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  • Tasks for the weekend – October 16, 2021 – what ports are open?

    Posted on October 17th, 2021 at 00:40 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Youtube video here

    One of the ways a home user can see if you are vulnerable for external attacks – especially if you have devices that allow for remote access is using a port scanner. One such tool is Shieldsup from GRC. You can visit the site and have it scan typical ports.

    But keep in mind it only scans about 1000 ports on the “all service ports” and there’s over 64,000 ports that can “talk” in your computer system.

    Shields up showcases ports from the outside of your computer.  It lets you see what an attacker can see on your system from the outside.

    Green means “stealth”.

    Now mind you the attackers can still get you with browser attacks and phishing these days so I’d argue that this “direct” attack method is less likely to occur these days, but especially if you have older tech that relied on specific ports to be open, this is still a quick and dirty tool to use to check that your outside edge of your network is what you expect it to be.

    Edit 10-17-2021

    I was trying to provide the ultimate url and grc doesn’t work using the landing page.

    Try https://www.grc.com/default.htm and scroll down to the 2nd tool in the list:

    NEW SHIELDS UP! TEST: UPnP Exposure Test!

    Go to ShieldsUP! and click GRC’s “Instant UPnP Exposure Test”.

  • Tasks for the weekend – September 25, 2021 – but what if you DO want Windows 11?

    Posted on September 26th, 2021 at 00:29 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Youtube here  Unless you’ve been’ living under a rock, you’ll know that Windows 11 is to be officially released on October 5th. We don’t know when 21H2 will be released but I think it will be after October 5th.  Don’t worry after I give the all clear to install updates I’ll walk you through the setting to defer 21H2 and ensure Windows 11 won’t get installed in next week’s newsletter. Some of you that are the testers for the rest of your office/fleet may want to have Windows 11 as soon as possible.

    So what should you do if you DO want Windows 11 on your existing computer? 

    First off as we’ve said before, check that your hardware can support it. Keeping in mind that if you’ve done ANY group policy based deferrals of updates, the Microsoft tool will say that your organization manages patching on your machine.  Thus you’ll need to use a third party tool like WhynotWin11 instead.

    Next click on search, device manager, go into your video card driver drivers and review the date of the drivers. Next go to the manufacturer of the video card drivers (don’t google and go to a random driver site) and see if there are newer drivers. If there are, install them.

    Next check if you have the latest and greatest engine of your antivirus vendor. (This will be automatic with Microsoft Defender). Ensure you have the latest engine from your vendor – and if need be – uninstall and reinstall. Make sure your backup vendor will support Windows 11 as well.

    Review for support from your vendors – see if they all support it at this time – and if they don’t you can deal with not using them if there is an issue.

    …and remember – you can roll back to Windows 10, you can easily do so.  So after you install it, go through the applications and accessories like printers and scanners that are your bread and butter items and test to make sure they work. If they don’t, roll back, report it here, and we’ll let you know when the issues are fixed.

  • Tasks for the weekend – September 18, 2021 – it’s squirrel away time

    Posted on September 18th, 2021 at 23:38 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    (Video here) It’s squirrel away time. Time to download a copy of Windows 10 21H1 and ensure you have a copy in case you need it to do a repair install or a clean install.

    To do this go to the Windows 10 ISO page and download a copy and place it on your computer or to a spare flash drive.

    We think that 21H2 might be coming out soon but we’re not sure when. Microsoft is very focused on Windows 11 and I’ve yet to see an announcement surrounding the release of 21H2. Regardless I recommend downloading a copy and keeping it aside.

    The other day I reinstalled from scratch on my home Lenovo laptop due to the fact that I wanted to really clean it up and it was slow in connecting via RDP. Once I got done installing the Windows 10, I went into device manager to see if there were any missing drivers. There were some missing. Even looking at the optional updates via Windows updates didn’t find all of the drivers. I ultimately went to the vendor web site and downloaded the drivers from there. There are a lot of third party websites out there that advertise that they can update your drivers. I strongly recommend not using these sites as some of them have less than stellar reputations.

    As always if you have any issues with your computer, we’re here to help.

  • Tasks for the weekend – September 4, 2021 – Managing Bitlocker

    Posted on September 4th, 2021 at 23:48 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    (Youtube here)

    …or rather managing bitlocker to ensure you don’t have it when you didn’t know you had it.

    As you may or may not be aware, certain Dell and certain Surface computers automatically turn on Bitlocker if you use a Microsoft account. The bitlocker recover key is backed up online in a Microsoft account – or an Azure account – and during the process of installing updates I’ve personally had my Surface device ask me for the bitlocker recovery key. After a moment of panic I remembered that the key was backed up online.

    Now the way to see if you have – or don’t – have bitlocker – is to

    1. click on windows explorer,
    2. click on my computer
    3. right mouse click on the c drive, see if the option is there to turn ON bitlocker. If it says to turn OFF bitlocker, then either turn it off or log into that link above and see if your bitlocker key is backed up. if it says to turn ON bitlocker then bitlocker is not on.

    As I talk about in the video, if it’s enabled make sure you KNOW exactly where that recovery key is backed up at.

    Microsoft account link for Bitlocker keys:

    Azure link for Bitlocker keys:

  • The sad state of support

    Posted on September 3rd, 2021 at 21:52 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    So the other day Xfinity updated their streaming app on the various Roku devices I have in the house. One day the devices allowed me to watch Comcast TV on them the next they didn’t. This is an app that allows you to see the entire Comcast TV line up that you are subscribed for on any roku streaming device. It’s handy that you don’t have to have an Xfinity device but can use these lesser expensive Roku streaming devices to watch TV in bedrooms and other locations.  I realized that it was broken on my older Roku 4K streaming devices but still worked on my newer ones (Express models).  I could tell that the application had been updated on 8/30 so I was pretty sure that the issue was not me, but them, or rather more specifically THE SOFTWARE UPDATE THEY HAD ROLLED OUT. Over the last three days I have ….

    Tweeted at xfinity support

    Posted in their community forums

    Texted Xfinity support

    Called Xfinity support

    Rebooted my modem three times… maybe four… I’ve lost count…

    Uninstalled and reinstalled the Xfinity streaming app three times (and then had to reactive the app on the devices where it was working)

    Called into support and apologized for being terse while explaining that I had tweeted/texted/posted/called/rebooted/uninstalled without fixing anything and every time that they did a “diagnostic routine” that would take about an hour and at the end of the hour it should fix the issue, and oh by the way are you having issues with any other issue, your Internet works?  “Um yes, everything else works just fine, truly it’s just this app on these older Roku devices and trust me I’m really positive the issue is not with my Internet connection it’s with the software update you pushed out”.

    Mind you I’ve also tried to urge them to review their own support forums where there are other folks complaining about this issue and narrowing it down for you that it’s not impacting the streaming stick or the express device or the newer Roku Ultra LT that one guy just bought (yesterday to fix the issue), it’s JUST on the OLDER Roku premier/ultra devices that are a few years old.

    Oh and if you try to say that “oh the software is in beta and we’re making upgrades to it to make it better for our customers”… uh folks, it’s been in beta for over four years.

    At one point in time they brought on a senior support technician that sounded like my Grandmother – I’m guessing they figured I wouldn’t yell at my Grandmother so they assigned her to calm me down.  I finally got to a level of a support personnel that acknowledged that the issue was with their software (duh) and that a software fix would be rolled out around 4 am pacific time tomorrow.  I urged/joked with the support personnel to document/acknowledge that this was an issue in their support forums and “not be like Microsoft and actually acknowledge the bug”.  He chuckled. Clearly he knew exactly what I was talking about.

    If I were more paranoid, I would also say that AT&T/Direct TV was intercepting my cell phone calls when I was on the phone with Comcast because I got a call yesterday advertising the advantages of DirectTV and there were several ads on TV tonight about switching over.  I was starting to get tempted.

    One little “we know, we’re working on it” would solve so many issues in customer support. Telling your first line support personnel on the phone system so that the customer doesn’t have to talk to untold number of support personnel over the last three days would be so much better. The folks on the support lines get raised voices and stern remarks of “I’ve done that already, trust me the problem is with the software” when they don’t deserve it because information about known issues isn’t getting down to where it’s needed. I see this (obviously) at Comcast/Xfinity. I see this at Microsoft as well. This isn’t good support folks. There is a disconnect between the folks who know there is a bug and the front line people who deal with customers. I see this with many firms and not just these two.  Especially these days as we go more and more (or rather forced more and more) to the cloud, dear Vendors, you need to communicate better to your support folks so that they don’t get a stern voice like mine.

    Do better vendors. Your support personnel don’t deserve that stern voice on that phone call, your customers deserve better support as well.

  • Tasks for the weekend – August 21, 2021 – what VPN should you choose?

    Posted on August 22nd, 2021 at 00:56 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Youtube here

    I spotted this over on Michael Horowitz’s web site with a checklist to choose a VPN.

    VPNs can be used for more privacy as well as to overcome geo blocking for various web sites. If you are a fan of something on British or French television and it’s not offered on French Slingbox or Britbox streaming services, it’s one way to see the television show.

    Now a word of warning, the firewall we use on the site often reacts unfavorably to VPN services so you may need to try a different IP address if you get blocked.

    One word of advice- always pay for your VPN services, don’t use a free service. I guarantee that if you search for a free vpn service you will find yourself on a malicious site. I personally use the service ExpressVPN when I’m needing to pretend to be on a different IP.

    So what VPN service do you use?

    And I’ll give you a heads up – there’s an excellent article coming up this week in Fred’s column about VPNs  – stay tuned!!

  • Tasks for the weekend – August 14, 2021 – how’s your backup?

    Posted on August 15th, 2021 at 00:31 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Youtube here demonstrating Windows and Mac backup software

    It’s that time of the month that I make sure that I’m getting a good backup.  So I open up the backup software I use and check the status.

    A quick and dirty way to see if a backup is running is to review the file dates on the folder where the backup is stored. If the dates are daily, you know it’s working.

    I also every now and then delete a file and then restore it.

    Remember the goal here is to make your life easier should something happen. So think of your key data – files, photos, maybe music?  Whatever you would be very upset if you lost, make sure that you have a backup of that. You can sync to another hard drive. You can make a full copy of your computer.

    Don’t forget to also make copies of the software you rely on, so if it’s on CDrom, ensure you have a copy of it, or have copied the files to your backup drive as well so you can reinstall it later.

    Bottom line, make sure you have a backup of your key files, whether that system is Windows, Mac or Linux.

  • Tasks for the weekend – August 7, 2021 – plan on taking ownership

    Posted on August 8th, 2021 at 00:13 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    (Youtube here)

    This post isn’t about a task I want you to do NOW, rather it’s a task you may need to do. Today I was fixing up an HP envy laptop and swapping out a misbehaving hard drive and replacing it with a SSD drive. While doing so, I placed the old hard drive into an external usb drive enclosure so should I forget any files, I could get them back. As part of the process I often have to take ownership of the files in order to copy the “my documents” folder back to the computer I’m working on. I’m a fan of adding “take ownership” to the right mouse click menu system so I can easily take ownership of something when I need to. You can manually add this, or use a registry key to add it to your right mouse click. Once you do that, you can easily take ownership of any external hard drive that you are wanting to get data from. Without this, you’ll get a prompt that you don’t have rights to user folders.

    When you are moving computers, I tend to do so a bit manually and not use any migration software. Ideally you should plan ahead and export out the bookmarks, but if you’ve forgotten, never fear, you can find the bookmark backup file on the old hard drive.

    As an aside, finding where they hide all of the screws was fun. The good news is that I didn’t have any spare parts once I was done.

     

  • Tasks for the weekend – June 12 – Let’s look at Autoruns

    Posted on June 12th, 2021 at 23:46 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    [Youtube here]

    This week we’re following up with June 5th’s  look at programs that launch on startup  and this time we’re looking at the “uber” version of a tool that allows you to review what’s starting up on your machine.

    Sysinternals Autoruns

    Most of time it’s self explanatory… until it’s not. And then remember just ask.

    The colors mean different things:

    Pink – this means that no publisher information was found, or if code verification is on, means that the digital signature either doesn’t exist or doesn’t match, or there is no publisher information.

    Green – this color is used when comparing against a previous set of Autoruns data to indicate an item that wasn’t there last time.

    Yellow – the startup entry is there, but the file or job it points to doesn’t exist anymore.

     

  • Tasks for the weekend – June 5, 2021 – what’s in your startup?

    Posted on June 5th, 2021 at 23:40 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    (You tube video)

    Have you looked as to what applications start automatically in your computer as it starts up?

    Take the time to review and turn off what you don’t want. For example, here on one of my home PCs, I disable Skype for Business. It was installed by an Office suite a while back and I don’t use it on this pc so I disable it.

    In Windows 10, we’re going to use the “Windows 10 way” to review the apps that are listed for startup. Click on the search box, type in Startup Apps and review the resulting listing of applications. Review in particular the ones that say “high impact”. Disable what you don’t want launching and then reboot your computer to see the impact.

    So what apps are listed in your computer?

     

  • What’s in your task scheduler?

    Posted on May 29th, 2021 at 23:42 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Youtube here

    This task for the weekend was inspired by Robtl’s post in the forum asking about black DOS boxes that would randomly pop up on his screen.

    In my personal experience they typically are on boot – or right after boot and are triggered by vendors who have put tasks in the task scheduler to run their routines.

    It’s a good idea to review and make sure you can identify all of the tasks in there and can determine what vendor stuck something in there. In the search box on your computer type in Task and then when you find the Task Scheduler, click on that. A window will pop up and you can review the tasks that have been put on your machine. If you use Chrome, you will for sure have a Google updater task in there. It’s okay to leave that in there because you want your browsers to update.

    So are there any tasks you don’t recognize? Post up what you don’t recognize and we’ll sort it out for you.

  • Tasks for the weekend – May 22, 2021 – Status of 21H1

    Posted on May 22nd, 2021 at 22:36 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    (Youtube here)

    The May 2021 version of Windows 10 21H1 has been released and Microsoft is doing a “dribble out”. You will see it if you click on check for updates.

    While this will probably be the least impactful Windows 10 release we’ve seen in a long time, I still recommend that for those who

    1. Dual boot
    2. Have older machines
    3. Had issues in the past

    to hold back and wait for a bit.

    I know that I’ll probably have to repair the QuickBooks pdf printers (I normally do each release), and I’ve seen some folks still have issues with partitions as well as a person having a BSOD after the install. Remember we have a forum set up for questions as you have them.

    Microsoft is tracking the known issues here.

    Remember if you want to stay on 20H2 and ensure you are not even offered up 21H1, use this 20H2 registry key download. Merely click on it to install it in your computer and it will ensure you aren’t offered 21H1.

    Once I give you the all clear, I’ll have you install the 21H1 registry key. But until then, as you can see in the video, if you don’t have the 20H2 registry key in place, the minute you click on “Check for Updates” it will install 21H1!