All posts by McAkins

MS MVP and TechSpec fighting MS FUDs online. Love this creative process called Technology. The Atoms and molecules shaping our existence. More at http://mcakins.com/about
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Have I been Hacked by Nokia? Weird MS Account Issue

I am in the habit of regularly auditing my MS Account information as I want to know where my threat vectors are coming from. I am looking at you guys from Russia, please leave my account alone, will you! :)

Anyways, seriously now, I took a look a minute ago and I noticed something out of place. There is a Successful Login entry on my timeline last Thursday; from UK!

That is far outside my operational zone! So far even I’ll need to catch a plane to be there physically. And what troubles me most is the Browser/App reported: Unknown. Now I am a die-hard IE user. I intentionally use IE so I could be on the InfoSec warfront; contrary to what popular opinion is that IE is for NOOBs. Normally IE would have shown up there that says Unknown Browser if it were me.

Now, I know for sure I wasn’t in UK on that day, as I was still on vacation somewhere else. Normally my line of work require that I use VPN connection to work, and accessing my MS Account during my VPN connection gives a skewed login location of my company central server location that is well known in my timeline, but on that Thursday I was off duty, and my VPN access is mostly somewhere else totally.

So I did what a normal InfoSec person would do, I went to IPAddress.com for the WHOIS info of the IP address and my bacon was stolen! I have been hacked from Nokia HQ UK!

How is this possible. I thought Nokia is one of the good guys right? Could IPAddress.com get this wrong, I went to other WHOIS tools, they all told the same story, I have been hacked by Nokia. Now I don’t believe I am that important that Nokia would go after me, neither do I believe there is a Nokia Admin that needs my attention.

I just want to know how this is possible. I remembered Nokia had a Keynoting event on the day that I watched online, but I didn’t have to login at that time with my MS account, and even if I did, it wouldn’t have registered me at UK. What other event did I have last week that has to do with Nokia? Yeah, I downloaded the Recovery Tool but that was also without login. So what the freak is going on? Has any of you experience this kind of place-shift?

This is a riddle for any of you InfoSec experts out there. The way I see this. Nokia have been hacked, and the hacker used Nokia’s network to get to me. But I see this as least path effort as I haven’t got anything that any Hacker would go the length of hacking a renowned company to reach me. So what is this? Go ahead people, theorize. I am curious to your thoughts on this. In the meantime, excuse me while I clean up my MS Account.

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Pen Showcase NYT Crossword Puzzle App Released

A while back during Surface Pro 3 launch Microsoft showcased a special Crossword App from NYT that perfectly showed why Active Pen is not a pushover on a tablet. Doing Crossword puzzle on a tablet with a pen gives such a natural feel to it. It is like writing on paper. With handwriting recognition, a technology that Microsoft leads its competition decades ahead, the app can easily transcribe your written letters and numbers into digital formats that can be used in the crossword.

Following is the App description in the Store:

The best crossword in the world is better than ever! Enjoy the same puzzles printed in the daily newspaper on the only mobile crossword app built by The New York Times.

The New York Times Crossword is free to download, and all users get unlimited access to the daily puzzle and calendar archive for 7 days. After that, subscribe for full access to The Crossword on Windows 8 and at NYTimes.com.

PLAY ANYWHERE

Your subscription now gives you access to The Crossword on NYTimes.com at no additional charge! Just connect or create an account in your account settings and Play Anywhere. Your Windows puzzle progress will be saved and available on the web and vice versa!

DAILY PUZZLE

It’s the same puzzle that’s printed every day in The New York Times newspaper. All daily puzzles are available the previous day at 10p EST with a subscription, so enjoy Tuesday’s puzzle on Monday at 10p! Practice and learn how to solve the puzzle on Monday or Tuesday or challenge yourself with even harder puzzles later in the week.

PEN

If you have a Surface tablet, you can solve the way crosswords were meant to be solved: write directly on the puzzle as you would in the newspaper!

PAST PUZZLES

Subscribers also enjoy nearly 20 years of classic puzzles from our archives.

MODERN PUZZLE FEATURES

Solve puzzles that include new tricks like rebuses, highlighted or underlined squares, and more!

Feedback? Suggestions? Issues? Please contact us at NYTCrossword@NYTimes.com or from within the app itself. Your feedback is important to us and we’ll do our best to assist you.

Please note: subscription to The New York Times Crossword does not include access to any other New York Times products, including but not limited to NYTimes.com or mobile news content, e-reader editions, Times Premier, NYT Now, or any other apps.

Given the quality of this app, I am actually surprised New York Times is making it free of charge in the Store. This is rather unexpected, except if Microsoft delivered most of the man-hours on the app of course.

If you have a Surface Pro or any Windows device with a Pen, this was made for you. I guess Dell Venue Pro is gonna become a treasure now for Crosswords addicts who own the cheap device. Although if you don’t own a pen, you can still use the app with touch or also on a desktop as usual.

Go download the app now, courtesy of NYT and Microsoft I’m suspecting. Download via the following link:

Credit: Windows Store
http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/nyt-crossword/18fde24c-e748-482a-b2c1-e5a877e017b5

Microsoft Garage details Microsoft’s Cloud Security Strategy

I mentioned yesterday that Microsoft doesn’t hide the fact that any system can be broken, they embraced the fact and built their security initiatives that bad can and will happen to data. Now you can hear it for yourselves from a Lead Architect of Microsoft Cloud Computing platform Mark Russinovich. He was talking to Microsoft Garage series host today about how MS goes about protecting your data in the Cloud. Lets hope the competition are taking a page from this.

Now jump to 11:45 in the video and hear Mark confirm what I told you yesterday. MS assumes no matter how good your security is, it will be breached. You just have to mitigate to limit the damage. Go Microsoft.

Microsoft Details it’s Online Safety History

While Apple is today busy burying it’s head deeper into the sands, Microsoft chose to detail it’s track records with Online Safety initiatives of its Trustworthy Computing Policy efforts. What a marked difference between the two Internet giants. One is too busy denying they’re vulnerable, the other is accepting the fact that any system is vulnerable, you just do your best to protect your users.

Go see Microsoft’s efforts through the years on their Trustworthy Computing page. The fact that they chose today to come out with this news in contrast to Apple could be purely a coincidence, or genius plan of Microsoft to contrast itself since it gets neglected and ridiculed for its amazing efforts on security. Just download the Safety Milestone report alone (PDF), you’ll be amazed how far back this company has been dealing with security issues. The file is a treasure trove of information and a worthy perusal.

Now if only those in the distortion field would just wake up and read it. But then, it will remain a dream, for now.

Apple pushes its head further into the sand

Boy, I knew this was coming, still it was disappointment when it comes. The wait is over, Apple has come to town on the rootcause of the Celebrities nude breach, yes, it wasn’t Apple’s fault as usual. How could we have guessed different. Apple confirmed there was a breach, but it was because users were not using strong password, leading to folks being able to guess their passwords.

That a perpetual repetition of login attempt was used till the right password was found was not mentioned. And I meant perpetual repetition of dictionary words. Thousands, sometimes millions of guesses being passed to Apple system till the right one is passed and access is granted. Pray do tell, iCloud users, do you guess your logins a thousand times before you give up? No, no sane person would guess their own login that long. So why does Apple’s system allow it.

This is the 21st century, no self-respecting system allows more than 5 guesses before locking up access to the system. So why does script-kiddies succeed in guessing thousands and thousands of attempts at login. No, it is not Apples fault touting a security platform of the 80’s, it is the users fault for not using strong password.

But guess what? Apple will get another pass again. It is almost Keynote time at Apple’s, none of your favorite tech blogger will dare to question Apple for the fear of not being invited to the Church. I don’t blame Apple, I blame the teeming masses that continue to give Apple a pass in all its laxities.

Just like SSL bug, another ridicule is allowed to pass as water under the bridge. I just pity those poor users who doesn’t know better.

My final question to Apple: If your infra was not involved in this breach, why the need to ask your users of Find My Phone service to re-authenticate themselves yesterday? I thought all was good with the platform?

You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people, all the time. One day, they’ll see through your smoke screen. Yes, it wasn’t Apple’s fault, it’s the users’ fault for trusting them with their lives.

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OneNote Power-User Tips – Part 2

I have decided to publish my compilations of tips on efficient use of OneNote. I published Part 1 a few weeks back.

  • On low-powered x86 devices like Dell VP8 use the OneNote MX only, even if you could install the Desktop version. Desktop Apps are not battery efficient avoid using them on these devices if you could.
  • OneNote MX doesn’t allow you to attach files for now. But it allows you to use or access attached files. So attach needed files via OneNote Desktop then let it sync to OneNote MX and use them there. (File attachment now supported with latest updates to OneNote)
  • Keep High Volume, Low Access Notes only online and on principal devices. Create a low volume version that you can have on all devices from which you can move sections and items to the Online Archives.
  • Keep an eye on your OneNote size, move sections out for very large volume OneNote into new Notebooks
  • Make judicious use of Sections to organize thoughts and Categories
  • Keep number of Notebooks on low capacity tablets to absolute necessary, sync has cost for data if you have mobile data connection.
  • Identify mobile data connection on your tablet as Metered Connection so OneNote doesn’t sync on that connection. Sync preferably on WiFi only. This is important if you’re using your smartphone as WiFi Access Point to your tablets etc.
  • If you’re not sure of Sync times, choose to sync manually by turning Auto-Sync off in the settings.

You may not realize it, but OneNote comes with a powerful OCR built-In. This is one of the area where OneNote separates itself from competition.

  • This can come in handy when you need to get data out of a picture, and it is a boon to students who exchange screenshots etc. Right click on any picture and choose Copy Text then paste to any app or in OneNote itself for further edits. You’ll notice mis-recognition here and there depending on the quality of the text in the picture, these you have to manually correct.

Import Slides from PowerPoint:

  • If you search for this topic online you’ll get various hits all mentioning to import slides via PrintOuts or the so called “Print to OneNote” feature. Since Office 2010, you can actually copy and paste slides directly into OneNote.
  • There is a bug in OneNote MX that will prevent you from pasting more than one slide from PowerPoint. The first slide in your selection is always pasted. I have made this known to Microsoft, lets hope they’ve got a fix for it.

Watch out for Print-Outs, they’re top-heavy and costly in terms of space: Original PDF file:

PrintOut OneNote file container of the same file:

The original PDF file of 2.54Mb size in now a humongous 25.9MB folder of printouts. Now that OneNote MX supports file attachment, you don’t need to printout anymore unless you need to annotate. Printouts will make your OneNote database unnecessarily large, thereby affecting sync efficiency.

I will continue to update this list with new entries as they come to mind. You can also pass your favorite tips to the community via comments below.

Apple Painted itself into a Corner

With all the nude leaks going on these last days, all linked to iCloud breach, and the thundering silence of Apple to respond officially to the allegations, I am smelling a rat. It is two days after the fact, and Apple is yet to go to town with their manipulative attitudes. That smells to me fishy. It is unlike Apple to keep quiet for so long. Even with a single gram of salt, they would have gone to town in damage-control mode.

All these points as far as I am concerned to the fact the damage is so tremendous, that it requires special handling. You see the problem is, this is Apple that told the world they are the “most secured” platform on planet earth. The SwitcherAds adage still rings in the ear with “We are Apple, we don’t get viruses” pompous exclamation.

This very hubris is turning out now to be the Apple’s downfall in security. When you’ve conditioned the world to accept that you’re invincible and all bullets just bounce off you thick hide, then it is difficult to now turn around and confess to the world that your platform is as porous as any other’s on the planet.

Once is an accident, twice is a curiosity, thrice is a habit. The number of Security breaches taking place in Apple’s paradise is becoming epidemic. The laxity of Apple to build security into it’s product at foundational level is now coming back to bite them where it hurts most.

We’ve told the masses that there is not a single company that knows security like Microsoft. When you’re the planet’s atlas, carrying 90% of the world OS usage on your shoulder, you’re the big target for malicious hackers. Microsoft has learnt its lessons by pressing the reset button with its Secured Computing initiative in the Vista timeframe. Right now, they are centuries ahead of competition in security. We’ve told you all along, now we’re being vindicated.

Who are you going to trust with your precious data in the Cloud. Well my choice is clear. My choice goes to that company that has been battle-tested, and so should yours. Now let’s continue to wait on Apple’s spin-doctors, to see which diversionary tactics they’re going to employ this time around.

Image Credits:

From <http://thestickmanspeaks.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/painted-into-a-corner.jpg>

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Updated! Posting to WordPress Blogs with OneNote Only

Credits: PGSRamblings

Windows Live Writer is god-tool to all Bloggers, no matter your file and rank. That is the first tool you install after installing any OS upgrade. Windows 8 is no difference to this rule, except there is a problem. If you decide to go the route of mobile computing and minimalistic blogging on the go, there’s no way to do that with Microsoft Surface or Surface 2. These are pure ARM devices that doesn’t allow you to install any other Desktop apps except for the ones that came with it from the factory.

So you can’t install Windows Live Writer, bummer you said. No buying of Surface for you. Well I have good news for you. Whatever your reason will be, lack of Windows Live Writer will no more be your excuse.

Those that follow me on Twitter know my whining to @Automattic every once in a while about the lack-luster WordPress app for Win8 they dropped in the Store about two years ago, and promptly forgotten about it. It hasn’t received a single update in two years. In this App, you’re practically limited to basic editing, and no local attachment of pictures. Yes, you can add internet pictures, but anything local is burst. I have begged them to fix this app to no avail.

Then I started thinking critically, this is the 21st Century, live should be easier than this. For me, I have moved from Desktop Apps to fully mobile experience. I don’t install Desktop apps on any of my x86 Tablets, (Have about 3 of them), I can’t install on MS Surface that I love so much. I have gone the green route on my Desktops, so the less Desktop Apps the better.

Then I remembered something from the young days of WordPress, they allow you to publish to your blogs by mail posts. Ok, lets check if it still exists in the 21st century, and there you are! It’s still a supported feature!

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a glaring security risk, WordPress gives you a mail address to which you could mail anything and it will get published immediately. Therefore, if anyone should get hold of your address book, they can basically publish to your blog. But that is less frustration if you can manage the security of your devices. Now, let’s check if that mail feature supports full HTML markup. Picture and all. Voila! It does.

So, there it is, WordPress problem on Windows Metro solved. We have a better tool in Windows 8 that is far better than Windows Live Writer, it is called OneNote. I don’t need to tell you about OneNote, it is an app that any Information junkie should be using. Period.

Now suppose I could compose my blog posts in OneNote, with its rich writing experience, spell-check, and formatting experience, I could just press the Share to button, select to Share to Windows 8 Mail App, select my Blog WordPress mail address and presto, a blog post. I am in paradise!

I used the above technique to post the McAkins Online Article below:

Open Share Charm, select to share to Mail App:

You get the full OneNote article in the Share Pane. Remove the OneNote Title metadata and Mail Signatures as shown in Yellow below. WordPress will use the Mail Subject line that has be entered for you by OneNote, you can of course change the title here.

Press the Send Mail button and you’re done. Your post is live within half a minute. One disadvantage to this is that the posts are published under “UnCategorized” or default category. Also there are no tags, no excerpts etc. You have to login to WordPress to do these updates. But at least, you now have the chance from OneNote to Publish in no time.

[UPDATE] What a joy, please neglect above strike-throughs. You can use shortcodes in your mail to specify all necessary tags and category information, and delay or set posting time! Just scroll a bit down on the page and read all about it.

Of course this is a temporary solution till Automattic decides to update their WordPress client in the Windows Store. We just have to bear the little risk that if anyone hack your addressbook, they also have access to your site publications till you change the publish email address for your blog site.

(For those waiting for my second treatise about OneNote, please consider this as the second publication. I wanted to show you also the workaround on how to attach files to OneNote, but that is already a supported feature in OneNote now. My excuse for being late with that.)

Dusting off McAkins Online

Credits: TQN.com

Ladies and gentlemen, we want to thank you for your patience with us for going AWoL on you these past two months. Naz was going through physical expatriation, and I was going through a hard time at work before going on a much deserved vacation of full 4-weeks.

Those of you that follow us on Twitter of course know I was doing micro-blogging the whole time. I just didn’t have the time nor the energy to write full quality blog posts like you’re used to from us.

Naz and I are now finally settling down. We promise to start bringing back awesome to McAkins Online. We thank @MajorSky17 for filling the gaps for us in our absence with nostalgic news videos about past Microsoft OSes. Now we are all back, and ready to bring you the usual Tech news from around the world.

Thank you and stay tuned.

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High System Interrupts CPU Usage in Windows 8

This past period I re-loaded my Desktop PC to use one of the modern APU from AMD. I went from a powerful Quad-Core system to an APU On-board low power system. I did this out of a conscious choice to start limiting my impact on carbon emission and of course lower my utility bills. I am mostly in browse or Coding mode most of the time, I don’t game at all, so my need for a monster powered system of decades ago, is no more responsible in this green age. I mean, my desktop is like 24hr alive, so this is really necessary.

After the re-load, I was faced with two issues immediately. Video Driver issues which I wouldn’t bother you with in this article. I was eventually able to fix it by double installation of Win8. Simply to refresh the system.

The second and persistent problem was the high CPU usage of the System Interrupts.

Mine was running on constant average of 20% which as a Windows expert I know it means trouble in paradise. In the IDE HDD years, you know this means a HDD is using low level mode instead of the DMA mode. But these days, all HDDs use DMA mode, just to be sure, I wanted to check, yup, all my HDDs are on UDMA mode. So what could be causing this headache. High Interrupt use means warm CPU and waste of energy.

I scoured the internet for a solution, none are relevant to me. Now there is no tool that I know of that can show you Interrupt CPU usage and from where the break requests are coming from. So I decided something that years of experience has taught me: Defragment your HDD when having Perf issues.

Well, it worked like a charm, I defragged the System Drive fully, offline fully if you know what I mean. The result is what you see above. Interrupts now averages 0.5%.

So there you go guys, maintain your spinning HDDs, it helps. Of course this solution will not/should not apply to SSDs, but unfortunately, those are also notorious to frags. But you should let Windows maintain SSDs as recommended by Microsoft. As you know they have limited Write life compared to traditional HDDs.

XP Still Not Completely Dead to Microsoft

 

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Today I fired up an old XP box just out of curiosity to see the security status of XP anno June 2014, and lo and behold I have one Security update which in this case is the Malicious Software Removal for June 2014.

Then I thought while we are at it, lets see the status of MS Security Essentials, and yes, it is still being updated daily by MS as you can see below:

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Like I initially reported and contrary to popular opinion, MS has not completely abandoned XP users, it is still making sure they are not the Internet Trojans everyone is purporting them to be after EoL.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you should still sit on XP, it is a dead OS. You may be making the Net unsafe for all of us as is. You don’t want to come to a Gun warfare with a knife. Get off of this time bomb called XP now while you still safely can.

Windows Phone File Manager “Files” now in the Store

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Microsoft jumps the gun and released the Windows Phone file manager simply called “Files” today in the Windows phone store instead of waiting till June as we’ve heard earlier. Everyone knows MS is working on the file manager, there have been a few tweets even a few weeks past from top program managers informing the world, and the general consensus was this will break in June. Well here we are 30th of May a day earlier, the file manager was just tweeted by the head himself, our beloved Joe Belfiore says as follows: Continue reading

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Making OneNote MX Better – Part 1

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Some people have recently discovered Microsoft’s OneNote and within no time it has become a tool of choice to organize their lives. Rightly so.

As for me, I was using OneNote when it was first known as the Clipboard in Microsoft NetMeeting. Believe it or not, in those days even long after NetMeeting died, I would install NetMeeting just to use its clipboard. It was so easy to use as a digital-scratch book; to dump your daily experience and for those rare moments in life when a lamp lights up on top of your head.

It was joy then to see, when the NetMeeting people branched out the Clipboard as a standalone app that we know today as OneNote. It has become the joy of my life, both professionally and in private life. I just can’t imagine life now without OneNote. Oh yes, for those of you that don’t know your history and swear by EverNote, OneNote was there when they lifted the idea to create EverNote.

So enough of history. This post is about making OneNote MX better. I was a fan of OneNote for Desktop, all of its iterations, but I have moved fully over to OneNote MX. That is the Touch-enabled version of OneNote for Windows 8 Metro interface.

The reason I prefer the MX version is simple. I am a multi-device person, I love OneNote ubiquity to death. Therefore I have lot of my personal and professional Knowledgebase on OneNote. I do a lot of casual reading thus on my tablets. Secondly, I am gradually weaning myself off of the Desktop. It is history. Desktop environment sucks battery life on mobile devices. The less desktop apps you have running the longer your battery life.

So here is OneNote MX rocking my life, but I miss a lot of the features I’ve come to depend upon in the Desktop version as follows:

  • Documents and Media Attachments:

Figure 1: OneNote Desktop with full Inserts.
Figure 1: OneNote Desktop with full Inserts.

  • Audio/Video Inserts with Time Sync
  • Password Protected Notes creation and consumption
  • Ability to add Caption to pictures

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Figure 2: The New Store as example of Picture with Caption

 

Those are Desktop version features that I miss the most, I am sure you can think up a few for yourselves. Now unto feature requests for OneNote MX:

  • Support Ink Stroke smoothing on ALL devices. On Dell Venue 8 Pro, Dell has improved inking a thousand times than when it was released. But it’s still a joke compared to Wacom strokes. This can be helped with stroke smoothing. If the Wacom Bamboo App can smooth strokes on my 8″ device so should OneNote MX.
  • This one is for all Bloggers who are suckers for OneNote:

Please add a Plug-in or something to export a OneNote MX page to WordPress.com, essentially making OneNote a LiveWriter replacement for Windows 8. Please do it! We don’t need another LiverWriter MX App or something, with just a little tweak, OneNote should be able to export to WordPress etc. It can’t be that hard right?

  • There is inconsistent Drag-to-make-subpage with touch and mouse. You can with Mouse, you can’t with Touch. Please fix. Make Promote/demote subpages easy with both touch and mouse.
  • All my notes now reside on OneDrive, I can’t easily see the size of my notes. I keep very large KB Notebooks, I need to know the size of individual notebooks. Please add property button to Notebook appbar to see size of notebooks.

These are just a few of my longings for OneNote MX, be rest assured I am passing all these and more to the OneNote Team. I am hoping with this, that more people will make the same request so MS can take it seriously. Just use the feedback button on OneNote Appbar. I hope we’ll see an iteration with time that will bring OneNote MX in par with the desktop version in terms of usefulness; hopefully towards the Gemini release timeframe.

Now this is the first part of my OneNote treatise. In the second part I’ll introduce you to how you can have attachments in your OneNote MX and other little tricks. And in case you don’t know, both OneNote Desktop and OneNote MX are free as Air. You can download and install them with no charge at all, and with OneDrive, your Notes follows you all over the world.

Peace out!

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When an Apple person reviews Oranges

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“This thing called Orange doesn’t look like Apple, doesn’t have Apple color, it doesn’t taste like Apple, an Apple can have a worm, but this Orange thing can’t even tolerate a worm”.

Here we go again. Another Microsoft Hardware/Platform launch, followed by rounds of Reviews from people who has little or no interest in Microsoft, neither do they use Microsoft’s products as goto tools in their daily routine. Continue reading