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  • Dell patches SupportAssist, but other PC-Doctor software still vulnerable

    Posted on June 23rd, 2019 at 07:58 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Dell announced on June 21 that it has issued an emergency patch for the Dell SupportAssist software – which you’re probably running if you have a Dell computer and didn’t wipe out the pre-installed garbage.

    Specifically, the PC-Doctor component of SupportAssist has a vulnerability in the way it checks (or, er, doen’t check) the validity of certain DLLs on your computer. If somebody sticks a bad DLL on your machine, in a specific location and with a specific file name, PC-Doctor helpfully picks it up and runs it – with system-level privileges. SafeBreak Labs, which discovered and reported the bug, has a full description.

    Dell ain’t the only one. Apparently PC-Doctor Toolbox is also part of

    CORSAIR ONE Diagnostics
    CORSAIR Diagnostics
    Staples EasyTech Diagnostics
    Tobii I-Series Diagnostic Tool
    Tobii Dynavox Diagnostic Tool

    You may recall that Dell SupportAssist had a big security breach back in May, 2019. Beats me why anyone would continue to use crapware like it.

  • How to work and play in Win10’s new Sandbox

    Posted on June 10th, 2019 at 02:05 Tracey Capen Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    First offered with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (aka Version 1903), the new Sandbox feature provides users a safe, protected area to install and run untested programs.

    Trying out new software is great, but installing and running unknown, untested, or possibly unsafe applications could present a significant risk to your Windows environment.

    One of the better safeguards is sandboxing, which isolates apps from the rest of your system.

    See the full story in the June 10, 2019, AskWoody Plus Newsletter (Issue 16.21.0)

  • Test-driving Intel’s Optane in a new PC

    Posted on June 10th, 2019 at 02:03 Tracey Capen Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Can Optane really deliver on Intel’s claim of “SSD-like responsiveness from a conventional spinning-platter drive?”

    A brand-new PC with a factory-installed Optane system presented a great opportunity to find out — and to discover how benchmark tests can vastly differ from real-life use!

    See the full story in the June 10, 2019, AskWoody Plus Newsletter (Issue 16.21.0)

  • Taking the plunge with a new PC

    Posted on June 3rd, 2019 at 02:20 Tracey Capen Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Buying a new PC was once a fairly simple shop-and-buy process. There wasn’t much to consider beyond memory and drive capacity — and maybe an upgraded video card.

    But recent innovations have made choosing a new machine more complicated. Intel’s Optane technology, for example, claims to make a hard drive as responsive as an SSD!

    See the full story in the June 3, 2019, AskWoody Plus Newsletter (Issue 16.20.0)

  • Tracking down ominous noises in your PC

    Posted on May 27th, 2019 at 04:15 Tracey Capen Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    By Fred Langa

    Strange sounds — especially abrasive or grinding noise — emanating from inside a PC are definitely cause for alarm! Here’s how to correct the two most common sources.

    Plus: What are the risks of relying on Win10’s built-in Windows Defender as your primary, front-line anti-malware tool?

    See the full story in the May 27, 2019, AskWoody Plus Newsletter (Issue 16.19.0)

  • Langalist: Common reasons for backup and imaging failures

    Posted on May 20th, 2019 at 02:10 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    So your backup didn’t, you know, back up. Why?

    As Fred Langa points out, that isn’t always an easy question. But he has answers.

    The latest LangaList out this morning in AskWoody Plus Newsletter 16.18.0.

  • “Side channel” vulnerabilities and Windows

    Posted on May 19th, 2019 at 12:07 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    I’ve avoided talking much about Spectre, Meltdown and the like because there’s an endless succession of patches to Windows and the hardware – and registry changes to go with them – and we still haven’t seen a real-world exploit.

    If you’re running a high profile server, though, you should keep up on this stuff.

    Karl Wester-Ebbinghaus (@alqmar) has come up with an exhaustive list of patches, patches to patches, BIOS updates and registry settings, all related to the “side channel” vulnerabilities. Click on the comment link at the top to see the results of his extensive investigation.

  • Patch Lady – the battery problem

    Posted on May 13th, 2019 at 22:57 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Technology and batteries have a love hate relationship with each other. We need batteries to power many of our laptops and devices. Yet we still rely on battery technology that when it’s not working right could lead to dangerous conditions. A year ago Amazon contacted me proactively about several USB battery blocks I had. The batteries could explode. So they send me prepaid shipping boxes to safely send back the batteries and refunded me in full for my purchase. I had purchased my bricks several years before so I was surprised with out Amazon handled the recall. It was efficient and quite frankly, given the age of the battery bricks, generous.

    Surface devices are not immune to battery issues. There are numerous threads in various forums about bulging screens that are as a result of battery issues. While there are threads about successful resolutions with units swapped out for refurbished units, there are also other threads where customers have been given conflicting information and some have had to pay to fix the issue. The tell tale signs of an impacted system is a screen that no longer fits well with the rest of the unit.

    Calling up support appears to be a bit of Russian roulette. Depending on your location, support may tell you that you have to pay for the service. Or they may fully replace the unit at no charge. Some will even tell you that there’s no problem at all with a bulging battery:


    However as Barb Bowman points out, other tech companies like Best Buy inform their customers that bulging batteries are indeed a problem and they should be handled very carefully. If you are impacted by or suspect you have a unit that has a bulge, the best way to handle the issue is to immediately stop using the device. If you have a Microsoft store near you, take it back to the Microsoft store. If you do not have a Microsoft store near you (the closest one to me is four hours away), the best thing to do is to call Microsoft during business hours and discuss the issue of the bulging screens. If you receive a support personnel that does not handle the bulging screen issue seriously, call back and try with another support personnel or better yet ask to speak to a supervisor. You may also try to get service online.

    Surface devices are notoriously hard to repair. So much so that the ifixit site indicates they are difficult to get into and cannot be upgraded. The Surface Pro 6 has a repairability of 1 out of 10.

    Surface devices aren’t the only ones with battery issues. Even Macbooks have had to start a replacement program to deal with their bulging problems. Lenovo’s had to replace impacted batteries that failed. HP had to expand a recent recall due to battery issues.

    Bottom line, take a look at your laptop. No matter the brand, no matter the price tag. If you start to see your screen bulge, or see a yellow tint on the screen, don’t try to fix the computer yourself, contact the vendor of the laptop and see what they can do for your issue. Batteries shouldn’t fail. And when they do, it can be dangerous. Sign up for notifications from your laptop vendor or keep an eye on recall notices.

    If your device is under warranty, or in the case of Surface devices, less than three years old, chances are very good that you will get a replacement.