Browsing articles in "Technology"
Jul
17
2016

Windows 10 Upgrade Malware

The title of this Blog Post I think sums up my feelings on this, I think most users feel the same way too.  I am of course referring to the F*”$ing annoying updater app which sneaks in through Windows Updates on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1.

I maintain an installation of Windows 8.1 on my main box so I can support clients who run Windows and more importantly Windows Domains, this week I’ve been pretty stacked out working a big migration project for a client on site, it has a very tight programme.  I needed to leave MediaCity at a reasonable time to get back home to let the Landlord of my property in to replace a shower which had given up the ghost, I thought “no bother I can work on this at home while I wait for the landlord and then after he’s left I can probably get another couple of hours in”,  Windows had other ideas!!  I’ll be honest I don’t use my Windows 8.1 installation that often, infact I think it’s been a couple of months since I last booted it. But I’ve been fighting with the Windows 10 updater for a 3 or 4 months now (since 10 was released I think), cancelling it whenever it popped up and I think I had the famous Windows will install Windows 10 in 14 minutes window once which I promptly disabled.

It might be worth mentioning at this point that I have an instance of Windows 10 running in a VM I’ve been running since Beta and upgraded to a Full License about a month after it was released, at the moment running it in a VM is about as far as I want to go especially as I’ve had to roll it back when Windows Updates stuffed it a couple of months back.  I’m also trying to come up with a relatively sane schema for Security/Privacy especially as I’m supposed to be advising clients on rolling out Windows 10 in a business environment.

I’m a realist, I know that Microsoft will eventually curtail their support for Windows 7 and 8 and it’s likely to be fairly soon in the case of 7 which has been around since 2009.  Microsoft’s strategy is to support one platform only to reduce costs overall, they are in a slow decline so they need to sharpen up and supporting lots of different versions of Windows for different platforms isn’t business savvy, all this adds upto I need to get up to speed on 10 as I will need to support it en masse in the near future. However I’d like the ability to make that decision for myself .

I’ve heard lots of nightmare stories about the stealth updating of Windows 7 and 8 for a couple of months now, including a phone call from my Mum telling me that her computer was trying to upgrade the OS to 10 but I didn’t really take notice, the couple of times I’ve run my Windows 8.1 install I had just put up with constantly saying “no”, I braced myself when 10 was launched (as when I bought my 8.1 License it had a pamphlet in the box which said I had a free upgrade to 10 when it was released!!).  But on Thursday Evening I got bitten by the B”*£”$d App from Satan, as soon as I logged in the window appeared telling me it was going to upgrade to Windows 10 in 14 minutes, I looked for a cancel or decline button in the window but couldn’t find one so in haste I clicked the close window cross at the top right thinking that would stop it from continuing and got on with the work I needed to do not thinking anything more of it.  Landlord arrived, I let him in, turned the water off at the main feed and went back to work.  10 minutes later Landlord had finished I saw him to the door had a short conversation when I came back to the office to continue I found a black screen with a progress circle on it and Windows is Updating written in the middle of it.  There were plenty of expletives I can tell you!!  I sat and thought “if I kill the power now”, it was about 12% in at this point “chances are I’ll Banjax my Windows 8.1 install and it’ll be worthless and require a reinstall!!”  So I left it to the upgrade, I booted up my laptop and did abit of Googling and found that the installer creates a backup point of your 8.1 or 7 install before upgrading to 10 so for the first month you have the ability to go back to how it was!!  This was abit of a relief.  So the upgrade takes about 35 minutes (I have a fairly studly main box, i7 Extreme with 16Gb of RAM) and reboots your machine 3 times during the process.  The final part of the install, which makes me laugh now, is “Installing Hardware Drivers” then you boot back into Windows propper.

As soon as I got to the Login prompt I knew I had a problem, I have Dual 24″ Monitors attached, just one came to life with a ridiculously large login prompt, I ploughed on and entered my password and logged in.  It was as I feared I had been given Noddy Windows with a stunning 640×480 resolution and it looked terrible!!  First thing I thought was I’ll run the Nvidia Experience app and see if I can install the Windows 10 drivers through that and get the display looking something reasonable, it launched and was sized for a native resolution slightly larger than the current one so was Bloody huge, and obscured by the Windows 10 Awesome New Features window, Great!!  I managed to tab around the window but couldn’t get it to install a new driver.  I concluded it need all the third party drivers reinstalling for Windows 10, something I couldn’t easily do there and then and at this point I was still optimistically entertaining the idea I still might get some work done that evening!!  So I went straight to the Recovery Panel and rolled it back to 8.1, it then asked me why I wanted to go back…unbelievable!!  Again it rebooted itself into the shell installer and reverted back, it took about 20 minutes to do this and on rebooting it took about 10 minutes before I got to the login prompt again.  Buttocks clenched I logged back in hoping it would be as I left it, it was thankfully, the stuff I’d been working on before it took control had been lost it hadn’t bothered to save anything.  Thankfully the apps I was using have crash recovering so they showed me the recover files, however the ordeal wasn’t quite over yet, I thought I’ll reboot it again to be on the safe side.  I went to restart through the start menu and saw the updates icon next to Shutdown, clicked the arrow at the side as I wanted to reboot anyway and usually you get shutdown or reboot without installing updates but this time they weren’t present.  By this time my suspicions had been aroused by the underhanded Windows 10 upgrader so I went and had a look in Windows Updates only to find Windows 10 update, click restart to update.  So despite rolling it back and explaining why you were doing that it was still going to update to Windows 10 again!!!

By this time if there had been a cat in the room it would have been in severe danger (I don’t endorse animal cruelty by the way, it’s a metaphor!!),  more Googling and I found that because people weren’t taking notice of the polite app asking them to upgrade it had decide to send another app down the Windows Update pipeline which had packaged Windows 10 up as an update which WU then tried to apply at every opportunity.  The actual updater app is packaged within update KB3035583 actually categorised as a “Security Update” by WU which I do look at updates before I apply them, this one slipped through the net, so I manually removed it.  During the Windows Update process it dumped 6.0Gb of data onto my local disk, this is the upgrade pack, it can be found in C:/Windows/$WINDOWS.~BT needless to say I deleted that aswell.  I was able then to reboot my system without any further attempts to upgrade.

The reason for all this apparently the free upgrade period comes to an end on July 29th so Microsoft are going to become more persistent to upgrade everyone to 10.  Based on my experience though this is method of hounding people is both irresponsible and reckless, generally when I install/upgrade Windows I have an external hard drive with all the drivers I need for every bit of hardware in the system on standby so I can quickly get the system up to a usable level, because of the Microsoft stealth upgrade I was pretty unprepared and I was left with something that’s barely usable.  Now I’m a SysAdmin and I like to think reasonably experienced, what about a less inexperienced, non technical user what you would leave them with is in their mind a “broken” computer which would require “fixing”.  If this had happened to my Mum especially at the moment, she is going through the process of selling her house and needs the use of her PC frequently, I would have had to go round and sought it out for her.  Other people may have to resort to paying some one to sought that out, this type of stupidity could damage Microsoft’s already tarnished image and cause alot of people to loose confidence in them,  something they can ill afford to do, especially for the more casual computer user who could quite easily defect to Apple.  If you have a problem with your Mac you can take it to an Apple store to get it sorted, where’s my nearest Microsoft store again, oh yes that’s right Fifth Avenue, New York!!

So to summarise what Microsoft did was to place Malware onto a users’ machine which then hijacked it an took control away from the user and then installed a virus on the machine which rendered it crippled.  Great work, you’ll be lucky if maintain your market share this year!!

Aug
20
2015

And Now For Something Completely Different!!

Well… perhaps not quite, so after taking some time away from podcasting altogether I’ve decided that I wanted to try a different style of show, and not to simply continue a similar format under a new name.  At the beginning of the year I went into hospital to have an operation on my groin which had a long recovery time (for the first couple of weeks I couldn’t sit up for more than a couple of hours at a time), this gave me some much needed thinking time.

In November of 2014 I decided I wanted to move away from being involved with the Full Circle Podcast, I messaged Les and said that I wanted to call it a day which after some discussion turned into let’s wrap up recording Full Circle altogether as he was struggling to devote enough time to it, we needed more hosts in order to make it viable but attracting people to what was seen as an “Ubuntucentric” podcast was going to be daunting to say the least, so it seem a better idea to hand the reins back to the Magazine Editorial Team and throw it open to the community to take over.

After recording what would be the final recording for FCP in late November I got the bug back for recording podcasts but I knew we needed a fresh approach rather than doing the same thing again under another banner.  I’d contacted Jon Archer the LUGMaster for RossLUG to see if anyone wanted to become a presenter in their LUG, after a week or two he emailed me to say it wasn’t really a goer but he was interested, I told him Les, Tony and I were thinking of starting a new podcast which would be Distro agnostic.  Jon had his doubts about the long term validity of a podcast purely discussing Linux and FOSS but was still interested in getting involved in the new project which was good as Les and I had envisaged recruiting a “Pool” of presenters to select from on the new show, so regardless of schedule we would have at least two or three presenters who would be available for the recording (or so the theory went anyway!!).

Christmas came and I was pretty ill for most of it culminating in me being admitted to hospital early in the New Year for and emergency op and the plans for the podcast were put on hold, we had been hoping the four of us would meet to discuss and plan the new show further.  During my recovery I started to think about what Jon had said in his emails when we discussed the ideas and decided that I wasn’t really ready to commit to doing another Linux podcast, I had tried to do different things when we produced Full Circle, including recording live at conferences, speaking to different community members to get another perspective on events and changes within our sphere but I started to run out of ideas and I wasn’t sure in which direction to take things.  I’m sure our audience was getting fed up of us talking to the same people at different Raspberry Jams and wanted something different as well, so I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to make the new show entertaining enough to keep people listening,

I decided to leave things for a while after I had recovered and I no longer had to plan my day around getting my dressings changed at a Health Centre (this pretty much ruined any chance of getting to and from events and even going to the LUG most of the time!!)  I also needed to make back the money I’d lost while I was incapacitated (as I am a Business Owner) so I plunged head long into that.  Jon got intough again asking if there was any news on a meetup, I tried to organise a meeting but we were running out of time (Ripon Road were Blackpool LUG were meeting at the time was closing in less than a month and at that point we only had a couple of meetings left before it closed).

A couple of months later I spoke to Jon about doing a different kind of technology show, just 2 presenters to keep the overhead down (post production on Full Circle was invariably a nightmare, 3 presenters sometimes more all recorded on different equipment and at different levels at different points around the country over the internet).  More than anything I wasn’t ready to commit to that kind of workload again, I wanted something with very minimal editing and didn’t sound too bad when finished.  I approached Jon because I knew he had a background in music production and we could more easily share the burden.  I know alot of people who listened to Full Circle at this point will be saying “But you started recording together with a fairly decent setup, why can’t you go back to that again?”  When Ripon Road closed we lost that facility short of dragging equipment round to each others houses every other week we didn’t have a space available, Tyldesley Road space is coming on great guns thanks to the hard work Mike Hull has put in to getting the space ready it has come on incredibly quickly over such a short timescale but we still at the moment don’t have a space for recording.  We would have to go back to the old method of recording over Google Hangouts or Mumble were everyone records their end and I sync it up with the recording at my end to produce one complete recording, but we all know it isn’t as simple as that…Don’t we!!

And so The Tech Shed Podcast is born!!  A show dedicated to the Technology and Home Brew Electronics Enthusiast, as the name suggests we wanted to give the idea that this show is “Home Brew” in it’s nature, but we are hoping not to compromise too much on quality we hope to have: some interviews, some reviews, some news (off course… it wouldn’t be a podcast without it, but as with Full Circle this will be “Opinionated News” as Robin Catling dubbed it).  Of course there will always be at least a smattering of FOSS and Linux content in there as both Jon and I will continue to be actively involved with it.  So Jon and I cordially invite you along for the ride, there will inevitably be some growing pains as we get settled in so please bear with us.

You may well be asking is the Linux Podcast dead now?  I’m not prepared to put the nail in the coffin on that one just yet, I have said to all concerned that I want to get a few episodes of The Tech Shed Show under the belt so to speak, before I talk about the future of LP, certainly while we don’t have regular access to a space to record in it makes life very difficult and so we may take a “further” Hiatus and wait till the new space is ready at Tyldesley Road before we make a decision on it, we could still use a couple more presenters too to make the project viable really.  So stay tuned on that one.

As a footnote, to those who I promised a full and frank post on why we walked away from Full Circle (from my perspective anyway!!) this is still on going as I pick it up and put it down.  It’s still top of the pile when I log into WordPress and it’s nearing completion now, so Thank You for bearing with me it’s been a difficult post to write but it will be with you soon.