29 August 2016

Malware website example

I was browsing a news website on my phone and came across these screenshots.

The URL that Chrome loaded was this, which is sneaky. Repeat visits to this URL do not change the page being returned. Obviously it is Base64 so the decoded form is below.

It decodes into HTML of which contains the bad URL in the iframe tag below:

Some tips for reporting badware, malware, phishing sites, and sending email submissions.
Remember suspicious emails and attachments should be sent as a saved message, not forwarded as it will lose the originator's details.

24 August 2016

How to respond to criticism

It's very easy to become offended when someone criticises you. Here are some ideas on what is happening, what to do when it happens, and how to prevent it in future.

  • You might get angry, and raise your voice. Try to notice when this happens, and then just stop and think. Give yourself a moment to compose yourself and think about what is being said. There is absolutely no need to rush to respond to the person - just wait, sit down and have a think. Even take a break if you feel like it - but not storming off - just say you need a moment.
  • Some people do deliberately try and press your buttons, either to get you to admit your mistakes, see you go crazy for fun, or see what's under your skin. Don't let them.
  • It is in people's nature to complain rather than to praise. There is a good quote in Futurama - "When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all." Working in IT is a good example - when IT works fine, nobody says thanks, but when something's wrong, everyone complains.
  • Try to think about the root of the problem. It's very easy for an argument to start at one point, and then you end up arguing about the fundamental laws of nature.
  • It's very possible to have a jokey argument about nothing without it getting serious. If you realise it's heading in a serious direction then just pass it off, forget about it, and move onto something else like the football or that latest YouTube video you saw.
  • If you can, try to find a way to laugh it off. Humility is a high level, mature defence mechanism. I'd even give this a good read anyway so that perhaps you can know yourself a bit better.
  • If there are bells ringing in your head that you are wrong, rather than defend yourself, it's better just to come clean, be honest, and say something like:
    • Oh wait, no actually, you're right yes, sorry, I understand now, it didn't make sense before, sorry I was a bit confused
    • I was playing you on, I wasn't actually being serious! I was just winding you up
    • Sorry, I've been stressed lately
    • It was my bad, sorry
    • Yes, actually now you point it out, I did make a mistake there
    • Oh now, that's definitely wrong isn't it, I can see that now yes. I can fix that.
  • Self-awareness helps, but not to an overbearing degree. Understanding that you are human and you want to improve and be better is the greatest step. Being yourself is also important, as cliched as it sounds - what's key is that you only do what feels natural and right - don't feel you have to do what others want to do or be. Don't feel you have to fall in line with everyone else (unless it is life threatening of course). And don't let others define you.
  • Getting defensive is fairly normal, and you'll try raising points or even go so far as to create cognitive dissonance. A good example would be a politician for example - they often don't like to admit their wrongdoings, and will defend their decisions. But it's more human to be honest - say you messed up, and you will do better in future.
  • Stubbornness doesn't help - someone who is particularly stubborn, if told they are being stubborn, are likely to say "No, I'm not being stubborn!" which is a perfect example of being stubborn.
  • A lot of this probably arises from the "fear" of being proven wrong - no one likes being wrong - we always think we are right in every decision we make - at least at the time. But it is perfectly human to be wrong just as much as you are right. If we never learned from mistakes we would never make any progress.
  • Constructive criticism is a thing, which you should always be prepared for, but there is also witty banter and roasting which can be uncalled for, seem out of order, or are directly and personally offensive. If it's not clear to you that it's a joke, then it's understandably offensive.
  • Hypocrisy is common when it comes to criticism - people sometimes can be more than happy to criticise others, but never when it's aimed at them - those people should be redirected to this blog.
Some other self help articles may also help like these on Tiny Buddha, LinkedIn, and Lifehacker.

23 August 2016

Useful Free Windows Tools

I have posted previously about recommended programs to get you started or if you have issues with Windows, but here is a good collection of all free tools that I use as well. A good website for finding more and alternative programs is alternativeTo, and there is also FileHippo and Download.com.

11 August 2016

The Shallows: Deeper Meaning (Updated)

I think the deeper (pun intended) meaning or lasting message of The Shallows is obviously a metaphor for her mother's cancer and her going through the same, or similar experience.

  • Cancer, when it comes, is like a shark circling round you - it's always there, and never goes away unless you do something about it. It won't go away on its own, and you're more likely to die of dehydration/cancer if you do nothing, than risk the shark
  • At first, you're not even aware that the shark/cancer is there
  • When you're in medication, especially chemotherapy and radiotherapy, you're very limited to where you can go and what you can do - like an island. Sometimes you can feel alone too.
  • Cancer can leave scars - not just physical (the one she left with) but also mentally
  • The medication can take the life out of you - you saw the colour leaving her lips and her constant exhaustion
  • A lot of people going in for treatment have someone or something they keep with them - in this case it was Steven Seagull. It is good to have some comedy to keep you tethered to reality.
  • You lose your hair through chemotherapy - although in this case she lost a massive amount of blood
  • Some people die from cancer/sharks very quickly, i.e. the other divers that were instantly killed
  • The dead whale is a suggestion that cancer can affect anyone regardless of their background, genetics, diet or health
Although, we never found out the name of the beach...

3 August 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Issues in upgrade experience

Overall, several improvements have been made to the OS, like customising the quick tools, better start menu, deeper search integration, and more tools to help you.

General advice

  • Temporarily disable your AV and protection program due to Windows making large changes to the system. In some cases (Avast), a complete uninstall might be needed.
  • Uninstall any programs surrounding network changes like VPNs, hotspots or virtual machines
  • Check you have at least 30GB free space if you are doing an upgrade because the Windows directory will be archived, and temporary files will be left on the system post-upgrade.
  • It might help to disable all Windows Explorer extensions. C-Cleaner and Autoruns can help you with this.
  • Disconnect any peripherals you have, including keyboard and mouse. Only reconnect them once you get the login screen again.
  • If you do have problems after the upgrade e.g. system crashes or locks up after you login, then try going back to the previous build. On the lock screen or start menu, when you click Restart, hold down the shift key. This will bring up the troubleshooter. From there you can go to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Go back to the previous build. You could also try Safe Mode instead (Startup settings option) to figure out what is causing the problem - if there aren't any messages then Event Viewer might help here. There are also more reset and recovery options here. There is also a 'Start Fresh' option which will upgrade your PC and reset it.
  • In some cases I have seen people upgrade to Build 1607 and post-upgrade, the taskbar doesn't load, the desktop is black with no icons, and no programs open. In this case only a fresh install fixed it. This was on a Linx tablet PC.

A few problems during the upgrade

  • Did initially attempt Windows Update, and downloaded, however it disappeared and was not installed even after reboots, so I had to manually install with the Media Creator Tool instead
  • Audio was not working properly after upgrade - uninstall of driver and reboot solved this
  • Kaspersky removed its licence key so needed to be added again
  • Additional hidden network adapters were present which I removed
  • The UAC has changed - it no longer has a taskbar tab when a UAC is raised so it can be difficult (or impossible) to see it unless you close the program, in my example MediaMonkey needed COM Elevation but couldn't see it the first time.
  • Some of my "Quick access" shortcuts in Windows Explorer had been deleted, e.g. Desktop.
  • Mouse pointer speed had slowed down so needed to re-apply the settings
  • Some people have had problems with webcams after the upgrade - there is a registry fix available

Some notes as well

  • Windows Defender now has an Offline Scan built in, but it isn't clear the button will immediately restart and start scanning
  • Classic Shell, Adobe Reader and Steam all needed an update straight away
  • A KB update was already applied during the upgrade however is not in the Settings - only in Programs and Features / View installed updates - a second one is now available
  • Programs and Features reports many programs installation dates as the date of the upgrade
  • Machine rebooted 5 times during upgrade
  • Windows reinstalled the default Apps like Get Office, even though the latest version of Office was installed. Other apps include 3D Builder, Skype Preview, Paid and Free Wifi, Connect (Companion)
  • Some devices in Device Manager have changed names
  • As per any other upgrade, Windows will create a "Windows.old" folder and some other temporary files in the C:/ drive. You can use cleanmgr to clean these up. Below, it's using 22.44GB.
  • Some services appear broken, even when doing a brand new installation. But they seem to run ok.
  • I had to reinstall Chrome as Chrome did the thing where it just says "Loading" on every tab you open.
  • Some issues found for a client:
    • Outlook was no longer sending messages due to 'Outlook data file cannot be accessed'. This needed a delete of the Outlook profile and to be recreated again (emptying the AppData/Local/Microsoft/Outlook folder first). Signatures and Address Books are not covered.
    • Some programs like Solar Accounts may require re-registration
    • Windows may install different graphics drivers so applications like Design Builder which are picky about device drivers may not work anymore. Windows versions of drivers can be disabled using the Hide updates tool
    • Several antiviruses come with browser protection - so if installing again, disable any AV browser plugins - in some cases they make your PC less secure
    • Some antiviruses come with protection for private browsing and advert or banner blocking - however this may be incompatible with websites that require you to install a certificate on your machine
    • Some printers, if not connected, may be uninstalled entirely, and will need to be completely removed (from Device Manager, registry, Program Files, ProgramData and AppData) before they can be safely reinstalled again. Samsung in particular needs SP and then GDI installing.

After the upgrade

  • Reinstall your Antivirus and any extensions and startup items that you disabled
  • Run cleanmgr to free up space if you're happy, this will remove the "Windows.old" folder backup
  • Check for updates in Windows Updates
  • May want to tidy up your System Restore points to free up space
  • As above, check your apps work okay - they may need updating straight away
  • Check your network is working fine - if you view the network adapters in Network Connections and see e.g. Ethernet #2 but no #1, then you may want to delete the old secondary one from Device Manager.
  • Open the Store app and update all apps