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Windows updates 21H2

I advised last week that there were problems with the 21H2 Windows update from Microsoft. Microsoft has reported that the 'MSI install issue' is resolved now with another patch. As far as the Intel sound card driver conflict goes this is a Windows 11 only issue so Windows 10 users can allow updates to naturally instal now as usual. If you put a 7 day pause on your windows updates they will automatically begin again in a few days.

For Windows 11 users MS has setup a compatibility block so the offending upgrade shouldn't auto install however they say 'We recommend that you do not attempt to manually upgrade using the Update now button or the Media Creation Tool until this issue has been resolved and the safeguard removed.

Here is the link if your running Windows 11 and want to track this issue:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-au/windows/release-health/status-windows-11-21h2#2746msgdesc

For those customers where I manage Windows updates via Windows Update services, I have now release the 21H2 update for Windows 10 as it resolves a number of vulnerabilities.

Just a reminder about allowing Windows updates to install, I strongly recommend logging off each evening and restarting your computer once a week. This allows a few things to happen which should enhance your computing experience as well as allow for better security. I also recommend leaving your computer on overnight at least once per week to allow installs to complete (that is if you don't leave it on all the time anyway)

Some of the befits of logging off and restarting:

  • It allows windows updates to auto-occur when they are needed, at least on a 24 hour basis.
  • Logging off closes all your programs/applications which releases all the memory back to windows to be 'cleaned-up' and reused, it closes all open programs and resolves any transient 'weirdness' that may be happing. 
  • Restarting does the same as logging off but it also does same for system processes and Windows services
  • If you have roaming user profiles setup in your organisation data is only saved back to the servers when you log off, if you have a power outage before that time data may be lost.
  • It forces you to clean-up, save your documents and close off the clutter. It could be just me but I can't see how having 15 word documents open at the same time for a month helps with productivity! (but perhaps that's just me:-/ )
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Backup for home data

Every now and then someone asks me about a backup strategy for home, this is my current recommendation. I suggest you investigate what's suitable for your own environment before making decisions.

Macrium reflect free: Full *system* backup, install and run this periodically even if only once when you get a new PC and its fully setup. This allows you to go back to a working state if you get virused or you have a hard drive failure or a bad windows update.

https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree
Cost $free

Notes:
Make sure you make a "rescue disk" on a USB thumb drive when you install the software

Backblaze: Continuous backup of all^ *data* files to the internet for off-site cloud/internet storage. Unlimited storage

https://www.backblaze.com/cloud-backup.html
Cost US$70 per year

Notes:

  • May not be suitable if you don't have good internet
  • May not be suitable if you don't have unlimited internet
  • Doesn't keep "versions" (at the base cost)
  • Backups files only stored for 30 days after deletion
  • ^Check that it *IS* including that weird folder location that your [insert weird software product name here] is using
  • Hint: Make an automated copy of all your data to one "always-on" PC in the house and you can back up an unlimited number of PC's

Remember all PC's will fail eventually, there is a good chance that you will eventually lose all your data if you don't have some strategy in place.

EXTRA NOTE:
saving all your data on an external hard drive is NOT a backup. That's just data on an external drive, which is arguably more susceptible to failing that your actual PC. A backup is a second copy of your data.

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Spam phishing messages

A example spam/phishing message, obviously don't click on these:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Phishing is a type of social engineering where an attacker sends a fraudulent ("spoofed") message designed to trick a human victim into revealing sensitive information to the attacker or to deploy malicious software on the victim's infrastructure like ransomware. Phishing attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and often transparently mirror the site being targeted, allowing the attacker to observe everything while the victim is navigating the site, and transverse any additional security boundaries with the victim.[1] As of 2020, phishing is by far the most common attack performed by cyber-criminals, with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Centre recording over twice as many incidents of phishing than any other type of computer crime.[2]

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Recommended answers to the "stay signed in to all your apps" question for Office 365

Recommended answers to the "stay signed in to all your apps" question for Office 365:

When you connect to or interact with Microsoft office 365 in some way using your PC or laptop, such as when you setup your mail in Outlook, you will often get the popup below asking you if you want to "remember your account". While this may seem like a reasonable idea, unless you explicitly know what this is will do and want that to happen I strongly suggest you chose "no, sign in to this app only".

This will avoid some potentially undesirable consequences such as "binding" your PC to your organisations Azure active directly security for administration, setting up for you files *not* to be saved to your PC or network share by default, but instead being saved to your organisations online "SharePoint" server. If this happens by accident these and some other consequences will need to be reversed, sorted out, and things put back where they belong.

This is also why I also recommend that all PC's are initially installed as standalone PC's with a local administrator account.

If you're a digitalwelcomemat customer, your organisations centralised security and file store won't be Microsoft Azure or SharePoint so there is no advantage to using this Microsoft "feature".

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Digital Pacific Phishing attack underway, do not click

 Digital Pacific Phishing attack underway, do not click (see image below)...

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Another 2 Seagate hard drives failed....

Another 2 Seagate hard drives failed.... what, again? I hear you ask

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Hard drive monitor software

Yes, your hard drive will fail and all the data will be lost, it's just a matter of time.

Based on my experience, hard drives are the component that fails the most out of all the internal PC components (second would be the internal power supply) especially older style platter hard drives, imagine an old record player spinning the and playing the same record for 3 -5 years 24 hours per day that's essentially what the hard disk has to do. 

You should assume that your disk will fail "at any moment" and strategize your backup, duplication or redundancy strategy based on that assumption.

However even with good strategies in place it can still be still painful and expensive when a drive fails. I have recently added hard drive monitoring software to my standard recommendation for mission critical systems and really any other PC that can't be replaced by a simple reimage, "the accounting lady's PC" is a good example of a unique complex system where a disk failure can be very painful and costly.

My recommended software for this purpose is HD sentinel (https://www.hdsentinel.com)

See the screen shot below for an example of the display you can opt to have this open at startup and or monitor and email is there is any issue. Note also for server's its able to "see through" the RAID array and monitor the disks directly*.

For HD sentinel professional:

  • A 5 computer license is USD $53 (lifetime license)
  • or USD $29.95 for a single PC/server

As always investigations will need to be made about licensing and general suitability for your environment.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.

Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Recovering a deleted file

Every now and then I get asked this question:

I deleted my file can I get it back?

[For traditional drives not a SSD with TRIM...] When you delete a file it doesn't actually delete it at all, it just removes the bit of information from the storage "Index" or "table" that records where the file is located and that it exists.

Theoretically if you use some special undelete software straight away and nothing else has happened on the storage device you can get your file back 99% of the time*. 

HOWEVER: as soon as the bit of info in the storage "Index" or "table" is deleted, that also marks that space free and available to be overwritten with data again. Unfortunately that "nothing else has happened on the storage device" scenario seldom exists so there is only a chance that you will be able to reasonably recover the file. As soon as data is written over that spot on the storage it's a LOT more to get the original file back.

So if you want to recover a deleted file it needs to be done ASAP preferably before you start to write more data files to that storage drive.

There are a million undelete software programs out there some are outright virus\malware, some say they are free but aren't, some you have to pay for, and a very few are legit and free. I suggested testing any new and unknown software in an isolated environment before you start installing random internet software in your everyday PC.
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Issues with Netflix performance?

Issues with Netflix performance? Check your internet speed direct from Netflix by using this Netflix tool:

https://fast.com/

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Don't get scammed, hover before you click...

Don't get scammed, hover before you click...

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Laptop purchase price vs satisfaction index

Laptop purchase price vs satisfaction index; Although this *is* an accurate indication of my experience in terms of feedback received, this information is meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek. Make your own investigations and consider your own unique needs and preferences and don't rely on this information for your purchasing decisions.
 

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Office 365 support scam (suspected)

If you receive an unexpected support request or offer for help from "Microsoft" its probably a scam. Here is one of the more sophisticated ones, so much so that I cant tell without detailed digging if it is or isn't a scam (well I have a pretty good idea). This content was contained in an attached PDF.

If in doubt don't click, so I have taken my own advice.

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Router reset?

Just like the IT crowd (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2F1rFmyQmY) sometimes the solution *is* turning it off and on again and that applies to the modem router as well.

We sometimes use various phrases to say shutdown and restart, phrases like; Reset, restart, power cycle or reboot. What is meant by all of these is restart or, shutdown wait a few seconds and then start-up again.

What we DON'T mean is reset the device to factory defaults either via a hardware button or via the web interface.
By the way even if Telstra tells you to do a factory reset don't do it then either unless the helpful level 1 Telstra tech support person is planning to drive to your home or office to re-set it up for you.

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Metered connections on Windows 10 post Creators update install

Metered connections on Windows 10 post Creators update install:

For Windows 10 Users on tablets and laptops that connect via phone hotspot or other "low download quota" services you need to be aware that there has been a change in the way that Microsoft handle windows updates over "metered connections"

This page tells us that: 

"A metered connection is an Internet connection that has a data limit associated with it. Cellular data connections are set as metered by default. Wi-Fi and Ethernet network connections can be set to metered but aren't by default. Some apps might work differently on a metered connection to help reduce your data usage. Also, some updates for Windows won't be installed automatically." 

As you can see by the description and by the screen shot below, some updates will still be downloaded even over a metered connection. This is a change from previous versions of Windows and may cause you consume more data than expected especially if you use multiple PCs connected to your "low download quota" service. 

You need to be aware of this and ensure that you have enough download quota to cope with the demand.

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WannaCryptor protection check utility

ESET /NOD32 have released a small utility which you can use to check if you have the appropriate Microsoft updates that protect you from the NSA EternalBlue Windows vulnerability which includes WannaCryptor and any future copycat malware that uses this vulnerability. 

You can download at the link below and just double click to run. 

It only takes literally a second to do the check. 

https://help.eset.com/eset_tools/ESETEternalBlueChecker.exe

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Every PC deserves a UPS

Takeaway message: ALL PC's on a business network should have a UPS, as well as the servers and network hardware (such as network switches).

Edit: This post was written in 2017 and as such products and pricing have changed. However, the general concept about need for UPS coverage for your sensitive electronic devices remains the same.

ALL PC's on a business network should have a UPS (uninterruptible** power supply) as well as the servers and network hardware (such as network switches). 

A workstation or PC UPS will help to protect against hardware failure, database & file corruption and lost time due to unexpected workstation power off events. Additionally (although not really measurable) a UPS can also significantly extend the life of the PC by reducing the voltage fluctuations that come in from the energy company, and the negative effect that low voltages or "sags and brownouts" have on the PC electronics. 

This is the least expensive item I can find from a reputable supplier: 

CyberPower 650VA Backup Utility Powerboard UPS $88 Link. However my experience with those cheap ones is that they last for the duration of the warranty but not much more, I have had to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the past on support costs for "cheap" UPS units that were purchased to save money. 

A better quality unit would be something like this: 

Socomec NeTYS PE Tower Line Interactive UPS, 650VA $101.00 at last check (plus about $30 freight) Link

A premium product option that should last years and years (with replacement batteries every now and then). 

APC SC620I Smart-UPS SC 620VA $303.00 at last check (plus freight - and they are heavy so it can be expensive) Link

UPS power supply units contain a battery similar to a car battery. Like car batteries, they only last for a period of time. Testing the UPS batteries is an important part of system maintenance.

** The word uninterruptible, is a little misleading. Yes, a correctly functioning UPS will prevent interruptions in the event of a short power outage, if the correct size of UPS is purchased you can expect about 20 minutes of battery backup. Before that time the PC needs to be shut down automatic or manually. The higher the overall "load" the less time you have, or, to put it another way the bigger the UPS (measured in "VA") the longer you will have on battery backup.

This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers.
Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Selecting the default sound device on Windows

Your Windows PC, laptop or tablet can have a lot of external devices plugged in that will play sound here are some examples on just one of my PC's: 

  • 3.5mm stereo socket's (headphones, speakers, even 5.1 surround sound systems)
  • USB speakers 
  • USB headphones 
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • Other Bluetooth speakers (There is a trick here as well) 
  • HDMI (often combined with video) 
  • Optical (Fibre optic cable) 
  • Coaxial (RCA) 

To tell Windows where to send your sound follow the steps here

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Good (normal business grade) NBN

Good (normal business grade) NBN… in my office:

I'm posting this because I have heard a number of comments about NBN being not much faster than ADSL2, of course it depends what NBN are you talking about; $20 a month, no brand, speed limited NBN or something more substantial?

The above graph shows that the measured download speed is over 2 times as fast as the fastest ADSL2 (and perhaps 3 times as fast as the typical ADSL2)

Upload speed is around 20 times as fast as ADSL2

My 39 days of no internet or phones during changeover is just a distant memory now (mostly)

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FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data

FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data, your network, your identity and your money. 

  1. Don't be an administrator on your own PC for normal day to day work. Create a separate admin account and just be a normal "user" unless required. 
  2. Don't run outdated software; Old versions of Windows, Java, adobe other apps 
  3. Have a good quality antivirus installed, working with a current subscription 
  4. Don't visit undesirable or illegal sites (or if you must; learn enough to mitigate the risk, run in a sandbox, another user account, a Virtual PC, or another PC setup for this task) 
  5. Social engineering - Be vigilant when opening links or emails, unsolicited mail or other peoples USB drives 
  6. (Bonus) Get a good antispam/antivirus system that blocks you from as many threats as possible before they enter your network or PC. 
  7. (Bonus) Use complex passwords that are unique for your internet services
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Passwords should be unique

"Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online
passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was
breached?"

I'm reposting this article from October 2013 even more relevant today than then... 

The recent Adobe hacker-fest has again brought up the subject of passwords so here is my recommendation... 

There are a full set of password rules and suggestions that are already widely recognised as being crucial for online security, see here for a great article: http://www.thegeekstuff.com/2008/06/the-ultimate-guide-for-creating-strong-passwords that pretty much says it all. 

However, particularly relevant for now, you need to ensure that your passwords are always different from each other, if your Adobe password has been compromised you don't want that same password to have been used for your banking. 

Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was breached? 

If you're having difficulty in tracking all those passwords consider a password manager, there are a number of different product options. I use https://lastpass.com/ which is available in a free version or paid if you want the smartphone apps as well ($12 per year).

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Digitalwelcomemat provides IT consultancy and services for business customers on the NSW Central Coast in Australia.

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