Customer service on Twitter now includes location sharing

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Twitter is one way to easily get some customer service. A simple tweet can often get a faster response than finding a customer support number or using email. The social network has a new feature to make support even more personal: Brands can now request and share location data with users via direct messages.

Imagine sending a direct message to your carrier when you have a problem with your phone. The brand manager will get your permission to receive your location data and then they can direct you to the closest store. This could make getting your needs met much faster than searching around your mapping app or Yelp.

Twitter has been beefing up its customer service features for a while now, including single-link feedback buttons and other tools. Wingstop even has an order form built into its direct messages for frictionless ordering. So far, restaurants TGI Fridays and Wingstop are using the location-based APIs, while other brands are sure to follow suit.

 

 

Electric skull cap helps brain cancer patients live longer

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Michael Davies, an Optune patient Novocure

A skull cap that shocks tumors with low-intensity electric fields is helping people battle brain cancer. When combined with the oral chemotherapy drug temozolomide, it significantly improved survival rates in patients, according to a clinical trial presented at an annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research on Sunday.

The Optune medical device works by continuously delivering alternating electric fields to the brain. Researchers believe this has an anticancer effect because it blocks cell division. During the clinical trial, patients diagnosed with an aggressive cancer called glioblastoma were randomly assigned the Optune device and chemotherapy treatment, while others received chemo only. Those who used the cap had a median overall survival of 21 months, compared to 16 months for those who didn’t. The two-, three-, four-, and five-year survival rates for patients significantly improved as well: 43 percent versus 31 percent; 26 percent versus 16 percent; 20 percent versus 8 percent; and 13 percent versus 5 percent.

Dr. Roger Stupp, professor of Neurological Surgery at Northwestern University, is excited by the study’s findings. It’s been more than 10 years since any form of treatment was shown to improve survival for people with glioblastoma, he said. “When I started treating patients with GBM 20 years ago, the majority of patients died within less than one year and long-term survival was nearly absent,” he said in a press release. “Now, we see a meaningful improvement in survival at two years and beyond. With the combination of Optune and temozolomide, one out of seven patients is living longer than five years.”

As promising as the device may be though, it has a downside — it costs roughly $700 per day, the Associated Press reports. While most US insurers will cover it, Medicare won’t. But, oncology company Novocure, which funded the clinical trial, said it’ll pay for the treatment if need be. “We’ve never refused a patient regardless of insurance status,” Novocure Executive Chairman Bill Doyle told the AP.

 

 

PlayStation classic 'Jak and Daxter' will be re-released on PS4

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Naughty Dog / Sony

Sony isn’t slowing down in its quest to bring seemingly every classic PlayStation series to the PS4. The gaming giant has revealed that Naughty Dog’s PS2-era Jak and Daxter games (The Precursor Legacy, Jak II, Jak 3 and Jak X: Combat Racing) will be available on the PS4 as a download later in 2017. Don’t get your hopes up for a Crash Bandicoot-style makeover, though. They’ll be rendered at 1080p and support modern features like Remote Play and trophies, but they won’t receive graphical overhauls or any new features. If you want to duke it out with a friend in Jak X, you’ll have to share a TV.

The relatively modest conversion effort isn’t surprising. Naughty Dog has its hands full with The Last of Us Part II and, to a lesser extent, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. And while third parties can certainly handle remasters (Vicarious Visions is largely responsible for the Crash re-do), overhauling four games is no mean feat. Look at it this way, though: if you’ve lost your PS2 to the ravages of time, you won’t have to completely forego Jak as well.

 

 

Computer programmers can still qualify for H-1B visas

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Yes, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is cracking down on the controversial H-1B category of work visas with new anti-fraud and anti-abuse measures. But it is not disqualifying computer programmers from getting the visa, contrary to reports you may have read. A recently issued “Policy Memorandum” instructs employees to stop relying on what it calls an outdated handbook to determine if an applicant’s job qualifies as a specialty occupation, but it does not deny them altogether. Not only that, the memo is really only meant to bring specifically the USCIS’ Nebraska Service Center, which stopped processing H-1B paperwork for close to ten years, up to speed. Other service centers had already been using the updated policies for assessing a candidate’s qualifications.

USCIS spokesperson Carolyn Gwathmey told Engadget that the memo “does not change any policy that we haven’t been using for several years now.” She called the move “basically cleaning house,” explaining that the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) was the only one of the four open service centers using an older handbook when processing applications. NSC, along with the Texas Service Center, stopped processing H-1B petitions in 2006, but the NSC “began to directly accept” applications again in July 2016.

Since the H-1B submission window just opened this year, the USCIS circulated the memo to ensure its employees were using up-to-date definitions of what a computer programmer’s job entails.

As a recap, the H-1B work visa was created for foreigners working in “specialty occupations,” and who typically demonstrate qualification for those jobs with four-year Bachelor’s Degrees in related fields. The handbook that the memo in question refers to accepted those with two-year associate degrees as qualified candidates for jobs as computer programmers.

The updated guidelines don’t preclude self-taught individuals from getting the visa, but it does mean they will have to provide more supporting evidence to demonstrate their ability and knowledge of the specialized skill.

 

 

Yahoo and AOL are part of Verizon's new 'Oath' brand (updated)

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Robert Galbraith / Reuters

Somewhere along the way, Verizon’s planned purchase of Yahoo got real complicated. Thanks to security breachs of gargantuan proportions, Yahoo has lost a ton of value — and the company was struggling even when Verizon announced its intentions to buy the former internet juggernaut. Part of the value lost is in the Yahoo brand, which Verizon apparently considers toxic at this point. To that end, Verizon is changing the name of the combined Yahoo and AOL company. Business Insider first reoprted that “Oath” will be the new name of the company (which would be the parent company of Engadget). Minutes after we published this story, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong confirmed the change in a tweet.

Right now, the transaction is scheduled to close in the current quarter, which means we could hear something official about the future of the Yahoo and AOL brand names before too long. That’s a bit later than originally anticipated; the delays came from Yahoo’s huge security breach and the subsequent restructuring of the deal that saw Verizon save $350 million on its purchase.

Update, 8PM ET: Yahoo Finance reporter Daniel Roberts published a story in which he says that the Yahoo brand is not in fact going away. Instead, it’ll be a company under the Oath “umbrella” of brands that’ll also include AOL properties like TechCrunch, The Huffington Post and Engadget. Indeed, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong mentioned 20 brands in his tweet earlier; now we have a bit more clarity on that. A source familiar with the situation independently confirmed these details to Engadget as well.

Even before the name change became official, the internet passed swift, merciless judgement:








Update: A report by Recode indicates that current Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (pictured above) will not continue with the new company

*Verizon owns AOL, Engadget’s parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.

 

 

Death Star-like lasers become a practical reality

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Macquarie University

Like many elements of sci-fi, the superweapon in Star WarsDeath Star seems implausible: can you really combine multiple laser beams into one fearsome blast? Apparently, you can… if not quite as dramatically as you see in the movies. Scientists have developed a technique that uses diamond to merge multiple laser beams into more powerful ones. The key was to put an exceptionally pure diamond at the point where the beams converge, taking advantage of the crystal’s inherent tendency to send the light’s power in a specific direction. The material is good at shedding excess heat, too, which is rather important when you’re funneling a lot of laser power into a small space.

No, the invention isn’t going to be used for destroying rebellious planets. The military could certainly stand to benefit, though. Super-powerful lasers could quickly destroy drones and missiles that normally require a sustained laser attack to take down. There are some more peaceful purposes, too: for a start, spacecraft could use extra-powerful lasers to annihilate oncoming space junk. And when existing single-laser technology is frequently limited by overheating worries, it’s likely that there are many other potential uses that just haven’t been feasible until now.

 

 

How NASA's future robots will explore frozen worlds

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NASA JPL

Delivering a rover to the surface of a distant icy world like Jupiter’s moons Europa and Titan is only half the challenge. Once on the surface, the robotic explorers will have to contend with intense space radiation, plunging temperatures that drop to hundreds of degrees below zero and miles upon miles of ice before hitting the subsurface oceans that astronomers suggest may contain life. But NASA has a plan.

“Robotic systems would face cryogenic temperatures and rugged terrain and have to meet strict planetary protection requirements,” Hari Nayar, of NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory, said in a statement. “One of the most exciting places we can go is deep into subsurface oceans — but doing so requires new technologies that don’t exist yet.” That’s why, as part of its Ocean Worlds Mobility and Sensing study, the JPL has been developing the tools future rovers will need to successfully scout frozen planets and moons.

The first challenge will be making it through the ice. Europa’s frozen crust, for example, is estimated to be anywhere between 6 and 12 miles deep. If NASA underestimates the crust’s thickness, the rover could expend all of its available energy before breaking through, bringing the mission to a quick and inglorious end. So, rather than use conventional “melt probes” which inefficiently radiate heat to bore through ice here on Earth, the JPL is instead is developing a thermally insulated device that employs a chunk of heat-source plutonium to act as the energy source. A rotating blade at the bottom of the probe would chew through the ice below it, pushing the ice chips it produces through the device’s body where they melt against the plutonium. The melt water can then be funnelled back up to the rover for biosignature analysis.

These rovers will also need to traverse the surface, not just burrow into it. The JPL has studied the effects of intense cold and vacuum on ice formation and found that ice actually behaves like grains of sand under such conditions. They pile up into berms and dunes, like the frozen deserts of Mars, only colder. Luckily, NASA’s already got nearly two decades of experience with that sort of strata and should be able to adapt the same sorts of wheels that Spirit and Opportunity utilized.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is studded with gas vents and fissures, blowing material from the moon’s interior out to the surface. These are ripe for exploration but future rovers are going to need pretty long arms to safely reach down into them. To that end, the JPL is developing a number of grippers that can extend far beyond the 8-foot reach of the Mars rovers. The agency is working on both a foldable boom arm that can pick up objects 30 feet and a projectile launcher that shoots a sampler as far as 164 feet.

But don’t expect to see these systems outside of a NASA lab anytime soon. “In the future, we want to answer the question of whether there’s life on the moons of the outer planets — on Europa, Enceladus and Titan,” Tom Cwik, who leads JPL’s Space Technology Program, said in a statement. “We’re working with NASA Headquarters to identify the specific systems we need to build now, so that in 10 or 15 years, they could be ready for a spacecraft.”

 

 

Nintendo Switch owners report yet another issue: warping

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Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The Nintendo Switch is the fastest-selling console in the company’s history, sure, but it hasn’t been all roses. For example, gamers have encountered significant problems with the dock and Joy-Con controllers. But wait, there’s more: Remember when the iPhone 6 famously experienced bending issues in 2014? Now, it’s the Switch that has warping troubles.

As TechnoBuffalo notes, console owners like Reddit user _NSR and others commenting on the thread are reporting that their machines are noticeably bowing, particularly after being used in docked mode. _NSR speculates this could be because the console works harder while outputting video, so it gets hot enough that internal components become more likely to expand. On the plus side, the bending doesn’t seem to affect the Switch’s functionality.

Nintendo has yet to comment on the issue, but the company is repairing affected consoles, according to a Reddit commenter. That’s nice, but this seemingly constant stream of Switch problems is still a bummer. We’re enjoying our consoles very much, but it looks like questionable quality control means that some people aren’t getting as positive an experience as others.

 

 

How to install and troubleshoot Bluetooth devices in macOS

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Although Bluetooth-connected devices began as a cord-cutting luxury for many users, Bluetooth connections have become critical for linking a Mac to keyboards, mice, trackpads, speakers, and more. Installing Bluetooth devices is typically straightforward if a few basic instructions are followed. Here’s how to view, install, configure, and troubleshoot Bluetooth devices in macOS.

SEE: Best Bluetooth headsets of 2017 (CNET)

To install a new Bluetooth device, open System Preferences and select Bluetooth. The Bluetooth Preferences menu will open.

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Configure Bluetooth devices and settings using the macOS Systems Preferences applet.

Erik Eckel

Once a Bluetooth device is paired with macOS, the Mac will connect to the Bluetooth device whenever the Bluetooth device is within range, typically 30 feet or so, although I’ve seen connectivity vary by device and manufacturer. Incidentally, Mac users who purchased wireless mice, keyboards, or trackpads with a new iMac should find the devices are already installed on the Mac.

For other common devices, the Bluetooth device itself must be placed in pairing mode. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions as to how to configure each Bluetooth device to enter pairing mode.

Next, ensure Bluetooth is enabled on the Mac by reviewing the Bluetooth status within the Bluetooth System Preferences menu. A potentially easier method is to ensure the Bluetooth menu bar icon appears in bold face—just click the icon and select Turn Bluetooth On if the option is disabled.

Once Bluetooth is enabled on the Mac and the Bluetooth device enters pairing mode, the device should appear within the Mac’s Bluetooth preferences screen. When the device appears, click the Pair button.

If you’re connecting a Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard, or Magic Trackpad 2, the process is slightly different; these specific devices can be paired by connecting the device to the Mac using a Lightning cable and ensuring the device is powered on. Those devices should appear within the Bluetooth preferences menu and pair automatically.

Apple maintains Bluetooth connection information. The company also published tips for confirming a Bluetooth device is compatible with your Mac, in case you run into trouble.

Advanced options may help with troubleshooting

A few advanced options, which could potentially be useful when you’re troubleshooting, deserve review.

Clicking the Bluetooth System Preferences menu’s Advanced button reveals three options—check the boxes to enable any or all of the options. Those three choices address:

  • opening the Bluetooth Setup Assistant (essentially the Bluetooth System Preferences menu) at system startup if no keyboard is detected;
  • opening the Bluetooth Setup Assistant if no mouse or trackpad is detected at startup; and
  • permitting Bluetooth to wake the computer, such as if you press a key, use a trackpad, or move a mouse.

More about Mobility

Another option that’s not immediately evident to many users is macOS’ ability to connect to Bluetooth speakers. Popular Bluetooth speakers, including those sold by Bose, Jawbone, and others, are easily connected to Macs, too. When these devices are placed in pairing mode and within distance of the Mac, they also appear within the Bluetooth System Preferences menu. Once paired, iTunes and other audio can be routed to the Bluetooth speaker. In iTunes, for example, the Choose Which Speakers To Use icon, found within the iTunes menu bar, turns blue, indicating the Bluetooth speakers are selected as the source.

For Bluetooth devices that don’t appear within the macOS’ Bluetooth System Preferences window, confirm the Bluetooth device is powered on and in pairing mode and that the Mac’s Bluetooth service is enabled. Be sure to also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for connecting third-party Bluetooth devices (occasionally a security code must be entered to successfully marry devices). Ensure the Advanced option for allowing Bluetooth devices to wake the computer is selected if you wish to wake the computer using its Bluetooth input devices following a prolonged period of inactivity.

Apple has posted a list of known issues that can interfere with Bluetooth device communications. Occasionally microwave ovens, certain external displays, and wireless routers can present problems. Other components that might require relocation or introduce interference include wireless RF radio transmissions and sources of strong electrical fields, such as circuit breaker boxes. Relocating such equipment, or repositioning the Mac and/or Bluetooth devices, might prove necessary if you encounter trouble from those sources.

SEE: MacOS Sierra renders some Bluetooth mice and keyboards unusable (including Apple’s) (ZDNet)

Note that Bluetooth devices possess range limitations. Building construction and materials, such as metal desks, can adversely impact Bluetooth signals, too. Temporarily relocating a Mac and/or problematic Bluetooth devices can help determine whether the environment is introducing connectivity issues, although such complications typically occur infrequently.

Also see

Office Q&A: Three ways to search for messages in Outlook

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Most users have a love-hate relationship with Outlook. It’s great until it doesn’t work as expected. Users are often frustrated when they can’t find an email message that they know is in their Inbox somewhere. TechRepublic member Marty’s best solution is to use a search folder, but in this article, I’ll introduce you to Instant Search and its contextual Ribbon tools.

More about Office

I’m using Outlook 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but these tools are available in older versions. There’s no downloadable demonstration file because you won’t need one. Search Folders aren’t available in Office 365 Mail.

Filter for all sent and received mail on the current day

Marty has a hard time keeping up with mail the day it arrives; she wants to review only the new items received and sent that day so she can stay on top of things. For Marty, I recommend a search folder that displays sent and received mail for the current day only—and it’s easier than you might think. You create a new search folder and use the Advanced Criteria option to add the necessary filtering strings.

If you have more than one account, select the account in question to get started. Next, right-click Search Folders in the Folder pane and then choose New Search Folder (Figure A). In the resulting dialog, choose Create A Custom Search Folder from the Custom section at the bottom of the list (Figure B) and click OK. When Outlook asks you to enter a name, click OK to continue and then enter a name for the folder. For this example, we’ll name the folder Today (Figure C). Once you’ve entered the name, click OK.

Figure A

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Create a new search folder.

Figure B

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In this case, choose the custom search folder option.

Figure C

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Name the new search folder.

Now that you’ve created the folder, you’re ready to add the criteria that populates it. To do so, click the Criteria button and then click the Advanced tab. From the Field dropdown, choose Date/Time fields and select Received. From the Condition dropdown, choose Today (Figure D) and then click Add To List. This will display all messages received during the current day in the custom search folder. That means the folder’s contents change every day.

Figure D

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This criteria setting will find all messages received.

Now, create criteria for all the mail you send. From the Field dropdown, choose Date/Time fields and then select Sent. From the Condition dropdown, choose Today and click Add To List. Figure E shows both criteria. Click OK three times to return to Outlook, which will update the Today search folder automatically as you send and receive email.

Figure E

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The Advanced tab lets you specify multiple criteria.

The new folder will display messages you received and sent during the current day. It will also display messages you move to the Deleted Items folder. You can work from this folder or use it for referencing throughout the day. Deleting a message from the search folder won’t delete the message from your Inbox. Deleting a message from your Inbox won’t delete it from your search folder!

Instant Search

As Marty has learned, keeping up with mountains of email can turn into a full-time job. Deleting and organizing messages helps, but the biggest problem is often finding a specific message. Search folders are a great tool when you repeat the same search or type of search. It’s a virtual folder that provides a view of all email that matches the criteria you specific. The above example is just one—there are dozens of ways to combine different criteria settings, so spend some time exploring this feature.

Instant Search (look for the Search Today prompt at the top of the message list) is a great tool for finding messages on the fly. For instance, if you want to find a message from a specific person, just enter their name, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

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Find a message or messages quickly based on a search string.

You can enter as many search items as necessary to narrow your search. You might enter the person’s name and a project or meeting. For instance, “Susan Harkins team meeting” would find the message that specifies where you’re meeting. It would also find messages that contain any of those words. A better search string might be FROM:Susan Harkins, meeting. This would find only those messages from Susan with meeting somewhere in the message. You can reference any column header in this way. You can also use logical operators such as AND, NOT, OR, <, >, and =. Wrap a string in double quotation marks to search for that exact verbiage. Once you use this feature a few times, it will become second nature to you.

Search Tools Ribbon

The Search Tools Ribbon is an underused treasure chest. To display these tools (Figure G), click inside Instant Search. These tools are helpful when you want to narrow your search or when you’re looking for something very specific. It’s also an easy way to use the logical operators and column headers when you’re unfamiliar with the syntax and possibilities.

Figure G

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Contextual tools are available for searching.

These tools are easy to use. Once you start exploring, you’ll probably find options you didn’t know about but can put to immediate use.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers’ questions when I can, but there’s no guarantee. Don’t send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, “Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what’s wrong” probably won’t get a response, but “Can you tell me why this formula isn’t returning the expected results?” might. Please mention the app and version that you’re using. I’m not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

See also…

This connected vibrator's camera is disturbingly easy to hack

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Svakom

While your microwave definitely isn’t spying on you, it’s always important to make informed choices about which connected devices you bring into your home. Case in point: the $249 Svakom Siime Eye, Wi-Fi-enabled vibrator — which comes with a built-in camera for livestreaming and, according to security researchers at Pen Test Partners, an interface that can be easily hacked by anyone within Wi-Fi range.

The “hack” is remarkably simple, Motherboard reports, because the smart dildo creates a Wi-Fi access point with the easily guessed default password of “88888888”. Anyone picking up the signal can simply tune into the video stream, Pen Test founder Ken Munro explained, but with a little extra work researchers were able to access the device’s web server, root the device and set it up for a remote connection. According to Munro, his team attempted to contact the company about the problem for months before making their findings public.

While the Siime Eye was most likely aimed at users who want to broadcast some intimate uses for the device, giving neighbors and anyone in Wi-Fi range easy access to its stream poses an obvious security and privacy risk. It’s also not the first sex toy to compromise its users’ personal information. Last month, Standard Innovation, makers of the We-Vibe line of connected vibrators, settled a class action lawsuit for violating users’ privacy. As it turned out, We-Vibe toys were collecting and sending “highly intimate and sensitive data” back to the company’s servers without the user’s permission.

 

 

How to track down USB flash drive usage with Windows 10's Event Viewer

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Image: iStockphoto.com/Highwaystarz-Photography

Soon after my article How to track down USB devices in Windows 10 with Microsoft’s USB Device Viewer was published, I received a message from a reader who was interested in tracking USB flash drive usage. More specifically, he wanted to be able to find out when a USB flash drive was connected to a system, when it was disconnected, and ultimately how long the USB flash drive was connected to a system. The ability to track down this type of information could come in handy for a troubleshooting expedition or for conducting a digital forensics investigation.

I knew that kind of information would be recorded in Windows 10’s Event logs, and after some investigation with Event Viewer, I found out where. Further investigation and experimentation led me to the Event IDs that correspond to the connection and disconnection operations. And of course, each of these operations had a date and time stamp. I then found out how to identify specific USB flash drives, which allowed me to determine how long a specific USB flash drive was connected to a system.

In this article I’ll explain in more detail what I found. I’ll then show you how to employ these techniques to use Event Viewer to track USB flash drive usage on a system.

SEE: Digital forensics: The smart person’s guide

Getting started

There are several ways to launch Event Viewer. One of the easiest ways is to click the Start button and begin typing Event Viewer. When Event Viewer appears in the Results pane, just click it. As soon as the tool launches, you’ll see the Overview And Summary panel, as shown in Figure A, which displays a list of the most recent events collected from all the logs.

Figure A

Figure A

Figure A

The Overview And Summary panel displays a list of the most recent events.

Event Viewer will keep track of USB flash drive related events in the

Application and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > DriverFrameworks-UserMode > Operational

log. However this log is not enabled by default. As such, you need to enable it first by drilling down to DriverFrameworks-UserMode, right-clicking on the Operational Log, and then selecting Properties from the context menu. When the Log Properties – Operational dialog appears, select the Enable Logging check box, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Figure B

Figure B

You must enable the Operational Log before Event Viewer will start capturing USB flash drive related events.

Tracking a USB flash drive connection

When you connect a USB flash drive to your system, a number of Information and Verbose Level event records are generated in the Operational Log. These records will consist of the following Event IDs:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • 2006
  • 2010
  • 2100
  • 2101
  • 2105
  • 2106

For example, when I connected a USB flash drive to my system, Event Viewer displayed those event records in the Operational Log, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Figure C

Figure C

When you connect a USB flash drive to your system, a number event records are generated in the Operational Log.

As you can see, the first couple of event records pertain to loading drivers for the particular USB flash drive. The rest of the records pertain to the pnp (Plug-and-Play) or Power Management operations that get the drive ready to go to work in Windows 10. You’ll also see that each event record has the same Date And Time stamp that corresponds to the instant that the USB flash drive was connected to the system.

The majority of these records contain a coded name for the device that will help you identify the device in a generic way. However, each device’s unique serial number is also included in the majority of these records, which will allow you to identify specific USB flash drives.

As you might have guessed, by combining the date and time stamp with the device’s unique serial number, you can find out exactly when a particular device was connected to the system. Pretty good so far, right?

However, connecting the USB flash drive generated 16 event records. Fortunately, all the records are generated at the same time, and the majority of the event records contain the unique serial number. Therefore, you need to investigate only one record to get what you need.

When a USB flash drive is connected, the first recorded event record is Event ID 2003. So by noting the date and time stamp assigned to an Event ID 2003 record, you can tell exactly when a USB flash drive was connected to the system. If you then open the Event ID 2003 record, as shown in Figure D, you can find all the information you need.

Figure D

Figure D

Figure D

Opening the Event ID 2003 record will provide the necessary information.

The General tab of the Event 2003 properties dialog displays all the pertinent information. To make it easier to see the individual pieces of this information, I’ve applied a highlighter to the screen shot:

  • The green highlight shows the coded name for the device: USBSTOR#DISK indicates that this is a USB flash drive, and VEN_SANDISK&PROD_ULTRA tells us that this is a Sandisk Ultra 3.0 USB flash drive.
  • The yellow highlight shows where in the string you can find the device’s unique serial number.
  • The orange highlight shows the date and time that the USB flash drive was connected to the system.

Tracking a USB flash drive disconnection

When you eject or disconnect a USB device, a couple of Information Level event records are generated in the Operational Log:

These events records also contain a date and time stamp along with the device’s unique serial number. Even though there are multiple Event ID 2102 event records for a disconnection, the Event ID is unique to a disconnect. As such, by investigating the Event ID 2102 event record, you can find out exactly when a particular device was disconnected from the system. When you open an Event ID 2102 record, as shown in Figure E, you can find all the information that you need.

Figure E

Figure E

Figure E

Opening the Event ID 2102 record will provide you with all the information that you need.

On the General tab of the Event 20102 properties dialog, you can find all the pertinent information. To make it easier to see the individual pieces of pertinent information, I’ve applied a highlighter to the screen shot.

  • The green highlight shows the coded name for the device: USBSTOR#DISK indicates that this is a USB flash drive and VEN_SANDISK&PROD_ULTRA tells us that this is a Sandisk Ultra 3.0 USB flash drive.
  • The yellow highlight shows you where in the string that you can find the device’s unique serial number.
  • The orange highlight shows the date and time when the USB flash drive was connected to the system.

SEE: With new security features in place is it time to try Microsoft Edge?

Creating a Custom View

As you can imagine, over time connecting and disconnecting multiple USB flash drivers, the Operation Log will contain a lot of records. To make it easier to track down Event ID 2003 and Event ID 2102 event records in the Operational Log, you can create a Custom View.

To do so, make sure that the Operational Log is showing in Event Viewer, then pull down the Action menu and select the Create Custom View command. When you see the Create Custom View dialog, all you have to do is select the Information check box in the Event Level section and type 2003 and 2102 in the Includes/Excludes Event IDs box, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Figure F

Figure F

Creating a Custom View will make it easier to track connect and disconnect events.

After you configure your Custom View, click OK. You’ll then see the Save Filter To Custom View dialog box. At this point, simply enter a name, as shown in Figure G, and click OK.

Figure G

Figure G

Figure G

When you click OK, you’ll see the Save Filter To Custom View dialog box.

Now, to access your Custom View, just select it from the Custom Views tree. The USB Flash Drive Connect-Disconnect Tracker view displays only the event records you need monitor USB flash drives, as shown in Figure H.

Figure H

Figure H

Figure H

Using a Custom View narrows down the number of event records in the Operational Log.

To make this Custom View even easier to use, pull down the View menu and select the Group By > Event ID command. When you do so, you’ll be able to more easily identify connect and disconnect events, as shown in Figure I.

Figure I

Figure I

Figure I

The Group By command provides an even better way to identify the types of event records in the Operational Log.

Putting it all together

By finding the same unique USB flash drive serial number in corresponding Event ID 2003 and Event ID 2102 event records and then applying some math to the date and time stamp numbers, you can tell exactly how long a particular USB flash drive was connected to your system.

Caveats

While the Operational Log shows USB flash drive connect and disconnect events, that’s not the only USB device information this log displays. It may show event records for other USB devices as well. So just be aware of that as you look through the event records.

If you find an Event ID 2003 event record for a specific USB flash drive but don’t find a corresponding Event ID 2102 event record, that either means that the USB flash drive is still attached to the system or the system was shut down before the device was removed. The latter makes tracking a disconnect event a bit more tricky, but not impossible. You can investigate recent shutdowns as a means of determining when a USB flash drive was disconnected. You can track recent shutdowns by creating a Custom View and specifying Windows > System as the Event log, User32 as the Event source, and 1074 as the Event ID.

More Windows how-to’s..

What’s your take?

Have you ever needed to track down USB flash drive usage in a Windows 10 system? If so, do you think that this technique will help you? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

10 essential first steps after installing Windows

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Image: iStock/.shock

Whether you’re installing a workstation or a server, the Windows operating system is designed to get you up and running as quickly as possible. Built-in drivers, ready-for-use applications, and a standardized Start Menu mean less devils in the details.

However, there are a few things I always make sure to check off when I set up a new Windows environment in a business environment. Some of these steps involve making my life easier so I can work more efficiently, and others involve reducing some pet peeves over which Microsoft and I butt heads. A few of my recommendations involve personal preferences – which of course will vary depending on the administrator involved – but in those cases I outline my reasoning behind these preferences. Many will also apply to home computers, not just those used in a business environment.

Obviously tasks like setting up the initial account, joining the domain and getting online are a no-brainer so I’ll skip past these and assume the hypothetical system in question has just booted up and been logged in. I’ll also skip steps like manipulating the page file, defragmenting the operating system or installing a registry health check/cleaner since these are largely things of the past thanks to improvements in Windows.

Note: screenshots taken on a Windows Server 2012 R2 system, but the steps should be comparable for other recent versions of Windows.

1. Document the administrator password

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It’s a small step, but I can’t stress the importance of this enough. I use different administrator passwords on different systems (after all, like dominoes falling, if one administrator password is compromised all systems become accessible). They’re all stored in a shared password safe called KeePass which my fellow admins and I rely on. If I leave the company, they retain access to these passwords. Of course, they also then have to change all these passwords for security reasons, but that’s a different tale.

There are ways to reset administrator passwords – my favorite is to use Hiren’s Boot CD to do so (in fact, the large number of possible ways to do this should reinforce why you should physically secure systems to keep them from falling in the wrong hands) but this can be complicated and time-consuming, and in some situations if your boot volume is encrypted you may be out of luck.

2. Reveal what is hidden

I go against Microsoft’s grain in a couple of areas. By default, Windows hides certain files such as system files, subdirectories in user profile folders and other elements which would wreak havoc if accidentally deleted. Since the purpose of being a system administrator often involves working with these hidden files to resolve problems, it’s essential to be able to find them (it’s also frustrating to have to set them to be displayed when you’re trying to solve an urgent problem).

Another element I personally find annoying is when Windows doesn’t show file extensions for known file types, since this can lead to confusion; is this a Powershell script, text file, batch file or something else? Yes, the “Type” column lists a description of the file, but I’d rather see the extension for myself.

You can turn off the options to hide these files or extensions via these steps:

Open Windows Explorer, click View, go to Options then click the View tab.

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

Select “Show hidden files, folders and drives.”

Uncheck “Hide extensions for known file types” and “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).”

3. Tweak the taskbar/system tray settings

Microsoft is big on pinning things to the Task Bar. This process groups multiple running programs together via large icons and can result in a task bar which looks like this:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

This is one of those personal preferences I mentioned in my introduction, but I find this too cluttered and difficult to navigate, especially when I have multiple remote desktop sessions going and want to be sure I’m on the right system (or else the wrong one might end up accidentally rebooted).

The notification area, which consists of icons in the lower right which can help you identify what’s running, whether there are problems with the system, or other interesting operational elements, is also collapsed by default so not all icons are visible:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

I can reveal all of the icons by hovering the mouse over that little black up arrow:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

However, that’s too manual for me. So to fix the above two issues, perform the following:

Right-click the taskbar and choose “Properties”:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

Check “Use small taskbar buttons” and then set the Taskbar buttons field to “Never combine.”

Click the “Customize” button next to “Notification area”:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

Check off “Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar.”

Once you click OK you’ll end up with a view similar to the following:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

Everything is laid out and easily identifiable, facilitating system management.

4. Drivers and patches

My next task is to install the latest drivers and Windows Updates for this system. Microsoft does provide certain drivers via Windows Update, but I prefer to go straight to the source since those are likely the newest and most appropriate drivers.

This is easier these days than the wild goose chases of the past since vendors are helping out. Dell, for instance, has a great set of tools on their support website which can automatically detect which drivers your system needs then download and apply them for you. Other hardware manufacturers offer similar options.

Some systems are behind firewalls and not provided access to the internet, or may use a centralized patch management solution such as SCCM, so in this case I’ll trigger a rollout of all patches to this new system and complete the necessary cycle of reboots so it’s fully up-to-date.

5. Activate Windows

This is one of the best messages to come across on a Windows system:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

Like a cat at dinnertime, Windows is very good about notifying you when it needs to be activated. In fact, you might say it can nag you quite a bit, especially as the 30-day deadline approaches.

Like a flu shot, I choose to get this out of the way as soon as possible if installing a stand-alone system not on a domain, just in case there are issues with activation I need time to resolve. To activate, go to Control Panel, System and click “Activate Windows Now.” If the internet connection works this should happen automatically, but if there is a problem or the system has no internet access then activation by phone is necessary.

Microsoft offers a great service called “Key Management Service” (or KMS) which can handle automatic activation of systems in your domain. Basically, you set up the service on a centralized system and new systems activate Windows through this all on their own thanks to specific DNS records. The only catch is the system must connect to the server every 180 days to confirm its activation status, so if a machine leaves the domain or ends up as personal property Windows will eventually request activation again.

6. Installing Programs

The programs you install on a workstation or a server will vary depending on your needs and tastes. Obviously certain programs such as anti-malware, productivity tools, document readers and foundational elements like Java should be part of the process. For workstations I intend to utilize, Dropbox comes in handy since it contains all my installation programs so once I install this then they eventually appear on the hard drive ready to run. Reduce the number of programs you use on servers, however, to cut down on patch work and exploitable vulnerabilities (do you really need Microsoft Office running on a Windows server?)

However, here are some special free programs I’ve found indispensable across all the systems I use and manage:

  • Clover: A version of Windows Explorer which allows the use of tabs.
  • 4-Tray: Permits you to minimize running programs to the system tray and reduce clutter
  • Veracrypt: A program which secures your files using encrypted containers (a single file which can be mounted as a drive).
  • Notepad++ The regular Notepad program on steroids. Excellent for reviewing and debugging script files, running macros, sorting items and much more.
  • Ninite: Lets you automatically install a vast variety of dozens of programs such as Foxit Reader, Chrome, Firefox, the VLC media player, Java, .NET, Peazip, XNView, PDFCreator, KeePass and many other examples. Once you select these you can download a single .exe file which handles the entire installation process.
  • PortableApps: Many applications can run in stand-alone fashion without having to be officially installed. PortableApps can provide access to hundreds of these apps (you can review their app list directl) by downloading them to your hard drive. It even provides its own app launcher:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

7. Control startup items

This tip applies mainly to workstations but can have some merit with servers as well.

Many operating systems and programs set unnecessary elements to start up automatically, such as the Adobe Acrobat Update Service. Many of these can slow down the boot process and add delays, can interfere with other programs and cause issues, or just plain aren’t necessary. You can view and control which items are set to start automatically.

For Windows 10, hit Ctrl-Alt-Del, select Task Manager and then review the Startup tab.

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

You can review items and stop them from starting up automatically by right-clicking them and choosing “Disable.” The right-click menu also gives you the option to open the file location, search online about it or examine properties.

For Windows Server 2012, examine startup items by clicking Search and entering:

shell:startup

This just opens the AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup under the local profile, and in this case we can see there are no startup items configured.

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

You can do the same for Services, which are system-based programs. Run the command:

services.msc

This will open the Services window:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

As with startup items, you can right-click any given service and stop or start is as desired. You can also specify what the service should do the next time it boots; to disable it right-click it, choose Properties:

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Image: Scott Matteson/TechRepublic

Choose “Automatic (Delayed Start),” “Automatic,” “Manual” or “Disabled.”

Make sure you know what you’re doing here and that the service in question can be disabled if you decide to go this route. Disabling the wrong service might adversely impact your system.

8. Arrange data backups

Whether a workstation or server, the system will quite likely contain some sort of data which needs to be backed up. Arrange to do so either via the official company backup software or arrange synchronization of data elsewhere (such as between servers).

Cloud storage is also an option (if not the official backup product); Dropbox works fine for me in backing up all my data, but it’s also important to be aware of security policies and regulations which may prohibit the transfer of data off-site or to a third party.

9. Create an image or take a snapshot

Just as data should be backed up, you might need to arrange for the backup of the applications or operating system. If you can create a system image this can save you the headache of a full reinstallation down the road since you can roll Windows back to this image if needed. Microsoft provides built-in mechanisms to do this, such as for Windows 10. It’s also possible to use SCCM for operating system deployments or rely on third party products such as Quest’s KACE System Imaging and Deployment.

If the system is a virtual machine, the process can be even easier. Just take a snapshot of it and you can revert to this snapshot later if trouble arises. Just be aware that in some environments snapshots can inadvertently cause issues. For instance if using the vSphere console with a VMWare virtual environment you might find you can’t expand a virtual volume because a snapshot exists of the system.

10. Document/set up alerts

This one often falls by the wayside after setting up a system. Document all necessary details including name, IP address, function, programs, support information and the like. Add asset tags (if applicable) and list the system in any financial-related documents or programs so it can be tracked and end of life (EOL) plans made for retirement.

If this is a server and it runs a critical function, make sure it is added to your monitoring and alerting environment (which of course should exist in any serious business) and that responsible staff are notified of any issues which may arise. Track resource consumption, service status, hardware components and any other elements which may impact operations if adversely affected.

Also see:

Get the most from Windows 10 with these time-saving tips and shortcuts
How to disable automatic device driver updates in Windows 10

How to combine the power of Device Manager and Driverquery to manage your Windows 10 driver updates

Windows 10: The smart person’s guide

Robots will steal 24.7 million jobs and create 14.9 million new jobs by 2027

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Image: iStockphoto/PJ66431470

Yes, robots are coming for our jobs, but the casualties won’t be as bad as experts once thought. According to Forrester Research’s Future Of Jobs report, released Monday, automation and robotics will displace 24.7 million jobs by 2027, while also creating 14.9 million new jobs in the same time period, leading to a net loss of 9.8 million US jobs.

Now, 9.8 million jobs is still a huge number, but it pales in comparison to the 69 million jobs figure that is often cited by industry experts. For those unfamiliar, that number comes from a 2013 paper out of Oxford University that claimed 47% of US jobs (or 69 million) were at a high risk of being automated. Forrester’s report seems to point to a much smaller impact.

The lost 9.8 million jobs seems to echo what we saw in the US economic recession that occurred from 2007 to 2009. During that time, automation was used as a cost-cutting method, eliminating many jobs that never came back, the report said. The US labor participation rate dropped from 66.4% in January 2007 to 62.9% in January 2017, the report noted.

SEE: Future jobs: How humans and robots will complement each other

In terms of what jobs will face the highest displacement, manual labor repetitive menial tasks will be the most impacted. However, not all white collar jobs are safe—for example, IBM is now leveraging cognitive computing in Watson to better understand medical research and read imagery to assist radiologists.

More about Artificial Intelligence

The industries at the biggest risk for automation are construction and mining, factory products, office assistants, and sales people, the report said. But, new roles will be created in human-machine resources, along with additional management and professional duties.

In addition to these intellectual and physical tasks, automation will also impact customer service, the report said. Restaurant ordering kiosks and online shopping agents are just some of the ways that automation will change the customer experience, the report noted.

Despite eliminating certain roles, automation will also transform other aspects of human work. By automating routine tasks and taking on some of the issues of optimization, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation can free up certain employees to focus on higher-level work, the report said. The report predicts that, by 2018, every job category will be affected by automation by at least 25%.

To better weather the storm of automation, Forrester recommends developing a strategic plan for automation and focusing on the impact to the customer, not necessarily the cost involved. Interested parties can purchase and read the full report here.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Robots will take 24.7 million jobs by 2027, but create 14.9 million new jobs in the same time period, leading to a net loss of 9.8 million jobs, according to a new Forrester Research report.
  2. Manual jobs in construction and mining will be the most impacted, but white color jobs in medicine and office work will also be impacted.
  3. Businesses should focus on the customer and develop a strategy for dealing with automation’s impact on their industry.

Also see

Google WiFi helps keep you off the internet at night

This post was originally published on this site
AOL

Settling in and letting go of screens for dinner or bedtime can be a struggle for both kids and adults. Scheduling time to focus somewhere besides the internet, then, might make a lot of sense. Google’s WiFi router now has a feature that can help you pause the signal in your home so you can get to bed or take care of important IRL things without the sweet distraction of WiFi.

Using the Google WiFi app, you can tell your Google WiFi to shut down at specific times in your daily schedule, like “Bedtime” or “Homework.” When the time comes, the router will pause the internet just for the devices you tell it to, making sure that keeping your kids off the internet won’t stop you from working.

Of course, Apple’s routers already have a way to set up time limits, but you need to use desktop software to make it happen. Google’s new WiFi feature is available today and should make it easier to set up a schedule if you need force yourself to put down the Snapchat at night. Sleep well!