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…

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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.

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Networking Win-Xp with Win-7

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If you still have Win-Xp machine(s) around in your household and want to network them with your Win-7 machine(s), it is not hopeless. Here are the steps. Oh it only took me an entire afternoon to figure out with googling and trials and errors, so it should be easy for you now.

Before I get to the steps, you need to understand the architect behind the two systems are  totally different. I believe Win-7 is built on the more stable corporate platform Win2000, so its networking methodology is certainly different from Win-Xp, which derived from Win98…

Differences:

1. Win-7 connection with Homegroup of other Win-7 machine is easy as long as you name it correctly in all machines. Miraculously even media sharing is quite easy to set up, i.e., PS3. There is something called media sharing in network sharing to enable that function.

2. Win-Xp has NO Homegroup,  but Workgroup. So before with an all Win-Xp network, you did the same naming all machines with same name like the Win-7 above, and you will be able to shares drives and map them if you wanted to…

Steps:

1. Do the same and consider Homegroup and Workgroup are the same thing, so name them identical so that all machines despite OS version will find each other.

2. If you do it correctly, you should see on either machine its Network Center(7) / My Network Places (Xp) displaying named PC/laptop, at this point, if you click on it, likely, it will say “…talk to your administrator” or “… need permission”

3. Most important: on Win-Xp machine, right click on the folder or drive will give you the option of “sharing”, the thing is “Network sharing and security” is turn-off, so turn it on, if it isn’t so. Then as usual click on “Share this folder on the network”. On Win-7 machine look at the setting of rights of Public Doucments . That’s how I finally figured out to get files from my Win-7 machine, cause it showed up on my Win-Xp automatically, and I had no problems getting to files. On the other hands, other folders gave me “… talk to administrator…”, until  I put “Everyone” in the rights  in “Choose people to share with…”.  To get there:  Right-click on folder you want to share, Select Share with / Advance Settings. The share drive should be //xxxx.xxx  , click Share button will bring to the “Choose people to share with…”

4. Caveat: I haven’t set up password for folders yet, so you may have researched this if you want to make sure no one can hack into your networked folders.

There you have it, as usual Microsoft !!

P.S. I remember in the 80s, a regular phone cable is all you need to network two Mac Classics, and you just had to set rights of what each could see or not see.

Cheers.

Nothing is easy with Windows! (HDMI to DVI Display)

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Male DVI connector pins (view of plug)

Male DVI connector pins (view of plug) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I figured my monitor has a DVI in, and my relatively new laptop has a HDMI out, why not get an inexpensive HDMI to DVI cable to get the benefits of digital display, instead of the VGA‘s analog cousin.

As usual I did my research about HDCP’s issues (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which prevent you from dubbing HD contents digitally, and I found none. So I bought the cable at Amazon. The cable arrived and semi-excited I plugged the receptors in to their corresponding acceptors, and booted my laptop: Froze on boot!

So first,I checked BIOS. No option with display adapter. Un-plugged and booted into Windows 7 , 64X  , and no monitor shown after re-plugged HDMI- DVI cable. Tried varies combinations and permutations, no luck. I gave up.

Unhappy with the cable purchased, I went on Google, and not surprising tons of posted problems not so much with HDMI to DVI connection, but the problems lie with Intel 3000 graphics card on the motherboard that Intel never solved the known issues. So as usual, downloaded the most current driver to see if it would do anything! Once again, as usual, went through installation, and after two to three minutes, it said my laptop was not compatible with the driver version downloaded, I need to contact OEM!  WTF! Oh, yes, it did pre-warn me that if the driver was OEM installed, then it might not work. I thought Intel should support future upgrades regardless! I guess THEY DO NOT, so BUYERS BEWARE! looks like it is now all up to the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), in other words, if Gateway does not buy the licenses from Intel I am out of luck to use any latest drivers! This is game changing!

Anyway, another frustrated ending. Still not convinced, I Googled again, and in Intel communities’ forums, I finally found a temporary solution:

1) Unplug HDMI cable, and boot laptop

2) Once booted and log-in to Windows, plug your cable in, and go to Control Panel > Harware and Sound >Device Manager; Display Adapters > Intel (R) HD Graphic Family, right-click and select disable, and Yes, don’t worry about what it says or warns.

3) Repeat step 2, but select enable this time.

Caveat: Screen-saver will kill the setting and you have to redo step 2 and 3 to get multiple displays again : (

You should be able to peruse both displays.

So here is my point, if I am not semi-technie, I will be frustrated as hell! But one thing is sure, I have been putting up with Windows and hardware and software issues for so long that nothing is really surprising. Unfortunately, the annoyance variance is still far less than the premium demands of a Mac! (Mac has its issues too)

Cheers.

P.S. Result: DVI is better than using VGA! Essentially (very broadly) DVI is the same as HDMI, except there is no audio.  Also, my monitor does not have HDMI-in.

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.

Frozen Windows…

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Microsoft Windows wordmark

Microsoft Windows wordmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now, all people have experienced frozen screen when using Windows (whatever version), and it is the most frustrating experience, cause nothing moves, no sound, no hourglass, just nothing-less. Yes, you can try the three-finger salute (Ctrl-Alt-Delete) to “Shutdown“properly,but sometime that does not even do anything. Well, the only thing to do is to shut your computer down with the actual on/off button, and hope for the best.

Wait, there is one thing you must do when you turn it on again, it saved my laptops many times, that is to do a “Safe Boot“! If you know about this, good for you. I bet some people have no idea. Essentially, “Safe Boot” is to boot up Windows with minimal components, and it is most useful with the above scenario. Here is the how: when you turn your laptop or computer on again, shortly after the brand prompt (HP,Acer,..), Press and Hold F8, until a blue screen shows up with Safe Boot choices. I usually pick without network connection. Use your up-down button to select a choice, I usually choose “1”. Windows will boot up, and once it finishes, use your Start menu like usual and Shutdown properly.

Whenever I suspect my laptop has virus, worms, malware, adware,… that causes problem, I will also do a Safe Boot and use my virus/malware scan at that level, if things are detected, it will be cleaned, which may be the reason your Windows having problem shutting down in the first place.

I wish Windows 8 would finally resolve all these issues, and I am a dreamer!

Cheers.