Sunday, December 31, 2023

Happy New Year 2024

It's time for my annual New Year's post. Most of these are oldies but goodies but still very applicable even for Windows 11.

Here's my list of things I think you should check once a year.

Some of the steps may be a little out of date but I think you can find your way around. If not, leave me a comment and I'll help.

You'll sleep better.

Sunday, November 05, 2023


I've been known to eat some crow and here I go again.

I'm a long time follower of Security Now with Steve Gibson on the TWiT network. I've also been a user of SpinRite.

But over the years, SpinRite has bumped into some limitations, e.g. disk size, speed, and no support for UEFI.

Steve has been working on SpinRite 6.1 which will address disk size and speed as well as add some new features.

SpinRite 6.1 was almost wrapped up when Steve got distracted with what seemed like a random project.

He discovered that some of the cheap USB drives on Amazon didn't contain as much memory as they advertised. Worse, they would accept writes to sectors beyond their capacity without complaining.

There goes your data.

So Steve set aside SpinRite 6.1 and began developing ValiDrive to validate the capacity of USB drives. Steve is a meticulous developer and he always make sure his code is RIGHT.

I kept running into SpinRite 6's limitations and finally blew up at Steve:

Shortly after this, ValiDrive was released and Steve went back to working on SpinRite. Quickly, SpinRite 6.1 was pre-released.

I downloaded ValiDrive and ran it on a multi-adapter USB drive that I had bought from Amazon.

This was advertised at a 512GB USB drive with USB A, USB C, and Lightning connectors. I bought it to take on a trip but never used it. It came in a nice metal case lined with foam. It had neatly printed instructions and the support e-mail actually answered questions for me.

But it was too good to be true.

ValiDrive showed that it only had 64GB of capacity and was SLOW.

Then I ran it on 2 microSD cards that I had been using in my Wyze cameras.

They were true to size and much faster.

Then came a real test - the 64GB USB drive that I use for my KeePass vault.


Sunday, October 08, 2023

TreeSize Free

When I tried to take a system image of my daily driver laptop, I didn't have enough space on my backup drive. I didn't remember doing anything extraordinary so I started looking for wasted space.

I ran Windows' tools without getting much back. So I started looking for tools in my "Software" folder. I found TreeSize Free and ran it.

The answer stuck out like a sore thumb. It was in C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Temp. In a future post, I'll explain what had created all those files.

Back to TreeSize Free.

TreeSize Free is a free utility from JAM Software. Its visualizations make the utilization of space very obvious.

It's available as a portable app and you can get it here.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Kasa Doorbells

I've been using Ring Doorbells for several years. I had one at the front door and another at the back garage door. They were the original models but the images were fine. I liked the way that they worked with my house's original doorbell, i.e., the original doorbell chime rang when the Ring Doorbells were pushed.

But to get access to the historical events, I had to get a subscription that was $80 per year for the two doorbells.

After the Insteon fiasco, I have been diversifying my home automation. I have two Kasa (by TP-Link) Smart Plug HS103P2s and they work great. Kasa has a simple app but I schedule them using Amazon Echo.

So when I started looking at doorbell replacements, Kasa came up. I had looked at Wyze as well but, unlike the Wyze cameras, the Wyze doorbells didn't have on device storage. I ended up getting two Kasa KD110s.

They have on device storage using 128 GB microSD card. With their 2K resolution, that gives me about 10 days of 24x7 video (accessible using the Kasa app). These videos can be saved to your local device.

My front doorbell mounts on siding so I needed a appropriate wedge. I found what I needed from It was 3D printed to my color and angle. The approach to my front door comes from one side so I used the angled wedge that came with the KD110. Interestingly, the KD110 used the same holes in the siding as the original doorbell button!

The software/firmware for the KD100 has bene continuously evolving. When I started looking at them, the reviews were full of comments saying that you had to remove the microSD to access the videos. That was addressed by an app update before I bought.

But I immediately noticed that the software/firmware didn't allow setting zones for person detection. This resulted in numerous false alerts. I finally turned off person detection and narrowly zoned the motion detection. This reduced the false alerts but I still got alerts from plants moving.

I opened a support ticket with TP-Link and after only one bounce got connected to a support person who knew what was going on. He replied that they were working on a firmware update to be followed by an app update to address this.

The firmware on the KD110s were OTA updated to 2.3.20 and the app updated to 3.3.500. That added a separate zone capability to the person detection feature. They are working fine now.

The only shortcoming that I can find is that the KD110s don't ring the original doorbell chime. They come with plug-in chimes that you can place anywhere. Each KD110 can support multiple chimes so you could put one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom.

BUT you can't buy a second chime! I've seen posts where people have actually bought a second KD110 just to use the chime. What I've done is to configure my Amazon Echos to announce the notifications.

Here is a capture from daytime.

Here is a capture from nighttime.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

To VPN or Not

UPDATED 9/14/23

Over Prime Day(s), there were sales everywhere for VPNs. They tempted me but then I thought through it.

I'm always interested in "good" prices but I'm not sure why I really need a VPN. Most all the web is using https now.

The biggest risk (and it's not so big) is using public Wi-Fi. For example, I automatically connect to xfinitywifi. But if someone were to put up a fake xfinitywifi my laptop/phone would connect to it. The web data would be encrypted with https but DNS is still in the clear unless you're running DNS over HTTPS (DoH). This blog ( post explains what that is and how to enable it in Windows.

DoH was first introduced in Build 19628 (run winver to find your build). Between Build 19628 and Build 20185, you have to enable it with a registry entry.
  1. Type regedit into the search box and click Registry Editor.
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Dnscache\Parameters.
  3. Right-click on the Parameters folder and click New > DWORD (32-bit) Value, then name it EnableAutoDOH.
  4. Double-click on the new key and set its value data to 2.
Use one of the following DoH servers:
  • Cloudflare - Primary:, Alternate:
  • Google - Primary:, Alternate:
  • Quad9 - Primary:, Alternate:
To enable DNS over HTTPS in the Settings > Network & Internet menu:
  1. Select Settings in the Start menu.
  2. Open Network settings.
  3. Under Network status, open the Properties menu for the desired internet connection.
  4. Click Edit under DNS settings.
  5. Select the Manual option, and then specify the Preferred DNS and Alternate DNS IP addresses. DNS providers currently supported by Windows 10 are:
    ● Cloudflare – Primary:, Alternate:
    ● Google – Primary:, Alternate:
    ● Quad9 – Primary:, Alternate:
  6. (Only after Build 20185) Select Encrypted only (DNS over HTTPS) for encryption under Preferred DNS and Alternate DNS.
  7. If desired, you can configure the same for IPv6 (the previous steps were for IPv4).
Don't miss the "for the desired internet connection." You'll need to do this for EVERY network you connect to.

To enable encrypted DNS at home, you can use the above technique or your router will probably have a setting for that. Here's my router's settings:

Still simpler, for most of us, is to enable DoH in Chrome.
  1. Click the three-dots menu and choose Settings.
  2. Under the Privacy and security tab, click Security.
  3. Locate Use secure DNS, enable it and choose a provider from the drop-down menu.
The only other risk I've found is exposing your PC's devices to a public network.

Here's how to disable that:

And then:

The only other thing I see needing a VPN for is exiting in a different geographic location, e.g. exiting in the UK to get the BBC.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

The Cloud and High Availability

One of my new favorite podcasts is RunAsRadio with Richard Campbell. The June 14, 2023 edition was "High Availability in 2023 with Allan Hirt".

You can see Allan Hirt's credentials on LinkedIn.

Here's the synopsis of the podcast:
What does high availability look like in 2023? Richard chats with Allan Hirt about his work with high-availability solutions today - not just on-premises but also in the cloud. Allan talks about the frustration folks had with moving workloads in the cloud during the pandemic panic, lift-and-shifting workloads focusing on getting things working quickly rather than cost-effectively. The results can be costly, to the point where some folks considering moving back off the cloud again - but does that make sense? Allan talks about creating high availability efficiently wherever you want to run your workloads!
Richard and Allan covered availability as manifested in the cloud. Allan is a SQL Server guru who works for Pure Storage.

Here are some excerpts.
And cloud isn't a silver bullet for availability.
And the cloud doesn't eliminate traditional availability issues.
And the cloud introduces new issues.
And old issues don't go away.
And monitoring gets even more important.
But cloud providers likely provide higher availability than you could.
But just moving to the cloud doesn't guarantee more benefits.
If you're not good at on premises, you won't be any better on the cloud.
AWS - Amazon Web Services
GCP - Google Cloud Platform
IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service
PaaS - Platform as a Service
SCOM - Microsoft System Center Operations Manager
NOC - Network Operations Center

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Using Artificial Intelligence for Technology Advice

Read all the way to the end.

AI-generated content is becoming increasingly common in many areas, including home technology advice. While this technology has the potential to be very useful, there are also some risks associated with it.

One of the main risks of AI-generated content is that it may not be accurate or reliable. AI algorithms are only as good as the data they are trained on, and if the data is biased or incomplete, the results may be inaccurate or unreliable.

Another risk of AI-generated content is that it may be used to spread misinformation or propaganda. Because AI algorithms can generate large amounts of content quickly and easily, they can be used to create fake news stories or other types of propaganda.

Finally, there is also a risk that AI-generated content could be used to manipulate people’s opinions or behavior. For example, AI-generated content could be used to create fake reviews or ratings for products, which could influence people’s purchasing decisions.

Overall, while AI-generated content has many potential benefits, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with it. If you are using AI-generated content for home technology advice, it is important to verify the information and use multiple sources to ensure accuracy and reliability.

This was written by Microsoft's Bing interface to ChatGPT. I just copied and pasted it. This is to show you what AI can do.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Windows Sandbox

I've always been interested in Windows virtualization. While I've exercised it somewhat, I haven't made continual use of it especially after Oracle bought Sun.

Then recently while listening to Windows Weekly Paul Thurrott described Windows Sandbox.

I knew about Hyper-V but didn't know about Sandbox.

Here's Microsoft's documentation ( on how to enable Sandbox. You have to be running Windows 10 or 11 Pro with virtualization capabilities enabled in BIOS (probably already enabled).

Click on the Windows key and type "Windows features". Press Enter.

Scroll down to "Windows Sandbox" and check the box. Click on "OK" and let the system restart.

Now click on the Windows key and type "Sandbox". Press Enter.

There it is.

It's a pretty vanilla copy of Windows. If you make any changes, they will go away when you shut it down.

That's good and bad. If you Google around, you'll find several articles on how to configure the Sandbox and move data and files back and forth.

Sunday, March 05, 2023


I'm building a new server. When I built Trump, I put 2 2TB drives into a Storage Spaces RAID-1 configuration.

That has worked well so I wanted to do the same in the new server.

But it got complicated.

When I started looking at 4TB drives for RAID configurations, I noticed terms that I didn't recognize in the specifications: CMR and SMR.

Then I read the reviews. I got confused. Nobody seemed to like SMR drives. What were CMR and SMR? How were they different?
Conventional Magnetic Recording (CMR) drives write data on a hard disk in tracks that do not overlap. Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) allows tracks to overlap, which results in higher data densities, but slower read and write times compared to CMR drives.

Just to add to the confusion, CMR is also known as Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR).

This illustration begins to explain it.

The SMR technology increases the density thereby reducing the number of platters needed for a given capacity. Less platters means less cost so you know which way the industry is going.

But the SMR recording technique is accomplished by overlapping the data from one track with the adjacent tracks. Reading one track back is OK but writing one track requires rewriting the adjacent tracks at the same time.

Think about that. To write a track, the drive has to cache the new data. Then it has to read the tracks adjacent to the track needing to be written and cache that data. Then it has to merge the old data with the new data before rewriting all the tracks.

Obviously this makes writes much slower than CMR drives with discrete tracks.

For "normal" usage, these slower writes aren't much of an issue. But in a RAID configuration, they really slow down the throughput.

So how do you know whether a given drive uses CMR or SMR?

Here's Seagate's status ( Here's Western Digital's status ( Here's Toshiba's status (

It's not easy.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Strengthening Security

Windows Weekly is one of my favorite podcasts. Recently it has added a new co-host of Richard Campbell. He also has his own podcast at RunAsRadio. Of course, I added that to my podcast list.

Jess Dodson was a recent guest on the RunAsRadio podcast.

Here's the synopsis of the podcast:
How do you improve the security of your organization? Richard talks to Jess Dodson about the current security environment we're living in and what you can do to improve your security posture. Jess talks about how breaches happen and what you can do to detect them early before things get worse. The conversation dives into getting more resources - in most cases, improving security means having the time to work on preventative measures, like implementing multi-factor authentication, security information and event management, and setting up Just Enough Administration. And you need the time to review the activities in your network to let you stop a breach before it turns into something worse!
It's well worth your 40-odd minutes.

But Jess had a couple of points that I want to emphasize.

At 21:34 she says:
I hope I'm preaching to the choir on that one. Here's an earlier post of mine.

And then at 33:15 she says:
I think that is an excellent way to explain to management the objective.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Windows 11 Upgrade Issues

My "Trump" PC server is getting long in the tooth. It won't run Windows 11 so I set out to replace it sometime down the road.

I clearly wanted the new PC to run Windows 11 so I carefully selected a tower system that supported that. In a future post, I'll detail what all I've done.

But when I began to run through Windows Update on the new system, it consistently told me that it wasn't capable of running Windows 11. I ran "msinfo" ( and it showed that all the requirements were met. Then I ran "PC Health Check" ( and it too said that Windows 11 was supported.

So I Googled "windows update says no windows 11 but pc health check says yes" and BINGO!

I'll cover the solution later but first look at that page ( It was created 16 months ago. 421 users had said "I have the same question" AND Microsoft has locked that topic to stop new posts.

tl;dr - Ignore Windows Update. Use the Installation Assistant ( to download Windows 11.

You would think that Microsoft would fix that in a year.

But my story doesn't end there.

I ran the Installation Assistant and it churned away. Then I got this screen.

Back to Google "We couldn't update the system reserved partition." and BINGO!

I'll cover the solution later but first look at that page ( It was created almost 2 years ago. 299 users had said "I have the same question" AND Microsoft has locked that topic to stop new posts.

And worse, the problem isn't new. That page links to a Windows 10 installation page (

Unfortunately, there is not a tl;dr solution.

Microsoft warns:
Caution: these steps are complicated, and carry some risk. This is best done by advanced users with experience using the command line. If you make an error in entering these commands, you could put your device in a no-boot situation, and possibly lose data you have stored on the device.
Here's the solution:
  1. Search for cmd. Press-and-hold or right-click on Command Prompt in the results, and select Run as administrator.
  2. At the command prompt, type mountvol y: /s and then hit Enter. This will add the Y: drive letter to access the System Partition.
  3. Switch to the Y drive by typing Y: and press Enter. Then, navigate to the Fonts folder by typing cd EFI\Microsoft\Boot\Fonts. Once there, type del *.* to delete font files. The system may ask you if you are sure to continue, press Y and then Enter to continue.
The solution worked and Windows 11 installed with no more problems.

C'mon Microsoft. You can make this simpler than this.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

You Need a Side Channel

Here we Microsoft go again! There's a list of Microsoft availability problems here. Don't think I'm all doom and gloom on Microsoft. It's just that even HUGE organizations struggle with subtleties.

Microsoft's latest incident affected Azure, Teams, and Outlook for hours.

Microsoft recently released their postmortem. I applaud Microsoft for publishing this. Could your company have done such a thorough job so quickly?
As part of a planned change to update the IP address on a WAN router, a command given to the router caused it to send messages to all other routers in the WAN, which resulted in all of them recomputing their adjacency and forwarding tables. During this re-computation process, the routers were unable to correctly forward packets traversing them.
Maybe your network isn't so large that this "re-computation process" wouldn't saturate your network equipment.

Regardless there is a learning here.
Due to the WAN impact, our automated systems for maintaining the health of the WAN were paused, including the systems for identifying and removing unhealthy devices, and the traffic engineering system for optimizing the flow of data across the network.
Their network management system, including device security,  ran ACROSS their network. So when the network was impacted their network management system was ineffective. Basically, Microsoft had to watch and wait for the network to settle down.

A side channel network management solution would have mitigated that. And introduced a myriad of other problems, principally security.

Tough choices.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Password Strength Testing Tool

You've probably been following the LastPass saga. An emerging alternative is Bitwarden.

Recently Bitwarden has published a Password Strength Testing Tool here.

It's worth running your passwords through it. My day-to-day algorithm generated a rating of "Good" and an estimated time of cracking of "7 hours."

I was relatively satisfied with that until I put the password generated with my client's algorithm.

Time to revisit my algorithm.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Happy New Year 2023

The start of a new year is a good time to review a few things and make sure everything is right. Here's my list of things I think you should check once a year.

Some of the steps may be a little out of date but I think you can find your way around. If not, leave me a comment and I'll help.

You'll sleep better.