Archive for Microsoft

Windows 10 Reduces Your Privacy…..Here’s How To Gain It Back

Posted in Tips with tags , on August 4, 2015 by itnerd

On Windows 10’s launch day, I spoke about WiFi Sense which shares your WiFi access with others by default. That’s a serious lack of privacy. But there are other options that are just as bad as WiFi Sense and unless you made the effort to turn them off while installing Windows 10 by not using the “Express Settings” option during the installation of Microsoft’s latest OS, then you’ve given up a fair amount of privacy right out of the gate. But fear not! You can get it back if you’re willing to put in about 10 minutes of work to do it. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Go to the Settings app and click the Privacy button. Then you need to turn off everything but the SmartScreen Filter. This stops Microsoft from gathering info on how you use Windows 10 and offering you everything from tips to advertising. Plus it stops allowing Microsoft to use your usage of Windows 10 to improve the product. And if you’re wondering why I am telling you to leave the SmartScreen filter on, that is supposed to stop you from downloading malware or visiting websites known to be infecting PCs. But only if you’re using Internet Explorer, Edge, and apps from the Windows Store.
  • Next you have to stop apps from divulging your location. Inside the Privacy app, click Location and turn everything off.
  • At the bottom of the Privacy app, click Feedback. Then set the Feedback frequency to Never. What this does is stops Windows 10 from reporting back to 1 Microsoft Way every time an app crashes or anything else that might be considered to be negative happens to your computer.
  • The next thing to consider is if you want to disable Cortana or curtail what (she?) it can do. I admit that not everyone will want to turn off or limit how much Cortana is capable of. But consider that everything that you do with Cortana gets sent to the cloud which means that Microsoft is potentially collecting info. Now that’s no worse than Apple’s Siri which works exactly the same way. But if the way that Siri works bothers you, then Cortana should as well. To tweak Cortana or turn (she?) it off, hit the Start button. Type Cortana and the Start screen will be replaced by a grey search window. Click the cog icon to reveal Cortana’s settings pane. You can turn Cortana off from here or scale back what (she?) it can do.
  • The last thing is WiFi Sense. In my case, I simply turned it off as there is no logical reason why it should be on. I did that by going to the Start button and tying Wi-Fi and then clicking on Change Wi-Fi settings. In the settings app, click Manage Wi-Fi settings. You can then turn off WiFi Sense. But if you wish, you can tweak your settings to limit sharing to your Facebook, Outlook, or Skype contacts. But if I were you, just turn it off. You’ll thank me for that tip once hackers figure out how to leverage WiFi Sense for their own evil purposes.

Have you got any other Windows 10 tips? If so, please leave a comment and share what you know with all of us.

Review: Windows 10

Posted in Commentary, Products with tags , on July 30, 2015 by itnerd

Windows 8 was a mistake. I can’t be any more blunt than that. The user interface which was intended for touch screens confused long time Windows users because even with a keyboard and mouse it was pretty much unusable. I have to admit that I made a lot of money downgrading people to Windows 7 when they got fed up with trying to cope with Windows 8.

I’m happy to say that Windows 10 makes up for that.

For starters, a real, honest to goodness Start Menu is back. Not that not so reasonable facsimile that existed in Windows 8. But one that has a Windows 8 concept which is Live Tiles that don’t occupy your entire screen, along with easy access to programs, settings and the like. Plus you can customize it to death so that you see as much or as little as you want. Next, you boot to a desktop and not to Live Tiles that you have to get rid of to get to the desktop. Those two things alone will have long time Windows users singing in the streets. I’ll also add that navigation is really improved. Windows 8 had things like hot corners that drove me nuts. Those have been binned in Windows 10 and replaced with Action Center which works as a notification center to collect alerts from apps and provide quick access to settings. There’s also Task View, which is basically a copy and paste of Mission Control on OS X. It displays all your open windows on a single screen so you can find what you’re looking for quickly. There’s a dedicated button to get to it which is handy. Also stolen from OS X is virtual desktops so that you can put different apps on different desktops if you so choose. Now the initial look of Windows 10 is, well, kind of dark, but it can be customized to pick an accent color that can be shown on the Start menu, task bar, and Action Center. That way you can get the look that you want.

As you can tell, Microsoft has stolen a few things from Apple. Another area that they’ve swiped from Apple is Cortana which is the Microsoft answer to Siri. You can invoke it by saying “hey Cortana” and it learns about you and keeps track of everything in a virtual notebook which you can edit to trim out information you don’t want it to remember. One advantage over Siri is if you run the Cortana app on any of your mobile devices, anything like reminders and the like get shuffled over the Microsoft Cloud to those devices. That makes it powerful in ways that Siri currently is not.

Though you won’t notice it immediately, there’s a new browser called Edge. The icon looks just like the old Internet Explorer icon. But other than that, it’s new from the ground up. Rendering most popular websites is smooth, and load times are usually good. Plus you can do annotations in the browser, and Cortana is integrated into Edge. But at the moment, extensions are scarce. I expect that to change over time, but you may find yourself downloading a copy of Firefox or Chrome, or firing up a Internet Explorer which is still there in Windows 10. But if you do switch browsers, you may have to hop through some hoops to make your choice of browser the default choice. #fail Microsoft. Actually, if you take into account the gong show in the making that is WiFi Sense and the security issues related to that, it’s a #epicfail Microsoft. But those are shockingly the only criticisms I have about Windows 10.

For the gamers out there, Windows 10 comes with the Xbox app. You can stream Xbox One games to your laptop or desktop and play them over your home network. Plus it has a DVR function so you can record your exploits in Call Of Duty and post them to YouTube. That’s not the only app present. The Mail client works a lot like Outlook.com and has swipe and other gestures on board. It’s actually quite decent. So is the Calendar app which works along a similar theme. You also get a Photos app that is actually something that may keep you from having to instantly run out and buy a copy of Photoshop Elements. There’s also a Microsoft App Store so you can get the Windows 10 apps that catch your eye.

Here’s the bottom line. Microsoft has made up for the Windows 8 debacle. And to give you a huge incentive to upgrade, Windows 10 is free if you have a legal copy of Windows 7 or 8. Also, chances are that if your computer can run Windows 7 or 8, it should be able to run Windows 10. As for how stable it is, other than my issues upgrading from Windows 7 thanks to Parallels Desktop not being ready to go on launch day, it’s been fine for me thus far. Microsoft appears to be rolling out daily updates to the OS. Thus if you have stability issues, it may be only days or weeks at the most before an update may address them. Speaking of updates, you have to take them as Microsoft no longer allows you to not accept updates to your computer as they clearly think it’s for your own good. I’m torn on that one. I see their point, but I’d like some choice in the matter as well.

My advice would be to dive in as long as the computer that you’re upgrading isn’t critical to your daily existence. But have a good backup first just in case. Chances are that you’ll like Windows 10 and you will be forgiving Microsoft for the mistake that was Windows 8.

So…. Upgrading To Windows 10 Was Challenging

Posted in Commentary with tags , on July 29, 2015 by itnerd

As promised, here’s a report on my experience upgrading from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 10 Home. Now I should mention one thing. The Windows 7 install that I am using is on Parallels Desktop 10 which means that it is a virtual machine. Now I had been running the Technical Preview version of Windows 10 with no issues for some time, so I assumed that upgrading to the release version would be easy. Boy was I wrong. When I fired up the Windows 7 virtual machine, I got this error:

WDDMerrorpropersize

Now, Parallels had months to get this worked out and ensure that their software was ready to go when Windows 10 launched. In fact in the last week they pushed out an update. Though the release notes mention nothing about Windows 10. But still, they shouldn’t be caught off guard like this. As I type this, a thread on the Parallels discussion forum offers nothing but a “we’re working on it” response and a bunch of ticked off Parallels users venting. Fortunately, one of their users had a workaround which I used to upgrade to Windows 10. Clearly Parallels users are more skilled than Parallels tech support.

In any case, it took a very long time to install. From start to finish it took me about 60 minutes and several reboots. But it worked. The process is largely automated and you can safely start it and walk away while it does its thing. Only at the beginning and at the end does it require user intervention.

Thus far I have no real showstopper issues to speak of. I’ll give you my impressions of Windows 10 tomorrow evening after I have had a full day with the release version of Microsoft’s latest OS.

Windows 10 Shares Your WiFi Access With Your Contacts…. WTF?

Posted in Commentary with tags , on July 29, 2015 by itnerd

There’s one feature that Windows 10 has that you need to know about which is called WiFi Sense. Unless you opt out, it will share an encrypted version of your Wi-Fi network password with any contacts you may have listed in Outlook and Skype. The exception being Facebook friends which require an opt-in. The end result is that if one of your friends comes anywhere near your network and you’re using this feature, they can automatically connect to your network.

Here’s my concern. Microsoft does say that your contacts will only be able to share your network access, and that Wi-Fi Sense will block those users from accessing any other shared resources on your network, including computers, file shares or other devices. However, a skilled hacker is going to find some way to make all of that invalid and then they pwn your network and anything on it. But there’s more. This feature, if you want to call it that, integrates with Google Maps by letting Google index the location of your WiFi Network.

Holy lack of privacy Batman!

Microsoft’s solution, if you want to call it that, requires you to change the name of their Wi-Fi network to include the text “_optout” somewhere in the network name (for example, “oldnetworknamehere_optout”). If you want to opt out of having Google index the location of your network, you need to add  “_nomap”. But it appears that according to this article you may not be able to do both which is a #fail.

Now, those among you will note that the Microsoft article on WiFi Sense is for Windows Phone 8.x. I linked that article because it’s the only one out there that explains the feature. Plus this illustrates that this is not a new feature. It was less of a concern because Windows Phone basically has no market share. Now that Microsoft has put it into Windows 10, it’s a security nightmare waiting to happen. Microsoft really needs to rethink this and do something about it as this is something that they will live to regret.

Windows 10 Launching Today…. And I Will Document My Move To It

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 29, 2015 by itnerd

Today is the day that Windows 10 launches and a Windows Blog post is trumpeting why you should make the move. Admittedly, I’ve been running a preview version for some time now in a Virtual Machine, but I wanted to see what the average user would have to go through to make the jump to Windows 10. Thus in the interest of science, I will be taking a Windows 7 Home Premium install that works perfectly, and documenting the jump to Windows 10. That way you can see what you have in store for you if you choose to do the same thing. After I make the move, I will document my thoughts on the OS now that it is officially available.

Stay tuned!

Microsoft Releases Emergency Critical Fix For All Windows Versions

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 20, 2015 by itnerd

There’s a emergency critical fix that has been released by Microsoft outside their normal “Patch Tuesday” cycle. That usually means that whatever it is fixing is really, really, bad. You should hit Microsoft update to get this patch, but if you’re interested in what the patch does, I have a link here to the Microsoft bulletin if you want to read the full details. But at a high level, the bulletin says that the vulnerability allows “remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted document or visits an untrusted webpage that contains embedded OpenType fonts. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights,”

This likely addresses one of the Hacking Team exploits that came to light when they were the victims of a hack. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you need to download this fix right now.

Microsoft Axes 7800 Jobs

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 8, 2015 by itnerd

Once upon a time, getting a job at Microsoft was the best thing that could happen to you as they were at the top of the food chain in terms of places to work. Now, not so much and this news isn’t going to help. Microsoft announced that it is axing 7800 jobs in their mobile phone division as they restructure things. At the same time, they are taking a $7.6 billion write-down on the same division. In addition to the write-down, Microsoft said that it forecasts a restructuring charge of $750 million to $850 million. Here’s what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had to say about this to Microsoft employees:

“We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem including our first-party device family,” Nadella said. “In the near-term, we’ll run a more effective and focused phone portfolio while retaining capability for long-term reinvention in mobility.”

Keep in mind that this comes after Microsoft axed 18000 jobs as part of another restructuring effort last year. My guess is that there is more to come as Microsoft tries to reinvent itself.

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