Archive for Microsoft

#Fail: Windows 10 Activation Servers Forcing Downgrades From Windows 10 Pro To Windows 10 Home

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 8, 2018 by itnerd

Well this is embarrassing.

Users on Reddit are sounding the alarm that when booting into their Windows 10 PCs this morning, they are being met with a deactivated machine as Microsoft’s activation servers seem to have decided to misbehave. The core symptom is that that those affected are being asked to install Windows 10 Home instead, as their Pro license apparently no longer works. So if you see something like this hit your PC, don’t reinstall your OS. It appears those affected are users who upgraded using older Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 product keys. Devices that shipped with Windows 10 Pro appear to be unaffected at this time.

Microsoft support says that this is an issue caused by its activation servers, and that the problem will be resolved soon. How soon nobody knows. If I get any info on that front, it will be posted here.


Microsoft’s Software Quality Has Become An #EpicFail

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 26, 2018 by itnerd

Almost a year ago, I called out Apple because their ability to QA their software was so horrific, that macOS shipped with an extremely dangerous flaw that somehow was never caught by their QA department. Apple has yet to fully recover from that as many other embarrassing issues cropped up after that. But fortunately for them the spotlight has been moved away from them and onto Microsoft because of their incredibly buggy October 2018 update which deleted your data. It was so bad that Microsoft had to stop the rollout of the update. But that wasn’t the only screw up by Microsoft. The April 2018 Update was a disaster as many of my clients got hit by the numerous bugs in that update.

Clearly Microsoft’s ability to QA their products is in trouble. But to be truthful it’s been in trouble for a while. To illustrate that, let me take you back to 2014. Microsoft decided that dedicated QA testers were obsolete. And thus many of them were laid off. Crowdsourcing testing efforts were thought to be much better approach according to the brain trust in Redmond because you could just give pre-release versions of the software to thousands of people, they’d test it in the real world and trip over stuff that QA types never could, and the world would be perfect. Which led to the birth of the Microsoft Insider Program.

Except that it isn’t perfect.

Windows 10 which has thousands of people who don’t work for Microsoft testing it is a complete and utter mess. It’s so much of a mess that since the gong show of an update that the April 2018 Update was, I’ve actively recommended to my clients to sit and wait until the dust settles on any feature update before installing. That could easily be two or three months after it is released. Which I bet isn’t what Microsoft envisioned when they came up with Windows 10 and the concept of “feature updates” that come out with two or three times a year with shiny new features to make you think that Windows 10 is cool.

Clearly outsourcing software testing via crowdsourcing isn’t working for Microsoft. So, how do you fix it? Here’s my suggestions:

  1. Reintroduce dedicated testers who work for Microsoft: Live humans working for Microsoft who fully understand the product are what is needed right now as they have background to look for and find issues. If properly managed, they will help to address this issue.
  2. Kill the Insider Program: What is not needed is a bunch of fanboys who are going to get the latest pre-release version of Windows 10, install it and only report something to Microsoft that interferes with their ability to play Call Of Duty. That’s because unlike dedicated QA testes they don’t have the background to actually find issues and report them. Thus this program serves no useful purpose and needs to die as soon as possible.
  3. Rethink the concept of feature updates: What’s also not helping is this whole concept of “feature updates” that come out twice a year. Instead, they should focus on issuing updates that actually work and when they are ready to be released. Maybe that is one update a year. Maybe that six smaller updates. Who knows? But this two or three update cadence isn’t working for them at the moment.

Here’s what is going to happen if Microsoft doesn’t change course on this front. It will be a similar situation as the early 2000’s where Microsoft became such a joke that people were just stampeding towards Apple stores buying Macs right left and center. That’s something that Microsoft cannot afford right now. Thus they need to admit that they have a serious QA problem and take steps to address it before it is too late for them to recover. Because right now, their software quality is a not only a #EpicFail, it’s a joke.


Recently Outed Windows Exploit Now Actively Being Used By Evil Doers

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 6, 2018 by itnerd

Frequent readers will recall that a pretty bad vulnerability in Windows was disclosed on Twitter last week that had the potential to be really bad if the bad guys stated to exploit that if Microsoft didn’t come up with a quick fix.

Guess what, the forces of evil have started to exploit it.

ESET’s Matthieu Faou has disclosed on Wednesday that a group of hackers called PowerPool is actively exploiting the bug to move from hijacked user accounts to full system administrator-level control of already infiltrated Windows boxes. Which of course is very, very, very bad. Because chances are if these guys are leveraging tis bug, there are others who are leveraging this bug as well. Thus Microsoft now more than ever needs to step up and address this before this becomes extraordinarily bad.

Windows 10 October 2018 Update Announced By Microsoft

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 31, 2018 by itnerd

The next major update for the Windows 10 operating system has been announced by Microsoft today. Dubbed the Windows 10 October 2018 Update and announced via a blog post connected to Microsoft’s presence at IFA in Berlin, it will bring among other features the following to the table:

  • A dark theme for File Explorer. Because dark modes are now a thing seeing as macOS Mojave has a dark mode.
  • A new snipping experience
  • A cloud-powered clipboard
  • Support for extended line endings in Notepad
  • integration with the Your Phone app
  • New web sign-in and fast sign-in features
  • A mixed reality flashlight feature
  • SwiftKey in the touch keyboard

It should be out by the end of October if the stars align and be punted out to the 700 million devices that Microsoft claims are running Windows 10. Hopefully it will better than the April 2018 update which was plagued with problems when that shipped.

Windows Zero Day Exploit Outed On Twitter

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 28, 2018 by itnerd

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the folks in Redmond Washington are going to have a very bad day as a zero day exploit, meaning that it has no known fix has been unleashed upon the planet via Twitter.

In short, this exploit is of the privilege escalation variety. Meaning that some miscreant can escalate their user level on an exploited computer to do whatever they want. That’s bad. And you’ll note that in the Tweet above there’s proof of concept code already out there. That means that the bad guys are likely already working on ways to exploit the exploit. Which by the way the exploit in question was confirmed on Twitter by CERT/CC vulnerability analyst Will Dormann:

And CERT/CC has just posted it’s own analysis as well which highlights the fact that there are no known fixes or mitigations. Which is of course very bad. Hopefully Microsoft is on the case and seeing as this is a zero day exploit, won’t wait until Patch Tuesday to come out with a fix for this. Until then, they’ll be under a fair amount of pressure to address this quickly now that this is out there.


Microsoft Announces Surface Go Budget Tablet Lineup

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 10, 2018 by itnerd

Microsoft today announced a budget tablet called Surface Go. The Surface Go features dimensions of 9.6-by-6.9-by-0.3 inches and weighs just 1.2 pounds. It has a 10-inch 3:2 1800-by-1200 PixelSense Display. That put it into roughly the same size as an iPad. It has a single USB-C port in it. But the real story is what it has under the hood. It has an Intel Pentium Gold Processor. You read that right, it has a Pentium processor in it. Clearly to cut the cost down to match the iPad. The Surface Go runs Windows 10 S which a version of Windows that will only run apps found in the Microsoft Store. However you can convert it to the full version of Windows 10 for free.

Pricing goes something like this. The $399 USD model ships with 64GB of eMMC flash storage and 4GB of RAM, or you can get a $549 USD model that includes 128GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM. Each of these models come in Wi-Fi-only network configurations. Those go on pre-order tomorrow. LTE models and 256GB versions of the Surface Go will go on sale sometime after August 2. For business customers, Microsoft is also offering a Surface Go with Windows 10 Pro installed for $449 USD. There’s also a number of accessories that will be available from pens to mice.

Here’s the launch video from Microsoft, which also takes the opportunity to troll Apple’s iPad along the way:

Microsoft Says Windows 10 April 2018 Update Is Ready For Prime Time…. I Say Perhaps Not

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 15, 2018 by itnerd

The fine folks at Microsoft put out a blog post which trumpeted it’s use of AI to deliver a smooth roll out of the Windows 10 April 2018 update. Near the end of it, they say this:

Based on the update quality and reliability we are seeing through our AI approach, we are now expanding the release broadly to make the April 2018 Update (version 1803) fully available for all compatible devices running Windows 10 worldwide. Full availability is the final phase of our rollout process. You don’t have to do anything to get the update; it will rollout automatically to you through Windows Update.

Quality and reliability? Seriously? Tell that to the people who have been hit by issues related to this update. Most notably this one where your computer is basically unbootable after the update. Now I do have a fix for it but this issue should never have made it out of Microsoft’s QA labs. Then there’s this issue which to Microsoft’s credit they have fixed. And let’s not forget this issue which has been fixed as well. I could go on but I think you see my point here. Which is that this issue has been insanely problematic and Windows 10 users have suffered as a result. And that should never ever happen.

So Microsoft may say this update is ready for prime time. But I say that you should take that with a grain of salt. But if you fell like rolling the dice on this, make sure you have a backup of your computer in case things go south. Which is entirely possible given what has gone on to date.