Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's Not Our Fault

I follow the Internet Storm Center's diary. Recently one of the entries related a situation with a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) with terabytes of data. It was configured with RAID5. The NAS vendor offered a cloud backup service that he used.

He had a detailed backup plan consisting of:
  • a daily backup to a cloud storage provider
  • a monthly backup to an external disk (physically stored away from the source)
  • a file restore test performed every month (ex: restore file ‘x' backup at time ‘t’)

While this diary is about a personal situation the lessons apply to enterprise as well.

The power failed in his area and the NAS crashed hard. He reloaded the operating system and rebuild the RAID5.

No data was lost.

But then he had to “relink” the existing cloud backup with the new backup task on the NAS. That  failed with strange error messages saying that some files were not found.

After the normal "Turn it off and back on" with no success the vendor responded:
Thank you to try to log on your cloud service console to check if your files are available. If they are not available, please contact your cloud service support to get more help. We already notified them about this issue and we received a lot of complaints from other customers who are facing the same issue. You should try to see with them how to recover your files, if possible...
Remember that "your cloud service" was arranged by the NAS vendor.

Yep, his cloud backup was lost (1.5TB of data).

What if that had been YOUR enterprise data?

Have a plan. Have a backup to that plan. Test it. Test it again.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Microsoft Image Composite Editor

Recently I was scanning some newspaper clippings. They were larger than the bed of my scanner so it took several scans to capture all of them.

One even took 4 scans. I was dreading trying to put those together to create a single image.

So I went to my favorite resource: Google.

One of the top hits was Gizmo's Freeware's page on "Best Free Digital Image Stitcher." I liked the price already.

The first entry in the list was Microsoft Image Composite Editor. I had never heard of that.
What is Image Composite Editor?
Image Composite Editor (ICE) is an advanced panoramic image stitcher created by the Microsoft Research Interactive Visual Media Group. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the app creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images. ICE can also create a panorama from a panning video, including stop-motion action overlaid on the background. Finished panoramas can be shared with friends and viewed in 3D by uploading them to the Photosynth web site. Panoramas can also be saved in a wide variety of image formats, including JPEG, TIFF, and Photoshop’s PSD/PSB format, as well as the multiresolution tiled format used by HD View and Deep Zoom.
The web page is dated 2008 and the last post on the support forum is from 2011. The downloads are dated 2016 though.

But it just works!

I downloaded the 64-bit version and installed it on my Windows 10. It stitched my 4 scans together seamlessly, let me rotate easily and then crop. Exporting was one-click (after I added ICE.exe to my Controlled Folder Access).

Where has this program been all my life?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Windows Update Show Hide

Sorry for the cryptic title. Recently a friend was installing Windows 10 on an old PC with an AMD processor. Windows Update kept installing a driver. After the driver installed the PC would attempt to reboot but fail. 3 hard reboots would cause Windows 10 to roll back and all was good until Windows Update installed it again.

Similarly I have an old HP CP1025NW printer. It works fine with Windows 10 but Windows Update keeps trying to install different drivers. The install always fails.

Usually Windows Update will try a couple of times and then go quiet.

However recently when Windows Update failed to install the printer driver the whole Windows Update process hung up.

Microsoft has a tool that will let you block updates.
In Windows 10, your device is always kept up-to-date to have the latest features and fixes. Drivers are installed automatically so that you don't have to select which updates are needed. In rare cases, a specific driver might temporarily cause issues that affect your device. In this situation, you can prevent the problematic driver from reinstalling automatically the next time Windows Updates are installed.
There's a download on that page for wushowhide.diagcab.

Just save it to your desktop and double-click it.

Click on "Next" and it will go look for pending updates.

Click on "Hide updates".

Select the updates you want to block and click on "Next".

Unfortunately Microsoft tends to rerelease updates so blocked updates will reappear from time to time. Just repeat the Show-Hide process again.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Windows 10 Spring Creators Update

No, I don't know what the next "version" of Windows will be called but history suggests it might be  "Spring Creators Update". One thing for sure, you don't want to be surprised when you wake up one morning and it has installed/uninstalled/crashed overnight.

Likewise Microsoft had their share of troubles with January's patches.

So now is a good time to prepare.

If you're not running Windows 10 Pro, the first thing to do is to go here and buy a Windows 10 key for $14.00. Then backup and upgrade ( Home to Pro.
  1. Select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Update & security  > Activation.
  2. Select Change product key, and then enter the 25-character Windows 10 Pro product key.
  3. Select Next to start the upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
Then follow Woody Leonard's instructions from here.

To block Automatic Updates (you can say "defer" if you prefer), click Start > Settings > Update & security. Click the link marked "Advanced Options." You can see the "Choose when updates are installed" pane in the screenshot.

Microsoft has changed the terminology several times in the past couple of months, but choosing "Current Branch for Business" in the first drop-down box should assure that you won’t be upgraded to the next version of Windows (presumably, version 1709) until Microsoft says it's ready for widespread adoption. By choosing CBB, you’re avoiding the four-month-long unpaid beta-testing phase, where those who leave Automatic Update enabled get to install and test the new version of Win10 as soon as it's rolled onto their machines.

The Feature Updates box is supposed to delay the installation of new versions (read: version 1709) by the specified number of days. Remember Feature Update = Version change. At this point, we have no idea how that number will interact with the CBB choice in the first box - or even if it interacts at all. The rules seem to change every week.

The Quality Updates box, though, controls how long Windows Update waits to install the latest cumulative update. Remember Quality Update = Cumulative Update. I suggest you wind that up to 30 days, the maximum, but put a reminder in your calendar to check in a few weeks to see if the next cumulative update is behaving itself.

I don't recommend that you Pause Updates using this setting. It isn't clear what updates are being paused. You still want antivirus updates, for example, and even if Microsoft allows those through now, experience has taught that the rules change all the time.

Windows 10 versions 1507, 1511 and 1607 Pro and Enterprise had similar options, but you have to dig through Group Policy settings to get to them.
If you're on Windows 10 1709 "Fall Creators Update" the term will be "Semi-Annual Channel" instead of  "Current Branch for Business".

If you won't/can't upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, here are Woody Leonard's instructions for Windows 10 1703. You're on your own.

With all this doom and gloom, personally I've had good luck.

Cross your fingers.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Edge Is Good For Something

I finally found something that Microsoft's Edge browser is good for.

Last week I was reading an article at on "What Really Happened with Vista: An Insider’s Retrospective". It was a good article but the presentation drove me crazy.

It had a CSS "shade" at the top and another CSS "footer" at the bottom. These caused PgDn to scroll too far and you would miss some of the text. Then you'd have to Up Arrow to see the skipped text.

I didn't have enough patience to read much of it in this manner.

Then I recalled that Edge has a reading view.

I copied the URL and pasted it into Edge. In the address bar is an icon that looks like an open book.

Click on that and you're put into Reading view" mode.

Much better.

I concede that there are similar capabilities in Google's Chrome but they all require hacks or non-Google extensions.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

R.I.P CrashPlan

I've been a huge proponent of CrashPlan. I started with the personal offsite backup.

That worked well and I eventually added their cloud backup.

You can read about my experiences here. I'll save you some time. It's nothing but good.


In August 2017 I got the following e-mail:
Thank you for being a CrashPlan® for Home customer. We're honored that you’ve trusted us to protect your data.
It's because of this trust that we want you to know that we have shifted our business strategy to focus on the enterprise and small business segments. This means that over the next 14 months we will be exiting the consumer market and you must choose another option for data backup before your subscription expires. We are committed to providing you with an easy and efficient transition.
They partnered with Carbonite but Carbonite's offering just isn't what CrashPlan's was. For example Carbonite only keeps deleted files 30 days.

Then during the Black Friday sales I saw an offer from StackSocial for 2TB for life for $39.99. (That has since gone back up to $49.99.)

I had to look at that.

What StackSocial was offering was Zoolz Archive Home. What comprised the 2TB was 1TB of Instant Vault storage and 1TB of Cold Storage.

Instant Vault has to be accessed using a web interface. You can also generate shared links for the Instant Vault storage like DropBox.

Cold Storage has a Windows Service that manages the backups like CrashPlan. Cold Storage uses Amazon Glacier as a store. This means that it takes approximately 3-5 hour to restore from Cold Storage. I don't see that as a problem for backup.

My CrashPlan backup was about 400GB so it's going to take a while to backup all that to Zoolz but it's chugging along just fine.

As a backstop I've signed up for CrashPlan for Small Business at 75% discount for a year.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

WOA, Again

I've blogged a couple of times (here and here) about the emergence of ARM in the (formerly) Wintel world (known as Windows On ARM - WOA). It's coming faster than even I expected.

We all try to forget about the ill-fated Windows RT devices. I hope you didn't buy one.

But now...

At the recent Microsoft Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event in Shenzhen, China Qualcomm announced Windows 10 devices powered by their Snapdragon processors.

They promised three big capabilities:
  • The screen turns on "instantly"
  • LTE is built right in
  • The battery can last for days
This isn't another Windows RT variant. Windows 10 on ARM will support Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and Win32 apps in the Windows Store, as well as existing Win32 apps.

That pretty much means everything.

HP, Asus, and Lenovo have already announced Windows 10 devices running on Snapdragon processors.

In one of his podcasts, Brad Sams described it this way:
This is kinda like Day 1 of the new generation of Windows-based machines.
Here we go!