G Suite’s New Calendar Interface

If you were looking for enhanced functionality out of Google Calendar, you’re about to get it…

My good friend Doug Golding used to have a site called Just Another Mobile Monday. He got out of the mobile enthusiast world and sold the site and unfortunately, the site didn’t survive much past the sale even though it had a decent run afterwards.

However, it was during that time that I wrote a review on the Nexus One and got deep, DEEP into Google Services. In fact, I was all in with iTechGear.org by that time and I had started using what is now called G Suite for all of my PIM services – mail, calendar, contacts and to-do’s.

As of 2017-10-17, there’s a new look and a new set of features for Google Calendar on the web. Google has taken a lot of what they’ve learned over the past seven years related to their mobile apps and have brought that knowledge forward to the desktop, web version of Calendar. This new design is responsive. It adapts itself to your screen size, presenting you with the proper controls for your size screen. Google has also added additional enterprise level features designed to help teams prep for meetings.

Google Calendar

In the new version of Calendar you can:

• See conference room details when booking a room. G Suite admins can enter detailed information about room locations so users know its location, size, seating capacity, A/V equipment status, Accessibility features, etc. Users can simply hover their pointing device cursor over the location and get all the information about the location and its resources.
• Add rich formatting and hyperlinks to calendar invitations. You can link out to documents (word processing and spreadsheets) and presentation files, and then open them directly in a new Event Detail view. Meeting agendas are now more comprehensive and interactive, and attendees can be more productive and prepared prior to the actual meeting.
• Manage multiple calendars in a single view. It’s now easier to see who is busy with what at specific times during the day so that scheduling meetings when attendees are free is now easier and more efficient.
• View contact information of meeting attendees in a calendar invitation. Again, hovering your mouse cursor over an attendee’s name will get you the details you need.
• More easily view and restore deleted items in a single place if you accidentally delete a meeting invitation.
• Day, Week and Month views are now more accessible, featuring better compatibility with screen readers

The new changes will be rolling out during the month of November 2017. By the time this is posted, we should be very close to when Rapid Release domains will begin seeing the new UI implemented (2017-11-14). Scheduled Release domains will begin transitioning to the new UI at the end of the month (2017-11-28); and the transition depending on domain size will take about eight (8) weeks. Admins will have the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out. Admins may also manually opt-in via the Google Admin console.

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Top 10 Features of Microsoft’s Fall Creators Update

The latest bits are now available. Download ’em if you want ’em!

http://www.zdnet.com/article/windows-10-fall-creators-update-should-you-upgrade-now/

Microsoft's Fall Creators Update

During the middle of October, Microsoft released the fourth feature update to Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update. This new version is listed as version 1709 . The final build number is 16299. I’ve pulled together a quick list of some of the new features that might be of use to everyone. I’ve also got some personal impressions of the new update, as it has already installed on my Surface Book, and I’ve been using it almost daily for the past couple of weeks.

New Features
Here are some of the newest, more compelling features of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Depending on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, these may or may not matter to you.

Action Center
You’re going to see a HUGE revamp of the Action Center in the Fall Creators Update. You’ll see new organization, improved notification hierarch and separation and a new, enhanced integration with Cortana. The Action Center is probably one of the most noticeable and used features of Windows 10, and this improvement is going to be very noticeable, if not in your face, as soon as the OS boots.

Mixed Reality Headsets
With the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft is finally and completely throwing its hat into the mixed reality ring. Besides Microsoft’s own Halolens, other third party providers are also prepping six degrees of freedom (6DOF) powered headsets, manufacturers like Dell, Acer, ASUS and HP are also launching mixed reality headsets this month. Some of these manufacturers are also expected to release Mixed Reality certified PC’s, too.

Mixed Reality Viewer
Coupled with its Mixed Reality headset initiative, those that can’t or don’t want to shell out the shekels for a mixed reality headset will still be able to take advantage of mixed reality via Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Viewer. Any device with a compatible web can will be able to climb in and experience mixed reality with the Fall Creators Update. Users of this app will also be able to use the new and included tools like 3D Paint to create their own elements, too.

Story Remix
The Windows 10 Photos app has gone through a complete revamp in the Fall Creators Update. Story Remix is an evolutionary update to Photos that implements machine learning and mixed reality to automatically create cool highlight reels of your digital content. You can include stills and videos as well as edit your own soundtrack. On top of that, you’ll be able to include 3D mixed reality objects and animations in your creations directly from Microsoft’s 3D database.

(These are) My People
My People was originally supposed to be part of the Creators Update, but didn’t make the cut. My People assumes that your digital life revolves around a small group of contacts and makes the contact cards for those chosen few available directly from the taskbar.

Ransomware Protection
With Controlled Folder Access, you can insure that you don’t fall victim to ransomware and other malware designed to keep you from accessing your files. When enabled through Windows Defender, unauthorized access to specific folders will be prevented. Protected folders include Documents, Pictures, Movies and Desktop; and can’t be removed. You may also manually specify other protected folders and can whitelist individual apps that are allowed to access those locations.

Phone and PC Integration
With Windows Phone officially dying, Microsoft is making phone and PC integration a major part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. After you’ve linked your phone to your Windows account, you can push web pages and even files back and forth to your phone and computer. Windows 10 will also notify you of, and allow you to respond to, text messages and to see missed calls on your PC. Cortana also has a new, “I’ve got more for you” section that displays apps, documents and websites you were recently working with on your other devices, allowing you to pick up where you left off. Unfortunately, the list of supported applications is limited as of this Windows 10 version’s initial release.

OneDrive Files on Demand
As I noted back in June of 2017, Microsoft’s replacement for Windows 8 Placeholders is Files on Demand.

With Files on Demand, you’ll be able to see what files are available in the cloud and which ones are stored locally. You can select which individual files or folders will be available only online or which ones can be edited while offline.

If an app tries to download a file that’s only stored in the Cloud, you’ll see a Windows 10 popup notification display. The popup will show you details of the file being downloaded and give you the opportunity to download the file or block the app from accessing OneDrive completely.

Enhanced Linux Support
If you’re a Linux user and rely on the Bash shell support in Windows to do what you do, you’re going to like the changes in the Fall Creators Update. Now, Linux support in Windows has been expanded to support additional Linux distributions, including SUSE and Fedora. All three distributions are available in the Windows Store. You also will no longer be required to enable and configure Developer Mode to use Bash anymore.

Additional Update Options
One of the biggest problems with Windows 10 was the way updates to the operating system have been delivered since its original release. Settings now includes Delivery Optimization Advanced Options. These give you granular control over how Windows 10 handles and delivers updates to you. These advanced options allow you to tell the OS to limit how much of your network bandwidth is used to download new updates. A new Activity Monitor also shows you how much data has been pulled down specifically for Windows Updates per month, and to see where it went.

Personal Findings and Impressions
I’ve been using the Fall Creators Update since its release on 2017-10-17. Unlike the original Creators Update that took absolutely FOREVER to be received by most Windows 10 users, the Fall Creators Update made an almost immediate appearance to many users. If you had a Microsoft Signature PC, you likely got notification that your PC could download the update immediately. I know that’s what happened to me with my Surface Book.

However, since the update installed, my experience has been anything but stellar.

In fact, I’ve had to reset my PC at least 3 times in less than two weeks due to some app and utility incompatibilities. I’m also not completely done with all that mess, as I’m still trying to figure out where some of my issues are coming from.

I’ve been working with one of the developers of one of the 3rd party utilities that I’ve been using, and his insight into what is going on and why it is happening has been more than enlightening.

The issue that I’ve got has to do with – I think – incomplete compatibility with my 3rd party virus scanner of choice, Webroot Secure Anywhere. The problem I have is with the creation, deletion and recreation of temporary application files used by the utility. It appears that Webroot Secure Anywhere is removing all permissions from files in a specific folder. This folder needs to be deleted as part of the app’s normal operation. Unfortunately, Webroot is stripping all permissions from the folder without quarantining it, making the app non-functional.

I think the issue has to do with the rate at which folders are created and deleted by my utility that is causing the issue.

At this point, I have a choice. I can forego the use of my utility and install Webroot Secure Anywhere, or I can use my utility and trust Windows Defender to protect my computer. While my utility isn’t mission critical, it IS something that I want to use and keep on using. I also do not trust Defender enough to keep my PC…

And so here I sit.

I am currently trying to figure out exactly what to do. I have contacted Both the developer of the utility that I’m using and Webroot. The utility developer I’ve heard from. In fact, we’ve had a rather prolonged and protracted conversation about this issue. He actually has a few users with the same problem. They are also using Webroot Secure Anywhere.

I have heard nothing in reply to my inquiry with Webroot. Nothing at all; but I’m not surprised that my problem is related to a virus scanner. These apps over and above all others are known to cause issues with OS upgrades and other basic OS functions.

Have you downloaded the Fall Creators Update? Are you using it yet? If so, have you bumped into any issues or problems? I’d love to hear your impressions of the Update, as my experience thus far has been mixed.

Why don’t you meet me I the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts and impressions on Microsoft’s latest update to Windows 10.

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Microsoft releases firmware updates for Surface Book and Pro 4

Its been a long time coming for Surface Book and Pro 4 owners…

When the Microsoft’s Surface Book was originally introduce, most of the pundits in the industry, me included, declared it a total non-starter. It had a boat load of issues, and none of them were getting resolved quickly. I had declared that the Book was a disaster, and that I wouldn’t consider getting one any time soon. Its funny how things can change; but it wasn’t right away; and wasn’t without a number of firmware and system/ driver updates that didn’t come anywhere NEAR the mark.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4Thankfully, Microsoft finally DID figure it out; and they were able to get past some of the bigger problems plaguing the ground breaking ultrabook line. Keeping with a series of updates that, in recent releases have made the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 better than ever, Microsoft released a series of system based, firmware and driver updates for both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book. This is a key update for the Surface Book, however, as it hasn’t had the regular updates that the Pro 4 has had. It hasn’t had any updates released for it in nearly six months.

Here’s what’s new for the Surface Book:

Windows Update History Name Device Manager Name
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) AVStream Camera 2500 – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) AVStream Camera 2500 – Sound, video and GC
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera Front – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera Front – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera IR Front – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera IR Front – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) Control Logic – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) Control Logic – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) CSI2 Host Controller – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) CSI2 Host Controller – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) Imaging Signal Processor 2500 – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) Imaging Signal Processor 2500 – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera Rear – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera Rear – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Surface – System – 1.0.85.1 Surface Camera Windows Hello – System device
1.0.85.1 Improves camera stability.

 

Here’s what’s been updated for the Surface Pro 4:

Windows Update History Name Device Manager Name
Surface driver update for Surface Embedded Controller Firmware – System – 3.0.0.0 Surface Embedded Controller Firmware – Firmware
103.1791.258.0 Improves device reliability.
Surface driver update for Surface Integration – System – 3.0.0.0 Surface Integration – System device
1.0.170.0 Improves device reliability.

All of the updates are available via Windows Update on any Surface Book or Surface Pro 4 running Windows 10. However, the Surface Pro 4 update can be downloaded here. The Surface Book update can be downloaded here.

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Immediately Speed Up Windows 10

Make an instant impact on your Windows 10 PC’s performance with this must do tweak

If there’s one thing that I know, and know pretty well, it’s that Windows machines nearly always operate below their potential. Windows has a tendency to be a bit of a memory pig. One has only to look at Windows Vista and the performance hit that its version Aero brought to the OS to realize this is the case, and that in the last 10 years SINCE Windows Vista, things haven’t changed too much. Unfortunately, Windows performance hits have just changed their area of impact and haven’t been completely eliminated.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the end of it. You can have a well performing Windows machine without spending an arm and a leg; and that’s important. To be honest, just because you spend a lot of money on a Windows computer – like on a Surface Book, Surface Laptop or Surface Book – doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a lightning fast machine. Depending on the hardware’s specs – and the way you have it configured – even the expensive ones can suffer from poor performance. If your PC is also maxed out as far as the amount RAM is can support, this is even a bigger problem, because, while more RAM can always make things better, your PC has all that it can handle.

However, there are a couple things that you can do to help resolve this, giving YOUR PC, regardless of its cost or specs, the best chance for optimization. If you follow the steps I’ve outlined below, you WILL see a performance bump on your PC, period.

The biggest performance hit to any Windows machine lies in the settings for the following:

• Performance Settings
• Start Up and Recovery Settings

Performance Settings
To adjust these settings, you’ll need to open up Advanced System Properties on your Windows 10 machine. The easiest way to do this is to

1. Click the Start button
2. In the search bar type, “Advanced System Settings,” and press the enter key. The Advanced Systems Settings Dialog box should appear.

Advanced System Settings

 

This how to is going to assume that you’re going to sacrifice most of the eye candy and frills that Windows provides in order to boost your PC’s operating performance. To adjust performance settings, including visual effects, processor scheduling, memory usage and virtual memory, do the following:

1. Click the Settings button in the Performance section.
2. On the Visual Effects tab, click the Adjust for best performance radio button. All the eye candy is going to go when you choose this option. If you simply HAVE to have a couple things back, go into the list and click the stuff that you can’t live without. Please remember that when you do this, you’re going to burn RAM.

Visual Effects

3. Click the Advanced tab. In the Processor scheduling section you can adjust your PC’s performance to give processor precedence to either programs or background services. This is either going to make your apps run faster, or make the stuff that happens behind the scenes run faster. Both will speed up your PC. You just need to decide what’s more important to you – the apps you run or the services they run in the background.

Click the appropriate radio button to make your choice.

Advanced

4. In the Virtual memory section, you can control the size of your swap file. Click the Change button in the Virtual memory section. Here your best bet is to let Windows manage everything, but if you absolutely HAVE to tweak the settings, this is the place to do it.

5. In the Data Execution Prevention tab, you can configure how DEP works. Data Execution Prevention protects your data and PC against damage from viruses and other malware. You can turn DEP on for all apps except the ones you specify.

DEP

Startup and Recovery
To update settings related to how your computer starts up or recovers after a system failure, click the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery section. The resulting dialog box has two sections

1. System Startup
2. System Failure

System Startup
The System Startup section allows you to set delay times for system startup when the normal startup process is interrupted and errors out. If the system restarts after a bad shutdown, or if you have a more than one OS installed on your machine, you get to determine the amount of time a recovery or boot screen displays. The default time is 30 seconds.

System Failure
When your system craps out and shuts down unexpectedly, sometimes it will auto reboot, especially if the Automatically restart checkbox is selected. If you’re not careful, you can get yourself into an unrecoverable boot loop with this option. Its best to leave this option unchecked.

Startup

Conclusion
It’s not uncommon for Windows computers to run into performance issues, regardless of how expensive or powerful they are. If you want to resolve those issues, it’s really not all that problematic or troublesome. All you need to do is bring up the Advanced System Properties dialog box on your PC. After a few tweaks, you should see marked speed and performance improvement on your computer.

Setting your computer up to run at its best possible speeds is really nothing more than just a few clicks away.

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How to Fix Windows 10 Memory Leaks

Windows 10 can sometimes use more RAM than it actually needs. Here’s how to resolve that issue…

Introduction
Ove the years, I’ve noticed that the more you do with your computer, the more RAM you need. Now, that statement likely isn’t surprising for anyone. I mean, it makes perfect sense. If you wanna do more, you’re gonna need more – RAM, processing power, hard drive space – you’re gonna need more. It’s really just that simple.

However, with RAM, Windows has cleanup procedures that often take RAM that was used by one app, but is no longer needed and “cleans it up,” returning it to a larger, common “pool” of memory that any and every application can take needed memory resources from. Unfortunately, this clean up process doesn’t always work correctly, and in some cases, applications can grab RAM and not give it back. These applications don’t manage memory correctly, and continue to consume more and more RAM until you either run out, start using virtual memory (in the form of your swap file growing in size) or until you notice the performance of your PC tanking. It’s this type of memory “leak” that is often a problem for many PC users.

If you find yourself in that last category, don’t worry… you’re not alone. Windows has a history of memory leaks that go back to the earliest days of Windows. Some people will tell you that – depending on the app or applet – Windows versions from 3.x to Windows 95 to Windows Vista, heck even Windows 10, can leak like a sieve.

Fortunately, there ARE things you can do to better manage your resources. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

I Forget What Kinds of Memory my Computer Uses
I get this all the time… many folks don’t know or understand the difference between the different kinds of memory their computers use. So, here, very quickly, is a rundown of the different types of memory a computer uses.

• RAM
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. This is the type of memory that your computer uses to actively think. Its where the OS and other running applications and actively used data are stored and accessed by the PC’s processor(s). It’s different from storage or other kinds of memory (like SD cards) that are used to store data. Once this type of memory loses power, any and all information stored there is lost.

Depending on the type of application or program that is running, your computer may request more and more RAM. As programs end processes or terminate (close or exit), RAM is released back to the operating system where it can be reused by other applications, programs and processes.

Depending on how many applications you have running (as well as the type, as noted above), it is possible for you to run out of available RAM. Your computer can then use any available hard drive or SSD space as “virtual memory,” through a file called a “swap” file. Virtual memory allows you to do more with the limited amount of RAM that you have, but the process slows down your PC, as your computer has to write the information it needs to your storage space, but then read it back when that information is needed.

• Storage
This is your hard drive or SSD; or even in some cases, an SD card or other external storage device. This is where data can be permanently written to and read from. This is where your documents and data – like your pictures, videos and other content – are stored and viewed.

The amount of space available here is almost always larger than your available amount of RAM, and despite the speed of your hard drive or SSD, is nearly always slower than the RAM your PC has. The upside is that you can store a great deal of information here, without fear of it being lost after the power on your PC is turned off. The downside, as I mentioned, is that its slower than the RAM of your PC. Depending on the demands of your computing activities, it’s possible that your PC may need to read and write information to and from your storage faster than your storage can keep up. In cases like this – with large picture or video editing tasks, for example – your storage device can create a bottle neck, requiring you to wait for the hard drive to “catch up” with the needs of your microprocessor.

• VRAM
VRAM or video RAM is a special type of memory that is often directly hard wired to your computer’s graphics card. In the cases where your PC has integrated graphics (instead of a dedicated and separate graphics card), VRAM is simulated by the graphics processor. Your GPU will segregate a set amount or set amount range of available RAM specifically for graphics processing on your computer.

Dedicated VRAM is nearly always faster (or at least as fast) as your PC’s RAM. When your computer’s integrated graphics processor simulates VRAM from available RAM, the amount available to the rest of your PC’s OS and running applications is reduced.

Memory Leaks and How to Plug Them
So, what exactly is a memory “leak?”

A memory leak refers to a loss of available memory to the operating system. Available memory continually decreases due to programs and processes not releasing it back when they are done. Memory continuously gets allocated and is never reusable by the OS or any applications. The lack of available memory causes the PC to use virtual memory, taking up hard drive space. The result is a slower computer.

Several experts in popular forums have identified the Windows 10 system process notskrnl.exe as a major cause of memory leaks, and since memory leaks are software related – and software can change – this is a temporary problem.

Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for all of this. You can use Windows Task Manager to determine what processes and program as using more memory than any other app or process, or they reasonably should. For example, if you open Task Manager, and find that a program like Notepad, for example, is consuming 50% of all of your RAM, it’s a pretty good sign that it has a memory leak.

To check for a memory leak, follow these steps:

1. Open Task Manager
a. Right click the Task Bar
b. Select Task manager from the context menu that appears, OR
c. Press CTRL-Shift-Esc
2. Click More Details
3. Click the Processes tab
4. Click the header in the memory column twice to sort by memory usage

Check the amounts of RAM being used. If you see an app that’s got a disproportionate amount of your RAM being used, it’s a candidate for a memory leak. Possible causes of a memory leak include malware infections, outdated drivers, and just buggy software.

Stopping Memory Leaks
Stopping memory leaks takes a bit of doing; but it’s not hard. Once you figure it out, it’s fairly easy. However, getting it right is hard. There are two basic ways to do this – updating your drivers and programs, and disabling startup items.

Updating your Drivers
If your earlier versions of Windows were running well and you started noticing memory leaks after you upgraded your PC to Windows 10, it’s very probable that Windows 10 and the current version of your peripherals or PC ‘s drivers don’t work and play well together. The best thing to do here, is to check for updates and then install those updates. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.

Update your drivers via Device Manager
Despite Windows 10 redesigned user interface, it’s still possible to get access to Device Manager.

To get access to Device Manager, follow these steps

1. Click the Start button and then type the term, “device manager” into Cortana’s search bar. When Windows locates what you’re looking for, press enter. Device manager will open
2. From Device Manager, search for your custom peripherals.
3. Click the arrow to the left of the peripheral.
4. From the expanded category, find the device’s driver and right click it.
5. Click Update Driver from the context menu that appears.
6. On the following screens, follow the instructions for downloading an update to your component’s drivers.

Download Drivers via the Web
Many of the peripherals that you buy will have either a CD or other media that contains the drivers you need to run your new computer gadget; or will have a link for you to download an install file.

The best way to get the latest version of your gadget’s drivers is to visit the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version driver.

Disable Startup Programs
The other way to get rid of memory leaks on your PC is to disable startup programs. If the bad app has a startup component, you can disable it.

To disable startup programs on your PC, follow these steps

1. Open Task Manager
a. Right click the Task Bar
b. Select Task manager from the context menu that appears, OR
c. Press CTRL-Shift-Esc
2. Click More Details
3. Click the Startup tab
4. Click on the startup program you wish to disable.
5. Click the Disable button.
6. Repeat for any other desired program(s) you wish to disable
7. Restart your PC.

With the apps disabled, they won’t load when your PC starts, thus removing any memory leak that may exist.

Conclusion
Windows 10 can be an awesome operating system. However, it’s not without its issues. Its memory management is better than in previous versions of Windows, but it’s not infallible.

Windows still relies on drivers and other apps to help you get work done. Application developers are not all created equally, either. Some of them are obviously better than others, and it’s very possible that you can bump into a badly written, not very well behaved application or utility. When that happens, it’s very possible that you’re headed for a memory leak.

While this can be bad, it’s not the end of the world. Resolving memory leaks is simply a matter of removing the offending app or process. It may take a bit of investigation, but is not too difficult.

I’ve given you some really easy to follow steps for a few solid methods for plugging memory leaks. Eliminating leaks will help keep your PC running at its peak performance capabilities.

Have you noticed your PC acting strangely? Have you noticed performance issues when you run specific applications or utilities; or perhaps after you installed a new application? If you started noticing performance issues after you visited a new internet site, you may have contracted some malware. Assuming that this is NOT the case, then giving my advice a go, can and likely will restore your PC to its former performance glories.

If you’ve had a memory leak that you’ve plugged, I’d love to hear about it. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and tell me all about it?

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Top Privacy Settings for Windows 10

In light of all the new malware out there, you should check and update your Windows 10 privacy settings…

Introduction
If there’s one thing that really gets my dander up, its malware. Saying that it drives me a bit nuts is an understatement. I work too hard to keep my PC running as fast and efficiently as it can. I don’t need some random jerk ruining my work simply because they want to make a quick buck.

All that being said, Windows is one of the biggest malware traps in the world. It runs on nearly every enterprise PC ever deployed, and runs the majority of consumer PCs as well. There are some things that you can do to protect yourself, though; and quite honestly, you should do them. I’ve run into malware before, and its not fun. If you want to protect yourself, follow the advice I’ve given in those two linked articles. You can further protect yourself by adjusting some privacy settings in Windows 10.

While you may not want to do all of these, if you implement them all, you’re likely going to lock yourself down pretty tightly. At that point, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. However, please note that if you implement all of these, you’re going to shut down some pretty useful Window 10 features. You have to balance your need for privacy with your need for safety. In the end, this is all on you…

Shut Down Cortana
Cortana is only your best friend in the world when she knows nearly everything about you. The more she knows, the more she can do. However, the more she knows, the more your data is “out there.” Cortana interacts with you via voice and through the searches you do when you type questions or search criteria into Windows 10’s search box located on the Task Bar.

You can stop Cortana from getting to know you by following the steps I’ve outlined below. However, if you do this, there are going to be a few repercussions:
1. You won’t be able to speak to Cortana any longer. When you turn her off, you totally get the “talk to the hand” experience from her.
2. She forgets all of the information that she had been gathering on you. If you later change your mind and wish to turn Cortana back on, you’ll be building your relationship from scratch again.

To turn off Cortana,
1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Speech, inking and typing.
2. Under Getting to know you, tap the Turn off speech services and typing suggestions button
3. Under Manage cloud info, tap the Manage my voice data that’s stored in the cloud with my Microsoft Account, link and clear all the data that Cortana has stored on you

Please remember that Cortana remembers all of your data as part of OneDrive. Keeping that information out of potentially prying eyes may be important to you. If you don’t want information on your stored in the cloud, this last step is important.

Turn off Location Services
Location Services are used by your Windows 10 device to help locate you geographically. Yes, this means GPS services are being used on your Windows 10 laptop. There are a number of different apps and security settings that that will use Location Services. Maps and Weather are probably the most obvious of these.

If you’re not using a Windows 10 Mobile device (and to be honest, I don’t know of ANYONE who is…), this means that unless your Windows 10 PC has a cellular connection (some do, some don’t…), your actual location and its accuracy is managed by Wi-Fi, though even in a mobile data world, anyone with a smartphone will tell you that your device and its location services will complain to no end when Wi-Fi is turned off.

When your device does report its location, Windows 10 keeps track of that for up to 24 hours and allows apps with permission to access the location and any related or associated data. When and if you turn off location services, apps and services that require that information won’t be able to function properly. In those cases, you may have to manually set your location.

To manage Location Services, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Location
2. Under Location,
a. Under Location service, slide the On/ Off slider off to turn Location Services completely off
b. To manage Location Services for your device, tap the Change button and change the position of the One/ Off slider
3. Under Default location,
a. To manage your device’s Default location, the Set default button. This will bring up Maps.
b. Follow the instructions on setting your device’s default location.
4. Under Location history
a. To clear the location history maintained on your device, tap the Clear button under, Clear history on this device.
5. To manage apps that use Location Services
Those apps that make use of Location Services will be listed in the, “Choose apps that can use your precise location” section.
a. Review this list of apps
b. Tap the slider of those apps you wish to change the service status of.
c. Turning an app on will allow that app to use your location while it runs. It may also leave a service stub running in the background so that it always has location specific data for you
d. Turning an app off will prevent that app from using location specific data.
e. Cortana’s use of Location Services can be managed in the Speech, inking and typing section of Privacy.
6. Action Center Settings
a. The Action Center by default has a toggle for turning Location Services on and off.
i. Display the Action Center
ii. Tap the Location Services tile to turn Location off.
iii. Tap it again to turn it on.

Stop Synchronization Services
Windows 10 synchs with a number of different services. If you sign into Windows 10 with your Microsoft Account, your settings, including your passwords, may be synched across a number of Windows 10 devices. If you turn off synching, your settings and passwords won’t be synched to your other devices, and the unified experience that Microsoft is trying to perpetuate throughout its OS, regardless of type, brand or vendor, is seriously deprecated.

There are two ways to handle this. You’ll need to insure that you’re connected to the internet as well. Once connected, you can stop synching entirely, or you can toggle the sync settings for an individual app. To adjust these settings, you need to visit the Settings page for Sync.

To adjust your synchronization settings, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sync your settings
2. Under Sync Settings, you can turn sync on or off. Turning it off will turn it off for all services.
3. If you wish to control sync for specific items, under Individual sync settings, you can control
a. Theme
b. Internet Explorer Settings
c. Passwords
d. Language Preferences
e. Ease of Access, and
f. Other Windows Settings

If you wish to turn off notification synching, open Cortana and go to Settings – Send notifications between devices. Here, you can toggle notification synching on or off. You can also edit your sync settings to manage your different signed in devices.

Lock Down your Lock Screen
One of the neatest things that Windows 10 can do is provide a customized lock screen on each of your devices. Depending on your privacy concerns, you can have some convenient information – like text messages or your next appointment – display on your lock screen. However, depending on your privacy concerns, you may not want to do that.

Guessing that this is likely the case, because who wants to have that kind of personal information just hangin’ out there for anyone who passes by your PC to see, you can actually prevent this information from displaying there, if you wish. In fact, there are likely three things that you don’t want appearing on your lock screen – however, most of them start and stop with your email address and your appointment notifications.

In order to secure your lock screen, you’re going to have to make changes in a few different places. To make changes to your Lock Screen, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – System – Notifications and actions
2. Turn off Show notifications on the lock screen

After you have done this, you’ll need to attend to Cortana, if you haven’t already. There are a couple of things to take care of here.

To turn off Cortana on your Lock Screen,

1. Go to Settings – Personalization – Lock screen
2. Click the link, Cortana lock screen settings
3. Cortana’s lock screen settings will pop up out of the Start Menu. Turn OFF the following items
a. Let Cortana respond to, “Hey Cortana.”
b. Use Cortana even when my device is locked
c. Send notifications and information between devices
4. Under Choose an app to show detailed status
a. Remove all icons. Tap them and choose None from the fly out menu

The downside to turning all of this off is that your device becomes localized to itself and Windows 10 loses some of its interconnected intelligence.

You can also hide your email address from the log-in screen. This will keep your email address away from unauthorized scrutiny.

To hid your email address on your log in screen,

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sign in options – Privacy
2. Turn off Show account details on sign in screen

This option really doesn’t have a downside to it. Not showing your email address on the lock screen doesn’t deprecate any functionality. This just keeps it away from prying eyes.

Turn off your advertising ID
Each Microsoft account has a unique advertising ID that Microsoft uses to collect information on you and your computing habits. It allows Microsoft to deliver a unique advertising experience to you across different platforms.

It’s annoying as hell.

If you sign in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, you’re going to get personalized ads following you all over your PC. You’ll see them in apps and even in the OS itself, like in the Start Menu. Thankfully, you can stop the madness and get off the advertising merry go round.

To turn off ads in Windows 10, follow these steps,

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – General
2. Turn off Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to your based on your app usage.

You may still see ads on your PC, but they won’t be personalized. Turning this feature off prevents personalized ads from polluting your Windows 10 computing experience. However, as I mentioned, it won’t keep you from seeing ads when you use your Microsoft Account on other platforms. If you wish to remove ads on other platforms as well, you can either use an ad blocking utility or you can head over to Microsoft’s advertising opt out page.

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

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

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

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

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

WannaCry is not Microsoft’s fault

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

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

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

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

There are a couple of things of note here:

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

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

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

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

That’s simple –

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

So, is my PC at risk?

Your PC is at risk if its running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Microsoft Releases the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S

You can file this under the WTF of the Day category…

You can definitely file this one under the WTF category. Sometimes you really have to wonder what the heck a company like Microsoft is doing. I mean, I am totally out in deep, roving, left, right field with this one, knee deep in Lake Winnapasocki… if that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Like the last part of that statement, the whole decision by Microsoft to release the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S doesn’t make a lot of sense either.

Let me break this down for you. It’s really a very simple thing, despite what you might think.

Windows 10 S
Windows 10 S is Windows 10. It runs on an Intel Core i processor and does everything that Windows 10 Home can do (because it mostly is Windows 10 Home…). The big difference here is that Windows 10 S only runs apps out of the Windows Store. Period.

According to Microsoft, the S in Windows 10 S doesn’t stand for Store. It stands for “security, simplicity and superior performance.” Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group said that the “S” stands for Soul, or the Soul of Microsoft’s future – a secure Windows platform that will provide users with malware free apps from them as well as third parties at a variety of price points.

In short, Windows 10 S runs apps from the Windows Store. It will also run Win32 apps that are wrapped using Microsoft’s Desktop Bridge, codenamed “Centennial.”

In short, this is Windows RT for Intel Core i processors.

While Microsoft thinks that restricting Windows 10 S to running only apps that come from the Windows Store, because doing so will provide a more reliable, secure and manageable computing experience, there are a couple of key flaws to this:

  1. There Aren’t Enough Apps in the Windows Store
    This has been an issue for Microsoft since the introduction of the Windows Store in October of 2012. As of November of 2014, there were over 500,000 apps in the Store. By September of 2015, that number had increased to approximately 670,000. As of March 2016, that number should have come close to 850,000. By the time of this Writing (May of 2017) that number should be somewhere around 925,000.In contrast, the Mac App Store should have somewhere around 2,2000,000 (two million, two hundred thousand) or approximately 58% more than the Windows Store. You can find this interesting bit of information here.
  2. There are a Number of Different ways to Obtain Windows Software
    Microsoft is trying to change over 35 years of a proven software publishing business model encouraged and supported by the ASP (the Association of Shareware) and software developers all over the world. THAT is going to be an uphill battle. Most software developers and publishers have resisted the Windows Store because, well… they don’t HAVE to use it. They don’t have to subject themselves to the restrictions that Microsoft places on software that’s sold and delivered through it. They have a number of different alternatives and; it’s clear since the introduction of the Windows Store with the Release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, they’d rather NOT subject themselves to those restrictions.
  3. Windows RT was Discontinued
    Microsoft tried this method of software delivery with Windows RT, a version of Windows that ran on ARM. Windows RT failed miserably and was discontinued. Microsoft was really the ONLY software publisher or vendor of note to provide software through the Store under Windows RT; and at the time, that did NOT include MS Office. What makes Microsoft think the concept of restricting users to running software from the Windows Store on an Intel Core i processor is any better of an idea?

Now let us consider the hardware that was intended to run this “new” operating system – the Surface Laptop.

Surface Laptop
The Surface Laptop is light and thin. It has a long lasting, 14.5 hour battery and uses most of the same accessories as its other Surface family PC’s – including the Surface Pen, Surface Dock, and Surface Dial. It also has a keyboard, covered of cloth or fabric, if you will, like other keyboards from Apple.

The base model comes in four different colors – Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Graphite Gold and Platinum. Its display is a 13.5 inch PixelSense screen made of Gorilla Glass. It has a touch display that has a 2259×1504 resolution, insuring that long exposure to it won’t strain your eyes. Its touch pad supports multi-touch. The keyboard has 1.5mm of travel, and is supposed to be more responsive and more comfortable than the keyboard on Microsoft’s Surface Book, though I have yet to actually put my hands on the device.

The device’s feature set is rounded out with a mini DisplayPort, a USB 3.0 port, a Surface Connect jack for charging and Surface Dock connection, as well as 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0. The device does not have a USB-C port or Thunderbolt 3 port.

The base configuration of the device which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD starts at $999. The high end Surface Laptop comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD and is priced at $2199. High end Surface Laptops only come in Platinum. If you wish to have a gold, cobalt or burgundy colored SL, then you’re going to be limited to a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

Microsoft is targeting the Surface Laptop at the education market and most specifically, they are marketing the product as a Chromebook competitor.

However, they aren’t going to do that well pricing the device at its current price points. To be very honest, the Surface Laptop is a premium priced product. Chromebooks, most of which are priced between $199 and $399, are minimalist based PCs. They have only just enough processor, RAM and storage needed to push and store a few documents and run the web apps needed to edit them. That’s the point of a Chromebook. They run web apps or those apps that are available in the Chrome Store and that’s all. They don’t run any other kind of app and aren’t meant to.

With Windows 10 S, Microsoft is trying to do the same thing with the Surface Laptop. However, it’s difficult to imagine that Microsoft would price that solution starting at $1000 USD. At that price, education accounts likely won’t touch them, even at a bulk discount.

There’s a great deal here to be concerned about.

The whole model is a bit problematic. Microsoft is targeting the education market where Chromebooks are used by students and teachers, along with G-Suite (formerly Google Docs), to get school work done. G-Suite is free for individuals, and Chromebooks are dirt cheap. The way that the Surface Laptop is priced, it’s really priced more in line with Apple’s MacBook or MacBook Air – a premium product.

The problem here is that Apple’s products are premium products with premium prices in a business model. Most of their apps are found in the Mac App Store; but Apple also gives you a way to side load the apps via the traditional method… the same method that Microsoft is now adopting with Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop.

Actually there are a number of problems here:

  1. The device starts at $1000 when their direct competition is priced 80% less to start.
  2. Apple’s software delivery model – the Mac App Store – contains roughly 60% more titles than the Windows Store, and it’s much more successful. Its accepted and it works. Microsoft’s isn’t proven and isn’t well populated
  3. Microsoft’s target audience, educators and students likely don’t have the means to get into a Surface Laptop and won’t choose one over even a high end Chrome book, simply based on price.
  4. Part of what makes the Surface Laptop desirable are the four cool colors that the device comes in. Unfortunately, they’re only available in the i5, 8GB, 256GB model. All other models only come in Platinum.

Everything that I’ve seen and read so far about Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop doesn’t lend a lot to its success. I really don’t think either of them are going to do well. I think the Surface Laptop won’t sell as well as either Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book. While users can upgrade Windows 10 S to Windows Pro for $50, according to Microsoft, I don’t think many users are going to seek Windows 10 S out. The last thing I’m going to want to do is pay an additional $50 to upgrade the “cloud” version of Windows.

I actually think that the whole Windows 10 S and Surface Laptop effort are doomed from the start.

What do you think? Is the Surface Laptop something you’re interested in? Will you pay $1000 or more for it? Do you think that Windows 10 S and the Windows Store are something that is going to work out? Let me know what you think in the Discussion area below.

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