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Microsoft Releases Additional Patches

Meltdown and Spectre patches have been rereleased and they don’t crash AMD machines any more!

 

During january’s Patch Tuesday, Microsoft released patches for both Meltdown and Spectre. They worked, too.  Well, for Intel processors, anyway.  AMD processors didn’t have as great an experience.  Some AMD based computers ended up getting bricked.  Once the reports of this reached Microsoft, they pulled the patches, cand cancelled Patch Tuesday.

On 2018-01-17, Microsoft rereleased AMD based patches for Windows 10.  What makes this a bit confusing for many is that depending on the version of Windows 10 you’re running, you obviously end up with a different build for that version of Windows 10.  Microsoft released build 14393.2034 for the Anniversary Update and build 15063.877 for the Creators update. Microsoft also released build 16299.194 for the Fall Creators Update.  This last build contained a fix for AMD devices.

There are a few issues that you need to be aware of in all of these builds. Thankfully, Neowin kindly pulled the following information together for everyone.

Symptom Workaround
Windows Update History reports that KB4054517 failed to install because of Error 0x80070643. Even though the update was successfully installed, Windows Update incorrectly reports that the update failed to install. To verify the installation, select Check for Updates to confirm that there are no additional updates available.

You can also type About your PC in the Search box on your taskbar to confirm that your device is using the expected OS build.

Microsoft is working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release.

When calling CoInitializeSecurity, the call will fail if passing RPC_C_IMP_LEVEL_NONE under certain conditions.

When calling CoInitializeSecurity, the call may fail when passing RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_NONE as the authentication level. The error returned on failure is STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL.

Change the authentication level parameter to RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_CALL.

Microsoft is working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release.

Due to compatibility issues with some versions of antivirus software, this update causes stop errors or abrupt reboots. Contact your antivirus (AV) vendor and follow their guidance.

 

Microsoft further released additional patches for Windows 10 Version 1511, Build 10586.1358.  This update further has AMD based fixes in it.  There are also known issues with it, and again, thanks to Neowin, we have the following details

Symptom Workaround
When calling CoInitializeSecurity, the call will fail if passing RPC_C_IMP_LEVEL_NONE under certain conditions.

When calling CoInitializeSecurity, the call may fail when passing RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_NONE as the authentication level. The error returned on failure is STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL.

Change the authentication level parameter to RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_CALL.

Microsoft is working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release.

Due to an issue with some versions of antivirus software, this fix only applies to the machines where the antivirus ISV has updated the ALLOW REGKEY. Contact your antivirus AV to confirm that

their software is compatible and have set

the following REGKEY on the machine

Key=”HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE” Subkey=”SOFTWARE\Microsoft\

Windows\CurrentVersion\QualityCompat”

Value Name=”cadca5fe-87d3-4b96-b7fb-a231484277cc”

Type=”REG_DWORD”

Data=”0x00000000”

 

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On the Low Down

Sometimes even being one of the hottest social media platforms isn’t enough…

I’ve been involved in social media platforms since before we called them social media platforms. I had an AOL account. I had a Prodigy account and a CompuServe account; and those services, by today’s standards are largely what Facebook is today. It’s funny how things change over the years.

One of the newer and more popular social media platforms today, Snapchat, owned by Snap, was recently reported to have gone through a reduction in force of nearly 24 people. The company seems to be having a couple of funding and growth issues. They are currently looking for ways to manage costs and expenses.

The layoffs are mainly from Snapchat’s content division. They are consolidating teams in their Venice, California headquarters. Previously Content had space and people in both Venice and New York.

Snapchat’s Content team is responsible for overseeing the production of content from major publishers, as well as content submitted by users for its public stories. According the Snap’s CEO Evan Spiegel the layoffs are the company’s attempt to scale their business.

Not only is Snap performing reductions in force, but they’re slowing or stopping hiring as well. They laid off 18 recruiters in October knowing that 2018 will be a slower hiring season for them. Instead of hiring more people, they’re going to make better use of the resources they have. They’re also going to spend money developing and promoting the leaders they already have.

Snapchat is in the process of changing. The company is trying to roll out a major redesign of the application that it first announced in November of 2017. How successful this redesign is for the organization is unclear at this time.

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The Day After the [Patches] Before

My office implemented both Meltdown and Spectre patches over the weekend…

In the previous weeks, both the Meltdown and Spectre processor vulnerabilities have been making a great deal of news. At my office – a financial firm – a Windows shop running Windows 7 (like most of the business world), implemented Windows based patches this past weekend. The results, especially in some of our older hardware, haven’t been very good. Thankfully, those machines are non-critical, non-business systems: For example, those that are used to display presentations in a conference room during a meeting. Unfortunately, the performance on those machines is atrocious. They are nearly unusable.

To understand what’s going on with those machines and why they now suck beyond all relief, we have to understand what the vulnerabilities are and what’s needed to patch both of them.

Meltdown Logo

Meltdown effects both x86 and ARM based microprocessors and allows rogue processes read all memory, even if unauthorized to do so. Meltdown effects nearly ALL processors used today. Resolution of this vulnerability will require a hardware revision, or effectively a new processor. For most computers – laptops especially – this isn’t likely to happen. Replacing a laptop’s microprocessor is expensive, and is likely not possible, as it would also require new system boards and supporting chipsets.

The only way to resolve this vulnerability is to come up with some level of operating system patch. Most of the operating systems used today have been, or are in the process of being, patched, including iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows.

Unfortunately, Meltdown patches are likely to cause performance issues, especially in older machines. The vulnerability makes all memory, including cache memory accessible. The patch works by constantly flushing the cache, making the computer work harder to put information back into it, where it can be read quickly. Unfortunately, since the cache is constantly being flushed, the computer is often forced to read it back into memory from the hard drive, slowing things down. In some cases, this happens far too often, forcing your computer’s hardware to fight against its operating system, putting it into a constant read loop. By the time the drive has read ahead enough information, its likely had the cache flushed, requiring it to start over again.

Spectre Logo
Spectre is a vulnerability that effects modern processors that perform branch prediction, or a way to predetermine possible execution outcomes allowing for speed of computations and actions. When the computer doesn’t predict where “you’re going” correctly, your computer may leave observable side effects that may reveal private data to hackers. For example, if the pattern of memory accesses performed by such speculative execution depends on private data, the resulting state of the data cache constitutes a side channel through which an attacker may be able to extract information about the private data using a timing attack.

There are two common vulnerabilities and exposure IDs related to Spectre, one for bounds check bypass and one for branch target injection. JIT engines used for JavaScript were found vulnerable. A website can read data stored in the browser for another website, or the browser’s memory itself.

Unfortunately, Spectre patches are also known to cause performance issues; and they have been reported to significantly slow down a PC’s performance, especially, again, on older computers. On newer, 8th generation Intel processors, performance has been known to take a 2% to 14% hit.

With both of these patches on your machine, your current computing experience is likely totally hosed, no matter what generation processor you have or how much computing power you possess.

For example, if you do anything with any kind of video, you’re going to have an especially hard time. Patches for both of these vulnerabilities are likely to result in a performance hit of anywhere between 10% to as much as 50%. As a result, graphic and video renders can take up to twice as long to complete, if they don’t just crash your machine.

However, it isn’t all gloom and doom. There does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Fixes for Spectre aren’t easy to implement. The problem is likely going to be around for quite some time. However, while a great deal of the vulnerabilities are executed through Java Script, and therefore while you’re surfing the web, Browsers such as Chrome, and Firefox are implementing other processes on top of the OS level patches you likely already have. You could also completely eliminate browser based exploits for both Meltdown and Spectre by disabling JavaScript all together.

It has also been suggested that the cost of mitigation can be alleviated by processors which feature selective translation lookaside buffer (TLB) flushing, a feature which is called process-context identifier (PCID) under Intel 64 architecture; and under Alpha, an address space number (ASN). This is because selective flushing enables the TLB behavior crucial to the exploit to be isolated across processes, without constantly flushing the entire TLB – the primary reason for the cost of mitigation.

Personally, I haven’t seen much of a slow down on my Late 2013 MacBook Pro. Thankfully, I seem to be falling somewhere in the 2% to 14% performance hit. How things go from here, however will help me decide if I stay with this Mac or wait until Apple releases a new Mac with a new processor that doesn’t fall victim to this nasty issue.

What happened to you and your computer? Do you have an older machine? Have you installed the patches? Are you experiencing a performance hit that you’d like to reveal or discuss with someone?

If so, give me a shout and let me know where you stand. You can find me in the Discussion are a below or you can send me an email.

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Why does the Performance on my iPhone Suck?

You’d be surprised by the answer (or at least you should have been)…

I’ve been an iPhone user on and off since 2008. I started with an iPhone 3G, which I ditched inside of three months because the bloody thing couldn’t take or make a call without dropping it at least – literally – a dozen times or more.

More recently, I’ve been dealing with a different iPhone problem. I’ve got iPhone 6’s and iPhone 7 Plus’ in my house. Since Apple’s whole “Batterygate” thing hit the news, things have been a bit crazy for nearly every iPhone owner I know of.

Case in point – I was recently contacted by a buddy of mine about this very issue. Apparently one of his wife’s friends was having an issue.

IMG-0629

I tried to explain to him that this was the publicized battery issue; and that there was a reasonably priced resolution, that shouldn’t be too difficult to take care of.

IMG-0630

It was clear to me that this was also the same problem that he had described in his previous message.

 

The additional information was nice, but not completely necessary…

IMG-0632

So, this, like other issues that plague iPhone users has been completely misunderstood. So let me break it down very carefully.

1. Do you have an iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPhone 6s/ 6s Plus, or iPhone 7/7 Plus?
If the answer is yes, then you need to take a look at the following questions.
2. Is the phone older than a year old?
If the answer is yes, ask yourself the next question
3. Does the phone seem slower now with iOS 11 than it did with iOS 10?
If so, you’re not crazy.

If the phone is a year old or more, AND you use your phone a LOT, you’ve likely cycled through the battery a number of times. The more cycles on your battery, the older it becomes. The older your battery is, the quicker it discharges power. When your phone has a lot of cycles on its battery, it’s very likely that it won’t hold a charge very long. When it doesn’t hold a charge for a long time, you end up charging it more often. This becomes a Catch 22; as the more that device needs to be charged, the shorter the drain time is, and the more cycles you put on your phone’s battery.

The performance problem isn’t imagined. Apple’s latest version of iOS 11.2.2 actually throttles the processor so that the phone uses less power, when the battery’s health (measured by age and the number of cycles it has on it) is below 80%-85%.

So the solution to all of this, believe it or not, is really easy – get a new battery. Prior to the issue with processor throttling in iOS 11.2.2, Apple charged $79 for a battery replacement. Now, Apple is charging $29 to replace the battery in your iPhone 6/6 Plus or later during all of 2018.

While the problem is now easy to identify, the solution is also easy to apply – slow phone? Get a new battery.

Do you have an older iPhone (now defined as at least 3 generation’s back (so at least 2 years old)? If you do, the best thing that you can do to put your phone back into “like new” performance, is to get a new battery.

You can find more information about this particular issue at Apple’s Support site.

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It’s Supposed to be Compatible

There’s always a chance that something that’s supposed to work, won’t…

So, many – well most of you, actually – don’t know; but I was in a motor vehicle accident just after Christmas 2017. Someone lost control of their vehicle and smashed into the rear driver’s side door of my car on a very, busy US interstate highway during the evening rush hour, commute home. I spun out over three lanes of oncoming traffic and hit the wall, going about fifty (50) MPH (80.5 KPH), It wasn’t pretty; and I’m mending as well as could be expected.

Unfortunately, my car was totaled; and I was forced to purchase a new vehicle.

I purchased a 2014 Toyota Highlander XLE. It’s a nice vehicle; and much bigger and much more modern than the 2003 Camry LE that I was driving. The vehicle however, has a couple of foibles that I wasn’t completely aware of when I bought it. Unfortunately, for me, they all evolve around the entertainment system and my new, iPhone 8 Plus.

So, here’s the problem, in a nut shell – the Entune radio hardware and software won’t consistently mount the device. Because it won’t consistently mount the device, the vehicle’s USB port won’t read data from the device consistently, and won’t charge the phone consistently. When the USB port mounts the phone, everything works like you would expect it to. The problem is, as I stated, the radio won’t do that consistently.

I purchased my vehicle from the CarMax in Naperville, IL. When I noticed that the vehicle and my iPhone 8 Plus weren’t getting along, I took the vehicle back to CarMax’s Service department.

After spending a day on the vehicle, CarMax told me that my car simply wasn’t compatible with my phone. According to the vehicle’s owner’s manual, everything should work. However, CarMax – who said they called the local Toyota dealership – said THEY were told by Toyota, that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus weren’t compatible with the Entune Radio in ANY Toyota vehicle.

So, I did what any good QA testing guy would do. I grabbed every iPhone I had in the house, my 8 Plus, my wife’s 7 Plus, my son in law’s iPhone 6 and my son’s iPhone 5s. As a matter of fact, NONE of them worked with my new car’s radio correctly. I couldn’t get it to work with any of the four different iPhone versions I had, with any of the Lightning cables I had (both MFI and non-MFI certified cables).

At that point, I contacted my local Toyota dealership.

They told me that everything should work. It was all compatible. While the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus weren’t specifically listed as compatible, I was told without a doubt they should work.

Toyota asked to see the vehicle.

My office is closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I have an appointment with a local Toyota Dealer to examine the car. According to them, the car either needs to have its software updated, or will need to have its software reflated to insure that everything is working correctly. If that doesn’t work, then we’re looking at either a USB port replacement or a full radio replacement, or both.

As I am writing this prior to the actual appointment, I will update everyone on the outcome, but at this point, you have to wonder how motor vehicle entertainment systems that come with your car work or continue to work as needed when you upgrade your phone. I mean, most cars last at least 10 years or more. How do you keep everything working correctly as your car ages? You’re likely to upgrade your phone at least five (5) times during a ten year period. Your car needs to keep working with the devices you have (or probably, more appropriately…); your devices need to keep working with your car as it ages.

This, among other things, will be asked of my Toyota service technician when I see them early Monday morning.

I will keep everyone posted…

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Check for Windows 10 Updates

Quickly check for Windows 10 system updates with this handy how-to…

Sometimes, checking for updates on your Windows 10 PC can be a pain. You either have to swipe open the Action Center and then open Settings, or get to Settings through the Start Menu. Then, you have to scroll down to Updates and Security and click it. While this isn’t a huge deal, it can be sort of a pain, as it involves a few steps.

There’s actually a much easier way of taking care of manually checking for updates. This cool tip, however, is going to require you to make some modifications to your Windows 10 computer’s Registry.

If you’re not comfortable making Registry modifications, then you might want to skip this one. However, if you’re undaunted by the challenge, and you’d like to put the ability to check for Windows 10 updates on a right click context menu off the Desktop, then you should follow the steps outlined below.

Step 1
1. Open Regedit
2. Navigate to Computer\HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell
3. Select the “Shell” folder in the left pane
4. Right Click the “Shell” folder in the left pane
5. Click New – Key from the context menu that appears
6. Name the new Key (folder) “Check for Updates” without the quotes and press enter
7. Select the “Check for Updates” folder in the left pane
8. Right Click the “Check for Updates” folder in the left pane
9. Click New – Key from the context menu that appears
10. Name the new Key (folder), “command” (all lower case) without the quotes and press enter. You’re going to create two (2) string values, one in each of the folders (Keys) that you’ve created.
11. Right click the “Check for Updates” Key (folder).
12. Select New – String from the context menu that appears.
13. Name the String, “SettingsURI” without the quotes.
14. Double click the new string you just created and enter the following value into the “Value data” field: ms-settings:windowsupdate-action

Step 2
15. Right click the “command” Key (folder).
16. Select New – String from the context menu that appears.
17. Name the String, “DelegateExecute” without the quotes.
18. Double click the new string you just created and enter the following value into the “Value data” field: {556FF0D6-A1EE-49E5-9FA4-90AE116AD744}

If you’ve done everything correctly, then once you right click on the Windows 10 Desktop, you should see an entry in the context menu called Check for Updates. Clicking it, will launch Settings – Updates and Security – Windows Update – Check for Updates, and will automatically… check for updates.

This added shortcut will DRASTICALLY cut down on the amount of time it takes to manually check for updates to your Windows 10 computer. However, you should know that your Windows 10 PC will automatically check for updates on its own. It will also download them in the background and likely install most of them, without you ever knowing that you needed to do… anything. However, if you want to stay on top of things, as I do, then this is the quickest and easiest way I’ve found to check for updates as often as you want or need.

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The Day the Internet Died

In an expected 3-2 party line vote, the FCC has voted to end Net Neutrality…

Well, this was disappointing; but not unexpected…

Today, the United States Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal the Obama-era internet regulations aimed at insuring that the internet didn’t have pay to access lanes for consumer oriented content. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cast the landmark tying breaking vote, providing ISP’s like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon the power to control what content consumers can access.

Many different groups, including Democrats, many movie studios and companies like Google owner Alphabet and Facebook had urged the FCC to keep the content neutral rules barring service providers from blocking or slowing access to content. Pai is a Republican, appointed by President Donald Trump.

Consumer advocates and trade groups representing content providers have planned to launch a legal challenge, aimed at preserving those rules. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement he will lead a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the reversal. He called the vote “a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet.” ‘

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, also a Democrat, said prior to the vote that Republicans were “handing the keys to the Internet” to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy handed, stifled competition and [limited] innovation among service providers, “The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia. To the contrary, the internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success,” he said on Thursday.

The problem that he is refusing to lend credibility to, however, is that service providers like AT&T, Comcast (Xfinity) and Verizon have CLEARLY indicated, that they want consumers to use THEIR content networks and will institute pay for performance (speed) premiums against competing services like Netflix and Hulu (as well as others). Those premiums will ultimately be passed down to individual consumers and users.

Internet access with speeds suitable for streaming and general computing and browsing at the same time for many is already very expensive. With the focus shifting to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and to streaming boxes like AppleTV and Roku, or an Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, having affordable, non-taxed, high speed bandwidth available is probably one of the more important services you have coming into your home today.

That service is going to provide all of your TV service in the near future, if not now (if you’ve cut the cord). Its very clear to me that having an ISP free of neutrality restrictions is going to lead to additional charges and fees being passed on to the consumer.
At the end of the day – and this is very frustrating – no one has any idea yet of just what and how the removal of the Obama-era Net Neutrality rules will mean to consumer delivered ISP and consumer content services. However, its at least understood that there are likely fees and surcharges coming in a play to “play” scenario that is expected to be passed on to the end user.

Its this anticipated pay to “play” tax that most are concerned with, especially end users. Its clear that ISP’s like Comcast, who owns NBC and its related assets may give preferential bandwidth to their own content and make competitors like Netflix and Applet pay a surcharge or tax to insure that their services stream with the same bandwidth priority over Comcast’s backbone. This is where most of the consumer concern comes from.

What do you think is going to happen with Net Neutrality? Is the removal of the 2015 Obama-era rules a problem? Did they restrict competition or protect consumer interests? Is the internet freer now than it was before, or is the internet just more expensive to use now? Do you believe that the larger regional or national ISP’s will take advantage of this new development and begin charging clients surcharges or fees for accessing competing or different streaming services other than the ones they already partner with or are different from their own offerings?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts?

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With Apple Watch Series 3, $10 Ain’t $10

If you have an Apple Watch Series 3 with active LTE service, you’re likely in for a nasty surprise.

apple watch

Back when the Apple Watch Series 3 first launched earlier in the Fall of 2017, carriers promised that LTE service for your new Series 3 Apple Watch, would cost only $10 USD per month; and it does.

Sorta.

In the beginning, carriers offered three months of free service and waived the activation fees. At this point, everyone that got their Series 3 Watch on the day it was first made available at the Store, is likely being charged for service. However, as I mentioned earlier, $10 bucks isn’t always JUST $10 bucks. Both AT&T and Verizon are charging additional fees. So, your $10 bucks is likely closer to $12 to $14 bucks per month.

In California, Verizon Wireless users also have an additional $1.55 fee on top of their $10 per month, service charge. In North Carolina, AT&T users are being charged an additional $4.39 per month, bringing their bill near $15 for LET service on their Series 3 Apple Watch. These fees can be higher in other states.

If you thought you might try to avoid all of the fees by deactivating your service and then reactivating it when you need or want it, you’re also in for a nasty surprise. There are activation fees that come with this activity. You’re going to get hit with the standard $25 activation fee every time you go to bring your watch back on line.

For example, when you cancel and re-add a line, on Verizon, you’re going to get hit with that $25 activation fee I mentioned. Suspending your service will hit you with a $10 per month fee (what the normal service will cost – so you’re paying for it anyway).

Because Apple Watch Series 3 uses NumberShare on Verizon, it’s not considered a prepaid device, so you can’t skip a month of service. Per Verizon, you really have only two options:
1. Suspend your service for up to 3 months at a time; but this is going to cost you $10 a month. This is the normal service fee, so you’re not saving anything here. You’re actually giving them $10 a month to NOT use the LTE service on the Watch, which doesn’t make sense.
2. Deactivate the Watch completely. That’s going to wipe it from the account, but you’re need to restart everything over again if you want to bring it back; and that’s going to cost you at least the (previously waived) $25 activation fee. There’s also a recurring charge. This means that Vs. will basically charge you for two and a half months of service every time you turn the Watch off and on again.

There’s also a possibility that you’ll run into activation issues when you start and stop service. The Watch has its own number; but shadows your phone’s number when placing and receiving calls. Sometimes this whole process can create issues, as reported by some; but why that happened to those that bumped into that problem, isn’t clear.

If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch and have bumped into issues like this, reach out to me and help me understand what happened to you.

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