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Tips For a Good Password

The most common password used on the internet is “password”.  And sad to say, people use the same password on several sites. You have access to one, you have access to all. This allows cybercriminals to build up a database on you and can lead to fraud.

So what is a good password? First, take a look at this list. Don’t use any of those passwords. Next, read Kaspersky Antivirus’s 6 bad ideas for a password. However, ignore Kaspersky’s rule for developing a good password. View full article »

Why I Hate Windows 8

This entry has been updated for the 9th time. Last update was 5/24/2014. Rumors are that Windows 9 will be released early 2015 and include a full start menu.

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Printers

Many people ask me about my recommendations for printers. So, this blog post will help save time from now on. This is a guide to printers and with only one exception you will have to decide what printer to buy.

When it comes to printers you must always factor in the consumables: ink, toner, drums, and so on. As a general rule, cheap printer have more expensive consumables so that the manufacturer can recoup the cost of the printer. Not too long ago HP, Epson, and Lexmark were called an ink cartel because their high priced ink. Competition has forced them to lower costs.

Below are some guides to help you choose a printer. It is based on my opinion.

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Updated 5/16/2014: Adobe had a cloud outage which left users unable to use their program for 27 hours. I also updated some other information.

I know I do not update this blog very often. The purpose of this blog is to catalog my repair notes to help me and my customers. I tell my customers all the time that I do not like the cloud. But it seems like the cloud is a new buzzword that companies are jumping to make money on. Especially annoying is Microsoft’s tight integration of their cloud service called OneDrive (because they lost a legal battle over the name SkyDrive in the UK).

It may surprise people that the cloud is just a fancy way of saying something that has existed since the internet began. All the cloud is data on another server.

Below are my reasons for wanting to stay away from the cloud.

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Now here is a dilly of a pickle (in the words of Ned Flanders). I happened upon a hard drive whose partition structure was damaged. Since this was a NTFS formatted partition, it gave Windows fits but not Linux. Try as I might, because of what was corrupted there simply was no to repair the NTFS partition. But all is not lost because the files themselves are undamaged. Here are the steps to recover the data.

  • First, use a program such as Clonezilla to make a copy of the hard drive. Always work with the copy. Clonezilla will also copy the corruption to the NTFS partition data. But since it ignores the errors to the partition data and only cares about file data, the copy will be quick unless the hard drive has bad sectors.
  • Next, use a program such as GParted to delete the damaged NTFS partition.
  • You can also use GParted to create a new NTFS partition, but you might be better off using Windows. In any event, make sure a new NTFS partition is created. It cannot be FAT32 or exFAT or any other file system. (Side point, these steps would apply to the Mac HFS+ file system as well.)
  • Whatever you do from now on, do not use the copied hard drive for anything until the files are recovered. Any action may cause old files to overwritten.
  • Now, use a good undelete program to recover the files. Not a free undelete program. Save all the files to a 3rd hard drive. Once all the files are off, then you may safely move them to the copied hard drive.

You will have to reinstall Windows (or OS X). But at least the majority of the files, if not all of the files, are available. What I  did was to put a copy of pictures into a separate folder, a copy of documents into another, and so on. This allowed the customer to more easily sort through recovered files to find the ones most important to him.

Firefox is my browser of choice. It is faster than Internet Explorer and I prefer its user interface over Google Chrome. Like all programs, sometimes files get corrupted. If your Firefox browser is unable to load, the fix is easy enough.

  • Make a copy of the user’s profile files. These can be found in c:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Local\Mozilla and c:\Users\<user name>\Roaming\Mozilla or c:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla and c:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Application Data\Mozilla.
  • Uninstall Firefox, make sure you delete all user profiles.
  • To be sure, delete the two folders above (but not their copies). Then delete the c:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\ folder or c:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\ folder.
  • Reinstall Firefox.
  • The installation process will create a new user profile. Quite Firefox. Then go back to the folders in the first step and delete the new user profile folders. Then rename the copy user profile to the above names. This will return all your plugins and preferences.

This is a guide to fix Windows Update for Windows Vista and later. It is a guide for when Windows Update just does not work. The steps below assume there are no malware, viruses, or rootkits on the computer.

  1. If using an Intel processor, update the Rapid Storage Technology (RST) driver. Try downloading it from Intel’s website first, but if a compatible one is not found, you can download a know good copy here. Try Windows Update after restarting.
  2. If Windows Update still does not work, download the Tweaking.com Windows All In One repair. Make all the necessary backups. The repairs you want to make sure are done are to (1) Reset Registry Permissions; (2) Reset File Permissions on the Windows drive, usually c:; (3) Repair WMI; (4) Repair Windows Firewall; (5) Repair Internet Explorer; (6) Repair HOSTS File; (7) Remove Policies Set by  Infections; (8) Repair Winsock & DNS Cach; (9) Repair Proxy Settings; (10) Repair Windows Update; (11) Repair MSI; (12) Restore Important Services; and (13) Set Windows Services to Default Settings. Reboot after complete and try Windows Update again.
  3. If Windows Update still does not work, try an in-place upgrade.
  4. If the in-place upgrade fails, then start using Google to search for the error code given by Windows Update. If no code is given, then search for Windows Update problems without an error code.

Sometimes, a virus or malware will modify the registry so that when you log in, a malicious file is processed instead of the standard windows file. There are several types of viruses that do this. Fortunately, the fix for all is the same. This is different than when Windows immediately restarts in Safe Mode. If that happens, you have malware that you will need to remove without Windows running.

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Here is a bug that is in Windows 7. It may show up in Windows Vista and Windows 8/8.1. If your computer has a UPS backup battery supply, you may be unable to change the battery level in the power options. Here is how you fix that.

Press the start button and type “gpedit.msc”. Expand Computer Configuation. Then expand Administrative Templates. Then select All Settings. Search for Critical Battery Notification Level, Critical Battery Notification Action, Low Battery Notification Level, and Low Battery Notification Action. Open each one of these and choose a value you wish.

Another old problem I had noted. I cleaned a computer that was infected with two rootkits, one in the Master Boot Record (MBR) and the other that dread UAC rootkit. These rootkits were modifying files as they were executed or when the file performed some action it did not like. For example, on this person’s computer, the rootkits corrupted McAfee files and would corrupt anti-malware scanners like HijackThis when it tried to scan. The MBR rootkit was very nasty. When you have a rootkit that corrupts anti-malware files, you will need to change the file name to something random (provided your file is not corrupted) or use the Windows disc to rebuild the MBR and manually remove the files or both.

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This is an old problem I noted a long time ago. While working on a computer, I encountered a computer that would exhibit the STOP 0x0000008E blue screen but only just after I told Windows to restart. A quick Google search revealed that STOP 0x0000008E is a very common problem. In fact, Microsoft had three articles about this very STOP code. Most blue screens of death also have some text in all capital letters which is very helpful when cross-referencing this STOP code. STOP 0x0000008E is supposed to have the text KERNEL_MODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED.

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I encounter a problem that happened when you right-click a program. As soon as you right-clicked a program, a pop-up box appeared that said “There was a problem starting C:\users\owner\AppData\local\Temp\[random letters]\[different random letters]\wow.dll. A dynamic link library (DLL) initialization routine failed”. Or something like that.

Repeated searches of the registry for wow.dll found absolutely nothing. There was no trace of wow.dll in any of the startup entries. Internet searches weren’t very helpful either. I had already cleared all the temporary files, or so I thought, and so I thought the malware was removed.

It turns out there was a hidden, system folder that had its permissions taken away so that it was difficult to find and delete. After using Explorer to show hidden and system files, I had to right-click to get the permissions of the folder and take ownership of the now visible folder with the random letters. The error message came back, but I was still able to select the folder properties. After changing permissions and taking ownership of the folder, I discovered there was a wow64.dll file in that folder. Very sneaky. I deleted all those files and folders and the error message went away. Next I checked the registry for any references to wow64.dll and cleared those out.

The lesson is to always check for hidden, system files when you cannot figure out where the malware file is.

After I cleared out the malware, I did find this article which is also helpful. http://weirdwindowsfixes.blogspot.com/2013/06/wowdll-right-click-error.html

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