Weblog (or Blog)
Monday, May 06, 2019
According to current statistics, about 45% of Windows' users continue to use Windows 7. If you are one of those, you might want to read about the security shortcomings of Windows 7 relative to Windows 10. If you are an average home user as I am, you won't understand a lot of the acronyms and technical nuances of that article. But the clear message, just from the number of areas that the security experts that wrote it cite, is that Windows 10 is way more secure than Windows 7. For home users, security support for Windows 7 will end on January 14, 2020. Besides, you can still upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 for free. Time to upgrade.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Yesterday I finally got the version 1809 update delivered to my computer. This version was initially released on October 2, 2018. But, there have been some problems.
Shortly after Microsoft first released 1809, reports of the update deleting files on users' computers began to surface. Microsoft pulled the update back on October 6 because of these reports. In tracking down the problem, Microsoft found a glitch in its update process.
A user of the Home version of Windows 10 (most of us) has little control over when Microsoft automatically updates a computer. In the Update & Security section of the Settings app (accessed by pressing the Windows key and I simultaneously, then clicking on Update & Security), a user can manually get the latest updates by clicking the "Check for updates" button. (It is not necessary to do a manual update; Microsoft will, on its schedule, automatically send updates to your computer.) The process glitch Microsoft found was that using the "Check for updates" button for 1809 bypassed some of the "ready to receive update" checks of your computer that occurred if Microsoft was automatically updating your computer in the background. The result was corrupted updates and computers that did not work.
It took some time to fix this and Microsoft did not re-release 1809 until November 13. Even then, Microsoft released it only to a small number of expert users to ensure everything was right this time. As a result, most home users did not begin to receive this update until mid-January 2019. I chose to wait until Microsoft automatically updated my computer.
In a way, this is good news for home users of Windows 10. All of the problems with 1809 have caused Microsoft to review all of its testing and release procedures. This should result in more reliable updates in the future for all of us. You can check the version your computer has by opening the Settings app, clicking the System icon, scrolling down the menu on the left of the page to the About menu item and clicking on it. On the right side of the screen, scroll down to the "Windows specifications" section and read your version number.
Friday, May 25, 2018
On April 30, Microsoft released another major update to Windows 10, the April 2018 Update. This is the fifth major update, called a feature update by Microsoft, since Windows 10 was originally released on July 29, 2015. The previous four updates were the November Update (November 2015), Anniversary Update (August 2016), Creators Update (April 2017), and Fall Creators Update (October 2017).
As with earlier major updates, it may take several months before everyone's computer is updated, although this update appears to be rolling out to home users faster. You can go to Microsoft's web site (http://bit.ly/mcg_wdl) and update immediately or you can wait for Windows Update on your computer to get around to you.
Before Windows 10, Microsoft released a major version upgrade about every 3 years: Vista in 2007, 7 in 2009, 8 in 2012, and 10 in 2015. Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows and would be updated "as a service." The intent is to keep Windows 10 up to date almost continuously through frequent feature and security updates. Most security updates occur on "Patch Tuesday," the second Tuesday of each month (although they can occur at any time). The major feature updates, such as the April 2018 Update, occur in the spring and fall.
The "Patch Tuesday" updates change a small part of the code for Windows 10. Consequently, they are small downloads. The feature updates are essentially a re-publication of the entire code. That results in a download of 3 to 4 gigabytes (GB), a big download that takes a long time, usually hours, to download and install. Last year, Microsoft began to change the way feature updates are downloaded and installed on your computer to speed up the process. The April 2018 update enhances those changes, so you should be able to get back to work on your computer even faster than before.
So what are the changes in the April 2018 update? For home users, the most visible change is Timeline. This is an addition to Task View, the current feature that displays thumbnails of all the open windows and allows you to pick the window you want to make active. Timeline adds a history of all the actions you have taken on your computer, all the web pages you have visited, all the files you have edited, all the pictures and videos you have looked at. By default, Timeline shows you what you did during the past 7 days. You can change that to 30 days.
You invoke Timeline by clicking the Task View taskbar icon (looks like a rectangle with a smaller rectangle attached to each side), or by pressing the Windows key and the Tab key together. Currently, Timeline only shows the actions you took using Microsoft programs such as Edge, Word, Excel, Wordpad, etc. It will be up to other program developers to modify their applications to provide input to Timeline. Whether developers will do so depends on consumers. If consumers are enthusiastic about Timeline, developers will update their programs to use it.
If you use Cortana on iOS or Android, Timeline will even show your activities on those devices as well. This will allow you to start looking at something on your phone while you're out and about and continue on your PC when you get home.
Focus Assist is an enhanced, renamed feather which allows you to quickly shut off notifications and other interruptions while you're working on a project on your PC that requires your undivided attention. Focus Assist was called Quiet Hours in earlier versions of Windows 10.
Window 10's default browser, Edge, has been improved. One of the best additions allows you to quickly silence audio from a video automatically played on a web page when you go to it. Edge will show an icon on the page tab to allow you to see which page is producing sound. You can quickly silence the audio by right clicking the tab and clicking "Mute tab." No more frantically searching the web page for the video that is making all that noise that you do not want. You can print web pages from Edge with less clutter. The "hub" where your browsing history and favorites are displayed also received changes to the interface to make navigating cleaner and faster.
Microsoft continues to enhance Cortana, the talking personal assistant, expanding the areas it can help you with.
The April 2018 update includes a feature to share files with nearby devices, similar to Apple's AirDrop. The sharing is done using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and is relatively easy to set up. The update includes improvements in pairing devices with your PC using Bluetooth. There are many other minor improvements to the user interface of Windows 10 and lots of stuff "under the hood" to make your PC experience more secure.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
I keep notes on questions (and my answers) that people asked me about Windows 10 in a course that I used to teach. There are also some links to Windows 10 information on the web. You can go here to see them.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
On October 17, Microsoft released the Fall Creators Update to Windows 10. This is the third major, named update since Windows 10 was originally issued on July 29, 2015. The previous three updates were the November Update (November 2015), the Anniversary Update (August 2016), and the Creators Update (April 2017). As with earlier major updates, it will take several months before everyone is updated.
Before Windows 10, Microsoft released a major upgrade about every 3 years: Vista in 2007, 7 in 2009, 8 in 2012, and 10 in 2015. Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows released and would be updated "as a service." The intent is to keep Windows 10 up to date almost continuously through frequent feature and security updates. Most of these updates occur on "Patch Tuesday," the second Tuesday of each month. In the future, the major feature updates will occur about twice a year, in spring and fall.
The "Patch Tuesday" updates are incremental updates that change only a small part of the code for Windows 10. Consequently, they are not large downloads to your computer. The major, named updates so far have been essentially a re-publication of the entire code of Windows 10. That resulted in a download of 3 to 4 gigabytes (GB), a big download. In the Creators Update of April 2017, Microsoft announced that even the major updates would be incremental, downloading only the changes to the Windows 10 code. The upcoming Fall Creators Update will be the first major update since that announcement, so we will see how much smaller the download is.
In any event, if your Internet connection has a limited data plan (for example, through a personal "hotspot" on your cell phone or a prepaid data plan such as Walmart's Straight Talk or a satellite), you should make sure it is set to a "metered" connection. To check or change the setting, do the following steps while you are signed into Windows with an administrator's account. Open the Settings app by pressing the Windows key and the letter I at the same time. Click the icon labeled Network & Internet and then click the link labeled "Change connection properties" under Network Status. The toggle switch labeled "Set as metered connection" should be On. (Note: if the toggle switch is grayed out (inactive), then you need to log in to Windows using an administrator's account.) If the switch is not On, click it to turn it on. Setting your Internet connection to metered will prevent the download of updates to your computer without your express permission. That way you can wait until you are connected with unlimited data, such as cable or DSL, before you allow the update to be downloaded.
The look of Windows will begin to change with the Fall Creators Update. Microsoft is using a new language called Fluent Design to create the visual elements of Windows. Eventually, the look of Fluent Design will show up in apps. The first place you will see the changes show up is the Start menu if you have transparency effects turned on in the Colors settings. The Action Center also has a new design although its function remains the same.
The Photos app in Windows 10 will get a cool update that allows you to mix photos and videos and 3D effects into a video. The new features are based on a Microsoft project called Story Remix.
With Windows 10 Mixed Reality, you will be able to use virtual reality headsets that are cheaper and easier to use than those currently available. There are other improvements to the ability to play games coming with the Fall Creators Update.
The default Windows 10 browser Edge will now be able to work with PDF forms for filling out online information. You will be able to write notes directly on the page of a PDF if you have a touch screen. Reading e-books in Edge is also improved.
The new My People feature allows you to manage your contacts easier. You can pin individual contacts to the taskbar to optimize and streamline communications with those contacts without opening an app first.
There are also a number of security improvements, tweaks to accessibility features that allow users to type using eye-tracking technology (designed specifically for persons with ALS), improvements to the OneDrive cloud interface, more information about the status of updates, and the ability to insert emoji easily.
Microsoft has said it will release major feature updates to Windows 10 two times each year, spring and fall. Plan to take our Exploring Windows 10 course each fall to get up to date on all the changes from the previous year.
Sunday, February 09, 2014
Batch files are command-line scripts for Windows. They can be used to automate tasks on your computer. Batch files or scripts can be used for backup, moving to a project-related directory, cleaning up your hard drive, and almost any other task you can do from within Windows.
The Windows batch scripting "language" is not as fully capable as *nix shell scripting. Microsoft has provided a new tool, PowerShell, to improve Windows scripting capability. PowerShell gets good reviews, but it is a completely new language that I haven't gotten into yet, so you will not see much about it here.
Batch files, with the file extension .bat, have been around since DOS. The commands available for scripting have increased significantly since Windows NT and scripts that take advantage of those additional commands may have a file extension of either .bat or .cmd, the latter indicating that NT and later commands have been used and the script likely will not run under DOS or Windows 9x. I'll be writing more about specific batch scripts that I use, but here is an article on batch file basics that is more complete than I would ever provide. I have not read the book from which the article is taken, but it gets good reviews and the same author has written an update entitled Windows 7 and Vista Guide to Scripting, Automation, and Command Line Tools that covers Windows 7 and PowerShell. But the linked article will get you started on the basics of batch files.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
I used to use the command line in Windows a lot. Almost all of my backup and other disk cleanup activities were done through batch files (command line scripts), which are just automated typing of command line commands. For someone like me who likes to use text files for all the important stuff, learning to use the command line in Windows was the key to productivity. Best tutorial I've found for this is Zed Shaw's Command Line Crash Course. Go read it.