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These antivirus recommendations are personal opinion based on my experience. I will list many common ones below in alphabetical order. This post will occasionally be updated. The last update was March 17, 2015.

One important note: Regardless of which antivirus program you use, you should never ever use automatic renewal. This will prevent accidental renewals in case you want to use a different antivirus program. Make the company earn your business; don’t be loyal to any one product.

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By default, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 has enabled settings that track you for advertising. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 also try desperately to have you log in to your computer with a Microsoft account. Those settings should be disabled and you should never log in with a Microsoft account because several of my customers have had trouble logging in when they used a Microsoft account to do so. These are the steps to avoid those potential problems. Also, logging with a non-Microsoft account makes it harder for Microsoft to deliver you targeted advertising. Just because it is very difficult does not mean we should willingly surrender our privacy.

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Windows 10 Overview and Impressions

I am currently testing Windows 10 out. Right now, there is only a beta (technical preview) available. Proper software design goes through several stages of development. Alpha is the first stage and that is internal testing and design. Beta is the second stage and that is when the program is given to other people to test it out and, sometimes, suggest ways to improve. Release candidate is the final testing stage and this is when the program is almost finished but the developer wants to root out bugs; no major design changes will no occur. Finally there is release-to-manufacturing (RTM) when the developer is satisfied there are no more major bugs. Windows 10 is still in beta. When it is finalized, I will update this post. The last edit was 3/1/2015.

But first, my early impressions.

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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 »

A lot of people think I dislike Apple products. I do not dislike Apple products; I prefer other products. I have no problem with the quality of Apple’s products. The customer service at Apple is excellent once you get customer service (read below). Here are the reasons why I avoid Apple products. View full article »

This is a small tutorial on how I installed Cyanogenmod on my Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 version. Many of the tutorials are confusing and don’t explain important details. First, a warning. Samsung devices are designed so that if you dare to break free from their Android system, your warranty is void. This will void your warranty. (Personal opinion: it should be illegal to void a warranty if you do not make a device defective.)

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This is a problem that can have multiple causes. In the computer I was working on, the Bamital trojan had made it impossible to do anything. The trojan would prevent you from doing anything and wanted you to pay a ransom. This was different than Crytowall, which holds your files for ransom, in that this trojan held your computer for ransom. In the process of removing the trojan, I also removed a legitimate Windows file which caused the problem.

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Cleaning the Poweliks Virus

I have seen a rather nasty virus lately: poweliks. Of the 4 times I have seen it in the past week, 2 were related to the Cryptowall malware. Poweliks is very hard to detect and once it is on your computer, it can actively hide from many antivirus and antimalware programs. Poweliks has the following tale-tell signs:

  • Several legitimate Windows files will have high CPU usage. Some variants load several dllhost.exe files (most likely the 32-bit version). Some will constantly load other legitimate files.
  • The registry will be modified so that certain keys are not accessible with the regedit.exe program or antivirus or antimalware software.
  • There is no actual virus file. The file itself is stored in the registry and using a few tricks (and what I call design flaws of Windows), it loads the file straight from the registry. Sometimes the tricked used will make it impossible for anything except Windows to read the bad registry key.

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I received a message when attempting to uninstall a variation of the Conduit search protect. The message was You do not have sufficient permission to uninstall your program. Please contact your system administrator. Since this computer was not in a domain, that message should never appear.

To fix the issue we have to a manual uninstall. First open the registry error and find the hives:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall

In those keys, look for the name of the program you are attempting to uninstall in the many subhives. Once you find it, look for an entry that says UninstallString. Copy the contents of that key. Now open a command prompt as an Administrator and enter the uninstall command you copied.

If you get an Access Denied message, then you will have to edit the permissions and possible the ownership of the master folder for that program. This master folder is usually in \Program Files\ or \Program Files (x86)\ folder, although some dodgy program may be somewhere else. Set the master program folder’s permission so that Everyone has full access. If this fails, set the ownership of the folder to the current user (and not Administrators) and then edit the folder’s permissions again. Now enter try that uninstall command again.

I have been experimenting with Windows Server 2012 R2. This is, of course, the server version of Windows 8.1. From my limited experience, Server 2012 is far superior to previous releases with one exception: the touch screen UI doesn’t belong within 1 trillion miles of a server OS. It does not belong on a desktop/laptop OS either, but most especially on a server OS. Below is an on-going collection of notes and ideas I have learned or discovered while using Server 2012 R2, which I will just call “Server” from now on.

This is a collection of my notes and any part of the content may change over time. Last update was 1/6/2015.

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I encountered a Windows 7 computer that would only boot to a black screen. The only thing I saw was a mouse arrow. At first I suspected the hard drive was corrupt, so I cloned the hard drive. But the problem still existed. With this computer I still had reason to believe the hard drive was bad. Next I scanned for a virus in Windows directory and the only that was discovered was one of those junk free programs that deliver pop-up ads.

It was at this point that I decided to try an easy solution. Since this was Windows 7 there would a good copy of the registry files at %windir%\system32\config\RegBack\. So after making a backup of the current registry files, I copied the good registry over the current ones. With this computer, some of the current registry files were twice as big as the good copies, which is why I think something was wrong with the old hard drive. After I did this, the computer booted fine.

Some other suggestions included running System Restore. I was lazy in this instance and didn’t try that. But I did increase the System Restore capacity once I got back into Windows. If you are still using Windows XP, you can always find the registry files under the \System Volume Information\ folder. Some other suggestions are that certain key folders have been corrupted or have corrupt permissions. Check the Windows folder, the Program Files folders, and the Recycle Bin folder.

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