrow keys to go down and choose “Installation – Install Android-x86 to harddisk.”

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Your next screen may look slightly different than mine, however the steps should be the same. Using your arrow keys, go down and select “Create/Modify partitions” and press Enter.

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Choose “No” and press “Enter.”

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From the next black screen, using your right arrow key move to “New” and then press “Enter.”

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Leave it at “Primary” and press “Enter.”

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Leave “Size” default, and press “Enter” and you’ll be brought back to this screen.

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Since your cursor should be on top of the “Bootable” option, go ahead and press “Enter” to flag the partition as being bootable. Under the “Flags” option at the top, you’ll now notice the “Boot” flag present.

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Use your right arrow key to move all the way over and down to the next line. Stop on “Write” and press “Enter.” Type “yes” as a confirmation and press “Enter” again. After it’s finished, you’ll be given the menu at the bottom once more, now use your right arrow key to move over to “Quit” and press “Enter.”

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Your screen should now match the following:

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From the screen shown above, press the “Enter” key. On the next screen, press your mouse arrow down to highlight “ext3” and press “Enter.”

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Move the cursor to the left and press “Enter.”

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Move the cursor left again so that we install the GRUB boot loader.

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Choose to “Skip” the install of EFI GRUB2 unless you have a very specific need for it.

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Finally, choose “Yes” on making the /system directory read-write.

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Your installation will now proceed…

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Now, before going down to “Reboot”, go to your “Devices” menu, then hover “Optical Drives” and then click “Remove disk from virtual drive.” You may get a “Force Unmount” button, go ahead and click it. Now, using your down arrow go down to “Reboot” and click “Enter.”

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Android should now be installed to your virtual drive! Once you reboot you will be presented with the Android GRUB menu. The first option is the one to choose, so either let the countdown timer hit zero or you can just press enter on it.

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You should now have this fabulous Android boot animation.

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And once everything has finished loading, you’ll be presented with the Android setup process.

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Go ahead and continue on with your new emulation of the Android operating system!

Free Credits from OfferWalls, TapJoy, SuperSonic, etc.

If you’re a browser-based game player and have seen games that allow you to earn free credits by simply filling out surveys, downloading software, etc., you’ve probably thought about how hard it is to get these offers to complete. A lot of times, your offer completes with no problem, but the offer provider does what they call “skimming leads” and won’t actually credit you for your completion even though they are earning on the back-end for it.

In light of this information, I’ve come up with a pretty great way of getting these offers completed. Granted, there’s nothing you can do to show an offer as completed that the provider has “skimmed”, but with this method, you can complete a ton of offers so that you’ll get credited more often and the skimmed completions won’t seem like as much of a loss.

Basically what this guide is going to be showing you is how to install a virtual operating system, install an OS, and lock the OS down so that the stuff you download for these providers can’t ultimately effect your master system or the virtual system. First of all, you’re going to need some software. This software needs to be obtained legally (even though this software is readily available from torrent websites, I will not and cannot condone you downloading this stuff from those websites). You will only be seeing links to official websites for this software.

This is going to be a fairly long post, as it’s going to be incredibly detailed so as not to arouse any complications or misunderstandings. There are screenshots throughout the process to help you know exactly what I’m talking about and which buttons to press, etc. This is your one-stop shop for getting free browser game credits.

This is the software you’re going to need:

  1. Oracle VM VirtualBox version 4.2.24 r92790
    The reason I recommend downloading this older version is due to the fact that NVIDIA has an issue with the newest builds of VirtualBox. When you launch the program you get a DLL error, even though the software works fine other than being slow. This older version of VirtualBox doesn’t have that problem.
  2. Windows XP
    You can get Home or Professional, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure that the 32-bit or 64-bit version you get also fits the 32-bit or 64-bit version of the VirtualBox you download. I also prefer to use Windows XP over a newer version of Windows (such as Vista, 7 or 8) due to how fast Windows XP loads. Running XP in a virtual environment is much faster than running the later editions of Windows.
  3. Faronics Deep Freeze Standard Edition
    This is the software that’s going to lock down Windows XP so that any change that’s made to the system is reverted after reboot, as if you never touched the machine. It’s an amazing piece of software that basically turns your machine into a bullet-proof, virus-proof system.

Once you’ve gotten VirtualBox installed on your system, you’re going to need to click the “New” button at the top left to create a brand new virtual drive.

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Set the “Name” to whatever you’d like, but I choose Windows XP Pro (or Home if that’s what you have). Set the “Type” to Microsoft Windows and the “Version” to Windows XP or Windows XP (64-bit), again depending on which version of XP you have. Mine has the “- 2nd” tag in the Name because I already have a system setup as Windows XP Pro.

Click the “Next” button and you’ll be presented with the Memory Size window. This is the amount of memory from your main system that you’re going to allocate to your virtual machine. I typically give it half of the memory that my main system has, so go ahead and move the slider over to however much you want. Windows XP can run just find on 1024MB of memory, but for this example, I’m giving it 4096MB (half of my main system’s memory).

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Click the “Next” button and you’ll be presented with the Hard drive window. I prefer to create a static hard drive for the machine instead of a dynamically allocated hard drive, so click the “Create a virtual hard drive now” bubble and then click the “Create” button.

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In the next window, choose “VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image)” as the Hard drive file type and click the “Next” button.

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On the next window, you need to change the option to “Fixed size” and not “Dynamically allocated”. Once you’ve done that, choose “Next”.

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Leave the size of the hard drive set as the recommended value (in this case for Windows XP Professional it’s 10GB) and then click “Create”.

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You are then presented with the message that the hard drive is currently being created. Give it some time, as depending on how fast or slow your master machine is, it could take a little bit.

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After the hard drive has been created, you’ll see it listed in the left-hand menu of VirtualBox. Before you open it though, we want to give it it’s own IP address and let it function as a regular computer on our network. Do this by clicking the drive on the left and then choosing “Settings” from the top. Follow the other screenshots until you’ve gotten the system configured properly.

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Click the “OK” button at the bottom to save your settings. Now, double-click on the operating system on the left that you just created.

You’ll get a new window pop up asking you to select a start-up disk. Click the folder icon to the far right and then navigate to where you have your WindowsXP.iso file located, and then double click on that ISO to load it.

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I have navigated to my Windows XP Pro (SP3).iso file and loaded it.

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This is a legitimate copy I purchase a long time ago, and I’ll be using it for this tutorial. Once you’ve loaded your ISO into that section, click the “Start” button.

You should then be presented with the following Windows XP installation screen. If you are unfamiliar with how to install Windows XP, I suggest you Google that, as it’s beyond the scope of this tutorial (although it isn’t hard, there are just plenty of things to configure). It will work exactly like you’re installing Windows XP onto a regular computer, so if you’ve ever done that, you’ll be fine.

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Once you get all the way through the XP installation, you will be taken to your XP desktop. This is your new, fully-functional, XP virtual system. Feel free to customize it however you see fit, such as installing all of the updates available as well as modifying the look of the operating system. For this tutorial, I’m leaving it like it is except for installing Google Chrome. Use Internet Explorer to navigate to http://google.com/chrome inside of the virtual system and install that. Chrome is much quicker and easier to use than the bulky Internet Explorer that comes with XP.

After you’ve installed Chrome, set it up the way you like it. The best way I’ve found to do this is to create bookmarks to the games you play most often (that have TapJoy or other in-game reward systems in place) so that you don’t have to type out the URL for the game every time you boot the system up. Login to those games, save your passwords in the browser, and finish customizing Chrome the way you’d like.

The final step is getting DeepFreeze installed on the system. The installation is incredibly simple and will take no time at all. Once it has been installed, it will automatically reboot the virtual machine and you will be brought right back to the desktop. If you ever want to make a change on the system, all you need to do is hold the shift key down and double-click the bear icon in your taskbar. This will bring up the DeepFreeze menu and allow you to either boot in Frozen or Thawed mode. Frozen mode means that no change will be saved on your system, and Thawed mode means that your virtual system will function as normal. You always want to make sure you are in Frozen mode when doing these offers. The only time you’d want to boot into Thawed mode is if you were updating the system or adding a new bookmark to Chrome or doing some other change that you’d like to stick. Once that change has been done, be sure to boot back into Frozen mode immediately.

Now comes the fun part: getting free in-game credits. What you want to do (while in Frozen mode, of course) is head to TapJoy, SonicAds or whatever other in-game reward system is in place. Look for the section titled “Downloads” or “Free Software”, etc. You’ll want to download the software and install it 100% the way the executable is defaulted to install. This means installing all of the crappy spyware/adware/viruses that the executable comes bundled with (I hope you didn’t install an anti-virus somewhere along the setup process!)

Some offers take anywhere from a minute to several hours to actually credit your account. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to downloading/installing software for your in-game rewards:

  • Always install the software 100%. Do not decline anything. Install it all.
  • Once the software has installed on your virtual system, run it at least once, and keep it running. This software reports back to the ad servers to let them know you completed the installation. It wouldn’t hurt to run some of that “bundled” software while you’re at it for good measure.
  • Do not reboot your machine until you have been credited for the installation. As stated before, this can take anywhere from being an instant credit to several hours before they credit you. Be patient.
  • Once you have been credited, reboot the virtual machine. You’ll be brought back to exactly the way the system was before you rebooted it, and you’ll still have the credit from the reward script in the game.
  • The reward systems don’t play nice with Chrome all the time. For some odd reason, I have had more success using Internet Explorer than I have with Chrome, but Chrome is my browser of choice, therefore I instructed you to install it above. If you never receive a credit for your completed download and you used Chrome, try it again using Internet Explorer.
  • Along the entire way of installing the software and running it for the first time, take plenty of screenshots of the software. If you are never credited for an offer, file a support ticket with the rewarding system and upload your screenshots to a place like Imgur. Include those screenshots in your support ticket to let them know you have complied with the policies and rules for the offer and you installed the software as instructed, but still never received your credit. I’ve had plenty of success with filing tickets as long as I had the proper proof I followed through with the offer as instructed.
  • Never, ever, ever, and I mean never do more than one offer in the same “session”. This means that you do NOT install more than one piece of software (for more than 1 offer) while being booted up into the same “session.” Always restart the computer between installing two different offers. This keeps their tracking system from placing a recognizable cookie in your browser to prevent rewarding you on multiple offers. I’ve had this happen to me on numerous occasions and it’s best to install one piece of software, get rewarded, reboot the computer, and do the next offer. It takes a little more time, but it is much more rewarding and efficient to do it this way.

That’s it for the guide. This is a fool-proof way of getting offers to complete through places like TapJoy, Matomy, SonicWall, etc. without risking the integrity of your actual computer. If you have any questions regarding anything posted above, please feel free to leave a comment below!

Almost an entire year

It’s been almost an entire year since my last post here on the blog, and boy have I been busy. When I first started my blog I intended to post tons of tutorials, whether it be Linux/Ubuntu based, Photoshop, web development, gaming, etc., and I got a decent start-up going with the Ubuntu tutorials. I had plans to incorporate some video game reviews, some let’s plays, and everything else in the realm of video gaming, however those parts of the digital life never really took off with the blog.

With all of that comes time, responsibility, editing, proof-reading and just generally a lot of research when testing out certain aspects of new tutorials, and time is something I haven’t had a lot of lately. With starting my new brick-and-mortar company, Ricky’s Nerd Services, LLC, as well as working a full-time job in a prison teaching inmates how to use computers, the blog has seen a lot of neglect. It’s something I’d love to be able to change drastically and immediately, but it’s the facts of life that you have only 24 hours in a day to cover all of your hobbies, family functions and financial requirements.

I’m hoping that the year will pan out in a better light and I’ll be able to post some worthy articles that people find fascinating, helpful, intuitive and entertaining. I will be returning back to full-form with the blog fairly soon with some new content and hopefully not get stuck in the rut I was in for the second half of 2013.

If there is anything that my loyal readers would like to see, I welcome any and all opinions. If you have something that you need help with and think I have the possibility to offer the assistance, please let me know using the Contact form in the menu bar above. In the meantime, I want to let all of you know that I appreciate your comments, I appreciate the readers and most of all, I appreciate the friendships that have stemmed from the blog itself.

Take care, and I’ll be seeing you all soon!
Ricky

OnStar RemoteLink error number 901

I recently purchased a brand new 2013 Chevrolet Equinox that came with OnStar equipped. Upon learning that you can download an OnStar app to your smartphone and start/stop the car as well as lock/unlock the doors, I immediately “geeked out”. After download and installing the app to my Samsung Galaxy Nexus equipped with Android 4.2.2, I was greeted with a “Never updated from Equinox” message at the top of the screen. I thought this to not be much of a big deal and clicked the button to update it only to be greeted with an error that said the following:

Unable to refresh data.

Unable to perform request. Please try again. (901)

I uninstalled the app, re-installed, and entered my account information into the app all over again only to continuously get the same exact error message. I was disheartened and had no other option but to call OnStar’s mobile support division.

To say that they were helpful the first three times I called is an overstatement. I was connected with three very nice people, however. They informed me that they wouldn’t be able to help with the issue other than telling me to uninstall the app and to re-install it and reboot my phone. I informed them I had tried this multiple times and it didn’t help. They all informed me that they would need to escalate my case to a tech supervisor and they would call me back when they figured out the problem.

I waited for three weeks and never got a single phone call back from OnStar. I tried again today, and low and behold, I was greeted with the exact same error message I’d been getting for weeks. Deciding that I’d had enough of waiting, I called them back again today. After being connected to the first representative, she told me I wouldn’t ever be able to use the app from my home because I wasn’t close enough to the border of Texas (where the signal is strong, apparently at my house the signal was too weak, even though I’m 2 miles from the border of New Mexico and Texas). I informed her that there is no possible way that could be true as I was teetering on the edge of New Mexico and Texas; I had also driven in to Texas twice since having the car and still was unable to pull up the car’s information with the OnStar app.

After she placed me on hold and got a tech supervisor on the phone, I figured I would get the same run-around as before and I would have to live with the fact that I would never be able to use the OnStar Remote app.

After about twenty minutes of being on hold the tech supervisor came back on the line and told me she found what the issue was. Apparently my car did not have a mobile number assigned to it, so therefore, I was unable to communicate with the OnStar services (either through the website or through the mobile app). She assured me that I’d be able to use the remote app once the mobile number was registered and assigned to my vehicle, which takes up to 72 hours.

That was about five hours ago. I loaded up the OnStar remote app about ten minutes ago and after a wait of three weeks, I was finally able to view all of my vehicle diagnostics within the OnStar RemoteLink app. Starting and stopping the car as well as locking and unlocking the doors were now able to be sent from my phone to the vehicle and it worked without any issues.

In conclusion, if anyone out there ever has this issue and can’t seem to get it fixed by calling OnStar, be sure you ask them to verify you have a mobile number assigned to your vehicle. Even though it was supposed to take 72 hours, it took a maximum of five for me today.

Web Developer, Game Designer & Internet Entrepreneur