Windows Essentials are Dead

Formerly called Windows Live Essentials, this great group of MS created and maintained apps died on 2017-01-10.

Introduction
Back in the day, Microsoft put out some decent add-on software. This add-on software took on a life of its own and was given an “Essentials” brand as these add-on apps were considered an “essential” part of the Windows Live experience. And while they were supported, life on the Windows side of the fence was pretty, darn-tootin’ good.

Microsoft eventually divided their essentials into two different parts – Live Essentials and Security Essentials. Eventually, both Live Essentials and Security Essentials provided users with important functionality enhancements for applications that were missing in Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Windows Essentials did not run in Windows 8. So, there was motivation to either stay on Windows 7 or move to Windows 8.1, IF you wanted to keep Windows Essentials running.

Unfortunately, Microsoft killed these applications as of 2017-01-10, meaning that new installations of Windows Live Essentials are no longer possible. Windows Security Essentials never ran on Windows 10 (as it was replaced by Windows Defender). Here is the official statement from Microsoft:

As of January 10, 2017, Windows Essentials 2012 is no longer supported on Windows 10, and is unavailable for download. Windows Essentials 2012 included Windows Movie Maker, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Family Safety and the OneDrive desktop app for Windows.

Windows Essentials included the following applications

  • Photo Gallery
  • Movie Maker
  • Mail
  • Windows Messenger
  • Windows Live Writer
  • OneDrive – Formerly both Windows Live Mesh and SkyDrive
  • Family Safety – Windows 7 only

Windows Security Essentials morphed into what is now Windows Defender; but was, at its zenith, one of the best free anti-malware programs available for Windows; and in truth, though part of the Windows Essentials family of apps, it was a completely separate deal. Security Essentials has taken a back seat to Windows Defender in Windows 8.x and Windows 10; but it’s still available for Windows Vista (even though Microsoft discontinued support for it) and Windows 7. Its last update was 2016-11-29.

Microsoft Movie Maker
Unfortunately, Microsoft has no replacement for Windows Movie Maker. If you have installed, good on you. You’re a big step ahead of the rest of the Windows crowd who need an app like Movie Maker, but can no longer get one from Microsoft, and certainly can’t get something of that high quality, for free. (If someone does know of something that is on the same level or better than Microsoft Movie Maker and runs for free without having to ever pay or buy a registration code for it, I’d love to hear from you in the discussion area, below.)

Microsoft OneDrive
Microsoft OneDrive is perhaps the most successful Windows Live Essential app out there. It’s got what I would consider to be the best post Essentials success. Microsoft OneDrive is now part of Office 365 or you can get a OneDrive storage plan on its own, if you wish. Microsoft OneDrive offers 5GB of online storage to anyone who signs up for OneDrive, for free.
When you sign up for Office 365, you get 1TB (terabyte) of space, which should be more than enough space to store just about anything and everything you would want to store, including your photo and home video library.

If you don’t want need Office 365, you can get 50GB of storage for $1.99 USD per month, which should get you started and will store a decent amount of data for you. By comparison, Apple’s iCloud storage prices are a bit better. Apple offers 50GB of iCloud storage for $0.99 (99 cents) USD per month, or half of the cost of OneDrive’s exact same offer.

The bulk of the remaining apps – those I’ve noted above, with some exceptions that I’m going to dive into – made an appearance as what is now being called a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app. Photo Gallery and Mail are all available as native apps under Windows 10. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a Microsoft replacement for Windows Live Movie Maker.

Windows Messenger was discontinued in favor of Skype, after it was purchased by Microsoft, and while there’s still a way to communicate via IM, it’s not with the client that was originally part of Live Essentials. So… Enter Skype, exit Messenger.

Windows Photo Gallery
I don’t have a lot to say here. Though I am a HUGE photography nut, I was never really into Windows based photo apps or solutions. To be honest, photography is literally 25% of why I got into Macs in the first place. Others may have more to say on Windows Photo Gallery or Windows Photos. If you do, please use the comments area below and give me your thoughts on either of these applets.

Windows Photo Gallery was replaced with Windows Photos, and it’s now a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app. You’ll have most, if not all, of the same functionality in Photos as you did in Photo Gallery, and as you can see from the screen shot, above, it’s a huge improvement and very user friendly.

Windows Mail

Outlook Express first made an appearance as part of Internet Explorer with the release of IE 3.0. Its last formal, big release was with the release of IE 6.0 and Windows XP in 2001. IE 7 initially included a beta release of Outlook Express 7, but it was eventually replaced with Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail. There were other shareware email clients available at the time when Microsoft released Vista and IE 7.0, but these really weren’t the same; and honestly, most of them required some kind of registration fee to be paid in order to keep using them.

Again, Outlook Express was good. It did basic IMAP and POP3 mail, and when Microsoft discontinued it, it was a huge problem Outlook Express was tied to Internet Explorer, and since Microsoft tied IE to the kernel of the OS, every time IE or Windows changed, so did OE; and when it was discontinued, it wasn’t like you could upgrade the OS and NOT upgrade IE. So unfortunately, when IE killed OE, you couldn’t keep one and upgrade the other… which totally sucked.

So, Windows Live Mail was a response to the absence of Outlook Express. It worked OK, but the Windows Mail in Windows 8 was nothing more than a Metro app (what would eventually become a UWP app) and it used a tablet metaphor for its UI, and honestly, it kinda sucked. Remember, Windows Live Essentials didn’t run under Windows 8, they ran under Windows 7., 8.1, and Windows 10.

There’s only one Live Essentials app left to cover, and that’s Windows Live Writer. Come back next time, as I plan to dive into it, pretty deeply.

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Windows 10 Creator’s Update New Features

The rollout begins 2017-04-17… Get ready!

Introduction
The latest version of Windows, the Creators Update, was released to the public on 2017-04-11. Officially, its Microsoft has listed it as Windows 10 Build 15063.138 KB4015583. While that link points to a cumulative update that provides fixes to updated time zone information and security updates to a number of core OS components including Hyper-V, Kernel Mode Drivers, IE, Edge, Windows OLE and Active Directory Federation Services, the larger update is a whole new version of Windows 10.

Microsoft has indicated that it’s going to be rolling the Creators Update out over the following months. However, it is possible to download it immediately. Neowin has a great article with instructions for getting it now, instead of waiting for it to manually show up in Windows Update. If you have to have the bits now, use the Neowin link to (eventually) get to the easy to follow instructions.

So, given that its available now, what does the Creator’s Update include? Well, you’ve come to the right place. The Creators Update contains the following Windows goodness…

Privacy Controls
The Windows 10 Creators Update contains enhanced privacy controls. On a new Windows 10 install or an upgraded PC, you’re going to be prompted to review the privacy configuration on your PC. What you’ll see is a bit of an explanation of what Microsoft is collecting and can determine if it’s something you want to share with them or not. While this is required for Windows as a Service – or WaaS – Microsoft is wise to clearly state what they’re collecting and why.

Security Updates
Along with all of the privacy stuff, you also get improved, general security features. Windows now contains an updated version of Defender, called the Defender Security Center. This new applet works much like the older Security Center/ Action Center did in previous versions of Windows, but it provides this information in a centralized dashboard view. You also get a new Refresh Windows Tool that’s now called Fresh Start. Thankfully, you should be able to perform a clean installation of Windows with it, without any and all bloatware that came with the OEM version of Windows that came on your OEM hardware.

Update Controls
You get better control over Windows Update in the Creators Update. While this still isn’t crystal clear, Windows 10 Professional and above users can now very easily pause updates in Settings. Windows 10 Home users are still held to Microsoft’s update schedule, so if you’re a consumer… you’re kinda outta luck here.

Deeper Cortana integration
Microsoft’s personal, digital assistant is a bit more personal and a bit more digital in the Creators Update. Cortana’s moved a bit closer to the center of what you’re doing and while you may not want all of your personal information shared with her, she’s still going to be a bit closer to it, here, than she was before.

Microsoft Edge Improvements
Not that a lot of people care, but Microsoft’s done its best to improve the browser that no one wants to use… Edge now has an eBook store and an eBook reader built into Edge. You also get a better way to manage browser tabs, too, as well as a bunch of other stuff (that, as I said, no one is really gonna care about…)

Gaming Improvements
Gamers rejoice! You’ll want to get the Creators update as soon as you can. This new version of Windows 1- brings a Game Mode feature to Windows that will help you optimize your PC for games, and provides Beam broadcasting integration

Windows Applet Updates
While not specifically tied to the Creators Update, applets that come with Windows like Mail, Calendar, Groove, Movies & TV, maps, Paint, etc. have and should continue to improve and be updated more regularly going forward. Yes, the Universal Windows Platform version of these things isn’t all that great, but it’s going to help get and keep them current.

Conclusion
I am not going to review the Creators Update. There’s really no need to. Every Windows 10 user is going to get it at some point, anyway. You aren’t going to be able to opt out or delay/ postpone it indefinitely. Period.

However, if you can, you might want to wait a bit before taking the dive and updating. There’s going to be some level of issue fall out related to this and the best thing you can do is to wait until an update to the update comes out, so that you don’t get hit with the “slings and arrows of outrageous” update bugs.

Let the early adopters take the hit and deal with the problems.

While most of the issues are likely worked out already – and Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Book, as well as other Signature PC users, are likely ok to update now – if you don’t want to chance it, you can wait until the update gets to your PC and then don’t restart for a bit, or if you can, defer the update to a later date.

However, there’s not too much to be concerned about here. The Creators Update has been tested internally (at Microsoft) tested in the Windows Insider Fast Right, Windows Insider Slow Ring and Windows Insider Release Candidate Ring. You’re pretty safe here.

Ultimately, this is your choice; but either one – go now or defer as long as you can – are good choices.

The Windows 10 Creators Update will begin rolling out starting on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. I will do my best to keep my ear to the ground and will let everyone know how things go.

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Classic Shell

Get enhanced functionality in Windows Explorer with this handy utility

classic shellOver the past few iterations of Windows, the UI has changed a great deal, between Window XP, Windows 7, Windows 8.x and Windows 10, there’s been only some very basic consistency in the user interface. Depending on where you work, the industry you work in and the size of your company, you may or may not have had to deal with any of those changes. Let’s face it, many IT departments simply lock you into a version of Windows and run THAT until it can’t any longer.

When changes come to the way Windows operates, looks and feels, user productivity can tank. In those cases, users spend more time trying to figure out HOW to do something than actually doing the task at hand. It’s at times like those that I really appreciate tools like Classic Shell. It’s a UI – or shell – modification tool for Windows, and it works with Windows 7, 8.x and Windows 10.

Classic Shell is freeware that improves your productivity, enhances the usability of Windows and empowers you to use the computer the way you like it. With it you can customize the Start Menu with multiple styles and skins; get quick access to recent, frequently-used, or pinned programs; as well as find programs, settings, files and documents. You can also customize the Start button in Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

You can also customize Windows Explorer (formerly File Manager). In Windows Explorer, you can customize both a custom Toolbar and the Status Bar. You also get the ability to customize the Caption and Status bars in IE.

Conclusion: I’ve been using Classic Shell on my work PC for about two and a half years now. It’s an awesome application, and one that I would highly recommend to anyone running a “modern’ version of Windows (anything from Windows 7 forward). The customizations if offers for both the Start Menu and Explorer make both of them a LOT easier to use, especially if you’re using a version of Windows NEWER than Windows 7.

I personally think that the application is worthwhile simply based on the modifications it makes to Windows Explorer. While the application is free, it really adds value. In fact, it adds more value than some paid shell enhancements I’ve played with over the years.

There are a few down sides, however. As of this writing, the app hasn’t been updated in over eight (8) months . Its last update came on 2016-07-30. Currently the app also supports the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, but users of the Creator’s Update may have compatibility issues. If you plan on updating to the Creator’s Update – and all Windows 10 users will – then you should use the Classic Shell Utility to remove the app prior to updating Windows 10. If you don’t, you may have issues with both the app and your PC after the Creator’s Update is installed. I am assuming the utility will be updated to support the Creator’s Update, but I can’t find any information to either confirm or deny that anywhere as of this writing.

download Classic Shell

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Give the Governor, hu-rumph!

I bumped into something that I want to add my own $0.02 (two cents) to…

Not many folks around today will recognize the title of this article. It’s a line from the 1974 (now classic) comedy, Blazing Saddles; and I’m crying right now with laughter, going over the scene in my head…

Anyway, I often use the line when I’m looking for people to blindly agree with me (the underlying context of the quote…) and I also often use it when I agree with something that others have said. I bumped into something that a former coworker said today while reading some email and browsing the internet and I wanted to post it here to show my agreement, but I also wanted to add my own two cents to the subject.

Paul Thurrott’s Short Takes are a throwback to his WUGNET days. Paul put out a newsletter every Friday where he humorously recapped the tech happenings of the week. He continued that after he started his Supersite for Windows and continues it still on Thurrott.com today.

Anyway, in his Short Takes for Friday 2017-04-01, Paul had the following to say regarding the rollout of the Windows 10 Creator’s Update,

Microsoft: Windows 10 Creators Update will roll out over “several months”

After a wide-ranging series of reliability and quality issues scuttled Microsoft’s plans to deploy last summer’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update within a few months, the software giant has reset its expectations for the Creators Update, which will begin rolling out in April. This time, Microsoft says, the upgrade process will occur “over a period of several months,” but on purpose, so that users will have a more “seamless” (read: error-free) experience. You might argue that this is the right approach. But I think this exposes the soft underbelly of Microsoft’s “Windows as a service” (WaaS) plans, which is that this legacy software is too big, complex, and rooted in the 1990s to work well as a service. And that what really needs to happen is a more aggressive removal of legacy technologies from the platform until WaaS can actually make sense. And yes, I’m looking at you, Win32. It’s time to make some tough decisions.

The issue that I wanted to touch on was the WaaS comment.

Windows as a Service has been a question on the lips of the world since Office 365 was introduced a few years ago. Office works as a service because the code base is finite. The components are well known and controlled. There aren’t different extensions for Office and different driver sets, needed to make it run on different processors or chipsets. It needs Windows in order to do this. Office is a much simpler “platform,” if you will, to convert to a service from a standalone product.

Windows itself is a different story entirely.

Paul is right indicating that it’s got a great deal of gunk to get rid of, before it can become a service platform. Windows has a great deal of 32bit code that needs to be ripped out of the OS, before it will be on a common enough codebase where it can be common enough and easily maintainable enough. The biggest problem is all of the different hardware combinations, requiring all of the different drivers that exist for those combinations.

Keeping all that straight and all that together from a service perspective, is going to be one hell of a job. In fact, there are products out there now that try to monitor the drivers you have on your computer and notify you when they get updated. They don’t work very well; and they’re somewhat expensive.

Windows biggest problems have always been its drivers. There are so many different devices, accessories and tools that require a driver in order to connect and work with your computer. Many of them, unfortunately, are enterprise level devices – those that are used for work – and are unfortunately tied to a 32bit driver base that needs to be retired and ripped out of the “current” version of Windows. When that happens, all those legacy devices will become unsupported.

Note – many already are. This is not a new problem. Every time a version of Windows is retired and becomes unsupported, some kind of corporate, mission critical, medical device, manufacturing sensor or label printer becomes unusable.

Dealing with this issue – driver obsolescence – is the core problem that Win32 has. Finding a way of dealing with this and with the corporate mission critical device issue is going to be what saves the whole concept of WaaS – Windows as a service – from what will likely be a very difficult start. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the enterprise market that really makes or breaks WaaS. The consumer market, while likely “easier” than the enterprise market, still has the Win32 and driver management issues to get past.

Are you interested in WaaS as either a consumer or enterprise customer? What is it about WaaS that attracts you? How big of an issue are outdated drivers and driver updates to you? Do you think that Microsoft can completely strip Win32 legacy code out of Windows to make it easier to manage and better performing in time enough for WaaS to be relevant? Is there, in fact, a time limit on this..?

I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on WaaS, 3rd party driver update apps and services, as well as Win32 legacy code and mission critical peripherals at your place of work?

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New Apple Operating System Updates Released

Apple released new versions of macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS on 2017-03-27.

Apple released updates to three of its operating systems on Monday 2017-03-27. Apple released macOS 10.12.4, iOS 10.3, watchOS 3.2 and tvOS 10.2. Each OS brings something new to the game.

macOS 10.12.4
This new OS version brings a great deal of new stuff. Aside from the “improved stability, compatibility and security stuff, you also get the following:

  • Night Shift, which shifts the color pallet on your monitor to the warmer send of the spectrum after sunset in an effort to reduce blue light emissions, which tend to have an effect on the ability to fall asleep and sleep quality
  • Siri support for cricket scores and stats for Indian Premier league and International Cricket Council leagues
  • Resolution of several PDF rendering and annotation issues in Preview
  • Improvement of visibility of the subject line when using Conversation View in Mail
  • Fixes for an issue that may prevent content from appearing in Mail messages
  • Other minor enhancements and fixes

Night Shift is the big thing here. This is SUPPOSED to be easier on the eyes and is supposed to make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep if you compute later in the day, into the evening. The pallet on your monitor will actually warm (whites will appear more yellow…). This option is available via the Settings app, under Displays.

iOS 10.3
The latest version of iOS brings a number of new features to the iPhone. The most notable and most important is APFS or Apple File System. HSF+ is dead. Apple is converting all of its operating systems to support the new file system, starting first with its smaller devices before moving on to the desktop.

APFS is said to provide up to an additional 7.8GB of available space on 128GB to 256GB iPhones. Part of the upgrade to iOS 10.3 will convert all of your storage to support APFS, and as a result, depending on the amount and type of content you have on your device, this conversion may take a while. If the upgrade looks like its bombed out and stalled, don’t do anything. Leave your device alone. Let the conversion take its course and finish. Even though the device might not look like its doing anything, leave it alone as its likely converting your storage and copying content back to the volume.

iOS 10.3 also includes the following updates

Find My iPhone

  • View the current or last known location of your AirPods
  • Play a sound on one or both AirPods to help you find them

Siri

  • Support for paying and checking status of bills with payment apps
  • Support for scheduling with ride booking apps
  • Support for checking car fuel level, lock status, turning on lights and activating horn with automaker apps
  • Cricket sports scores and statistics for Indian Premier League and International Cricket Council

CarPlay

  • Shortcuts in the status bar for easy access to last used apps
  • Apple Music Now Playing screen gives access to Up Next and the currently playing song’s album
  • Daily curated playlists and new music categories in Apple Music

Other improvements and fixes

  • Rent once and watch your iTunes movies across your devices. This coincides with the iTunes 12.6 update that was released a week or so ago
  • New Settings unified view for your Apple ID account information, settings and devices
  • Hourly weather in Maps using 3D Touch on the displayed current temperature
  • Support for searching “parked car” in Maps
  • Calendar adds the ability to delete an unwanted invite and report it as junk
  • Home app support to trigger scenes using accessories with switches and buttons
  • Home app support for accessory battery level status
  • Podcasts support for 3D Touch and Today widget to access recently updated shows
  • Podcast shows or episodes are shareable to Messages with full playback support
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent Maps from displaying your current location after resetting Location & Privacy
  • VoiceOver stability improvements for Phone, Safari and Mail

watchOS 3.2
watchOS 3.2 requires that your Apple Watch be connected to your iPhone. You can only update an Apple Watch that’s paired with an iPhone and is actually connected at the time that you wish to download the new OS. Your watch will also need to be connected to its charging cable with at least 50% charge.

There are a couple cool items of note here and not much else. watchOS 3.2 now supports SiriKit, which expands the voice commands for Apple’s Siri digital assistant. Siri now supports commands from 3rd party apps, letting users, for example, send a message or hail a ride sharing service.

watchOS 3.2 also includes Theatre Mode which silences all sounds and raise to wake, preventing your Apple Watch from becoming an audience distraction during a movie or play.

tvOS 10.2
The changes to tvOS are a little more demure than changes from other Apple OS’. In tvOS 10.2. Apple has accelerated in app scrolling, has enhanced support for the Device Enrollment Program and has provided for better mobile device management. It also offers an enhanced development tool in VideoToolbox, which is a framework for allowing apps to take advantage of hardware accelerated encoding and decoding.

Owners of a fourth generation AppleTV can get the update by opening Settings on their AppleTV and then selecting System, Software Updates, and then Update Software.

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