Friday, September 28, 2007

How to Put an End to Microsoft's Sneaky "Silent Updates"

The following is an excerpt from Scott Dunn's informative September 20th article in Windows Secrets Newsletter on how to keep Microsoft from installing silent updates without your permission...

If you're an individual or a small business using Windows Update (or its enhanced sibling, Microsoft Update), you may be concerned about Microsoft installing patches before you've had a chance to research their reliability. In that case, you can completely turn off the Automatic Updates Agent, thereby preventing updates or even notifications from occurring. If you take this step, you'll become solely responsible for learning about new Microsoft patches yourself. I'll explain below how to adapt to this situation. In the meantime, here's how to turn off Automatic Updates and prevent stealth installs:

In Windows XP, take these steps:
Step 1. Open Control Panel and launch Automatic Updates (in the Security Center
Step 2. Select Turn off Automatic Updates. Click OK.

In Windows Vista, take these steps:
Step 1. Open Control Panel and launch Windows Update (in the System and Maintenance category).
Step 2. In the left pane, click Change settings.
Step 3. Click Never check for updates (not recommended). Click OK.
Step 4. Click Continue, if prompted by User Account Control.

With Automatic Updates turned off, Windows Update will still update itself (and notify you of patches), but only when you manually launch Windows Update and give your consent.

What to do about repeated boot-up warnings:
Turning off Automatic Updates can cause Windows Security Alert pop-up balloons to appear in the taskbar tray every time you log on. (See Figure 1.)

Automatic Updates off
Figure 1. Turning off Automatic Updates causes scary
error balloons featuring a red shield.

If this bothers you, Windows XP allows you to suppress any warnings that relate to Automatic Updates. You can also do this in Vista but, unfortunately, the newer OS forces you to turn off all security alerts just to suppress the Automatic Updates warnings.

To eliminate the warning balloons about Automatic Updates in both XP and Vista, take these steps:
Step 1. Double-click the red shield icon in the taskbar, or open the Control Panel and launch the Security Center.
Step 2. In the left pane or box, click Change the way Security Center alerts me.
Step 3-XP. In XP, uncheck Automatic Updates and click OK.
Step 3-Vista. In Vista, select the second or third option.

Use Secunia's Software Inspector to check for updates:
With the Windows Update Agent turned off, how will you know if you have the latest security patches and updates you need?
First, read the Windows Secrets Newsletter that comes out two days after Patch Tuesday. Look in their paid section for descriptions of any patches that are reported to have negative side-effects, and use their recommended workarounds if any problems might affect you. Then, to check for needed updates to Windows and dozens of other programs, use the Secunia Software Inspector. This is a free service.

Once you know what updates you need, you can visit the Microsoft Update Web site, which offers updates for both Windows and Microsoft Office. The Secunia report includes a link to Microsoft's site and other update sites so you don't even have to bookmark them. Download and install the necessary patches. Reboot your PC and you should be good to go -- without the sneaky, underhanded, stealth "updates" Microsoft is trying to force on computer users.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Microsoft continues to get itself into trouble with "stealth" or silent updates. The first round of silent updates was reported September 13th. This time, the issue is over a silent update the company broadly distributed in July and August that's apparently restraining Windows XP's repair feature from fully carrying out its task.
According to this week's Windows Secrets Newsletter, since the silent download of new support files for Windows Update, the Windows XP repair function is unable to install the last 80 patches from Microsoft.

Apparently, the trouble surfaces when users reinstall Windows XP's system files using the repair capability contained on the XP CD. At this point, the repair option, which is mostly used when XP becomes unbootable, rolls "many aspects" of XP back to a pristine state. In the process, it blows away many updates and patches and kicks Internet Explorer back to the version that originally shipped with the OS.
Typically, users who repair XP can simply download and install the latest updates, using either Automatic Updates control panel or going to Microsoft's Windows Update site. But once you run the repair option from the CD, Automatic Updates defaults to "on" and the new 7.0.600.381 executables are automatically downloaded and installed. According to the report, these new executables will not register themselves with the OS, thereby preventing Windows Update from working. This then prevents the 80 updates from being installed.

While everyday users rarely attempt a repair install, the flaw figures to be a constant irritant to a lot of admins who frequently have to repair Windows. However, the report states that if Windows Update refuses to install patches, admins can register the missing DLLs by manually entering the necessary commands at the command prompt.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Pentagon Amateur Radio Club to Host Special Event Station Commemorating 9/11

From the ARRL website - On Sunday, September 9, the Pentagon Amateur Radio Club (PARC) will operate a Special Event station commemorating the 6th anniversary of the attacks that occurred on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and over Pennsylvania in 2001.

They will be operating on 10, 15, 20, 40 and 80 meters, both phone and CW where and when possible, with plans to operate on a 12 hour basis (1200-2400 UTC). There will be a special QSL card available for stations that work K4AF.

For more information, please contact Claude Hennessey, KG4TVN. QSL via
PO Box 2322
Arlington, VA 22202
In addition, club members will operate from the station on Tuesday, September 11 as part of the commemoration. -- Thanks Jeffery W. Wilson, AI4IO

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Motorola Begins Selling RAZR 2

By BetaNews Staff, BetaNews
While the now $399 Apple iPhone will dominate the news Thursday, Motorola has chimed in to remind everyone that its RAZR2 is now available through wireless carriers across the United States. But its $299 to $349 price tag won't likely bring out long lines.

The is offered by AT&T while the CDMA V9m is sold by Verizon, Sprint and Alltel. T-Mobile will likely sell the Motorola RAZR2 V9m, but the phone is not yet listed on the carrier's website. Motorola is hoping to bring back the glory days of the original RAZR by adding features such as Windows Media Player, 2GB of on-board memory and a full-HTML browser. But the company faces stiff competition from LG, Samsung and now Apple.

EDITORIAL: Manufacturers need to remember that phones need to be PHONES first. While MP3, cameras, etc. are nice, we need to be able to receive and make calls as the first order of business. Otherwise, we DO NOT need their phones! After all, Apple makes a better MP3 player. Nikon & Canon make better cameras. Most everyone has TiVO, DVR or some way of watching videos on demand. BUT, we need a phone to make calls -- and that is the bottom line. Moto, Samsung, LG and the like need to work on xmt/rec and call quality, NOT all this other junk.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rock 'N' Roll: Sex, Drugs and an Early Exit

Article from HealthDay News
From Elvis Presley to Jimi Hendrix, from Janis Joplin to Kurt Cobain, rock and pop stars are more than twice as likely to die early compared with the general population, British researchers report. What's more, pop stars often die within a few years of achieving fame, often due to drug and alcohol abuse. But it's their role as icons that worries the researchers behind the report that appears in the September issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"People should understand the type of lifestyle that many of these performers live," said study author Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University. "In addition, the music industry should consider not just the short-term health of popular rock stars, but also the longer term health even as they disappear later into obscurity." Part of the problem is living with the stress of fame, Bellis said. "Also, living in an environment of money and fame, which protects people from some of the consequences, which would make members of the general public give up drugs," he said. "Generally," he added, "affluence enhances people's lifestyles and prolongs life, whereas in this particular case the exposure to fame and what comes with it is associated with a mortality which is higher than that in the general population."