Sunday, December 23, 2018

"Your Windows Is Not Genuine"

I had a minor issue recently: my laptop background image disappeared, the screen turned black, and there was a message at the bottom right of the screen saying, "This version of Windows is not genuine." Clicking the link to fix it only took me to a "Page Not Found" error on the Microsoft website.

Now, I wasn't surprised to hear the software wasn't quite genuine; I had downloaded the installation software from Microsoft, but I bought the license from an online marketplace.... Microsoft won't sell you a license for Windows 7, haven't for a few years now... they want you to buy Windows 10.  BUT, if they were going to hiccup over the license, the proper time for that would have been when I activated it, over a year ago... when there was at least a chance the vendor would have refunded my purchase price.

I tried System Restore; no help, so I performed an 'Undo' of the restore so as not to have to reinstall the handful of utilities I had updated earlier in the week.  At this point, I should have turned to the best friend a computer nerd ever had: Google.  But no, I had a better idea: I clicked on Change Product Key, thought I'd try plugging in the license key again, see if it had just gotten corrupted in the Registry.  I know, stupid idea, but I have a monumental ego, and I was certain I could handle this without help.

I was wrong.

So now the computer says it has 30 days to activate, or it will stop working.

I had a backup... two, in fact.  I backed up the computer beforehand, just in case my repair didn't work as expected, then restored from the newest backup.  Seemed to work, so I deleted the oldest backup to make room for another after I updated all the programs that I routinely install.  Wish I had checked the activation status before I wiped that older backup... apparently I had backed it up before activating Windows.

anyhoo... After I gave up on my well-intentioned but ultimately foolish path of self-reliance, I turned to my best friend, Google, and the first NON-Microsoft link in the results was everything I wish I had known before I started futzing around with it:

Essentially, there are three steps:
  1. Turn off Automatic Updates;
  2. Uninstall Windows Update KB971033;
  3. Reset the Software Licensing Manager.
Instructions on accomplishing these steps are on the Web page indicated above.

I know a lot of folks will balk at turning off Microsoft Updates.  All I can say is, I've thought for the last few years that Windows Updates do more harm than good.  In my opinion, which is admittedly only valid for me, if you have a good anti-virus installed and don't do stupid stuff, you can live without most updates.

One more thing, though... if you use IOBit's Advanced SystemCare, which I recommend, you'll need to disable checking for Vulnerability Fixes; otherwise, even with Windows Updates disabled, ASC will download and install the offending update again.

As for me... I can't buy a legitimate Windows license from Microsoft, and I assume the rest of the licenses I bought online are also blocked.  I could revert it to Windows Vista, the license for that is still on the case, but let's be honest:  if Vista had been worth a flying fig, I wouldn't have upgraded to Windows 7 in the first place.

I'm sure this ten year old laptop will run Linux like a champ, much faster and more safely and reliably than it ever ran Windows Vista or '7.  Take that, Redmond.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Change Is A Good Thing, Right?

Okay... so I got my website from back in 2006.  I read HTML For Dummies, spent a few weeks experomenting and fine-tuning, and created a primitive website... which hasn't changed all that much in the last twelve and a half years.

I didn't change, but my host did.  1and1 got bought/absorbed/merged with Ionos, a German company.  Not sure, but I think 1and1 might have been German, too.  Anyhoo, the cost of owning just the website name increased by 100%; and in a two-step process, the hosting fees for actually storing and displaying the site content increased by 150%.  There were no new features added... instead, my trouble report page disappeared when the new owners decided not to support 'web objects' any longer.  So, less functionality, and the site that cost $82 a year when I was keeping the proceeds for myself costs $200 now that I'm giving every penny I earn fixing computers to a dog rescue...

No, Thanks.  Pretty sure I can do better.  I'm turning off the auto-renewal for the name and the hosting; when the current hosting contract comes up for renewal in May, I'll abandon the site.  They can keep the last six months of the name registration.  I believe my simple site will run from within my blog; I'll do some testing, find out for sure before May.

[addendum:  turns out the new hosting bill was for a year, not the six-month period they used to bill for.  So... the rate hasn't increased as much as I thought it had, but I'll still look at moving, just because there's no good reason to pay for what you might could get for free. Am_I_Right?]

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Software Recommendation

I stumbled across this source of free multimedia software: DVDVideoSoft, from Digital Wave LTD, in Great Britain.  There are 29 different free Windows apps, each with one or two simple functions.  This approach means the apps can be 25-50% smaller, and that means they load faster.

Don't get me wrong: I still love the multimedia apps from Anysoft... I go back and forth between apps from the two companies. I'm just offering alternatives here. The individual apps can be downloaded here:

Digital Wave has created a sort of a packaging app called Free Studio that serves as a shell for the 22 apps they think you will use most often. It's available here:

Some of the apps load automatically, already included in Free Studio. The rest are grouped by category under five headers; clicking on an app that isn't already loaded will start the download and install process for adding it to the studio app.

[after I wrote this post, I tried using one or two of the utilities again.  They're great... but crippled.  To encourage you to buy, the download speed is throttled back to a crawl; you can get useful speed only by buying a license.  As of the day I'm writing this, Thanksgiving Day 2018, there's a sale going on:  ALL of the utilities they offer for a blanket fee of $29 for a year, or $39 for a lifetime site license.  I'm the first to agree that's a bargain basement price, but I'm much too cheap to pay a license fee for a program I can replace elsewhere for free.  Think I'll stick with Anysoft, but I'll leave this post up for anyone who might not be as frugal as I am.]

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Offline Virus Scans

I've been using a program called YUMI to run AVG virus scans from a thumb drive. It works fine most of the time, but I can't seem to make it work on a computer with a UEFI BIOS; they've been around for a few years now, but so far I've only worked on three or four, and have had poor luck booting any of them from a thumb drive.

While I'm sure I could overcome this obstacle if I really put my mind to it, there's no need... Microsoft to the rescue! (and you KNOW how much I hate saying anything good about Microsoft.) There's a web page out there where you can download a program that will create a bootable thumb drive, one that even works with UEFI BIOS PCs, open a Windows PE environment, and run a Windows Defender scan. Since it's a Windows PE boot, none of the files on your hard drive are protected as 'in use', and can be repaired or deleted if they are found to be infected.

Here's the page:
Here, you can download Windows Defender Offline:The links are at the bottom of the page; choose 32- or 64-bit as appropriate. Once the download completes, plug in a blank thumb drive, then double-click  mssstool32.exe  or  mssstool64.exe  in your Downloads folder; from here on, it's pretty much self-explanatory... you should be able to boot the computer from the thumb drive and scan the PC.
How's that for short and sweet?