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In this week's newsletter
When your Windows 10 PC gets borked. Upgrading v.1909's a breeze! Critical Citrix vulnerability. Mac address vendor lookup. Secret new resource for IT pros. ESUs for Win7 PCs hidden behind WSUS. Burritos and brain power. Plus lots more in this week's issue of WServerNews.
Enjoy this week's issue of WServerNews and feel free to send us feedback on any of the topics we've covered -- we love hearing from our readers 🙂
Got questions? Ask our readers!
WServerNews goes out each week to more than 200,000 IT pro subscribers worldwide! That's a lot of expertise to tap into. Do you need help with some technical problem or are looking for expert advice on something IT-related? Ask Our Readers by emailing your problems and/or questions to us at [email protected]
This week's observations and ruminations from Mitch Tulloch our Senior Editor...
When your Windows 10 PC gets borked
A colleague who runs a small business that has four PCs running Windows 10 recently had one of them bluescreen with the result that he had to reinstall Windows and all his applications from scratch on the machine. While he regularly backs up any data stored on his computers, he had not previously implemented any of the built-in recovery options in Windows 10 because he found them confusing. "Why can't I just push a button when my PC crashes and have everything automatically reinstall like nothing happened?" he asked. "I'm not a computer geek, I'm a business owner, so I want a brain-dead solution for this."
The recovery options in Windows 10 do seem kind of confusing when you first look at them as they're outlined in this Windows Support article:
Recovery options in Windows 10 (Microsoft)
Jon Jacobi, a freelance writer for PC World, expresses similar frustration in his recently updated article on the best backup software for Windows 10 where he says that Microsoft "delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7) which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware." You can read Jon's full article here:
The best Windows backup software (PC World)
What do our newsletter readers use for completely restoring a Windows 10 computer when it crashes after it experiences a major hardware or software failure? What's the best tool for doing a complete system image backup that can quickly and easily restore your operating system, applications and data? Jon lists a bunch of products at the end of his article, but I'd love to hear what our readers recommend, especially for use by smaller businesses where the restore may need to be performed by a business owner who isn't very tech-savvy. Please email your recommendations to me at [email protected], thanks!
Upgrading v.1909's a breeze!
Well that's a welcome change. We just upgraded our Windows 10 PCs running v.1903 to v.1909 and it was fast and painless, unlike some other upgrades we've experienced with Windows 10. Starting with v.1909 Microsoft now offers Windows 10 feature upgrades (new versions) via Windows Update the same way they deliver other software updates. So we got a notification on our systems that v.1909 had been downloaded and automatically installed on our machines, and all we needed to do was restart them and logon and voila -- we now have Windows 10 v.1909 running on them. Read more about Microsoft's new delivery mechanism for Windows 10 feature updates here:
Feature Update via Windows 10, version 1909 Enablement Package (Microsoft)
Now why couldn't they have done something like that from the start?
Interestingly, I also read somewhere that the security updates for v.1903 and v.1909 are the same, so if your v.1903 machine is already fully patched then it'll also be fully patched after it's been upgraded to v.1909. I wonder how they managed that? My network monitoring software also reported that the downloaded feature update package was really small, something like half a megabyte. So maybe v.1909 is really just v.1903 with a few bells and whistles added.
If there are any readers who know more about how this new feature upgrade process works feel free to educate us by emailing us at [email protected]
Critical Citrix vulnerability
And speaking of keeping your systems patched, there's a new SANS webcast that describes a workaround for a critical security vulnerability in several Citrix products. If you use Citrix in your organization you should check it out:
Critical Citrix Vulnerability - SANS Webcast (YouTube)
Our thanks to SANS researcher Johannes Ullrich for releasing this timely video.
Mac address vendor lookup
Next, in the isn't-that-neat department, there's a cool little tool on GitHub that provides an easy way to get vendor information from a MAC address by parsing the IEEE OUI list which can be found here (download TXT file):
The tool was written by Johann Bauer and is called Mac Vendor Lookup:
Mac Vendor Lookup (GitHub)
Johann's tool is written in Python. Did you know that you can easily install Python on Windows 10? See here:
Who put Python in the Windows 10 May 2019 Update? (Microsoft)
Find out more about Python in Visual Studio Code on Microsoft's Python blog here:
Secret new resource for IT pros
There's a secret new resource for IT pros that I stumbled across the other day, and it's on our won TechGenix website! I was re-reading a recent article I wrote that included a PowerShell tutorial contributed by Vlad Catrinescu, a SharePoint and Office 365 consultant and Pluralsight author. The article is about the new Microsoft Graph PowerShell module:
Introducing Microsoft Graph PowerShell Module: A Look Under The Hood (TechGenix)
At the end of the article I found this:
It turns out that's a cool new feature our webmaster has been developing which I didn't know about. By clicking "View all 41 PowerShell Basics articles" you're taken to a page where you can browse through all the PowerShell articles on our site:
I asked our webmaster if we were planning on creating similar collections for articles on other topics, and it turns out that we also have several others up and running:
IT Career Guide: http://techgenix.com/series/it-career-guide/
Digital transformation - http://techgenix.com/series/digital-transformation/
Business Communication - http://techgenix.com/series/business-communication/
You might want to bookmark some of these pages for future reference if the topics are applicable to your work area.
I also asked our webmaster why all these pages were hidden away and only available from near the end of relevant articles. I suggested that it might be a good idea to list all these "secret" pages on a single page for fast and easy reference, and our webmaster replied "Good idea, I've added it to my todo list."
Which reminds me, I'd better get back to looking at my own todo list for today, which is looking pretty looong at the moment 😛
Modding Australian boots (redux)
As expected we received several comments from our dear Aussie readers concerning my attempt to "mod" my Blundstone boots by snipping off the two tabs used to help pull the boots on. Pete Calvert for example said:
The tabs are part of the identifier of the boot in the same way that some clothes have prominent labels or computers (used to) have a prominent Intel Inside sticker on them. They are also practical in helping prolong the life of the boot by using them to pull them on rather than crushing the back panel or overstretching the side elastic. You may think it looks dorky but for those who know it is a sign that you are a chooser of quality <grin>
I still think they look dorky.
Paul Reinke also had something to say about my modification:
Unless the boots are too loose (and you'll know when you get blisters), removing the tabs used to help get them on I'd liken to removing the diskette and CD/DVD from a laptop to save power. Whilst it's usually OK, pretty annoying when you need them. I wasn't aware that you needed to show the tabs anyway, and they are under my jeans so no one would know.
When I need them? Why would I need them? I have a high-tech alternative that I keep beside the bench where I sit to put my shoes on before heading outside:
Isn't technology marvelous? Who needs tabs on boots?
But reader Philip Lee still disagrees:
Sorry mate, completely disagree. As an older person (hint, I remember working with Intel 4040 and 8080) who owns two Blundstone boots those pull up tab are the most useful part of the elastic sided boots invention. Incidentally looking at the pictures I thinks it looks weird without those tabs <wink>, how would you slip them on without them?
See above, mate.
BTW, although I've retired from working in IT after some 30 odd years I still enjoyed reading your newsletter, keep it up.
Thanks! So I guess those tabs are for old people, eh? <wink>
And finally, suspecting that "Frosty the snowman" and "Dashing through the snow" are probably not on the top ten list of popular Christmas songs in Australia, we asked our readers from Down Under how they can possibly celebrate Christmas when December is the hottest time of the year in their part of the world. Pete Calvert responded like this:
Hi Mitch, you asked how we celebrate Christmas Down Under? And how our weather affects what we do - here are some things that are very difficult to do when it is in the middle of winter and cold:
- Evening gatherings to sing Christmas Carols - from small groups of a few dozen up to tens of thousands - e.g. Carols in the Domain (~50,000 people on site and millions watching on TV)
- BBQs and picnics - eating outdoors including parks and beaches (under some shade though or wearing sunscreen and hats)
- Kids get the opportunity to play with their toys outside (bikes, sporting goods)
- Easy to get to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church services (no snow or rain or need to bundle up in heavy clothes then have to take them off when inside).
- Bigger range of food - yes we have the hot stuff like puddings and roasts, but also cold meats (ham, turkey, seafood), salads (normal / potato / rice / noodle / etc).
- And drinks - yes we have eggnog and mulled wine, but also sparkling wines (love sparkling shiraz at Christmas time), beer, cider, soft drinks / soda, and juices.
- Big sporting events that start on Boxing Day including the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and Boxing Day cricket test in Melbourne.
- The day is longer (only a couple of days past the solstice).
But fundamentally celebrating Christmas (for me and millions of others) is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, his life, and the way he changed the world - and that can be done regardless of how hot or cold it is.
Amen! I think I'll move to Australia <grin>
Wayne Hanks also shared at length about celebrating Christmas in Australia:
As a kid, we would have the family opening of presents on Christmas morning, usually after having Dad growl at us because we were up at 4 a.m. (The sun is usually up by 5 a.m during summer) followed by breakfast of ham on toast with Keens mustard.
Lunch time would be a traditional lunch with all the trimmings, because Mum loved cooking that stuff. Christmas afternoon would be spent swimming in the pool. Then dinner would be getting together with all the cousins at the grandparents with leftovers for dinner.
For my family now, we have adopted a European tradition of having Christmas dinner on Christmas eve, because it is cooler, and we quite often have numerous extras that don't have family around to join us. Christmas day in the past has been devoted to travelling to relatives and visiting family.
This year, whilst we are doing Christmas evening, (and have spent the last 3 weeks tidying and fixing the house up) we will probably be very relaxed about Christmas day.
About 6 years ago we experienced a White Christmas in Finland, and thoroughly enjoyed it, however we decided we much more enjoy the hot Christmas, if only because we weren't constantly getting dressed and undressed when leaving and entering buildings.
I must admit that I don't mind snow, only the cold sucks.
Also because it is summer, it feels like three quarters of the country has gone on holiday. That makes most of our work very cruisey, with long lunches and early finishes. Also makes it an ideal time to do upgrades when the majority of staff are not going to be inconvenienced.
If Australians seem laid back, it might be because we have learnt to plan really well, as juggling all the social events in the lead up to Christmas can get exhausting. Our schools close for about 8 weeks over Christmas and all of January so for kids this is a time of freedom.
Several other readers also commented about celebrating Christmas in Australia:
We've moved over a couple of generations to a more seafood festive meal, with the traditional staples (Ham, Turkey, Pork, etc.) all making an appearance but cold. I remember growing up in the 70's to the hot meal for Christmas but this changed before I left home and I'd never consider a hot meal with the family on Christmas day unless it was going to be cold (maybe 1 day in 25 years). --Paul Reinke
My mom was born in Australia. My two brothers and I were born in Maryland. We visited Australia often, usually around Christmas because of our winter school break. I took my Kentucky wife there for our honeymoon in 2003. We landed in Melbourne on Christmas Day (really cheap flights). We stayed in St. Kilda and by the afternoon everyone had made their way to the beach and were having cookouts, throwing frisbees, kicking balls around, etc. My wife and I thought this was fantastic. This beats being cooped up in the house all day. But I have also been down there for their winter, June -- August. It's gray, dull, drab. There are no special events during those months like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, Super Bowl… to see you through it all. The days just trudge along. --Peter Monaghan
And finally David Urosevic from Canberra says the way to celebrate Christmas in Australia is...
With a cold beer.
When I thanked him for that comment he replied with:
Actually there were tears in beers this year.
When I asked why David responded with:
The bushfires -- hundreds of out of control fires -- millions of hectares burnt. Millions of animals and hundreds of people dead, Canberra usually has beautiful clear air -- a couple of days ago a lady died from respiratory distress caused by the bushfire smoke -- as she disembarked from a plane at Canberra airport. Forecast temperature for today in Canberra is 42C -- 104F -- at 9.50am (as I write) it is 29.7C - there are more fires coming…
Stories about Australian bushfires are of course all over the news, but it's easy to forget when it isn't happening in your own back yard. Let's all keep our Australian readers and their families in our thoughts and prayers.
Got more thoughts about anything in this newsletter?
Email us at [email protected]!
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Ask Our Readers - Need recommendations for 2FA (responses)
In our December 16 newsletter Albert from Kincardine, Ontario, Canada asked the following question:
Do any shops/admins use some sort of 2FA especially when logging in with an elevated account? And if so, what products? I am wondering if there is a software add-on to AD that generates a text message or perhaps some are using smart cards etc. to add in the 2nd factor. I know I saw stuff on smart cards some years ago but it seemed awfully expensive. But times may have changed...or methods. I also know that some shops have a dedicated PC that is "hardened" where the IT staff go to work on the servers - but I am not on premises for a couple of my clients.
Peter Webster from Pretoria, South Africa responded to this as follows:
As per your newsletter of 16 Dec. Albert from Kincardine raises an interesting question. Wth many companies still not on the cloud or Office365, CIO's are asking why IT cannot implement MFA or 2FA on the local AD with local Windows logons to secure even more. A company called "IS Decisions" makes a product called UserLock that secures Windows logons for on-prem Active Directory and might be worth checking out:
Another reader named Atvar Singh responded with:
I have used Duo in the past and can't complain but different companies seem to use different solutions (e.g. MS authenticator) so my phone now has 3 different solutions on it; why can't they just use 1? Some companies will still just send me a text (SMS) message which is a little worrying considering how easy it seems to be for hackers to steal mobile/cell phone numbers.
For those interested Duo Mobile can be used to generate mobile-generated passcodes for online services and web applications that require them:
Ask Our Readers - What's the best replacement for Internet Explorer? (new question)
Reader Logan Wing asks our readers for their recommendations on the following matter:
Mitch, you talked about different search engines, how about which browser is the best replacement for Internet Explorer now that it is being discontinued?
We've settled on Brave as the web browser we use on our office systems since up till now Microsoft's Edge Browser has sucked:
What about our readers? What web browser do you standardize on for the PCs in your workplace? And what are the reasons behind your decision? Email us at [email protected]
Tip of the Week
>> Got any IT pro tips you'd like to share with other readers of our newsletter? Email us at [email protected]
ESUs for Win7 PCs hidden behind WSUS
If you plan on purchasing Extended Security Updates (ESUs) so you can continue running Windows 7 for a few more years, I'm told by a colleague that to install ESUs on Win7 machines managed by WSUS but disconnected from the Internet, you will need to first install the ESU MAK key via telephone activation.
>> Got any admin tools or software you'd like to recommend to our readers? Email us at [email protected]
From all of us at Veeam®, we wish you happy holidays. This holiday season, Veeam is giving away three incredible, FREE prizes. Win a Home Lab worth $15,000 Plus: $5,000 in AWS or Azure credits.
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inControl for macOS is a tool that helps you manage your application windows and workflow:
We've returned to the office after our holiday break so let's catch up with our Mailbag...
Our December 16 issue talked about how Dell is apparently planning on offering its business customers the option of renting products like servers and workstations on a monthly subscription basis. We asked if any of our readers would consider making use of such a program, and reader Steve Banford who is Director of Network Operations for a company in Boston, USA responded with:
As the person who purchases equipment for our company, I would definitely consider renting as opposed to buying. Initially I think for us it would be most appropriate for laptops. Laptops seem to generally have a three to four year life cycle. Even four is pushing it a bit. I dislike buying laptops for user only to have to replace them in what seems like a short period of time. If the cost of renting for say 36 months did not exceed the total cost of purchasing a laptop, I would consider it.
Also in that issue was a cheeky article by myself about why I both loved and hated Google as a company, and reader Carl Gondolf responded at length on this topic as follows:
For me, it has morphed from a love to a hate feeling over the past 15 years or so. I used to recommend Google to clients and they would look at me a laugh about the name. When I was a system Admin @ UC Davis, we would look up a problem on Microsoft's TechNet site and it couldn't find the problem. Using Google, it would find the exact page ON Microsoft's TechNet site. When Microsoft introduced Bing as the be all -- end all search engine, I wasn't convinced. I agree with you that they are still the best search engine, but their policies of "Don't be evil" and "Do the right thing" have fallen prey to their desire to rule the world.
Try now to limit Google's influence over your Android phone's settings and functions. It's practically impossible to do unless you want to replace the OS and re-engineer it.
One of my biggest grips with them was killing the ability of Outlook calendar syncing with Gmail. When they stopped offering the syncing app, I kept a copy to use & reinstall myself. Then they barred it from working at all. Why? Only because they wanted you to be more and more dependent on them.
I really resent being forced into using something, the same with using a Microsoft account on Windows, just won't do it.
Thanks for letting me rant!
Another reader named Bill Murray offered a comment on the usefulness and value of Google's services:
I use gmail, calendar, and google drive. I do so because they work seamlessly. Yes, I know there is tracking but I don't use it for personal business. People need to realize that nothing is free. You have to pay in some way or another. I ask the people that complain about Google's free services; what are you giving away for free every day?
In my article I tried using different search engines to google my name and discussed the relevance of what each engine returned on its first page of results from my search. This prompted reader Mark Van Noy to try it out himself, and here is what he found:
I liked your search engine test. So I tried it myself. When I searched on my website, Monarch Photography, Goggle did not display my page in the search results after ten pages of search results. Using Bing it was the third result on the first page. It seems like Bing does a better job of giving localized results; which surprises me. I found Google's results rather disappointing in this case since the full URL is https://monarch.photography. There are a whole lot of businesses out there with the same name, but I expected the search terms to come up with a site where the terms make up the domain somewhere in the first five pages of results from Google.
I agreed that was a surprising and disappointing result, and Mark followed up with some additional comments on the stranglehold that big tech companies seem to have been gaining over freedom of expression in our modern world:
I did not want to through Google too far under the bus. However, The two business websites I have had over the last approximately two decades have not shown up within the first ten pages of results regardless of the relevance of the search terms used. As the creator of the pages I directly controlled the meta terms being used for SEO. As a counterpoint, the business I was a part owner of that was a highly successful web store paid Google for search result placement and were consistently in the first two to three results on the first page. A significant portion of our marketing budget was spent with Google to get us to the top of the searches since most of our over 30,000 customers found us through web searches. I have little doubt that Google's search engines are finding all legitimate sites, the domains have to be registered after all so it is trivial to crawl the root, so poor results for business sites certainly looks like a pay to play system. Ironically, Google users believe they are consistently getting the most relevant results when they are likely getting the most paid for results.
The bigger question in my mind is: how are these large tech companies like Google - including YouTube - Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft forming world views through a type of censorship on speech and expression? We know that Google is adept at making speech disappear in places such as China. How many businesses has Google effectively run out of business because they did not pay? My old IT consulting business lacked the budget to pay Google and over the life of the company I did not get a single customer through web search. The most effective marketing for me, even in the early 2000's, was an ad in the yellow pages of the city's phone book. The second most effective marketing was direct mail. Cold calling would have been more effective, but I was very uncomfortable doing it so I found I had a hard time sticking to the daily lists I made up.
Have any other readers who are business owners or responsible for promoting their company experienced anything similar to what Mark has experienced? The question of how companies like Google can form (or deform) our worldview is an important one, so if any readers would like to comment on this you can email us at [email protected]
Factoid - Burritos and brain power
And since we're back in the office again, let's also catch up on the responses we received for the factoids in the last few issues...
Factoid - Might as well face it, you're addicted to...Texas Instruments calculators
Fact: The U.S. education system has become addicted to Texas Instruments, which has a staggering, monopolistic hold over high school math.
Question: When was the last time you used a calculator? As opposed to using the calculator app on your phone or pressing WinKey, typing "calc" and pressing ENTER on your laptop. And what's the make/model of the last calculator you used?
I will admit that when I went to school, the only calculator that was allowed in exams was the log tables in book form <grin>. Seriously though, a friend recently asked why they could not get a calculator app for their iPad. However the facilities on an iPad in an exam situation would allow much more information than the examiners would want students to have at their fingertips, since the aim in an exam situation is to try to measure the knowledge levels of the student. Even when I was at University and programmable calculators were becoming available, the lecturers would insist on the calculators being reset before being allowed into an exam. At least in the days before wifi, this would ensure that the calculator was limited to only those functions that were needed for the exam. I suspect this is why the calculator development has stalled, as why would you want a device that can only do one thing, when "there's an app for that" allows you to carry an emulator around on your phone. Educational settings want limits on what the device can do in an exam and classroom situation, so that is why the FX series exists. --Wayne from Perth, Australia
Factoid - Fear of flying?
Fact: Engineers are paid less than supermarket checkout workers
Question: Well maybe in some places anyways. Does this news make you nervous (or more nervous) about flying on commercial airlines?
We received no responses on this one, so I guess most of the readers take the train or boat when they have to travel long distances (lol).
Factoid - Weekends off? Not if you work in IT!
Fact: Many of us who work in IT don't really get the weekend off because it's the perfect time to do upgrades and modifications because the number of staff in the office is minimized.
Question: Is this what *your* life is like working in IT? Or do you have it easy and always get weekends off? If so I'm envious, grrr...
Great timing. I had to work parts of the last two weekends because of power/data outages. I also got a call at 1am because someone forgot how to use their printer. (The luxury of having 24/7 facilities.) Some weekends remain free, however when someone says,"have a good weekend" I respond with "what's a weekend?" or "I'm trying to cut down" <grin> --Doug Helmick a Systems Administrator in Iowa, USA
Factoid - Alexa can spoil your Christmas
Fact: Some things are better left unsaid in the presence of Alexa
Question: Do any of our readers use an Amazon Echo or other so-called "intelligent personal assistant" in their home? What do you think of it?
We received no responses on this one. Personally I think Alexa is a grinch.
Factoid - The death of the apostrophe may be greatly exaggerated
Fact: The Apostrophe Protection Society, an organization that was formed in 2001 to preserve correct usage of this much abused punctuation mark, has come to a full stop.
Question: Thats quite sad, isnt it?
Unfortunately there are no grammarians among our 200k subscribers -- period.
Let's move on now to this week's factoid:
Fact: The advent of fast-casual Mexican-style dining establishments, such as Chipotle and Qdoba, has greatly improved the productivity of research mathematicians and theoretical computer scientists in recent years.
Question: Which food(s) do you like munch on while you're doing IT in order to keep your brain firing on all cylinders? My own favorite is having a bowl of raw almonds and raisins near at hand. How about yourself? <grin>
Email your answer to [email protected]
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Microsoft Business Applications Summit
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T-Suite Podcast: Keep your app close and your traffic faster (The T-Suite)
The Next Decade in IT (RunAsRadio)
The Best of 2019 (Virtually Speaking)
Building A Wireless Lab (Clear To Send)
The Best of 2019 (Security Now)
Leaders in Hybrid Cloud (The CTO Advisor)
Balkanisation, ransomware, comedy bugs close out the decade (Risky Business)
What are security defaults? (Microsoft Cloud IT Pro Podcast)
Current State of Microsoft 365 Development With Mark Rackley (Microsoft Cloud Show)
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Azure Quick Tip: Fixing Azure Automation 'Invalid JSON primitive' error
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Amazing 33-Foot Remote Control Concorde
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Can Cars Dance On Ice?
Can cars dance on ice as well as ice skaters - similarly beautiful and in close contact?
How Beavers Build Dams
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Compare offerings from 3 major desktop-as-a-service providers
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Send us your feedback!
Got feedback about anything in this issue of WServerNews? Email us at [email protected]
Product Of The Week
A 4-Tier Approach to Modern Data Protection