Category: Windows

Tech Update 7/17/18

Switchers

Since I support both platforms, Mac and Windows, I have regularly dealt with clients who switched between the two over the years.  Users make the jump from Windows to Mac or the other way around for various reasons:  cost, desire to run a specific application, or even frustration with a particular brand.   I think I speak for a lot of us by saying we do most of our “work” in the browser (be it Safari, Chrome, or Firefox).  Unlike a decade ago, the Mac and Windows versions of Microsoft Office are very much on par today.   Therefore, if the browser and Microsoft Office were the only two things that mattered, you could use either a Mac or Windows PC.  Well, our lives are a little bit more complicated than that.  The greatest impediments to switching, even when you really want to, are PLATFORM SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS.   The proprietary app that comes to mind is Apple Photos (formerly known as iPhoto, pre-2015).  No Windows version exists.  If you have just a bunch of loose, unorganized photos on a Mac — switching to Windows is not a big deal.  However, if those photos were organized into dozens of albums in the Photos application, switching becomes a real mess.  A Mac user probably has an iPhone or an iPad (or both).  Their photos are likely backed up to iCloud Photo Library.  The good news is that those photos can be managed on the iCloud.com, web version of Photos from a Windows PC or in the Photos iOS app.  If it’s just a matter of organizing and sharing them, this is possible for a Mac to Windows switcher.  Truth be told, when there are thousands or tens of thousands of photos in Photos  and you have divided them into MULTIPLE PHOTOS LIBRARIES — there is no turning back.  You really have to stay with the Mac.  Hard core Windows users run into the same dilemma.  You may have have a Windows-only program that you can’t live with out, but you really want to use Mac hardware.  There is a simple answer.  For the past decade plus, Mac owners have been able to run Windows on their systems.  Windows can be run separately or inside the mac OS.  I serve the flexible and the die hards.

New Mac Laptops

I have shared in the past about the tragedy of the 2016-17 Mac Book Pro laptops.  I have gone into even greater lengths about the problems, specifically the keyboards, with my Mac clients.  Just to recap, there are lawsuits and official Apple Repair Program in place.  Well, well.  That’s changed last Thursday.  Apple came out with new 13 and 15 inch Mac Book Pro models.  The keyboard is not totally different, but is improved.  For specific details on the 2018 keyboards, see this.  https://www.macrumors.com/2018/07/13/ifixit-butterfly-keyboard-silicone-barrier/  Given this fix and that the processors are a big leap forward, I am giving the greenlight on the 2018 MacBook Pros.   The new models start at $1799 and I think that one (13 inch) in particular would be plenty of computing power for the kind of client that I serve.  The question I have is — what will become of the lower priced Mac Book Pros?  If you go to Apple.com, you will see that the 13 inch Pro actually starts at $1299.  However, the $1299 and $1499 models were not updated last week.   Is Apple just going to sell of the remaining stock and not revamp these models?  I don’t know.  I wouldn’t touch them in their 2017 configurations.  The word on the street is that Apple should be coming out with a new consumer focused laptop, perhaps even at a $999 price point, in the fall.  Fingers crossed.  I think that such a Mac would also be very appealing to my clients.  Keep in mind that the two current “consumer” models, the Mac Book Air and Mac Book are priced at $999 and $1299 respectively. 

Update on Windows 10 – 1803

I thoroughly researched the latest version of Windows 10 – version 1803 — that began rolling out to users worldwide on April 30th.  There were a small but significant number of problems.  I relayed the horror story that one of my clients had to go through with this upgrade.  Sadly, she found out after the fact that her PC was not compatible.  However, Microsoft has had time to make this right.   There have been three months of regular, 2nd Tuesday, Windows updates since 4/30 and even some additional updates to button things up.  Microsoft said recently — version 1803 is Ready for Business.  OK then. I decided to put them to the test.  I upgraded my Dell Latitude laptop on Monday.  No hiccups.  It runs like it always has.  Some of you have put the 120 delay on the “feature updates” (new versions of Windows).  You can leave it in place.  This new version will likely get pushed out to you in early September.

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Turn off ads in Windows 10

One of the most annoying things with Windows 10, after the too frequent updates, is that they are placing ads in the operating system.  The two places where you primarily see these are are 1) on the login screen (lock screen) and 2) on the Start Menu.   You paid for your computer.  Part of that computer purchase included a license for Windows.  Why should you see ads before you even get to the Internet? I had a client recently tell me that he kept getting pop-ups from the Microsoft Store every time he logged into his computer.  Very unusual. After a little detective work, I saw that this happened because he was mistakenly clicking one of the two or three little ads Microsoft places on the login screen. 

I can’t help with the ads on the Start Menu, but the login screen ads can be removed with a quick settings change. 

Start Menu >> Settings >> Personalization >> Lock Screen

Change Background (menu) from Windows Spotlight to Picture.

Choose any one of the pictures provided. 

Hope this helps de-clutter your Windows life!

Windows Update: Warnings and Advice

Dear Windows Clients:

I decided to keep this message to my Windows users only, after all why would those with the fruit-flavored computers care about this anyway?

Recap:  Windows 10 – 1803:  How to delay and who can delay

I have been sharing a lot of advice lately about Windows 10 – version 1803.  It is literally the 6th new version of Windows to come out since the original Windows 10 in late July 2015.  Each one, while called Windows 10, has been a new version of Windows thrown at your computer. I think it’s excessive that they want to push 2 versions of Windows 10 per year. It was true last year and it will be the reality for 2018 as well.   In a previous post, I detailed how to delay your “Windows feature updates” (aka new versions of Windows) by 120 days while still letting the security updates come as scheduled.  The post with instructions can be found here.  https://theacronym.com/2018/02/22/windows-10-version-1803-how-to-delay-it/ On every Windows computer that I’ve touched over the past few months, where possible, I’ve implemented the 120 day delay.  Others have followed my lead and set up the delay themselves.

You can only delay new versions if you have the Pro version of Windows 10.  I’ve chosen this for you if I’ve ordered your computer or deliberately flipped the switch to Pro for you.  If you purchased your Windows computer on your own, there is a very high likelihood that you have the Home version of Windows 10. You are forced to take new versions of Windows at Microsoft’s whim.  As you will read below, that can be very dangerous.

A computer rendered useless by 1803

So far I’ve interacted with a couple clients’ computers who have successfully upgraded to 1803.  These systems all happened to be Dell desktops, 2 consumer grade and 1 business class, and ranged from about 4 to 8 years old.  I personally upgraded 2 of them to 1803 and on the 3rd one, I did some maintenance after the fact.  They are fine.  However, I got a very troubling report from a client last week.  Windows 10 1803 made her computer basically inoperable.  The screen was very dark and there was no way of making it brighter.  It definitely seemed like this supposedly ready for primetime version of Windows was not interacting properly with the video display hardware on her computer.  No major changes had been made to the system other than the new version of Windows, which was forced on Windows 10 Home, with no way of delaying it.  I suggested contacting Microsoft as they should take some responsibility for the damage that their mandatory software caused. 

Here is the rather interesting verdict.  The computer, although purchased in 2012 (Dell, consumer laptop), is obsolete. For all I know, it could have been a 2011 laptop that was sold in 2012, but I don’t know for sure.  However, it’s important to realize that each version of Windows 10 is truly a new version, just as if they called it Windows 10, 11, 12, 13, etc.  Each time Microsoft churned out a new iteration they had to decide which hardware they would support (just like Apple does with new versions of mac OS).  Having worked on this computer before I know that I did not have one of the mainstream Intel Core (like Core i3, i5, i7) processors that were common back from approximately 2010 through today.  It featured an Intel chipset that either didn’t sell in great volume or was simply deemed not powerful enough by Microsoft to run Windows 10 1803 effectively.  Fortunately, the Microsoft employee was able to do some special programming and revert the laptop to Windows 1709 (a feature built into Windows) and block all future updates.  I don’t know if security updates are also blocked, but the good thing is that it buys the client a little more time with the computer.

Shame on Microsoft for letting the situation go this far!   When Windows decides to check for new updates (including new versions), they have the power to do a basic hardware scan of the system. They know what Intel chipset (or AMD) is installed inside.  If a particular version of Windows 10 won’t run properly, it should never be pushed out to those particular computers.  Apple certainly does this with their software. Where is the quality control here Microsoft?

Buying advice

With all of this expressed, I recently installed 1803 on my wife’s 10 year old business class Dell Optiplex desktop.  The latest version of Windows 10 runs very well. The Optiplex 330 line from that era was purchased in millions of units by governments and large corporations.  Microsoft knows this and was not about to render it obsolete.   I want to give some general advice here that you can’t go wrong with. Let me order your next Windows 10 computer for you.  If we don’t do it as part of an appointment, I can do it for you over the phone and set it up when it arrives.  I don’t charge more for this service and I don’t make a commission off of the computer. The kind of Windows computers that I order are typically business class systems from the likes of Lenovo, Dell or HP. They are not found in big box stores or on Amazon.  Intel’s CPU’s are currently on the 8th generation of core processors.  An 8th or 7th generation, Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, with at least 8 GB of RAM, and Windows 10 Pro will stand the test of time.  While I can’t promise 10 years, I think you will be happy with its lifespan.  These should be your purchasing parameters.

Delaying 1803 further

Wherever possible, I have delayed or had you delay your Windows 10 – 1803 upgrade by 120 days.  The maximum delay you can impose is 365 days. You will still get security updates because you have left that delay at 0. If you do nothing further, you will probably get 1803 pushed out to your computer sometime in September in Windows 10 Pro.  Following the instructions at https://theacronym.com/2018/02/22/windows-10-version-1803-how-to-delay-it/ I have no problem with you upping the delay to 365 days IF IF IF…. you have an image backup of your system.   If your computer crashes in the next year, you will want to restore to the version of Windows you had and not be forced into Windows 10 1803. An image backup will allow you to do that.   On many of your computers, I have installed my preferred imaging program Macrium Reflect (not a Mac program).  If you know your computer is backing up to an external drive via Macrium Reflect – then go ahead and delay the new version to the max of 365 days. 

If you are not sure if you have an image backup or if you even have Windows 10 Pro, please feel free to ask questions.  Let’s keep our Windows computers running smoothly without forced mandates and outside interference.

Weekly Technology Update

A. Privacy:  GDPR and Oath.   You may have received a bunch of notices recently detailing the updated privacy policies of various services that you use.  The European Union’s new privacy laws take effect on May 25th.  These regulations are known as GDPR.   They are taking customers’ data a lot more seriously than we are on this side of the pond.  International companies such as Facebook and Google are adhering to these standards even for their American customers.  It’s a solid business practice.  Did you know that you can download all of your Facebook (or Google) data in a single file?  Did you know that you can control how Facebook advertises to you?   GDPR = Good.   To find out more http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/21/technology/gdpr-explained-europe-privacy/index.html

Additionally, some of you who have a Yahoo or AOL account may have received notices about policies from an organization known as Oath.  (My joke is — “zero authorization to violate your privacy,” but I’ll get back on topic.).  Oath is a division of Verizon that oversees both Yahoo and AOL.   Yahoo users may have even been asked to accept the new terms.  You really don’t have a choice if you want to keep using the account.   As a quick primer for those new to the VIP Computer Care family — my favorite free e-mail accounts are Google and Outlook.com.   Customers may choose a paid e-mail account if they want to get actual customer support.  My favorite choices  here are Fastmail ($20 per year), G (G Suite a paid Google account, $5 per month), or Office 365 (a paid e-mail account from Microsoft, $5 per month).

B.  Windows:   I’m still compiling reports of horror stories from users that had bad experiences with the latest version of Windows 10 (version 1803), released on April 30th.  Whenever possible, I have set your Windows computers to a 120 day delay schedule.   Unfortunately, I had to help a customer last weekend who couldn’t delay Windows version upgrades.  He purchased a consumer grade Windows desktop.  I offered the next best thing.  I managed the upgrade for him.  It took 2 hours, which is about what I expected.  With fingers crossed, there were no hiccups.  I am not recommending that I do this proactively for others, at this time, if you have already been set up for a delay.  Ultimately, Microsoft will iron out the wrinkles.  After all, hundreds of millions of business customers rely on Windows.   Version 1803 should be ready for prime time in a few months.  In August, lets talk about upgrading your computer. 

C.  Mac:  Apple’s big annual event, the WWDC, is happening on June 4th.  While it’s not specifically a new hardware event, Apple has been known to release new Macs at this event.   We can only hope that they offer a mea culpa on the Mac Book Pro and their awful keyboards.  At the very least, they could update the Mac Book Air with 2018 innards.  (The 2017 Air, while still my #1 choice at this date and time, features 2015-era parts.)   Additionally, the Mac Mini needs a major refresh.  It has not been updated since October 2014.  Apple needs to keep a $500-600 Mac on the market to welcome new customers into the family. 

When Technology Fails Us

Welcome this installment of my weekly update.   This update is not a tutorial or an introduction to some cool piece of technology that can benefit us.  I want to give you a reminder that the world of tech can be a scary place and that I’m honored to be your navigator in it.   It’s got to get better than this for us.

A.  Windows — The latest version of Windows, Windows 10 version 1803 began rolling out to computers on April 30th.  It’s been a disaster.  I did not know this in advance, but I had the wisdom of telling you to leave well enough alone.  On every computer I have touched over the past few months (when possible), I have set the “feature update” (aka new version of Windows) delay to 120 days.  I say, when possible, because if you have a Windows machine purchased from a big box store there is no option to delay new versions.  PSA: Please let me order your Windows computers for you; I’ll make sure you get the Pro version of Windows.  Just today, Microsoft began blocking the upgrade from installing on certain computers with Intel hard drives.   Can it get any worse?   If it does get worse, I will tell you to change that delay from 120 to 365 days.  There is nothing wrong with staying on the previous version of Windows, version 1709.  It works!

B. Mac — I have shared with you that an iPad Pro may be a viable computing solution for some users.  I have expressed my firm belief in the iMac as one of the best desktops on the market.   Unfortunately, I’ve  also had to discuss the misery of late model Mac Book and Mac Book Pro laptops and their awful keyboards.   Longtime Mac users and pundits alike have panned the keyboards on the Mac Books (since 2015) and Mac Book Pros (since 2016).  It’s an awful experience.  The Mac has plenty to be proud of on the software side, so this is the opposite of Microsoft.   There is a Mac hardware problem!   A few weeks ago an online petition launched demanding a solution to the laptop keyboard problem.  Thousands signed their names.  This week, the Mac faithful are really getting on their soapboxes.  A class action lawsuit has been filed.  The bottom line is — if you need a Mac laptop soon, buy the 2017 Mac Book Air.  It still has a real keyboard and it will be a solid performer for you.

C. Cellular — Finally, this is one problem that I don’t have a solution for (yet).   I read a lot of tech news, guides, and try things out to break them down to make sense for you.  This one just makes me want to take an oatmeal bath.   I will keep this brief and let you read the articles.  There is a private company out there — Securus – that has the ability to track our location down via our cell phones.  Securus is fed customer information by most cellular service providers.  I am not criticizing legitimate surveillance obtained via a warrant. However, this technology has been misused to spy on people who are enemies of authority figures.  In my analysis, only one of the four major cellular providers gave an acceptable answer as to their relationship with Securus (Sprint).  Please read for yourself. 

Links

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/technology/cellphone-tracking-law-enforcement.html

https://www.zdnet.com/article/us-cell-carriers-selling-access-to-real-time-location-data/

Windows 10 version 1803

The latest installment of Windows 10 will be available soon, version 1803.  I have advised my clients with Windows 10 Pro to delay the upgrade by up to 120 days so that all of the quirks can be worked out.  This option can be set in Start Menu >> Settings >> Update & Security.  Users with the Home version of Windows 10 will get the upgrade when Microsoft pushes it out to their computer.  This could happen in a period of days to months.  As always, Windows users can manually install the upgrade at any time.  Make sure you have a full backup of your files using Microsoft’s built in File History or a 3rd party program.

Technology Update for March 20th

Today’s themes are security and privacy. I hope these tips can make a difference for you.

1. Make sure you have a real billing passcode with your cellular provider

For years cellular providers have used the last 4 digits of your Social Security number as your billing passcode.  However, they also allow you to set your own passcode (some sequence of 4 to 8 numbers).  PLEASE set up your own passcode with them if you haven’t already. Do you know who is at the other end of the line when you give the last 4 of your SS# time after time? Of course not.  They might be a rogue employee or an overseas contractor looking to do you harm.  I recently heard two first hand accounts of customers (who happened to be with T-Mobile) who had their cell phone numbers transferred (aka “ported”) to another service without their authorization.  With access to their phone number, the criminal was then able to access their bank account via a code that was text messaged to them on the “new” phone.  You can only imagine the transactions that followed.  This was possible because the bad actor knew the billing passcode on the cellular account with the original provider.  It was the last 4 digits of the Social Security number.  I have been told that you can also set up your own billing passcode with other companies like Comcast.   Stop using the last 4 of your SS#.  Act now.

2. Facebook data collection nightmare

The free service they have provided you for over a decade is not free. Chances are, your data has been mined repeatedly since you signed up for the most used social network.  By no means am I calling for a mass exodus from Facebook.  I have clients who post no content of their own, but use it to stay in touch with family, their community, and organizations they support.  There are practical and very positive uses for Facebook.  However, you’ve likely seen the news over the past few days.  Facebook claims to have been exploited by a data analytics firm that relied heavily on its site for their business model.  Frankly, the practice has been going on for years (with many partners) and Facebook has been a willing provider when it suited their interests.  Think of all of the games, apps, and surveys you have logged into with your Facebook account.  Parts of or all of your entire Facebook profile have been shared with those 3rd parties.   It is time for you to tighten the belt on your Facebook profile and privacy.

3. Net Neutrality:  Bye Bye

Are you worried about the FCC doing away with Net Neutrality protections?  The end is near.  Your internet service provider may not be able to know what you do on secure (https) websites but they will be able to sell the data of which websites you go to and use this info for their own marketing purposes.   If they take their newfound latitude to an extreme, they could even create tiers of internet service based on usage.  Ok, so you want to use You Tube and Netflix?  We will charge you more!  You can block your provider from seeing your traffic, period.  Use a VPN – a virtual private network.  A VPN is a service (think of it at as a small program) that runs in conjunction with your internet service.  It is easy to turn on and off or just leave on automatically.  There are only two VPN’s that I can recommend faithfully.  They are Private Internet Access and Tunnel Bear.  These services work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.  They cost approximately $4 to $5 a month.  Put the brakes on further exploitation of your data.