Friday, July 31, 2015

Tip: Preventing Windows 10 from Using Your Bandwidth to Distribute Itself

When Microsoft releases a new version of Windows it can sometime take days or weeks before the users can receive the ability to get the update. This is because the company's servers are getting slammed from other people downloading it. This happened with the release of the Windows 8 and 8.1 OS because the popularity of the download, even though the OS was not that liked.

In the not too distant pass things were a great deal worse. For example, in the very, very early days of Microsoft they literally shipped it software on paper tape, which later was move to cassette tapes and then floppies. I remember installing a version of office that literally required 25 floppies and had 5 to 6 huge manuals. They eventually moved the distribution of their software to CDs then DVDs, these disk also started including digital versions of the manuals.

Windows Vista was the first version of the OS to utilize ESD (Electronic Software Distribution). I remember with Windows 8 they offered a $40 upgrade for the electronic version of it. It took forever to download, but it was cheaper than paying the full cost of the software. Then with the release of Windows 8.1 also being a free update to that took forever to download as well.

Stealing Ideas from Pirates
Microsoft has become an expert at understanding the piracy of its products. One of the main methods that pirates use to distribute its software over the Internet is a technology called ‘bit torrent’ (aka peer-to-peer networking). This software works by utilizing the distributed bandwidth of the people sharing the files to make it available to others. To assist with the distribution of Windows 10, the company is utilizing a technology that works similarly to bit torrent for the distribution of the OS and its updates. It utilizes the customer's extra bandwidth to share copies of Windows with others on the Internet so they can download the software faster.

Now this is great for people who live in an area where they might have unlimited bandwidth from their ISPs, or those who have ISPs that don't have restrictive data caps. Although recently ISPs seem to be charging more, and imposing more restrictive data caps on the connections. This is especially true with wireless Internet providers. This feature could be using up the user’s data cap limits without them knowing about it. To turn off this feature follow the steps below:

• Press WinKey + I and then click Update & security option. It’s also possible to search for 'Check for updates' utilizing the Cortana search bar next to the Start menu.
• Click on the 'Windows Update' option, and then choose 'Advanced options.'
• Under 'Choose how updates are installed' click 'Choose how updates are delivered.'
• Turn OFF the toggle switch under ‘Updates from more than one place.'

By disabling this feature, it will prevent the user’s computer from being used as a node in Microsoft’s peer-to-peer network for the distribution of Windows and its updates. Although, by disabling this option it also will prevent the user from receiving faster updates from this service. Which means they will have to rely on Microsoft slower servers for future upgrades. It’s worth noting that its possible to re-enable this feature at any time when future upgrades become available.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Windows 10: Uninstall the Download Notifier from Windows 7 and 8.1

In a previous article, I talked about the Windows 10 Download Notifier for Windows 7 and 8.1.  This application runs in the notification area in the taskbar, and performs two main tasks:
  • Allows you to reserve a copy of Windows 10.
  • Checks your system for Windows 10 compatibility.
Here is some more information about it from Windows Update:
Update for Windows 8.1 for x64-based Systems (KB3035583)
Installation date: 5/24/2015 7:52 AM
Update type: Recommended
Description: Install this update to resolve issues in Windows. For a complete listing of the issues that are included in this update, see the associated Microsoft Knowledge Base article for more information. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer.
More information:

If you want to uninstall this update, follow the instructions below:

Uninstalling Windows Update KB3035583.
  •   From the Start menu or screen, in the search box type "Programs and Features" and select the control panel.
  •   Find the update that you want to remove, and then click Uninstall.
To hide the update from future downloads in Windows Update.
  •   From the Start menu or screen, in the search box type "wuapp.exe" and press the Enter key.
  •   Press the "Check for update" link
  •   Find update KB3035583, right-click it and select 'Hide update'

Monday, June 08, 2015

Windows 10: Performing a Clean Install of the OS after an Upgrade

If you take advantage of the free upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8.1. This offer will be available after July 29, 2015, and will only be good for one year after that date. 

Microsoft has recently announced that you will be able to perform a ‘clean install’ of the new OS after you upgrade on the same device at any time. This is good news for people who have a system that has a lot of clutter (i.e. unnecessary programs) or is infected with malware and they want a fresh copy of the OS.

For those not familiar with the concept of performing a 'clean install' of the operating system. This process involves formatting the storage device on the computer and installing a fresh copy of the OS. This helps to eliminate issues that can surface during this process. It's also an easy way to configure everything the way you like it.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Windows 10: Are you ready...

It seems like most people tried to bypass Windows 8 because the user interface was too dramatically different. Personally, I was a fan of the new interface, but I think I was in the minority.

One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 was the missing Start menu on the desktop. Microsoft replaced it with a full-screen application menu. This new user interfaced worked really well for tablets.

Microsoft gave in, and brought back the Start menu in Windows 10.  Yes, they did skip Windows 9 for several different reasons (I am not going to discuss them in this article), and lots of rumors (for example '9' sounds like 'no' in German).

Windows 10 is a mash-up of Windows 7 + 8, with several new features and other enhancements.  Some of the new features include Cortana (an AI assistant), the new Microsoft Edge browser (which replaces the Internet Explorer), and a great deal more.

Microsoft is offering free upgrades to the new OS to current users (refer to the Microsoft site for the terms and conditions), and new users who are not qualified will have to buy a license.  The upgrade is supposed to be available July 29, 2015.

To check if you can upgrade, check the notification area in the lower right hand corner.  You will see a white Windows flag (see the graphic below)

Once you click on it, it will display the following window.
From here you can reserve your copy of Windows 10, and you can check for known incompatibilities. To check for incompatibilities, press the 'hamburger' menu in the upper right hand corner, then select option under 'getting the upgrade.' In my case it was 'your PC is ready.'
After that hopefully you will get a screen like the one below letting you know there are no hardware or software incompatibility issues.
Additional Windows 10 resources:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Software: Microsoft Image Composite Editor (Improved)

Microsoft Image Composite Editor (aka ICE) was one of the best free image stitching programs that I was aware of.  For those not familiar with image stitching programs, they allow you to combine multiple images to create a composite image, such as a panorama picture.

This functionality is now built into modern cameras and phones, so this programs usefulness was limited to those who really needed it.

Microsoft recently updated ICE with new cool features, such as stop-motion action overlaid on the background, and 3D views. Watch the video for more information.

Download the program

Monday, December 29, 2014

Tip: Delete Files with Illegal or Reserved Names

Sometimes an application will create a file that has an "illegal" file name (that is, a name that's reserved by the operating system, such as CON, COM1, AUX, LPT1 or PRN). If this happens, you may not be able to delete these files using the graphical interface. Here's how to delete them:
  • If the partition on which the files reside is formatted in FAT, at the MS-DOS prompt, type DEL and then the file name with wildcard characters, such as DEL LPT?.*
  • If the partition is NTFS, you'll need to use a syntax that bypasses the normal reserved word checks: DEL \\.\(drive letter):\(path)\(file name) (for example: DEL \\.\c:\myfolder\lpt)

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Heartbleed" SSL bug, what should you do?

It seems like everyone (online and offline) is talking about the "Heartbleed" SSL bug.  To over simplify how it works, a malicious user or program can make a call to a remote server and request information from it's memory which can include information such as encrypted versions of a username and password.

The following XKCD comic does a great job in making this bug more understandable for those that might not understand the technical underpinnings of SSL.

If you want to know what to do, there are a few things you should know.  First of all this bug only effects Linux servers using an older version of an open source SSL implementation.  So not all web sites are effected, because its not a problem with the SSL technology.

Second, most of the large popular sites that were effected by it should have patched their servers by now. Some sites have already send out notifications to users to change their password.

If you're worried about a specific web site/account, go ahead and change it just to be on the safe side.  When dealing with the Internet it never hurts to be too careful.