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Liberty Requires Additional Software In Order To Send Emails

FacepalmLiberty’s new Send Mail “feature” does not work unless you install and/or configure additional software.  This means when you click the new Send Mail button, you will not be able to send email until you configure additional software – e.g. Outlook Express, Outlook, Thunderbird, Window Live Mail, etc.

For years, Liberty has had the ability to send emails on its own, utilizing its own built-in code and libraries.  In fact, many of you will remember the paid upgrade from Liberty 2002 to Liberty4 Consignment, which introduced email functionality.  So why has the email functionality that has been in Liberty for years, been left out of this new “feature”?

In Liberty’s recent 4.0 update, there is a new button that is supposed to let you email a consignor:

Liberty's Send Mail Button
Liberty’s Send Mail Button | Click to Enlarge

The only problem is, it doesn’t work unless you install and/or configure 3rd party software – e.g. Outlook Express…

Liberty & Outlook Express
Liberty & Outlook Express | | Click to Enlarge

When a program such as Liberty goes to send email, it can do so in one of a few ways.  It can take the “easy” way out (which makes it easy for the software, but difficult for the user) and not add any email functionality at all.  This is done by asking Windows to send email through whichever 3rd party software is currently installed and configured as the Default Email Program.  The other option, is to put in a little more work ahead of time so that your users don’t have to run into issues come time to use said feature.  The latter is what Liberty4 Consignment 4.0b utilizes.  They’ve simply given you a shortcut to launch email software, which you may or may not have on your computer.

Why though?  Liberty already has built-in code which allows it to send emails.  Your SMTP Settings are entered under Tools > eCommerce Options > Email Settings:

Ecommerce Settings > Email Settings
Liberty’s Email Settings | Click to Enlarge

These settings tie-in to other portions of Liberty which can send emails – e.g. the Event Manager, the Word Processor (wordmail), etc.

So why isn’t that functionality being used here?  Why does Liberty now require its users to install + configure 3rd party software just to send an email?  This just makes it difficult on you vs. having the software do the work for you.

Do you know what default email client is on your computer?  Do you even have a default email client on your computer?  Liberty requires you to know the answers to those questions.  Many people do NOT have default email clients on their computer, because they check their email in their web browser – e.g. Gmail, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, etc.

We actually recommend not using an email client on your computer, because it creates a dependency and a support issue for you, which translates into a cost.  Programs such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc. have to be installed and/or configured.  Ok, which settings go where?  What if you move to a different computer?  Are you going to download and install software on that computer now?  What happens when that system crashes?  Are you telling me you can’t use email until you get your computer setup and then get your email software reinstalled?  What about backups?  Have you been backing-up your email files?  See where this is going?

Liberty already has multiple areas where it can send emails and it’s been able to do so since 2004.  Why in this new paid upgrade, does it not utilize the features it already has?  Why put the workload on the person attempting to use the feature?  That’s exactly what this is doing – it’s making the user do the work, not the software.

In ConsignPro, when you click the Send Email Note button in a consignor’s account…

ConsignPro Email Consignor
ConsignPro Email Consignor | Click to Enlarge

It launches its own email screen, so you can send the email right from within ConsignPro, without having to use 3rd party email software on your computer…

ConsignPro Email Form
ConsignPro Email Form | Click to Enlarge

The reason I point this out is because it creates a support issue for Liberty users.  When Anita Johnson @ Upscale Fashions, Inc. asked me to configure Outlook Express so that Liberty could send emails, I was quite surprised.  The button there now is the “quick way” to get that feature in there, but it puts all the work on you, the user.  What do stores do if they want to use this feature?  Do they have to call their tech?  Why can’t Liberty just send the email on its own?

For the benefit of the end users, I really think Liberty should handle sending emails without relying on the Windows default email client.

Feel free to add your comments below!

 

Kids, This Is Why We Don’t Recommend Norton (Because It Doesn’t Work)

Let’s get right down to it – Symantec’s Norton Internet Security is horrible antivirus software and it flat-out does not work.  Let me repeat that – Norton Internet Security is horrible antivirus software and it flat-out does not work.

Want to see why?

Here’s a system with a current, updated version of Norton Internet Security – all seems well, right?

Norton Does Not Work

Yeah, not so much…

Norton Does Not Work

Oh, it’s probably just 494 “little” infections, right?  Ouch…

Norton Does Not Work

Now, I’m not here to just bash on Norton Internet Security, which is in fact terrible antivirus.  This isn’t a game – this is real life, real money, and real personal information here.  NO antivirus product is 100% guaranteed to prevent every possible virus, but there is absolutely no excuse for not catching nearly 500, current, documented infections.  This system was current on Windows Updates, all 3rd party software was updated (e.g. Java, Acrobat, Flash, etc.) and it’s on the latest Service Pack for XP (SP3):

Norton Does Not Work

There is just no other way to put it.  I can’t say it enough.  Norton Internet Security does not protect your system and it is a complete waste of money.  If you are using Norton Internet Security, we recommend replacing it with ESET Nod32 Antivirus.  We recommend Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware Pro in conjunction with ESET Nod32.

To recap:

[checklist]

  • Don’t use Norton Internet Security – it doesn’t work and it itself, is an infection
  • Use ESET Nod32 Antivirus
  • Use Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware Pro
  • Use common sense when browsing the web – e.g. don’t open attachments unless you are expecting to receive a file from someone, don’t click on random links, read what you’re about to click on before you click on it, etc..

[/checklist]

Don’t Run Out and Get Windows 8

The new version of Windows – Windows 8 – is officially available to consumers as of today.  There are some great additions to Windows 8, such as a “one-click” system reset, built-in support for ISO files (I know all of you consignment software users are just DYING for that feature!), and faster boot times.

One of the most controversial changes to Windows 8, is the lack of the Start button/menu:

OMG! Where's the Start button!?
OMG! Where’s the Start button!? | Click to Enlarge

Many feel that Microsoft are attempting to make a “bold” move and push consumers to something they don’t know they want yet – the touch/tablet interface.  With no Start button, once you get to the traditional Desktop, you’re seemingly trapped.  How to you launch a new program?  How do you shut down the computer?  There are invisible “hot spots” in the corner of the screen, which is where Microsoft anticipates YOU will be able to find quite intuitively.  Checkout our post,  Shutting Down Windows 8 | The Long and Winding Road… to see just how “intuitive” it is.

Windows 8’s UI is clearly more touch friendly and similar to Apple, Microsoft is attempting to unify their operating system across multiple devices – e.g. Windows Phone, Windows Surface, etc.

Windows 8 | Click to Enlarge

With many people still running Windows XP, which is now 11 years old and reaches its end of life in 2013, Windows 8 is not the version of Windows we recommend running out and buying.

Windows 7 is a huge leap above Windows XP in terms of security and for business systems – even personal systems – I can’t faithfully recommend Windows 8 just yet.  Windows 7 is slated for end of life in 2020, so we have plenty of time.

Another big problem is consignment software compatibility.  We’ve tested each of the major consignment programs on Windows 8 and we’ve found that Liberty’s database management system, MS SQL Server 2008 Express Edition, is not compatible with Windows 8:

Liberty4 Consignment & Windows 8
Liberty’s Database, MS SQL Server 2008, Is Incompatible With Windows 8

So for anyone running Liberty, as of right now Liberty is not compatible with Windows 8.

The way it’s looking, it might not be a bad idea to skip every other version of Windows.  🙂  Windows ME – problem ridden.  Windows XP – solid.  Windows Vista – not as horrible as some think, but still not an OS I would recommend for my worst enemy.  Windows 7 – fantastic improvement.  Windows 8 – let’s see.  Windows 9…

If anyone has any questions, let us know!

The Hope Chest Network Setup

We first started working with Anne @ The Hope Chest when they called in on a Saturday, experiencing issues with their consignment software.  One of the most common issues that plagues consignment software, is the computer you attempt to use for your consignment software.

With consignment software, one computer is the ‘main’ computer (or Server) and additional workstation computers (or Clients) can connect to that computer.  This makes it so you can have your consignment software on multiple computers, but all of them enter data into one database on the server PC.

So that main server computer is very important.  Equally important, is the network path the networked clients take to get to the server.  If you try to use WiFi or if your network is not fast enough (i.e. at least 100 Mbps, preferably 1 Gbps) or stable enough, then you can and will experience software lockups and even data loss.

This was the case with Anne @ The Hope Chest.  Their four existing computers were simply not cut-out to run networked database applications.  For example, some of the systems were utilizing Celeron processors, which really cannot handle even the most-basic of system tasks.  A bottleneck will occur during events such as updates, saving changes, etc.  These bottlenecks are not only frustrating, but they can cause real damage to your consignor data.

The Hope Chest utilizes ConsignPro for their consignment software and when Anne called in, their database had crashed and they were unable to use ConsignPro – on a busy Saturday, nonetheless.

Fortunately, we were able to repair her database and get them back up and running in an instant, but the issue of the antequated systems they had was still left to be dealt with.

That is why Anne @ The Hope Chest turned to The Computer Peeps.  The Hope Chest is a high-volume consignment store and they need stable, professional technology to keep their business running.

We utilize business-class Dell Optiplex systems with a standard 3-year on-site next business day hardware warranty.  The Optiplex line of systems are reliable and are extremely easy to upgrade or repair.

Due to the amount of consigned items The Hope Chest enters on a daily basis, as well as three dedicated point of sale stations, we built the 4-user ConsignPro network around an Intel i5 CPU and 8 GB of Kingston DDR Memory/RAM.

The Hope Chest's Server
The Hope Chest’s Server | Click to Enlarge

Each day when Anne closes ConsignPro, their daily backups are stored on an external USB drive attached to the server.  Backups are also automatically encrypted and copied off-site to her secure account @ CrashPlan.

The Hope Chest's Backup Drive
The Hope Chest’s Backup Drive | Click to Enlarge

[info_box style=”notice”]ConsignPro has a great feature we refer to as shadow copies.  Each time ConsignPro closes and detects an unsuccessful shutdown, a separate copy of the database file is made and saved as BACKUPDB.001, BACKUPDB.002, etc.  These should be auto-copied via script to provide even more backup redundancy.[/info_box]

The Hope Chest doesn’t have time to mess with crappy systems bought at a local big-box store, or systems poorly configured by a local tech and without support for the next 3 years.  ConsignPro, as well as ALL of the consignment software applications, require stable, predictable systems in order to run smoothly.

The Computer Peeps delivered a consistent, reliable, plug-and-play network to The Hope Chest which we are able to fully manage remotely.

The Hope Chest Remote Management
The Hope Chest Remote Management | Click to Enlarge

Doesn’t ConsignPro just look happier running on four perfectly configured systems?  Not only does it look happier, it runs better and is no longer causing grief for The Hope Chest.

The Hope Chest's ConsignPro Network
The Hope Chest’s ConsignPro Network | Click to Enlarge

Consignment store owners turn to The Computer Peeps for hardware because they know they can get the exact system they need, without paying through the nose.  If you try to build your own computer, you will spend the same amount of money AND you will have to figure out how to build a PC.  If you buy a system from your consignment software vendor, you’re going to pay nearly double for the same system from The Computer Peeps.  If you buy a Dell on your own, you’re going to have to wipe the system, reinstall Windows, locate and install drivers, upgrade the RAM, configure automated on-site + off-site backups of not only your consignment data, but your entire system; install and configure antivirus and anti-malware as to not interfere with the consignment software, running services, data files, etc.  Don’t forget the installation & configuration of your consignment hardware, as well as networking your consignment software.

Your consignment software vendor simply cannot compete with the level of detail we put into our system configurations.  From antivirus to anti-malware (with full PCI Compliance practices followed), to complete system backups + system restore, to a truly clean installation of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.  We utilize better Memory in our systems, because data is a critical point of failure for a business who relies on said data to operate.  We provide redundant consignment software database backups, utilizing consignment software vendor-approved methods.

If you need hardware to run your consignment software, you’re going to be making an investment.  There are a few options.  Whatever you do, don’t buy an off-the-shelf system at a local big box store – you will be wasting your time and money.  If you’re an IT professional and wiping a system, fighting viruses, etc. are things you love doing and are good at, then you can build and manage your systems yourself.  This is a full-time job though and to think you can protect your systems, protect your consignor data, protect your customers’ privacy, and maintain 99% up-time, is like me saying I could run your consignment store with my eyes closed.  I just recently had to admit to myself that I simply couldn’t waste our time replacing all of the faucets in our house.  I know when to draw the line and admit that a professional can do a better job than I can and much quicker as well.

I really am all for people wanting to learn and do their own thing.  There are only so many hours in the day though and we simply can’t be all things to all people/situations.  This is how people’s information gets stolen, or how your computer gets used as part of a giant botnet used to hack other systems…

CRITICAL: Zero-Day Bug In Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 9 Zero-Day FlawDANGER, will Robinson!  According to an online article at Ars Technica, a Zero-Day flaw in Internet Explorer 9 Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8, and 9 has been discovered and is being actively exploited in the wild.

We are always recommending either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.  It is recommended that Windows users stop using Internet Explorer 9 immediately and switch to another browser (I hesitate to say ‘until further notice’).

Either Firefox or Chrome are safer, better browsers than Internet Explorer, period.  They are not “difficult” to use and it is VERY easy to switch!  In fact, both Firefox and Chrome will ask to import your favorites and settings for you, to make the transition even easier!

So now all the times I said, “you should really consider switching to Firefox or Chrome,” weren’t just me blowing hot air!  🙂

How do I use Firefox or Chrome?

Great question!  Like we said, it is VERY easy to switch.  You can download Firefox or Chrome directly from their respective websites.  The Computer Peeps prefer to utilize the free service Ninite, which makes it easy to download and install new software, safely, and without any additional “junk.”

[box with_bg=”true” inner_padding=”small”]

[button link=”http://ninite.com/firefox/” open_new_tab=”true” size=”bigger”] Click here to download Firefox[/button]

[/box]

[box with_bg=”true” inner_padding=”small”]

[button link=”http://ninite.com/chrome/” open_new_tab=”true” size=”bigger”] Click here to download Chrome[/button]

[/box]

Just click Download Installer

[box with_bg=”true” inner_padding=”small”]

Ninite Firefox Installer
Ninite Firefox Installer | Click to Enlarge

[/box]

And then choose Run

[box with_bg=”true” inner_padding=”small”]

Internet Explorer 9 'Run' Prompt
Internet Explorer 9 ‘Run’ Prompt | Click to Enlarge

[/box]

The first time you run Firefox (or Chrome), you’ll be prompted to import all of your bookmarks, saved passwords, history, etc. from Internet Explorer…

[box with_bg=”true” inner_padding=”small”]

Firefox Import Settings and Data
Firefox Import Settings and Data | Click to Enlarge

[/box]

The Computer Peeps utilize both Firefox and Chrome for various purposes.  We recommend Firefox though and two key reasons we do so are:

[checklist]

  • NoScript add-on
  • AdBlock add-on

[/checklist]

AdBlock does have a ‘beta’ version for Chrome and it works just fine.  I simply will not browse the web without NoScript though, period.  I repeat – I will not browse the web without NoScript, period.  It is very easy to use and it is the first and best option in a multi-layered approach to staying safe on the web.

Both Firefox and Chrome also offer “sync” features, so you can connect browser from multiple computers – e.g. Home Desktop, Home Laptop, Office Desktop, etc. – and your history, favorites, etc. will all be synced across each of your computers.

So in case anyone missed it…

[info_box style=”error”]Windows users should avoid Internet Explorer 9[/info_box]

If anyone has ANY questions at all, just give us a buzz @ (888) 374-5422 or send us a message via our Contact Us page!

[hr]

Update 9/19/2012: Microsoft has released an advisory regarding this exploit.  Currently, there is no patch or fix for this flaw.  Hardened security policies, updated antivirus + anti-malware and additional workarounds are all that are available.  One of the security tools available is the Enhanced Mitigation Experience ToolkitYou should not install this and we’re posting this information here, just in case any of our customers or site visitors come across online articles or have friends that suggest E.M.E.T.  This is a tool intended to be installed and configured by a system administrator and Microsoft clearly states, this can and will break applications:

EMET Warning
EMET Warning | Click to Enlarge

E.M.E.T. is an extension of DEP and provides an additional layer of security, preventing malicious code from ‘hijacking’ applications.  If you have any questions about this or would like any additional information, just ask!

Let’s Play Mac vs. PC!!!

Oooh, oooh, I know!I was just upgrading the RAM in a system we’re configuring for Dragonflies & Ladybugs and I thought it would be fun to play a little “guess which is which”.  🙂

I always hear people always talk about “Macs are better than PCs,” but what do they really mean when they say that?  Is it better hardware under the hood?  Let’s take a look!

Here are two pictures of RAM from two different systems – one a PC, one a Mac.

Can you guess which came from which?

Here’s Example #1…

RAM Example #1
RAM Example #1 | Click to Enlarge

Here’s Example #2…

RAM Example #2
RAM Example #2 | Click to Enlarge

Feel free to comment below if you know!  There are some hints here and there.  😉

If you’re about to spend nearly $2,000 on a computer from a consignment software vendor, first, ask them which kind of RAM they install.  Then, compare their systems to The Computer Peeps’ consignment hardware prices and see just how much you can save.

Java Patched Thursday, Critical Flaw Already Discovered

We saw the writing on the wall and opted to fully remove Java from our Monthly Support clients’ systems.  Looks like we were right on target.  According to THN, after Oracle released an emergency patch for the Java flaw that was being exploited earlier this week, a new flaw has been discovered.

For those of you running Firefox, it’s been disabling Java in the browser for months now:

Firefox disables Java add-on
Firefox disables Java add-on

We recommend completely removing Java from your system.  Head to your Programs and Features applet (for Win7 and Win Vista users) or Add/Remove Programs (for XP users) to uninstall Java.  I easily say, “remove any version of Java that is installed,” but I have to pepper that with caution.  You can easily damage your system if you uninstall the wrong program.  So before making ANY changes to your system, always make sure you have a backup of your critical data.

If you have any questions or need any assistance, just let us know!  We can be reached via (888) 374-5422 or our Contact Us page.

Critical Java Flaw Leads To 0-day Exploit for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows

[info_box style=”warning”]This effects Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows users![/info_box]

Critical Java FlawI first read about this yesterday and now multiple tech blogs [1, 2] are reporting a critical flaw in Java which is being exploited actively in the wild.  Security exports are recommending Java be disabled immediately, as the 0-day exploit spreads.  In case you didn’t catch the big alert above – this affects Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

For our consignment store owners out there, the majority of the sites you visit do not use Java.  This means Java can typically be disabled or completely removed and you’ll never notice.  In fact, Firefox has been disabling this plug-in in recent updates, due to continued security issues.  NoScript users are already protected from this sort of content as well, since all active content is blocked by NoScript.

For customers that are on The Computer Peeps’ Monthly Support Plan, we will be handling this issue for you.  For everyone else out there, please make sure your antivirus + anti-malware is up-to-date.  If you have any questions about removing or disabling Java, just let us know!

“I can build a less-expensive computer!” – No you can’t

PC BuilderPutting the right computers in place is key for keeping your consignment software running properly.  I was working with a client recently and during our discussion of replacing his systems, he suggested that he could just build the computers himself.  A fellow gear-head!

I’m all for people getting their hands dirty – there’s nothing wrong with DIY.  There is a time and place for it though and unless system administration is your specialty, it’s best to leave your system build + maintenance to a professional.

Building computers is fun and it’s a satisfying feeling to put everything together and boot it up for the first time.  How often do you build computers though?  Often enough to know what an external build is?  I’m sure you’re comfy with adjusting settings in the system BIOS.  Dual-channel RAM, you know all about that.  😉

I thought about it though and I wanted to put into perspective exactly what it costs to build a properly spec’d system.  We’ll use NewEgg for our parts, as they’re the most popular website for PC building enthusiasts.  We’ll use the system from the build we were discussing with our client, which was to address database performance issues in a multi-user environment.  Because performance issues were the key element we were looking to address, we’ll use the i3 processor and a Solid State Drive (SSD).

Here’s a parts list:

[box]

[checklist]

[/checklist]

[/box]

And that system doesn’t include a 3 year next business day on-site hardware replacement warranty.  I didn’t mention additional expenses/costs/labor either, such as thermal compound, a CPU cooler, SATA cables, SSD 2.5″-3.5″ bracket, consignment software installation + configuration, printer installation + configuration, antivirus, backups, etc.  Between the warranty, additional labor, and your actual time, there’s an additional $200-$300 in cost.  You’re looking at about $1,500.00 for a system you had to build and troubleshoot yourself.

Let’s compare that to a Peeps’ system which arrives fully configured, ready to run, right out of the box:

Peeps' Consignment Software Database Server

Add to that system a $200.00 SSD drive and our fully configured example system comes to $1,395.00!  Don’t forget, our systems arrive ready to go and they have a 3-year next business day, on-site hardware replacement warranty.

So when’s the last time you built a computer?  Looking forward to that all-nighter, trying to get the thing just to POST?  It’s like our kitchen faucet which needs replaced.  What at first looked like a basic job, quickly turned into a “we could flood our kitchen” situation.  We don’t recommend the bog-box stores either, as off the shelf systems are just going to lead to issues like this.

You have to learn when to stand back and let a professional step in.  If you’re serious about your consignment or resale business, then don’t try to slap things together yourself.  You have your consignors’ and customers’ private information to worry about.  You have your business’ sales history, consignors’ payouts, and more, to worry about.  This isn’t about “getting the cheapest deal” – leave that for shopping.  It’s not about wasting money in the wrong areas either, so before you look to your consignment software vendor for a system; before you run into the first big-box store with a door-buster deal; before you spend a week trying to figure out why your DIY system won’t boot, call The Computer Peeps for a quote today!  We specialize in configuring systems for consignment and resale stores and we’re proud to have done so for hundreds of stores all across North America.

Shutting Down Windows 8 | The Long and Winding Road…

Microsoft has done us a favor and doubled the amount of steps it takes to shutdown/restart Windows 8 (as compared to Windows 7).  There’s been a bit of criticism of Microsoft’s new Metro UI – i.e. the new ‘tablet-like’ interface which sits on top of the normal Desktop and Explorer interface you’re used to seeing in Windows.

Windows 8 Metro UI
Windows 8 Metro UI | Click to Enlarge

I’m not here to gripe about change and while I’m not personally a fan of the Metro UI aesthetic, I get it.  Microsoft is going to be pushing their Microsoft Surface hardware and the general ‘touch’ experience on Windows Phone 8.

So, once you get through Metro and make your way to the Desktop, the fun begins.

Where do we go from here?

Windows 8 Desktop
Windows 8 Desktop | Click to Enlarge

We have the familiar Windows Desktop we’ve used for years and years, but what do?  The Start button is gone and I don’t see any visual queues as to where to go.  What do we do!?

Well, isn’t it obvious?  Clearly you’re supposed to move your cursor to the far right-hand side of the screen’s top or bottom corners!  😀  When we move the cursor to the right-hand top and bottom corners of the screen, it reveals

Windows 8 NavBar
Windows 8 NavBar | Click to Enlarge

Hmmm, I want to power my computer off, which one of these buttons seems to be the best choice.  Well, I guess power is a setting, so let’s try Settings!  Oh, yay!  I was right!  Looks like we found the Power ‘setting’:

Windows 8 Settings
Windows 8 Settings | Click to Enlarge

Yep, we have a winner!  The Power setting lets us Shut down or Restart our system:

Windows 8 Shut Power Settings
Windows 8 Shut Power Settings | Click to Enlarge

Woohoo!  We’re finally shutting-down Windows 8!

Windows 8 Shutting Down
Windows 8 Shutting Down | Click to Enlarge

To recap, in order to shutdown Windows 8 we:

  1. Hovered our cursor over one of the ‘hotspots’ at the top and left corners on the right-hand side of the screen.
  2. Clicked the Settings icon
  3. Clicked the Power icon
  4. Clicked Shutdown

Now, let’s compare that to Windows 7.  First, we click the Start button at the lower-left:

Windows 7 Desktop
Windows 7 Desktop | Click to Enlarge

Then we click Shutdown – amazing!  🙂

Windows 7 Start Menu
Windows 7 Start Menu | Click to Enlarge

Yay!  Two clicks and we’re shutting-down!

Windows 7 Shutting Down
Windows 7 Shutting Down | Click to Enlarge

So, to shutdown Windows 7 we:

  1. Clicked Start
  2. Clicked Shutdown

For those of you out there already testing Windows 8, let me know if I’m missing something @ shutting-down Windows 8.

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