• MS-DEFCON 4: A mixed bag for May

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    ISSUE 19.21.1 • 2022-05-24
    MS-DEFCON 4

    By Susan Bradley

    Good news! Most consumer and home users should be just fine after installing this month’s updates.

    I’m not seeing any major, trending issues with patches for the bulk of users, so I’m lowering the MS-DEFCON level to 4.

    But there’s a “but”: I’m still seeing some corner-case oddities and just can’t quite put my finger on the root cause. For example, reader Ray G reports:

    … after the updates are installed, I still have a black screen and have to wait for about 5 minutes for the desktop to appear.

    Anyone can read the full MS-DEFCON Alert (19.21.1, 2022-05-24).

  • Want laptop graphics power specs? They might not be easy to find.

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    ISSUE 19.21 • 2022-05-23

    PUBLIC DEFENDER

    Brian Livingston

    By Brian Livingston

    Some well-known manufacturers of laptops make it a little hard to discover the power ratings that determine their machines’ LCD display performance, even though graphics-chip suppliers such as Nvidia and AMD order the laptop makers to do so.

    One of the suppliers — the graphics-processor giant Nvidia — says about this situation, “We’re requiring OEMs to update their product pages” to reveal a crucial laptop feature known variously as Total Graphics Power (TGP) by Nvidia and Typical Board Power (TBP) by AMD, as I explain.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.21.0, 2022-05-23).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • Discover the useful but hidden extras at Office.com

    MICROSOFT 365

    Peter Deegan

    By Peter Deegan

    Microsoft has done a lot of work on the Office.com home page, especially for business and enterprise users.

    There’s a lot more available on those pages than first appearances indicate. In fact, some of the most useful features are hiding behind faint, almost hidden, icons.

    Office.com is a useful portal to access recent documents saved on OneDrive or SharePoint/Teams across all your Office apps and document types. I’ll first look at the many changes for Business, Enterprise, and Education users, and then I’ll explore some hidden extras for Microsoft 365 Family/Personal.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.21.0, 2022-05-23).

  • Solid-state drives — from bespoke to commodity

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Solid-state drives (SSDs) have a surprisingly long history, leading up to the types commonly in use today.

    It takes some planning and analysis to make best use of them, but significant improvements in speed and reliability over electromechanical hard drives make SSD investments worthwhile.

    For this article, let’s stick with name brands such as Crucial, SK hynix, Kioxia, Samsung, SanDisk, and Western Digital — all with comparable performance levels. Note that SK hynix acquired Intel’s SSD business, SanDisk is now a subsidiary of Western Digital, and Kioxia is a spinoff of Toshiba.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.21.0, 2022-05-23).

  • Debugging feature-update failures

    PATCH WATCH

    Susan Bradley

    By Susan Bradley

    A long-time reader recently got in touch to mention his difficulty in getting a PC update past Windows 10 version 1909.

    Plus member Lee Gruenfeld indicated that he had worked with several Microsoft support agents to get a more contemporary version installed, a process that lasted several months and resulted in continued failure.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.21.0, 2022-05-23).

  • Ewaste or usable – week 3

    Do I need a traditional computer in the future?

    Week 1 here

    Week 2 here

    So this week I’m going to pause and ponder.  I’m going to ask the question …. do we NEED a computer?  Not necessarily a Windows computer, or even a Linux computer mind you. But do you NEED a traditional desktop or laptop to fit your needs? The answer for those of you currently using a traditional computer is probably yes. For now. But I want you to think about your needs in the future. Because I’m going to challenge you to tell me what application you currently use that needs a traditional computer (keyboard and monitor).

    If your primary need for your computer is email and surfing, you may want to consider something like a Galaxy Tab  or other tablet style of platform. Now that said, I still come across retail web sites that just act weird on a Safari browser on an ipad and I have to flip over to a normal computer.  So sometimes mobile browsers don’t act the same … or rather web sites aren’t coded up correctly to handle mobile browsers.

    But this is changing as more and more people are moving to smart phones  and tablets versus using computers. There are (supposedly) 6.648 Billion with a B smart phones in the world. There are only 1.4 billion Windows devices. I personally know several people that have no Windows devices at home and only have android tablets and phones.

    Now I will be the first to admit that depending on my needs I can live without a ten key while I’m travelling, but living without a keyboard is hard. I have no idea how the kids “thumb” their way through their smart phone and can quickly compose something. Now that probably explains the number of typos and how everyone has lousy handwriting these days, but I’m definitely of the generation that I am not productive even answering an email without a QWERTY keyboard.

    Now these days you can get keyboards that connect via bluetooth to tablets and even Kindle devices that allow you to have a QWERTY experience with a tablet so that you can get the composing ability you need when you are in my age group.

    But think about what drives you to have a traditional computer, and specifically what drives you to have a Windows computer? For businesses, it’s much more clear cut, we have legacy business software that requires us to stay on Windows (or remote into one). This is one of the reasons we still have so many security issues with Windows, it’s these years of legacy code that backwards compatibility demands. At one point in time Apple had the advantage due to the fact that Apple started over and threw out their legacy. These days they are ticking up in security issues so they are starting to have their own “legacy” issues and getting more targeted especially on the mobile platform.

    At home we may have less need for older legacy software that is unique to the Windows platform. Or if the software is under active development, they are moving to web based or mobile options (case in point, Turbotax has both a web version and a Mac version).

    In small businesses what I’m seeing is that my vendors are pivoting to subscription models that are getting increasingly expensive and thus making the cost analysis between the subscription web and the now mandated subscription desktop software such that the desktop is now getting prettttttyyyyyyy expensive.  I’m specifically thinking of QuickBooks. A few years ago QuickBooks Enterprise moved to a subscription model. This year for 2022 they moved normal QuickBooks desktop to the subscription model as well. So in the past if a small business needed QuickBooks and payroll, you would buy QuickBooks desktop once every two and a half years along with the yearly QuickBooks payroll subscription.  It was an acceptable cost of doing business. Now you have to pay an annual subscription for QuickBooks AND for QuickBooks payroll. Needless to say QuickBooks desktop’s price tag just went way way up. So the vendors are now slowly moving/pushing us firstly to subscription models and then secondly to web only platforms.  More and more people are asking around if there are accounting alternatives (hint there are some like Wave and Xero but again, they are web based and thus don’t demand windows). Even Microsoft keeps pushing us to subscription and web versions rather than the “sticky” desktop software.

    So my question to you is…. why do you need a traditional computer?  What specifically keeps you on the traditional desktop or laptop form? What can you not do on a tablet or mobile phone?  What software do you use that will only work on the traditional desktop or laptop format?

  • Master Patch List as of May 19, 2022 – out of band for server auth issues

    Microsoft has released an out of band update for Servers only to fix the authentication issues with certificates introduced in the May updates. I’ve updated the  Master Patch list  as a result.

    Cumulative updates:
    Note: You do not need to apply any previous update before installing these cumulative updates.
    Standalone Updates:

    Note these are not on Windows update, they are only on the Microsoft Update catalog.  They can be imported into WSUS.

    Note this issue does not impact consumers, only domain controllers in networks with an active directory domain.  So if you are a home or small business with a peer to peer network you will not be impacted.

    The only other fix discussed is to fix installing updates from the Microsoft store.  If you have been impacted by any other Windows 10/11 issues (.net stuff, black monitor, etc) I personally don’t think this out of band will fix those issues.  You certain can back up your system and try it, but I would be surprised/gobsmacked to hear that it actually fixed anything other than the auth problems on the servers and the Microsoft store install.

  • The annoyances of the default behavior in Teams

    Microsoft Teams. It’s an app I use occasionally. But I don’t want it to auto launch. I want it out of the way and only launched when I want it. But Microsoft clearly doesn’t agree with me. It’s even more annoying when I’m setting up Office and I haven’t logged into Teams to then go into the settings and tell it to go away.

    Fortunately there is a way you can disable the auto-launch even if you don’t have the login to Teams.  And while you are there…. check out the other items autolaunching and disable accordingly.

    Method 1: Disable from Task Manager

    You can disable Microsoft Teams from Task Manager and it will not start up automatically:

    1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc key to open Task Manager.
    2. Go to Startup tab.
    3. Click on Microsoft Teams, and click on Disable.

    Method 2: Change settings

    You can the settings in Microsoft Teams and see if that helps:

    1. Launch Microsoft Teams.
    2. Click on the Profile icon on the top right corner and click on Settings.
    3. Scroll down and clear the checkbox for Auto Start Application.

    Method 3: Modifying Registry

    You can delete the entry for Microsoft Teams from Registry and check:

    Note:  Important this section, method, or task contains steps that tell you how to modify the registry. However, serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly. Therefore, make sure that you follow these steps carefully. For added protection, back up the registry before you modify it. Then, you can restore the registry if a problem occurs.

    Follow the steps to take backup of registry.

    1. Press Windows key + R, to open Run dialog box.
    2. Type regedit and click on OK.
    3. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    4. On the right pane, right click on the registry entry for Microsoft Teams and select Delete.

    So what annoys you about auto launching programs and which ones do you delete?

  • Master Patch List of May 16, 2022 – Apple zero days fixed

    I’m releasing an update to the Master Patch list – not to give the go ahead for any Windows patches, rather to announce that Apple has released several updates that include fixes for zero days.

    While it includes new features for Apple Cash, the Podcast app amongst others, it includes 30 security fixes for iOS 15.5 and macOS 12.4 includes 50 fixes.

    Overall tally:

    macOS Monterey 12.4 – 73 bugs fixed
    macOS Big Sur 11.6.6 – 52 bugs fixed
    Security Update 2022-004 Catalina – 37 bugs fixed
    iOS and iPadOS 15.5 – 34 bugs fixed
    watchOS 8.6 – 21 bugs fixed

    1 zero-day in macOS Big Sur 11.6.6
    1 zero-day in watchOS 8.6

    One zero day involves “A remote attacker may be able to cause unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution.

    I’ll dig around to see if I can find information on HOW the attacks occur as not all risks are created the same.  Note I recommend that you wait for Apple’s ‘dribble’ patching while they get their telemetry from early updaters.

     

  • The twists and turns of Office Fast Account Switching

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    ISSUE 19.20 • 2022-05-16

    MICROSOFT 365

    Peter Deegan

    By Peter Deegan

    Fast Account Switching lets you quickly “change hats” between work, home, and other Microsoft accounts in Microsoft 365, Office 2021 and 2019, and now the browser-based Office.com apps.

    Most of us have more than one online life, usually a work account — and a personal account and possibly more for other work or voluntary commitments. For Office users, that means separate Microsoft accounts and switching between those accounts to see recent documents and online storage related to that part of your life. In the past, and still in Office for Mac, changing accounts meant reopening the Office app.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.20.0, 2022-05-16).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • Will Intel be a dominant chip company going forward?

    SILICON

    Brian Livingston

    By Brian Livingston

    All the headlines seem to be bad for Intel lately — poor yields on bleeding-edge technologies, disappointed customers, lagging performance compared with competitors from around the world, and on and on.

    The truth of the matter is a bit more complicated.

    Most of the stories you’ve been reading in the mass media about Intel are telling only half the tale — if that.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.20.0, 2022-05-16).

  • WebChangeMonitor — stalk your favorite websites for changes

    FREEWARE SPOTLIGHT

    Deanna McElveen

    By Deanna McElveen

    My husband and I get asked a lot about how just two people can keep thousands of computer programs up to date on our website.

    Simple: We can’t — but we try real hard. Luckily, we get assistance from software developers’ emails, RSS feeds, open-source project trackers, and good ol’ fashioned complaining.

    Another tool we’ve started using lately is WebChangeMonitor, by German software developer Martin Halle. It’s a great little program that allows you to be notified when a change occurs on a webpage. Pretty handy for us when we want to know whether a developer has updated their version of an application, but the program can be helpful to anyone in so many other ways, too.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (19.20.0, 2022-05-16).