Windows Essentials are Dead

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

Introduction
Back in the day, Microsoft put out some decent add-on software. This add-on software took on a life of its own and was given an “Essentials” brand as these add-on apps were considered an “essential” part of the Windows Live experience. And while they were supported, life on the Windows side of the fence was pretty, darn-tootin’ good.

Microsoft eventually divided their essentials into two different parts – Live Essentials and Security Essentials. Eventually, both Live Essentials and Security Essentials provided users with important functionality enhancements for applications that were missing in Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Windows Essentials did not run in Windows 8. So, there was motivation to either stay on Windows 7 or move to Windows 8.1, IF you wanted to keep Windows Essentials running.

Unfortunately, Microsoft killed these applications as of 2017-01-10, meaning that new installations of Windows Live Essentials are no longer possible. Windows Security Essentials never ran on Windows 10 (as it was replaced by Windows Defender). Here is the official statement from Microsoft:

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

Windows Essentials included the following applications

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

Windows Security Essentials morphed into what is now Windows Defender; but was, at its zenith, one of the best free anti-malware programs available for Windows; and in truth, though part of the Windows Essentials family of apps, it was a completely separate deal. Security Essentials has taken a back seat to Windows Defender in Windows 8.x and Windows 10; but it’s still available for Windows Vista (even though Microsoft discontinued support for it) and Windows 7. Its last update was 2016-11-29.

Microsoft Movie Maker
Unfortunately, Microsoft has no replacement for Windows Movie Maker. If you have installed, good on you. You’re a big step ahead of the rest of the Windows crowd who need an app like Movie Maker, but can no longer get one from Microsoft, and certainly can’t get something of that high quality, for free. (If someone does know of something that is on the same level or better than Microsoft Movie Maker and runs for free without having to ever pay or buy a registration code for it, I’d love to hear from you in the discussion area, below.)

Microsoft OneDrive
Microsoft OneDrive is perhaps the most successful Windows Live Essential app out there. It’s got what I would consider to be the best post Essentials success. Microsoft OneDrive is now part of Office 365 or you can get a OneDrive storage plan on its own, if you wish. Microsoft OneDrive offers 5GB of online storage to anyone who signs up for OneDrive, for free.
When you sign up for Office 365, you get 1TB (terabyte) of space, which should be more than enough space to store just about anything and everything you would want to store, including your photo and home video library.

If you don’t want need Office 365, you can get 50GB of storage for $1.99 USD per month, which should get you started and will store a decent amount of data for you. By comparison, Apple’s iCloud storage prices are a bit better. Apple offers 50GB of iCloud storage for $0.99 (99 cents) USD per month, or half of the cost of OneDrive’s exact same offer.

The bulk of the remaining apps – those I’ve noted above, with some exceptions that I’m going to dive into – made an appearance as what is now being called a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app. Photo Gallery and Mail are all available as native apps under Windows 10. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a Microsoft replacement for Windows Live Movie Maker.

Windows Messenger was discontinued in favor of Skype, after it was purchased by Microsoft, and while there’s still a way to communicate via IM, it’s not with the client that was originally part of Live Essentials. So… Enter Skype, exit Messenger.

Windows Photo Gallery
I don’t have a lot to say here. Though I am a HUGE photography nut, I was never really into Windows based photo apps or solutions. To be honest, photography is literally 25% of why I got into Macs in the first place. Others may have more to say on Windows Photo Gallery or Windows Photos. If you do, please use the comments area below and give me your thoughts on either of these applets.

Windows Photo Gallery was replaced with Windows Photos, and it’s now a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app. You’ll have most, if not all, of the same functionality in Photos as you did in Photo Gallery, and as you can see from the screen shot, above, it’s a huge improvement and very user friendly.

Windows Mail

Outlook Express first made an appearance as part of Internet Explorer with the release of IE 3.0. Its last formal, big release was with the release of IE 6.0 and Windows XP in 2001. IE 7 initially included a beta release of Outlook Express 7, but it was eventually replaced with Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail. There were other shareware email clients available at the time when Microsoft released Vista and IE 7.0, but these really weren’t the same; and honestly, most of them required some kind of registration fee to be paid in order to keep using them.

Again, Outlook Express was good. It did basic IMAP and POP3 mail, and when Microsoft discontinued it, it was a huge problem Outlook Express was tied to Internet Explorer, and since Microsoft tied IE to the kernel of the OS, every time IE or Windows changed, so did OE; and when it was discontinued, it wasn’t like you could upgrade the OS and NOT upgrade IE. So unfortunately, when IE killed OE, you couldn’t keep one and upgrade the other… which totally sucked.

So, Windows Live Mail was a response to the absence of Outlook Express. It worked OK, but the Windows Mail in Windows 8 was nothing more than a Metro app (what would eventually become a UWP app) and it used a tablet metaphor for its UI, and honestly, it kinda sucked. Remember, Windows Live Essentials didn’t run under Windows 8, they ran under Windows 7., 8.1, and Windows 10.

There’s only one Live Essentials app left to cover, and that’s Windows Live Writer. Come back next time, as I plan to dive into it, pretty deeply.

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Google Throws a Cloud Storage Gauntlet

… at the feet of Dropbox, Microsoft and everyone else offering online storage services

Clouds

A couple years ago, I did a huge article for InformationWeek on the top cloud based storage services available at the time. These services were cross platform – meaning they could be used on Windows, OS X, Linux and perhaps a mobile OS or two (most likely, Android and iOS). At the time, Dropbox was the king of the hill. They were the service that most everyone knew about, and its name had become synonymous with cloud storage.  You shoved things in your dropbox whether you had an account with them or another service.  They were so popular and easy to use, that BYTE, hosted via InformationWeek, and the now RE-defunct reincarnation of BYTE Magazine, asked that their editing staff use it for all of our articles.

Today, that’s no longer the case. Dropbox is still a VERY popular service; but there are other solutions out there that should be given very serious consideration.  Among them are Microsoft’s OneDrive, LiveDrive and of course, Google Drive.  There are a ton of others out there, but recently Google did something VERY cool and very strategic. They dramatically lowered the price of and restructured their storage plans.

The new plans… oh yeah. They’re crazy cheap.

→ 1TB – $10/ month
→ 10TB – $100/ month
→ 20TB – $200/ month
→ 30TB – $300/ month

Notice, please that these are measured in TERABYTES, and not gigabytes. You can store a file up to 1TB in size. If you use Google Apps as your office suite of choice, those files don’t use your storage space. They’re up in Google Drive for free. If you use Google Apps or Gmail for email, your mail shares storage space with Google Drive.  If you use Google+ to store and share photos, photos bigger than 2048×2048 pixels use your storage. Anything and everything smaller than that is free.  Please also note that the 1TB plan is the INTRODUCTORY or lowest tiered plan offered.  Skip going to Starbucks twice a month, and it’s paid for… the bottom three tiers are obviously meant for businesses.  Unless you’re a total shutterbug, it’s doubtful you’re going to come close to filling up or need 10TB – 30TB of storage.  Their prices are also consumer prohibitive.

Previously, I had a 400GB plan and I was paying $20/ month for it. Google migrated me off that legacy plan and gave me 2.5x the storage for half the price.  The change was instantaneous and completely transparent.  In the blink of an eye, I went to using 10% of my storage to less than 1%; and I’m only paying half of what I was previously paying for the past year or so.

I’ve got a Google+ account, but I don’t share any photos on it. Most of my friends and family are on Facebook, and that’s where I share any photos I take.  It’s unlikely that I will fill up my 1TB Google Drive cup any time soon. Honestly, I’ll be very lucky to get back to 10-12% usage again.  However, I like having all of my productivity data backed up via an off-site system.

In fact, I have quite an extensive backup strategy:
→ My productivity data backed up via Google Drive
→ All of my Mac’s user data is locally backed up via Time Machine
→ All of my iTunes data is stored in iCloud and is backed up locally via a home network NAS.  I also employ iTunes Match to backup music I didn’t purchase via iTunes.
→ All of my Mac’s user data is backed up via BackBlaze.

While this may seem a bit like overkill, if you have ANYTHING critical – family photos of friends and loved ones who may have passed, are old, or are simply irreplaceable; critical, encrypted personal files (like birth, marriage or death certificates or tax documents); sensitive work or project files, etc. – then having a backup strategy similar to this, where you have a few different ways of getting back something that may have accidentally been lost, can be very important to you.  There is NOTHING in this world like the relief you feel when you realize that you have the correct version of the file you need backed up locally when your internet connection is on the fritz and you have a work deadline to meet; or vice versa when you find that a local file and its backup copy are both corrupted and your online backup system (like Backblaze) allows you to retrieve a previous version of the file without missing a beat. It’s at that point that you look at your backup strategy and say, “yep.   I’m awesome. I set this up correctly and the $XX dollars I pay for this every month is more than worth it.”

It’s at that point that your family/accountant/business partner or boss crowns you, “king of anything,” and tells you how awesome they think you really are.  When you don’t have it, you better have some other kind of golden parachute – a comfy couch to sleep on, paper records, other accounts or a new job to go to – if you don’t have that kind of backup strategy in place.

With prices like this – $10 bucks a month for 1TB of cloud storage – I can’t think of any valid reason why you wouldn’t have something like this setup for your data.  I’m not saying that Google Drive is a must have for everyone. There are a number of reasons why some people may not feel comfortable with trusting Google, of all companies, with your personal and private data, family photos, etc.  I mean…they are GOOGLE after all…  However, after paying upwards of $50 bucks a month for about the same amount of space on another service, this seems like a total no brainer to me.

What do YOU think, though?  Do you have a Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or other cloud based storage account?  Do you use the free version, or do you pay for additional space? Do you feel comfortable with Google being the steward of your photos, home movies and tax documentation? More importantly, is there a better deal out there?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this deal, this issue and on Google Drive (and other cloud based storage solutions) in general, in the comments section below.

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Microsoft Rebrands SkyDrive

Microsoft OneDrive is coming to a PC near you, soon.

Microsoft recently announced in a blog post that it was rebranding its SkyDrive internet file access and storage product as Microsoft OneDrive.

one drive

The move comes after Microsoft lost a trademark case to European TV provider BSkyB.  In June 2011, BSkyB filed suit against Microsoft over SkyDrive indicating that the use of the name would confuse its customers, as it is a streaming and mobile pay-TV provider and also had an online storage service called “Sky Store & Share” that it offered  from 2008-2011.

Rather than appeal the judgment that was granted by the England and Wales High Court in June 2013, Microsoft and BSkyB announced a settlement in July 2013 where Microsoft would rebrand its cloud based storage service. Sometimes its easier to concede defeat than prove your point, and while I don’t agree with the action (because its really unlikely users of BSkyB’s service would be confused by the names Microsoft SkyDrive and BSkyB Sky Store and Share… I’m just sayin’…)

What we’re seeing now are the results of that settlement. Microsoft will rebrand SkyDrive as OneDrive. The product was previously known as Live Mesh, Windows Live Mesh, Windows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare before being rebranded as Microsoft SkyDrive in February of 2012.  The product has had one heck of a history and has had issues finding its identity in a market dominated by Dropbox, Google Drive as well as competing with Apple’s iCloud.

Microsoft is spinning this rebranding as the “one” place where you can put all of your stuff. If you’ve used previous versions of SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro, you don’t need to do anything.  The service will continue to work like it always has. It’s really nothing more than a name change and rebranding of the product.

As a quick aside, I really like the way SkyDrive, now Microsoft OneDrive, works. If I wasn’t already huge into Google services, it’s a service I would seriously consider buying online storage from. Unfortunately, its pricing plans aren’t as generous with either storage or pricing options (see additional information later in this article). However, 25GB for free is a really nice plan, and is likely enough for most people. If you qualify for the 25GB plan, and don’t have cloud storage for your documents, this could be a really great option for you. You might want to look into it…

Interestingly enough, this is one area where Microsoft really has outshined Apple.  iCloud is a huge mess. Its API’s are confusing and difficult to work with. Many developers who want to build iCloud support into their apps either don’t or can’t because it’s too difficult to work with or because the features they need aren’t built into the SDK/API.  Apple even has trouble getting iCloud to work with its own apps.

Microsoft on the other hand has (now called) OneDrive support built into all of its apps.  OneNote can natively save notebooks either directly to OneDrive’s application interface or physically to a synchronized folder in OneDrive. The choice is yours.  Apple could really do themselves a favor here and figure out how this works and then model iCloud after it. It might do them a great deal of good. I know Apple wants ALL of iCloud to work like OneNote works with OneDrive – where your data saves there automatically and just appears as available when you open the app, but that’s part of the problem that they’re having with the service. It doesn’t work right.

OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox all work the same way – they sync a folder and its subfolders to the cloud.  Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t want to do this. They’ve had ample opportunity to look at the model and try to use it.  For some reason, they don’t want the data on your drive if it doesn’t have to be. Instead, they want iCloud to be just another storage location – like any other folder that is physically ON your Mac – so you can save documents there and retrieve them when needed. The data doesn’t reside on your Mac. It’s out THERE somewhere. They just don’t have this figured out right yet. I don’t know why.  Both OneDrive and Google Drive can do that, and have desktop apps work with the data.

Interestingly enough, that was what Apple’s iDrive did about 6 or so years ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t catch on…at ALL.  Apple discontinued the service and I can’t find any information on it under Apple’s name at all. iDrive itself is still available as a Dropbox-like clone.  It at least looks like it’s a decent option, and its pricing options seem very competitive.  Their 1/2 terabyte option, priced at $75 a year, is one of the best deals I’ve seen. Its 69% cheaper than Google Drive’s 400GB option (at $240 a year), and you get 100GB more space, too.

Unfortunately, right now, you can’t sync folder contents to Apple’s iCloud. If you could, I’d use it instead of Google Drive.  However, it doesn’t, so I don’t.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple reconsiders that strategy so that more developers – and therefore, more applications – can use the service.

What do you think? Is the OneDrive rebrand a good move for Microsoft? Can Apple fix iCloud, or its always going to be a hot mess?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the discussion, below.

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Is the Internet REALLY Required?

internet-marketing-strategy-traffic1Its been an interesting weekend…without internet service. It really makes me wonder…is the Internet really required?

Its been an interesting weekend. Aside from being Independence Day weekend here in The States, its also my wife’s birthday. Our boys, wanted to buy mom a tree for the yard, and after we brought it home, it was my job to plant it.

Unfortunatey for me, my wife picked a location that was directly in between the cable CO and the connection with our house, and so… yeah. The buried cable got cut as I was digging the hole for the new tree. Comcast, my cable internet provider told me that they wouldn’t be able to come out to the house to repair the cut cable until Sunday.

During this time, however, we’ve had no connectivity outside of the internal network in the house. I can access my resources – my multiple NAS drives and game consoles – but nothing outside, like the internet or any other outside network.

Back in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, the internet wasn’t required to be part of your computing experience. Today, I’ve got Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Backblaze (an online backup program), Google Apps, as well as any other number of online services that I connect to and use every time I turn on my computer. Without them, computing seems really silly.

computer-internet-100128-02

Its amazing how much you depend on the online world to make your computing experience whole. Thankfully, my access is restored. Comcast came out and reran a cable from the CO to my house; and while I could have used my iPhone or Freedom Pop to provide a connection to the internet, there, you have to worry about how much you’ve used and how much you have left. With my cable connection, bandwidth is pretty much unlimited.

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The Storage Problem with Surface Pro

When 53% to 64% of your device’s storage is consumed before you turn the device on, something is wrong…

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Over the past few years, we’ve got from gigabytes of desktop and notebook storage to terabytes. Shortly after the 2TB and 3TB hard drive hit, SSD’s started to become popular and come down in price. We still don’t have a 1TB SSD available yet; and even if it were available, it likely wouldn’t be available at an affordable price.

With the growing popularity of Cloud Storage – things like Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive – the growing thought is that the need for a great deal of off line storage is declining.  This is a very progressive point of view, and one that is still gaining acceptance.  One of the prerequisites for moving the masses to the Cloud is readily accessible, solid and reliable internet access. Without it, the Cloud Storage Model doesn’t work…but that’s another topic for another day.

It is related, however, because there are a number of newer PC’s or computing devices that are being introduced that seem to either fully embrace or lean towards embracing the Cloud Storage Model. Microsoft’s Surface Pro is one such device, and it’s a bit problematic if you ask me, especially when 53% to 64% of Surface Pro’s storage is given over to system related, preinstalled software.

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This is the crux of the issue – nearly all the storage on Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets is consumed before the user takes the device out of the box. ZDNet’s Ed Bott argues that this isn’t an issue, as some of the space is reclaimable by the end user and there’s always the Cloud.

ZDNet’s Robin Harris comes closer to hitting the issue on the head but still misses the mark.  His point is that Surface Pro doesn’t know what it wants to be – an ultrabook or a tablet. While he’s right about that, I disagree that the storage requirements on a Windows machine – tablet or ultrabook classifications are irrelevant – differ. Any computing device that runs legacy (read traditional) Windows software is going to need storage space for it to live in. It doesn’t matter if Microsoft created a new classification of computing device or if it will be successful or not.  The fact that users have to go through some kind of storage cleansing activity in order to get some decent, available, non-SD card type storage is silly.

The fact that you can double your storage space for $100 bucks is also a bit whacked. I mean, who isn’t going to spend $999 for the 128GB version? When you’ve already committed to buy Surface Pro, spending $899 for 1/2 the storage is ludicrous.

If Microsoft lowers the price of the 64GB versions – which is unlikely, by the way – then I might pick one up, but at this point, I likely won’t bother, which is a shame.  The tablets could have been so much more at a more reasonable price point.

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