Windows 10 Features – Much ado about… Nothing?

What’s all the fuss about Windows 10 core features..?

Windows 10

Over the past few days I’ve seen a few articles on Windows 10 cool and unknown features; and while I will spend a few moments going over some of the bigger stuff of note in the upcoming OS, quite honestly… I’m wondering what all the hullaballoo is about.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that Microsoft’s marketing machine has to pump up the volume on Windows 10 somehow. Unfortunately, they can’t simply go with:

Windows 10 – It doesn’t suck like Windows 8 did.

So yeah… they have to say SOMETHING positive about it that doesn’t speak to just the code tweaks and optimizations that you’re going to find under the hood. Unfortunately, Windows 10 really IS all about not sucking like Windows 8…which, by the way only sucked because the UI – or User Interface – was so horrible. If you could get past that, Windows 8 ran well and would run on a LOT of budget class, legacy hardware.

The vision for Windows 8 was to be a bridging OS that got users used to the idea that computing was shifting away from a post 1990’s traditional, put a program in a movable box on a screen, metaphor to one that really tried to embrace tablet computing.

That’s one of the reasons why Microsoft Surface Pro exists – to help users find a way to have their tablet and [eat] it too. Microsoft’s thought was, “well, users want to compute on a tablet… we can give them a tablet form factor if they want one. We have the whole slate TabletPC thing that kinda tanked about 10 years ago; and THAT kinda looks like an iPad…just a lot bigger and bulkier… If we thin it down and shrink it down a bit and then MAKE a detachable keyboard that goes WITH it (one of the BEST ideas with Surface Pro, by the way…) we can pocket the 3rd party dollars there along with the device sale.”

Whaddya think Stevie B.?

It was a good idea, but unfortunately, the execution didn’t match the vision, and the whole bridging OS thing really went over like a fart in an elevator. In other words, it really stunk up the joint and people ran (not walked) and in some cases, pealed back the proverbial steel plating on the “elevator” to get off. Many of us in the tech sector had the words, “Metro Sucks” tattooed on the inside of our eyelids and spent a lot of time with them closed, shaking our heads wondering why Microsoft ticked off their established enterprise and consumer user bases with a confusing, UGLY and productivity shifting interface that not only made it hard to get anything done, but totally changed the way you HAD to work with a standard, desktop computer.

 But, again… I digress…

Anyway, as I said over the past few days, I’ve seen a few articles on Windows 10 features and while there’s some “nice” things in there, there may only be one or two of the 10-15 or so things that people are touting as awesome that may make ANY kind of a difference to anyone outside of the Microsoft Marketing department.

I’ve been running and testing nearly EVERY beta version of Windows on all of my production Windows machines since Windows 95 (so, for almost 20 years, now…) and I’ve seen stellar UI changes… I’ve seen great feature implementations… and I have to tell ya I’m lookin’ at all of this stuff in the Windows 10 Technical Preview and I’m thinking…

 Meh…

Some of what we’re seeing is definitely a rethinking or reworking of stuff that didn’t quite make the impact that it was intended to make. The Start Screen and the reinstated Start Button and (more importantly) reinstated Start Menu are some good examples. People absolutely HATED the Start Screen and DEMANDED their Start Button back. When they said that, everyone ALSO meant the Start Menu, but Microsoft decided to play stupid on that and only brought back the BUTTON in Windows 8.x.

When the world saw that, they called “bullshit” and gave Microsoft the big, “c’mahn…! You KNOW we meant MENU and not JUST the button..!” schpiel , but for some reason, all we got from Redmond initially was the big, wide spread armed, “WHAT?!? We gave you what you asked for…” response, which caused us to give Microsoft the “crossed armed, head tilted to the right, raised eyebrow silent treatment” that said, “Really..??”

So Microsoft is giving us the Start Menu back, but said, “okokokokokok… but you gotta give us a bit to put it back.” Its actually coming back as part of Windows 10. So, without any further kibitzing… here are the features and some of the hidden features of note <chuckle> in windows 10.

Improved and Expanded Start Menu

So, yeah… as I mentioned, the Start Menu is coming back; but its not the Start Menu that you remember from back in the day. Microsoft can’t seem to let the Live Tile thing go on the desktop, so they gimished the two of them together and we get an improved Start Menu (as you can quickly and easily pin, remove and customize items on it) but you also get the ability to pin Live Tiles to it.

Live Tiles work VERY well on Windows Phone devices. In fact, some will argue that the Windows Phone UI, with all of its Live Tiles, is perhaps one of the BEST mobile interfaces available today. You get updates, information and what you need from it and all you have to do, really, is turn on the phone. (Honestly, this would work on a tablet device as well… IF Microsoft could have let go of the Desktop computing metaphor on their RT based tablets and just gone with the Windows Phone interface approach there, and then maybe they wouldn’t have taken the $1B USD write off on all those unsold RT tablets; BUT again… I digress)

So, yeah, you get the ability to have both Live Tiles and shortcuts on the Start Menu and can now easily customize it; and while this is totally cool, its nothing really to whoop and holler about, ya know?

Oh, you also get the ability to pin the Recycle Bin on not only the Start Menu, but the Task bar as well… However, in order to get it on the Task Bar, you have to first pin it to the Start Menu and then drag and drop it from there to the Task Bar…which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I’m also a bit fuzzy on why this is so important…or cool… In order to delete items from somewhere on the PC, you have to either drag and drop it to the shortcut on the desktop, or pick it in File Explorer and hit the delete key on the keyboard/ right click and choose delete from the context menu. I’m not certain how putting the Recycle Bin on the Start Menu or Task Bar gets you anything important… Maybe someone can pop a comment in, below, and share the cool factor with the rest of us who are scratching their heads…

Run Store apps and Desktop apps simultaneously

With Windows 10, all apps can run in a window, or can run full screen. This is much like what Stardock Software’s ModernMix does. Its been running MetroUI apps in a window for a few years.

However, now, you can do this and run those applications side by side, natively. Its nice, but quite honestly, it’s a small step for computing kind. Especially since the app from Stardock started allowing this to happen shortly after Windows 8 hit the market, making the transition to Windows 8 a bit easier than without it.

Task View Button

The Task view Button in Windows 10 is really a “view all the virtual desktops you have” button. I understand that its now removable from the Task Bar. I don’t like virtual desktops because I don’t like having to cycle through a lot of open apps. If I do, ALT-TAB has always worked for me and I’m really good with just that quick, keyboard shortcut and familiar tool. See… this is why Bill invented “minimize and maximize/restore” for program windows. You can pretty much clean and clear up your active desktop just by minimizing stuff you need open, but aren’t working with just now.

However, I know I’m not EVERY use case out there, and some people may find this feature of value. If you want to put your music apps on one, photography/picture apps on another, I get it. I get it… However, I wouldn’t call this an “A list” feature…ever.

Multitasking with Enhanced Snap View

Snap is a new feature as of Windows 8 that allows you to place windows side by side in a way that allows you to evenly tile windows on your display. In Windows 10, the number of windows that can be snapped has been doubled to four windows. Windows that are snapped are evenly and equally placed on the screen.

What’s strange to me is that you could always do something like this by tiling windows across your screen. I’ve been doing it since Windows 3.x… However Snap does it without having to execute any kind of strange command, and your Windows don’t start off unevenly proportioned. So, if you have a large enough display and up to four programs that you need to swap data in and out of, it can be a huge time saver, I guess.

Snap Assist

Snap Assist is used as part of Snap View. It helps you snap windows into place and then resize the windows that get placed on your screen. The problem with Snap and Snap Assist is that it doesn’t work well with small screens.

Continuum for Windows (2-in-1 devices)

Interestingly enough, perhaps the biggest and most interesting feature that Windows 10 is going to provide hasn’t hit the streets yet. Windows 10 will work on just about any device that was able to run Windows 8.x, and will especially work well on any and all Surface Pro devices.

With Surface Pro and similar devices, Microsoft is creating a new kind of mode that will allow Windows to function as both a content consumption device as well as a tablet. Its called Continuum; and what it does is allows Windows 10 to change UI’s when a keyboard is attached to a device like Surface Pro 1/2/3. When the keyboard is reattached, the UI switches back to a traditional desktop UI. ModernUI apps will function full screen as they do in Windows 8 when the keyboard is removed and then will function in a Window when the keyboard is reattached.

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Microsoft Borks OneDrive in Windows 10 Preview Update

Sometimes when it ain’t broke, you have to fix it…or not.

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I saw an interesting article on ITWorld by fellow technology journalist Gregg Keizer and it confirmed what I had suspected had happened in the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9879 – Microsoft changed the way OneDrive works.

With services like Dropbox and Google Drive – as well as OneDrive – files that you upload that you place in the service’s home folder on your PC, upload to the service. This is how everyone expects the service to work.

Files that you upload to the service via the website, are uploaded to the service; but may not be downloaded to every computer you have OneDrive installed. Believe it or not, this is how the service was originally designed to work, even in Windows 8.

In Windows 8.1, Microsoft used placeholders on your PC to represent files that you have stored in OneDrive. These files weren’t actually on your PC, but were effectively shortcuts to them, on OneDrive. When you searched your PC for a file, you found either the actual file because it was on the drive, or you found a place holder. Double clicking the file, obviously opened the file. Double clicking the placeholder downloaded the file to your PC, opened it in the default program and then kept the file on your PC. Users had to learn the difference between a place holder and a file, but it really only mattered when they were off line. When online, you may have noticed a small delay in opening the file because you had to download it; but depending on your broadband connection, it may not have been noticeable.

Users really didn’t notice the difference between a place holder and the actual file. The place holder looked like a file, had a thumb nail like a file and got you the data you were looking for when you double clicked it (if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…). While slightly different than Dropbox and Google Drive, it did save local storage space; and the whole thing was largely transparent to users.

In Windows 10, things are a bit different. OneDrive now uses Selective Sync, by default and has killed the place holders. Now…to be fair, nearly ALL cloud file storage services can use selective sync, or the process of ONLY synching the files that you actually want on your local PC, while everything else stays up in the cloud. The problem with this is that if you want to work on a file that isn’t on your PC, you first have to search your PC (to confirm that you do or do not have the data you want or need) and then go online and search your cloud based file store for the file you want.

All the other services have this Selective Sync as an advanced setup option. Microsoft has it turned on by default, doesn’t tell you, and then makes you search your online file store a second time for the data you’re looking for.

Microsoft also totally failed to tell anyone they were making this kind of drastic change to the way OneDrive works.

As you might suspect, users are a bit ticked off.

When users search for files in Windows 10 Build 9879 they may not find the file they are looking for and may not understand that the file is ON OneDrive, but just not ON their PC.

In response to the outcry, Microsoft’s Ning Jin-Grisaffi has responded to these concerns with both an explanation of the problem and a small description of the solution.

The problem as he describes it was that “[Microsoft was] not happy with how [they had] built placeholders, and [they] got clear feedback that some customers were confused (for example, with files not being available when offline), and that some applications didn’t work well with placeholders and that sync reliability was not where we needed it to be.”

(Frankly, the first part of this, I consider BS. That last part, where apps didn’t work right with place holders, might carry a bit of weight though…”

The solution is a bit more complicated than just reimplementing or turning place holders back on. Microsoft is making a serious business change to OneDrive. They are combining the backend consumer service engine with the OneDrive for Business service engine, in part to insure that it can handle everyone’s unlimited storage from both sides of the service (consumer and business).

Microsoft is also adding in additional capabilities. In order to do that, they had to remake the service and had to basically tear it down to build it back up. According to Jin-Grisaffi, the OneDrive experience in Windows 10 Build 9879 is the first iteration of this redesign. Microsoft may not bring back place holders, but it he says they WILL “bring back the key features of place holders.” Eventually, you will be able to search your files and find both those that are and are not physically on your local hard drive. It’s just going to take time.

So, let me say this – hold your horses.

Apple did a similar thing with iWork when it totally killed all of its advanced features. If you recall, that caused a huge outcry, too. Like Apple, Microsoft WILL make sure that all of the capabilities that everyone was happy with will come back to OneDrive. Apparently, it’s going to take a few iterations.

If you want to see the improvements to the service faster during the Technical Preview, you can always choose to receive preview builds faster. To do so, follow these steps:

Open PC Settings
In the list on the left hand side of the screen choose, Update and recovery
In the Update and recovery section, choose Preview builds
In the drop down, choose Fast as your delivery method
Click the Check Now button.

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If a new build is available on the Fast track, you can download and install it. The build will download in the back ground, so you don’t need to baby sit it. You can go on about your work. When it finishes, you can come back to the Preview builds PC Settings page and tap the install button. Just make certain that your PC is plugged in during the install so that it doesn’t sleep or die during the update.

What do you think about the whole OneDrive system change? What would you tell Microsoft do to do change or improve the service? Why not sound off in the Discussion area below and let me know your thoughts?

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Winning with Windows 10 – What Microsoft Needs it to Do

After the mistake that was Windows 8.x, Microsoft has a few things to do with Windows 10. Here they are in a nutshell…

Introduction

07668051-photo-windows-10-logoWindows 10 is (going to be) Microsoft’s new desktop OS when its finally released next year. Currently in technical preview, Microsoft is giving it a test drive. I’ve published a couple of articles on Windows 10, letting everyone understand what they need to know about the new OS. I’ve been working with it for a while now and have installed two, new additional preview builds that Microsoft has quietly released.

Here’s what Microsoft ultimately needs the new OS to do if they want it to succeed better than its most recent edition, Windows 8.x.

Make us Want to Upgrade

In the enterprise, Windows 7 works. It’s the new Windows XP. While Microsoft SAYS it’s only going to last until 2020 and then everyone is going to have to move to Windows N(ew), XP lasted for so almost 15 years because it did the job, did the job well, and didn’t really make people want to leave. With XP now out of the way, for the most part… I’m certain some companies still use Windows XP at the time of this writing… Microsoft has to find motivation for people and companies to move away from their older computing operating systems and to embrace the newest platform.

From an enterprise perspective, this is REALLY hard. Companies can’t afford to have employees sitting on their hands because their stuff doesn’t work; or they don’t know how to use it. That’s one of the reasons why no one bought into Windows 8 at work…its UI is too different from Windows 7 and earlier to really invest in. It would take the average front line office worker three to six months to figure out where everything was, how the OS really worked, and how they can get all of their daily tasks done. Most companies don’t have the luxury of time to wait for that to happen. Nearly everyone experienced that with Windows Vista and THAT UI was still pretty much like Windows XP. It’s hard for anyone to get work done when the computing environment is so radically different.

As such, we’re all happy with Windows 7 at work. Now, Microsoft has to figure out how to get us out of that comfort zone without destroying our productivity; and THAT’S really hard. They may want or need to change the UI, but they must do so gradually without really making it too difficult.

Given that they can actually DO that, which isn’t an easy task, they have to find a way of making it easier to move from one major Window version to another without a bunch of hoops to jump through. In the past, you could move from one Windows version to another, provided you took every major version step along the way. If you wanted to skip a version or two, you couldn’t upgrade without completely wiping your computer of all applications and data; and no one wanted to do THAT either. Microsoft has to find a way to make upgrading from one version to another easy, even if you skip a version or three, without all of the in between steps.

The technology exists, the problem is, figuring out a way to do that without making it too big of a development task on their part. From what I know of Windows upgrades, while its painful for the end user, they don’t upgrade because for them, any pain is too painful. Microsoft may just have to eat the development costs and figure out how to move everyone from their current version OS (however far back that may be) to Windows N. It’s going to be ugly, but they may have to eat the end user’s pain if they want everyone to get and remain current.

Now… if you bring in the more popular computing concepts like cloud computing, mobile computing trends and BYoD, Microsoft still has a great deal of work to do and a great deal of consumer resentment and angst to get around (see my section on defining the difference between a desktop and a tablet, below). Cloud computing is something that Microsoft is still actively working on, and despite what they might think, they STILL don’t have a solid mobile strategy yet.

Make us [Totally] Forget Windows 8.x

Over the years, Microsoft has released some real turkeys in the Windows line – Windows ME, Windows Vista and Windows 8. Windows ME (for Millennium Edition) was an upgrade to Windows 3.11 that totally tanked. The UI added too much eye candy and glitz, moved some things around and broke a LOT of stuff. Microsoft made it go away with the release of Windows XP on the consumer side and Windows 2000 on the enterprise and power user side. It’s a good thing, too. Drivers for Windows ME were a mess.

Windows Vista was an upgrade to Windows XP, and was supposed to be Windows Blackcomb, but Blackcomb could never get itself together, and Vista was the cobbled together bits of what survived. WinFS or an update to the much outdated NTFS file system was supposed to make file and end point management much better than it was under the (then) current paradigm. When Microsoft couldn’t get it together, they abandoned WinFS. Unfortunately, they didn’t abandon the rest of the design of Vista which depended on WinFS to lower resource consumption by the OS. As a result, Vista was a bloated, glitzed up processor and RAM hog that killed most computers and made computing slow and difficult. There’s more to this, and Paul Thurrott from the Windows Supersite has a great deal more to contribute to this this particular MS debacle. There’s more to the Blackcomb thing, and more to the demise of WinFS that will help you understand exactly what went wrong. If you’re interested in the full and complete story that was the hockey puck that Windows Vista was, you can go there to find it…

Windows 8 was, quite simply, a mistake from the start. The split UI that no one understood and Microsoft’s insistence that everyone use MetroUI no matter what type of computer you were using be it a traditional laptop (both with and without touch), a convertible laptop (including things like the Yoga, a more traditional TabletPC AND the MS Surface Pro line) or a traditional desktop, just confused everyone. No one knew where MetroUI really fit. Microsoft’s lack of mobile strategy and confusion over what a tablet is and is not (see below) as well as them trying to put a full blown version of Windows on a device with GREATLT reduced specs to help manage battery life, really hasn’t helped.

Define the Difference between a Desktop and a Windows Tablet

This is probably the biggest hurdle that Microsoft has to resolve in the actual, PHYSICAL market place. After hooking us and getting us to go with Windows 10, and helping us to forget the total train wreck that Windows 8.x was (both of which are really going to be tough to do…) Microsoft has to define exactly what a Windows 10 tablet is, help us understand that difference and then show us how magical THAT device can be.

Historically, Microsoft has been all about Windows and Office. Historically, this hasn’t been an issue for them, because they really had a lock on the desktop market and made businesses around the world run. Now, business models are changing and Microsoft has to learn to change with them. Windows and Office aren’t the cash cows they used to be, and Microsoft is switching Office licensing to a subscription model. Instead of paying $500-$600 per copy/ seat of office, you pay say, $7-$10 bucks and month and get nearly everything you need. This gets you Office at home, plus all the online storage you can eat (as OneDrive storage is now unlimited – or supposed to be – with an Office 365 subscription) for a year. The subscription auto renews, and you’re supposed to have access to the software on the platforms you need it on, be they Mac, PC or mobile device, plus all of the associated updates. MS still gets paid, but how and when they get paid changes a bit. I’m still not entirely certain (nor do I think, are they) if they’re making just as much on this model as they were before, BUT the way the world delivers retain software has changed, and Microsoft had to change too…

The change also came about because the WAY people are computing has changed. People don’t want to HAVE to work on a traditional PC any more. Most people often have to take work home with them, and as such, want to use the same tools at home as they do at work. While MS did provide a way to get office at a HUGE and DEEP discount, not every company took advantage of this, and not everyone got to buy Office for their home PC’s at $10 bucks a copy.

With the introduction of tablets and tablet productivity software – or at least the ability to run web based apps through a mobile browser, most people that don’t want to HAVE to work at a specific desk in their house can now come out on to the family or living room and instead of having a heavy and sometimes hot laptop on their laps, can instead work from a tablet or other mobile device.

Traditionally, Windows doesn’t run on these type of lean back – or more casual computing – devices, and as such, Microsoft has had trouble here. TabletPC’s or some sort of notebook convertible has worked in the past, but they’re now becoming too bulky and heavy to be used in these casual situations. Convertibles are also traditionally more expensive, and people have started shying away from these types of full-blown Windows machines.

This is where Microsoft has a huge problem – Windows doesn’t work well without a full blown computer. Microsoft’s foray into tablets – the Surface RT and Surface 2 – were a huge disappointment. Microsoft couldn’t break themselves away from the traditional computing model and failed to transition everyone away from Windows to a more tablet-centric version of Windows that should have existed without ANY traditional computing artifacts like the Desktop. People didn’t’ understand Windows RT, MetroUI (often called ModernUI), and they couldn’t get any of their developers to create applications for it. As such, the platform died, and Microsoft has still to really tell us if Windows RT is dead or just hibernating until they can figure it out.

The Surface Pro (in any of its carnations) isn’t a true tablet, despite its removable and detachable keyboard because it runs a full version of Windows. When you pull the keyboard, it’s still an Ultrabook, despite its now full tablet-like appearance, and regardless of how good the touch interface may be on top of Windows, you still need a keyboard and the on-screen version doesn’t cut it.

The problem here is that Microsoft still doesn’t have a clear mobile strategy yet. They’re taking their sweet time figuring this out, too. If they don’t do it, and quickly, they’re going to find themselves seriously wishing they had. At some point, they are going to lose their enterprise foot hold and will end up playing catch up to Google and Apple who are really trying to figure out how to best serve the enterprise with not only their desktop products (in the case of Apple) but their mobile products (both Google and Apple) as well. If they’re not careful, Microsoft may find themselves the Blackberry of the PC world – irrelevant and living off the glory of their past accomplishments. That only goes and lasts so far and so long…

Conclusion

Microsoft has a huge row to hoe here. They’ve been in the Windows and Office business for so long that I’m concerned that they know how to do much else. Despite buying Nokia’s mobile handset business, they still don’t have a clear mobile strategy that I or anyone else is aware of. They need to figure that out quickly or regardless of what they do with Windows 10 will make any difference…

Microsoft is unifying the Windows platform and Windows brand. That means they are putting Windows 10 on every compatible device, and it will only run what works. All apps developed for any version of Windows are SUPPOSED TO work on all Windows compatible devices without any kind of rewrites or recompiles. All of this is a huge what-if though, as no one has seen it all work yet.

I’ve been using Windows 10 now for about 6 weeks, and its ok, but really, it’s nothing more than what Windows 8.x should have been. It’s really more of Windows 8.2 than Windows 10 (or even Windows 9…) there’s nothing new and compelling in it yet that would make me want to dump Windows 7.

Windows 10 will definitely make me want to dump Windows 8, because its more Windows 7 like, plus all the “improvements,” so, the cleaned up UI on my Surface Pro makes a great deal of sense. With the ability to run all MetroUI apps in a movable, sizable Window, you don’t have to worry about things acting “stupid” on you. Windows just works like it always has, which is both good and bad.

Its good because now you can get work done again without worrying about MetroUI, or the Start Screen. The Start Menu is BACK, and it can function just like its Windows 7 counterpart if you so choose. It’s bad because, there really isn’t much of anything new that I’ve seen yet. I say “yet” because Windows 10 isn’t feature complete yet. There could be SOMETHING that Microsoft hasn’t shown us or announced yet that would make things a bit more compelling; but I have no idea what that might be.

I will say this for it all though – Microsoft better really wow the crap out of us, or there’s going to be a huge enterprise shift over the next 5 or so years to other platforms. Microsoft’s floundering won’t be tolerated as businesses look for stable, mature platforms that will help them move forward, make money and succeed in their business goals. Microsoft seems to be walking in circles with one foot nailed firmly to the floor, and most organizations won’t tolerate that for long.

What do you think? Is Windows 10 going to bring Microsoft out of the Age of Confusion? Will it set them back on the course for success; or are they headed down the same road as Blackberry is? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area, below and let me know what you think.

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Keep your Mac running at peak performance with MacKeeper

Keep your Mac running at peak performance with this must have all in one utility.

MK-02

If there’s one thing I know, its that actually using your computer causes it to be cluttered with junk that can really bog down its performance. Junk files, duplicate files, internet cache and expanding log files can really cause problems over time. Unfortunately, all of this garbage is usually flung all over your Mac, making it very difficult to get rid of. This is where MacKeeper comes in. It’s a really great all in one utility that not only cleans your Mac, but makes certain that it runs as well as it can, all the time.

MacKeeper is an essential Mac utility that provides an easy way to manage routine tasks and keep your Mac secured, clean and running fast. It’s a bundled utility, meaning that it has modules that clean, secure, optimize and control your data; and it does it all in one, single utility.

Identity fraud is one of the worst crimes in the world. When someone steals your identity, its hard to buy things or to keep your credit clean (so you can buy something later, like a car, house, or other big purchase. With MacKeeper, real time, safe browsing allows you to surf the internet and make online purchases without worrying about malicious websites. They’re blocked automatically. The app also provides built in anti-virus protection. This protection also extends to VM emulators running Windows through Parallels or VMWare. You’re Mac is kept safe regardless of what OS you happen to be using on it, which is pretty cool.

Further security protection is provided by MacKeeper’s Anti-Theft module. If your Mac is ever stolen, Anti-Theft can track its geographical location based on Wi-Fi and IP address; and then report its location back to you. It can also then use the iSight camera to take a picture of the thief. This is some of the most thorough computer security available for your Mac.

MacKeeper’s data control features also provide you with protection features to help keep your information private. If you like, you can use its Data Encryptor module to hide your files using a password so that the data can’t be found using either Finder OR Terminal. Its going to require some major hacking to get past that level of security, without the password, that is.

For data that gets accidentally deleted, you can use MacKeeper’s File Recovery module to scan your hard drive for deleted files that can sill be recovered (provided the disc space they were using hasn’t been overwritten with other data, that is). For when you need to truly erase data and make certain that it can’t be recovered, MacKeeper’s File Shredder can make certain that the files and folders you delete can’t be recovered. The one thing that you need to be aware of here is that shredding files with a military style wipe can take a lot of time. Be ready to commit to that; but if you need the files securely wiped, MacKeeper can do a really great job of insuring that they are truly erased.

MacKeeper can also help you optimize your Mac. Update Tracker analyzes all of the apps you have installed on your Mac and then checks to see if an updated version is available. If found, MacKeeper can download and install the new version for you. In order to help you keep your Mac working at peak performance, MacKeeper can analyze which apps run as login items and then allow you to control which apps do and do not start up with the system when it boots.

However, I think the best part of MacKeeper is its Geek on Demand Service and its new, Human Assistance. With Geek on Demand, you get expert technical assistance and answers to your computing questions within 48 hours. Human Assistance gives you instant access to a live tech. I wish I had more information on it, but all that is currently available is a teaser on their current website. There should be more information available as soon as their new site hits the ‘net.

MacKeeper really sets the bar for Mac cleaning and all in one utilities. It pretty much handles everything that you’d need an all in one utility to handle and it does it fairly well. The one thing that is both good and bad about the app is that the only module(s) that come activated are the cleaning apps, and then only the basic ones. If you want to use some of the other utilities – Internet Security or Backup – for example, , you’re going to have to install the utility. I guess this is a good thing, as you may already have an internet security product installed, and installing another by default with MacKeeper may really make a mess of your Mac.

Initially, I had almost 7.0GB of junk files on my Mac. While this gave me 7.0GB more space, the deletion of all of the cache files slowed some browsing functions down, as Safari and Chrome had to redownload some things again to speed the browsing experience back up. Its give and take with some of this stuff, and cache files, while potentially space hogs can really make your computer run faster.

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Windows 10 – What You Need to Know

Here’s what’s important about Windows 10

Introduction

I’ve been in Windows a long time. I actually missed Windows 1 and Windows 2. I took a look and thought they were a total waste of time; and back in the day, they were. Flat, 8bit graphic interfaces were a dime a dozen. Quarterdeck Office Systems (the makers of QEMM Memory Manager, and DESQView and DESQViewX) had a product that put a text based, windowing system on top of DOS (much like Windows 1 and Windows 2) and then had a GUI based environment also running on top of DOS (DESQView/X) much like Windows 3.x; and while BYTE – my old and much revived online version of the venerable paper publication – praised it, in the end, the organization tanked and was eventually acquired by Symantec.

The point in bringing this all up is that the flat state of the UI in both DESQView and DESQView/X is very similar to what has been labeled as “new” over at Microsoft. In fact, its not new, but a return to the more simple and perhaps more resource efficient. It seems as though Windows Vista cured many of us of the need for eye candy.

With Windows 10, everything old is new again, with Microsoft taking its customers back to the beginning… well sort of. The graphics are much better today than they were back in the 1990’s, and thankfully, they aren’t nearly as heavy as they were back with Windows Vista.

So, what’s new and fun about Windows 10? There are some new features. There are some returning features. So, what’s new and fun about Windows 10? Lets take a look and find out.

The Start Button and the Start Menu

Tech-Preview_Start-menu

The Windows Start Button came back for a return engagement in Windows 8.1. The button brought back a familiar UI element; but many – me included – felt that the return of the button, and only the button, wasn’t enough. Back then, the button took you right to the Start Screen.

In Windows 10, by default, it still does.

However, it can be configured to use the Start MENU; and many of the members of the Tech Preview – me included – are relieved that its back. I can’t tell you enough how much having the functionality back is really appreciated.

Of the changes that were made in Windows 8.x, the Start Screen was the most obvious, and perhaps one of the most disliked changes to the OS. Microsoft has taken a lot of heat over that particular change. It hasn’t been received well.

Microsoft decided to try to make Windows into a universal OS at a time when the public wasn’t ready to see the platforms combined. They still aren’t, though Microsoft is still trying to approach that line of business. However, they’re taking a different approach – through the Windows Store. All apps are supposed to be universal apps, working on Windows Phone, Windows RT and Windows 10.

Here’s a cool tip about the new Start Menu. It’s a mish-mash between the Start Menu and the Start Screen, meaning you can pin Live Tiles to the new Start Menu…or not. The Start Menu can be modified to look like its old self. While its possible to pin as many Live Tiles as you need or want to the Start Menu, you can also remove all the ones that are pinned to it by default, making it as Windows 7 like as possible, which should make a great many people, very happy.

The Desktop is Back

ModernUI – or as its often called, Metro – was and is a huge sore spot for Windows and for Microsoft. While the Start Screen may work well for a mobile device, regardless of size (meaning a smartphone OR a tablet), it doesn’t work well on a laptop or a desktop machine. The way the UI works is counter-intuitive to the way users interact with a desktop or laptop computer. Users voted with their feet…or their hard drives. Many either downgraded their new computers to Windows 7, bought add-on software that allowed users to replace the Start Screen with Start Menu functionality (like that found in Start8), or moved to a different OS entirely.

Microsoft heard the outcry during the life cycle of Windows 8.x, and gave users the ability to boot directly to the Desktop and brought back the Start Button. Now with Windows 10, the Desktop is back to a more prominent state.

In fact, its back to a point where the Start Screen and the rest of Modern UI is (nearly) completely hidden. This is important, especially for desktop computers and for desktop replacement class laptops without touch screens. This return to the Desktop will make it easier for enterprise customers to make the transition. If that happens and the adoption rate for Windows 10 is respectable, then it will have been worth it for Microsoft to back track on Metro and the Desktop.

Continuum Mode

For those of us stuck in the middle, or for those that have a hybrid PC – one that has a detachable keyboard, like the Surface Pro 1-3 – Microsoft has created something called Continuum Mode.

Continuum Mode kicks in when a keyboard is separated from the tablet based CPU. When you separate the two, tablet mode kicks in, and you get the Live Tiles and ModernUI. When you reattach the keyboard, you get the Desktop. This auto transitioning is Continuum Mode; and unique not only to Windows 10 but to transitory devices that can be both laptops/ultrabooks and tablets.

ModernUI Apps in a Window

ModernUI – or Metro – Apps are those full screen, non-Windowed monstrosities that have been the bane of user’s existences since the initial release of Windows 8. Not many liked the full screened, non-Windowed, Windows apps that contained little to no familiar UI elements that everyone is used to. Prior to Windows 10, once opened the only thing that could close them was the computer after a set period of time of non-use.

If you wanted, you could use a third party application, like ModernMix from Stardock Software to put them in a window. That gave you the chance to make them more Windows like at least.
Now, with Windows 10, ModernUI apps appear in a window by default. This means that they behave like any other Windows app. Now, you can size them, minimize them, and close them very easily.

QuLHy

ModernUI has received a make over and now, it seems a lot more palatable than it was before being windowed.

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Windows 10 – If you Love it, Set it Free

Some thing that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade

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Over the past 20 plus years, Microsoft has made a great deal of money with both Windows and Office. In fact, those two products alone have given the company a great deal of freedom to pursue other products and technologies. Without either Windows or Office, Microsoft wouldn’t exist… Period.

When it comes to consumers, keeping everyone on the same page, has been a huge problem for Apple as well as Microsoft. Apple addressed their OS based issues and now has a plan to get their users on the latest version at all times.

Microsoft doesn’t have such a plan, and really needs a strategy. They may be doing that with Windows 10. Some think that they are planning on giving Windows 10 away to consumers for free.

If they do, it makes a great deal of sense. Many consumers NEVER upgrade their computer’s operating system. Their PC came with operating system N. It should always have operating system N, and they don’t want to change it. They purchased it because it has specific features and functions provided by hardware integrated with features in that OS. They may not have those features if they change their operating systems, and therefore, don’t want to lose them. They may also not be a big fan of change; or feel they are technically competent enough to upgrade or change the OS on their computer. Whatever the reason, many people don’t change their OS, which creates support issues for the PC manufacturer and (in this case) Microsoft.

While changing a computer’s operating system may not be at the top of every computer user’s list, keeping it current can make a user’s life a lot easier. Keeping current makes your PC more secure as well as better performing. So, its good for consumers.

Making updates and upgrades available to consumers free of charge can create a lot of difficulty, however, especially for hardware manufacturers who have historically relied on new OS versions to jumpstart consumer PC sales.

However, a free Windows is an idea whose time has come. The problem that they have is the frequency of updates. Most everyone is used to getting a new version of Windows on an annual basis. We’re also used to getting new updates or fixes from Microsoft every month on Patch Tuesday. For this to work, the frequency of updates has to be one that is palatable to the people receiving those updates.

Businesses don’t like monthly updates. Updates to business PC’s at that frequency create too much disruption. However, consumer PC’s represent a less disruptive path, and updates at that frequency are far less worrisome, if not desired. Consumers get everything that Microsoft releases every Patch Tuesday.

The enterprise, however, will have a bit of a different cadence. Enterprise customers will get all of the updates at the same time as consumer customers. They’ll have the ability to package all of the updates together and then release them at their convenience as a stake in the ground with a shelf life of 10 years. They’ll be able to use that stake in the ground for as long as they need or want. If they lock themselves in (to that stake in the ground), they’ll continue to get security updates, but their feature set won’t get updated unless and until they remove the stake in the ground.

In the end, though, support and the updates for corporate customers will cost them. In the end, support and updates for consumers – those that are using the most up to date versions of Windows – should be free.

What do you think? Should Windows be free for consumers? Should they be able to get all security updates as well as new features and functionality free of charge? Should corporate customers have to pay for everything? Why don’t you chime in the comments section below, and let me know what you think.

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Microsoft Launches Windows 10 Technical Preview

“But this one goes up to [10]..!”

Microsoft-windows10

Introduction

I’ve been working with Windows for quite some time. I was one of Microsoft’s first technical beta testers, WAY back in the day. In fact, I still have a Microsoft Account with one of the ORIGINAL @.msn.com addresses. It goes back to the Windows 95 and MSN Online betas from 1994-1995. MSN Online was Microsoft’s answer to AOL. The address is still active and used today.

I’ve been interested in Windows based tablets and TabletPC since the early 2000’s. TabletPC showed a lot of promise, but like so many things in technology, it was a bit before its time. Convertible TabletPC’s took off, but slate styled TabletPC’s (the form factor that was the precursor to the iPad and ever version of Surface and Surface Pro Windows based tablets), did not.

In fact, slate styled TabletPC’s were a total failure. The idea would eventually take root after Apple came a long with the iPad and showed us what a tablet could really do, but slate styled TabletPC’s are yet another example of technology introduced way before its time.

Microsoft Introduced Windows 8 in 2012 and like Windows Vista, the public – as well as the enterprise – completely rejected it. I think that the public and the corporate world disliked Vista because it was a performance dud. I think the public and corporate world HATED Windows 8 because the user interface changes were so drastically different from Windows XP and Windows 7 that they just couldn’t get used to it and be productive with it.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be looking at Windows 10 Technical Preview. I’ll be taking a look at both the Consumer and Enterprise versions, though in all honestly, without a AD server set up and running, I’m not going to be able to do too much evaluating on the enterprise side. The situation that I thought I might be in didn’t come through, and my look at some of the more corporate tools may not materialize as I’d hoped. However, I’m going to try…

I’ll be looking at the Consumer version on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 tablet and the Enterprise version on my Surface Pro 1. Today, I’m going to talk about Setup.

Setting up Windows 10

There are a few different versions of the Windows 10 family available. Most people who get involved, will have the Windows 10 Technical Preview. IT Professionals will have access to the Windows 10 Technical Preview for Enterprise as well as the Windows Server Technical Preview, the windows Server Technical Preview (VHD), the Microsoft Hyper-V Server Technical Preview and the System Center Technical Preview.

Now, just for everyone’s information, here are the descriptions for the last few items:

• Microsoft System Center solutions help IT pros manage the physical and virtual information technology (IT) environments across datacenters, client computers, and devices. Using these integrated and automated management solutions, organizations can be more productive service providers to their businesses.
• Microsoft Hyper-V, formerly known as Windows Server Virtualization, is a native hypervisor; it can create virtual machines on x86-64 systems. Starting with Windows 8, Hyper-V supersedes Windows Virtual PC as the hardware virtualization component of the client editions of Windows NT.
• Windows Server (VHD) is simply the Windows 10 Server, but running from a Virtual Hard Disk.

With all of that said, Let’s get into the specifics of installing Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Microsoft Surface 1

Setting up Windows 10 Technical Preview up on my Surface Pro 1 was easy. I chose the 64bit version, downloaded the ISO file, burned it to a DVD and ran the setup file. After that, installing Office Professional Plus 2013 was super easy. Everything seems to be running correctly and working as intended. While I know there are some touch enabled features that aren’t quite there at this point, what I’m seeing so far looks solid.

What’s going to be key here is the balance of Windows 7 and Windows 8 styled interfaces that create what is supposed to be Windows 10. Specifically, what we’re looking to see here is how well MetroUI or ModernUI is hidden, removed or modified to provide a more user acceptable UI.

This is a wait and see development that I will be examining over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more on this, as well as Microsoft Windows 10.

Dell Latitude 10 ST2 Windows 8 Pro Tablet

Wow.

This is clearly an example of all computers/ tablets are NOT created equally. I’ve been trying to install Windows 10 on this tablet now for about 3 days. It hasn’t gone well at all. I have no idea what is wrong, or what is going on.

First of all, I tried to install the 64bit version. Huge mistake, as the ST2 tablet is a 32bit device. Seeing as setup wouldn’t even start, I had asked my good friend, Larry Seltzer how he got it installed on his ST2 and he reminded me that the Dell as a 32bit machine. So, back to downloading I went.

After I got the right version installed, I decided that I wanted the Enterprise version installed, so I grabbed it, burned it to a DVD and then installed it, completely wiping the tablet in the process. Big mistake…

I’m not sure what the issue is with the Enterprise version on this tablet, but it wasn’t very well liked by this unit. I wasn’t able to install any software on it, including Office Professional Plus 2013. The install routine would get about 35-40% through and simply stall. I let the app sit there “running” for more than 16 hours, and it never budged. In total, I’ve tried to get Office installed on this tablet for about 2.5 days. Its not been fun or encouraging.

I think I’m running into some hardware issues. I’m not sure if the processor isn’t completely supported, if there’s a graphics problem or WHAT else might be causing the install routine to go out to lunch, but this is really ticking me off. I have no idea why things are stalling in the middle of the install routine.

The only way I’ve been able to kill the stalled install routine is to turn off the device. That however, preserves the install state of the Office install, and when you try to restart it, it must first remove the changes made by the PREVIOUS install before it can continue, giving the unit yet another chance to have the install stall

I checked the Dell Support Page for this model and I do have a BIOS update available for it. There is also a relatively new chipset driver update that is available. I’m going to try the BIOS update first and then see if the chipset drivers will install or help if the BIOS update doesn’t resolve the issue. I was five BIOS versions behind…

This could also be an issue where the support files for the ST2 just aren’t really there yet. Honestly, I have no idea why I’m having issues and Larry Seltzer didn’t. We have the same device. I’ll keep everyone posted on this.

In the mean time, do you have any questions or concerns about Windows 10 that you’d like me to look into for you, please let me know and I’ll be happy to get the info and then report back to everyone. In the mean time, I’m going to go grab a crowbar and see if I can’t get everything installed on the Dell that I want and need to get installed. This is getting to be a bit on the silly side…

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Manage your Windows PC with GEGeek Tech Toolkit

Manage your Windows PC with this collection of technical apps and utilities.

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Windows is a great operating system that is riddled with opportunities for improvement. Historically, this is a great way of saying that the OS has serious issues. Its also a great way of saying that it needs help. Which is one of the reasons why utility suites like GEGeek Tech Toolkit is something that nearly every somewhat technical Windows user needs. If you have a Windows PC, you really need to do yourself a favor and check it out.

GEGeek Tech Toolkit is a complete collection of over 300 Portable freeware, tech related programs. All of them are all accessible from a single Menu Launcher Utility. The utility suite resides on a USB or flash drive, providing the user the ability to update the programs with little to no intervention. This insures that the apps are completely portable.

The app is a system tray tool that gives you access to its cache of tools and utilities. You run the toolkit main executable, and it puts everything on the flash drive at your disposal within a couple of clicks. It has apps like WinRAR, Chrome and Firefox, as well as malware removal and disk recovery tools. The apps are part of the download and included with the suite. Everything runs off the flash drive.

I’m actually afraid to run any of the utilities in this suite, but I was finally able to get the software to download and correctly decompress. It took me five timeDs to do it, but I finally got it to work.

Getting the software to download, however, was difficult. It would not download to my Mac either via OS X or Windows 7 via Parallels. The download kept getting corrupted just at the end. I was finally able to download the software on my Surface Pro, but after decompressing the downloaded file, Windows Defender identified at least 7 components as hacker software/malware.

Finally, the product website is a huge mess. There’s SO much information screaming at you when you visit the product’s website that its very difficult to process it all and make sense of it. Even I got lost in it; and I know my way around software and websites. Its in need of a serious overhaul as well.

While everything in this utility suite runs, I’m not entirely certain I can recommend the application to general users. Use this one at your own risk.

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