Sunday, February 26, 2017

You Can’t Cut Your Way to Success

One of my former co-workers used to say "You Can’t Cut Your Way to Success."

A recent article in called out challenges that keep CIOs up at night.

Several of the points were pertinent to my former co-worker's advice.

5. Aging IT infrastructures and IT spending cuts
"Many [financial services] organizations continue to rely on IT infrastructures that are built on outdated components and are running with vulnerabilities," says Joseph Pagano, practice advisor, Financial Services, Cisco Digital Transformation Group.
8. New technology (business disrupters)
The need to unearth and deploy new technologies and systems that will better serve and streamline their customers’ experiences is now of paramount concern for maintaining long-term business viability.
Likewise had the same message.
...treating IT as an investment that builds rather than destroys IT capability and value. Contrary to conventional wisdom, if your CIO isn’t asking you for more money, she probably isn’t doing her job. You see, when it comes to IT, it takes money to make money and it takes money to save money.
My director once said to me "I've never seen a dollar you can't spend." To which I replied "If you don't like the results find someone else." I kept my job.

Invest in IT. If your IT isn't yielding value look at IT management, including yourself.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Windows Fast Startup

Maybe I missed this since I skipped Windows 8. Windows 8 called it "Fast Boot." Windows 10 extends this facility as default to laptops as well as desktops.

In summary, with Fast Startup the current user is logged off but then instead of shutting down the operating system as expected the current state of Windows is written to the hibernation file. Then when the system is restarted the state is resumed and the user logged back in.

The result is that Windows doesn't really get restarted, just the user is logged off and back on.

To force a complete Windows shutdown and restart, hold SHIFT while you select Shutdown or Restart.

I encountered this recently when I encountered the DHCP problems Windows 10 introduced. A Windows restart using Fast Startup wouldn't clear this.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Winaero Tweaker

A recent post in AskWoody reminded me of a utility I came across a while back.

The AskWoody article refers to the Winaero utility Winaero Tweaker. You can download it here.

While Winaero Tweaker can do a number of things the AskWoody reference was to disabling Windows 10 telemetry.

Winaero Tweaker makes that literally a one-click operation. Here's their write-up on it.

If that's not geeky enough for you, just scroll down and read the comments. Follow them at your own risk.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Windows vs macOS

You always hear that macOS is more secure than Windows. In reality that perception is because macOS has been a smaller target (less devices) than Windows.

I recently came across an example that puts money behind the assertion that Windows is more secure than macOS.

Pwn2Own is a computer hacking contest held annually at the CanSecWest security conference. Contestants are challenged to exploit widely used software. Cash prizes are awarded to those contestants that successfully demonstrate the vulnerability of various software. The value of the prizes are set by the level of difficulty expected in each software.

Here is the announcement of prizes for local escalation of privilege:
Local Escalation of Privilege 
Although we’ve had some Escalation of Privilege (EoP) bugs as add-ons in past Pwn2Owns, this is the first year it has a category of its own. This is also the first time we included Linux as a target. In this category, the entry must leverage a kernel vulnerability to escalate privileges. If they do, contestants will earn $30,000 for Microsoft Windows 10, $20,000 for macOS, and $15,000 for Ubuntu Desktop. They will also get 4 Master of Pwn points for Windows and 3 for the other OSes. Considering the various types of malware that use local EoPs, this could prove to be an impactful category. As always, the latest, fully-patched version of each OS will be used – even if we have to stay up late to install the patches.
$30,000 for Microsoft Windows 10 and $20,000 for macOS.

So when Pwn2Own put their money on the security of operating systems, they bet on Windows.

Good job Microsoft.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

I'm A Luddite

A former co-worked once called me a Luddite. I think he was joking but...

My recent efforts at trading cars reminded me of that accusation. {This will turn into a tech story shortly.)

We have had a 2013 Nissan Pathfinder for over 3 1/2 years. While we always enjoyed the ride and comfort of the Pathfinder it was fraught with recurring problems.

Normal wear and tear and indicated us to replace the tires at just over 60,000 miles. Simultaneously the sun visors began drooping (like every 2013 Pathfinder does after the warranty lapses), the tailgate resumed its former issue of not power raising or lowering, the driver's window started to go up way more slowly than the passenger's and the brakes started screeching.

My wife refused to put any more money in it so we were off to look for a replacement.

We surfed around and came up with a short list: Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. We have had lots of both brands but most recently I've been driving Hondas so off we went to AutoNation Honda 385.

Our first drive was a 2017 Pilot Touring. We stopped at a red light and when I released the brakes the engine gave a noticeable shudder. I asked the saleperson in the back seat what that was. He said it was the "Idle-Stop" feature.
The idle-stop feature-standard on Pilot Touring and Elite trims helps maximize fuel efficiency in stop-and-go traffic. When the vehicle is at a stop for at least 2 seconds-such as at a traffic light-the engine automatically shuts off to save fuel. When you release the brake pedal even slightly, the engine starts back up by itself.
Remember that the Pilot Touring is not a hybrid. When the Pilot Touring is sitting with the engine shut off the air conditioning stops cooling. The fan continues to run but that's going to get uncomfortable in Memphis really quickly.

When I asked the salesperson if that feature could be disabled he showed me a button on the console to disable it. But it gets reset every time you turn the vehicle off and back on.

We drove a little more and entered an Interstate. I accelerated and felt the transmission shift several times with one being a bang-bang. Again another question to the salesperson. His response was that the Pilot Touring has a ZF 9-speed transmission. While that explained the several shifts it didn't explain the bang-bang. The salesperson had no further explanation.

I inquired as to whether all Pilots had these 2 features and the salesperson said that the models below the Pilot Touring, e.g. Pilot EX-L. didn't have either.

Frustrated we headed across the way to Principle Toyota to look at Highlanders. Guess what ALL (except the entry level model LE) of the 2017 Toyota Highlanders have? Yep, "Stop-Start". And no way to turn it off.

That's where the Luddite in me started to come out.

There's lots of discussion on the Internet about why the manufacturers are so aggressive with this idle-stop feature. The EPA mileage difference between the Honda Pilot EX-L (19/27/22) and the Touring (20/27/23) are minimal and much more likely to be related to the 9-speed transmission.

We didn't drive the Honda Pilot hybrid models. I'd hope that these models would drive off under electric power and start the conventional engine while underway. This would at least mask the shudder of the engine restarting.

Now for the 9-speed transmission.

This YouTube video does a much better job of explaining it than I can.

tl:dr There are 2 shift points that use dog clutches instead of the traditional plate clutches. These shift points are what I felt as a bang-bang.

Again there is no circumvention for this feature.

And the Internet is on fire with complaints about the ZF transmission. Motor Trend's long term test unit even had to have the transmission replaced.

So what did I do?

I gave Honda less money than I would have otherwise and bought a 2017 Honda Pilot EX-L.

Just to dissuade the Luddite accusers I chose a 2017 over a 2016 since the 2017s have Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. More on that later.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How to Stop Skype from Running in the Background on Windows 10

Here's more fun and games with Windows 10 Version 1607 (aka Anniversary Update).

This article tells you how sign out of Windows 10’s new Skype Preview app.

I'm going to tell you how to attack it with an Atomic Flyswatter.

Windows + R

Type "shell:AppsFolder" without the quotes and click "OK".

Find the Skype Preview app (any any others you don't want), right click and select "Uninstall".

This technique came from here.

Do NOT uninstall the Store app. If you do, the only easy way to get it back is to reinstall Windows 10 over itself.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Windows Installer Folder

When I ran my monthly backups recently I noticed that the X201 took way more space to backup than my other Windows 10 systems but not so much that I did anything about it. Then I ran Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool just because I hadn't run it in a long time. It took hours, most of that in c:\Windows\Installer.

When I browsed to c:\Windows and looked for Installer I didn't see it. So I typed c:\Windows\Installer in Explorer's address field and it came up. I selected all the folders, right clicked and chose "Properties."

There was almost 30GB there!

It turns out that c:\Windows\Installer is used to uninstall programs. However in an old, active system (like X201) these files tend to get orphaned.

Google it if you like but there's much confusion out there. Most of the discussions wander off into telling the poster about how to run Disk Clean-Up to delete old versions of Windows. This is NOT the problem.

I saw PatchCleaner mentioned again and again. This article describes it best. PatchCleaner's home page is here and there's a download link but SourceForge has a project that has created a portable version.

I downloaded the portable version and ran it on X201. As I suspected it found over 26GB of orphaned files. I chose the option to have PatchCleaner move these orphaned files over to my Drobo.

Problem solved. I'll let you know if this created any new problems.