Business client couldn’t connect to his office Terastation from his Vista laptop

The client complained that he was sure he was typing the correct user and password but the Buffalo Terastation at his company office kept denying him access. The fix for the client was pretty quick and painless, if you have similar issues you can try editing your registry (take usual backup precautions and then do a regedit for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Contro l\Lsa and for the LMCompatabilityLevel DWORD value data set it to 1, you can try creating the value first if its not in there.) You can probably also try doing the same thing through the local security policy with secpol.msc, in security options setting the Lan Manager Authentication Level to “Send LM & NLTM, use NTMLv2 session if negotiated”.

The best Windows Vista Fix: Windows7?

Well, for some users the best fix for their Windows Vista PC may really be to just upgrade to Windows 7, some may even qualify for free upgrades and not even know it! We should warn against too much enthusiasm for things can always go wrong during an upgrade, so it pays to take your time and do it properly, first backing up everything. The reality is, that Windows 7 is really still ‘Vista’ under the hood, we tend to think of VISTA as “BETA” testing software and with Windows 7 we finally got the Gold release, the final product. It’s still not perfect, and IE may still crash on you along with other glitches but for many Windows7 has proven to be much more stable.

Recent Vista Dell XPS laptop woes

We had such serious problems with a Dell XPS M1330 laptop running Vista x64 that we felt it would be a crime not to share and save others the torture! Besides the usual BSODs now and then which weren’t nearly as scarce as we’d like, we had several issues that just could NOT be solved short of a complete system reinstall, and this was after exhaustive work trying registry hacks and other system checks (bootup dell diagnostics, all the hard drive checks,chkdsk/surface scans/low-level scans, SFC scannow checks, system recovery mode/safe mode, previous registries..), also  system restore to a previous point did not solve them either.

Problems exhibited by the client’s system:

1. Integrated (Creative?) Webcam no longer working in Skype (for video you got a static kitten instead!).  External USB webcams were not recognized either (we tried Creative and Logitech also). (We tried everything conceivable here, nothing worked, completely removing, cleaning all registry keys etc…nada…)

2. Power Profiles seemed corrupted somehow. (Unable to even update BIOS because it thought it was running on batter when in fact it was AC connected and battery was indeed charging.)  Power Options showed “Your power plan information isn’t avaliable” and a Red X.  When used on battery, the laptop would no longer give low battery warning but just TURN OFF all of the sudden causing possible data loss or corruption. (restoring proper power options proved futile regardless of any microsoft certified steps that supposedly should have worked..)

3. Secure VPN connections no longer working. No particular error given, which wastes your time trying to see if the problem is wrong password or other authentication problem with the VPN server. Turns out that all the WAN PPTP miniports were hosed. (they could not be removed and re-added, though we got them to show up in hardware device manager using some methods, it didn’t solve the connection issues and they would again disappear from device manager, we believe after certain connection attempts.)

Needless to say we were able to hand back to the client a fully working system with ALL these issues RESOLVED! (We ended up having to backup/move all the client’s data and login profiles etc, and do a FRESH FACTORY REINSTALL and then restore all the client’s data and personal profiles to the system.)  Hopefully this info may save some of you countless hours of frustratingly cursing Microsoft by going with the factory reinstall option from the start.

There was one other issue the client was having which we easily fixed from BIOS settings even before having to do the factory reinstall to fix the other problems, and that is the laptop LCD screen would get very dim upon plugging in the AC adapter and using the function keys to turn up the brightness wouldn’t work. Unplugging the AC adapter would make the screen bright and very readable again, seemingly a reversal of what it should do, to be brighter plugged in and dimmer on battery to extend maximum run time.

Family wanted easy and private way to keep in touch and share

Client family did not want to use Facebook or Myspace or any other free service due to security reasons. They wanted to keep exclusive ownership over what they post online and all the other services they looked at claimed they owned everything uploaded to their servers, including any personal photos!

They also did not want anyone to easily be able to look at our copy their family pictures so we created a secured private website where only their family members or friends they create accounts for could participate. (The site was designed with more than one layer of security protection so that it would not be compromised.) The website setup included a family email list to also make email communication much easier amongst the family members who were spread all over the country and overseas.

Many people do not realize that most free services where they can go and upload their pictures have a service (TOS – terms of service) agreement whereby you automatically agree to by using their service. These TOS agreements give the service provider full co-ownership of ‘EVERYTHING’ you post or upload to their website. This means you are no longer the sole owner of your pictures. They could legally do whatever they want with them after you upload them to their service. Is that a scary thought!?

Imagine that you uploaded some pics to myspace hi5, facebook or other social network and later you realized it was a big mistake, perhaps you upload the wrong picture OOPS! Or perhaps you realized you didn’t want the whole world to be able to see that, the fact is that you can NEVER really completely undo such an upload or post. These systems are so massively mirrored and backed up that your picture will almost certainly still be available somewhere on their servers for some time or forever even if you delete it from the user interface they give you.

The absolute BEST secure method to host your most PERSONAL photos meant for only you or only those you designate to view, is to have your OWN personal website. (And with this option, the best option for the really paranoid is to host on a dedicated server.)

Medical student laptop full of viruses, needed speedy resolution

A medical student overwhelmed with impending exams was desperate to get his laptop working again. It was so badly infected everything was crashing. Due to the complex software setups and data he had on the laptop, he could not afford the time needed for a clean install. After thorough analysis of the laptop, we found tons of viruses and malicious spyware which had crippled low-level networking and completely hijacked his browser. We manually tracked down and disabled spyware that anti-virus software was not able to clean or reverse the damage they had done.

It would be a good place to mention a nice piece of software here, it was not used to clean this client’s system, but in the past I have found it to be very useful in restoring systems so badly infected that they wouldn’t boot properly or Microsoft Internet Explorer was completely killed and not working. The software is from WebRoot company made specifically as anti-spyware against various rootkits and trojan viruses.