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  • Patch Lady – second day of Christmas

    Posted on December 15th, 2018 at 19:00 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    On the second day of Christmas we bought a lot of gift cards.  And many of us end up not using those gift cards as billions end up not being used.  And worse yet (as what happened to me and my gift to my Dad) they can end up being ripped off and used and by the time you go to use the card, the value is gone.

    So here are some tips as you buy gift cards this season:

    1.  Check the expiration dates.  In the State of California where I live, one can set a redemption date on the gift card, so don’t assume that they are good indefinitely.
    2. Make sure the packaging looks okay, the PIN number isn’t scratched off and in general the card looks “okay”.
    3. See if you can find a place that sells gift cards behind the counter so they aren’t tampered with out in the open.
    4. Buy a gift card  online if you can, it’s less likely to be scammed.
    5. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.  Don’t go for discount cards, as it’s more than likely to be a scam.
    6. and …. don’t wait a year to use the Ruth Chris’ steakhouse gift card that your daughter gave you and someone already ripped off and used when you went to go pay for your steak dinner.  If the card has been around for a while, check the balance before you go and attempt to use it.
    7. Oh and… in the case of the daughter…. don’t throw away your purchase receipt.  Not saying that I could have gotten or done anything a year after I bought it, but given that I have no evidence whatsoever that I bought it, I’m out $200 for your gift, and you were out $200 buying that steak dinner for you and your friends.  (Ouch)

    Bottom line, while gift cards can be a great gift, they can also be easily scammed.  Scammers are now guessing the card number sequences and making their own usable gift cards from the numbers they determine are valid and have dollars attached to them.  So check that balance if you don’t plan to use them right away.

    Right, Dad?

  • Patch Lady – twelve days of Christmas

    Posted on December 13th, 2018 at 15:07 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Please note:  I’m starting a series of twelve “gifts” that I think are worthy of paranoia and protection.  I will say up front that many of these gifts involve protecting children and while I am personally not a Mother, I know a lot of friends and family members with children.

    On the first day of Christmas I would recommend the following gift:

    A router, firewall or Internet service that allows you to turn off the internet for certain times of the day. 

    My Xfinity wifi does this, also the Disney Circle device (which is now embedded into several routers also do this).

    Bottom line in this day and age of always on Internet, we need to take a break and get OFF the Internet, especially in the Holiday season.

    How many times have you walked into restaurants, and even homes and found every face down in a phone looking at the screen and not talking to each other.  Recently I watched the host of NPR’s “Wait Wait don’t tell me” talk about how we need to “escape our “digital dystopia” of electronic screens and constant notifications by running outside”.  Now I’m not going to suggest that we all take up running immediately (for one it’s too cold and snowy for some of you to attempt to go running), but we definitely need to get off of our devices and stop rewiring our brains attention spans.

    So on this first blog post of Christmas gifts… my recommendation if you have children and grandchildren… and even yourself… make sure you build in time OFF of technology and review your options to have the ability to set such times in your firewall or routers.

  • Patch Lady – Office 365 prioritization

    Posted on December 9th, 2018 at 22:57 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Recently Office 365/Outlook on click to run has made a change in behavior… as noted on Office uservoice

    After the release of 16.0.6741.2017, the Click 2 Run (C2R) version of the Outlook client for the PC is prioritising O365 for Autodiscover queries above all other Autodiscover methods (SCP, HTTPS root domain etc).

    This causes problems for customers who aren’t using O365 for mail service, especially if either of these conditions are true:

    1. The user has a mailbox in the O365 service which is not being used. This can occur if the user has inadvertently had an Exchange license assigned.
    2. The user has a personal Office subscription but has used their business email address to configure it.

    Outlook prompts the user to login, but logging in will fail as it’s effectively requesting credentials against the O365 service.

    This behaviour also breaks the experience for existing profiles, not just newly created ones.

    The “workaround” we have is to add a registry change to end users PC to bypass the O365 endpoints. From this article: https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/2212902/unexpected-autodiscover-behavior-when-you-have-registry-settings-under

    This property needs to be set to a DWORD value of 1: ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint

    This workaround is hard to manage, client specific, and will need to be reverted if the customer ever does in fact move to O365 so that the Direct Connect method can work again.

    My suggestion would be to re-consider this change and how Autodiscover may work more intelligently going forwards.

     

    The request was made to put the behavior back to what it was.

    The response:

    We cannot fulfil this request as we will continue to optimize for the Office 365 experience. The supported implementation of Autodiscover is documented here, https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/3211279. Any ongoing changes and improvements will be documented in the article. We appreciate your feedback and take every request with consideration, whether we can move forward with it or not.
    -Outlook Team

     

    If you are running Office 365 they assume that you are using Exchange in the cloud even if you aren’t.  And if you are, and don’t like the new behavior… tough cookies.

  • Patch Lady – we’re looking at this patching wrong

    Posted on December 7th, 2018 at 23:00 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    We got a new Roomba robot for home and like everything that has software these days, it needed an immediate update.  I had to laugh at the graphics they used to represent updating….

     

    So I had to laugh at the graphics — see patches are gifts!

    And unlike Windows updates and smaller hard drives, iRobot stomps on the patching “gifts” to make sure they fit.

    Perhaps Microsoft can take a page out of the iRobot playbook and convert our updates to gifts?

    Seriously we purchased a new iRobot Roomba because we replaced our family room area rug with a dark rug and found out the hard way of an implementation bug – the older models have edge sensors that would sense the black rug as an “edge” and would stop cleaning.  We found the only way to ‘trick it’ was to cover up the edge sensors with a combination of tape and tin foil (I’m not kidding).  So recently iRobot has come out with a new i7 model and sure enough it will clean a black colored carpet without covering up the sensors.

    Now I am reviewing privacy issues, end user license agreements etc,  and obviously now have to worry about updating and patching the device.  But obviously, I accept the risk because I want the convenience of having my rug cleaned automatically.

     

     

  • Patch Lady – what gives?

    Posted on December 2nd, 2018 at 11:22 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    There is something I don’t get.

    I do get that there is still a lot of people running Windows 7.

    I do get that there is a fair amount of discontent in the technology communities surrounding Microsoft.  I see many complain about the lack of quality in updates, in the inability to know exactly what Microsoft is tracking, in the inability to know for a fact whether or not your device will survive a feature update.  All of these are tied to what I’m going to call the traditional desktop model of Microsoft.

    And yet, Wall Street, which always has a hyper view of the future is saying that everything is rosy.  And yet, the future of Microsoft is still based on the code that we run in Windows 10.  Granted it’s a much more slimmed down, less bloated version of what we run, but it’s still prone to issues.  Case in point the Multi factor issues of the last few days.

    There were three independent root causes discovered. In addition, gaps in telemetry and monitoring for the MFA services delayed the identification and understanding of these root causes which caused an extended mitigation time. 
    The first two root causes were identified as issues on the MFA frontend server, both introduced in a roll-out of a code update that began in some datacenters (DCs) on Tuesday, 13 November 2018 and completed in all DCs by Friday, 16 November 2018. The issues were later determined to be activated once a certain traffic threshold was exceeded which occurred for the first time early Monday (UTC) in the Azure West Europe (EU) DCs. Morning peak traffic characteristics in the West EU DCs were the first to cross the threshold that triggered the bug. The third root cause was not introduced in this rollout and was found as part of the investigation into this event.

    Let me translate:  We installed a software update and it caused an issue.  We weren’t paying attention and it wasn’t until our customers were impacted that we realized we had a problem.

    Gentlemen… that’s what you promise when we move to the cloud.  That YOU are in charge of the updating and can fully monitor and ensure that nothing like this happens.  Yet you blew it.  With a piece of software/policy (multi factor authentication) that is a must have for anyone installing anything on cloud services.

    Then a few days later you blew it again:

    As described above, there were two stages to the outage, related but with separate root causes.

    • The first root cause was an operational error that caused an entry to expire in the DNS system used internally in the MFA service. This expiration occurred at 14:20 UTC, and in turn caused our MFA front-end servers to be unable to communicate with the MFA back-end.
    • Once the DNS outage was resolved at 14:40 UTC, the resultant traffic patterns that were built up from the aforementioned issue caused contention and exhaustion of a resource in the MFA back-end that took an extended time to identify and mitigate. This second root cause was a previously unknown bug in the same component as the MFA incident that occurred on 19 of Nov 2018. This bug would cause the servers to freeze as they were processing the backlogged traffic.

    Let me translate again:  Someone or something probably sent a wrong PowerShell command out causing the domain name system to fail which in turn caused the MFA system to fail.  Then you had a second software induced bug in the software that wasn’t properly diagnosed until your customers were impacted.

    To me these two events in close sequence indicate that for all that telemetry that is deemed to be so effective at allowing Microsoft to monitor, control and contain issues…. it really isn’t as good as it should be.  I’ve always said about telemetry that if it does what it’s supposed to… to allow our vendors to better understand how hard it is to maintain their software… bring it on.  Do more of it.  Disclose to me what you are looking at.  But stop using me as your beta tester and learn ahead of time not to blow me up.

    Authentication has to be rock solid.  Multi factor – even more so.  And communication regarding the impact could have been better.  I saw many saying that they had a hard time finding out information regarding this outage.  Bottom line, Microsoft blew it.  Showcasing that the investors may think things are wonderful, but for Microsoft, in technology, this week wasn’t so good.

    If you were impacted and want to provide feedback on how they should make communication better, take the survey.

  • Patch Lady – When 365 isn’t the same 365

    Posted on November 27th, 2018 at 22:44 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    I have a version of Office 365 that I purchased through godaddy as well as the top of the line Microsoft 365 E5 license.  I do that in order to compare the top to the bottom.  And one of the things I’ve noticed is that on the Godaddy implementation of Office 365 that often you can’t get to the same screens nor do they have the same options.  Take as example the Office secure score web site that walks you through making sure you can protect your email system as much as possible  https://securescore.office.com/#!/dashboard  I can get to that interface with the top of the line 365 program, I can’t get to it via the Godaddy offering.

    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/securitycompliance/office-365-secure-score

    One could argue that Godaddy should know to set things up securely but if there’s one thing I’ve always found with vendors…trust but verify.

    For example one rule that needs to be set up is a block forwarding rule

    Can you set up this best practice in Godaddy’s implementation of Office 365, honestly I can’t tell.

    Bottom line be aware that the different vendor implementations of 365 means you may not have all the options you see talked about on the web.

  • Patch Lady – what PC should I get?

    Posted on November 26th, 2018 at 21:43 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    So remember those old news shows that would do those Point/Counterpoint discussions?  I’m going to counter Woody’s recommendation to move to a Chromebook.

    I’ve used Ubuntu, Chromebook, Windows and Mac and there are advantages and disadvantages to all.

    The first step you have to ask yourself BEFORE you go shopping is how entrenched you are in the Windows ecosystem.  If you have older Windows software that you love (and probably will still work on Windows 10), older printers, and other Windows devices that you have in a peer to peer network Chromebook may not be for you.

    I have a dear friend who had a child that she gave a Chromebook to.  She struggled to get school files off of the chromebook on to flash drives in order to turn in the project.  She struggled to get it to print on an older printer.  She was comfortable in Word and the Google docs was awkward for her.  For her she struggled with the Chromebook ecosystem.

    Then I want you think about how much you use a browser.  Think about your daily use on your computer.  If you are pretty much in a browser all day long, then a Chromebook would work.  IF however you prefer a certain email client, or a certain desktop app, or a certain file structure, then Windows still may be the best computer for you.

    Here are some definite do and do NOTs for choosing a Windows machine:

    DO not consider ANY computer less than 150 gigs to 200 gigs of hard drive.  Anything less and you will be fighting windows bloat.

    DO not consider ANY laptop or computer without a SSD drive.  Windows 10 is just happier (and you are too) with a SSD drive.

    DO not consider ANY laptop or computer with less than 8 gigs, 16 gigs preferably.

    DO be prepared to buy a computer with Windows 10 pro or upgrade to it to be able to control and push off updates.

    DO be prepared to NOT use registry cleaners, minimize the use of third party antivirus software.

    Now I’m not saying you should get a Surface device, but certainly if you need to have a Windows PC, you need to invest in one.

    (Get the idea I’m not talking budget computer here?)

    I don’t think it’s as mandatory to purchase Word or Outlook unless you are married to those platforms.  Libre Office is honestly so close to Word to be easily moved to.

    I’ve even had good luck over the years in purchasing refurbished computers.  You get a similar warranty and it’s cheaper.

    Bottom line you have to ask yourself how married you are to Windows or if you want to start the divorce proceedings.  It will be messy.  Things will be different.  Prepare yourself for yelling at your computer.  (I do realize you may be doing that to your Windows computer now)

    But don’t just jump into a new relationship without thinking hard about you’ve invested into the current relationship and the impact.  We are moving to a browser based world, but…. but…. I’m still not convinced that we’re all ready for it in the same way and levels yet.

  • Patch Lady – another 1809 block in place

    Posted on November 21st, 2018 at 18:36 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Every feature release I have to poke and prod to get my Lenovo laptop that hooks into a display port that hooks into my TV to behave.

    It appears that 1809 would once again nail that sucker.  I need to check tonight and will report back.

    I would not be a happy camper.

    For now it’s blocked:

    https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4464619

    November 21, 2018 2:00 PM PT Upgrade block in place
    • Windows 10, version 1809
    • Windows Server 2019
    • Windows Server, version 1809

     

    Microsoft has identified issues with certain, new Intel display drivers. Intel inadvertently released versions of its display driver (versions 24.20.100.6344, 24.20.100.6345) to OEMs that accidentally turned on unsupported features in Windows.

    After updating to Windows 10, version 1809, audio playback from a monitor or television connected to a PC via HDMI, USB-C, or a DisplayPort may not function correctly on devices with these drivers.

    Workaround: To see if your device is affected and, if so, resolve the issue, see this Windows Forum post.

    Next Steps: Microsoft is working with Intel to expire these display drivers, including coordinating with OEMs, and will provide an update on the resolution in an upcoming release.

    Note:  This Intel display driver issue is different from the Intel Smart Sound Technology driver (version 09.21.00.3755) audio issue previously documented.

    Edit from Susan:

    I checked my video driver here at home and I do not have that video driver:

    Remember you can check it with the instructions here.