Breaking Windows 10 with BitLocker

Earlier this year, after being with Apple for over 10 years, I decided to switch back over to Windows, primarily because laptops this side of the fence seemed to offer better configurations for comparable pricing. And having used Windows 10 for over a couple of years, it seemed like a decent enough bet. The one thing I didn’t anticipate, however, was the Windows Update system.

Back in the good ‘ol days, if you had a Windows machine, you considered yourself lucky if you got a notification warning you about an impending restart – usually the computer just restarted itself and applied all the updates..because why not. Since those days, Microsoft decided to institute the “Active Hours” methodology – allowing you to schedule hours where it was a complete no no to install any updates. Hmm, not bad!

So the other day there were a few updates that needed to get installed and since I wasn’t working on anything important I decided to give the go ahead and install whatever updates was recommended. And, moreover, assuming that the system would apply updates and land back at the login screen as it had done many times before, I pressed “Restart” and didn’t come back until 24 hours had passed. Bad mistake.

BitLocker

The laptop in question, being my personal machine, I had decided from Day 1 that BitLocker was probably overkill. Worst case, I’d just reformat the drive and we’d be good to go. So far so good. Imagine my surprise when no authentication method would work. Ok, what do we do now? Everyone knows the IT adage…

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” – Any IT Person

Alright, restart it is. Here’s where things get interesting – right after the laptop manufacturer logo, I was greeted by this.

BitLocker Greeting Screen
A BitLocker Screen for reference

Ok, what in God’s good name is BitLocker asking me? I’ve never activated it. And because of that simple precursor of a step, there is no access code, no recovery key, nothing – again… because nothing was ever setup. Why in the world, then, does Windows 10 think I have an encrypted drive? And what recovery keys are you talking about?

Now, I’m not sure if anyone else has run into this, but can you imagine waking up one day to find your laptop had decided, on its own, that it was in your best interest to turn on an encryption service without warning? I have read reports of windows updates deleting files, breaking other things but this is not something I had heard of or come across until now. Frantic Googling was of little help. Some resolution activities included buying a whole new hard drive! Why thank you!

So a whole fresh Windows 10 installation and a manual data backup plan later, thanks Windows… I think I can take it from here.

Visualizing World Happiness Rankings

The Reddit Is Beautiful subreddit has a monthly visualization challenge where you are given a dataset and challenged to visualize it – the June 2019 challenge was the World Happiness Rankings.

Approach

I used 2 tools to approach this challenge

  • Python – a simple way to combine the 3 sheets that came part of the dataset
  • Tableau – to visualize the newly combined data

Analysis

The best way to interact with the visualization is by heading over to Tableau Public and viewing the visualization story in Full Screen Mode.

2017 World Happiness Rankings

A filled world map with the world happiness rankings of 2017. As a added feature, I used the data from 2015 and 2016 to find which year the country was the happiest.

2017 World Happiness Rankings

Most & Least Happiest Countries of 2017

Let’s take a look at the most and least happiest countries of 2017. In addition to the rankings, I also took the countries that improved the most and regressed the most as an indicator of happiness. To visualize this, I used a combination of maps (to show the countries on a map) and bar charts (to show the rank progression – plotting the change in rank from 2016 to 2017).

Most & Least Happiest Countries 2017

Happiness Rank Movement

To get a better picture of the happiness ranks, it was important to chart the happiness rank journey of the top 10 countries from the 2017 list. The color popularity for new cars visualization from sirvizalot is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to learn how to leverage this type of visualization.

Happiness Rank Journey

Happiness Scores

Now that the 2017 data has been visualized, it was important to see how the happiness values have shifted over the course of 2015 – 2017. The best way to do that was with a box and whiskers chart.

Comparison of Happiness Values 2015 – 2017

Conclusion

I really like the monthly challenges that the subreddit runs as it gives me a chance to work with a variety of tools and flex those data muscles outside the confines of the 9-5.

Hello World Again

Photo by Hayden Walker on Unsplash

What I have learnt over many attempts of writing and maintaining a personal blog, especially after having gone from shared hosting to cloud self-managed hosting, is that maintaining the underlying infrastructure is hard work. Having gone from paying a pretty penny on Bluehost, I decided to switch to AWS with disastrous results – I found addressing database leaks that would take down the entire EC2 instance.

In any case it’s time to get back to writing again and this time I decided to go with Digital Ocean. Now we keep writing and seeing if my experiment with Digital Ocean will yield the results I’m looking for.