Authenticators

The Microsoft authenticator asks to use the Microsoft authenticator to sign in. There is no joke here, but if there were, that would be the punchline. While setting up the Microsoft authenticator on my Android phone, the authenticator demanded I use the authenticator that I was setting up to authenticate my identity. To be fair, the Google authenticator would have done the same thing if I had added my Microsoft account to it instead of setting up the Microsoft authenticator, but that isn’t where this article started. It started with Microsoft software insisting I turn myself inside out in order to find my own skin.

This is a lot like using your Google voice phone number as part of your two-step verification process. You can’t two-step verify if your second verification is behind a firewall that requires the second step to penetrate. There is a workaround for the Google voice number problem, however there is no way to authenticate the authenticators unless you have two phones with one phone already authenticated. This is because you can’t get the Microsoft authenticator on a Windows desktop installation (Google? Mozilla? The ball is in your court.) It is only available for Android and iPhone.

I’m stuck in this predicament because I was trying to troubleshoot software issues on my Motorola phone. I’ve recently become addicted to Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem, but it crashes all the time. All the time as in about four screen changes to the next crash, crashes all the time. Maddeningly frequent. In an effort to see what was causing the problem I reset the phone to factory specs and then preformatted the SD card as part of the phone’s internal memory, a step I had neglected to perform previously, then activated applications until I started noticing the crash issue again. The cause of the crashes? My malware protection application appears to interfere with the wifi calls within the game program, and I’m not about to turn off my anti-malware application. So no fix on that score, but the phone does appear to function more predictably for other programs, so worth the trouble of going back and setting it up properly.

Or at least I thought that way until starting to reactivate some of the less frequently used Android applications. The Facebook and Twitter apps tw0-step verification worked just fine. Annoying but doable because I hadn’t switched them to using an external authenticator (luckily) If I had made an authenticator my second step to log in, then I would have immediately discovered this problem when I tried to log into those applications. The Steam mobile application is almost that bad. It at least gives you an option for hey dumbass this is the authenticator in question. Deauthorize it. I only used the Microsoft authenticator for Microsoft, and today I notice that I’m not signed into Bing.

Why do you need to be signed into Bing?

I’m glad you asked that question. Pull up a chair, it’s a long story. Today’s Windows spotlight image was of a very beautiful series of fields in Japan, but this is also the day when Microsoft doesn’t link the spotlight image as part of the splash screen display, a clickable link that allows you to look for versions of the specific image shown. Allows you to look for versions of the image that can be shared, or allows you to research the location as an educational effort or a possible travel destination. Bing is where the links on the splash screen go to, and I wondered if logging into Bing might give me different search results.

So I tried logging into Bing. Bing promptly demanded that I approve the Microsoft login from my authenticator app. I open the app on my phone, it doesn’t know it’s the authenticator for my phone and my Microsoft account. The authenticator wants me to authenticate on the authenticator that is being authenticated. Now the loop is complete. But it isn’t just Microsoft’s loop, it is Google’s authenticator loop as well. This would have been a problem if (will be a problem when) I discover that I used the authenticator for another program (fingers crossed) I’m not sure what good a mobile authenticator is if I have to go through this much trouble just to get them to work properly.

My Blizzard authenticator is a fob that I’ve managed not to lose for ten years. It still works ten years later and as long as I don’t lose it (fingers crossed) it’ll safeguard my Blizzard account without causing me to turn myself inside out trying to troubleshoot the problem. More than can be said for mobile authenticators.

If you lose your mobile device or (like me) reset your device to factory specs and reinstall all your apps from the Google backup you will have to re-authorize all your authenticators (at least, all of them that I’ve run across so far) If you use the Google authenticator for your Google account as part of your two-step verification, you will lose the ability to open your Google account. More importantly, you will lose access to any other account that relies on it as part of its two-step verification process. This is also true of the Microsoft authenticator.

So, how do you avoid the authenticator loop? Well, Microsoft allows you to remove the authenticator from your Microsoft account after you log into it with a browser. You will have to remember your password and be able to get a second verification by email or SMS if you have two-step verification set up. You can then follow the process for installing the authenticator again as if it was a new installation. You can also use the Google authenticator and add your Microsoft account to that authenticator if you like.

The authenticator is the second application whose data I have had to restore externally, the other one was my medical ID program containing personal data that I hadn’t saved anywhere else. Luckily I had shared the data directly with several physicians, professionals who happily gave me my own data back after I realized I had lost my only copy (now backed up externally) there is no way to transfer the authenticator security tokens to a new phone as of this writing. I’m just glad I never relied on the Google authenticator for my Google account. If you have done this, here is how you turn two-step verification back off. You’ll notice that the first thing you have to do is gain access to your Google account. So if you’ve already lost access to your account, you have my sympathy. I wish I had answers for you.

So what have we learned here? Well, I’ve discovering that mobile authenticators are almost more trouble than they are worth, and that’s three things I learned from resetting my phone to factory specs. I guess it was worth the trouble after all. Still wish I could get that game to stop crashing.

Windows 10

Wish me luck. I’m upgrading to Windows 10 over a wireless connection, ‘braving the storm on a skiff made of electrons’.

— ranthony (@ranthony) August 6, 2015

Microsoft Windows 10 Pro

I had no problem upgrading to Windows 10, that is the shocking news in this article. I didn’t  loose any data in the change because I haven’t relied on Windows software to do anything aside from run my computer in well over a decade now. I use Chrome or Firefox to surf.  Irfanview to view photos. Google Docs to write documents.

There is malware protection native in Windows 10 as there has been since Windows 7, they just don’t tell you where it is and that it is running anymore unless you go looking for it in notifications; notifications which are now on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.  In the series of buttons on the notifications bar that comes up when you click on it, you will see one called settings. This can also be found from the Start menu which Microsoft wisely put back after taking it out of Windows 8.

Settings is where all the functions which used to be found in Control Panel are now located. Rather than have some arcane vernacular unique to Windows, Microsoft has elected to make their OS more like the other OS’ on the market making the learning of multiple platforms less tedious.  A wise decision on their part since most people now use an Android variant as their OS.

No one likes change.  The Wife complains every time her software is updated and she is my go to tech for hardware.  I don’t do hardware, but software I have few problems with.  Windows is now more like the other three OS’ that I use.  I find that 10 is a major improvement from 8 or 8.1.  It has been the least painful upgrade I’ve done in a lifetime of using Windows (starting with 2) DOS, Linux and when I’ve been forced to, Apple products.  It found all the drivers necessary to run my hardware before attempting to install new software.  For the FIRST TIME EVER I did not have to go out on another system and track down drivers that would have been available had the OS simply checked in advance before replacing the previous software.  I didn’t have to do anything other than restart the system and everything worked perfectly. I was as shocked as you are right now.

This is my basic rule of thumb when modifying anything on a computer; backup the data! Always backup your data because it will inevitably be lost.  Every single time I’ve upgraded in the past, this has been a true statement.  This is the first time that I felt no pain at all in changing to a new OS. I’m seriously waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It couldn’t possibly be this easy.

I hear your fingernails being dragged through the dirt as you try to desperately cling to the version of Windows you have now. Don’t deny it, you are terrified. Here is a newsflash for you, you will eventually have to upgrade. There is no avoiding it. On the other hand, there is no need to upgrade now. At some point your hardware will fail and you will be stuck using the latest version of whatever, and you’ll wish you had familiarized yourself with the software previously so as to ease the transition.

Here’s a bit of wisdom from my days as an architectural CAD guru. When AutoCAD transitioned to a Windows-based format the pushback from users who liked the DOS-based version was deafening. Professionals in the design business were swearing up and down that they would never switch to the new version; and yet within a year, all of them had changed programs. Some of them changed to non-AutoCAD drawing systems and had to learn a whole new program anyway, but none of them still used AutoCAD 10. There was no point in continuing to use it because the nature of collaborative design dictated that they had to move with the times. They had to do what everyone else was doing or be left behind. Be driven out of business.

Embrace change. That is my advice. Upgrade or switch to using Linux. You’ll thank me for it. 

Adventures With Malware

I’ve been testing running Windows as a smart consumer for the last couple of years. Having bailed on attempts to run Linux without becoming a programmer; and having very little inclination to become a programmer just to run a computer as a user (although that mindset is slowly, ponderously, altering) I decided to just see if I can make Windows work in the limited fashion I’ve been using it of late.

Rather than installing 15 different programs to sniff all my information exchanges from the various networks I utilize as I have seen others do in the past, I decided that I would rely on the native scanners and firewalls that come with Windows now.

Confession time.

I don’t actually run Windows 8, 8.1 or whatever they’re calling the new Windows these days. Microsoft, cleverly figuring out that consumers skip every other release of their OS’s, have skipped calling their new 0S Windows 9 even though that should be the number on the release, and are calling it Windows 10.  Now, I haven’t figured out what version of Windows that Microsoft will deem LTS (long term support) next, so I’m not spending any of my limited funds on an OS that they put out simply to smother some fire that they inadvertently started.

I run what was on the system when it was sold to me (although I’m in the process of converting the laptop to Linux) and that version is Windows 7. I liked XP, stuck with it for as long as I could. XP was the last version of the OS that Microsoft deemed LTS, as was Windows 2000 before that.  Windows 7 has been a nice stable platform for several years, so I’ve stuck with it.

Starting in Windows 7 there were native malware and virus detectors.  If this wasn’t the first time, then it was definitely the first time I noticed them or was willing to rely on them.  Virus scanners seem to be in bed with malware writers of late; witness McAfee being offered on sites that are clearly on the fringe of respectability, when McAfee once upon a time was a legitimate virus scanner that I couldn’t live without.  Now if you rely on them or a Norton product, you’d be better off not finding the internet, if either of them actually let you on it.  So relying on a native Windows application that offered to screen malware and viruses seems as legitimate as actually paying someone else to keep your system virus free these days.

Realizing I was giving up ever visiting a porn site, or sharing a music file, video or anything more sophisticated than email, I set to work.  The native program in Windows was/is called Microsoft Security Essentials, and for the last two years, that has been the only program that I’ve run on this system that does anything related to malware screening or virus scanning.

When I go anywhere on the internet, I use a third party application to do it.  I never allow Windows to do anything aside from run programs which are native to this computer. This is a habit formed since I first started using Windows back in the 3.11 days.  Internet Exploder, er Explorer, has always been the most utilized vector for spreading malware, so I never use it on a website that I don’t trust completely.  Trust like the vault at my bank (and I don’t bank) So I use Firefox or Chrome, or whatever non-native browser that looks promising today, to go to websites.

Having been an MMO player for the last 5 years, I haven’t had a lot of use for porn or music anyway. MMO’s (Massive Multiplayer Online games) are notorious for sucking up all your free time.  The most challenging vector to manage, when dealing with online gaming, is how you get your addons updated. This is because every game has some cheat or other that you have to add to it in order to make it easy enough to complain about in online forums.  This process required a bit of legwork and investigation each time I changed addons or games.  There are addon managers that aren’t too shady, so if you are careful about what you click, read everything and check every toggle before you agree, you can generally lease your entire life to online games and not worry about anyone else stealing it.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’m beginning to have trouble reading.  This is the biggest challenge I face, being a compulsive reader.  Every now and then the eyes fail to track properly, the mind wanders and I miss a paragraph of text, forcing me to curse loudly, backtrack and start over.  Consequently I’ve taken to downloading a lot of content from Audible and various streaming media sites, taking care to make sure that the programs I’m using are pretty solid.

Most audio is only available if you buy it in advance. This is a battle I’ve been fighting since the days of MP3.com and corporate music’s foolish belief that they could stand in the way of file sharing.  To this day I strip audio that has restrictions on it, if I have a need to move it from some system that is recognized to one that is not.  Fortunately for Audible and my limited non-MMO free time, most of the systems I fiddle with these days are recognized by Audible or have Audible apps on them.  Consequently their heads-entirely-up-their-asses DRM remains on many of the latest works that I’ve purchased from them.  I don’t know why they still keep DRM on their files, Amazon has offered native unprotected MP3’s for years, which is why Amazon is about the only place I will buy music (rumor has it that iTunes now has unprotected MP3’s as well.  Too late Apple!) and Amazon now owns Audible.

But they do and I roll my eyes and live with the frustration.

Still, it presents an obstacle to sharing files with family members once you’ve purchased them.  Technically you can share them, according to Audible.  But you have to share them on systems that are recognized, and you have to authorize the hardware with the software, hold your mouth the right way, sacrifice your newborn and leave a pint of blood.  Just a bit of a hassle.

Consequently I have resisted buying audible content that I actually have credits for, if I know I’m going to want to share that content with family members later.  That resistance has now officially ended my Microsoft only malware testing period.

The Wife expressed an interest in a particular work recently. Having just given a pint of blood last week trying to share an Audible file, I went out and found an unprotected copy of the work she wanted, rather than try that again. I did notice some odd behavior in the dialogs, but that reading problem I mentioned caused me to miss exactly what the prompts said.

Hilarity ensued, if hilarity involves 30 plus hours of digging malware out by the roots.  Malware writers are a humorous bunch. They piggy-backed a lovely bit of work in on my foolishness.  Calls itself Unideal. But it’s not just Unideal. It’s also Youtubeadblocker and a few other names aside.  Installed itself as a false virus scanner under yet another name. Runs banner ads across websites sponsored by Robin Hood. Specifically places ads in areas that Ad Blocker takes ads out of.

What is the moral of this story?

I don’t think there is one.  File sharing was never a crime for me, because the things I share I either end up paying for anyway, or never would have paid for in the first place because it wasn’t something I wanted after listening to it once.  The one time I’ve been caught torrenting (by HBO) was the time I was a paid subscriber (won’t be doing that again) who couldn’t actually watch the programs I was paying for due to faulty transmission by my cable provider. If you enjoy HBOGO now, you should write me a thank you letter. That service exists because of people like me.

Were it not for DRM on Audible books, I would have simply used credits that I have on my Audible account to purchase the work my wife was interested in directly. But because of suspicion and doubt, the nagging insistence that if payment is not secured in advance no payment will be made, you must step outside of the protected boundaries of commerce and make back-alley deals with less than desirable types.

Were it not for the backwards nature of copyrighted works, and the DMCA that protects them, it would be possible to take material that the copyright owner has abandoned on a previous format, update it to current formats and be able to charge for the time and effort spent transcribing the material (a service which does have value) without opening oneself up to punishing fines for daring to think that abandoned works deserve to be preserved.

Perhaps there is a lesson here about keeping your software and hardware up to date, but as a disabled person living on a fixed income, it’s a bit much to ask me to purchase new hardware and software every few years just so I can keep current.  I have a test license for Windows 10 which has been made available to me, and in the next few days I may be testing that software after I get my second drive running a version of Linux I can count on.

Daily Beef: Bing it On.

Seriously, Microsoft? A Bing add every commercial break? Like GEICO, I have to wonder what funds are left over to provide any of the promised service after you have paid for all this advertising. Also like GEICO, no amount of advertising will ever get me to use your product. Unlike GEICO I can demonstrate my opinion of Bing using only it’s name if you simply bend over. Bing it on, indeed.

Don’t get me wrong, I could watch The GEICO gecko all day, every day. I just can’t stand the rest of the advertising that GEICO puts out, and there is so much GEICO advertising out there. Almost as much as Bing has been advertising lately.

Facebook status and comments re-edited and backdated to the blog.

The real Flo.

Microsoft Responds to Yahoo! Announcement

I don’t know about you, but I think this statement:

It is unfortunate that Yahoo! has not embraced our full and fair proposal to combine our companies. Based on conversations with stakeholders of both companies, we are confident that moving forward promptly to consummate a transaction is in the best interests of all parties.

read more | digg story

Should be read with a Darth Vader respirator wheeze in the background.

“I find your lack of faith most disturbing.”

I maintain several lists on Yahoo!groups as well as a Yahoo! mail and IM address. If Microsoft successfully takes over Yahoo!, I will be ending my use of all Yahoo! services.

I refuse to be bullied by the monopolist from Redmond.

PC Mag Editor Throws in the Towel on Vista

From the Article:

Maybe it was something in the water? I’ve been a big proponent of the new OS over the past few months, even going so far as loading it onto most of my computers and spending hours tweaking and optimizing it. So why, nine months after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what doesn’t work and what still frustrates me stretches on endlessly. 

PC Magazine, Passing the Torch 

As someone observed in the comments section on digg, PC magazine has been bought and paid for by MicroSoft for quite some time now. For the editor to retire while publishing a scathing critisism of Vista speaks volumes.

Vista Hits Store Shelves. So What?

Stumbled across this article over at digg.com, discussing the departure of Windows chief Jim Allchin, and breathless praise concerning the latest version of Windows to hit store shelves, Vista.

My response? Goodbye Jim Allchin.

The rest of the article is a puff piece designed to spin the Vista delay in the correct direction, rather than discussing the real reasons for same. Reasons like the failure of Vista’s predecessor Longhorn, which failed because nobody wanted the invasive security measures that were touted as one of Longhorn’s strengths (the chipset it was to utilize was shelved, if I remember correctly, over the same issues) It’s taken nearly five years to design and build a version of Windows that Microsoft thought people would go for, a version that also included enough of the DRM and anti-piracy measures (that corporate America is inexplicably in love with) to satisfy Microsoft’s business partners and it’s legal department.

Good luck with it. It’ll never see the inside of any of my systems, at least not in it’s unadulterated form. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Apparently the opinion is pretty widespread, and not exactly earth shattering.

Of what use is an operating system that disables programs and media that it can’t verify are legally purchased (can’t verify as opposed to aren’t legally purchased, an important distinction) one that is hostile to other DRM schemes, schemes that are just as valid as its own (the issue with iTunes has been well documented, albeit patched) An operating system that requires every user to create a Windows Live account in order to validate the installation; a completely pointless requirement, except that MicroSoft is deluding itself into believing that it can compete with Yahoo and Google, and so think that forcing new users to register in the system will lead them to actually use the system.

Time to get serious about Linux.


2019 – Still using Windows. I’m actually starting to come to accept the requirement that I love Big Broth …err, I mean Microsoft. At least I don’t have to learn how to program to use it. They finally convinced me to create a Live account if only to keep my systems updated and to give me one Windows login to manage. See Authenticators for the latest.

Microsoft, It’s Just ON the Computer You Buy

If I had a nickel for every free marketeer that waxed poetic about the greatness of Microsoft and how we owed Bill Gates thanks for the computer boom, I could probably challenge big brother Bill for the title of richest man in the world.

But I don’t buy the scenario.

Microsoft doesn’t hold monopoly marketshare because they have a superior product. Microsoft wins because it is supplied on a PC system at no significant charge. It’s a lot like payroll deductions. Most people don’t notice the difference between net income and gross income. They don’t do their own taxes, balance a checkbook, etc. That’s why they support things like socialized medicine; it will be free to them because they don’t count the costs that come out of their pocket before they even know what they had. There isn’t a cost to them at point of purchase, so they think of it as free.

When you buy a computer system, there is a lump sum fee that you pay. There is no detailed record of what everything that goes into your computer costs. There is a software upchage of about a hundred bucks on the average windows system. I can buy a complete computer system with a Linux OS on it for 150 to 200 bucks. Windows systems are generally much higher than that.

If people had to pay for the software upfront, this would all be a different story. Microsoft would not have the marketshare they currently have. The MPAA and the RIAA would not have been able to advance their agendas because there would be no monolithic software giant to enforce their will. There wouldn’t be the problem that currently exists with viruses and malware, because there wouldn’t be a Swiss cheese OS out there that is specifically set up to be hijacked.

[The average windows system is shipped with a default user profile created, and an administrator account invisible on top of it. None of the accounts are password protected, and the average user doesn’t know about the admin account that anyone can log on to. When you plug the box into the network, it’s a simple thing for a cracker to ping it, load his software onto the system through one of a hundred or so open ports, log on to the administrator account remotely, and hijack the system. It generally takes about 15 minutes for this to occur, according to the last article I read on the subject. Systems set up to be hijacked.]

It is the massive market share (and sweet deals for exclusivity with Microsoft) that has gotten peripheral suppliers (like cameras and scanners) to program their drivers for Windows only. There was a time when driver disks had multiple OS options on them. I almost never see that anymore. It’s not the fault of Linux programmers that peripherals aren’t recognized, it is the fault of the manufacturers who don’t support anything but Windows; and will in fact build their hardware to rely on Windows (as in the case of some printers) to the exclusion of everybody else.

It’s a corporate disease, much like a free-government-provided disease.

Cheapskate Technical Woes

So I’m helping The Wife tonight. She’s trying to get some customer’s computer systems out the door. One of the systems is being extra problematic; an archaic old system that is older than The Son (he’s 8) running Windows 98 (not even SE) IE 4.0; and, no lie, a flat panel monitor.

[It’s like buying a new wagon for the dead mule to pull. But what do I know?]

Microsoft is no help, you can’t even get on their site with IE 4.0 these days.

Firefox says it will run, but after bashing our heads against the error “oleaut32.dll:77” I ran a Google search and came up with this:

http://www.faqts.com/knowledge_base/view.phtml/aid/15670

The problem indicates you do not have the complete OLEAUT32.dll file –
either you’re running Windows 95 or an older version of Windows98. Go
to Microsoft’s website and download the DCOM upgrade package depending
on the version of Windows you have got (alternatively just search for
DCOM on Google or something) – the current link that I have is
http://www.microsoft.com/com/resources/downloads.asp

Once you have run this update, this will update your OLEAUT32 dll for
you, and php should run without the error.

Having nothing else to loose, we installed the Dcom update and were finally sucessfull running Firefox 2.0; which allowed us to access the Windows update site and install the remainder of the Win98 patches, including IE 6. Problem solved, out the door it goes.

Never mind the system is worth less than the time we spent fixing it. Ah, the sweet taste of victory.

Flight Simulator: Terrorist trainer?

I don’t want to give any credence to this guy’s rant on the subject of the usefulness of a flight sim like Microsoft Flight Simulator as a terrorist training tool…

However, I was watching United 93 on the History Channel the other day, and what do I see but advertisements for the flight simulator during the commercial breaks.

[Not a very good film. I really didn’t think it would be.]

Talk about bad ad placement. It’s like advertising Ginsu knives during the Lorena Bobbitt story. Not necessarily what you would like your product to be used for, to say the least.