Posts Tagged Microsoft

Fixing Windows 8.1 blank start menu

Some older programs not updated to work correctly with Windows 8/8.1 will produce some very undesirable results when uninstalling them, such as clearing out your start and app screens.

Echolink is one program that affects Windows 8 in this way when using its bundled uninstaller. You can read about how to extract the exe to run it as a standalone program in this post.

You can see below a sample of an affected system, and that all the tiles have been removed from the start screen and all apps screen:

EL_UnInst_Start_1EL_UnInst_Start_2

In this situation, the search from the start screen is available, but will not produce any results. The only way to navigate is to right-click on the start button and make selections from that menu, or to use the charms bar.

Various sites offer various fixes for this issue, and I haven’t found one that works without either refreshing the PC or having to use a restore point. If you use a restore point to recover, the program will likely be reinstalled. If you refresh your PC, you will keep your data but you may lose some settings or customizations.

For either of these two methods, follow the link below:

How to refresh, reset, or restore your PC [microsoft.com]

I wish I could find a consistent fix without having to use the above, but they methods do work.

If you have a solution that works, please feel free to share it in the comments below. Thank you!

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Get smBIOS UUID using wmic

Microsoft Windows 8 online activation requires that the smBIOS UUID be non-zero.

Here’s a wmic command to check the value of the smBIOS UUID.


wmic path win32_computersystemproduct get uuid

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Switching from ActiveSync (Microsoft Exchange) to IMAP and CardDAV for Google Gmail on iPhone

Since Google is discontinuing it’s ActiveSync services, which allowed iPhone (and other handhelds) to sync account data using ActiveSync, you may want to reconfigure your devices now, or simply remember how to do this for the future. Note these steps are iPhone-specific, but can be easily adapted for other phones.

I’ll explain how to delete the ActiveSync setup, then how to add an IMAP account configuration for mail and calendars, and a CardDAV setup for contacts. If you only want to add a new setup, simply skip the first section here.

Deleting the existing ActiveSync setup

You can delete the existing ActiveSync setup by going to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and locating the account under Accounts. Touch the account name, then scroll to the bottom and click Delete Account. This will remove the data associated with the sync from your phone.

Creating the sync accounts

You’ll want to create both a Gmail IMAP account (for mail, calendars, and notes) and a CardDAV setup (for contacts). If you want reminders as well, you’ll have to create a CalDAV setup.

Creating the Gmail IMAP setup

Creating this sync account is very easy on the iPhone. First, in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, touch Add Account….  Next, touch Gmail, and enter your account information.

Creating the CardDAV setup

Similiar to the above. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, touch Add Account…, then scroll down and touch Other. Touch Add CardDAV Account. For Server, enter google.com, and continue with the rest of your account information.

For CalDAV, choose Add CalDAV Account instead of CardDAV, and follow the same account information.

If you use two-factor authentication for your Google account, be sure to use your application-specific password instead of your account password.

Google Apps setup is exactly the same as a standard Google account, just substitute your full email address for the username.

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Google puts an end to the free version of Google Apps

The free version of Google Apps is sadly no more. Just a few minutes ago I received an email from the Google Apps team, which included this:

Starting today, we’re no longer accepting new sign-ups for the free version of Google Apps (the version you’re currently using). Because you’re already a customer, this change has no impact on your service, and you can continue to use Google Apps for free.

Should you ever want to upgrade to Google Apps for Business, you’ll enjoy benefits such as 24/7 customer support, a 25 GB inbox, business controls, our 99.9% uptime guarantee, unlimited users and more for just $5 per user, per month.

You can learn more about this change in our Help Center or on the Enterprise Blog.

Link to Google Apps for Business.

Here are a few possible alternatives to Google Apps for hosted Email:

And an alternative for Google Apps for Docs, or document collaboration:

And this workaround has been demonstrated for getting Google Apps tied to your domains for free, but it’s probably only a matter of time until Google puts an and to it, as well:

I’ll add more alternatives as I find them, but you’re welcome to share your own  n the comments below. Your comments are always welcome below.

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Does the number of downloads of an app or software reflect on its quality?

We’ve all seen apps which tout their usefulness, relevance, or popularity by their number of downloads, but does it really mean anything?

“Number of downloads” means exactly that — the number of people that have downloaded your app — it doesn’t even attempt to represent the number of people who found it useful or continue to use it. It doesn’t even represent the number or rating of user-submitted reviews.

So why do application developers keep using the number of downloads to infer things about the quality of their product? Here’s a few examples:

Windows 8:

“According to Microsoft, more than 13 million copies of the Windows 8 Developer Preview had been downloaded since its release back in the fall. California-based Net Applications said that — based on the Developer Preview downloads — Windows 8 already accounts for three-hundredths of 1-percent of all PCs accessing the Internet.” — TomsHardware.

Microsoft states that Windows 8 is still considered a pre-beta product, and it’s use is discouraged on production machines.

RoadNinja:

“Since its launch in October, [RoadNinja] has been downloaded 82,987 times for iPhones and iPads.” — NBC33TV.

This article was published one month after RoadNinja’s launch; RoadNinja currently holds a 3/5 star rating in the App Store with only a total of 207 reviews.

I’m not saying these are poor quality apps — what I’m saying is that developers tout too loudly the number of downloads of their app and try to infer that its a good quality app. What the number of downloads means is that it is a popular app; not necessarily a good quality one.

I should add that I personally downloaded the Windows 8 preview to check it out in a virtual machine — something I haven’t even gotten around to doing yet. I also downloaded RoadNinja but found it impractical and uninstalled it shortly after.

Do you have any personal opinion on the quality of apps that market on the number of downloads they have? Do you have anything to share that you think I may not have covered in the article above? Please feel free to share in the comments below. Thank you!

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Why Carrier IQ is doomed

“Carrier IQ: How the Widespread Rootkit Can Track Everything on Your Phone, and How to Remove It” — That was the title of one of LifeHacker’s posts this Wednesday, which is just one of countless articles on the now-controversial carrier metric-gathering tool Carrier IQ that some are calling “rootkit” and “spyware.”

” … a hidden application on some mobile phones that had the ability to log anything and everything on your device—from location to web searches to the content of your text messages. The program is called Carrier IQ, and … it actually comes preinstalled by the manufacturer of your phone.” — LifeHacker.

Developer Trevor Eckhart posted his YouTube video detailing the proported workings of the Android software, which demonstrates Carrier IQ monitoring keypresses, SMS messages, and browsing, even when the phone is not connected to a carrier network, and transmitting this data to Carrier IQ’s servers. Supposedly this data is then aggregated and then transmitted to the carriers for network and user-experience improvements. Though it’s not necessarily what it is doing, it’s about what it’s capable of doing. Read Eckhart’s detailed article here for his detailed breakdown the capabilities of Carrier IQ.

So I’ll say it once more — Carrier IQ is doomed — at least in its present incarnation. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

LifeHacker, HowToGeek, TechCrunch, BBC News, and others have all run articles on Carrier IQ, typically with one main focus: Detecting it and allowing the user to remove or disable it.The U.S. Senate has started asking questions, and it’s fairly certain that there will be lawsuits. After all, it’s not what you’re doing, it’s what you’re capable of doing:

“Senator Al Franken … has asked Carrier IQ to clarify exactly what its software can do. Franken specifically wants to know what data is recorded on devices with Carrier IQ, what data is sent, if it’s sent to Carrier IQ or carriers themselves, how long it’s stored once received, and how it’s protected once stored.” — The Verge.

If you want Eckhart’s app for checking/removing it on Android, you can get it here. Non-root users, or those having trouble with the above tool, can get a tool that detects but cannot remove Carrier IQ here.

What will be the end result?

If the lawsuits have their way, Carrier IQ is likely to have it’s functionality reduced at the very least, as well as a full disclosure to its presence. It could also mean a visible option to disable it — and that’s if handset manufacturers and carriers continue to use it. At the very most, it will be a huge, drawn-out ordeal, which is very likely. Update: The lawsuits are already underway:

“Carrier IQ, the new poster child for (alleged) smartphone privacy violations, has been hit with two class-action lawsuits from users worried about how the company’s software tracks their smartphone activity.” — ArsTechnica.

If the tech blogs are of any influence (and they are), people will start removing Carrier IQ from their handsets, or switching away from Android to handsets that don’t have Carrier IQ on them. Apple has already stated they are planning to drop Carrier IQ completely in future versions of iOS. RIM has stated that they never had Carrier IQ on BlackBerry handsets to begin with. Microsoft states Windows 7 phones don’t even support Carrier IQ.

Phones aren’t the only devices Carrier IQ may be installed on. Users have started asking questions about tablet devices such as the Nook as well, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 can be rooted to check for the presence of it.

Highly motivated consumers may even choose to switch away from AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, who use Carrier IQ, to Verizon, who states they do not.

You can bet that, over time, the pressure from customers and negative press towards Carrier IQ will cause the carriers to reconsider the value of it, especially since they might be the ones paying for it in the first place. If you want one last laugh, be sure to read John Gruber’s “translation” of the Carrier IQ press release from November 16th.

Have any thoughts of your own to share regarding Carrier IQ, or would like to share what devices you have or have not found it on? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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