New Year’s resolutions of mysteries

Kathleen Atkins

Life in our digital world is much like life in the organic world: you can count on sudden failures, persistent difficulties, and disconcerting discoveries.

Windows Secrets readers are never shy about telling us what they think we missed in a story — or what problems they encountered when using our advice.

Removing Java story gets lots of attention

Woody Leonhard’s and Susan Bradley’s articles about the hazards of Java and how to remove it from your computer provoked lots of mail from readers — and quite a bit of discussion in the Windows Secrets Lounge. Many letters asked for clarification about processes — or described the confusing or problematic discoveries readers came across on their own machines. Woody and Susan plan to address Java questions again soon. But here are two readers’ letters about Java to stand in for the many.

  • Regarding Woody Leonhard’s January 24 article, “Security alert: Remove Java from your browsers.”

    If it’s true that “many — if not most PC users — are running Firefox or Chrome,” why not just use IE as the browser you keep Java on? I use IE only when Firefox won’t work. So for me that is the solution.

    If someone still uses IE as their main browser and wants to remove Java from it, the easy way to do it would be to first remove Java from all browsers, then add it back to your secondary browser that explicitly asks you for permission to run a Java program.     — Morris Williams

    [Woody responds: Alas, it doesn’t work that way. IE is the most vulnerable browser for Java security breaches. If you remove Java from your machine and then click to install Java inside a browser, it gets installed for all browsers.]

  • I hit a snag when I tried to follow Woody’s advice. It finally dawned on me to delete Java, then to download and install the latest version. Once I installed the latest stuff, the Java Control Panel looked just like the example Woody used in his article.

    I thought that if I ran the Java updater, I’d have the latest stuff — that is, update 11. I had run the updater from my machine’s notification area. The updater reported that my software was up to date. Seems odd, does it not, that I’d have to uninstall Version 7 Update 9 and then download a fresh replacement. How many programs require that kind of attention?

    By the way, yes, I’ve disabled Java, just as Woody and others have recommended. Thanks again for your good work!     — Lucas Hutton

Investigating hazards to a HomePlug system

  • I was just reading Lincoln Spector’s January 24 story, “When a HomePlug network suddenly stops working,” and have one more data point to offer.

    Your local power company just might have a lot to do with your recent HomePlug system. Here in Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO, our only power provider) has been making almost constant changes to our local grid. I know this because we have had our solar PV system in place for two years, and I can monitor my system’s power production every five minutes, as well as how much power is being sent into HECO’s grid. My system generates power that is completely separate from the base power that HECO supplies to my home, and that generated power shows up as a credit against what my home uses.

    I had been seeing some really strange readings for several months. It turns out that HECO has been “experimenting” with changing the way power is accepted into their grid, mostly by modifying the way power is sent to each home. That means that my own office voltage is often completely different from what I measure in, say, my kitchen or bedroom. Most utilities have the capability of addressing each and every separate circuit in your home — e.g., each circuit that runs on a separate circuit breaker — if they so choose. I’m lucky that my engineer wife and I have the equipment necessary to monitor these circuits: I’ve seen differences ranging from 108.6 volts to 122.7 volts, just one room apart. These can last from hours to days or weeks, too.

    So before you start blaming your house’s wiring, you might want to check to see what your own electric utility company may be doing!     — Ken Goldstein

  • In Lincoln Spector’s Jan. 24 column, he noted:

    “Over the next few years, I extended the range of my Wi-Fi by adding two D-Link PowerLine AV Wireless N Extenders (more info). These adapters were a bit more difficult to set up; I had to give them network IDs and passwords. (The trick was to give them the same name and password as the router’s Wi-Fi network. That way, they effectively become different points on the same network.) Those additions gave us full-strength Wi-Fi throughout the house.”

    While this is true, I believe it is important to remember that Wi-Fi is not cellular. If all the access points have the same SSID/password, the user will simply never know which access point is being used. This can result in the use of a weaker Wi-Fi signal and lower performance than might be available from another access point with a stronger signal and the same SSID. For this reason, in the situation you describe, I usually give each access point an SSID that identifies its location so that if the signal is not strong, the user can identify and choose another. Please tell me whether I am wrong. Thanks.     — Gary Androphy

    [Lincoln responds: In my experience, this isn’t really a problem. Sometimes a newly moved device will briefly get less than stellar Wi-Fi, but after a minute or so the connection is strong.]

Help found in Windows Secrets’ archives

  • Saturday, I wrote you of my external disk’s problem with lost data. Yesterday, I was able to ascertain that the data space I had lost had been turned into unallocated disk space. This was, of course, even more disconcerting, but now I had a better search term available to me. I used it to search Windows Secrets and generate a series of articles.

    In one of Fred Langa’s pieces, I found a pointer to a free disk partition recovery tool, EaseUS Partition Recovery. I downloaded and installed it and cranked it up. Its fast version produced no results, but its complete version, which took some 10 hours to finish, found my data storage partition. I was able to restore that partition with all of the desired data intact. It wasn’t able to find my system backup partition, but I was able to convert the remaining unallocated space into a new partition into which I immediately poured a new system backup.

    Bottom line is that my external disk problem has been resolved, thanks to Windows Secrets, Fred Langa, and EaseUS Partition Recovery. I still don’t understand why the Acer box did what it did when I tried to store a copy of its recovery partition to my external drive, but I have decided to try to get around it using the Windows 8 version of the Windows 7 file backup, which seems to work exactly like the Windows 7 backup utility. Accept my sincere thanks.     — Rick Ketchum

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-02-07:

Kathleen Atkins

About Kathleen Atkins

Kathleen Atkins is the Windows Secrets associate editor. She's also a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. Prior to joining Windows Secrets, she worked at Microsoft Press.