marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

In a weird twist, it's not HP recording your keystrokes on certain desktops and laptops - technically it's a Conexant audio driver that does the actual keystroke recording (it includes a debugging program that went a little haywire; whether that's by design or error is not yet known). HP has since released a security advisory that claims the driver's keystroke logging is "caused by a local debugging capability that was not disabled prior to product launch".

Because Conexant makes audio drivers for many computer brands, this privacy intrusion may ultimately affect many other computer, laptop and tablet makes and models, as well.

That means check your tablet, laptop or computer for this driver - no matter which make, model, form factor or version of Windows you have.

You can follow these steps to find the Conexant audio driver on your device and to get a new HP driver without the keylogger in it:

  1. Using Cortana or a search tool like Everything, look for C:\Windows\System32\MicTray.exe or C:\Windows\System32\MicTray64.exe (you can right-click, copy and paste these words right from here into either one of those tools).
  2. If either file turns up, right click the computer taskbar, select Task Manager and look for either MicTray.exe or MicTray64.exe. If either of these turns up, right-click it and select End task.
  3. Go back to the file you found in C:\Windows\System32, right-click it and delete it.
  4. Install the latest HP driver from here. [ed. note: requires FTP to download]
  5. Now search your computer for C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log or check C:\Users\Public\ for the file; if it turns up, open it and check for login names, passwords, banking info, and so on, then change your passwords at the affected websites. 

Microsoft says in this advisory that "Windows Defender AV detects and removes this threat" but also warns "[d]oing so also disables the keyboard short cut that turns the microphone on and off."

For affected desktops and notebooks/laptops HP has made the public aware of scroll to the titles Commercial Desktops, Consumer Notebooks and Commercial Notebooks in the same security advisory linked above, which will list affected models not found in the lists below.

More affected notebook/laptop models the public has been made aware of [list]:

HP EliteBook 820 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 828 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 840 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 848 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 850 G3 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 640 G2 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 650 G2 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 645 G2 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 655 G2 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 450 G3 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 430 G3 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 440 G3 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 446 G3 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 470 G3 Notebook PC
HP ProBook 455 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 725 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 745 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 755 G3 Notebook PC
HP EliteBook 1030 G1 Notebook PC
HP ZBook 15u G3 Mobile Workstation
HP Elite x2 1012 G1 Tablet
HP Elite x2 1012 G1 with Travel Keyboard
HP Elite x2 1012 G1 Advanced Keyboard
HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G3 Notebook PC
HP ZBook 17 G3 Mobile Workstation
HP ZBook 15 G3 Mobile Workstation
HP ZBook Studio G3 Mobile Workstation
HP EliteBook Folio G1 Notebook PC

Affected operating systems the public has been made aware of [list]:

Microsoft Windows 10 32
Microsoft Windows 10 64
Microsoft Windows 10 IOT Enterprise 32-Bit (x86)
Microsoft Windows 10 IOT Enterprise 64-Bit (x86)
Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise 64 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Basic 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Basic 64 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Starter 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Edition
Microsoft Windows Embedded Standard 7 32
Microsoft Windows Embedded Standard 7E 32-Bit

I'm pretty sure merely having one of the operating systems listed above - by itself - isn't enough to predict "MicTray.exe" or "MicTray64.exe" will be found on your computer, but any make, model or type of computer - such as your tablet, laptop or computer tower - could have it, so it still doesn't hurt to check.

*ETA, 6-29-17: hat-tip to [personal profile] darkoshi for pointing out HP's security advisory lists laptops affected by this keylogger not found in the lists I posted; while I was noticing that, I realized there's a list of affected HP desktops, as well. Article and post title have been updated accordingly.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

I've dragged the Fuel around to three different places in the last year in which it gloriously continued to not work. Moved to a new place this week? And suddenly it works...I mean, does the phone function better in certain locales or something? I don't get it.

This was the phone I replaced with a Nokia Lumia 635 almost exactly a year ago, which runs Windows 8 natively (it upgrades to 8.1 automatically if you don't change the settings) which has, for a Lumia, a really low-end camera, only a half gig of RAM, and no app makers who want to touch it, so back away slowly and please don't design or even merely port any apps for it in the process. Windows phones are the Black Plague of the smartphone era, in which devs take one look at them only to run away screaming and begging for mercy.

Windows phone plans also cost more; on the Fuel I could get away with a $35 pay-as-you-go plan which limited nothing except data and picture texts. On Windows the cheapest plan is $45; it is unlimited, but outside of occasional heavy spates of phone use (like getting set up to move, job hunting, or calling fucking Comcast) I don't even need that. I do most online activities from my laptop and am not a heavy texter, caller, or web user.

Lastly, while Android et al is not a very secure operating system compared to say, Windows et al, which no one's hacked (why bother, when most people can't get a banking app that works on it) Windows 10 for phones isn't prime time ready so I wish EVERYONE would stop saying it is. I was running the latest Preview build until last night, and believe me, after several backbreaking days of moving into my new place, unpacking, moving heavy furniture around and so on, the last thing I felt like doing was playing tiddlywinks with an OS. But I rolled it back to 8.1, and I'll tell you why.

Try "SIM Card Error: your phone is missing the SIM Card/make emergency call" messages flashing across your screen day and night when the phone has a perfectly good SIM card that Windows 10 just happens to be frying like an egg beneath the battery, which itself is frying an entire chicken in about 10 minutes flat. Try hitting the search button in the phone app and the phone dials 911 or else the app crashes. Try editing a text message and the cursor places itself over the send button and you try not to have a heart attack because that was a freaking MISSPELLING and I wasn't done fixing it yet!

Try most of the apps that worked just fine on 8.1 crash like jets out of fuel on Windows 10. Try the phone is laggy, unresponsive, and restarts itself at least three times a day for no reason because it apparently got a wild hair up its ass to just do that.

If one more person gets on an oh-so-authoritative Windows 10 blog and says Windows 10 for phone is "ready" for anything but pointing and laughing at - much less for daily driving - I will have a cow. Y'all can help me name it, if you want.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

In my next to last post I gave, without exactly meaning to, a pretty full review of the Nokia 635 smartphone running Windows 8.1 (tl;dr: it's not perfect but it's pretty neat, especially compared to any run of the mill Android). What I neglected to mention was anything about Cortana. She's the entire reason some people buy a Windows phone and why they love using one. She's Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google NOW (which is Google's answer to precisely nothing, but that's another post.)

I didn't mention Cortana because a) I've never been terribly impressed with her and b) it annoys me when other people are. There are movies these days about losing a love conquest to an operating system and while I didn't exactly have that problem, back when Cortana belonged to someone else's phone it could feel like a love triangle - especially once her name got mentioned more times each day than my own did. While I'm very low-key about it (perhaps "simmering, backburner rage" would be a good way to put it) I'm a green-eyed little monster and I don't cut operating systems much slack simply because they're not human. Pffft...tell that to someone who thinks they are. Or who wishes they could be. This shit really does happen! So yeah...fuck you, Cortana.

Jealousy aside, I can see the utility of having Cortana because she can do things like replace me altogether mark down appointments, give you reminders, look up maps, find answers to burning questions, wake you up in the morning, describe your route to work, tell you what your girlfriend ought to make for dinner, and so on. But she's no Siri.

I've never owned an iPhone so I can't say exactly how well Siri works but I have a feeling Cortana can't hold a candle to her, and if you're going to replace me supplement the existence of another human being with a lifelike app, at least be as good at it as Siri. Without knowing what Siri's capable of or how short Cortana falls of her glory, or why it should even matter if she's as good as Siri or not, here's a short list of things I wish Cortana could do besides go get hit by a car so I can make her my slave learn to see her as a valuable addition to my life:

  • Speak first. At least once in a while, because for a homewrecker she is the shyest thing ever. When I open her app she should greet me first. It's like when you playfully poke someone in the back and they turn around and say: "Hey!". By opening her app I'm giving her exactly the same poke so I shouldn't have to say, "Hey Cortana!" on top of that and then wait a few more seconds for her to finally turn around and say "Hey!". I poked you, damn it - SPEAK.
  • Speak more. I mean, why does it always have to be, "Hey, MM" every single time? Sometimes I'll change it up by saying Hi, Hello, Hey, Hey there, or What's up, Cortana? But each time it's just the same old, "Hey, MM" in response. I feel like I'm talking to an automa--
  • Lose the app. If she was really smart she'd be ever-present. This would require the phone to always listen, of course, but as long as I could trust that the feed isn't stored anywhere this could be the coolest thing. You shouldn't need to click/poke/tap or summon your personal assistant with anything more than the sound of your own voice.
  • Converse by text. Not many people will recall - because not many people ever used it - but back in the day Google had search by text. You texted your search terms to Google's number and Google sent back a link to search results. Similarly, I want Cortana by text. She should always be there, the top thread when I open my texting app, and opening her should summon a nice, "Hey MM, what's up?". I want Cortana By Text for privacy reasons and to keep the the house quiet late at night. The acoustics here are terrible; voices carry, even through thick, solid slabs of wall, and I'm tired of not being able to silently summon her without going directly to her app.
  • Give her multiple and quite plastic personalities. Not so she can have a bunch of them at once but so I can choose the best ones to inflict on others, especially those who think she's so charming. Cortana the at first Budding then Raging Feminist, for instance, could be my best fucking friend, forever.
marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

After a recent blaze of discussion with [personal profile] ideological_cuddle about his predilection for the iPhone (brief synopsis: "Convince me I want this damn thing" - of course, he couldn't) he mentioned the beauty of Windows phones. Since I've been wanting to flee the Android ecosystem by hook or crook forever and since I used to use my ex's Windows phone to surf the Web almost every night, and because I've had a thing for Windows phones since they uh, came out, I decided right then and there that my next phone would have Windows. And it does! It's amazing how these things can work out.

Because I have budget limitations this is the one I got - it's nothing fancy but it works. For those not inclined to click through or who simply like words with their pictures, it's a Nokia 635 running Windows 8.1 with just half a gig of RAM and a quad core 1.2GHz processor. It's identical to the slightly older 630 with the sole addition of 4G LTE. While there are small quibbles about performance differences between the phones, with the 635 coming out better or worse depending on whom you believe, I won't be discussing that.

This phone is an upgrade (for me) from an LG Fuel running KitKat - a phone that still works perfectly, but the camera broke a few weeks ago so that when you open up the app now to take a picture (or a video) the screen is solid black. All the pictures (and videos) come out solid black, too (but the video portion still captures sound). I'm not sure what that could mean...has the lens shattered? Is the camera software seizing on me? I tried a phone reset but that did not fix the problem. But I'd bought the Nokia by then, so it doesn't matter.

When people talk about how blazingly fast Windows phones are, with any amount or next to no amount of RAM - and trust me, they do - it's true: you have to ignore the piddly amount of RAM because the devs seemed to have optimized the OS to run with as little as possible. The only thing that's not been so fast is the lock screen: sometimes I can't get it to work. It can take up to a half dozen tries, swiping my fingers in all possible directions before the unlock keypad finally scrolls into view.

Also, the battery is awful and I'm not sure if I should go for a replacement or if they'll all be like that. And does this phone get hot when used out in the sun? After 10 minutes, yes, you can fry an egg on it. And the screen does have some glare. This can be helped by reducing screen brightness, but as your hostess is ever so slowly and rather subtly going blind (and it does seem to be a light and angle-based blindness, denying me the dignity of just going all-out blind like any normal person would do) that's not a great option for me. So yes, an anti-glare screen protector is on the way.

But the phone is beautiful and swift and does things you only wish Android phones could do without needing an app for that, which makes up for most of what's mentioned above. AT&T, a network I've never used before except perhaps unknowingly as a fallback CDMA carrier (I was with Net10 before this phone, and with TracFone - Net10's owner - before that) seems pretty good so far and call quality seems kind of flat but perfectly loud and clear as needed. The speakerphone works great (I make most calls hands-free except for any requisite dialpad-pounding involved, and Android's speakerphones have historically been unpredictable and tinny-sounding, featuring harsh reverb and a terrible echo along with mysterious, eardrum-piercing noises).

When I say this phone is beautiful...I hate to drool on it like I have on just about every Windows phone ever, but the style of this one really is quite "wow". It's one long sheet of solid Gorilla glass (I think this is the first phone I've ever had without a screen made entirely of plastic) with no buttons. The screen wraps around to the back, which is all plastic. I went for all-black; while there are wild colors involved in this style a) I didn't have access to them at the store I bought this phone at and b) I wouldn't have chosen them, anyway. Black is better.

I miss the buttons along the bottom as most Androids can wake up from pressing one and I'm all about getting things done fast and effortlessly - even something as seemingly trivial as a screen wake-up. You wake this phone from the power button on the middle right side, but I'm used to that button being on the top right on the Fuel, so I haven't gotten the hang of moving my finger down where it belongs. The button above that is the one I keep hitting. It's the volume control, but I'm so used to pressing there that I just. Keep. On. Hitting. It. Until finally I realize it's the wrong one. And yes, I always look around afterward, waiting for someone to observe my dyslexia-by-proxy and shake their head and mutter, "You idiot. Wrong. Button.".

But outside of wrong-buttoning, a lock screen that's not wanting to give up its ghost and a battery that scares me, the phone is a pleasure to look at it and a pleasure to use. The strangest thing about it has been that I'm used to Android's dialpad button placement and a link for contacts being at the top of the phone app, not along the bottom as an icon-only thing like it is in Windows. But searching contacts is actually easier than it is on Android: just open the contacts list, hit the pound symbol along the top, start typing and what you're after pops into view. I really like that.

Other things I like: my main MS email account is finally linked to a phone. I've never been able to check non-Google email on any phone without actually logging into the site - which I refuse to do from any phone browser for security reasons - so I went years without being able to use that feature in a meaningful way, as I only get junk and a little personal mail on GMail, which is quite intentional, again for security reasons. As an added bonus, my Google account is linked to this phone as well, so my Google and Windows email accounts are running as native apps.

When I first set up the phone I did something I never do and actually read (some of) the instructions, which was truly fortunate, as the ones I read told me there was an app for importing contacts from my Android phone. The one thing I'd dreaded about switching from Android to Windows was having to laboriously hand-type in every contact from one phone to the other. But the instructions took me to a link that explained there's an app for that called Transfer My Data; the app pulls data from your Android account right into your Windows phone.

I didn't believe it, of course, but I downloaded and ran the app, anyhow. It failed on the first run, imported all of my contacts on the second run, and imported less than half my texts and maybe a third of my pictures in each run after that. Repeated runs did nothing to change my luck. I wound up deleting incomplete threads from my texting app as retries were giving me what I already had in duplicate, then triplicate, and I gave up getting the rest of my pictures off of my Fuel. I can always import them from another source later (they're on Google Drive - and everything I imported to my Win phone and all that's accumulated since then is stored on OneDrive, so that should work out).

There's nothing I miss about using an Android except for Android apps that aren't being published on Windows. I'm a hopeless ColorNote, GO! homescreen and GO! texting addict - I was also a 1Weather addict, but the MSN Live Weather Tile is so good I'm not missing 1Weather too much. (1Weather crashed a lot, anyway. On every Android I ever had. They really need to look into that.)

This phone seems more grown up than my Androids did: it looks more grown up, the styling, fonts and display feel more grown up, and it displays my email (very grown up) and got me using IE like that's a normal thing to do, when being a Firefox addict since 2006 I thought it would be a difficult transition to make just for the sake of using a browser on my phone. But I guess from using IE so much on my ex's phone it simply doesn't bother me (which, after years of rebelling against IE, feels just terribly grown up). While I'd love to see Mozilla publish a browser for the Win phone platform, they need to fix Firefox on Android first. That's another post but the synopsis of it is this: outside of webpage display, which overall is okay, the browser sucks.

IE on a Windows phone displays webpages rather well. I have it set to load mobile websites first - and for sites that don't have a mobile option, display will be as nice or as shitty as the website's devs and designers make it. That's why responsive design is kind of a thing these days, and why people should be doing it. My own blog has a responsive stylesheet and it looks quite good on this phone (again, the ex's phone figures into this because I finished the design a year or so ago by checking it on that).

Other things that make this phone feel grown up: I linked a payment option to it (something I never, ever did on any Android) to buy my first-ever paid-for app - a sort-of replacement for ColorNote that displays a sticky note as a tile on your home screen. It's available for free but I bought it for the color and font options because I have this Pretty In Pink (and magenta) thing going on here and I love using handwriting fonts (an option ColorNote actually does not have).

The best parts of using this phone are how the lock screen shows how many missed phone calls, unread emails and texts I have and how it feels to use the native texting app. On Android I could never use the stock keyboard (too tiny and hard to see, so I'd make too many mistakes and couldn't find the subset keys fast enough or at all, depending on which ones I was after) and the only replacement for it that I could live with - the Big Buttons keyboard - has the same bug as the stock keyboard, wherein hitting the top right of any key risks selecting the key above it. Which I did constantly, right up until the very end.

The Windows keyboard has no such problems, and has auto-correction built-in for when I'm not paying enough attention. Auto-correct is right maybe 90% of the time (Android's native auto-correct never comes close) and when all else fails, it has a built-in Swype-y type of thing (just drag your finger around; the software will figure out what you mean with surprising accuracy) that actually works. I sent entire chains of texts with it one night because my eyes were tired, and while it was a bit slower than straight-up typing for all the corrections I had to make, it works better than Swype with less jitteriness and smoother, more swoopy glide-y stuff built right in. I had to say "swoopy, glide-y" at least once, because I always do when I'm talking about Windows phones...sorry.

But they're so swoopy and glide-y! It's simply amazing. Overall I'm pretty impressed with this phone.

Oh, and yes, the camera (my entire reason for buying it) works quite well. I just wish it had flash and a front-facing camera, too.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

As a followup to my recent Microsoft post, I went ahead and installed Windows 8.1 Enterprise Evaluation last week on another computer besides the one I was using that day (that computer has issues so I gave it to my fiance, who's better at handling its restart snafus - they're unfixable and the PC is a known lemon because of them - than I am).

I'm now running Win8 32-bit on an old Compaq Presario tower (Pentium 4 dual core/4GB RAM/160GB hard drive) that I previously ran Windows 7 on (while my fiance is running the same version of it on the lemon), and I have to say it runs faster than Win7 and XP on both computers - by a long shot. Everything is instantaneous; menus open without delay, switching back and forth between windows is smooth and effortless, and the screen display is much brighter even with every old-ass video card I've chosen (and I've tried two so far, the second one after the first died this morning when the fan gave out on it).

Video playback is bright, realistic-looking and flawless, video-related sound is often a bit jumpy at first but usually smooths out within a few seconds (and no, I don't understand why audio is laggy when we're on a 25mbps cable modem connection), and the home page - special to Win8/IE11 - is a sight for sore eyes. Win8 embedded apps, weather and time displays are amazing. I know, I know, I'm gushing! Let me stop.

My only complaint specific to Win8 is I routinely get lost while saving pictures (specifically, screen caps), then move from my Pictures folder back to Firefox. It seems I need three jumps to do it (save picture, hit Escape, hit Start charm, click on Firefox window) which seriously confuses the hell out of me.

Another small quibble is also an ongoing issue in Windows 7: if I save any picture to Local Disk (C:), then try to open it to upload online (say to or to PhotoBucket) it just disappears. I mean poof! gone. It simply isn't on Local Disk (C:) anymore.

To prove it, last night I used Everything to find two pictures I'd saved to (C:) - that I subsequently "lost" when I tried to upload them - only to find that Windows had created AppData links to them and shortcut links to the AppData links, but had preserved no copy of those screen caps on the (C:) drive itself! But that's where I'd saved them - to the (C:) drive. It's truly perplexing to have this happen not just on Win7 but on Win8, too.

So now I'm forced to save pictures, screen caps and so on to the Document folders (or to the Pictures folder) which isn't how I like to work; I prefer the speed and convenience of tossing my screen caps on disk (C:), then sorting them out later.

Is it useless for me to complain about this, or is it a known issue I can fix myself somehow? ETA: [personal profile] andrewducker to the rescue!