Generate Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) Using CertUtil

A CRC is used to detect any changes to the original data/content, the most common reason being accidental data modification and corruption. CRCs are used to validate integrity, to ensure that the data sent is the data received.

It’s quite easy to create a CRC with tools built into the Windows operating system. Open a command prompt window, browse to the location of your file and run the following command:

CertUtil -hashfile <file_name> MD5

By default CertUtil uses SHA1 if the algorithm is not specified, for this example we’re using MD5. CertUtil supports many different algorithm types.

  • MD2
  • MD4
  • MD5
  • SHA1
  • SHA256
  • SHA384
  • SHA512

Once the command has completed successfully CertUtil will output a sequence of numbers and characters, this is the MD5 hash. We will use this hash to validate the integrity of the file once it’s transferred. Once the file is copied we will run the same command and compare the values. If they match the file is valid, if not we know the data was altered. To simplify this process I’ve written a small script in PowerShell that you can leverage.

if ( $(CertUtil -hashfile "<file_name>" MD5) -eq "<hash_from_certutil>" ) { 
  Write-Host "CRC File Integrity Check Passed." -ForegroundColor "Green"

  Write-Host "`nPress any key to exit..."
  $x = $host.UI.RawUI.ReadKey("NoEcho,IncludeKeyDown")
  exit 0
}
else {
  Write-Host "CRC File Integrity Check Failed." -ForegroundColor "Red"
  Write-Host "Please re-download file and re-run CRC check."

  Write-Host "`nPress any key to exit..."
  $x = $host.UI.RawUI.ReadKey("NoEcho,IncludeKeyDown")
  exit 1
}
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Avoid Windows data collection services.

Big_Brother_is_Watching_Wide

One of the biggest issues and concerns that people have with Windows 10 is the fact that it dials back to HQ(Microsoft) and provides usage statistics. The quickest route to avoid this is to install Linux on your machine, something like Linux Mint is what I would recommend. Alternatively there are many documented ways to disable this “feature” in Windows 10, I have done it at home, but since moved back to windows 8.1 with classic shell. Soon I’m moving to Linux, I’m just waiting for Steam OS to be released.
Gaming is the only thing holding me back.
One thing you might not be aware of is that Windows 7 and 8+, are implementing the same Telemetry systems as Windows 10.
Umm, no thanks.
These systems will install on your computer via Windows update.
As such here is a list of the updates you should avoid in order to omit anonymous data collection by your operating system and have it sent back to Microshaft (Microsoft).

(KB2952664) — This update helps Microsoft make improvements to the current operating system in order to ease the upgrade experience to the latest version of Windows. This Update seems to seriously corrupt systems.
(KB2976978) — This update helps Microsoft make improvements to the current operating system in order to ease the upgrade experience to the latest version of Windows.
(KB2990214) — This update helps Microsoft make improvements to the current operating system in order to ease the upgrade experience to the latest version of Windows.
(KB3068708) — This kind of update helps the overall application experience on Windows, by improving the current operating system for upgrade to the latest version of Windows.
(KB3035583) —  will pitch the free Windows 10 upgrade to customers.  which does not seem to cause a problem other than it readies my computer for Microsoft to start sending “reminders” to upgrade (Malware by most definitions).
(KB3022345) — which corrupts system files, as can be seen if your run SFC following this update. 
(KB2977759) — This update will help Microsoft and its partners ensure compatibility for customers who are seeking to install the latest Windows operating system.
(KB2922324) — Looks like this one has been pulled.
(KB3021917) — This update will help Microsoft and its partners deliver better system performance for customers who are seeking to install the latest Windows operating system.
(KB3050265) — General improvements are made to support upgrades to a later version of Windows.
(KB3068708) — This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to in-market devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded.

The Malicious update KB’s need to be ripped out by the roots!!
(KB3014460) Effects Win8.x

Source.

Update:

Here is a quick little script to help you remove all and any of the updates you have installed. Paste this into a txt file and then rename it with a .bat extension. Run the batch file with admin rights.

:: KB killer
@echo off
wusa /uninstall /kb:2952664 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:2976978 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:2990214 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3035583 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3022345 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:2977759 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:2922324 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3021917 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3050265 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart
END

 

Add and remove the KBs as desired. Please note that not all the KBs described in the article are in the script. Specifically the Windows 8 one.

Here is another script that I found on hakspek.com, paste it into a .txt file and then change the extension to .bat. Then run the batch file as an administrator.

@echo off
echo

echo Step 1: Delete Updates…
echo Delete KB3075249 (telemetry for Win7/8.1)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3075249
echo Delete KB3080149 (telemetry for Win7/8.1)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3080149
echo Delete KB3021917 (telemetry for Win7)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3021917
echo Delete KB3022345 (telemetry)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3022345
echo Delete KB3068708 (telemetry)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3068708
echo Delete KB3044374 (Get Windows 10 for Win8.1)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3044374
echo Delete KB3035583 (Get Windows 10 for Win7sp1/8.1)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3035583
echo Delete KB2990214 (Get Windows 10 for Win7 without sp1)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:2990214
echo Delete KB2990214 (Get Windows 10 for Win7)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:2990214
echo Delete KB2952664 (Get Windows 10 assistant)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:2952664
echo Delete KB3075853 (update for “Windows Update” on Win8.1/Server 2012R2)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3075853
echo Delete KB3065987 (update for “Windows Update” on Win7/Server 2008R2)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3065987
echo Delete KB3050265 (update for “Windows Update” on Win7)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:3050265
echo Delete KB971033 (license validation)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:971033
echo Delete KB2902907 (description not available)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:2902907
echo Delete KB2976987 (description not available)
start /w wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:2976987

echo Step 2: Blocking Routes…
route -p add 23.218.212.69 MASK 255.255.255.255 0.0.0.0
route -p add 65.55.108.23 MASK 255.255.255.255 0.0.0.0
route -p add 65.39.117.230 MASK 255.255.255.255 0.0.0.0
route -p add 134.170.30.202 MASK 255.255.255.255 0.0.0.0
route -p add 137.116.81.24 MASK 255.255.255.255 0.0.0.0
route -p add 204.79.197.200 MASK 255.255.255.255 0.0.0.0
route -p add 23.218.212.69 MASK 255.255.255.255 0.0.0.0

echo Step 3: Disabling tasks…
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Application Experience\AitAgent” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Application Experience\Microsoft Compatibility Appraiser” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Application Experience\ProgramDataUpdater” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Autochk\Proxy” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “Microsoft\Windows\Customer Experience Improvement Program\Consolidator” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “Microsoft\Windows\Customer Experience Improvement Program\KernelCeipTask” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “Microsoft\Windows\Customer Experience Improvement Program\UsbCeip” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\DiskDiagnostic\Microsoft-Windows-DiskDiagnosticDataCollector” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Maintenance\WinSAT” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\ActivateWindowsSearch” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\ConfigureInternetTimeService” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\DispatchRecoveryTasks” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\ehDRMInit” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\InstallPlayReady” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\mcupdate” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\MediaCenterRecoveryTask” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\ObjectStoreRecoveryTask” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\OCURActivate” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\OCURDiscovery” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\PBDADiscovery” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\PBDADiscoveryW1” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\PBDADiscoveryW2” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\PvrRecoveryTask” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\PvrScheduleTask” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\RegisterSearch” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\ReindexSearchRoot” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\SqlLiteRecoveryTask” /DISABLE
schtasks /Change /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\Media Center\UpdateRecordPath” /DISABLE

echo Step 4: Killing Diagtrack-service (if it still exists)…
sc stop Diagtrack
sc delete Diagtrack

echo Final Step: Stop remoteregistry-service (if it still exists)…
sc config remoteregistry start= disabled
sc stop remoteregistry

echo Done — Reboot!
shutdown -r

Xbox One: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The_Good_The_Bad_and_The_Ugly

Image belongs to Justin Reed. (http://goo.gl/mV9M2U)

The Good:

The ability to perform voice commands is by far the best feature on the Xbox one. When you walk into my room and say “Xbox on!” it turns itself on, and can turn the TV and Receiver on as well. Then the Kinect recognizes your face and signs you into your account. When using the “Xbox select..” command, you can navigate the xbox menus without the use of the controller or hand gestures. When playing a game you have the ability to snap applications such as party chat with a simple voice command. With the same feature you are able to add people to the party chat, remove them, and mute the chat, etc. As per the voice commands, if you swear at the ref in FIFA 14, you will be reprimanded by your club. Also keep your potty mouth to yourself when on the field, or the red cards will come flying at you. NBA 2K14 has similar features, BF4 allows you to call in support with voice commands. As for the controller it is a slight improvement over the 360 controller. The analog sticks are comfortable and the redesign is most welcome. Bumpers and triggers are solid, and over all the build quality of the controller is superb. The Operating System interface is really easy to navigate, the layout is basic and makes a lot of sense. It is very hard to get lost in the menus. When signing in to the console by way of Kinect facial recognition it will recognize you in a completely dark room lit up only by the ambient light of the TV screen. The ventilation on the xbox this generation is a huge improvement over last, it runs really cool even when placed in an AV cabinet with front doors. Overall The hardware doesn’t really heat up much. I guess Microsoft learned something from the previous generation. The application snap feature is handy, having two applications side by side really works on this console, and it doesn’t distract or pull your attention from the gaming or watching a movie. This is especially useful when trying to start a Party Chat while in game. Xbox SmartGlass is a companion app for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It is completely free and works on Windows, iOS, and Android devices. You can use your smartphone or tablet to type in the text fields, when sending text based messages to your friends or entering your credit card information to make purchases. Most of us have smartphones and tablets so this naturally makes sense. This app is also a companion to some games such as Dead Rising 3, it enables extra features and in game content. It’s an extension to the users video game experience and adds another level of interaction with the software, in some cases it is easier to type with the smartphone than using the on screen keyboard. Something no one is talking about, perhaps because they don’t understand it, is the “server farm” Microsoft has stashed away for it’s developers. I’m not talking about the Xbox Live military grade servers, I’m talking about the server that can offload some of the XBOs processing to the cloud. All of the rendering and computing does not need to be done locally anymore, and any non critical computing can be done on the servers and sent back to the system. In my opinion this has a lot of potential, and the systems processing power is no longer limited to the local hardware specs.

The Bad:

The Xbox One is not DLNA certified, unlike it’s predecessor. This took me by surprise and is kind of anti next-gen for a device that wants to be the media centre hub of the living room and that calls itself next-gen. DLNA streaming is important to me, especially for my music library. One of the crowning features of the 360 was the ability to listen to your music library while playing games. Also, at the moment the games are not there, Dead Rising 3 looks like a 360 game. Forza 5 is full of micro transactions, $59.99 for a game and micro transactions on top of that seems a little excessive. It will take the developers a longer time to get familiar with the XBO dev kits than the PS4 dev kits. The XBO has specialized hardware, like the Kinect, the ESRAM, and the render server farm, whereas the PS4 is esentially an underpowered PC. Xbox 360 users and Xbox One users can not communicate properly over Xbox Live. If you’re on the Xbox One you can not receive voice messages as the XBO does not have this feature. Party Chat is not possible with 360 and XBO users either. The camera is unable to identify my face sometimes and as such it does not sign me in automatically into the system. I particularly noticed this when reclining in a bean bag chair on the floor. Perhaps the Kinect has a hard time recognizing the skeletal structure when in a reclined position. The lack of proper CEC integration is also surprising. The Xbox One uses some form of CEC an IR blaster to control the television and receiver, however this is not CEC as one can not use the receivers or televisions remote to navigate the xbox menus.

The Ugly:

The gesture based navigation needs a lot of work. It is one of the worst features to use on the XBO. I’d say it works properly 50% of the time. The audio is another problem, it cuts out in certain menus and even though the XBO set to PCM 5.1, sometimes the XBO decides to output DTS. Other times the XBO boost the volume by itself and then decides later that it is too loud and turns the volume down. There is no Bitstream option for the audio output either, and only Stereo, 5.1 PCM, 7.1 PCM, and DTS sound output options are available.This does not work, I would like the option to have the receiver do the audio decoding, specifically DTS HD MA or Dolby TrueHD. My home cinema would appreciate that. No 3D Blu-ray support yet either, for a system that is trying to take over the living room this is unacceptable. Despite the critics ramblings about 3D, it is here to stay, and consumers are slowly adopting said technology. There are other small glitches and hiccups when switching between menus and screens too. Sometimes the xbox goes all Ghost in the Machine on me, and starts launching applications and navigating software on it’s own… Rise of the machines?

Xbox-One1

In conclusion..

…there is more good, than bad or ugly, however this next-gen console launch was very underwhelming. The underwhelming part is mostly due to the fact that both Microsoft and Sony released beta products into the wild. But if I were to decide between the new Xbox or the new PlayStation, I’d pick the Xbox. Voice commands, gesture based browsing, a stunning 1080p camera, SmartGlass, server farm, skype and other app within app integration, superior controller, and system that shows promise providing the software comes out of Beta soon. There are a lot of bugs in the software, and a lot of features that need tweaking and revision, this is true for both Sony and Microsoft alike. But if the 360 was an indication of how MS functions, is that they listen to their community, and that their gaming system and it’s software will evolve over time.

Windows 8.1, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You might have read my previous post about Microsoft not understanding it’s customers, and might be confused about the above title. My opinion still stands, but there is hope for Windows  8 and 8.1, if you want to know how and why just read on.

desktop

Recently I have had a chance to get my hands on the Windows 8.1’Blue’. I finally understand why they called it blue, it will leave you blue as soon as you find out that the Start Menu hasn’t changed one bit. A few new customization options in the start button have been added, but for the most part the Start menu is still full screen and very intrusive. This is the biggest gripe that most people have with the OS. Yes, you can boot directly to the desktop, but modern Metro apps and the Start menu are still full screen. I think MS misunderstood the cries of the masses, when they cried bring the Start button back. The Start button is an easy and quick way to access your system with just one click. As a power user everyone knows that there are many shortcuts to applications and menus when you right click certain links in the start menu, for instance right click My Computer and you can map a network drive, get to Computer Management, or bring up the System menu. You get the picture and as a System Admin these are very handy shortcuts.

Don’t get me wrong the Windows 8 UI works for mobile computing, I’ve tested it on a tablet, and it really shines in this space. It is great for a touch interface, but it falls really short when it comes to desktop computing. In my humble opinion, the user should have a choice when installing the OS on their device. You pull the device out of the box and the image asks you if you’d like the Mobile or Desktop experience. But I digress…

I’ve been waiting on 8.1 since the rumours of the Start menu coming back surfaced. I was even excited, then disappointed when I got to try it. But I was also aware of a fix, a fix that even Samsung opted in on some of their Windows 8 consumer laptops. That fix is Start8 and ModernMix by Stardock. This is the light at the end of the tunnel for both Windows 8 and 8.1.

One can purchase Start8 for $4.99 and ModernMix for $4.99 from Stardock, or bundle these two together for $7.99, and voila Windows is back to it old self. For companies you can buy a volume license, but you will need to contact Stardock directly.

So what do these applications actually do you may ask. Well, Start8 essentially brings back the old trusted Start Menu, you can still access the new one but for the most part Start8 replaces it. With this software you can also disable the hot corners and change certain windows defaults that are normally not adjustable. Have a look at the gallery for all the available options in Start8.

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ModernMix on the other hand “windows” the metro apps, normally they occupy the entire screen. This also gives you the ability to close these windowed Metro Apps by pressing the X at the top right of the window, and a few extra options for the MetroApp become available at the top right corner as well. You can exit or enter full screen mode for these apps, and you can open the charms menu.

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These two applications really saved the Windows 8 experience for me, and for the price of a Pint of beer I really didn’t mind paying for the software, not even an afterthought. I am fully switched from Windows 7 to Windows 8 now, running the same applications i was in Windows 7. There are very few compatibility issues that I have noticed,  actually I have noticed none yet, it seems that all the applications I was running in 7 I can run in 8. I’ve been running 8 with both these application for a couple weeks now, and it is a solid and refined experience.

Also the Windows 8 is a little snappier than 7. Here is why the experience is snappier, I will explain to you as the Microsoft Engineer did to me last year at a Dell event. With Windows 7 prior to loading the desktop it loads everything, drivers, software, dlls, dependencies weather it needs it or not. With Windows 8 it loads things on demand, hence the quicker load times.

Like it or not Windows 8 is here to stay, but at least you don’t have to suffer through the most intrusive desktop experience ever developed someone out there has got your back.

Update: I ran into an instance where Bing Maps would randomly open up, on computer boot, and then while I was already in windows browsing or doing anything at all. Now with these Metro Apps there is no uninstall option. So what one has to do is use PowerShell to uninstall the Metro App.

Open PowerShell and type in the following to list all the metro application installed on your computer… listpckg

This will list several pages of text, scroll and find the package you wish to uninstall. Note the PackageFullName line, you can copy it by highlighting it with your mouse and right clicking it.

Next we will uninstall the package, in this example I will uninstall the BingFinance package. Type in “remove-appxpackage ” then right click into the PowerShell window and it will paste the package name you copied earlier, hit enter…uinstpckgPowerShell will progress to the next line, the cursor will change and show the loading circle beside it. Now if you look for Bing Finance it will be removed from your Win 8/8.1 machine.

Here are the Microsoft KBs associated with uninstalling the Metro Apps.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh856045.aspx

Microsoft does not understand it’s audience anymore.

Gamer’s a fickle bunch, strike that PC Gamer’s are a fickle bunch. Add to that a dash of Xbox One and a pinch of Windows 8.1 and you have yourself a perfect recipe for disaster.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, a behemoth like Microsoft would be and is really hard to take down. You have to give them credit where credit is due if anything but they are persistent.

Let’s look at windows 8 for a second, when it came out there was an outcry about the Start button. I think the cries where a little muffled by the time they got to Redmond though. I don’t think it was as much as the lack of a start button but more of the lack of desktop and the fact that the start menu would take up the entire screen. This lead to the slow adoption of the operating system. Don’t get me wrong, for tablet and a touch interface windows 8 is great, and that OS is very deserving of the form factor.

Queue Windows 8.1, I hopped on MSDN and I grabbed the early version available to subscribers. I grabbed the ISO and installed the OS via flash drive. After install I changed a few settings and rebooted. Awesome, it now boots into the desktop environment, start button is there but as soon as you press it, BAM! full screen persistent start menu. What we have now is desktop/tablet hybrid OS. I was so disappointed that I could not change the size of the menu, and that it eats up all my screen real estate, that it prevented me migrating from Windows 7 to 8. I feel like the start menu is way too intrusive in the desktop environment, and yes it is has more customization, but it is not the start menu I like and find convenient. It’s supposed to be a sub menu for the OS not a fully fledged application like interface. I guess the only option left for users of Win 7 that wish to migrate to Win 8 is Start8. As a gamer and heavy desktop user, this irks me a little.

This brings me to Xbox One, when I watched the unveiling I was slightly impressed with the features. However I noticed two things. One the lack of hardware specifications, and two the complete lack of game focus. Instead MS decided to focus on the media capabilities of the device what it can do for sports, and Television, etc. I thought to myself I’m a gamer, I don’t watch sports I only play them. I don’t even have cable television let alone any television subscription except for Netflix. No longer is the Xbox a gamecentric device. I get this, it is supposed to appeal to the whole family not just the gamer in the house, but what if the gamer in the house is the whole family? Either way it looks like an interesting multimedia device, if it is able to play MKVs it would be a winner in my living room for sure.

At the moment all the media is giving MS flack for not having as good hardware specs as the competition, saying it’s 50% less powerful than the rival. I kind of laugh at this because as someone with a Computer Engineering background I know that hardware specs don’t necessarily mean better experience or performance. Prior to the 360 being released 7 or 8 years ago I worked for a company that designed the testing hardware, we worked closely with Microsoft and the drivers for the 360 weren’t finished until a week prior to it being released. Not only that, but driver optimization is a powerful thing, and if Microsoft knows something it is software, perhaps not their audience but definitively software.

Look at Nvidia and AMD they optimize their GPU drivers heavily sometimes yielding 33% performance gains and that’s in an open system such as a PC, imagine the optimization that can take place in a closed system such as an Xbox One. So all the naysayers are probably still working with Alpha drivers complaining about performance, let’s see what November 22nd brings. Either way someone from MS should step out and say something to that effect, because all the dirty console peasants are up in a roar pitchforks and shovels in hand.