Newsletter Archives

  • Cables are very important

    When upgrading a computer and you’ve also invested in a new monitor you might want to also invest in new monitor cables. Case in point the HP workstation at the office supports multiple monitors. If you ask the folks at the office, they will tell you that often when I’m upgrading something I will leave behind a power cable I don’t need, or reuse cables that are already there.

    When setting up the computer I happened to have a Display port cable connected to Display port. But when moving around computers they aren’t my favorite cables because they have a clip that invariably when I’m trying to move a computer, I forget there is a clip and I’m yanking on that cable trying to get it to come out.

    So given the choice between Display port and the mini  display port  (the ones on the left are Display port, the ones on the upper right are mini , I’ll opt for mini . So when I was moving the computer around I reused the mini display port to hdmi cable that I happened to already have there plugged into the old computer and old monitors. But when I plugged them in, they were fuzzy and would only get a resolution of 1920×1280. It wasn’t until I plugged in a different set of cables Mini display to Display port that I was able to get the native resolution of 2560 x 1440 on the 27 inch monitors.

    I’m guessing I had older hdmi cables that couldn’t support the higher resolution. But bottom line, if you are setting up a new desktop and things look …. fuzzy….. make sure you see what cable you are using and try another one!

  • Do you know the easy way to get into the boot menu?

    During last week’s video I recommended that you look for a backup software that adjusts the boot menu so you can easily get under the operating system and recover should something happen. Do you know the OTHER way to get under the operating system into the troubleshooting screen that’s just as easy? Watch it here!

    On Windows 10 and 11, Click the Windows Start menu, then the Power button. While pressing down the Shift key, click the Restart button. This will take you to the Windows Troubleshooting options, where you can reboot to BIOS.

    But wait there’s another way…. you can access Windows Settings by right clicking on the Start Menu. Then navigate to the Update and Security section then the Recovery section. In the Recovery settings, under the Advanced startup section, click Restart now.  Note that if you don’t see an option for UEFI as an extra option (like in the video) it’s because your system doesn’t support uefi boot or is in legacy mode.

    Then wait for the loading screen to complete and then click the Troubleshoot button. Tap the advanced button and then choose what you need to do – you can even boot into the bios settings from here.

    Now if your computer isn’t bootable, you can still get to these boot options menu via the Windows 10 USB installation drive.  Plug the USB drive into your usb drive on your computer. While booting, before Windows starts to load (and you’ll need to do this quickly) you need to continuously press F12 to enter your PC’s BIOS. Then select USB Drive as the boot device and Press Enter key.

    This has ALWAYS been annoying to me:  The keys to press, such as F12, F2, Delete, or Esc, differ on computers from different manufacturers.

    Got a Macintosh? Do you know it has similar firmware booting options?

    First is it the newer style with Apple silicon or older Intel based?

    If newer, turn on your Mac and continue to press and hold the power button as your Mac starts up. Release the power button when you see the startup options screen, which shows your startup disks and a gear icon labeled Options.

    If it’s the older Intel style, you can read this post for the various key combinations.

  • Bringing in the new year with a backup

    As the year 2022 closes give yourself a new year’s resolution to make a backup.

    One that ensures that anytime you read about ransomware, hard drive loss or possible issues with a Windows or Apple patch you don’t worry about such things.

    I personally use Macrium reflect and I ensure that it builds a “boot” menu so that I can easy get into the recovery process.

    Part 1 of the backup video is here: Making a backup 

    So have YOU rung in the new year by making sure your computer has been backed up?

    What about restoring?  Do you check if you can restore your computer?

    Part 2 of the backup video showcasing how to restore is here:  Restoring your backup

  • So did you buy a new computer or laptop this season?

    What did you buy?  What brand did you buy and why?  What specs?  Hard drive, memory?

    Where did you buy it?  Several of my friends buy electronics at Costco because of the return policy.

    One thing that I’m sad to see in the marketplace is that while you can find Chromebooks, the market for Linux based laptops and desktops is moved back to niche brands and a bit more expensive business machines and not affordable (i.e. cheap) home versions. Yes you can put it on older laptops that are aging away from Windows 7 and 8.1 but it’s also nice to see a healthy ecosystem of cheaper Linux based laptops geared towards the home market.

    So what did you buy? Why did you buy it? Where did you buy it?

  • Is technology a good gift for Christmas?

    Ehhhhhhh …. typically not.  For several reasons. You never know how someone might feel about the tech you are giving them. It may bring up privacy issues that they would rather not deal with. Or like me in the case of a laptop, the keyboard isn’t quite right. So often you may wish to opt for tech gift certificates rather than technology itself.

    What you can consider is a gift certificate to a streaming service (to see if they want to cut the cable on TV) or maybe a gift certificate to learn something new.  Something like ContextLearning or maybe even a virtual pastry class?

    Bottom line, often I give something that needs technology, but not the technology itself. Too often that’s a personal decision. What’s your thoughts?

  • Got pop ups and ads?

    Someone mentioned the other day “I’m having more and more ads … so many it’s often hard to read anything on a website …”

    Whenever anyone complains about ads that are so annoying to where they interfere with a web site, chances are you don’t need an ad blocker, chances are you have either browser notifications enabled or some sort of advertising software installed on your system that it making your system pop up an ad.

    This is the American holiday of Thanksgiving when I review the health and well being of my computer systems. One key way to review your systems is to literally look in the add/remove programs (or programs and features) section of your computer and sort by date installed. If those annoying pop ups started a month ago, scroll down and review what programs are installed. If you don’t recognize something, ask here in the forums and we can help you figure the good programs from the bad ones.

    Next, see any funky tool bars installed?  Is your search engine not going to what you want it to go to?

    Next open up each browser you have installed. Click on the (typically) the three dots in the upper corner and click on extensions. What do you have installed? Do you personally remember installed each installed extension?

    Go into the settings of the browser and search on notifications. In Chrome it’s chrome://settings/content/notifications?search=notifications, in Firefox it’s about:preferences#searchResults and then search on notifications. Make sure only those sites you WANT to notify you are set to be notified from.

    Especially if you are going to be online shopping this weekend, make sure your browser is up to date, ONLY has the extensions YOU intend to have installed, and ONLY uses the search engine you intend to have.

    If there is something not quite right, ask here in the forums, there are links to the right to get you started!

  • Getting rid of a pending download

    So the other day I had a computer that had a pending update that I DIDN’T want to install.  While you can use the tools at Blockapatch to block a pending update, if something has already been downloaded and is ready to install when you reboot, what can you do?

    Plenty.  Remember the Knowledge base section for “how to clear the queue”.

    I like to be even more surgical and I do the following:

    First I click in the search box and type in Services:

    I look for the Windows update services and stop and then turn it to disabled while I do this. You’ll go back in later and reset it to Manual.

    Next open up File Explorer and Find the Windows folder, then find the folder called Software distribution

    I delete all of the folders under this folder. You may need to provide “administrator” approval in order to do this. These folders will all recreate when the Windows update service is turned back on.

    Now go back into Services and turn the Windows update service back to manual

    You can watch a video here about the process.

  • A new feature in the forum

    We quietly rolled out a new feature in the forums and so far it’s being used very successfully!

    If you feel that a response to your question has been answered, you can respond in a comment that your issue was fixed and then choose the tag of “Resolved”.  This will add a new blue tag to the post indicating that a solution has been found.

    I, for one, love it when I can find a solution in a forum and I love it even more if it’s been noted that it works.

    So the next time you come to the Askwoody forums and ask a question, if you got a solution, can you do us a favor?

    Look for the section right above the reply where it says “No Prefix”.  If you got an answer to your question, pull that arrow key down.

    You’ll see it says “RESOLVED”.

    Type in a comment indicating that you got your problem solved, pull that arrow key down to select the RESOLVED prefix and hit submit.

    This will put a blue RESOLVED in the forums so we will all know you found a solution!

    Note you will need to at least be a registered user in order to use this feature.  If you are a mere visitor, you can see the RESOLVED status, but you won’t be able to set a status.

    As always, thanks to all for asking great questions and thanks to all for answering them!

  • Always have parts on hand

    My office PC was getting a bit tight on it’s C drive and then I wanted to upgrade my spare hard drive to a SSD drive. I copied the spare drive to the SSD and mounted it in the computer. Then I used Macrium reflect to clone the C drive. So I’ll just swap the SSD drive out, right? When I went to pull the power cable and move it to the new hard drive it wouldn’t fit in the new SSD drive. It appeared to me that the cable prongs may have been bent. No worries says I, I’ll just get out the spare power cable that I have in that box of cables that I have kept in a corner of the closet for years until ….uh…. just last month when moving things around I sent some things off to the e-waste. and uh…. I now can’t find the ONE cable I need.

    So I had to send off and do an overnight shipment of a cable kit just so I could reconnect the drives how I wanted to.  There’s no good local store that carries this kind of geek stuff.

    Just proving the old rule… the minute you throw away or get rid of THAT cable is the EXACT time you need THAT cable.

    Of course I now have ANOTHER power cable, an enclosure, and several other cables I don’t need, but I don’t dare get rid of them now as you know I’ll need them tomorrow.

    So what cables do you have that you don’t dare get rid of?

  • How does one use the Master Patch List?

    The other day I was asked how does one use the Master patch list

    There are several ways you can use the list. First off if you don’t want to delve into the details but just want to wait until the dust has cleared and all of the issues have been identified, watch when we change the “Defcon” number at the top of the site. When I flip it to a different number at the end of the month, that’s the time you can stop deferring the updates and install them.  When I flip the site to a different number (typically a 2) at the beginning of the month – typically right before the second Tuesday of the month, you want to defer updates.

    How do you defer updates for Windows 10 and 11? There are several ways. The “low tech” way is to go into the settings, updates and security and defer updates for a number of days.  Note that if you have opted into the insider versions, you can only defer for 7 days. If you are NOT an insider, you can defer up to 35 days. Just go in there and pick a date in the future and then sit back and wait for the dust to settle. Alternatively, you can use a variety of tools (see www.blockapatch.com) to hide and defer updates. You can just stop there and not worry about the rest of the details and just watch the number system at the top of the site.

    What information does the Master Patch List contain? So the Master Patch List is a master listing of the major patch releases to various home and business systems.  I try as much as humanly possible to list all of the updates that got released during the month that impact the majority of computers and then if there are any major issues with a patch, to identify and recap those issues in one spot. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect so if there’s a patch number wrong, or linked to the wrong patch, just let me know and I’ll fix it. After trying to track down all of the different places that Microsoft releases information about updates, sometimes my eyes do get crossed. It’s also not a complete list of EVERY update known to mankind. I don’t track patches for routers, firewall systems, switches, printers, Oracle, or a myriad of other systems that you may have in your home or office networks.  My goal is to get the major patches for your operating systems.

    Can you explain the .NET updates? I get confused about them. Of all of the updates, I think the .NET updates are the most confusing. Microsoft will release .NET updates with a “master KB number” and then the actual KB for the specific .NET you’ll need on your system. Typically, I recommend that you only install .NET updates when they include security components, which is not every month. If you end up installing one when I say to defer it, not to worry, .NET updates lately have become MUCH more well behaved, and I no longer wince when seeing a .NET update.

    So, let’s take for example the September .NET updates. If you look in your Start, settings, updates and security, view update history you will see KB5017500  listed as being installed. YET, if you click on uninstall updates, you won’t see that KB, rather you will see the “sub” KB of KB5017022 listed as an “Update for Microsoft Windows” as that’s the specific update for the bits and pieces of .NET Framework 3.5 and 4.8 that are installed on my machine. Normally the different versions of .NET get installed on your systems because an application demands the different versions. If you are a person who prefers to manually install updates from the catalog  site, this can be very confusing and very hard to keep track.  See what I mean?  Confusing! So when you see me list the “parent” KB and then the sub KB, that’s what I’m talking about. You’ll see one listed in the one update history view, but not if you wanted to uninstall that aptch.

    Does Microsoft update ever make mistakes and offer something on your computer that you don’t have? It has made mistakes, but not often. If Microsoft makes the detection rules and they aren’t quite right, then they can offer something that isn’t right. It doesn’t happen often and when it does it typically is not fatal.

    Do you track other patches besides Microsoft? Yes. I also track browser updates, Chromebook updates and Apple updates. Because Apple has a more walled garden/closed software style of deployment, clearly there’s less issues and side effects. In addition, Apple tends to “dribble” the updates out to users and watches for quality issues before pushing them widely.

    Do you know of a listing of updates that are not offered via Microsoft update? Lately Microsoft has been having a bit more of these “catalog only” patches. Typically when they do this, it means that they don’t see the impact will be to consumers and home users, just business users. They consider that business users will have someone on staff to push out updates. I do note in each monthly list which ones are not on Microsoft update, but I don’t have a master list of the master lists. It’s hard enough keeping up with the monthly releases!

    Why doesn’t Microsoft list their security releases via KB numbers anymore? Microsoft now tracks their releases via CVE or Common Vulnerability and Exposures. Rather than KB numbers, they go by vulnerabilities now. Because patches are rolled up into one patch, they focus on vulns, not KBs. I still look at patches not via CVE’s but by KB numbers because if there is an issue, I need to know what to uninstall.

    So, I hope that helps to clarify how to best utilize the Master Patch List. Let me know if you have any questions, need more clarification or help!

  • Two factor authentication – the old fashioned way

    Today I went to the bank to get something out of a lockbox at my bank. To gain access to the box I used …. what I’m going to describe as…. two factor authentication. I brought my key into the lockbox room; the bank employee had her key to unlock the safe. It took the two keys to open the door to the safety deposit box.  Earlier in the day we had to remember WHERE we had hidden the key for the lockbox in our house. (We finally found it after searching our brains and trying several locations).

    When I was inside the vault, I could tell that several safety deposit boxes had been drilled out as someone had forgotten where the keys were.

    Worse yet is when someone passes away and you don’t realize where all of the documents are stored. It reminded me to remind all of the readers to make sure you write down, document, talk to your heirs, pass along to your loved ones, all of the information that will be needed to get into the sensitive information no matter where it is stored. I have had to help friends who had loved ones reset passwords because they didn’t leave behind information on how to get into their computers and passwords.

    So just like the information in that bank vault, ensure that you protect sensitive information. But make sure that someone else knows how to access that sensitive information should they need to.

  • Search highlights – or – what is that thing down there?

    Tonight, one of my machines finally got search highlights in the search box.  I’ve been wondering when the “dribbled” update would finally catch up with me.

    “For regular users, Search Highlights will show meaningful information like holidays, anniversaries, and other educational moments based on their region.”

    Dear Microsoft:

    I think that’s a mountain, a mountain boot and a walking stick? If it’s not, can you give me a better hint or get a better cartoonist? I live in the Central Valley. Mountains – and mountain climbing are first off not my thing. I am city/suburbs kind of gal, and secondly mountains are a two to three hour drive away. And I’d need two boots and not just one.  Whatever that is down there is not meaningful information to me.

    Next of all of the things that your developers at Microsoft could spend their time on, this would not be what I would pick. It’s distracting. There’s no customization other than to turn it on or off. Clearly I didn’t get donuts either.

    Just a reminder… that’s how you turn that thing off.

    Next time Microsoft, how about you work on allowing users to enable Attack Surface Reduction rules even if they use another antivirus platforms. Now THAT would be meaningful.