FIXED! Sprint ATIV S Neo Developer Preview 8.1 Unable to Activate after Reset

There has clearly been an issue with Windows the Phone 8.1 Developer Preview and CDMA phones. The issue was discovered a while ago, but it wasn’t an issue you were aware of, typically, until it was too late. My issue was that, after having to “factory default” my phone, it refused to properly reactivate with my carrier, Sprint. I had texting and voice calls, but no data or picture messages. Some research suggested the APN data just needed to be filled in, but calling Sprint resulted in being told that they don’t give out APN information because they provision over NAI, and their support forum was painfully not supportive.

Complaints aside, there is a way to fix this. Continue reading

SOLVED: Windows Defender not starting after December ’14 Update

Update: Microsoft has confirmed that this patch is flawed, and has issued another fix to automatically uninstall KB3004394. Even more fascinating, our experience that this “Windows Defender” update somehow impacted display adapters and video drivers has been confirmed. Continue to read our original post below.

Just the other day, I had the chance to experience this one hands on. We had a computer that would report that Windows Defender could not start automatically, shortly after the computer had rebooted from recent Windows Updates. Windows Defender in Windows 7 is important because it acts as an anti-malware solution, not just an antivirus. So even if you have something like AVG, Symantec, or even Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Defender should be allowed to run in the background.

If you’re tech savvy, you may have even tried to go in to the Windows Services menu and attempted to start Windows Defender manually. If you try this, you will receive an error stating that “The Stub received bad data.” It turns out, there was a flaw in KB3004394, so simply uninstalling that for now will resolve the issue. I will provide the steps for uninstalling that patch.


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SOLVED: Windows not loading, black screen, bars, 12/2014

Update: Our theory from the bottom paragraph has confirmed. Microsoft has confirmed that a flawed Windows Update can impact video drivers, and has issued another fix to automatically uninstall KB3004394.

You may be able to hear sound effects, as though Windows is loading properly, but the screen shows two horizontal bars, and other artifacts and colors occasionally pop up. It appears to be a bad screen or, in the case of our laptop, we thought it was a damaged cable in the hinge. But it turns out this is somehow software related.

Tap the power key. For us, this shut the laptop down. If that doesn’t work for you, you may need to press and hold the power button until the computer shuts off. Once it is off, boot in to safe mode. You should be able to see the screen in this mode. To do this, follow these easy steps:

Press the power button, then immediately start tapping the “F8″ Key across the top of your keyboard. Tap it at least once a second, if not twice every second… about the time the computer would normally show the “Starting Windows” screen, you should receive a list of options. Stop tapping “F8″ then use the arrow keys to select “Safe Mode” (you do not need “Safe Mode with Networking” at this time) and press Enter. Scary text will likely flash up on the screen, but this is normal, eventually, Windows will load. Things will be off color and the wrong size, but this is normal for Safe Mode.

Now, to fix the Windows Booting issue, you need to remove your display adapter. Again, follow these simple steps:


Screenshot included for instructive purposes, our actual issue happened on an Intel-graphics based laptop.

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Resetting a user’s password with Windows 8 / 8.1

By now, most people know that I love to use NTPassword to reset passwords of Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Windows 7 computers. The developer says it works on Windows 8, but here is the trouble I ran in to this weekend on a co-worker’s Windows 8 machine.

First thing to remember is that Windows 8, by default anyway, uses your Microsoft account to login to Windows. Therefore, if you have access to the internet on another computer, you can simply go to account.live.com and reset your password by clicking the can’t access your account button beneath the username and password fields. After less than a minute, you should be able to use your new password to login to your computer, if your computer is connected to the internet. We’ll come back to this later, with some tips if your computer isn’t connected to the internet.

First, I couldn’t just reset the user’s password online, because the computer was brought to me in our office and was not connected to our WiFi (and the slim netbook-like computer did not have an Ethernet port), so it had no way to receive the updated password from the website. I followed my own steps to reset (blank) the password, but it wouldn’t allow me to log in. Finally, I devised another solution, and this is what worked for me.

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What is the 700MB+ KB3000850? Pretty amazing, that’s what!



Update: Microsoft has finally brought the KB article online to verify that this “November Update” does bring some new features, but some of the biggest advancements are described here in our post from yesterday. Original post follows…


Windows Server 2012r2 machines recently saw a Windows Update made available, but when clicking to the Knowledge Base Article for more information, the article (KB3000850) was missing. So I did some digging and found this PowerPoint presentation which specifically mentions a “November Update” on slide 7, and confirms the KB number (KB3000850) on slide 20. The slideshow was part of a Microsoft TechEd Europe presentation, and discusses a brilliant new technology being added to Hyper-V for Windows server to deduplicate data within VDI files.


Before we go any further, the large update is also a rollup of all prior updates released for the Operating System, and includes new features. Consider it similar to a “Service Pack” in the old days – you don’t need to install the August Update, then this November update on a brand new machine, but this update should be considered a shortcut when deploying updates to a new computer. If you already have a computer or server running, the update is still considered optional, but will obviously include some new features. Once the Microsoft KB article goes live, you will be able to retrieve more details there.


Let me do my best to break this down in the simplest terms. A hypervisor server might have thousands of VDI (Virtual Disk Image) files. Virtual hard drives. Those drives can have lots of duplicated data, taking up space. Imagine ten hard drives with the same version of Windows. Why have ten identical copies of Windows when you could have one that all ten virtual machines access? This is, of course, an extreme oversimplification of an hour long presentation, but imagine if they finger print the files, verify that different files that need to be made available are available but 100% identical files are de-duplicated, thus saving TONS of space.


I don’t even run multiple virtual machines, and I certainly don’t host a Hyper-V server like some major “cloud-based” companies out there… but this is astounding technology and I can’t believe that they are releasing it to the public rather than hoarding it for their own Azure cloud. I have no use for this update, personally, but I’m excited by it nonetheless, it’s very impressive

Understanding “net neutrality” and Title II vs. Section 706

Listen to / watch the next 3 minutes (or more) of this, continue reading my post if you’re still interested:




In the video, Tom admits that Section 706 sounds like the right choice. And if it were properly amended, it could be.


Understanding WHY geeks want Title II reclassification vs. Section 706 for “net neutrality.” The biggest thing is that Title II might force cable companies to allow other companies to come in and use their lines. Thus forcing MORE competition and a more “free-market-like” environment.


Section 706, by definition, is basically “net neutrality” (no throttling, etc…), and says that the FCC is allowed to remove barriers and “promote competition” in the market, BUT has not been used in the past the same way Title II has (where other companies get to come in and “lease” lines from somebody like Verizon in order to compete with Verizon). So how it will promote competition is unclear.


Internet providers WANT Sec. 706 reclassification because they suggest Title II would “reduce competition.” How many choices for internet providers or cable TV providers do you have right now? How can competition be much more reduced than it already is?


Title II, although from the 1930’s, increases competition. Pure and simple. The parts that do not apply you can easily forbear (like cable companies being forced to assume the cost of putting up telephone poles, etc…), there is more than enough legal precedent to make that simple, it is a common practice. The law from 1996 means the providers the keep the network resources they are already hoarding and not using (spectrum purchased at FCC auctions then left untapped – I can expand on this if requested), which gives Internet Providers more leeway to “experiment” with data shaping – and they assure us that although it might technically violate what we know as the definition of net neutrality, it wouldn’t violate the “spirit” of net neutrality. Because they’ve proven to be so trustworthy thus far.


I would rather see their excess capacity sold and leased to other, smaller, local internet providers and a new era of competition begin – lower prices, faster services, no monthly limitations. Title II is the best thing for the internet right now, lets hope it happens. If you’re looking for a better explaination of why we need net neutrality, I wrote an article back when I was concerned about the potential merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

The Microsoft Subscription finally arrives



This is almost what I have been looking for since March. Microsoft today announced the Work and Play subscription bundle. For $199 a year, here’s what you get:

  • Office 365 – That means full access to Office online, at least 1TB of OneDrive storage (should be “unlimited” now, due to recent changes in Office 365), and 5 installs of the latest version of Microsoft office on 5 of your family PC’s / Mac’s. A $70 value.
  • Xbox Live Gold – Although we discussed benefits of Gold in the past, it’s not as valuable as it once was, but with promotions like Games With Gold, it’s still an absolutely worthwhile investment.A $60 value.
  • Xbox Music Pass – Unlimited streaming and some “synchronized” management of your music library across multiple devices. A $99 value.
  • Skype Unlimited World + WiFi – Microsoft describes this as: “Unlimited minutes to call friends and family around the globe from your laptop, tablet, phone, or TV.” Also, “WiFi access at over 2 million hotspots worldwide – connect to the internet from virtually any device.” Paul Thurrott does the math to estimate the value at about $165 a year.

  • The only thing I wish it included was an Office 365-like subscription to Windows. Give me 2 licenses for 8.1, and allow me to upgrade to Windows 10 when it releases. That would be nice. But outside of that, this is almost exactly what I had been asking for!

Download Windows 10 Preview!

Yes, yesterday Microsoft announced that Windows 10 was the name of the next version of Windows, skipping the name Windows 9. Microsoft claims that this is such an advanced release of Windows that it’s more than just one version different! These are claims that sound hard to believe, so Microsoft wants to challenge you to believe see for yourself! Today marks the release of the first public preview for Windows 10! preview.Windows.com has all of the information you need to know! The product key is listed on the top of the download page, so just visit Microsoft and download the latest version of the Windows 10 preview. There is a “preview upgrade” version available, however it embeds itself with your computer. I strongly recommend downloading the ISO version and installing it on a spare computer, separate partition, or a Virtual Machine.

It is extremely important to note that this is a technical preview. It could have some bugs and other issues, and may also be substantially different from the final version of Windows 10. Remember, the earliest Windows 8 technical previews still had a Start Menu. 2015 will likely see a consumer preview and a developer’s preview prior to the typical RTM (Release to Manufacturing) release before it gets released at retail. Stay tuned for the future!

Windows Phone introduces MyFamily parental controls

Microsoft has developed the MyFamily platform, allowing you to customize your child’s experience on Windows Phone. You can not only limit whether or not they are allowed to buy things from the store (i.e. spend your money), but you can also specify the age-ratings of the games they are allowed to play, and affords you additional auditing and safety features.

From the Windows Phone team: “My Family works with Microsoft Family Safety, a service designed to help you keep tabs on kids’ computer and online activities. If your child uses a PC or Xbox, you may already have set up a family in order to use parental controls.”

Some excellent instructions for setting up My Family can be found on WindowsPhone.com, so have that open or printed off, and then get started on WindowsPhone.com/Family.

Answering your questions: is cloud backup safe? Can I host my own cloud?

These are some common questions to a pretty abstract concept. Whenever you “back up to the cloud” there will be a server out there somewhere with your information. Whether you use Apple’s iCloud, Google’s Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive, or even the well known independents DropBox and SpiderOak, or even paid “backup” solutions which offer syncing, like Mozy and Carbonite. Continue reading