Category Archives: Uncategorized

Zoom Mystery Gets Interesting Resolution

For the past month or so, I’ve been unable to run Zoom on my primary desktop PC. That’s actually OK, because it doesn’t have a video camera, so it’s been no major gotcha to switch over to the laptop I keep at the left-hand side of my desk. There, a camera is built-in and it works fine with my Jabra 75 USB plug-in headset. Today, determined to find a solution, I stumbled across a revelation in the Zoom Community forums. There, my Zoom mystery gets interesting resolution: because the PowerToys “Video Conference Mute” is enabled by default, it crashes Zoom. Turn that feature off. Presto! No more crashing.

Flailing About Leads to Zoom Mystery Gets Interesting Resolution

At the same time, I’ve also had to switch from my Jabra 75 headset to the older Logitech H750e headset on the production PC. Though the sound widget in Control Panel shows sound input/output, it’s not audible on the headset itself. That’s working properly now, too.

If it hadn’t been for some inspired Google search, I’d never have found this by myself. Turns out it’s a “known thing” in GitHub (where PowerToys development is run). There a bug report about this there. It’s entitled “Zoom continuously crashes with Video Conference Mute enabled.”

I’m very glad this finally popped up on my radar. I’m even gladder there’s an easy fix. Shoot! I’m just glad to see the Zoom dashboard popping up and working on my production desktop PC. This fix was a long time coming, but I’m glad to see it finally in place. Sigh.

 

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DevMgr Now Checks Windows Drive for Updates

I guess you could say it’s been a long time coming. With the latest Dec Channel release for Windows 11, Device Manager now defaults to the user’s current default drive. That’s instead of the mostly-absent A: drive (usually a Floppy disk) to which it has defaulted since time immemorial. See the new scheme as the lead-in graphic for this story, see the previous default from my Windows 10 production desktop below. Thus, we see that DevMgr now checks Windows drive for updates by default. Woo-hoo!

DevMgr Now Checks Windows Drive for Updates.a.c

The old method goes back to earliest Windows, and defaults to drive A:. How quaint!

If DevMgr Now Checks Windows Drive for Updates, Life Gets Easier

As long as you deposit driver files of interest in the same directory as shown in the lead-in graphic on Build 22000 or higher, Device Manager will find them “automagically.” (See this WindowsLatest story for more info, with a shout-out from yours truly.) It’s a minor, minor change but one that could make life easier for admins and power users everywhere. Floppy disks are so … twentieth century. I still have a USB-attachable floppy drive in my “antiques closet” but I can’t remember the last time I used (at least 3 years ago).

From what I can see, the default directory specification may come from MS Office. On my Dev Channel PC it comes up as:

C:\Users\etitt\OneDrive\Documents

But that directory spec doesn’t show up anywhere in my environment variables, so I’m a little curious as to where and whence it originates. From experience, I know that particular Documents folder (the one inside OneDrive) is a default save folder for Office apps. Otherwise, I’m at a loss to explain it. I’ll poke around and see if I can come with a good explanation. Stay tuned for that administrivia and other burning Windows 11 details. Cheers!

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First Look: Yoga 7i Defines Windows 11 Ready

I have to laugh. After sending back the ThinkPad Carbon X1 Gen9 to Lenovo a couple of weeks ago, I asked for a “PC with Windows 11 on it.” What I got showed up via FedEx yesterday. After initial boot-up (which I didn’t check out thoroughly I blush to confess) the PC’s first act was to upgrade itself to Windows 11. I’m guessing that means it had Windows 10 installed, with an auto-task to perform the upgrade during initial boot-up. This nice little gunmetal grey Yoga 7i defines Windows 11 ready, I guess, because it showed itself more than capable of getting to Windows 11 literally out of the box. Sigh. That’s not quite what I expected, but it’ll have to do.

FWIW, the product pages for the unit still show it with Windows 10 installed. I’m guessing my friends on the Lenovo Reviews team added a first-boot script to fire off the upgrade as a concession to my request. Makes me chuckle, though…

If Yoga 7i Defines Windows 11 Ready, Then What?

It took almost half an hour for me to get past the install/upgrade processes the unit fired off on its own at first boot. Looks like all the device drivers got WU-based upgrades, too. Only then did I learn I was dealing with a copy of Windows 11 Home. Shorty after that, I learned that none of my volume license keys or WIMVP courtesy Visual Studio Subscription keys worked for a Pro upgrade.  Sigh: it’s always something, right?

I checked the speed on the USB-C ports and found that they are indeed UASP, with external NVMe devices clocking in at around 1 GBps as they should. I’m a little miffed that I can’t remote into the 7i to make screencaps and suchlike on my production desktop. I’ve asked Lenovo to send an upgrade key to make that happen.

The device has a bit of a weird configuration:

  • i5-1135G7 CPU (4 cores, 10nm, 2.4 GHz clock)
  • 12 GB RAM (I’m guessing 1x4GB + 1x8GB)
  • 0.5 TB Samsung OEM SSD
  • Iris Xe Graphics
  • 1920×1080 display (default to 150% magnification), 60Hz, touchscreen

But all, in all, it is a lightweight, reasonably fast and capable laptop. Looks like this configuration costs around $850 or so. As far as I can tell, it’s pretty good value for the money. I’ll have more to say after I’ve spent more time with the machine and understand its capabilities better. So far, so good, though…

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Windows 11 Update Allowed on Out-of-Spec PCs, But…

OK, then, the word is out. Yes, Microsoft is permitting out-of spec PCs to install Windows 11, but that doesn’t mean a lot. In fact, they won’t promise that such PCs will keep getting upgrades — even of the security sort — once the RTM version goes live later this year. This has been widely reported in the trade press.  I found Windows Latest and Thurrott.com coverage most noteworthy on this topic. That said, MS hasn’t issued an official proclamation on this topic. So far, everything’s been communicated in press encounters. Bottom line: Yes, a Windows 11 Update allowed on Out-of-Spec PCs is true, but that doesn’t mean it will keep working indefinitely.

If Windows 11 Update Allowed on Out-of-Spec PCs, But…

Frankly, as Paul Thurrott noted, the situation is kind of a mess. Yes, users can update out-of-spec PCs to Windows 11. If that doesn’t work they can use the Media Creation Tool or a Windows 11 ISO to do a clean install instead. Thing is, there’s no telling right now how long that install will keep working. Nor can I think of a “back-to-working” path for such PCs except for a clean install of Windows 10 sometime in the future, either.

To me, this sounds like a recipe for extra work and heartache, with the bill coming due later this year. I’m still going to upgrade the hardware on the only other PC I have on which I plan to run Windows 11 that currently fails to meet its system requirements. IMO, anything less — especially taking a chance on older hardware — is simply unacceptable.

You, dear readers, can do as you see fit. Personally, I think installing Windows 11 on systems that don’t meet the system requirements is a recipe for disaster. It may work now, but MS won’t say it will keep working. Not good!

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5800X Rebuild Boots Right Up

It was an interesting Saturday. My son and I started working on the rebuild of our oldest desktop PC around 10 AM that morning. He’d never built a PC before, so I had him doing most of the driving. It was an educational experience for both of us. But happily, this 5800X rebuild boots right up on the first try. In fact, we got Windows 10 clean installed with just one minor hiccup. Total time invested so far: around 4.5 hours (but plenty of software still to install).

5800X Rebuild Boots Right Up, But…

On the first go-round from my Ventoy boot disk, Windows 10 refused to allow the brand-new Sabrent Rocket 2TB NVMe to act as the boot/system drive. A quick once-over using DISKPART showed it was NOT formatted for GPT. Once I cleaned the drive then converted it to GPT, the installer was able to take it from there. First time to use an unallocated drive teaches me that GPT is now mandatory. Live and learn.

Other lessons learned during this install adventure included:
1. Always good to have a grabbing tool or clamps to use for handling small screws in tight places.
2. It’s good to have ample wiring room in which to route power and control cables.
3. The Antec 900 still makes a great PC case, but it shows its age with no front-panel USB 3 ports.
4. The CoolerMaster Hyper 212 is a TALL cooler. I had to remove the case fan from the side panel to button the case back up (fortunately it has plenty of ventilation anyway).
5. I’m missing a couple of SATA drives, because of lane conflicts from the M.2 NVMe in use. I see an easy fix in the mobo manual, tho…

Worthwhile Investment?

The parts I purchased for the rebuild cost about US$1,200. It’s still too early to tell if the upgrade is worth that price. But time will tell pretty shortly. In the meantime, stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted.

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First Windows 11 Hardware Refresh

OK, then. I’m getting ready to upgrade one of my two remaining desktops to make it meet Windows 11 hardware requirements.  This is my first Windows 11 hardware refresh, so I want to get things right. The irony of the situation is that this PC is already running Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22000.132. That’s not supposed to continue, as and when an RTM version hits the Internet. I’m trying to get out in front of those changes…

Where My First Windows 11 Hardware Refresh Begins

Given what’s in this still-capable Windows 10 (and 11) PC, it’s been around for a while. Here are its key components:
1. Intel i7-4770K (4th generation/Haswell) CPU
2. 32 GB DDR3 RAM
3. Asrock Z97 Killer Motherboard
4. Samsung OEM 512GB NVMe PCIe x3 boot/system SSD
5. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
That CPU dates back to 2013, but I believe I built this system in 2014, and later upgraded its graphics card. It is getting kind of long in the tooth, but I’m keeping many parts for the refresh build.

What Goes, What Stays?

Of the four numbered items above, 1-4 are going, Because of the current market situation for GPUs, it’s not smart for me to lay out over US$1K for a new one right now. Here’s the other stuff I bought to put inside that machine (I’m keeping the case, the PSU, all the peripherals, and some of its existing drives, as well):
1. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X CPU (8 core/16 thread)
2. G.Skill 64 GB DDR4-2666 (2×32 GB modules)
3. CoolerMaster Hyper 212 RGB closed-loop liquid CPU cooler
4. Asrock B550 Extreme4 AM4 Motherboard
5. Sabrent Rocket Q NVMe PCIe x4 SSD 2TB

Open Questions for the Build

This will be my first time to put together a PC that aims to comply with Windows 11 requirements. I’m curious to see if those will be met by default, or if I’ll have to fiddle the BIOS to get Secure Boot and TPM 2.0 emulation working. Whatever happens, count on me to keep you posted right here. The target schedule for the project is Saturday, August 21. I’m going to take a back seat, and let my 17-year-old son Gregory take the old stuff out, and put the new stuff in. Wish us luck!

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Pondering Windows 11 Hardware Requirements

The Windows user community is abuzz with reactions and concerns about what it takes, PC-wise, to upgrade to Windows 11. This has many people — myself included — pondering Windows 11 hardware requirements.  For the record, Microsoft Docs states those things clearly on the Windows 11 requirements page. (Indeed, the bulleted list below is cut’n’pasted from that source) :

    • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip (SoC).
    • RAM: 4 gigabytes (GB) or greater.
    • Storage: 64 GB* or greater available storage is required to install Windows 11.
      • Additional storage space might be required to download updates and enable specific features.
    • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later, with a WDDM 2.0 driver.
    • System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable.
    • TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0.
    • Display: High definition (720p) display, 9″ or greater monitor, 8 bits per color channel.
    • Internet connection: Internet connectivity is necessary to perform updates, and to download and use some features.
      • Windows 11 Home edition requires an Internet connection and a Microsoft Account to complete device setup on first use.

Pondering Windows 11 Hardware Requirements Leads to Upgrade Plans

Of the 10 systems currently on the premises here at Chez Tittel, only 3 of them fail to meet the afore-stated stipulations. Those 3 systems are:

1. My production desktop PC, whose i7-6700 misses the CPU cut-off by one Intel generation. It also lacks TPM 2.0.
2. My son’s desktop PC, whose i7-4770K (built in 2014) is pretty long in the tooth. It’s overdue for an upgrade anyway. It too, lacks TPM 2.0 support.
3. My 2014 Surface Pro 3 sports another 4th-gen Intel processor, an i7-4650U. No TPM 2.0 here, either.

I will upgrade both desktops (systems #1 and #2 above). The parts for #2 arrived this weekend and I’ll be upgrading that system sometime this week. It’s going to be a Ryzen 5800X. Its B550 mobo offers TPM 2.0 emulation as part of a broad range of capabilities. I plan to upgrade my production desktop next month, or the month after, to be ready for an October Windows 11 production release date.

Keeping an Eye on Windows 10

Usually when a new OS version comes out, I abandon the previous one completely and move wholesale to the new version. I won’t be able to do that with the Surface Pro 3 (#3 above) so I’ll keep it running Windows 10 as long as it can.

EOL for Windows 10 is October 2025, so that’s going to be a while yet. In fact, if all goes to plan I may be retiring that year myself assuming my son also manages to graduate from college in 4 years. (Alas, that’s not always a safe assumption: both of my step-kids took 5 or more years to earn their bachelor’s degrees, and my sister’s 2 are on the same course. I’m resigned to the notion that it may take him 5 years to finish a bachelor’s, because that’s become such a norm.)

Why I’m Basically OK with MS Requirements

I’m not as bent out of shape by Microsoft’s requirements cut-offs as many people seem to be. I understand one must draw the line somewhere, and that hardware-level security has made dramatic strides in the past half-decade. I’m assuming that’s why MS drew the line at 8th generation Intel (Coffee Lake) CPUs and AMD and ARM processors of similar vintage.

These cut-offs take us back to 2017, nearly 5 years back from the upcoming Windows 11 release date (more or less expected for October). Because TPM (via emulation) is part and parcel of all such systems, by and large, it’s not really an additional hurdle unless users bought older motherboards for newer processors in the 2017-2018 timeframe.

For some fascinating viewpoints and issues on this topic, check out the ElevenForum thread “Update on Windows 11 minimum requirements.” As I write about this conversation, it already boasts numerous items (including my own at #212). There are sure to be many, many more before all is said and done. That said, it’s worth a read-through. Lots of good opinions and ideas, pro and con, and good reflection of the state of the user community.

 

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MS Makes LTSC Sole Windows Server Release Channel

When you think about it, here’s a sensible move. Windows Server is the kind of platform that organizations want to stand up, get right, and leave alone. There’s little need for personalization, and it doesn’t need desktop tweaks. In fact, Server is really a background thing. It  holds up the “you ask, I answer” side of client/server. architecture. Then, too, MS put containers and microservices under the Azure umbrella. That’s why, I think, that MS makes LTSC sole Windows Server Release channel.

Why MS Makes LTSC Sole Windows Server Release Channel

A July 26 Microsoft Docs item spells things out. It’s entitled Windows Server release information. This quote explains things (emphasis mine):

The Semi-Annual Channel in previous versions of Windows Server focused on containers and microservices, and that innovation will continue with Azure Stack HCI. With the Long-Term Servicing Channel, a new major version of Windows Server is released every 2-3 years. Users are entitled to 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support. This channel provides systems with a long servicing option and functional stability, and can be installed with Server Core or Server with Desktop Experience installation options. The Long-Term Servicing Channel will continue to receive security and non-security updates, but it will not receive the new features and functionality.

Organizations can migrate if and when compelling new features emerge. It’s arguable this change makes a virtue of necessity. Why say that? Most organizations upgrade servers no more often than once every 2-3 years (or longer) anyway.

On balance, I think this is a good move. For developers, it means building, testing and maintaining fewer releases . That is good news for everybody. Developers can build more cool new stuff. Admins face less busy work. This means shorter, simpler scheduled updates. And because updates often happen over long weekends, it means more holiday time with family and friends. That’s a real win-win!

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Odd Win10 News and Interests Issues

I’ve been noticing some odd and unusual behaviors from the now widely-available News and Interests taskbar item lately. Other sources have been reporting something similar (Windows Latest, OnMSFT, etc.) as well. For some, it has included “blurry text” for N&I on the taskbar. That is not anything I’ve seen on any of my 10 Windows 10 PCs. But it seems certain that odd Win10 News and interests issues are rampant right now.

What Kinds of Odd Win10 News and Interests Issues?

The weirdest thing I’ve seen appears to indicate synch or dynamic update issues. I’ll often look at N&I on my production desktop and see a different weather icon and  temp than in an RDP window on the other display. Just now, for example, I saw partly sunny and 87F on my left-hand monitor, and sunny and 88F on its right-hand counterpart. I’ve seen the N&I info show up when RDP-ing into other PCs with information that is hours old or from the previous day.

Is this a problem? No, not really. It’s more of a curiosity. It also has me wondering about how MS manages communications between the notification text and the back-end servers that feed it information. Methinks it’s likely there’s some rough spots in the polling or interval handling for refreshes involved.

That said, MS is reported to be aware of these issues and working on fixes. Other sources assert that N&I went out the door lacking polish and may not be completely “cooked” yet. My own experience is not that negative. However, it is easy to observe that some aspects of N&I don’t work as smoothly or seamlessly as they could. I’m sure this will be the focus for ongoing updates, refinements and enhancements in upcoming updates ahead. I look forward to its continuing elaboration and evolution. Stay tuned!

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Patch Tuesday Updates Include 3 Critical TCP/IP Fixes

Although I think MS calls it Update Tuesday now, Patch Tuesday is the second Tuesday of each month. It’s the usual time when MS releases monthly updates, including security patches and fixes. This latest batch, released yesterday, includes some important stuff. These Patch Tuesday Updates include 3 critical TCP/IP fixes, according to BleepingComputer among other sources. They join MS In urging organizations to update them sooner rather than later.

Patch Tuesday Updates Include 3 Critical TCP/IP Fixes: Relevant CVEs

These vulnerabilities affect all Windows client and server versions starting at Windows 7/Server 2008 and up to present-day, current versions. The relevant CVEs are: CVE-2021-24074, CVE-2021-24094, and CVE-2021-24086. Each one may be exploited remotely. Two of them could lead to remote code execution (RCE) attacks. The third offers a means to crash an exposed Windows PC, offering a potential denial-of-service attack vector.

All three show February 9 release dates, which also makes them zero-day exploits as well. They also pose low attack complexity, which makes them easy for malefactors to foist. All require no privileges to launch which only increases their danger levels.

Who’s Covered By Patch Tuesday Updates?

Only older versions of Windows client and server OSes need to download and install their corresponding  Monthly Security Rollups (Server 2008, Server 2012, Server 2012 R2, Windows 7 SP1). Check the afore-linked Security Bulletins (shown above as CVE links) for Microsoft Catalog download links. Other client and server versions can get their updates through normal channels, including Windows Update.

Don’t delay, dear readers. These updates are better installed than not, especially for any Windows PCs directly exposed to the Internet.

 

 

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