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WGA service outage

October 5th, 2006 by Patrick S

Earlier this week a server on the backend of the WGA service experienced a bug that resulted in a temporary outage. As a result, some systems were incorrectly flagged as being non-genuine, and we want to confirm for those who contacted us about this that it was indeed an error.  The WGA team has apologized for any disruption this may have caused for our customers.
The bug that caused this issue was identified and fixed within twenty four hours of being discovered.

  1. Here are the specific steps that can be taken now to fix this issue on any affected system that isn’t genuine:
    Delete the data.dat file from C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Windows Genuine Advantage\data (The drive letter will depend on where the OS was installed)
  2. Revisit http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/downloads/validate.aspx to confirm whether the machine is genuine.
  3. Run wgatray.exe /b from the command line to ensure that the latest validation is updated for WGA Notifications.  This command may be absent from the user’s machine and should not be considered an error.  Please ensure that this is run as an Administrator.  A reboot may be required to remove all non-genuine notifications.

The team have also implemented a webpage with special instructions that will receive any traffic from systems that are running on product keys that could have been affected by this issue.

A KB Article has been written to further point the steps to take inorder to fix the problem.

Posted in Anti-Piracy, Bugs, Corporation, MS News, Windows XP | Comments Off on WGA service outage

Web-View Folder Vulnerability

October 3rd, 2006 by Patrick S

Windows allows you to view folders in a “web view”, complete with thumbnails of files etc. Turns out this functionality has a vulnerability. This vulnerability can be exploited remotely via an ActiveX component in Internet Explorer. And now there’s public exploit code available for this vulnerability. Over the last day or so, several malicious websites have inserted such code via IFRAMEs on their site.

You can’t patch your systems, as no official patch is available. Microsoft has an advisory out, explaining how you can disable the vulnerable ActiveX component via a registry change.
They are typically hidden with Javascript obfuscators, which we detect as “Trojan-Downloader.JS.Agent.ab” or similar. In the end, most of the exploits end up downloading binaries with names like “loaderadv499_3.exe”

Microsoft has issued a statement claiming that there will be a fix on October the 10th (Patch Thursday 🙂 )

That update again? Located here
Credits to F-secure for source

Posted in Security, Windows XP | Comments Off on Web-View Folder Vulnerability

Generic Host Process for Win32 Service – crashes and burns, but why?!?

October 1st, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

Normally I don’t post “personal” entries on here, either to do with my personal life and/or personal problems I’m having with my computer(s) but this one’s being a right pain and I’m actually concerned that other people may be having it too.

If you check out the Microsoft Online Crash Analysis (ID: 1501) then it explains basically what happens. As most of you know, the “Generic Host Process for Win32 Services” is “svchost.exe” in Task Manager. You’ll see that there’s usually at least 5 or 6 of them in Task Manager and it’s a very important service because it hosts other services and handles all the processes from DLL files – basically it’s a very important service and should never really be messed with unless you really know what you’re doing.

I sometimes turn my machine on and it’ll give me an error report saying that the “Generic Host Process for Win32 Services had to close” and it’ll let me report it. After I do so, it’ll take me to the Online Crash Analysis site as given above. Now this has only seemed to have happened on my laptop but on 5 different sets of operating systems and/or re-installations, and the problem only seems to come about after I install all the updates that it gives me. I’ve got Windows XP Media Center 2005 installed at the moment with all the updates, and it still happens. Is it just my laptop, or is it actually an automatic update which starts screwing things up?

There’s a fix available for this problem and it says that it’s a problem that happens when you install the update MS05-012, however it doesn’t freakin’ work! I’m really stumped to be honest – has anyone else got this error or seen it before? Has anyone got any information? Why the hell isn’t Microsoft doing something about it? Here’s my system information here and obviously take out the “sensitive” data – if anyone wants to look at it, feel free and let me know if anyone’s got any ideas.

 

Update by Jabez: According to a comment left by RRasco, the fix #2 from http://www.sizlopedia.com/2007/04/28/fix-generic-host-for-win32-process-error/ worked for him. Give it a shot!

Posted in Bugs, Rants, Windows XP | 29 Comments »

Why Windows Genuine Activation sucks

September 26th, 2006 by André Nogueira

Even if you don’t use Windows, it’s almost certain you’ve heard about activation – when you install Windows you can use it only for a few days without activating. After that, you’ll need to activate it (ie. communicate with a Microsoft server to tell it you’ve just installed Windows, and receive a message saying if it was successful or not) or it you’ll only be able to start Windows in safe mode.

But does Windows Genuine Activation (WGA) work? Not likely. Is it completely transparent and hassle-free for legitimate, paying customers? Maybe in a parallel universe, but not on Earth.

Being a beta tester for several companies I format my computers all the time. I have a handful of licences, but I don’t keep track of what licence is installed on what computer – the family computer has an OEM version of Windows installed, and on all other computers (which get formatted at most once a week) I use the first product key I can grab. I have 3 full XP licences for 2 computers, so I’m certainly not a pirate, right? Not according to Microsoft.

I don’t know how many activations you’re allowed to have during a given time period, but I’ve lost count of the number of times Internet activation failed because I had activated “too many times”. When this happens you have no alternative but to call – not too big a deal, right? Wrong. I don’t know how it’s like in the rest of the world, but at least in Portugal there are two phone numbers – a regular paid one, and a toll-free one. The problem? More and more people don’t have fixed phones anymore, just mobile phones, and here in Portugal you can’t call the toll free number from your mobile phone – you get a signal like the number didn’t exist. If you want to activate from a mobile phone, you have to pay the 10 minute phone call (this includes trying to activate by phone, hearing all the instructions you can’t skip – I’ve tried countless times – and explaining what happened to the operator you’re transfered to when activation fails).

Furthermore, your copy isn’t deactivated when you uninstall. Imagine you work on a small business which owns a boxed version of, say, Office. You’ll be doing a presentation later that week, so you install Office 2003 on your laptop, since now you only have Office 2000. You install and activate, but something went wrong with the upgrade – addins stopped working, random crashes… You format your computer, and install and activate Office 2003 again. This time everything works, but at the last moment you find that your laptop is too old to play that embeded video in your presentation, so you uninstall Office and install and activate it on your boss’s brand new laptop. Chances are you’ll have a problem activating, even though these are legitimate uses – you can have the boxed version installed on only one computer, which was the case here. However, because programs aren’t deactivated Microsoft thought Office was installed in 3 computers at the same time when in fact it was installed in only one. Trying to convince the operator that you’re not breaking the licence can be though, or at least take some time. And if you think this was just some made up story of what could happen, think again – this happened to me last Sunday.

But think about it – just who is prevented from installing pirated copies of Windows? Have pirated copies of Windows stopped circulating? They haven’t – on the contrary, with the widespread usage of peer-to-peer software it’s never been easier to find cracked software, including software which requires activation.

So to sum up… Is WGA serving its purpose? No, and I honestly don’t believe WGA in Vista will be any different. What WGA is doing – and it does this brilliantly – is annoy paying customers, preventing them from doing their work. I’ve lost count of the number of times I went to some company to prepare the computers for some presentation later that week, and ended up having to install OpenOffice.Org because I couldn’t activate their copies of Office. If anything, WGA is the #1 reason for people to stop using Office and Windows.

Resources which are currently being wasted with WGA could very well be used for more interesting projects – perhaps make some Microsoft Research prototypes a reality, or creating new products all together. As it is, WGA is doing nothing more than making Windows, Office and other products which use it a bit more expensive because of the money spent on developing and maintaining it.

Edit: It was suggested in the comments section that I simply don’t activate Office and Windows, since I will be reinstalling them anyway. Since Office (at least all the versions I’m using) limit you to opening Office applications X times, I have to activate. I can’t take the chance of needing to edit a document or make a presentation, and have Office tell me “Sorry, you can’t – you need to activate”. Regarding Windows, it could work if it weren’t for the fact that without activating I can’t get access to Windows Update and a lot of downloads on Microsoft Download Center. To be able to fully use those two services, you need to have an activated copy of Windows (not all downloads from the Download Center require activation, but many do).

Posted in Computing, Microsoft, MS News, Windows Vista, Windows XP | 11 Comments »

Folder Bug in XP-Wont allow port names

September 4th, 2006 by Patrick S

Just read something interesting on a message board ,

An Indian discovered that nobody can create a FOLDER anywhere on the computer which can be named as a port on your computer (such as CON, LPT1 etc etc.)
This also works when you try to create a file called “CON”, or “CON.”. “.CON” shows up the way it should. It’s comes back from the DOS days.

Thus the following wont work: CON, AUX, COM1, COM2, COM3, COM4, LPT1, LPT2, LPT3, PRN or NUL.
Give it a try if you want-I have not tested it on vista but I suspect it won’t work either Confirmed…Works on vista (thanks Jordan)

Another Useless fact from me 🙂

Posted in Bugs, Humour, Windows XP | 13 Comments »

Windows Internet Explorer hits RC1

August 24th, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

Here we go folks – hot off the presses, Windows Internet Explorer hits Release Candidate 1 at build 5700, and yes this means that there are daily builds of Windows Vista running at 5700 at least but big wow… Vista RC1 won’t be anywhere near 5700, just to clarify!

Download for Windows XP SP2
Download for Windows Server 2003 SP1 and R2
Download for Windows Internet Explorer 7 RC1 Release Notes

Edit: you can download them also much easier and for more different types of operating system here

Posted in Internet Explorer, Windows Server System, Windows XP | Comments Off on Windows Internet Explorer hits RC1

Massive urge to install critical Windows patches

August 12th, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

 For those who haven’t seen Kristan’s previous entry, this is just to reitterate what he said, and another major urge for all Windows users to update their systems.

Microsoft released this statement and article (Microsoft Security Bulletin MS06-040) on the 8th August, urging all users of Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, all versions of Windows XP (SP1 and SP2) and all versions of Windows Server 2003 (including SP1).

Very special attention however, those in the beta program of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, you must go to the Connect pages, go to the Download sections and install all the updates given there.

The US Department of Homeland Security issued a statement as well which is unusual for them, because they saw this is as such a huge issue. The NISCC (National Infrastructure Security Coordination Center, which is the computing section of MI5, the British Security Service) also issued a statement saying how important these are.

It’s very rare for national security bodies to react to such things, but this is a critical update and must be patched. Microsoft have opened the downloads to all users, regardless of whether you’re running a genuine version or not, because it can spread and infect any Windows computer running Windows 2000 Professional and above.

 Download these updates now

Posted in Security, Windows XP | 1 Comment »

MSFT to offer Vista Coupons

August 11th, 2006 by Patrick S

A few years ago when whistler (XP) was just around the corner many people put off the purchasing of a computer until the new OS was released (so they wouldn’t have to upgrade in the near future). So what about vista… XP is to be outdated soon so what will consumers do then?

The solution? Coupons. According to what is essentially third-hand but still reliable information, Microsoft has struck a deal with many PC manufacturers to offer coupons to their buyers in the fourth quarter of 2006, when Vista was supposed to be released. The coupons can then be redeemed for a copy of Vista upon its release in first quarter 2007. The arrangement was hammered out back in July, but MS is expected to keep quiet on it until at least October to not harm third quarter sales instead.

The leak has been confirmed inadvertently by at least one company: Ray Chen, President of Compal Electronics, acknowledged the deal in an investor meeting this week. He commented that the availability of both Intel Merom processors and a coupon for Windows Vista would point to a stronger fourth quarter sales than expected, as well as first quarter of 2007.

So, it looks like Bob Cratchit can go ahead and get that Vista ready laptop for Tiny Tim in time for Christmas after all. Awwwwww, Bill Gates saves Michael Dell’s Christmas! All sarcasm aside, though, it seems like a wise move by MS when you consider the delays – more computers will be sold, and users will pay for the proper Vista license when they buy it.
Source Bit-Tech

Posted in Computing, MS News, Windows Vista, Windows XP | Comments Off on MSFT to offer Vista Coupons

Ed Bott: Another WGA Failure

August 10th, 2006 by Kristan M. Kenney

Ed Bott, a respected journalist at ZDNet, has posted a very interesting article describing his encounter with Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy system.

On July 18, Microsoft’s WGA team promised to send me a disk with a product key from their blocked list. It was supposed to arrive via overnight service, but it was never sent. After several follow-up messages, I was assured on July 26 I would have something by the end of that week. The package finally arrived the next week, on August 1. It contained a CD-R with a handwritten label that read “Windows XP SP2 – VLK,” and a 25-character product key on a small slip of paper.

Over the weekend, I hoisted the Jolly Roger, cleared a partition on a test machine, slid the CD into the drive, and prepared to join the ranks of Windows pirates. Unfortunately, the product key that Microsoft had sent me didn’t work.

Quite a good read, check it out at ZDNet.

Posted in Anti-Piracy, Windows XP | Comments Off on Ed Bott: Another WGA Failure

Windows Media Player 11 will RTM on September 14th

August 7th, 2006 by Patrick S

Our friends over at The Hotfix have obtained reliable information stating that Windows Media Player 11 for XP will RTM on September 14th, 2006.

They outlined that they obtained exclusive this information from the same very reliable Microsoft source who gave them a dead-on accurate date for the Public Preview of WMP11 a few months back.

Source Hotfix article

Posted in MS News, Products, Windows XP | Comments Off on Windows Media Player 11 will RTM on September 14th

Toolkit to Disable Automatic Delivery of Internet Explorer 7

July 28th, 2006 by Patrick S

With the upcoming mandatory update of Internet Explorer 7 via Windows Update  for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 soon after the final version of the browser is released (planned for fourth quarter 2006),  many System Admins will be up in arms (especially the ones that loathe IE). Never fear Microsoft have released a patch making a non-expiring Blocker Toolkit available for those organizations that would like to block automatic delivery of Internet Explorer 7 to machines in environments where Automatic Updates is enabled.

  • The Blocker Toolkit will prevent machines from receiving Internet Explorer 7 as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates and the “Express” install option on the Windows Update and Microsoft Update sites. The Blocker Toolkit will not expire.
  • The Blocker Toolkit will not prevent users from manually installing Internet Explorer 7 as a Recommended update from the Windows Update or Microsoft Update sites, from the Microsoft Download Center, or from external media.
  • Organizations do not need to deploy the Blocker Toolkit in environments managed with an update management solution such as Windows Server Update Services or Systems Management Server 2003. Organizations can use those products to fully manage deployment of updates released through Windows Update and Microsoft Update, including Internet Explorer 7, within their environment.

You can find the download right here. (Validation required)

-Patrick S

Posted in Internet Explorer, MS News, Products, Windows Server System, Windows XP | Comments Off on Toolkit to Disable Automatic Delivery of Internet Explorer 7

Microsoft Private Folder to be AXED

July 15th, 2006 by Patrick S

Last week i posted about the ‘new’ Microsoft Private Folder 1.0. Being the first on the block with this new news we were lucky enough to get a lot of comments from System Admins explaining how this new tool could cause serious nightmares (users hiding & locking admins out of files etc)

This will be a real support problem. Imagine someone maliciously places important files in the folder and deletes the originals. Someone pointed out that this isn\’t a new feature. But this version is poorly thought out since previously if one used EFS it has a key management system so that if someone forgets their password or leaves the company it is possible to retrieve files. Since this one has no documentation it isn\’t possible to determine what to do for such a case. I think smaller businesses have the most jeopardy since typically they aren\’t locked down tightly. And people who are instructed not to install software won\’t think twice \ (Quote from George [MSBLOG comment]) 

Well Microsoft have heard these pleads for help and are to pull this new tool from the Genuine Microsoft Download site. This product was a good tool for home users etc but could possibly become a real problem to unsecured networks…

Whatever the reason Microsoft pulled it our very own Andre N has his own view on the pull of this software…
“The file comes in a .msi file – it has to be installed. Don’t companies forbid people from installing software on their machines? If they don’t, they worry about people creating a password protected folder, when they can go ahead and install any software they want – including software which includes spyware/etc?”

You can still downlaod this application for the meantime…Find it here 🙂

Posted in MS News, Products, Security, Windows XP | 7 Comments »

still living in 98?

July 6th, 2006 by Patrick S

“The second Tuesday of this month brings something else in addition to Microsoft Security Updates. July 11th will also mark the end of Windows 98/ME technical support. It’s now the end of their lifecycle. At least at Microsoft.

According to IDC figures, there are an estimated 70 million 98/ME machines still in operation worldwide. Searching for news stories on the topic yields a good number of results from India. Older hardware and the costs of upgrading can be a very limiting factor for some.

So what to do if you’re still running an older OS? Make sure that you have a good antivirus product and a firewall. Check out Microsoft’s Security At Home 98 & ME for more information.”

F Secure weblog

Posted in MS News, Products, Windows XP | 1 Comment »

Microsoft Private Folder 1.0

July 6th, 2006 by Patrick S

Microsoft have released Private Folder 1.0, which lets you have a folder called ‘My Private Folder’ which you can password protect.pvtfolder
Microsoft Private Folder 1.0 is a useful tool for you to protect your private data when your friends, colleagues, kids or other people share your PC or account. With this tool, you will get one password protected folder called ‘My Private Folder’ in your account to save your personal files.

You can grab a copy of it HERE (However this requires a “Genuine” version of Windows-As most free Microsoft software requires now days.)

Patrick S

Posted in Computing, Products, Windows XP | 129 Comments »

TCP/IP Fundamentals for Microsoft Windows

June 30th, 2006 by Patrick S

Microsoft have released a structured, introductory approach to the basic concepts and principles of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) protocol suite, how the most important protocols function, and their basic configuration in the Microsoft® Windows Server® 2003 and Windows® XP operating systems. This book is primarily a discussion of concepts and principles to lay a conceptual foundation for the TCP/IP protocol suite and provides an integrated discussion of both Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

This 545 Page .pdf booklet has everything you will ever need to know about IPv4 and the new IPv6 Protocols.
Grab yourself a copy of it HERE

Posted in Products, Windows Server System, Windows XP | 2 Comments »

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