Tag Archive: Software


If you have Microsoft Security Essentials installed and are still using Windows Vista, you are now facing a huge problem when it comes to scanning and detecting Malware. As of April 11, 2017, support for Windows Vista officially ended, which also means that Microsoft decided that you should no longer be able to use Security Essentials. Fortunately, there is a way to continue using Security Essentials without being nagged with messages telling you that support has ended and that your computer is at risk.

The fix is very easy. Uninstall your current version of Security Essentials and install an earlier version, which would be v4.4.304.0. Finding a copy is very hard since Microsoft no longer offers this version, leaving you with 3rd party sites to choose from, which may be hacked or contain malware. Luckily, the Internet Archive has the Microsoft hosted versions on hand and can be downloaded below.

Microsoft Security Essentials  v4.4.304.0 – 32-bit / 64-bit

Once you’ve installed v4.4.304.0, go to Windows Update in the control panel, check for updates, and if a newer version of Security Essentials is available to download, uncheck it and hide it as installing a version higher than 4.4 will result in disablement and nag messages due to the end of support. Microsoft apparently made this change starting with v4.5 to get people off of Windows XP and also decided to extend it to later versions just to irritate users who refuse to or can’t upgrade to the latest version of Windows.

Reverting back to v4.4.304.0 can also be done with Windows XP as well as Windows 7 for when the time comes. (Unless Microsoft issues some kind of update that will prevent an older version of Security Essentials from installing/running). However, it can’t be done on Windows 8 or higher as Security Essentials (renamed to Windows Defender) is now part of the OS, and uninstalling it is not possible. You can only upgrade “Windows Defender” via Windows Update.

Even though it’s better having some protection then none, installing v4.4.304.0 of Security Essentials should only be done to extend the use of the operating system for a few months after support has ended. Without monthly security updates, your computer will be at risk to new threats. If you must use your computer on the internet, don’t use Internet Explorer, only visit trusted sites and avoid sites that require or use personal and banking info.

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On Windows 10, you have the option to choose Windows Spotlight, a collection of images that will display on the lock screen. However, there’s a flaw with this feature. After selecting the Windows Spotlight option under the Personalization > Lock Screen section of the Settings app, the lock screen from that point on will always display a Windows Spotlight picture upon booting into Windows, that is, should you decide to switch back and use your own picture. When you login to Windows and lock the computer, your selected picture will be displayed like it should. Selecting a different picture will not remove the Windows Spotlight picture upon boot.

There is a way to remove the Windows Spotlight lock screen picture upon boot, but it isn’t as simple as changing a setting. It requires deleting a non-accessible system folder as well as the Windows Spotlight files. There are a few other sites that explain how to do this, but they are for removing a picture that came pre-loaded with Windows 10. Similar to the Spotlight but a slightly different procedure.

WARNING: Use the following at your own risk. I will not be reasonable if this procedure damages your Windows installation.

First, make sure you have your own picture selected for the lock screen, and that the Windows Spotlight option is not selected under Personalization > Lock Screen section of the Settings app.

Next, you need to download a registry file from this site in order to continue. This will add a “Take Ownership” option to the File Explorer’s context menu. This is required as the files and folders that you need to get to are protected and you will be denied access, even if you are logged in as an administrator. (There is also a registry file on that same site that will uninstall the “Take Ownership” option, so you can remove it from the context menu when you’re done).

After you have initialized the registry file, open File Explorer, click on the view tab and make sure the hidden items option is selected. Then navigate to the following folder:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows

Right-click on the SystemData folder and select Take Ownership from the context menu. Select yes when the User Account Control appears. Open the SystemData folder, then open the folder S-1-5-21-<string of numbers> and then the ReadOnly folder. You should now see some folders labeled LockScreen_ with a letter at the end. Open and view each folder until you find the folder with the current Spotlight picture that appears when Windows boots up. (Mine was in LockScreen_O). Move that folder with the Spotlight picture onto your desktop. (Deleting it will not move it to the Recycle Bin, it will be deleted permanently).

With that folder removed, the next step is to delete the contents of the folder used to download and store the Windows Spotlight pictures. If the contents of that folder are not deleted, the LockScreen_ folder containing the Spotlight picture that you just removed will be re-created when you logoff/shutdown the computer and the Spotlight picture will return. To get to the Windows Spotlight files, navigate to the following folder:

C:\Users\<Your Name>\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.ContentDeliveryManager_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState\Asset

Delete all the files in the Asset folder. These files should be re-created if you decide to re-enable Windows Spotlight.

Restart the computer. The lock screen should now display your selected picture and not a Windows Spotlight picture. Once you’ve logged in, you can remove the “Take Ownership” option from the context menu if you don’t need it anymore. You can also delete the LockScreen_<letter> folder off your desktop.

Microsoft needs to fix this issue in a future version of Windows.

 

References
Fixing the Windows 10 Pre-Login Background Screen – the mergy notes
How to Find Windows Spotlight Lock Screen Images – TekRevue

As most any Windows 7 or 8.1 user already knows, Microsoft has a program that allows you to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. The program, Get Windows 10 (or GWX) is downloaded and installed on qualifying systems via Windows Update. Once installed, the user has the option to use the Get Windows 10 program to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. The free upgrade, as of the date of this post, is only valid until July 31, 2016.

While many users have taken advantage of the upgrade, I prefer NOT to upgrade my Windows 7 systems. I am currently happy with Windows 7, but Microsoft keeps insisting that I should upgrade to Windows 10.

To make it clear, I have used Windows 10. While it is an improvement over Windows 8, it still can’t top Windows 7. I don’t like the new Start Menu, even though I can use a 3rd party tool like Classic Shell to reinstall a Windows Vista/7 style Start Menu. Windows 10 gives you less features and forces you to use basic featureless app versions of certain programs that originally came with older versions of Windows, some of which are ad supported. Then you have the infamous telemetry in Windows 10 that allows Microsoft to collect app usage and crash data, which can contain your personal information and unsaved document data.

There is probably some other stuff about Windows 10 that I’ve missed, but this post isn’t about what I like or dislike about Windows 10. This post is about the Get Windows 10 app …err, program (I call the full screen programs apps).

Other sites have mentioned that the GWX program acts like a malicious program. I totally agree with them. Once installed, the GWX program is similar to adware. It will display slides and pop-ups about Windows 10 and try to convince you to upgrade, basically a big advertisement about Windows 10. The other malicious thing about GWX is that it will download the Windows 10 setup files and even install Windows 10 without notifying the user. This is a huge “no-no” as the whole point of the User Access Control is to prevent programs from running/installing/doing anything without the user’s permission. Also, a big complaint a few months ago was that the Windows 10 setup files were downloading over metered connections, causing people to exceed their data usage.

Now, with everything I mentioned above, I recently bought two computers with Windows 7 pre-installed so I could avoid Windows 10 for the next 4 years. On both computers, I hid the GWX update (KB3035583) so I wouldn’t have to worry about any surprise installations of Windows 10. To my surprise, Microsoft has apparently patched Windows 7 to unhide that update and install it on a monthly basis, WITHOUT ANY NOTIFICATION! I have uninstalled it 3 times already. My other hidden updates remain on the “hidden” list.

Microsoft does NOT take NO for an answer. They are determined to install Windows 10 on every Windows 7 machine. This forcing of Windows 10 is completely unacceptable and needs to stop. If anyone from Microsoft is reading this, I hope I make myself clear…

PLEASE STOP FORCING WINDOWS 10 ON MY COMPUTER!!! I DON’T WANT IT, EVEN IF IT’S FREE!!!

Update: I eventually gave in decided to upgrade my laptop from Windows 7 to Windows 10 via the free Get Windows 10 offer. The plan was to take advantage of the Windows 10 Pro upgrade (being that I had Windows 7 Professional), then revert back to 7 once activation took place. I wanted to do this in case I wanted or needed to upgrade to Windows 10 in the future. In other words, allowing me to upgrade to Windows 10 (again) for free long after the offer ended. What happened was my overall experience of Windows 10 drastically changed after the upgrade, with programs running faster and 3rd party tools like Classic Shell making it easier to use Windows 10. In fact, the biggest reason for not reverting back to Windows 7 was that a particular issue with my WiFi adapter disappeared after the upgrade, probably due to the Windows 10 driver being newer than the Windows 7 driver, which apparently was no longer being updated by the manufacturer. I’ll hold on to Windows 10 for now, that is, until Microsoft changes or adds something that will tick me off. I still disagree with Microsoft nagging you to upgrade or forcefully upgrading to Windows 10 without the user’s consent. That should have been up to the user, not Microsoft.

Buying music on iTunes may sound like an easy task. However, there can be some decisions to make before clicking that buy button. Here are some tips to consider when buying music on iTunes so that you don’t waste your money.


Buy Remastered Music

Older music that was originally recorded on tape or analog media is usually remastered for better quality sound. Since several copies of a particular song may exist on iTunes, it is important to listen to each preview carefully to determine which one sounds the best. Here are some things to listen for when comparing a song that is not marked as remastered:

  • Treble and bass response (should be crisp and clear, bass should stand out)
  • Dynamic range (variation in the volume, should not be flat/dynamically compressed)
  • Loudness (Remastered songs are usually louder compared to their original releases)

Note: A good speaker setup is required for best results and accurate comparison. A high quality 2.1 (two speakers + sub woofer) setup is recommended.


Buying The Right Version
Different versions of a song might exist on iTunes. They can include album version, single version, radio version/edit, explicit, clean, etc.

Single versions are usually album versions that have been edited for time, though sometimes can contain a different mix of music. Radio versions/edits can also be edited for time, but for content also. Because of the 1:30 preview that iTunes provides, it’s sometimes not enough to determine if the song you’ll be buying is the version that you want. A good way to verify is to take note of the song’s playing time and do a search for the song on YouTube. Find a video with a playing time that’s the same or close to the desired song on iTunes. Listen to the song on YouTube as it can help you take note of any time edits. If time edits are present and you want a “fuller” version, repeat the process comparing another song on iTunes with a longer playing time.

Explicit and clean versions of songs can also be hard to compare due to the 1:30 preview. iTunes usually has explicit markings on songs to warn buyers of inappropriate content, but that may not always be the case with clean versions. If you want to verify a clean version of a song, you can try searching for the song on YouTube by adding “clean” in the search box.


Buy Your Music When It’s On Sale

iTunes occasionally marks some popular music down to 69 cents, which is half of the original price. The discounts happen several times a year and usually last for 2 weeks. When another sale occurs, different songs are marked down, though it is possible for songs previously marked down to go on sale again in the future. If you don’t mind waiting for a song to go on sale, you can add it to your wish list. Check your wish list next time iTunes has a 69 cent sale to see if your music is marked down.

Note: When a song does go on sale, it is usually selected from a single album. This makes it difficult if you are looking for a particular version (described above) as the hosting album is either picked at random or by agreement from the record company. There’s a small chance that a song might be discounted on multiple albums, resulting in one that contains the version you are looking for.

On April 24, 2012, Microsoft updated its free anti-virus software from version 2 to version 4, jumping over 3 in the process. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE)  has been a good alternative for Norton. It is very fast and uses very little resources. Version 2 has been my favorite so far, and after the update, it still is.

That’s because I am disappointed that Microsoft degraded the look of MSE in version 4. The background image is gone, leaving a rendered gray to blue background in its place, similar to the first version.  The icons in the tabs are now gone, and the status bar at the top is now a solid color bar, with no gradual fading or “glossiness”.

  

Under the history tab, the same options remain. They are, however, moved around a bit.

   

Under the settings tab, the real-time protection section is now left with one setting; turn on real-time protection. The scan all downloads, monitor file and program activity on your computer, and enable behavior monitoring have all been removed. I don’t know if the removed options are integrated into the real-time protection option. The Microsoft SpyNet has been renamed to MAPS.

  

Finally, MSE now refers “computer” to PC. Other then that, MSE 4 works the same as version 2.

Activation is a technology used by Microsoft to ensure that you are following the end-user license agreement (EULA). Activation makes sure that the software is installed on the number of computers allowable and minimizes piracy from copying and lending installation CD’s. Here are some questions about activation.

Can I install a Microsoft product that has already been activated?
Yes, but you have to uninstall the software from the original computer and wait at least 90 days from the last activation before activating again. If activation fails, you can try the activate by phone method. (OEM copies are NOT transferable).

Can I activate a Microsoft product on more than one computer?
That depends. You should read the EULA to determine how many computers that product can be installed and activated on. Windows 7 and some Microsoft Office editions offer a 3-user license which entitles you to install the software on up to 3 computers at a time. Some editions of Office allow you to install a second copy on a portable device, as long as you ae the primary user of that device.

What happens if Microsoft detects the same activated product key on two or more computers?
The software may “phone home” at times to make sure that the same product key isn’t actively being used on more than one computer or what the EULA/product key allows. If it does find a violation, the software may ask you to re-activate the software on both systems. At that point, you must decide which computer you wish to activate the software on.

Is Windows Genuine Advantage the same as activation?
No. Windows Genuine Advantage verifies that you are not using a counterfeit copy of Windows, although it can send activation status of Microsoft products verifying that the software isn’t actively being used on more than what the EULA/product key allows.

You may have an audio CD in your collection that has some type of content at the beginning or end of a track that you wish to exclude before importing (ripping) it to your computer. An option in iTunes allows you to modify the start/stop time for each track so you can remove unwanted content before you import the song to your computer.

In my example, I’ll be using a Radio Disney Jams CD. Despite the album name, the disc contains some good songs such as Get Ready for This, Ghostbusters, U Can’t Touch This, and I Got You (I Feel Good). The downside is that some tracks have Disc Jockeys talking after the song has ended, and track 1 (Get Ready for This) starts off with the station’s theme song. Using iTunes, the “useless” content can be trimmed from these tracks, and then imported to your computer where your time modifications will apply to the AAC/MP3 file.

(I’ll be trimming off the theme song from track 1. Get Ready for This starts at about 0:30.100 – so this will be my start time).

  1. Open iTunes and insert your audio CD.
  2. Right click (command + click) on your desired track and select Get Info.
  3. Click on the Options tab.
  4. Change the values for when you want the song to start/stop. The format is Mins:Seconds.Milliseconds
  5. When you are finished, click OK.

Listen to the track and make sure it starts/stops where you want it to. You may have to repeat these steps several times and increase/decrease values in small increments to fine tune the positions.

Once you have your times set for the desired tracks, import your CD into iTunes. Once importing has completed, find your song(s) in your iTunes Library. The time modifications should have been applied to the AAC/MP3 file and the trimmed content should not be present in the file itself.

Whenever you insert a USB flash drive or a flash card into your computer, you’re usually greeted with a pop-up window (AutoPlay) asking what you want to do. Depending on the content on that device, you can have Windows Media Player play audio files or have Windows start a slide show to view your pictures. You may also configure Windows to automatically perform an action every time you insert your device. If you find that the AutoPlay message does not appear or your selected action does not automatically execute when you insert your device, try removing RealPlayer.

RealPlayer 10 interferes with the Windows AutoPlay feature, disabling the AutoPlay pop-up window with your selections, so all you get is the ‘hardware inserted’ sound whenever you insert your flash device. RealPlayer however, does not interfere with AutoPlay whenever you insert a CD. If you don’t use RealPlayer anymore and you want the AutoPlay pop-up window to come back, uninstall RealPlayer. Restart your computer and insert your flash device and see if your AutoPlay window appears.

RealPlayer is another media program that manages and plays a variety of media files. RealPlayer also plays its own Real Audio and Real Video formats as well as streaming media. However, the usage of Real media files have greatly declined since 2000 and finding a website that still supports Real content would be very hard to find.

This AutoPlay problem was performed on a computer with Windows XP and RealPlayer 10 installed. I don’t use RealPlayer anymore so I’m not sure if RealPlayer 10 interferes with Windows Vista or if the AutoPlay problem was fixed with RealPlayer 11.

In June of 2010, Adobe released a new version of Adobe Flash Player, version 10.1. Most users will see a pop-up window from Adobe asking if you want to update Flash Player while Windows starts. Most users like me typically go ahead and install the update since it takes less than a minute to download and install. However, as of now, DO NOT UPDATE ADOBE FLASH PLAYER TO 10.1!

I have three computers currently affected by this update. The problem: online videos on YouTube, Hulu, etc. are now plagued by choppiness and screen tearing- full screen viewing or regular webpage viewing. One computer will not display YouTube videos in full screen mode anymore since it has an outdated video card. All you see is a “white screen of death” instead. Pressing the escape key usually will get you back.

A forum on Adobe’s website claims that Adobe Flash Player 10.1 now uses Direct3D to render video instead of DirectDraw. I’m wondering if this is the problem with the screen tearing. Turning off the hardware acceleration option in the Flash Player settings will fix the white screen, but video quality will suffer. Updating outdated video cards to the latest version may also solve the white screen problem, but is not a guarantee.

I will try to contact Adobe with my problems. As for now, I will not install Flash Player 10.1 on my other computers. I will also try to downgrade Adobe Flash Player back to version 10.

Some features and effects of Windows Photo Gallery maybe disabled if your computer scores a 2.9 or lower for graphics. Windows Photo Gallery can bypass the score rating with the following registry edit.

Warning: The following involves modifying the Windows registry. Incorrect modifications can prevent Windows from working.

  1. Open regedit an navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Photo Gallery\SlideShow.
  2. Create a REG_DWORD and label it WinSATScore and give it a value of 300.
  3. Open Windows Photo Gallery, features and effects that were disabled should now be enabled.

Note: Not all features and effects may play smoothly on your computer.