Here’s a nifty utility you may want to add to your Win10 desktops. It’s called CapsLock Indicator, and it shows persistent visual cues in the Notification area of the Win10 taskbar. To be more specific, it shows the state of three keys: Caps Lock (C), Num Lock (N), and Scroll Lock (S). Simply put: CapsLock Indicator shows key states for those three keys. It’s a petite (119 KB) little utility that does the job quite nicely, from German developer Jonas Kohl. Here’s what the UI looks like:
You can decide which of the three keys you want shown, then manage their appearance and status change behavior.
When CapsLock Indicator Shows Key States, What Happens?
By default the key indicators show up as white text against a purple background. (The program provides controls for most of these things.) When you click a lock key, it changes background from purple to green with a white outline. This makes it easy to tell with a glance if the key is on or off. I don’t use the Scroll lock key myself, so I turned it off in the UI. In other words, I unchecked the box next to “Scroll lock” in the upper left UI pane. Other than that, I only had to drag the C and N icons from the pop-up notification area onto the static notification area on the toolbar to keep them visible all the time.
This ia great tool, especially for touch typists like me who get discombobulated when Caps Lock or Num Lock get turned on unintentionally, or get left on longer than I need them activated. It’s nice to know what’s what, and this tool helps provide that info without forcing me to check lights on the keyboard. If you like this behavior as much as I do, grab yourself a copy today. It’s free.
I’ve been switching over from a test desktop to a Dell All-in-One for Insider Preview testing and experimentation. We’ve moved the Asrock Z97 Killer with i7 4770K CPU, 32 GB RAM, and 500 GB mSATA SSD, upstairs. In return, I’ve picked up and fixed his Dell XPS 2720 All-in-One touchscreen PC for use in my office. In whipping the Dell into shape, I’ve recalled one plus from buying a PC or laptop from a big-name vendor. (At my house that means Dell, Lenovo and Microsoft right now.) Those big outfits can afford to automate and simplify device maintenance and upkeep. That’s why I say “When updating drivers check vendor support.”
When Updating Drivers Check Vendor Support Gets You Tailored Advice
On the Dell machine, I can check drivers quite simply. I just right-click the Dell Update icon in the toolbar, then select “Dell Online Support” from the pop-up menu. It works with a utility called Dell System Detect to read the PC’s asset code from firmware, to look up its purported hardware configuration. When I go to its Drivers & Downloads page, I only need click on a button labeled “Detect Drivers” to have it scan for and recommend any pending updates.
Once the wireless adapter is put to work, the apparent device discrepancy is resolved.
This time around, Dell found that I needed a new AHCI driver for storage, and it said I also needed a Wireless 1703 WiFi + Bluetooth driver. The AHCI driver install went without a hitch, but the wireless networking drivers failed to install. As it happens, that machine has a Killer (Atheros) N-1202 WiFi+Bluetooth adapter. I was using a wired connection, which turns off the wireless adapter. As soon as I disconnected the wired link and switched over to wireless, the scan correctly identified the networking hardware in use and reported all drivers up-to-date.
This goes to show several important things about such driver scans:
- They usually work reasonably well, but they’re not perfect.
- The user must still understand certain basics of hardware operation on the target PC for best results.
- Vendors don’t always keep up with the most current or latest and greatest drivers. They favor stability over currency, for very good reason (fewer support calls that way).
That’s why I also use the Windows Update MiniTool (aka WUMT) to check drivers on the PCs I maintain. On a follow-up check, thankfully, WUMT found nothing pending that Dell’s facility missed.
Outside the Dell Umbrella
On my Surface Pro 3, drivers come from the OS source itself, because Microsoft made that hardware as well as the OS. That’s usually right on the money in terms of driver currency and distribution. For my two Lenovo laptops, the company’s System Update utility does a pretty good job of keeping up with their drivers, too. Even on two of my desktops, both of which feature Asrock motherboards, that company’s App Shop app does a good job of keeping up with drivers plus BIOS and firmware updates. I might also observe that turning to the device maker is always a good strategy for chasing down drivers. That makes my assertion “When updating drivers check vendor support” true, even for homebrew or no-name systems and components.
Sometimes, one needs a Windows image file for research or repair purposes. It’s easy to grab current Windows ISO files from the Download Windows 10 page at Microsoft. But when it comes to older images, some improvisation may be necessary. In February of this year, I blogged about one such tool — namely, the HeiDoc.net MS ISO Downloader. In this blog post, I describe how Adguard offers a Win10 ISO alternative download source. It ties itself to Microsoft TechBench (itself no longer directly available). Thus, Adguard grabs all its downloads from MS servers.
This web-based download tool requires you to pick release type, version, edition, language, and bittedness to select a specific download.
If Adguard Offers Win10 ISO Alternative, Is It Worth Using?
The options that Adguard offers are many. Beyond production and Insider images, it also covers MS Office, TechNet evaluations, ESD versions, language packs, and Microsoft’s pre-fabbed VMs. Versions vary by product, but for Windows 10 you’ll find production versions all the way back to Threshold 1, Version 1507, Build 10240. Insider versions go back to Build 14295. Languages covered include all the majors and a suprising number of minors (24 in all). General reports about Adguard give it high marks for download speed (they should be fast, coming directly from MS). My own experiences in using the site maxed out my Internet link at rated speeds. (My Spectrum link is supposedly 300 Mbps, for the 1709 Education ISO download I averaged 345+ Mbps.)
Why Avoid Adguard?
Adguard comes from the shadowy WZOR organization, and is based in Moscow. Check out their Whois data to see what’s up here. This may give some pause when turning to a source for Windows image files, but I’m not unduly bothered by it. That’s because even though the download instructions come from Russia, the download files themselves come from Microsoft (and come up clean when checking for malware, or for changes to hash values). I still prefer the HeiDoc ISO downloader myself, but I’ve added this to my favorites, and will use it should I need a specific (older) image and be unable to find it elsewhere.
On November 22, I reported a security flaw for the Intel Management Engine interface (aka MEI). On Wednesday afternoon, my motherboard vendor, Asrock, posted an MEI update for the affected system’s motherboard. After I downloaded and applied that fix, it was unclear if that fix did the trick. That’s why I entitled this blog post “More MEI Weirdness.” Even after Asrock’s APP Shop auto-update applied, Intel still reported the system vulnerable.
How More MEI Weirdness Manifests, Then Gets Fixed
Here’s what makes the situation weird. Device Manager says my MEI driver version is 184.108.40.2065, dated 10/3/17. The Intel scanning tool says I’m still vulnerable, but reports the version as 220.127.116.116, dated 9/1/16. I’m not sure if that report is valid, given that the update presumably patches this vulnerability. However, when I check around online I find an Asrock web page named “Intel Firmware Vulnerability Intel-SA-00086.” It not only matches the ID for Intel’s security advisory, it also includes a firmware update tool to a different MEI version — namely 18.104.22.16825.
This installs on my production system like a champ. And when I run the Intel detection tool again, Intel-SA-00086-GUI.exe, it says the vulnerability is patched. Asrock may have issued the initial fix to address some other kind of problem. OTOH, the fix it issued through APP Shop may be the wrong one, or not working properly. I can’t tell.
Whatever the cause of the initial weirdness, the system is no longer vulnerable to this exploit. Interestingly, the Intel SA86 error check tool still reports the Intel Management Engine at version 22.214.171.1246. Device Manager still shows it as 126.96.36.1995. I’m wondering if that means the Intel tool is reading firmware that’s different from the driver info that Windows 10 maintains. I just don’t know what’s up with that.
Thus, some degree of weirdness continues. But because the Intel tool gives my system a clean bill of health, I’m content to let it ride without trying to fix things further. I may try to figure out how to clear the error message about the Capability Licensing Service Client, though…
When I worked at Novell back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, an interesting rumor circulated there. Then-VP of Marketing Craig Burton was reported to say: “The nice thing about networking standards is that there are so many to choose from.” As true today as it was back then, the same thing is true for Windows 10 Insider Preview releases. These can come thick and fast at times. One memorable week I can remember seeing three “flights” (the prevailing MS term for an IP release) in quick succession. Now, thanks to efforts from Senior Program Manager Brandon LeBlanc there’s a new website out to track such things. That’s why the title to this blog post reads: Insider Preview Gets Flight Hub. Here’s a snapshot of the kind of data it offers for the latest set of such releases which show there as RS4:
There are many possible elements in any Insider Preview release. This table tracks ’em all.
[Click image to see full-sized view.]
When Insider Preview Gets Flight Hub, What Flights Might Appear?
The legend at the top of the table is worth explaining if only briefly. Let’s do that from left to right, with the understanding that a build number always appears in the left-most column, and dates in the other table cells:
- Build: links to the Windows 10 blog that announces the build by its build number.
- Fast: If present, indicates the release date for the build to the fast ring.
- Slow: If present, indicates the release date for the build to the slow ring.
- Server: If present, indicates the release date for a corresponding server build to Insiders; links to the announcement blog post.
- IoT: If present, indicates the release date for a Windows 10 IOT Core Insider preview release; links to a download page where editions may be found by build number.
- ISO: If present, indicates the release date for various Windows 10 ISOs, with a link to the Insider Preview download page wherefrom any of a number possible ISOs are available. Build 17025 for example has Win10 Pro, Enterprise, and Home China sub-links.
- SDK: If present, indicates the release date for a Win10 SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) Preview, with links to the announcement blog post for same (and includes a download link as well).
Two more things. One, this is usually a sparse matrix where more cells are empty than are occupied. Two, the airplane symbol for latest release always appears to the right of the most current build in any column. This is a handy tool, so you’ll want to visit the Flight Hub for yourself if you’re involved in Insider Preview activity. Enjoy!
My 13-year-old son is getting into PC gaming. That’s how I found myself rooting around in the innards of his desktop PC this weekend, swapping out an aging MSI GeForce 760Ti card for a brand-new Asus GeForce 1070 Turbo. Because of the board and case layout, I had to disconnect the power on, HDD LED and reset power leads that tie the case (an Antec 902) and motherboard (Asrock Z97 Fatal1ty Killer) together. As is so often true, it proved much easier to take things apart than to put them back together. Along the way, a mosquito rescues GPU upgrade proved itself quite true.
Thanks to my Mom (a lifelong RN) I know this medical clamp for small bloodvessels is called a “mosquito.”
How a Mosquito Rescues GPU Upgrade
Turns out that the pins for these functions are situated near the top right corner of the mobo (and the wires from the case, naturally, emerge at the lower left). The wire bundle has to be routed all the way across the case on a diagonal, thus straddling the full-length GPU. The mosquito comes in handy to grab the 2-element connectors (positive and ground) for each of these things, because our fingers were too big to maneuver (and blocked our light source completely). The little straight hemostat works like a champ and doesn’t block the sight line to make sure the connectors are properly oriented and straddling the right pair of pins.
A mosquito is just the right tool to position the connectors onto the proper pins in Pin block 18.
[Source: Asrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer mobo manual, pg. 20]
Once again, the old saying “Get the right tool for the job” is validated. I’m glad I just happened to have the right thing on hand. For the record, the mosquito came as part of the old compact Jensen JTK-6C technician’s toolkit Excelan (later to become part of Novell) paid for back in 1988 when I worked as a field engineer. Talk about a great purchase!
Alas, a recent Win10 update resets network status from Private to Public. In turn, this means RDP access to affected machines stops working. Sure, you can use Network Settings to dig down into your current connection’s status and reset it to Private. But I’ve discovered that a HomeGroup trick fixes Win10 Public Network Reset with a pair of clicks. Simply type Homegroup into Cortana/Search, then when the HomeGroup windows opens, you’ll be prompted to Change network location. (Note: this works only for Windows PCs not served by Active Directory.) Here’s a screencap:
HomeGroup “knows” the network must be Private to work, so it offers to fix the Public setting for you.
How HomeGroup Trick Fixes Win10 Public Network Reset
As the preceding caption explains, HomeGroup understands that sharing resources and devices on a Windows network requires that the network location be set to “Private.” If it sees the network set to “Public” instead, it will happily make the switch for you simply by clicking the “Change network location” link in the window. You don’t really need to join a HomeGroup to make this work, in fact. You can simply click the link to change the network location, then close the HomeGroup window when that change is made.
Next, you’ll be prompted in the Notification center to make your PC discoverable by other PCs and devices. Click Yes to make the change, and your network location will be reset properly. Done!
Click “Yes” and your network location will be reset properly.
The Other Way to Reset Network Location
If the HomeGroup trick isn’t an option, you reset Network Location as follows:
1. Click the network icon in the notification bar.
2. Click “Network & Internet settings” at the bottom of the pop-up network menu that appears.
3. Click “Change Connection Properties” under the Network Status heading.
4. Click the radio button for “Private” under the Network Profile heading.
Done! And now you see why I like my “trick” — there are less clicks involved in using HomeGroup instead.
We’ve been making some PC changes around the house lately. This weekend, I moved my former test desktop upstairs to my son’s bedroom, having swapped it for an increasingly unreliable Dell XPS 2720 All-in-One. While the Dell had a built-in WiFi adapter, I had to switch the test machine over from its built-in Killer E2200 GbE wired interface to an Asus USB 3.0 AC56 802.11ac WiFi adapter instead. As soon as I installed this device and turned the PC over to its proud new user for homework, it started failing repeatedly. Sigh. Time to start troubleshooting … which ultimately led me to failing WiFi gets driver fix.
When Failing WiFi Gets Driver Fix, Why Does This Fix Work?
At first, I was able to restore WiFi to operational status by unplugging the device, then plugging it back in. But it would run for about two minutes, then fail again. When I looked at my driver options in Device Manager for this device, I immediately noticed two things:
- There were two drivers available for the device, one labeled Microsoft, the other RealTek.
- The Microsoft driver was currently selected and running … sort of.
Then I remembered that we’d just updated this machine to the Fall Creators Update (Version 1709) a few weeks earlier. And though I’d run and used the Asus adapter prior to the upgrade with no problems, the same was no longer true now. Because the Windows Installer uses its own judgment to select and run device drivers when a major upgrade occurs, I immediately surmised that the Microsoft entry had been supplied by MS when I plugged the device in for the first time after the upgrade. I was convinced that the other driver, however, was the one I really wanted to use instead.
When one driver comes from MS and the other from the WiFi chip’s maker, common sense dictates that trying the chipmaker’s version might be a good idea.
The Fix Is In … and It Works!
And indeed my guess turned out to be correct. No sooner did I switch to the other driver than the problems abated completely. Just for grins, I visited the Support page for this device, selected Windows 10 64-bit as my OS, and downloaded the driver and utility file. Guess what? The driver file sizes in that ZIP archive matched the installed file sizes (.cat and .inf) exactly, while the MS versions did not.
Apparently, I’d already installed the right drivers once before and had things working properly. But because I’d upgraded Win10 and the installer had chosen a different driver instead, I ran into the “dropped wifi connection” problem I’ve read about from others who’ve experienced similar travails. At least the fix was easy to figure out, and easy to apply. And so it goes, here in Windows-world!
In the wake of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (Version 1709), lots of interesting wrinkles are emerging. A raft of Hyper-V changes in this release are spelled out in a new Virtualization Blog post from Microsoft. Dated 11/13/17, it’s entitled “What’s new in Hyper-V for Windows 10 Fall Creators Update?” Among the various new items it spells out, there’s an item that reads “Hyper-V has a Default Switch for easy networking.” Having just tried it out myself, I can affirm that this Default Switch makes Hyper-V networking dead simple.
When picking a virtual NIC in Hyper-V, Default Switch is your new go-to option.
How Is It That Default Switch Makes Hyper-V Networking Dead Simple?
As the foregoing screenshot shows, an option named “Default Switch” now shows up whenever you’re asked to select a network interface or to identify network-based resources. It comes as part of the runtime environment, by default as it were. Having struggled to identify the right NIC on a Hyper-V host with two GbE interfaces (where only one was connected), I’ve had bonehead problems with Hyper-V networking on earlier versions of the software. But with this new default option, you can pick simple, basic networking as a menu item as soon as you turn Hyper-V on. It doesn’t get a whole lot simpler than this, nor easier to use. Highly recommended!
What Else Is New in Version 1709 Hyper-V?
According to the “What’s new” blog post , these other new features for Hyper-V are present in Version 1709:
- Quick Create Gallery: a quick create button in Hyper-V Manager can reference a gallery of pre-defined OS images, to which you can add your own items. This capability is still under construction, though, as the following 11/8 post to the same blog explains “Create your custom Quick Create VM gallery.” I’m waiting for the promised documentation to show up to avoid hand-crafting the necessary JSON documents.
- Easy to revert VMs to their start state: Hyper-V now creates a checkpoint each time you start a VM. That means you will always have a reasonably current checkpoint to which you can revert for all your VMs.
- Host battery state visible in VMs: means that you can tell how much battery life is left from inside a VM running on a battery-powered PC.
- Virtual machines are easier to share: A new “Share” button packages and compresses VMs to make them easier to move to another Hyper-V host using the Virtual Machine Connection facility.
[Note added 12/7/17: Based on a member’s report of issues in getting default switch working on an existing/prior installation of Hyper-V in the Fall Creators Update/Version 1709, it looks like if you encounter problems trying to get it to work, one quick and easy fix is to do the following:
1. Disable Hyper-V
2. Restart PC
3. Re-enable Hyper-V
This sequence is reported as working for at least two people: my colleague and occasional co-author Kari Finn, and the original poster who reported the problem at TenForums.com.]
Yesterday, ZDNet reported another security hole in the Intel Management Engine (ME). It also affects Intel’s Trusted Execution Engine (TXE) and Server Platform Services (SPS). ZDnet writer Liam Tung’s story is entitled “Intel: We’ve found severe bugs in secretive Management Engine, affecting millions.” It links to a note describing a detection tool for Windows and Linux systems. Alas, as another Intel ME security flaw discovered unfolds, several of my systems are affected. Helpfully, this screen shot from the tool’s GUI version spells things out:
All of my newer PCs are subject to this vulnerability. Sigh.
Another Intel ME Security Flaw Discovered: What to Do?
In fact, this particular flaw affects systems using Intel ME firmware versions 11.0.0 through 11.7.0, SPS firmware version 4.0, and TXE version 3.0. The processors that fall under this fairly broad umbrella include:
- 6th, 7th, and 8th generation Intel Core Processor Family:
- Intel Xeon Processor E3-1200 v5 and v6 Product Family
- Intel Xeon Processor Scalable Family
- Xeon Processor W Family
- Intel Atom® C3000 Processor Family
- Apollo Lake Intel Atom® Processor E3900 series
- Apollo Lake Intel® Pentium® Processors
- Intel® Celeron® N and J series Processors
Source: Intel’s Support Note SA-00086 (preceded item list quoted mostly verbatim)
If you like, you can download a detection tool from Intel to check your systems. Simply navigate into the DiscoveryTool.GUI folder. There, run the executable named Intel-SA-00064-GUI.exe. When run, the tool produces output like that shown in the preceding screen capture.
If you’re affected, you’ll need a BIOS fix from your system or motherboard maker to plug the security hole. According to posts on TenForums.com (where this vulnerability came to my attention), some motherboard vendors have already posted patched BIOSes. Alas, neither of my newish Asrock-based motherboards has a fix available yet. Hopefully, that will be addressed sooner, not later or never… In the meantime, grab and run this tool for yourself to see if you should be on the lookout for patches, too.