Security? We don’t need no stink’in security!

Late breaking news – Intel added a mangement engine to their newer processors. Unfortunately security apparently was an after thought. Something that the vast majority of users have no control over has a deep rooted security flaw and the folks who build the machines were blind sided. Tell me again how important security is?

Back in the saddle!

So I’m back providing support to a client.  The tasks are somewhat humbling because I need to spend time reacquainting myself with the intricacies of enterprise grade Linux servers. But one major plus is that code I need to modify and maintain was written by a friend and colleague and it is a joy to almost hear his voice speaking to me from the comments he sprinkled throughout his work. Thanks Bill. If you hadn’t always been a consummate engineer who believed in quality and thorough documentation, this job would have been much more difficult.

So I took another shot at Windows 10 update on my Dell Studio laptop. Again I ran into the same memory_management bugcheck and after the first bugcheck I logged on as administrator and simply let the system sit. A while later I came back and the system was sitting at the BIOS prompt after another bugcheck. My conclusion – the system is a bit too old (circa 2010) and there is a  low level issue running Windows 10 on it. Now the thing that irks me is that Microsoft back at the end of May released a patch that didn’t identify itself other than “Important” which installed an application that runs every time the system is booted and attempts to have you install Windows 10. Getting the patch off the machine means chasing down a KB number (specifically KB3035583) and removing it. That took a while to locate and remove (needs a system restart). Within a couple of hours Microsoft Windows Update notices that this application is not on the machine and wants you to install this “Important” update. This reminds me of Star Trek Next Generation and the Borg – resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. Not today Microsoft – and given the direction they are trying to take their customers, possibly never.

Windows 10 – Upgrade or Not?

I just updated an HP desktop system from Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 10 Pro. Fairly smooth although there was a minor glitch during the upgrade. The system hung at 32% complete and 6% into the driver update stage. I forced the system down (press and hold power) and googled for the problem. The best suggestion was to unplug any extra USB devices and try again. I unplugged an external USB drive as well as my CyberPower UPS cable (USB). When the upgrade is interrupted like this, it restores the old OS and you need to start again. This time the system upgrade completed without incident. I plugged the USB devices back in and everything seemed to work. Windows 10 is a nice job of melding Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. I’d say a lot of folks who didn’t like Windows 8/8.1 will be happy with Windows 10.


The second update attempt was on a Dell laptop running Windows 7 Pro. The machine is a Dell Studio 1558 which is a bit over 5 years old. The system updated cleanly but had a bugcheck less than an hour after the update completed. The error was “MEMORY-MANAGEMENT” and that often means either a timing issue with the new OS or a device driver interaction. I checked the Dell support site and learned that this model although Microsoft thought it was compatible, is not supported by Dell with Windows 10 driver updates. I restored the Windows 7 Pro that was previously installed using the Windows 10 recovery process. Microsoft did a good job with the restoration. My take is that if a system you want to update is more than a few years old – especially if the OS predates Windows 8/8.1, you might not want the aggravation. Doing system integration work is painful at best.

Heroin Epidemic Forum

Last night Pat and I attended a forum that was essentially a call to action for the City of Manchester to try to come to grips with the current heroin epidemic which is not only sweeping the city but more or less all of New England and beyond. Mayor Gatsas and our new chief of police Nick Willard were in attendance along with a group of others from city departments, the police, first responders and others who were trying to provide support for those with heroin and other substance abuse. We heard tearful testimony from people in the audience who had lost loved ones to overdoses and others who were currently incarcerated. The latter caused their loved ones to be fearful that since no treatment is available in prison, they would simply return to their addicted lives once they were released from prison.

Our conclusion was that since these addicts are humans who have loved ones we should make every effort to help them recover and as citizens we should call on our elected officials to increase resources to help turn the tide against this epidemic.

In my personal view, this country spends north of $700 billion a year on defense. We spend a tiny fraction on that on protecting our citizens from the real insidious threats of scams, online crime and drug abuse. That is the area that really affects us as citizens not imagined foreign threats or no-win wars against distant nations.


My Recommendation For Laptops

I often am asked to recommend a new laptop. For reasons of security and cost I now almost always recommend Chromebooks. From a security point of view, Chromebooks are much better protected than either Windows PCs or Macbooks. Chromebook users by default do not have administrative privileges. The Chrome browser installed on Chromebooks is fast and is constantly updated. One potential objection to Chromebooks is that they tend to store data “in the cloud”. But the user has the ability to control that behavior. Windows PCs in the hands of naive users typically are compromised within a few days or at most a couple of weeks. Macbooks can also be compromised although they are not targeted to the extent as Windows PCs. Chromebooks usually are offered in two screen sizes, an 11.6 size usually at 720p resolution and 13 inch models which may be either 720p or 1080p (full HD). Chromebooks use SSDs (Solid State Drives) for storage and to a much greater degree can handle rough handling when compared to a Windows PC which more often than not uses a spinning magnetic hard drive.  The friends who I have recommended Chromebooks to rave about how fast their Chromebook is and how reliable when compared to their earlier Windows PCs. I must admit to a personal motivation not to be the user’s ongoing free support person! :^)

First Meeting of Rimmon Heights Community Group with Me as President

Our community police officer in uniform gave an excellent rundown of the latest in police happenings in the city. Great job Tony!

We had a visiting candidate for mayor of Manchester who was given the opportunity to meet with the members after the meeting adjourned. Some good questions were raised about how money is spent in Manchester and what the candidate would do differently. One question was whether the candidate supported the proposed light rail project joining New Hampshire cities with Boston. He answered in the affirmative but declined the idea of public funding from the city.

Good meeting!


Alex’s World!

This is the blog of Alex Hewitt. I have recently retired from a career in computer related positions. This blog is a series of entries on things that interest me.