Monday, April 30, 2018

Getting Windows 10 Spring Creators Update Now

Microsoft is making the Windows 10 Spring Creators Update [version 1803] available for download as of 4/30/2018.  This update contains the latest Windows operating system features, improvements and applications,

If you don't want to manually download and install the update to your system, Microsoft will roll it out globally on May 8, 2018 to all users.

Notes: 
  • All the installation methods require you to have a valid licensed to install the Windows 10 update.
  • As always, make sure you have a good backup of your data and system before proceeding.  I have had these install fail and take out my OS so the computer doesn't boot.  It is rare, but it can happen.

Method 1 (Windows Update): If you want to use Windows Update to download the update.  Go to Settings app > select Update and security > then Windows Update, press the Check for updates button.


  • The new Feature update to Windows 10, version 1803 should be available to you.
  • After the install completes the system will want to reboot, and the setup will finish.


Method 2 (Update Assistant option): The update assistant will help you install the windows updated.  Go to Download Windows 10 site, press the Update now button to download and run the Update Assistant.


  • Note: This tool will not work on Enterprise editions of Windows.
  • Let the application will walk you through installation process.
  • After the install completes the system will want to reboot, and the setup will finish.


Method 3 (Installation media option): Go to Download Windows 10 site, press the Download tool button to download and run the Media Creation Tool.


  • Note: This option requires a USB drive or blank DVD writer and media.
  • Let the application will walk you through installation process.
  • After the install completes the system will want to reboot, and the setup will finish.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Windows 10: Lock Screen Shortcut

In any organization, it is important to lock the computer when the user leaves it, this will prevent someone from abusing someone else’s network security access. By pressing the WinKey + L on the keyboard, the user can lock the computer screen. With this tip, the user can create a shortcut icon that does the same thing by clicking on it.
  1. Create a new shortcut (right-click the desktop, select New > Shortcut)
  2. In the Type the location of the item field, type: RUNDLL32.EXE user32.dll LockWorkStation, and then press the Next button.
  3. In the Type the name of the shortcut field, type: Lock Screen and then press the Finish button.
Use any of the additional commands below to create additional shortcuts:

  • Show Desktop
    • shell:::{3080F90D-D7AD-11D9-BD98-0000947B0257}
  • Run… (dialog)
    • shell:::{2559a1f3-21d7-11d4-bdaf-00c04f60b9f0} 
  • Recycle Bin
    • shell:::{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}
  • Slide to Shutdown
    • slidetoshutdown.exe
  • Task Manager
    • taskmgr.exe

Friday, January 12, 2018

Windows 10: PowerShell Core 6.0 is now available...

If you are a Windows PowerShell scripter, then you might be excited about Microsoft announcing the release of PowerShell Core 6.0.  For the first time in the scripting language’s ten-year history, it is now cross-platform (meaning the same script can run on Windows, MacOS, and Linux) and its open-source (so it is freely available to download or modify).

If you are a PowerShell scripter, this opens up new opportunities for managing heterogeneous environments (meaning multiple different types of OSs) with a single scripting language.
PowerShell is not the first or only open source cross-platform scripting environment that is currently available.  Python is a very mature scripting language that has a huge following right now.

Windows PowerShell vs. PowerShell Core

Here is the interesting news.  There are now two versions of PowerShell; there is the Windows and the Core version.  Windows PowerShell, which is the current version of PowerShell that is shipping with the OS today, is now being dropped in favor of PowerShell Core.

What this means is now that PowerShell Core 6.0 has been released, Microsoft will not be developing any new releases of Windows PowerShell.  All new development in the language will be done under PowerShell Core.

Downloading and Installing PowerShell Core

To download and install PowerShell Core, just select the link next to the OS you are using and follow the instructions on the page to install the software.


Monday, January 08, 2018

PowerShell: Checking for the Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws

You have probably already heard about the Meltdown and Spectre flaws in the Intel CPUs.  The flaw has existed in the chips since 1995.  This flaw also effects any OS that uses the Intel chips that are effected, so it's not just Windows, this also effects Linux and the MacOS.

On January 3, 2018, Microsoft released an out-of-band Windows updates to address the Meltdown and Spectre flaws.  It is worth noting that these patches should be tested on machines before deploying it to a full environment.  There have been posts about incompatibilities found with AMD processors and some anti-malware packages.

Microsoft has four help pages of guidance for client and server:

Microsoft has instructed anti-malware vendors to modify their products and create a specific registry key on customers' computers to confirm that their products won't crash the PCs if the patches are installed.
"The compatibility issue arises when antivirus applications make unsupported calls into Windows kernel memory. These calls may cause stop errors (also known as blue screen errors) that make the device unable to boot. To help prevent stop errors that are caused by incompatible antivirus applications, Microsoft is only offering the Windows security updates that were released on January 3, 2018, to devices that are running antivirus software that is from partners who have confirmed that their software is compatible with the January 2018 Windows operating system security update."

Meltdown and Spectre Flaws Diagnostics

To check if you have the anti-malware compatible registry key:
REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\QualityCompat /v cadca5fe-87d3-4b96-b7fb-a231484277cc
If you want to test the state of a computer if it has been patched or not, you can use a PowerShell module/cmdlet that Microsoft has created to test for the existence of the flaw and patch.

  • Download and install a Powershell module: Install-Module SpeculationControl
  • Run the following PowerShell command: Get-SpeculationControlSettings
Note: If you can't run the commands, you might need to change the PowerShell security level: Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Scope Currentuser 

Windows 10: Tips for Traveling with the OS

If you travel domestically or internationally with you Windows 10 computer. There are features and apps in the operating system that can be leveraged to make it easier being away from home or the office. As well as working offline

When planning your trip, several great travel apps and web sites from other companies are available that can be used to help you.  There are also several built-in Widows 10 apps and features, you can leverage to help you as well.

Use the following built-in functionality when traveling:
  • Make sure the Set time zone automatically option is enabled in the Settings app. This setting is located under Time and Language, Date & time.  It is worth noting that two additional time zones can be added to the system clock in the lower right corner, just click Add clocks for different time zones.  
  • In Windows Fall Creators edition, if you click on the date and time in the taskbar can see events from your calendar under Show agenda feature.
  • Use the Print to PDF feature to keep electronic copies of travel documents (i.e. airplane itinerary, hotel reservations, etc.). Otherwise take pictures of them with a smartphone, or scan them using another device and store them on the computer for easy access.
  • Cortana has many smarts around traveling and can help while abroad by answering your questions (such as what is the local time, weather, track lists, etc.) or make reservations.
  • The Mobile Hotspot feature (available under the Settings app) allows you to turn a wired connection into a wireless connection for your mobile device.
  • Sticky notes can help you track important information that you only need temporarily.
  • Use the Snipping tool or the print screen feature to copy information (i.e. pictures, maps, etc.) off the screen and paste it into OneNote for later use.
Use the following built-in apps when traveling:
  • Use Microsoft Edge for browsing web sites while you are while abroad. The browser also supports reading ebooks in PDF and ePUB format.  In Windows Fall Creators edition, you can markup ebooks by highlighting information and writing notes.
  • The Maps app can help you plan getting around while traveling; do not forget it supports downloading maps locally for offline use.
  • The News app provides the latest local and world breaking news.
  • The Weather app displays current local and world forecast information.
  • The Calendar app can help you manage your time and itineraries.
  • Use the Mail app for managing your mail while you are on the road.
  • The Alarms and Clock app can provide alarms and world time.
  • The Calculator app has a built-in currency conversion feature.
  • The Photos app is great for managing pictures, and performing basic cleanup of photographs. In Windows Fall Creators edition, you can convert your photographs into movies or create augmented reality special effects to them.
  • OneNote is a great way to organize all notes and other information about the trip. A little known feature of OneNote is that it can index the text in a photo, so it can make it searchable. 
  • An alternative to OneNote is the Notepad or WordPad and the Calculator app to provide basic note taking or the tracking of expenses.
  • The Movies and TV app can allow you to watched downloaded content while you are offline.
  • Use Groove Music for listening to your favorite music or podcasts.
  • Skype is great for staying in contact with your friends and family or making international calls while away from home.
Additional programs that can be downloaded from the Windows Store to help you while traveling.
  • Microsoft Translator can translate from on language to another.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Windows 10: App Windows Management

If you have a lot of windows open on the desktop and want to quickly bring them under control. Right-click the Taskbar and select:

  • Cascade windows (cascades stacks open windows)
  • Show windows stacked (stacks open Windows to best fit the screen)
  • Show windows side by side (arranges open Windows to best fit the screen).

Monday, December 25, 2017

Security: Cryto-Mining How to Block


One of the latest internet threats is some sites (legitimate and illegitimate) are Cryto-Mining Bitcoin (and possibly other crypto-currencies) in people's browser.  

Some group of bad actors developed the ability to distribute and mine Bitcoin using JavaScript that can run in a browser.  All of this is done just by visiting a web site in your browser.  The JavaScript code will download and execute, it will bypass all the security protections you may have in place (i.e. firewall, anti-malware, etc.).  

Technically, this is not malware in the classical sense, meaning it does not infect a computer or spread itself.  What it does do is steal CPU cycles from your computer to mine Bitcoin.  The way it works is by executing JavaScript code; which was designed to make web pages more intelligent by supporting a programming language.  Cryto-Miners are not the first to exploit this technology for other things; it is exploited by advertisers all the time to try to get you to click on more ads by shoving more of them in front of you.

Update:
Cryto-Miners made their crypto-currency mining more stealth, so even when you close your browser windows the mining will still run.  They updated their code to create a pop-under window sized to fit inside the taskbar and behind the clock after you visit a web site. If the taskbar set to be transparent, you might be able to see a tiny window. If not, resizing the taskbar can pop it into view.  The code also tries to evade detection by limiting itself to just 50 percent of the CPU. 

Fighting Back
There are a few ways of fighting back against this threat.  As well as preventing these sites from stealing your CPU cycles.

Method 1. Install a browser extension.  There are several of these out there for the different browsers.  There are too many choices for me to make a recommendation.  I would advise doing your own research and see what others recommend

Method 2. This method is more advanced.  It requires more manual intervention and updating.  It also requires knowledge of how to update your computer's HOST (C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\ETC\Hosts) file.  By putting the Cryto-Mining domains and pointing, those to a bad IP address (i.e. 0.0.0.0). The HOST file will prevent the code from running because when the browser try to resolve the domain it cannot.  The HOST file also runs at the system level meaning it would protect all the browsers installed on your system.

Note: The problem with this method is knowing which domains to block, and having to manually update the list on a regular basis.

3. This method is even more advanced.  It requires more manual intervention and updating of the DNS.  If you are a small, medium or large organization with your own DNS servers, it would be possible to put these domains in your DNS, and point them to a bogus address.  This would help protect the clients in your organization from these type of attacks.  

Note: The problem with this method is knowing which domains to block, and having to manually update the list on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

New Book: Power User Guide: Windows 10 Secrets (2018 Edition): The Ultimate Windows Tips and Tricks Guide for Everyone

Check out the new edition of my book called "Power User Guide: Windows 10 Secrets (2018 Edition): The Ultimate Windows Tips and Tricks Guide for Everyone".  

It is now available for sale on Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078DTQTVM).


Book Description: Windows 10 is the latest Windows operating system from Microsoft. The new OS contains hundreds of new and updated features, applications, services and user interface changes.

This edition of the book series has been updated to discuss the latest release of Windows 10, the Fall Creators Edition. The content of the book has been doubled from the original version.

This book can help all levels of users (from beginner to IT Professional) to take full advantage of the operating system. Below are just some of the topics covered in the book:


  • Leveraging the power and features of the new OS and applications and services.
  • The book includes hundreds of power user notes, tips and tricks to utilize all the new features of the OS.
  • Learn the history and future of the Windows ecosystem, as well as what this means for the users.
  • Discover undocumented and little known features that can grant the user access to functionality that is only known to experts.
  • Understand the new privacy and security concerns that comes with using all the new applications and services.
  • Understand the different installation and upgrade options that are available to you. Including how to create your own installation media.
  • There is expanded technical content for IT professionals that provides basics like networking troubleshooting, more. 
  • Including new and updated sections on getting started with Hyper-V, Docker, Linux, PowerShell and the upgraded command prompt.
  • - And more...