Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy 40th Birthday 8086

June 8, 2021 was the 40th anniversary of the Intel 8086 microprocessor chip. Today it's usually called the x86 chip.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ic-photo-Intel--D8086--%288086-CPU%29.png

Here's an article on its history.

I worked in IT during those 40 years and have a few thoughts.

In the 1990s, there were several competing architectures in the enterprise realm. I especially recall DEC's Alpha and Sun's SPARC. The less said about IBM's PowerPC the better. It took me some Googling to even remember what HP's processor was. And nobody remembers Intel's Itanium. HP went all in on Itanium and look where that got them.

But these architectures locked an organization into a specific vendor. We went through a huge and expensive migration of our SAP systems from PowerPC to SPARC.

During that effort, my architect and I pushed the vendors to propose a mixed environment, i.e. proprietary processors for database servers and commodity processors (x86) for application servers.

None of the vendors would play. We ended up going with SPARC, but in the end, the battle was lost to Intel's x86 architecture.

Ironically, this success wasn't attributable to Intel but AMD.

One of the advantages that SPARC brought us was the ability to move to 64-bit architecture for our database servers. That made orders of magnitude improvements in our I/O response times.

At that time, Intel didn't support 64-bit on x86.

AMD came along and implemented a 64-bit architecture on top of Intel's x86 code. That is known as x64 and has conquered the world.

Intel played catch-up and eventually implemented x64 and, as they say, "The rest is history."

But the fat lady hasn't sung yet.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Exchange in the Tank

This article came up in my feed recently:


This noted that the Microsoft Exchange admin portal was down after Microsoft forgot to renew the SSL certificate for the website.


That sounded familiar to me so I went back and searched my blog.

Bingo!


In that case Microsoft tweeted:
As Yogi Berra said:
It's déjà vu all over again.

Apparently Microsoft didn't take my advice:

Maybe they should have put a reminder on their Outlook calendar. 

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Windows.old

I know I'm not your normal user. I try things so you don't have to.

Recently I forced the installation of Windows 10 21H1 on my ThinkPad. To do this, I downloaded the Windows Update Assistant and ran it.

Don't try this at home.

Unlike the upgrade from the Windows Update app, this process does a FULL Windows 10 update.

But it all went well. It took a long time unlike using the Windows Update app but worked fine.

Then a week later, I was poking around in my C: drive. (You do this, don't you?)

I found several folders that I wasn't expecting:

$GetCurrent - 4.23 GB
Windows10Upgrade - 3.62 GB
Windows.old - 25.6 GB (that's not a typo)



Those weren't really a problem on my HD but still that's over 33GB of space.

Surely Windows 10 would clean those up. Some of them are supposed to be cleaned up 30 10 days after the upgrade. That period had not lapsed.

Windows 10 has a Storage Sense feature that has an option to "Delete previous versions of Windows".


I ran that and it reported that it cleaned up 17.4 GB by deleting Windows.old. That's a nice start.

Now you ask why did it only clean up 17.4 GB if Windows File Explorer said that Windows.old was 25.6 GB? Read this until your head hurts.

Windows 10 Forums said that uninstalling the Windows Update Assistant will delete the Windows10Upgrade folder. I uninstalled the Windows Update Assistant and the Windows10Upgrade folder was gone.

How-To Geek said that the $GetCurrent folder can be deleted but should be deleted automatically. After 10 days, its size was only 181 KB.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Microsoft Aggressive Updates

In several of Microsoft's recent updates, e.g. Windows 10 21H1 update, when the system reboots the user is presented with aggressive fullscreen dialogs.

Here is what I saw on one of my systems and how I recommend that you respond.


"Your device needs to connect to a few more Microsoft services ..."

No, it doesn't "need" to connect. Ignore everything and click on "Continue".


"Use recommended browser settings"

No. Click on "Don't update your browser settings" and then click on "Apply Settings".


"Sign in with Microsoft"

Again, no. Click on "Cancel".

Give it up, Microsoft.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Saleforce's Circular Dependency

I follow cloud vendors' outages. Broadly, I believe that cloud vendors can deliver higher availability than most SMBs can do themselves. Enterprises are a different discussion.

But I always get a kick of looking at various cloud vendors post mortem reports (archive.is).

Recently Salesforce had a DNS outage. Like other vendors, e.g. Microsoft, the Salesforce outage even took down their status page!
And look at the spin they tried to put on it.
"We're not blaming one employee," said Chief Availability Officer Darryn Dieken.
And then they threw him under the bus.
"For whatever reason that we don't understand, the employee decided to do a global deployment," Dieken went on.
They don't understand?

But wait, there's more...
"In this case," he went on, "we found a circular dependency where the tool that we use to get into production had a dependency on the DNS servers being active."
 
If you're going to run a cloud service, you've GOT to design to avoid these kinds of problems.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Amazon Photos

Sorry, but this is just a rant. I'm an Amazon Prime user. I have several Amazon Echos. On the Echos, I have the display set to play a slideshow of photos from Amazon Photos.

That has been working fine until 05/11/21. The Echo Show 5 started only displaying the weather, no photos. I poked around in the settings and confirmed that I had the display set to show my photos, the weather, and upcoming calendar events.

Amazon has a tacky habit of silently turning on other features but this time that hadn't happened. So I navigated to re-select the Amazon Photos album to use as a slideshow.

I got a screen that prompted me to sign up for Amazon Photos. But, I already had that capability with Amazon Prime.

I went to my Echo Show 8 HD. It was showing the slideshow. Just for fun, I navigated to re-select the Amazon Photos album to use as a slideshow.

BINGO, I got a screen that prompted me to sign up for Amazon Photos in spite of the slideshow working just fine.

Ok, so I went an logged into the web interface of Amazon Photos. Every time I tried to access an album I got a message that there had been an error and I should try again later.

By then, I was really confused. My next 2 routes were to 1) factory reset my Echo Show 5 or 2) call Amazon for support. Neither seemed particularly likely to resolve the problem.

So I ignored it for a couple of days.

Then on 05/13/21 I got an e-mail from Amazon saying:


Putting that ANYWHERE earlier would have been very valuable to me.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Reload Windows on Your New PCs

Now, Dell is not my favorite PC vendor. It probably has something to do with the smoke that came out of my coworker's office as her new Dell laptop burned up.

But I'm not going to jump on Dell in this post. You can do whatever you want.

This post is about what you should do as soon as you buy a new PC.

But first, I will mention what cranked me up on this.

Since 2009, Dell has been distributing "nice" utilities on all of its PCs that updated their firmware. These packages were variously called Dell Command Update, Dell Update, Alienware Update, Dell System Inventory Agent, or Dell Platform Tags.

The problem is that these packages installed Dell's DBUtil.


In December 2020, SentinelOne notified Dell of five vulnerabilities in this utility.

DARKReading described it:
The bugs give adversaries a way to bypass security products, wipe a hard drive, or install a malicious driver on a domain controller. "The attacker is effectively the system administrator."
What I don't want to do is suggest that this is exclusive to Dell. Lenovo has had similar issues on its products.

So, what should you do?

Format and reload Windows on ANY PC you get before you do ANYTHING with it. Get the bits from Microsoft here. Don't worry. Windows Update will install all the drivers that you need. You'll save significant disk space and won't have any bloat-ware the vendor installed.

You can thank me later.