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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An interesting way to keep track of your stuff with Tile

An interesting way to keep track of your stuff…

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About 20 months ago, Tile – a new company initially funded as a Kick Starter project has started shipping its product. I was really hot-to-trot for them, as the solution they offered provided a quick and easy way for you to find things you often misplace. For $50 bucks, you got four Tiles (three plus one bonus tile). I jumped on in January 2013, a number of months after the program had been initially announced in either late 2011 or H1 2012. (However, my timing may be slightly off. Please correct me if I’m wrong in the Comments, below…)

The process was fairly simple, you attach a Tile to an object, pair it with your smartphone and then if you lose it, you can use your phone to track it down. The app on your phone provides you with the last known GPS location of the Tile; and use play a game of Hot-Cold until you actually find the object that the Tile is connected to.

Tile recently began shipping their products to its initial backers, and I received mine a few weeks ago. I’ve had a chance to stick one on my keys (of which I am CONSTANTLY misplacing..!) and I have the following commentary on the app and the product; and I have a few suggestions for Tile as well…

My Biggest Use Case
Tiles product itself is pretty ingenious. It uses Bluetooth 4.x and BT-LE to help you find the object you’ve attached the actual Tile to. As long as the Tile isn’t over a year old (more on that later) and as long as the Tile is in range of your smartphone, you’ll be able to find what you’ve lost.

This was a HUGE deal for me, as my family has a HORRIBLE habit of misplacing the universal TV remote in the family room. The kids don’t put it back where it’s supposed to be, it gets shoved between couch or chair cushions, the baby walks it to another room, or some other weird result. I often spend more time looking for the remote than I do actually watching my beautiful, 51″, plasma HDTV.

I have about 5 TV’s in the house and a universal remote for each. None of them are the same brand, so each remote is really tied to the TV it’s paired with. Unfortunately, the family tends to take remotes from one room to the other (as the cable boxes all use the same signals)

I thought this was going to be the best thing in the world! I could attach a Tile to the remote and then instead of spending hours looking for it, I could simply track it down with my iPhone and start watching TV. My Backer’s shipment of Tiles even included a way to attach a Tile to my often wayward remote. I really thought I would be ecstatic with this solution. This was really the only reason why

Tile – It’s a [Huge] Mamma-Jamma
When you back something on Kickstarter or other crowd-source funding site, you really have no idea what you’re buying or funding. I love the idea of Tile, but I’ll tell you this – I’m very disappointed. The darn thing is HUGE! I thought it would be about half the size it actually is.

The concept is right: a water-tight, one piece BT-LE widget that easily attaches to items, allowing you to track them down if they get misplaced. If your spouse forgets their purse or wallet at a diner you stopped at while travelling down the road, you can go back and easily find it. If you’ve lost your keys, but you know they’re SOMEWHERE in the house, you can quickly track them down. If your granddaughter walked away with the universal remote in each room and she’s not quite two, and doesn’t speak sentences yet… You get the picture. It’s pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, the devices themselves are very large – about 1.5 to 2.0 inches square, with a large hole in the upper left corner allowing you to put them on a key ring or other fob. They’re also about a quarter of an inch thick. When I said they should be about half that size… Yeah. You see what I mean. These things are LARGE.

The device can’t be end user serviced. It has a battery in it, but they last about one year and then need to be replaced. The letter “E” serves as a button for the device. It allows you to turn discovery on and then be paired with your smartphone. The devices also have an electronic speaker that plays a cute little melody to let you know where it is.

Tile also provides you with two different pieces of specially shaped and sized two sided tape that will allow you to attach your Tile to the side of something you want to keep track of – like my remote – so you don’t have to worry about fixing it to something so that it can be successfully paired without falling off of the object you want it to help you locate.

Don’t get me wrong. The devices work. They work well. However, they’re about two times as big as they should be. I understand that these are 1.0 versions of this hardware; but you’d think that we would be able to engineer a smaller device that fulfilled its charter.

The speaker on it also isn’t very loud, so if you’re hard of hearing (like me), you may have trouble hearing it as it calls out its location to you. It’s a good thing that your smartphone can determine distance (but not necessarily bearing) from your current location. Just remember that if you frequently use the device to shout out its location, its battery may not last its stated year of life; and at $20 bucks PER Tile, the replacement costs are a bit steep, too.

The Tile App
Unfortunately, I’m not entirely happy with the app, either. While it again, does a decent job, I expected a bit more. I’m not ENTIRELY certain just WHAT that was… maybe a better UI and/ or design. I’m not certain. However, it doesn’t do that Hot-Cold thing I mentioned earlier, and I really thought that it would.

The app shows you a GPS location, and that’s nice; but if I KNOW my keys are in the house and I’m just not sure what room they’re in, a GPS or map location isn’t going to help me. I need to know how close I am (or am not) to my target. Having some sort of “compass-styled” locator or other UI that would give me a “warmer… warmer…, cooler, colder…” kind of look would be better.

The musical tones and chirping that Tile does is nice, but if the thing you’re looking for is underneath some couch or chair cushions, you may not hear it. Having some kind of real time directional locator as part of the app would really be much more value-added and a bigger help. Having my phone vibrate also doesn’t help. All that tells me is that “it’s close.” It doesn’t tell me exactly where it is.

While the Tile app will give you a GPS location of the Tile’s last known GPS location, it won’t tell you where it is if what you’re looking for grew legs and decided to walk away. If someone took your purse or wallet from that diner and drove away with it, Tile won’t broadcast its GPS location to your phone and let you know where it is. That could be problematic, and would be really cool if it did do that. Unfortunately, there’s no way for your Tile to “call home” if it goes out of range of your smartphone.

Conclusion
I’m really torn here. I want to like these so much; but Tile has three big problems going against it.

1. They’re big
2. They need to be replaced annually
3. They’re expensive

When I bought these, I imagined something, as I’ve said, about half its current size. Tile adds a huge amount of bulk to an already crowded key ring. I don’t have unnecessary or old keys on my ring. I use each one, almost every day. If all I had was a car and a house key, that would be one thing, but with office keys, car keys, house keys and filing cabinet keys on my key ring, a 2×2 square, plastic widget takes up a lot of space.

If you look at the Tile website, you get the impression that each Tile has a 12 month life span. From the way their documentation reads, you get the idea that on each Tile’s anniversary, they stop functioning whether their battery dies or not. That’s totally NOT cool. I know Tile has to have some sort of working business model, but I honestly wouldn’t have bought into these if I knew they had a 12 month shelf life.

At $50 bucks for four Tiles, that’s $12.50 a Tile; and a bit much in my opinion. At regular price, these are $19.99 for one. That’s way too much (and $30 more a year for the original 4 I bought.) I’d rather see these priced at $9.99, since they have to be replaced annually.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate that I have to turn my family room upside down to find my remote for my TV nearly every day. I don’t like misplacing my keys. However, it’s unlikely that either of those conditions are going to change. I was wishing for something like this when Tile came around. The only thing that I can say is that I hope version 2.0 is much improved over version 1.0.

While Tile fulfills its mission, its current version software can use a huge upgrade and its hardware should be sent to a fat farm. The app should do a lot more than it does in terms of local location. I’d like a better hot-cold UI than what I have now. It would also be cool to see Tile do more with Location Services. The initial GPS and map data that Tile captures after it locates a device is nice, but having it phone home would be much better for those things that can grow legs and walk away.

Tile works and does a decent job, but its hardware size makes it a bit impractical for some of the things I’d really like to track with it. Having a smaller form factor would make it easier to attach to my universal TV remote… and easier to hide. I’m also not pleased with the shelf life or their cost.

It’s a good accessory; but I’m not as happy with its execution as I thought it would be. I also think that the effort will ultimately fail, as the annual cost won’t be seen as value added as it would or should be at a lower price point. Tile is a nice to have convenience; but not much more than that.

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Can You See The Big Picture?

If you’re familiar with Steam then you’ll know it’s a gaming platform that allows users to share and play games from small developers to giants as well as a community area and the option to play multi-player with users around the globe. It’s all about giving you access to the games you love and the people you want to play against. Well now it’s even easier to access with the introduction of Steam’s Big Picture.

Big Picture has been available in beta for some time, but Valve has only just released the full version, and thus far it’s looking good!

If you’re a fan of Steam then this can only be good news, a new way to play your favourite games, from the comfort of your living room. What’s more it’s a method of PC/TV gaming that feels intuitive and natural, unlike trying to view most PC platforms on a big screen. It includes all the functionality you have on your PC or MAC, just designed to look, feel and work in a more TV screen friendly way.

All you have to do is link your computer up to your TV or other large screen and select the ‘Big Picture’ button in the top right corner. Doing so will not only expand your window, but also offer a whole range of new functionality for better playing, browsing and more comfortable viewing on a large screen. Great news if you like to chill on the sofa while gaming!

Even better the new Daisywheel text input is optimised for use with a game pad – making it easier than ever before to type without a keyboard. Valve is describing Big Picture’s browser as the world’s first, first person browser. It is inspired by first person shooter games and rather than moving the cursor, the screen pans and the cursor remains stationary. The ideal browser a) for use with a game pad and b) for people who are used to using Steam on a regular basis who are likely to be prolific gamers.

So now it’s possible for you to get the same feel when using Steam on even the biggest of screens, without having to use the clunky mouse and keyboard set up on your knee.

That being said if you love the Big Picture usability but prefer to use your PC or laptop then you can, and equally it’ll work with your keyboard and mouse just as well as it will with a game pad. Big Picture is all about giving gamers options, Steam users will now find it so easy to access their favourite games in an easy to use manner. Whether they’re behind their computer or using the TV. It essentially makes your TV feel like a console, whilst still offering your favourite games that you may have originally played on your PC. An amazing feat, and something that hasn’t really been done before.
It’s exciting stuff, and we’re looking forward to find out what Valve will do with Steam next. Can you see the Big Picture?

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Edit the code of your web pages with Firebug

Firebug is a surprisingly powerful add-on for the Firefox web browser. Aimed at web developers, Firebug lets you examine and edit the code of your web pages in your browser window. It also allows you to examine

Firebug lets you view HTML, CSS, and JavaScript components of your web page, so if something isn’t displaying properly — an element is in the wrong place, text doesn’t appear the way you expect, or a piece of JavaScript doesn’t do what it’s supposed to — it’s much easier to work out what’s gone wrong and fix it.

The add-on comes into its own with CSS in particular. Firebug lets you see at a glance which rules of CSS apply to a particular element. Testing different rules no longer involves laboriously changing code in an editor, uploading it to your web space and refreshing the page every time you want to try something out. You can input the new code in Firebug and immediately see how it will affect the page you’re working on.

Despite being an add-on itself, Firebug is meaty enough to support its own add-ons, expanding its functionality — providing information specific to a package such as Drupal, for example, or adding reference materials.

As well as being a development tool, Firebug can also enhance your understanding of web programming by allowing you to view the code of any exiting website in detail. Unlike the “View Source” command, which only gives you a limited glimpse into the underlying workings of a web page, Firebug supplies considerable detail about each element so you can quickly gain an understanding of how a particular look or function was achieved.

read full review | download Firebug

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Malware alert into Google Chrome Browser

Google will add a malware alert into their Chrome browser increasing the security while surfing the Internet. This feature comes as an extension to the already popular Safe Browsing feature, which is a list of malicious sites integrated into the browser.

The source code of this new feature is based on a similar API from Google available for developers for two years now. Seems that the Malware Alert feature will scan the Safe Browsing database while accessing a desired site. An alert will be sent by the browser if an executable will be downloaded from these sites.

This feature is expected to be fully integrated in Chrome 12 which will appear in May or June this year.

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Use Screengrab to take complete screen shots of a web-page

Screengrab is a add-on for Firefox that will help you to take the complete screen shots of a web-page very easily. All you have to do is to right click the web-page which you want to save and then hover your mouse pointer over Screengrab! > Save… > and than hit the Complete Page/Frame… After that, all that is left is to select the location in your PC where the screen shot of the web-page will be saved.

You can download Screengrab for Firefox from here.

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Access your Dropbox files straight from your Chrome toolbar

This extension allows you to access the files from your Dropbox account right from Chrome and download the files or view recent events.

After you install the extension, a Dropbox icon will appear in your browser. Just click it, enter your Dropbox username and password and then, a pop up menu will appear where you can manage your files.

You can get the extension here.

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Several Windows 7 Gadgets

A short but interesting post about a few (cool) Windows 7 gadgets:
Alarm Clock
Language Translator (auto translate in 43 languages)
Launch Control (an application launcher)

Try them and tell us your opinion.

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