Microsoft

10 Gbyte Win10 Spyware “upgrade” now forced on users

Sunday, September 27, 2015 

Microsoft has, historically, done some amazingly boneheaded things like clippy, Vista, Win 8, and Win 10.  They have one really good product: Excel, otherwise everything they’ve done has succeeded only through illegal exploitation of an aggressively defended monopoly. OK, maybe the Xbox is competitive, but I’m not much of a gamer.

Sadly for the world, the model of selling users for profit to advertisers and spies has gained ground to the point where Microsoft was starting to look like the least evil major entity in closed-source computing.  Poor microsoft.  To lose the evil crown must be at least as humiliating as their waning revenue and abject failures in the mobile space (so strange… try to enter a space where they don’t have a monopoly to force users to accept their mediocre crap and they fail, who’da thunk it?)

“There is a difference between policy and practice. We don’t read customers mail. We don’t read customer documents. We don’t triangulate YouTube views and searches. We don’t use the content of your Hotmail to target ads in Bing,”

Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications for Microsoft

Well, never fear: Windows 10 is here and they’re radically one-upping the data theft economy by p0wning not just the data you idiotically entrust to someone else’s server for free without ever considering why they’re giving you that useful service for “free” or what they, or whoever buys their ultimately failed business, might do with your data, but also the data you consider too sensitive for the Google or the Apple.  Windows 10 exfiltrates all your data to Microsoft for their use and profit without your information.  Don’t believe it? Read their Privacy Statement.

Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.

And it is free (as in beer but not as in speech).  What could possiblay go wrong?

Well, people weren’t updating fast enough so Microsoft is now pushing that update on you involuntarily.  Do you have a data cap that a 10G download might break and cost you money?  So what!  Your loss!  Don’t have enough space on your drive for a 10G hidden folder of crapware foisted off on you without your permission?  Tough crap, Microsoft don’t care.

To be clear, Windows 10 is spyware.  If this was coming from a teenage hacker somewhere, they’d be facing jail time.  It is absolutely, unequivocally malware that will create a liability for you if you use it.  If you have any confidentiality requirement, you must not install windows 10.  Ever. Not even on your home machine.  Just don’t.

The only way to prevent this is really annoying and a little risky: disable automatic downloads.  One of the problems with Microsoft’s operating systems is the unbelievably crappy spaghetti code that results in a constant flow of cracks, a week’s worth are patched every Tuesday.  About 1 serious vulnerability every fortnight these days (note this is about the same as Ubuntu and about 1/4 the rate of OSX or iOS, why people think Apple products are “secure” is beyond me – live in that fantasy walled garden!  But nice logo you paid a 50% premium for on your shiny device). Not patching increases the risk that some hacker somewhere will steal your datas, but patching guarantees that Microsoft will steal your datas.  Keep your anti-virus up to date and live a little dangerously by keeping Microsoft out.

Here’s an interesting article: how-to-clean-the-windows-10-crapware-off-your-windows-7-or-81-pc

And a tool referenced in that article: GWX control panel (that can help remove the windows 10 infection if you got it).

And a list of patches I found that are related to Win10 malware that you can remove if you haven’t installed it yet (Windows 10 eliminates the ability to choose or selectively remove patches, once you’re in for the ride, you’re chained in: all or nothing.)

Basic advice:

  • Disable automatic updates and automatic downloads of updates.
  • Review each update Microsoft offers.  This is tedious, my win 7 install reports 384 updates, 5-10 a week, but other than security patches, you probably don’t really need them.  Only install a patch if there’s a reason.  Sorry, that sucks, but there’s always Linux Mint: free like beer AND free like speech.
  • If you’re still on Win 7/8, uninstall the spyware Microsoft has probably already installed.  If you’re on Windows 8, you probably want to upgrade to Windows 7 if at all possible.
  • If you succumbed to the pressure and became a Microsoft Product by installing Windows 10, uninstall it.
  • If uninstall doesn’t work, switch to Mint or reinstall 7.

Most importantly, if you develop software for servers or for end users, stop developing for Microsoft (and Apple too).  Respect the privacy of your customers by not exposing them to exploitation by desperate operating system vendors.  In many classes of applications, your customers buy their computers to run your software: they don’t care what operating system it requires – that should be transparent and painless.  Microsoft is no longer an even remotely acceptable choice.  Server applications should run under FreeBSD or OpenBSD and desktop applications should run under Linux.  You can charge more and generate more profit because the total net cost for your customers will be lower.  Split the difference and give them a more reliable, more secure, and lower cost environment and make more money doing so.

Posted at 08:07:54 UTC

Category: FreeBSDHowToLinuxSecuritytechnology

Microsoft Spyware Now Being Installed On Win 7

Monday, August 24, 2015 

If you’re the sort of person who isn’t entirely happy about the idea of Microsoft claiming the right to copy your personal files, photos, emails, chat logs, diary entries, medical records, etc over to their own servers to sell to whoever they want for whatever they can get for your personal data – into markets that already exist for insurance companies to deny you insurance based on algorithmic analysis of your habits or your friends habits or for financial institutions to set your interest rates based on similar criterion, or perhaps even for law enforcement to investigate you without a warrant, then OBVIOUSLY you would never, ever install Windows 10 under any circumstances.

Well, Microsoft seems to have fully jumped on the Google/Facebook gravy train and is now completely invested in stealing your data and selling it to the highest bidder (Apple has been exfiltrating your data for a long time, but so far for internal use).  I’ve become more suspect of Microsoft’s updates since they made the Windows 10 advertisement an important (not optional) update (important for what? their bottom line, obviously).  Turns out that the latest updates to Windows 7 are pushing Microsoft’s new business model of stealing your data for profit to Windows 7 and 8.

Staying safe is going to require ever more vigilance.  It may be possible to block windows components from reaching out to microsoft’s servers at the personal firewall level and certainly it can be done at the corporate firewall level (and should be), but blocking Microsoft is a somewhat complex issue.  You can’t run Windows safely without installing security patches because the underlying OS is so completely insecure that new, critical, exploitable flaws are discovered every single week.  If you don’t constantly patch these security failures, you will be hacked by people other than microsoft.  If you install the wrong microsoft patch, you will be hacked by microsoft.  Debian anyone? Also, software developers developing enterprise software, please, please, please stop developing for that horrible, insecure, performance hobbling abomination of a tarted-up single-user OS “Server” and focus on a secure, stable server OS like FreeBSD.  Please.  I hate, hate having to fork over $1k to microsoft for each box to run their horrible OS just so I can run your software.  Why do you support that extortion? Do you despise your customers that much? Stop.

If you care about corporate governance and data security or HIPAA compliance, you are probably violating some critical requirements by installing windows 10 or these new updates to your existing Win7/8 base if you do not block data exfiltration to Microsoft’s servers.  This is spyware.  These updates are stealing your data and sending it to Microsoft.  If your business is subject to data privacy laws, these updates put you in violation of those laws.  Microsoft is doing something that is extremely significant and extremely evil and completely wrong.  Take action or you may very well be facing personal or corporate consequences.  srsly.

I am a strong believer in data privacy and extremely suspect of what I consider highly disingenuous business practices like Google’s but I recognize that there are reasonable people out there who think Google isn’t evil.  However, this windows 10 issue, now being pushed to windows 7, goes well beyond Google taking advantage of people’s historical assumptions about the security of email to offer them a free look-alike honey trap to gather their data.  Windows 10 and these Win 7 updates are intrusive, not merely misleading.  Do not update.  Srsly.  Do not update.  Block the spyware “hotfixes.”

Stop Gap Fixes

In researching these updates, I came across this article on techworm that has a nice summary of the Malware updates Microsoft is pushing out (with some additional amendments I found):

With a whiff of irony, this google search “telemetry site:https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb” shows these patches and many more…

Do not automatically install Microsoft updates.  You must turn that feature off or you will keep getting additional spyware installed.  Go to windows update and verify your settings.  I have mine set so windows downloads the updates (so the updates are waiting locally), but I don’t let windows install them automatically.  That gives me a chance to review the updates and look for spyware.

windows_update_settings

When you get updates, you now have to check each one of them to find out if it is spyware or not.  The list above is current as far as I know, but clicking on the “more information” link to the right of the updates list will get you microsoft’s marketing speak obfuscation of the true purpose.  Any update that “adds telemetry points” or something like that is spyware.  Uncheck the install and hide the update.  Note that some of these were moved from “optional” to “important.”  Microsoft is absolutely intent on stealing your data and is taking some pretty underhanded steps to make it difficult for you to avoid it.

block_microsoft_spyware

 

If updates get past you or it turns out later that a seemingly important or innocuous update was spyware (the fun part is that you now have to be vigilant and look all this stuff up), then you can uninstall them from the “installed updates” control panel.

uninstall_microsoft_spyware

Work to be done

I’ll start looking into firewall settings to block communication to microsoft’s servers.  This is a standard anti-malware technique and should work here, except that microsoft has so many servers it is more challenging to block them than your typical malware botnet.

We need something like a variant of Peer Guardian to block microsoft’s servers using the standard P2P crowd-sourcing model to keep the list up to date. I’m not aware of anything like this yet, but I’m looking.  Microsoft has become more of an enemy to privacy than the RIAA ever was.

UPDATE:  this superuser answer includes a list of telemetry endpoints to block at your firewall or router.  Alternatively you can edit your hosts file and add these entries from DSL reports.

Larger Significance

This shift in business focus by Microsoft from providing a product people are willing to pay for to stealing data from people to sell on the commercial market has some significant lessons for the entire software model.

It isn’t just that Microsoft is now adopting Google’s business model of giving away “free” goodies as traps to collect product (you) to sell to the highest bidder, but that the model of corporate trust that underpins most of the security assumptions the internet is built on is manifestly false and unsustainable.  If any hacker tried to create these spyware updates, locked-down computers that only install signed code would refuse to install them.  Ignoring for the moment that the signed code model is idiotically flawed as signing keys are stolen all the time, this microsoft spyware is properly signed with legitimate keys.  It will be installed on locked down computers without complaint and will not show up in commercial anti-virus software.  But it is spyware.  It contains keyloggers and extremely productive data exfiltration code that is currently copying wholesale data dumps from unfortunate victims to Microsoft’s servers in such volume that their data caps are being hit.

If a non-commercial third party (e.g. “hacker”) did this, they’d be prosecuted.  It makes no difference to you that your data is being stolen by Microsoft rather than by some clever teenager in a former eastern block country: your data is being stolen.  But the model that has been promoted, a model of centralized corporate trust to validate the “security” of your system has been utterly and irrevocably shattered.  This isn’t an accident, isn’t something that better data management might have prevented, this is an intentional ex post facto rewrite of the usual, customary, and regular assumptions we have about the privacy of our computer systems and one that significantly impacts the security of almost everyone in the world: military, medical, legal, fiduciary, as well as personal.

And even if you trust Microsoft (for whatever bizarre, irrational reason), Microsoft is creating a whole series of security holes in their already crappy and insecure operating system that will be exploited by third parties.  By adding keyloggers and data exfiltration tools to the core OS, they’re making it even easier for non-corporate hackers to jump on the data theft gravy train. Everyone profits but you. You lose.

Posted at 04:19:18 UTC

Category: Privacytechnology

Windows 10 Privacy Annihilator

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 

Why would Microsoft, a company whose revenue comes entirely from sales of Windows and Office, start giving Windows 10 away – not just giving it away, but foisting it on users with unbelievably annoying integrated advertisements in the menu of Win 7/8 that pop up endlessly and are tedious to remove and reinstall themselves constantly?

Have they just gone altruistic?  Decided that while they won’t make software free like speech, they’ll make it free like beer? Or is there something more nefarious going on? Something truly horrible, something that will basically screw over the entire windows-using population and sell them off like chattel to any bidder without consent or knowledge?

Of course, it is the latter.

Microsoft is a for-profit company and while their star has been waning lately and they’ve basically ceded the evil empire mantle to Apple, they desperately want to get into the game of stealing your private information and selling it to whoever is willing to pay.

So that’s what Windows 10 does.  It enables Microsoft to steal all of your information, every email, photo, or document you have on your computer and exfiltrate it silently to Microsoft’s servers, and to make it legal they have reserved the right to give it to whoever they want.  This isn’t just the information you stupidly gifted to Google by being dumb enough to use Gmail or ignorantly gifted to Apple by being idiotic enough to load into the iButt, but the files you think are private, on your computer, the ones you don’t upload.  Microsoft gets those.

Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.

They’ll “access” your data and “disclose” it (meaning to a third party) whenever they have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.  No warrant needed.  It is necessary for Microsoft to make a buck, so if a  buck is offered for your data, they’re gonna sell it.

If you install Windows 10, you lose. So don’t. If you need to upgrade your operating system, it is time to switch to something that preserves Free like speech: Linux Mint is probably the best choice.

If you’re forced to run Windows 10 for some reason and can’t upgrade to windows 7, then follow these instructions (and these) and remain vigilant, Microsoft’s new strategy is to steal your data and sell it via any backdoor they can sneak past you. Locking them down is going to be a lot of work and might not be possible so keep an eye out for your selfies showing up on pr0n sites: they pay for pix and once you install Windows 10, Microsoft has every right to sell yours.


 

Update: you can’t stop windows 10 from stealing your private data

That’s not quite true – if you never connect your computer to a network, it is very unlikely that Microsoft will be able to secretly exfiltrate your private data through the Windows 10 trojan.  However, it turns out that while the privacy settings do reduce the amount of data that gets sent back to Microsoft, they continue to steal your data even though you’ve told them not to.

Windows 10 is spyware.  It is not an operating system, it is Trojan malware masquerading as an operating system that’s true purpose is to steal your data so Microsoft can sell it without your consent.  If you install Windows 10, you are installing spyware.

Win 10 has apparently been installed 65 million times.  That’s more than 3x as many users’ most intimate, most private data stolen as by the Ashley Madison attack.  If you value privacy, if the idea that you might be denied a loan or insurance because of secret data stolen from your computer without your consent bothers you, if the idea of having evidence of your potential crimes shared with law enforcement without your knowledge and without a warrant worries you then do not install windows 10.  Ever.

Posted at 11:00:30 UTC

Category: Privacytechnology

Sony-style Attacks and eMail Encryption

Friday, December 19, 2014 

Some of the summaries of the Sony attacks are a little despairing of the viability of internet security, for example Schneier:

This could be any of us. We have no choice but to entrust companies with our intimate conversations: on email, on Facebook, by text and so on. We have no choice but to entrust the retailers that we use with our financial details. And we have little choice but to use butt services such as iButt and Google Docs.

I respectfully disagree with some of the nihilism here: you do not need to put your data in the butt. Butt services are “free,” but only because you’re the product.  If you think you have nothing to hide and privacy is dead and irrelevant, you are both failing to keep up with the news and extremely unimaginative. You think you have no enemies?  Nobody would do you wrong for the lulz?  Nobody who would exploit information leaks for social engineering to rip you off?

Use butt services only when the function the service provides is predicated on a network effect (like Facebook) or simply can’t be replicated with individual scale resources (Google Search).  Individuals can reduce the risk of being a collateral target by setting up their own services like an email server, web server, chat server, file server, drop-box style server, etc. on their own hardware with minimal expertise (and the internet is actually full of really good and expert help if you make an honest attempt to try), or use a local ISP instead of relying on a global giant that is a global target.

Email Can be Both Secure AND Convenient:

But there’s something this Sony attack has made even more plain: eMail security is bad.  Not every company uses the least insecure email system possible and basically invites hackers to a data smorgasborg like Sony did by using outlook (I mean seriously, they can’t afford an IT guy who’s expertise extends beyond point-n-click?  Though frankly the most disappointing deployment of outlook is by MIT’s IT staff.  WTF?).

As lame as that is, email systems in general suffer from an easily remediated flaw: email is stored on the server in plain text which means that as soon as someone gets access to the email server, which is by necessity of function always globally network accessible, all historical mail is there for the taking.

Companies institute deletion policies where exposed correspondence is minimized by auto-deleting mail after a relatively short period, typically about as short as possible while still, more or less, enabling people to do their jobs.  This forced amnesia is a somewhat pathetic and destructive solution to what is otherwise an excellent historical resource: it is as useful to the employees as to hackers to have access to historical records and forced deletion is no more than self-mutilation to become a less attractive target.

It is trivial to create a much more secure environment with no meaningful loss of utility with just a few simple steps.

Proposal to Encrypt eMail at Rest:

I wrote in detail about this recently.  I realize it is a TLDR article, but as everyone’s wound up about Sony, a summary might serve as a lead-in for the more actively procrastinating. With a few very simple fixes to email clients (which could be implemented with a plug-in) and to email servers (which can be implemented via mail scripting like procmail or amavis), email servers can be genuinely secure against data theft.  These fixes don’t exist yet, but the two critical but trivial changes are:

Step One: Server Fix

  • Your mail server will have your public key on it (which is not a security risk) and use it to encrypt every message before delivering it to your mailbox if it didn’t come in already encrypted.

This means all the mail on the sever is encrypted as soon as it arrives and if someone hacks in, the store of messages is unreadable.  Maybe a clever hacker can install a program to exfiltrate incoming messages before they get encrypted, but doing this without being detected is very difficult and time consuming.  Grabbing an .ost file off some lame Windows server is trivial. I don’t mean to engage in victim blaming, but seriously, if you don’t want to get hacked, don’t go out wearing Microsoft.

Encrypting all mail on arrival is great security, but it also means that your inbox is encrypted and as current email clients decrypt your mail for viewing, but then “forget” the decrypted contents, encrypted messages are slower to view than unencrypted ones and, most crippling of all, you can’t search your encrypted mail.  This makes encrypted mail unusable, which is why nobody uses it after decades. This unusability is a tragic and pointless design flaw that originated to mitigate what was then, apparently, a sore spot with one of Phil’s friends who’s wife had read his correspondence with another woman and divorce ensued; protecting the contents of email from client-side snooping has ever since been perceived as critical.1I remember this anecdote from an early 1990’s version of PGP.  I may be mis-remembering it as the closest reference I can find is this FAQ:

It was a well-intentioned design constraint and has become a core canon of the GPG community, but is wrong-headed on multiple counts:

  1. An intimate partner is unlikely to need the contents of the messages to reach sufficient confidence in distrust: the presence of encrypted messages from a suspected paramour would be more than sufficient cause for a confrontation.
  2. It breaks far more frequent use such as business correspondence where operational efficiency is entirely predicated on content search which doesn’t work when the contents are encrypted.
  3. Most email compromises happen at the server, not at the client.
  4. Everyone seems to trust butt companies to keep their affairs private, much to the never-ending lulz of such companies.
  5. Substantive classes of client compromises, particularly targeted ones, capture keystrokes from the client, meaning if the legitimate user has access to the content of the messages, so too does the hacker, so the inconvenience of locally encrypted mail stores gains almost nothing.
  6. Server attacks are invisible to most users and most users can’t do anything about them.  Users, like Sony’s employees, are passive victims of sysadmin failures. Client security failures are the user’s own damn fault and the user can do something about them like encrypting the local storage of their device which protects their email and all their other sensitive and critical selfies, sexts, purchase records, and business correspondence at the same time.
  7. If you’re personally targeted at the client side, that some of your messages are encrypted provides very little additional security: the attacker will merely force you to reveal the keys.

Step Two: Client Fix

  • Your mail clients will decrypt your mail automatically and create local stores of unencrypted messages on your local devices.

If you’ve used GPG, you probably can’t access any mail you got more than a few days ago; it is dead to you because it is encrypted.  I’ve said before this makes it as useless as an ephemeral key encrypted chat but without the security of an ephemeral key in the event somebody is willing to force you to reveal your key and is interested enough to go through your encrypted data looking for something.  They’ll get it if they want it that bad, but you won’t be bothered.

But by storing mail decrypted locally and by decrypting mail as it is downloaded from the server, the user gets the benefit of “end-to-end encryption” without any of the hassles.

GPG-encrypted mail would work a lot more like an OTR encrypted chat.  You don’t get a message from OTR that reads “This chat message is encrypted, do you want to decrypt it?  Enter your password” every time you get a new chat, nor does the thread get re-encrypted as soon as you type something, requiring you to reenter your key to review any previous chat message.  That’d be idiotic.  But that’s what email does now.

Adoption Matters

These two simple changes would mean that server-side mail stores are secure, but just as easy to use and as accessible to clients as they are now.  Your local device security, as it is now, would be up to you.  You should encrypt your hard disk and use strong passwords because sooner or later your personal device will be lost or stolen and you don’t want all that stuff published all over the internet, whether it comes from your mail folder or your DCIM folder.

It doesn’t solve a targeted attack against your local device, but you’ll always be vulnerable to that and pretending that storing your encrypted email on your encrypted device in an encrypted form adds security is false security that has the unfortunate side effect of reducing usability and thus retarding adoption of real security.

If we did this, all of our email will be encrypted, which means there’s no additional hassle to getting mail that was encrypted with your GPG key by the sender (rather than on the server).  The way it works now, GPG is annoying enough to warrant asking people not to send encrypted mail unless they have to, which tags that mail as worth encrypting to anyone who cares.  By eliminating the disincentive, universally end-to-end encrypted email would become possible.

A few other minor enhancements that would help to really make end-to-end, universally encrypted email the norm include:

  • Update mail clients to prompt for key generation along with any new account (the only required option would be a password, which should be different from the server-log-in password since a hash of that has to be on the server and a hash crack of the account password would then permit decryption of the mail there, so UX programmers take note!)
  • Update address books, vcard, and LDAP servers so they expect a public key for each correspondent and complain if one isn’t provided or can’t be found.  An email address without a corresponding key should be flagged as problematic.
  • Corporate and hierarchical organizations should use a certificate authority-based key certification system, everyone else should use web-of-trust/perspectives style key verification, which can be easily automated to significantly reduce the risk of MitM attacks.

This is easy. It should have been done a long time ago.

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I remember this anecdote from an early 1990’s version of PGP.  I may be mis-remembering it as the closest reference I can find is this FAQ:
Posted at 16:21:29 UTC

Category: FreeBSDPrivacySecuritytechnology

openldap-server-2.4.33_2

Thursday, January 3, 2013 

With FreeBSD 9.1 out, it is time get all my ports upgraded in advance of doing the OS update.  The process is fairly painless, but occasionally, especially if you are slacking in the updates, a change in configuration causes the usually completely automatic “portupgrade -ra” to fail.

One such update was “Upgrading 'openldap-sasl-server-2.4.31' to 'openldap-server-2.4.33_2” which failed with a

===>  openldap-server-2.4.33_2 conflicts with installed package(s):
      openldap-sasl-client-2.4.33_1

      They install files into the same place.
      You may want to stop build with Ctrl + C.
===>  License OPENLDAP accepted by the user
===>  Found saved configuration for openldap-server-2.4.33

===>  openldap-server-2.4.33_2 conflicts with installed package(s):
      openldap-sasl-client-2.4.33_1

      They will not build together.
      Please remove them first with pkg_delete(1).
*** Error code 1

Stop in /usr/ports/net/openldap24-server.

But because this is FreeBSD and the open source community actually provides support, unlike, say Microsoft, where such an error would languish for months, if not years, with out a patch or any advice on how to fix it, the port maintainer, Xin Li, answered my question in less than 20 minutes with the following advice:

cd /usr/ports/net/openldap24-server
make config

Check “SASL” is checked?

Following his directions, everything compiled perfectly.

Posted at 15:49:42 UTC

Category: FreeBSD

Cleaner, More Efficient Windows 7

Thursday, January 26, 2012 

One of the things I hate about Win 7 is the automatic “smart” folders like Homegroup, Favorites, Libraries, and the User folder. They are ass and unbelievably annoying. I have a folder called work that is well organized, but way too often I’d end up the the Library “work” which is just idiotically bizarre. I want my pictures organized the way I want them, typically topically, not all lumped into a folder called “Pictures” and segregated from another folder of “videos.”

Why someone at Microsoft thought that dynamically self-organizing file structures was a good idea is beyond me. They are in love with this insanely stupid premise that it is somehow helpful that every time you click on a menu or open a folder it is organized differently that the last time based on some algorithm you can’t control. It is like having Clippy restructure your documents for you.

They should have a central “turn off all features where MS engineers think they can organize things for you automatically and let me organize my computer myself, OK?” But they don’t, and while it is a bit tedious, it is possible keep Microsoft’s meddling fingers out of your organization with a few regedits.

Remove Favorites: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/window-on-windows/remove-favorites-from-windows-explorer-in-windows-7/3461

Remove User Folder: http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/48123-user-folder-add-remove-navigation-pane.html

Remove HomeGroup: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/window-on-windows/remove-homegroup-from-windows-explorer-in-windows-7/3425

Remove Libraries: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/window-on-windows/remove-libraries-from-windows-explorer-in-windows-7/3401

And regain control of your computer.

Clean_Computer.JPG
Posted at 17:48:57 UTC

Category: technology

Lenovo System Update breaks Windows Update

Monday, August 29, 2011 

An unfortunate series of events afflicted my poor Lenovo W500. At some point I started to get odd errors and ran sfc /scannow and found a large set of uncorrectable errors in a variety of packages. Nothing caused me too much trouble, so I ignored it. I kept hoping some giant windows update would overwrite all the broken bits and save me the trouble of debugging it, so I was happy when Win 7 Service Pack 1 was finally available – at 70-400MB it has to overwrite just about everything, but my happiness was short lived.

windows update broken.PNG

sfc scannow fail.PNG

Sadness… somewhere in the preamble updates something got hosed and a check of my disk showed bad blocks. Chkdisk confirmed it and it seemed a failing disk was likely the cause of many of my woes. I strapped as many belts and suspenders around the disk as I could – windows backup, clonezilla, copying files. Clonezilla couldn’t read all the blocks, so I had to use the recover option, but that version still had problems. Dang.

Windows recovery was fail, rollback, in place upgrade, system restore. All fail. Fine. Life sucks – reinstall from scratch and then reinstall all my applications. This is a huge pain in the ass, but windows just get sluggish in a year or so without a complete reinstall anyway; it isn’t like Microsoft cares whether you can get your work done or not, what are you going to do? Pay 100% style premium so The Steve can dictate what you can do? When choosing one evil empire over another, pick the cheapest.

So I do a reinstall from scratch. Windows reinstalls more than a few weeks out from the release of the OS are a monumental undertaking as the updates take forever. Bringing a windows 7 computer up to date takes between 1-1.5GB of updates, after installing a DVD’s worth of software. There’s the endless reboots as patches are installed and removed and whatever, multi-hour downloads. But eventually, you get a perfect, up-to-date OEM blessed configuration. Or so you think… duh duh duh.

I finished the whole mess, including the Lenovo System Update drivers and windows update stopped working and sfc /scannow gave me errors. Crappenfest. Reverting to the first system snapshot failed, uninstalling every single thing – all windows updates, all Lenovo updates was fail. Whatever did this can’t be fixed after it is done. You’re screwed.

Nothing to do but try again from scratch, this time paying attention and not using the computer at all until everything was installed, including anti-virus. Another 36 hours of updates later, same result. CRAPPENFEST.

How could that be? Some OEM/M$ update is breaking the system, and so began the hunt: reinstall from scratch #3. I used a binary search algo, saving disk images between each iteration so I wouldn’t have to do install from scratch 4. All windows update updates were fine, so the problem was with Lenovo. Updating only essential components was fail, restore windows. Installing just the really important bits one or two at a time (not quite binary splitting the install batch) got me through about half the useful lenovo updates, so time to create an image.

Reviewing the Device Manager, I saw 5 “?” devices – and searching around I found they were related to 3 drivers:

4-in-1 Card reader
Setup from “4in1” folder

  • Base system device Ricoh Memory Stick controller
  • Base system device Ricoh SD/MMC host controller
  • Base system device Ricoh XD- picture card controller

the above 3 unknown devices in device manager will be resolved by the Ricoh cardreader drivers.

Turbo Memory
Some models may or may not have a turbo memory module.
To verify, open “device manager” and check for a unknown device listed as “PCI Memory Controller”.
If such a device is listed, then install the Turbo Memory driver via setup from “turbomem” folder.
You may see a hardware device install popup from systray.
Reboot is required.

AMT
If Intel’s Adaptive Management Technology is implemented in anenterprise enviroment, then the AMT drivers can be installed viasetup from the “AMT\MEI” folder.
If AMT is not employed, AMT can be disabled via Bios.
The drivers from the AMT setup will resolve the unknown devices within “device mananger”, the PCI Simple Communications Controller.

I install just those.

FAIL!

recover using windows system recovery tools (format disk, reinstall from image)

One of those three. AMT I don’t want anyway, so I tried to disable it in BIOS, but there were no entries in my BIOS for AMT so I just disabled it in device manager. ?->! np. I don’t trust it, too deep in the OS. This seems like the problem.

Install Ricoh, seems benign. Reboot, system works. Just Turbo Memory to go.

Turbo Memory is kind of cool, especially for a laptop. As Intel says:

The benefits of Intel Turbo Memory include:

  • Faster application load and run time when multi-tasking
  • Faster boot time
  • Lowers PC power consumption by reducing hard drive spin

It uses some special on the mobo Intel cache memory to speed up disk access like a hybrid SSD/Rotating disk. I want this to work ’cause it cost money to put in the computer. Since it had to be that evil AMT security thing, no problem. FAIL. The problem is Intel’s Turbo Memory driver. If you install it, you’re screwed. Now that I know what the problem is, I find I’m not the only one with it.

I tried both the Lenovo supplied Turbo Memory Driver and the Intel supplied one here . Both are fail. No Turbo Memory For You. There are some hints in forums that maybe Turbo Memory isn’t compatible with advanced format disk drives, so possibly replacing my older 500GB disk with a newer 700GB uncovered a latent incompatibility.

Given how much of a disaster installing it is–the only recovery method is to restore a previous disk image–I suppose that’s one feature of my MoBo that is obsolete now. Bummer. Ate just about a week of work time to find this little monster of a driver. Thanks WinTel.

(my sfc /scannow log was filled with entries like:

POQ 119 starts: 0: Move File: Source = [l:192{96}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\Temp\PendingRenames\a52557019366cc01d63500006c0a3c08._0000000000000000.cdf-ms", Destination = [l:104{52}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\FileMaps\_0000000000000000.cdf-ms" 1: Move File: Source = [l:162{81}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\Temp\PendingRenames58759019366cc01d73500006c0a3c08.$$.cdf-ms", Destination = [l:74{37}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\FileMaps\$$.cdf-ms" 2: Move File: Source = [l:224{112}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\Temp\PendingRenames58759019366cc01d83500006c0a3c08.$$_microsoft.net_3296b36dbe4c7fa3.cdf-ms", Destination = [l:136{68}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\FileMaps\$$_microsoft.net_3296b36dbe4c7fa3.cdf-ms" 3: Move File: Source = [l:244{122}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\Temp\PendingRenames\c6495e019366cc01d93500006c0a3c08.$$_microsoft.net_framework_83386eac0379231b.cdf-ms", Destination = [l:156{78}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\FileMaps\$$_microsoft.net_framework_83386eac0379231b.cdf-ms" 4: Move File: Source = [l:266{133}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\Temp\PendingRenames\26ab60019366cc01da3500006c0a3c08.$$_microsoft.net_framework_v2.0.50727_e9368840261e60ee.cdf-ms", Destination = [l:178{89}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\FileMaps\$$_microsoft.net_framework_v2.0.50727_e9368840261e60ee.cdf-ms" 5: Move File: Source = [l:288{144}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\Temp\PendingRenames\860c63019366cc01db3500006c0a3c08.$$_microsoft.net_framework_v2.0.50727_redistlist_2e6ab8b35e9ef953.cdf-ms", Destination = [l:200{100}]"\SystemRoot\WinSxS\FileMaps\$$_microsoft.net_framework_v2.0.50727_redistlist_2e6ab8b35e9ef953.cdf-ms"

POQ 119 ends.

Posted at 17:12:45 UTC

Category: Negativetechnology

Ford Taurus X Rental

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 

Rental car review

ford taurus x.jpg
This week i got a new Ford Taurus X, an interesting rental car. It’s an SUV type vehicle, oversized and overaccesorized, but a surprisingly pleasant vehicle that’s fairly easy to drive and comfortable.
Now the theory is that such a car would be good for off-road use or something since it has four wheel drive, but that’s really not happening. Better to think of it as a minivan with a nose and some extra weight in the drive train. Desipite the foolishness of SUVs in general, and especially given gas prices, the car had some neat features.
  • I used the backup sensor in a parking lot – a good thing as the car is long and has poor visibility out the back.
  • It has an outside temperature indicator which I like.
  • The seat moves all the way back when you take the key out, and then back to where it was for us old people.
  • The tailgate opens and closes itself, which is kind of absurd and overkill but fun in a gadgety way.
  • The engine is fairly powerful (Canadian rentals seem to be more powerful than US rentals – my .ca Grand Am would spin it’s wheels embarrassingly easily, whereas my .ca.us Grand Am in LA was kind of anemic).
  • It’s quiet and comfortable.
  • The rear seats fold into the floor of the car – just like a mini-van.
  • The stereo had an analog input and a 6 CD MP3 changer
  • It has Microsoft Sync – more on that below.

Read more…

Posted at 23:00:30 UTC

Category: photorental carsreviews

I hate thunderbird

Monday, October 8, 2007 

So once, long ago, I moved to IMAP on my server. I wanted to move there with my trusty Eudora client that I’ve been using since about 1993. Sure, I flirted with other mail systems, but they screwed me and what I care about most was:

  1. Never Lose Data (early versions of Thunderbird were not so good about this for me)
  2. Search my several gigabyte database of mail fast enough to be useful.

Now outlook is absolutely intolerable about this last point. Search in all Microsoft products, indexed or not, is so painfully slow one might as well go on vacation. It is incomprehensible to me how it can suck so bad. I remember in 1990 using OnLocation and searching my entire computer (all 20MB of it) in a fraction of a second. Sure it was less data, but it was also doing it on a 33Mhz 68030.

Eudora lets me find my mail. Eudora lets me get my job done. Unfortunately Eudora can’t search an IMAP mailbox unless it is connected. WTF?

OK, time for Thunderbird. But Thunderbird is so not ready for prime time. There’s the massive delays to open any of my larger mailboxes, even to show titles (14,000 messages in a mailbox is NOT too many, who uses this? Kids?) Second it gets confused easily communicating with the IMAP server which tends to lock it up indefinitely. Still, it does cache locally and the built-in search, while interminably slow is faster than Microsoft Search (but doesn’t search across accounts! Hello!). I’m hoping Google Desktop Search will help. Initial results are promising. And Penelope could be very cool. Especially if they add indexed search.

One little change I had to make for Thunderbird was given at this fine site:

perl -p -i -e 's/^MAXDAEMONS=40/MAXDAEMONS=80/g' /usr/local/etc/courier-imap/imapd

perl -p -i -e 's/^MAXPERIP=4/MAXPERIP=40/g'  /usr/local/etc/courier-imap/imapd

Update - 9/9/2010

I’m now using Thunderbird (3.1).  It hasn’t lost data yet.  It has a nice fast search.  I still don’t like it as much as Mulberry for basic mail functions, but it shows pictures in line and I can quickly toggle between HTML mail (to insert inline pictures and screen grabs) and text mail.

These are useful basic features and I wish Mulberry had them.

Posted at 15:45:05 UTC

Category: FreeBSDreviewstechnology