Top 10 Tips to Avoid Malware

In light of the latest bit of ransomware – Petya – here are tips to prevent getting hacked

The latest bit of ransomware – dubbed Petya – is currently running through banks, financial institutions and healthcare facilities in both Asia and Europe. The bug, like most ransomware, encrypts corporate data by encrypting hard drives, preventing access to needed data and computer systems. It also seems to have crossed the pond and entered the US.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck reported that it had become infected with the malware as did multinational law firm DLA Piper, which counts over 20 different offices in the United States. Heritage Valley Health Systems, a health care network that runs two hospitals in Western Pennsylvania, also confirmed in a statement to Recode on Tuesday to be the victim of the same ransomware attack that has spread around the globe.

Petya in and of itself is a bit problematic in that this particular bug has the ability to adapt and mutate quickly, often working around patches that have been released by operating system and anti-malware vendors alike. With Petya, it’s difficult to insure your computing systems stay malware free. Anti-malware and OS vendors are having a great deal of trouble staying ahead of the game.

So, what’s the best way to stay Petya (as well as other phishing and ransomware infections) free? The best advice I can give ANYONE is to follow these top 10 computer security tips.

1. What’s in a Name?
Just because you see an email in your inbox from a name you recognize doesn’t mean they sent it to you. Be wary of all email in your inbox. Inspect the email address. If it looks suspicious or if you don’t recognize the domain (the wording after the “at sign” – for example @microsoft.com), don’t open it. Delete it immediately.
2. Look but don’t Click
Hover your mouse over any embedded links in any of the emails you receive. Don’t click before you do. A tool tip should appear showing the actual email address, or in the case of browser based clients, the address should display in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window. If the address isn’t one you recognize or if it looks strange, again, don’t click it.
3. Check for Spelling or Grammar Mistakes
Legitimate messages don’t have major spelling errors or clumsily structured sentences. If the message reads strangely and strikes you as unprofessional, its likely a fake. Delete it.
4. Analyze the Salutation
Messages from financial institutions will always address you by your name. They’re never going to call you, “Valued Customer.” If you get something like this from one of your financial institutions, I’d delete it and ignore it.
5. Don’t Give out Your Personal Information
Legitimate companies will never ask you to provide identity information or credentials via email. EVER.
6. Beware of Urgent or Threatening Language in the Subject Line of any eMail
Invoking fear via threatening or urgent language is a common phishing tactic. Be wary of any email indicating that your “account has been suspended,” or your account has had an “unauthorized login attempt.” There’s an excellent chance the emails are bogus.
7. Review the Signature Line
Lack of details about the signer or the absence of their contact information at the end of the message strongly suggests a phishing attempt
8. Don’t Click on Attachments
Malware payloads are often embedded in email attachments. Don’t open any you weren’t expecting, even from someone you know. Contact them offline, if possible, and confirm they sent you the attachment.
9. Don’t Trust the Information in an eMail Header
Hackers are smart enough now a days to spoof not only the display name, but the mail header as well. Even if you know how to check this information, you may not be able to validate it as genuine, so don’t bother. Assume this information is fraudulent in any suspect email.
10. Don’t Believe Anything you see
This is NOT your father’s internet any more. The world is hell bent on stealing everything you own and could own in the future (your identity, your credit, etc.), so the best defense is a strong offense – don’t trust anyone or anything you suspect is illegitimate. It may look valid, but it’s better to err on the side of caution that to spend the next 8 to 14 months straightening out your credit because you were the victim of a phishing attack. If you have even the slightest doubt or it even remotely looks suspicious, don’t open the message.

The point of all of this is that THIS particular piece of malware REQUIRES diligence.

Petya is rapidly changing. Its mutating and adapting to patches and detection engines in popular and well known, professional grade malware prevention products. You HAVE to be careful here, or you may end up losing everything on your PC.

Aside from the above, you should also do the following proactive steps on a regular basis. (start NOW if you haven’t done these yet, and insure that you do it malware free):

1. Install and Run an Anti-Malware Package
I have used a number of different packages over the years. Right now, one of my favorites is IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro. Regardless of what you use, get one, install it, and use it… often.
2. Get your data on a cloud service
Whether we’re talking productivity files (Word, Excel, etc.) or pictures and home movies, it doesn’t matter. Get your data synchronizing with a cloud service so that you have an easy way to get your data back if it gets taken hostage.
3. Start a Local Backup Regimen
Macs have Time Machine. Windows users have Windows Backup; or you can use AOMEI Backuper and AOMEI Image Deploy. However, any way you cut it, you need to start and execute a local backup plan.
4. Start an Off-Site Backup Regimen
In order to do this, you need an off-site back up service like Carbonite or Backblaze. These low cost, subscription based services allow you to back up your computer over the internet and allow you to do a simple restore as well via the internet or via a hard drive that you can order and have delivered to you.

So, in summary:

1. Trust your Gut. Don’t open goofy looking email. Just delete them
2. Backup your data
3. Install and run an antimalware app

Have you gotten hit by ransomware? Have you paid the ransom, or have you just blown or replaced the drive and started over? I’d love to hear from you if you have gotten bitten. If you have, hit me up in the Discussion area, below, and tell me all about it.

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Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate

Download, Convert and burn your videos to DVD’s with this easy to use cross-platform tool.

When you’re a parent or grandparent, believe it or not, video is what you live for. Thirty to forty years ago, it used to be pictures. Grandparents would patiently wait for pictures of their grandchildren to come in the mail; or they’d be hand delivered to them. Either way, what they got were physical stills, and that’s about it.

Today, it’s a completely different story.

Today with smartphones and with the internet, parents (and grandparents alike) can take and share not only stills but video with nearly everyone, at any time. However, not everyone is as technology savvy as the next person. Sometimes, you need a different, more traditional way to share video. That’s why I like Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate. It’s a cross platform (Windows and Mac) tool that allows you to share your story regardless of computer type.

Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate is an all-in-one multimedia suite that enables you to extract audio from videos, convert videos to any popular format with zero quality loss and 30x faster conversion speed. With it you can transform any home DVD movie to nearly any format you want, burn & copy home DVDs, provide one-click online video download, edit videos and more. The package is very compact and easy to use.

Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate supports native codecs like Apple Pores, Intermediate Codec, and DNxHD, so you can convert videos to one optimized format for iMovie, FCP etc., and then edit them for the best overall effect. The process is fast, over 30x faster than previous versions; and allows you to convert both audio and video to and from over 70 different formats. The app also supports native codec support for professional apps like Final Cut Pro.

App Pro’s: Works on both Mac and Windows platforms, provides for conversion, downloading

App Con’s: Not all web browser extensions install correctly

Conclusion: Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate is an easy to use multi-platform application that is fast and easy to use. You can use it not only to download non-copy protected videos from the internet; but you can use it to burn DVD’s with cool menu systems as well.

The app runs off of a subscription service, costing $40USD per year for a single computer license. You can also purchase a single, lifetime license for $60USD. A family license (2-5 computers) for $118USD for Macs and $100USD for Windows PC’s.

I’ve really liked using this app. It’s easy to use and offers a great many features that you would normally only find on a much more expensive, desktop app. The only issue I’ve had with this app is the installation of its Chrome Extension. The process generates an HTTP404 error, clearly indicating that either the application is in error, or the extension location in the store has been moved.

URL: http://wondershare-video-converter-ultimate-mac-version.soft32.com/

 

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Windows Essentials are Dead – Part 2

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

Introduction
As I mentioned last time, Microsoft has recently discontinued the download and support of a set of add-on apps that were formally part of its “essentials” brand, as these add-on apps were considered an “essential” part of the Windows Live experience; and while they were supported, life on the Windows side of the fence was pretty good.

Unfortunately, Microsoft killed these applications as of 2017-01-10, meaning that new installations of Windows Live Essentials are no longer possible through its web based installation program. While the installation app is available through Microsoft and via any number of download sites, any attempt to actually run the install app is met with a download error. Here is the official statement from Microsoft:

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

Last time, I covered almost all of Windows Essentials; and they included the following applications

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

While there are apps included with Windows 10 meant to replace Photo Gallery and Mail, there aren’t replacements for Movie Maker or Family Safety (the latter was meant for Windows 7, only). Windows Messenger was replaced with Skype when Microsoft purchased it; and OneDrive took on a life of its own. It’s now available as part of Windows 10 and includes 5GB of free storage. Additional storage can be purchased as part of Office 365. Users can also purchase up to 50GB of storage for $0.99 (99 cents) USD, per month.

Windows Live Writer
Most users of Windows Live Writer have a few poignant things to say about it. Thankfully, most of them are positive. In contrast, while Microsoft Word can be used to create and edit HTML files, most people that need a “real” HTML editor will tell you – actually they’ll plead with you –choose a different editor. Word inserts a lot of unnecessary – as well as other – tags in the HTML it creates, and HTML edited with it, is considered dirty and “expensive” (meaning that it requires more processing power to crunch through the unnecessary HTML tags than cleaner HTML written in a different editor). Most websites won’t use documents or articles written in Word HTML. A number of years ago, I had more than one publication turn down or reject HTML written with Word. Having a tool like Live Writer to compose and post articles directly to one or more online publications is the closest thing you’re going to have to an offline CMS for the masses.

Windows Live Writer first came out to support Windows Live Spaces. Live Spaces were Microsoft’s answer to GeoCities. GeoCities was Microsoft’s answer to Yahoo’s mass attempt at getting the world to claim their slice of the digital frontier, if you will. GeoCities was a place where just about anyone could create a website and create some kind of presence on the web. It was also an attempt at competing with additional properties like MySpace and Xanga. The big difference with Microsoft’s solution is that they provided a tool in Live writer that had a familiar WYSIWYG interface, like the one found in Word.

Live Writer made it very easy to post to Live Space. Thankfully, the app also worked with other popular blogging platforms, including WordPress, SharePoint, Blogger and TypePad, among others, meaning you can write and automatically post to sites built on these supported platforms. You can also use WLW to create HTML that may be used by other CMS’ (Content Management Systems).

Unfortunately, Windows Live Writer died with the rest of the Windows Essentials on 2017-01-10.

Open Live Writer

Thankfully, prior to its death, Microsoft decided to release the application to the open source community. Windows Live Writer was replaced with Open Live Writer; and strangely enough, the open sourced version of WLW, is completely identical to the Microsoft branded app.

Interestingly enough, the new version of the app supports the same blogging services. The only difference with OLW is that you already have to have the blog started somewhere (meaning, it has to have a URL and the ability to post articles prior to you writing one).

I’ve been using the app for just a little bit now, and quite honestly, I’m pleased and VERY relieved. When I picked up a Surface Book earlier this year, I wanted to install Windows Live Essentials on it. Unfortunately, it was after 2017-01-10, and as I mentioned previously, attempts to install after that date will be met with installation/ download errors (even though you can still download the installation program. Searching for “windows live essentials download” on your search engine of choice should bring up a number of different download links from reputable download sites all OVER the internet. Thankfully (and rightfully so), Soft32 doesn’t have it in its download catalog.

Conclusion
As an HTML editor and web article creation tool, Open Live Writer is just as effective and good at its job as Windows Live Writer was. To be very honest, those that depend on or prefer this tool to others have a great deal to be thankful for. Open Live Writer satisfies the need for a posting tool for just about any and every website out there, plus it creates some of the cleanest HTML, the same as any of the bigger, paid tools on the market.

Windows Essentials had some of the best Microsoft applets ever created. They covered a great deal of holes in the OS. With the advance of Windows to more sophisticated versions, Microsoft has finally retired the suite.

Its components may have been replaced, but can still be used, provided you already have them installed. After 2017-01-10, they can no longer be installed on any computer, regardless of operating system.

Some of their replacements can be installed and/ or used at your convenience; and if you’re curious, or interested, they’re a good move and good choice of applet to address the needs they fulfill.

Are you currently using Windows Essentials? Which version of Windows are using them on? What is it that you find most valuable about them? Are there better apps out there, in your opinion?

If there are, I need you to tell me all about it. Meet me in the Discussion area, below, and give me all the information you have. I’d love to hear it.

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Windows 10 Creator’s Update New Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Give the Governor, hu-rumph!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windows itself is a different story entirely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Windows 10 Creator Update Release Date Announced

The Windows 10 Creator’s Update will be released on 2017-04-11.

Today is the world is abuzz with the news that Microsoft will be releasing its much touted Windows 10 Creator’s Update on 2017-04-11. This update will work with all Windows 10 Anniversary Update compatible PC’s and is specifically intended for Microsoft’s larger, touch screen enabled, all in one PC, the Microsoft Surface Studio.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Windows and devices group calls the Creator’s Update a “pretty major” one. He further states that its “[Microsoft’s] vision is to empower the creator in all of us.”

When I jumped back into the Surface, with the Surface Book, I also jumped back into the Windows 10 Insider program on the Slow Ring. This means that the code that I’m getting is still prerelease code – still a beta – but is much more stable than other betas in other rings in the program. I’m liking what I’m seeing; but so far, for me, the Creator’s Update isn’t as big as Microsoft is making it out to be. I haven’t seen anything THAT major…yet.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on. Here are seven of probably the biggest and most notable items in the Creator’s Update that you’ll notice, even if you DON’T pick up a Surface Studio – which, by the way, starts at $2999.99.

  • Paint 3D
    Paint has been around since Windows 3.x. Its seen a few updates in terms of UI/UX; but its functionality has remained pretty constant – provide some basic way for a user to create a bitmap. The app now supports creating graphics in 2D or 3D formats. If you have a 3D printer, you can print your 3D creation as well…
  • Photos & Maps
    If you’re so inclined, you can now take your Surface Pen – or other supported stylus – and mark up graphics or maps in their respective apps. It’s not ground breaking, but it can be fun.
  • Microsoft EDGE
    Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, users still do NOT prefer either IE or EDGE. Most Windows users are using Chrome before either MS browser. However, EDGE is now faster, more secure and easier on your battery, and that last, ESPECIALLY over Chrome, which is a known battery hog. Microsoft claims an hour more use while watching streaming video using EDGE vs. Chrome.

Updates to EDGE include the following:

  1. The ability to preview visual thumbnails of your open tabs by hovering over a given tab.
  2. The ability to set aside open tabs to reference later, bringing them back by selecting a “restore tabs” button.
  3. EDGE now offers a variety of extensions including a Pinterest Pin It Button, Amazon Assistant (surfacing deals), and a Translator extension that lets you translate Web pages in more than 50 languages. EDGE also has an MS Office extension, letting you view and edit files without having Office installed on your computer.
  4. Microsoft has created an eBook Store as part of the Windows Store, where users may buy eBooks and read them in EDGE. Microsoft isn’t sharing how many books will be available in the Windows Store at launch.
  • Security
    The Creator’s Update includes a new Windows Defender Security Center. With it, you can examine the overall security status of your system. By clicking on a Health Report , you can your computer’s most recent scan results. The details of this system are still coming together, so I would expect updates to this new component to be available in a Patch Tuesday deployment near you.
  • Gaming
    Windows 10 now has a dedicated Gaming section in Settings now, and includes a Game Mode that is turned on by default. Game Mode prioritizes system resources when your gaming to insure that you get the best gaming experience from your hardware. This includes optimizations to the new game streaming process that Microsoft acquired last August from Beam. I know my oldest boy will be thankful for this when he streams games from our Xbox One. You will also be able to play games via the Xbox app on either your Xbox One or Windows 10 PC in the near future.
  • Color Adjusted Night-Time Display
    A number of different folks have issues with blue-based light in the evening. Studies have shown that exposing yourself to too much blue light before you go to bed can create sleep related issues. In other words, computing before bed makes it hard to fall asleep.A new feature in the Creator’s Update allows you to alter the color pallet on your display automatically so that you get warmer colors in the evening. The warmer colors on your monitor are supposed to help you sleep (or not be kept awake too long after calling it quits for the night). All I’ve noticed so far is that it can make everything on your monitor appear a little yellowy. I have no idea if this is going to make a difference in the long run, though you can use this as well as a new feature to limit the amount of time your kids spend on the PC as well as on the Xbox One’s version of the Creator’s Update.
  • Augmented and Mixed Reality
    Put this more in the coming soon category, but the Creators Update will support the first Windows Mixed Reality-enabled headsets when they arrive later this year from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo, at a starting price of $299.Microsoft says that the headsets will have built in sensors, that will enable you to walk around a room without the need for any external markers or sensors. This will more easily mark your boundaries . Unfortunately, it’s not clear if this is also going to come to any consumer version of the HoloLens or not. However, these enhancements are eagerly anticipated by many; and should be fun to try when they’re available.

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Another One Bites the Dust

CyanogenMod is Dead. Ok… so… NOW what?!

This is a real head shaker; AND a huge mess. As with so many small companies and/ or startups, what was once meant to concur the world, has ended in a flaming mess. It’s a common enough story, but one that bears a bit of telling, in that many – including myself – will find interesting.

It was announced a couple of days ago that CyanogenMod would shut down. By shutting down it’s not that the OS is going go back into a state of community driven development (at least not exactly), no. The entire company that came out of CyanogenMod is shutting its doors, its development, its services, etc.

The company is gone. Unfortunately, surprises like this often happen with internet properties. Unfortunately, you just never really know what’s going to happen. Sometimes, change comes suddenly and can be very jarring.

In 2015, the CEO of Cyanogen, Kit McMaster said they were going to kill Google. Two years later, they’re shutting everything down. It’s a common enough tale. Apparently, the company has burned through over $100M in venture capital and has burned down a number of bridges. The one real win the company got – their partnership with One Plus One, failed horribly.

In July of 2016, the company’s CTO and cofounder, Steve Kondik claimed that the company wasn’t going anywhere (meaning they were staying the course) and they haven’t put aside their intent to bring CyanogenMod to the world.

As often happens with organizations like this, the company lacked a single, centralized vision. There were serious conflicts between founders and senior management some of them got so “violent” between Kondik and McMaster (the CTO and the CEO, respectively) that McMaster swore to burn Cyanogen to the ground.

Which is exactly what happened.

Kondik’s power was reduced by October 2016 and Cyanogen announced it was switching from an Android fork – its original strategy – to an open sourced, modular OS. This would enable interested hardware manufacturers to put some, part or all of Cyanogen into stock or a home brew version of Android.

CyanogenMod, however, is dead. The company will shut down its nightly builds, its services as well as every other part of its OS on 2016-12-31. The dream, if you will, the brand, is dead. McMaster may have “won,” but Kondik is going to have the last laugh.

The OS will be forked. According to Kondik, as stated on the CyanogenMod Google+ list, the list’s moderators indicated that the OS would indeed be forked and continued,
“However, CM has always been more than the name and more than the infrastructure. CM has been a success based on the spirit, ingenuity and effort of its individual contributors – back when it was Kondik in his home, to the now thousands of contributors past and present.

Embracing that spirit, we the community of developers, designers, device maintainers and translators have taken the steps necessary to produce a fork of the CM source code and pending patches. This is more than just a ‘rebrand’. This fork will return to the grassroots community effort that used to define CM while maintaining the professional quality and reliability you have come to expect more recently.”

The reincarnation of CyanogenMod is going to be called LineageOS, and its believed that Kondik is leading the effort. The project, however, is still getting off the ground. Time will tell if the effort will be successful; and its likely to remain in this “stealth mode” for a while.

LineageOS is going to be built on parts of CyanogenMod 13 and 14. However, it’s not known when it may actually hit the streets. It’s also believed that Kondik is heading up the new effort. While they can’t actually assume any Cyanogen IP or intellectual property, they can build upon the idea of an Android OS that’s small, fast, easy to use. That’s the hope for LineageOS, if and when it is released.

Unfortunately, not much more is known. However, the LineageOS site – if you really want to call it that – promises more information will be released on Tuesday 2016-12-27. If you click on the Status link, you will see that some work, is indeed taking place.

LineageOS plans on putting in the following infrastructure:

  • Jenkins for builds
  • A Portal for downloads
  • A set of download mirrors
  • Gerrit Code Review for development
  • Jira for defects and requirements management
  • A statistics page
  • A wiki for knowledge management

Jenkins is already up to some extent, but is listed with a partial outage. Gerrit Code Review is up, but is listed with performance issues. Everything else is currently down. The incident log indicates that LineageOS will be monitoring Gerrit over the next few days.

No other information is currently available.

It’s clear that everything is still in its infancy at LineageOS. It’s going to take a bit to get things going, so if you’re interested in seeing this on your Android device, you’re going to need to wait a bit. You’re also likely going to need to pre-root your Android device. You’re likely going to need to do a bit of work prior to LineageOS and its first public build are released.

How the OS will be structured and what features it will have, have yet to be revealed. However, if everything happens the way I think and hope that it will, Android users will be in for a treat. LineageOS is likely to pick up where the original CyanogenMod left off before it became a “big deal” and got ahead of itself.

Are you an Android user? Have you rooted your device and do you use a custom ROM? Did CyanogenMod interest you? Have you tried it before? Is LineageOS something that you’re interested in? Will you install it on your device – given that its supported – once its released? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your take on Cyanogen’s situation as well as what’s become of it and on LineageOS and its direction. I’d love to hear from you…

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Apple Releases watchOS 3.1.1

The latest release has a number of different fixes…

On 2016-12-12 the day proved to be very busy for Apple’s software release department. They released a number of different updates for their mobile platforms including wearables. watchOS 3.1.1 was released to the public with a number of different fixes.

The update included improvements and bug fixes for the following, more notable items:

  • Fixes an issue that could prevent contact names from appearing in the Messages app and notifications
  • Fixes an issue that could impact ability to respond to notifications
  • Resolves an issue where the Stocks complication may not update on the watch face
  • Fixes an issue that may prevent the Activity rings from displaying on the Activity watch faces
  • Fixes an issue that prevented the dials on an analog watch face from appearing after changing the temperature unit in the Weather app
  • Resolves an issue that could cause the Maps app to stay launched after navigation has ended
  • Resolves an issue where the incorrect date could be displayed in the Calendar app month view

Apple’s watchOS is the platform for their industry leading wearable, the Apple Watch. Version 3.x has significant improvements over versions 1 and 2; and is significantly faster, even on Apple’s original Apple Watch, affectionately dubbed, “Series 0” by many tech industry pundits, including myself.

Apple also released iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1 to the public today. Common to both of these platforms is Apple’s new TV app that allows users to search and watch TV shows. The app includes Siri integration so you can control the app with voice commands.

However, don’t look to use the TV app with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The app currently isn’t on speaking terms with those popular services yet. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen, but you never know…

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