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Home of my tech rants, free programs, and a story or two…

Windows 10 Diagnostic Data

OK so I did some deep diving into the app Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer that’s part of the new Windows 10 Fast Ring Build that was released recently and to be honest, it was an eye-opening experience.

If I am using the app correctly (and I most likely am) there is a toggle that will show you what is being collected and sent based upon the diagnostic level you have chosen (Basic vs Full). After seeing some of the data that’s being sent to Microsoft I would suggest that everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE changes their diagnostic mode to Basic. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200… CHANGE IT TO BASIC RIGHT NOW!!! I’m not even kidding here!

Now onto why. Oh man, yeah… this is a doozy even by my standards. So I opened Microsoft Edge and went to my web site, closed Microsoft Edge, and then launched the Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer app and did a search for a String in the data containing my domain name. Much to my horror, it was there!!! And worst of all, it was being sent to Microsoft as part of a sampling group. Microsoft even told me that my system was part of the sample group. Now I don’t know if this system is part of the sample group because I am running a Fast Ring build. No, I don’t use this system for every day usage; it’s only a VM for testing purposes.

With all of that said, I then toggled the mode to Basic meaning it would show only the data that your system is sending if your system was set to Basic mode and sure enough, the most damning of data was not included in the data set. Let me repeat that… in Basic mode the most damning of data was NOT included in the data set. Below are links to the two data sets.

Basic Mode Data
Full Mode Data

As you can see between the Basic Mode and the Full Mode that the Full Diagnostic Mode collects and sends a hell of a lot more data than Basic Diagnostic Mode. I have uploaded both files for people to see exactly what is being collected and sent to Microsoft.

Let’s just put it this way… if you have any want for privacy, even a little bit, Full Diagnostic Mode is DEFINITELY something you want to avoid like the plague!

Identity Politics

I usually don’t write about politics here because it usually ends up in nothing more than a series of insults being traded between one another in the comment section. I feel I have to write this because of the current political climate in the United States.

First of all, I voted for Trump. There, I said it! But you know what? I WANT MY VOTE BACK! I have realized that we have made a huge mistake voting this person into the highest office in the land. He is the equivalent of a man-child, everything negative said about him no matter how small it may be provokes him into going into a Twitter rant. That is completely unbecoming of the President of the United States let alone any leader no matter what position he or she holds. A leader needs to know when to simply brush something off their shoulders as if it doesn’t matter. Now I’m not saying that he shouldn’t defend himself but the way he has been defending himself lately reminds me of a four year old in a temper tantrum.

The people on the extreme Left (one of the commenters below pointed this distinction out to me) likes to call anyone on the Right as a White Nationalist. They can’t stand the idea that many on the right want to put America first. They also call anyone on the Right bigots, sexists, and whatever other -ist word you can come up with. I’m going to set the record straight here… Not everyone on the Right are like that, I certainly am not. Yes I believe that America and her people should be put first before the needs of other nations. Why that is a problem I have no idea. Shouldn’t it be a nation’s job to stand up for her citizens? Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with that!

Now onto the subject of my post here, Identity Politics. Titles. Yes, titles. It’s the thing that separates us more than what unites us. Every single person living in the United States is an American. But a lot of people like to put words in front of the word “American” like Puerto Rican American, African American, Asian American, Polish American (my grandmother thinks of herself as that), Spanish American, Mexican American, and so on and so forth. Yes, those words in front of the word “American” are titles and they serve as nothing more than something to separate us, to keep as fighting with each other. Here is an idea… let’s drop those titles.

Instead of Puerto Rican American, call yourself an American.
Instead of African American, call yourself an American.
Instead of Asian American, call yourself an American.
Instead of Polish American, call yourself an American.
Instead of Spanish American, call yourself an American.
Instead of Mexican American, call yourself an American.

See what I just did there? I dropped the title in front of the word “American”.

I bet you are asking why I did that? And I know, many people in those groups are going to start screaming bloody murder because of what I just said above but I want you to sit there and ask yourself two simple questions. Why does it bother you so much? Why do you cling to the old titles? Those titles serve only as a way to separate us, to keep as fighting with each other. There is far more that unites us rather than what divides us, or at least, there should be. And what is that reason? One word… American. We are all Americans, it doesn’t matter where you came from, we are all Americans. If we as society can only learn to drop the titles, the things that separate us, we will finally be able to unite all of ourselves under one flag, one nation, one people. The United States of America. Then, and only then, will we have the harmony that I truly believe America can have.

We are all Americans, remember that next time you approach someone of a different race. Put that aside and embrace that person not as a different race but as a fellow American. That is how you create harmony, that is how you unite us all under one common cause.

I know that this isn’t going to be easy, it’s probably going to be the hardest thing that society will ever try to do. For decades the idea of holding onto your cultural identity was seen as the thing to do if you were from somewhere else. Things like how you celebrate holidays, family traditions, etc. I’m not at all saying that you should throw those things that make you who you are away, no… that’s not what I’m saying at all. Unfortunately some people are going to think that I’m referring to that kind of stuff but that’s not true. You can still hold onto your cultural heritage while uniting with everyone else as one people in this great nation of ours.

Oh, and while we’re at it… let’s get rid of Right and Left, Democrat and Republican.

Wow Microsoft… just wow.

So I’m sitting here writing some code in .NET and I have myself a File System Watcher in my code to check if a file has been changed and if it has, it’s supposed to load the file and process any changes. In this case, it’s a log file and if the log file changes anywhere else in the program the log viewing window should reload it. Seems right? Yes.

OK, so now onto the bug. Apparently there’s a bug in which the File System Watcher will fire off multiple file changed events one after another even though there was only one change to one file. Yes, that’s right. Multiple events.

So here’s the code…

private System.DateTime dateLastFileSystemWatcherEventRaised;

private void logFileWatcher_Changed(object sender, IO.FileSystemEventArgs e)
{
    // This hack is required because of a bug in the File System Watcher that causes it to fire multiple events one after
    // another even though there was only one change to the file we are watching. ARG Microsoft! You stupid idiots!
    if 1 {
        return; // Crap, multiple events have been fired... we need to exit this routine.
    }
    dateLastFileSystemWatcherEventRaised = System.DateTime.Now;
  
    // Put your event code here.
}

Of you want a VB.NET example…

Private dateLastFileSystemWatcherEventRaised As Date

Private Sub logFileWatcher_Changed(sender As Object, e As IO.FileSystemEventArgs) Handles logFileWatcher.Changed
	' This hack is required because of a bug in the File System Watcher that causes it to fire multiple events one after
	' another even though there was only one change to the file we are watching. ARG Microsoft! You stupid idiots!
	If (Date.Now.Subtract(dateLastFileSystemWatcherEventRaised).TotalMilliseconds < 500) Then
		Exit Sub ' Crap, multiple events have been fired... we need to exit this routine.
	End If
	dateLastFileSystemWatcherEventRaised = Date.Now
	
	' Put your event code here.
End Sub
  1. System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(dateLastFileSystemWatcherEventRaised).TotalMilliseconds < 500[]

Intel better be running scared…

Until recently Intel used to be the king of the computing processor market while AMD languished on the side-lines with chips that were barely worth speaking about let alone buying. But things have changed, introducing the AMD Zen Architecture.

For the first time in more than five years, AMD has been making some really big moves. Yes, the company didn’t disappear but it was clearly struggling. The only thing that really kept AMD alive was the fact that many gaming consoles (Microsoft XBOX One and Sony Playstation 4) were using AMD APUs as part of the hardware design. Every single CPU that AMD made never measured up to anything Intel manufactured thus cementing Intel’s near monopoly in the computer processor market. Until today with AMD’s new Zen Architecture.

With AMD’s new Zen Architecture AMD has finally come up with something that has made Intel worried. Proof of that is Intel’s recent marketing slides stating that Ryzen and by extension AMD Threadripper chips are simply desktop chips glued together. While true that AMD’s chips are glued together it has shown that the Zen Architecture has the ability to scale far higher than anything Intel has because of this so-called “glue”. That glue being the AMD Infinity Fabric.

Eventually we’re going to need more processor cores, there’s no mistaking this. We are pushing the limits of the x86_64 architecture. Gone are the days of double, even triple, the performance from year to year. We have seen this with how recent Intel chips have been only increasing in performance by 10 to 15% year over year whereas in the past we were seeing leaps and bounds in terms of performance increases. What does this mean? It means that we are hitting the wall in terms of how much computing capacity we can squeeze out of the aging x86 architecture. The fact that the x86 architecture has stood the test of time for as long as it has has proven that the x86 architecture can scale but as with all things, there are limits.

So what do you do?

  1. You can increase clock speed.
  2. Throw more cores at the issue.
  3. Or both.

AMD has opted with the Zen Architecture to increase the amount of cores but as we have seen that strategy only works well when the software is built to handle more cores. Sadly, a lot of software isn’t built to handle a lot of processor cores. Gaming is a perfect example where more cores doesn’t translate to higher performance, high clock speed is what matters. Unfortunately the current crop of AMD Ryzen processors can’t clock above 4 GHz putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to Intel’s Core i7 7700k which can clock as high as 4.5 GHz and if you really push things, you can clock it to as high as 5 GHz. Will Ryzen v2.0 be able to scale the clock speeds higher and be able to push past the 4 GHz barrier? One can only hope.

Meanwhile, for those computing tasks that needs lots and lots of cores AMD is absolutely killing Intel. Situations that may need lots of cores are situations such as graphics and/or video rendering such as Pixar and even data centers and cloud computing systems in which you need to run multiple virtual machines on the same physical hardware. This is where AMD’s Zen Architecture scales far higher than anything Intel has to offer. For the first time in over five years there’s real competition for Intel in parts of the market where Intel had a near monopoly status and Intel should be very worried. Worried not just because of AMD but because of other sectors of the computing industry where Intel used to be king of the hill.

You see, Intel used to be at the top of the heap in so many different ways, not just processors. They used to be real innovators, pushing everything from processors, GPUs, memory, to storage, etc. AMD is making major inroads into the parts of the market where Intel enjoyed near monopoly status. As for memory and storage, other companies are handing Intel their heads. Samsung is the real innovator in terms of storage and SSDs, it’s down right amazing how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time with their 3D NAND. As for GPUs, nVidia is just kicking ass across the industry (both Intel and AMD).

Yeah, Intel better be scared. Their once near monopoly status in many markets is being threatened. This is what happens when you don’t continuously innovate and push technology forward, your competition sneaks up in back of you and whacks you upside the head with a baseball bat. It’s played out in multiple sectors of the economy with different players. We saw it in the United States cell phone market with T-Mobile; AT&T and Verizon didn’t worry about T-Mobile until all of a sudden they got collectively kicked in the balls by T-Mobile. The same thing is playing out right now in the cable TV market, the cord cutting revolution isn’t just some small fringe issue; it’s a full blown epidemic in the cable TV sector. Apple iTunes turned the music industry upside down first with the advent of cheap individual music tracks and now with Apple Music. All of these are examples of what happens when you fall asleep at the wheel, you end up getting hit from behind.

All aboard the fail boat…

Millions of Android devices are getting hit by a new batch of malware called Gooligan.
Android ‘Gooligan’ Hackers Just Scored The Biggest Ever Theft Of Google Accounts
http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/11/1-million-android-accounts-compromised-by-android-malware-called-gooligan/
Gooligan malware roots 1M Android phones in “largest Google account breach to date”

As the Forbes article mentioned…

Once downloaded, Gooligan determines which Android phone it’s infected and launches the appropriate exploits to “root” the device – i.e. take complete control over it. To do that, the attackers have used long-known vulnerabilities, such as VROOT and Towelroot, on devices running Android 4 through 5, including Jelly Bean, KitKat and Lollipop. Together, those operating systems account for 74 per cent of Android devices in use today, totalling around 1.03 billion. Most infections (40 per cent) are in Asia, though 19 per cent are in the Americas, most of which are in North America, Shaulov said. Another 12 per cent are based in Europe.

And I bet you’re all asking why? Yeah… it’s because your Android device hasn’t received any critical software updates. This is why I switched to the iPhone. The reason… security updates and operating system updates.

To those that don’t know about all of this, let me inform you. Your device has two major software layers; the operating system and the apps that you use like Facebook, email, web browser, etc. What many people see as updates are just app updates, these aren’t patching issues with the operating system itself (Android). The problem is many devices don’t get these operating system updates. Think of operating system updates like Windows Updates. Well… your apps may have been updated but your operating system is still very very vulnerable to being hacked by hackers to steal your data.

I bet you’re asking why. Why doesn’t my device get these updates? Simple. Money. That’s right… money. Your carrier and your Android OEM (Samsung, LG, HTC, etc.) would much rather have you buy a new device instead. But here’s the kicker… if you buy that new device they’re only going to turn around and do the same thing that they did to your older device, that is… abandon it only to tell you to buy a new device instead. This keeps you forever on the upgrade treadmill because it makes them money, truckloads of money.

Now, you may have heard about something called the Apple iPhone. The difference between Android and iPhones is that when Apple came out with the iPhone they pretty much told the carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) that they were going to do things their way. They were going to push the software updates themselves. This allows Apple is be able to push software updates to every iPhone across the world so that your iPhone gets the latest and patched iOS version the same day that everyone across the world gets it so that your device remains far more secure than any Android.

Security experts agree… if you care about security and that data on your phone, you buy an iPhone. They may be more expensive but in the end your device is getting supported by Apple unlike Android in which they don’t care about you.

Not only that but if you have a problem or question a simple trip to the Apple Store or a phone call to Apple is all you need, they will help you figure out what’s wrong and help you fix it. You don’t get that kind of safety net with Android devices.

Windows 10 Telemetry

I know that many of you may have read stuff about Windows 10’s telemetry and that Microsoft is using it to spy on their users. Every little thing that you do on your Windows machine is being tracked, collected, and sent to Microsoft. Every keystroke, every mouse movement, every word you say to Cortana is being sent to Microsoft for God knows what reason. And for all we know, Microsoft may be sending this information to government agencies around the world in their misguided attempts to protect us from “terrorism”.

We live in a world in which we can’t trust our governments to not be snooping on everything we do from sending an email or SMS message to talking on the phone. With that being said, Yahoo! was found snooping on everyone’s email and sending it straight to the US government’s spying agencies. How do we know that Microsoft isn’t doing the same thing and sending all of this telemetry that they’re collecting with Windows 10 straight to the US government? That’s right, we don’t.

I’m not saying that Microsoft is doing all of this but I’m also not saying that Microsoft isn’t doing all of this. Why? Because we don’t know. We don’t know what is being sent to Microsoft. Really! We don’t. The data is encrypted and we don’t know how to decrypt it to be able to find out what’s actually contained in said telemetry. So with that being said… call me a tin foil hat wearing nut job if you wish, because we don’t know we have to assume something is up. We have to assume that Microsoft is up to no good and that they’re spying on all of us.

The fact that you can’t turn the telemetry off in consumer versions of Windows 10 is even more worrisome. There’s no switch in Windows 10 that simply turns it all off. All we can do is either set the telemetry to Basic, Enhanced, or Full; there’s no “Off” switch.

A lot of the outrage regarding Windows 10 comes from the fact that we can’t turn the telemetry off, they’ve removed the choice to be able to do so. That right there folks is the major reason why myself and others like me have been so critical of Microsoft as of late. We can’t turn the telemetry off! Now had Microsoft given us the choice to be able to turn it off (if we so choose to do so) there wouldn’t be nearly the amount of hatred being flung Microsoft’s way concerning Windows 10. But again, there’s no “off switch”.

And for those people who are still running an earlier version of Windows such as Windows 7 to avoid this kind of telemetry collection, you aren’t safe from the telemetry either. Microsoft has been updating the telemetry components in Windows 7 and 8.1 to collect similar amounts of telemetry. And for those people who think that they’ll just avoid certain updates, you’re not safe either since Microsoft will be pushing cumulative updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 users just like Windows 10 receives. How do we know that Microsoft won’t slip additional telemetry updates into the cumulative updates for Windows 7 and 8.1? That’s right, we won’t know.

Microsoft… give us the choice, that’s all we ask for. If we don’t want our data going to you, that’s our business, that’s our choice. But in Windows 10 we don’t have that choice and that’s where it all begins… the removal of a choice. If Microsoft wants to rebuild their user’s trust and gain back some of the good will that they’ve shred over the last two years, they need to do the following three things. First and foremost, give the option to the users to be able to turn off the telemetry and not just make it available as a Registry hack; no, they need to release an easy to use tool to disable it. And second, come clean on what exactly is being collected and whether or not they’re sending this data to the governments of the world.

Microsoft OneDrive vs. Google Drive

And the winner is… Microsoft OneDrive.

Yes, I know… I have been critical of Microsoft and in a lot of cases they deserve it but when it comes to Microsoft OneDrive vs. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive wins. The syncing of data between PCs using Microsoft OneDrive is far more stable, accurate, and faster than Google Drive in nearly every category. Google Drive used to be good but lately it’s become less and less stable at keeping files synced between multiple machines.

The Death of Windows Mobile

Paul Thurrott just released an article of his time at Microsoft Ignite and he brought up several key points in his article involving Windows Mobile during the developer conference.

Windows 10 Mobile is only for businesses. This was stressed repeatedly in different ways. There’s no consumer play here at all, and that is not changing going forward. Even the “More Personal” slide was about “Office 365 pre-installed, OneDrive for Business, Cortana for work,” and so. Businesses, not individuals/consumers.

It sure seems like it to me that Microsoft is throwing in the towel when it comes to Windows Mobile in the consumer space. What they basically said (without actually saying it) is that they have given up on Windows Mobile in anything but a business-type setting.

And why not? Let’s face facts here, Windows Mobile was a stillborn platform from the very beginning. Android and Apple iOS pretty much has the market cornered and up until a couple of week ago Microsoft Windows Mobile and Blackberry held onto a messily less than 1% of the market. According to this BusinessInsider article…

Windows 10 Mobile and BlackBerry OS make up 0.6% and 0.1% (of the market), respectively.

Those two platforms make up less than 1% of the market, pretty pathetic if you ask me. And according to this article… Android commands an impressive 86.2% of the market with Apple commanding 12.9% of the market. It’s plain to see that both Android and Apple iOS (albeit less Apple and more Android) are dominating the market. There’s not much room in the market left for a third competitor even if that competitor is Microsoft. And with Blackberry admitting defeat that leaves Android and Apple iOS dominating the market with Microsoft in very distant third place.

Windows 10 Mobile is for existing business customers, not for new customers. This one was interesting. At one point, one of the presenters said of the future, “our desire in this space is that Windows Mobile remain the safest, most manageable, most deploy-able solution for organizations that are already Microsoft customers. You will see that in the next year, and in the years after that.” That’s extremely limited, from an aspiration/goal standpoint. The question, by the way, was what success looked like for Windows phones.

Good God, with the way that part reads it looks like Microsoft is simply trying to desperately hold onto what little part of the market they have left and have lost all initiative to gain any more market share. It sure looks like it to me that Microsoft has given up when it comes to Windows Mobile.

Microsoft’s use of Windows phone internally. One attendee asked how Microsoft used Windows phone internally. Let me answer that one more accurately than the presenter did: They don’t. And at Microsoft Ignite this year, there was a dramatic drop in the number of Windows phones seen, especially among Microsoft employees. It was something many in the press remarked on.

Ouch! Microsoft basically said that nobody in their own company uses Windows Mobile devices and that the average Microsoft employee uses either an Android or an Apple iPhone. If that doesn’t state the obvious I don’t know what does. Windows Mobile is dead and Microsoft basically said it without actually saying it.

If you want to read the article written by Paul Thurrott, click here Microsoft Discusses a Very Limited Future for Windows 10 Mobile

Agile programming and the stupidity of the Windows Insider Preview Program

About a year ago Microsoft laid off much of their internal quality assurance team (article) and with the advent of Windows 10 we can see how that decision has affected the quality of Windows 10. I’ll give you a hint… it’s suffered badly, quite badly.

I bet you’re asking what Microsoft replaced the QA team with. The answer is… The Windows Insider Preview Program. Yeah, that thing.

Outsourcing your quality assurance to outside your company is a recipe for disaster. What do you think the The Windows Insider Preview Program is? That’s right, the outsourcing of quality assurance onto the backs of amateurs. Do you see how this could cause things to blow up and go wrong?

Let’s explain some things here. To do proper software testing you need a team that’s willing to run a beta version of the software full time and not only that but a team made up of intelligent people who are capable of reporting bugs in a concise and detailed manner. They also need to understand that things aren’t going to work right all the time and that things may suddenly blow up in their faces at any moment taking their data with it. Guess what? That’s not The Windows Insider Preview Program. If you look at some of the complaints on The Windows Insider Preview Program they read like some whiny sixteen year old kid wrote them, not the kind of concise and detailed reports that developers need to fix software bugs. “It doesn’t work” or “It crashes” is not helpful but that’s the kind of things that you’ll often read as comments and reports in The Windows Insider Preview Program. Are you starting to see why The Windows Insider Preview Program was destined for failure? Yeah…

As for the bugs that made their way into the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft claims that the Anniversary Update was the most highly tested version of Windows to date which is a flat-out lie. Nobody in their right mind runs those preview builds as a full time OS (unless you’re a masochist and you like punching yourself in the gut). So no wonder why so many bugs got through. And let’s not forget that to install an upgrade from one Insider Preview Program build to the next involves a process that’s very similar to installing a whole new operating system. Again, nobody in their right mind would run an Insider Preview Program build as a full time OS, even at home. Only a masochist would agree to running one of these builds as a full time OS.

A couple of months ago people were complaining on the Insider Preview Program that Microsoft was releasing too many builds back-to-back and these were people who were just testing this in lab conditions or people like me who were testing this stuff in virtual machines. Now imagine if someone was actually running these builds as a full-time OS? They would be pulling their hair out.

And as I said above, you need the kind of people who are willing to test something full time and don’t care if something goes horribly wrong. You have to have a dedicated team to do this kind of testing, you can’t expect normal people to be testing this stuff. You need people who are willing (and paid) to run test builds of an OS that don’t care if their system is thrown into complete chaos and thus forced to be reinstalled clean.

The Windows Insider Preview Program (and others like it) is not and will never be the answer to proper software testing. Software companies still need internal testing teams to do the hard work before releasing beta versions. What passes as Insider Preview Program Builds these days smell more like very early beta versions, I’d even go so far as to say they’re alpha versions. Unfortunately Microsoft fired much of their internal testing teams to be replaced by the developers themselves and that’s another recipe for disaster. Developers make the worst testers just like medical professionals make the worst patients. They know how things are supposed to work and thus they can’t test something adequately because they’re testing it from the perspective of someone who knows how it should work and aren’t testing for those edge-cases. You need people who are willing to bang on something and intentionally break it. And sometimes, breaking something is an art. I know people who can break stuff easily while I sit back and scratch my head wondering just what the hell they did.