Microsoft updates, KB numbers, and the support articles that go with them

Cujo the sheppard mix

Cujo the sheppard mix

By now most of you know about Windows 10 and if you are on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 you likely have a white flag icon in your system tray in the lower righthand corner of your screen.

This flag comes from a Microsoft update, KB3035583. and it does a couple of things, one of which is to push you to move over to Windows 10. If you actually try to read what MS’s own update tool says that this update does, it is cryptic. There is no mention of Windows 10 nor an operating system upgrade that could be pushed to you without your knowledge.

So…when was the last time that you actually read the support knowledge base articles that go with the Microsoft updates that are being pushed to your system?

Most of the time the wording is innocuous. Other times…it can be vague and your own imagination will have to go to work.

Infoworld magazine seems to have uncovered info about the “important” upgrade that is basically “nagware”

The wording of the update says, “This update enables additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications when new updates are available to the user. It applies to a computer that is running Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1).”

But Microsoft seems to take advantage of their customers not reading what these knowledge base support articles are actually doing.

If you read the following article, also from Infoworld, you can see how MS has been pushing failed updates with old KB numbers months after their initial installation attempts have failed.

So this wraps up the second short worded version of this conversation. More will follow—stay tuned!

Time to talk Windows 10

No Windows 10 icon from

No Windows 10 icon from

Julie Andrews famous song from the Sound of Music starts with “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start” and this is where I am at…starting at the very beginning.

Microsoft is touting all the greatness of Windows 10. They say it is more secure and it is more useful than previous versions but in reality, Windows 10 is nothing more than Windows Vista. Technically it is Windows version 6.4 and Vista is 6.1. That tells you that they put lipstick and mascara on a pig and called it your date to the prom. Whether or not you accept it as a date is entirely up to you.

And this is why I write this…to help you make an educated decision about either upgrading to Windows 10 or if you are already there with Win10, I can help you lock it down to limit Microsoft (and it’s partner’s) ability to spy on you.

Two things to remember while you go through this…one–Microsoft is in business to make money and not to provide you with the best or even a workable operating system. Two–you cannot trust everything you read, hear, or are handed by a for-profit company.

No–this is not paranoia but truth. Each publicly traded company’s first responsibility is to its investors…not to its customers or its employees.

So with that stated…I will start walking down the Windows 10 road during this next week. It’s my way of saying thank you for reading this.

Why I Use Ad Blocking Technology

originalDear web site owner,

Since the advent of Doubleclick, Red Sheriff, and other invasive tools for inserting third party advertising on sites seeking to make a profit, I have been doing everything in my power to keep those invasive tools from placing intrusive and sometimes harmful data pools on to my computers.

So now, Yahoo, ExtremeTech, Forbes and a growing list of other sites are fighting back by denying us access to their content.

I will say this as a result. If you want to make money from ads, fine. I, personally, do not have a problem with that. If you want to hire an ad sales team, place ads and even mechanisms to show which ads I have interacted with, which ads I have hovered over, or even which ads I have looked at by using my camera to track my eye movement, that is fine by my book.

However, do you need third parties to place trackers, ever-cookies, and other tools to track every site your viewers/users visit? Is it necessary to have dozens of pages of legalese in 8 point font explaining what your intent is with our information?

Do you have to have ad providers who allow 100’s of fourth parties to inject ads that ave not been vetted into your site’s ad display system?

That is why I use ad blockers and if you are a reader and you agree with me that this out-dated mode of invading my computer and my privacy needs to go away, join me in using Ad Block, Ad Block Plus, Ghostery, and other ad and javascript blocking tools. The system and privacy that you save may be your own.

Pa$$w0rds–good or bad without breaking your brain

Every year some computer security firm releases its list of the worst passwords that people are using. While I do not know the methodology used to compile these lists, I do know that I see these passwords used over and over again in both public and private sector arenas.

password image by Linux Screenshots on Flickr.

password image by Linux Screenshots on Flickr.

Why are people using passwords like 123password? It is likely because the average person, not techno-geek, has a hard time remembering what some ‘best-practices’ list decided was a good password. You know the one; there must be on capital letter, one lower case letter, one number, one special character, and the DNA signature of your neighbor’s cat (I just made the last part up).

Now this is a big deal because passwords are a big deal. They keep people from snooping on your computer, your email service, the websites you frequent, or even keep people out of your bank or credit card accounts.

Passwords are like diapers and politicians. They should be changed and often. Why? Because if you leave a password in place for too long you give an outsider a longer opportunity to crack it open and then gain access to your data/information.

So while password, letmein, 123456, qwerty, or something similar are examples of bad passwords, using a password like 3!dxt*RT2nr$xgg5t06 is a good password but not because it is complex. It is a good password because it is long however the human brain can only remember so much of this string, you have to go back and remember that you are trying to outsmart a computer and not a human being.

A human will guess words that can be found in a dictionary or will tell a computer to look for words that exist in a dictionary. In short…words that make sense to another human being. A computer does not care about dictionary words or special characters.

I will now enter the word “entropy” into this discussion. Entropy, while sometimes relating to thermodynamic relationships in chemical processes, also means a lack of predictability or reliability that can lead to a disintegration of order leading to disorder and thus a large positive run towards randomness. This is a good thing to have in a password or pin.

For instance…your four digit PIN that you use on your debit card has a number of possible combinations of 10^4 (numbers 1-4 give us 10 and since there are 4 of them, that gives us the number of possible combinations) possibilities.

And that 16 character string of special characters, upper and lowercase letters, numbers and your cat’s DNA marker? Well that only nets you an entropy, randomness score, of 119 bits. However, if you were to take the last names of your two favorite teachers, the model of your first car, and your first home phone number..that entropy ramps up to over 200 and that would take the most power computers, hundreds, if not thousands, of years to crack that password…and by then you should have changed it more than two times to something else.

Some examples of good strong passwords in this model are: hulusucksbecauseofcommercials , bernsteincoplandRodeoin38time, spotroverslurpeepepsi

The main purpose of this blog entry is to illustrate to you that a secure password can be one that is long, and strong but more importantly, something that you can easily remember. Just do not use the names of your kids, your pets, or other personal information that you might not want disclosed to the general public.