Nasty Ransomware!! I surrender.

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My friend got a locked screen and a notice from “Microsoft Tech” asking to call a 1-800 number so that they could fix the problem…

Long story short, he was attacked by a ransomware, and the asking price to unlock was $200 cdn. The biggest mistake was that he gave the “Tech” permission to remotely access his computer. Microsoft should know and obviously do that – I would say – more than 80% of people using WinOS are not savvy and au courant of all the XXXwares that could attack their PCs: ransomwares, malwares, viruses, worms, trojans,… The worst of it all his system was “protected” by Norton, but it didn’t catch it…at all.

So I got a call to see if I could savage the carnage. When I got there, I was happy to see that the OS was still “functional”, but lurking behind the system and unbeknownst to me traps were set already, so I started with what I normally would do: a full scan with Norton. The second defence was to upload and install Malwarebytes and started cleaning adwares, and malwares, … And Success! So I thought.

A moment of blissfulness quickly descended into Dante’s Inferno literally: HELL. As common practice it is imperative to run Malwarebytes and Norton again in Safe Mode to totally eradicate any remnants of these nasties; however, with Win 8 and 10, you cannot boot into Safe Mode directly by pressing F8 key anymore. What?!! Instead WIN10 – in my case -required that I went through Startup Settings to get to Safe Mode boot. Of course some gremlins had disable the selection of Safe Mode  (I was sure the developer(s) of the ransomeware see through my defensive logic). So I shut down the computer and pressed On/Off Key to do a full reboot. Wrong again. I triggered more gremlins and additional levels of Dante’s Hell. At this point after rebooting in to WinOS it asked for a password, a syskey’s password to be specific (all those private key and public key that could make your head spins.) Sadly at this stage the computer was completely hijacked. I was reluctant to give up, so I did a quick search on Google- eureka- I cracked syskey’s problem, I was able to log-in to the OS again. Now I must be able to go into Safe Mode. Damn you!!!

As their last assault, they used an old school boot-time virus to control the computer entirely: blue screen of errors. In my time, it was called MBR virus; this current one affected the BCD to the same effect. In that era, I had to boot with a “FLOPPY” with an antivirus app loaded, F-Prot, to kill the MBR virus, but I had no idea how it worked now. with the BCD error. Nevertheless, I kept trying and searching for solutions. Although I was able to get into the Command Mode in C:/ prompt, none of the things I tried work. The only option left was to do a full reinstall. HaHa, you wish! The ransomware was so virile that I couldn’t complete a full re-install. Of course, it didn’t allow me to re-install using the recovery partition either.

The very very last thing I did was to install Ubuntu (a Linux OS), hoping I could check, at least, the disk with Linux OS running: Nope! It basically shut out any sort of installation to the hard drive.

After 8 hours struggling with this thing, it was time to surrender. My final thought, never get yourself in a pickle like my friend’s. Be vigilant, be skeptical, be aware!

P.S. my friend took his laptop to a local computer store and had it repaired; now it’s good as new. Thankfully he has made backups.

October 26, 2012 – Windows 8

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The date has been announced and you can research it at windows.com. Downloaded version is $39.99 + taxes, and DVD version is $69.99 + taxes for Windows 8 Professional. I did test out the preview version for about two weeks, and got the gist of the look and feel; now comes the question whether I am ready for it?!

I mean my relatively new i3-2330m, 4GB under Windows  7 – 64 bit is doing quite well, and growing up from Windows 3.1, personally it is hard for me not to have a Start Menu. While fooling around with the preview I felt lost sometimes, and honestly never got to load up microsoft office suite with those tiles.

I see the appeal having it on a tablet or one of those hybrids, but to upgrade now, and to anticipate what can go wrong with a new operating system, I think I will pass for now. Nonetheless, $39.99 + taxes is quite a bargain coming from Microsoft, previous upgrades had always been from $129.99+taxes or you might have got away with an OEM version+ hardware for $99.99 + taxes.

Bottom-line is that I like my Windows 7 machine, and it seldom gives me problems. The wise thing to do is to wait and see. Apparently the special prices end January 31, 2013, so I will keep reading reviews and decide later: NO RUSH!

Cheers.

Microsoft Surface

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English: Microsoft surface table

English: Microsoft surface table (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest buzz was the surfacing of the soon-2-come Microsoft Surface tablet. As usual, MS is going to give you choices, whether is stripe-down RT version, or the full Win8 experience.

From what I have read and seen in the news, the drawing point to this tablet is MS R&Ding the whole thing, i.e., no third party! I guess with MS deep pocket, it can be exciting?!

The appeal as they try to market it is the rainbow colours array of the gadget (focusing a demographics of 16-25, perhaps!). To me, nothing of a wow here, looking at them. Sure, the tablet and keyboard are thin, but so are some ultra-thin notebooks on sales now. So, after you upgrade it to Win8, how is it different? especially when the ultra sells for its quick boot time, and wake time already.

I already talked about Android tablets weakness (for some) was with their multiple-versions open source system, but will the close source Win8 base tablet wins over established iOS’s?

Despite all, with anything new, don’t and go for 2nd generation, if there is going to be! That’s the cardinal rule for consumers, whether they are gadgets, appliances, or automobile.

The one think I am curious is how the keyboard works? motion sensor, i.e., like how we type on smartphones or iPad or Android tablets? If it is based on mechanical compression, press down, then it will be a failure! cause, there are Bluetooth keyboards that do the same with iPad! Now, it will be interesting if the keyboard is backlit, i.e., the key lights up as you type! you know, like how we see it in movie, clear glass keyboard, as you type, the key lights up and shows the letter….

Buying gadget is about seeing and feeling, so let’s wait till the real thing comes out!

Windows 8 – neat!

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Finally I got it installed on my old laptop that I was thinking of throwing out! So the good news is that, at least, the preview version will work on the minimum requirements it set out: 1GHz, 1or 2 GB RAM. Mine is 1.6 and 4.

There is a bit of learning curve to find where things are (10 mins), cause the familiar “Start” button is no longer, kind of. Instead there is a start mini-screen now, left bottom corner, that I find it is sometime hard to get to, it disappears if the mouse is not in the right place. On top left, mini screen(s) will open for your previously open windows, that you can point and go to: like the Aero in Vista and Windows 7 that I never use. However, this is a bit more intuitive.

I have seen the Windows Phone layout in commercial, so I know how it looks. First, you have large rectangular tiles and half-size ones of various colours. Each is like an icon, or app (that’s what it’s called), and you can certainly move them around. If the app is about weather, current weather will display, and if it is news, the pages will change on the tile, etc. So it means screen-savers can be a thing of the past. There is a little zoom button on bottom left that will allow you to shrink the start page, I assume this will help if you have lots of apps. Right mouse button click on start page will get you the All App, that’s where you find those familiar things like control panel, calculator, computer, etc.

The Desktop tile will get you into a page where the IE icon and Windows Explorer is on a taskbar. To get to the settings, you can point your mouse to the bottom left, five transparent icons will show: zoom,share,start, devices and settings. Inside settings, more pc settings give you more choices and the selections look prettier than the old control panel, which you can still get to BTW.

Since Microsoft really wants to promote cloud-computing, you now even can connect directly to Window -Live when log-in, so to save a step. Once connected, your email and calendar tiles will show you if you have new mail and appointments.

There is an app-store, it’s just called Store. Same premise, some are free, some are not, like Mac’s and Android’s.

After installation, I didn’t seem to have driver issues. My USB wireless adaptor is working, webcam is working, and so forth.

So far I like it, it’s different enough from all previous Windows versions, which mostly were the same from Windows 98 to Windows 7, am I right? It works well with a mouse, but it should be interesting with a touch device like tablet, or Windows coffee table (using the table top as monitor)? I still need to be convinced for a touch desktop ( Acer and HP had tried it) though: who want to stand and swipe all day long?

Cheers.

P.S. still looking for the shut-down button without logging out as user first.

Windows 8 consumer preview(free)

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April 9, 2012: Okay, it is installing now. I am using the 32-bit from DVD boot. After you key in the product key, use “CUSTOM” install, and not “Standard”! Using that gives you an option to partition your drives as well. We’ll see how it goes!

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As usual I don’t want to bash Microsoft, when we must use it for our daily work-life and most likely at home too, but a good consumer product is good when a consumer doesn’t get frustrated!

Okay, I read somewhere this morning that Microsoft has Windows 8 consumer preview for free download. After reading the fine print, I was hesitant to download it on my new laptop, cause the install will wipe your existing OS and you must re-install from recovery if you decide Windows 8 is not your cup of tea. After a while, I pulled out my old HP tx1100ca, blow-dried it again, and it booted,so I figured it would be fun and cool to do it. Went to the site http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download downloaded the ISO image,burn to a DVD disc, and I thought the installation should be easy. Ah ha, think again!

First hurdle: there were two choices, 32-bit and 64-bit, since it was an older laptop I figured best I used the 32-bit version. The download file size was 3.2 GB, and took about 30 mins to download, guess the server had throttle control, so transfer rate was at about 1,100 kb/sec (yawn …zzzzzz). Finally, I burnt the image using Roxio… Okay, everything was good. I re-booted the computer, and DVD was in,changed boot from DVD and all was good. I managed to put in the purchase key, and then it said I needed to boot while Windows 7 was running, why? Since I could not proceed, I boot to Windows 7 and run setup, and then it said, my Windows 7 64-bit was not compatible with the 32-bit Windows 8. Really!

Second hurdle: Since I had time, I downloaded the 64-bit version which was at 3.5 GB. Patiently I had the image burnt. Ran it inside Windows 7, it gave me two error messages, so no go. Re-boot, blah, blah, same process above. Now it got to a point and said, “Load Driver: A DVD driver your PC needs is missing. If you have a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive with the driver on it, please insert it now. Note: If the installation media for Windows is in the DVD drive, you can safely remove it for this step”. Seriously !!!! Laptop has CD/DVD driver for over 10 years, and Microsoft was asking me to find a freaking driver for my DVD-ROM, and burnt it and continued with the process?! Maybe I had missed a step to get the drivers first from Windows 7 ( like MAC boot-camp that creates a drivers -disc first), but I doubt Microsoft is that thoughtful or thorough.

At this point, I give up, that’s after three hours tinkling with it! Who cares about Windows 8. Now even Ubuntu Linux does it right: we can create a boot-able disc with totally useable OS, and only if one likes it he can install it on a new partition or wipe out Windows altogether. As I say at the beginning, we have to keep using something that is popular-mediocre just because.

Perhaps, someone who is reading this can enlighten me with the installation. Wait, I hardly interest in messing with this new OS, 7 is fine.

Cheers.