Why Don’t they just Upgrade, Already..?!?

Is it me, or does this seem like it would be a no brainer??

I’ve been in IT for a LONG time. I cut my teeth on Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows 98SE. Microsoft’s Windows XP days were some of my biggest hay days because I wrote literally THOUSANDS of tips covering ALL of these Windows versions and Office 95 – 97 and Office 2000 – 2007 during my tenure there. When I got through it, I was – and still am – one of the more knowledgeable Windows pundits out there.

Given all of the ransomware recently targeting older machines running unsupported versions of Windows – like Windows XP and Windows 8, a lot of people are starting to point fingers at others trying to figure out who exactly is at fault. Some blame Microsoft, because they’re Microsoft, because they run 97% plus of all the computers that run the businesses of the world, and because they have bazillions of dollars. Others blame the IT departments and workers in those businesses for not either abandoning those outmoded operating systems for something more modern.

My former co-worker Paul Thurrott had this to say in his 2017-05-19 Short Takes:

WannaCry is not Microsoft’s fault

If you’re looking to point the finger of blame for WannaCry, I think we can find some better culprits than Microsoft. For example, the hackers responsible for this attack are an obvious place to start. The businesses—which include hospitals and other medical facilities, banks, and more—that are still inexplicably running Windows XP and putting their customer’s data in harm’s way. And yes, sorry, also the over-cautious IT staffs at businesses around the world who delay Microsoft security patches for far too long because they are in some cases trying to justify their employment or have just lost sight of what’s really important in the risk/benefit debate around Windows patching. I know it’s not everyone. But the sheer scope of this attack says a lot about how we do things. And it says almost nothing about Microsoft except that, in this case, they did the right thing. Stop deflecting the blame.

There are a number of issues in Paul’s quote – as well as other mitigating circumstances – that I want to touch on, but let’s start at the beginning… There are a lot of folks out there that may not know what WannaCry is.

WannaCry is a serious strain of malware/ ransomware targeting Windows PC’s worldwide. The attacks from this nasty bug started on Friday 2017-05-12. The bug was targeted at computers and systems running Windows XP and Windows 8 machines, and while it effected systems around the world, it was initially targeted at the UK’s National Health Service. Infected machines had their data encrypted and users were locked out, unable to access any data on any connected drive or system.

This originated as a phishing attack. Meaning that someone emailed a potential target a message with an infected attachment . That person opened the attachment, releasing the virus. The hackers responsible demanded $300USD in bitcoin to unencrypt the effected machines. Aside from the UK’s NHS, Germany’s rail system, Renault and Nissan factories, FedEx, Spanish telecom Telefonica, and even Russia’s central bank got hit by the data encrypting malware. In the end, well over 300,000 computers were infected globally.

There are a couple of things of note here:

  1. Why are these Older Systems Still Out there?
    To be blunt, there could be a number of reasons – The company using the machine doesn’t want to spend the money to replace the system, or they don’t have the money to replace the system because (reasons).More than likely, the effected machine is a legacy system sitting on a medical device or label printer or some other mission critical piece of equipment that is ONLY guaranteed to run on certain versions of an operating system, and the company that owns it can’t afford to replace it because nothing else like it is available; or they can’t find a way around the loss of the machine to their business process, or some other cost prohibitive reason that mandates that THAT specific machine stays exactly where it is, doing that one specific thing that the company can’t seem to live without.I’ve seen this happen at hospitals with ultrasound machines or some other medical device that can’t be replaced or upgraded due to licensing, budget or other cost based issues. I’ve also seen this happen in industrial settings (like the cited FedEx example, above) where there’s one piece of equipment that only runs software/ drivers that are compatible with a specific version of Windows and the business can’t or won’t replace it due to cost, or some other reason.As of this writing no known US government systems have been infected.
  2. Why haven’t the IT Department Updated/ Upgraded these Systems?This is a multi-faceted issue. No matter how you slice this issue, the effected IT department carries a large part of the blame. In some cases, the IT department got overruled and management has opted to roll the dice and risk getting hit by malware. However, Microsoft itself is also partially to blame, here. Allow me to elaborate…Microsoft has a huge history of releasing security patches and then patches for those patches because their testing process failed to account for every driver of every peripheral possibly attached to any and every partner, OEM’ed version of Windows out there. In other words, no matter how extensively Microsoft’s QA department tests, they’re always going to miss testing some testing some edge cases and that causes stuff to break in the wild.So, because there’s so many different kinds of computers that can work with some many different kinds of devices and peripherals, Microsoft can’t release patches without breaking something, somewhere.As a result, many IT departments/ businesses unwilling to risk having some mission critical piece of equipment going down due to a bad or faulty patch being applied opt NOT to patch, leaving their systems buggy and vulnerable to attack.

    IT departments are also largely unwilling to apply patches to every day production machines without the “proper” amount of testing being completed in their own test labs, prior to deployment. In fact, in many cases, Microsoft releases patches for previous patches and instead of updating their systems and living with the new problems (which could be bigger problems than the ones they’re currently living with), they wait for “early adopters” to discover them. These wait and see IT departments gain the benefit of avoiding new bugs and issues at the expense of remaining unpatched and vulnerable to known vulnerabilities.

    For them, patching Windows has historically been a lose-lose game.

So, given all of this mess, what SHOULD you do?

That’s simple –

  1. Stop running an unsupported operating system.
    Even though Microsoft patched the WannaCry exploit months ago and also provided patches for Windows XP and Windows 8 (even when they said they weren’t going to provide patches for those OS’ any longer), the best thing that you can do is find a way off the out dated, unsupported platform.
  2. Update Your Mission Critical Components
    In the case of mission critical hardware requiring drivers or other middleware only rated to run on older machines/ operating systems – find a way to live without them. Period. Change the business process, change operating systems/ platforms… do SOMETHING other than staying where you’re at. While it may be costly, in the end, it’s going to be cheaper than figuring out how to disinfect or decrypt effected systems
  3. Upgrade Already!
    Microsoft is never going to allow the circumstances that allowed Windows XP to stay on the market for 15 or so years to recur again. It’s YOUR business’ responsibility to figure out how they’re going to get you from one major OS version to another without killing the company’s productivity.WannaCry doesn’t target Windows 10. It also doesn’t work on patched systems.

So, is my PC at risk?

Your PC is at risk if its running

  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 8.x
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

If you’re running Windows XP, you need to upgrade immediately. If you’re running any of these other operating systems, Microsoft has issued patches to prevent WannaCry from infecting your system. Run the patch or upgrade your computer.

Regardless of which version of Windows you’re using, you need to make certain you’re up to date on all of your security patches.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Paul’s statements and wrap this all up.

It’s not all Microsoft’s fault
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of different kinds of Windows compatible peripherals out there that require some kind of driver or middleware to work and Microsoft can’t buy and test them all. When you start working out the different permutations on all of these, it’s easy to get dizzy very fast. The best anyone can expect from Microsoft is to test those combinations that seem to be the most popular. After that, you’re on your own.

IT Departments Need to Upgrade
Debugging Windows problems can be a huge headache. The biggest way to avoid the problems is to not patch in many cases. Not everyone is going to get hit by every problem out there, so reducing cost by increasing risk can save a lot of time, money and headaches. However, when issues do arise, they tend to be big ones…

If your computer has been infected, you have a couple of options

  1. Restore from an Uninfected Backup
    Having a redundant backup plan is important. If you’re hit by WannaCry or any other virus and can’t get clean, restoring from a known, good backup may get you back up and running quickly. If you don’t have a redundant backup plan (local backup, local backup of backup and off site backup) figure one out now.
  2. Blow the Machine and Start Over
    Cutting your losses and starting over may be the only option you have, especially if you don’t have an uninfected backup to restore to. In this case, starting over is likely your only option. This may be less painful if you have your data stored on a cloud service like Drop Box, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. That way, with all of your data easily resyncable to your computer, all you need to do is install the OS, reinstall your apps and download all of your data. This is somewhat similar to the work in option #1, above.

The last thing you’ll need to do is make certain you have an anti-malware package installed and running on your machine. Having an offline anti-malware scanner for when you get bugs that your regular scanner can’t remove is also helpful.

Did you or anyone you know get hit by WannaCry? Have you ever gotten hit by any kind of ransomware or other piece of malware that basically killed your access to your computer and all of your data? Did you pay the ransom? Did you get your data back? Did the hacker make you pay more than once? How did you get rid of the infection? I’d love to hear about your situation, in detail. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and tell me all about it?

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Surface Truisms – You Get What you Pay For

The old adage holds true, especially when purchasing a computer…

There’s been a lot of Microsoft related news lately and I promise I will get to all of it, including the announcement about the new Surface Notebook and Windows 10 S. However, right now, I want to address something that I saw over on former co-worker Paul Thurrott’s site regarding a low priced Surface Pro competitor.

There’s been a LOT of activity when it comes to Surface in the past few weeks. Firstly there’s been a bunch of speculation and rhetoric about the lack of any kind of Surface, Surface Book or Surface Pro update in over a year. Some folks have been speculating that Microsoft would announce an update to either Surface Pro or Surface Book. Others were looking for a revival of Windows RT with some of the information that’s been shot around about Windows Cloud (now known as Windows 10 S).

Well, in light of all the hub bub, a company called CHUWI has decided to jump on the Surface bandwagon and has released a low priced Surface Pro 4 “alternative” called the CHUWI Lapbook 12.3. The price point of this little bad boy is $350 USD. It’s due to arrive sometime during May 2017.

However, don’t believe everything you see. I had a conversation with a good friend the other day – if it seems too good to be true, it is.

The CHUWI Lapbook isn’t a two in one like Surface Pro (or even Surface Book). Instead, it’s a full blown clam shell style laptop. The Lapbook, however, really doesn’t have much in common with Surface Pro or with Surface Book. As I said, it’s not a two in one, so the display doesn’t detach from the keyboard. However, it does offer a 12.3 inch PixelSense-like display with a 2736 x 1824 (or 267 dpi) display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is about as close as the device gets to being similar to the Surface Pro or the Surface Book.

Let’s be clear here, the CHUWI Lapbook is a budget classed Surface knock-off. Its powered by an Intel N3450 Apollo Lake Atom processor. It has 6GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD, integrated Intel HD Graphics, dual band Wi-Fi, and a 2MP rear camera. It also has what is suspected to be a single USB 3.0/2.0 USB port and a mini HDMI port for video out. Additional storage can be added via the device’s microSD slot.

The biggest thing you have to keep in mind here – you get what you pay for. Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book start at $799 and $1499 respectively. You aren’t going to get Intel Core i performance out of a budget Intel processor. The notebook’s design also is a traditional clam shell vs the Surface’s two in one tablet/ notebook hybrid design. It only tilts back 145°. It can’t fold all the way back. It’s clearly part of CHUWI’s PC line and not their Tablet line. However, CHUWI is taking advantage of the Surface craze as much as they can.

What you need to understand here is that there aren’t many Surface models out there, and honestly, all of them come from Microsoft. If you’re wanting a Surface device, then you really should get one. Otherwise, you aren’t going to be happy. It doesn’t matter how good your “Surface substitute” may be, if it’s not what you want, then you’re really just kidding yourself. Do yourself a favor and save your money. Buy the device you want or save up until you can. It doesn’t make sense to purchase something that is meant to be a replacement for the real thing. Substitutes for the real thing don’t do much more than disappoint you in the end, no matter how good they are in their own right…

I’m just sayin’…

However, that doesn’t mean that CHUWI’s products are a waste of time and money. That depends on you and what you’re really looking for. The company has some decent offerings if you’re ok with the performance you’re going to get from Intel’s Atom processor line. The devices they offer are nearly all covered in magnesium alloy. Many of them also have detachable keyboards, either come with or have some kind of active stylus/ pen available for them and run Windows 10.

Again, you just really need to understand what you’re buying and be happy with it. If you don’t need the power of an Intel Core i processor and want to save the money, CHUWI has some pretty compelling products.

Come back next time. I’m going to take a quick look at Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S. While I am not going to have either in hand to do a full blown review, I’m interested to dig in and see a bit more about what Microsoft thinks they’re going to solve with a Surface branded laptop as opposed to a two in one convertible/ hybrid and with Windows 10 S.

Both of these seem to be a trip down a road that Microsoft has been over before. I’m curious to know and to speculate a bit on why they seem to be repeating themselves a bit and why they seem to think that a repeat is going to fare any better now than it did before.

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Is it Really Just Superficial?

Is my love for digital ink and Microsoft Surface PC’s on the level, or just skin deep?

Ok, kids…

I’m going to make this one quick and short for a few reasons – I’ve got a lot on my plate right now; and I want to really get to the meat of all of this in a deeper look at Microsoft’s Surface Book, intended to be published in the coming weeks.

However, I did want to relay a couple of things:

  1. Accept No Substitutes
    When you know you have your heart set on something, no matter how much it really just didn’t sit right with you in the first place, don’t try to convince yourself that something ELSE is just as good.In other words, even though it’s about one third the price, and has decent performance, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is NOT either Microsoft’s Surface Pro nor Microsoft’s Surface Book. As awesome as Intel’s Cherry Trail processor is, it’s not an Intel Core processor (no Intel Atom processor is…) and it isn’t going to provide the same level of performance.
  2. It’s not What I WantedWhen you’re met with the unmistakable conclusion that you were wrong and that you should just accept the facts as they are and move on, you really should do just that.
  3. Don’t be so Damn Stubborn
    Dude. Just say the words…, “I was wrong.” It’s not all that hard. Just say the words.

Ok…

So… here it goes:

  1. There really isn’t a substitute for the Microsoft Surface Pro or Surface Book. They’re basically the same 3×2 convertible ultrabook (with some minor differences). While you may prefer one over the other for one (set of) reason(s) or another, they’re effectively the same. No other transformer PC or ultrabook out there is the Surface Pro/ Book. There are similar devices, like the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA, but they are NOT a Surface device, and shouldn’t be thought of as a Surface replacement.They are similar, but NOT the same
  2. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. You can’t change the shape of your hole, either. If you want a round object, squaring it off isn’t going to make you happy. When you look at it, all you’re going to see is the fact that it used to be a circle.You can’t MAKE something into something it’s not. You hear that a lot about people, too… Yeah, it’s true there, too.
  3. Unde. I give, already.Okokokok… “you” were right. They’re not the same, and I just have to give in and let it go.

If you remember, I originally tossed my Surface Pro 3 to the wind because of the digital, disappearing ink bug that the Surface Pro (all generations – 1, 2, 3 and 4) and the Surface Book have.

The bug is still active, even as of this writing, and while I have implemented the work around, a work around is NOT a solution. Functionality on the Surface Pro series of devices is still deprecated in Microsoft OneNote. While I’ve disable “Use Pen as Pointer” and have turned off “automatic ink OCR,” having to use a work around just makes my teeth itch.

But then again, I’m a QA guy… defaulting to the work arounds is required to insure that ink doesn’t disappear, however, living with the work around and not a permanent fix just seems wrong to me.

But at the end of the day, the answer to the begged question here, “really..?? After all the complaining, you actually got a Surface Book??”, is, “yes. Yes I did.

The Surface Book has been around for quite a while, so doing a ground breaking review on it isn’t warranted, but I’ll have something together for it in the coming weeks. I’ve gotten an accessory or two for the device, so I’m committed to making it work; but the answer to that question, in all honestly, really remains to be seen.

I don’t like going backwards; and I don’t like having to put up with bugs on a machine, that by all accounts, should be the most bug free installation and implementation of Windows 10 and compatible hardware on the market. It feels wrong to me to have to put up with that kind of situation, and to be very honest, I’m not one to put up with that level of crap from Microsoft.

I don’t put up with it from Apple either, but the situation is a bit different. Windows is different from macOS in this regard because Microsoft licenses its OS to a number of different Original Equipment Manufacturers – or OEM’s. As such, there are a number of different drivers that have to be written for the OS, because – and let’s be honest – not all computer hardware is created equally.

I expect a great deal more from Microsoft Windows when it runs on a Microsoft branded computer than when it runs on a Dell or HP or even a Micro Center, build your own style PC. I expect everything on the Microsoft branded computer to work; and in the case of the Surface devices their history has been a bit bumpy.

If you remember, Microsoft had a number of different driver and firmware related problems with both Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. Other OEM’s haven’t had this level of difficulty with their computers, especially when it comes to Microsoft software, like Office 2016 and all of their components.

In the end, with the work around, things work, but herein lies the article that I want to write later…

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Microsoft Surface Gets a Desktop All in One

Microsoft will be introducing Surface Studio on 2016-10-26

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then Microsoft is going out of its way to tell Apple how awesome it truly is.

Microsoft has done a lot to chase after Apple in the past six and a half years or so, since the release of the iPad. Their TabletPC’s couldn’t stand up to the iPad, and so they mostly disappeared by the end of 2012. By 2013 and 2014, Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 had firmly taken hold and were making some inroads, but more in the PC market than the tablet market. The Surface Pro – in all its variations – is NOT a tablet. It’s an ultrabook (or ultra-notebook). Despite “Tablet Mode,” it’s not a tablet. A successful tablet requires a successfully implemented ecosystem for content acquisition and consumption, and Microsoft doesn’t have that…but I digress.

So, Microsoft has a tablet-like, computer really, device in Surface Pro and Surface Book, and now, it appears they are chasing after all-in-one’s as well with a new device rumored to be announced on 2016-10-26, apparently named Surface Studio.

surface-studio

My good friend, Mary Jo Foley broke this last month with a heads up on the October Microsoft event. According to Mary Jo, Surface Studio was previously code named, Project Cardinal; and the intent of the new hardware is to turn your desktop into a studio. The device is rumored to come in up to three different sizes – 21″, 24″ and 27″; and MAY also be the consumerized version of Microsoft’s enterprise focused Surface Hub a large screen conference and collaboration tool, previously known as Perceptive Pixel.

If this is the case, then this will be an interesting entry into the already saturated, and sadly, poor performing, desktop market. Running Windows 10 – likely Anniversary Update – the Surface Studio will feature a way to convert the all-in-one from the standard desktop format into a flat drawing and writing surface, ideal for creating paintings, drawings and other touch and stylus work.

According to the engineering drawing, above, the screen will likely fold down over its base with the assistance of some type of pneumatic or spring powered hinges. It is also rumored that Microsoft has trademarked the names Surface Laptop, Paint 3D,Surface Dial and Dial as well as Surface Studio. It is believed that Surface Dial and Dial refer to either a radial styled, creator-based interface for the Studio. Others believe it to be connected to the further rumored Surface Phone

Any way you slice this, however, it’s likely that much of what Microsoft announces on 2016-10-26 will likely be overshadowed by the Apple’s marketing machine and hype when it reveals its anticipated Mac hardware refresh the following day, 2016-10-27.

Hopefully, for Microsoft, their rumored hardware will be compelling enough to help provide the shot in the arm that the Windows consumer PC market needs to turn it back towards profitability. Because right now, it could really use the shot in the arm.

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Whisky Tango Foxtrot – Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

This was the WTF on the top of my day…

I’ve been a LinkedIn member since the very early 2000’s. Back in the day, you had to be INVITED to join LinkedIn, and you couldn’t connect with just ANYONE. You really had to have done business with a person or had to have worked with them; and you had to know their email address, too. If you didn’t know them, LinkedIn wouldn’t let you connect. In situations like that, you had to have a common contact between you and your desired connection “introduce” you; and then the person you were trying to connect with would very often either ignore you, or decline the connection. Back in the day, actually MAKING a connection on LinkedIn was a BIG deal.

LinkedIn used to be… USED to be… VERY exclusive.

microsoft buys linkedin

Today, it was purchased in total by Microsoft (MSFT) in a $26.2B (that’s Billion with a “B”), all cash deal, that is likely going to be 2016’s most outrageous and totally over paid deal of the year.

If I were the guys at LinkedIn… I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. If I were Microsoft, I would be trying to figure out how long it would be before I’d totally call the acquisition a failure before writing everything off… and if I were a long time, seriously dedicated LinkedIn user (and I am…) I’d keep my eyes open for the next big professional, social networking site. If I were Lynda.com, I’d be doing my best to try to figure out the best way to buy myself out of this deal…

If it doesn’t sound like I have a lot of confidence in Microsoft, or this acquisition, you’d be correct. I don’t. Not one bit.

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft’s track record for integrating businesses into its core hasn’t been a huge success. They bought Nokia and burnt it to the ground. They’ve totally screwed up their ENTIRE mobile strategy as a result, and I think I can say with 100% certainty that they have totally ruined their chances of EVER having any kind of meaningful presence in the mobile computing space.

On top of this, I have no confidence that OneNote is EVER going to work right on a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4.

Speaking of the Surface Pro… don’t even get me started on this thing. As much as I like it – and honestly, I really do – it’s not a tablet. It’s not. It’s an ultrabook. At best, it’s a slate computer with a removable keyboard…

THAT’s not a tablet, folks.

That’s a really thin PC with an even thinner keyboard. It runs desktop Windows. It doesn’t run Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile. (and a UWP – Universal Windows Platform – does NOT a unified OS make… Just because the same version of Notepad that runs on desktop Windows will also run on Windows Mobile, doesn’t mean that Windows Mobile and desktop Windows are the same operating system. If they were…the same build would run on any Windows compatible device, regardless of form factor, and that’s simply NOT the case…)

Getting back on track… If I can’t trust Microsoft to not screw up my productivity software or produce an ultrabook that doesn’t have ENDLESS driver problems, or to not totally obliterate a mobile platform that, quite honestly should be ruling the world (because it outlasted Blackberry and had THE most universal mail platform that during 2009 – 2011 simply EVERYONE was using and interoperating with), or to not totally cannibalize and destroy THE single, most prestigious name in mobile handsets on the entire planet, how the H3LL am I – or anyone for that matter – going to trust them NOT to screw up the BEST – and really ONLY – professional networking site on the internet?

I have ZERO confidence in Microsoft when it comes to LinkedIn. I mean… when they integrated Skype into their productivity model, it didn’t screw it up at all, did it…?? It took me years to build and curate the pedigree that is my LinkedIn profile.

Quite honestly, LinkedIn is how I landed my last two jobs. If LinkedIn goes sideways, the entire way people look for jobs and network with coworkers and potential, professional network contacts will need to change. This may sound totally cynical, and it likely is, but I don’t have the time, patience or desire to completely rebuild that wheel; and based on what Microsoft did with Surface Mini, has been doing with Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, Windows Phone, Windows 8.x and Windows 10, I have zero confidence that they will succeed with LinkedIn on their watch.

I think my former coworker, Paul Thurrott said it best, “So let’s see. Microsoft is spending four Nokias for a company that will it treat like Skype. Does that sound like a recipe for success to anyone?”

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No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works…

Apparently, there’s a nasty bug that Microsoft is chasing…

No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works...

During a beta period, a tester or test manager should always expect to find bugs and, more importantly to expect run with buggy software. It’s never really end user ready, despite the fact that you’re opening your user base up to a wider audience.

Case in point – Microsoft has opened up Windows 10 to its Windows Insiders.  You can get prerelease builds of Windows on the Fast, Slow and Release Preview rings.

  • Fast Ring – You get (nearly) every build that Microsoft releases to its Insider program.  While there’s a lot of churn here, you get the most builds, and you’ll also likely see the most bugs. Builds are released almost every other week.
  • Slow Ring – Slow Ring is more stable than Fast Ring, but you don’t see as much churn. Things are still buggy; but there’s a bit more polish than with Fast Ring. While there’s still risk with Slow Ring, but with the right hardware combinations, it can still be very usable.
  • Release Preview – You can think of builds released in this ring being of Release Candidate quality.  This gets you things early, but nearly everything here is production ready, or can be considered Production Ready. Builds hit here a week or two before this hits Windows Update for everyone else.

So, with this model in mind, last week (as of this writing), Windows Insider guru Gabe Aul stated that there wouldn’t be any new builds of Windows 10 to the Fast Ring due to a bug that needed additional development time and attention.

According to Aul, there’s a bug in both Mobile and PC versions of Windows 10 that causes system crashes (what we used to call the Blue Screen of Death). Thankfully, the defect was caught before it hit Fast Ring (so, by Microsoft’s internal testing team), and as such, the details on the bug are sketchy at best. All we know is that it causes PC’s and phones to crash.

UPDATE – While writing this article, Microsoft released Insider Preview Build 14342 on 2016-05-10.  The updated build includes the following:

  • Updated Extensions in Microsoft Edge
  • Real-Time Web Notifications in Edge
  • Swipe navigation in Edge
  • Bash on Ubuntu on Windows Improvements
  • Skype Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Update
  • Updated Windows Ink Workspace Icon
  • Updated Visuals for UAC (User Account Control) dialog
  • Middle click to dismiss Action Center
  • Apps for Websites
  • Feedback Hub Improvements

The crashing bug noted above, has been resolved.

Are you installing preview builds of Windows 10?  How do you find the latest builds?  Are they worth the time and effort? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on them?

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Get Your Free Windows 10 While You Can

Apparently, Microsoft was serious about Windows 10 only being free for a year…

windows10-ad

Sometimes I really have to wonder if the senior leadership team at Microsoft is asleep at the wheel or not; because this just seems stupid.

When Windows 10 was released last year on 2015-07-29, Microsoft said the upgrade would be free to all Windows PC’s running Windows XP and higher for a year. Well, a year will be up on 2016-07-29, and Microsoft is holding firm to that statement.

On 2015-05-05, Microsoft made the following announcement:

“The free upgrade offer to Windows 10 was a first for Microsoft, helping people upgrade faster than ever before. And time is running out. The free upgrade offer will end on July 29 and we want to make sure you don’t miss out.”

This caused a flurry of speculation on whether Microsoft was really serious about this and if they were, what Microsoft might charge for the upgrade.

Microsoft answered that with an additional statement:

“After July 29th, you’ll be able to continue to get Windows 10 on a new device, or purchase a full version of Windows 10 Home for $119.”

This is concerning to me, and to a number of other Windows pundits for one big reason – there doesn’t seem to be an upgrade SKU or price point for Windows 10 after 2016-07-29. If you miss the upgrade window, it appears that you’re going to have to pay full price for Windows 10.

The only good thing about this whole situation is that it appears that after 2016-07-29, all of the nagware that is (now) natively part of previous versions of Windows , will be removed. According to Microsoft,

[…the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends 2016-07-29.] “Details are still being finalized, but on [that day] the Get Windows app that facilitates the easy upgrade to Windows 10 will be disabled and eventually removed from PCs worldwide. Just as it took time to ramp up and roll out the Get Windows 10 app, it will take time to ramp it down.”

All this means is that the Windows Update that turns the nag off, may arrive on YOUR PC sometime AFTER 2016-07-29; but it will happen if you decide to remain on a Windows version that is not Windows 10.

So the upgrade nagging that Microsoft has been doing for nearly a year is going to stop; but the upgrade to Windows 10 is going to cost you more than $120 bucks if you decide to make the jump after 2016-07-29.

There are a few things here that bother me…

  1. It costs $120 bucks
    Really?!? One hundred and twenty dollars?!I can see this back in, like, 2004; but today? The price point is WAY too high. In all honestly, Windows 10 should be FREE, period. OS X 10 is free. Most – if not all – Linux distributions are free. Microsoft is the only major OS maker out there that is still charging for their operating system. At some point, this is going to come back and bite Microsoft in the butt. Windows 10 should be a free upgrade to anyone and everyone forever.I can see a charge for a new, FULL license (the kind you would use to install on a PC you built from scratch); but only at about half of what is currently being advertised ($119). In my eyes, the target price for this should be under $50, after taxes.
  2. Installing Post 2016-07-29
    I’ve been using Windows 10 since the very early Insider Preview Builds in late 2014. Nothing related to installation has gone well with this at all. I’m wondering how much of a problem installing Windows 10 will be post 2016-07-29? In other words, if you download the free update, but wait to install, what happens? It’s it still free? If you need to restore or rebuild after 2016-07-29 and have to start at with the ORIGINAL version of Windows that shipped you’re your legacy hardware, will Setup ask you for money? (It shouldn’t, by the way; but I’m just sayin’…) Speaking of which…
  3. Restore/ Rebuilds
    This process has NEVER worked right for me.Refreshing your PC is simply supposed to put all of the core Windows 8.x/10 system files back on your PC, in case a poorly behaved app or (ultimately removed piece of) malware changed or modified any of them; and you wanted to put everything back to the way those core system files should be. This wouldn’t/ shouldn’t affect any installed apps or (mostly) the way you have Windows configured. This has never worked right for me and always ended up with me Restoring my PC.Restoring (often called rebuilding) your PC is supposed to erase everything and will put the version of Windows 8.x/10 back on your PC that it came with. This is the same thing as wiping the drive, reformatting and starting from scratch… without the reformatting part.You’re going to be stuck redownloading all of the Windows Updates you previously installed all over again, and this is supposed to be the easiest way to repair something in Windows that is just buried too deeply, or is too difficult to fix. Unfortunately, this has never worked right for me either; and nearly almost always requires me to download and create (or in the case of my Dell Latitude 10 STE – buy) the appropriate USB flash drive that would boot the PC and then run it through the setup process.

    This process works well for me on the Apple side of the world, but I’ve never had a Restore on the Windows side work from the device’s recovery partition. Any time I have tried this from the PC’s recovery partition, setup always ends up crashing or in some other error loop that is unrecoverable. I’ve always had to boot from a USB drive to get it to work.

My friend and former coworker, Paul Thurrott has an interesting article regarding whether or not the 2016-07-29 date is a hard and fast date or not. He seems to think that Microsoft will keep offering the free upgrade as long as it’s helping Microsoft migrate legacy PC’s to Windows 10, in pursuit of their 1 billion Windows 10 devices goal and not a day longer. By his reasoning, if Microsoft can get there within two to three years, they will have achieved that goal. Right now, that “last day” is 2016-07-29.

I think that Microsoft should extend that date indefinitely, even if they hit 1 billion Win10 devices within two to three years. Keep it free.

What do you think? Have you upgraded to Windows 10? If not, why not? Will you download the upgrade and install it before 2016-07-29? Do you foresee any issues with this offer ending on 2016-07-29? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below, and give me your thoughts on the matter?

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Microsoft Ratchets Fast Ring Up to Ludicrous Speed

The whole release cycle just got beamed to plaid…

fast ringTo be very honest, I pulled out of the Windows Insider Program when I sold my Surface Pro 3. The cluster bump that is Windows 10 has finally gotten to be a bit much for me, but that doesn’t mean that

  1. I won’t be back (I’m really not GONE-gone. I’m just not carrying a personal, Windows machine in my gear bag at this time…)
  2. I’m stopping my coverage of the Windows Platform (cuz that’s just crazy talk..!)

To be honest, I just ordered a new Windows machine for the house, and it should ship on 2017-02-17 (so, next Thursday, as of this writing…)

The question that I have for myself is whether or not I want to put Windows Insider builds on that box or if I just want it to run released versions of Windows. Thankfully, though, Microsoft has made a couple of changes to their “ring” system of releases for Insider Builds that may help make that choice a bit easier to manage.

Earlier today, Microsoft announced that it was making some changes to its release tracks, known as “rings.” Microsoft is adding a “Release Preview” ring to the mix. The Release Preview Ring sounds it’s going to sit just a bit to the right of the Slow Ring. According to Microsoft’s Gabe Aul, Engineering General Manager for Microsoft’s Operating System Group,

” the Release Preview Ring will focus on Insiders that want to stay on the Current Branch – currently based off Build 10586 – but [want to] continue to receive early access to updates, application updates, and driver updates,”

This ring will give users access to prerelease features, functionality apps and drivers before they hit the main stream user, but will be a bit more “conservative” than either the Fast or Slow rings; or better put, “slower” than Slow, but faster than what non-Windows Insiders will see.

The goal here for Microsoft is simple – More Windows Insiders.

Microsoft wants to expand its beta program and get more testers. Their switch from an internal tester to a more external tester focused testing methodology seems to be bringing them the results they were looking for. They have more people in the wild, providing feedback on how Windows works with all of the varying different hardware combinations found in the wild. This level of rapid feedback is something that Microsoft has deemed critical to its new rapid release cadence.

Microsoft is loosening its rules for issuing builds to public testers. Fast Ring Insiders will get features and functionality as soon as it passes internal, automated testing – which by the way, it’s totally unheard of. Says, Microsoft, “going forward, Insiders in the Fast Ring should be prepared for more issues that may block activities important to [them]… and may require significant work arounds [to get past or resolve.] Windows Insiders should be ready to [rebuild their machines] when [they] are significantly blocked.

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