Windows 8.1 Automatic Repair Endless Loop Will Make you Loopy

2015-06-19 09.34.33

My very trustworthy Asus notebook running Windows 8.1 threw a fit today. Windows has a built-in Automatic Repair tool that diagnoses and helps you repair problems that prevent you from booting up normally.

I’ve encountered this feature many times before and it always goes into an endless loop of rebooting trying to fix the problem. Ideally, you just insert a bootable Windows 8 or 8.1 DVD and it will grab all it needs to make the repair.

Yesterday, I spent nearly two hours waiting for it to finally find the files it needed to make the machine bootable.  I used both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 disks. But wait, that was after 25 reboot attempts. After about the 17th reboot attempt, I was about to capitulate. I walked out of the room to get some work done on another PC. When i came back Windows 8.1 was up and running. The Blue Screen of Death (BSD) we thought went away is just hidden from your view by Automatic Repair. My advice is to let Automatic Repair reboot as long as your patience will allow in the hopes it may recover. I’ve found System Restore to be a hit or miss process. But I always use it when given the opportunity. In the above case, system restore did restore the system but only after Windows Automatic Repair was able to resolve the boot up problem through the nightmarish process of playing chicken with Windows.  Since we know that sooner or later most of us are going to run into system corruption issues you might as well prepare for it.

Planning for Disaster and System Recovery

Who doesn’t hate doing a clean install? It takes a lot of time if you have lots of desktop applications installed. The good thing about Apps and AppStores is you can bring all your apps back without having to find the registration codes. Windows 8.X has a good options for refreshing all the necessary system files that may be corrupted and that cause programs to crash. It’s the Refresh But Save My Settings feature. This will preserve all your custom settings and files but you’ll need to reinstall all of your software. I would keep a list of all your installed desktop apps. Take a screen shot of your control panels “Uninstall Programs” screen or you can write them down. or capture them with the Evernote screen app. I also recommend that you put all executable files in a download directory (preferably on redundant storagte) and all registration codes should be written down and backed up to a USB flash drive or disk not on your computer.

Oh and  just one more thing.  Backup all your files and applications install media to a hard drive and cloud based storage. If you do all this you’re going to have a really good chance at recovery with the shortest amount of down time. You can even plan periodic Windows Refresh to keep your machine running fast.You can also create a system image and back up that image to an external hard drive. System images are sometimes corrupted too so don’t bet on any one horse.

It isn’t fun but at least you be online again in a couple hours once your system suffers a major crash IF your organized and have planned and implemented your reconstruction strategy before disaster strikes.  – Howard Sobel

Howard has reviewed, written about, tested, marketed, published and distributed software for two decades. He is the co-founder of the Windows User Group Network (WUGNET) a serial entrepreneur and product marketing consultant.


Computer Repair Scam Telephone Call Still Claims Victims

Some of you have probably gotten these calls and hung up. If you haven’t been called beware.  This is going on across the USA. I received  a call from a friend yesterday who needed to unlock his  computer which was held ransomed by a gang from India. Here’s how the scam goes. An agent will call you and tell you they are from Microsoft, AOL, or some other trusted company and they need to take over control of your computer to fix the problem. If you let them take control they will ask you to go to a link or run a small piece of software they put on your computer. This bogus anti-virus program runs for a few minutes and then shows results which indicate your computer is infected. (The results come up so fast that more experienced computer users would know that it couldn’t have possibly scanned the entire computer). These results are fictional and often are just entries in your Windows registry file.  If you agree to let them fix it they will start making changes which will allows them to lock you out unless you pay anywhere from $100-500 dollars to be sent by Western Union or some other third party payment system. If you refuse they will lock you out. Sometimes they will give you a number to call back later and pay the  money after a few hours of hopelessly trying to restart your computer. If you don’t have a backup and will lose important information you don’t have much choice.  In today’s case, I’m pretty sure they didn’t encrypt (scramble the hard drive) because the technique I used to get it to unlock worked unless they were really bad amateurs!  I called the thugs back to have some fun and a guy picked up after twenty rings who answered “Secure PC” with what sounded like an Indian accent. Sometimes the caller ID will come from a local number. Note that It’s easy to create a virtual local phone number on Skype or Google Talk. That’s what security experts recognize as a good social engineering technique. Don’t let anyone scam you on the phone into letting them take control of your computer– ever. Honestly had this been real ransomware the disk would have been encrypted and unreadable. Fortunately, my friend was able to use his PC again. Corporations have been held hostage for millions of dollars because it’s cheaper for them to pay the ransom. Think before you give over control of your computer to someone calling you on the phone or it may cost you hundreds of dollars.

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset –Delivers Xtreme Comfort, Sound, and Design


Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset –Delivers Xtreme Comfort, Sound, and Design

I have a pile of Bluetooth devices but recently received the Jabra Stealth to review. The first thing I noticed about the Jabra Stealth is its unique design and surprisingly light weight. This is achieved through the use of what Jabra calls MicroPOWER battery technology which they attribute to its extremely light weight, longer talk time, and increased comfort.  I assume this is another word for a small but powerful battery. In the technology industry trademarked descriptions are always a marketing plus. So I put it on.  This is the most comfortable Bluetooth headset I’ve ever worn.

The Jabra Stealth was impressive in all areas. Light weight and comfortable you’ll forget it’s on your ear.  It comes with 3 ear gels as well as two ear hooks. I normally have to try on each ear gel that comes with Bluetooth headsets to find the right size and sometimes none of them work well for me. Not so with the Jabra ear gels. I immediately got a great fit. That was a bonus.

Design Simplicity

The Jabra lacks a volume button but I didn’t find that to be a problem in every day usage scenario. There are just three buttons. On/off switch, the Answer/end bar on well-designed metallic looking micro boom, and the voice button easily located on the inside of the body of Jabra microphone.  I find that I’m always fumbling around looking for the volume control on my headset. This is not only a pain but also a distraction while driving. Since the Jabra Stealth doesn’t have one, its buttons are a snap to locate. In this case it’s a feature not a design flaw. Sometimes less is more.

Simple “Stupid” Set Up

The setup process took me less than two minutes. The device can be paired through traditional Bluetooth pairing by just pressing the Answer/end switch which provides voice guided instructions. If your mobile device supports NFC you have that option as well. The Answer/end button also supports native device voice control like many other devices giving you access to Google/Now or Siri. The only problem I encountered was a small detour figuring out how to open the micro USB tab. They should ad an additional graphic showing exactly how to open it. It also only comes with a micro USB to USB connector. No plug in device. I think they should through in the full recharge adapter considering the pricing. Although I used another micro USB  adapter to charge it and worked just fine.


You can download the Jabra Assist apps for the Stealth on both Android Play and Itunes App Store. The app has some great features. Here’s the description from the Android store.

Find my Jabra (for Jabra Classic, Jabra Mini, Jabra Stealth, Jabra Storm and Jabra Style). Each time the headset is in use the position is geo tagged. If the headset gets misplaced, you can see on the map on your smartphone where it has been used last time making it easy to find the headset again. The application can even show the easiest route back to your headset. Furthermore if the headset is lost but still in range, you can activate a sound in the headset, making it easier to find again.

Find my Car (for Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive, Jabra Streamer and Jabra Tour). Each time you leave your car, its position is geo tagged. You can see your current location and where you left the car at any time on the phones build in map. The application can even show the easiest route back to your car. The application also lets you take a picture of the surroundings when leaving the car, making it even easier to relocate your car.

Responsible Driving (for Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive, Jabra Streamer and Jabra Tour) Jabra Assist provides a new feature set to respond to the increasing focus on responsible driving, avoiding accidents when using your smartphone while driving. When you connect to a Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive or Jabra Tour speakerphone or Jabra Streamer controller, your smartphone will switch into safety mode. An incoming message will be automatically replied stating that you are in the car driving and will return later.

Battery meter (for Jabra Classic, Jabra Mini, Jabra Stealth, Jabra Storm and Jabra Style). The battery meter gives you a simple visual indication of the remaining battery time on your Jabra device. It will give you a warning when the level reaches 50%, 25% and 10% of the remaining talk time.
Pairing guide. The automated pairing guide will guide you through the pairing session in an easy step-by-step process.

Animated guide. The guide gives you an easy to understand introduction to the key features of the Jabra Assist smartphone application.

User manual. Need to check the user manual? No worries; as you now have access to the full user manual from within the application.

Enjoy all these great features and more when you download the Jabra Assist app. Note that Jabra Assist application only works in conjunction with the Jabra Classic, Jabra Mini, Jabra Stealth, Jabra Storm, Jabra Style, Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive, Jabra Streamer and Jabra Tour products.


Android Google Play:

Sound Quality – The Jabra does a great job filtering out background noise. I would rate it equal to or better than Plantronics, Jawbone, or Blue Ant.

Pro:  Exceptional comfort, nice design, long battery life, good sound and noise dampening.

Con: No Volume Control… USB plug a little hard to open without directions.

Windows Fixer Tip: Windows Mail Refusing to Load Because it is Missing WLDCore.dll

I recently received an update message from Windows messenger informing me a new update was available which of course was “Skype”. I already use Skype but I installed it again. The same day I also switched from Windows Security Essentials to Avira to do a test and then switched back. Somewhere after that process, I discovered that Windows Mail would not work. Each time I launched it an error message indicated it could not find WLDCore.dll. Google and Bing turned up issues but they were older. They also referred to a common shared folder c:\Program Files\Windows Live\Shared. Unfortunately, this folder did not exist on my Windows 7 installation probably due to updating by uninstalling and reinstalling Windows Essentials and Windows Security Essentials. The fix: reinstalling Windows Essentials did not seem to do the trick. However I then went into Control Panel and initiated an uninstall and told Windows Essentials 2012 to repair just Windows Mail. Voila! Worked like a charm.

– Howard Sobel



Will You Continue to Use XP at Your Own Risk?

On March 12, 2014, the US-CERT released an alert to XP users warning them about the risks of continuing using XP (and Office 2003) after April 8, 2014. Microsoft has warned XP users that the product is at its end of life cycle officially this April 8 after which it will no longer be considered a supported operating system.  This means they will no longer be releasing security patches, which help protect PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, assisted technical support from Microsoft, software and content updates. If you have used Windows Update, Microsoft will officially notify you through Windows Update.  However according to Microsoft’s security blog the software giant “will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.” The blog further states, “We’ve received some inquiries about what “no longer supported operating system” means. To clarify, this mean that, after April 8, 2014, Windows XP users will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft.”

 This news should come as no surprise although Microsoft had previously decided to extend XP’s life cycle for various scenarios with OEMs and enterprise. Although XP seems like a cat with nine lives users who continue using it, do so at their own risk after the April 8 deadline.

What are the risks of continuing to use XP?

According to the CERT alert, computer systems running unsupported software are exposed to an elevated risk to cybersecurity dangers, such as malicious attacks or electronic data loss. Users may also encounter problems with software and hardware compatibility since new software applications and hardware devices may not be built for Windows XP or Office 2003.  “Organizations that are governed by regulatory obligations may find they are no longer able to satisfy compliance requirements.” The also recommend that you can minimize some risk by switching to another browser that is updated and compatible with XP ie: Chrome or Firefox.

How prevalent is XP?

Gartner estimates as of 2013 that there are globally 1.63 billion PCs. With that scenario you could be looking at around 500 million computers running XP and over a billion people. If these 28%-30% predictions are correct.

You should ask yourself if you really want to roll the dice with your information and security by continuing to cling on to an operating system released to the public on October 25, 2001. Another very small study by Flexera and IDC concluded incredibly, of 752 organizations responding “28% still need to migrate half or more of their applications accounts off XP.

Considering that Operating Systems are now coming out faster than rabbit turds, a 13 year run is astonishing. Will you push your luck and continue to ride the OS bull or switch to Windows 7, 8.1, Mac or Android?  You’ve probably got your monies worth from XP by now but it could start costing you a lot more in the future if you run into some major security flaws that led to identity theft, or loss of data. Every day there is a new hack. They are coming fast and furious on even newer operating systems. I’m sure some of you will think this is a devious plot by the evil software Giant Microsoft. But really 13 years is a good ride.

About CERT

US-CERT is part of DHS’ National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).

The Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) leads efforts to improve the nation’s cybersecurity posture, coordinate cyber information sharing, and proactively manage cyber risks to the Nation while protecting the constitutional rights of Americans. US-CERT strives to be a trusted global leader in cybersecurity – collaborative, agile, and responsive in a dynamic and complex environment.

Will the Target Data Breach Harm You?

It has been reported possibly 100,000,000 or more users data is probably in the hands of cyber thieves based in Eastern Europe. These cybertheives trade your names, credit card and identity information for money in sophisticated internal web sites. They can even break down the information by your credit card limit! What is even more alarming is that armed with the specific pieces of data like your phone number, your credit card number and possibly your social security number they can construct very sophisticated socially engineered emails to you that you will probably think are genuine. They will have just enough of the “right” information to make you think it’s from a trusted entity. This is a “spear phishers” crystal ball and your nightmare. More on the Target Data Breach

What is spear-phishing?
It is not going fishing with a speargun. The term refers to the process of sending a fake email made to appear like its coming from a friend, bank or company you have a business relationship or account with and getting you to click on a link. That link will likely send you to a web site which can inject malware that can phone home more of your data to the cyber thieves.

The problem is getting worse. This article by my friend and security expert Stu Sjouwerman examines the problem in detail. Take a deeper dive into the world of spear fishing.

Philadelphia suburban Over the Broadcast Using The Leaf Ultimate Indoor Antenna

I’m now into my fist month of life without cable or satellite programming. It’s not as bad as you might imagine. In fact it’s nice not to see that $100 satellite bill each month. But that may change when the new HBO Series Game of Thrones arrives.

If you live in a large metropolitan area chances are you’ll get plenty of channels with a good indoor antenna HDTV antenna like the Mohu Leaf or Leaf Ultimate. I tested the amplified versions from RCA and Mohu. The Leaf Ultimate outperformed the RCA ANT1450BR Multi-Directional Amplified Digital Flat Antenna in two locations. Metropolitan Philly with lots of channels (up to 55) and 12-14 in Southern Delaware.

Up to 55 channels from 25 over-the-air stations may be received at this location.
Stations Antenna
RF Channel: 26
11 miles at 129°
RF Channel: 34
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 27
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 12
11 miles at 129°
RF Channel: 41
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 17
11 miles at 129°
RF Channel: 31
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 32
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 6
11 miles at 129°
RF Channel: 25
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 42
11 miles at 129°
RF Channel: 29
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 35
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 33
11 miles at 129°
W36DO-D 36.1 CTV
RF Channel: 36
11 miles at 128°
Light Green
RF Channel: 4
41 miles at 133°
RF Channel: 28
11 miles at 129°
RF Channel: 14
11 miles at 128°
RF Channel: 7
18 miles at 136°
RF Channel: 49
41 miles at 133°
RF Channel: 9
30 miles at 356°
RF Channel: 30
11 miles at 129°
RF Channel: 22
41 miles at 134°
RF Channel: 50
12 miles at 113°
RF Channel: 48
11 miles at 129°

DropCam Review

Review Dropcam® HD – Wins on Simplicity, Design, and Execution

There are lots of devices that claim to be easy to install. Dropcam has developed a Wi-Fi wireless solution that takes literally seconds to set up. That’s quite an achievement when you pull it off correctly.

The box claims “Watch online” in 60 seconds. I didn’t have a timer going but it sure was very close to its promise. I’ve installed quite a few other Wireless IP Cam solutions which were easy to install but none were as easy as this. Having installed hundreds of hardware devices and thousands of software apps, my main flaw is that I tend to try to jump ahead anticipate the next step after scanning the directions. Sometimes I omit steps by not carefully reading the quick start until I run into trouble. Sometimes it’s a good test because many users tend to do the same.

To install Dropcam, all you have to do is drop in the black, round, well designed camera into its silver very minimalist looking but nicely designed housing. Then, plug in the extra long Micro USB cable into your USB port. The USB cable doubles as a power source when plugged into the micro USB compatible electric socket adapter. Very much like an iPhone or iPad or Android charger device. Next, wait for the software driver to install. On my Windows 7 machine installation was exceptionally easy because of the way they’ve chosen to implement the install using “Autoplay”. The device is seen as another drive by the PC. When the driver is installed the auto play option kicks in and opens. On the screen it clearly tells you to choose “open file”.

There among the files you will clearly see a Dropcam setup. Once you click that you’re almost done. Fill out a form with a user name and password, tell Dropcam how to connect to the wireless network and the SSID that you wish to use and give it the password if needed. That’s about all there is to setup. It is literally plug and play. Unlike the Swan Swan Smart ADS-450 software install which leaves some doubt as to exactly when you’re connected to the WiFi, Dropcam lets you know you’re now connected and can safely disconnect the USB cable. There are no other switches to flip. It then tells you that you can now move the unit anywhere within range. You can do this as many times as you want and not have to change settings. I then walked it into the next room and plugged it in. Walked back to the monitor and it was live. The only time you would need to hook back up to the computer is to change to a different Wi-Fi network.

Now back to filling out the account. There are three subscription options. The only thing you can possibly mess up is losing the free full trial by going too fast. If you pick a subscription option like “Basic” which is free you will cancel your free full trial option. So let the trial run and then pick an option when it’s over. The first option Basic (FREE) plan includes free monitoring and two way voice but no HD/DVR recording. The second option is PlusHD ($9.95 month) which comes with free monitoring and 7 days worth of recording. The third is PROHD ($29.95 month) and comes with 30 days of recording. See chart below.


You can change settings easily through Dropcam’s site or use either the great Android or iPad apps which you can download from respective app stores. I installed the Dropcam iPad app . Installation was simple but excellent. It took longer to download than to setup. Once I entered my log in information I was able to start watching my cam . You can change settings which are saved on the Dropcam web site. There are several setting options and you do you have the ability to take and save a snap shot with the free/basic subscription as well as two way talk. The options include: Notifications of events/movement, live view, talk and the general settings button. The general settings will let you customize the alerts, night vision status, status light, digital zoom, flip (180 degree rotation, Microphone and time zones. You can add multiple Dropcam cameras to your profile and screens if you wish. The field of view supports 107 degrees horizontal.

I knew in advance that this solution was not a 360 pan tilt camera. They can be much more expensive and more difficult to install. The nice thing about this camera is the wide angle fish eye type view it gives you. This is extremely helpful when viewing from a fixed location. You now have a suburb solution to monitor a room in your home, pets, baby, whatever needs a third eye while you’re away!

Pros: Easiest setup and solution I’ve tested. Great mobile apps. Great design. Customer support by email and phone. Camera sharing. Unlimited live viewing in Basic. Mobile app snapshot. Night Vision. Digital Zoom. Two way talk. 720P compressed video (1280×720) 80211/b/g/n. Long micro USB /adapter. Secure data encryption.

Cons: Some other solutions give you free video capture. Pricing plans a little pricey but simplicity to install may offset this for many folks.

List: $149.99 for hardware (free to premiere pricing for service) Dropcam web site

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